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

Download this book: [ ASCII | HTML | PDF ]

Look for this book on Amazon


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

Title: Aladdin & Co. - A Romance of Yankee Magic
Author: Quick, Herbert, 1861-1925
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 "Aladdin & Co. - A Romance of Yankee Magic" ***

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



------------------------------------------------------------------------

ALADDIN & CO.

A ROMANCE OF YANKEE MAGIC

BY
HERBERT QUICK

Author of
"Virginia of the Air Lanes," "Double Trouble," etc.

GROSSET & DUNLAP
Publishers--New York

------------------------------------------------------------------------

Copyright 1904
Henry Holt and Company

Copyright 1907
The Bobbs-Merrill Company

------------------------------------------------------------------------

Contents.

                                                                    PAGE
CHAPTER I.
Which is of an Introductory Character                                  1

CHAPTER II.
Still Introductory                                                    13

CHAPTER III.
Reminiscentially Autobiographical                                     20

CHAPTER IV.
Jim Discovers his Coral Island                                        39

CHAPTER V.
We Reach the Atoll                                                    46

CHAPTER VI.
I am Inducted into the Cave, and Enlist                               55

CHAPTER VII.
We Make our Landing                                                   67

CHAPTER VIII.
A Welcome to Wall Street and Us                                       77

CHAPTER IX.
I Go Abroad and We Unfurl the Jolly Roger                             86

CHAPTER X.
We Dedicate Lynhurst Park                                             96

CHAPTER XI.
The Empress and Sir John Meet Again                                  112

CHAPTER XII.
In which the Burdens of Wealth Begin to Fall upon Us                 120

CHAPTER XIII.
A Sitting or Two in the Game with the World and Destiny              137

CHAPTER XIV.
In which we Learn Something of Railroads, and Attend
Some Remarkable Christenings                                         152

CHAPTER XV.
Some Affairs of the Heart Considered in their Relation
to Dollars and Cents                                                 169

CHAPTER XVI.
Some Things which Happened in our Halcyon Days                       185

CHAPTER XVII.
Relating to the Disposition of the Captives                          201

CHAPTER XVIII.
The Going Away of Laura and Clifford, and the
Departure of Mr. Trescott                                            214

CHAPTER XIX.
In which Events Resume their Usual Course--at a
Somewhat Accelerated Pace                                            231

CHAPTER XX.
I Twice Explain the Condition of the Trescott Estate                 248

CHAPTER XXI.
Of Conflicts, Within and Without                                     260

CHAPTER XXII.
In which I Win my Great Victory                                      270

CHAPTER XXIII.
The "Dutchman's Mill" and What it Ground                             281

CHAPTER XXIV.
The Beginning of the End                                             291

CHAPTER XXV.
That Last Weird Battle in the West                                   306

CHAPTER XXVI.
The End--and a Beginning                                             320

------------------------------------------------------------------------

ALADDIN & CO

------------------------------------------------------------------------

THE PERSONS OF THE STORY.

James Elkins, the "man who made Lattimore," known as "Jim."

Albert Barslow, who tells the tale; the friend and partner of Jim.

Alice Barslow, his wife; at first, his sweetheart.

William Trescott, known as "Bill," a farmer and capitalist.

Josephine Trescott, his daughter.

Mrs. Trescott, his wife.

Mr. Hinckley, a banker of Lattimore.

Mrs. Hinckley, his wife; devoted to the emancipation of woman.

Antonia, their daughter.

Aleck Macdonald, pioneer and capitalist.

General Lattimore, pioneer, soldier, and godfather of Lattimore.

Miss Addison, the general's niece.

Captain Marion Tolliver, Confederate veteran and Lattimore boomer.

Mrs. Tolliver, his wife.

Will Lattimore, a lawyer.

Mr. Ballard, a banker.

J. Bedford Cornish, a speculator, who with Elkins, Barslow,
and Hinckley make up the great Lattimore "Syndicate."

Clifford Giddings, editor and proprietor of the Lattimore Herald.

De Forest Barr-Smith, an Englishman "representing capital."

Cecil Barr-Smith, his brother.

Avery Pendleton, of New York, a railway magnate; head
of the "Pendleton System."

Allen G. Wade, of New York; head of the Allen G. Wade Trust Co.

Halliday, a railway magnate; head of the "Halliday System."

Watson, a reporter.

Schwartz, a locomotive engineer on the Lattimore & Great Western.

Hegvold, a fireman.

Citizens of Lattimore, Politicians, Live-stock Merchants,
Railway Clerks and Officials, etc.

Scene: Principally in the Western town of Lattimore,
but partly in New York and Chicago.

Time: Not so very long ago.

------------------------------------------------------------------------



ALADDIN & CO

CHAPTER I.

Which is of Introductory Character.


Our National Convention met in Chicago that year, and I was one of the
delegates. I had looked forward to it with keen expectancy. I was now,
at five o'clock of the first day, admitting to myself that it was a
bore.

The special train, with its crowd of overstimulated enthusiasts, the
throngs at the stations, the brass bands, bunting, and buncombe all
jarred upon me. After a while my treason was betrayed to the boys by the
fact that I was not hoarse. They punished me by making me sing as a solo
the air of each stanza of "Marching Through Georgia," "Tenting To-night
on the Old Camp-ground," and other patriotic songs, until my voice was
assimilated to theirs. But my gorge rose at it all, and now, at five
o'clock of the first day, I was seeking a place of retirement where I
could be alone and think over the marvelous event which had suddenly
raised me from yesterday's parity with the fellows on the train to my
present state of exaltation.

I should have preferred a grotto in Vau Vau or some south-looking
mountain glen; but in the absence of any such retreat in Chicago, I
turned into the old art-gallery in Michigan Avenue. As I went floating
in space past its door, my eye caught through the window the gleam of
the white limbs of statues, and my being responded to the soul
vibrations they sent out. So I paid my fee, entered, and found the
tender solitude for which my heart longed. I sat down and luxuriated in
thoughts of the so recent marvelous experience. Need I explain that I
was young and the experience was one of the heart?

I was so young that my delegateship was regarded as a matter to excite
wonder. I saw my picture in the papers next morning as a youth of
twenty-three who had become his party's leader in an important
agricultural county. Some, in the shameless laudation of a sensational
press, compared me to the younger Pitt. As a matter of fact, I had some
talent for organization, and in any gathering of men, I somehow never
lacked a following. I was young enough to be an honest partisan,
enthusiastic enough to be useful, strong enough to be respected,
ignorant enough to believe my party my country's safeguard, and I was
prominent in my county before I was old enough to vote. At twenty-one I
conducted a convention fight which made a member of Congress. It was
quite natural, therefore, that I should be delegate to this convention,
and that I had looked forward to it with keen expectancy. The remarkable
thing was my falling off from its work now by virtue of that recent
marvelous experience which as I have admitted was one of the heart. Do
not smile. At three-and-twenty even delegates have hearts.

My mental and sentimental state is of importance in this history, I
think, or I should not make so much of it. I feel sure that I should not
have behaved just as I did had I not been at that moment in the
iridescent cloudland of newly-reciprocated love. Alice had accepted me
not an hour before my departure for Chicago. Hence my loathing for such
things as nominating speeches and the report of the Committee on
Credentials, and my yearning for the Vau Vau grotto. She had yielded
herself up to me with such manifold sweetnesses, uttered and unutterable
(all of which had to be gone over in my mind constantly to make sure of
their reality), that the contest in Indiana, and the cause of our own
State's Favorite Son, became sickening burdens to me, which rolled away
as I gazed upon the canvases in the gallery. I lay back upon a seat,
half closed my eyes, and looked at the pictures. When one comes to
consider the matter, an art gallery is a wonderfully different thing
from a national convention!

As I looked on them, the still paintings became instinct with life.
Yonder shepherdess shielding from the thorns the little white lamb was
Alice, and back behind the clump of elms was myself, responding to her
silvery call. The cottage on the mountain-side was ours. That lady
waving her handkerchief from the promontory was Alice, too; and I was
the dim figure on the deck of the passing ship. I was the knight and
she the wood-nymph; I the gladiator in the circus, she the Roman lady
who agonized for me in the audience; I the troubadour who twanged the
guitar, she the princess whose fair shoulder shone through the lace at
the balcony window. They lived and moved before my very eyes. I knew the
unseen places beyond the painted mountains, and saw the secret things
the artists only dreamed of. Doves cooed for me from the clumps of
thorn; the clouds sailed in pearly serenity across the skies, their
shadows mottling mountain, hill, and plain; and out from behind every
bole, and through every leafy screen, glimpsed white dryads and fleeing
fays.

Clearly the convention hall was no place for me. "Hang the speech of the
temporary chairman, anyhow!" thought I; "and as for the platform, let it
point with pride, and view with apprehension, to its heart's content; it
is sure to omit all reference to the overshadowing issue of the
day--Alice!"

All the world loves a lover, and a true lover loves all the
world,--especially that portion of it similarly blessed. So, when I
heard a girl's voice alternating in intimate converse with that of a
man, my sympathies went out to them, and I turned silently to look. They
must have come in during my reverie; for I had passed the place where
they were sitting and had not seen them. There was a piece of grillwork
between my station and theirs, through which I could see them plainly.
The gallery had seemed deserted when I went in, and still seemed so,
save for the two voices.

Hers was low and calm, but very earnest; and there was in it some
inflection or intonation which reminded me of the country girls I had
known on the farm and at school. His was of a peculiarly sonorous and
vibrant quality, its every tone so clear and distinct that it would have
been worth a fortune to a public speaker. Such a voice and enunciation
are never associated with any mind not strong in the qualities of
resolution and decision.

On looking at her, I saw nothing countrified corresponding to the voice.
She was dressed in something summery and cool, and wore a sort of
flowered blouse, the presence of which was explained by the easel before
which she sat, and the palette through which her thumb protruded. She
had laid down her brush, and the young man was using her mahlstick in a
badly-directed effort to smear into a design some splotches of paint on
the unused portion of her canvas.

He was by some years her senior, but both were young--she, very young.
He was swarthy of complexion, and his smoothly-shaven, square-set jaw
and full red lips were bluish with the subcutaneous blackness of his
beard. His dress was so distinctly late in style as to seem almost
foppish; but there was nothing of the exquisite in his erect and
athletic form, or in his piercing eye.

She was ruddily fair, with that luxuriant auburn-brown hair which goes
with eyes of amberish-brown and freckles. These latter she had, I
observed with a renewal of the thought of the country girls and the old
district school. She was slender of waist, full of bust, and, after a
lissome, sylph-like fashion, altogether charming in form. With all her
roundness, she was slight and a little undersized.

So much of her as there was, the young fellow seemed ready to absorb,
regarding her with avid eyes--a gaze which she seldom met. But whenever
he gave his attention to the mahlstick, her eyes sought his countenance
with a look which was almost scrutiny. It was as if some extrinsic force
drew her glance to his face, until the stronger compulsion of her
modesty drove it away at the return of his black orbs. My heart
recognized with a throb the freemasonry into which I had lately been
initiated, and, all unknown to them, I hailed them as members of the
order.

Their conversation came to me in shreds and fragments, which I did not
at all care to hear. I recognized in it those inanities with which youth
busies the lips, leaving the mind at rest, that the interplay of
magnetic discharges from heart to heart may go on uninterruptedly. It is
a beautiful provision of nature, but I did not at that time admire it. I
pitied them. Alice and I had passed through that stage, and into the
phase marked by long and eloquent silences.

"I was brought up to think," I remember to have heard the fair stranger
say, following out, apparently, some subject under discussion between
them, "that the surest way to make a child steal jam is to spy upon him.
I should feel ashamed."

"Quite right," said he, "but in Europe and in the East, and even here in
Chicago, in some circles, it is looked upon as indispensable, you
know."

"In art, at least," she went on, "there is no sex. Whoever can help me
in my work is a companion that I don't need any chaperon to protect me
from. If I wasn't perfectly sure of that, I should give up and go back
home."

"Now, don't draw the line so as to shut me out," he protested. "How can
I help you with your work?"

She looked him steadily in the face now, her intent and questioning
regard shading off into a somewhat arch smile.

"I can't think of any way," said she, "unless it would be by posing for
me."

"There's another way," he answered, "and the only one I'd care about."

She suddenly became absorbed in the contemplation of the paints on her
palette, at which she made little thrusts with a brush; and at last she
queried, doubtfully, "How?"

"I've heard or read," he answered, "that no artist ever rises to the
highest, you know, until after experiencing some great love. I--can't
you think of any other way besides the posing?"

She brought the brush close to her eyes, minutely inspecting its point
for a moment, then seemed to take in his expression with a swift
sweeping glance, resumed the examination of the brush, and finally
looked him in the face again, a little red spot glowing in her cheek,
and a glint of fire in her eye. I was too dense to understand it, but I
felt that there was a trace of resentment in her mien.

"Oh, I don't know about that!" she said. "There may be some other way. I
haven't met all your friends, and you may be the means of introducing me
to the very man."

I did not hear his reply, though I confess I tried to catch it. She
resumed her work of copying one of the paintings. This she did in a
mechanical sort of way, slowly, and with crabbed touches, but with some
success. I thought her lacking in anything like control over the medium
in which she worked; but the results promised rather well. He seemed
annoyed at her sudden accession of industry, and looked sometimes
quizzically at her work, often hungrily at her. Once or twice he touched
her hand as she stepped near him; but she neither reproved him nor
allowed him to retain it.

I felt that I had taken her measure by this time. She was some Western
country girl, well supplied with money, blindly groping toward the
career of an artist. Her accent, her dress, and her occupation told of
her origin and station in life, and of her ambitions. The blindness I
guessed,--partly from the manner of her work, partly from the inherent
probabilities of the case. If the young man had been eliminated from
this problem with which my love-sick imagination was busying itself, I
could have followed her back confidently to some rural neighborhood, and
to a year or two of painting portraits from photographs, and landscapes
from "studies," and exhibiting them at the county fair; the teaching of
some pupils, in an unnecessary but conscientiously thrifty effort to get
back some of the money invested in an "art education" in Chicago; and a
final reversion to type after her marriage with the village lawyer,
doctor or banker, or the owner of the adjoining farm. I was young; but I
had studied people, and had already seen such things happen.

But the young man could not be eliminated. He sat there idly, his every
word and look surcharged with passion. As I wondered how long it would
be until they were as happy as Alice and I, the thought grew upon me
that, however familiar might be the type to which she belonged, he was
unclassified. His accent was Eastern--of New York, I judged. He looked
like the young men in the magazine illustrations--interesting, but
outside my field of observation. And I could not fail to see that girl
must find herself similarly at odds with him. "But," thought I, "love
levels all!" And I freshly interrogated the pictures and statues for
transportation to my own private Elysium, forgetful of my unconscious
neighbors.

My attention was recalled to them, however, by their arrangements for
departure, and a concomitant slightly louder tone in their conversation.

"It's just a spectacular show," said he; "no plot or anything of that
sort, you know, but good music and dancing; and when we get tired of it
we can go. We'll have a little supper at Auriccio's afterward, if you'll
be so kind. It's only a step from McVicker's."

"Won't it be pretty late?" she queried.

"Not for Chicago," said he, "and you'll find material for a picture at
Auriccio's about midnight. It's quite like the Latin Quarter,
sometimes."

"I want to see the real Latin Quarter, and no imitation," she answered.
"Oh, I guess I'll go. It'll furnish me with material for a letter to
mamma, however the picture may turn out."

"I'll order supper for the Empress," said he, "and--"

"And for the illustrious Sir John," she added. "But you mustn't call me
that any more. I've been reading her history, and I don't like it. I'm
glad he died on St. Helena, now: I used to feel sorry for him."

"Transfer your pity to the downtrodden Sir John," he replied, "and make
a real living man happy."

They passed out and left me to my dreams. But visions did not return. My
idyl was spoiled. Old-fashioned ideas emerged, and took form in the
plain light of every-day common-sense. I knew the wonderfully gorgeous
spectacle these two young people were going to see at the play that
night, with its lights, its music, its splendidly meretricious
Orientalism. And I knew Auriccio's,--not a disreputable place at all,
perhaps; but free-and-easy, and distinctly Bohemian. I wished that this
little girl, so arrogantly and ignorantly disdainful (as Alice would
have been under the same circumstances) of such European conventions as
the chaperon, so fresh, so young, so full of allurement, so under the
influence of this smooth, dark, and passionate wooer with the vibrant
voice, could be otherwise accompanied on this night of pleasure than by
himself alone.

"It's none of your business," said the voice of that cold-hearted and
slothful spirit which keeps us in our groove, "and you couldn't do
anything, anyhow. Besides, he's abjectly in love with her: would there
be any danger if it were you and your Alice?"

"I'm not at all sure about him or his abjectness," replied my uneasy
conscience. "He knows better than to do this."

"What do you know of either of them?" answered this same Spirit of
Routine. "What signify a few sentences casually overheard? She may be
something quite different; there are strange things in Chicago."

"I'll wager anything," said I hotly, "that she's a good American girl of
the sort I live among and was brought up with! And she may be in
danger."

"If she's that sort of girl," said the Voice, "you may rely upon her to
take care of herself."

"That's pretty nearly true," I admitted.

"Besides," said the Voice illogically, "such things happen every night
in such a city. It's a part of the great tragedy. Don't be Quixotic!"

Here was where the Voice lost its case: for my conscience was stirred
afresh; and I went back to the convention-hall carrying on a joint
debate with myself. Once in the hall, however, I was conscripted into a
war which was raging all through our delegation over the succession in
our membership in the National Committee. I thought no more of the idyl
of the art-gallery until the adjournment for the night.



CHAPTER II.

Still Introductory.


The great throng from the hall surged along the streets in an Amazonian
network of streams, gathering in boiling lakes in the great hotels,
dribbling off into the boarding-house districts in the suburbs, seeping
down into the slimy fens of vice. Again I found myself out of touch with
it all. I gave my companions the slip, and started for my hotel.

All at once it occurred to me that I had not dined, and with the thought
came the remembrance of my pair of lovers, and their supper together.
With a return of the feeling that these were the only people in Chicago
possessing spirits akin to mine, I shaped my course for Auriccio's. My
country dazedness led me astray once or twice, but I found the place,
retreated into the farthest corner, sat down, and ordered supper.

It was not one of the places where the out-of-town visitors were likely
to resort, and it was in fact rather quieter than usual. The few who
were at the tables went out before my meal was served, and for a few
minutes I was alone. Then the Empress and Sir John entered, followed by
half a dozen other playgoers. The two on whom my sentimental interest
was fixed came far down toward my position, attracted by the quietude
which had lured me, and seated themselves at a table in a sort of
alcove, cut off from the main room by columns and palms, secluded enough
for privacy, public enough, perhaps, for propriety. So far as I was
concerned I could see them quite plainly, looking, as I did, from my
gloomy corner toward the light of the restaurant; and I was sufficiently
close to be within easy earshot. I began to have the sensation of
shadowing them, until I recalled the fact that, so far, it had been a
case of their following me.

I thought his manner toward her had changed since the afternoon. There
was now an openness of wooing, an abandonment of reserve in glance and
attitude, which should have admonished her of an approaching crisis in
their affairs. Yet she seemed cooler and more self-possessed than
before. Save for a little flutter in her low laugh, I should have
pronounced her entirely at ease. She looked very sweet and girlish in
her high-necked dress, which helped make up a costume that she seemed to
have selected to subdue and conceal, rather than to display, her charms.
If such was her plan, it went pitifully wrong: his advances went on from
approach to approach, like the last manoeuvres of a successful siege.

"No," I heard her say, as I became conscious that we three were alone
again; "not here! Not at all! Stop!"

When I looked at them they were quietly sitting at the table; but her
face was pale, his flushed. Pretty soon the waiter came and served
champagne. I felt sure that she had never seen any before.

"How funny it looks," said she, "with the bubbles coming up in the
middle like a little fountain; and how pretty! Why, the stem is hollow,
isn't it?"

He laughed and made some foolish remark about love bubbling up in his
heart. When he set his glass down, I could see that his hands were
trembling as with palsy,--so much so that it was tipped over and broken.

"I'll fill another," said he. "Aren't you sorry you broke it?"

"I?" she queried. "You're not going to lay that to me, are you?"

"You're the only one to blame!" he replied. "You must hold it till it's
steady. I'll hold your glass with the other. Why, you don't take any at
all! Don't you like it, dear?"

She shrank back, looked toward the door, and then took the hand in both
of hers, holding it close to her side, and drank the wine like a child
taking medicine. His arm, his hand still holding the glass, slipped
about her waist, but she turned swiftly and silently freed herself and
sat down by the chair in which he had meant that both should sit,
holding his hands. Then in a moment I saw her sitting on the other side
of the table, and he was filling the glasses again. The guests had all
departed. The well-disciplined waiters had effaced themselves. Only we
three were there. I wondered if I ought to do anything.

They sat and talked in low tones. He was drinking a good deal of the
champagne; she, little; and neither seemed to be eating anything. He sat
opposite to her, leaning over as if to consume her with his eyes. She
returned his gaze often now, and often smiled; but her smile was drawn
and tremulous, and, to my mind, pitifully appealing. I no longer
wondered if I ought to do anything; for, once, when I partly rose to go
and speak to them, the impossibility of the thing overcame my half
resolve, and I sat down. The anti-quixotic spirit won, after all.

At last a waiter, returning with the change for the bill with which I
had paid my score, was hailed by Sir John, and was paid for their
supper. I looked to see them as they started for home. The girl rose and
made a movement toward her wrap. He reached it first and placed it about
her shoulders. In so doing, he drew her to him, and began speaking
softly and passionately to her in words I could not hear. Her face was
turned upward and backward toward him, and all her resistance seemed
gone. I should have been glad to believe this the safe and triumphant
surrender to an honest love; but here, after the dances and Stamboul
spectacles, hidden by the palms, beside the table with its empty bottles
and its broken glass, how could I believe it such? I turned away, as if
to avoid the sight of the crushing of some innocent thing which I was
powerless to aid, and strode toward the door.

Then I heard a little cry, and saw her come flying down the great hall,
leaving him standing amazedly in the archway of the palm alcove.

She passed me at the door, her face vividly white, went out into the
street, like a dove from the trap at a shooting tournament, and sprang
lightly upon a passing street-car. I could act now, and I would see her
to a place of safety; so I, too, swung on by the rail of the rear car.
She never once turned her face; but I saw Sir John come to the door of
the restaurant and look both ways for her, and as he stood perplexed and
alarmed, our train turned the curve at the next corner, we were swept
off toward the South Side, and the dark young man passed, as I supposed,
"into my dreams forever." I made my way forward a few seats and saw her
sitting there with her head bowed upon the back of the seat in front of
her. I bitterly wished that he, if he had a heart, might see her there,
bruised in spirit, her little ignorant white soul, searching itself for
smutches of the uncleanness it feared. I wished that Alice might be
there to go to her and comfort her without a word. I paid her fare, and
the conductor seemed to understand that she was not to be disturbed. A
drunken man in rough clothes came into the car, walked forward and
looked at her a moment, and as I was about to go to him and make him sit
elsewhere, he turned away and came back to the rear, as if he had some
sort of maudlin realization that the front of the train was sacred
ground.

At last she looked about, signalled for the car to stop, and alighted. I
followed, rather suspecting that she did not know her way. She walked
steadily on, however, to a big, dark house with a vine-covered porch,
close to the sidewalk. A stout man, coatless, and in a white shirt,
stood at the gate. He wore a slouch hat, and I knew him, even in that
dim light, for a farmer. She stopped for a moment, and without a word,
sprang into his arms.

"Wal, little gal, ain't yeh out purty late?" I heard him say, as I
walked past. "Didn't expect yer dad to see yeh, did yeh? Why, yeh ain't
a-cryin', be yeh?"

"O pa! O pa!" was all I heard her say; but it was enough. I walked to
the corner, and sat down on the curbstone, dead tired, but happy. In a
little while I went back toward the street-car line, and as I passed the
vine-clad porch, heard the farmer's bass voice, and stopped to listen,
frankly an eavesdropper, and feeling, somehow, that I had earned the
right to hear.

"Why, o' course, I'll take yeh away, ef yeh don't like it here, little
gal," he was saying. "Yes, we'll go right in an' pack up now, if yeh say
so. Only it's a little suddent, and may hurt the Madame's feelin's, y'
know--"

                 *       *       *       *       *

At the hotel I was forced by the crowded state of the city to share the
bed of one of my fellow delegates. He was a judge from down the state,
and awoke as I lay down.

"That you, Barslow?" said he. "Do you know a fellow by the name of
Elkins, of Cleveland?"

"No," said I, "why?"

"He was here to see you, or rather to inquire if you were Al Barslow who
used to live in Pleasant Valley Township," the Judge went on. "He's the
fellow who organized the Ohio flambeau brigade. Seems smart."

"Pleasant Valley Township, did he say? Yes, I know him. It's Jimmie
Elkins."

And I sank to sleep and to dreams, in which Jimmie Elkins, the Empress,
Sir John, Alice, and myself acted in a spectacular drama, like that at
McVicker's. And yet there are those who say there is nothing in dreams!



CHAPTER III.

Reminiscentially Autobiographical.


This Jimmie Elkins was several years older than I; but that did not
prevent us, as boys, from being fast friends. At seventeen he had a
coterie of followers among the smaller fry of ten and twelve, his tastes
clinging long to the things of boyhood. He and I played together, after
the darkening of his lip suggested the razor, and when the youths of his
age were most of them acquiring top buggies, and thinking of the long
Sunday-night drives with their girls. Jim preferred the boys, and the
trade of the fisher and huntsman.

Why, in spite of parental opposition, I loved Jimmie, is not hard to
guess. He had an odd and freakish humor, and talked more of
Indian-fighting, filibustering in gold-bearing regions, and of moving
accidents by flood and field, than of crops, live-stock, or bowery
dances. He liked me just as did the older men who sent me to the
National Convention,--in spite of my youth. He was a ne'er-do-weel, said
my father, but I snared gophers and hunted and fished with him, and we
loved each other as brothers seldom do.

At last, I began teaching school, and working my way to a better
education than our local standard accepted as either useful or
necessary, and Jim and I drifted apart. He had always kept up a
voluminous correspondence with that class of advertisers whose
black-letter "Agents Wanted" is so attractive to the farmer-boy; and he
was usually agent for some of their wares. Finally, I heard of him as a
canvasser for a book sold by subscription,--a "Veterinarians' Guide," I
believe it was,--and report said that he was "making money." Again I
learned that he had established a publishing business of some kind; and,
later, that reverses had forced him to discontinue it,--the old farmer
who told me said he had "failed up." Then I heard no more of him until
that night of the convention, when I had the adventure with the Empress
and Sir John, all unknown to them; and Jim made the ineffectual attempt
to find me. His family had left the old neighborhood, and so had mine;
and the chances of our ever meeting seemed very slight. In fact it was
some years later and after many of the brave dreams of the youthful
publicist had passed away, that I casually stumbled upon him in the
smoking-room of a parlor-car, coming out of Chicago.

I did not know him at first. He came forward, and, extending his hand,
said, "How are you, Al?" and paused, holding the hand I gave him,
evidently expecting to enjoy a period of perplexity on my part. But with
one good look in his eyes I knew him. I made him sit down by me, and for
half an hour we were too much engrossed in reminiscences to ask after
such small matters as business, residence, and general welfare.

"Where all have you been, Jim, and what have you been doing, since you
followed off the 'Veterinarians' Guide,' and I lost you?" I inquired at
last.

"I've been everywhere, and I've done everything, almost," said he. "Put
it in the 'negative case,' and my history'll be briefer."

"I should regard organizing a flambeau brigade," said I, "as about the
last thing you would engage in."

"Ah!" he replied, "His Whiskers at the hotel told you I called that
time, did he? Well, I didn't think he had the sense. And I doubted the
memory on your part, and I wasn't at all sure you were the real Barslow.
But about the flambeaux. The fact is, I had some stock in the flambeau
factory, and I was a rabid partisan of flambeaux. They seemed so
patriotic, you know, so sort of ennobling, and so convincing, as to the
merits of the tariff controversy!"

It was the same old Jim, I thought.

"We used to have a scheme," I remarked, "our favorite one, of occupying
an island in the Pacific,--or was it somewhere in the vicinity of the
Spanish Main--"

"If it was the place where we were to make slaves of all the natives,
and I was to be king, and you Grand Vizier," he answered, as if it were
a weighty matter, and he on the witness-stand, "it was in the
Pacific--the South Pacific, where the whale-oil comes from. A coral
atoll, with a crystal lagoon in the middle for our ships, and a fringe
of palms along the margin--coco-palms, you remember; and the lagoon was
green, sometimes, and sometimes blue; and the sharks never came over the
bar, but the porpoises came in and played for us, and made fireworks in
the phosphorescent waves...."

His eyes grew almost tender, as he gazed out of the window, and ceased
to speak without finishing the sentence,--which it took me some minutes
to follow out to the end, in my mind. I was delighted and touched to
find these foolish things so green in his memory.

"The plan involved," said I soberly, "capturing a Spanish galleon filled
with treasure, finding two lovely ladies in the cabin, and offering them
their liberty. And we sailed with them for a port; and, as I remember
it, their tears at parting conquered us, and we married them; and lived
richer than oil magnates, and grander than Monte Cristos forever after:
do you remember?"

"Remember! Well, I should smile!"--he had been laughing like a boy, with
his old frank laugh. "Them's the things we don't forget.... Did you ever
gather any information as to what a galleon really was? I never did."

"I had no more idea than I now have of the Rosicrucian Mysteries; and I
must confess," said I, "that I'm a little hazy on the galleon question
yet. As to piracy, now, and robbers and robbery, actual life fills out
the gaps in the imagination of boyhood, doesn't it, Jim?"

"Apt to," he assented, "but specifically? As to which, you know?"

"Well, I've had my share of experience with them," I answered, "though
not so much in the line of rob-or, as we planned, but more as rob-ee."

Jim looked at me quizzically.

"Board of Trade, faro, or ... what?" he ventured.

"General business," I responded, "and ... politics."

"Local, state, or national?" he went on, craftily ignoring the general
business.

"A little national, some state, but the bulk of it local. I've been
elected County Treasurer, down where I live, for four successive terms."

"Good for you!" he responded. "But I don't see how that can be made to
harmonize with your remark about rob-or and rob-ee. It's been your own
fault, if you haven't been on the profitable side of the game, with the
dear people on the other. And I judge from your looks that you eat three
meals a day, right along, anyhow. Come, now, b'lay this rob-ee business
(as Sir Henry Morgan used to say) till you get back to Buncombe County.
As a former partner in crime, I won't squeal; and the next election is
some ways off, anyhow. No concealment among pals, now, Al, it's no fair,
you know, and it destroys confidence and breeds discord. Many a good,
honest, piratical enterprise has been busted up by concealment and lack
of confidence. Always trust your fellow pirates,--especially in things
they know all about by extrinsic evidence,--and keep concealment for the
great world of the unsophisticated and gullible, and to catch the
sucker vote with. But among ourselves, my beloved, fidelity to truth,
and openness of heart is the first rule, right out of Hoyle. With dry
powder, mutual confidence, and sharp cutlasses, we are invincible; and
as the poet saith,

    "'Far as the tum-te-tum the billows foam
    Survey our empire and behold our home,'

or words to that effect. And to think of your trying to deceive me, your
former chieftain, who doesn't even vote in your county or state, and
moreover always forgets election! Rob-ee indeed! rats! Al, I'm ashamed
of you, by George, I am!"

This speech he delivered with a ridiculous imitation of the tricks of
the elocutionist. It was worthy of the burlesque stage. The conductor,
passing through, was attracted by it, and notified us that the solitude
of the smoking-room had been invaded, by a slight burst of applause at
Jim's peroration, followed by the vanishing of the audience.

"No need for any further concealment on my part, so far as elections are
concerned," said I, when we had finished our laugh, "for I go out of
office January first, next."

"Oh, well, that accounts for it, then," said he. "I notice, say, three
kinds of retirement from office: voluntary (very rare), post-convention,
and post-election. Which is yours?"

"Post-convention, I'm sorry to say. I wish it had been voluntary."

"It _is_ the cheapest; but you're in great luck not to get licked at the
polls. Altogether, you're in great luck. You've been betting on a game
in which the percentage is mighty big in favor of the house, and you've
won three or four consecutive turns out of the box. You've got no kick
coming: you're in big luck. Don't you know you are?"

I did not feel called upon to commit myself; and we smoked on for some
time in silence.

"It strikes me, Jim," said I, at last, "that you've done all the
cross-examination, and that it is time to listen to your report. How
about you and your conduct?"

"As for my conduct," was the prompt answer, "it's away up in the
neighborhood of G. I've managed to hold the confounded world up for a
living, ever since I left Pleasant Valley Township. Some of the time the
picking has been better than at others; but my periods of starvation
have been brief. By practicing on the 'Veterinarians' Guide' and other
similar fakes, I learned how to talk to people so as to make them
believe what I said about things, with the result, usually, of wooing
the shrinking and cloistered dollar from its lair. When a fellow gets
this trick down fine, he can always find a market for his services. I
handled hotel registers, city directories, and like literature,
including county histories--"

"Sh-h-h!" said I, "somebody might hear you."

"--and at last, after a conference with my present employers, the error
of my way presented itself to me, and I felt called to a higher and
holier profession. I yielded to my good angel, turned my better nature
loose, and became a missionary."

"A what!" I exclaimed.

"A missionary," he responded soberly. "That is, you understand, not one
of these theological, India's-coral-strand guys; but one who goes about
the United States of America in a modest and unassuming way, doing good
so far as in him lies."

"I see," said I, punning horribly, "'in him lies.'"

"Eh?... Yes. Have another cigar. Well, now, you can't defend this
foreign-mission business to me for a minute. The hills, right in this
vicinity, are even now white to the harvest. Folks here want the light
just as bad as the foreign heathen; and so I took up my burden, and went
out to disseminate truth, as the soliciting agent of the Frugality and
Indemnity Life Association, which presented itself to me as the capacity
in which I could best combine repentance with its fruits."

"I perceive," said I.

"Perfectly plain, isn't it, to the seeing eye?" he went on. "You see it
was like this: Charley Harper and I had been together in the Garden City
Land Company, years ago, during the boom--by the way, I didn't mention
that in my report, did I? Well, of course, that company went up just as
they all did, and neither Charley nor I got to be receiver, as we'd sort
of laid out to do, and we separated. I went back to my literature--hotel
registers, with an advertising scheme, with headquarters at Cleveland.
That's how I happened to be an Ohio man at that national convention.
Charley always had a leaning toward insurance, and went down into
Illinois, and started a mutual-benefit organization, which he kept
going a few years down on the farm--Springfield, or Jacksonville, or
somewhere down there; and when I ketched up with him again, he was just
changing it to the old-line plan, and bringing it to the metropolis.
Well, I helped him some to enlist capital, and he offered me the
position of Superintendent of Agents. I accepted, and after serving
awhile in the ranks to sort of get onto the ropes, here I am, just
starting out on a trip which will take me through a number of states."

"How does it agree with you?" I inquired.

"Not well," said he, "but the good I accomplish is a great comfort to
me. On this trip, now, I expect to do much in the way of stimulating the
boys up to their great work of spreading the light of the gospel of true
insurance. Sometimes, in these days of apathy and error, I find my
burden a heavy one; and notwithstanding the quiet of conscience I gain,
if it weren't for the salary, I'd quit to-morrow, Al, danged if I
wouldn't. It makes me tired to have even you sort of hint that I'm
actuated by some selfish motive, when, in truth and in fact, I live but
to gather widows and orphans under my wing, so to speak, and give second
husbands a good start, by means of policies written on the only true
plan, combining participation in profits with pure mutuality, and--"

"Never mind!" said I with a silence-commanding gesture. "I've heard all
that before. You're onto the ropes thoroughly; but don't practice your
infernal arts on me! I hope the salary is satisfactory?"

"Fairish; but not high, considering what they get for it."

"You used to be more modest," said I. "I remember that you once nearly
broke your heart because you couldn't summon up courage to ask Creeshy
Hammond to go to the 'Fourth' with you; d'ye remember?"

"Well, I guess, yes!" he replied. "Wasn't I a miserable wretch for a few
days! And I've never been able to ask any woman I cared about, the
fateful question, yet."

We went into the parlor-car, and talked over old times and new for an
hour. I told him of my marriage and my home, and I studied him. I saw
that he still preserved his humorous, mock-serious style of
conversation, and that his hand-to-hand battle with the world had made
him good-humoredly cynical. He evinced a knowledge of more things than I
should have expected; and had somehow acquired an imposing manner, in
spite of his rather slangy, if expressive, vocabulary. He had the power
of making statements of mere opinion, which, from some vibration of
voice or trick of expression, struck the hearer as solid facts, thrice
buttressed by evidence. He bore no marks of dissipation, unless the
occasional use of terms traceable to the turf or the gaming-table might
be considered such; but these expressions, I considered, are so
constantly before every reader of the newspapers that the language of
the pulpit, even, is infected by them. Their evidential value being thus
destroyed, they ought not to be weighed at all, as against firm,
wholesome flesh, a good complexion, and a clear eye, all of which Mr.
Elkins possessed.

"It's funny," said I, "how seldom I meet any of the old neighbor-boys.
Do you see any of them in your travels?"

"Not often," he answered, "but you remember little Ed Smith, who lived
on the Hayes place for a while, and brought the streaked snake into the
schoolhouse while Julia Fanning was teaching? Well, he was an architect
at Garden City, and lives in Chicago now. We sort of chum together: saw
him yesterday. He left Garden City when the land company went up. I tell
you, that was a hot town for a while! Railroads, and factories, and
irrigation schemes, and prices scooting toward the zenith, till you
couldn't rest. If I'd got into that push soon enough, I shouldn't have
made a thing but money; as it was, I didn't lose only what I had. A good
many of the boys lost a lot more. But I tell you, Al, a boom properly
boomed is a sure thing."

"You're a constant source of surprise to me, Jim," said I. "I should
have thought them sure to lose."

"They're sure to win," said he earnestly.

I demurred. "I don't see how that can possibly be," said I, "for of all
things, booms seem to me the most fickle and incalculable."

"They seem so," said he, smiling, but still in earnest, "to your rustic
and untaught mind, and to most others, because they haven't been
studied. The comet, likewise, doesn't seem very stable or dependable;
but to the eye of the astronomer its orbit is plain, and the time of its
return engagement pretty certain. It's the same with seventeen-year
locusts--and booms; their visits are so far apart that the masses forget
their birthmarks and the W's on their backs. But if you'll follow their
appearances from place to place, as I've done, putting up my ante right
along for the privilege, you'll become an accomplished boomist; and from
the first gentle stirrings of boom-sprouts in the soil, so to speak, you
can forecast their growth, maturity, and collapse."

"I must be permitted to doubt it," said I.

"It's easy, my son," he resumed, "dead easy, and it's psychology on the
hugest scale; and among the results of its study is constant improvement
of the mind, going on coincidentally with the preparation of the way to
the ownership of steam-yachts and racing-stables, or any other similar
trifles you hanker for."

"Great brain, Jim! Massive intellect!" said I, laughing at the fantastic
absurdity of his assertion. "Why, such knowledge as you possess is
better than straight tips on all the races ever to be run. It's better
than our tropical island and Spanish galleons. You get richer, and you
don't have to look out for men-of-war. Do I hold my job as Grand
Vizier?"

"You hold any job you'll take: I'll make out the appointment with the
position and salary blank, and you can fill it up. And if you get
dissatisfied with that, the old grand hailing-sign of distress will
catch the speaker's eye, any old time. But, I tell you, Al, in all
seriousness, I'm right about this boom business. They're all alike, and
they all have the same history. With the conditions right, one can be
started anywhere in a growing country. I've had my ear to the ground for
a while back, and I've heard things. I'm sure I detect some of the
premonitory symptoms: money piling up in the financial centers; property
away down, but strengthening, in the newer regions; and, lately, a
little tendency to take chances in investments, forgetting the scorching
of ten or twelve years ago. A new generation of suckers is gettin' ready
to bite. Look into this thing, Al, and don't be a chump."

"The same old Jim," said I; "you were manipulating a corner in
tobacco-tags while I was learning my letters."

"Do you ever forget anything?" he inquired. "I have about forgotten that
myself. How was that tobacco-tag business, Al?"

Then with the painstaking circumstantiality of two old schoolmates
luxuriating in memories, we talked over the tobacco-tag craze which
swept through our school one winter. Everything in life takes place in
school, and the "tobacco-tag craze" has quite often recurred to me as
showing boys acting just as men act, and Jimmie Elkins as the born
stormy petrel of financial seas.

It all came back to our minds, and we reconstructed this story. The
manufacturers of "Tomahawk Plug" had offered a dozen photographs of
actresses and dancers to any one sending in a certain number of the tin
hatchets concealed in their tobacco. The makers of "Broad-axe Navy"
offered something equally cheap and alluring for consignments of their
brass broad-axes. The older boys began collecting photographs, and a
market for tobacco-tags of certain kinds was established. We little
fellows, though without knowledge of the mysterious forces which had
given value to these bits of metal, began to pick up stray tags from
sidewalk, foot-path, and floor. A marked upward tendency soon manifested
itself. Boys found their "Broad-axe" or "Door-key" tags, picked tip at
night, doubled in value by morning. The primary object in collecting
tags was forgotten in the speculative mania which set in. Who would
exchange "Tomahawk" tags for the counterfeit presentment of décolleté
dancers, when by holding them he could make cent-per-cent on his
investment of hazel-nuts and slate-pencils?

The playground became a Board of Trade. We learned nothing but mental
arithmetic applied to deals in "Door-keys," "Arrow-heads," and other tag
properties. We went about with pockets full of tags.

Jim, not yet old enough to admire the beauties of the photographs, came
forward in a week as the Napoleon of tobacco-tag finance. He acquired
tags in the slumps, and sold them in the bulges. He raided particular
brands with rumors of the vast supply with which the village boys were
preparing to flood us. He converted his holdings into marbles and tops.
Finally, he planned his master-stroke. He dropped mysterious hints
regarding some tag considered worthless. He asked us in whispers if we
had any. Others followed his example, and "Door-key" tags went above all
others and were scarce at any price. Then Jimmie Elkins brought out the
supply which he had "cornered," threw it on the market, and before it
had time to drop took in a large part of the playground currency. I lost
to him a good drawing-slate and a figure-4 trap.

Jimmie pocketed his winnings, but the trouble attracted the attention of
the teacher, and under adverse legislation a period of liquidation set
in. The distress was great. Many found themselves with property which
was not convertible into photographs or anything else. To make matters
worse, the discovery was made that the big boys had left school to begin
the spring's work, and no one wanted the photographs. Bankrupt and
disillusioned, we returned to the realities of kites, marbles, and
knives, most of which we had to obtain from Jimmie Elkins.

"Yes," said he, "it's a good deal the same with booms. But if you
understand 'em ... eh, Al?"

"Well," said I, really impressed now, "I'll look into it. And when you
get ready to sow your boom-seed, let me know. I change cars in a few
minutes, and you go on. Come down and see me sometimes, can't you? We
haven't had our talk half out yet. Doesn't your business ever bring you
down our way?"

"It hasn't yet, but I'm coming down into that neck of the woods within
six weeks, and I guess I can fix it so's to stop off,--mingling pleasure
and business. It's the only way the hustling philanthropist of my style
ever gets any recreation."

"Do it," said I; "I'll have plenty of time at my disposal; for I go out
of office before that time; and I may want to go into your
boom-hatchery."

"On the theory that the great adversary of mankind runs an employment
agency for ex's? There's the whistle for your junction. By George, Al, I
can't tell you how glad I am to have ketched up with you again! I've
wondered about you a million times. Don't let's lose track of each other
again."

"No, no, Jim, we won't!" The train was coming to a stop. "Don't allow
anything to side-track you and prevent that visit."

"Well, I should say not," he answered, following me out upon the
platform of the station. "We'll have a regular piratical reunion--a sort
of buccaneers' camp-fire. I've a curiosity to see some of the fellows
who acted the part of rob-or to your rob-ee. I want to hear their side
of the story. Good-by, Al. Confound it, I wish you were going on with
me!"

He wrung my hand at parting, reminding me of the old Jim who studied
from the same geography with me, more than at any time since we met. He
stayed with me until after his train had started, caught hold of the
hand-rail as the rear car went by, and passed out of view, waving his
hand to me.

I sat down on a baggage-truck waiting for my train, thinking of my
encounter with Jim. All the way home I was busy pondering over a
thousand things thus suddenly recalled to me. I could see every
fence-corner and barn, every hill and stream of our old haunts; and
after I got home I told Alice all about it.

"He seems quite a remarkable fellow," said I, "and a perfect specimen of
the pusher and hustler--a quick-witted man of affairs. If he is ever
put down, he can't be kept down."

"I think I prefer a more refined type of man," said Alice.

"In the sixteenth century," I went on with that excessive perspicacity
which our wives have to put up with, "he'd have been a Drake or a
Dampier; in the seventeenth, the commander of a privateer or slaver; in
this age, I shall not be at all surprised if he turns out a great
railway or financial magnate. It's like a whiff of boyhood to talk with
him; though he's a greatly different sort of man from what I should have
expected to find him. I think you'll like him."

She seemed dubious about this. Our wives instinctively disapprove of
people we used to know prior to that happy meeting which led to
marriage. This prejudice, for some reason, is stronger against our
feminine acquaintances than the others. I am not analytical enough to do
more than point out this feeling, which will, I think, be admitted by
all husbands to exist.

"That sort of man," said she, "lacks the qualities of bravery and
intrepidity which make up a Drake or a Dampier. They are so a-scheming
and calculating!"

"The last time I saw Jim until to-day," said I, "he did something which
seems to show that he had those more admirable qualities."

Then I told her that story of Jim and the mad dog, which is remembered
in Pleasant Valley to this day. Some say the dog was not mad; but I, who
saw his terrible, insane look as he came snapping and frothing down the
road, believe that he was. Jim had left the school for a year or so, and
I was a "big boy" ready to leave it. It was at four one afternoon, and
as the children filed into the road, there met them the shouts of men
and cries of "Run! Run! Mad dog!"

The children scattered like a covey of quail; but a pair of little
five-year-olds, forgotten by the others, walked on hand in hand, looking
into each other's faces, right toward the poor crazed, hunted brute,
which trotted slowly toward the children, gnashing its frothing jaws at
sticks and weeds, at everything it met, ready to bury its teeth in the
first baby to come within reach.

A young man with a canvasser's portfolio stood behind a fence over which
he had jumped to avoid the dog. Suddenly he saw the children, knew their
danger, and leaped back into the road. It was like a bull-fighter
vaulting the barriers into the perils of the arena,--only it was to
save, not to destroy. The dog had passed him and was nearer the children
than he was. I wondered what he expected to do as I saw him running
lightly, swiftly, and yet quietly behind the terrible beast. As he
neared the animal, he stooped, and my blood froze as I saw him seize the
dog with both hands by the hinder legs. The head curled sidewise and
under, and the teeth almost grazed the young man's hands with a vicious,
metallic snap. Then we saw what the contest was. The young man, with a
powerful circling sweep of his arms, whirled the dog so swiftly about
his head that the lank frame swung out in a straight line, and the snap
could not be repeated. But what of the end? No muscles could long stand
such a strain, and when they yielded, then what?

Then we saw that as he swung his loathsome foe, the young man was
gradually approaching the schoolhouse. We saw the horrible snapping head
whirl nearer and nearer at every turn to the corner of the building.
Then we saw the young man strike a terrible blow at the stone wall,
using the dog as a club; and in a moment I saw the stones splashed with
red, and the young man lying on the ground, where the violence of his
effort had thrown him, and by him lay the quivering form of what we had
fled from. And the young man was James Elkins.

Alice breathed hard as I finished, and stood straight with her chin held
high.

"That was fine!" said she. "I want to see that man!"



CHAPTER IV.

Jim discovers his Coral Island.


There has long been abroad in the world a belief that events which bear
some controlling relation to one's destiny are announced by premonition,
some spiritual trepidation, some movement of that curtain which cuts off
our view of the future. I believe this notion to be false, but feel that
it is true; and the manner in which that adventure of mine in the old
art gallery and at Auriccio's impressed my mind, and the way in which my
memory clung to it, seem to justify my feeling rather than my belief.
Whenever I visited Chicago, I went to the gallery, more in the hope of
seeing the girl whose only name to me was "the Empress" than to gratify
my cravings for art. I felt a boundless pity for her--and laughed at
myself for taking so seriously an incident which, in all likelihood, she
herself dismissed with a few tears, a few retrospective burnings of
heart and cheek. But I never saw her. Once I loitered for an hour about
the boarding-house with the vine-clad porch, while the boarders (mostly
students, I judged) came and went; but though I saw many young girls,
the Empress was not among them. And all this time the years were rolling
on, and I was permitting my once bright political career to blight and
wither by my own neglect, as a growth not worth caring for.

I became a private citizen in due time, but found no comfort in leisure.
I was in those doldrums which beset the politician when rivals justle
him from his little eminence. One who, for years, is annually or
biennially complimented by the suffrages of even a few thousands of his
fellow citizens, and is invited into the penetralia of a great political
party, is apt to regard himself, after a while, as peculiarly deserving
of the plaudits of the humble and the consideration of the powerful.
Then comes the inevitable hour when pussy finds himself without a
corner. The deep disgust for party and politics which then takes
possession of him demands change of scene and new surroundings. Any
flagging in partisan enthusiasm is sure to be attributed to
sore-headedness, and leads to charges of perfidy and thanklessness. Yet,
for him, the choice lies between abated zeal and hypocrisy, inasmuch as
no man can normally be as zealous for his party as the fanatic into
which the candidate or incumbent converts himself.

Underlying my whole frame of mind was the knowledge that, so far as
making a career was concerned, I had wasted several years of my life,
and had now to begin anew. Add to this a slight sense of having played
an unworthy part in life (although here I was unable to particularize),
and a new sense of aloofness from the people with whom I had been for
so long on terms of hearty and back-slapping familiarity, and no further
reason need be sought for a desire which came mightily upon me to go
away and begin life over again in a new _milieu_. In spite of the mild
opposition of my wife, this desire grew to a resolve; and I came to look
upon myself as a temporary sojourner in my own home.

Such was the state of our affairs, when a letter came from Mr. Elkins
(in lieu of the promised visit) urging me to remove to the then obscure
but since celebrated town of Lattimore.

"I got to be too rich for Charley Harper's blood," said the letter,
among other things. "I wanted as much in the way of salary as I could
earn, working for myself, and Charley kicked--said the directors
wouldn't consent, and that such a salary list would be a black eye for
the Frugality and Indemnity if it showed up in its statements. So I
quit. I am loan agent for the company here, which gives me a visible
means of support, and keeps me from being vagged. But, in confidence, I
want to tell you that my main graft here is the putting in operation of
my boom-hatching scheme. Come out, and I'll enroll you as a member of
the band once more; for this is the coral atoll for me. You ought to get
out of that stagnant pond of yours, and come where the natatory medium
is fresh, clean, and thickly peopled with suckers, and a new run of 'em
coming on right soon. In other words, get into the swim."

After reading this letter and considering it as a whole, I was so much
impressed by it that Lattimore was added to the list of places I meant
to visit, on a tour I had planned for myself.

In the West, all roads run to or from Chicago. It is nearer to almost
any place by the way of Chicago than by any other route: so Alice and I
went to the city by the lake, as the beginning of our prospecting tour.
I took her to the art gallery and showed her just where my two lovers
had stood,--telling her the story for the first time. Then she wanted to
eat a supper at Auriccio's; and after the play we went there, and I was
forced to describe the whole scene over again.

"Didn't she see you at all?" she asked.

"Not at all," said I.

"You are a good boy," said my wife, judging me by one act which she
approved. "Kiss me."

This occurred after we reached our lodgings. I suggested as a change of
subject that my next day's engagements took me to the Stock Yards, and I
assumed that she would scarcely wish to accompany me.

"I think I prefer the stores," said she, "and the pictures. Maybe _I_
shall have an adventure."

At the big Exchange Building, I found that the acquaintance whom I
sought was absent from his office, and I roamed up and down the
corridors in search of him. As usual the gathering here was intensely
Western. There were bronzed cattlemen from every range from Amarillo to
the Belle Fourche, sturdy buyers of swine from Iowa and Illinois,
sombreroed sheepmen from New Mexico, and vikingesque Swedes from North
Dakota. Men there were wearing thousand-dollar diamonds in red flannel
shirts, solid gold watch-chains made to imitate bridle-bits, and heavy
golden bullocks sliding on horse-hair guards. It pleased me, as such a
crowd always does. The laughter was loud but it was free, and the hunted
look one sees on State Street and Michigan Avenue was absent.

"I wish Alice had come," said I, noting the flutter of skirts in a group
of people in the corridor; and then, as I came near, the press divided,
and I saw something which drew my eyes as to a sight in which lay
mystery to be unraveled.

Facing me stood a stout farmer in a dark suit of common cut and texture.
He seemed, somehow, not entirely strange; but the petite figure of the
girl whose back was turned to me was what fixed my attention.

She wore a smart traveling-gown of some pretty gray fabric, and bore
herself gracefully and with the air of dominating the group of
commission men among whom she stood. I noted the incurved spine, the
deep curves of the waist, and the liberal slope of the hips belonging to
a shapely little woman in whom slimness was mitigated in adorable ways,
which in some remote future bade fair to convert it into matronliness.
Under a broad hat there showed a wealth of red-brown hair, drawn up like
a sunburst from a slender little neck.

"I have provided a box at Hooley's," said the head of a great commission
firm. "Mrs. Johnson will be with us. We may count upon you?"

"I think so," said the girl, "if papa hasn't made any engagements."

The stout farmer blushed as he looked down at his daughter.

"Engagements, eh? No, sir!" he replied. "She runs things after the
steers is unloaded. Whatever the little gal says goes with me."

They turned, and as they came on down the hall, still chatting, I saw
her face, and knew it. It was the Empress! But even in that glimpse I
saw the change which years had brought. Now she ruled instead of
submitting; her voice, still soft and low, had lost its rustic
inflections; and in spite of the change in the surroundings,--the leap
from the art gallery to the Stock Yards,--there was more of the artist
now, and less of the farmer's lass. They turned into a suite of offices
and disappeared.

"Well, Mr. Barslow," said my friend, coming up. "Glad to see you. I've
been hunting for you."

"Who is that girl and her father?" I asked.

"One of the Johnson Commission Company's Shippers," said he, "Prescott,
from Lattimore; I wish I could get his shipments."

"No!" said I, "Not Lattimore!"

"Prescott of Lattimore," he repeated. "Know anything of him?"

"N-no," said I. "I have friends in that town."

"I wish I had," was the reply; "I'd try to get old Prescott's business."

                 *       *       *       *       *

"There's destiny in this," said Alice, when I told her of my encounter
with the Empress and her father. "Her living in Lattimore is not an
accident."

"I doubt," said I, "if anybody's is."

"She looked nice, did she?" Alice went on, "and dressed well?" and
without waiting for an answer added: "Let's leave Chicago. I'm anxious
to get to Lattimore!"



CHAPTER V.

We Reach the Atoll.


So we journeyed on to Duluth, to St. Paul and Minneapolis, and to the
cities on the Missouri. It was at one of those recurrent periods when
the fever of material and industrial change and development breaks out
over the whole continent. The very earth seemed to send out tingling
shocks of some occult stimulus; the air was charged with the ozone of
hope; and subtle suggestions seemed to pass from mind to mind, impelling
men to dare all, to risk all, to achieve all. In every one of these
young cities we were astonished at the changes going on under our very
eyes. Streets were torn up for the building of railways, viaducts, and
tunnels. Buildings were everywhere in course of demolition, to make room
for larger edifices. Excavations yawned like craters at street-corners.
Steel pillars, girders, and trusses towered skyward,--skeletons to be
clothed in flesh of brick and stone.

Suburbs were sprouting, almost daily, from the mould of the
market-gardens in the purlieus. Corporations were contending for the
possession of the natural highway approaches to each growing city.
Street-railway companies pushed their charters to passage at midnight
sessions of boards of aldermen, seized streets in the night-time, and
extended their metallic tentacles out into the fields of dazed farmers.

On the frontiers, counties were organized and populated in a season.
Every one of them had its two or three villages, which aped in puny
fashion the achievements of the cities. New pine houses dotted prairies,
unbroken save for the mile-long score of the delimiting plow. Long
trains of emigrant-cars moved continually westward. The world seemed
drunk with hope and enthusiasm. The fulfillment of Jim's careless
prophecy had burst suddenly upon us.

Such things as these were fresh in our memories when we reached
Lattimore. I had wired Elkins of our coming, and he met us at the
station with a carriage. It was one sunny September afternoon when he
drove us through the streets of our future home to the principal hotel.

"We have supper at six, dinner at twelve-thirty, breakfast from seven to
ten," said Jim, as we alighted at the hotel. "That's the sort of bucolic
municipality you've struck here; we'll shove all these meals several
hours down, when we get to doubling our population. You'll have an hour
to get freshened up for supper. Afterwards, if Mrs. Barslow feels equal
to the exertion, we'll take a drive about the town."

Lattimore was a pretty place then. Low, rounded hills topped with green
surrounded it. The river flowed in a broad, straight reach along its
southern margin. A clear stream, Brushy Creek, ran in a miniature
canyon of limestone, through the eastern edge of the town. On each side
of this brook, in lawns of vivid green, amid natural groves of oak and
elm, interspersed with cultivated greenery, stood the houses of the
well-to-do. Trees made early twilight in most of the streets.

People were out in numbers, driving in the cool autumnal evening. As a
handsome girl, a splendid blonde, drove past us, my wife spoke of the
excellent quality of the horseflesh we saw. Jim answered that Lattimore
was a center of equine culture, and its citizens wise in breeders' lore.
The appearance of things impressed us favorably. There was an air of
quiet prosperity about the place, which is unusual in Western towns,
where quietude and progress are apt to be thought incompatible. Jim
pointed out the town's natural advantages as we drove along.

"What do you think of that, now?" said he, waving his whip toward the
winding gorge of Brushy Creek.

"It's simply lovely!" said Alice, "a little jewel of a place."

"A bit of mountain scenery on the prairie," said Jim. "And more than
that, or less than that, just as you look at it, it's the source from
which inexhaustible supplies of stone will be quarried when we begin to
build things."

"But won't that spoil it?" said Alice.

"Well, yes; and down on that bottom we've found as good clay for
pottery, sewer-pipes, and paving-brick as exists anywhere. Back there
where you saw that bluff along the river--looks as if it's sliding down
into the water--remember it? Well, there's probably the only place in
the world where there's just the juxtaposition of sand and clay and
chalk to make Portland cement. Supply absolutely unlimited! Why, there
ought to be a thousand men employed right now in those cement works. Oh,
I tell you, things'll hum here when we get these schemes working!"

We laughed at him: his visualization of the cement works was so
complete.

"I suppose you know where all the capital is coming from," said I, "to
do all these things? For my part, I see no way of getting it except our
old plan of buccaneering."

"Exactly my idea!" said he. "Didn't I write you that I'd enroll you as a
member of the band? Has Al ever told you, Mrs. Barslow, of our old
times, when we, as individuals, were passing through our
sixteenth-century stage?"

"Often," Alice replied. "He looks back upon his pirate days as a time of
Arcadian simplicity, 'Untouched by sorrow, and unsoiled by sin.'"

"I can easily understand," said Jim reflectively, "how piracy might
appear in that roseate light after a few years of practical politics.
Now from the moral heights of a life-insurance man's point of view it's
different."

So we rode on chatting and chaffing, now of the old time, now of the
new; and all the time I felt more and more impressed by the dissolving
views which Jim gave us of different parts of his program for making
Lattimore the metropolis of "the world's granary," as he called the
surrounding country. As we topped a low hill on our way back, he pulled
up, to give us a general view of the town and suburbs, and of the great
expanse of farming country beyond. Between us and Lattimore was a mile
stretch of gently descending road, with grain-fields and farm-houses on
each side.

"By the way," said he, "do you see that white house and red barn in the
maple grove off to the right? Well, you remember Bill Trescott?"

Neither of us could call such a person to mind.

"Well, it's all right, I suppose," he went on in a tone implying injury
forgiven, "but you mustn't let Bill know you've forgotten him. The
Trescotts used to live over by the Whitney schoolhouse in Greenwood
Township,--right on the Pleasant Valley line, you know. He remembers you
folks, Al. I'll drive over that way."

There were beds of petunias and four-o'clocks to be seen dimly
glimmering in the dusk, as we drove through the broad gate. Men and
women were gathered in a group about the base of the windmill, as Jim's
loud "whoa" announced our arrival. The women melted away in the
direction of the house. The men stood at gaze.

"Hello, Bill!" shouted Jim. "Come out here!"

"Oh, it's you, is it, Mr. Elkins," said a deep voice. "I didn't know
yeh."

"Thought it was the sheriff with a summons, eh? Well, I guess hardly!"
said Jim. "Mr. Trescott, I want you to shake hands with our old friend
Mr. Barslow."

A heavy figure detached itself from the group, and, as it approached,
developed indistinctly the features of a brawny farmer, with a short,
heavy, dark beard.

"Wal, I declare, I'm glad to see yeh!" said he, as he grasped my hand.
"I'd a'most forgot yeh, till Mr. Elkins told me you remembered my
whalin' them Dutch boys at a scale onct."

I had had no recollection of him; yet form and voice seemed vaguely
familiar. I assured him that my memory for names and faces was
excellent. After being duly presented to Mrs. Barslow, he urged us to
alight and come in. We offered as an excuse the lateness of the hour.

"Why, you hain't seen my family yet, Mr. Barslow," said he. "They'll be
disappointed if yeh don't come in."

I suggested that we were staying for a few days at the Centropolis; and
Alice added that we should be glad to see himself and Mrs. Trescott
there at any time during our stay. Elkins promised that we should all
drive out again.

"Wal, now, you must," said Mr. Trescott. "We must talk over ol' times
and--"

"Fight over old battles," replied Jim. "All the battles were yours,
though, eh, Bill?"

"Huh, huh!" chuckled Bill; "fightin's no credit to any man; but I 'spose
I fit my sheer when I was a boy--when I was a boy, y' know, Mrs.
Barslow, and had more sand than sense. Here, Josie, here's Mr. Elkins
and some old friends of mine. Mr. and Mrs. Barslow, my daughter."

She was a little slim slip of a thing, in white, and emerged from the
shrubbery at Mr. Trescott's call. She bowed to us, and said she was
sorry that we could not stop. Her voice was sweet, and there was
something unexpectedly cool and self-possessed in her intonation. It was
not in the least the speech of the ordinary neat-handed Phyllis or
Neæra; nor was her attitude at all countrified as she stood with her
hand on her father's arm. The increasing darkness kept us from seeing
her features.

"Josie's my right-hand man," said her father. "Half the business of the
farm stops when Josie goes away."

My wife expressed her admiration for Lattimore and its environs, and
especially for so much of the Trescott farm as could be seen in the
deepening gloaming. The flowers, she said, took her back to her
childhood's home.

"Let me give you these," said the girl, handing Alice a great bunch of
blossoms which she had been cutting when her father called, and had held
in her hands as we talked. My wife thanked her, and buried her face in
them, as we bade the Trescotts good-night and drove home.

"That girl," said Jim, as we spun along the road in the light of the
rising moon, "is a crackerjack. Bill thinks the world of her, and she
certainly gives him a mother's care!"

"She seems nice," said Alice, "and so refined, apparently."

"Been well educated," said Jim, "and got a head, besides. You'll like
her; she knows Europe better than some folks know their own front
yard."

"I was surprised at the vividness of my memory of Bill's youthful
combats," said I.

Jim's laugh rang out heartily through the Brushy Creek gorge.

"Well, I supposed you remembered those things, of course," said he, "and
so I insinuated some impression of the delight with which you dwell upon
the stories of his prowess. It made him feel good.... I'm spoiling Bill,
I guess, with these tales. He'll claim to have a private graveyard next.
As harmless a fellow as you ever saw, and the best cattle-feeder
hereabouts. Got a good farm out there, Bill has; we may need it for
stock yards or something, later on."

"Why not hire a corps of landscape-gardeners, and make a park of it?" I
inquired sarcastically. "We'll certainly need breathing-spaces for the
populace."

"Good idea!" he returned gravely. And as he halted the equipage at the
hotel, he repeated meditatively: "A mighty good idea, Al; we must figure
on that a little."

We were tired to silence when we reached our rooms; so much so that
nothing seemed to make a defined and sharp impression upon my mind. I
kept thinking all the time that I must have been mistaken in my first
thought that I had never known the Trescotts.

"Their voices seem familiar to me," said I, "and yet I can't associate
them with the old home at all. It's very odd!"

As Alice stood before the mirror shaking down and brushing her hair, she
said: "Do you suppose he thought you in earnest about that absurd park?"

"No," I answered, "he understood me well enough; but what puzzles me is
the question, was _he_ in earnest?"

                 *       *       *       *       *

In the middle of the night I woke with a perfectly clear idea as to the
identity of the Trescotts! Prescott, Trescott! Josie, Josephine the
"Empress"! And then the voice and figure!

"Why are you sitting up in bed?" inquired Alice.

"I have made a discovery," said I. "That man at the Stock Yards meant
Trescott, not Prescott."

"I don't understand," said she sleepily.

"In a word," said I, "the girl who gave you the flowers is the Empress!"

"Albert Barslow!" said Alice. "Why--"

My wife was silent for a long time.

"I knew we'd meet her," she said at last. "It is fate."



CHAPTER VI.

I am Inducted into the Cave, and Enlist.


"Here's the cave," said Jim, at the door of his office, next morning.
"As prospective joint-proprietor and co-malefactor, I bid you welcome."

The smiles with which the employees resumed their work indicated that
the extraordinary character of this welcome was not lost upon them. The
office was on the ground-floor of one of the more pretentious buildings
of Lattimore's main street. The post-office was on one side of it, and
the First National Bank on the other. Over it were the offices of
lawyers and physicians. It was quite expensively fitted up; and the
plate-glass front glittered with gold-and-black sign-lettering. The
chairs and sofas were upholstered in black leather. On the walls hung
several decorative advertisements of fire-insurance companies, and maps
of the town, county, and state. Rolls of tracing-paper and blueprints
lay on the flat-topped tables, reminding one of the office of an
architect or civil engineer. A thin young man worked at books, standing
at a high desk; and a plump young woman busily clicked off typewritten
matter with an up-to-date machine.

"You'll find some books and papers on the table in the next room," said
Jim, as I finished my first look about. "I'll ask you to amuse yourself
with 'em for a little while, until I can dispose of my morning's mail;
after which we'll resume our hunt for resources. We haven't any morning
paper yet, and the evening _Herald_ is shipped in by freight and edited
with a saw. But it's the best we've got--yet."

He read his letters, ran his eyes over his newspapers and a magazine or
two, and dictated some correspondence, interrupted occasionally by
callers, some of whom he brought into the room where I was whiling away
the time, examining maps, and looking over out-of-date copies of the
local papers. One of these callers was Mr. Hinckley, the cashier of the
bank, who came to see about some insurance matters. He was spare,
aquiline, and white-mustached; and very courteously wished Lattimore the
good fortune of securing so valuable an acquisition as ourselves. It
would place Lattimore under additional obligations to Mr. Elkins, who
was proving himself such an effective worker in all public matters.

"Mr. Elkins," said he, "has to a wonderful degree identified himself
with the material progress of the city. He is constantly bringing here
enterprising and energetic business men; and we could better afford to
lose many an older citizen."

I asked Mr. Hinckley as to the length of his own residence in Lattimore.

"I helped to plat the town, sir," said he. "I carried the chain when
these streets were surveyed,--a boy just out of Bowdoin College. That
was in '55. I staged it for four hundred miles to get here. Aleck
Macdonald and I came together, and we've both staid from that day. The
Indians were camped at the mouth of Brushy Creek; and except for old
Pierre Lacroix, a squaw-man, we were for a month the only white men in
these parts. Then General Lattimore came with a party of surveyors, and
by the fall there was quite a village here."

Jim came in with another gentleman, whom he introduced as Captain
Tolliver. The Captain shook my hand with profuse politeness.

"I am delighted to see you, suh," said he. "Any friend of Mr. Elkins I
shall be proud to know. I heah that Mrs. Barslow is with you. I trust,
suh, that she is well?"

I informed him that my wife was in excellent health, being completely
recovered from the fatigue of her journey.

"Ah! this aiah, this aiah, Mr. Barslow! It is like wine in its
invigorating qualities, like wine, suh. Look at Mr. Hinckley, hyah,
doing the work of two men fo' a lifetime; and younge' now than any of
us. Come, suh, and make yo' home with us. You nevah can regret it.
Delighted to have you call at my office, suh. I am proud to have met
you, and hope to become better acquainted with you. I hope Mrs. Tulliver
and Mrs. Barslow may soon meet. Good-morning, gentlemen." And he hurried
out, only to reappear as soon as Mr. Hinckley was gone.

"By the way, Mr. Barslow," he whispered, "should you come to Lattimore,
as I have no doubt you will, I have some of the choicest residence
property in the city, which I shall be mo' than glad to show you. Title
perfect, no commissions to pay, city water, gas, and electric light in
prospect. Cain't yo' come and look it ovah now, suh?"

"Who is this Captain Tolliver, Jim," I asked as we went out of the
office together, "and what is he?"

"In other words, 'Who and what art thou, execrable shape?' Well, now,
don't ask me. I've known him for years; in fact, he suggested to me the
possibilities of this burg. In a way, the city is indebted to him for my
presence here. But don't ask me about him--study him. And don't buy lots
from him. The Captain has his failings, but he has also his strong
points and his uses; and I'll be mistaken if he isn't cast for a fairly
prominent part in the drama we're about to put on here. But don't spoil
your enjoyment by having him described to you. Let him dawn on you by
degrees."

That day I met most of the prominent men of the town. Jim took me into
the banks, the shops, and the offices of the leading professional
gentlemen. He informed them that I was considering the matter of coming
to live among them; and I found them very friendly, and much interested
in our proposed change of residence. They all treated Jim with respect,
and his manner toward them had a dignity which I had not looked for.
Evidently he was making himself felt in the community.

When we returned to the Centropolis at noon, we found Mrs. Trescott and
her daughter chatting with my wife. The elder woman was ill-groomed, as
are all women of her class in comparison with their town sisters, and
angular. I knew the type so well that I could read the traces of farm
cares in her face and form. The serving of gangs of harvesters and
threshers, the ever-recurring problems of butter, eggs, and berries, the
unflagging fight, without much domestic help, for neatness and order
about the house, had impressed their stamp upon Mrs. Trescott. But she
was chatting vivaciously, and assuring Mrs. Barslow that such a thing as
staying longer in town that morning was impossible.

"I can feel in my bones," said she, "that there's something wrong at the
farm."

"You always have that feeling," said her daughter, "as soon as you pass
outside the gate."

"And I'm usually right about it," said Mrs. Trescott. "It isn't any use.
My system has got into that condition in which I'm in misery if I'm off
that farm. Josie drags me away from it sometimes; and I do enjoy meeting
people! But I like to meet 'em out there the best; and I want to urge
you to come often, Mrs. Barslow, while you're here. And in case you move
here, I hope you'll like us and the farm well enough so that we'll see a
good deal of you."

I was presented to Mrs. Trescott, and reintroduced to the young lady,
with whom Alice seemed already on friendly terms. I was surprised at
this, for she was not prone to sudden friendships. There was something
so attractive in the girl, however, that it went far to explain the
phenomenon. For one thing, there was in her manner that same steadiness
and calm which I had noticed in her voice in the dusk last night. It
gave one the impression that she could not be surprised or startled,
that she had seen or thought out all possible combinations of events,
and knew of their sequences, or adjusted herself to things by some
all-embracing rule, by which she attained that repose of hers. The
surprising thing about it, to my mind, was to find this exterior in Bill
Trescott's daughter. I had seen the same thing once or twice in people
to whom I thought it had come as the fruit of wide experience in the
world.

While Miss Trescott was slim, and rather below the medium in height, she
was not at all thin; and had the great mass of ruddy dark hair and fine
brown eyes which I remembered so well, and a face which would have been
pale had it not been for the tan--the only thing about her which
suggested those occupations by which she became her father's "right-hand
man." There was intelligence in her face, and a grave smile in her eyes,
which rarely extended to her handsome mouth. If mature in face, form,
and manner, she was young in years--some years younger than Alice. I
hoped that she might stay to dinner; but she went away with her mother.
In her absence, I devoted some time to praising her. Jim failed to join
in my pæans further than to give a general assent; but he grew
unaccountably mirthful, as if something good had happened to him of
which he had not yet told us.

"I have invited a few people to my parlors this evening," said he, "and,
of course, you will be the guests of honor."

My wife demurred. She had nothing to wear, and even if she had, I was
without evening dress. The thing seemed out of the question.

"Oh, we can't let that stand in the way," said he. "So far as your own
toilet is concerned, I have nothing to say except that you are known to
be making a hurried visit, and I have an abiding faith, based on your
manner of stating your trouble, that it can be remedied. I saw your eye
take on a far-away look as you planned your costume, even while you were
declaring that you couldn't do it. Didn't I, now?"

"You certainly did not," said Alice; and then I noticed the absorbed
look myself. "But even if I can manage it, how about Albert?"

"I'll tell you about Albert. I'll bet two to one there won't be a suit
of evening clothes worn. The dress suit may come in here with street
cars and passenger elevators, but it lacks a good deal of being here
yet, except in the most sporadic and infrequent way. And this thing is
to be so absolutely informal that it would make the natives stare. You
wouldn't wear it if you had it, Al."

"Who will come?" said Mrs. Barslow.

"Oh, a couple of dozen ladies and gentlemen, business men and doctors
and lawyers and their women-folks. They'll stray in from eight to ten
and find something to eat on the sideboard. They'll have the happiness
of meeting you, and you can see what the people you are thinking of
living among and doing business with are like. It's a necessary part of
your visit; and you can't get out of it now, for I've taken the liberty
of making all the arrangements. And, as a matter of fact, you don't
want to do so, do you, now?"

Thus appealed to, Alice consented. Nothing was said to me about it, my
willingness being presumed.

The guests that evening were almost exclusively men whom I had met
during the day, and members of their families. In the absence of any
more engaging topic, we discussed Lattimore as our possible future home.

"I have always felt," said Mr. Hinckley, who was one of the guests,
"that this is the natural site of a great city. These valleys, centering
here like the spokes of a wheel, are ready-made railway-routes. In the
East there is a city of from fifty thousand to three times that, every
hundred miles or so. Why shouldn't it be so here?"

"Suh," said Captain Tolliver, "the thing is inevitable. Somewhah in this
region will grow up a metropolis. Shall it be hyah, o' at Fairchild, o'
Angus Falls? If the people of Lattimore sit supinely, suh, and let these
country villages steal from huh the queenship which God o'dained fo' huh
when He placed huh in this commandin' site, then, suh, they ah too base
to be wo'thy of the suhvices of gentlemen."

"I've always been taught," said Mrs. Trescott, "that the credit of
placing her in this site belonged to either Mr. Hinckley or General
Lattimore."

"Really," said Miss Addison to me, "I don't see how they can laugh at
such irreverence!"

"I think," said Miss Hinckley in my other ear, "that Mr. Elkins
expressed the whole truth in the matter of the rivalry of these three
towns, when he said that when two ride on a horse, one must ride behind.
Aren't his quotations so--so--illuminating?"

I looked about at the company. There were Mr. Hinckley, Mrs. Hinckley,
their daughter, whom I recognized as the splendid blonde whose pacers
had passed us when we were out driving, Mrs. Trescott and her daughter,
and Captain and Mrs. Tolliver. Those present were plainly of several
different sets and cliques. Mrs. Hinckley hoped that my wife would join
the Equal Rights Club, and labor for the enfranchisement of women. She
referred, too, to the eloquence and piety of her pastor, the
Presbyterian minister, while Mrs. Tolliver quoted Emerson, and invited
Alice to join, as soon as we removed, the Monday Club of the Unitarian
Church, devoted to the study of his works. Mr. Macdonald, red-whiskered,
weather-beaten, and gigantic, fidgeted about the punch-bowl a good deal;
and replying to some chance remark made by Alice, ventured the opinion
that the grass was gettin' mighty short on the ranges. Miss Addison, who
came with her cousins the Lattimores, looked with disapproval upon the
punch, and disclosed her devotion to the W. C. T. U. and the Ladies' Aid
Society of the Methodist Church. The Lattimores were Will Lattimore and
his wife. I learned that he was the son of the General, and Jim's
lawyer; and that they went rarely into society, being very exclusive.
This was communicated to me by Mrs. Ballard, who brought Miss Ballard
with her. She asked in tones of the intensest interest if we played
whist; while Miss Ballard suggested that about the only way we could
find to enjoy ourselves in such a little place would be to identify
ourselves with the dancing-party and card-club set. I began to suspect
that life in Lattimore would not be without its complexities.

Mr. Trescott came in for a moment only, for his wife and daughter. Miss
Trescott was not to be found at first, but was discovered in the
bay-window with Jim and Miss Hinckley, looking over some engravings. Mr.
Elkins took her down to her carriage, and I thought him a long time
gone, for the host. As soon as he returned, however, the conversation
again turned to the dominant thought of the gathering, municipal
expansion. And I noted that the points made were Jim's. He had already
imbued the town with his thoughts, and filled the mouths of its citizens
with his arguments.

After they left, we sat with Jim and talked.

"Well, how do you like 'em?" said he.

"Why," said Alice, "they're very cordial."

"Heterogeneous, eh?" he queried.

"Yes," said she, "but very cordial. I am surprised to feel how little I
dislike them."

As for me, I began to look upon Lattimore with more favor. I began to
catch Jim's enthusiasm and share his confidence. As we smoked together
in his rooms that evening, he made me the definite proposal that I go
into partnership with him. We talked about the business, and discussed
its possibilities.

"I don't ask you to believe all my prophecies," said he; "but isn't the
situation fairly good, just as it is?"

"I think well of it," I answered, "and it's mighty kind of you to ask me
to come. I'll go as far as to say that if it depends solely on me, we
shall come. As for these prophecies of yours, I am in candor bound to
say that I half believe them."

"Now you _are_ shouting," said he. "Never better prophecies anywhere.
But consider the matter aside from them. Then all we clean up in the
prophecy department will be velvet, absolute velvet!"

"I can add something to the output of the prophecy department," said
Alice, when I repeated the phrase; "and that is that there will be some
affairs of the heart mingled with the real estate and insurance before
long. I can see them in embryo now."

"If it's Jim and Miss Trescott you mean, I wish the affair well," said
I. "I'm quite charmed with her."

"Well," said Alice, "from the standpoint of most men, Miss Hinckley
isn't to be left out of the reckoning in such matters. What a face and
figure she has! Miss Addison is too prudish and churchified; but I like
Miss Hinckley."

"Yes," said I; "but Miss Trescott seems, somehow, to have been known to
one, in some tender and touching relation. There's that about her which
appeals to one, like some embodiment of the abstract idea of woman.
That's why one feels as if he had risked his life for her, and protected
her, and seen her suffer wrong, and all that--"

"That's only because of that affair you told me of," said my wife.
"Since I've seen her, I've made up my mind that you misconstrued the
matter utterly. There was really nothing to it."

In a week I wrote to Mr. Elkins, accepting his proposal, and promising
to close up my affairs, remove to Lattimore, and join with him.

"I do not feel myself equal to playing the part of either Romulus or
Remus in founding your new Rome," I wrote; "but I think as a writer of
fire-insurance policies, and keeping the office work up, I may prove
myself not entirely a deadhead. My wife asks how the breathing-spaces
for the populace are coming on?"

And the die was cast!



CHAPTER VII.

We make our Landing.


Had I known how cordially our neighbors would greet our return, or how
many of them would view our departure with apparently sincere regret, I
might have been slower in giving Jim my promise. I proceeded, however,
to carry it out; but it was nearly six months before I could pull myself
and my little fortune out of the place into which we had grown.

Mr. Elkins kept me well informed regarding Lattimore affairs; and the
_Herald_ followed me home. Jim's letters were long typewritten
communications, dictated at speed, and mailed, sometimes one a day, at
other times at intervals of weeks.

"This is a sure-enough 'winter of our discontent,'" one of these letters
runs, "but the scope of our operations will widen as the frost comes out
of the ground. We're now confined to the psychical field. Subjectively
speaking, though, the plot thickens. Captain Tolliver is in the
secondary stages of real-estate dementia, and spreads the contagion
daily. There's no quarantine regulation to cover the case, and Lattimore
seems doomed to the acme of prosperity. This is the age of great cities,
saith the Captain, and that Lattimore is not already a town of 150,000
people is one of the strangest, one of the most inexplicable things in
the world, in view of the distance we are lag of the country about us,
so far as development is concerned. And as our beginning has been tardy,
so will our progress be rapid, even as waters long dammed up rush out to
devour the plains, etc., etc.

"In this we are all agreed. We want a good, steady, natural growth--and
no boom.

"When a boom recognizes itself as such, it's all over, and the stuff
off. The time for letting go of a great wheel is when it starts down
hill. But our wheels are all going up--even if they are all in our
heads, as yet.

"You will remember the railway connection of which I spoke to you? Well,
that thing has assumed, all of a sudden, a concreteness as welcome as it
is unexpected. Ballard showed me a telegram yesterday from lower
Broadway (the heart of Darkest N. Y.) which tends to prove that people
there are ready to finance the deal. It would have amused you to see the
horizontality of the coat-tails of the management of the Lattimore &
Great Western, as they flaxed round getting up a directors' meeting, so
as to have a real, live directorate of this great transcontinental line
for the wolves of Wall Street to do business with! Things like this are
what you miss by hibernating there, instead of dropping everything and
applying here for your pro rata share of the gayety of nations and the
concomitant scads.

"I was elected president of the road, and as soon as we get a little
track, and an engine, I expect to obtain an exchange of passes with all
my fellow monopolists in North America. I at once fired back an answer
to Ballard's telegram, which must have produced an impression upon the
Gould and Vanderbilt interests--if they got wind of it. If the L. & G.
W. should pass the paper stage next summer, it will do a whole lot
towards carrying this burg beyond the hypnotic period of development.

"The Angus Falls branch is going to build in next summer, I am
confident, and that means another division headquarters and, probably,
machine-shops. I'm working with some of the trilobites here to form a
pool, and offer the company grounds for additional yards and a
roundhouse and shops. Captain Tolliver interviewed General Lattimore
about it, and got turned down.

"'He told me, suh,' reported the Captain, in a fine white passion, 'that
if any railway system desiahs to come to Lattimore, it has his
puhmission! That the Injuns didn't give him any bonus when he came; and
that he had to build his own houses and yahds, by gad, at his own
expense, and defend 'em, too, and that if any railroad was thinkin' of
comin' hyah, it was doubtless because it was good business fo' 'em to
come; and that if they wanted any of his land, were willing to pay him
his price, there wouldn't be any difficulty about theiah getting it. And
that if there should arise any difference, which he should deeply
regret, but would try to live through, the powah of eminent domain with
which railways ah clothed will enable the company to get what land is
necessary by legal means.

"'I could take these observations,' said the Captain, 'as nothing except
a gratuitous insult to one who approached him, suh, in a spirit of pure
benevolence and civic patriotism. It shows the kind of tyrants who
commanded the oppressors of the South, suh! Only his gray hairs
protected him, suh, only his gray hairs!'"

"It's a little hard to separate the General from the Captain, in this
report of the committee on railway extensions," said my wife.

"The only thing that's clear about it," said I, "is that Jim is having a
good deal of fun with the Captain."

This became clearer as the correspondence went on.

"Tolliver thinks," said he, in another letter, "that the Angus Falls
extension can be pulled through. However, I recall that only yesterday
the Captain, in private, denounced the citizens of Lattimore as beneath
the contempt of gentlemen of breadth of view. 'I shall dispose of my
holdin's hyah,' said he, with a stately sweep indicative of their
extent, 'at any sacrifice, and depaht, cuhsin' the day I devoted myself
to the redemption of such cattle.'

"But, at that particular moment, he had just failed in an attempt to
sell Bill Trescott a bunch of choice outlying gold bricks, and was
somewhat heated with wine. This to the haughty Southron was ample
excuse for confiding to me the round, unvarnished truth about us
mudsills.

"Josie and I often talk of you and your wife. I don't know what I'd do
out here if it weren't for Josie. She refuses to enthuse over our
'natural, healthy growth,' which we look for; but I guess that's because
she doesn't care for the things that the rest of us are striving for.
But she's the only person here with whom one can really converse. You'd
be astonished to see how pretty she is in her furs, and set like a jewel
in my new sleigh; but I'm becoming keenly aware of the fact."

We were afterwards told that the trilobites had shaken off their
fossilhood, and that the Angus Falls extension, with the engine-house
and machine-shops, had been "landed."

"This," he wrote, "means enough new families to make a noticeable
increase in our population. Things will be popping here soon. Come on
and help shake the popper; hurry up with your moving, or it will all be
over, including the shouting."

We were not entirely dependent upon Jim's letters for Lattimore news.
Mrs. Barslow kept up a desultory correspondence with Miss Trescott,
begun upon some pretext and continued upon none at all. In one of these
letters Josie (for so we soon learned to call her) wrote:

"Our little town is changing so that it no longer seems familiar. Not
that the change is visible. Beyond an unusual number of strangers or
recent comers, there is nothing new to strike the eye. But the talk
everywhere is of a new railroad and other improvements. One needs only
to shut one's eyes and listen, to imagine that the town is already a
real city. Mr. Elkins seems to be the center of this new civic
self-esteem. The air is full of it, and I admit that I am affected by
it. I have

    "'A feeling, as when eager crowds await,
    Before a palace gate,
    Some wondrous pageant.'

"You are indebted to Captain Tolliver for the quotation, and to Mr.
Elkins for the idea. The Captain induced me to read the book in which I
found the lines. He stigmatizes the preference given to the Northern
poets--Longfellow, for instance--over Timrod as 'the crowning infamy of
American letters.' He has taken the trouble to lay out a course of study
for me, the object of which is to place me right in my appreciation of
the literary men of the South. It includes Pollard's 'Lost Cause' and
the works of W. G. Simms. I have not fully promised to follow it to the
end. Timrod, however, is a treat."

That last quiet winter will always be set apart in my memory, as a time
like no other. It was a sitting down on a milestone to rest. Back of us
lay the busy past--busy with trivial things, it seemed to me, but full
of varied activity nevertheless. A boy will desire mightily to finish a
cob-house; and when it is done he will smilingly knock it about the barn
floor. So I was tearing down and leaving the fabric of relationship
which I had once prized so highly.

The life upon which I expected to enter promised well. In fact, to a man
of medium ability, only, and no training in large affairs, it promised
exceedingly well. I knew that Jim was strong, and that his old regard
for me had taken new life and a firm hold upon him. But when, removed
from his immediate influence, I looked the situation in the face, the
future loomed so mysteriously bizarre that I shrank from it. All his
skimble-skamble talk about psychology and hypnotism, and that other
rambling discourse of pirate caves and buccaneering cruises, made me
feel sometimes as if I were about to form a partnership with Aladdin, or
the King of the Golden Mountain. If he had asked me, merely, to come to
Lattimore and go into the real estate and insurance business with him, I
am sure I should have had none of this mental vertigo. Yet what more had
he done?

As to the boom, I had, as yet, not a particle of objective confidence in
it; but, subconsciously, I felt, as did the town "doomed to prosperity,"
a sense of impending events. In spite of some presentiments and doubts,
it was, on the whole, with high hopes that we, on an aguish spring day,
reached Lattimore with our stuff (as the Scriptures term it), and knew
that, for weal or woe, it was our home.

Jim was again at the station to meet us, and seemed delighted at our
arrival. I thought I saw some sort of absent-mindedness or absorbedness
in his manner, so that he seemed hardly like himself. Josie was there
with him, and while she and Alice were greeting each other, I saw Jim
scanning the little crowd at the station as if for some other arrival.
At last, his eye told me that whatever it was for which he was looking,
he had found it; and I followed his glance. It rested on the last person
to alight from the train--a tall, sinewy, soldierly-built youngish man,
who wore an overcoat of black, falling away in front, so as to reveal a
black frock coat tightly buttoned up and a snowy shirt-front with a
glittering gem sparkling from the center of it. On his head was a
shining silk hat--a thing so rare in that community as to be noticeable,
and to stamp the wearer as an outsider. His beard was clipped close, and
at the chin ran out into a pronounced Vandyke point. His mustaches were
black, heavy, and waxed. His whole external appearance betokened wealth,
and he exuded mystery. He had not taken two steps from the car before
the people on the platform were standing on tiptoe to see him.

"Bus to the Centropolis?" queried the driver of the omnibus.

The stranger looked at the conveyance, filled as it was with a load of
traveling men and casuals; and, frowning darkly, turned to the negro who
accompanied him, saying, "Haven't you any carriage here, Pearson?"

"Yes, sah," responded the servant, pointing to a closed vehicle. "Right
hyah, sah."

My wife stood looking, with a little amused smile, at the picturesque
group, so out of the ordinary at the time and place. Miss Trescott was
gazing intently at the stranger, and at the moment when he spoke she
clutched my wife's arm so tightly as to startle her. I heard Alice make
some inquiry as to the cause of her agitation, and as I looked at her,
I could see in the one glance her face, gone suddenly white as death,
and the dark visage of the tall stranger. And it seemed to me as if I
had seen the same thing before.

Then, the negro pointing the way to the closed carriage, the group
separated to left and right, the stranger passed through to the
carriage, and the picture, and with it my odd mental impression,
dissolved. The negro lifted two or three heavy bags to the coachman,
gave the transfer man some baggage-checks, and the equipage moved away
toward the hotel. All this took place in a moment, during which the
usual transactions on the platform were suspended. The conductor failed
to give the usual signal for the departure of the train. The engineer
leaned from the cab and gazed.

Jim's eye rested on the stranger and his servant for an instant only;
but during that time he seemed to take an observation, come to a
conclusion, and dismiss the whole matter.

"Here, John," said he to the drayman, "take these trunks to the
Centropolis. We'd like 'em this week, too. None of that old trick of
yours of dumping 'em in the crick, you know!"

"They'll be up there in five minutes all right, Mr. Elkins," said John,
grinning at Jim's allusion to some accident, the knowledge of which
appeared to be confined to himself and Mr. Elkins, and to constitute a
bond of sympathy between them. Jim turned to us with redoubled
heartiness, all his absent-mindedness gone.

"I'll drive you to the hotel," said Jim. "You'll--"

"Miss Trescott is ill--" said Alice.

"Not at all," said Josie; "it has passed entirely! Only, when you have
taken Mr. and Mrs. Barslow to the hotel, will you please take me home?
Our little supper-party--I don't feel quite equal to it, if you will
excuse me!"



CHAPTER VIII.

A Welcome to Wall Street and Us.


"Welcome!" intoned Captain Tolliver, with his hat in his hand, bowing
low to Mrs. Barslow. "Welcome, Madam and suh, in the capacity of
Lattimoreans! That we shall be the bettah fo' yo' residence among us
the' can be no doubt. That you will be prospahed beyond yo' wildest
dreams I believe equally cehtain. Welcome!"

This address was delivered within thirty seconds of the time of our
arrival at our old rooms in the Centropolis. The Captain saluted us in a
manner extravagantly polite, mysteriously enthusiastic. The air of
mystery was deepened when he called again to see Mr. Elkins in the
evening and was invited in.

"Did you-all notice that distinguished and opulent-looking gentleman who
got off the train this evening?" said he in a stage whisper. "Mahk my
words, the coming of such men, _his_ coming, is fraught with the deepest
significance to us all. All my holdin's ah withdrawn from mahket until
fu'the' developments!"

"Seems to travel in style," said Jim; "all sorts of good clothes,
colored body-servant, closed carriage ordered by wire--it does look
juicy, don't it, now?"

"He has the entiah second flo' front suite. The niggah has already sent
out fo' a bahbah," said the Captain. "Lattimore has at last attracted
the notice of adequate capital, and will now assume huh true place in
the bright galaxy of American cities. Mr. Barslow, I shall ask
puhmission to call upon you in the mo'nin' with reference to a project
which will make the fo'tunes of a dozen men, and that within the next
ninety days. Good evenin', suh; good evenin', Madam. I feel that you
have come among us at a propitious moment!"

"The Captain merely hints at the truth which struggles in him for
utterance," said Jim. "I prove this by informing you that I couldn't get
you a house. This shows, too, that the census returns are a calumny upon
Lattimore. You'll have to stay at the Centropolis until something turns
up or you can build."

"Oh, dear!" said Alice. "Hotel life isn't living at all. I hope it won't
be long."

"It will have its advantages for Al," said Mr. Elkins. "This financial
maelstrom, which will draw everything to Lattimore, will have its core
right in this hotel--a mighty good place to be. Things of all kinds have
been floating about in the air for months; the precipitation is
beginning now. The psychological moment has arrived--you have brought it
with you, Mrs. Barslow. The moon-flower of Lattimore's 'gradual, healthy
growth' is going to burst, and that right soon."

"Has Captain Tolliver infected you?" inquired Alice. "He told us the
same thing, with less of tropes and figures."

"On any still morning," said Jim, "you can hear the wheels go round in
the Captain's head; but his instinct for real-estate conditions is as
accurate as a pocket-gopher's. The Captain, in a hysterical sort of way,
is right: I consider that a cinch. Good-night, friends, and pleasant
dreams. I expect to see you at breakfast; but if I shouldn't, Al, you'll
come aboard at nine, won't you, and help run up the Jolly Roger? I think
I smell pieces-of-eight in the air! And, by the way, Miss Trescott says
for me to assure you that her vertigo, which she had for the first time
in her life, is gone, and she never felt better."

As Mr. Elkins passed from our parlor, he let in a bell-boy with the card
of Mr. Clifford Giddings, representing the Lattimore Morning _Herald_.

"See him down in the lobby," said Alice.

"I want a story," said he as we met, "on the city and its future. The
_Herald_ readers will be glad of anything from Mr. Barslow, whose coming
they have so long looked forward to, as intimately connected with the
city's development."

"My dear sir," I replied, somewhat astonished at the importance which he
was pleased to attach to my arrival, "abstractly, my removal to
Lattimore is my best testimony on that; concretely, I ought to ask
information of you."

We sat down in a corner of the lobby, our chairs side by side, facing
opposite ways. He lighted a cigar, and gave me one. In looks he was
young; in behavior he had the self-possession and poise of maturity. He
wore a long mackintosh which sparkled with mist. His slouch hat looked
new and was carefully dinted. His dress was almost natty in an
unconventional way, and his manners accorded with his garb. He acted as
if for years we had casually met daily. His tone and attitude evinced
respect, was entirely free from presumption, equally devoid of reserve,
carried with it no hint of familiarity, but assumed a perfect
understanding. The barrier which usually keeps strangers apart he
neither broke down, which must have been offensive, nor overleaped,
which would have been presumptuous. He covered it with that demeanor of
his, and together we sat down upon it.

"I thought the _Herald_ was an evening paper," said I.

"It was, in the days of yore," he replied; "but Mr. Elkins happened to
see me in Chicago one day, and advised me to come out and look the old
thing over with a view to purchasing the plant. You observe the result.
As fellow immigrants, I hope there will be a bond of sympathy between
us. You think, of course, that Lattimore is a coming city?"

"Yes."

"Its geographical situation seems to render its development inevitable,
doesn't it? And," he went on, "the railway conditions seem peculiarly
promising just now?"

"Yes," said I, "but the natural resources of the city and the
surrounding country appeal most strongly to me."

"They are certainly very exceptional, aren't they?" said he, as if the
matter had never occurred to him before. Then he went on telling me
things, more than asking questions, about the jobbing trades, the brick
and tile and associated industries, the cement factory, which he spoke
of as if actually _in esse_, the projected elevators, the
flouring-mills, and finally returned to railway matters.

"What is your opinion of the Lattimore & Great Western, Mr. Barslow?" he
asked.

"I cannot say that I have any," I answered, "except that its
construction would bring great good to Lattimore."

"It could scarcely fail," said he, "to bring in two or three systems
which we now lack, could it?"

I very sincerely said that I did not know. After a few more questions
concerning our plans for the future, Mr. Giddings vanished into the
night, silently, as an autumn leaf parting from its bough. I thought of
him no more until I unfolded the _Herald_ in the morning as we sat at
breakfast, and saw that my interview was made a feature of the day's
news.

"Mr. Albert F. Barslow," it read, "of the firm of Elkins & Barslow, is
stopping at the Centropolis. He arrived by the 6:15 train last evening,
and with his family has taken a suite of rooms pending the erection of a
residence. They have not definitely decided as to the location of their
new home; but it may confidently be stated that they will build
something which will be a notable addition to the architectural beauties
of Lattimore--already proud of her title, the City of Homes."

"I am very glad to know about this," said Alice.

"Your man Giddings has nerve, whatever else he may lack," said I to the
smiling Elkins across the table. "Am I obliged to make good all these
representations? I ask, that I may know the rules of the game, merely."

"One rule is that you mustn't deny any accusations of future
magnificence, for two reasons: they may come true, and they help things
on. You are supposed to have left your modesty in cold storage
somewhere. Read on."

"Mr. Barslow," I read, "has long been a most potent political factor in
his native state, but is, first of all, a business man. He brings his
charming young wife--"

"Really, a most discriminating journalist," interjected Alice.

"--and social circles, as well as the business world, will find them a
most desirable accession to Lattimore's population."

"Why this is absolute, slavish devotion to facts," said Jim; "where does
the word-painting come in?"

"Here it is," said I.

"Mr. Barslow is some years under middle age, and looks the intense
modern business man in every feature. His mind seems to have already
become saturated with the conception of the enormous possibilities of
Lattimore. He impresses those who have met him as one of the few men
capable of pulling his share in double harness with James R. Elkins."

"The fellow piles it on a little strong at times, doesn't he, Mrs.
Barslow?" said Jim.

"He brings to our city," I read on, "his vigorous mind, his fortune, and
a determination never to rest until the city passes the 100,000 mark. To
a _Herald_ representative, last night, he spoke strongly and eloquently
of our great natural resources."

Then followed a skillfully handled expansion of our _tête-à-tête_ talk
in the lobby.

"Mr. Barslow," the report went on, "very courteously declined to discuss
the L. & G. W. situation. It seems evident, however, from remarks
dropped by him, that he regards the construction of this road as
inevitable, and as a project which, successfully carried out, cannot
fail to make Lattimore the point to which all the Western and
Southwestern systems of railways must converge."

"You're doing it like a veteran!" cried Jim. "Admirable! Just the proper
infusion of mystery; I couldn't have done better myself."

"Credit it all to Giddings," I protested. "And note that the center of
the stage is reserved to our mysterious fellow lodger and co-arrival."

"Yes, I saw that," said Jim. "Isn't Giddings a peach? Let Mrs. Barslow
hear it."

"She ought to be able to hear these headlines," said I, "without any
reading: 'J. Bedford Cornish arrives! Wall Street's Millions On the
Ground in the Person of One of Her Great Financiers! Bull Movement in
Real Estate Noted Last Night! Does He Represent the Great Railway
Interests?'"

"Real estate and financial circles," ran the article under these
headlines, "are thrown into something of a fever by the arrival, on the
6:15 express last evening, of a gentleman of distinguished appearance,
who took five rooms _en suite_ on the second floor of the Centropolis,
and registered in a bold hand as J. Bedford Cornish, of New York. Mr.
Cornish consented to see a _Herald_ representative last night, but was
very reticent as to his plans and the objects of his visit. He simply
says that he represents capital seeking investment. He would not admit
that he is connected with any of the great railway interests, or that
his visit has any relation to the building of the Lattimore & Great
Western. The _Herald_ is able to say, however, that its New York
correspondent informs it that Mr. Cornish is a member of the firm of
Lusch, Carskaddan & Mayer, of Wall Street. This firm is well known as
one of the concerns handling large amounts of European capital, and said
to be intimately associated with the Rothschilds. Financial journals
have recently noted the fact that these concerns are becoming
embarrassed by the plethora of funds seeking investment, and are turning
their attention to the development of railway systems and cities in the
United States. Their South American and Australian investments have not
proven satisfactory, especially the former, owing to the character of
the people of Latin America. It has been pointed out that no real-estate
investment can be more than moderately profitable in climates which
render the people content with a mere living, and that the restless and
unsatisfied vigor of the Anglo-Saxon alone can make lands and railways
permanently remunerative. Mr. Cornish admitted these facts when they
were pointed out to him, and immediately changed the subject.

"Mr. Cornish is a very handsome and opulent-looking gentleman, and seems
to live in a style somewhat luxurious for the Occident. He has a colored
body-servant, who seems to reflect the mystery of his master; but if he
has any other reflections, the _Herald_ is none the wiser for them.
Admittance to the suite of rooms was obtained by sending in the
reporter's card, which vanished into a sybaritic gloom, borne on a
golden salver. Mr. Cornish seems to be very exclusive, his meals being
served in his rooms; and even his barber has instructions to call upon
him each morning. One wonders why the barber is called in so frequently,
until one marks the smooth-shaven cheeks above the close-clipped,
pointed, black, Vandyke beard. He is withal very cordial and courtly in
his manners.

"James R. Elkins, when seen last evening, refused to talk, except to say
that, in financial circles, it has been known for some days that
important developments may be now momently expected, and that some such
thing as the visit of Mr. Cornish was imminent. Captain Marion Tolliver
expressed himself freely, and to the effect that this mysterious visit
is of the utmost importance to Lattimore, and a thing of national if not
world-wide importance."

"Now, that justifies my confidence in Giddings," said Mr. Elkins,
"fulfilling at the same time the requirements of journalism and
hypnotism. Come, Al, our bark is on the sea, our boat is on the shore.
The Spanish galleons are even now hiding in the tall grass, in
expectation of our cruise. Let us hence to the office!"



CHAPTER IX.

I Go Aboard and We Unfurl the Jolly Roger.


"We must act, and act at once!" said the Captain, his voice thrilling
with intensity. "This piece of property will be gone befo' night! All it
takes is a paltry three thousand dolla's, and within ninety days--no man
can say what its value will be. We can plat it, and within ten days we
may have ouah money back. Allow me to draw on you fo' three thou--"

"But," said I, "I can make no move in such a matter at this time without
conference with Mr.--"

"Very well, suh, very well!" said the Captain, regarding me with a look
that showed how much better things he had expected of me. "Opportunity,
suh, knocks once--By the way, excuse me, suh!"

And he darted from the office, took the trail of Mr. Macdonald, whom he
had seen passing, brought him to bay in front of the post-office, and
dragged him away to some doom, the nature of which I could only surmise.

This took place on the morning of my first day with Elkins & Barslow. I
was to take up the office work.

"That will be easy for you from the first," said Jim. "Your experience
as rob-ee down there in Posey County makes you a sort of specialist in
that sort of thing; and pretty soon all other things shall be added unto
it."

The Captain's onslaught in the first half-hour admonished me that a good
deal was already added to it. On that very day, too, we had our first
conference with Mr. Hinckley. We wanted to handle securities, said Mr.
Elkins, and should have a great many of them, and that was quite in Mr.
Hinckley's line. To carry them ourselves would soon absorb all our
capital. We must liberate it by floating the commercial paper which we
took in. Mr. Hinckley's bank was known to be strong, his standing was of
the highest, and a trust company in alliance with him could not fail to
find a good market for its paper. With an old banker's timidity,
Hinckley seemed to hesitate; yet the prospects seemed so good that I
felt that this consent was sure to be given. Jim courted him
assiduously, and the intimacy between him and the Hinckley family became
noticeable.

"Jim," said I, one day, "you have an unerring eye for the pleasant
things of life. I couldn't help thinking of this to-day when I saw you
for the twentieth time spinning along the street in Miss Hinckley's
carriage, beside its owner. She's one of the handsomest girls, in her
flaxen-haired way, that I know of."

"Isn't she a study in curves and pink and white?" said Jim. "And she
understands this trust company business as well as her father."

The trust company's stock, he went on to explain, ignoring Antonia,
seemed to be already oversubscribed. Our firm, Hinckley, and Jim's
Chicago and New York friends, including Harper, all stood ready to take
blocks of it, and there was no reason for requiring Hinckley to put much
actual money in for this. He could pay for it out of his profits soon,
and make a fortune without any outlay. Good credit was the prime
necessity, and that Mr. Hinckley certainly had. So the celebrated Grain
Belt Trust Company was begun--a name about which such mighty interests
were to cluster, that I know I should have shrunk from the
responsibility had I known what a gigantic thing we were creating.

As the days wore on, Captain Tolliver's dementia spread and raged
virulently. The dark-visaged Cornish, with his air of mystery, his
habits so at odds with the society of Lattimore, was in the very focus
of attention.

For a day or so, the effect which Mr. Giddings's report attributed to
his invasion failed to disclose itself to me. Then the delirium became
manifest, and swept over the town like a were-wolf delusion through a
medieval village.

Its immediate occasion seemed to be a group of real-estate conveyances,
announced in the _Herald_ one morning, surpassing in importance anything
in the history of the town. Some of the lands transferred were acreage;
some were waste and vacant tracts along Brushy Creek and the river; one
piece was a suburban farm; but the mass of it was along Main Street and
in the business district. The grantees were for the most part strange
names in Lattimore, some individuals, some corporations. All the sales
were at prices hitherto unknown. It was to be remarked, too, that in
most cases the property had been purchased not long before, by some of
the group of newer comers and at the old modest prices. Our firm seemed
to have profited heavily in these transactions, as had Captain Tolliver
also. We of the "new crowd" had begun our mock-trading to "establish the
market." Prices were going up, up; and all one had to do was to buy
to-day and sell to-morrow. Real values, for actual use, seemed to be
forgotten.

The most memorable moment in this first, acutest stage in our
development was one bright day, within a week or so of our coming. The
lawns were taking on their summer emerald, robins were piping in the
maples, and down in the cottonwoods and lindens on the river front crows
and jays were jargoning their immemorial and cheery lingo. Surveyors
were running lines and making plats in the suburbs, peeped at by
gophers, and greeted by the roundelays of meadow-larks. But on the
street-corners, in the offices of lawyers and real-estate agents, and in
the lobbies of the hotels, the trading was lively.

Then for the first time the influx of real buyers from the outside
became noticeable. The landlord of the Centropolis could scarcely care
for his guests. They talked of blocks, quarter-blocks, and the choice
acreage they had bought, and of the profits they had made in this and
other cities and towns (where this same speculative fever was epidemic),
until Alice fled to the Trescott farm--as she said, to avoid the
mixture of real estate with her meals. The telegraph offices were gorged
with messages to non-resident property owners, begging for prices on
good inside lots. Staid, slow-going lot-owners, who had grown old in
patiently paying taxes on patches of dog-fennel and sand-burrs, dazedly
vacillated between acceptance and rejection of tempting propositions,
dreading the missing of the chance so long awaited, fearing misjudgment
as to the height of the wave, dreading a future of regret at having sold
too low.

One of these, an old woman, toothless and bent, hobbled to our office
and asked for Mr. Elkins. He was busy, and so I received her.

"It's about that quarter-block with the Donegal ruin on it," said Jim;
"the one I showed you yesterday. Offer her five thousand, one-fourth
down, balance in one, two, and three years, eight per cent."

"I wanted to ask Mr. Elkins about me home," said she. "I tuk in washin'
to buy it, an' me son, poor Patsy, God rist 'is soul, he helped wid th'
bit of money from the Brotherhood, whin he was kilt betune the cars. It
was sivin hundred an' fifty dollars, an' now Thronson offers me four
thousan'. I told him I'd sell, fer it's a fortune for a workin' woman;
but befure I signed papers, I wanted to ask Mr. Elkins; he's such a
fair-spoken man, an' knowin' to me min-folks in Peoria."

"If you want to sell, Mrs. Collins," said I, "we will take your property
at five thousand dollars."

She started, and regarded me, first in amazement, then with distrust,
shading off into hostility.

"Thank ye kindly, sir," said she; "I'll be goin' now. I've med up me
moind, if that bit of land is wort all that money t' yees, it's wort
more to me. Thank ye kindly!" and she fled from the presence of the
tempter.

"The town is full of Biddy Collinses," commented Jim. "Well, we can't
land everything, and couldn't handle the catch if we did. In fact, for
present purposes, isn't it better to have her refuse?"

This incident was the hint upon which our "Syndicate," as it came to be
called, acted from time to time, in making fabulous offers to every
Biddy Collins in town. "Offer twenty thousand," Jim would say. "The more
you bid the less apt is he to accept; he's a Biddy Collins." And
whatever Mr. Elkins advised was done.

There were eight or ten of us in the "Syndicate," dubbed by Jim "The
Crew," among whom were Tolliver, Macdonald, and Will Lattimore. But the
inner circle, now drawing closer and closer together, were Elkins, our
ruling spirit; Hinckley, our great force in the banking world; and
myself. Soon, I was given to understand, Mr. Cornish was to take his
place as one of us. He and Jim had long known each other, and Mr. Elkins
had the utmost confidence in Mr. Cornish's usefulness in what he called
"the thought-transference department."

Elkins & Barslow kept their offices open night and day, almost, and the
number of typewriters and bookkeepers grew astoundingly. I became almost
a stranger to my wife. I got hurried glimpses of Miss Trescott and her
mother at the hotel, and knew that she and Alice were becoming fast
friends; but so far the social prominence which the _Herald_ had
predicted for us had failed to arrive.

This, to be sure, was our own fault. Miss Addison soon gave us up as not
available for the church and Sunday-school functions to which she
devoted herself. Her family connections would have made her _the_ social
leader had it not been for the severity of her views and her assumption
of the character of the devotee--in spite of which she protestingly went
almost everywhere. Antonia Hinckley, however, was frankly fond of a good
time, and with her dashing and almost hoydenish character easily took
the leadership from Miss Addison; and Miss Hinckley sought diligently
for means by which we could be properly launched. As I left the office
one day, a voice from the curb called my name. It was Miss Hinckley in a
smart trap, to which was harnessed a beautiful horse, standard bred, one
could see at a glance. I obeyed the summons, and stepped beside the
equipage.

"I want to scold you," said she. "Society is being defrauded of the good
things which your coming promised. Have you taken a vow of seclusion, or
what?"

"I've been spinning about in the maelstrom of business," I replied. "But
do not be uneasy; some time we shall take up the matter of inflicting
ourselves, and pursue it as vigorously as we now follow our vocation."

"Wouldn't you like to get into the trap, and take a spin of another
sort?" said she. "I'll deposit you safely with Mrs. Barslow in time for
tea."

I got in, glad of the drive, and for ten minutes her horse was sent at
such a pace that conversation was difficult. Then he was slowed down to
a walk, his head toward home. We chatted of casual things--the scenery,
the horse, the splendid color of the sunset. I was becoming interested
in her.

"I had almost forgotten that there were such things in Lattimore," said
I, referring to the topics of our talk. "I have become so saturated with
lands and lots."

"I don't know much about business," said she, "and I think I'll improve
my opportunity by learning something. And, first, aren't men sometimes
losers by the dishonesty of those who act for them--agents, they are
called, aren't they?"

Such, I admitted, was unfortunately the case.

"I should be sorry for--any one I liked--to be injured in such a way....
Now you must understand how the things you men are interested in
permeate the society of us women. Why, mamma has almost forgotten the
enslavement of our sex, in these new things which have changed our old
town so much; so you mustn't wonder if I have heard something of a
purely business nature. I heard that Captain Tolliver was about to sell
Mr. Elkins the land where the old foundry is, over there, for twenty
thousand dollars. Now, papa says it isn't worth it; and I know--Sadie
Allen and I were in school together, and she comes over from Fairchild
several times a year to see me, and I go there, you know; and that land
is in her father's estate--I know that the executor has told Captain
Tolliver to sell it for ever so much less than that. And it seemed so
funny, as the Captain was doing the business for both sides--isn't it
odd, now?"

"It does seem so," said I, "and it is very kind of you. I'll talk with
Mr. Elkins about it. Please be careful, Miss Hinckley, or you'll drop
the wheel in that washout!"

She reined up her horse and began speeding him again. I could see that
this conversation had embarrassed her somehow. Her color was high, and
her grip of the reins not so steady as at starting. This attempt to do
Jim a favor was something she considered as of a good deal of
consequence. I began to note more and more what a really splendid woman
she was--tall, fair, her tailor-made gown rounding to the full, firm
curves of her figure, her fearless horsemanship hinting at the
possession of large and positive traits of character.

"We women," said she, "might as well abandon all the things commonly
known as feminine. What good do they do us?"

"They gratify your sense of the beautiful," suggested I.

"You know, Mr. Barslow," said she, "that it's not our own sense of the
beautiful, mainly, that we seek to gratify; and if the eyes for which
they are intended are looking into ledgers and blind to everything
except dollar-signs, what's the use?"

"Go down to the seashore," said I, "where the people congregate who have
nothing to do."

"Not I," said she; "I'll go into real estate, and become as blind as the
rest!"

Jim paid no attention to my chaffing when I spoke of his conquest, as I
called Antonia. In fact, he seemed annoyed, and for a long time said
nothing.

"You can see how the Allen estate proposition stands," said he, at last.
"To let that sell for less than twenty thousand might cost us ten times
that amount in lowering the prevailing standard of values. The old rule
that we should buy in the cheapest market and sell in the dearest is
suspended. Base is the slave who pays--less than the necessary and
proper increase."



CHAPTER X.

We Dedicate Lynhurst Park.


The Hindu adept sometimes suspends before the eyes of his subject a
bright ball of carnelian or crystal, in the steady contemplation of
which the sensitive swims off into the realms of subjectivity--that
mysterious bourn from whence no traveler brings anything back. J.
Bedford Cornish was Mr. Elkins's glittering ball; his psychic subject
was the world in general and Lattimore in particular. Scientific
principles, confirmed by experience, led us to the conclusion that the
attitude of fixed contemplation carried with it some nervous strain,
ought to be of limited duration, and hence that Mr. Cornish should
remove from our midst the glittering mystery of his presence, lest
familiarity should breed contempt. So in about ten days he went away,
giving to the _Herald_ a parting interview, in which he expressed
unbounded delight with Lattimore, and hinted that he might return for a
longer stay. Editorially, the _Herald_ expressed the hope that this
characteristically veiled allusion to a longer sojourn might mean that
Mr. Cornish had some idea of becoming a citizen of Lattimore. This would
denote, the editorial continued, that men like Mr. Cornish, accustomed
to the mighty world-pulse of New York, could find objects of pursuit
equally worthy in Lattimore.

"Which is mixed metaphor," Mr. Giddings admitted in confidence; "but,"
he continued, "if metaphors, like drinks, happen to be more potent
mixed, the _Herald_ proposes to mix 'em."

All these things consumed time, and still our life was one devoted to
business exclusively. At last Mr. Elkins himself, urged, I feel sure, by
Antonia Hinckley, gave evidence of weariness.

"Al," said he one day, "don't you think it's about time to go ashore for
a carouse?"

"Unless something in the way of a let-up comes soon," said I, "the
position of lieutenant, or first mate, or whatever my job is piratically
termed, will become vacant. The pace is pretty rapid. Last night I
dreamed that the new Hotel Elkins was founded on my chest; and I have
had troubles enough of the same kind before to show me that my nervous
system is slowly ravelling out."

"I have arrangements made, in my mind, for a sort of al fresco function,
to come off about the time Cornish gets back with our London visitor,"
he replied, "which ought to knit up the ravelled sleeve better than new.
I'm going to dedicate Lynhurst Park to the nymphs and deities of
sport--which wrinkled care derides."

"I hadn't heard of Lynhurst Park," I was forced to say. "I'm curious to
know, first, who named it, and, second, where it is."

"Didn't I show you those blueprints?" he asked. "An oversight I assure
you. As for the scheme, you suggested it yourself that night we first
drove out to Trescott's. Don't you remember saying something about
'breathing space for the populace'? Well, I had the surveys made at
once; contracted for the land, all but what Bill owns of it, which we'll
have to get later; and had a landscapist out from Chicago to direct us
as to what we ought to admire in improving the place. As for the name,
I'm indebted to kind nature, which planted the valley in basswood, and
to Josie, who contributed the philological knowledge and the taste.
That's the street-car line," said he, unrolling an elaborate plat and
pointing. "We may throw it over to the west to develop section seven, if
we close for it. Otherwise, that line is the very thing."

Our street-railway franchise had been granted by the Lattimore city
council--they would have granted the public square, had we asked for it
in the potent name of "progress"--and Cornish was even now making
arrangements for placing our bonds. The impossible of less than a year
ago was now included in the next season's program, as an inconsiderable
feature of a great project for a street-railway system, and the
"development" of hundreds of acres of land.

The place so to be named Lynhurst Park was most agreeably reached by a
walk up Brushy Creek from Lattimore. Such a stroll took one into the
gorge, where the rocks shelved toward each other, until their crowning
fringes of cedar almost interlocked, like the eyelashes of drowsiness.
Down there in the twilight one felt a sense of being defrauded, in
contemplation of the fact that the stream was troutless: it was such an
ideal place for trout. The quiet and mellow gloom made the gorge a
favorite trysting-place, and perhaps the cool-blooded stream-folk had
fled from the presence of the more fervid dwellers on the banks. In the
crevices of the rocks were the nests of the village pigeons. The
combined effects of all these causes was to make this a spot devoted to
billing and cooing.

Farther up the stream the rock walls grew lower and parted wider,
islanding a rich bottom of lush grass-plot, alternating with groves of
walnut, linden, and elm. This was the Lynhurst Park of the blueprints
and plats. Trescott's farm lay on the right bank, and others on either
side; but the houses were none of them near the stream, and the entire
walk was wild and woodsy-looking. None but nature-lovers came that way.
Others drove out by the road past Trescott's, seeing more of corn and
barn, but less of rock, moss, and fern.

Mr. Cornish was to return on Friday with the Honorable De Forest
Barr-Smith, who lived in London and "represented English capital." To us
Westerners the very hyphen of his name spoke eloquently of £ s. d.
Through him we hoped to get the money to build that street railway.
Cornish had written that Mr. Barr-Smith wanted to look the thing over
personally; and that, given the element of safety, his people would much
prefer an investment of a million to one of ten thousand. Cornish
further hinted that the London gentleman acted like a man who wanted a
side interest in the construction company; as to which he would sound
him further by the way.

"He'll expect something in the way of birds and bottles," observed
Elkins; "but they won't mix with the general society of this town, where
the worm of the still is popularly supposed to be the original Edenic
tempter. And he'll want to inspect Lynhurst Park. I want him to see our
beauty and our chivalry,--meaning the ladies and Captain Tolliver,--and
the rest of our best people. I guess we'll have to make it a temperate
sort of orgy, making up in the spectacular what it lacks in
spirituousness."

Mr. Cornish came, gradually moulting his mystery; but still far above
the Lattimore standard in dress and style of living. In truth, he always
had a good deal of the swell in his make-up, and can almost be acquitted
of deceit in the impressions conveyed at his coming. The Honorable De
Forest Barr-Smith fraternized with Cornish, as he could with no one
else. No one looking at Mr. Cornish could harbor a doubt as to his
morning tub; and his evening dress was always correct. With Jim, Mr.
Barr-Smith went into the discussion of business propositions freely and
confidentially. I feel sure that had he greatly desired a candid
statement of the very truth as to local views, or the exact judgment of
one on the spot, he would have come to me. But between him and Cornish
there was the stronger sympathy of a common understanding of the occult
intricacies of clothes, and a view-point as to the surface of things,
embracing manifold points of agreement. Cornish's unerring conformity
of vogue in the manner and as to the occasion of wearing the tuxedo or
the claw-hammer coat was clearly restful to Mr. Barr-Smith, in this new
and strange country, where, if danger was to be avoided, things had to
be approached with distended nostril and many preliminary snuffings of
the wind.

There came with these two a younger brother of Mr. Barr-Smith, Cecil--a
big young civil engineer, just out of college, and as like his brother
in accent and dress as could be expected of one of his years; but
national characteristics are matters of growth, and college boys all
over the world are a good deal alike. Cecil Barr-Smith, with his red
mustache, his dark eyes, and his six feet of British brawn, was nearer
in touch with our younger people that first day than his honorable
brother ever became. To Antonia, especially, he took kindly, and
respectfully devoted himself.

"At this distance," said Mr. Barr-Smith, as he saw his brother sitting
on the grass at Miss Hinckley's feet, "I'd think them brother and
sister. She resembles sister Gritty remarkably; the same complexion and
the same style, you know. Quite so!"

The Lynhurst function was the real introduction of these three gentlemen
to Lattimore society. I knew nothing of the arrangements, except what I
could deduce from Jim's volume of business with caterers and other
handicraftsmen; and I looked forward to the fête with much curiosity.
The weather, that afternoon, made an outing quite the natural thing; for
it was hot. The ladies in their most summery gowns fluttered like white
dryads from shade to shade, uttering bird-like pipings of surprise at
the preparations made for their entertainment.

The ravine had been transformed. At an available point in its bed Jim
had thrown a dam across the stream, and a beautiful little lake rippled
in the breeze, bearing on its bosom a bright-colored boat, which in our
ignorance of things Venetian we mistakenly dubbed a gondola. At the
upper end of this water the canvas of a large pavilion gleamed whitely
through the greenery, displaying from its top the British and American
flags, their color reflected in a particolored streak on the wimpling
face of the lake. The groves, in the tops of which the woodpeckers,
warblers, and vireos disturbedly carried on the imperatively necessary
work of rearing their broods, were gay with festoons of Chinese lanterns
in readiness for the evening. Hammocks were slung from tree to tree,
cushions and seats were arranged in cosy nooks; and when my wife and I
stepped from our carriage, all these appliances for the utilization of
shade and leisure were in full use. The "gondola" was making, trips from
the cascade (as the dam was already called) to the pavilion, carrying
loads of young people from whom came to our ears those peals of
merriment which have everywhere but one meaning, and that a part of the
world-old mystery of the way of a man with a maid.

Jim was on the ground early, to receive the guests and keep the
management in hand. Josie Trescott and her mother walked down through
the Trescott pasture, and joined Alice and me under one of the splendid
lindens, where, as we lounged in the shade, the sound of the little
waterfall filled the spaces in our talk. Long before any one else had
seen them coming through the trees, Mr. Elkins had spied them, and went
forward to meet them with something more than the hospitable solicitude
with which he had met the others. In fact, the principal guests of the
day had alighted from their carriage before Jim, ensconced in a hammock
with Josie, was made aware of their arrival. I am not quick to see such
things; but to my eyes, even, the affair had assumed interest as a sort
of public flirtation. I had not thought that Josie would so easily fall
into deportment so distinctly encouraging. She was altogether in a
surprising mood,--her eyes shining as with some stimulant, her cheeks a
little flushed, her lips scarlet, her whole appearance suggesting
suppressed excitement. And when Jim rose to meet his guests, she
dismissed him with one of those charmingly inviting glances and gestures
with which such an adorable woman spins the thread by which the banished
one is drawn back,--and then she disappeared until the dinner was
served.

The green crown of the western hill was throwing its shadow across the
valley, when Mr. Hinckley came with Mr. Cornish and Mr. Barr-Smith in a
barouche; followed by Antonia, who brought Mr. Cecil in her trap--and a
concomitant thrill to the company. Mr. Cornish, in his dress, had struck
a happy medium between the habiliments of business and those of sylvan
recreation. Mr. Barr-Smith on the other hand, was garbed cap-a-pie for
an outing, presenting an appearance with which the racket, the bat, or
even the alpenstock might have been conjoined in perfect harmony. As for
the men of Lattimore, any one of them would as soon have been seen in
the war-dress of a Sioux chief as in this entirely correct costume of
our British visitor. We walked about in the every-day vestments of the
shops, banks, and offices, illustrating the difference between a state
of society in which apparel is regarded as an incident in life, and one
rising to the height of realizing its true significance as a religion.
Mr. Barr-Smith bowed not the knee to the Baal of western
clothes-monotone, but daily sent out his sartorial orisons, keeping his
windows open toward the Jerusalem of his London tailor, in a manner
which would have delighted a Teufelsdröckh.

He was a short man, with protruding cheeks, and a nose ending in an
amorphous flare of purple and scarlet. His mustache, red like that of
his brother, and constituting the only point of physical resemblance
between them, grew down over a receding chin, being forced thereto by
the bulbous overhang of the nose. He had rufous side-whiskers, clipped
moderately close, and carroty hair mixed with gray. His erect shoulders
and straight back were a little out of keeping with the rotundity of his
figure in other respects; but the combination, hinting, as it did, of
affairs both gastronomic and martial, taken with a manner at once
dignified, formal, and suave, constituted the most intensely respectable
appearance I ever saw. To the imagination of Lattimore he represented
everything of which, Cornish fell short, piling Lombard upon Wall
Street.

The arrival of these gentlemen was the signal for gathering in the
pavilion where dinner was served. The tables were arranged in a great L,
at the apex of which sat Jim and the distinguished guests. On one side
of him sat Mr. Barr-Smith, who listened absorbedly to the conversation
of Mrs. Hinckley, filling every pause with a husky "Quite so!" On the
other sat Josie Trescott, who was smiling upon a very tall and spare old
man who wore a beautiful white mustache and imperial. I had never met
him, but I knew him for General Lattimore. His fondness for Josie was
well known; and to him Jim attributed that young lady's lack of
enthusiasm over our schemes for city-building. His presence at this
gathering was somewhat of a surprise to me.

Antonia and Cecil Barr-Smith, the Tollivers, Mr. Hinckley and Alice,
myself, Mr. Giddings, and Miss Addison sat across the table from the
host. Mrs. Trescott, after expressing wonder at the changes wrought in
the ravine, and confiding to me her disapproval of the useless expense,
had returned to the farm, impelled by that habitual feeling that
something was wrong there. Mr. Giddings was exceedingly attentive to
Miss Addison.

"I know why you're trying to look severe," said he to her, as the
consommé was served; "and it's the only thing I can imagine you making a
failure of, unless it would be looking anything but pretty. But you are
trying it, and I know why. You think they ought to have had some one say
grace before pulling this thing off."

"I'm not trying to look--anyhow," she answered. "But you are right in
thinking that I believe such duties should not be transgressed, for fear
that the world may call us provincial or old-fashioned."

And she shot a glance at Cornish and Barr-Smith as the visible
representatives of the "world."

"Don't listen to that age-old clash between fervor and unregeneracy,"
said Josie across the narrow table, her remarks made possible by the
music of the orchestra, "but tell us about Mr. Barr-Smith and--the other
gentlemen."

"I wanted to ask you about the Britons," said I; "are they good
specimens of the men you saw in England?"

"An art-student, with a consciousness of guilt in slowly eating up the
year's shipment of steers, isn't likely to know much more of the
Barr-Smiths' London than she can see from the street. But I think them
fine examples of not very rare types. I should like to try drawing the
elder brother!"

"Before he goes away, I predict--" I began, when my villainous pun was
arrested in mid-utterance by the voice of Captain Tolliver, suddenly
becoming the culminating peak in the table-talk.

"The Anglo-Saxon, suh," he was saying, "is found in his greatest purity
of blood in ouah Southe'n states. It is thah, suh, that those qualities
of virility and capacity fo' rulership which make the race what is ah
found in theiah highest development--on this side of the watah, suh, on
this side!"

"Quite so! I dare say, quite so!" responded Mr. Barr-Smith. "I hope to
know the people of the South better. In fact, I may say, really, you
know, an occasion like this gives one the desire to become acquainted
with the whole American people."

General Lattimore, whose nostrils flared as he leaned forward listening,
like an opponent in a debate, to the remarks of Captain Tolliver,
subsided as he heard the Englishman's diplomatic reply.

"What's the use?" said he to Josie. "He may be nearer right than I can
understand."

"We hope," said Mr. Elkins, "that this desire may be focalized locally,
and grow to anything short of a disease. I assure you, Lattimore will
congratulate herself."

Mr. Barr-Smith's fingers sought his glass, as if the impulse were on him
to propose a toast; but the liquid facilities being absent, he relapsed
into a conversation with Mrs. Hinckley.

"I'd say those things, too, if I were in his place," came the words of
Giddings, overshooting their mark, the ear of Miss Addison; "but it's
all rot. He's disgusted with the whole barbarous outfit of us."

"I am becoming curious," was the _sotto voce_ reply, "to know upon what
model you found your conduct, Mr. Giddings."

"I know what you mean," said Mr. Giddings. "But I have adopted Iago."

"Why, Mr. Giddings! How shocking! Iago--"

"Now, don't be horrified," said Giddings, with an air of candor, "but
look at it from a practical standpoint. If Othello hadn't been such a
fool, Iago would have made his point all right. He had a right to be
sore at Othello for promoting Cassio over his head, and his scheme was a
good one, if Othello hadn't gone crazy. Iago is dominated by reason and
the principle of the survival of the fittest. He is an agreeable
fellow--"

Miss Addison, with a charming mixture of tragedy and archness,
suppressed this blasphemy by a gesture suggestive of placing her hand
over the editor's mouth.

"Ah, Mrs. Hinckley, you shouldn't do us such an injustice!" It was Mr.
Cornish, who took the center of the stage now. "You seem to fail to
realize the fact that, in any given gathering, the influence of woman is
dominant; and as the entire life of the nation is the sum total of such
gatherings, woman is already in control. Now how can you fail to admit
this?"

I missed the rather extended reply of Mrs. Hinckley, in noting the
evident impression made upon the company by this first utterance of the
mysterious Cornish. It was not what he said: that was not important. It
was the dark, bearded face, the jetty eyes, and above all, I think, the
voice, with its clear, carrying quality, combining penetrativeness with
a repression of force which gave one the feeling of being addressed in
confidence. Every man, and especially every woman, in the company,
looked fixedly upon him, until he ceased to speak--all except Josie.
She darted at him one look, a mere momentary scrutiny, and as he
discoursed of woman and her power, she seemed to lose herself in
contemplation of her plate. The blush upon her cheek became more rosy,
and a little smile, with something in it which was not of pleasure,
played about the corners of her mouth. I was about to offer her the
traditional bargain-counter price for her thoughts, when my attention
was commanded by Jim's voice, answering some remark of Antonia's.

"This is the merest curtain-riser, just a sort of kick-off," he was
saying. "In a year or two this valley will be _the_ pleasure-ground of
all the countryside, a hundred miles around. This tent will be replaced
by a restaurant and auditorium. The conventions and public gatherings of
the state will be held here--there is no other place for 'em; and our
railway will bring the folks out from town. There will be baseball
grounds, and facilities for all sorts of sports; and outings and games
will center here. I promise you the next regatta of the State Rowing
Association, and a street-car line landing passengers where we now sit."

"Hear, hear!" said Mr. Barr-Smith, and the company clapped hands in
applause.

Mr. Hinckley was introduced by Jim as "one who had seen Lynhurst Park
when it was Indian hunting-ground"; and made a speech in which he
welcomed Mr. Cornish as a new citizen who was already prominent. Dining
in this valley, he said, reminded him of the time when he and two other
guests now present had, on almost the identical spot, dined on venison
dressed and cooked where it fell. Then Lattimore was a trading-post on
the frontier, surrounded by the tepees of Indians, and uncertain as to
its lease of life. General Lattimore, who shot the deer, or Mr.
Macdonald, who helped eat it, could either of them tell more about it.
Mr. Barr-Smith and our other British guest might judge of the rapidity
of development in this country, where a man may see in his lifetime
progress which in the older states and countries could be discerned by
the student of history only.

Mr. Cornish very briefly thanked Mr. Hinckley for his words of welcome;
but begged to be excused from making any extended remarks. Deeds were
rather more in his line than words.

"Title-deeds," said Giddings under his breath, "as the real-estate
transfers show!"

General Lattimore verified Mr. Hinckley's statement concerning the meal
of venison; and, politely expressing pleasure at being present at a
function which seemed to be regarded as of so much importance to the
welfare of the town in which he had always taken the pride of a
godfather, resumed his seat without adding anything to the oratory of
the boom.

"In fact," said Captain Tolliver to me, "I wahned Mr. Elkins against
having him hyah. In any mattah of progress he's a wet blanket, and has
proved himself such by these remahks."

Mr. Barr-Smith, in response to the allusions to him, assured us that the
presence of people such as he had had the pleasure of meeting in
Lattimore was sufficient in itself to account for the forward movement
in the community, which the visitor could not fail to observe.

"In a state of society where people are not averse to changing their
abodes," he said, "and where the social atom, if I may so express
myself, is in a state of mobility, the presence of such magnets as our
toastmaster, and the other gentlemen to whose courteous remarks I am
responding, must draw 'em to themselves, you may be jolly well assured
of that! And if the gentlemen should fail, the thing which should resist
the attractive power of the American ladies must be more fixed in its
habits than even the conservative English gentleman, who prides himself
upon his stability, er--ah--his taking a position and sticking by it, in
spite of the--of anything, you know."

As his only contribution to the speechmaking, Mr. Cecil Barr-Smith
greeted this sentiment with a hearty "Hear, hear!" He fell into step
with Antonia as we left the pavilion. Then he went back as if to look
for something; and I saw Antonia summon Mr. Elkins to her side so that
she might congratulate him on the success of this "carouse."

Everything seemed going well. There was, however, in that gathering, as
in the day, material for a storm, and I, of all those in attendance,
ought to have seen it, had my memory been as unerring as I thought it.



CHAPTER XI.

The Empress and Sir John Meet Again.


The company emerged from the tent into the enchanted outdoors of the
star-dotted valley. The moon rode high, and flooded the glades with
silvery effulgency. The heat of the day had bred a summer storm-cloud,
which, all quivery with lightning, seemed sweeping around from the
northwest to the north, giving us the delicious experience of enjoying
calm, in view of storm.

The music of the orchestra soon told that the pavilion had been cleared
for dancing. I heard Giddings urging upon Miss Addison that it would be
much better for them to walk in the moonlight than to encourage by their
presence such a worldly amusement, and one in which he had never been
able to do anything better than fail, anyhow. Sighing her pain at the
frivolity of the world, she took his arm and strolled away. I noticed
that she clung closely to him, frightened, I suppose, at the mysterious
rustlings in the trees, or something.

They made up the dances in such a way as to leave me out. I rather
wanted to dance with Antonia; but Mr. Cecil was just leaving her in
disappointment, in the possession of Mr. Elkins, when I went for her. I
decided that a cigar and solitude were rather to be chosen than anything
else which presented itself, and accordingly I took possession of one of
the hammocks, in which I lay and smoked, and watched the towering
thunder-head, as it stood like a mighty and marvelous mountain in the
northern sky, its rounded and convoluted summits serenely white in the
moonlight, its mysterious caves palpitant with incessant lightning. The
soothing of the cigar; the new-made lake reflecting the gleam of
hundreds of lanterns; the illuminated pavilion, its whirling company of
dancers seen under the uprolled walls; the night, with its strange
contrast of a calm southern sky on the one hand pouring down its flood
of moonlight, and in the north the great mother-of-pearl dome with its
core of vibrant fire; the dance-music throbbing through the lindens; and
all this growing out of the unwonted and curious life of the past few
months, bore to me again that feeling of being yoked with some
thaumaturge of wondrous power for the working of enchantments. Again I
seemed in a partnership with Aladdin; and fairy pavilions, sylvan
paradises, bevies of dancing girls, and princes bearing gifts of gold
and jewels, had all obeyed our conjuration. I could have walked down to
the naphtha pleasure-boat and bidden the engineer put me down at
Khorassan, or some dreamful port of far Cathay, with no sense of
incongruity.

Two figures came from the tent and walked toward me. As I looked at
them, myself in darkness, they in the light, I had again that feeling of
having seen them in some similar way before. That same old sensation,
thought I, that the analytic novelist made trite ages ago. Then I saw
that it was Mr. Cornish and Miss Trescott. I could hear them talking;
but lay still, because I was loth to have my reveries disturbed. And
besides, to speak would seem an unwarranted assumption of confidential
relations on their part. They stopped near me.

"Your memory is not so good as mine," said he. "I knew you at once. Knew
you! Why--"

"I'm not very good at keeping names and faces in mind," she replied,
"unless they belong to people I have known very well."

"Indeed!" his voice dropped to the 'cello-like undertone now; "isn't
that a little unkind? I fancied that _we_ knew each other very well! My
conceit is not to be pandered to, I perceive."

"Ye-e-s--does it seem that way?" said she, ignoring the last remark.
"Well, you know it was only for a few days, and you kept calling
yourself by some ridiculous alias, and scarcely used your surname at
all, and I believe they called you Johnny--and you can't think what a
disguise such a beard is! But I remember you now perfectly. It quite
brings back those short months, when I was so young--and was finding
things out! I can see the vine-covered porch, and Madame Lamoreaux's
boarding-house on the South Side--"

"And the old art gallery?"

"Why, there was one, wasn't there?" said she, "somewhere along the lake
front, wasn't it?... Such a pleasant meeting, and so odd!"

I sat up in the hammock, and stared at them as they went on their
promenade. The old art gallery, the vine-covered porch, the young man
with the smooth-shaven dark face and the thrilling, vibrant voice, and
the young, young girl with the ruddy hair, and the little, round form!
She seemed taller now, and there was more of maturity in the figure; but
it was the same lissome waist and petite gracefulness which had so fully
explained to me the avid eyes of her lover on that day when I had fled
from the report of the Committee on Permanent Organization. It was the
Empress Josephine, I had known that--and her Sir John!

Then I thought of her flying from him into the street, and the little
bowed head on the street-car; and the old pity for her, the old
bitterness toward him, returned upon me. I wondered how he could speak
to her in this nonchalant way; what they were saying to each other;
whether they would ever refer to that night at Auriccio's; what Alice
would think of him if she ever found it out; whether he was a villain,
or only erred passionately; what was actually said in that palm alcove
that night so long ago; whether this man, with the eyes and voice so
fascinating to women, would renew his suit in this new life of ours;
what Jim would think about it; and, more than all, how Josie herself
would regard him.

"She ought never to have spoken to him again!" I hear some one say.

Ah, Madam, very true. But do you remember any authentic case of a woman
who failed to forgive the man whose error or offense had for its excuse
the irresistible attraction of her own charms?

They were coming back now, still talking.

"You dropped out of sight, like a partridge into a thicket," said he.
"Some of them said you had gone back to--to--"

"To the farm," she prompted.

"Well, yes," he conceded; "and others said you had left Chicago for New
York; and some, even Paris."

"I fail to see the warrant," said Josie, as they approached the limit of
earshot, "for any of the people at Madame Lamoreux's giving themselves
the trouble to investigate."

"So far as that is concerned," said he, "I should think that I--" and
his voice quite lost intelligibility.

My cigar had gone out, and the cessation of the music ought to have
apprised me of the breaking up of the dance, and still I lay looking at
the sky and filled with my thoughts.

"Here he is," said Alice, "asleep in the hammock! For shame, Albert!
This would not have occurred, once!"

"I am free to admit that," said I, "but why am I now disturbed?"

"We're going on a cruise in the gondola," said Antonia, "and Mr. Elkins
says you are lieutenant, and we can't sail without you. Come, it's
perfectly beautiful out there."

"We're going to the head of navigation and back," said Jim, "and then
our revels will be ended. --Hang it!" to me, "they left the skull and
crossbones off all the flags!"

Mr. Barr-Smith at once engaged the engineer in conversation, and seemed
worming from him all his knowledge of the construction of the boat. The
rest of us lounged on cushions and seats. We threaded our way up the new
pond, winding between clumps of trees, now in broad moonlight, now in
deepest shade. The shower had swept over to the northeast, just one dark
flounce of its skirt reaching to the zenith. A cool breeze suddenly
sprang up from the west, stirred by the suction of the receding storm,
and a roar came from the trees on the hilltops.

"Better run for port," said Jim; "I'd hate to have Mr. Barr-Smith suffer
shipwreck where the charts don't show any water!"

As we ran down the open way, the remark seemed less and less of a joke.
The gale poured over the hills, and struck the boat like the buffet of a
great hand. She heeled over alarmingly, bumped upon a submerged stump,
righted, heeled again, this time shipping a little sea, and then the
sharp end of a hidden oak-limb thrust up through the bottom, and ripped
its way out again, leaving us afloat in the deepest part of the lake,
with a spouting fountain in the middle of the vessel, and the chopping
waves breaking over the gunwale. All at once, I noticed Cecil
Barr-Smith, with his coat off, standing near Antonia, who sat as cool as
if she had been out on some quiet road driving her pacers. The boat sank
lower in the water, and I had no doubt that she was sinking. Antonia
rose, and stretched her hands towards Jim. I do not see how he could
avoid seeing this; but he did, and, as if abandoning her to her fate, he
leaped to Josie's side. Cornish had seized _her_ by the arm, and seemed
about to devote himself to her safety, when Jim, without a word, lifted
her in his arms, and leaped lightly upon the forward deck, the highest
and driest place on the sinking craft. Then, as everything pointed to a
speedy baptism in the lake for all of us, we saw that the very speed of
the wind had saved us, and felt the gondola bump broadside upon the dam.
Jim sprang to the abutment with Josie, and Cecil Barr-Smith half carried
and half led Antonia to the shore. Alice and I sat calmly on the
windward rail; and Barr-Smith, laughing with delight, helped us across,
one at a time, to the masonry.

"I'm glad it turned out no worse," said Jim. "I hope you will all excuse
me if I leave you now. I must see Miss Trescott to a safe and dry place.
Here's the carriage, Josie!"

"Are you quite uninjured?" said Cecil to Antonia, as Mr. Elkins and
Josie drove away.

"Oh, quite so!" said Antonia, unwittingly adopting Barr-Smith's phrase.
"But for a moment I was awfully frightened!"

"It looked a little damp, at one time, for farce-comedy," said Cornish.
"I wonder how deep it was out there!"

"Miss Trescott was quite drenched," said Mr. Barr-Smith, as we got into
the carriages. "Too bad, by Jove!"

"You may write home," said Antonia, "an account of being shipwrecked in
the top of a tree!"

"Good, good!" said Cecil, and we all joined in the laugh, until we were
suddenly sobered by the fact that Antonia had bowed her head on Alice's
lap, and was sobbing as if her heart was broken.



CHAPTER XII.

In which the Burdens of wealth begin to fall upon Us.


If the town be considered as a quiescent body pursuing its unluminous
way in space, Mr. Elkins may stand for the impinging planet which
shocked it into vibrant life. I suggested this nebular-hypothesis simile
to Mr. Giddings, one day, as the germ of an editorial.

"It's rather seductive," said he, "but it won't do. Carry your
interplanetary collision business to its logical end, and what do you
come to? Gaseousness. And that's just what the Angus Falls _Times_, the
Fairchild Star, and the other loathsome sheets printed in prairie-dog
towns around here accuse us of, now. No; much obliged; but as a field
for comparisons the tried old solar system is good enough for the
_Herald_."

I couldn't help thinking, however, that the thing had some illustrative
merit. There was Jim's first impact, felt locally, and jarring things
loose. Then came the atomic vivification, the heat and motion, which
appeared in the developments which we have seen taking form. After the
visit of the Barr-Smiths, and the immigration of Cornish, the new star
Lattimore began to blaze in the commercial firmament, the focus of
innumerable monetary telescopes, pointed from the observatories of
counting-rooms, banks, and offices, far and wide.

There was a shifting of the investment and speculative equilibrium, and
things began coming to us spontaneously. The Angus Falls railway
extension was won only by strenuous endeavor. Captain Tolliver's
interviews with General Lattimore, in which he was so ruthlessly "turned
down," he always regarded as a sort of creative agony, marking the
origin of the roundhouse and machine-shops, and our connection with the
great Halliday railway system of which it made us a part. The street-car
project went more easily; and, during the autumn, the geological and
manufacturing experts sent out to report on the cement-works enterprise,
pronounced favorably, and gangs of men, during the winter, were to be
seen at work on the foundations of the great buildings by the scarped
chalk-hill.

The tension of my mind just after the Lynhurst Park affair was such as
to attune it to no impulses but the financial vibrations which pulsated
through our atmosphere. True, I sometimes felt the wonder return upon me
at the finding of the lovers of the art-gallery together once more, in
Josie and Cornish; and at other times Antonia's agitation after our
escape from shipwreck recurred to me in contrast with her smiling
self-possession while the boat was drifting and filling; but mostly I
thought of nothing, dreamed of nothing, but trust companies, additions,
bonds and mortgages.

Mr. Barr-Smith returned to London soon, giving a parting luncheon in his
rooms, where wine flowed freely, and toasts of many colors were pushed
into the atmosphere. There was one to the President and the Queen,
proposed by the host and drunk in bumpers, and others to Mr. Barr-Smith,
his brother, and the members of the "Syndicate." The enthusiasm grew
steadily in intensity as the affair progressed. Finally Mr. Cecil
solemnly proposed "The American Woman." In offering this toast, he said,
he was taking long odds, as it was a sport for which he hadn't had the
least training; but he couldn't forego the pleasure of paying a tribute
where tribute was due. The ladies of America needed no encomiums from
him, and yet he was sure that he should give no offense by saying that
they were of a type unknown in history. They were up to anything, you
know, in the way of intellectuality, and he was sure that in a certain
queenly, blonde way they were--

"Hear, hear!" said his brother, and burst into a laugh in which we all
joined, while Cecil went on talking, in an uproar which drowned his
words, though one could see that he was trying to explain something, and
growing very hot in the process.

Pearson announced that their train would soon arrive, and we all went
down to see them off. Barr-Smith assured us at parting that the
tram-road transaction might be considered settled. He believed, too,
that his clients might come into the cement project. We were all the
more hopeful of this, for the knowledge that he carried somewhere in
his luggage a bond for a deed to a considerable interest in the cement
lands. Things were coming on beautifully; and it seemed as if Elkins and
Cornish, working together, were invincible.

We still lived at the hotel, but our architect, "little Ed. Smith, who
lived over on the Hayes place" when we were boys, and who was once at
Garden City with Jim, was busy with plans for a mansion which we were to
build in the new Lynhurst Park Addition the next spring. Mr. Elkins was
preparing to erect a splendid house in the same neighborhood.

"Can I afford it?" said I, in discussing estimates.

"Afford it!" he replied, turning on me in astonishment. "My dear boy,
don't you see we are up against a situation that calls on us to bluff to
the limit, or lay down? In such a case, luxury becomes a duty, and
lavishness the truest economy. Not to spend is to go broke. Lay your
Poor Richard on the shelf, and put a weight on him. Stimulate the outgo,
and the income'll take care of itself. A thousand spent is five figures
to the good. No, while we've as many boom-irons in the fire as we're
heating now, to be modest is to be lost."

"Perhaps," said I, "you may be right, and no doubt are. We'll talk it
over again some time. And your remark about irons in the fire brings up
another matter which bothers me. It's something unusual when we don't
open up a set of books for some new corporation, during the working day.
Aren't we getting too many?"

"Do you remember Mule Jones, who lived down near Hickory Grove?" said
he, after a long pause. "Well, you know, in our old neighborhood, the
mule was regarded with a mixture of contempt, suspicion, and fear, the
folks not understanding him very well, and being especially uninformed
as to his merits. Therefore, Mule Jones, who dealt in mules, bought,
sold, and broke 'em, was a man of mark, and identified in name with his
trade, as most people used to be before our time. I was down there one
Sunday, and asked him how he managed to break the brutes. 'It's easy,'
said he, 'when you know how. I never hook up less'n six of 'em at a
time. Then they sort o' neutralize one another. Some on 'em'll be
r'arin' an' pitchin', an' some tryin' to run; but they'll be enough of
'em down an' a-draggin' all the time, to keep the enthusiastic ones kind
o' suppressed, and give me the castin' vote. It's the only right way to
git the bulge on mules.' Whenever you get to worrying about our various
companies, think of the Mule Jones system and be calm."

"I'm a little shy of being ruled by one case, even though so exactly in
point," said I.

"Well, it's all right," he continued, "and about these houses. Why, we'd
have to build them, even if we preferred to live in tents. Put the cost
in the advertising account of Lynhurst Park Addition, if it worries you.
Let me ask you, now, as a reasonable man, how can we expect the rest of
the world to come out here and spring themselves for humble dwellings
with stationary washtubs, conservatories, and _porte cochères_, if we
ourselves haven't any more confidence in the deal than to put up Jim
Crow wickiups costing not more than ten or fifteen thousand dollars
apiece? That addition has got to be the Nob Hill of Lattimore. Nothing
in the 'poor but honest' line will do for Lynhurst; and we've got to set
the pace. When you see my modest bachelor quarters going up, you'll
cease to think of yours in the light of an extravagance. By next fall
you'll be infested with money, anyhow, and that house will be the least
of your troubles."

Alice and I made up our minds that Jim was right, and went on with our
plans on a scale which sometimes brought back the Aladdin idea to my
mind, accustomed as I was to rural simplicity. But Alice,
notwithstanding that she was the daughter of a country physician of not
very lucrative practice, rose to the occasion, and spent money with a
spontaneous largeness of execution which revealed a genius hitherto
unsuspected by either of us. Jim was thoroughly delighted with it.

"The Republic," he argued, "cannot be in any real danger when the modest
middle classes produce characters of such strength in meeting great
emergencies!"

Jim was at his best this summer. He revelled in the work of filling the
morning paper with scare-heads detailing our operations. He enjoyed
being It, he said. Cornish, after the first few days, during which, in
spite of inside information as to his history, I felt that he would make
good the predictions of the _Herald_, ceased to be, in my mind, anything
more than I was--a trusted aide of Jim, the general. Both men went
rather frequently out to the Trescott farm--Jim with the bluff freedom
of a brother, Cornish with his rather ceremonious deference. I
distrusted the dark Sir John where women were concerned, noting how they
seemed charmed by him; but I could not see that he had made any headway
in regaining Josie's regard, though I had a lurking feeling that he
meant to do so. I saw at times in his eyes the old look which I
remembered so well.

Josie, more than ever this season, was earning her father's commendation
as his "right-hand man." She insisted on driving the four horses which
drew the binder in the harvest. In the haying she operated the
horse-rake, and helped man the hay-fork in filling the barns. She grew
as tanned as if she had spent the time at the seashore or on the links;
and with every month she added to her charm. The scarlet of her lips,
the ruddy luxuriance of her hair, the arrowy straightness of her
carriage, the pulsing health which beamed from her eye, and dyed cheek
and neck, made their appeal to the women, even.

"How sweet she is!" said Alice, as she came to greet us one day when we
drove to the farm, and waited for her to come to us. "How sweet she is,
Albert!"

Her father came up, and explained to us that he didn't ask any of his
women folks to do any work except what there was in the house. He was
able to hire the outdoors work done, but Josie he couldn't keep out of
the fields.

"Why, pa," said she, "don't you see you would spoil my chances of
marrying a fairy prince? They absolutely never come into the house; and
my straw hat is the only really becoming thing I've got to wear!"

"Don't give a dum if yeh never marry," said Bill. "Hain't seen the man
yit that was good enough fer yeh, from my standpoint."

Bill's reputation was pretty well known to me by this time. He had been
for years a successful breeder and shipper of live-stock, in which
vocation he had become well-to-do. On his farm he was forceful and
efficient, treading his fields like an admiral his quarter-deck. About
town he was given to talking horses and cattle with the groups which
frequented the stables and blacksmith-shops, and sometimes grew a little
noisy and boisterous with them. Whenever her father went with a shipment
of cattle to Chicago or other market, Josie went too, taking a regular
passenger train in time to be waiting when Bill's stock train arrived;
and after the beeves were disposed of, Bill became her escort to opera
and art-gallery; on such a visit I had seen her at the Stock Yards. She
was fond of her father; but this alone did not explain her constant
attendance upon him. I soon came to understand that his prompt return
from the city, in good condition, was apt to be dependent upon her
influence. It was one of those cases of weakness, associated with
strength, the real mystery of which does not often occur to us because
they are so common.

He came into our office one day with a tremor in his hand and a hunted
look in his eye. He took a chair at my invitation, but rose at once,
went to the door, and looked up and down the street, as if for pursuers.
I saw Captain Tolliver across the street, and Bill's air of excitement
was explained. I was relieved, for at first I had thought him
intoxicated.

"What's the matter, Bill?" said I, after he had looked at me earnestly,
almost pantingly, for a few moments. "You look nervous."

"They're after me," he answered in repressed tones, "to sell; and I'll
be blasted if I know what to do! Wha' d'ye' 'spose they're offerin' me
for my land?"

"The fact is, Bill," said I, "that I know all about it. I'm interested
in the deal, somewhat."

"Then you know they've bid right around a thousand dollars an acre?"

"Yes," said I, "or at least that they intended to offer that."

"An' you're one o' the company," he queried, "that's doin' it?"

"Yes," I admitted.

"Wal," said he, "I'm kinder sorry you're in it, becuz I've about
concluded to sell; an' it seems to me that any concern that buys at that
figger is a-goin' to bust, sure. W'y, I bought that land fer two dollars
and a haff an acre. But, see here, now; I 'xpect you know your business,
an' see some way of gittin' out in the deal, 'r you wouldn't pay that.
But if I sell, I've got to have help with my folks."

"Ah," said I, scenting the usual obstacle in such cases, "Mrs. Trescott
a little unwilling to sign the deeds?"

"No," answered he, "strange as it may seem, ma's kinder stuck on comin'
to town to live. How she'll feel after she's tried it fer a month 'r so,
with no chickens 'r turkeys 'r milk to look after, I'm dubious; but jest
now she seems to be all right."

"Well, what's the matter then?" said I.

"Wal, it's Josie, to tell the truth," said he. "She's sort o' hangin'
back. An' it's for her sake that I want to make the deal! I've told her
an' told her that there's no dum sense in raisin' corn on
thousand-dollar land; but it's no use, so fur; an' here's the only
chanst I'll ever hev, mebbe, a-slippin' by. She ortn't to live her life
out on a farm, educated as she is. W'y, did you ever hear how she's been
educated?"

I told him that in a general way I knew, but not in detail.

"W'l, I want yeh to know all about it, so's yeh c'n see this movin'
business as it is," said he. "You know I was allus a rough cuss. Herded
cattle over there by yer father's south place, an' never went to school.
Ma, Josie's ma, y' know, kep' the Greenwood school, an' crossed the
prairie there where I was a-herdin', an' I used to look at her mighty
longin' as she went by, when the cattle happened to be clost along the
track, which they right often done. You know how them things go. An'
fin'ly one morning a blue racer chased her, as the little whelps will,
an' got his dummed little teeth fastened in her dress, an' she
a-hyperin' around haff crazy, and a-screamin' every jump, so's't I hed
to just grab her, an' hold her till I could get the blasted snake
off,--harmless, y' know, but got hooked teeth, an' not a lick o'
sense,--an' he kinder quirled around my arm, an' I nacherally tore him
to ribbins a-gittin' of him off. An' then she sort o' dropped off, an'
when she come to, I was a-rubbin' her hands an' temples. Wa'n't that a
funny interduction?"

"It's very interesting," said I; "go on."

"W'l you remember ol' Doc Maxfield?" said Bill, well started on a
reminiscence. "Wal, he come along, an' said it was the worst case of
collapse, whatever that means, that he ever see--her lips an' hands an'
chin all a-tremblin', an' flighty as a loon. Wal, after that I used to
take her around some, an' her folks objected becuz I was ignorant, an'
she learnt me some things, an' bein' strong an' a good dancer an' purty
good-lookin' she kind o' forgot about my failin's, an' we was married.
Her folks said she'd throwed herself away; but I could buy an' sell the
hull set of 'em now!"

This seemed conclusive as to the merits of the case, and I told him as
much.

"W'l Josie was born an' growed up," continued Bill, "an' it's her I
started to tell about, wa'n't it? She was allus a cute little thing, an'
early she got this art business in her head. She'd read about fellers
that had got to be great by paintin' an' carvin', an' it made her wild
to do the same thing. Wa'n't there a feller that pulled hair outer the
cat to paint Injuns with? Yes, I thought they was; I allus thought they
could paint theirselves good enough; but that story an' some others she
read an' read when she was a little gal, an' she was allus a-paintin'
an' makin' things with clay. She took a prize at the county fair when
she was fourteen, with a picter of Washin'ton crossin' the
Delaware--three dollars, by gum! An' then we hed to give her lessons;
an' they wasn't any one thet knew anything around here, she said, an'
she went to Chicago. An' I went in to visit her when she hedn't ben
there more'n six weeks, on an excursion one convention time, an' I found
her all tore up, a good deal as her ma was with the blue racer,--I don't
think she's ever ben the same light-hearted little gal sence,--an' from
there I took her to New York; an' there she fell in with a nice woman
that was awful good to her, an' they went to Europe, an' it cost a heap.
An' you may've noticed thet Josie knows a pile more'n the other women
here?"

I admitted that this had occurred to me.

"W'l, she was allus apt to take her head with her," said Bill, "but this
travelin' has fixed her like a hoss thet's ben druv in Chicago: nothin'
feazes her, street-cars, brass bands, circuses, overhead trains--it's
all the same to her, she's seen 'em all. Sometimes I git the notion that
she'd enjoy things more if she hadn't seen so dum many of 'em an' so
much better ones, y' know! Wal, after she'd ben over there a long time,
she wrote she was a-comin' home; an' we was tickled to death. Only I was
surprised by her writin' that she wanted us to take all them old picters
of hern, and put 'em out of sight! An' if you'll b'lieve it, she won't
talk picters nor make any sence she got back--only, jest after she got
back, she said she didn't see any use o' her goin' on dobbin' good
canvas up with good paint, an' makin' nothin' but poor picters; an' she
cried some.... I thought it was sing'lar that this art business that she
thought was the only thing thet'd ever make her happy was the only thing
I ever see her cry about."

"It's the way," said I, "with a great many of our cherished hopes."

"W'l, anyhow, you can see thet it's the wrong thing to put as much time
an' money into fixin' a child up f'r a different kind o' life as we hev,
an' then keep her on a farm out here. An' thet's why I want you to help
this sale through, an' bring influence to bear on her. I give up; I'm
all in."

To me Bill seemed entirely in the right. The new era made it absurd for
the Trescotts to use their land longer as a farm. Lattimore was changing
daily. The streets were gashed with trenches for gas- and water-mains;
piled-up materials for curbing, paving, office buildings, new hotels,
and all sorts of erections made locomotion a peril; but we were happy.

The water company was organized in our office, the gas and
electric-light company in Cornish's; but every spout led into the same
bin.

Mr. Hinckley had induced some country dealers who owned a line of local
grain-houses to remove to Lattimore and put up a huge terminal elevator
for the handling of their trade. Captain Tolliver had been for a long
time working upon a project for developing a great water-power, by
tunneling across a bend in the river, and utilizing the fall. The
building of the elevator attracted the attention of a company of
Rochester millers, and almost before we knew it their forces had been
added to ours, and the tunnel was begun, with the certainty that a
two-thousand-barrel mill would be ready to grind the wheat from the
elevator as soon as the flume began carrying water. This tunnel cut
through an isthmus between the Brushy Creek valley and the river, and
brought to bear on our turbines the head from a ten-mile loop of shoals
and riffles. It opened into the gorge near the southern edge of Lynhurst
Park, and crossed the Trescott farm. So it was that Bill awoke one day
to the fact that his farm was coveted by divers people, who saw in his
fields and feed-yards desirable sites for railway tracks, mills,
factories, and the cottages of a manufacturing suburb. This it was that
had put the Captain, like a blood-hound, on his trial, to the end that
he was run to earth in my office, and made his appeal for help in
managing Josie.

"There she comes now," said he. "Labor with her, won't yeh?"

"Bring her with us to the hotel," said I, "to take dinner. If my wife
and Elkins can't fix the thing, no one can."

So we five dined together, and after dinner discussed the Trescott
crisis. Bill put the case, with all a veteran dealer's logic, in its
financial aspects.

"But we don't want to be rich," said Josie.

"What've we ben actin' all these years like we have for, then?" inquired
Bill. "Seem's if I'd been lab'rin' under a mistake f'r some time past.
When your ma an' me was a-roughin' it out there in the old log-house,
an' she a-lookin' out at the Feb'uary stars through the holes in the
roof, a-holdin' you, a little baby in bed, we reckoned we was a-doin' of
it to sort o' better ourselves in a property way. Wouldn't you
'a'thought so, Jim?"

"Well," said Mr. Elkins, with an air of judicial perpension, "if you had
asked me about it, I should have said that, if you wanted to stay poor,
you could have held your own better by staying in Pleasant Valley
Township as a renter. This was no place to come to if you wanted to
conserve your poverty."

"But, pa, we're not adapted to town life and towns," urged Josie. "I'm
not, and you are not, and as for mamma, she'll never be contented. Oh,
Mr. Elkins, why did you come out here, making us all fortunes which we
haven't earned, and upsetting everything?"

"Now, don't blame me, Josie," Jim protested. "You ought to consider the
fallacy of the _post hoc, propter hoc_ argument. But to return to the
point under discussion. If you could stay there, a rural Amaryllis,
sporting in Arcadian shades, having seen you doing it once or twice, I
couldn't argue against it, it's so charmingly becoming."

"If that were all the argument--" began Josie.

"It's the most important one--to my mind," said Jim, resuming the
discussion, "and you fail on that point; for you can't live in that way
long. If you don't sell, the Development Company will condemn grounds
for railway tracks and switch-yards; you'll find your fields and
meadows all shot to pieces; and your house will be surrounded by
warehouses, elevators, and factories. Your larks and bobolinks will be
scared off by engines and smokestacks, and your flowers spoiled with
soot. Don't parley with fate, but cash in and put your winnings in some
safe investment."

"Once I thought I couldn't stay on the old farm a day longer; but I feel
otherwise now! What business has this 'progress' of yours to interfere?"

"It pushes you out of the nest," answered Jim. "It gives you the chance
of your lives. You can come out into Lynhurst Park Addition, and build
your house near the Barslow and Elkins dwellings. We've got about
everything there--city water, gas, electric light, sewers, steam heat
from the traction plant, beautiful view, lots on an established grade--"

"Don't, don't!" said Josie. "It sounds like the advertisements in the
_Herald_."

"Well, I was just leading up to a statement of what we lack," continued
Jim. "It's the artistic atmosphere. We need a dash of the culture of
Paris and Dresden and the place where they have the dinky little
windmills which look so nice on cream-pitchers, but wouldn't do for one
of our farmers a minute. Come out and supply our lack. You owe it to the
great cause of the amelioration of local savagery; and in view of my
declaration of discipleship, and the effective way in which I have
always upheld the standard of our barbarism, I claim that you owe it to
me."

"I've abandoned the brush."

"Take it up again."

"I have made a vow."

"Break it!"

She refused to yield, but was clearly yielding. Alice and I showed
Trescott, on a plat, the place for his new home. He was quite taken with
the idea, and said that ma would certainly be tickled with it.

Josie sat apart with Mr. Elkins, in earnest converse, for a long time.
She looked frequently at her father, Jim constantly at her. Mr. Cornish
dropped in for a little while, and joined us in presenting the case for
removal. While he was there the girl seemed constrained, and not quite
so fully at her ease; and I could detect, I thought, the old tendency to
scrutinize his face furtively. When he went away, she turned to Jim more
intimately than before, and almost promised that she would become his
neighbor in Lynhurst. After the Trescotts' carriage had come and taken
them away, Jim told us that it was for her father, and the temptations
of idleness in the town, that Miss Trescott feared.

"This fairy-godmother business," said he, "ain't what the prospectus
might lead one to expect. It has its drawbacks. Bill is going to cash in
all right, and I think it's for the best; but, Al, we've got to take
care of the old man, and see that he doesn't go up in the air."



CHAPTER XIII.

A Sitting or Two in the Game with the World and Destiny.


Our game at Lattimore was one of those absorbing ones in which the
sunlight of next morning sifts through the blinds before the players are
aware that midnight is past. Day by day, deal by deal, it went on, card
followed card in fateful fall upon the table, and we who sat in, and
played the World and Destiny with so pitifully small a pile of chips at
the outset, saw the World and Destiny losing to us, until our hands
could scarcely hold, our eyes hardly estimate, the high-piled stacks of
counters which were ours.

We saw the yellowing groves and brown fields of our first autumn; we
heard the long-drawn, wavering, mounting, falling, persistent howl of
the thresher among the settings of hive-shaped stacks; we saw the loads
of red and yellow corn at the corn-cribs,--as men at the board of the
green cloth hear the striking of the hours. And we heeded them as
little. The cries of southing wild-fowl heralded the snow; winter came
for an hour or so, and melted into spring; and some of us looked up from
our hands for a moment, to note the fact that it was the anniversary of
that aguish day when three of us had first taken our seats at the table:
and before we knew it, the dust and heat and summer clouds, like that
which lightened over the fete in the park, admonished us that we were
far into our second year. And still shuffle, cut, deal, trick, and hand
followed each other, and with draw and bluff and showdown we played the
World and Destiny, and playing won, and saw our stacks of chips grow
higher and higher, as our great and absorbing game went on.

Moreover, while we won and won, nobody seemed to lose. Josie spoke that
night of fortunes which people had not earned; but surely they were
created somehow; and as the universe, when the divine fiat had formed
the world, was richer, rather than poorer, so, we felt, must these
values so magically growing into our fortunes be good, rather than evil,
and honestly ours, so far as we might be able to secure them to
ourselves. I said as much to Jim one day, at which he smiled, and
remarked that if we got to monkeying with the ethics of the trade,
piracy would soon be a ruined business.

"Better, far better keep the lookout sweeping the horizon for sails,"
said he, "and when one appears, serve out the rum and gunpowder to the
crew, and stand by to lower away the boats for a boarding-party!"

I am afraid I have given the impression that our life at this time was
solely given over to cupidity and sordidness; and that idea I may not be
able to remove. Yet I must try to do so. We were in the game to win; but
our winnings, present and prospective, were not in wealth only. To
surmount obstacles; to drive difficulties before us like scattering
sparrows; to see a town marching before us into cityhood; to feel
ourselves the forces working through human masses so mightily that, for
hundreds of miles about us, social and industrial factors were compelled
to readjust themselves with reference to us; to be masters; to
create--all these things went into our beings in thrilling and dizzying
pulsations of a pleasure which was not ignoble.

For instance, let us take the building of the Lattimore & Great Western
Railway. Before Mr. Elkins went to Lattimore this line had been surveyed
by the coöperation of Mr. Hinckley, Mr. Ballard, the president of the
opposition bank, and some others. It was felt that there was little real
competition among the railways centering there, and the L. & G.W. was
designed as a hint to them of a Lattimore-built connection with the
Halliday system, then a free-lance in the transportation field, and
ready to make rates in an independent and competitive way. The Angus
Falls extension brought this system in, but too late to do the good
expected; for Mr. Halliday, in his dealings with us, convinced us of the
truth of the rumors that he had brought the other roads to terms, and
was a free-lance no longer. Month by month the need of real competition
in our carrying trade grew upon us. Rates accorded to other cities on
our commercial fighting line we could not get, in spite of the most
persistent efforts. In the offices of presidents and general managers,
in St. Louis, Chicago, St. Paul and Minneapolis, Kansas City, Omaha and
New York we were received by suave princes of the highways, who each
blandly assured us that his road looked with especial favor upon our
town, and that our representations should receive the most solicitous
attention. But the word of promise was ever broken to the hope.

After one of these embassies the syndicate held a meeting in Cornish's
elegant offices on the ground-floor of the new "Hotel Elkins" building.
We sent Giddings away to prepare an optimistic news-story for
to-morrow's _Herald_, and an editorial leader based upon it, both of
which had been formulated among us before going into executive session
on the state of the nation. Hinckley, who had an admirable power of
seeing the crux of a situation, was making a rather grave prognosis for
us.

"If we can't get rates which will let us into a broader territory, we
may as well prepare for reverses," said he. "Foreign cement comes almost
to our doors, in competition with ours. Wheat and live-stock go from
within twenty miles to points five hundred miles away. Who is furnishing
the brick and stone for the new Fairchild court-house and the big
normal-school buildings at Angus Falls? Not our quarries and kilns, but
others five times as far away. If you want to figure out the reason of
this, you will find it in nothing else in the world but the freight
rates."

"It's a confounded outrage," said Cornish. "Can't we get help from the
legislature?"

"I understand that some action is expected next winter," said I;
"Senator Conley had in here the other day a bill he has drawn; and it
seems to me we should send a strong lobby down at the proper time in
support of it."

"Ye-e-s," drawled Jim, "but I believe in still stronger measures; and
rather than bother with the legislature, owned as it is by the roads,
I'd favor writing cuss-words on the water-tanks, or going up the track a
piece and makin' faces at one of their confounded whistling-posts or
cattle-guards--or something real drastic like that!"

Cornish, galled, as was I, by this irony, flushed crimson, and rose.

"The situation," said he, "instead of being a serious one, as I have
believed, seems merely funny. This conference may as well end. Having
taken on things here under the impression that this was to be a city; it
seems that we are to stay a village. It occurs to me that it's time to
stand from under! Good-evening!"

"Wait!" said Hinckley. "Don't go, Cornish; it isn't as bad as that!"

As he spoke he laid his hand on Cornish's arm, and I saw that he was
pale. He felt more keenly than did I the danger of division and strife
among us.

"Yes, Mr. Hinckley," said Jim, as Cornish sat down again, "it _is_ as
bad as that! This thing amounts to a crisis. For one, I don't propose to
adopt the 'stand-from-under' tactics. They make an unnecessary disaster
as certain as death; but if we all stand under and lift, we can win more
than we've ever thought. In the legislature they hold the cards and can
beat us. It's no use fooling with that unless we seek martyrs' deaths in
the bankruptcy courts. But there is a way to meet these men, and that is
by bringing to our aid their greatest rival."

"Do you mean--" said Hinckley.

"I mean Avery Pendleton and the Pendleton system," replied Elkins. "I
mean that we've got to meet them on their own ground. Pendleton won't
declare war on the Halliday combination by building in here, but there
is no reason why we can't build to him, and that's what I propose to do.
We'll take the L. & G. W., swing it over to the east from the Elk Fork
up, make a junction with Pendleton's Pacific Division, and, in one week
after we get trains running, we'll have the freight combine here shot so
full of holes that it won't hold corn-stalks! That's what we'll do:
we'll do a little rate-making ourselves; and we'll make this danger the
best thing that ever happened to us. Do you see?"

Cornish saw, sooner than any one else. As he spoke, Jim had unrolled a
map, and pointed out the places as he referred to them, like a general,
as he was, outlining the plan of a battle. He began this speech in that
quiet, convincing way of his, only a little elevated above the sarcasm
of a moment before. As he went on, his voice deepened, his eye gleamed,
and in spite of his colloquialisms, which we could not notice, his words
began to thrill us like potent oratory. We felt all that ecstasy of
buoyant and auspicious rebellion which animated Hotspur the night he
could have plucked bright honor from the pale-faced moon. At Jim's
final question, Cornish, forgetting his pique, sprang to the map, swept
his finger along the line Elkins had described, followed the main ribs
of Pendleton's great gridiron, on which the fat of half a dozen states
lay frying, on to terminals on lakes and rivers; and as he turned his
black eyes upon us, we knew from the fire in them that he saw.

"By heavens!" he cried, "you've hit it, Elkins! And it can be done! From
to-night, no more paper railroads for us; it must be grading-gangs and
ties, and steel rails!"

So, also, there was good fighting when Cornish wired from New York for
Elkins and me to come to his aid in placing our Lattimore & Great
Western bonds. Of course, we never expected to build this railway with
our own funds. For two reasons, at least: it is bad form to do eccentric
things, and we lacked a million or two of having the money. The line
with buildings and rolling stock would cost, say, twelve thousand
dollars per mile. Before it could be built we must find some one who
would agree to take its bonds for at least that sum. As no one would pay
quite par for bonds of a new and independent road, we must add, say,
three thousand dollars per mile for discount. Moreover, while the
building of the line was undertaken from motives of self-preservation,
there seemed to be no good reason why we should not organize a
construction company to do the actual work of building, and that at a
profit. That this profit might be assured, something like three thousand
dollars per mile more must go in. Of course, whoever placed the bonds
would be asked to guarantee the interest for two or three years; hence,
with two thousand more for that and good measure, we made up our
proposed issue of twenty thousand dollars per mile of first-mortgage
bonds, to dispose of which "the former member of the firm of Lusch,
Carskaddan & Mayer" was revisiting the glimpses of Wall Street, and
testing the strength of that mighty influence which the _Herald_ had
attributed to him.

"You've just _got_ to win," said Giddings, who was admitted to the
secret of Cornish's embassy, "not only because Lattimore and all the
citizens thereof will be squashed in the event of your slipping up; but,
what is of much more importance, the _Herald_ will be laid in a lie
about your Wall Street pull. Remember that when foes surround thee!"

When we joined him, Cornish admitted that he was fairly well
"surrounded." He had failed to secure the aid of Barr-Smith's friends,
who said that, with the street-car system and the cement works, they had
quite eggs enough in the Lattimore basket for their present purposes. In
fact, he had felt out to blind ends nearly all the promising burrows
supposedly leading to the strong boxes of the investing public, of which
he had told us. He accounted for this lack of success on the very
natural theory that the Halliday combination had found out about his
mission, and was fighting him through its influence with the banks and
trust companies. So he had done at last what Jim had advised him to do
at first--secured an appointment with the mighty Mr. Pendleton; and,
somewhat humbled by unsuccess, had telegraphed for us to come on and
help in presenting the thing to that magnate.

Whom, being fenced off by all sorts of guards, messengers, clerks, and
secretaries, we saw after a pilgrimage through a maze of offices. He had
not the usual features which make up an imposing appearance; but command
flowed from him, and authority covered him as with a mantle. We knew
that he possessed and exerted the power to send prosperity in this
channel, or inject adversity into that, as a gardener directs water
through his trenches, and this knowledge impressed us. He was rather
thin; but not so much so as his sharp, high nose, his deep-set eyes, and
his bony chin at first sight seemed to indicate. Whenever he spoke, his
nostrils dilated, and his gray eyes said more than his lips uttered. He
was courteous, with a sort of condensed courtesy--the shorthand of
ceremoniousness. He turned full upon us from his desk as we entered,
rose and met us as his clerk introduced us.

"Mr. Barslow, I'm happy to meet you; and you also, Mr. Cornish. Mr.
Wilson 'phoned about your enterprise just now. Mr. Elkins," as he took
Jim's hand, "I have heard of you also. Be seated, gentlemen. I have
given you a time appropriation of thirty minutes. I hope you will excuse
me for mentioning that at the end of that period my time will be no
longer my own. Kindly explain what it is you desire of me, and why you
think that I can have any interest in your project."

And, with a judgment trained in the valuing of men, he turned to Jim as
our leader.

"If our enterprise doesn't commend itself to your judgment in twenty
minutes," said Jim, with a little smile, and in much the same tone that
he would have used in discussing a cigar, "there'll be no need of
wasting the other ten; for it's perfectly plain. I'll expedite matters
by skipping what we desire, for the most part, and telling you why we
think the Pendleton system ought to desire the same thing. Our plan, in
a word, is to build a hundred and fifty miles of line, and from it
deliver two full train-loads of through east-bound freight per day to
your road, and take from you a like amount of west-bound tonnage, not
one pound of which can be routed over your lines at present."

Mr. Pendleton smiled.

"A very interesting proposition, Mr. Elkins," said he; "my business is
railroading, and I am always glad to perfect myself in the knowledge of
it. Make it plain just how this can be done, and I shall consider my
half-hour well expended."

Then began the fateful conversation out of which grew the building of
the Lattimore & Great Western Railway. Jim walked to the map which
covered one wall of the room, and dropped statement after statement into
the mind of Pendleton like round, compact bullets of fact. It was the
best piece of expository art imaginable. Every foot of the road was
described as to gradients, curves, cuts, fills, trestles, bridges, and
local traffic. Then he began with Lattimore; and we who breathed in
nothing but knowledge of that city and its resources were given new
light as to its shipments and possibilities of growth. He showed how the
products of our factories, the grain from our elevators, the live-stock
from our yards, and the meats from our packing-houses could be sent
streaming over the new road and the lines of Pendleton.

Then he turned to our Commercial Club, and showed that the merchants,
both wholesale and retail, of Lattimore were welded together in its
membership, in such wise that their merchandise might be routed from the
great cities over the proposed track. He piled argument on argument. He
hammered down objection after objection before they could be suggested.
He met Mr. Pendleton in the domain of railroad construction and
management, and showed himself familiar with the relative values of
Pendleton's own lines.

"Your Pacific Division," said he, "must have disappointed some of the
expectations with which it was built. Its earnings cannot, in view of
the distance they fall below those of your other lines, be quite
satisfactory to you. Give us the traffic agreement we ask; and your next
report after we have finished our line will show the Pacific Division
doing more than its share in the great showing of revenue per mile which
the Pendleton system always makes. I see that my twenty minutes is about
up. I hope I have made good our promises as to showing cause for coming
to you with our project."

Mr. Pendleton, after a moment's thought, said: "Have you made an
engagement for lunch?"

We had not. He turned to the telephone, and called for a number.

"Is this Mr. Wade's office?... Yes, if you please.... Is this Mr.
Wade?... This is Pendleton talking to you.... Yes, Pendleton.... There
are some gentlemen in my office, Mr. Wade, whom I want you to meet, and
I should be glad if you could join us at lunch at the club.... Well,
can't you call that off, now?... Say, at one-thirty.... Yes.... Very
kind of you.... Thanks! Good-by."

Having made his arrangements with Mr. Wade, he hung up the telephone,
and pushed an electric button. A young man from an outer office
responded.

"Tell Mr. Moore," said Pendleton to him, "that he will have to see the
gentlemen who will call at twelve--on that lake terminal matter--he will
understand. And see that I am not disturbed until after lunch.... And,
say, Frank! See if Mr. Adams can come in here--at once, please."

Mr. Adams, who turned out to be some sort of a freight expert, came in,
and the rest of the interview was a bombardment of questions, in which
we all took turns as targets. When we went to lunch we felt that Mr.
Pendleton had possessed himself of all we knew about our enterprise, and
filed the information away in some vast pigeon-hole case with his own
great stock of knowledge.

We met Mr. Wade over an elaborate lunch. He said, as he shook hands with
Cornish, that he believed they had met somewhere, to which Cornish bowed
a frigid assent. Mr. Wade was the head of The Allen G. Wade Trust
Company, and seemed in a semi-comatose condition, save when cates,
wine, or securities were under discussion. He addressed me as "Mr.
Corning," and called Cornish "Atkins," and once in a while opened his
mouth to address Jim by name, but halted, with a distressful look, at
the realization of the fact that he could not remember names enough to
go around. He made an appointment with me for the party for the next
morning.

"If you will come to my office before you call on Mr. Wade," said Mr.
Pendleton, "I will have a memorandum prepared of what we will do with
you in the way of a traffic agreement: it may be of some use in
determining the desirability of your bonds. I'm very glad to have met
you, gentlemen. When Lattimore gets into my world--by which I mean our
system and connections--I hope to visit the little city which has so
strong a business community as to be able to send out such a committee
as yourselves; good-afternoon!"

"Well," said I, as we went toward our hotel, "this looks like progress,
doesn't it?"

"I sha'n't feel dead sure," said Jim, "until the money is in bank,
subject to the check of the construction company. But doesn't it look
juicy, right now! Why, boys, with that traffic agreement we can get the
money anywhere--on the prairie, out at sea--anywhere under the shining
sun! They can't beat us. What do you say, Cornish? Will, your friend
Wade jar loose, or shall we have to seek further?"

"He'll snap at your bonds now," said Cornish, rather glumly, I thought,
considering the circumstances; "but don't call him a friend of mine!
Why, damn him, not a week ago he turned me out of his office, saying
that he didn't want to look into any more Western railway schemes! And
now he says he believes we've met before!"

This seemed to strike Mr. Elkins as the best practical joke he had ever
heard of; and Cornish suggested that for a man to stop in Homeric
laughter on Broadway might be pleasant for him, but was embarrassing to
his companions. By this time Cornish himself was better-natured. Jim
took charge of our movements, and commanded us to a dinner with him, in
the nature of a celebration, with a theater-party afterward.

"Let us," said he, "hear the chimes at midnight, or even after, if we
get buncoed doing it. Who cares if we wind up in the police court! We've
done the deed; we've made our bluff good with Halliday and his gang of
highwaymen; and I feel like taking the limit off, if it lifts the roof!
Al, hold your hand over my mouth or I shall yell!"

"Come into my parlor, and yell for me," said Cornish, "and you may do my
turn in police court, too. Come in, and behave yourself!"

I began writing a telegram to my wife, apprising her of our good luck.
The women in our circle knew our hopes, ambitions, and troubles, as the
court ladies know the politics of the realm, and there were anxious
hearts in Lattimore.

"I'm going down to the telegraph-office with this," said I; "can I take
yours, too?"

When I handed the messages in, the man who received them insisted on my
reading them over with him to make sure of correct transmission. There
was one to Mr. Hinckley, one to Mr. Ballard, and two to Miss Josephine
Trescott. One ran thus, "Success seems assured. Rejoice with me. J. B.
C." The other was as follows: "In game between Railway Giants and
Country Jakes here to-day, visiting team wins. Score, 9 to 0. Barslow,
catcher, disabled. Crick in neck looking at high buildings. Have Mrs. B.
prepare porous plaster for Saturday next. Sell Halliday stock short, and
buy L. & G. W. And in name all things good and holy don't tell Giddings!
J. R. E."



CHAPTER XIV.

In which we Learn Something of Railroads, and Attend Some Remarkable
Christenings.


And so, in due time, it came to pass that, our Aladdin having rubbed the
magic ring with which his Genius had endowed him, there came, out of
some thunderous and smoky realm, peopled with swart kobolds, and lit by
the white fire of gushing cupolas and dazzling billets, a train of
carriages, drawn by a tamed volcanic demon, on a wonderful way of steel,
armed strongly to deliver us from the Castle Perilous in which we were
besieged by the Giants. The way was marvelously prepared by theodolite
and level, by tented camps of men driving, with shouts and cracking
whips, straining teams in circling mazes, about dark pits on grassy
hillsides, and building long, straight banks of earth across swales; by
huge machines with iron fists thrusting trunks of trees into the earth;
by mighty creatures spinning great steel cobwebs over streams.

At last, a short branch of steel shot off from Pendleton's Pacific
Division, grew daily longer and longer, pushed across the level
earth-banks, the rows of driven tree-trunks, and the spun steel cobwebs,
through the dark pits, nearer and nearer to Lattimore, and at last
entered the beleaguered city, amid rejoicings of the populace. Most of
whom knew but vaguely the facts of either siege or deliverance; but who
shouted, and tossed their caps, and blew the horns and beat the drums,
because the _Herald_ in a double-leaded editorial assured them that this
was _the_ event for which Lattimore had waited to be raised to complete
parity with her envious rivals. Furthermore, Captain Tolliver,
magniloquently enthusiastic, took charge of the cheering, artillery, and
band-music, and made a tumultuous success of it.

"He told me," said Giddings, "that when the people of the North can be
brought for a moment into that subjection which is proper for the
masses, 'they make devilish good troops, suh, devilish good troops!'"

And so it also happened that Mr. Elkins found himself the president of a
real railway, with all the perquisites that go therewith. Among these
being the power to establish town-sites and give them names. The former
function was exercised according to the principles usually governing
town-site companies, and with ends purely financial in view. The latter
was elevated to the dignity of a ceremony. The rails were scarcely laid,
when President Elkins invited a choice company to go with him over the
line and attend the christening of the stations. He convinced the rest
of us of the wisdom of this, by showing us that it would awaken local
interest along the line, and prepare the way for the auction sales of
lots the next week.

"It's advertising of the choicest kind," said he. "Giddings will sow it
far and wide in the press dispatches, and it will attract attention; and
attention is what we want. We'll start early, run to the station
Pendleton has called Elkins Junction, at the end of the line, lie over
for a couple of hours, and come home, bestowing names as we come. Help
me select the party, and we'll consider it settled."

As the train was to be a light one, consisting of a buffet-car and a
parlor-car, the party could not be very large. The officers of the road,
Mr. Adams, who was general traffic manager, and selected by the
bondholders, and Mr. Kittrick, the general manager, who was found in
Kansas City by Jim, went down first as a matter of course. Captain
Tolliver and his wife, the Trescotts, the Hinckleys, with Mr. Cornish
and Giddings, were put down by Jim; and to these we added the
influential new people, the Alexanders, who came with the cement-works,
of which Mr. Alexander was president, Mr. Densmore, who controlled the
largest of the elevators, and Mr. Walling, whose mill was the first to
utilize the waters of our power-tunnel, and who was the visible
representative of millions made in the flouring trade. Smith, our
architect, was included, as was Cecil Barr-Smith, sent out by his
brother to be superintendent of the street-railway, and looking upon the
thing in the light of an exile, comforted by the beautiful native
princess Antonia. We left Macdonald out, because he always called the
young man "Smith," and could not be brought to forget an early
impression that he and the architect were brothers; besides, said Jim,
Macdonald was afraid of the cars as he was of the hyphen, being most of
the time on the range with the cattle belonging to himself and Hinckley.
Which, being interpreted, meant that Mr. Macdonald would not care to go.

Mr. Ballard was invited on account of his early connection with the L. &
G. W. project, although he was holding himself more and more aloof from
the new movements, and held forth often upon the value of conservatism.
Miss Addison, who was related to the Lattimore family, was commissioned
to invite the old General, who very unexpectedly consented. His son
Will, as solicitor for the railway company and one of the directors, was
to be one of us if he could. These with their wives and some invited
guests from near-by towns made up the party.

We were well acquainted with each other by this time, so that it was
quite like a family party or a gathering of old friends. Captain
Tolliver was austerely polite to General Lattimore, whose refusal to
concern himself with the question as to whether our city grew to a
hundred thousand or shrunk to five he accounted for on the ground that a
man who had led hired ruffians to trample out the liberty of a brave
people must be morally warped.

The General came, tall and spare as ever, wearing his beautiful white
moustache and imperial as a Frenchman would wear the cross of the Legion
of Honor. He was quite unable to sympathize with our lot-selling, our
plenitude of corporations, or our feverish pushing of "developments."
But the building of the railway attracted him. He looked back at the
new-made track as we flew along; and his eyes flashed under the bushy
white brows. He sat near Josie, and held her in conversation much of the
outward trip; but Jim he failed to appreciate, and treated
indifferently.

"He is History incarnate," said Mrs. Tolliver, "and cannot rejoice in
the passing of so much that is a part of himself."

Giddings said that this was probably true; and under the circumstances
he couldn't blame him. He, Giddings, would feel a little sore to see
things which were a part of _himself_ going out of date. It was a
natural feeling. Whereupon Mrs. Tolliver addressed her remarks very
pointedly elsewhere; and Antonia Hinckley privately admonished Giddings
not to be mean; and Giddings sought the buffet and smoked. Here I joined
him, and over our cigars he confessed to me that life to him was an
increasing burden, rapidly becoming intolerable.

We had noticed, I informed him, an occasional note of gloom in his
editorials. This ought not to be, now that the real danger to our
interests seemed to be over, and we were going forward so wonderfully.
To which he replied that with the gauds of worldly success he had no
concern. The editorials I criticised were joyous and ebulliently
hilarious compared with those which might be expected in the future. If
we could find some blithesome ass to pay him for the _Herald_ enough
money to take him out of our scrambled Bedlam of a town, bring the idiot
on, and he (Giddings) would arrange things so we could have our touting
done as we liked it!

Now the _Herald_ had become a very valuable property, and of all men
Giddings had the least reason to speak despitefully of Lattimore; and
his frame of mind was a mystery to me, until I remembered that there was
supposed to be something amiss between him and Laura Addison. Craftily
leading the conversation to the point where confidences were easy, I was
rewarded by a passionate disclosure on his part, which would have
amounted to an outburst, had it not been restrained by the presence of
Cornish, Hinckley, and Trescott at the other end of the compartment.

"Oh, pshaw!" said I, "you've no cause for despair. On your own showing,
there's every reason for you to hope."

"You don't know the situation, Barslow," he insisted, shaking his head
gloomily, "and there's no use in trying to tell you. She's too exalted
in her ideals ever to accept me. She's told me things about the
qualities she must have in the one who should be nearest to her that
just simply shut me out; and I haven't called since. Oh, I tell you,
Barslow, sometimes I feel as if I could--Yes, sir, it'll be accepted as
the best piece of railroad building for years!"

I was surprised at the sudden transition, until I saw that our fellow
passengers were crowding to our end of the car in response to the
conductor's announcement that we were coming into Elkins Junction. I
made a note of Giddings's state of mind, as the subject of a conference
with Jim. The _Herald_ was of too much importance to us for this to be
neglected. The disciple of Iago must in some way be restored to his
normal view of things. I could not help smiling at the vast difference
between his view of Laura and mine. I, wrongly perhaps, thought her
affectedly pietistic, with ideals likely to be yielding in spirit if the
letter were preserved.

Elkins Junction was a platform, a depot, an eating-house, and a Y; and
it was nothing else.

"We've come up here," said Jim, "to show you probably the smallest town
in the state, and the only one in the world named after me. We wanted to
show you the whole line, and Mr. Schwartz felt as if he'd prefer to turn
his engine around for the return trip. The last two towns we came
through, and hence the first two going back, are old places. The third
station is a new town, and Conductor Corcoran will take us back there,
where we'll unveil the name of the station, and permit the people to
know where they live. While we're doing the sponsorial act, lunch will
be prepared and ready for us to discuss during the next run."

On the way back there was a stir of suppressed excitement among the
passengers.

"It's about this name," said Miss Addison to her seat-mate. "The town is
on the shore of Mirror Lake, and they say it will be an important one,
and a summer resort; and no one knows what the name is to be but Mr.
Elkins."

"Really, a very odd affair!" said Miss Allen, of Fairchild, Antonia's
college friend. "It makes a social function of the naming of a town!"

"Yes," said Mr. Elkins, "and it is one of the really enduring things we
can do. Long after the memory of every one here is departed, these
villages will still bear the names we give them to-day. If there's any
truth in the belief that some people have, that names have an influence
for good or evil, the naming of the towns may be important as building
the railroad."

I was sitting with Antonia. Miss Allen and Captain Tolliver were with
us, our faces turned toward one another. General Lattimore, with Josie
and her father, was on the opposite side of the car. Most of the company
were sitting or standing near, and the conversation was quite general.

"Oh, it's like a romance!" half whispered Antonia to us. "I envy you men
who build roads and make towns. Look at Mr. Elkins, Sadie, as he stands
there! He is master of everything; to me he seems as great as Napoleon!"

She neither blushed nor sought to conceal from us her adoration for Jim.
It was the day of his triumph, and a fitting time to acknowledge his
kinghood; and her admission that she thought him the greatest, the most
excellent of men did not surprise me. Yet, because he was older than
she, and had never put himself in a really loverlike attitude toward
her, I thought it was simply an exalted girlish regard, and not at all
what we usually understand by an affair of the heart. Moreover, at that
time such praise as she gave him would not have been thought
extravagant in almost any social gathering in Lattimore. Let me confess
that to me it does not now seem so ... Cecil Barr-Smith walked out and
stood on the platform.

General Lattimore was apparently thinking of the features of the
situation which had struck Antonia as romantic.

"You young men," said he, "are among the last of the city-builders and
road-makers. My generation did these things differently. We went out
with arms in our hands, and hewed out spaces in savagery for homes. You
don't seem to see it; but you are straining every nerve merely to shift
people from many places to one, and there to exploit them. You wind your
coils about an inert mass, you set the dynamo of your power of
organization at work, and the inert mass becomes a great magnet. People
come flying to it from the four quarters of the earth, and the
first-comers levy tribute upon them, as the price of standing-room on
the magnet!"

"I nevah hea'd the real merit and strength and safety of ouah
real-estate propositions bettah stated, suh!" said Captain Tolliver
ecstatically.

Jim stood looking at the General with sober regard.

"Go on, General," said he.

"Not only that," went on the General, "but people begin forestalling the
standing-room, so as to make it scarcer. They gamble on the power of the
magnet, and the length of time it will draw. They buy to-day and sell
to-morrow; or cast up what they imagine they might sell for, and call
the increase profit. Then comes the time when the magnet ceases to draw,
or the forestallers, having, in their greed, grasped more than they can
keep, offer too much for the failing market, and all at once the thing
stops, and the dervish-dance ends in coma, in cold forms and still
hands, in misery and extinction!"

There was a pause, during which the old soldier sat looking out of the
widow, no one else finding aught to say. Elkins remained standing, and
once or twice gave that little movement of the head which precedes
speech, but said nothing. Cornish smiled sardonically. Josie looked
anxiously at Jim, apprehensive as to how he would take it. At last it
was Ballard the conservative who broke silence.

"I hope, General," said he, "that our little movement won't develop into
a dervish-dance. Anyhow, you will join in our congratulations upon the
completion of the railroad. You know you once did some railroad-building
yourself, down there in Tennessee--I know, for I was there. And I've
always taken an interest in track-laying ever since."

"So have I," said the General; "that's what brought me out to-day."

"Oh, tell us about it," said Josie, evidently pleased at the change of
subject; "tell us about it, please."

"No, no!" he protested, "you may read it better in the histories,
written by young fellows who know more about it than we who were there.
You'll find, when you read it, that it was something like this: Grant's
host was over around Chattanooga, starving for want of means for
carrying in provisions. We were marching eastward to join him, when a
message came telling us to stop at Decatur and rebuild the railroad to
Nashville. So, without a thought that there was such a thing as an
impossibility, we stopped--we seven or eight thousand common Americans,
volunteer soldiers, picked at random from the legions of heroes who
saved liberty to the world--and without an engineering corps, without
tools or implements, with nothing except what any like number of our
soldiers had, we stopped and built the road. That is all. The rails had
been heated, and wound about trees and stumps. The cross-ties were
burned to heat the rails. The cars had been destroyed by fire, and their
warped ironwork thrown into ditches. The engines lay in scrap-heaps at
the bottoms of ravines and rivers. The bridges were gone. Out of the
chaos to which the structure had been resolved, there was nothing left
but the road-bed.

"When I think of what we did, I know that with liberty and intelligence
men with their naked hands could, in short space, re-create the
destroyed wealth of the world. We made tools of the scraps of iron and
steel we found along the line. We felled trees. We impressed little
sawmills and sawed the logs into timbers for bridges and cars. Out of
the battle-scarred and march-worn ranks came creative and constructive
genius in such profusion as to astound us, who thought we knew them so
well. Those blue-coated fellows, enlisted and serving as food for
powder, and used to destruction, rejoiced in once more feeling the
thrill there is in making things."

"Out of the ranks came millers, and ground the grain the foragers
brought in; came woodmen, and cut the trees; came sawyers, and sawed the
lumber. We asked for blacksmiths; and they stepped from the ranks, and
made their own tools and the tools of the machinists. We called for
machinists; and out of the ranks they stepped, and rebuilt the engines,
and made the cars ready for the carpenters. When we wanted carpenters,
out of the same ranks of common soldiers they walked, and made the cars.
From the ranks came other men, who took the twisted rails, unwound them
from the stumps and unsnarled them from one another, as women unwind
yarn, and laid them down fit to carry our trains. And in forty days our
message went back to Grant that we had 'stopped and built the road,' and
that our engines were even then drawing supplies to his hungry army.
Such was the incomparable army which was commanded by that silent genius
of war; and to have been one of such an army is to have lived!"

The withered old hand trembled, as the great past surged back through
his mind. We all sat in silence; and I looked at Captain Tolliver,
doubtful as to how he would take the old Union general's speech. What
the Captain's history had been none of us knew, except that he was a
Southerner. When the general ceased, Tolliver was sitting still, with no
indication of being conscious of anything special in the conversation,
except that a red spot burned in each dark cheek. As the necessity for
speech grew with the lengthening silence, he rose and faced General
Lattimore.

"Suh," said he, "puhmit a man who was with the victohs of Manasses; who
chahged with mo' sand than sense at Franklin; and who cried like a child
aftah Nashville, and isn't ashamed of it, by gad! to offah his hand, and
to say that he agrees with you, suh, in youah tribute to the soldiers of
the wah, and honahs you, suh, as a fohmah foe, and a worthy one, and he
hopes, a future friend!"

Somehow, the Captain's swelling phrases, his sonorous allusions to
himself in the third person, had for the moment ceased to be ridiculous.
The environment fitted the expression. The general grasped his hand and
shook it. Then Ballard claimed the right, as one of the survivors of
Franklin, to a share in the reunion, and they at once removed the strain
which had fallen upon us with the General's first speech, by relating
stories and fraternizing soldierwise, until Conductor Corcoran called in
at the door, "Mystery Number One! All out for the christening!"

As we gathered on the platform, we saw that the signboard on the
station-building, for the name of the town, had been put up, but was
veiled by a banner draped over it. Tents were pitched near, in which
people lived waiting for the lot-auction, that they might buy sites for
shops and homes. The waters of the lake shone through the trees a few
rods away; and in imagination I could see the village of the future,
sprinkled about over the beautiful shore. The future villagers gathered
near the platform; and when Jim stepped forward to make the speech of
the occasion, he had a considerable audience.

"Ladies and gentlemen," said he, "our visit is for the purpose of
showing the interest which the Lattimore & Great Western takes and will
continue to take in the towns on its line, and to add a name to what, I
notice, has already become a local habitation. In conferring that name,
we are aware that the future citizens of the place have claims upon us.
So one has been selected which, as time passes, will grow more and more
pleasant to your ears; and one which the person bestowing it regards as
an honor to the town as high as could be conferred in a name. No station
on our lines could have greater claims upon our regard than the
possession of this name. And now, gentlemen--"

Mr. Elkins removed his hat, and we all followed his example. Some one
pulled a cord, the banner fell away, and the name was revealed. It was
"JOSEPHINE." The women looked at it, and turned their eyes on Josie, who
blushed rosily, and shrank back behind her father, who burst into a loud
laugh of unalloyed pleasure.

"I propose three cheers for the town of Josephine," went on Mr. Elkins,
"and for the lady for whom it is named!"

They were real cheers--good hearty ones; followed by an address, in the
name of the town, by a bright young man who pushed forward and with
surprising volubility thanked President Elkins for his selection of the
name, and closed with flowery compliments to the blushing Miss Trescott,
whose identity Jim had disclosed by a bow. He was afterwards a thorn in
our flesh in his practice as a personal-injury lawyer. At the time,
however, we warmed to him, as under his leadership the dwellers in the
tents and round about the waters of Mirror Lake all shook hands with Jim
and Josie.

Cornish stood with a saturnine smile on his face, and glared at some of
the more pointed hits of the young lawyer. Cecil Barr-Smith beamed
radiant pleasure, as he saw the evident linking in this public way of
Jim's name and Josie's. Antonia stood close to Cecil's side, and chatted
vivaciously to him--not with him; for her words seemed to have no
correlation with his.

"Quite like the going away of a bridal party!" said she with exaggerated
gayety, and with a little spitefulness, I thought. "Has any one any
rice?"

"All aboard!" said Corcoran; and the joyful and triumphant party, with
their outward intimacy and their inward warfare of passions and desires,
rolled on toward "Mystery Number Two," which was duly christened
"Cornish," and celebrated in champagne furnished by its godfather.

"Don't you ever drink champagne?" said Cornish, as Josie declined to
partake.

"Never," said she.

"What, _never_?" he went on, Pinaforically.

"My God!" thought I, "the assurance of the man!" And the palm-encircled
alcove at Auriccio's, as it was wont so often to do, came across my
vision, and shut out everything but the Psyche face in its ruddy halo,
speeding by me into the street, and the vexed young man in the faultless
attire slowly following.

Mystery Number Three was "Antonia," a lovely little place in embryo;
"Barslow" came next, followed by "Giddings" and "Tolliver." We were
tired of it when we reached "Hinckley," platted on a farm owned by
Antonia's father, and where we ceased to perform the ceremony of
unveiling. It was a memorable trip, ending with sunset and home. Captain
Tolliver assisted General Lattimore to alight from the train, and they
went arm in arm up to the old General's home.

That night, according to his wont, Jim came to smoke with me in the late
evening. "Let's take a car," said he, "and go up and have a look at the
houses."

These were our new mansions up in Lynhurst Park Addition, now in process
of erection. In the moonlight we could see them dimly, and at a little
distance they looked like masses of ruins--the second childhood of
houses. A stranger could have seen, from the polished columns and the
piles of carved stone, that they were to be expensive and probably
beautiful structures.

"What do you think of the General in the rôle of Cassandra?" asked Jim,
as we sat in the skeleton room which was to be his library.

"It struck me," said I, "as a particularly artistic bit of croaking!"

"The Captain says frequently," said Jim, his cigar glowing like a
variable star, "that opportunity knocks once. The General, I'm afraid,
knocks all the time. But if it should turn out that he's right about
the--the--dervish-dance ... it would be ... to put it mildly ... a
horse on us, Al, wouldn't it?"

I had no answer to this fanciful speech, and made none. Instead, I told
him of Giddings's love-sickness.

"The philosophy of Iago has broken down," said he, "and the boy is sort
of short-circuited. Antonia can take him in hand, and turn him out full
of confidence; and with that, I'll answer for the lady. That can be
fixed easy, and ought to be. Let's walk back."

"What was it he said?" he asked, as we parted. "'Coma, cold forms, still
hands, and extinction.' Well, if the dervish-dance does wind up in that
sort of thing, it's only a short-cut to the inevitable. Those are pretty
houses up there; we'd have been astounded over them when we used to fish
together on Beaver Creek;--but suppose they are?

    "'They say the Lion and the Lizard keep
    The Courts where Jamshyd gloried and drank deep;
    And Bahram, that great hunter--the Wild Ass
    Stamps o'er his Head, but cannot break his Sleep!'

Good-night, Al!"



CHAPTER XV.

Some Affairs of the Heart Considered in their Relation to Dollars and
Cents.


Antonia was sitting in a hammock. Josie and Alice were not far away
watching Cecil Barr-Smith, who was wading into the lake to get
water-lilies for them, contrary to the ordinances of the city of
Lattimore in such cases made and provided. The six were dawdling away
our time one fine Sunday in Lynhurst Park. I forgot to say Mr. Elkins
and myself were discussing affairs of state with Miss Hinckley.

"He's such a ninny," said Antonia.

"Aren't all people when in his forlorn condition?" asked Jim.

Antonia looked away at the clouds, and did not reply.

"But if he had a morsel of the cynical philosophy he boasts of," said
she, "he could see."

"I don't know about that," said Jim lazily, looking over at the other
group; "a woman can conceal her feelings in such a case pretty
completely."

"I don't know about that," echoed Antonia. "I wish I did; it would
simplify things."

"I believe," said I, "that it's a simple enough matter for you to solve
and manage as it is."

"But it's so absurd to bother with!" said she; "and what's the use?"

"Doesn't it seem that way?" said Jim. "And yet you know we brought him
here for a definite purpose; and in his present state he can't make
good. Just read his editorial this morning: it would add gloom to the
proceedings, read at a funeral. We want things whooped up, and he wants
to whoop 'em; but long screeds on 'The Sacred Right of Self-destruction'
hurt things, and bring the paper into disrepute, and crowd out
optimistic matter that we desire. And as long as both families want the
thing brought about, and there is good reason to think that Laura will
not prove eternally immovable, I take it to be an important enough
matter, from the standpoint of dollars and cents, for the exercise of
our diplomacy."

"Well, then," said Antonia, "get the people together on some social
occasion, and we'll try."

"I've thought," said Jim, "of having a house-warming--as soon as the
weather gets so that the very name of the function won't keep folks
away. My house is practically done, you know."

"Just the thing," said Antonia. "There are cosy nooks and deep retreats
enough to make it a sort of labyrinth for the ensnaring of our victims."

"Isn't it a queer thing in language," said Jim, "that these retreats are
the places where advances are made!"

"Not when you consider," said Antonia, "that retreats follow repulses."

"We ought to have the Captain and the General here, if this military
conversation is to continue," said I. "And here comes Cecil. Stop before
he comes, or we shall never get through with the explanation of the
jokes."

This remark elicited the laughter which the puns failed to provoke; for
Cecil was color-blind in all things relating to the American joke. The
humor of _Punch_ appealed to him, and the wit of Sterne and Dean Swift;
but the funny column and the paragrapher's niche of our newspapers he
regarded as purely pathological phenomena. I sometimes feel that Cecil
was right about this. Can the mind which continues to be charmed by
these paragraphic strainings be really sound?--but this is not a
dissertation. Cecil reconciled himself to his position as the local
exemplification of the traditional Englishman whose trains of ideas run
on the freight schedule--and was one of the most popular fellows in
Lattimore. He gloried in his slavery to Antonia, and seemed to glean
hope from the most sterile circumstances.

It was easy to hope, in Lattimore, then. It was not many days after our
talk in the park before I noticed a change for the better in Giddings,
even. Just before Jim's house-warming, he came to me with something like
optimism in his appearance. I started to cheer him up, and went wrong.

"I'm glad to see by your cheerful looks," said I, "that the philosophy
of Iago--"

"Say, now!" cried he, "don't remind me of that, for Heaven's sake!"

"Why, certainly not," said I, "if you object."

"I do object," said he most earnestly; "why, that damned-fool philosophy
may have ruined my life, you know."

"Of course I know what you mean," said I; "but I'm convinced, and so are
all your friends, that if you fail, it'll be your own lack of nerve, and
nothing else, that you'll owe the disaster to. You should--"

"I should have refrained from trampling under foot the dearest ideals of
the only girl-- However, I can't talk of these things to any one,
Barslow. But I have some hope now. Antonia and Josie have both been very
kind lately--and say, Barslow, I see now how little foundation there is
for that old gag about the women hating each other!"

"I've always felt," said I, anxious to draw him out so that I might see
what the conspirators had been doing, "that there's nothing in _that_
idea. But what has changed your view?"

"Antonia, and Josie, and even your wife," said he, "have been keeping up
a regular lobby in my behalf with Laura. They think they've got the deal
plugged up now, so that she'll give me a show again, and--"

"Why, surely," said I; "in my opinion, there never was any need for you
to feel downcast."

"Barslow," he said, with the air of a man who has endured to the limit,
"you are a good fellow, but you make me tired when you talk like that.
Why, four weeks ago I had no more show than a snowball in--in the
crater of Vesuvius. But now I'm encouraged. These girls have been doing
me good, as I just said, and I'm convinced that my series of editorials
on 'The Influence of Christianity on Civilization,' in which I've given
the Church the credit of being the whole thing, has helped some."

"They ought to do good somewhere," said I, "they certainly haven't
boomed Lattimore any."

"Damn Lattimore!" said he bitterly. "When a man's very life--But see
here, Barslow, I know you're not in earnest about this. And I'll be all
right in a day or two, or I'll be eternally wrong. I'm going to make one
final cast of the die. I may go down to bottomless perdition, or I may
be caught up to the battlements of heaven; but such a mass of doubts and
miseries as I've been lately, I'll no longer be! Pray for me, Barslow,
pray for me!"

This despairing condition of Giddings's was a sort of continuing
sensation with us at that time. We discussed it quite freely in all its
aspects, humorous and tragic. It was so unexpected a development in the
young man's character, and, with all due respect to the discretion and
resisting powers of Miss Addison, so entirely gratuitous and factitious.

"He has ability as a writer," said the Captain; "but in such a mattah
anybody but a fool ought to see that the thing to do is to chahge the
intrenchments. I trust that I may not be misunde'stood when I say that,
in my opinion, a good rattling chahge would not be a fo'lo'n hope!"

"It bothers," said Jim; "and if it weren't for that, I'd feel
conscience-stricken at doing anything to rob the idiot of a most
delicious grief."

The coolness of early autumn was in the air the night of Jim's
house-warming. To describe his dwelling, in these days when fortunes are
spent on the details of a stairway, and a king's ransom for the
tapestries of a salon, all of which luxuries are spread before the eyes
of the public in the columns of Sunday papers and magazines, would be to
court an anticlimax. But this was before the multimillionaire had made
the need for an augmentative of the word "luxury"; and Jim's house was
noteworthy for its beauty: its cunningly wrought iron and wood; and
columned halls and stairways; and wide-throated fireplaces, each a
picture in tile, wood, and metalwork; and vistas like little fairylands
through silken portières; and carven chairs and couches, reminiscent of
royal palaces; and chambers where lovely color-schemes were worked out
in rug, and bed, and canopy. There were decorations made by men whose
names were known in London and Paris. From out-of-the-way places Mr.
Elkins had brought collections of queer and interesting and pretty
things which, all his life, he had been accumulating; and in his library
were broad areas of well-worn book-backs. Somehow, people looked upon
the Mr. Elkins who was master of all these as a more important man than
the Elkins who had blown into the town on some chance breeze of
speculation, and taken rooms at the Centropolis.

It was all light and color, that night. Even the formal flower-beds of
the grounds and the fountain spouting on the lawn were like scenery in
the lime-light. Only, back in the shrubbery there were darker nooks in
summer-houses and arbors for those who loved darkness rather than light,
because their deeds, to the common mind, were likely to seem foolish. I
remember thinking that if Mr. Giddings really wanted a chance to take
the high dive of which he had spoken to me, the opportunity was before
him.

His Laura was there, her devotee-like expression striving with an
exceedingly low-cut dress to sound the distinguishing note of her
personality. Giddings was at the punch-bowl as on their arrival she
swept past with the General. When he saw the nun-like glance over the
swelling bosom, the poor stricken cynic blushed, turned pale, and
wheeled to flee. But Cecil, as if following orders, arrested him and
began plying him with the punch--from which Giddings seemed to draw
courage: for I saw him, soon, gravitate to her whom he loved and so
mysteriously dreaded.

"It's a pe'fect jewel-case of a house!" said the Captain, as he moved
with the trooping company through the mansion.

"Indeed, indeed it is," said Mrs. Tolliver to Alice; "the jewel, whoever
it may be, is to be envied."

"I hope," said Jim to Josie, "that you agree with Mrs. Tolliver?"

"Oh, yes," said Josie, "but you attach far too much importance to my
judgment. If it is any comfort to you, however, I want to
praise--everything--unreservedly."

"I won't know, for a while," said Jim, "whether it is to be my house
only, or home in the full sense of the word."

"One doesn't know about that, I fancy," said Cecil; "for a long time--"

"I mean to know soon," said Jim.

Josie was looking intently at the carving on one of the chairs, and paid
no heed, though the remark seemed to be addressed to her.

"What I mean, you know," said Cecil, "is that, no matter how well the
house may be built and furnished, it's the associations, the history of
the place, the things that are in the air, that makes 'Ome!"

There was in the manner of his capitalizing the word as he uttered it,
and in the unwonted elision of the H, that tribute to his dear island
which the exiled Briton (even when soothed by the consolation offered by
street-car systems to superintend, and rose-pink blondes to serve),
always pays when he speaks of Home.

"Associations," said Jim, "may be historical or prophetic. In the former
case, we have to take them on trust; but as to those of the future, we
are sure of them."

"Yahs," said Cecil, using the locution which he always adopted when
something subtle was said to him, "I dare say! I dare say!"

"Well, then," Jim went on, "I have this matter of the atmosphere or
associations under my own control."

"Just so," said Cecil. "Clever conceit, Miss Trescott, isn't it, now?"

But Miss Trescott had apparently heard nothing of Jim's speech, and
begged pardon; and wouldn't they go and show her the bronzes in the
library?

"This mansion, General," said the Captain, "takes one back, suh, to the
halcyon days of American history. I refeh, suh, to those times when the
plantahs of the black prairie belt of Alabama lived like princes, in the
heart of an enchanted empire!"

"A very interesting period, Captain," said the General. "It is a pity
that the industrial basis was one which could not endure!"

"In the midst of fo'ests, suh," went on the Captain, "we had ouah
mansions, not inferio' to this--each a little kingdom with its complete
wo'ld of amusements, its cote, and its happy populace, goin' singin' to
the wo'k which supported the estate!"

"Yes," said the General, "I thought, when we were striking down that
state of things, that we were doing a great thing for that populace. But
I now see that I was only helping the black into a new slavery, the
fruits of which we see here, around us, to-night."

"I hahdly get youah meaning, suh--"

"Well," said the General, looking about at the little audience. (It was
in the smoking-room, and those present were smokers only.) "Well, now,
take my case. I have some pretty valuable grounds down there where I
live. When I got them, they were worthless. I could build as good a
mansion as this or any of your ante-bellum Alabama houses for what I can
get out of that little tract. What is that value? Merely the expression
in terms of money of the power of excluding the rest of mankind from
that little piece of ground. I make people give me the fruits of their
labor, myself doing nothing. That's what builds this house and all these
great houses, and breeds the luxury we are beginning to see around us;
and the consciousness that this slavery exists, and is increasing, and
bids fair to grow greatly, is what is making men crazy over these little
spots of ground out here in the West! It is this slavery--"

"Suh," exclaimed the Captain, rising and grasping the General's hand,
"you have done me the favo' of making me wisah! I nevah saw so cleahly
the divine decree which has fo'eo'dained us to this opulence. Nothing so
satisfactory, suh, as a basis and reason foh investment, has been
advanced in my hearing since I have been in the real-estate business!
Let us wo'k this out a little mo' in detail, if you please, suh--"

"Let us escape while there is yet time!" said Cornish; and we fled.

After supper there was a cotillion. The spacious ballroom, with its roof
so high that the lights up there were as stars, was a sight which could
scarcely be reconciled with the village community which he had found and
changed. The palms, and flowers, and lights which decorated the room;
the orchestra's river of dance-music; the men, all in the black livery
which--on the surface--marks the final conquest of civilization over
barbarism; the beautiful gowns, the sparkling jewels, and the white
shoulders and arms of the ladies--all these made me wonder if I had not
been transported to some Mayfair or Newport, so pictorial, so
decorative, so charged with art, it seemed to be. The young people,
carrying on their courtships in these unfamiliar halls, their
disappearances into the more remote and tenebrous outskirts of the
assembly--all seemed to me to be taking place on the stage, or in some
romance.

I told Alice about this as we walked home--it was only across the
street--to our own new house.

"Don't tell any one about this feeling of yours," said she. "It betrays
your provincialism, my dear. You should feel, for the first time in your
life, perfectly at home. 'Armor, rusting on his walls, On the blood of
Clifford calls,' you know."

"Mine didn't hear the call," said I; "I'm probably the first of my race
to wear this--But I enjoyed it."

"Well, I am too full of something that took place to discuss the
matter," said she, as we sat down at home. "I am perplexed. You know
about Mr. Cornish and Josie, don't you?"

She startled me, for I had never told her a word.

"Know about them!" I cried, a little dramatically. "What do you mean?
No, I don't!"

"Why, what's the matter, Albert?" she queried. "I haven't charged them
with midnight assassination, or anything like that! Only, it seems that
he has been making love to her, for some time, in his cool and
self-contained way. I've known it, and she's been perfectly conscious,
that I knew; but never said anything to me of it, and seemed unwilling
even to approach the subject. But to-night Cecil and I found her out in
the canopied seat by the fountain, and I knew something was the matter,
and sent Cecil away. Something told me that Mr. Cornish was concerned
in it, and I asked her at once where he went.

"'He is gone!' said she. 'I don't know where he is, and I don't care! I
wish I might never see him any more!'

"You may imagine my surprise. When a young woman uses such language
about a man, it is a certainty that she isn't voicing her true feelings,
or that it isn't a normal love affair. So I wormed out of her that he
had made her an offer."

"'Well,' said I, 'if, as I infer from your conversation, you have
refused him, there's an end of the matter; and you need not worry about
seeing him any more.'

"'But,' said she, 'Alice, I haven't refused him!'

"That took me aback a little," went on Alice, "for I had other plans for
her; so I said: 'You haven't accepted the fellow, have you?'

"'Oh, no, no!' said she, in a sort of quivery way, 'but what right have
you to speak of him in that way?' And that is all I could get out of
her. She was so unreasonable and disconnected in her talk, and the
others came out, and I tell you what, Albert Barslow, that man Cornish
will do evil yet, among us! I have always thought so!"

"I don't see any ground for any such prediction," said I, "in anything
you have told me. Her inability to make up her mind--"

"Means that there's something wrong," said my wife dogmatically. "It
means that he has some sinister influence over her, as he has over
almost everybody, with those coal-black eyes of his and his satanic
ways. And worse than all else, it means that he'll finally get her, in
spite of herself!"

"Pshaw!" said I.

"Go away, Albert!" said she, "or we shall quarrel. Go back and find my
fan--I left it on the mantel in the library. The house is lighted yet;
and I was going to send you back anyhow. Kiss me, and go, please."

I felt that if Alice had had in her memory my vision of the supper at
Auriccio's, she would have been confirmed in her fears; but to me, in
spite of the memory, they seemed absurd. My only apprehension was that
she might be right as to the final outcome, to the wreck of Jim's hopes.
I did not take the matter at all seriously, in fact. I think we men must
usually have such an affair worked out to some conclusion, for weal or
woe, before we regard it otherwise than lightly. That was the reason
that Giddings's distraught condition was only a matter of laughter to
all of us. And as something like this passed through my mind, Giddings
himself collared me as I crossed the street.

"Old man!" said he, "congratulate me! It's all right, Barslow, it's all
right."

"Up on the battlements, are you?" said I. "Well, I congratulate you,
Giddings; and don't make such an ass of yourself, please, any more. I
never noticed until this evening what a fine girl Laura is. You're
really a very fortunate fellow indeed!"

"You never noticed it!" said he with utter scorn. "Well, if--"

"It's late," said I. "Come and see me in the morning! Good-night."

I went in at the front door of the house. It stood wide open, as if the
current of guests passing out had removed its tendency to swing shut. It
seemed lonely now, inside, with all the decorations of the assembly
still in place in the empty hall. I passed into the library, and found
Jim sitting idly in a great leather chair. He seemed not to see me; or
if he did, he paid no attention. I went to the mantel, picked up Alice's
fan, and turned to Jim.

"Sit down," said he.

"Having a sort of 'oft in the stilly night' experience, Jim, or a case
of William the Conqueror on the Field of Hastings?"

"Yes," said he. "Something like that."

"Well, your house-warming has been a success, Jim," said I, "though a
fellow wouldn't think so to look at you. And the house is faultless. I
envy you the house, but the ability to plan and furnish it still more. I
didn't think it was in you, old man! Where did you learn it all?"

"You may have the house, if you want it, Al," said he. "I don't think
it's going to be of any use to me."

"Why, Jim," said I, seeing that it was something more than a mere mood
with him, "what is it? Has anything gone wrong?"

"Nothing that I've any right to complain of," said he. "Of course, no
man puts as much of his life into such a thing as I have into
this--without thinking of more than living in it--alone. I've never had
what you can really call a home--not since I was a little chap, when it
was home wherever there were trees and mother. I've filled this--with
those associations I spoke to Barr-Smith about--to-night--a little more
than I seem to have had any warrant to do. I tried to make sure about
the jewel for the jewel-case to-night, and it went wrong, Al; and that's
all there is of it. I don't think I shall need the house, and if you
like it you can have it."

"Do you mean that Josie has refused you?" said I.

"She didn't put it that way," said he, "but it amounts to that."

"Nothing that isn't a refusal," said I, "ought to be accepted as such.
What did she say?"

"Nothing definite," he answered wearily, "only that it couldn't be
'yes,' and when I urged her to make it 'yes' or 'no,' she refused to say
either; and asked me to forget that I had ever said anything to her
about the matter. There have been some things which--led me to hope--for
a different answer; and I'm a good deal taken down, Al ... I wouldn't
like to talk this way--with any one else."

There seemed to be no reason for abandonment of hope, I urged upon him,
and after a cigar or so I left him, evidently impressed with this view
of the case, but nevertheless bitterly disappointed. It meant delay and
danger to his hopes; and Jim was not a man to brook delay, or suffer
danger to go unchallenged. I dared not tell him of Cornish's offer, and
of its fate, so similar to his.

"I wonder if it is coquetry on her part," thought I, as I went back with
the fan. "I wonder if it will cause things to go wrong in our business
affairs. I wonder if it is possible for her to be sincerely unable to
make up her mind, or if there is anything in Alice's malign-influence
theory. Anyhow, in the department of Cupid business certainly is picking
up!"



CHAPTER XVI.

Some Things which Happened in Our Halcyon Days.


If there was any tension among us just after the house-warming, it was
not noticeable. Mr. Cornish and Mr. Elkins seemed unaware of their
rivalry. Had either of the two been successful, it might have made
mischief; but as it was, neither felt that his rejection was more than
temporary. Neither knew much of the other's suit, and both seemed full
of hope and good spirits.

Altogether, these were our halcyon days. It seemed to crew and captain a
time for the putting off of armor, and the donning of the garlands of
complacent respite from struggle. The work we had undertaken seemed
accomplished--our village was a city. The great wheel we had set
whirling went spinning on with power. Long ago we had ceased to treat
the matter jocularly; and to regard our operations as applied psychology
only, or as a piratical reunion, no longer occurred to us. There is such
a thing, I believe, as self-hypnotism; but if we knew it, we made no
application of our knowledge to our own condition. This great,
scattered, ebullient town, grown from the drowsy Lattimore of a few
years ago, must surely be, even now, what we had willed it to be: and
therefore, could we not pause and take our ease?

There was the General, of course. He, Jim said, "'knocked' so constantly
as to be sort of ex-officio President of the Boiler-makers' Union," and
talked of the inevitable collapse. But who ever heard of a city built by
people of his way of thinking? And there was Josie Trescott, with her
agreement on broad lines with the General, and her deprecation of the
giving of fortunes to people who had not earned them; but Josie was only
a woman, who, to be sure, knew more of most matters than the rest of us,
but could not have any very valuable knowledge of the prospects for
commercial prosperity.

That we were in the midst of an era of the most wonderful commercial
prosperity none denied. How could they? The streets, so lately bordered
with low stores, hotels, and banks, were now craggy with tall office
buildings and great hostelries, through which the darting elevators shot
hurrying passengers. Those trees which made early twilight in the
streets that night when Alice, Jim, and I first rode out to the Trescott
farm were now mostly cut down to make room for "improvements."

Brushy Creek gorge was no longer dark and cool, with its double sky-line
of trees drowsing toward one another, like eyelashes, from the friendly
cliffs. The cooing of the pigeons was gone forever. The muddied water
from the great flume raced down through the ravine, turning many wheels,
but nowhere gathering in any form or place which seemed good for trout.
On either side stood shanties, and ramshackle buildings where such
things as stonecutting and blacksmithing were done. Along the waterside
ran the tracks of our Terminal and Belt Line System, on which trains of
flat-cars always stood, engaged in the work of carrying away the cliffs,
in which they were aided and abetted by giant derricks and the fiends of
dynamite and nitro-glycerin. Limekilns burned all the time, turning the
companionable gray ledges into something offensive and corrosive. One
must now board a street-car, and ride away beyond Lynhurst Park before
one could find the good and pure little Brushy Creek of yore.

The dwellers in the houses which stood in their lawns of vivid green had
gone away into the new "additions," to be in the fashion, and to escape
from the smoke and clang of engine and factory. Their old houses were
torn away, or converted, by new and incongruous extensions, into cheap
boarding-houses. Only the Lattimore house kept faith with the past, and
stood as of old, in its five acres of trees and grass, untouched of the
fever for platting and subdivision, its very skirts drawn up from the
asphalt by austere retaining-walls. And here went on the preparation for
the time when Laura and Clifford were to stand up and declare their
purposes and intentions with reference to each other. The first wedding
this was to be, in all our close-knit circle.

"I am glad," said I, "that they are all so sensible as not to permit
rivalries to breed discord among us. It might be disastrous."

"There is time," said Alice, "for that to develop yet."

Not that everything happened as we wished. Indeed, some things gave us
much anxiety. Bill Trescott, for instance, began at last to show signs
of that going up in the air which Jim had said we must keep him from.
Even Captain Tolliver complained that Bill's habits were getting bad:
and he was the last person in the world to censure excess in the vices
which he deemed gentlemanly. His own idea of morning, for instance, was
that period of the day when the bad taste in the mouth so natural to a
gentleman is removed by a stiff toddy, drunk just before prayers. He
would, no doubt, have conceded to the inventor of the alphabet a higher
place among men than that of the discoverer of the mint julep, had the
matter been presented to him in concrete form; but would have qualified
the admission by adding, with a seriousness incompatible with the
average conception of a joke: "But the question is sutt'nly one not
entiahly free from doubt, suh; not entiahly free from doubt!"

However, the Captain had his standards, and prescribed for himself
limits of time, place, and degree, to which he faithfully conformed. But
he had been for a long time doing business under a sort of partnership
arrangement with Bill, and their affairs had become very much
interwoven. So he came to us, one day, in something like a panic, on
finding that Bill had become a frequenter of one of the local
bucket-shops, and had been making maudlin boasts of the profitable deals
he had made.

"This means, gentlemen," said the Captain, "that influences entiahly
fo'eign to ouah investments hyah ah likely to bring a crash, which will
not only wipe out Mr. Trescott, but, owin' to ouah association in the
additions we have platted, cyah'y me down also! You can see that with
sev'al hundred thousand dolla's of deferred payments on what we have
sold, most of which have been rediscounted in the East by the G. B. T.,
Mr. Trescott's condition becomes something of serious conce'n fo'
you-all, as well as fo' me. Nothing else, I assuah you, gentlemen, could
fo'ce me to call attention to a mattah so puahly pussonal as a diffe'nce
between gentlemen in theiah standahds of inebriety! Nothing else,
believe me!"

By the G. B. T. the Captain meant the Grain Belt Trust Company, and
anything which affected its solvency or welfare was, as he said, a
matter of serious concern for all of us. In fact, at that very moment
there were in Lattimore two officers of New England banks with whom we
had placed a rather heavy line of G. B. T. securities, and who had made
the trip for the purpose of looking us up. Suppose that they found out
that the notes and mortgages of William S. Trescott & Co. really had
back of them only some very desirable suburban additions, and the
personal responsibility of a retired farmer, who was daily handing his
money to board-of-trade gamblers, with whom he was getting an education
in the great strides we are making in the matter of mixed drinks? This
thought occurred to all of us at once.

"Well," said Cornish, stating the point of agreement after the Captain's
trouble had been fully discussed, "unfortunately 'the right to be a
cussed fool is safe from all devices human,' and there doesn't seem to
be any remedy."

It all came, thought I, as Jim and I sat silent after Cornish and the
Captain went out, from the fact that Bill's present condition in life
gave those tendencies to which he had always been prone to yield, a
chance for unrestricted growth. He ought to have staid with his steers.
Cattle and corn were the only things in which he could take an interest
sufficiently keen to keep him from drink. These habits of his were
enacting the old story of the lop-eared rabbits in
Australia--overrunning the country. Bill had been as sober a citizen as
one could desire, as long as his house-building occupied his time; and
he and Josie had worked together as companionably as they used to do in
the hay and wheat. But now he was drifting away from her. Her father
should have staid on the farm.

"Do you know," said I, "that Giddings is making about as great a fool of
himself as Bill?"

"Yes," said Jim, "but that's because he's in a terrible state of mind
about his marriage. If we can keep him from delirium tremens until after
the wedding, he'll be all right. Some Italian brain-sharp has written up
cases like his, and he'll be all right. But with Bill it's different....
Do you remember our old Shep?"

"No," I returned wonderingly, almost impatiently. "What about him?"

"Well," he mused, "I've been picking up knowledge of men for a while
along back; and I've come to prize more highly the personal history of
dogs; and Shep was worth a biography for its own sake, to say nothing of
the value of a typical case. He was a woolly collie, who would
cheerfully have given up his life for the cows and sheep. Anything in
his line, that a dog could grasp, Shep knew, and he was busier than a
cranberry-merchant the year around, and the happiest thing on the farm.
Then our folks moved to Mayville, and took him along. He wasn't fitted
for town life at all. He'd lie on the front piazza, and search the
street for cows and sheep, and when one came along he'd stick his sharp
nose through the fence, and whine as if some one was whipping him. In
less than six weeks he bit a baby; in two months he was the most
depraved dog in Mayville, and in three ... he died."

I had no answer for the apologue--not even for the self-condemnatory
tone in which he told it. Presently he rose to go, and said that he
would not be back.

"Don't forget our date at the club this evening," said he, as he passed
out. "Your style of diplomacy always seems to win with these down-East
bankers. Your experience as rob-ee gives you the right handshake and the
subscribed-and-sworn-to look that does their business for 'em every
time. Good-by until then."

Our club was the terminal bud of our growth, and was housed in a
building of which we were enormously proud. It was managed by a steward
imported from New York, whose salary was made large to harmonize with
his manners--that being the only way in which the majority of our
members felt equal to living up to them. So far as money could make a
club, ours was of high rank. There were meat-cooks and pastry-cooks in
incredible numbers, under the command of a French chef, who ruled the
house committee with a rod of iron. We were all members as a matter of
public duty. I have often wondered what the servants, brought from
Eastern cities, thought of it all. To see Bill Trescott and Aleck
Macdonald going in through the great door, noiselessly swung open for
them by an attendant in livery, was a sight to be remembered. The chief
ornament of the club was Cornish, who lived there.

"I want to see Mr. Cornish," said I to the servant who took my overcoat,
that evening.

"Right this way, sir," said he. "Mr. Giddings is with him. He gave
orders for you to be shown up."

Cornish sat at a little round table on which there were some bottles and
glasses. The tipple was evidently ale, and Mr. Giddings was standing
opposite, lifting a glass in one hand and pointing at it with the other,
in evident imitation of the attitude in which the late Mr. Gough loved
to have himself pictured; but the sentiments of the two speakers were
quite different.

    "'Turn out more ale; turn up the light!'"

Giddings glanced at the electric light-fixtures, and then looked about
as if for a servant to turn them up.

    "'I will not go to bed to-night!
    For, of all foes that man should dread,
    The first and worst one is a bed!
    Friends I have had, both old and young;
    Ale have we drunk, and songs we've sung.
    Enough you know when this is said,
    That, one and all, they died in bed!'"

Here Giddings's voice broke with grief, and he stopped to drink the rest
of the glassful, and went on:

    "'In bed they died, and I'll not go
    Where all my friends have perished so!
    Go, ye who fain would buried be;
    But not to-night a bed for me!'"

"Do you often have these Horatian fits?" I inquired.

"Base groveler!" said he, "if you can't rise to the level of the
occasion, don't butt in."

    "'For me to-night no bed prepare,
    But set me out my oaken chair,
    And bid me other guests beside
    The ghosts that shall around me glide!'"

"You will, of course," said Cornish, "permit us to withdraw for the
purpose of having our conference with our Eastern friends? If I take
your meaning, you'll not be alone."

"Not by a jugful, I'll not be alone!" said Giddings, tossing off another
glass:

    "'In curling smoke-wreaths I shall see
    A fair and gentle company.
    Though silent all, fair revelers they,
    Who leave you not till break of day!
    Go, ye who would not daylight see;
    But not to-night a bed for me!
    For I've been born, and I've been wed,
    And all man's troubles come of bed!'"

Here Giddings sank down in his chair and began weeping.

"The divinest attribute of poetry," said he, "is that of bringing tears.
Let me weep awhile, fellows, and then I'll give you the last stanza.
Last stanza's the best--"

And in the midst of his critique he went to sleep, thereby breaking his
rule adopted in "_Dum Vivemus Vigilemus_."

"Is he this way often?" said I to Cornish, as we went down to meet Jim
and the bankers.

"Pretty often," said Cornish. "I don't know how I'd amuse my evenings if
it weren't for Giddings. He's too far gone to-night, though, to be
entertaining. Gets worse, I think, as the wedding-day approaches. Trying
to drown his apprehensions, I suspect. Funny fellow, Giddings. But he's
all right from noon to nine P.M."

"I think we'll have to organize a dipsomaniacs' hospital for our crowd,"
said I, "if things keep going on as they are tending now! I didn't think
Giddings was so many kinds of an ass!"

My complainings were cut short by our entrance into the presence of Mr.
Elkins and the New England bankers. I asked to be excused from partaking
of the refreshments which were served. I had seen and heard enough to
spoil my appetite. I was agreeably surprised to find that their
independent investigations of conditions in Lattimore had convinced them
of the safety of their investments. Really, they said, were it not for
the pleasure of meeting us here at our home, they should feel that the
time and expense of looking us up were wasted. But, handling, as they
did, the moneys of estates and numerous savings accounts, their
customers were of a class in whom timidity and nervousness reach their
maximum, and they were obliged to keep themselves in position to give
assurances as to the safety of their investments from their personal
investigations.

Mr. Hinckley, who was with us, assured them that his life as a banker
enabled him fully to realize the necessity of their carefulness, which
we, for our own parts, were pleased to know existed. We were only too
glad to exhibit our books to them, make a complete showing as to our
condition generally, and even take them to see each individual piece of
property covered by our paper. Mr. Hinckley went with them to their
hotel, having proposed enough work in the way of investigation to keep
them with us for several months. They were to leave on the evening of
the next day.

"But," said Jim, as we put on our overcoats to go home, "it shows our
good will, you see."

At that moment the steward, with an anxious look, asked Mr. Elkins for a
word in private.

"Ask Mr. Barslow if he will kindly step over here," I heard Jim say; and
I joined them at once.

"I was just saying, sir, to Mr. Elkins," said the steward, "that
ordinarily I'd not think of mentioning such a thing as a gentleman's
being indisposed but should see that he was cared for here. But Mr.
Trescott being in such a state, I felt it was a case for his friends or
the hospital. He's been--a--seeing things this afternoon; and while
he's better now in that regard, his--"

"Have a closed carriage brought at once," said Mr. Elkins. "Al, you'd
better go up to the house, and let them know we're coming. I'll take him
home!"

I shrank from the meeting with Mrs. Trescott and Josie, more, I think,
than if it had been Bill's death which I was to announce. As I
approached the house, I got from it, somehow, the impression that it was
a place of night-long watchfulness; and I was not surprised by the fact
that before I had time to ring or knock at the door Mrs. Trescott
herself opened it, with an expression on her face which spoke of long
vigils, and of fear passing on to certainty. She peered past me for an
expected Something on the street. Her leisure and its new habits had
assimilated her in dress and make-up to the women of the wealthier sort
in the city; but there was an immensity of trouble in the agonized eye
and the pitiful droop of her mouth, which I should have rejoiced to see
exchanged again for the ill-groomed exterior and the old fret of the
farm. Her first question ignored all reference to the things leading to
my being there, "in the dead vast and middle of the night," but went
past me to the core of her trouble, as her eye had gone on from me to
the street, in the search for the thing she dreaded.

"Where is he, Mr. Barslow?" said she, in a hushing whisper; "where is
he?"

"He is a little sick," said I, "and Mr. Elkins is bringing him home. I
came on to tell you." "Then he is not--" she went on, still in that
hushed voice, and searching me with her gaze.

"No, I assure you!" I answered. "He is in no immediate danger, even."

Josie came quietly forward from the dusk of the room beyond, where I saw
she had been listening, reminding me, in spite of the incongruity of the
idea, of that time when she emerged from the obscurity of her garden,
and stood at the foot of the windmill tower, leaning on her father's
arm, her hands filled with petunias, the night we first visited the
Trescott farm. And then my mind ran back to that other night when she
had thrown herself into his arms and begged him to take her away; and he
had said, "W'y, yes, little gal, of course I'll take yeh away, if yeh
don't like it here!" I think that I, perhaps, was more nearly able than
any one else in the world beside herself to gauge her grief at this long
death in which she was losing him, and he himself.

She took my hand, pressed it silently, and began caressing her mother
and whispering to her things which I could not hear. Mrs. Trescott sat
upon a sort of divan, shaking with terrible, soundless sobs, and
clasping and unclasping her hands, but making no other gesture. I stood
helpless at the hidden abyss of woe so suddenly uncovered before me and
until this very moment screened by the conventions which keep our souls
apart like prisoners in the cells in some great prison. These two women
had been bearing this for a long time, and we, their nearest friends,
had stood aloof from them. As I stood thinking of this, the
carriage-wheels ground upon the pavement in the _porte cochère_; and a
moment later Jim came in, his face graver than I had ever seen it. He
sat down by Mrs. Trescott, and gently took one of her hands.

"Dr. Aylesbury has given him a morphia injection," said he, "and he is
sound asleep. The doctor thinks it best for us to carry him right to his
room. There is a man here from the hospital, who will stay and nurse
him; and the doctor came, too."

Mrs. Trescott started up, saying that she must arrange his room. Soon
the four of us had placed him in bed, where he lay, puffy and purple,
with a sort of pasty pallor overspreading his face. His limbs
occasionally jerked spasmodically; but otherwise he was still under the
spell of the opiate. His wife, now that there was something definite to
do, was self-possessed and efficient, taking the physician's
instructions with ready apprehension. The fact that Bill had now assumed
the character of a patient rather than that of a portent seemed to make
the trouble, somehow, more normal and endurable. The wife and daughter
insisted upon assuming the care of him, but assented to the nurse's
remaining as a help in emergencies. It was nearing dawn when I took my
leave. As I approached the door, I saw Jim and Josie in the hall, and
heard him making some last tenders of aid and comfort before his
departure. He put out his hand, and she clasped it in both of hers.

"I want to thank you," said she, "for what you have done."

"I have done nothing," he replied. "It is what I wish to do that I want
you to think of. I do not know whether I shall ever be able to forgive
myself--"

"No, no!" said she. "You must not talk--you must not allow yourself to
feel in that way. It is unjust--to yourself and to--me--for you to feel
so!"

I advanced to them, but she still stood looking into his face and
holding his hand clasped in hers. There was something of appeal, of an
effort to express more than the words said, in her look and attitude. He
answered her regard by a gaze so pathetically wistful that she averted
her face, pressed his hand, and turned to me.

"Good-night to you both, and thank you both, a thousand times!" said
she.

                 *       *       *       *       *

"I wonder if old Shep's relations and friends," said Jim, as we stood
under the arc light in front of my house, "ever came to forgive the
people who took him away from his flocks and herds."

"After what I've seen in the last few minutes," said I, "I haven't the
least doubt of it."

"Al," said he, "these be troublous times, but if I believed all that
what you say implies, I'd go home happy, if not jolly. And I almost
believe you're right."

"Well," said I, assuming for once the rôle of the mentor, "I think that
you are foolish to worry about it. We have enough actual, well-defined,
surveyed and platted grief on our hands, without any mooning about
hunting for the speculative variety. Go home, sleep, and bring down a
clear brain for to-morrow's business."

"To-day's," said he gaily. "Tear off yesterday's leaf from the calendar,
Al. For, look! the morn, dressed as usual, 'walks o'er the dew of yon
high eastern hill.'"



CHAPTER XVII.

Relating to the Disposition of the Captives.


It was not later than the next day but one, that I met Giddings, alert,
ingratiating, and natty as ever.

"When am I to have the third stanza?" I inquired, "the one that's 'the
best of all.'"

This question he seemed to take as a rebuke; for he reddened, while he
tried to laugh.

"Barslow," said he, "there isn't any use in our discussing this thing.
You couldn't understand it. A man like you, who can calculate to a hair
just how far he is going and just where to turn back, and--Oh, damn!
There's no use!"

I sympathize with Giddings, at this present moment, in his despair of
making people understand; for I doubt, sometimes, whether it is possible
for me to make the reader understand the conditions with us in Lattimore
at the time when poor Trescott lay there in his fine house, fighting for
life, and for many things more important, and while the wedding
preparations were going forward at the General's house.

To the steady-going, stationary, passionless community these conditions
approach the incomprehensible. No one seemed to doubt the city's future
now. Sometimes the abnormal basis upon which our great new industries
had been established struck the stranger with distrust, if he happened
to have the insight to notice it; but the concerns _were there_ most
undeniably, and had shifted population in their coming, and were turning
out products for the markets of the world.

That they had been evolved magically, and set in operation, not by any
slow process of meeting a felt want, but for this sole purpose of
shifting population, might be, and undoubtedly was, unusual; but given
the natural facilities for carrying the business on, and how did this
forced genesis adversely affect their prospects?

I, for one, could see no reason for apprehension. Yet when the story of
Trescott's maudlin plunging came to our ears, and the effect of his
possible failure received consideration, or I thought of the business
explosion which would follow any open breach between Jim and Cornish
(though this seemed too remote for serious consideration), I began to
ponder on the enormously complex system of credits we had built up.

Besides the regular line of bonds and mortgages growing out of debts due
us on our real-estate sales, and against which we had issued the
debentures and the guaranteed rediscounts of the Grain Belt Trust
Company, the factories, stock yards, terminals, street-car system, and
most of our other properties were pretty heavily bonded. Some of them
were temporarily unproductive, and funds had from time to time to be
provided, from sources other than their own earnings, for the payment of
their interest-charges. On the whole, however, we had been able to carry
the entire line forward from position to position with such success that
the people were kept in a fever, and accessions to our population kept
pouring in which, of their own force, added fuel to the fire of
expectancy.

This one thing began to make me uneasy--there was no place to stop. A
failure among us would quench this expectancy, and values would no
longer increase. And everything was organized on the basis of the
continued crescendo. That was the reason why every uplift in prices had
been followed by a new and strenuous effort on our part to hoist them
still higher. For that reason, we, who had become richer than we had
ever hoped to be, kept toiling on to rear to greater and greater heights
an edifice which the eternal forces of nature itself clutched, to drag
down.

I was the first to suggest this feature in conference. The Trescott
scare had made me more thoughtful. True, outwardly things were more than
ever booming. The very signs on the streets spoke of the boom. It was
"Lumber, Coal, and Real Estate"; "Burbank's Livery, Feed, and Sale
Stable. Office of Burbank Realty Co."; or "Thronson & Larson, Grocers.
Choice Lots in Thronson's Addition." Even Giddings had platted the
"_Herald_ Addition," and was offering a choice quarter-block as a prize
to the person who could guess nearest to the average monthly increase in
values in the addition, as shown by the record of sales. Real estate
appeared as a part of the business of hardware stores and milliners'
shops, so that one was constantly reminded of the heterogeneous
announcements on the signboard of Mr. Wegg. But while all this went on,
and transactions "in dirt" were larger than ever, one could see
indications that there was in them a larger and larger element of
credit, and less and less cash. So one day, at a syndicate conference, I
sought to ease my mind by asking where this thing was to stop, and when
we could hope for a time when the town would not have to be held up by
main strength.

"Why, that's a very remarkable question!" said Mr. Hinckley. "We surely
haven't reached the point where we can think of stopping. Why, with the
history before us of the cities of America which, without half our
natural advantages, have grown to so many times the size of this, I'm
surprised that such a thing should be thought of! Just think of what
Chicago was in '54 when I came through. A village without a harbor,
built along the ditches of a frog-pond! And see it now; see it now!"

There was a little quiver in Mr. Hinckley's voice, a little infirmity of
his chin, which told of advancing years. His ideas were becoming more
fixed. It was plain that the notion of Lattimore's continued and
uninterrupted progress was one to which he would cling with the mild and
unreasoning stubbornness of gentlemanly senility. But Cornish welcomed
the discussion with something like eagerness.

"I'm glad the matter has come up," said he. "We've had a few good years
here; but, in the nature of things, won't the time come when things
will be--slower? We've got our first plans pretty well worked out. The
mills, factories, and live-stock industries are supporting population,
and making tonnage which the railroad is carrying. But what next? We
can't expect to build any more railroads soon. No line of less than five
hundred miles will do any good, strategically speaking, and sending out
stubs just to annex territory for our shippers is too slow and expensive
business for this crowd. Things are booming along now; but the Eastern
banks are getting finicky about paper, and--I think things are going to
be--slower--and that we ought to act accordingly."

There was a long silence, broken only by a dry laugh from Hinckley, and
the remark that Barslow and Cornish must be getting dyspeptic from high
living.

"Well," said Elkins at last, ignoring Hinckley and facing Cornish, "get
down to brass nails! What policy would you adopt?"

"Oh, our present policy is all right," answered he of the Van Dyke
beard--

"Yes, yes!" interjected Hinckley. "My view exactly. A wonderfully
successful policy!"

"--and," Cornish continued, "I would only suggest that we cease
spreading out--not cease talking it, but only just sort of stop doing
it--and begin to realize more rapidly on our holdings. Not so as to
break the market, you understand; but so as to keep the demand fairly
well satisfied."

Mr. Elkins was slow in replying, and when the reply came it was of the
sort which does not answer.

"A most important, not to say momentous question," said he. "Let's
figure the thing over and take it up again soon. We'll not begin to
disagree at this late day. Mr. Hinckley has warned us that he has an
engagement in thirty minutes. It seems to me we ought to dispose of the
matter of the appropriation for the interest on those Belt Lines bonds.
Wade's mash on 'Atkins, Corning & Co.' won't last long in the face of a
default."

Mr. Hinckley staid his thirty minutes and withdrew. Mr. Cornish went to
the telephone and ordered his dog-cart.

"Immediately," he instructed, "over here at the Grain Belt Trust
Building."

"Make it in half an hour, can't you, Cornish?" said Jim. "There are some
more things we ought to go over."

"Say!" shouted Cornish into the transmitter. "Make that in half an hour
instead of at once."

He hung up the telephone, and turned to Elkins inquiringly. Jim was
walking up and down on the rug, his hands clasped behind him.

"Since we've spread out into that string of banks," said he, still
keeping up his walk, "and made Mr. Hinckley the president of each of
'em, he's reverting to his old banker's timidity. Which consists, in all
cases, in an aversion to any change in conditions. To suggest any
change, even from an old, dangerous policy to a new safe one, startles a
'conservative' banker. If we had gone on a little longer with our talk
about shutting off steam and taking the nigger off the safety-valve,
you'd have seen him scared into a numbness. But, now that the question
has been brought up, let's talk it over. What's your notion about it,
anyhow, Al?"

"I'm seeking light," said I. "The people are rushing in, and the town's
doing splendidly. But prices, there's no denying it, are beginning to
sort of strangle things. They prevent doing, any more, what we did at
first. Kreuger Brothers' failure yesterday was small; but it's a clear
case of a retailer's being eaten up with fixed charges--or so Macdonald
told me this morning; and I know that frontage on Main Street is
demanding fully as much as the traffic will bear. And then our fright
over Trescott's gambling gave me some bad dreams over our securities. It
has bothered me to see how to adjust our affairs to a stationary
condition of things; that's all."

"Of course," said Cornish, "we must keep boosting. Fortunately society
here is now thoroughly organized on the principle of whooping it up for
Lattimore. I could get up a successful lynching-party any time to attend
to the case of any miscreant who should suggest that property is too
high, or rents unreasonable, or anything but a steady up-grade before
us. But I think we ought to stop buying--except among ourselves, and
keep the transfers from falling off--and begin salting down."

"If you can suggest any way to do that, and still take care of our
paper," said Jim, "I shall be with you."

"I've never anticipated," said Cornish, "that such a mass of business
could be carried through without some losses. Investors can't expect
it."

"The first loss in the East through our paper," said Jim, "means a
taking up of the Grain Belt securities everywhere, and no market for
more. And you know what that spells."

"It mustn't be allowed to happen--yet awhile," answered Cornish. "As I
just now said, we must keep on boosting."

"You know where the Grain Belt debentures and other obligations are
mostly held, of course?" asked Mr. Elkins.

"When a bond or mortgage is sold," was the answer, "my interest in it
ceases. I conclusively presume that the purchaser himself personally
looked to the security, or accepted the guaranty of the negotiating
trust company. _Caveat emptor_ is my rule."

Mr. Elkins looked out of the window, as if he had forgotten us.

"We should push the sale of the Lattimore & Great Western," said he,
"and the Belt Line System."

"I concur," said Cornish. "Our interest in those properties is a
two-million-dollar cash item."

"It wouldn't be two million cents," said Jim, "if our friends on Wall
Street could hear this talk. They'd wait to buy at receiver's sale after
some Black Friday. Of course, that's what Pendleton and Wade have been
counting on from the first."

"You ought to see Halliday and Pendleton at once," said I.

"Yes, I think so, too," he rejoined. "Pendleton'll pay us more than our
price, rather than see the Halliday system get the properties. They're
deep ones; but we ought to be able to play them off against each other,
so long as we can keep strong at home. I'll begin the flirtation at
once."

Cornish, assuming that Jim had fully concurred in his views, bade us a
pleasant good-day, and went out.

"My boy," said Jim, "cheer up. If gloom takes hold of you like this
while we're still running before a favoring wind, it'll bother you to
keep feeling worse and worse, as you ought, as we approach the real
thing. Cheer up!"

"Oh, I'm all right!" said I. "I was just trying to make out Cornish's
position."

"Let's make out our own," he replied, "that's the first thing. Bear in
mind that this is a buccaneering proposition, and you're first mate:
remember? Well, Al, we've had the merriest cruise in the books. If any
crew ever had doubloons to throw to the birds, we've had 'em. But, you
know, we always draw the line somewhere, and I'm about to ask you to
join me in drawing the line, and see just what moral level piracy has
risen or sunk to."

He still walked back and forth, and, as he spoke of drawing the line, he
drew an imaginary one with his fingers on the green baize of the
flat-topped desk.

"You remember what those fellows, Dorr and Wickersham, said the other
night, about having invested the funds of estates, and savings accounts
in our obligations?" he went on. "But I never told you what Wickersham
said privately to me. The infernal fool has more of our paper than his
bank's whole capital stock, with the surplus added, amounts to! And he
calls himself a 'conservative New England banker'! It wouldn't be so bad
if the states back East weren't infested with the same sort of
idiots--I've had Hinckley make me a report on it since that night. It
means that women and children and sweaty breadwinners have furnished the
money for all these things we're so proud of having built, including the
Mt. Desert cottages and the Wyoming hunting-lodge. It means that we've
got to be able to read our book of the Black Art backwards as well as
forwards, or the Powers we've conjured up will tear piecemeal both them
and us. God! it makes me crawl to think of what would happen!"

He sat down on the flat-topped desk, and I saw the beaded pallor of a
fixed and digested anxiety on his brow. He went on, in a lighter way:

"These poor people, scattered from the Missouri to the Atlantic, are our
prisoners, Al. I think Cornish is ready to make them walk the plank.
But, Al, you know, in our bloodiest days, down on the Spanish Main, we
used to spare the women and children! What do you say now, Al?"

The way in which he repeated the old nickname had an irresistible appeal
in it; but I hope no appeal was needed. I said, and said truly, that I
should never consent to any policy which was not mindful of the
interests of which he spoke; and that I knew Hinckley would be with us.
So, if Cornish took any other view, there would be three to one against
him.

"I knew you'd be with me," he continued. "It would have been a
sure-enough case of _et tu, Brute_, if you hadn't been. But don't let
yourself think for a minute that we can't fight this thing to a finish
and come off more than conquerors. We'll look back at this talk some
time, and laugh at our fears. The troublous times that come every so
often are nearer than they were five years ago, but they're some ways
off yet, and forewarned is insured."

"But the hard times always catch people unawares," said I.

"They do," he admitted, "but they never tried to stalk a covey of boom
specialists before.... You remember all that rot I used to talk about
the mind-force method, and psychological booms? We've been false to that
theory, by coming to believe so implicitly in our own preaching. Why,
Al, this work we've begun here has got to go on! It must go on! There
mustn't be any collapse or failure. When the hard times come, we must be
prepared to go right on through, cutting a little narrower swath, but
cutting all the same. Stand by the guns with me, and, in spite of all,
we'll win, and save Lattimore--and spare the captives, too!"

There was the fire of unconquerable resolution in his eye, and a
resonance in his voice that thrilled me. After all he had done, after
the victories we had won under his leadership, the admiration and love I
felt for him rose to the idolatry of a soldier for his general, as I
saw him stiffening his limbs, knotting his muscles, and, with teeth set
and nostrils dilated, rising to the load which seemed falling on him
alone.

"I'll make the turn with these railroad properties," he went on. "We
must make Pendleton and Halliday bid each other up to our figure. And
there'll be no 'salting down' done, either--yet awhile. I hope things
won't shrink too much in the washing; but the real-estate hot air of the
past few years must cause some trouble when the payments deferred begin
to make the heart sick. The Trust Company will be called on to make good
some of its guaranties--and must do it. The banks must be kept strong;
and with two millions to sweeten the pot we shall be with 'em to the
finish. Why, they can't beat us! And don't forget that right now is the
most prosperous time Lattimore ever saw; and put on a look that will
corroborate the statement when you go out of here!"

"Bravo, bravo!" said a voice from near the door. "I don't understand any
of it, but the speech sounded awfully telling! Where's papa?"

It was Antonia, who had come in unobserved. She wore a felt hat with one
little feather on it, driving-gloves, and a dark cloth dress. She stood,
rosy with driving, her blonde curls clustering in airy confusion about
her forehead, a tailor-gowned Brunhilde.

"Why, hello, Antonia!" said Jim. "He went away some time ago. Wasn't
that a corking good speech? Ah! You never know the value of an old
friend until you use him as audience at the dress rehearsal of a speech!
Pacers or trotters?"

"Pacers," said she, "Storm and The Friar."

"If you'll let me drive," he stipulated, "I'd like to go home with you."

"Nobody but myself," said she, "ever drives this team. You'd spoil The
Friar's temper with that unyielding wrist of yours; but if you are good,
you may hold the ends of the lines, and say 'Dap!' occasionally."

And down to the street we went together, our cares dismissed. Jim handed
Antonia into the trap, and they spun away toward Lynhurst, apparently
the happiest people in Lattimore.



CHAPTER XVIII.

The Going Away of Laura and Clifford, and the Departure of Mr. Trescott.


"Thet little quirly thing there," said Mr. Trescott, spreading a map out
on my library table and pointing with his trembling and knobby
forefinger, "is Wolf Nose Crick. It runs into the Cheyenne, down about
there, an' 's got worlds o' water fer any sized herds, an' carries yeh
back from the river fer twenty-five miles. There's a big spring at the
head of it, where the ranch buildin's is; an' there's a clump o' timber
there--box elders an' cottonwoods, y' know. Now see the advantage I'll
have. Other herds'll hev to traipse back an' forth from grass to water
an' from water to grass, a-runnin' theirselves poor; an' all the time
I'll hev livin' water right in the middle o' my range."

His wife and daughter had carefully nursed him through the fever, as Dr.
Aylesbury called it, and for two weeks Mr. Trescott was seen by no one
else. Then from our windows Alice and I could see him about his grounds,
at work amongst his shrubbery, or busying himself with his horses and
carriages. Josie had transformed herself into a woman of business, and
every day she went to her father's office, opened his mail, and held
business consultations. Whenever it was necessary for papers to be
executed, Josie went with the lawyer and notary to the Trescott home for
the signing.

The Trescott and Tolliver business brought her into daily contact with
the Captain. He used to open the doors between their offices, and have
the mail sorted for Josie when she came in. There was something of
homage in the manner in which he received her into the office, and laid
matters of business before her. It was something larger and more
expansive than can be denoted by the word courtesy or politeness.

"Captain," she would say, with the half-amused smile with which she
always rewarded him, "here is this notice from the Grain Belt Trust
Company about the interest on twenty-five thousand dollars of bonds
which they have advanced to us. Will you please explain it?"

"Sutt'nly, Madam, sutt'nly," replied he, using a form of address which
he adopted the first time she appeared as Bill's representative in the
business, and which he never cheapened by use elsewhere. "Those bonds ah
debentures, which--"

"But what _are_ debentures, Captain?" she inquired.

"Pahdon me, my deah lady," said he, "fo' not explaining that at fuhst!
Those ah the debentures of the Trescott Development Company, fawmed to
build up Trescott's Addition. We sold those lands on credit, except fo'
a cash payment of one foath the purchase-price. This brought to us, as
you can see, Madam, a lahge amount of notes, secured by fuhst mortgages
on the Trescott's Addition properties. These notes and mortgages we
deposited with the Grain Belt Trust Company, and issued against them the
bonds of the Trescott Development Company--debentures--and the G. B. T.
people floated these bonds in the East and elsewhah. This interest
mattah was an ovahsight; I should have looked out fo' it, and not put
the G. B. T. to the trouble of advancing it; but as we have this mawnin'
on deposit with them several thousand dollahs from the sale of the
Tolliver's Subdivision papah, the thing becomes a mattah of no
impo'tance whatevah!"

"But," went on Josie, "how shall we be able to pay the next installment
of interest, and the principal, when it falls due?"

"Amply provided foh, my deah Madam," said the Captain, waving his arm;
"the defe'ed payments and the interest on them will create an ample
sinking fund!"

"But if they don't?" she inquired.

"That such a contingency can possibly arise, Madam," said the Captain in
his most impressive orotund, and with his hand thrust into the bosom of
his Prince Albert coat, "is something which my loyalty to Lattimore, my
faith in my fellow citizens, my confidence in Mr. Elkins and Mr.
Barslow, and my regahd fo' my own honah, pledged as it is to those to
whom I have sold these properties on the representations I have made as
to the prospects of the city, will not puhmit me to admit!"

This seemed to him entirely conclusive, and cut off the investigation.
Conversation like this, in which Josie questioned the Captain and seemed
ever convinced by his answers, gave her high rank in the Captain's
estimation.

"Like most ladies," said he, "Miss Trescott is a little inclined to
ovah-conservatism; but unlike most people of both sexes, she is quite
able to grasp the lahgest views when explained to huh, and huh mental
processes ah unerring. I have nevah failed to make the most complicated
situation cleah to huh--nevah!"

And all this time Mr. Trescott was safeguarded at home, looking after
his horses, carriages, and grounds, and at last permitted to come over
to our house and pass the evening with me occasionally. It was on one of
these visits that he spread out the map on the table and explained to me
the advantages of his ranch on Wolf Nose Creek. The very thought of the
open range and the roaming herds seemed to strengthen him.

"You talk," said I, "as if it were all settled. Are you really going out
there?"

"Wal," said he, after some hesitation, "it kind o' makes me feel good to
lay plans f'r goin'. I've made the deal with Aleck Macdonald f'r the
water front--it's a good spec if I never go near it--an' I guess I'll
send a bunch o' steers out to please Josie an' her ma. They're
purtendin' to be stuck on goin', an' I've made the bargain to pacify
'em; but, say, do you know what kind of a place it is out on one o' them
ranches?"

"In a general way, yes," said I.

"W'l, a general way wun't do," said he. "You've got to git right down to
p'ticklers t' know about it, so's to know. It's seventy-five miles from
a post-office an' twenty-five to the nearest house. How would you like
to hev a girl o' yourn thet you'd sent t' Chicago an' New York and the
ol' country, an' spent all colors o' money on so's t' give her all the
chanst in the world, go out to a place like that to spend her life?"

"I don't know," said I, for I was in doubt; "it might be all right."

"You wouldn't say that if it was up to you to decide the thing," said
he. "W'y it would mean that this girl o' mine, that's fit for to
be--wal, you know Josie--would hev to leave this home we've built--that
she's built--here, an' go out where there hain't nobody to be seen from
week's end to week's end but cowboys, an' once in a while one o' the
greasy women o' the dugouts. Do you know what happens to the nicest
girls when they don't see the right sort o' men--at all, y' know?"

I nodded. I knew what he meant. Then I shook my head in denial of the
danger.

"I don't b'lieve it nuther," said he; "but is it any cinch, now? An'
anyhow, she'll be where she wun't ever hear a bit o' music, 'r see a
picter, 'r see a friend. She'll swelter in the burnin' sun an' parch in
the hot winds in the summer, an' in the winter she'll be shet in by
blizzards an' cold weather. She'll see nothin' but kioats, prairie-dogs,
sage-brush, an' cactus. An' what fer! Jest for nothin' but me! To git me
away from things she's afraid've got more of a pull with me than what
she's got. An' I say, by the livin' Lord, I'll go under before I'll give
up, an' say I've got as fur down as that!"

It is something rending and tearing to a man like Bill, totally
unaccustomed to the expression of sentiment, to give utterance to such
depths of feeling. Weak and trembling as he was, the sight of his
agitation was painful. I hastened to say to him that I hoped there was
no necessity for such a step as the one he so strongly deprecated.

"I d' know," said he dubiously. "I thought one while that I'd never want
to go near town, 'r touch the stuff agin. But I'll tell yeh something
that happened yisterday!"

He drew up his chair and looked behind him like a child preparing to
relate some fearsome tale of goblin or fiend, and went on:

"Josie had the team hitched up to go out ridin', an' I druv around the
block to git to the front step. An' somethin' seemed to pull the nigh
line when I got to the cawner! It wa'n't that I wanted to go--and don't
you say anything about this thing, Mr. Barslow; but somethin' seemed to
pull the nigh line an' turn me toward Main Street; an' fust thing I
knew, I was a-drivin' hell-bent for O'Brien's place! Somethin' was
a-whisperin' to me, 'Go down an' see the boys, an' show 'em that yeh can
drink 'r let it alone, jest as yeh see fit!' And the thought come over
me o' Josie a-standin' there at the gate waitin' f'r me, an' I set my
teeth, an' jerked the hosses' heads around, an' like to upset the buggy
a-turnin'. 'You look pale, pa,' says Josie. 'Maybe we'd better not go.'
'No,' says I, 'I'm all right.' But what ... gits me ... is thinkin'
that, if I'll be hauled around like that when I'm two miles away, how
long would I last ... if onst I was to git right down in the midst of
it!"

I could not endure the subject any longer; it was so unutterably fearful
to see him making this despairing struggle against the foe so strongly
lodged within his citadel. I talked to him of old times and places known
to us both, and incidentally called to his mind instances of the
recovery of men afflicted as he was. Soon Josie came after him, and Jim
dropped in, as he was quite in the habit of doing, making one of those
casual and informal little companies which constituted a most
distinctive feature of life in our compact little Belgravia.

Josie insisted that life in the cow country was what she had been
longing for. She had never shot any one, and had never painted a cowboy,
an Indian, or a coyote--things she had always longed to do.

"You must take me out there, pa," said she. "It's the only way to
utilize the capital we've foolishly tied up in the department of the
fine arts!"

"I reckon we'll hev to do it, then, little gal," said Bill.

"My mind," said Jim, "is divided between your place up on the headwaters
of Bitter Creek and Paris. Paris seems to promise pretty well, when this
fitful fever of business is over and we've cleaned up the mill run."

Art, he went on, seemed to be a career for which he was really fitted.
In the foreground, as a cowboy, or in the middle distance, in his
proper person as a tenderfoot, it seemed as if there was a vocation for
him. Josie made no reply to this, and Jim went away downcast.

The Addison-Giddings wedding drew on out of the future, and seemed to
loom portentously like doom for the devoted Clifford. It may have
suggested itself to the reader that Mr. Giddings was an abnormally timid
lover. The eternal feminine at this time seemed personified in Laura,
and worked upon him like an obsession. I have never seen a case quite
like his. The manner in which the marriage was regarded, and the extent
to which it was discussed, may have had something to do with this.

The boom period anywhere is essentially an era in which public events
dominate those of a private character, and publicity and promotion, hand
in hand, occupy the center of the stage. Giddings, as editor and
proprietor of the _Herald_, was one of the actors on whom the lime-light
was pretty constantly focussed. Miss Addison, belonging to the Lattimore
family, and prominent in good works, was more widely known than he among
Lattimoreans of the old days, sometimes referred to by Mr. Elkins as the
trilobites, who constituted a sort of ancient and exclusive caste among
us, priding themselves on having become rich by the only dignified and
purely automatic mode, that of sitting heroically still, and allowing
their lands to rise in value. These regarded Laura as one of themselves,
and her marriage as a sacrament of no ordinary character.

Giddings, on the other hand, as the type of the new crowd who had done
such wonders, and as the embodiment of its spirit, was dimly sensed by
all classes as a sort of hero of obscure origin, who by strong blows had
hewed his way to the possession of a princess of the blood. So the
interest was really absorbing. Even the _Herald's_ rival, the _Evening
Times_, dropped for a time the normal acrimony of its references to the
_Herald_, and sent a reporter to make a laudatory write-up of the
wedding.

On the night before the event, deep in the evening, Giddings and a
bibulous friend insisted on having refreshments served to them in the
parlor of the clubhouse. This was a violation of rules. Moreover, they
had involuntarily assumed sitting postures on the carpet, rendering
waiting upon them a breach of decorum as well. At least this was the
view of Pearson, who was now attached to the club.

"You must excuse me, gentlemen," he said, "but Ah'm bound to obey
rules."

"Bring us," said Giddings, "two cocktails."

"Can't do it, sah," said Pearson, "not hyah, sah!"

"Bring us paper to write resignations on!" said Giddings. "We won't
belong to a club where we are bullied by niggers."

Pearson brought the paper.

"They's no rule, suh," said he, "again' suhvin' resignation papah
anywhah in the house. But let me say, Mistah Giddings, that Ah wouldn't
be hasty: it's a heap hahder to get inter this club now than what it was
when you-all come in!"

This suggestion of Pearson's was in every one's mouth as the most
amusing story of the time. Even Giddings laughed about it. But all his
laughter was hollow.

Some bets were offered that one of two things would happen on the
wedding-day: either Giddings (who had formerly been of abstemious
habits) would overdo the attempt to nerve himself up to the occasion and
go into a vinous collapse, or he would stay sober and take to his heels.
Thus, in fear and trembling, did the inexplicable disciple of Iago
approach his happiness; but, like most soldiers, when the battle was
actually on, he went to the fighting-line dazed into bravery.

It was quite a spectacular affair. The church was a floral grotto, and
there were, in great abundance, the adjuncts of ribbon barriers, special
electric illuminations, special music, full ritual, ushers, bridesmaids,
and millinery. Antonia was chief bridesmaid, and Cornish best man. The
severe conformity to vogue, and preservation of good form, were
generally attributed to his management. It was a great success.

There was an elaborate supper, of which Giddings partook in a manner
which tended to prove that his sense of taste was still in his
possession, whatever may have been the case with his other senses. Josie
was there, and Jim was her shadow. She was a little pale, but not at all
sad; her figure, which had within the past year or so acquired something
of the wealth commonly conceded to matronliness, had waned to the
slenderness of the day I first saw her in the art-gallery, but now, as
then, she was slim, not thin. To two, at least, she was a vision of
delight, as one might well see by the look of adoration which Jim poured
into her eyes from time to time, and the hungry gaze with which Cornish
took in the ruddy halo of her hair, the pale and intellectual face
beneath it, and the sensuous curves of the compact little form. For my
own part, my vote was for Antonia, for the belle of the gathering; but
she sailed through the evening, "like some full-breasted swan,"
accepting no homage except the slavish devotion of Cecil, whose constant
offering of his neck to her tread gave him recognition as entitled to
the reward of those who are permitted only to stand and wait.

Mr. Elkins had furnished a special train over the L. & G. W. to make the
run with the bridal party to Elkins Junction, connecting there with the
east-bound limited on the Pendleton line, thence direct to Elysium.

Laura, rosy as a bride should be, and actually attractive to me for the
first time in her life, sat in her traveling-dress trying to look
matter-of-fact, and discussing time-tables with her bridegroom, who
seemed to find less and less of dream and more of the actual in the
situation,--calm returning with the cutaway. Cecil and the coterie of
gilded youth who followed him did their share to bring Giddings back to
earth by a series of practical jokes, hackneyed, but ever fresh. The
largest trunk, after it reached the platform, blossomed out in a sign
reading: "The Property of the Bride and Groom. You can Identify the
Owners by that Absorbed Expression!" Divers revelatory incidents were
arranged to eventuate on the limited train. Precipitation of rice was
produced, in modes known to sleight-of-hand only. So much of this
occurred that Captain Tolliver showed, by a stately refusal to see the
joke, his disapproval of it--a feeling which he expressed in an aside to
me.

"Hoss-play of this so't, suh," said he, "ought not to be tolerated among
civilized people, and I believe is not! In the state of society in which
I was reahed such niggah-shines would mean pistols at ten paces, within
fo'ty-eight houahs, with the lady's neahest male relative! And propahly
so, too, suh; quite propahly!"

"Shall we go to the train, Albert?" said Alice, as the party made ready
to go.

"No," said I, "unless you particularly wish it; we shall go home."

"Mr. Barslow," said one of the maids, "you are wanted at the telephone."

"Is this you, Al?" said Jim's voice over the wire. "I'm up here at
Josie's, and I am afraid there's trouble with her father. When we got
here we found him gone. Hadn't you better go out and look around for
him?"

"Have you any idea where I'm likely to find him?" I asked. I saw at once
the significance of Bill's absence. He had taken advantage of the fact
of his wife and daughter's going to the wedding, and had yielded to the
thing which drew him away from them.

"Try the Club, and then O'Brien's," answered Jim. "If you don't find
him in one place or the other, call me up over the 'phone. Call me up
anyhow; I'll wait here."

The _Times_ man heard my end of the conversation, saw me hastily give
Alice word as to the errand which kept me from going home with her,
observed my preparations for leaving the company, and, scenting news,
fell in with me as I was walking toward the Club.

"Any story in this, Mr. Barslow?" he asked.

"Oh, is that you, Watson?" I answered. "I was going on an errand which
concerns myself. I was going alone."

"If you're looking for any one," he said, trotting along beside me, "I
can find him a good deal quicker than you can, probably. And if there's
news in it, I'll get it anyhow; and I'll naturally know it more from
your standpoint, and look at it more as you do, if we go together. Don't
you think so?"

"See here, Watson," said I, "you may help if you wish. But if you print
a word without my consent, I can and will scoop the _Times_ every day,
from this on, with every item of business news coming through our
office. Do you understand, and do you promise?"

"Why, certainly," said he. "You've got the thing in your own hands. What
is it, anyhow?"

I told him, and found that Trescott's dipsomania was as well known to
him as myself.

"He's been throwing money to the fowls for a year or two," he remarked.
"It's better than two to one you don't find him at the Club: the
atmosphere won't be congenial for him there."

At the Club we found Watson's forecast verified. At O'Brien's our
knocking on the door aroused a sleepy bartender, who told us that no one
was there, but refused to let us in. Watson called him aside, and they
talked together for a few minutes.

"All right," said the reporter, turning away from him, "much obliged,
Hank; I believe you've struck it."

Watson was leader now, and I followed him toward Front Street, near the
river. He said that Hank, the barkeeper, had told him that Trescott had
been in his saloon about nine o'clock, drinking heavily; and from the
company he was in, it was to be suspected that he would be steered into
a joint down on the river front. We passed through an alley, and down a
back basement stairway, came to a door, on which Watson confidently
knocked, and which was opened by a negro who let us in as soon as he saw
the reporter. The air was sickening with an odor which I then perceived
for the first time, and which Watson called the dope smell. There was an
indefinable horror about the place, which so repelled me that nothing
but my obligation could have held me there. The lights were dim, and at
first I could see nothing more than that the sides of the room were
divided into compartments by dull-colored draperies, in a manner
suggesting the sections of a sleeping-car. There were sounds of dreadful
breathings and inarticulate voices, and over all that sickening smell. I
saw, flung aimlessly from the crepuscular and curtained recesses, here
the hairy brawn of a man's arm, there a woman's leg in scarlet silk
stocking, the foot half withdrawn from a red slipper with a high French
heel. The Gate of a Hundred Sorrows had opened for me, and I stood as if
gazing, with eyes freshly unsealed to its horrors, into some dim
inferno, sibilant with hisses, and enwrapped in indeterminate
dragon-folds--and I in quest of a lost soul.

"He wouldn't go with his pal, boss," I heard the negro say. "Ah tried to
send him home, but he said he had some medicine to take, an' he 'nsisted
on stayin'."

As he ceased to speak, I knew that Watson had been interrogating him,
and that he was referring to the man we sought.

"Show me where he is," I commanded.

"Yes, boss! Right hyah, sah!"

In an inner room, on a bed, not a pallet like those in the first
chamber, was Trescott, his head lying peacefully on a pillow, his hands
clasped across his chest. Somehow, I was not surprised to see no
evidence of life, no rise and fall of the breast, no sound of breathing.
But Watson started forward in amazement, laid his hand for a moment on
the pallid forehead, lifted for an instant and then dropped the inert
hand, turned and looked fixedly in my face, and whispered, "My God! He's
dead!"

As if at some great distance, I heard the negro saying, "He done said he
hed ter tek some medicine, boss. Ah hopes you-all won't make no trouble
foh me, boss--!"

"Send for a doctor!" said I. "Telephone Mr. Elkins, at Trescott's home!"

Watson darted out, and for an eternity, as it seemed to me, I stood
there alone. There was a scurrying of the vermin in the place to snatch
up a few valuables and flee, as if they had been the crawling things
under some soon-to-be-lifted stone, to whom light was a calamity. I was
left with the Stillness before me, and the dreadful breathings and
inarticulate voices outside. Then came the clang and rattle of ambulance
and patrol, and in came a policeman or two, a physician, a _Herald_ man
and Watson, who was bitterly complaining of Bill for having had the bad
taste to die on the morning paper's time.

And soon came Jim, in a carriage, whirled along the street like a racing
chariot--with whom I rode home, silent, save for answering his
questions. Now the wife, gazing out of her door, saw in the street the
Something for which she had peered past me the other night.

The men carried it in at the door, and laid it on the divan. Josie, her
arms and shoulders still bare in the dress she had worn to the wedding,
broke away from Cornish, who was bending over her and saying things to
comfort her, and swept down the hall to the divan where Bill lay, white
and still, and clothed with the mystic majesty of death. The shimmering
silk and lace of her gown lay all along the rug and over the divan, like
drapery thrown there to conceal what lay before us. She threw her arms
across the still breast, and her head went down on his.

"Oh, pa! Oh, pa!" she moaned, "you never did any one any harm!... You
were always good and kind!... And always loving and forgiving.... And
why should they come to you, poor pa ... and take you from the things
you loved ... and ... murder you ... like this!"

Jim fell back, as if staggering from a blow. Cornish came forward, and
offered to raise up the stricken girl, whose eyes shone in her grief
like the eyes of insanity. Alice stepped before Cornish, raised Josie
up, and supported her from the room.

                 *       *       *       *       *

Again it was morning, when we--Alice, Jim, and I--sat face to face in
our home. An untasted breakfast was spread before us. Jim's eyes were on
the cloth, and nothing served to rouse him. I knew that the blow from
which he had staggered still benumbed his faculties.

"Come," said I, "we shall need your best thought down at the Grain Belt
Building in a couple of hours. This brings things to a crisis. We shall
have a terrible dilemma to face, it's likely. Eat and be ready to face
it!"

"God!" said he, "it's the old tale over again, Al: throw the dead and
wounded overboard to clear the decks, and on with the fight!"



CHAPTER XIX.

In Which Events Resume their Usual Course--at a Somewhat Accelerated
Pace.


The death of Mr. Trescott was treated with that consideration which the
affairs of the locally prominent always receive in towns where local
papers are in close financial touch with the circle affected. Nothing
was said of suicide, or of the place where the body was found; and in
fact I doubt if the family ever knew the real facts; but the property
matters were looked upon as a legitimate subject for comment.

"Yesterday," said, in due time, the _Herald_, "the Trescott estate
passed into the hands of Will Lattimore, as administrator. He was
appointed upon the petition of Martha D. Trescott, the widow. His bond,
in the sum of $500,000, was signed by James R. Elkins, Albert F.
Barslow, J. Bedford Cornish, and Marion Tolliver, as sureties, and is
said to be the largest in amount ever filed in our local Probate Court.

"Mr. Lattimore is non-committal as to the value of the estate. The bond
is not to be taken as altogether indicative of this value, as additional
bonds may be called for at any time, and the individual responsibility
of the administrator is very large. He will at once enter upon the work
of settling up the estate, receiving and filing claims, and preparing
his report. He estimates the time necessary to a full understanding of
the extent and condition of his trust at weeks and even months.

"The petition states that the deceased died intestate, leaving surviving
him the petitioner and an only child, a daughter, Josephine. As Miss
Trescott has attained her majority, she will at once come into the
possession of the greater part of this estate, becoming thereby the
richest heiress in this part of the West. This fact of itself would
render her an interesting person, an interest to which her charming
personality adds zest. She is a very beautiful girl, petite in figure,
with splendid brown hair and eyes. She is possessed of a strong
individuality, has had the advantages of the best American and
Continental schools, and is said to be an artist of much ability. Mrs.
Trescott comes of the Dana family, prominent in central Illinois from
the earliest settlement of the state.

"President Elkins, of the L. & G. W., who, perhaps, knows more than any
other person as to the situation and value of the various Trescott
properties, could not be seen last night. He went to Chicago on
Wednesday, and yesterday wired his partner, Mr. Barslow, that business
had called him on to New York, where he would remain for some time."

In another column of the same issue was a double-leaded news-story,
based on certain rumors that Jim's trip to New York was taken for the
purpose of financing extensions of the L. & G. W. which would develop it
into a system of more than a thousand miles of line.

"Their past successes have shown," said the _Herald_ in editorial
comment on this, "that Mr. Elkins and his associates are resourceful
enough to bring such an undertaking, gigantic as it is, quite within
their abilities. The world has not seen the best that is in the power of
this most remarkable group of men to accomplish. Lattimore, already a
young giantess in stature and strength, has not begun to grow, in
comparison with what is in the future for her, if she is to be made the
center of such a vast railway system as is outlined in the news item
referred to."

From which one gathers that the young men left by Mr. Giddings in charge
of his paper were entirely competent to carry forward his policy.

Jim had gone to Chicago to see Halliday, hoping to rouse in him an
interest in the Belt Line and L. & G. W. properties; but on arriving
there had telegraphed to me that he must go to New York. This message
was followed by a letter of explanation and instructions.

"Halliday spends a good deal of his time in New York now," the letter
read, "and is there at present. His understudy here advised me to go on
East. I should rather see him there than here, on account of the greater
likelihood that Pendleton may detect us: so I'm going. I shall stay as
long as I can do any good by it. Lattimore won't get the condition of
the estate worked out for a month, and until we know about that, there
won't anything come up of the first magnitude, and even if there should,
you can handle it. I don't really expect to come back with the two
million dollars for the L. & G. W., but I do hope to have it in sight!

"In all your prayers let me be remembered; 'if it don't do no good, it
won't do no harm,' and I'll need all the help I can get. I'm going where
the lobster à la Newburg and the Welsh rabbit hunt in couples in the
interest of the Sure-Thing game; where the bird-and-bottle combine is
the stalking-horse for the Frame-up; and where the Flim-flam (I use the
word on the authority of Beaumont, Fletcher & Giddings) has its natural
habitat. I go to foster the entente cordiale between our friends
Pendleton and Halliday into what I may term a mutual cross-lift, of
which we shall be the beneficiaries--in trust, however, for the use and
behoof of the captives below decks.

"Giddings and Laura are here. I had them out to a box party last night.
They are most insufferably happy. Clifford is not sane yet, but is
rallying. He is rallying considerably; for he spoke of plans for pushing
the _Herald_ Addition harder than ever when he gets home. And you know
such a thing as business has never entered his mind for six
months--unless it was business to write that 'Apostrophe to the Heart,'
which he called a poem, and which, I don't mind admitting now, I hired
his foreman to pi after the copy was lost.

"Keep everything as near ship-shape as you can. Watch the papers, or
they may do us more harm in a single fool story than can be remedied by
wise counter-mendacity in a year. Especially watch the _Times_, although
there's mighty little choice between them. You and Alice ought to spend
as much time at the Trescotts' as you can spare. You'll hear from me
almost daily. Wire anything of importance fully. Keep the L. & G. W.
extension story before the people; it may make some impression even in
the East, but it's sure to do good in the local fake market. Don't miss
a chance to jolly our Eastern banks. I should declare a dividend--say
4%--on Cement stock. At Atlas Power Company meeting ask Cornish to move
passing earnings to surplus in lieu of dividend, on the theory of
building new factories--anyhow, consult with the fellows about it: that
money will be handy to have in the treasury before the year is out,
unless I am mistaken. Sorry I can't be at these meetings. Will be back
for those of Rapid Transit and Belt Line Companies.

                                                        "Yours,
                                                            "Jim.

"P. S.--Coming in, I saw a group of children dancing on a bridge, close
to a schoolhouse, down near the Mississippi. I guess no one but myself
knew what they were doing; but I recognized our old 'Weevilly Wheat'
dance. I could imagine the ancient Scotch air, which the noise of the
train kept me from hearing, and the old words you and I used to sing,
dancing on the Elk Creek bridge:

    "'We want no more of your weevilly wheat,
      We want no more your barley;
    But we want some of your good old wheat,
      To make a cake for Charley!'

"You remember it all! How we used to swing the little girls around, and
when we remembered it afterwards, how we would float off into realms of
blissful companionship with freckled, short-skirted, bare-legged angels!
Things were simpler then, Al, weren't they? And to emphasize that fact,
my mind ran along the trail of the 'Weevilly Wheat' into the domain of
tickers, margins, puts and calls, and all the cussedness of the Board of
Trade, and came bump against poor Bill's bucket-shop deals, and settled
down to the chronic wonder as to just how badly crippled he was when he
died. If Will gets it figured out soon, at all accurately, wire me.

                                                                 "J."

The wedding tour came to an end, and the bride and groom returned long
before Mr. Elkins did. Giddings dropped into my office the day after
their return, and, quite in his old way, began to discuss affairs in
general.

"I'm going to close out the _Herald_ Addition," said he. "Real estate
and newspaper work don't mix, and I shall unload the real estate. What
do you say to an auction?"

"How can you be sure of anything like an adequate scale of prices?" said
I; "and won't you demoralize things?"

"It'll strengthen prices," he replied, "the way I'll manage it. This is
the age of the sensational--the yellow--and you people haven't been
yellow enough in your methods of selling dirt. If you say sensationalism
is immoral, I won't dispute it, but just simply ask how the fact happens
to be material?"

I saw that he was going out of his way to say this, and avoided
discussion by asking him to particularize as to his methods.

"We shall pursue a progressively startling course of advertising, to the
end that the interest shall just miss acute mania. I'll have the best
auctioneer in the world. On the day of the auction we'll have a series
of doings which will leave the people absolutely no way out of buying.
We'll have a scale of upset prices which will prevent loss. Why, I'll
make such a killing as never was known outside of the Fifteen Decisive
Battles. I sha'n't seem to do all this personally. I shall turn the work
over to Tolliver; but I'll be the power behind the movement. The
gestures and stage business will be those of Esau, but the word-painting
will be that of Jacob."

"Well," said I, "I see nothing wrong about your plan; and it may be
practicable."

"There being nothing wrong about it is no objection from my standpoint,"
said he. "In fact, I think I prefer to have it morally right rather than
otherwise, other things being equal, you know. As for its
practicability, you watch the Captain, and you'll see!"

This talk with Giddings convinced me that he was entirely himself again;
and also that the boom was going on apace. It had now long reached the
stage where the efforts of our syndicate were reinforced by those of
hundreds of men, who, following the lines of their own interests, were
powerfully and effectively striving to accomplish the same ends. I
pointed this out in a letter to Mr. Elkins in New York.

"I am glad to note," said he in reply, "that affairs are going on so
cheerfully at home. Don't imagine, however, that because a horde of
volunteers (most of them nine-spots) have taken hold, our old guard is
of any less importance. Do you remember what a Prince Rupert's drop is?
I absolutely know you don't, and to save you the trouble of looking it
up, I'll explain that it is a glass pollywog which holds together all
right until you snap off the tip of its tail. Then a job lot of
molecular stresses are thrown out of balance, and the thing develops the
surprising faculty of flying into innumerable fragments, with a very
pleasing explosion. Whether the name is a tribute of Prince Rupert's
propensity to fly off the handle, or whether he discovered the drop, or
first noted its peculiarities, I leave for the historian of the
Cromwellian epoch to decide. The point I make is this. Our syndicate is
the tail of the Lattimore Rupert's drop; and the Grain Belt Trust Co. is
the very slenderest and thinnest tip of the pollywog's propeller. Hence
the writer's tendency to count the strokes of the clock these nights."

Dating from the night of Trescott's death, and therefore covering the
period of Jim's absence, I could not fail to notice the renewed ardor
with which Cornish devoted himself to the Trescott family. Alice and I,
on our frequent visits, found him at their home so much that I was
forced to the conclusion that he must have had some encouragement.
During this period of their mourning his treatment of both mother and
daughter was at once so solicitously friendly, and so delicate, that no
one in their place could have failed to feel a sense of obligation. He
sent flowers to Mrs. Trescott, and found interesting things in books and
magazines for Josie. Having known him as a somewhat cold and formal man,
Mrs. Trescott was greatly pleased with this new view of his character.
He diverted her mind, and relieved the monotony of her grief. Cornish
was a diplomat (otherwise Jim would have had no use for him in the first
place), and he skilfully chose this sad and tender moment to bring about
a closer intimacy than had existed between him and the afflicted family.
It was clearly no affair of mine. Nevertheless, after several
experiences in finding Cornish talking with Josie by the Trescott grate,
I considered Jim's interests menaced.

"Well," said Alice, when I mentioned this feeling, "Mr. Cornish is
certainly a desirable match, and it can scarcely be expected that Josie
will remain permanently unattached."

There was a little resentment in her voice, for which I could see no
reason, and therefore protested that, under all circumstances, it was
scarcely fair to blame me for the lady's unappropriated state.

"Under other conditions," said I, "I assure you that I should not
permit such an anomaly to exist--if I could help it."

The incident was then declared closed.

During this absence of Jim's, which, I think, was the real cause of
Alice's displeasure, the _Herald_ Addition sale went forward, with all
the "yellow" features which the minds of Giddings and Tolliver could
invent. It began with flaring advertisements in both papers. Then, on a
certain day, the sale was declared open, and every bill-board and fence
bore posters puffing it. A great screen was built on a vacant lot on
Main Street, and across the street was placed, every night, the biggest
magic lantern procurable, from which pictures of all sorts were
projected on the screen, interlarded with which were statements of the
_Herald_ Addition sales for the day, and quotations showing the advance
in prices since yesterday. And at all times the coming auction was cried
abroad, until the interest grew to something wonderful. Every farmer and
country merchant within a hundred miles of the city was talking of it.
Tolliver was in his highest feather. On the day of the auction he
secured excursion rates on all of the railroads, and made it a holiday.
Porter's great military band, then touring the country, was secured for
the afternoon and evening. Thousands of people came in on the excursions
and it seemed like a carnival. Out at the piece of land platted as the
_Herald_ Addition, whither people were conveyed in street-cars and
carriages during the long afternoon the great band played about the
stands erected for the auctioneer, who went from stand to stand, crying
off the lots, the precise location of the particular parcel at any
moment under the hammer being indicated by the display of a flag, held
high by two strong fellows, who lowered the banner and walked to another
site in obedience to signals wigwagged by the enthusiastic Captain. The
throng bid excitedly, and the clerks who made out the papers worked
desperately to keep up with the demands for deeds. It was clear that the
sale was a success. As the sun sank, handbills were scattered informing
the crowd that in the evening Tolliver & Company, as a slight evidence
of their appreciation of the splendid business of the day, would throw
open to their friends the new Cornish Opera House, where Porter's
celebrated band would give its regular high-class concert. Tolliver &
Company, the bill went on, took pleasure in further informing the public
that, in view of the great success of the day's sale, and the very small
amount to which their holdings in the _Herald_ Addition were reduced,
the remainder of this choice piece of property would be sold from the
stage to the highest bidder, absolutely without any reservation or
restriction as to the price!

I had received a telegram from Jim saying that he would return on a
train arriving that evening, and asking that Cornish, Hinckley, and
Lattimore be at the office to meet him. I was on the street early in the
evening, looking with wonder at the crowds making merry after the dizzy
day of speculative delirium. At the opera house, filled to overflowing
with men admitted on tickets, the great band was discoursing its music,
in alternation with the insinuating oratory of the auctioneer, under
whose skilful management the odds and ends of the _Herald_ Addition were
changing owners at a rate which was simply bewildering.

"Don't you see," said Giddings delightedly, "that this is the only way
to sell town lots?"

Jim came into the office, fresh and buoyant after his long trip, his
laugh as hearty and mirth-provoking as ever. After shaking hands with
all, he threw himself into his own chair.

"Boys," said he, "I feel like a mouse just returning from a visit to a
cat convention. But what's this crowd for? It's nearly as bad as
Broadway."

We explained what Giddings and Tolliver had been doing.

"But," said he, "do you mean to tell me that he's sold that Addition to
this crowd of reubs?"

"He most certainly has," said Cornish.

"Well, fellows," replied Jim, "put away the accounts of this as
curiosities! You'll have some difficulty in making posterity believe
that there was ever a time or place where town lots were sold with magic
lanterns and a brass band! And don't advertise it too much with Dorr,
Wickersham and those fellows. They think us a little crazy now. But a
brass band! That comes pretty near being the limit."

"Gentlemen," said Mr. Lattimore, "I shall have to leave you soon; and
will you kindly make use of me as soon as you conveniently can, and let
me go?"

"Have you got the condition of the Trescott estate figured out?" said
Mr. Elkins.

"Yes," said the lawyer.

We all leaned forward in absorbed interest; for this was news.

"Have you told these gentlemen?" Jim went on.

"I have told no one."

"Please give us your conclusions."

"Gentlemen," said Mr. Lattimore, "I am sorry to report that the Trescott
estate is absolutely insolvent! It lacks a hundred thousand dollars of
being worth anything!"

There was a silence for some moments.

"My God!" said Hinckley, "and our trust company is on all that paper of
Trescott's scattered over the East!"

"What's become of the money he got on all his sales?" asked Jim.

"From the looks of the check-stubs, and other indications," said Mr.
Lattimore, "I should say the most of it went into Board of Trade deals."

Cornish was swearing in a repressed way, and above his black beard his
face was pale. Elkins sat drumming idly on the desk with his fingers.

"Gentlemen," said he, "I take it to be conceded that unless the Trescott
paper is cared for, things will go to pieces here. That's the same as
saying that it must be taken up at all hazards."

"Not exactly," said Cornish, "at _all_ hazards."

"Well," said Jim, "it amounts to that. Has any one any suggestions as to
the course to be followed?"

Mr. Cornish asked whether it would not be best to take time, allow the
probate proceedings to drag along, and see what would turn up.

"But the Trust Company's guaranties," said Mr. Hinckley, with a banker's
scent for the complications of commercial paper, "must be made good on
presentation, or it may as well close its doors."

"The thing won't 'drag along' successfully," said Jim. "Have you a
schedule of the assets?"

"Yes," said Mr. Lattimore. "The life-insurance money and the home are
exempt from liability for debts, and I've left them out; but the other
properties you'll find listed here."

And he threw down on the desk a folded document in a legal wrapper.

"The family," said Jim gravely, "must be told of the condition of
things. It is a hard thing to do, but it must be done. Then conveyances
must be obtained of all the property, subject to debts; and we must take
the property and pay the debts. That also will be a hard thing to do--in
several ways; but it must be done. It must be done--do you all agree?"

"Let me first ask," said Mr. Cornish, turning to Mr. Hinckley, "how long
would it be before there would have to be trouble on this paper?"

"It couldn't possibly be postponed more than sixty days," was the
answer.

"Is there any prospect," Cornish went on, addressing Mr. Elkins, "of
closing out the railway properties within sixty days?"

"A prospect, yes," said Jim.

"Anything like a certainty?"

"No, not in sixty days."

"Then," said Cornish reluctantly, "there seems to be no way out of it,
and I agree. But I feel as if I were being held up, and I assent on this
ground only: that Halliday and Pendleton will never deal on equal terms
with a set of financial cripples, and that any trouble here will seal
the fate of the railway transaction. But, lest this be taken as a
precedent, I wish it to be understood that I'm not jeopardizing my
fortune, or any part of it, out of any sentimental consideration for
these supposed claims of any one who holds Lattimore paper, in the East
or elsewhere!"

Jim sat drumming on the desk.

"As we are all agreed on what to do," said he drawlingly, "we can skip
the question why we do it. Prepare the necessary papers, Mr. Lattimore.
And perhaps you are the proper person to apprise the family as to the
true condition of things. We'll have to get together to-morrow and begin
to dig for the funds. I think we can do no more to-night."

We walked down the street and dropped into the opera house in time to
hear the grand finale of the last piece by the band. As the great
outburst of music died away, Captain Tolliver radiantly stepped to the
footlights, dividing the applause with the musicians.

"Ladies and gentlemen," said he, "puhmit me to say, in bidding you-all
good-night, that I congratulate the republic on the possession of a
citizenship so awake to theiah true interests as you have shown
you'selves to-day! I congratulate the puhchasers of propahty in the
_Herald_ Addition upon the bahgains they have secuahed. Only five
minutes' walk from the cyahs, and well within the three-mile limit, the
time must soon come when these lots will be covahed with the mansions of
ouah richah citizens. Even since the sales of this afternoon, I am
infawmed that many of the pieces have been resold at an advance, netting
the puhchasers a nice profit without putting up a cent. Upon all this I
congratulate you. Lattimore, ladies and gentlemen, has nevah been cuhsed
by a boom, and I pray God she nevah may! This rathah brisk growth of
ouahs, based as it is on crying needs of ouah trade territory, is really
unaccountably slow, all things considered. But I may say right hyah that
things ah known to be in sto' foh us which will soon give ouah city an
impetus which will cyahy us fo'ward by leaps and bounds--by leaps and
bounds, ladies and gentlemen--to that highah and still mo' commandin'
place in the galaxy of American cities which is ouahs by right! And now
as you-all take youah leave, I propose that we rise and give three
cheers fo' Lattimore and prosperity."

The cheers were given thunderously, and the crowd bustled out, filling
the street.

"Well, wouldn't that jar you!" said Jim. "This is a case of 'Gaze first
upon this picture, then on that' sure enough, isn't it, Al?"

Captain Tolliver joined us, so full of excitement of the evening that he
forgot to give Mr. Elkins the greeting his return otherwise would have
evoked.

"Gentlemen," said he, "it was glorious! Nevah until this moment have I
felt true fawgiveness in my breast faw the crime of Appomattox! But
to-night we ah truly a reunited people!"

"Glad to know it," said Jim, "mighty glad, Captain. The news'll send
stocks up a-whooping, if it gets to New York!"



CHAPTER XX.

I Twice Explain the Condition of the Trescott Estate.


Nothing had remained unchanged in Lattimore, and our old offices in the
First National Bank edifice had long since been vacated by us. The very
building had been demolished, and another and many-storied structure
stood in its place. Now we were in the big Grain Belt Trust Company's
building, the ground-floor of which was shared between the Trust Company
and the general offices of the Lattimore and Great Western. In one
corner, and next to the private room of President Elkins, was the office
of Barslow & Elkins, where I commanded. Into which entered Mrs. Trescott
and her daughter one day, soon after Mr. Lattimore had been given his
instructions concerning the offer of our syndicate to pay the debts of
their estate and take over its properties.

"Josie and I have called," said the widow, "to talk with you about the
estate matters. Mr. Lattimore came to see us last night and--told us."

She seemed a little agitated, but in nowise so much cast down as might
be expected of one who, considering herself rich, learns that she is
poor. She had in her manner that mixture of dignity and constraint
which marks the bearing of people whose relations with their friends
have been affected by some great grief. A calamity not only changes our
own feelings, but it makes us uncertain as to what our friends expect of
us.

"What we wish explained," said Josie, "is just how it comes that our
property must be deeded away."

"I can see," said I, "that that is a matter which demands investigation
on your part. Your request is a natural and a proper one."

"It is not that," said she, evidently objecting to the word
investigation; "we are not so very much surprised, and we have no doubt
as to the necessity of doing it. But we want to know as much as possible
about it before we act."

"Quite right," said I. "Mr. Elkins is in the next office; let us call
him in. He sees and can explain these things as clearly as any one."

Jim came in response to a summons by one of his clerks. He shook hands
gravely with my visitors.

"We are told," said Mrs. Trescott, "that our debts are a good deal more
than we can pay--that we really have nothing."

"Not quite that," said Jim; "the law gives to the widow the home and the
life insurance. That is a good deal more than nothing."

"As to whether we can keep that," said Josie, "we are not discussing
now; but there are some other things we should like cleared up."

"We don't understand Mr. Cornish's offer to take the property and pay
the debts," said Mrs. Trescott.

Jim's glance sought mine in a momentary and questioning astonishment;
then he calmly returned the widow's look. Josie's eyes were turned
toward the carpet, and a slight blush tinged her cheeks.

"Ah," said Jim, "yes; Mr. Cornish's offer. How did you learn of it?"

"I got my understanding of it from Mr. Lattimore," said Mrs. Trescott,
"and told Josie about it."

"Before we consent to carry out this plan," said Josie, "we ... I want
to know all about the motives and considerations back of it. I want to
know whether it is based on purely business considerations, or on some
fancied obligation ... or ... or ... on merely friendly sentiments."

"As to motives," said Mr. Elkins, "if the purely business requirements
of the situation fully account for the proposition, we may waive the
discussion of motives, can't we, Josie?"

"I imagine," said Mrs. Trescott, finding that Jim's question remained
unanswered, "that none of us will claim to be able to judge Mr.
Cornish's motives."

"Certainly not," acquiesced Mr. Elkins. "None of us."

"This is not what we came to ask about," said Josie. "Please tell us
whether our house and the insurance money would be mamma's if this plan
were not adopted--if the courts went on and settled the estate in the
usual way?"

"Yes," said I, "the law gives her that, and justly. For the creditors
knew all about the law when they took those bonds. So you need have no
qualms of conscience on that."

"As none of it belongs to me," said Josie, "I shall leave all that to
mamma. I avoid the necessity of settling it by ceasing to be 'the
richest heiress in this part of the West'--one of the uses of adversity.
But to proceed. Mamma says that there is a corporation, or something,
forming to pay our debts and take our property, and that it will take a
hundred thousand dollars more to pay the debts than the estate is worth.
I must understand why this corporation should do this. I can see that it
will save pa's good name in the business world, and save us from public
bankruptcy; but ought we to be saved these things at such a cost? And
can we permit--a corporation--or any one, to do this for us?"

Mr. Elkins nodded to me to speak.

"My dear," said I, "it's another illustration of the truth that no man
liveth unto himself alone--"

She shrank, as if she feared some fresh hurt was about to be touched,
and I saw that it was the second part of the text the anticipation of
which gave her pain. Quotation is sometimes ill for a green wound.

"The fact is," I went on, "that things in Lattimore are not in condition
to bear a shock--general money conditions, I mean, you know."

"I know," she said, nodding assent; "I can see that."

"Your father did a very large business for a time," I continued; "and
when he sold lands he took some cash in payment, and for the balance
notes of the various purchasers, secured by mortgages on the properties.
Many of these persons are mere adventurers, who bought on speculation,
and when their first notes came due failed to pay. Now if you had these
notes, you could hold them, or foreclose the mortgages, and, beyond
being disappointed in getting the money, no harm would be done."

"I understand," said Josie. "I knew something of this before."

"But if we haven't the notes," inquired her mother, "where are they?"

"Well," I went on, "you know how we have all handled these matters here.
Mr. Trescott did as we all did: he negotiated them. The Grain Belt Trust
Company placed them for him, and his are the only securities it has
handled except those of our syndicate. He took them to the Trust Company
and signed them on the back, and thus promised to pay them if the first
signer failed. Then the trust company attached its guaranty to them, and
they were resold all over the East, wherever people had money to put out
at interest."

"I see," said Josie; "we have already had the money on these notes."

"Yes," said I, "and now we find that a great many of these notes, which
are being sent on for payment, will not be paid. Your father's estate is
not able to pay them, and our trust company must either take them up or
fail. If it fails, everyone will think that values in Lattimore are
unstable and fictitious, and so many people will try to sell out that we
shall have a smashing of values, and possibly a panic. Prices will
drop, so that none of our mortgages will be good for their face.
Thousands of people will be broken, the city will be ruined, and there
will be hard and distressful times, both here and where our paper is
held. But if we can keep things as they are until we can do some large
things we have in view, we are not afraid of anything serious happening.
So we form this new corporation, and have it advance the funds on the
notes, so as not to weaken the trust company--and because we can't
afford to do it otherwise--and we know you would not permit it anyhow;
and we ask you to give to the new corporation all the property which the
creditors could reach, which will be held, and sold as opportunity
offers, so as to make the loss as small as possible. But we must keep
off this panic to save ourselves."

"I must think about this," said Josie. "I don't see any way out of it;
but to have one's affairs so wrapped up in such a great tangle that one
loses control of them seems wrong, somehow. And so far as I am
concerned, I think I should prefer to turn everything over to the
creditors--house and all--than to have even so good friends as yourself
take on such a load for us. It seems as if we were saying to you, 'Pay
our debts or we'll ruin you!' I must think about it."

"You understand it now?" said Jim.

"Yes, in a way."

"Let me come over this evening," said he, "and I think I can remove this
feeling from your mind. And by the way, the new corporation is not going
to have the ranch out on the Cheyenne Range. The syndicate says it
isn't worth anything. And I'm going to take it. I still believe in the
headwaters of Bitter Creek as an art country."

"Thank you," said she vaguely.

Somehow, the explanation of the estate affairs seemed to hurt her. Her
color was still high, but her eyes were suffused, her voice grew choked
at times, and she showed the distress of her recent trials, in something
like a loss of self-control. Her pretty head and slender figure, the
flexile white hands clasped together in nervous strain to discuss these
so vital matters, and, more than all, the departure from her habitual
cool and self-possessed manner, was touching, and appealed powerfully to
Jim. He walked up to her, as she stood ready to leave, and laid his hand
lightly on her arm.

"The way Barslow puts these property matters," said he, "you are called
upon to think that all arrangements have been made upon a cold cash
basis; and, actually, that's the fact. But you mustn't either of you
think that in dealing with you we have forgotten that you are dear to
us--friends. We should have had to act in the same way if you had been
enemies, perhaps, but if there had been any way in which our--regard
could have shown itself, that way would have been followed."

"Yes," said Mrs. Trescott, "we understand that. Mr. Lattimore said
almost the same thing, and we know that in what he did Mr. Cornish--"

"We must go now, mamma," said Josie. "Thank you both very much. It won't
do any harm for me to take a day or so for considering this in all its
phases; but I know now what I shall do. The thought of the distress that
might come to people here and elsewhere as a result of these mistakes
here is a new one, and a little big for me, at first."

Jim sat by the desk, after they went away, folding insurance blotters
and savagely tearing them in pieces.

"I wish to God," said he, "that I could throw my hand into the deck and
quit!"

"What's the matter?" said I.

"Oh--nothing," he returned. "Only, look at the situation. She comes in,
filled with the idea that it was Cornish who proposed this plan, and
that he did it for her sake. I couldn't very well say, like a boy,
''Twasn't Cornish; 'twas me!', could I? And in showing her the purely
mercenary character of the deal, I'm put in the position of backcapping
Cornish, and she goes away with that impression! Oh, Al, what's the good
of being able to convince and control every one else, if you are always
further off than Kamschatka with the only one for whose feelings you
really care?"

"I don't think it struck her in that way at all," said I. "She could see
how it was, and did, whatever her mother may think. But what possessed
Lattimore to tell Mrs. Trescott that Cornish story?"

"Oh, Lattimore never said anything like that!" he returned disgustedly.
"He told her that it was proposed by a friend, or one of the syndicate,
or something like that; and they are so saturated with the Cornish idea
up there lately, that they filled up the blank out of their own minds.
Another mighty encouraging symptom, isn't it?"

Not more than a day or two after this, and after the news of the
"purchase" of the Trescott estate was being whispered about, my
telephone rang, just before my time for leaving the office, and, on
answering, I found that Antonia was at the other end of the wire.

"Is this Mr. Barslow?" said she. "How do you do? Alice is with us this
afternoon, and she and mamma have given me authority to bring you home
to dinner with us. Do you surrender?"

"Always," said I, "at such a summons."

"Then I'll come for you in ten minutes, if you'll wait for me. It's ever
so good of you."

From her way of finishing the conversation, I knew she was coming to the
office. So I waited in pleasurable anticipation of her coming, thinking
of the perversity of the scheme of things which turned the eyes of both
Jim and Cornish to Josie, while this girl coming to fetch me yearned so
strongly toward one of them that her sorrow--borne lightly and
cheerfully as it was--was an open secret. When she came she made her way
past the clerks in the first room and into my private den. Not until the
door closed behind her, and we were alone, did I see that she was not in
her usual spirits. Then I saw that unmistakable quiver in her lips, so
like a smile, so far from mirth, which my acquaintance with the girl, so
sensitive and free from secretiveness, had made me familiar with.

"I want to know about some things," said she, "that papa hints about in
a blind sort of a way, but doesn't tell clearly. Is it true that Josie
and her mother are poor?"

"That is something which ought not to be known yet," said I, "but it is
true."

"Oh," said she tearfully, "I am so sorry, so sorry!"

"Antonia," said I, as she hastily brushed her eyes, "these tears do your
kind heart credit!"

"Oh, don't, don't talk to me like that!" she exclaimed passionately. "My
kind heart! Why, sometimes I hate her; and I would be glad if she was
out of the world! Don't look like that at me! And don't pretend to be
surprised, or say you don't understand me. I think every one understands
me, and has for a long time. I think everybody on the street says, after
I pass, 'Poor Antonia!' I _must_ talk to somebody! And I'd rather talk
to you because, even though you are a man and can't possibly know how I
feel, you understand _him_ better than any one else I know--and _you_
love him too!"

I started to say something, but the situation did not lend itself to
words. Neither could I pat her on the shoulders, or press her hand, as I
might have done with a man. Pale and beautiful, her jaunty hat a little
awry, her blonde ringlets in some disorder, she sat unapproachable in
her grief.

"You look at me," said she, with a little gasping laugh, "as if I were a
drowning girl, and you chained to the bank. If you haven't pitied me in
the past, Albert, don't pity me now; for the mere saying openly to some
human being that I love him seems almost to make me happy!"

I lamely murmured some inanity, of which she took not the slightest
notice.

"Is it true," she asked, "that Mr. Elkins is to pay their debts, and
that they are to be--married?"

"No," said I, glad, for some reason which is not very clear, to find
something to deny. "Nothing of the sort, I assure you."

And again, this time something wearily, for it was the second time over
it in so short a time, I explained the disposition of the Trescott
estate.

"But he urged it?" she said. "He insisted upon it?"

"Yes."

She arose, buttoned her jacket about her, and stood quietly as if to
test her mastery of herself, once or twice moving as if to speak, but
stopping short, with a long, quivering sigh. I longed to take her in my
arms and comfort her; for, in a way, she attracted me strongly.

"Mr. Barslow," said she at last, "I have no apology to make to you; for
you are my friend. And I have no feeling toward Mr. Elkins of which, in
my secret heart, and so long as he knows nothing of it, I am not proud.
To know him ... and love him may be death ... but it is honor!... I am
sorry Josie is poor, because it is a hard thing for her; but more
because I know he will be drawn to her in a stronger way by her poverty.
Shake hands with me, Albert, and be jolly, I'm jollier, away down deep,
than I've been for a long, long time; and I thank you for that!"

We shook hands warmly, like comrades, and passed down to her carriage
together. At dinner she was vivacious as ever; but I was downcast. So
much so that Mrs. Hinckley devoted herself to me, cheering me with a
dissertation on "Sex in Mind." I asked myself if the atmosphere in which
she had been reared had not in some degree contributed to the attitude
of Antonia toward the expression to me of her regard for Jim.

So the Trescott estate matter was arranged. In a few days the boom was
strengthened by newspaper stories of the purchase, by heavy financial
interests, of the entire list of assets in the hands of the
administrator.

"This immense deal," said the _Herald_, "is new proof of the
desirability of Lattimore property. The Acme Investment Company, which
will handle the properties, has bought for investment, and will hold for
increased prices. It may be taken as certain that in no other city in
the country could so large and varied a list of holdings be so quickly
and advantageously realized upon."

This was cheering--to the masses. But to us it was like praise for the
high color of a fever patient. Even while the rehabilitated Giddings
thus lifted his voice in pæans of rejoicing, the lurid signals of danger
appeared in our sky.



CHAPTER XXI.

Of Conflicts, Within and Without.


I have often wished that some sort of a business weather-chart might be
periodically got out, showing conditions all over the world. It seems to
me that with such a map one could forecast financial storms and squalls
with an accuracy quite up to the weather-bureau standard.

Had we at Lattimore been provided with such a chart, and been reminded
of the wisdom of referring to it occasionally, we might have saved
ourselves some surprises. We should have known of certain areas of
speculative high pressure in Australasia, Argentina, and South Africa,
which existed even prior to my meeting with Jim that day in the Pullman
smoking-room coming out of Chicago. These we should have seen changing
month by month, until at the time when we were most gloriously carrying
things before us in Lattimore, each of these spots on the other side of
the little old world showed financial disturbances--pronounced "lows."
We should have seen symptoms of storm on the European bourses; and we
should have thought of the natural progress of the moving areas, and
derived much benefit from such consideration. We should certainly have
paid some attention to it, if we could have seen the black isobars
drawn about London, when the great banking house of Fleischmann Brothers
went down in the wreck of their South African and Argentine investments.
But having no such chart, and being much engrossed in the game against
the World and Destiny, we glanced for a moment at the dispatches, seeing
nothing in them of interest to us, congratulated ourselves that we were
not as other investors and speculators, and played on.

Once in a while we found some over-cautious banker or broker who had
inexplicable fears for the future.

"Here is an idiot," said Cornish, while we were placing the paper to
float the Trescott deal, "who is calling his loans; and why, do you
think?"

"Can't guess," said Jim, "unless he needs the money. How does _he_
account for it?"

"Read his letter," said Cornish. "Says the Fleischmann failure in London
is making his directors cautious. I'm calling his attention to the now
prevailing sun-spots, as bearing on Lattimore property."

Mr. Elkins read the letter carefully, turned it over, and read it again.

"Don't," said he; "he may be one of those asses who fail to see the
business value of the _reductio ad absurdum_.... Fellows, we must push
this L. & G. W. business with Pendleton. Some of us ought to be down
there now."

"That is wise counsel," I agreed, "and you're the man."

"No," said he positively, "I'm not the man. Cornish, can't you go,
starting, say, to-morrow?"

"No indeed," said Cornish with equal positiveness; "since my turn-down
by Wade on that bond deal, I'm out of touch with the lower Broadway and
Wall Street element. It seems clear to me that you are the only one to
carry this negotiation forward."

"I can't go, absolutely," insisted Jim. "Al, it seems to be up to you."

I knew that Jim ought to do this work, and could not understand the
reasons for both himself and Cornish declining the mission. Privately, I
told him that it was nonsense to send me; but he found reasons in plenty
for the course he had determined upon. He had better control of the hot
air, he said, but as a matter of fact I was more in Pendleton's class
than he was, I was more careful in my statements, and I saw further into
men's minds.

"And if, as you say," said he, "Pendleton thinks me the whole works
here, it will show a self-possession and freedom from anxiety on our
part to accredit a subordinate (as you call yourself) as envoy to the
court of St. Scads. Again, affairs here are likely to need me at any
time; and if we go wrong here, it's all off. I don't dare leave. Anyhow,
down deep in your subconsciousness, you know that in diplomacy you
really have us all beaten to a pulp: and this is a matter as purely
diplomatic as draw-poker. You'll do all right."

My wife was skeptical as to the necessity of my going.

"Why doesn't Mr. Cornish go, then?" she inquired, after I had explained
to her the position of Mr. Elkins. "He is a native of Wall Street, I
believe."

"Well," I repeated, "they both say positively that they can't go."

"Your natural specialty may be diplomacy," said she pityingly, "but if
you take the reasons they give as the real ones, I must be permitted to
doubt it. It's perfectly obvious that if Josie were transferred to New
York, the demands of business would take them both there at once."

This remark struck me as very subtle, and as having a good deal in it.
Josie had never permitted the rivalry between Jim and Cornish to become
publicly apparent; but in spite of the mourning which kept the
Trescott's in semi-retirement, it was daily growing more keen. Elkins
was plainly anxious at the progress Cornish had seemed to make during
his last long absence, and still doubtful of his relations with Josie
after that utterance over her father's body. But he was not one to give
up, and so, whenever she came over for an evening with Alice, Jim was
sure to drop in casually and see us. I believe Alice telephoned him. On
the other hand, Cornish was calling at the Trescott house with
increasing frequency. Mrs. Trescott was decidedly favorable to him,
Alice a pronounced partisan of Elkins; and Josie vibrated between the
two oppositely charged atmospheres, calmly non-committal, and apparently
pleased with both. But the affair was affecting our relations. There was
a new feeling, still unexpressed, of strain and stress, in spite of the
familiarity and comradeship of long and intimate intercourse. Moreover,
I felt that Mr. Hinckley was not on the same terms with Jim as formerly,
and I wondered if he was possessed of Antonia's secret.

It was with a prevision of something out of the ordinary, therefore,
that I received through Alice a request from Josie for a private
interview with me. She would come to us at any time when I would
telephone that I was at home and would see her. Of course I at once
decided I would go to her. Which, that evening, my last in Lattimore
before starting for the East, I did.

There was a side door to my house, and a corresponding one in the
Trescott home across the street. We were all quite in the habit, in our
constant visiting between the households, of making a short cut by
crossing the road from one of these doors to the other. This I did that
evening, rapped at the door, and imagining I heard a voice bid me come
in, opened it, and stepping into the library, found no one. The door
between the library and the front hall stood open, and through it I
heard the voice of Miss Trescott and the clear, carrying tones of Mr.
Cornish, in low but earnest conversation.

"Yes," I heard him say, "perhaps. And if I am, haven't I abundant
reason?"

"I have told you often," said she pleadingly, "that I would give you a
definite answer whenever you definitely demand it--"

"And that it would in that case be 'No,'" he added, completing the
sentence. "Oh, Josie, my darling, haven't you punished me enough for my
bad conduct toward you in that old time? I was a young fool, and you a
strange country girl; but as soon as you left us, I began to feel your
sweetness. And I was seeking for you everywhere I went until I found you
that night up there by the lake. Does that seem like slighting you? Why,
I hope you don't deem me capable of being satisfied in this hole
Lattimore, under any circumstances, if it hadn't been for the hope and
comfort your being here has given me!"

"I thought we were to say no more about that old time," said she; "I
thought the doings of Johnny Cornish were not to be remembered by or of
Bedford."

"The name I've asked you to call me by!" said he passionately. "Does
that mean--"

"It means nothing," said she. "Oh, please, please!--Good-night!"

I retired to the porch, and rapped again. She came to the door blushing
redly, and so fluttered by their leave-taking that I thanked God that
Jim was not in my place. There would have been division in our ranks at
once; for it seemed to me that her conduct to Cornish was too
complaisant by far.

"I came over," said I, "because Alice said you wanted to see me."

I think there must have been in my tone something of the reproach in my
thoughts; for she timidly said she was sorry to have given me so much
trouble.

"Oh, don't, Josie!" said I. "You know I'd not miss the chance of doing
you a favor for anything. Tell me what it is, my dear girl, and don't
speak of trouble."

"If you forbid reference to trouble," said she, smiling, "it will stop
this conference. For my troubles are what I want to talk to you about.
May I go on?--You see, our financial condition is awfully queer. Mamma
has some money, but not much. And we have this big house. It's absurd
for us to live in it, and I want to ask you first, can you sell it for
us?"

It was doubtful, I told her. A year or so ago, I went on, it would have
been easy; but somehow the market for fine houses was dull now. We would
try, though, and hoped to succeed. We talked at length, and I took
copious memoranda for my clerks.

"There is another thing," said she when we had finished the subject of
the house, "upon which I want light, something upon which depends my
staying here or going away. You know General Lattimore and I are
friends, and that I place great trust in his conclusions. He says that
the most terrible hard times here would result from anything happening
to your syndicate. You have said almost the same thing once or twice,
and the other day you said something about great operations which you
have in view which will, somehow, do away with any danger of that kind.
Is it true that you would all be--ruined by a--breaking up--or anything
of that sort?"

"Just now," I confessed, "such a thing would be dangerous; but I hope we
shall soon be past all that."

I told her, as well as I could, about our hopes, and of my mission to
New York.

"You must suspect," said she, "that my presence here is danger to your
harmony; and through you, to all these people whose names even we have
never heard. Shall I go away? I can go almost anywhere with mamma, and
we can get along nicely. Now that pa is gone, my work here is over, and
I want to get into the world."

I thought of the parallelism between her discontent and the speech Mr.
Cornish had made, referring so contemptuously to Lattimore. I began to
see the many things in common between them, and I grew anxious for Jim.

"Of all things," said she, "I want to avoid the rôle of Helen setting a
city in flames. It would be so absurd--and so terrible; and rather than
do such a hackneyed and harmful thing, I want to go away."

"Do you really mean that?" I asked, "Haven't you a desire to make your
choice, and stay?"

"You mustn't ask that question, Albert," said she. "The answer is a
secret--from every one. But I will say--that if you succeed in this
mission, so as to put people here quite out of danger--I may not go
away--not for some time!"

She was blushing again, just as she blushed when she admitted me. I
thought once more of the fluttering cry, "Oh, please--please!" and the
pause before she added the good-night, and my jealousy for Jim rose
again.

"Well," said I, rising, "all I can say is that I hope all will be safe
when I return, and that you will find it quite possible to--remain. My
advice is: do nothing looking toward leaving until I return."

"Don't be cross with me, Mr. Barslow," said she, "for really, really--I
am in great perplexity."

"I am not cross," said I, "but don't you see how hard it is for me to
advise? Things conflict so, and all among your friends!"

"They do conflict," she assented, "they do conflict, every way, and all
the time--and do, do give me a little credit for keeping the conflict
from getting beyond control for so long; for there are conflicts within,
as well as without! Don't blame Helen altogether, or me, whatever
happens!"

She hung on my arm, as she took me to the door, and seemed deeply
troubled. I left her, and walked several times around the block,
ruminating upon the extraordinary way in which these dissolving views of
passion were displaying themselves to me. Not that the mere matter of
outburst of confidences surprised me; for people all my life have bored
me with their secret woes. I think it is because I early formed a habit
of looking sympathetic. But these concerned me so nearly that their
gradual focussing to some sort of climax filled me with anxious
interest.

The next day I spent in the sleeping-car, running into Chicago. As the
clickety-_clack_, clickety-_clack_, clickety-_clack_ of the wheels
vibrated through my couch, I pondered on the ridiculous position of that
cautious Eastern bank as to the Fleischmann Brothers' failure; then on
the Lattimore & Great Western and Belt Line sale; and finally worked
around through the Straits of Sunda, in a suspicious lateen-rigged
craft manned by Malays and Portuguese. Finally, I was horrified at
discovering Cornish, in a slashed doublet, carrying Josie away in one of
the boats, having scuttled the vessel and left Jim bound to the mast.

"Chicago in fifteen minutes, suh," said the porter, at this critical
point. "Just in time to dress, suh."

And as I awoke, my approach toward New York brought to me a sickening
consciousness of the struggle which awaited me there, and the fatal
results of failure.



CHAPTER XXII.

In which I Win my Great Victory.


My plan was our old one--to see both Pendleton and Halliday, and, if
possible, to allow both to know of the fact that we had two strings to
our bow, playing the one off against the other. Whether or not there was
any likelihood of this course doing any good was dependent on the
existence of the strained personal relations, as well as the business
rivalry, generally supposed to prevail between the two Titans of the
highways. As conditions have since become, plans like mine are quite
sure to come to naught; but in those days the community of interests in
the railway world had not reached its present perfection of
organization. Men like Pendleton and Halliday were preparing the way for
it, but the personal equation was then a powerful factor in the problem,
and these builders of their own systems still carried on their private
wars with their own forces. In such a war our properties were important.

The Lattimore & Great Western with the Belt Line terminals would make
the Pendleton system dominant in Lattimore. In the possession of
Halliday it would render him the arbiter of the city's fortunes, and
would cut off from his rival's lines the rich business from this feeder.
Both men were playing with the patience of Muscovite diplomacy the old
and tried game of permitting the little road to run until it got into
difficulties, and then swooping down upon it; but either, we thought,
and especially Pendleton, would pay full value for the properties rather
than see them fall into his opponent's net.

I wired Pendleton's office from home that I was coming. At Chicago I
received from his private secretary a telegram reading: "Mr. Pendleton
will see you at any time after the 9th inst.                 SMITH."

We had been having some correspondence with Mr. Halliday's office on
matters of disputed switching and trackage dues. The controversy had
gone up from subordinate to subordinate to the fountain of power itself.
A contract had been sent on for examination, embodying a _modus vivendi_
governing future relations. I had wired notice of my coming to him also,
and his answer, which lay alongside Pendleton's in the same box, was
evidently based on the supposition that it was this contract which was
bringing me East, and was worded so as to relieve me of the journey if
possible.

"Will be in New York on evening of 11th," it read, "not before. With
slight modifications, contract submitted as to L. & G. W. and Belt Line
matter will be executed.                                   HALLIDAY."

I spent no time in Chicago, but pushed on, in the respectable isolation
of a through sleeper on a limited train. Once in a while I went forward
into the day coach, to give myself the experience of the complete
change in the social atmosphere. On arrival, I began killing time by
running down every scrap of our business in New York. My gorge rose at
all forms of amusement; but I had a sensation of doing something while
on the cars, and went to Boston, and down to Philadelphia, all the time
feeling the pulse of business. There was a lack of that confident
hopefulness which greeted us on our former visits. I heard the
Fleischmann failure spoken of rather frequently. One or two financial
establishments on this side of the water were looked at askance because
of their supposed connections with the Fleischmanns. Mr. Wade, in hushed
tones, advised me to prepare for some little stringency after the
holidays.

"Nothing serious, you know, Mr. Borlish," said he, still paying his
mnemonic tribute to the other names of our syndicate; "nothing to be
spoken of as hard times; and as for panic, the financial world is too
well organized for _that_ ever to happen again! But a little tightening
of things, Mr. Cornings, to sort of clear the decks for action on lines
of conservatism for the year's business."

I talked with Mr. Smith, Mr. Pendleton's private secretary, and with Mr.
Carson, who spoke for Mr. Halliday. In fact I went over the L. & G. W.
proposition pretty fully with each of them, and each office had a
well-digested and succinct statement of the matter for the examination
of the magnates when they came back. Once while Mr. Carson and I were on
our way to take luncheon together, we met Mr. Smith, and I was glad to
note the glance of marked interest which he bestowed upon us. The
meeting was a piece of unexpected good fortune.

On the 10th I had my audience with Mr. Pendleton. He had the typewritten
statement of the proposition before him, and was ready to discuss it
with his usual incisiveness.

"I am willing to say to you, Mr. Barslow," said he, "that we are willing
to take over your line when the propitious time comes. We don't think
that now is such a time. Why not run along as we are?"

"Because we are not satisfied with the railroad business as a side line,
Mr. Pendleton," said I. "We must have more mileage or none at all, and
if we begin extensions, we shall be drawn into railroading as an
exclusive vocation. We prefer to close out that department, and to put
in all our energies to the development of our city."

"When must you know about this?" he asked.

"I came East to close it up, if possible," I answered. "You are familiar
with the situation, and we thought must be ready to decide."

"Two and a quarter millions," he objected, "is out of the question. I
can't expect my directors to view half the price with any favor. How can
I?"

"Show them our earnings," I suggested.

"Yes," said he, "that will do very well to talk to people who can be
made to forget the fact that you've been building a city there from a
country village, and your line has been pulling in everything to build
it with. The next five years will be different. Again, while I feel sure
the business men of your town will still throw things our way, as they
have your way--tonnage I mean--there might be a tendency to divide it up
more than when your own people were working for the trade. And the next
five years will be different anyhow."

"Do you remember," said I, "how skeptical you were as to the past five?"

"I acknowledge it," said he, laughing. "The fact is I didn't give you
credit for being as big men as you are. But even a big man, or a big
town, can reach only as high as it can. But we can't settle that
question. I shouldn't expect a Lattimore boomer ever to adopt my view of
it. I shall give this matter some attention to-day, and while I feel
sure we are too far apart ever to come together, come in in the morning,
and we will look at it again."

"I hope we may come together," said I, rising; "we built the line to
bring you into Lattimore, and we want to keep you there. It has made our
town, and we prize the connection highly."

"Ah, yes," he answered, countering. "Well, we are spread out a good deal
now, you know; and some of our directors look with suspicion upon your
sudden growth, and would not feel sorry to withdraw. I don't agree with
'em, you know, but I must defer to others sometimes. Good-morning."

I passed the evening with Carson at the theatre, and supped with him
afterward. He gave me every opportunity to indulge in champagne, and
evinced a desire to know all about business conditions in Lattimore, and
the affairs of the L. & G. W. I suspected that the former fact had some
connection with the latter. I went to my hotel, however, in my usual
state of ebriety, while Mr. Carson had attained a degree of friendliness
toward me bordering on affection, as a direct result of setting the pace
in the consumption of wine. I listened patiently to his complaints of
Halliday's ungratefulness toward him in not giving him the General
Managership of one of the associated roads; but when he began to confide
to me the various pathological conditions of his family, including Mrs.
Carson, I drew the line, and broke up the party. I retired, feeling a
little resentful toward Carson. His device seemed rather cheap to try on
a full-grown man. Yet his entertainment had been undeniably good.

Next morning I was admitted to the presence of the great man with less
than half an hour's delay. He turned to me, and plunged at once into the
midst of the subject. Evidently some old misunderstanding of the
question came up in his mind by association of ideas, as a rejected
paper will be drawn with its related files from a pigeon-hole.

"That terminal charge," said he, "has not counted for much against the
success of your road, yet; but the contract provides for increasing
rentals, and it is already too much. The trackage and depots aren't
worth it. It will be a millstone about your necks!"

"Well," said I, "you can understand the reason for making the rentals
high. We had to show revenue for the Belt Line system in order to float
the bonds, but the rentals become of no consequence when once you own
both properties--and that's our proposal to you."

"Oh, yes!" said he, and at once changed the subject.

This was the only instance, in all my observation of him, in which he
forgot anything, or failed correctly to see the very core of the
situation. I felt somehow elated at being for a moment his superior in
any respect.

We began discussing rates and tonnage, and he sent for his freight
expert again. I took from my pocket some letters and telegrams and made
computations on the backs of them. Some of these figures he wanted to
keep for further reference.

"Please let me have those figures until this afternoon," said he. "I
must ask you to excuse me now. At two I'll give the matter another
half-hour. Come back, Mr. Barslow, prepared to name a reasonable sum,
and I will accept or reject, and finish the matter."

I left the envelopes on his desk and went out. At the hotel I sat down
to think out my program and began arranging things for my departure. Was
it the 11th or the 12th that Mr. Halliday was to return? I would look at
his message. I turned over all my telegrams, but it was gone.

Then I thought. That was the telegram I had left with Pendleton! Would
he suspect that I had left it as a trick, and resent the act? No, this
was scarcely likely, for he himself had asked for it. Suddenly the
construction of which it was susceptible flashed into my mind. "With
slight modifications contract submitted as to L. & G. W. and Belt Line
matter will be executed.                                   HALLIDAY."

I was feverish until two o'clock; for I could not guess the effect of
this telegram, should it be read by Pendleton. I found him impassive and
keen-eyed, and I waited longer than usual for that aquiline swoop of
his, as he turned in his revolving chair. I felt sure then that he had
not read the message. I think differently now.

"Well, Mr. Barslow," said he smilingly, "how far down in the millions
are we to-day?"

"Mr. Pendleton," I replied, steady as to tone, but with a quiver in my
legs, "I can say nothing less than an even two millions."

"It's too much," said he cheerfully, and my heart sank, "but I like
Lattimore, and you men who live there, and I want to stay in the town.
I'll have the legal department prepare a contract covering the whole
matter of transfers and future relations, and providing for the price
you mention. You can submit it to your people, and in a short time I
shall be in Chicago, and, if convenient to you, we can meet there and
close the transaction. As a matter of form, I shall submit it to our
directors; but you may consider it settled, I think."

"One of our number," said I, as calmly as if a two-million-dollar
transaction were common at Lattimore, "can meet you in Chicago at any
time. When will this contract be drawn?"

"Call to-morrow morning--say at ten. Show them in," this last to his
clerk, "Good-morning, Mr. Barslow."

One doesn't get as hilarious over a victory won alone as when he goes
over the ramparts touching elbows with his charging fellows. The hurrah
is a collective interjection. So I went in a sober frame of mind and
telegraphed Jim and Alice of my success, cautioning my wife to say
nothing about it. Then I wandered about New York, contrasting my way of
rejoicing with the demonstration when we three had financed the
Lattimore & Great Western bonds. I went to a vaudeville show and
afterward walked miles and miles through the mysteries of the night in
that wilderness. I was unutterably alone. The strain of my solitary
mission in the great city was telling upon me.

"Telegram for you, Mr. Barslow," said the night clerk, as I applied for
my key.

It was a long message from Jim, and in cipher. I slowly deciphered it,
my initial anxiety growing, as I progressed, to an agony.

"Come home at once," it read. "Cornish deserting. Must take care of the
hound's interest somehow. Threatens litigation. A hold-up, but he has
the drop. Am in doubt whether to shoot him now or later. Stop at
Chicago, and bring Harper. Bring him, understand? Unless Pendleton deal
is made, this means worse things than we ever dreamed of; but don't
wait. Leave Pendleton for later, and come home. If I follow my
inclinations, you will find me in jail for murder.           ELKINS."

All night I sat, turning this over in my mind. Was it ruin, or would my
success here carry us through? Without a moment's sleep I ate my
breakfast, braced myself with coffee, engaged a berth for the return
journey, and promptly presented myself at Pendleton's office at ten.
Wearily we went over the precious contract, and I took my copy and
left.

All that day I rode in a sort of trance, in which I could see before my
eyes the forms of the hosts of those whom Jim had called "the captives
below decks," whose fortunes were dependent upon whether we striving,
foolish, scheming, passionate men went to the wall. A hundred times I
read in Jim's telegram the acuteness of our crisis; and a sense of our
danger swept dauntingly over my spirit. A hundred times I wished that I
might awake and find that the whole thing--Aladdin and his ring, the
palaces, gnomes, genies, and all--could pass away like a tale that is
told, and leave me back in the rusty little town where it found me.

I slept heavily that night, and was very much much more myself when I
went to see Harper in Chicago. He had received a message from Jim, and
was ready to go. He also had one for me, sent in his care, and just
arrived.

"You have saved the fight," said the message; "your success came just as
they were counting nine on us. With what you have done we can beat the
game yet. Bring Harper, and come on."

Harper, cool and collected, big and blonde, with a hail-fellow-well-met
manner which spoke eloquently of the West, was a great comfort to me. He
made light of the trouble.

"Cornish is no fool," said he, "and he isn't going to saw off the limb
he stands on."

I tried to take this view of it; but I knew, as he did not, the real
source of the enmity between Elkins and Cornish, and my fears returned.
Business differences might be smoothed over; but with two such men, the
quarrel of rivals in love meant nothing but the end of things between
them.



CHAPTER XXIII.

The "Dutchman's Mill" and What It Ground.


We sat in conclave about the table. I saw by the lined faces of Elkins
and Hinckley that I had come back to a closely-beleaguered camp, where
heavy watching had robbed the couch of sleep, and care pressed down the
spirit. I had returned successful, but not to receive a triumph: rather,
Harper and myself constituted a relief force, thrown in by stratagem,
too weak to raise the siege, but bearing glad tidings of strong succor
on the way.

It was our first full meeting without Cornish; and Harper sat in his
place. He was unruffled and buoyant in manner, in spite of the stock in
the Grain Belt Trust Company which he held, and the loans placed with
his insurance company by Mr. Hinckley.

"I believe," said he, "that we are here to consider a communication from
Mr. Cornish. It seems that we ought to hear the letter."

"I'll read it in a minute," said Jim, "but first let me say that this
grows out of a talk between Mr. Cornish and myself. Hinckley and Barslow
know that there have been differences between us here for some time."

"Quite natural," said Harper; "according to all the experience-tables,
you ought to have had a fight somewhere in the crowd long before this."

"Mr. Cornish," went on Mr. Elkins, "has favored the policy of converting
our holdings into cash, and letting the obligations we have floated
stand solely on the assets by which they are secured. The rest of us
have foreseen such rapid liquidation, as a certain result of such a
policy, that not only would our town receive a blow from which it could
never recover, but the investment world would suffer in the collapse."

"I should say so," said Harper; "we'll have to look closely to the
suicide clause in our policies held in New England, if that takes
place!"

"Well," said Jim, continuing, "last Tuesday the matter came to an issue
between us, and some plain talk was indulged in; perhaps the language
was a little strong on my part, and Mr. Cornish considered himself
aggrieved, and said, among other things, that he, for one, would not
submit to extinguishment, and he would show me that I could not go on in
opposition to his wishes."

"What did you say to that?" asked Hinckley.

"I informed him," said Jim, "that I was from Missouri, or words to that
effect; and that my own impression was, the majority of the stock in our
concerns would control. My present view is that he's showing me."

A ghost of a smile went round at this, and Jim began reading Cornish's
letter.

"Events of the recent past convince me," the secessionist had written,
"that no good can come from the further continuance of our syndicate. I
therefore propose to sell all my interest in our various properties to
the other members, and to retire. Should you care to consider such a
thing, I am prepared to make you an alternative offer, to buy your
interests. As the purchase of three shares by one is a heavier load than
the taking over of one share by three, I should expect to buy at a lower
proportional price than I should be willing to sell for. As the
management of our enterprises seems to have abandoned the tried
principles of business, for some considerations the precise nature of
which I am not acute enough to discern, and as a sale to me would balk
the very benevolent purposes recently avowed by you, I assume that I
shall not be called upon to make an offer.

"There is at least one person among those to whom this is addressed who
knows that in beginning our operations in Lattimore it was understood
that we should so manage affairs as to promote and take advantage of a
bulge in values, and then pull out with a profit. Just what may be his
policy when this reaches him I cannot, after my experience with his
ability as a lightning change artist, venture to predict; but my last
information leads me to believe that he is championing the utopian plan
of running the business, not only past the bulge, but into the slump. I,
for one, will not permit my fortune to be jeopardized by so palpable a
piece of perfidy.

"I may be allowed to add that I am prepared to take such measures as may
seem to my legal advisers best to protect my interests. I am assured
that the funds of one corporation will not be permitted by the courts
to be donated to the bolstering up of another, over the protest of a
minority stockholder. You may confidently assume that this advice will
be tested to the utmost before the acts now threatened are permitted to
be actually done.

"I attach hereto a schedule of our holdings, with the amount of my
interest in each, and the price I will take. I trust that I may have an
answer to this at your earliest convenience. I beg to add that any great
delay in answering will be taken by me as a refusal on your part to do
anything, and I shall act accordingly.

                                    "Very respectfully,
                                            "J. Bedford Cornish."

"Huh!" ejaculated Harper, "would he do it, d'ye think?"

"He's a very resolute man," said Hinckley.

"He calculates," said Jim, "that if he begins operations, he can have
receiverships and things of that kind in his interest, and in that way
swipe the salvage. On the other hand, he must know that his loss would
be proportioned to ours, and would be great. He's sore, and that counts
for something. I figure that the chances are seven out of ten that he'll
do it--and that's too strong a game for us to go up against."

"What would be the worst that could happen if he began proceedings?"
said I.

"The worst," answered Jim laconically. "I don't say, you know," he went
on after a pause, "that Cornish hasn't some reason for his position.
From a cur's standpoint he's entirely right. We didn't anticipate the
big way in which things have worked out here, nor how deep our roots
would strike; and we did intend to cash in when the wave came. And a cur
can't understand our position in the light of these developments. He
can't see that in view of the number of people sucked down with her when
a great ship like ours sinks, nobody but a murderer would needlessly see
her wrecked. What he proposes is to scuttle her. Sell to him! I'd as
soon sell Vassar College to Brigham Young!"

This tragic humorousness had the double effect of showing us the
dilemma, and taking the edge off the horror of it.

"If it were my case," said Harper, "I'd call him. I don't believe he'll
smash things; but you fellows know each other best, and I'm here to give
what aid and comfort I can, and not to direct. I accept your judgment as
to the danger. Now let's do business. I've got to get back to Chicago by
the next train, and I want to go feeling that my stock in the Grain Belt
Trust Company is an asset and not a liability. Let's do business."

"As for going back on the next train," said Mr. Elkins, "you've got
another guess coming: this one was wrong. As for doing business, the
first thing in my opinion is to examine the items of this bill of
larceny, and see about scaling them down."

"We might be able," said I, "to turn over properties instead of cash,
for some of it."

Elkins appointed Harper and Hinckley to do the negotiating with
Cornish. It was clear, he said, that neither he nor I was the proper
person to act. They soon went out on their mission and left me with Jim.

"Do you see what a snowfall we've had?" he asked. "It fell deeper and
deeper, until I thought it would never stop. No such sleighing for
years. And funny as it may seem, it was that that brought on this
crisis. Josie and I went sleighing, and the hound was furious. Next time
we met he started this business going."

I was studying the schedule, and said nothing. After a while he began
talking again, in a slow manner, as if the words came lagging behind a
labored train of thought.

"Remember the mill the Dutchman had?... Ground salt, and nothing but
salt ... Ours won't grind anything but mortgages ... Well, the hair of
the dog must cure the bite ... Fight fire with fire ... _Similia
similibus curantur_ ... We can't trade horses, nor methods, in the
middle of the ford.... The mill has got to go on grinding mortgages
until we're carried over; and Hinckley and the Grain Belt Trust must
float 'em. Of course the infernal mill ground salt until it sent the
whole shooting-match to the bottom of the sea; but you mustn't be misled
by analogies. The Dutchman hadn't any good old Al to lose telegrams in
an absent-minded way where they would do the most good, and sell
railroads to old man Pendleton ... As for us, it's the time-worn case of
electing between the old sheep and the lamb. We'll take the adult
mutton, and go the whole hog ... And if we lose, the tail'll have to go
with the hide.... But we won't lose, Al, we won't lose. There isn't
treason enough in all the storehouses of hell to balk or defeat us. It's
a question of courage and resolution and confidence, and imparting all
those feelings to every one else. There isn't malice enough, even if it
were a whole pack, instead of one lone hyena, to put out the fires in
those furnaces over there, or stop the wheels in that flume, or make our
streets grow grass. The things we've built are going to stay built, and
the word of Lattimore will stand!"

"My hand on that!" said I.

                 *       *       *       *       *

There was little in the way of higgling: for Cornish proudly refused
much to discuss matters; and when we found what we must pay to prevent
the explosion, it sickened us. Jim strongly urged upon Harper the taking
of Cornish's shares.

"No," said Harper, "the Frugality and Indemnity is too good a thing to
drop; and I can't carry both. But if you can show me how, within a short
time, you can pay it back, I'll find you the cash you lack."

We could not wait for the two millions from Pendleton; and the interim
must be bridged over by any desperate means. We took, for the moment
only, the funds advanced through Harper; and Cornish took his price.

The day after Harper went away we were busy all day long, drawing notes
and mortgages. Every unincumbered piece of our property, the orts,
dregs, and offcast of our operations, were made the subjects of
transfers to the rag-tag and bobtail of Lattimore society. A lot worth
little or nothing was conveyed to Tom, Dick, or Harry for a great
nominal price, and a mortgage for from two-thirds to three-fourths of
the sum given back by this straw-man purchaser. Our mill was grinding
mortgages.

I do not expect that any one will say that this course was justified or
justifiable; but, if anything can excuse it, the terrible difficulty of
our position ought to be considered in mitigation, if not excuse.
Pressed upon from without, and wounded by blows dealt in the dark from
within; with dreadful failure threatening, and with brilliant success,
and the averting of wide-spread calamity as the reward of only a little
delay, we used the only expedient at hand, and fought the battle
through. We were caught in the mighty swirl of a modern business
maelstrom, and, with unreasoning reflexes, clutched at man or log
indifferently, as we felt the waters rising over us; and broadcast all
over the East were sown the slips of paper ground out by our mill,
through the spout of the Grain Belt Trust Company; and wherever they
fell they were seized upon by the banks, which had through years of
experience learned to look upon our notes and bonds as good.

"Past the bulge," quoted Jim, "and into the slump! We'll see what the
whelp says when he finds that, in spite of all his attempts to scuttle,
there isn't going to be any slump!"

By which observation it will appear that, as our operations began to
bring in returns in almost their old abundance, our courage rose. At the
very last, some bank failures in New York, and a bad day on 'Change in
Chicago, cut off the stream, and we had to ask Harper to carry over a
part of the Frugality and Indemnity loan until we could settle with
Pendleton; but this was a small matter running into only five figures.

Perhaps it was because we saw only a part of the situation that our
courage rose. We saw things at Lattimore with vivid clearness. But we
failed to see that like centers of stress were sprinkled all over the
map, from ocean to ocean; that in the mountains of the South were the
Lattimores of iron, steel, coal, and the winter-resort boom; and in the
central valleys were other Lattimores like ours; that among the peaks
and canyons further west were the Lattimores of mines; that along the
Pacific were the Lattimores of harbors and deep-water terminals; that
every one of these Lattimores had in the East and in Europe its
clientage of Barr-Smiths, Wickershams, and Dorrs, feeding the flames of
the fever with other people's money; and that in every village and
factory, town and city, where wealth had piled up, seeking investment,
were the "captives below decks," who, in the complex machinery of this
end-of-the-century life, were made or marred by the same influences
which made or marred us.

The low area had swept across the seas, and now rested on us. The clouds
were charged with the thunder and lightning of disaster. Almost any
accidental disturbance might precipitate a crash. Had we known all this,
as we now know it, the consciousness of the tragical race we were
running to reach the harbor of a consummated sale to Pendleton might
have paralyzed our efforts. Sometimes one may cross in the dark, on
narrow footing, a chasm the abyss of which, if seen, would dizzily draw
one down to destruction.



CHAPTER XXIV.

The Beginning of the End.


Court parties and court factions are always known to the populace, even
down to the groom and scullions. So the defection of Cornish soon became
a matter of gossip at bars, in stables, and especially about the desks
of real-estate offices. Had it been a matter of armed internecine
strife, the Elkins faction would have mustered an overwhelming majority;
for Jim's bluff democratic ways, and his apparent identity of fibre with
the mass of the people, would have made him a popular idol, had he been
a thousand times a railroad president.

While these rumors of a feud were floating about, Captain Tolliver went
to Jim's office several times, dressed with great care, and sat in
silence, and in stiff and formal dignity, for a matter of five minutes
or so, and then retired, with the suggestion that if there was any way
in which he could serve Mr. Elkins he should be happy.

"Do you know," said Jim to me, "that I'm afraid Hamlet's 'bugs and
goblins' are troubling Tolliver; in other words, that he's getting
bughouse?"

"No," said I; "while I haven't the slightest idea what ails him, you'll
find that it's something quite natural for him when you get a full view
of his case."

Finally, Jim, in thanking him for his proffered assistance, inquired
diplomatically after the thing which weighed upon the Captain's mind.

"I may be mistaken, suh," said he, drawing himself up, and thrusting one
hand into the tightly-buttoned breast of his black Prince Albert,
"entiahly mistaken in the premises; but I have the impression that
diffe'ences of a pussonal nature ah in existence between youahself and a
gentleman whose name in this connection I prefuh to leave unmentioned.
Such being the case, I assume that occasion may and naturally will arise
foh the use of a friend, suh, who unde'stands the code--the code,
suh--and is not without experience in affaiahs of honah. I recognize the
fact that in cehtain exigencies nothing, by Gad, but pistols, ovah a
measu'ed distance, meets the case. In such an event, suh, I shall be mo'
than happy to suhve you; mo' than happy, by the Lord!"

"Captain," said Jim feelingly, "you're a good fellow and a true friend,
and I promise you I shall have no other second."

"In that promise," replied the Captain gravely, "you confeh an honah,
suh!"

After this it was thought wise to permit the papers to print the story
of Cornish's retirement; otherwise the Captain might have fomented an
insurrection.

"The reasons for this step on the part of Mr. Cornish are purely
personal," said the _Herald_. "While retaining his feeling of interest
in Lattimore, his desire to engage in certain broader fields of
promotion and development in the tropics had made it seem to him
necessary to lay down the work here which up to this time he has so well
done. He will still remain a citizen of our city. On the other hand,
while we shall not lose Mr. Cornish, we shall gain the active and
powerful influence of Mr. Charles Harper, the president of the Frugality
and Indemnity Life Insurance Company. It is thus that Lattimore rises
constantly to higher prosperity, and wields greater and greater power.
The remarkable activity lately noted in the local real-estate market,
especially in the sales of unconsidered trifles of land at high prices,
is to be attributed to the strengthening of conditions by these steps in
the ascent of the ladder of progress."

Cornish, however, was not without his partisans. Cecil Barr-Smith almost
quarreled with Antonia because she struck Cornish off her books, Cecil
insisting that he was an entirely decent chap. In this position Cecil
was in accord with the clubmen of the younger sort, who had much in
common with Cornish, and little with the overworked and busy railway
president. Even Giddings, to me, seemed to remain unduly intimate with
Cornish; but this did not affect the utterances of his paper, which
still maintained what he called the policy of boost.

The behavior of Josie, however, was enigmatical. Cornish's attentions to
her redoubled, while Jim seemed dropped out of the race--and therefore
my wife's relations with Miss Trescott were subjected to a severe
strain. Naturally, being a matron, and of the age of thirty-odd years,
she put on some airs with her younger friend, still in the chrysalis of
maidenhood. Sometimes, in a sweet sort of a way, she almost domineered
over her. On this Elkins-Cornish matter, however, Josie held her at
arms' length, and refused to make her position plain; and Alice nursed
that simulated resentment which one dear friend sometimes feels toward
another, because of a real or imagined breach of the obligations of
reciprocity.

One night, as we sat about the grate in the Trescott library, some
veiled insinuations on Alice's part caused a turning of the worm.

"If there is anything you want to say, Alice," said Josie, "there seems
to be no good reason why you shouldn't speak out. I have asked your
advice--yours and Albert's--frequently, having really no one else to
trust; and therefore I am willing to hear your reproof, if you have it
for me. What is it?"

"Oh, Josie," said I, seeking cover. "You are too sensitive. There isn't
anything, is there, Alice?"

Here I scowled violently, and shook my head at my wife; but all to no
effect.

"Yes, there is," said Alice. "We have a dear friend, the best in the
world, and he has an enemy. The whole town is divided in allegiance
between them, about nine on one side to one on the other--"

"Which proves nothing," said Josie.

"And now," Alice went on, "you, who have had every opportunity of
seeing, and ought to know, that one of them is, in every look, and
thought, and act, a _man_, while the other is--"

"A friend of mine and of my mother's," said Josie; "please omit the
character-sketch. And remember that I refuse even to consider these
business differences. Each claims to be right; and I shall judge them by
other things."

"Business differences, indeed!" scoffed Alice, albeit a little impressed
by the girl's dignity. "As if you did not know what these differences
came from! But it isn't because you remain neutral that we com--"

"_You_ complain, Alice," said I; "I am distinctly out of this."

"That I complain, then," amended Alice reproachfully. "It is because you
dismiss the _man_ and keep the--other! You may say I have no right to be
heard in this, but I'm going to complain Josie Trescott, just the same!"

This seemed to approach actual conflict, and I was frightened. Had it
been two men, I should have thought nothing of it, but with women such
differences cut deeper than with us. Josie stepped to her writing-desk
and took from it a letter.

"We may as well clear this matter up," said she, "for it has stood
between us for a long time. I think that Mr. Elkins will not feel that
any confidences are violated by my showing you this--you who have been
my dearest friends--"

She stopped for no reason, unless it was agitation.

"Are," said I, "I hope, not 'have been.'"

"Well," said she, "read the letter, and then tell me who has been
'dismissed.'"

I shrank from reading it; but Alice was determined to know all. It was
dated the day before I left New York.

"Dear Josie," it read, "I have told you so many times that I love you
that it is an old story to you; yet I must say it once more. Until that
night when we brought your father home, I was never able to understand
why you would never say definitely yes or no to me; but I felt that you
could not be expected to understand my feeling that the best years of
our lives were wasting--you are so much younger than I--and so I hoped
on. Sometimes I feared that somebody else stood in the way, and do fear
it now, but that alone would have been a much simpler thing, and of that
I could not complain. But on that fearful night you said something which
hurt me more than anything else could, because it was an accusation of
which I could not clear myself in the court of my own conscience--except
so far as to say that I never dreamed of doing your father anything but
good. Surely, surely you must feel this!

"Since that time, however, you have been so kind to me that I have
become sure that you see that terrible tragedy as I do, and acquit me of
all blame, except that of blindly setting in motion the machinery which
did the awful deed. This is enough for you to forgive, God knows; but I
have thought lately that you had forgiven it. You have been very kind
and good to me, and your presence and influence have made me look at
things in a different way from that of years ago, and I am now doing
things which ought to be credited to you, so far as they are good. As
for the bad, I must bear the blame myself!"

Thus far Alice had read aloud.

"Don't, don't," said Josie, hiding her face. "Don't read it aloud,
please!"

"But now I am writing, not to explain anything which has taken place,
but to set me right as to the future. You gave me reason to think, when
we met, that I might have my answer. Things which I cannot explain have
occurred, which may turn out very evilly for me, and for any one
connected with me. Therefore, until this state of things passes, I shall
not see you. I write this, not that I think you will care much, but that
you may not believe that I have changed in my feelings toward you. If my
time ever comes, and I believe it will, and that before very long, you
will find me harder to dispose of without an answer than I have been in
the past. I shall claim you in spite of every foe that may rise up to
keep you from me. You may change, but I shall not.

    "'Love is not love
    Which alters when it alteration finds.'

And mine will not alter. J. R. E."

"My dear," said Alice very humbly, "I beg your pardon. I have misjudged
you. Will you forgive me?"

Josie came to take her letter, and, in lieu of other answer, stood with
her arm about Alice's waist.

"And now," said Alice, "have you no other confidences for us?"

"No!" she cried, "no! there is nothing more! Nothing, absolutely
nothing, believe me! But, now, confidence for confidence, Albert, what
is this great danger? Is it anything for which any one here--for which I
am to blame? Does it threaten any one else? Can't something be done
about it? Tell me, tell me!"

"I think," said I, "that the letter was written before my telegram from
New York came, and after--some great difficulties came upon us. I don't
believe he would have written it five hours later; and I don't believe
he would have written it to any one in anything but the depression
of--the feeling he has for you."

"If that is true," said she, "why does he still avoid me? Why does he
still avoid me? You have not told me all; or there is something you do
not know."

As we went home, Alice kept referring to Jim's letter, and was as much
troubled by it as was Josie.

"How do you explain it?" she asked.

"I explain it," said I, "by ranging it with the well-known phenomenon of
the love-sick youth of all lands and in every time, who revels in the
thought of incurring danger or death, and heralding the fact to his
loved one. Even Jim is not exempt from the feelings of the boy who
rejoices in delicious tears at the thought of being found cold and dead
on the doorstep of the cruel maiden of his dreams. And that letter, with
a slight substratum of fact, is the result. Don't bother about it for a
moment."

This answer may not have been completely frank, or quite expressive of
my views; but I was tired of the subject. It was hardly a time to play
with mammets or to tilt with lips, and it seemed that the matter might
wait. There was a good deal of the pettishness of nervousness among us
at that time, and I had my full share of it. Insomnia was prevalent, and
gray hairs increased and multiplied. The time was drawing near for our
meeting with Pendleton in Chicago. We had advices that he was coming in
from the West, on his return from a long journey of inspection, and
would pass over his Pacific Division. We asked him to run down to
Lattimore over our road, but Smith answered that the running schedule
could not be altered.

There seemed to be no reason for doubting that the proposed contract
would be ratified; for the last desperate rally on our part appeared to
have put a crash out of the question, for some time at least. To him
that hath shall be given; and so long as we were supposed to possess
power, we felt that we were safe. Yet the blow dealt by Cornish had
maimed us, no matter how well we hid our hurt; and we were all too
keenly conscious of the law of the hunt, by which it is the wounded
buffalo which is singled out and dragged down by the wolves.

On Wednesday Jim and I were to start for Chicago, where Mr. Pendleton
would be found awaiting us. On Sunday the weather, which had been cold
and snowy for weeks, changed; and it blew from the southeast, raw and
chill, but thawy. All day Monday the warmth increased; and the farmers
coming into town reported great ponds of water dammed up in the swales
and hollows against the enormous snow-drifts. Another warm day, and
these waters would break through, and the streams would go free in
freshets. Tuesday dawned without a trace of frost, and still the strong
warm wind blew; but now it was from the east, and as I left the carriage
to enter my office I was wet by a scattering fall of rain. In a few
moments, as I dictated my morning's letters, my stenographer called
attention to the beating on the window of a strong and persistent
downpour.

Elkins, too much engrossed in his thoughts to be able to confine himself
to the details of his business, came into my office, where, sometimes
sitting and sometimes walking uneasily about, he seemed to get some sort
of comfort from my presence. He watched the rain, as one seeing visions.

"By morning," said he, "there ought to be ducks in Alderson's pond.
Can't we do our chores early and get into the blind before daylight, and
lay for 'em?"

"I heard Canada geese honking overhead last night," said I.

"What time last night?"

"Two o'clock."

"Well, that lets us out on the Alderson's pond project," said he; "the
boys who hunted there weren't out walking at two. In those days they
slept. It can't be that we're the fellows.... Why, there's Antonia,
coming in through the rain!"

"I wonder," said I, "if la grippe isn't taking a bad turn with her
father."

She came in, shedding the rain from her mackintosh like a water-fowl,
radiant with health and the air of outdoors.

"Gentlemen," said she gaily, "who but myself would come out in anything
but a diving-suit to-day!"

"It's almost an even thing," said Jim, "between a calamity, which brings
you, and good fortune, which keeps you away. I hope it's only your
ordinary defiance of the elements."

"The fact is," said she, "that it's a very funny errand. But don't laugh
at me if it's absurd, please. It's about Mr. Cornish."

"Yes!" said Jim, "what of him?"

"You know papa has been kept in by la grippe for a day or so," she went
on, "and we haven't been allowing people to see him very much; but Mr.
Cornish has been in two or three times, and every time when he went away
papa was nervous and feverish. To-day, after he left, papa asked--" here
she looked at Mr. Elkins, as he stood gravely regarding her, and went on
with redder cheeks--"asked me some questions, which led to a long talk
between us, in which I found out that he has almost persuaded papa
to--to change his business connections completely."

"Yes!" said Jim. "Change, how?"

"Why, that I didn't quite understand," said Antonia, "except that there
was logwood and mahogany and Mexico in it, and--and that he had made
papa feel very differently toward you. After what has taken place
recently I knew that was wrong--you know papa is not as firm in his
ideas as he used to be; and I felt that he--and you, were in danger,
somehow. At first I was afraid of being laughed at--why, I'd rather
you'd laugh at me than to look like _that_!"

"You're a good girl, Antonia," said Jim, "and have done the right thing,
and a great favor to us. Thank you very much; and please excuse me a
moment while I send a telegram. Please wait until I come back."

"No, I'm going, Albert," said she, when he was gone to his own office.
"But first you ought to know that man told papa something--about me."

"How do you know about this?" said I.

"Papa asked me--if I had--any complaints to make--of Mr. Elkins's
treatment of me! What do you suppose he dared to tell him?"

"What did you tell your father?" I asked.

"What could I tell him but 'No'?" she exclaimed. "And I just had a
heart-to-heart talk with papa about Mr. Cornish and the way he has
acted; and if his fever hadn't begun to run up so, I'd have got the
rubber, or Peruvian-bark idea, or whatever it was, entirely out of his
mind. Poor papa! It breaks my heart to see him changing so! And so I
gave him a sleeping-capsule, and came down through this splendid rain;
and now I'm going! But, mind, this last is a secret."

And so she went away.

"Where's Antonia?" asked Jim, returning.

"Gone," said I.

"I wanted to talk further about this matter."

"I don't like it, Jim. It means that the cruel war is not over."

"Wait until we pass Wednesday," said Jim, "and we'll wring his neck.
What a poisonous devil, to try and wean from us, to his ruin, an old man
in his dotage!--I wish Antonia had stayed. I went out to set the boys
wiring for news of washouts between here and Chicago. We mustn't miss
that trip, if we have to start to-night. This rain will make trouble
with the track.--No, I don't like it, either. Wasn't it thoughtful of
Antonia to come down! We can line Hinckley up all right, now we know it;
but if it had gone on--we can't stand a third solar-plexus blow...."

The sky darkened, until we had to turn on the lights, and the rain fell
more and more heavily. Once or twice there were jarring rolls of distant
thunder. To me there was something boding and ominous in the weather.
The day wore on interminably in the quiet of a business office under
such a sky. Elkins sent in a telegram which he had received that no
trouble with water was looked for along our way to Chicago, which was by
the Halliday line. As the dark day was lowering down to its darker
close, I went into President Elkins's office to take him home with me.
As I entered through my private door, I saw Giddings coming in through
the outer entrance.

"Say," said he, "I wanted to see you two together. I know you have some
business with Pendleton, and you've promised the boys a story for
Thursday or Friday. Now, you've been a little sore on me because I
haven't absolutely cut Cornish."

"Not at all," said Jim. "You must have a poor opinion of our
intelligence."

"Well, you had no cause to feel that way," he went on, "because, as a
newspaperman, I'm supposed to have few friends and no enemies. Besides,
you can't tell what a man might sink to, deprived all at once of the
friendship of three such men as you fellows!"

"Quite right," said I; "but get to the point."

"I'm getting to it," said he. "I violate no confidence when I say that
Cornish has got it in for your crowd in great shape. The point is
involved in that. I don't know what your little game is with old
Pendleton, but whatever it is, Cornish thinks he can queer it, and at
the same time reap some advantages from the old man, if he can have a
few minutes' talk with Pen before you do. And he's going to do it, if he
can. Now, I figure, with my usual correctness of ratiocination, that
your scheme is going to be better for the town, and therefore for the
_Herald_, than his, and hence this disclosure, which I freely admit has
some of the ear-marks of bad form. Not that I blame Cornish, or am
saying anything against him, you know. His course is ideally Iagoan: he
stands in with Pendleton, benefits himself, and gets even with you all
at one fell--"

"Stop this chatter!" cried Jim, flying at him and seizing him by the
collar. "Tell me how you know this, and how much you know!"

"My God!" said Giddings, his lightness all departed, "is it as vital as
that? He told me himself. Said it was something he wouldn't put on paper
and must tell Pendleton by word of mouth, and he's on the train that
just pulled out for Chicago."

"He'll beat us there by twelve hours," said I, "and he can do all he
threatens! Jim, we're gone!"

Elkins leaped to the telephone and rang it furiously. There was the ring
of command sounding through the clamor of desperate and dubious conflict
in his voice.

"Give me the L. & G. W. dispatcher's office, quick!" said he. "I can't
remember the number ... it's 420, four, two, naught. Is this Agnew? This
is Elkins talking. Listen! Without a moment's delay, I want you to find
out when President Pendleton's special, east-bound on his Pacific
Division, passes Elkins Junction. I'm at my office, and will wait for
the information here.... Don't let me wait long, please, understand?
And, say! Call Solan to the 'phone.... Is this Solan? Mr. Solan, get out
the best engine you've got in the yards, couple to it a caboose, and put
on a crew to make a run to Elkins Junction, as quick as God'll let you!
Do you understand? Give me Schwartz and his fireman.... Yes, and
Corcoran, too. Andy, this is a case of life and death--of life and
death, do you understand? See that the line's clear, and no stops. I've
got to connect east at Elkins Junction with a special on that line....
_Got to_, d'ye see? Have the special wait at the State Street crossing
until we come aboard!"



CHAPTER XXV.

That Last Weird Battle in the West.


There was still some remnant of daylight left when we stepped from a
closed carriage at the State Street crossing and walked to the train
prepared for us. The rain had all but ceased, and what there was came
out of some northern quarter of the heavens mingled with stinging
pellets of sleet, driven by a fierce gale. The turn of the storm had
come, and I was wise enough in weather-lore to see that its rearguard
was sweeping down upon us in all the bitterness of a winter's tempest.

Beyond the tracks I could see the murky water of Brushy Creek racing
toward the river under the State Street bridge.

"I believe," said I, "that the surface-water from above is showing the
flow from the flume."

"Yes," said Jim absently, "it must be about ready to break up. I hope we
can get out of the valley before dark."

The engine stood ready, the superabundant power popping off in a
deafening hiss. The fireman threw open the furnace-door and stoked the
fire as we approached. Engineer Schwartz, the same who had pulled us
over the road that first trip, was standing by his engine, talking with
our old conductor, Corcoran.

"Here's a message for you, Mr. Elkins," said Corcoran, handing Jim a
yellow paper, "from Agnew."

We read it by Corcoran's lantern, for it was getting dusky for the
reading of telegraph operator's script.

"Water out over bottoms from Hinckley to the Hills," so went the
message. "Flood coming down valley. Snow and drifting wind reported from
Elkins Junction and Josephine. Look out for washouts, and culverts and
bridges damaged by running ice and water. Pendleton special fully up to
running schedule, at Willow Springs."

"Who've you got up there, Schwartz? Oh, is that you, Ole?" said Mr.
Elkins. "Good! Boys, to-night our work has got to be done in time, or we
might as well go to bed. It's a case of four aces or a four-flush, and
no intermediate stations. Mr. Pendleton's special will pass the Junction
right around nine--not ten minutes either way. Get us there before that.
If you can do it safely, all right; but get us there. And remember that
the regular rule in railroading is reversed to-night, and we are ready
to take any chance rather than miss--_any_ chances, mind!"

"We're ready and waiting, Mr. Elkins," said Schwartz, "but you'll have
to get on, you know. Looks like there was time enough if we keep the
wheels turning, but this snow and flood business may cut some figure.
_Any_ chances, I believe you said, sir. All right! Ready when you are,
Jack."

"All aboard!" sang out Corcoran, and with a commonplace ding-dong of
the bell, and an every-day hiss of steam, which seemed, somehow, out of
keeping with the fearful and unprecedented exigency now upon us, we
moved out through the yards, jolting over the frogs, out upon the main
line; and soon began to feel a cheering acceleration in the recurrent
sounds and shocks of our flight, as Schwartz began rolling back the
miles under his flying wheels.

We sat in silence on the oil-cloth cushions of the seats which ran along
the sides of the caboose. Corcoran, the only person who shared the car
with us, seemed to have some psychical consciousness of the peril which
weighed down upon us, and moved quietly about the car, or sat in the
cupola, as mute as we.

There was no need for speech between my friend and me. Our minds,
strenuously awake, found a common conclusion in the very nature of the
case. Both doubtless had considered and rejected the idea of
telegraphing Pendleton to wait for us at the Junction. No king upon his
throne was more absolute than Avery Pendleton, and to ask him to waste a
single quarter-hour of his time might give great offense to him whom we
desired to find serene and complaisant. Again, any apparent anxiety for
haste, any symptom of an attempt to rush his line of defenses, would
surely defeat its object. No, we must quietly and casually board his
train, and secure the signing of the contract before we reached Chicago,
if possible.

"You brought that paper, Al?" said Jim, as if my thoughts had been
audible to him.

"Yes," said I, "it's here."

"I think we'd better be on our way to St. Louis," said he. "He can
hardly refuse to oblige us by going through the form of signing, so as
to let us turn south at the river."

"Very well," said I, "St. Louis--yes."

Out past the old Trescott farm, now covered with factories, cottages,
and railway tracks, leaving Lynhurst Park off to our left, curving with
the turnings of Brushy Creek Valley, through which our engineers had
found such easy grades, dropping the straggling suburbs of the city
behind us, we flew along the rails in the waning twilight of this
grewsome day. On the windward windows and the roof rattled fierce
flights of sleet and showers of cinders from the engine. Occasionally we
felt the car sway in the howling gusts of wind, as we passed some
opening in the hills and neared the more level prairie. Stories of cars
blown from the rails flitted through my mind; and in contemplating such
an accident my thoughts busied themselves with the details of plans for
getting free from the wrecked car, and pushing on with the engine, the
derailing of which somehow never occurred to me.

"We're slowing down!" cried Jim, after a half-hour's run. "I wonder
what's the matter!"

"For God's sake, look ahead!" yelled Corcoran, leaping down from the
cupola and springing to the door. We followed him to the platform, and
each of us ran down on the step and, swinging out by the hand-rail,
peered ahead into the dusk, the sleet stinging our cheeks like shot.

We were running along the right bank of the stream, at a point where the
valley narrowed down to perhaps sixty rods of bottom. At the first dim
look before us we could see nothing unusual, except that the background
of the scene looked somehow as if lifted by a mirage. Then I noticed
that up the valley, instead of the ghostly suggestions of trees and
hills which bounded the vista in other directions, there was an
appearance like that seen on looking out to sea.

"The flood!" said Jim. "He's not going to stop, is he Corcoran?"

At this moment came at once the explanation of Schwartz's hesitation and
the answer to Jim's question. We saw, reaching clear across the narrow
bottom, a great wave of water, coming down the valley like a liquid
wall, stretching across the track and seeming to forbid our further
progress, while it advanced deliberately upon us, as if to drown engine
and crew. Driven on by the terrific gale, it boiled at its base, and
curled forward at its foamy and wind-whipped crest, as if the upper
waters were impatient of the slow speed of those below. Beyond the wave,
the valley, from bluff to bluff, was a sea, rolling white-capped waves.
Logs, planks, and the other flotsam of a freshet moved on in the van of
the flood.

It looked like the end of our run. What engineer would dare to dash on
at such speed over a submerged track--possibly floated from its bed,
possibly barricaded by driftwood? Was not the wave high enough to put
out the fires and kill the engine? As we met the roaring eagre we felt
the engine leap, as Schwartz's hesitation left him and he opened the
throttle. Like knight tilting against knight, wave and engine met. There
was a hissing as of the plunging of a great red-hot bar into a vat. A
roaring sheet of water, thrown into the air by our momentum, washed cab
and tender and car, as a billow pours over a laboring ship; and we stood
on the steps, drenched to the skin, the water swirling about our ankles
as we rushed forward. Then we heard the scream of triumph from the
whistle, with which Schwartz cheered us as the dripping train ran on
through shallower and shallower water, and turning, after a mile or so,
began climbing, dry-shod, the grade which led from the flooded valley
and out upon the uplands.

"Come in, Mr. Elkins," said Corcoran. "You'll both freeze out there, wet
as you are."

Not until I heard this did I realize that we were still standing on the
steps, our clothes congealing about us, peering through the now dense
gloom ahead, as if for the apparition of some other grisly foe to daunt
or drive us back.

We went in, and sat down by the roaring fire, in spite of which a chill
pervaded the car. We were now running over the divide between the valley
we had just left and that of Elk Fork. Up here on the highlands the wind
more than ever roared and clutched at the corners of the car, and
sometimes, as with the palm of a great hand, pressed us over, as if a
giant were striving to overturn us. We could hear the engine struggling
with the savage norther, like a runner breathing hard, as he nears
exhaustion. Presently I noticed fine particles of snow, driven into the
car at the crevices, falling on my hands and face, and striking the hot
stove with little hissing explosions of steam.

"We're running into a blizzard up here," said Corcoran. "It's a terror
outside."

"A terror; yes," said Jim. "What sort of time are we making?"

"Just about holding our own," said Corcoran. "Not much to spare. Got to
stop at Barslow for water. But there won't be any bad track from there
on. This snow won't cut any figure for three hours yet, and mebbe not at
all, there's so little of it."

"Kittrick has been asking for an appropriation to rebuild the Elk Fork
trestle," said Jim. "Will it stand this flood?"

"Well," said Corcoran, "if the water ain't too high, and the ice don't
run too swift in the Fork, it'll be all right. But if there's any such
mixture of downpour and thaw as there was along the Creek back there, we
may have to jump across a gap. It'll probably be all right."

I remembered the Elk Fork, and the trestle just on the hither side of
the Junction. I remembered the valley, green with trees, and populous
with herds, winding down to the lake, and the pretty little town of
Josephine. I remembered that gala day when we christened it. I groaned
in spirit, as I thought of finding the trestle gone, after our
hundred-and-fifty-mile dash through storm and flood. Yet I believed it
would be gone. The blows showered upon us had beaten down my courage. I
felt no shrinking from either struggle or danger; but this was merely
the impulse which impels the soldier to fight on in despair, and sell
his life dearly. I believed that ruin fronted us all; that our great
system of enterprises was going down; that, East and West, where we had
been so much courted and admired, we should become a by-word and a
hissing. The elements were struggling against us. That vengeful flood
had snatched at us, and barely missed; the ruthless hurricane was
holding us back; and somehow fate would yet find means to lay us low. I
had all day kept thinking of the lines:

    "Nor ever yet had Arthur fought a fight
    Like this last dim, weird battle of the west.
    A death-white mist slept over land and sea:
    Whereof the chill, to him who breathed it, drew
    Down to his blood, till all his heat was cold
    With formless fear: and even on Arthur fell
    Confusion, since he saw not whom he fought."

And this, thought I, was the end of the undertaking upon which we had
entered so lightly, with frolic jests of piracy and Spanish galleons and
pieces-of-eight, and with all that mock-seriousness with which we
discussed hypnotic suggestion and psychic force! The bitterness grew
sickening, as Corcoran, hearing the long whistle of the engine, said
that we were coming into Barslow. The tragic foolery of giving that name
to any place!

Out upon the platform here, in the blinding whirl of snow. The night
operator came out and talked to us of the news of the line, while the
engine ran on to the tank for water. There was another telegram from
Agnew, saying that the Pendleton special was on time, and that Mr.
Kittrick was following us with another train "in case of need."

The operator was full of wild stories of the Brushy Creek flood, caused
by the thaw and the cloudburst. We cut him short in this narration, and
asked him of the conditions along the Elk Fork.

"She's up and boomin'," said he. "The trestle was most all under water
an hour ago, and they say the ice was runnin' in blocks. You may find
the track left without any underpinnin'. Look out for yourselves."

"Al," said Jim slowly, "can you fire an engine?"

"I guess so," said I, seeing his meaning dimly. "Why?"

"Al," said he, as if stating the conclusion of a complicated
calculation, "we must run this train in alone!"

I saw his intent fully, and knew why he walked so resolutely up to the
engine, now backed down to take us on again. Schwartz leaned out of his
cab, a man of snow and ice. Ole stood with his shovel in his hand white
and icy like his brother worker. Both had been drenched, as we had; but
they had had no red-hot stove by which to sit; and buffeted by the
blizzard and powdered by the snow, they had endured the benumbing cold
of the hurricane-swept cab.

"Get down here, boys," said Jim. "I want to talk with you."

Ole leaped lightly down, followed by Schwartz, who hobbled laboriously,
stiffened with cold. Youth and violent labor had kept the fireman warm.

"Schwartz," said Jim, "there is a chance that we'll find the trestle
weakened and dangerous. We'll stop and examine it if we have time, but
if it is as close a thing as I think it will be, we propose to make a
run for it and take chances. Barslow and I are the ones, and the only
ones, who ought to do this, because we must make this connection. We can
run the engine. You and Ole and Corcoran stay here. Mr. Kittrick will be
along with another train in a few hours. Uncouple the caboose and we'll
run on."

Schwartz blew his nose with great deliberation.

"Ole," said he, "what d'ye think of the old man's scheme?"

"Ay tank," said Ole, "dat bane hellufa notion!"

"Come," said Mr. Elkins, "we're losing time! Uncouple at once!"

We started to mount the engine; but Schwartz and Ole were before us,
barring the way.

"Wait," said Schwartz. "Jest look at it, now. It's quite a run yet; and
the chances are you'd have the cylinder-heads knocked out before you'd
got half way; and then where'd you be with your connections?"

"Do you mean to say," said Jim, "that there's any likelihood of the
engine's dying on us between here and the Junction?"

"It's a cinch!" said Schwartz.

"For God's sake, then, let's get on!" said Jim. "I believe you're lying
to me, Schwartz. But do this: As you come to the trestle, stop. From
the approach we can see down the other track for ten miles. If
Pendleton's train is far enough off so as to give us time, we'll see how
the bridge is before we cross. If we're pressed for time too much for
this, promise me that you'll stop and let us run the engine across
alone."

"I'll think about it," said Schwartz; "and if I conclude to, I will.
It's got to clear up, if we can see even the headlight on the other road
very far. Ready, Jack?"

We wrung their hard and icy hands, leaped upon the train, and were away
again, spinning down the grade toward the Elk Fork, and comforted by our
speed. Jim and I climbed into the cupola and watched the track ahead,
and the two homely heroes in the cab, as the light from the furnace
blazed out upon them from time to time. Now we could see Schwartz
stoking, to warm himself; now we could see him looking at his watch and
peering anxiously out before him.

It was wearing on toward nine, and still our goal was miles away.
Overhead the sky was clearing, and we could see the stars; but down on
the ground the light, new snow still glided whitely along before the
lessening wind. Once or twice we saw, or thought we saw, far ahead,
lights, like those of a little prairie town. Was it the Junction? Yes,
said Corcoran, when we called him to look; and now we saw that we were
rising on the long approach to the trestle.

Would Schwartz stop, or would he run desperately across, as he had
dashed through the flood? That was with him. His hand was on the lever,
and we were helpless; but, if there was time, it would be mere
foolhardiness to go upon the trestle at any but the slowest speed, and
without giving all but one an opportunity to walk across. One, surely,
was enough to go down with the engine, if it, indeed, went down.

"Don't stay up there," shouted Corcoran, "go out on the steps so you can
jump for it if you have to!"

Out upon the platform we went in the biting wind, which still came
fiercely on, sweeping over the waste of waters which covered the fields
like a great lake. There was no sign of slowing down: right on, as if
the road were rock-ballasted, and thrice secure, the engine drove toward
the trestle.

"She's there, anyhow, I b'lieve," said Corcoran, swinging out and
looking ahead; "but I wouldn't bet on how solid she is!"

"Can't you stop him?" said Jim.

"Stop nothing!" said Corcoran. "Look over there!"

We looked, and saw a light gleaming mistily, but distinct and
unmistakable, across the water on the other track. It was the Pendleton
special! Not much further from the station than were we, the train of
moving palaces to which we were fighting our way was gliding to the
point beyond which it must not pass without us. There was now no more
thought of stopping; rather our desires yearned forward over the course,
agonizing for greater speed. I did not see that we were actually upon
the trestle until for some rods we had been running with the inky water
only a few feet below us; but when I saw it my hopes leaped up, as I
calculated the proportion of the peril which was passed. A moment more,
and the solid approach would be under our spinning wheels.

But the moment more was not to be given us! For, even as this joy rose
in my breast, I felt a shock; I heard a confused sound of men's cries,
and the shattering of timbers; the caboose whirled over cornerwise,
throwing up into the air the step on which I stood; the sounds of the
train went out in sudden silence as engine and car plunged off into the
stream; and I felt the cold water close over me as I fell into the
rushing flood. I arose and struck out for the shore; then I thought of
Jim. A few feet above me in the stream I saw something like a hand or
foot flung up out of the water, and sucked down again. I turned as well
as I could toward the spot, and collided with some object under the
surface. I caught at it, felt the skirt of a garment in my hand, and
knew it for a man. Then, I remember helping myself with a plank from
some washed-out bridge, and soon felt the ground under my feet, all the
time clinging to my man. I tried to lift him out, but could not; and I
locked my hands under his arm-pits and, slowly stepping backwards, I
half carried, half dragged him, seeking a place where I could lay him
down. I saw the dark line of the railroad grade, and made wearily toward
it. I walked blindly into the water of the ditch beside the track, and
had scarcely strength to pull myself and my burden out upon the bank.
Then I stopped and peered into his face, and saw uncertainly that it
was Jim--with a dark spot in the edge of the hair on his forehead, from
which black streaks kept stealing down as I wiped them off; and with one
arm which twisted unnaturally, and with a grating sound as I moved it;
and from whom there came no other sound or movement whatever.

And over across the stream gleamed the lights of the Pendleton special
as it sped away toward Chicago.



CHAPTER XXVI.

The End--and a Beginning.


As to our desperate run from Lattimore to the place where it came to an
end in a junk-heap which had been once an engine, a car reduced to
matchwood, a broken trestle, and a chaos of crushed hopes, and of the
return to our homes thereafter, no further details need be set forth.
The papers in Lattimore were filled with the story for a day or two, and
I believe there were columns about it in the Associated Press reports. I
doubt not that Mr. Pendleton and Mr. Cornish each read it in the morning
papers, and that the latter explained it to the former in Chicago. From
these reports the future biographer may glean, if he happens to come
into being and to care about it, certain interesting facts about the
people of this history. He will learn that Mr. Barslow, having (with
truly Horatian swimming powers) rescued President Elkins from a watery
grave, waited with his unconscious derelict in great danger from
freezing, until they were both rescued a second time by a crew of
hand-car men who were near the trestle on special work connected with
the flood and its ravages. That President Elkins was terribly injured,
having sustained a broken arm and a dangerous wound in the forehead.
Moreover, he was threatened with pneumonia from his exposure. Should
this disease really fasten itself upon him, his condition would be very
critical indeed. That Mr. Barslow, the hero of the occasion, was
uninjured. And I am ashamed to say that such student of history will
find in an inconspicuous part of the same news-story, as if by reason of
its lack of importance, the statement that O. Hegvold, fireman, and J.
J. Corcoran, conductor of the wrecked train, escaped with slight
injuries. And that Julius Schwartz, the engineer, living at 2714 May
Street, and the oldest engineer on the L. & G. W., being benumbed by the
cold, sank like a stone and was drowned. Poor Schwartz! Magnificent
Schwartz! No captain ever went down, refusing to leave the bridge of his
sinking ship, with more heroism than he; who, clad in greasy overalls,
and sapped of his strength by the icy hurricane, finding his homely duty
inextricably entangled with death, calmly took them both, and went his
way.

This mine for the historian will also disclose to him the fact that the
rescued crew and passengers were brought home by a relief-train in
charge of General Manager Kittrick, and that Mr. Elkins was taken
directly to the home of Mr. Barslow, where he at once became subject to
the jurisdiction of physicians and nurses and "could not be seen." But
as to the reasons for the insane dash in the dark the historian will
look in vain. I am disposed now to think that our motives were entirely
creditable; but for them we got no credit.

Much less than a nine days' wonder, however, was this tragedy of the Elk
Fork trestle, for other sensations came tumbling in an army upon its
very heels. Times of war, great public calamities, and panic are the
harvest seasons of the newspapers; and these were great days for the
newspapers in Lattimore. Not that they learned or printed all the news.
I received a telegram, for instance, the day after the accident, which
merely entered up judgment on the verdict of the day before. It was a
message from Mr. Pendleton in Chicago.

"In matter of Lattimore & Great Western," this telegram read, "directors
refuse to ratify contract. This sent to save you trip to Chicago."

"No news in that," said I to Mr. Hinckley; "I wonder that he bothered to
send it."

But, in the era of slug heads which set in about three days after, and
while Jim was still helpless up at my house, it would have received
recognition as news--although they did very well without it.

"Great Failure!" said the _Times_. "Grain Belt Trust Company Goes to the
Wall! Business Circles Convulsed! Receiver Appointed at Suit of Charles
Harper of Chicago! Followed by Assignment of Hinckley & Macdonald,
Bankers! Western Portland Cement Company Assigns! Atlas Power Company
Follows Suit! Reason, Money Tied up in Banks and Trust Company. Where
will it Stop? A Veritable Black Friday!"

Thus the headlines. In the news report itself the _Times_ remarked upon
the intimate connection of Mr. Elkins and myself with all the failed
concerns. The firm of Elkins & Barslow, being primarily a real-estate
and insurance agency, would not assign. As to the condition of the
business of James R. Elkins & Company, whose operations in bonds and
debentures had been enormous, nothing could be learned on account of the
critical illness of Mr. Elkins.

"It is not thought," said the _Herald_, "that the failures will carry
down any other concerns. The run on the First National Bank was one of
those panicky symptoms which are dangerous because so unreasoning. It is
to be hoped that it will not be renewed in the morning. The banks are
not involved in the operations of the Grain Belt Trust Company, the
failure of which, it must be admitted, is sure to cause serious
disturbances, both locally and elsewhere, wherever its wide-spread
operations have extended."

The physical system adjusts itself to any permanent lesion in the body,
and finally ceases even to send out its complaining messages of pain. So
we in Lattimore, who a few weeks ago had been ready to sacrifice
anything for the keeping of our good name; who by stealth justly
foreclosed mortgages justly due, lest the world should wonder at their
nonpayment; who so greatly had rejoiced in our own strength; who had
felt that, surely, we who had wrought such wonders could not now
fail:--even we numbly came to regard receiverships and assignments as
quite the thing to be expected. The fact that, all over the country,
panic, ruin, and business stagnation were spreading like a pestilence,
from just such centers of contagion as Lattimore, made it easier for
us. Surely, we felt, nobody could justly blame us for being in the path
of a tempest which, like a tropic cyclone, ravaged a continent.

This may have been weak self-justification; but, even yet, when I think
of the way we began, and how the wave of "prosperity" rose and rose, by
acts in themselves, so far as we could see, in every way praiseworthy;
how with us, and with people engaged in like operations everywhere, the
most powerful passions of society came to aid our projects; how the
winds from the unknown, the seismic throbbings of the earth, and the
very stars in their courses fought for us; and when, at last, these
mightinesses turned upon us the cold and evil eye of their displeasure,
how the heaped-up sea came pouring over here, trickling through there,
and seeping under yonder, until our great dike toppled over in baleful
tumult, "and all the world was in the sea"; how business, east, west,
north, and south, went paralyzed with fear and distrust, and old
concerns went out like strings of soap-bubbles, and shocks of pain and
disease went round the world, and everywhere there was that hellish and
portentous thing known to the modern world only, and called a
"commercial panic": when I broadly consider these things, I am not vain
enough seriously to blame myself.

These thoughts are more than ever in my mind to-day, as I look back over
the decade of years which have elapsed since our Waterloo at the Elk
Fork trestle. I look out from the same library in which I once felt a
sense of guilt at the expense of building it, and see the solid and
prosperous town, almost as populous as we once saw it in our dreams. I
am regarded locally as one of the creators of the city; but I know that
this praise is as unmerited as was that blame of a dozen years ago. We
rode on the crest of a wave, and we weltered in the trough of the sea;
but we only seemed to create or control. I hold in my hand a letter from
Jim, received yesterday, and eloquent of the changes which have taken
place.

"I am sorry," says he, "to be unable to come to your business men's
banquet. The building of a great auditorium in Lattimore is proof that
we weren't so insane, after all. I suppose that the ebb and flow of the
tide of progress, which yearly gains upon the shore, is inevitable, as
things are hooked up; but, after the ebb, it's comforting to see your
old predictions as to gain coming true, even if you do find yourself in
the discard. It would be worth the trip only to see Captain Tolliver,
and to hear him eliminate the _r_'s from his mother tongue. Give the
dear old secesh my dearest love!

"But I can't come, Al. I must be in Washington at that time on business
of the greatest (presumptive) importance to the cattle interests of the
buffalo-grass country. I could change my own dates; but my wife has
arranged a tryst for a day certain with some specialists in her line in
New York. She's quite the queen of the cattle range--in New York: and,
to be dead truthful, she comes pretty near it out here. It is rumored
that even the sheepmen speak well of her.

"These Eastern trips are great things for her and the children. I'm
riding the range so constantly, and get so much fun out of it, that I
feel sort of undressed and embarrassed out of the saddle. In Washington
I'm pointed out as a typical cowboy, the descendant of a Spanish vaquero
and a trapper's daughter. This helps me to represent my constituents in
the sessions of the Third House, and to get Congressional attention to
the ax I want ground. I am looked upon as in line for the presidency of
the Amalgamated Association of American Ax-grinders.

"If we can make it, we'll look in on you on our way back; but we don't
promise. With cattle scattered over two counties of buttes and canyons,
we feel in a hurry when we get started home, after an absence sure to
have been longer than we intended. Then, you know how I feel;--I wish
the old town well, but I don't enjoy _every_ incident of my visits
there.

"We expect to see the Cecil Barr-Smiths in New York. Cecil is the whole
thing now with their companies--a sort of professional president in
charge of the American properties; and Mrs. Cecil is as well known in
some mighty good circles in London as she used to be in Lynhurst Park.

"I am glad to know that things are going toward the good with you.
Personally, I never expect to be a seven-figure man again, and don't
care to be. I prefer to look after my few thousands of steers, laying on
four hundred pounds each per year, far from the madding crowd. You know
Riley's man who said that the little town of Tailholt was good enough
for him? Well, that expresses my view of the 'J-Up-and-Down' Ranch as a
hermitage. It'll do quite well. But these Eastern interests of Mrs. Jim
are just now menacing to life in any hermitage. She has specifically
stated on two or three occasions lately that this is no place to bring
up a family. Think of a rough-rider like me in the wilds of New York! I
can see plenty of ways of amusing myself down there, but not such
peaceful ways as putting on my six-shooters and going out after timber
wolves or mountain lions, or our local representative of the clan of the
Hon. Maverick Brander. The future lowers dark with the multitudinous
mouths of avenues of prosperity!"

This letter was a disappointment to Mr. Giddings. His special edition of
the _Herald_ commemorative of the opening of our Auditorium must now be
deprived of its James R. Elkins feature, so far as his being the guest
of honor goes. But there will be Jim's photograph on the first page, and
a half-tone reproduction of a picture of the wreck at the Elk Fork
trestle.

"It is a matter of the deepest regret," said the _Herald_ this morning,
"that Mr. Elkins cannot be with us on this auspicious occasion. He was
the head of that most remarkable group of men who laid the foundations
of Lattimore's greatness. Only one of them, Mr. Barslow, still lives in
Lattimore, where he has devoted his life, since the crash of many years
ago, to the reorganization of the failed concerns, and especially the
Grain Belt Trust Company, and to the salving of their properties in the
interests of the creditors. His present prominence grows out of the
signal skill and ability with which he has done this work; and he must
prove a great factor in the city's future development, as he has been in
its past. Mr. Hinckley, the third member of the syndicate, now far
advanced in years, is living happily with his daughter and her husband.
The fourth, Mr. Cornish, resides in Paris, where he is well known as a
daring and successful financial operator. He, of all the syndicate,
retired from the Lattimore enterprises rich.

"There have been years when the names of these men were not held in the
respect and esteem they deserve. The town was going backward. People who
had been rich were, many of them, in absolute distress for the
necessaries of life. And these men, in a vague sort of way, were blamed
for it. Now, however, we can begin to see the wisdom of their plans and
the vastness of the scope of their combinations. Nothing but the element
of time was wanting, abundantly to vindicate their judgment and
sagacity. The industries they founded succeeded as soon as they were
divorced from the real-estate speculation which unavoidably entered into
their management at the outset. It is regrettable that their founders
could not share in their success."

"Nothing but the element of time," said I to Captain Tolliver, who sat
by me in the car as I read this editorial, "prevents the hot-air balloon
from carrying its load over the Rockies."

"Nothing but luck," said the Captain, "evah could have beaten us. It was
the Fleischmann failure, and it was nothing else. As to the great
qualities of Mr. Elkins, suh, the editorial puts it too mild by fah. He
was a Titan, suh, a Titan, and we shall not look upon his like again.
This town at this moment is vegetating fo' the want of some fo'ceful
Elkins to put life into it. The trilobites, as he so well dubbed them,
ah in control again. What's this Auditorium we've built? A good thing
fo' the city, cehtainly, a ve'y good thing: but see the difficulty, the
humiliatin' difficulty we had, in gettin' togethah the paltry and
trivial hundred and fifty thousand dolla's! Why in that elder day, in
such a cause, we'd have called a meetin' in that old office of Elkins &
Barslow's, and made it up out of ouah own funds in fifteen minutes. It's
the so't of cattle we've got hyah as citizens that's handicappin' us;
but in spite of this, suh, ouah unsuhpassed strategical position is
winnin' fo' us. We ah just now on the eve of great developments,
Barslow, great developments! All my holdin's ah withdrawn from mahket
until fu'theh notice. Foh, as we ah so much behind the surroundin'
country in growth, we must soon take a great leap fo'wahd. We ah past
the boom stage, I thank God, and what we ah now goin' to get is a rathah
brisk but entiahly healthy growth. A good, healthy growth, Barslow, and
no boom!"

The disposition to moralize comes on with advancing middle age, and I
could not help philosophizing on this perennial optimism of the
Captain's. He had used these very words when, so long ago, we had begun
our "cruise." The financial cycle was complete. The world had passed
from hope to intoxication, from intoxication to panic, from panic to the
depths, from this depression, ascending the long slope of gradual
recovery, to the uplands of hope once more. Now, as twenty years ago,
this feeling covered the whole world, was most pronounced in the newer
and more progressive lands, and was voiced by Captain Tolliver, the
grizzled swashbuckler of the land market. In it I recognized the ripple
on the sands heralding the approach of another wave of speculation,
which must roll shoreward in splendor and might, and, like its
predecessors, must spend itself in thunderous ruin.

I often think of what General Lattimore was accustomed to say about
these matters, and how Josie echoed his words as to the evil of fortunes
coming to those who never earned them. Some time, I hope, we shall grow
wise enough to--

I humbly beg your pardon, Madam, and thank you. That charming gesture of
impatience was the one thing needful to admonish me that lectures are
dull, and that the time has come to write _finis_. The rest of the
story? Cornish--Jim--Josie--Antonia? Oh, this proneness of the business
man to talk shop! Left to myself, I should have allowed their history to
remain to the end of time, unresolved as to entanglements, and them
unhealed as to bruises, bodily and sentimental. And, yet, those were the
things which most filled our minds in the dark days after we missed
connection with the Pendleton special.

In the first spasm of the crisis I was more concerned for Jim's safety
than with the long-feared monetary cataclysm. _That_ was upon us in such
power as to make us helpless; but Jim, wounded and prostrated as he was,
his very life in danger, was a concrete subject of anxiety and a
comfortingly promising object of care.

"If we can keep this from assuming the character of true pneumonia,"
said Dr. Aylesbury, "there's no reason why he shouldn't recover."

He had been unconscious and then delirious from the time when he and I
had been picked up there by the railroad-dump, until we were well on our
way home on Kittrick's relief-train. At last he looked about him, and
his eyes rested on Corcoran.

"Hello, Jack!" said he weakly; and as his glance took in Ole, he smiled
and said: "A hellufa notion, you tank, do you? Ole, where's Schwartz?"

Ole twisted and squirmed, but found no words.

"We couldn't find Schwartz," said Kittrick. "He was so cold, he went
right down with the cab."

"I see," said Jim. "It was bitter cold!"

He said no more. I wondered at this, and almost blamed him, even in his
stricken state, for not feeling the peculiar poignancy of our regret for
the loss of Schwartz. And then, his face being turned away, I peeped
over to see if he slept, and saw where his tears had dropped silently on
the piled-up cushions of his couch.

                 *       *       *       *       *

Mrs. Trescott came several times a day to inquire as to Mr. Elkins's
welfare; but Josie not at all. Antonia's carriage stopped often at the
door; and somebody stood always at the telephone, answering the stream
of questions. But when, on that third evening, it became known that the
last "battle in the west" had gone against us, that all our great Round
Table was dissolved, and that Jim's was a sinking and not a rising sun,
public interest suddenly fell off. And the poor fellow whose word but
yesterday might have stood against the world, now lay there fighting for
very life, and few so poor to do him reverence. I had been so proud of
his splendid and dominant strength that this, I think, was the thing
that brought the bitterness of failure most keenly home to me. I could
not feel satisfied with Josie. There were good reasons why she might
have refused to choose between Jim and the man who had ruined him, while
there was danger of her choice itself becoming the occasion of war
between them. But that was over now, and Cornish was victorious.
Gradually the fear grew upon me that we had rated Josie's womanhood
higher than she herself held it, and that Cornish was to win her also.
He had that magnetism which so attracted her as a girl, but that I had
believed incapable of holding her as a woman. And now he had wealth, and
Jim was poor, and the whole world stood with its back to us, and Josie
held aloof. I was afraid he would speak of it, every time he tried to
talk.

That night when the evening papers came out with all their plenitude of
bad news (for we had pleased Watson by dying on the evening papers'
time), it was a dark moment for us. Jim lay silent and unmoving, as if
all his ebullient energy had gone forever. The physician omitted the
dressing of his wound, because, he said, he feared the patient was not
strong enough to bear it: and this, as well as the strange semi-stupor
of the sufferer, frightened me. Jim had said little, and most of his
words had been of the trivial things of the sick-room. Only once did he
refer to the great affairs in which we had been for so long engrossed.

"What day is this?" he asked.

"Friday," said I, "the twenty-first."

"By this time," said he feebly, "we must be pretty well shot to rags."

"Never mind about that," said I, holding his hands in mine. "Never mind,
Jim!"

"Some of those gophers," said he, after a while, "used to learn to ...
rub their noses ... in the dirt ... and always stick their heads
up--outside the snare!"

"Yes," said I, "I remember. Go to sleep, old man!"

I thought him delirious, and he knew and resented it; being evidently
convinced that he had just made a wise remark. It touched me to hear
him, even in his extremity, return to those boyhood days when we trapped
and hunted and fished together. He saw my pitying look.

"I'm all right," said he; but he said no more.

The nurse came in, and told me that Mrs. Barslow wished to see me in the
library. I went down, and found Josie and Alice together.

"I got a letter from--from Mr. Cornish," said she, "telling me that he
was returning from Chicago to-night, and was coming to see me. I ran
over, because--and told mamma to say that I couldn't see him."

"See him by all means," said I with some bitterness. "You should make
it a point to see him. Mr. Cornish is a success. He alone of us all has
shown real greatness."

And it dawned upon me, as I said it, what Jim had meant by his reference
to the gopher which learns to stick its head up "outside the snare."

"I want to ask you," said Josie, "is it all true--what was in the paper
to-night about all of you, Mr. Hinckley and yourself, and--all of you
having failed?"

"It is only a part of the truth," I replied. "We are ruined absolutely."

She said nothing by way of condolence, and uttered no expressions of
regret or sympathy. She was apparently in a state of suppressed
excitement, and started at sounds and movements.

"Is Mr. Elkins very ill?" said she at length.

"So ill," said Alice, "that unless he rallies soon, we shall look for
the worst."

No more at this than at the other ill news did Josie express any regret
or concern. She sat with her fingers clasped together, gazing before her
at the fire in the grate, as if making some deep and abstruse
calculation. But when the door-bell rang, she started and listened
attentively, as the servant went to the door, and then returned to us.

"A gentleman, Mr. Cornish, to see Miss Trescott," said the maid. "And he
says he must see her for a moment."

"Alice," said Josie, under her breath, "you go, please! Say to him that
I cannot see him--now! Oh, why did he follow me here?"

"Josie," said Alice dramatically, "you don't mean to say that you are
afraid of this man! Are you?"

"No, no!" said the girl doubtfully and distressfully; "but it's so hard
to say 'No' to him! If you only knew all, Alice, you wouldn't blame
me--and you'd go!"

"If you're so far gone--under his influence," said Alice, "that you
can't trust yourself to say 'No,' Josephine Trescott, go, in Heaven's
name, and say 'Yes,' and be the wife of a millionaire--and a traitor and
scoundrel!"

As Alice said this she came perilously near the histrionic standard of
the tragic stage. Josie rose, looked at her in surprise, in which there
seemed to be some defiance, and walked steadily out to the parlor. I was
glad to be out of the affair, and went back to Jim. I stood regarding my
broken and forsaken friend, in watching whose uneasy sleep I forgot the
crisis downstairs, when I was startled and angered by the slamming of
the front door, and heard a carriage rattle furiously away down the
street.

Soon I heard the rustle of skirts, and looked up, thinking to see my
wife. But it was Josie. She came in, as if she were the regularly
ordained nurse, and stepped to the bedside of the sleeping patient. The
broken arm in its swathings lay partly uncovered; and across his wounded
brow was stretched a broad bandage, below which his face showed pale and
weary-looking, in the half-stupor of his deathlike slumber: for he had
become strangely quiet. His uninjured arm lay inertly on the
counterpane beside him.

She took his hand, and, seating herself on the bed, began softly
stroking and patting the hand, gazing all the time in his face. He
stirred, and, turning his eyes toward her, awoke.

"Don't move, my darling," said she quietly, and as if she had been for a
long, long time quite in the habit of so speaking to him; "don't move,
or you'll hurt your arm." Then she bent down her head, lower and lower,
until her cheek touched his.

"I've come to sit with you, Jim, dear," said she, softly--"if you want
me--if I can do you any good."

"I want you, always," said he.

She stooped again, and this time laid her lips lingeringly on his; and
his arm stole about the slim waist.

"If you'll just get well," she whispered, "you may have me--always!"

He passed his fingers over her hair, and kissed her again and again.
Then he looked at her long and earnestly.

"Where's Al?" said he; "I want Al!"

I came forward promptly. I thought that this violation of the doctor's
regulation requiring rest and quiet had gone quite far enough.

"Al," said he, still holding her hand, "do you remember out there by the
windmill tower that night, and the petunias and four-o'clocks?"

"Yes, Jim, I remember," said I. "But you mustn't talk any more now."

"No, I won't," said he, and went right on; "but even before that, and
ever since, I haven't wanted anything we've been trying so hard to get,
half as much as I've wanted Josie; and now--we lost the fight, didn't
we? Things have been slipping away from us, haven't they? Gone, aren't
they?"

"Go to sleep now, Jim," said I. "Plenty of time for those things when
you wake up."

"Yes," said he; "but before I do, I want you to tell me one thing,
honest injun, hope to die, you know!"

"Yes," said I; "what is it, Jim?"

"I've been seeing a lot of funny things in the dark corners about here;
but this seems more real than any of them," he went on; "and I want you
to tell me--_is this really Josie_?"

"Really," I assured him, "really, it is."

"Oh, Jim, Jim!" she cried, "have you learned to doubt my reality, just
because I'm kind! Why, I'm going to be good to you now, dearest, always,
always! And kinder than you ever dreamed, Jim. And I'm going to show you
that everything has not slipped away from you, my poor, poor boy; and
that, whatever may come, I shall be with you always. Only get well; only
get well!"

"Josie," said he, smiling wanly, "you couldn't kill me--now--not with an
ax!"

THE END.

------------------------------------------------------------------------

FAMOUS COPYRIGHT BOOKS IN POPULAR PRICED EDITIONS

Re-issues of the great literary successes of the time. Library size.
Printed on excellent paper--most of them with illustrations of marked
beauty--and handsomely bound in cloth. Price, 75 cents a volume,
postpaid.

THE CIRCULAR STAIRCASE, By Mary Roberts Reinhart

With illustrations by Lester Ralph.

In an extended notice the _New York Sun_ says: "To readers who care for
a really good detective story 'The Circular Staircase' can be
recommended without reservation." The _Philadelphia Record_ declares that
"The Circular Staircase" deserves the laurels for thrills, for weirdness
and things unexplained and inexplicable.

THE RED YEAR, By Louis Tracy

"Mr. Tracy gives by far the most realistic and impressive pictures of
the horrors and heroisms of the Indian Mutiny that has been available in
any book of the kind * * * There has not been in modern times in the
history of any land scenes so fearful, so picturesque, so dramatic, and
Mr. Tracy draws them as with the pencil of a Verestschagin of the pen of
a Sienkiewics."

ARMS AND THE WOMAN, By Harold MacGrath

With inlay cover in colors by Harrison Fisher.

The story is a blending of the romance and adventure of the middle ages
with nineteenth century men and women; and they are creations of flesh
and blood, and not mere pictures of past centuries. The story is about
Jack Winthrop, a newspaper man. Mr. MacGrath's finest bit of character
drawing is seen in Hillars, the broken down newspaper man, and Jack's
chum.

LOVE IS THE SUM OF IT ALL, By Geo. Cary Eggleston

With illustrations by Hermann Heyer.

In this "plantation romance" Mr. Eggleston has resumed the manner and
method that made his "Dorothy South" one of the most famous books of its
time.

There are three tender love stories embodied in it, and two unusually
interesting heroines, utterly unlike each other, but each possessed of a
peculiar fascination which wins and holds the reader's sympathy. A
pleasing vein of gentle humor runs through the work, but the "sum of it
all" is an intensely sympathetic love story.

HEARTS AND THE CROSS, By Harold Morton Cramer

With illustrations by Harold Matthews Brett.

The hero is an unconventional preacher who follows the line of the Man
of Galilee, associating with the lowly, and working for them in the ways
that may best serve them. He is not recognized at his real value except
by the one woman who saw clearly. Their love story is one of the
refreshing things in recent fiction.

GROSSET & DUNLAP, Publishers, NEW YORK

------------------------------------------------------------------------

FAMOUS COPYRIGHT BOOKS IN POPULAR PRICED EDITIONS

Re-issues of the great literary successes of the time. Library size.
Printed on excellent paper--most of them with illustrations of marked
beauty--and handsomely bound in cloth. Price, 75 cents a volume,
postpaid.

NEW CHRONICLES OF REBECCA,

By Kate Douglas Wiggin With illustrations by F. C. Yohn

Additional episodes in the girlhood of the delightful little heroine at
Riverboro which were not included in the story of "Rebecca of Sunnybrook
Farm," and they are as characteristic and delightful as any part of that
famous story. Rebecca is as distinct a creation in the second volume as
in the first.

THE SILVER BUTTERFLY, By Mrs. Wilson Woodrow

With illustrations in colors by Howard Chandler Christy.

A story of love and mystery, full of color, charm, and vivacity, dealing
with a South American mine, rich beyond dreams, and of a New York
maiden, beyond dreams beautiful--both known as the Silver Butterfly.
_Well named is The Silver Butterfly!_ There could not be a better symbol
of the darting swiftness, the eager love plot, the elusive mystery and
the flashing wit.

BEATRIX OF CLARE, By John Reed Scott

With illustrations by Clarence F. Underwood.

A spirited and irresistibly attractive historical romance of the
fifteenth century, boldly conceived and skilfully carried out. In the
hero and heroine Mr. Scott has created a pair whose mingled emotions and
alternating hopes and fears will find a welcome in many lovers of the
present hour. Beatrix is a fascinating daughter of Eve.

A LITTLE BROTHER OF THE RICH,

By Joseph Medill Patterson

Frontispiece by Hazel Martyn Trudeau, and illustrations by Walter Dean
Goldbeck.

Tells the story of the idle rich, and is a vivid and truthful picture of
society and stage life written by one who is himself a conspicuous
member of the Western millionaire class. Full of grim satire, caustic
wit and flashing epigrams. "Is sensational to a degree in its theme,
daring in its treatment, lashing society as it was never scourged
before."--New York Sun.

GROSSET & DUNLAP, Publishers, NEW YORK

------------------------------------------------------------------------

FAMOUS COPYRIGHT BOOKS IN POPULAR PRICED EDITIONS

Re-issues of the great literary successes of the time. Library size.
Printed on excellent paper--most of them with illustrations of marked
beauty--and handsomely bound in cloth. Price, 75 cents a volume,
postpaid.

THE FAIR GOD; OR, THE LAST OF THE TZINS. By Lew Wallace. With
illustrations by Eric Pape.

"The story tells of the love of a native princess for Alvarado, and it
is worked out with all of Wallace's skill * * * it gives a fine picture
of the heroism of the Spanish conquerors and of the culture and nobility
of the Aztecs."--_New York Commercial Advertiser_.

"_Ben Hur_ sold enormously, but _The Fair God_ was the best of the
General's stories--a powerful and romantic treatment of the defeat of
Montezuma by Cortes."--_Athenæum_.

THE CAPTAIN OF THE KANSAS. By Louis Tracy.

A story of love and the salt sea--of a helpless ship whirled into the
hands of cannibal Fuegians--of desperate fighting and tender romance,
enhanced by the art of a master of story telling who describes with his
wonted felicity and power of holding the reader's attention * * * filled
with the swing of adventure.

A MIDNIGHT GUEST. A Detective Story. By Fred M. White. With a
frontispiece.

The scene of the story centers in London and Italy. The book is
skilfully written and makes one of the most baffling, mystifying,
exciting detective stories ever written--cleverly keeping the suspense
and mystery intact until the surprising discoveries which precede the
end.

THE HONOUR OF SAVELLI. A Romance. By S. Levett Yeats. With cover and
wrapper in four colors.

Those who enjoyed Stanley Weyman's _A Gentleman of France_ will be
engrossed and captivated by this delightful romance of Italian history.
It is replete with exciting episodes, hair-breath escapes, magnificent
sword-play, and deals with the agitating times in Italian history when
Alexander II was Pope and the famous and infamous Borgias were tottering
to their fall.

SISTER CARRIE. By Theodore Drieser. With a frontispiece, and wrapper in
color.

In all fiction there is probably no more graphic and poignant study of
the way in which man loses his grip on life, lets his pride, his
courage, his self-respect slip from him, and, finally, even ceases to
struggle in the mire that has engulfed him. * * * There is more tonic
value in _Sister Carrie_ than in a whole shelfful of sermons.

GROSSET & DUNLAP--NEW YORK.

------------------------------------------------------------------------

FAMOUS COPYRIGHT BOOKS IN POPULAR PRICED EDITIONS

Re-issues of the great literary successes of the time. Library size.
Printed on excellent paper--most of them with illustrations of marked
beauty--and handsomely bound in cloth. Price, 75 cents a volume,
postpaid.

LAVENDER AND OLD LACE. By Myrtle Reed.

A charming story of a quaint corner of New England where bygone romance
finds a modern parallel. One of the prettiest, sweetest, and quaintest
of old-fashioned love stories * * * A rare book, exquisite in spirit and
conception, full of delicate fancy, of tenderness, of delightful humor
and spontaneity. A dainty volume, especially suitable for a gift.

DOCTOR LUKE OF THE LABRADOR. By Norman Duncan. With a frontispiece and
inlay cover.

How the doctor came to the bleak Labrador coast and there in saving life
made expiation. In dignity, simplicity, humor, in sympathetic etching of
a sturdy fisher people, and above all in the echoes of the sea, _Doctor
Luke_ is worthy of great praise. Character, humor, poignant pathos, and
the sad grotesque conjunctions of old and new civilizations are
expressed through the medium of a style that has distinction and strikes
a note of rare personality.

THE DAY'S WORK. By Rudyard Kipling. Illustrated.

The _London Morning Post_ says: "It would be hard to find better reading
* * * the book is so varied, so full of color and life from end to end,
that few who read the first two or three stories will lay it down till
they have read the last--and the last is a veritable gem gem * * *
contains some of the best of his highly vivid work * * * Kipling is a
born story-teller and a man of humor into the bargain."

ELEANOR LEE. By Margaret E. Sangster. With a frontispiece.

A story of married life, and attractive picture of wedded bliss * * * an
entertaining story of a man's redemption through a woman's love * * * no
one who knows anything of marriage or parenthood can read this story
with eyes that are always dry * * * goes straight to the heart of every
one who knows the meaning of "love" and "home."

THE COLONEL OF THE RED HUZZARS. By John Reed Scott. Illustrated by
Clarence F. Underwood.

"Full of absorbing charm, sustained interest, and a wealth of thrilling
and romantic situations. So naively fresh in its handling, so plausible
through its naturalness, that it comes like a mountain breeze across the
far-spreading desert of similar romances."--_Gazette-Times, Pittsburg_.
"A slap-dashing day romance."--_New York Sun_.

GROSSET & DUNLAP--NEW YORK.

------------------------------------------------------------------------





*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Aladdin & Co. - A Romance of Yankee Magic" ***

Doctrine Publishing Corporation provides digitized public domain materials.
Public domain books belong to the public and we are merely their custodians.
This effort is time consuming and expensive, so in order to keep providing
this resource, we have taken steps to prevent abuse by commercial parties,
including placing technical restrictions on automated querying.

We also ask that you:

+ Make non-commercial use of the files We designed Doctrine Publishing
Corporation's ISYS search for use by individuals, and we request that you
use these files for personal, non-commercial purposes.

+ Refrain from automated querying Do not send automated queries of any sort
to Doctrine Publishing's system: If you are conducting research on machine
translation, optical character recognition or other areas where access to a
large amount of text is helpful, please contact us. We encourage the use of
public domain materials for these purposes and may be able to help.

+ Keep it legal -  Whatever your use, remember that you are responsible for
ensuring that what you are doing is legal. Do not assume that just because
we believe a book is in the public domain for users in the United States,
that the work is also in the public domain for users in other countries.
Whether a book is still in copyright varies from country to country, and we
can't offer guidance on whether any specific use of any specific book is
allowed. Please do not assume that a book's appearance in Doctrine Publishing
ISYS search  means it can be used in any manner anywhere in the world.
Copyright infringement liability can be quite severe.

About ISYS® Search Software
Established in 1988, ISYS Search Software is a global supplier of enterprise
search solutions for business and government.  The company's award-winning
software suite offers a broad range of search, navigation and discovery
solutions for desktop search, intranet search, SharePoint search and embedded
search applications.  ISYS has been deployed by thousands of organizations
operating in a variety of industries, including government, legal, law
enforcement, financial services, healthcare and recruitment.



Home