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Title: The Man from Jericho
Author: Litsey, Edwin Carlile, 1874-1970
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "The Man from Jericho" ***

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



by The Kentuckiana Digital Library)



                         THE MAN FROM JERICHO

                       BY EDWIN CARLILE LITSEY


    NEW YORK
    THE NEALE PUBLISHING COMPANY
    1911

    Copyright, 1911, by
    The Neale Publishing Company

              TO
         PADRE FRANÇOIS
    Humanitarian and Friend
      from his Loving Son



THE MAN FROM JERICHO



CHAPTER I


There had been a thunder-shower in the middle of the afternoon, but it
had passed away about five o'clock, accompanied by sullen rumbles and
intermittent flashes of uncertain lightning. Then the sun burst forth
and poured its light over the drenched Kentucky landscape. It showed
millions of diamonds and pearls strung upon the bending blades of
bluegrass; broad expanses of molten silver where the ponds lay, and
smaller mirrors of the same metal where puddles had formed from the
recent downpour. It showed boundless hoards of gold where the
nasturtiums were banked in a crimson mass, and the mottled bells of the
rank trumpet-vines sent forth a silent summons to the answering
sunshine. In the vivid green of a large oak tree a pair of orioles wove
a wonderful pattern of living flame as they darted about among the
boughs. Two honey-bees crawled out upon the tiny porch of their little
home, and, being assured by the instinct which God gave them that the
storm was over, arose on buzzing wings to seek some distant store of
sweets.

His attention being drawn by the sunlight bursting suddenly through the
window of the library where he sat reading--to be exact, it fell upon
the open page before his eyes--Major Thomas Dudley closed the book,
leaving one long forefinger between the leaves to mark the spot where
he had been interrupted, and turned to look outdoors. The scene which
was spread before him brought a peaceful but sad smile to his face. For
two hundred feet or more the broad yard sloped very gently down to the
highway, from which it was separated by an iron fence of ornamental
design, but now much worn, and sadly bent and twisted in places. This
yard was carpeted with a luxuriant expanse of bluegrass in which no
alien growth was allowed to find root. There were a number of majestic
trees, of the oak and maple variety, and a few shrubs, nicely trimmed. A
gravel driveway came up one side from the road, led by the old portico
in front, and from thence disappeared towards the rear in the direction
of the stable. Through the open window came the odour of honeysuckle,
heavy and sweet; the vine grew near the corner of the house. It was not
a very sightly shrub, and it marred the wonderful correctness of the
lawn no little, but the Major had his reasons for letting it alone. As a
matter of fact, the Major's wife had planted it many years before, when
their love-dream was at its height. Now she was gone, but it remained,
and it helped to keep fresh and vigorous the memories which made Thomas
Dudley's daily life a benediction to all who came within its radius.

As the perfume from the tiny white and yellow flowers crept subtly to
his nostrils--fine, delicate nostrils they were, like those of a
well-bred horse--a hungry, beseeching look stole over the old
gentleman's face. He leaned forward and placed one hand upon the
window-sill, while his eyes half closed, and his countenance became
transfigured. Then, had any been watching, they would have seen his lips
move, as though they were shaping words.

At this point the sound of shuffling feet was heard coming from the hall
running through the center of the house. Another moment a throat was
cleared in the doorway, and an apologetic voice spoke.

"Beg pahd'n, suh; but de Prince am 'peah to be bettah, suh. I went to de
stable ez soon ez de rain quit to tek a look at 'im, 'n' he hab come to
be feed, suh, sho'!"

"Peter! Peter! What's this you're telling me? The Prince eating again!"

With remarkable activity the Major arose to his feet and faced about,
eyeing with undisguised elation the figure in the doorway. It was that
of a very old negro, bowlegged and bent. His face was brown, wrinkled
and kindly in expression, with tiny corkscrews of gray hair, each
totally isolated, dispersed over it. His head was flat and bald, but for
a fringe of white wool shaped like the tonsure of a monk. He wore a
rusty pair of trousers, so patched that it was impossible to tell what
their original material had been; a brown hickory shirt tolerably new,
and suspenders made of strips of bed-ticking. His huge feet were encased
in a pair of old shoes, slit almost into shreds at the toes for the
benefit of the "mis'ry" which he frequently had there. Such was Peter,
faithful servant to the Dudleys before, during, and since the Civil
War.

"_Eatin', suh; eatin'!_" he answered, with vehemence, replying to his
master's question and accompanying the first and last words with a
forward jerk of his head, by way of emphasis.

"This is good news you bring me, boy; we must have a look at him. He's
the best bred horse in the Commonwealth," he added, to himself, as he
turned aside to place his book upon a table, carefully noting the page
as he did so. "It would be a pity in more ways than one for him to die
by accident or foul play." Then aloud--"Have you seen your mistress
recently?"

"Not since dinner, suh. I'ze heerd her say afo'time, do, dat she laks a
nap in de rainy ebenin'."

From somewhere above a voice broke out singing as Peter spoke. The tune
was a popular air of the day, lilting and free. The tones were those of
a young woman, for they rang with irrepressible vitality, and there was
hope and laughter and faith and happiness in them. The Major had started
forward, but now he stopped and his head sank as under a benediction.
Likewise did Peter's, for he always reflected his master. Thus they
stood, types of the bond and the free, while that tender voice rang on
above them as its owner moved about the room, for they could plainly
hear her light footsteps going to and fro.

In his younger years the Major must have been a man to command any one's
notice. Now, as he stood with his chin sunk in his stock under the spell
of present enchantment and precious recollections of the past, one could
behold the remnants of a magnificent physical being. He was exceedingly
tall, long of limb and square-shouldered. His hands were slender and
white; his face naturally grave and thoughtful. He was clean shaven
except for close cropped mustache and carefully cut imperial, both
white. His complexion was ruddy, but whether this was natural or
acquired it is not for us to say. Certain it is, however, that Peter
mixed his mint juleps three times a day a few minutes before each meal.
Certain it is, also, that never in his long life had Major Dudley taken
more whiskey at one time than was good for him. He held that it was a
Kentucky gentleman's prerogative to drink, in moderation, and he had the
profoundest contempt for the weakling who would bestialize himself by
getting drunk. "Whiskey, suh," he would say, "is like every other
luxury; to be used, not abused."

The singing ceased, and there was the patter of feet on the stair.

"She's awake, Peter," said the Major; "get my hat." Then as he stepped
into the hall--"News, daughter!" he cried, to the vision in pink and
white muslin descending the curved stairway. "Peter reports that the
Prince is eating. Will you go with me to see him?"

A little croon of delight escaped the vision, and the next instant she
had settled like a butterfly upon the Major's broad breast. "I knew he
would get well!" she exclaimed, rising on tiptoe and pulling with both
her hands on the shoulders of her father in a vain attempt to reach his
lips with hers. He, seeing her purpose, caught her around the waist and
lifted her bodily, though there was a matter of a hundred and twenty
pounds to reckon with, and gave her the caress with a hearty smack.

"You'll have to learn to bring a stool along with you!" he panted; "I'm
getting too old to lift such a buxom lass." But he smiled denial of his
speech and patted her cheek fondly.

Peter presenting his stove-pipe hat with a low bow, the Major took it,
placed it upon his sparse gray locks, and drawing his daughter's hand
through his arm they passed out upon the long back porch, which had an
eastern exposure, but was shaded all along its length by a species of
vine which grew luxuriantly every summer. Peter preceded them, and Peter
in motion was a sight to behold. It is useless to attempt to describe
his method of locomotion. To one unfamiliar with the peculiar gait of a
"befo' de wah" negro I can give no adequate picture of the old darkey as
he shambled along over the large flat stones laid in a row which formed
a walk to the gate of the lot wherein stood the stable. Behind him came
the stately form of Major Dudley, and by his side Miss Julia, his only
child, whose feet had just passed those elusive portals which give into
the magical realms of young womanhood.

"What _has_ been the matter with The Prince, daddy?" queried the young
lady, lifting an annoyed and earnest countenance which Nature had
blessed, or banned, however one may regard unusual beauty.

A deep furrow was immediately visible on Major Dudley's forehead,
indenting his brow just above his nose. It only came when he was angry,
or intensely worried. His gray eyes gleamed with subdued resentment, and
for the space of a few steps he did not answer.

"We do not know," he said, then, but he kept his eyes set straight
ahead, instead of looking at his questioner.

"But you have suspicions, daddy, dear," she pleaded, coming closer to
him, and pressing his arm gently. "Have you a right--have you the wish
to keep these from me? Am I not Major Dudley's daughter, and is not your
blood my blood? The Prince has been very sick. Corn and hay don't make a
horse ill. What do you fear, daddy?"

The old man stopped and faced his daughter. She was quite serious now.
Her firm chin, her positive but pliant mouth, her deep brown eyes which
showed courage, and the waving wealth of her chestnut hair, all made a
quick pride rush to the Major's heart, and brought a satisfied smile to
his mouth. His stern eyes melted into tenderness and love.

"My child, you shall know all I know; all I suspect, rather, for nothing
is positive. We--Peter and I--fear an attempt has been made to poison
The Prince."

"_Daddy!_"

The word struggled through an indrawn breath of horror.

"The horse's symptoms indicated this. Peter found him in time for an
antidote which he administered to be beneficial, else I fear we would
have lost him. We examined the feed which had been given him last
night, and found some of it mixed with a whitish powder. In view of this
we could come to only one conclusion."

"Who--"

The sentence which the girl's lips started to frame died with the first
word. Her lips met firmly, and a slow dread gathered in her eyes.

From the highway not far off came the sound of a horse's hoofs, running
at full speed. The Major was facing the road, and the girl turned to see
a horseman dash furiously along the pike and disappear behind a fringe
of trees which bordered the road farther on. Julia turned to her father,
and saw written plainly upon his face a confirmation of her fears.

"He?" she breathed, awesomely.

"Or an emissary. He is our only enemy, and in all his stable of
thoroughbreds he has not one that can approach The Prince!"

"Would he dare?"

"Anything, little girl.--Come."

At the door of The Prince's stall they stopped, and looked in eagerly.
The horse recognized them, and whinnied feebly. Peter, with curry-comb
and brush, was going over the splendid animal vigorously, though not a
speck showed on his shining coat.

"Better, suh! Better, young missus!"

The old negro spoke encouragingly between the grunts caused by his
exertion.

"He am beginnin' to tek notice. He et mos' he feed, 'n' he 'peared right
glad to see me. I wush I c'd lay dese brack han's on de low-down skunk
whut tech 'im! I'd break his naik!"

The Prince was standing a little stiffly, and his slender, patrician
head hung lower than it should, but his breathing was not labored, and
his eyes were bright and beaming with intelligence.

"He'll come, Peter; he'll come!" said the Major, warmly. "He had a close
call, but your prompt action saved him. You're a good boy, Peter, and I
commend you!"

Peter grinned his appreciation, and rubbed the satin limbs with renewed
vigour.

"Yassuh, he'll come all right, 'n' w'en de race hit come, he'll beat
eb'ry one ob 'em! De hoss ain't folded whut kin tech 'im!"

"I believe you, boy. Only once in a lifetime is a hoss born like The
Prince."

Julia slipped into the stall as her father was speaking and going up to
the noble brute, put both arms around his neck and cuddled her check
upon his shoulder.

"Poor old fellow!" she murmured. "Have they used you badly because you
belonged to us? Never mind. They shan't do it again. Miss Julia loves
you, and all of us love you, and we are going to take care of you."

The horse turned and muzzled the sleeve of her dress understandingly.

The girl withdrew her arms and stroked his nose gently. As she rejoined
her father there were tears in her eyes.

"Put a new padlock on his door tonight, Peter," cautioned the Major, as
he turned to go, "and see that there are no loose planks which a
sneakin' assassin might prize off."

"I'll fix 'im so tight dat a gnat can't git in!" was the emphatic reply.
"Dey shan't git nigh 'im ag'in!"

Julia was quiet as she and her father returned to the big house. Though
her tongue was idle, her mind was busy. She was trying to elucidate this
mystery of the attack on The Prince. Her father had said in as many
words that he believed Devil Marston was at the bottom of it, but why
should Devil Marston be so bitter against them? Half forgotten incidents
came back to her--things which had been glozed over or dismissed with a
laugh. Marston had been at their home several times, but all at once he
stopped coming. She remembered it now. The last time he came was at
night, and she had seen him only long enough to speak to him in the hall
as she was starting upstairs. She recalled now some loud words being
spoken by him; the regulated tones of her father in reply, and that
night the Major had paced his room till nearly morning. When she asked
for an explanation the following day, her father had put her off by
saying it was purely a business matter which it was best she should not
know about. She had let it go at that at the time, although she wondered
that a business call should have been so stormy. Now she realized that
something was being kept from her; that her father was shielding her
through love and mercy from something she had a right to know. That had
been in her girlhood, though only two years ago. But since then her
mother had died, and during the following two years, which had brought
her to twenty, she felt that she had grown to be a woman. She had met
successfully the responsibility of caring for the house, and she felt
that she could equally meet any other responsibility touching her
family.

As they passed into the long hall again, the Major laid aside his hat
and turned to the open library door to resume his reading. Julia gently
detained him.

"Daddy, what's the trouble between Mr. Marston and us?"

The old man's face grew very grave.

"Who spoke of trouble, lassie?"

"Would a friend attempt so vile a thing as was attempted last night? He
has grounds for his conduct, or thinks he has. I want to know it all.
I'm sure you never harmed any of his, or him. Then why does the man hate
us? He must be very wicked, for no honorable enemy would employ such
underhand methods of attack. Now tell me all about it, won't you?"

Major Dudley tilted her chin with his bent forefinger, and gazed long
and earnestly into the fearless eyes upheld to meet his own.

"There are some things little girls shouldn't know," he said, finally.

"Little girls, indeed!" she exclaimed, almost petulantly. "Won't you
ever realize that I'm a woman, though a young one, and can't you trust
your only daughter with a family secret, daddy dear?"

It was quite evident that her feelings were on the verge of being
wounded, for her lips were a little unsteady, and her eyes were
reproachful.

The reply came in a soft, reminiscent voice.

"'Twas yesterday you were in pinafores, chasing butterflies by day and
fire-flies by night, out yonder on the lawn. Are you really _twenty_?"

"Yes, sir; and I demand it as my right to share your burdens. They will
be lighter so, for us both."

The Major sighed, and lifted his hand to his forehead.

"You are right, and I promise that you shall know. But not now--not
now."

"In a day or two, then?"

"Yes, in a day or two. Run along now and gather some flowers."

He bent to receive her kiss, and stood watching her as she moved with a
free, swift step out onto the portico, into the yard, and over to a side
fence where a mass of nasturtiums were rioting in a wealth of variegated
colors.

"That is where her life should be," he murmured to himself; "spent among
blooming flowers, listening to the birds, caressed by sun and wind. Now
she demands of me the story of Devil Marston's hate, and I have to tell
her. Why do innocent children have to grow up and taste of bitterness?
Why must she know of man's inhumanity, injustice and greed? O my little
Julia, I would keep you from every thorn if I could! This old breast
would gladly take all that were meant for you, and not mind the sting!
But that is not God's way, and His way is best. Poor child! I wish it
could be otherwise."

He passed slowly into the library, and sat down with his book.

After the frugal evening meal, which Aunt Frances, Peter's spouse,
served with due punctiliousness, the Major sought his room, pleading
fatigue. Really he sat alone, thinking, for a long time before going to
bed. It was past ten o'clock when he finally arose, and going to a south
window, looked out in the direction of the stable. The night was
star-lit only, so he did not see a stealthy figure climb the rail fence
enclosing the barn lot, and move swiftly across the intervening space to
The Prince's door.



CHAPTER II


As a town, Macon did not differ materially from its sister towns of like
size throughout the State. It is true it was located on the border of
the bluegrass, and this alone gave it a distinction which the
penny-royal and mountain districts did not possess. The corporate limits
of the place held about three thousand souls--black and white--and
nobody ever got in a hurry. A quiet air of indolent aristocracy pervaded
the town. Shops were opened late, and if any one wished to buy, they
were served courteously and languidly, but there was no "drumming for
trade." For all of its lazy atmosphere, it might have been located
farther south. But its people were good people, on the whole, although
they permitted saloons, and went wild over horse racing. And, best of
all, they reverenced their women. A lady on the streets of Macon had
respectful right of way. It may have been that they were duly proud of
these three things, for they knew full well that nowhere in the world
were nobler or more beautiful women, faster horses, or better whiskey.

The nabobs of central Kentucky were a distinct and exclusive class in
the years preceding the great Civil strife which freed the colored race.
They had friends about them constantly, near and from a distance. They
gave large banquets and more often drank immoderately; they dressed in
expensive and fashionable clothes, and had body servants galore. Each
gentleman had a personal valet, to shave him every morning, attend to
his wardrobe and be always within call. Another servant groomed his
favorite horse, brought it around and held the stirrup while his master
mounted, and was always on the spot when his master returned to have the
bridle reins thrown to his waiting hands.

Then came the war scourge, and the old order passed. Homes were broken
up; houses were pillaged and burned, bought and sold. Of the several
stately homes surrounding Macon, but one or two remained in the family
after the war.

The Dudleys were an old family, proud as could be, and holding manual
labor a disgrace. This faulty doctrine was due to heredity and training,
and detracted in no way from the sterling manhood and womanhood which
ran with the name. They had been wealthy people generations gone, living
freely and without stint. Then came the days when one of them became a
black sheep and killed a man while in liquor. It took most of the vast
estate to save him from the gallows. When the war ended Major Thomas
Dudley found that he had little left save a wife and child, the
homestead, a half dozen horses of purest racing strain, and an eighty
acre farm which would grow with equal abundance hemp, tobacco, corn or
wheat. He would not work; he could not work. Had a Dudley's hand ever
touched the handle of a plow? Never! Welcome genteel starvation rather
than ignoble toil! In the meantime the family had to live in befitting
manner. One by one the servants, enticed by their new-found freedom,
drifted away. At length only Peter and Aunt Frances were left, and the
Major knew that his body servant would never go, for between these two
was that subtle, adamantine bond which rarely existed, but which, once
formed, was indissoluble.

Julia grew to girlhood, and the question of her education came up. There
had never been a Dudley, male or female, who had not received a complete
college course. The Major avowed that Julia should go to boarding
school, and he signed away the remaining eighty acres with a hand which
did not tremble in order that the traditions of his family should remain
inviolate. Julia, ignorant of the sacrifice which had been made for her,
went away three successive years, coming back the last time to find her
mother dying. After Mrs. Dudley had been laid to rest in the little
cemetery east of town, the daughter stepped into her place in the
management of the household. Up to this time she had supposed her father
had plenty, but the fact that they were almost poverty stricken became
quickly revealed to her now. She met the situation with a brave and
smiling face, and employed every art she knew to cut down expenses.
About this time a number of shares of stock in the thriving Bank of
Macon were placed on the market. Then Major Dudley severed the last tie
which bound him to the old life. He was getting too old to give his
horses proper attention. He sold them, every one, retaining only a colt
not quite a year old, and bought the bank stock. He had figured out that
the dividends which this would bring would barely keep them in food and
clothing, and pay the taxes on the home. The colt which he had held back
from the sale he had given to Julia at its birth, and this was The
Prince, the last member of the stables which in years gone by had been
the wonder of all Kentucky.

Peter, born to the care of fine horses, shadowed The Prince day and
night. Though well up in the seventies, he had broken the young horse to
the saddle, and that without a fall. Then, shrewd old rascal that he
was, one balmy night he had ridden the colt out to the race track, one
mile from the town limits, and tested his speed. He had no watch
wherewith to time the exploit, but he needed none, for had he not seen
races ever since he was two feet tall! The result had been marvelous.
The Prince almost ran from under him, and he must needs cling on with
heels and hands when the horse was in motion. When he slipped from his
back in an ecstasy of joy, Peter knew that he stood beside the greatest
race-horse that had ever touched Kentucky soil! The old darkey was wild
with delight, and could hardly wait till morning to tell the Major of
his discovery. Major Dudley's face beamed when the news was given him.

"Keep it still, Peter," he counselled, "and watch him. There'll be
racing here in July next year."

Winter passed and the Spring came again, and Peter hied himself and The
Prince to the race track as soon as the earth became solid. He went
always at night, and always alone, but a rumour began to spread through
Macon and the county in general that Major Dudley's colt was a marvel,
and could make a mile in two minutes flat. Certainly the story lost
nothing by its constant re-telling, and while few believed it true, yet
everyone confided it to his neighbor as a matter of gossip.

Then came the night of the cowardly attempt upon The Prince's life.

       *       *       *       *       *

The evening express from the north was due at Macon a quarter till
eleven. The night of the day upon which Major Dudley had promised to his
daughter a revelation of certain things which had been kept hidden from
her, this train was running fifteen minutes late. The engineer was
trying to make the time up, and in consequence the coaches were swaying
and jerking over the rather imperfect roadbed. Crouched in the corner of
a seat next the window sat a young man. It would have been impossible to
form any idea of his physical appearance from the uncouth position which
he had assumed. It was quite evident from this that he was traveling
entirely alone. He had slipped down in his seat until his head was below
the top of its back. His long legs were flexed so that his knees rested
against the back of the seat in front of him. His shoulders, unusually
broad and square, drooped somewhat, as from weariness; his chin was sunk
upon his shirt front, and his cap was pulled well down over his eyes, so
that only a portion of his face could be seen. The line of shadow
slanted across his face sharply just at the cheek bone, revealing below
it a smoothly shaven surface, and a chin as square and resolute as the
shoulders. In common with the majority of his fellow-passengers, he was
dozing. The conductor came unsteadily up the aisle, fumbled at his cap
band for the piece of paper sticking in it, then, observing that the man
was asleep, he shook him gently by the shoulder. The sleeper aroused
readily, and in response to "Your's next station," nodded his head, and
turned, as one will do the blackest night, to look out the window. This
not with the purpose of seeing anything, but from some inexplicable
force within.

But the young man did see something--a dull glow was discernible in the
sky, apparently a great distance away. To a sleep-befuddled brain it
looked very much like the rose tints of morning, and John Glenning
mechanically pulled out his watch, to smile at his stupidity the next
moment, for it was not yet eleven. He glanced about the car and brought
himself to an erect sitting posture with a quick exercise of the great
fund of reserve strength which he undoubtedly possessed. His shoulders
went back squarely against the seat, and his feet sought the floor.
Then, as he pushed the cap off his eyes, his face became visible. It was
a strong face, with jaw- and cheek-bones showing prominently. The
forehead was good, almost square, and over one eye was a crescent-shaped
scar, not livid, but standing out plainly against the white skin. His
hair was black and straight, and his face wore a half melancholy
expression, which seemed habitual.

After a casual and disinterested survey of the compartment, he turned to
the window again, placed his elbow upon the sill, and looked out into
the night. The glow in the distance was still there. He judged it to be
a fire, although no flames were yet visible. Just a dull red vapor
seemed suspended, like an immense ruby, against the black draped breast
of the sky, and on all sides of it the stars shone like rare gems. As
this poetic thought struck Glenning, he smiled, as though pleased at the
conception, and just then a long blast of the whistle told him that they
were approaching his station. A moment later the door was flung open,
admitting a rush of pure, sweet night air into the stuffy coach, and the
flagman passed through, touching alternate seats with either hand to
steady himself, and shouting "Macon! Macon!"

Women began to rouse soundly sleeping children, men to stretch their
arms and remark to their neighbors, and John also began to get himself
together. He was near the door, and as the train came to a halt with
jangling bell and escaping steam, he grasped his suit case and safely
made his exit before the aisle became crowded.

The place was entirely new to him, for his home had been in the north
end of the State. The engine had stopped at the edge of a bisecting
street, and just in front of it an arc light was suspended, which threw
his surroundings into view uncertainly. Back of him was the bulk of a
water tank; to the front, and at one side, the station. People were
hurrying to board the train, and packages and trunks were being hastily
dumped from the open door of the express car onto a truck drawn
alongside. A number of forms moved vaguely about--that pitiful,
shiftless class which no small town can eliminate, who had merely come
to "see the train come in." All this Glenning saw in the twinkling of an
eye, and then he started briskly up the crushed rock space which served
for a platform. Opposite the tender of the engine were two or three men,
one of them a negro, standing abreast, toeing an invisible line and
bawling lustily the names of different hotels. Glenning stopped for a
moment in front of a row of hands eagerly outstretched, and just then
the words "Union House!" came to his ears through the din of jumbled
voices. He remembered suddenly that a friend had told him this was the
best hotel in the place, so he resigned his suit case to the care of the
one who had yelled "Union House!" and fell in with the straggling line
of people streaming up town.

Above the babel of the hotel criers, and the slow, muffled puffs of the
inert engine, a new sound now throbbed through the air--the clanging,
tumultuous notes of a sharp-toned bell, rung with fury. The people
nearest John pricked up their ears, and he heard the sinister query,
"Where's the fire?" "Where's the fire?" repeated on all sides. No one
knew, and those who had been from home, and had returned on the train,
hastened their steps, some breaking into a run, for none knew whose
household goods were in danger. The panic spirit seized Glenning, too,
for henceforth his life was to be in this place, and with these people,
and he found himself running with the others. Covering a short square,
they turned into the main street of Macon, where confusion reigned. Men
were dashing about in the middle of the street, shouting to each other,
and an ancient fire engine had just been dragged into view, with the
hook-and-ladder wagon trailing in its wake. Glenning ran towards the
engine, which had halted in the center of the highway, and at which some
striplings were tugging in a vain effort to move it.

"Where's the horses? Where's the fire company?" demanded the new-comer,
hurriedly, stopping in perplexity.

"Men is the hosses that pull this old water-bug!" volunteered one of the
youths, ceasing his efforts to move the antiquated vehicle; "'n' the
fire comp'ny's anybody that's got spunk 'nough to fight fire!"

As these words were spoken a number of men reached the scene, some of
them bareheaded and wearing only shoes, trousers and shirts, and pounced
upon the engine like wolves upon a carcass.

"Come on!" "Lend a hand!" "Git holt!" "Push!" "Pull!"

These and divers other excited exclamations rang out, and in the cupola
directly overhead the brazen tongued bell sent out its warning, appeal
and encouragement in vibrant and deafening tones.

Glenning needed no spurring on. His hands were the first to fall into
place, and with rumble and rush the Macon Fire Company started on its
errand of succour. The hook-and-ladder wagon, being lighter, was dragged
along by half grown boys, who took a keen delight in emulating, both in
speed and endurance, their elders in the lead. To the accompaniment of
yelping dogs, men in vehicles and men on horseback, the procession
rushed madly up Main street, rudely disturbing the calm serenity of the
summer night. As he ran, doing his full stint of work, and more, the
athletic stranger cast his eyes about in a vain effort to locate the
conflagration. He turned to the man running nearest him.

"Do you suppose it's out? I can see no sign of it now."

"No; it ain't out! Cemetery hill's in the way. There's been nothin' to
put it out. An old white man, a girl and two old niggers couldn't do
much with a house on fire!"

Glenning noticed from the straggling houses and vacant lots that they
were nearing the edge of town.

"Where is it, anyway?" he asked. "In the country?"

The man puffed and blew before making reply.

"Mile from the court house, ever'body says. I b'lieve it's a mile and a
quarter. Seems like three or four tonight!"

He dashed the perspiration from his eyes, and settled to his work
afresh. John looked at him again, and in the dim starlight, to which his
eyes had become accustomed, he saw that the man was young and soft. His
hands showed white, his face was purple from exertion, and his breathing
was stertorous.

"Pretty tough on a fellow who stays indoors, isn't it?" queried
Glenning, pleasantly.

"You--bet! Stranger, ain't you?"

"Just came on the train tonight."

"You must be--mightily interested--in these people!"

"I'm going to make this place my home."

"Uh-huh. I know you--now. You're the--new doctor!"

"Yes. My name's John Glenning."

"Pleased to--meet you--doctor! I'm Tom Dillard. Work--in bank!"

"I'm glad to know you. You're my first acquaintance here. It's harder
work pushing a fire engine than it is pushing a pen, isn't it?"

Mr. Dillard grinned acquiescence.

"Con--_siderable_!" he gasped.

"Whose house is it that's burning?" continued Glenning.

"Must be--Major Dudley's; no other house out--here close."

At this juncture they rounded a sharp curve in the road, and came in
full view of the fire, now close at hand.

"Stable!" exploded Mr. Dillard, and everybody redoubled their exertions
at the same moment, rendering further conversation out of the question.

The surrounding landscape was brilliantly lighted by the leaping flames,
and Glenning saw that they were sweeping by a large, well kept lawn,
back of which rose a most pretentious old home. On they dashed to a
gate, which some thoughtful person had previously opened, and which let
into a meadow adjoining the stable lot. The people who had started in
buggies and on horseback had all arrived, and a number of them now came
forward to relieve the men who had brought the engine out. Most of these
willingly resigned their places, but Glenning stuck to his, and Dillard,
who was preparing to step aside, gathered fresh courage, and remained
also. The old engine was rushed furiously across the meadow and into the
lot, in the midst of a shrill bedlam of excited cries, most of them
conveying directions and suggestions entirely futile. In one corner of
the lot, near the doomed stable, an old negro was waving his arms
frantically and jumping up and down, yelling at every jump in a high
falsetto.

"Hyar's de well! Hyar's de well! Hyar's de well! Bring de ingine hyar;
Hyar's de water! Hyar's de well!"

Whether his penetrating tones reached the relief party, or whether some
person nearer to hand gave the information, does not matter. But the
engine was quickly rolled in position and the hose unwound. Peter seized
the end of the hose which was being borne towards him, and plunged it
into the well's black mouth.

"_More! More!_" he screamed, tugging at the sinuous rubber tube like a
madman. "De water's down dah! Come on wid it!"

Willing hands unwound the coil, and Peter paid it out. Down went the
hose, and presently the old negro jumped to his feet.

"_Pump!_" he shrieked; "put de water dah!"

Then, for fear he would not be understood, he ran like a monkey towards
the burning building. Stopping just outside the radius of the fiercest
heat, he pointed towards an open door.

"Dah! In dah! Pour hit in dah! De Prince won' come out! I try git 'im
out, but he won' come! Pump de water on 'im!"

In the midst of his exhortations a score of hands grasped the handles
and began to pump. But no water came! In vain the long handles went up
and down. Something had gone wrong with the mechanism of the machine. A
blacksmith was present, and he began an examination. In the meanwhile
the fire grew prodigiously, and suddenly a horse's unearthly scream of
terror and pain rent the air. Few had ever heard this sound before, and
it struck a note of horror upon every soul assembled there. The cry of a
horse in mortal distress is utterly indescribable, but it is a demon
tone which makes cowards of strong men. The mixed crowd drew back in
fear, thinking the imprisoned animal might make a sudden break and
trample them in his rush. Even the smith, who had been vainly searching
for the hitch in the pumping gear of the engine, crawled from under the
useless thing and retreated with the others. So it happened, almost
without his knowing it, that John Glenning was left standing alone by
the deserted engine. The intense glare showed up his figure well. He was
tall and lean, but his shoulders had a look of great strength, and his
face, upon which the light was dancing, was calm and purposeful. The old
negro had sunk to the ground, and with his face hidden in his crossed
arms, was rocking to and fro, moaning ceaselessly. Following the horse's
awful scream, and the subsequent rush backward, fell a dead silence,
disturbed only by the cracking and snapping of seasoned wood as the fire
ate up its fibres, and the low undertone of Peter's dolorous wails. Then
plainly to Glenning's ears came a woman's muffled sobs, and he heard a
voice tense with distress exclaim--

"My poor Prince! O my poor Prince!"

John wheeled half way around abruptly, and looked in the direction from
whence the voice had come. He beheld two people standing partly aside,
and well back. A tall, erect old man whose disordered apparel indicated
the haste with which he had dressed, and a girl clinging despairingly to
his arm, clad only in a white night robe with a shawl thrown about her
shoulders and held tightly over her breast with one clenched hand. The
old man's face was mask-like, but there was a deep furrow in the middle
of his forehead, and his eyes blazed with repressed anger. The young
woman was pitiful to the respectful but penetrating eyes of Glenning.
Her hair, braided for the night, hung over her shoulder, down to her
waist. Her face was drawn with anguish which she could not hide, and in
her big eyes was a living sorrow. As he looked at her she caught his
gaze, and upon that instant she left the old man's side, ran a few steps
forward, and with both arms stretched towards him, with her hands
clasped, her voice rang out in an agony of entreaty.

"Save The Prince! O, save him if you are a man! If he is burned to death
it will kill me! He is there--there!"

She pointed towards the open doorway before which a red veil was
shimmering and waving, then turned to the old man, threw her arms around
his neck and hid her face on his breast, while her whole form shook with
uncontrollable sobs.

Dazed for a moment by this direct appeal, and by the very evident beauty
of his petitioner, Glenning stood without moving. Then from the huddled
crowd, apathetic and silent, burst the figure of a man, running towards
the stable. He came swiftly, and Glenning saw only a low, heavily-built
person. But as he sped by the new doctor saw his face, and shuddered. It
was dark, brutish, treacherous, devilish. Then the man was gone towards
the open door. The girl had turned in time to behold this man's actions,
and on her countenance was repulsion and disgust. The onrushing form had
nearly reached his goal when a sudden shifting of the breeze
concentrated the flames and dashed them into his face with a spiteful
hiss. He stopped as though smitten, staggered and fell back, choked and
coughing. With his hands to his face he reeled over into a patch of
weeds, calling hoarsely for water. Glenning looked at the girl again,
and in her eyes was a dumb appeal. The man's mouth squared in quick
decision, and in a second his lassitude became transformed into vigorous
action. He took off his coat with a few dextrous movements, and holding
it as a shield before his face, quickly drew near the door now guarded
by a wall of shifting fire.

He felt the hot air rushing into his lungs as he advanced, but he never
flinched. Drawing a deep breath, he leaped hard, and passed over the
jealously guarded portals. Faintly to his ears came the resounding cheer
which accompanied this feat. But he had sterner work before him than to
receive merely the praise of those who watched him from a safe distance.
He was alone in a fiery furnace; caged with a maddened animal. He
realized that his work must be done at once, or he would perish
miserably.

Outside, the crowd inched nearer. Renewed silence had succeeded
Glenning's successful entrance into the stall of The Prince, and under
this strange stillness they came closer, in a body, breathing awesomely
and straining their eyes to see. But the waving curtain of flame baffled
their peering gaze. Only once they saw a dark, writhing bulk beyond the
gleaming barrier, then this was hidden. Major Dudley and Julia had not
changed their positions. But upon his face now shone the light of hope,
while the girl's was stony with despair and dread. The brief moments
were as leaden-footed hours, and time changed into eternity for the
anxious hearted watchers. No sound now but the crackling of wood and the
subtle swish of flames, and far off in the shadows at the rear of the
lot a subdued coughing, where Devil Marston crouched and nursed his
scorched lungs, and cursed the unknown man who had gone where he could
not go. The stable was large, and the conflagration was now at its
height, and it presented a gorgeous, if harrowing, spectacle. Red and
yellow and dun streamers shot skyward, shaking out their serpentine
lengths, wrapping and twining about each other, dying if a breath of
wind touched them, only to be succeeded by others, fiercer and longer
and more vivid. Crawling, hissing, crimson serpents of heat disported
over the trembling roof of the building, and myriad of sparks would rise
on columns of rose-tinted smoke when a bit of timber dropped. And deep
in the very heart of all this hell, burned, blinded, suffocated and
weak, a brave soul wrestled with imminent and torturing death, because a
woman had looked twice into his eyes and asked for help, if he were a
man!

There came a change. Less than a minute had elapsed since Glenning had
committed himself to almost certain death. Then the watchers saw a
movement at the flame-hung door. An indistinguishable something seemed
trying to force its way out. At this moment, as though fortune truly
favored the brave, the veering wind caught the red curtain and drew it
aside as gently as though done by a lady's hand. Out from the inferno
within sprang a man, his clothing covered with little red tongues, his
face blackened and his hair singed and disordered. After him, with the
man's coat bound over his head, the sleeves tied under his throat,
completely blindfolding him, came The Prince. Glenning swung on to his
halter, and as the falling sparks nipped the horse afresh he reared
hugely and lunged forward with demoniacal fury. The man's spent strength
could not cope with this final outburst. The horse bore him down,
rushed over him, and the crowd scattered right and left to seek safety.

Peter, with a shrill cry of joy, ran to the prostrate figure and drew it
farther away from the fire. As he laid the rescuer of The Prince down
Julia was there to receive his head in her lap. Her face was white as
the gown she wore, but her voice was clear as she spoke.

"Peter, go for a doctor! Daddy, bring some water, please."

She gently placed her hand upon the smoke-grimed forehead, and while the
crowd lingered to await the outcome, Devil Marston stole away with
curses deep and vile, and set his dark face towards home.



CHAPTER III


When Glenning opened his eyes the next morning he lay quiet a long time,
staring at the figure seated by his bedside. At first he was at a total
loss to understand where he was, but a sharp pain in his lungs when he
breathed, and sundry irritating, prickly places about his face and head,
brought back to him the events of the past night. But he was a
philosophical fellow, and while he felt a deep gratitude welling up in
his heart for young Tom Dillard, he could not help smiling at the
appearance his newly-found friend presented that morning. It was quite
plain to Glenning's still befuddled intellect that Dillard had elected
to stay with him and take care of him during the night. The bank clerk's
figure was almost corpulent in daylight, and this was emphasized by the
attitude he had assumed. He had evidently determined not to go to sleep,
but the relaxation and absolute quiet succeeding the excitement at the
burning of the stable had proven too much for him. Now he sat with his
heels on a rung of the chair, his knees drawn up, while his head had
sunk forward till it almost touched them. In this position he bore a
striking resemblance to a butterball, and when Glenning first saw him he
was slumbering with much effort, because his breathing was hampered by
his cramped posture. There was something in it all over-poweringly
funny to John, and presently he chuckled aloud. Whereupon his watcher
gave a little snort and opened his eyes, round, blue, and innocent as a
child's.

"Bless me, if I haven't been asleep!" exclaimed Dillard, a bit
sheepishly. Then--"How are you feeling, doctor?"

"Chipper as a lark--considering!" was the hearty answer. "But I hope
I'll never come closer to hell than I did last night," he added.

Dillard shivered at the recollection, and a look of commiseration crept
to his face.

"It's clear past me how you did it," he replied, candidly. "Log chains
and a traction engine couldn't have pulled me in that place. But you've
fixed yourself all right with the people, I guess. I'll bet your name
has gone all over this old town long before now."

"I didn't do it for what the people would think, though I do want their
good will. But did you see the look on that girl's face when she spoke?
I couldn't have done anything else. Where are we?--hotel?"

"Yes, this is your room at the Union House. We thought you were out of
the game for good at first. You don't remember anything after the horse
ran over you? Well, the Dudley's old nigger, Peter, dragged you away
from the heat, and Miss Julia made a pillow of her lap for your head.
They were for taking you up to the house and caring for you, for you did
them a greater service than you'll ever know when you pulled that
obstreperous colt out of the fire. But I knew that wouldn't do, because
they're not situated to entertain well folks, let alone sick ones, so I
got a buggy, piled you in, and drove here as fast as I could. As luck
would have it, old Doctor Kale was passing just as we got here--had been
making a country call--and I hailed him. We got you up here and brought
you around, though I don't suppose you remember anything about it, for
you were kind o' flighty. Old Kale washed you off and patched you up,
and gave you something to make you sleep soundly. I volunteered to sit
up with you and watch, but I played the devil a-doin' it! Kale said he'd
call around again this mornin' to see you. He's a gruff old cuss, but
good hearted. He often swears at his men patients if they don't obey him
to the letter. I tell you this now, so you won't be surprised at
anything he may say to you."

Glenning put out a blackened hand from the back of which the hair had
been singed away. Dillard saw his intention, and took it readily.

"I hope you'll let me be your friend," said the new doctor, appreciation
beaming in his eyes. "I can't tell you just all I feel for the way
you've stuck by me, a total stranger, who had not the slightest claim
upon your time, or care. But I shan't forget it. A life-long chum
couldn't have done more, and I want to assure you that my gratitude is
the kind that lasts. I don't know what's in store for me here, but I've
come to stay. And I'm going to make good if toil, and hard work, and
conscientious pains count for anything. I was climbing fast back--where
I came from, but it became best for me to leave. Not because I had to.
There's nothing back there I'm ashamed of. You're the first person here
who's been kind to me, and I did nothing to deserve it. I shall remember
it always."

He pressed the soft, flabby hand which he held, and withdrew his arm.

Dillard's face reddened at this speech. He made a few awkward movements
with his hands, and then spoke, in an abashed way.

"I've done nothin', doctor, to make a fuss about, but I'll be mighty
glad to be your friend. I imagine a fellow with the stuff in him that
you are made of would be worth having for a friend."

He drew out his watch and looked at it, rising quickly as he noted the
time.

"It's getting late. By the time I get breakfast and reach the bank it'll
be close onto nine. I'm glad you're lookin' so well. Don't try to get up
today. I'll call in at noon for a minute. Good-bye."

He leaned over the bed and pressed Glenning's hand again, then took his
hat and withdrew, closing the door gently behind him.

When his fat friend had departed, Glenning mechanically sent his eyes
around the room. It contained, besides the bed upon which he lay, the
customary washstand, dresser, table and two chairs. His clothes lay upon
one of these chairs, and he looked in a rather disinterested way at the
scorched and burned garments, now rendered totally useless. Then his
mind flew back to those awful moments in the stall with The Prince, and
he shut his eyes and groaned audibly. The door to his room opened, and
he heard the clinking of dishes. He looked, and saw a waiter bearing a
tray to the table in the center of his room. The young fellow deposited
his burden, then glanced towards the bed with respectful eyes, as some
might gaze upon a hero overthrown.

"Here's your breakfast, sir. I'll bring it closer if you want me to. Mr.
Dillard told us you were awake and feeling pretty well, so Mr. Travers
thought you might be hungry."

"Thank you," returned Glenning. "I'll be getting up presently. You
needn't wait."

The boy moved reluctantly to the door. He had his hand on the knob, then
turned.

"I didn't go to the burnin' o' ol' man Dudley's barn," he vouchsafed, in
a rather high, scared voice, "but if I'd knowed what you's goin' to do I
wouldn't 'a' missed seein' you pull that hoss out. The town's wild about
it."

Without waiting for a reply of any sort, the speaker ducked through the
door and slammed it after him. It had taken a deal of courage for him to
deliver his speech, but he was determined to say it.

Glenning eyed the disarray of dishes dubiously. Some of them appeared
cold, while the faint odour which crept to his nostrils from the others
was not at all savory. But the rich aroma of coffee blended with the
other smells, and he was on the verge of making an effort to rise when
there came a faint rap upon his door. It was so faint that John was not
sure he had heard it. He was quite certain there had been no sound of
footsteps. As he lay with his head in an expectant attitude the rap came
again--two little pecking knocks, given timorously. The man on the bed
relaxed, drew the cover which he had thrown partly aside up to his chin,
and invited whoever it was to enter, in a fairly strong voice.

Then a most extraordinary thing happened at the door. The knob was
deliberately turned, then released. Again it was turned, and the door
carefully opened about two inches. It remained this way for the space of
a breath or two, then the aperture was widened by perhaps another two
inches. Glenning was puzzled. If some one was pranking, the sport was
certainly very innocent. By almost imperceptible degrees the door kept
coming open, and then a bald, brown, sleek skull, surrounded by a fringe
of white wool, came within the range of vision of the watcher on the
bed. Peter looked slowly all around the room, and the last object his
eyes alighted upon was the man. Then he completed his entrance in a
comparatively rapid manner, bobbing his head unceasingly, and being
careful to see that the door was latched behind him. Then he bowed
profoundly.

"Mawnin', suh! I hope you's bettuh, suh! De Prince am not hu't much, 'n'
de folks feel putty peart, suh! De Lawd bress yo', suh--doctuh--'n' keep
yo' twel de day o' Jedgment fo' savin' dat' deah colt whut would 'a'
buhned to a cracklin' but fo' you. Yes, suh! Dis ol nigguh gwi' ax de
Lawd's blessin' on you night 'n' mawnin', 'n' I'm 'bleeged to yo', suh,
fo' whut you done las' night!"

Glenning had no difficulty in recognizing in his effusive caller the old
negro who had played a star part in the barn lot. But there was
something which claimed his attention above the volubility of Peter, and
that was a square envelope, tinted a delicate blue, which the darky
carried in one of his wrinkled hands.

"Thank you, old gentleman," he said, "for your interest and your
kindness. I hope the Dudleys did not suffer from exposure last night."

"De young missus tek a li'l col', suh, but de Major, suh, am all
right--I'm 'bleeged to yo'." He made another profound obeisance. "I wuz
sent dis mawnin', suh--doctuh--by de folks to 'quiah ob yo' health, suh,
'n' gib dis lettuh into yo' han'. It was writ by de Major, 'n' gib to me
by de young missus, who says, says she--'Peter, gib dis to de man whut
save our Prince, 'n' to nobody else.' Here it am, suh. I cyaried it on
top o' my haid under my hat right to yo' do', kase I's feared I'd lose
it."

He shambled across the room and gave the missive to the hand stretched
out to receive it.

"I mus' be goin' now, suh--doctuh--but I's 'spressly to ax how yo' wuz?"

"Present my sympathy and respects to your folks, and assure them I am
not hurt--only a few bruises and burns which do not annoy me in the
least. Say, in fact, that you left me feeling well."

"Thank yo', suh--doctuh--'n' you're a man whut _is_ a man!"

With this parting encomium, which to his mind represented the acme of
praise, Peter shuffled to the door, bowed again, and went out.

"Heigh-ho!" mused Glenning. "It seems, indeed, that 'there is a tide in
the affairs of men.' From what I can hear I have started in well. Let's
see what that fine looking old gentleman has to say."

Tearing the tough fibre of the paper with some difficulty, he drew out
the folded sheet, and opened it. The handwriting was angular, legible,
and painfully correct. The ink was brownish, as though it had been
watered often. He read rapidly.

     "DEAR DOCTOR GLENNING:

     "This morning we learned the name of the heroic stranger who
     did us such unparalleled service last night upon the occasion
     of the burning of our stable. We wish to convey to you at the
     earliest moment a sense of our profound gratitude for your
     noble act. My daughter and I feel that we can never repay the
     debt under which you have placed us by your marvelous bravery.
     I shall call this afternoon to thank you in person, and I pray
     you will at all times consider our house your own. The colt is
     practically uninjured. It is our prayer that you have not
     suffered seriously.

     "Your obliged and obedient servant,

     "THOMAS DUDLEY."

"Fine!" breathed Glenning. "A little stilted, perhaps, but true and
sincere. He means every word. Writes like a Clay or a Webster. There's
blood back of it--Kentucky bluegrass blood. And she--she did not know she
was a queen of tragedy last night when she made her appeal. Who could
that have been who tried to get in ahead of me? Ugh! He was a devil! When
she saw him coming she looked daggers of scorn and contempt. There's
something back of it all, I'll wager. Could that terrible thing dare to
love her, I wonder? If he does, it's one-sided. But she's beautiful! I'd
go into another burning stable tonight if she looked at me as she did
then, and asked me."

As he folded the letter and slipped it back into the envelope he
suddenly realized that his coffee must be getting cold. He smiled at the
incongruity of the thought, but he was very hungry, so he essayed to
rise. The effort necessary to get onto his elbow brought numerous
darting pains to a dozen places at once, and made his temples throb. But
his firm jaws were not for nothing, and presently his feet were on the
floor and he was standing upright, dizzy, and holding to the head of the
bed. His chest burned as though coals of fire were laid upon it. He
waited a few moments, battling with physical weakness, then steered an
uncertain course for the washstand. How sweet was the touch of cool
water on his hot, parched face! He dashed it over his head and neck and
face by the handsful and felt his brain clear as if by magic. And there
is magic in a basin of cold water, as anyone can testify. Directly he
set about dressing. His trunk and suit case sat in a corner, and when he
had donned underwear, shirt and trousers his strength left him, and he
feebly sought a chair by the table and gulped down the coffee. Then, by
sheer force of will, he began to eat. The food was half cold, and not
good. It would not have been good had it come just from the oven, but it
gave strength, nevertheless. The man felt the elation of returning
vigour as he ate. His meal was not half finished when a hurried,
thumping step was heard in the corridor without, his door was
unceremoniously and roughly opened, and Doctor Kale entered. He was a
man getting along in life; full bearded, grizzled. His beard and hair
curled slightly, and beneath his rather heavy brows keen, kind eyes
danced incessantly. He was not very particular as to his apparel. His
clothing was baggy, and none too clean. He wore boots, with his trousers
legs pulled down over them. His vest was secured by the bottom button
alone. There was a row of buttons, but only one was used. This left
exposed to fullest view a shirt front which had doubtless been clean
when the garment to which it belonged had been first put on, but which
was now flecked and streaked with yellow stains which showed plainly
that its wearer used tobacco. A derby hat of a past age was on his head,
and he carried a medicine case much battered from long use. His right
leg was shorter than his left--rheumatism had done it--and this
accounted for his peculiar gait. He stopped in blank surprise for a
moment when he saw his erstwhile patient sitting up and eating, then the
vials of his wrath exploded.

"What in the devil do you mean by getting up, young man?" he thundered.
"Get back in bed! You'll die! You won't live till night!"

He placed his case on the floor, took a handkerchief from his pocket and
removed his hat, and fiercely took a turn or two up and down the room,
mopping his head and face as he went. It was well for Glenning that a
friend had prepared him for this visit.

"Pardon me for not rising to meet you, Doctor Kale," he said, feeling
his risibles stirring, and endeavoring to maintain a steady countenance.
"But I feel much better, thanks to your attention."

"Any fool could have washed the dirt off and stuck court plaster on
you," growled the caller, still belligerent. "How do you know my name,
and who told you you might get up?"

"The young man who spent the night with me told me you would call this
morning, and I got tired lying in bed with nothing the matter with me--"

"Nothing the matter with you! Why, you're burned, and cut, and thumped,
and bruised. It's a wonder the Lord let you off alive for being such an
idiot. It seems to me you'd have had better sense than to go in a
burning stable just to pull out one good-for-nothing horse which don't
earn its hay!"

"Circumstances were such that I had no other choice," answered Glenning,
a bit distantly.

"Circumstances!" sniffed Doctor Kale. "Yes, I heard about the
circumstances, and when you've lived as long as I have, you won't butt
your head into a little hell every time a pretty girl winks!"

The blood rushed to John's face, and even Dillard's warning did not
serve to check his tongue.

"She didn't wink!" he retorted, rather hotly. "But she asked for help,
and I gave it to her, as any man would!"

The caller cast a sidelong glance at the figure by the table, then
stumped over to the bed and sat down upon it.

"Tom Dillard told me that you were the new doctor the _Herald_ said was
coming here to locate, and that your name was Glenning."

"Yes, John Glenning is my name, and my profession is the same as yours."

"Well, it's a damn bad one!" ejaculated Doctor Kale. "That is, the
profession ain't so bad, but it's a worrisome and unappreciative life.
It's a hard way to earn a living, young man, and if you hadn't started
in it I'd advise you to try something else, even if it was beating rock
on the county road. People expect you to be always ready, day or night,
to jump up and run to them, even if you are sick yourself. Then you are
the last man they want to pay when it comes time to settle, and they
always think you're trying to rob them. I've worn my life away trying to
serve them, and they call me a skinflint and a miser because I own one
or two nigger shacks and try to save what little I make! You've come to
a mighty poor place to make your fortune, and it's a mighty hard life
you're beginning."

"I've practiced some already, and did not find the work hard, or
uncongenial. And I also found people very obliging. But I love the
work, doctor, and I suspect that counts for a great deal!"

"Love it!" snorted Doctor Kale; "I never did love it! It's slavery--a
dog's life! Here, last night, I was coming in from the country tired to
death and headed for bed, when that fool Dillard held me up and hauled
me up here to work on you! Don't you see? Work, work, work!"

"But that's what we're put here for. Employment is our salvation.
Suppose everybody stopped work. What would happen to the world?... But
you did a good job with me, and you must permit me to compliment your
skill."

Unknowingly Glenning had found the vulnerable spot in the old fellow's
armour. His eyes took on a kinder gleam, but the look he bent on the
young man was not unmixed with suspicion.

"Think I helped you, eh? Maybe I did. I've fooled around diseased and
mistreated bodies the most of a lifetime, and I ought to know something,
if I don't. Where're you from? The _Herald_ said, but I can't remember."

"Jericho. It's rather in the northeastern part of the State. Not large;
something like this place in population."

"D'you take this for a hamlet, young man?" fired up Doctor Kale. "Fifth
class city, sir, and we're growin' by the minute."

"No offense, I'm sure," smiled Glenning. "You must remember I haven't
seen your tow--city, by daylight."

"You've seen the prettiest thing in it by firelight, though."

A swift change had come over the combative features of Doctor Kale, and
his wrinkled face bore a reminiscent look. There was a distant
expression in his eyes; he seemed to be gazing into the past.

Glenning pushed the tray and its contents away and leaned his head on
his hand.

"The prettiest woman in the county, and I might say in Kentucky," mused
the man on the bed.

He got up and walked limping to his patient, and as he began an
examination of hidden bandages and general physical condition his flow
of talk continued in a wonderfully changed and melodious voice.

"I've known the family always. These hands were the first hands which
touched that little girl when she came into the world, and I've watched
her in sickness and in health up till now. Julia's as sweet as God could
make her, and that's about as sweet as a woman can get. The old Major's
game, and stiff, and proud as the devil, and poor as Lazarus, but he's a
gentleman; a gentleman, sir, who'd pawn his last coat to pay a debt and
go through the winter in his shirt sleeves. I could never get closer
than arm's length to the Major, but Julia--" His voice stopped, and
Glenning, stealing a glance at his face, saw that his lips were tight
and he was slowly shaking his head. "She's a wonderful girl," he
resumed, presently, while his hands glided deftly about here and there.
"She came to me once when nobody else would have done in her place, when
my greatest sorrow was on me, and I won't forget it--_I won't forget
it_--I'll tell it to God Almighty when we stand before Him together!"

Glenning had no words in which to answer this unusual discourse. He
remained silent, and presently the doctor stepped aside.

"I swear you seem fit as a fiddle!" he avowed, in his old peremptory
tones. "You must be a tough nut. How do you feel? Any internal pains?"

His patient drew a long breath, and a grimace which he could not check
in time shot over his face.

"Don't lie to me, you young rascal! Where does it hurt?"

"Inside; here."

The speaker placed his hand on his right lung.

"It ought to hurt there, for you've a bruise as big as a soup plate.
Nothing dangerous, but you must be careful. Stay in this room for two
days, anyway, and lie down most of the time. Do you promise?"

"I suppose I'll have to," replied Glenning, somewhat ruefully.

Doctor Kale thumped over to his hat and medicine case. Jamming the hat
on his head till it almost rested on his ears, he grabbed his case, then
swung around and gazed keenly at the new doctor.

"Are you married?" he demanded, abruptly, and in a manner which in
anyone else would have been highly impertinent.

"No," was the answer, given quite gravely.

A meaningless snort greeted this inoffensive monosyllable. Then Doctor
Kale began to parade the room, thumping and storming.

"Why in hell ain't you? A doctor ought to be married--adds to his
respectability. And here you come sneakin' into Macon not married!"

He stopped about three feet in front of the figure in the chair.

"I may be a rascal, as some people say, but I'm no fool. You're not
married, and you went into a fiery furnace to save Julia Dudley's horse.
Now I've got this to say. The man who gets her has me to reckon with as
well as the old Major. Damned if he don't have to _prove_ himself, and
be as clean as a white-washed wall! Good morning, sir!"

He stamped to the door, went out, slammed it furiously behind him, and
was gone.



CHAPTER IV


The predominant feeling in Glenning's breast when Doctor Kale left him
was one of resentment. The old fellow had presumed far beyond his
rights, had gone into the future in an entirely unwarrantable way, and
had given advice for which there was no thanks in the young man's heart.
His resentment was heightened by the fact that Julia Dudley's face had
been haunting him all morning. Certainly he did not love her. He had
never exchanged a word with her; he had only seen her once, a vision of
white beauty with brown, braided hair, standing like a Niobe in that
night of stress and peril. He had never been of a susceptible
temperament. He had work to do in the world, and love must wait. That
had been his motto of renunciation, for he had a deep, strong, tender
heart, charged with that priceless heritage God gives to each of his
children. But when the girl with the braided hair had stepped forward in
the presence of half the town and had singled him out for her cavalier
in the adventure of that hour, he had felt a strange and unaccountable
thrill pass through him. Her presence had been with him in the burning,
blinding heat of his subsequent struggle, and the knowledge that she was
waiting without for him to appear again a victor had nerved his arm and
his smoke-numbed brain to success. He did not try to hide these facts
from himself, but it was galling to think that a meddlesome old
busy-body had also found them out, and had flung them in his face,
coupled with a warning.

He shook himself together and took another view. He must not be
supersensitive. The old man had been good to him. He had ministered to
him and nursed him when he, himself, was worn and tired. And Dillard had
said he was peculiar. But Glenning had seen the deeper, truer side to
Doctor Kale for a few moments, and he knew that whatever nature he
presented exteriorly, down in his heart he was a man. That personal
experience of which he spoke evasively probably referred to the death of
his wife. Anyhow it was something very vital; something of serious
import, and John saw now that it had been shrewdly given him to assist
him in formulating a proper attitude towards Miss Dudley. Old Doctor
Kale loved her. Of course it was a paternal, protecting love, but it was
deep as the nethermost sea, and as true as heaven. And old Doctor Kale
knew that as sure as grass grew, and water ran down hill, a man and a
maid will love.

Slowly through these engrossing reflections a sound crept to Glenning's
brain. He had been conscious of it for several moments in an indifferent
way, but all at once it assumed the tones of a conversation. He inclined
his head in the direction from whence the sound came, and caught a name
which made him start. He got up, alert, calm, quiet, and moved swiftly
towards the cheap oak dresser. He now observed for the first time that
this sat in front of a door connecting with another room, and it was
from that room the voices came. There was no transom, but by moving the
dresser slightly he would have access to the keyhole. This would have to
be accomplished without noise. He listened. The voices had sunk to a
murmur. There was no choice, and instantly his long, sinewy fingers
gripped the top of the dresser on either side. Oh, how it hurt when he
put forth his strength! But he lifted it, swerved it a few inches, and
set it down without a sound. The exertion had racked his body with
acutest pain, but he smiled grimly as he thought of what his recent
caller would have said and done could he have seen him, then squatted
before the keyhole and softly put his ear to the tiny aperture. In an
instant his face grew grave.

"Tonight, Travers; it must be tonight," a husky, coarse voice was
whispering; "it's got to be done!"

"And you want _me_ to do it?" came the answering whisper, in a nervous,
excited manner.

"Yes. There's nothing in the State that can beat my Thunderer, Daystar
and Imperial Don except that long-legged devil-colt. You want to retire
from business. You can do it after this summer's racing with the tips
I'll give you _if you'll kill Dudley's colt tonight_!"

"I can't! I can't!" was the moaning reply. "I'm not too good; I'm
afraid!"

"Afraid of what?" a sneering voice returned. "Of the dark, two old
niggers, an old man and a girl? You're not game a bit!"

"Let me think ... let me think! How much can I make?"

"Ten thousand, easy. See here, it can be done in a minute. We've tried
poison and fire, but there's no escape from a pistol bullet, unless that
lank fool who last night went where I tried to go chooses to stand in
the way--and I shouldn't care if he did."

"Where will the horse be?--the stable's burned flat."

"I'll find that out today and let you know soon after dark. But you'd
better not do it till along towards three in the morning. Everybody will
be asleep then."

"But if they should catch me, Marston? I'm supposed to be respectable!"

"Damn you for a rank coward!" was the explosive rejoinder, spoken aloud.
"I know a fellow who'll do it for a ten-dollar bill!"

The heavy tramping of feet followed this harsh speech, as though the man
who had spoken was leaving the room.

"Hold on, Marston!" the nervous voice protested, eagerly. "Come back a
minute! And don't talk so loud. That new doctor's on this floor
somewhere. I was asleep when they brought him in half dead last night,
and the night clerk, Jones, put him on this floor somewhere. Be patient.
A man can't risk his life and reputation without thinking about it. Sit
down just a minute and let me think."

Some unintelligible grumbling was the only reply Glenning could hear,
but he judged from the silence which followed that both men were still
there. He took advantage of this lull in the conversation to put his
eye to the keyhole. A compactly built, brutish looking man was in his
line of vision, sprawled in a chair directly facing him. Glenning would
have recognized anywhere the one who had vainly tried to enter The
Prince's stall. He was an evil appearing man. His shoulders were very
broad, and his neck was so thick and short that his round head seemed to
spring from his body. He was flashily dressed, with knee length riding
boots of russet leather. His face was sensual and cruel; his straight
black hair grew low upon his forehead. His eyes were small and set close
to his nose, and his upper teeth habitually showed, like a wolf's. A
heavy scowl sat upon his features from his present ill humour. The
watcher at the keyhole felt a great wave of repulsion surge over him as
he beheld this being in the shape of man, and unconsciously his heart
hardened. Nothing was visible of the second occupant of the room except
the toe of one shoe, which kept up an incessant tattoo on the worn
carpet. Two minutes passed, and Glenning noted that the figure fronting
him was growing restless. The frown on his low forehead deepened into
threatening furrows and he began to strike his boots with the whip he
carried. Suddenly he sat upright.

"Out with it, man!" he hissed. "Don't dally here till the morning's
gone! Are you going to do it or not?"

The tattoo ceased, and the foot was withdrawn from view. Then its owner
came within the radius of the little circle formed by the keyhole. He
walked straight to the burly figure in the chair, and bent down to
whisper his decision. The man on watch could only see his back. He was a
low, thin person, wearing a brown checked suit. Glenning swiftly put his
ear to the little opening, and listened with the greatest intensity. It
was of the utmost importance that he should hear the outcome of the
plot. But only elusive murmurs reached him, and not a word could he
hear. Observation was his second chance; the only one left. Again he
brought his eye to bear. Both men were standing now, close together.
They had come to a satisfactory understanding, for the heavy man's face
had lightened, and he had one hand laid in a confiding way upon the
shoulder of his confederate. Then they passed from the room, whispering
as they went.

Glenning got onto his feet, found a chair, and sat down. Of one thing
only was he sure--there was work before him. The rest was dark, but
plain ahead lay his duty. The Dudleys must know of all that had passed
in the next room. The one called Marston had spoken of poison and of
fire. Then the burning of the stable had been the work of an incendiary.
He was exerting every malign effort to get rid of Dudley's horse. The
third trial was to occur that night. John got up and looked at his
watch. It was after eleven. Major Dudley had said in his note that he
would call in the afternoon. But he might not come till late, and
something might happen whereby he could not come at all. The matter was
most urgent and vital, admitting of no delay whatever. He knew no one
who could act as a messenger on an errand of this character. Dillard
had said he would drop in at noon, but he had duties of his own. He must
go himself. There was no other course open. When he had come to this
decision Glenning took a quick inventory of his physical condition. The
wound over his right lung was his most serious hurt. The burns which he
had sustained were only on the surface, and while they were quite
painful, they would not prevent his proposed journey. Strange to say,
his face had scarcely been touched by the fire. There was an ugly welt
about two inches long upon his left cheek, and a scratch or two upon his
forehead and neck; that was all. His hair was badly singed, as he
discovered when he endeavored to brush it. He made his toilet as
carefully as possible, finding shaving a task for a stoic, but going
through with it nevertheless. By twelve he was appareled in a neat gray
suit and clean linen, and feeling very much himself. He went down to the
dining-room early, and was grateful to be assigned to a table in an
obscure corner. It was his especial desire right now to be unnoticed,
and besides he had an innate abhorrence of publicity; of being looked at
and commented upon, even though favorably.

The boy who had brought his breakfast approached in a deferential way
for his order, which Glenning gave with the request that it be served
quickly. But before it came he began to realize the penalty of
greatness. The guests of the hotel commenced to assemble, and every one
that entered, male or female, big or little, cast their eyes about until
they found the hero in his corner. And the painful part of it was they
did not withdraw their eyes after they had found him, but gazed and
gazed with truly rural interest, in which rudeness really had no place.
One little girl in brown curls even ventured to point, and ask, "Mama,
is that him?" before the maternal hand could grasp her arm, and the
paternal voice admonish her in a loud whisper to behave. Still his
dinner did not come, and he began to grow embarrassed. Finally, in
desperation, he drew some old letters from his pocket and began to
re-read them, finding such employment better suited to his taste than
staring sillily back at the many pairs of eyes which were now beholding
him. Directly a small envelope slipped from the packet in his hand and
fell face upward on the table. The address was in an unformed feminine
hand. He did not re-read this letter, but as he picked it up and placed
it back in his breast pocket along with the others a look of dejected
weariness settled heavily on his face. He forgot all those who were
watching him; forgot the urgent present, as a pair of wonderful
wine-brown eyes swam before him. Dishes jingled at his elbow; his dinner
was being served. He must eat quickly and go. He must behave well, and
let the people look as long as they wished, for they were to be his
people now, and his home was to be among them. In time he was to be the
family doctor for many of them.

But the grip of a past such as held him now was not the palsied touch of
age. It was the strong-handed hold of vigorous youth, which tightens the
more as we make resistance. Glenning shook back the straight black
locks which had fallen upon his forehead, and the melancholy of his eyes
became a shadow of living pain. A lassitude was upon him, weighting his
spirit, leaden-like. He ate perfunctorily, choosing no dish above
another, taking always the one closest to hand. He was not aware of the
obsequious attentions of the waiter who stood proudly behind his chair,
with mouth set in a perpetual grin. He did not hear the purring
questions this worthy asked. Sometimes it was this way with him. He had
fought a battle from which gods would have shrunk, and had come out
clean. But the price! Sometimes he wondered, in bitterness, if it had
been worth while, and then later, when quiet came, and he felt an awed
sweetness stealing upon his soul, he was glad.

By force of will alone he brought his mind back to the hour before him.
Then, hurriedly making an end of his dinner, he went to his room for a
light cane, found and descended the parlor stairs to avoid the office
and the loungers there, and started up street.

The appearance of any stranger in a town the size of Macon is always
remarked. Little wonder then that John Glenning found himself, as it
were, on dress parade. When he had run the gantlet of one block, which
happened to be the one upon which most of the business houses were
located, he turned to the right, to allay any suspicions as to his
ultimate destination. He would make a detour, and come back to main
street further on. The first corner which he approached was occupied by
a small, weather-beaten, one-story frame house, setting slightly back in
a yard poorly kept, wherein a few straggling rose bushes strove for
existence. Entering the front door of this house as he passed was a
slightly bent, limping figure. He recognized in a moment Doctor Kale,
but whether this was his residence, or whether he was making a call, he
could not determine. He was quite thankful, however, that the old doctor
had not seen him, for an unpleasant situation would have developed at
once. He had given his word to remain in his room for two days, and he
did not feel inclined to share his secret with a comparative stranger,
even though his friendly interest in the Dudleys could not be
questioned.

Glenning crossed the street diagonally and resumed his eastward course,
walking more rapidly. The increased circulation which his exercise
occasioned caused him considerable suffering, but he set his jaws, and
went on. Presently he passed the jail, a stone structure, with narrow
slits for windows. Pitying any unfortunate who might be languishing in
the gloomy pile this bright June day, he fell to noticing the pleasant
looking houses which he passed, most of them of frame, most of them old,
and possessing no decided style of architecture, but indicating thrift
and cleanliness on the part of their occupants. Then he had swerved onto
the main street once more, which led on in an unbroken line almost to
Cemetery Hill, beyond which was the Dudley home. He passed very few
people now, for it was hot at this time of the day, and not many were
stirring. Then, too, it was the dinner hour. He found this walk would
have been delightful under ordinary circumstances, for the pavement was
lined with maple trees, which cast a continuous shade below. He passed
some beautiful homes on this part of his walk; residences which showed
plainly the lavish elegance of ante-bellum prosperity. He grew the least
bit nervous as he crossed the railroad just this side of Cemetery Hill.
It was here the pavement ended, and for the remainder of his journey he
must take the pike. He was not afraid of his welcome; he knew that would
be cordial and genuine, but until he should be able to make his errand
known it would appear somewhat as if he had come to be thanked. His
sensitive nature revolted at this. He really would have preferred to let
the incident drop without discussion, but he knew that was impossible.
He was now in view of the fence, the long, iron fence bent and twisted
in places which bounded a large and exceedingly well kept lawn, from
which arose in stately splendour, irregularly, majestic oaks, maples and
elms. The lawn sloped gently upward, and on its crest was the home,
looking very square, solid and dignified, with its upper and lower
porticos and its rows of windows, four above and four below. There was
no sign of life. Glenning went down the fence, watching for a gate. The
night before he had had no time for minor things, and it was almost as
though he had never seen the place before. The gate proved to be at the
other corner of the yard, was double, and had a lion's head cast in the
center of the iron arch which spanned it. One of the gates yielded to
his touch and he went in, feeling decidedly like a trespasser. He found
himself at the beginning of a graveled drive, winding picturesquely
through borders of evergreens up to the front of the mansion.
Unconsciously, perhaps, he put his hand to his tie to see that it was in
place, then bravely set his face towards his goal.

As he drew closer he discovered that the house was pretentious, and that
the disposition and care of everything outdoors was peculiarly correct.
He did not tarry as his feet brought him near the end of the drive, but
walked with a firm tread upon the portico, removed his hat, and knocked
briskly upon a panel of one of the heavy doors, both of which were open
wide. Accompanying his knock, rather than following it, came the sound
of the swishing of dainty drapery overhead; a sound which instantly
became more audible, and mingled with it was the musical hum of a
lilting tune. Glenning glanced up, his heart behaving somewhat oddly,
for his position was a trifle nervous, and beheld, around the further
bend of the old stairway, where it gave upon the broad landing, a
flutter of garments. He knew at once who it was, and he knew she had not
heard his summons at the door, for she was humming industriously, and
evidently had just started to descend the stair. Across the landing she
floated, to the top of the downward flight, and at that point she lifted
her eyes and beheld the tall young stranger standing in the middle of
the open doorway. The humming stopped abruptly, and so did Julia. She
did not recognize him at that distance, for the brighter light was at
his back, and his clothing was entirely different from what it had been
the night before. Knowing it to be a stranger, and presuming he had
called to see her father, she came very demurely and very slowly down
the stair, one hand sliding gently along the mahogany rail. Glenning
waited in respectful silence until she should come nearer. She had
dropped her eyes, but as her feet reached the floor she lifted them in
an interrogative glance, and then she saw--the singed and burned hair,
the disfiguring welt upon his cheek, one or two pieces of court plaster
which he had tried to remove and failed. The change which transformed
this quite correct and polite young lady was electric in its rapidity.
Her hands clasped and flew up under her chin, and there came a look upon
her sweet face such as the man had never seen in his life before. There
was gratitude, compassion, and a lingering, unconscious tenderness, and
eloquent, if wordless emotion beamed in her brown eyes. For a moment
each was speechless. Then Julia came forward with outheld hand.

"O, you are he!" she exclaimed, and the blood rushed up to her face,
overflowing its delicate beauty with rich tints. "You saved our Prince!"

The touch of the small, cool hand in his affected Glenning strangely. It
brought recollection--which was bitter--and it made this girl's presence
very real--which was sweet.

She spoke again almost at once, in a somewhat calmer voice, though it
was plain to see her feelings had not abated.

"My father and I are in your lasting debt. Come into the library. He
will want to see you. He was going into town for that purpose later in
the afternoon. Peter told us he delivered father's letter safely."

As she was speaking she led the way into the room on the right. Glenning
followed, and both sat down.

"I--might have waited for him to come," said John, "but--I thought
something might detain him, and an incident has arisen which makes it
necessary that I see him at once. Otherwise I would not have forced
myself upon you so soon after--last night."

"I am glad you have come, Mr.--Doctor--"

"Glenning, Miss Dudley."

"Doctor Glenning, for I want to speak my thanks with father's. I do not
know whether I should apologize or not for appealing to you last night,
for I had never seen you until that moment. But I was wild with grief at
the thought of my Prince burning to death before my eyes, and when the
rest gave back cowardly, and left you alone, it was borne in upon me
that you would do it--that you could do it, and were not afraid. Now,
when I am calm and sane, I see that I was presuming enormously--almost
inhumanly, upon your manhood, for I had no right in the world to speak
to you as I did, and I believe I am ashamed of it today, and think I
should ask your pardon."

Her words followed each other swiftly, as though the speech was one
which she wished to say quickly, before her determination to speak it
wavered. The flush which had come to her face at the door had never
receded, and still enveloped her features charmingly, as she sat with
bent head in the cool semi-gloom of the old library.

Glenning looked on her a moment keenly before he replied. The picture
she made might have stirred any man's heart. He knew she was sincere;
that sufficed for the time.

"Don't speak of apologies," he answered, in a voice which had grown
deeper and more vibrant. "You do not owe me any. I have read of days
when men counted it a favor to serve a lady, be she friend or stranger.
Let us not think those days are entirely gone--that they are as dead as
the people who lived in them. Candidly, and without simulation, I was
glad to do what I did for you--gladder still that you felt you might
call upon me. That means more than all else, perhaps. And it was not all
a duty, believe me; it was a pleasure."

A smile trembled upon her lips as she raised her head and looked
squarely at him.

"And these," she said, "upon your cheek, and neck, and forehead. Your
hands, blackened and burned"--her voice quivered--"your lungs perhaps
scorched--what of these?"

He laughed gently.

"Let us say my body has been purged of some of its sins by fire, and let
us call the marks badges of honor. They will not deface, and I shall
never be sorry for them."

There was a peculiar earnestness to his tones she could not fathom.
None of the young men in Macon would have made a speech like that. None
of them could have understood such sentiments. She understood them but
vaguely herself, yet they appeared very noble. As he spoke, she knew
that she was noticing for the first time the square lines of his angular
face, and the half melancholy, half humorous expression of his eyes.

"You take serious things quite lightly," she contended, "but it is
difficult to answer you. You are striving not to permit your heroism to
be recognized, but _we_ know better, father and I, and you must not
speak deprecatingly of it before us. It will hurt us. Shall I go for
father?" She arose quietly and stood before him. "Peter is arranging new
quarters for the Prince, and father is superintending the work."

"Yes, if it is convenient for him to come now. I don't think I need
delay him long. You, too, had better be present, for you will be
interested in my message."

"Very well. Wait just a moment."

She disappeared in the hall with light footsteps, and Glenning, with his
eyes set intently upon the worn Brussels carpet in front of him, awaited
her return.



CHAPTER V


The presence of a peculiarly sweet perfume, brought to his nostrils by a
light zephyr floating through the open window near, caused him to look
up. He could see through the casement an old and shabby honeysuckle, and
it was from this the odour came, so elusive as to make him doubt its
reality. He wondered why so unsightly a shrub as this had grown to be
was allowed a place in the purlieus of the immaculate lawn, then his
eyes came indoors. The room in which he sat was large. An old fireplace
was on one side, but this was hidden by a screen. Above it was a tall
mantel, with some chaste bric-a-brac, and above this the picture of a
man of unusually fine appearance. A young man, whose every feature
bespoke courage and determination. The remainder of the wall space was
pretty much given up to book cases of various sizes and designs, and all
crammed with books. A center-post mahogany table stood in the middle of
the room, and this also was heavily sprinkled with books and papers, and
a few magazines. Being a man, Glenning did not know that the threads in
the carpet under his feet showed, nor that the haircloth with which the
chairs were upholstered was worn into holes in many places. But he
pricked his ears at once when he heard quick footsteps on the long side
porch, and the sound of more deliberate and heavier steps coming with
them. He was on his feet when Major Dudley and Julia came into the
library arm in arm. A smile of genuine welcome was on the aristocratic
features of the master of the place, and he came forward with more
celerity than he was wont to show, clasping Glenning's hand in a grip
which almost made the young fellow wince.

"You're none too soon, suh; none too soon!" he exclaimed, beaming
warmest appreciation into the eyes of his caller. "Sit down, suh, sit
down, while I apologize for not coming to inquire after you this
morning, instead of waiting for this afternoon. You must have a
constitution of adamant," he added, as the three took chairs.

"It is pretty tough," admitted Glenning. "I'm almost myself today. Still
I would not have ventured to impose myself upon you this morning had it
not chanced I heard something which you will be glad to know--or, at
least, which you should know, for it is not pleasant news."

"One moment, suh." Then to his daughter, in a tone of greatest
respect--"Julia, bid Peter mix two juleps and serve them here at once.
Now, doctor, what were you going to say?"

"I shall wait for Miss Dudley's return, with your permission. That which
I have to say concerns you both equally. This is a lovely old home, if
you will pardon the comment."

Major Dudley took a book from the table by which he sat. Certainly not
with the intention of reading, but it was a life-long habit, and if he
happened to be in arm's length of a book he never failed to pick it up.

"It's a family possession, suh. The wah's done away with most of them
hereabout, but we were fortunate in not being pillaged and burned, like
many of our neighbors. Then a number were sold for debt, and passed into
vandal hands. But before we proceed fu'ther, suh, you must let me
confess my obligation--"

Glenning held up a restraining hand.

"Miss Dudley has done that," he said, "and you would please me most by
not referring again to last night's adventure. I was lucky enough to get
the horse out, and lucky enough to get out myself. I know all the thanks
which you would utter, and I accept them. Now let's close the incident
and come down to the needs of the moment, for, believe me, they are
pressing."

The Major gazed in sheer amazement at the man, and before he could find
his voice Julia returned, glided like a sunbeam to her chair and sat
down, folding her hands in her lap.

"Peter will be here in a moment," she said, softly.

Glenning resumed talking immediately, and laid bare to the smallest
detail the plot which he had heard an hour or two before. The girl's
face paled in evident distress as the recital proceeded, while Major
Dudley sat like an image of stone, his gray eyes fixed unwaveringly on
the speaker.

"That is all," concluded John, "and I have come straight to you, for
forewarned is forearmed. I judge the attack will be made between two
and three in the morning."

When he ceased there was dead silence for perhaps a minute. Finally one
word broke from the Major's lips--"Marston!" His eyes fell to the floor
for an instant, then he lifted his head as a stag might when brought to
bay.

"He is the enemy of our house, suh, and he has harassed me vilely! If I
were a younger man, I'd dare him to do his worst." Then a troubled and
perplexed expression came over his face, and he turned to his daughter.
"Little girl, this is men's work. Had you not better leave us?"

Julia got up, went to him, and placed one hand upon his forehead and the
other around his neck.

"The time has come when I must share your burdens, daddy," she said. Her
face was burning, but her voice was very tender and brave. "Let's talk
it over together--Doctor Glenning, you and I. Is not that best?"

She turned her gaze on the young man by the window as she put the
question.

"Decidedly!" he answered promptly, and with vigour. "I am convinced that
an exceedingly base man is attempting you cowardly violence, and if you
will permit me I shall gladly take part in your council. The first
thought which presents itself is--why not denounce him and place him
under arrest?"

The old man shook his head, and smiled sadly.

"Had you not just arrived in our town you would realize that to be
impossible. He is very powerful, very rich, and has men at his mercy
who are high in civic and municipal affairs. Your testimony--or
mine--would be laughed at. We cannot touch him."

Glenning's face darkened, and his lips pressed together to a thin,
straight line.

"Then it's Greek meet Greek," he said, in a low, hard voice, and Julia,
watching him, felt something akin to awe well up in her breast. Somehow
he seemed so masterful, so calm, so purposeful, and she had been a
witness of his ability to do things.

"Travers is to be his agent this time?"

It was the Major's voice, worry-laden.

"Yes, that's the name."

"He runs the hotel on a lease. Marston owns it. He's tired of working,
and wants to buy his way to independence over the body of the Prince.
Let him come! I am old to shed man's blood, but I will protect my
property!"

"Daddy, you can't sit up all night," remonstrated Julia, trying to
smooth the wrinkles from his forehead, "and you would be no match for an
able bodied person bent on mischief. Isn't the smoke-house strong enough
to keep out whoever comes?"

A throat was cleared in the hall doorway in an apologetic manner. The
Major was too preoccupied to hear it.

"Here's Peter," said Julia, soothingly, without looking up.

"Ah! I'd forgotten. Let me ask you to have a julep with me, Doctor
Glenning. Peter, pass the tray to the gentleman."

The retainer of the Dudley household shambled forward, bearing a tray
upon which sat two glasses, each containing a well-mixed mint julep. It
may as well be stated here that the quality of a mint julep depends
largely upon the manner in which it is prepared, and Peter had been
doing this sort of thing three times a day for more years than he had
fingers and toes. This formal courtesy having been duly observed, Peter
withdrew at once, and the question of the moment again commanded
attention.

"There's nothing, my daughter," said Major Dudley, reverting to Julia's
question, "there's nothing can positively thwart a villain except steel
or lead. This man has hounded me until I'm desperate!"

"I agree with Miss Dudley," said Glenning, speaking carefully, "that it
would not do for you to attempt to cope with this midnight assassin. A
personal encounter is not at all improbable, and in that event you would
inevitably suffer bodily harm, and perhaps death, for the man who would
undertake such a piece of work as this would not hesitate to take human
life."

While he was speaking Julia left her father's side and went back to the
chair she had formerly occupied.

"Is there any one about the place upon whom you could rely?" John
queried.

"We are alone with the exception of Peter and Aunt Frances. They would
sacrifice themselves for us, but their aid would be out of the question
upon an occasion like this."

A sudden gloom seemed to envelope the Major as he spoke.

"There's no one," he added, in a lifeless tone.

"But in town?" persisted the calm, even voice. "Is there no one--no
young person who is not afraid that you could call to your assistance?"

The old man's head moved slowly in sign of negation.

"We live almost absolutely to ourselves, and alone," explained Julia.
"It has been the family trait for generations. I have sometimes thought
it a grave fault thus to seclude ourselves from the world, and live
apart from our neighbors. It is a species of selfishness, but we have
always found it very sweet. But living thus we must, you see, be
sufficient unto ourselves at all times and under all circumstances. We
have no moral nor civil right to make any demands, or ask any favours.
We have chosen our lot, and we must abide by it, whatever comes. Until
now--until this hour we have never regretted this, but--"

"But at the proper time Fate takes a hand in every game."

Glenning smiled as he finished the sentence in his own way.

"What do you mean?" asked the girl, a quick suspicion of what was in his
mind causing her brown eyes to dilate and her lips to part the least bit
in anticipation.

His words had an effect on the Major also. He straightened up, while
hope sprang to his eyes. Glenning braced his feet on the floor and
grasped the arms of his chair firmly before he answered. When he spoke
his words came clear and sharp from between his teeth.

"I mean what I say." He held Julia Dudley's eyes with his own, without
wavering an instant, as he went rapidly on. "Fate has taken a hand, and
I am her instrument. This is no time for false attitudes, hypocrisy, or
make-believes. There come times in all lives when superficiality has to
be shorn away, when we must look upon things as they really are and cast
aside all pretence and the nice fabric which cloaks our everyday actions
and affairs. It is in such times we find our real selves, and the pity
of it is they are usually compelled by some distressing situation, some
condition which of itself strips off all sham and leaves our true
natures bare. A little more than twelve hours ago I did not know that
either of you were in the land of the living. Chance, if we chose to
call it that, brought me in your way, and I did you a service. Simple
justice to a fellow being against whose worldly goods I overheard a vile
conspiracy brought me to your home today. With what result? You are
totally unprepared and unable to meet this crisis alone and unaided.
There is no one upon whom to call in this emergency. I am young, strong,
and unafraid. I shall watch The Prince tonight!"

Julia put her palms over her face for the briefest moment, and when she
took them down her eyes were shining adorably.

"Oh!" she exclaimed. "We cannot accept that!"

A faint shadow of annoyance flashed over Glenning's countenance. He
feared that she had not understood fully, but in the swift moment which
followed he knew that he was wrong, and that she did understand. She was
aware that his motive was noble and impersonal, for the knowledge was
written on her fare. The caller turned to Major Dudley.

"Will you accept my offer, sir? It is made simply as man to man; as two
strangers might meet in the desert, one unarmed and threatened by a wild
beast, the other armed, and ready and willing to do what he can. That is
the situation, and it is very simple. I see no need to delay, or
hesitate. It is an extremely plain proposition. What do you say, sir?"

The Major was grave, upright and dignified as he answered in his
measured tones:

"This is the fust time in my life that I have asked or received aid from
any man. But I find myself in a sore strait, from which, as far as I can
see, there is only one escape. The Prince is almost as deah to me as a
child, Doctor Glenning. He is the last of a strain of race hosses which
have made Kentucky famous all over the United States, and I confess to
you that his swiftness has never been equalled by any of his forebears.
To save myself, personally, I would tell you no. To save Julia and the
colt, I say yes. It looks base, it looks brazen, it looks coarse and
common, but I trust, suh, you realize fully the peculiar position in
which you find me, and from which it seems that no one but you can
extricate me. My daughter, we accept Doctor Glenning's magnanimous offer
provisionally."

Julia merely bowed her head and remained silent. Her face had grown
whiter and her eyes almost solemn.

"What restrictions do you wish to place upon me?" asked Glenning.

"Simply this. That you do not go on duty till midnight. There is
absolutely no danger before that time, and Peter and I will share the
watch. Again, you must promise to remain in shelter when you begin your
vigil. The Prince's new quarters will be the smoke-house. Peter is there
now doing what's necessary. It's a stanch structure, solid as a
block-house of pioneer days, and will withstand an assault. You must
also agree not to fire upon anyone unless it should become necessary. I
have no desire that any of these people should die. If compelled to
shoot, shoot low, and let your aim be to cripple. These are my
provisions, and I shall not swerve from them an inch."

The man by the window hesitated a moment only.

"All right," he said. "I agree, since I must, but I had rather go into
this business unhampered." He smiled boyishly, and turned to Julia.
"We've over-ridden you, Miss Dudley. I hope you, also, will now agree to
this little plan?"

"Ye-e-s, if father thinks it right I mustn't be contrary. But you are
unfit for such a thing just now, and it seems brutally cruel and
unfeeling after what you did last night."

Glenning waved his hand deprecatingly.

"We've forgotten that, you know, and agreed to let it alone. See that
you don't trespass again. Tonight will be a lark, nothing else. Do you
think I could be possibly frightened by that funny looking little hotel
keeper?"

"Travers is an arrant coward, as well as a knave," broke in the Major,
"but if Marston has any reason to doubt his project will miscarry, he
may come, too. Then it's time to keep your eyes open, for he'll stop at
nothing. I'm glad you have consented to my provisions, doctor, and now
I've something else to say. I invite you to spend the afternoon with us,
and take tea. Then you can return to town at twilight and retire early,
in order to get some rest."

Involuntarily Glenning's eyes went around to where the young mistress of
the old home sat.

"Let me repeat father's invitation," she said. "We shall be glad to have
you stay. It will be pleasant for us, and will give you an opportunity
to lay your plan of action for tonight. It will also save you an extra
trip, if you have no other business on hand for the afternoon."

Glenning bowed.

"Nothing whatever. Tomorrow, perhaps, or the next day, I will establish
an office down town, and incidentally desert the Union House. I have no
desire whatever to remain the guest of our friend, Mr. Travers. He might
put arsenic in my soup, or strychnine in my bread. But for the rest of
this day I'm free, and I am delighted with your invitation, which I
accept with pleasure."

Julia arose and went to the Major's side again.

"This is the hour for father's siesta," she said. "He has been
accustomed to taking a nap this time of day ever since I can remember,
and I know he especially needs it now." She bent down and whispered in
the old gentleman's ear, but Glenning caught the words. "Lie down and
rest now, daddy dear. I'll take care of our guest until you wake. And
don't worry. Everything will come out all right."

Major Dudley arose a little unsteadily. His present trouble, crowding
the heels of last night's occurrence, had told on him. His face was
careworn, and there was the suggestion of a stoop in his shoulders. John
had likewise risen.

"If you will pardon me, suh," spoke the Major, "I'll lie down a while
now. A lazy custom of mine for which there really is no excuse. But
habit is strong, and grows stronger the more we humour it. I will be up
and out in the course of an hour. My daughter will entertain you, suh."

He bowed in formal, old-fashioned courtesy, and made his way to a long,
deep davenport across the room which Glenning had hitherto failed to
notice.

The caller now followed Julia into the hall.

"It seems impossible for us to treat you as a stranger in any way," she
said, in a low, musical voice, "or to make company of you. Shall we sit
on the portico, or would you rather go out on the lawn? We can take
chairs out, if you prefer."

"Am I to speak with perfect freedom? I believe that is the best and
truest basis for friendship, and I hope we may grow to be friends."

The partly alarmed glance which she darted at him showed only the
habitual expression, half-smiling, half-grave, wholly genuine.

"The truth, always, and straight from the shoulder," she answered.
"Deliver me from men or women who are constantly beating about the bush
and perpetually feeling their way."

"Bravo!" he exclaimed, softly, and laughed--a chest laugh which thrilled
her. "If everyone followed that maxim we would always know where our
neighbours stood. Then this is the thing I wish now--to go have a look
at The Prince's new stable. It had best be done by daylight, and--"

"Why, certainly."

She took a sunbonnet from the hat-rack near by, and turned to the long
side porch back of the hall.

"Come with me. It is not very far away."

They passed the length of the porch side by side, silently. Some steps
brought them to the ground, and as Glenning cast his eyes about he saw a
portly figure in blue calico and bandana swathed head disappearing up
another short flight of steps at the other end of the house.

"That's Aunt Frances," explained Julia, smiling at the precipitate
manner in which the old negress had sought the shelter of her kitchen.
"She is very shy for one of her age, and she is especially 'jubus' of
young men. I don't know why, for I'm sure they are not near so critical
as the young women. But she is faithful, and wonderfully watchful of me.
I love her devotedly. Yonder is her consort, Peter, hard at work."

The smoke-house was not over fifty yards from the mansion, and was
reached along a walk of huge flat stones. The way to all the
out-buildings was paved in this manner. Peter was evidently hung on the
horns of a dilemma as the two young people came up. He removed his
tattered hat deferentially, greeted them with two profound salaams, and
plunged into a recital of his woes, using the saw he held in one hand by
way of emphasis and illustration.

"De stable hit bu'n, 'n' de Prince got to hab a home. Massa 'low de
smoke-house wuz de only t'ing lef' fittin', 'n' hyar I been all day
tryin' to wuk out de riddle. Dar's de do', 'n' dar's de Prince, hitched
to dat freestone peach tree, 'n' de question whut's 'plexin' my mind is,
how I gwi' git 'im thu dat do'!"

He ceased with his head on one side, and rheumy eyes which glared
defiantly at the young man fronting him.

"What have you been doing with your saw?" asked Glenning, amused, but
holding his face decorously straight.

"Cut a winder on de yon' side o' de house. Hit tuk me twel dinner-time.
Now comes dis pesky do', whut de Prince won' fit. Ef he had 'nough
gumption to stoop, he could go in, but he's dat proud he won' bend a
bit. 'N' he got to git in hyar 'fo' dahk, sho'."

"Let me take a look. Maybe I can offer you a suggestion."

John passed through the low door. He found himself in a tall, dark room,
odourous of cured meats and burned hickory fagots. It was scantily
lighted by a square window of diminutive size, for in making the opening
Peter had been careful not to get it large enough to admit the body of a
man. But Glenning thought it was just the right size to admit two arms,
one holding a bull's eye lantern and the other a revolver. By the aid of
the light which streamed through the open door he could discern dimly
the rows of blackened rafters overhead, from which broken bits of hempen
strings hung desolately. There was not an ounce of meat in the
smoke-house, and the man could not help wondering the least bit at this.
Could they really be poor! He remembered what Dillard had said to
him--"They are in no position to entertain a well guest, let alone a
sick one." His heart sank strangely at the thought, and pity filled his
breast. He turned swiftly, and went out the door.

"Peter's trouble is not as grave as it might be," he said, smiling at
Julia as she stood patiently listening to the darky's discourse. "There
are two remedies; to cut up, or dig down. The floor, I notice, is
perhaps six inches lower than the ground, or we could saw out the log
above the lintel. Either is entirely practicable, and not difficult.
Which would you prefer, Miss Dudley?"

Julia did not know, as the perplexed look on her face showed, but Peter
did. He broke in before she had time to formulate a reply.

"We'll dig dat do'step up. I've heerd de Massa say afo'time dat de
rain'd run under dat do', 'n' dat he gwi' hab it 'tended to 'kase it
spile de meat. 'Bleeged to yo', suh. I'll git de pick 'n' shev'l 'n' fix
dat d'reckly."

He departed with his peculiar gait.

"Come and look at The Prince, and see if he knows you," said Julia.
"Peter hasn't let him get out of sight today."

Together they approached the young animal which stood tethered under the
shade of a small peach tree to one side.

"It's wonderful how little he was hurt," resumed Julia, and she could
not restrain the emotion in her voice. "See, this is the worst."

She pointed to a spot just above the lean flank, where a long, deep burn
marred the satin-like skin.

"A piece of falling timber did that," said Glenning. "I saw it."

He walked slowly around The Prince, and he, who had known horses from
his childhood, marveled much at the absolute faultlessness of this young
colt. He was modeled for speed, and speed alone, from the tips of his
veined ears to his small, polished hoofs. There was not a line at fault,
and, unbidden, a great wave of enthusiasm swept the man.

"You will race him this summer?" he queried.

"Yes, if he lives till then," she answered, with some sadness.

"Don't fear but he will live. I pledge you my word he shall be on the
track when the day comes."

Julia looked at him with moist eyes.

"You are wondrous kind." Then, with a sudden brightening--"The Prince
_is_ fast. Oh, you don't know! He really runs like the wind; so rapidly
that it almost frightens you. But this is a secret, you know. Still it
has gotten abroad, somehow, and that's why the stable burned, for there
are those not far away who also own fast horses, and it would almost
kill them to have our Prince victorious."

A scowl darkened the face of the tall, spare man in front of her.

"I can scarcely believe such dastardly cowards are alive. But don't fear
them. They shall not harm your horse, and after this night I think their
designs upon his life will cease."

"O I fear the night!" she cried. "But remember your promise to father. I
wish it was all over, and morning was here again!"

His deep, soft chest laugh reassured her.

"This will be child's play, Miss Dudley. Do not permit your rest to be
disturbed on my account. I love the darkness. Not because I am
altogether evil, but because of the solitude and peace which it brings.
We can find ourselves better in the still hours; we can face ourselves
and take counsel, and repent of what has been unworthy, and gather
strength, perchance, for the next day."

She raised her eyes with the tiniest frown of wonder, but he had bent
down and was rubbing the foreleg of The Prince.

Peter arrived at this point with his implements and set vigorously to
work, and in the space of a half-hour the colt was safely domiciled
anew, and was munching oats from a soap-box, both of which had been
provided by his faithful groom.

The remainder of the day passed with remarkable swiftness for John
Glenning. He found in Julia a character of unusual charm. She was
unsated with the world, unspoiled by men, unworried by the demands of
society. Her life had been a trifle monotonous, perhaps, but she
possessed the polish which gentle birth and proper environment bestows,
and her ready, bright mind had been led along the channels of the pure
and good only. Her innate womanliness was ever uppermost, never
approaching prudery, but marking unmistakably her speech, gestures and
manners. Soon after their return to the house they had been joined by
Major Dudley, and ere he realized how time had flown the vigorous
ringing of a bell on the side porch made Glenning aware that it was tea
time. It was rather a frugal repast to which he sat down a few moments
later, but the napery was snowy white, and the service of elegant
silver, solid and old. Aunt Frances, in white cap and apron, moved
ponderously about the board in prompt and deft manipulation of dishes,
and to the poor office- and hotel-worn man it was as though he had
accidentally strayed into Paradise. Candles in antique old brass holders
lighted the table, and there was witchery in the misty halo they cast
upon the fresh, lovely face and waving hair of Julia Dudley. She was
happy and bright at tea, striving alike to entertain their guest and to
lift the gloom which had again enveloped the Major. This side of her
father's nature she had seldom seen, and it made her afraid. Should he
grow morose or brooding at his time of life the result would be
disastrous, she knew, and before the meal was finished she made a mental
resolve to bring about that very night the talk which the Major had
promised her the afternoon before. Then she would be the better able to
aid him.

The sun was down when they again came out upon the portico, and twilight
was silently clearing the way for darkness.

"You have been most kind to me," said Glenning, standing bareheaded upon
the low step between the portico pillars. "Your hospitality has been the
best thing I have known for a long time. Let me beg you, Major, not to
let this little affair tonight keep you from sleeping. There is not the
slightest use of anyone being at the smoke-house until after midnight,
and I shall be here not later than twelve. If, however, you would feel
easier to know that a friendly eye was on The Prince, let Peter go.
Remember I consented to your terms readily, and now I implore you to
listen to me. Will you retire at your usual hour?"

"I will see that father keeps to the house," Julia said, with an
unexpected firmness which surprised both her hearers. As she spoke she
thrust her arm through the Major's and pressed it gently.

"There is not the slightest necessity for either of you to sit up,"
resumed Glenning. "I shall come and quietly go around to the smoke-house
and remain there till morning. And please do not be alarmed
unnecessarily. I shall keep my word to you, Major, depend upon that, and
above all, go to sleep with the positive assurance that The Prince shall
pass through this night unharmed."

He clasped each one's hand firmly, and turned away.

As the tall, upright form disappeared down the avenue, Julia put one
hand upon her father's cheek.

"Daddy," she said, "this night I must hear why Devil Marston hates us."



CHAPTER VI


The day had been very warm, and the old settee on the portico offered a
comfortable seat, so it was here Major Dudley and Julia decided to stay.
The master of the house made one more effort at postponement, but the
young mistress would have none of it. It must be that night, and at
once. Affairs had shaped themselves in such a manner that a complete
revelation of all that had been kept hidden from her was imperative. So
Peter fetched the long-stemmed meerschaum pipe which his master never
smoked except of evenings, and received his instructions regarding the
colt. These, by the way, were superfluous, for the negro had already
made his arrangements to be a bed-mate of The Prince that night. Then,
with the faint odour of the cherished honeysuckle at the corner of the
house in their nostrils, and the faraway plaint of a mourning
whip-poor-will floating spookily up from the lowlands on their right,
they settled themselves, one to the task of telling a story he had
rather have kept, and the other listening eagerly, yet with a certain
dread. Julia felt that a new existence was opening up for her, and it
looked formidable enough in the uncertain atmosphere which now enveloped
it. Hitherto her way had been smooth, and her tasks and renunciations
had been those of love. But as she thought of that dark-faced, brutish
looking man who lived only a half mile further down the road, and knew
that in some way both he and she were concerned in the tale she was to
hear, for the first time in her happy life a vague terror took hold of
her and her body sank closer to the form beside her. Major Dudley had
his pipe alight by this time, but he was slow to begin speaking. For
perhaps five minutes he said not a word, and Julia discreetly did not
urge him. She knew it would come, and they had half the night ahead of
them. Presently her father's hand strayed over into her lap and found
hers.

"Julia," he said, and his voice was so tender and caressing that the
girl caught a sob in her throat, that he might not hear, and be
distressed. "Julia, I have hoped all my life that it would never become
necessary for you to hear this story. It but illustrates man's
inhumanity to man, and shows the harm an evil mind can bring about. Now
I will tell you all about it, for it is your right.

"You never knew old Brule Marston. He was the father of our neighbour,
and at heart was as vile a being as I have ever known. He loved your
mother"--there was a catch in his voice here--"or at least pretended
that he did, and wanted to marry her. His family's position was good,
but only from the great fortune they had always owned. In reality the
Marstons have been a bad lot as far back as I have any recollection of
them. They have lived in Kentucky a long time, but they have always
bought their position in a community, and I have never known one of the
name to be a true gentleman, as we of the Bluegrass construe the word.
Brule Marston was hot-headed, rash, impetuous and domineering as a young
man. We were near the same age, he being a few years my senior, and we
knew each other but slightly, for our families never visited, as you
well know. Your mother came from Virginia to visit in the neighbourhood.
It was to the Beckwith home she came--you know Miss Adeline, the old
maid who lives with the Rays. She was one of the belles of the period,
and I met Margaret at their home. Brule Marston met her about the same
time, and then the mischief started. Each of us loved her from the
first, and in his own way. Brule tried to force her into a promise of
marriage, and for a time I thought I had lost her. He was handsome in a
dark, devilish way, and I think it was his dashing manner which
captivated Margaret for a time. They were heavy days for me, my
daughter, but I played fair, and never said or did an underhand thing to
attempt to further my cause. She gave no preference to either suitor so
far as being in her company was concerned, and we had an equal chance.
In the end I won, and that was God's choicest and sweetest gift to me.
My rival took his defeat as might have been expected. He went raving
wild when Margaret told him, and had not help been within call I believe
he would have struck her in his frenzy. Then followed a prolonged
drunken spree, when he scoured the country roads at night like a fiend
escaped from hell, shouting his curses at the sky, and shooting his
revolver recklessly. I had never feared him, and made no especial effort
to avoid him in my nightly calls upon my fiancée But I was glad we
never met, for mischief most certainly would have ensued.

"Margaret and I were married quietly, and now comes some more news. You
know you have often spoken of your uncle Arthur's picture over the
mantel in the library, saying how sorry you were never to have known
him? He was several years my junior, and had been at college in the
East. He came home and met Margaret after she and I had confessed our
love. He at once conceived a violent affection for her, and when he
discovered he was too late to hope to win her, it went hard with him,
indeed. He stayed till after the wedding, and then went West, following
the lure of gold. For a few years we heard from him at intervals, then
his letters ceased, and today we do not know whether he lives or not. We
loved each other dearly, and it has always been a cross to me that I was
the innocent cause of his exile. I have made efforts to find him, but
they have all been futile.

"Brule Marston disappeared a few days after our wedding. It was told
that he took a boat at Louisville and went south, as far as New Orleans.
He was gone a short time only, and when he returned he brought with him
a woman. She was a quadroon, or a Creole, and she was exceedingly
handsome in a flashy, barbaric way. Marston had loaded her with costly
silks and jewels of all kinds, and introduced her as his wife. No one
believed this to be true, and doors were closed upon them everywhere. In
the course of a year a child was born to them, a son, who from his
cradle was christened Devil Marston, for such was the wicked heart of
Brule, his father, who worshiped nothing but his own passions, and made
an open mock of religion. Then came the war, and I went with the South.
Fearing to leave my young wife unprotected, I took her to her old home
in Virginia, and there she stayed safely until the bitter strife was
over, and there you were born. When we returned home a fearful tale of
horror awaited us. In a maniac fit of rage Brule Marston had killed the
Creole woman whom he had brought up from New Orleans. No attempts had
been made to bring him to justice for the crime. Partly because
everything was so unhinged on account of the war and its effects, partly
because no officer was brave enough to try to arrest him. From that time
on he lived alone in the old home down yonder, leaving the rearing of
his son to an old negro woman who was reputed to be coarse and profane.
Harrowing stories came to us of the fiendish cruelties Brule Marston
practiced upon his servants, and he thought nothing of knocking one down
and stamping him with his feet.

"How swiftly the years have chased each other since I came back home
with you and your mother! And how I have wished them back again--those
short, sweet years which followed your coming, when Margaret, you and I
lived in perfect unity, and peace, and love. But change is the order of
the universe, and we must take it when it comes, bravely, if so be God
gives us grace, and fit ourselves to meet the new needs.

"Brule Marston died upon a night of awful storm. It seemed as if the
cohorts of Satan had assembled to escort his foul soul to the realms of
the lost. I will tell you now what I learned later, and I pray you to be
brave, my child, and do not fear. The only training which Brule Marston
instilled into his son was hatred of us. He never sought to teach him
any good thing, or any worthy precept. His eternal and ceaseless
injunction was hate, hate, hate. He never forgot the fact that I had
robbed him of the pure being he had set his black heart on possessing,
and revenge was the only feeling he harbored. Had he lived long enough I
believe that in the end he would have wrought us some great harm, for I
am assured that was his sole aim and desire. But death found him in the
midst of his machinations, and stilled his hand. Devil Marston was an
apt pupil, and he readily imbibed his father's teachings. By birth he
was well fitted for any scurrilous task or duty, and he has always found
joy in causing pain. On that night of storm when old Brule died he
called his son to his bedside, and laid upon him his dying wish. It was
that Devil Marston should make it his life's work to harass and oppress
us, and at last to ruin us utterly, using his entire fortune for that
purpose should it become necessary. It is needless for me to tell you
the son was not slow to make the promise. It was a task entirely
congenial to his nature. You have never been aware of it, my child, but
he has had designs upon your happiness, knowing well that through you he
could inflict the deepest pain upon me. You of course remember when he
was at our home frequently, when we accorded him the courtesy due any
one under our roof, while never extending him a welcome, or making him
feel that his presence was desired. He always endeavored to be pleasant,
but it transpired later that this was acting only; a mask for his true
feelings. He often sought to be alone with you, but I could not trust
the blood, worse mixed than ever in this man, and I always managed the
situation so that I should be present also. This annoyed him, and he
could not always hide his resentment--it would flame through the veil of
decency he tried to wear with us. I did all in my power to discourage
him from coming here, without asking him in so many words to stay away,
but he had set his soul upon accomplishing a certain thing, and he would
lose his soul rather than lose his project. Then came the night, not
long ago, after which his visits ceased."

The low, regular, even tones stopped, and father and daughter sat close
to each other in silence, each feeling the other's sympathy through
their clasped hands. As they sat thus in the sweet summer night a
clatter of hoofs jangled through the star-lit dark. They came from off
to the right--from the direction in which the man lived of whom they
were talking. The sound gathered rapidly in volume, and a moment or two
later they heard a horse running furiously by on the highroad in front
of them, going towards town. As the noise died away in the distance
Julia pressed the Major's hand, but said nothing.

"It is he," spoke the father, in a voice of pronounced melancholy. "So
his sire rode before him, killing on an average two horses every year.
It seems the devil not only dwells in them, but is continually chasing
them."

"What happened that night, daddy, when Mr. Marston came the last time? I
saw him only in passing, and he looked nervous and angry."

"He was angry, little one. We ended it all in the library, but not until
he had voluntarily torn away his mask. I would spare you this if I
could--if you did not demand it."

Though it was dark Julia knew that he had turned to look at her.

"But I demand it--everything. You will not find me weak, for I am
stronger than you know, daddy dear."

"He would not sit down, although I insisted that he take a chair, so our
interview occurred with us both standing. He was quite restless, and
frequently walked the entire length of the room, switching at his legs
with his whip, which he always carries. I do not think I had ever seen
him so disturbed--"

"I know all that, daddy; please come to the vital part at once."

The Major drew a deep breath, as though in preparation for some great
exertion.

"He told me at the outset that he loved you, and that he wanted me to
use my influence to gain your consent to marry him--damn him for a
lying, mongrel cur!"

The girl felt his deep rage trembling through the hand she held, but
the sickening shudder which swept her from head to foot passed unnoticed
by him. His mind was back on the memorable scene, when he had to grip a
chair-back to keep his hands off the throat of the scoundrel who faced
him--who had dared to come with his black sins thick upon him, and ask
for a Dudley, for his, Thomas Dudley's daughter in marriage! When he
resumed his story his voice was husky and uneven.

"For a time I did not answer him. I feared to speak, for I would have
cursed him from my home--would have driven him out like a rabid dog. I
stood behind a chair and looked at him, and through his bravado I saw
him grow afraid. He knew his words called for a bullet, and for a moment
I believe he thought it was coming. He did not relish my silence. I am
sure he had been drinking some, and his mood was more fiery and
impetuous than usual. He wanted it all over quickly, and that prompted
him to speak again.

"'Will you help me? What do you say?'

"Oh, how I wanted to splinter the chair before me against his face! But
I answered him thus:

"'I say that my daughter will never, _never_ marry you. She scarcely
knows you, she is but a child, but she is not, nor ever will be for you,
Devil Marston!'

"Thus I answered him, and I have never seen a human face become so
ferocious as his did at that moment. All restraint vanished on the
instant, and he became his own self, a raving beast. I do not recall his
words. They were hot, reckless, vindictive and threatening. His fury
became so great that he forgot all caution, and boasted of his money,
and power, and what he was going to do to us. He vowed that he would
bring us to a crust of bread before another year had gone, that he would
literally starve us to his will. He spoke of the bank, of his power
there as president, and declared that he would arrange to pass dividend
after dividend if I did not reconsider. When I bought my stock he was
only a director, but by unscrupulous wire-pulling and money manipulation
he has become the head of the bank, and owns nearly fifty per cent, of
the capital stock. That means, my daughter, that he really controls the
bank's affairs, and has power to declare or pass a dividend. He could
not do the latter without crooked work, for the bank is prosperous to a
high degree, but he glories in underhand methods, and would not hesitate
to swear to a false statement. If he does do this, I cannot foresee the
future very clearly, for you know that is our sole source of income. I
made no attempt to pacify him. I did not want his good will, for his ill
will were better. I patiently listened to his volcanic speeches, and at
last he wore himself out.

"'Now will you agree?' he concluded; 'or will you have me for an enemy
instead?'

"'I shall never agree to such a base proposition,' I answered, 'and I
had rather have you for an enemy than a friend.' Then I opened the door
and pointed him out. 'Don't ever show your evil face in this house
again!' I said, and he went, mouthing incoherent threats as he did so.
That is the story, child, and you cannot wonder that I have kept it
from you, whom I would shield from every sharp wind."

Again there was silence on the portico. A bird rustled in the vines, and
a tree-frog, awaking down on the lawn, shrilled his dolorous cry.
Perhaps a half hour passed without a word being spoken. Then Julia's
calm voice said:

"I believe you did right, and whatever happens you will know that I
approved your actions, and if we must suffer because of this man we will
suffer together, and help each other all we can. I had no idea of--his
feelings for me, but I cannot think them true and noble."

"They are assumed, and base as his nature can make them. He can no more
love than a brute beast of the field."

"What could have been his motive last night? Was it pretence only when
he made as if he would rescue The Prince?"

"Nothing else. It was a sham show of courage before you--and the people.
He may have had some vague hope of getting the colt out, and thus
winning favour with you, but whatever his momentary purpose, I am
positive his ultimate and main one is our downfall."

They continued to discuss the future until the library clock struck ten.

"You had better go to bed now, daddy," said Julia, coaxingly. "You know
it does not serve you well to sit up late, and nothing can be gained by
it tonight. Peter is at the smoke-house now, and Doctor Glenning will
be there long before the hour of danger, O daddy, what a brave, fine
fellow this new doctor is! I can scarcely understand how he has come to
us, and taken possession of us, as it were. He carries things with a
firm hand, and they all seem right and natural. Kiss me goodnight and go
upstairs; I shall be along presently."

The Major arose with a sigh, gave her the caress, and went indoors.
Directly she heard his deliberate step on the stair. It was then she
went in also, and carefully put out the lights. But instead of seeking
her room she found a light, dark-coloured shawl and crept noiselessly
back to the settee, leaving the front door slightly ajar. She could not
go to sleep yet, and the sense of impending danger had so wrought upon
her that she knew it would be entirely useless for her to attempt to
compose herself for rest. A subdued excitement was running swiftly
through her veins, so she wrapped the sombre folds of the ample shawl
closely about her form, completely hiding the white dress which she
wore, and let her mind review the incidents which had taken place the
last twenty-four hours. The retrospection had its pleasant features,
despite the loss and anxiety she had suffered. It was not a disquieting
thought to know that a clean, athletic young gentleman with remarkable
eyes and a new way of looking at things had for the time usurped control
of the Dudley affairs, all in a way which bore no trace of forwardness.
It was not a fearsome thing at all to sit there and know that within an
hour or two a knight would be on the ground to champion her cause
against any and all comers. But it was a new sensation for Julia. She
had never had a sweetheart, and the only protection she knew was that
offered by her father, which was really only a tender providing for her
temporal wants. But this night romance walked abroad. A man, almost a
stranger, was really to risk his life for her!

Swiftly the minutes raced by, and Julia was startled when the clock
struck twelve. She was sure she had not slept, but this was the hour,
and her knight had not come. As the vibrations from within pulsed into
silence she became aware that something was moving on the drive. She
strained her eyes through the nebulous star-shine, holding her breath in
the tenseness of the moment. The figure of a man rapidly assumed
proportions before her gaze. He was walking quickly, but noiselessly. He
passed the portico step without stopping, and though he wore a cap and
his coat was closely buttoned, Julia knew it was the one who had
promised to be there at that time. She shrank back and clutched the
shawl closely under her chin, but he looked in front of him only, and
passed on around the corner of the house in the direction of the
impromptu stable.

Julia arose and went in, carefully locking the front door. Then she
tipped up to her room, pausing at her father's door to listen. From the
regularity of his breathing, and the part of the room from whence the
sound proceeded, she knew he was asleep. She was glad of this, for she
had feared he would try to sit up. Passing into her own room she
undressed and prepared herself for the night, then knelt by the open
window, and with her elbows on the sill and her chin in her palms, gazed
up at the starry space above her, and prayed. This was her nightly
custom, to pray from her open casement. It seemed to her that a freer,
more perfect and more intimate communication was established thus. It
was only a fancy, of course, but it was one she always indulged in when
the weather would allow. This night a new name was added to her
petitions. She knelt there a long, long time after her prayers were
done, listening, dreading to hear. But only the soft night sounds she
had known always came to her. Then all at once a sweet drowsiness crept
over her, and soon she was in bed, asleep.

Glenning's approach to the smoke-house came very near resulting in a
tragedy. Preoccupied, he walked boldly to the door, and tried to open
it. Instantly a belligerent and threatening voice informed him if he
"teched dat do' ag'in he'd git a hole in 'im yo' c'd th'ow a dog thu!"
John stepped quickly aside and opened a parley with the defender of the
door. It was several minutes before Peter could be persuaded that it was
the new doctor come to relieve him, although this part of the program
had been dinned into him over and over again by Julia, and when at last
the door was grudgingly opened a few inches, the rusty barrel of an army
musket was the first thing to appear. But the exchange was then soon
effected, and the relief guard had to unceremoniously cut off a long
string of instructions from the departing Peter, by gently closing the
door in that worthy's face, and making it tight on the inside.

Alone with the colt, Glenning drew a small lantern from his pocket, and
made his brief preparations. With native denseness of mind, Peter had
tethered The Prince broadside on to the window yawning blackly in the
opposite wall. The man untied the halter, and led the animal to a point
where it would be most inaccessible for anyone attempting it harm by
employing the window, and that was really the only point where an attack
could be successfully made, for the door was thick-beamed, and could not
be forced. This done to his satisfaction, the man sat down directly
under the window--in this position the hole was about two feet over his
head--and drew forth a thirty-eight calibre revolver. The brief but
thorough inspection he gave it showed it to be in perfect trim, so he
carefully placed it on a shingle which happened to lie near by. Then he
closed the slide of his lantern, found a comfortable attitude with his
back against the logs, and did some thinking himself. His mind was
keenly awake and alert, and he had no fear of falling asleep. Now and
again he would look at his watch, then lean back and stare into the
impenetrable blackness before him, and wonder things. The colt was very
quiet, his only movement being an occasional stamp of the foot. Finally
Glenning's watch showed half-past two. At this time of the year it would
begin to grow light soon after three. He arose agilely, and drew off his
coat. Then he loosened his shirt at the throat, rolled his sleeves
above his elbows, and again sat down, this time facing the window, with
his knees drawn up. If the attack was really to be made that night it
must come quickly. He had scarcely settled himself in this new attitude
when he felt another presence. On the heels of this intuitive perception
came light footfalls--a stealthy creeping on the balls of the feet. The
prowler was circling the smoke-house, seeking some place of entrance.
The feet stopped at the door, and Glenning heard the strain of the bolts
as a shoulder was forcibly pressed upon the oaken planks. The man inside
smiled grimly, and waited. A moment's silence, and the footfalls came
on, to the corner, around it, and the watcher caught the low exclamation
of gratified surprise when the marauder saw the window. Glenning got to
his knees and slowly rubbed the palms of his hands together, while his
jaws grew hard. A shaft of yellow light darted through the window and
danced among the blackened rafters near the roof, showing the broken
bits of hempen strings which in past years had borne luscious burdens.
The man crouching inside set his eyes intently on the opening, while on
his body and limbs the muscles rose and ridged themselves for the coming
battle. The sword of yellow light flickered lower and lower, revealing
the beech logs to which the bark still clung, and the chinking between
them. Lower, and around, till it shone in the honest, unsuspecting eyes
of The Prince, and glistened on his withers, and found the spot on his
shiny coat behind which his heart was beating. A hand holding a
bull's-eye lantern came through the window; another hand holding a huge
revolver, cocked, crept like a snake to its side. Then up from the
darkness beneath the window sprang two other hands, long, slender, white
and strong as steel. Around the wrists of the assassin these two hands
closed in a grip so fierce that it brought a cry of pain and fright from
the one outside, and lantern and revolver fell to the soft earth inside
the smoke-house. Then ensued a silent struggle, in which the captive
strove with fiendish power born of terror and rage to free himself.
Glenning, on his knees, sent all his strength to his vise-like hands.
Not a word was spoken, not another sound was uttered. In the gloom the
two men strove as two animals might, and their heavy breathing alone
broke the stillness. Not for nothing had John Glenning kept himself in
rigorous physical training from the first year he went to college. All
his hoarded strength leaped up at his call, and gave him the victory.
Gradually the frantic struggles of the marauder stopped, and finally he
ceased resisting. Then Glenning, with his hands still set in a
superhuman grasp, spoke from between his clenched teeth.

"Who are you?"

There was no answer.

"Who are you?" he repeated.

Still no answer came.

Then the captor began to draw down on the arms he held, forcing the
bones against the log at the bottom of the window. Down, down, and a
groan of pain escaped his prisoner.

"Who are you?" he asked, for the third time.

"Don't break my arms!" said a voice.

Glenning recognized it.

"Are you Travers?"

"Yes--yes--I'm Travers! Let me go--for God's sake! You're killing me!"

"Who sent you to kill this horse?"

A little more force was brought to bear with the question.

"Marston--Devil Marston! Ease up a little and I'll talk--I swear I'll
talk!"

John did as the man requested, though not lessening his grip on the
wrists.

"Now let me tell you something. You don't know who I am, but I want you
to know. You came out here expecting easy sailing, because you thought
there was no one here to protect this horse. I'm the new doctor who came
last night, and I'm at your hotel. I won't be there tomorrow night. I'm
not making you any promises of secrecy about this matter, but I'd advise
you to cut Marston. Now I want you to go to Marston tomorrow with this
message from John Glenning. Tell him I say he's got to leave the Dudleys
and the Dudley's horse alone. Tell him the next one who comes here on
mischief will be shot, if it is himself. Do you understand, and will you
promise to tell him?"

"Yes, I'll tell him every word. But for God's sake don't you tell
anybody of this. It'd ruin me. It's the first time I've ever gone wrong,
and if you'll let me off I'll swear not to do anything bad again. And
I'll tell Marston. He got me into this."

"I'll not make you any promises, but I'll see how you behave, for I've
come here to stay. Go, now, before daylight catches you, and thank the
Lord you're alive!"

In the first gray dawn of the next morning Peter knocked dubiously on
the smoke-house door. It was opened promptly, and when he saw The Prince
alive and unharmed his joy knew no bounds. Glenning dismissed his
exuberant manifestations somewhat abruptly, for he was in haste to be
gone. Instructing the darky to say to the Dudleys that nothing of any
consequence had happened, he went around the house and down the avenue
towards the road.

And how was he to know that behind a partly lifted curtain in an upper
room two sleep-sweet eyes, moist with beauty newly born, watched his
retreating figure with something approaching tenderness in their
depths?



CHAPTER VII


When Devil Marston awoke that morning he was conscious of a vague
feeling of satisfaction. As his brain grew more and more active he
smiled broadly, showing his wolfish teeth, and threw himself from his
bed. Good news would await him that morning. By covert watching he had
seen where The Prince was to be stabled, and late the night before had
gone in person to tell Dan Travers just how to go about the work. It was
ridiculously easy--to make way with the colt--and ere this the thing had
been done, for Travers had seemed eager for the undertaking. As he set
about dressing Marston reviewed it all mentally; the success of his
hireling's venture, the dismay and consternation of the Dudleys, the
total lack of proof as to who committed the crime. But the consciousness
that those whom he hated would know positively who was back of the crime
was the sweetest thought of all. And Travers was coming this morning to
make his report; this had been Marston's last order. He might arrive at
any moment, and Marston wanted his breakfast before listening to good
news, for it would sound better upon a full stomach. He opened a door
and rudely bawled an order into vacancy, but a fear-filled negro's voice
answered him in assuring words. His rule was one of absolute terror. His
servants were no more to him than so many dogs, and they obeyed him as
such. When he sat down to his meal a few minutes later an ill-favoured
negro youth waited upon him, and a slatternly wench appeared at times
from the kitchen, bringing new dishes to the door. Marston ate
repulsively, as befitted his birth and character, and took an intense
delight in his meal, which was coarse and poorly prepared. Throughout it
all he listened repeatedly for his expected caller, and when he rose
from the table there was not the slightest suspicion in his mind that
anything had gone wrong. He would go to the stable and have a look at
his favourite racers. The last barrier which stood in the way of their
supremacy had been removed, and he would gloat over them with increased
pleasure now. He issued some harsh orders for directing his caller when
he should arrive, and left the house with quick strides.

As he walked around and about the noble animals which were his greatest
pride his heart swelled with exultation. But when he came out of a stall
presently and saw the man for whom he had been waiting standing before
him, a swift alarm seized him and made his dark face pale. For a moment
they stood staring into each other's eyes, one with mounting anger, the
other with sullen passiveness. Then Marston strode forward and thrust
his darkening visage close to Travers' face.

"Didn't you do it, you sneak?" he demanded, his upper lip curling back,
showing his fangs. "Don't you dare to tell me you have failed me!"

Travers' accustomed nervousness had vanished. He was perfectly calm as
he stood within arm's length of the infuriated Marston.

"I'm the man to make a fuss," he answered, "for you steered me into a
hole which nearly cost me my life. I was discovered, captured, and had
to tell all the business to get off with a whole skin!"

Marston's face grew black, and he shook in his track with rage.

"You coward! You traitor! Who was there to capture you, and wring
anything from you? Tell me, before I knock you down!"

Travers pushed back his coat sleeves and held out his wrists. Each was
ringed with purplish bands, and swollen. Then he related his experience
in detail, and ended by delivering, word for word, the message which
Glenning had sent. As Marston listened his rage rose up and choked him.
At the conclusion of the recital he was wild, and moved about threshing
the air with his fists. When he at length came to a standstill his face
was the colour of ashes, and he was shaking from the violence of his
emotion.

"He said that, did he? The upstart! He'll shoot me, will he? He's going
to tell me what to do, and what not to do! I'll attend to him! He'd
better have stayed where he came from."

Then, muttering to himself as was his wont when enraged, he wheeled and
went towards the house, leaving Travers to look out for himself.

The landlord of the Union House did not tarry long. He had done a thing
which yesterday he would not have believed himself capable of doing. Now
he went slowly down to the yard gate, wondering at his bravery, got
into a wornout road-cart which he had borrowed in town from a country
friend, and began his return trip.

       *       *       *       *       *

When Glenning had dispatched a hasty breakfast he sought the clerk in
the hotel office and told him to have his bill ready some time that
forenoon. That worthy at once evinced a loquacious interest in the new
doctor's affairs, and would fain have inquired his departing guest's
plans for the future, but John merely replied that he had no intention
of leaving town, and went up to his room. Here he was soon joined by Tom
Dillard, who came in wearing the most dejected air possible, tendered a
perfunctory good morning to John's hearty greeting, and sank upon the
edge of the bed, his round, soft face wofully elongated.

"Sick this morning, Dillard?" queried Glenning, busy with the damaged
clothes which still lay on the chair. "I'd as lieve have you for my
first patient as anybody."

Dillard sighed, and shook his head dolorously.

"Not exactly sick, and not exactly well," he replied, "but it's precious
little sleeping I did last night."

"Indigestion?"

"No; worry."

Glenning, briskly wielding a clothes brush, glanced at Dillard. He was
evidently in the depths of despair, and had most likely come for
consolation or advice.

"Do you suppose I can help you?" queried John, sympathetically.

"I'm going to tell you about it, anyway, and see what you think. Maybe
it looks pretty queer to you that I should come here and make a
confidant of you when I hardly know you, but I have all kinds of faith
in you, and this matter touches people I like immensely, and I know
you'll regard all I say as confidential."

He stopped, and let his fat hands stray vaguely over his knees.

"Certainly I'll keep still, Dillard, and I'll be glad to help you all I
can."

"You see it's about the Dudleys. I don't suppose you know it, but
they're poor as Job's turkey. All they've got is that house and an acre
or two of ground and that horse, and--fifty shares of bank stock. The
old man bought this stock when he got too bad off to manage his racers
properly--sold them, you see, and invested his money this way, so that
he wouldn't have any worry, and it'd bring 'em in just enough to live
on. The bank's boomin', doin' the best business it ever has, and has
been declaring a five per cent, semi-annual dividend. That's ten per
cent, a year on the Major's investment, which means five hundred dollars
per annum for him and Miss Julia to live on--nothin' handsome, you see,
but it'll keep 'em from gettin' hungry. Now these people are my friends,
and I hate to see 'em suffer."

"Well, what's the worry? Is the bank insolvent? You just said it was
doing a fine business."

"Best in its history! There's a dividend due the last of this month, but
it's not going to be paid!"

Glenning wheeled from where he was bending over his open trunk.

"Why isn't it going to be paid?"

"I'll tell you."

Dillard looked around to see that no doors were open, then leaned
forward and spoke in a loud whisper.

"The president of our bank is a Mr. Marston. He's rich as Jersey cream,
and he owns the bulk of stock in the institution. He hates the Dudleys
like snakes, and he never loses a chance to do something that'll hurt
'em. The last meeting of the directors was the one at which the six
months' dividend should have been declared. We've earned it all right,
and more besides. There's no just reason under the sun why it shouldn't
have been paid. The whole board was in favor of it but Marston. They had
a warm session. They hold their meetings in a back room at the bank, and
while it was a closed meeting, I knew that an argument was in progress,
for they were there an hour and a half. But they can't go against
Marston's wishes. I learned later that he insisted on buying a new safe
for the bank, which costs a pile o' money, and also declared that some
improvements had to be made in the bank building. The whole thing was
bosh, for we have a good safe, and there are no improvements needed. It
was just a well-aimed blow at the Dudleys, but it went through. The new
safe and the improvements were ordered to record, and the dividend was
passed. If that doesn't mean starvation for our friends then I don't
know what I'm talkin' about."

Glenning did some quick thinking. Then he came over and sat down by
Dillard's side.

"Is this generally known?"

"No; but it will be when our statement is published in the _Herald_ next
Friday."

"I feel a warm personal interest in the Dudley's affairs, Dillard, and I
thank you for speaking so frankly. You have been open with me, and I
will be the same with you, and together we will fight this low
scoundrel. Listen. I arrived in your town night before last, a total
stranger. Since then I have learned this much. Devil Marston hired an
emissary to burn that stable. Yesterday, in that room over there, he and
the man who conducts this hotel concocted a scheme whereby Travers
should kill the Dudley's colt last night. I overheard them, and went
directly to the Dudleys with my story. They had no one to help them, so
I volunteered. They consented, and I stood guard last night in the
smoke-house where the horse was quartered. Travers came to do the foul
deed and I caught him--literally caught him and held him with my hands
and made him promise to go to this Marston and tell him that I would
kill the next man who came to the Dudleys with mischievous intent."

Dillard looked at the earnest face before him with wide eyes and open
mouth. He could scarcely believe the words he heard, though he did not
doubt they were true.

"Now," resumed Glenning, firmly, "we at least know our man, and that is
something. I do not fear him, but with you it is different. Yet if we
confound him in the end I believe that you will have more to do with it
than I. Let us speak with perfect candor. You are dependant for your
living upon your salary?"

"Yes, there's ma and me. We haven't a thing, and our living comes from
my salary at the bank."

"Just so. Then you couldn't afford to openly oppose your president. You
would quickly lose your position if you did. We must move very
carefully. Does Marston take an active interest in affairs at the bank?
I mean is he familiar with the books, and the accounts--in other words,
is he a live president, and not a figure-head merely?"

"He's in every day, poking and prying around. There's nothing goes on
that he doesn't know about."

"Does the clerical force like him?"

"He hasn't a friend in the bank, not even the cashier. We all know he's
a rascal, but he's so powerful that we're afraid to say a word aloud
when he's around."

"What is your position, Dillard?"

"Head bookkeeper."

"Then let me make a suggestion to you. Watch Marston. Watch his every
movement. You know the national banking laws. See that he doesn't
infringe on them. A man as unscrupulous as he is liable to attempt
anything. Watch him. Watch every mark he makes with a pen, and the first
time he steps over the line come to me and let me know. Will you do
it?"

"I'll do it, doctor, and I don't believe I'll have to wait very long."

Then they sat in silence for a few minutes, each thinking of what the
other had said.

Glenning spoke.

"I hope you will understand me, Dillard, when I ask how Major Dudley's
account stands?"

"Certainly, doctor. I was looking at it yesterday, and it's almost even.
Only a few dollars to his credit. I swear I don't know what'll become of
'em!"

Glenning knit his brows thoughtfully.

"They'll have to live in spite of Marston," he said. "How this will be I
can't say now, but they shan't want because a low-lived rascal has the
upper hand for the time. I shall want to begin a small account with your
bank today."

"All right. New depositors are always welcome."

"And I must get away from this hotel, Dillard. After my experience last
night I think it wise for me to change my quarters. Don't you know of a
vacant room upstairs over some one of your business houses, and isn't
there a private boarding-house where I might get my meals?"

"I'm pretty sure I can fix you up that way. Suppose we start now, before
I go to work? You can come back and finish packing."

"Good; I'll appreciate your help."

By three o'clock that afternoon the new doctor was thoroughly
established in Macon. The boarding-house where he secured accommodations
was diagonally across the street from the house which he had seen Doctor
Kale enter the day before--and which he learned later was the old
gentleman's residence--and he had secured two rooms over a dry goods
store on Main street, just opposite the courthouse, which suited his
purposes admirably for offices. The back apartment, which was entered
first, was a consulting room, and contained his library, while the front
one was his office proper. As a finishing touch John swung his sign over
the sidewalk below, then came upstairs and sat down by an open window
with a book. But his mind was not in a proper condition for either
reading or study. Dillard's revelation had proven a source of much
concern, and he had not been able to get away from it. In vain he tried
to argue with his conscience that the Dudleys were nothing to him, and
that he would have his hands full making his way in his new field of
labor. This course of reasoning proved futile. The sweet face and
trusting eyes of Julia dispelled the illusion, and he realized that he
had to take a hand in the game which Fate had prepared. The conviction
being established, the next thing was to work out the solution. But no
plan would come; he knew that he was bound and helpless.

It was an ideal mid-afternoon in summer, and as Glenning gazed
listlessly from the window he saw an almost deserted thoroughfare. A
negro lad went whistling down the opposite pavement, clattering a stick
along the iron palings of the courthouse fence; the leaves of the trees
in the courthouse yard hung motionless in the quiet atmosphere, and even
the ever-busy English sparrows seemed taking a siesta.

Directly several men emerged from one of the lawyer's offices which made
up three sides of Court Square. None of them wore coats, and one was
without either coat or vest. From the remainder of his apparel he was
evidently a farmer. An old man with a long, white beard, holding in his
hand a staff longer than himself. He was much excited, for he hopped
about in a bird-like way, wagging his whiskers and scratching his head
and ever and again thumping the earth with his staff. An altercation was
evidently in progress among the men, and the voice of the old fellow was
always loudest. He was plainly insisting upon a point which was meeting
with some resistance. Another party now joined the group, and Glenning
at once recognized Doctor Kale. As he made his appearance, the old
fellow with the rod danced up to him with a gesture almost threatening
and began a loud-voiced harangue. Doctor Kale was obdurate. He shook his
head and thumped about, and remained firm. He of the long whiskers was
rapidly working himself up to the fighting point, when a man who had
been standing somewhat apart came up, caught him by the arm, and pointed
across the street to a point directly beneath the window where John sat.
What he said worked like magic. The old fellow beckoned Doctor Kale,
grasped the arm of another member of the party, and the three at once
started across the road. Another moment John heard heavy footsteps
climbing the stair. Before he could reach the door it was opened
hurriedly, and the men trooped in.

"There he is!" grumbled Doctor Kale, starting on a tour around the walls
of the room, sniffing his wrath, and ignoring the necessity of any sort
of an introduction.

"I want a doctor! I ain't sick 'n' my fam'ly ain't sick, but Dink
Scribbens took with the small-pox las' night 'n' me 'n' my folks has to
pass his door ever' time we come to town! That ol' hippity-hop
(indicating the still marching figure of Doctor Kale) 's skeered to go,
though he never caught anything in his life!"

"I'm not afraid!" promptly fired back Doctor Kale. "I've waited on
small-pox, chicken-pox, rosiola, measles, and every skin disease you
ever heard of, but I'm not going to give my time to these damned
paupers! Paupers 've got no business gettin' sick!"

"Are these people--paupers?" asked John, addressing the question to the
third man, who up to this time had maintained silence through necessity.
He was a large, stout individual, bearing plainly upon his face the
marks of conviviality. He came forward heavily, and held out his hand.

"I'm Joe Colver, county judge," he said, dragging his words as though
each was anchored in his chest. "Uncle Billy Hoonover come in a while
ago sayin' the Scribbenses had small-pox. I don't know whether he knows
what he's talkin' about or not, but they live in our county and it's our
duty to investigate it and if necessary put a quarantine on 'em." He
smiled laboriously as he continued. "We usually give cases like this to
the young fellers. The old hosses git above it, you know. If you'll go
and take charge I'll promise the county'll allow you a reasonable fee.
And you'll save Uncle Billy Hoonover a fit of some kind if you'll go
pretty quick."

"Fit!" shrilled Uncle Billy, prancing up and down. "Who wouldn't have a
fit with the ketchin' small-pox under his nose? Tell me that?"

"I'll go, judge," said Glenning; "where do they live?"

"Under my nose!" reiterated Uncle Billy. "A crick 'n' a narrer fiel'
'twixt them 'n' me! The win' could blow it right in my door if it set
right!"

Doctor Kale had at last brought himself up, and he now cast a withering
look of scorn upon the excited layman. He was plainly too full for
words, for in a moment he clapped his hat on his head and bustled out
with it riding his ears.

"Old Kale's a caution," commented the judge, laughing lazily, "but he's
got plenty o' doctor sense. He's got the cream o' the practice about
here. The best people want 'im, and they'll wait for 'im if they ain't
pretty bad off. I knew you was on a cold trail, Uncle Billy, when you
struck Kale."

"He'd better quit if he can't 'ten' to the sick. I don't b'lieve in
'scrimination, nohow. He might 'a' knowed the county'd 'a' paid 'im for
his work. There never was a county without paupers in it, 'n' they're
always gittin' somethin' worse'n anybody else!"

Judge Colver waved his hand and turned to go.

"Uncle Billy'll show you where they live, doctor. I wish you'd bring me
your report as soon as you get back. We haven't had small-pox in the
county for thirty years," he added, as his big figure moved ponderously
out the door.

Mr. Hoonover had carried his point, but that fact in no wise stilled his
tongue. He must talk. An argument was always better suited to his
temperament, which was naturally belligerent, but when controversy was
impossible he rambled on anyhow. While Glenning was making his brief
preparations Uncle Billy's tongue was going.

"I hope you'll run ol' Kale till he takes in his sign!" he piped. "A
doctor oughter be for ever'body, but ol' Kale's for the quality
stric'ly. I do b'lieve he'd be glad if I was took with the small-pox,
so't he could git a dig at me."

"Oh, then he is your family physician, too?"

"Yes, yes; I'm a fool like the balance of 'em. But it don't pay to git
stuck on any one doctor, for they'll either neglect you or bulldooze you
when you do. If you c'n cure the Scribbenses, durned if I don't switch
off 'n' have you for a spell!"

Glenning smiled as he picked up his medicine case and reached for his
hat.

"We don't cure small-pox as easily as we do some things," he said. "I
understand these people live some distance from town?"

"Yes, on the Hillville pike--that is, you go that pike for a couple o'
mile, 'n' then strike out a side road passin' my place."

"Am I to go with you?"

"Yes, my buggy's ready--" Uncle Billy stopped at the foot of the stair
they had been descending, and squinted suspiciously up at John, one step
above him. "But how'r' you goin' to git back? I can't tech you nor be
a-nigh you after yo've handled the small-pox!"

"I'll have my horse and buggy here in a day or two--from Jericho," mused
Glenning. "I tell you. I'll get a vehicle from the nearest stable. Where
is it--your nearest livery stable?"

They came out on the pavement, side by side.

"Yonder." Uncle Billy pointed with his pilgrim's staff. "Half way down
the square where them men are settin' tilted back talkin' hard
times--that's what they're doin' if I can't hear 'em. I know ever'
blessed one of 'em from here. See the place? Got a big red hoss painted
over the door. Ask for Steve Duncan or Lige Lane--they run it, 'n' are
good men. Say I sent you. Yonder's my nag, hitched to that lamp post."

The pilgrim's staff came swinging vigorously around to do its duty as an
index, and caught Mr. Devil Marston's hat midway, knocking it into the
dust of the gutter, where it rolled over a few times as knocked-off hats
invariably do. The victim of this harmless accident would not, under
ordinary circumstances, have taken it lightly. Mr. Hoonover made a
motion to recover the property he had unintentionally mistreated, but
Marston, cat-like, had the hat in his hands, brushing it with his
sleeve, before Uncle Billy's wits could fully take in the situation.

"Mind what you're about, you damned old buzzard!" he gritted, his small
eyes glinting wickedly. "If you've got to carry a fishing pole around
with you why don't you stay in the cornfield, where you belong?"

Uncle Billy's booted feet began to go up and down. His straggling
whiskers trembled from anger and he combed them with restless fingers as
he fired back--

"I didn't go to do it, 'n' I's goin' to pick it up for you,
you--you--you son of a nigger!"

A big brown fist came like a lightning bolt at the old fellow's
convulsed face, but swifter yet was Glenning's stroke which threw up the
threatening arm, and this was followed by another which sent the burly
form reeling, though it did not fall. Then as John dragged Uncle Billy
into the little passageway at the foot of the stair some men came
running towards the scene. They arrived in time to lay restraining hands
upon Marston, who had his revolver out and was advancing to renew the
trouble. By main force they held him for a time, until he had become
calmer, and it was big Joe Colver who took his pistol from him and told
him he would be arrested if he did not go on his way peaceably, and at
once. This he reluctantly consented to do, and the judge walked with him
to the bank, which he entered.

While this was going on, John had literally held Uncle Billy captive.
The touchy old man's ire was aflame at its highest pitch, and he wanted
to fight. When the coast was clear John reminded him of the urgent need
which called them to the country, and escorted him to his buggy. Then,
assuring him that he would return immediately, and begging him to remain
in his buggy, Glenning hastily sought the livery stable. While he was
waiting for his horse to be gotten ready he saw, diagonally across the
street, a brick building with the words Macon National Bank, in large
letters over the door.



CHAPTER VIII


By the time the start was made Mr. Hoonover had cooled down somewhat. He
went in front, of course, in his capacity as guide, but all along the
two and a half miles drive he was constantly jerking about in his seat
to look back and shout some question or remark to the man in his wake.
Thus before their destination was reached he had proven, in tones loud
enough for all the countryside to hear, that the man who had attacked
him was indeed part negro, that he himself always lived at peace with
his neighbours, and that from this day forward he intended to go
"loaded" for Marston. The garrulity of the old farmer annoyed Glenning
somewhat, who had his own forebodings as to the result of the
unfortunate encounter on the street, and he replied to Mr. Hoonover's
demonstrations only by a nod of the head, or a smile. So busy was that
gentleman looking behind to see that his remarks were heard, that his
horse drew him almost in front of the Scribbenses before he knew it.
When he suddenly discovered his proximity to the infected shack, and
realized that his horse was moving in a slow jog, he tightened his reins
and began to belabour his beast with the staff he held. As he dashed at
a gallop past the dreaded spot he shouted some unintelligible
communication wildly over his shoulder, and was out of sight before
Glenning drew up at a broken down stake-and-rider fence skirting the
road. He looked about him as he got out and hitched his horse. The spot
seemed the abomination of desolation. The by-road was rutty and not
kept; deep sluices showed on either side of it, where no effort had been
made to check the ravages of heavy rains. A worthless species of grass
grew in sickly clumps, dust-covered. Blackberry vines, sassafras and
sumac bushes made one inextricable tangle of vegetation along the zigzag
fence. There was a gap in the fence which served for a gate. John went
through, then stopped for a moment. Not from fear at entering the
stricken place. He had no bodily fear, nor ever had. But the awful
loneliness of the spot weighed upon him. Low hills, bush-dotted and
gullied, arose on every side except the southern one, where a small
field, untilled and marshy, lay along a creek bed, now nearly dry.
Beyond this, and perhaps half a mile away, on higher ground, was a
rather pretentious looking farmhouse which he guessed, rightly, to be
the home of Mr. Hoonover. The miserable log shanty facing him was
pitiful in its decay and loneliness. The ground all about it was bare,
and a few stunted, shrivelled cedars stood at one side. The chinking had
fallen from the stick-and-mud chimney, and it looked like the torso of
some giant skeleton. The door was shut; the one window darkened from the
inside by what appeared to be a ragged quilt. A lean brown cur lay by
the rotten log serving for a door step, too lazy or too near dead from
starvation to lift its voice at the intrusion of a stranger. The dog
was the only sign of life. All the rest, was silence, poverty,
desolation. No birds sang here; not even the shrilling of an insect cut
the great stillness. A feeling almost of awe came over John Glenning,
standing there alone in the strong sunlight, vigorous, assertive,
confident of his power to do. He scarcely wondered that Doctor Kale had
refused the case. But he was glad he had taken it. Not alone to get a
start in the community, for this was a beginning at practice which most
men would not value, but here was a fellow being, sick, friendless and
helpless. He would save him if he could, although the pauper's life
could scarcely be of use to anyone, and he would be better off dead.

John's grip tightened on the handle of his medicine case and he walked
briskly and firmly to the door, and knocked. The cur arose and slunk a
few paces to one side, then lay down again, with his yellow eyes fixed
on the man. The door was opened a crack, and a rasping female voice
said:

"Go 'way. My man's got the small-pox!"

"I'm the doctor," answered Glenning; "let me in."

There was a moment's hesitation, during which a brief argument took
place between the woman and some one else inside, then the door was
grudgingly opened wide enough for John to enter, when it was promptly
closed.

"Thar he is," said the woman. "Go to 'im; he's purty bad."

The sudden transition from the bright sunlight to the gloom of the
cabin made it impossible for Glenning to see distinctly. He was vaguely
conscious of the presence of a number of persons, and he could barely
discern the outlines of a figure stretched on a bunk in a corner.

"All of you'll die if you don't have light and air," he announced,
almost harshly, and striding to the window, removed the flimsy curtain.
Then he turned abruptly to the woman who stood with mouth agape in the
middle of the room. "Open the door!" he commanded; "let some air in
here!"

She was a slatternly creature of uncertain age, her stooped shoulders
and lined face showing her kinship with want and all physical suffering.
She looked with curious intentness at the tall young man who seemed to
so fill the small room, and did his bidding.

"Ye don't b'long in Mac'n, do ye?" she asked. "'Pears to me I've never
saw ye before."

"I belong there now," replied John, shortly. "Came several days ago."

His quick eyes were taking in the meagre appointments of the room, and
its occupants, as he was walking towards the sick man in his corner. The
place seemed swarming with children of all ages and both sexes; they
were thick as rats in a corn-bin. He could not believe all of them the
offsprings of this destitute pair, and he voiced his idea as he knelt by
the pallet.

"What are all these children doing here? Send them home. Don't you know
they're in danger?"

"They _air_ home, thank ye!" rasped the woman, in quick defense of her
brood. "They're _our'n_, I'd hev ye know, ever' blessed one, 'n' they've
got more right here than you hev, ef you _air_ a doctor!"

"No offense!" mumbled Glenning, taking the hairy wrist which listlessly
lay on the ragged counterpane and feeling for the pulse with tips of
practiced fingers.

The children had huddled like sheep against the wall furthest away, a
tattered, unkempt crew of misbegotten humanity; terrible fruit of a
union of ignorance and brute passion. They said not a word, but clung to
each other as though menaced by some visible danger. The woman stood in
the center of the floor, also silent, her hands clasped under her dirty
apron, and her stringy neck outstretched as she watched the doctor. The
thing under Glenning's hand must have been made by God, but it hardly
looked it. It would not have looked it in health, and in the grip of a
loathsome disease it was doubly repulsive. The man's figure was thin and
bony. He lay sick in his shirt and trousers, for he had no night
clothes, to say nothing of underwear, which in all probability he had
never known. His shoes were off, and his feet, knotty, and grimy with
the ground-in dirt of many months, stuck from under the narrow coverlet
which lay over him. His soiled shirt was open at the throat--a throat
presenting alternate ridge and hollow, and covered scantily with
colorless hair. His face was gaunt; his teeth broken and
tobacco-stained; his nose twisted oddly. His hair was a sandy mop. His
eyes were cunning and treacherous. His face was already marked with dull
red spots, and he was burning with fever.

Glenning's face was solemn.

"How long have you been sick?" he asked.

"Two weeks off 'n' on, I reck'n," answered the man.

"How long have you been in bed?"

"Tuk bed yistiddy."

"You should have been in bed ten days, at least. You're pretty sick, my
man."

A shadow of alarm flashed over the bestial countenance.

"I won't _die_, doc, will I? Yo' don't mean I'm gunta _die_!"

In his eagerness he grasped the sleeve of the figure kneeling beside
him.

"You've _got_ to cyore 'im, doc!" wailed the woman. "I can't live
'ithout my man!"

She walked about wringing her hands.

"You've waited too long before seeking help," continued John, getting to
his feet. "There's a chance for you--a slim one, but I'll do what I
can."

He found a rickety chair, and sat down gingerly.

The older children began to snuffle, and the younger ones burst out
crying and ran to their mother, hiding their dirty faces in her dirtier
clothes.

"Small chance in this reeking hole for a man with small-pox," mused
Glenning, then he looked at Mrs. Scribbens, and said:

"That man should have a bath, first of all, from head to foot; a
_scrubbing_. Can you give it to him?"

"I 'low I kin," responded the woman, briskly, "but weuns ain't much on
the wash. Will lye soap do, doc?"

John cast a look at the sick man, and guessed at the texture of his
skin.

"Yes, lye soap will do, but have your water hot, and rinse him off well
when you're through. I'm going to leave some medicine which I want you
to give him through the night."

Mrs. Scribbens disappeared out a door in the rear which led to the back
premises, and busied herself making a fire under a large iron kettle
which hung from a blackened limb, itself supported by two forked sticks
sunk in the ground. The numerous progeny trooped after her _en masse_,
vaguely sensing an omen of evil in the presence of the doctor, and
turning, like little wild things, to their best friend and protector.

Glenning had his case on his knees, rapidly preparing the doses to be
given that night. There was a slight movement from the pallet, and a
terror-laden voice called----

"Doc!"

John turned his head.

"Doc, fur hones'! Tell me! Don't be skeered it'll finish me right off.
Now, while the woman 'n' the chil'n 're gone, tell me!"

A beam of pity struggled to the brown, tired eyes of the man sitting
above him. After all this was his brother--this thing in its filth and
misery and callousness had had a soul breathed into it by a common God
years ago. Should he not feel compassion for anyone whose feet had come
so near the brink of the Valley of the Shadow? He did feel compassion;
the wave which swept him as the pleading, untaught tones came to him was
almost protecting. His brother! Though one's feet had never left the
shallows, and the other's, not long before, had fared through strange
and awful deeps where dreadful monsters lurked in the guise of innocence
and beauty so rare that it was blasting.

With a quick movement John leaned down and took the hard, seamed hand.

"You haven't got even chances," he said. "I can't promise anything but
this: I'll do for you what I'd do for the richest man in Macon!"

"I never heerd sich talk!" exclaimed Scribbens. "What sort o' man air
ye?"

"A pretty poor sort, but I've studied medicine mighty hard. You've got
to pull like blazes to get through. Can you do it. Keep a stout heart, I
mean, and believe all the time you're coming out all right?"

"I dunno. I hurt pow'ful, 'n' I'm burnt to scorchin'."

A paroxysm of abject fear seized him, and he pulled the quilt, full of
holes, up over his head to hide the wild expression on his face. He lay
there and shook with dread--dread of dying--dread of the vast unknown,
and of the punishment he felt surely was awaiting him. John went on with
his work. The packages were done up and the medicine case snapped to and
placed on the floor. Still the coverlet was convulsed with erratic
movements. Directly the man jerked the quilt from his face, showing it
all a-sweat with anguish.

"Doc!" he groaned. "I can't! I can't go this way! It mought be
tonight--in the dark! I feel cur'is! D'ye think I'll go tonight?"

"I think not, Scribbens--cheer up! You're not that sick yet."

"But ye can't tell!" persisted Dink. "Th' ketchin' small-pox is orful.
I've heerd uv it before. It gits ye w'en ye're not watchin'. 'N' say,
doc, I've got somethin' to tell--"

He raised himself on a sharp elbow and glanced dreadfully at the back
door.

"'Fore the woman gits back. 'Tain't wuth while to bother 'bout a
preacher ur a priest. I've never j'ined a church--ain't Cath'lic--ain't
nothin'. But I've got to tell somebody. It'll make it easier. I'm goin'
to tell you, doc."

He fell back, and his hands strayed about nervously over his breast.

"Tell me if you wish," said Glenning, gently; "if it will help you."

"Oh, it will, doc! It's been eatin' on me ever' since I done it. I's
never shore 'nough bad till that man made me bad. I'm always been pore
as a dawg, 'n' wuthless, 'n' no 'count fur nothin'. I've stole,
sometimes, w'en the kids was hongry, but that don't bother me none. Them
that I got frum never missed some cawn ur a chick'n now'n then. 'Tain't
that, doc."

He stopped again, breathing fast. It was hard for him to lay bare the
story of his wrong-doing.

"I heer ye tell th' woman that ye come a few days ago," he resumed, in a
steadier tone. "Then ye don't know many folks 'bout here, I reck'n. But
thar's some mighty bad uns, 'n' I reck'n Devil Marston's the wust. I
'low yo's heerd uv how a stable wuz burned a few nights ago, at the
aidge o' town? Thar wuz a hoss in that stable, 'n' some feller ur
'nother drug 'im out. It wuz Major Dudley's. Thar's a good man, doc.
He's give to me w'en I'd go to 'im with a tale o' no work 'n' hongry
kids at home, 'n' maybe he wuz hongry at the same time, fur all his big
house he's nigh bad off as I am. But his hoss's a wonder, 'n' Devil
Marston's got some hisself whut kin run some. He comes to me one day,
Marston did, 'n' shows me a ten-dollar greenback, 'n' said he'd give it
to me ef I'd take some powders he had with 'im, all wropped up, 'n' slip
in 'n' put that stuff in th' hoss's feed. I knowed it wuz wrong, doc. I
knowed it wuz p'izen, but I tuk it, 'n' the money, too, 'n' that night I
slipped in 'n' done whut he tol' me to do. The nex' day he come to me
b'ilin' mad, 'n' 'lowed I'd tricked 'im. He said the hoss's still alive,
'cause he'd saw 'im, 'n' that I'd took 'is money 'n' didn't do whut I'd
said I'd do. But he lied, doc, 'cause I toted fa'r. But he tore up
snakes, and said he's gunta hosswhip me, 'n' come put nigh hittin' me.
'N' he cussed me some more 'n' pulled out another ten-dollar bill, 'n'
th'owed it at me, 'n' 'lowed that ef I'd go that night 'n' burn the
stable up with the hoss locked in it he'd call it squar. I didn't want
to do it, doc, I sw'ar I didn't, 'cause Major Dudley's been good to me,
but I's skeered not to. That Devil Marston jist looked at me with his
snake eyes 'n' 'lowed that if I failed 'im ag'in he'd come 'n' shoot me
daid. 'N' I went, nigh onto midnight, 'n' I got some straw out'n the
lof'--a hull big armful o' dry straw, 'n' piled it ag'in the door o' the
stable, 'n' sot fire to it. Then I run. I run till I got home, but I saw
the light in the sky, 'n' knowed the hoss wuz gone this time. But the
nex' day I heered o' some feller draggin' 'im out! Then I tuk sick, 'n'
I s'pose it's a jedgment on me fur bein' so wicked. But he _made_ me do
it! He _made_ me! 'Twarn't so much his money, but I's skeered uv 'im.
You don't know Devil Marston, doc. His name's fittin'. 'N' now I feel
better, doc; I sw'ar I do!"

For a moment Glenning sat silent.

"Yes, I know Devil Marston," he said at last, "and he is a bad man. And
I know the Dudleys, too, and I know the man who went in for the colt."

"Ye won't tell, doc, will ye?" asked Scribbens, in sudden alarm. "Ye
won't give me 'way?"

"I'll promise that no harm shall come to you because of the things that
you've told me. But you're a bad man, too, Dink Scribbens--a low down,
dastardly coward!"

The figure below shrank back under the stern, accusing voice.

"I know it! I know it! It's kep' me 'wake ever since I done it!"

He was almost whimpering now, and John realized the utter futility of a
sermon at this time. The arrival of Mrs. Scribbens at this juncture with
her corps of satellites put an end to further confidences. John arose.

"I've het the water!" announced Mrs. Scribbens, standing with a chunk of
lye soap in one hand and a battered and dented tin washpan in the other
from which steam was rising.

"Very well," said Glenning. "Get him clean. Give him one of these when
you have finished, another at midnight, and a third in the morning. Have
you a clock?"

His gaze swept the pitifully bare room and failed to reveal one.

"Humph!" sniffed Mrs. Scribbens. "The roosters crow, don't they? He'll
git his dose at midnight!"

"Keep the children out of doors as much as you can; make each of them
bathe every day and do the same yourself. I'll come back in the morning
and bring something for each of you to take to keep you from catching
the small-pox. Good-day."

The sweet summer afterglow which immediately follows the going down of
the sun was spread mysteriously over all the landscape as John got in
his buggy and began his return trip. The confession to which he had just
given ear did not occupy his mind much. He knew beforehand that it must
have been some creature like this; some degraded, conscienceless,
cast-off devil. Dink Scribbens didn't matter, but Marston did--Marston,
whose heavy figure was beginning already to loom on his life's horizon
portentously. Now, since the occurrence on the streets of Macon a couple
of hours before, he knew that trouble was ahead for him, swift and sure.
Marston hated him well enough before that incident, providing Travers
had delivered his message properly, but now--to be struck on the chest
and almost knocked down! Glenning heard the little voice which always
speaks to us when we are alone saying that he had done right, that his
course all along had been true and proper, and that he had no cause to
regret anything. He must simply keep his eyes open, and at the same time
not let his brain get rusty. Innocent people were in actual distress at
that moment, and the girl of the trusting brown eyes, proud and brave,
would soon be hungry. _Hungry!_ The word stung his brain like something
hot would sting the flesh, and he clicked his teeth and drew up his
lines, urging his horse faster. He was passing a gloomy looking house
set considerably off the road, surrounded by doleful firs and funereal
cedars. It was of brick, square and not ugly, but the shutters to all
windows visible were closed, and the front doors were inhospitably shut.
Some gaunt dogs of ferocious breed were stalking about the yard. He had
not noticed this house when coming out, but he might well have passed it
unseeingly, all of his attention at that time being demanded by Mr.
Hoonover. But instinctively he knew who lived there. The place savoured
of its master; forbidding, grim, merciless. John was not sorry when it
lay behind him.

Deep twilight had come. The time when vague stars shine shyly, uncertain
whether or not to show their faces. Objects along the roadside were
becoming slightly blurred, and the unsightly things of the garish day
were softened into pleasant lines and tones. The man riding townward
felt the witchery of the hour. It entered into him and lay upon his
soul, speaking of peace. He breathed more gently, and let his horse take
its time. From the gates of the west which had unclosed to receive the
going day, a breeze had surely blown from Paradise. And alone there, in
the soft dusk, two faces rose up before the man. One was fresh,
unfretted, appealing, beautiful, with brown eyes which looked innocence
and trust. The one beside it was crowned with a bewildering glory of
bronze-gold hair, full of sullen splendours, like a stormy sunset; an
oval face of perfect lines and charm ineffable, and winey eyes which
lured. He looked upon the two, and his eyes grew strained; that look of
awful weariness stole over his face, as though the battle were almost
too hard, and he groaned in his throat while a shudder swept him, making
him tremble from head to foot. He was conscious of a sound, far away,
but growing more distinct. _Clickety-clack! Clickety-clack!
Clickety-clack!_ It was a horse on the highway ahead, running fast.
_Clickety-clack! Clickety-clack!_ It was just around the bend in front
of him. In a dull way he drew his horse somewhat to one side. A huge
black shape thundered into view, seemingly of mammoth proportions in the
dim light. Straight to the middle of the road it clung, its hoofs
striking fire at every leap, its rider making no effort to swerve it.
Glenning called, and pulled his horse sharply aside. Horse and rider
swept by, so close that the man's knee brushed John's sleeve. In that
fraction of a second their eyes met, and each recognized the other. But
neither stopped. Marston rode on till his horse drew up quivering at his
gate, and Glenning, a new, strange light in his eyes, drove on towards
town.

Arriving at the livery stable he inquired for Judge Colver. That
gentleman lived in the country, and had gone home. He would have to make
his report in the morning, when the people could be advised by bulletin
of the presence of small-pox in the county, the proper quarantine
established, and measures taken for preventing the disease from
spreading. He suddenly remembered that, in the business of getting
established, he had neglected opening the account at the bank, and had
also forgotten his hotel bill. It was too late to keep his promise to
Dillard that day, so he turned down street towards the hotel, resolving
to settle his bill there. Supper was in progress when he entered the
office, and the place was comparatively empty. He paid his reckoning to
the smiling Jones, and was preparing to leave, when Travers came out of
the passage leading to the hotel bar, and called his name. John turned,
and coldly faced him. The landlord beckoned, and retreated to the
passage. John hesitated a moment, for he desired no further dealings
with this person, but upon second thought he followed. Travers' nervous
manner had returned. He fidgeted, and shifted his weight, and toyed with
his watch chain.

"I want to tell you I have kept my word," he said, in a low, cautious
voice. "You played fair with me, and I have some appreciation. I went
out to Marston's place this morning and told him all about it, to his
face, and I told him what you said, word for word. I did, 'pon my
honor!"

"That's more than I expected," answered Glenning, icily. "But I admire
your pluck. It took a man to do that."

"I did it, doctor, and for a while I thought he was going to kill me.
But he didn't touch me."

"I suppose he made some threats?"

"Yes, he talked mighty ugly about you. I'd advise you to be on your
guard. You'd better carry a gun with you all the time."

"I've never carried a gun, and I don't intend to begin now. I fancy I
can take care of myself without that. Thank you, Mr. Travers. I'm glad
you told me this. Good evening."

He had turned to go, when he heard his name spoken in an agitated
whisper. He stopped, and faced about.

"That ain't all, doctor. You've done me a fine turn, and I want to break
even."

"Well?"

"Marston's just left here. He's been in the bar drinking for an hour or
more, and he's been talkin' mighty reckless. It was about you, and he
boasted he was going to make you sorry you ever came here--that he was
going to run you out of town. He'd just been at the long distance
telephone, and he said he'd found out something, and would know more
tomorrow. He'd been drinking heavily, you know, and didn't care what he
said. He leaves on the early mornin' train. I was standin' close to that
swingin' door, and heard every word he said. He wasn't talkin' to
anybody in particular--just easin' himself. But he'll hurt you if he
can."

Glenning's voice was very low as he asked--

"Where is he going?"

"To Jericho," said Travers.



CHAPTER IX


John slept very poorly that night. The news which Dan Travers had given
him was enough to keep him awake. Marston was going to Jericho the next
morning! What would he bring back? What would he have to tell upon his
return? Ah, God! could a man never escape the slightest misstep? Must it
dog him to his grave, even though he had won through by days of anguish
and hours of wrestling in the silent night? What a morsel this would be
for vile tongues to handle! What possibilities for enlargement, and
opportunities for misrepresentation! Haggard with wide-eyed watching as
the black moments slowly passed--it was not new to him, this grim facing
of an ever-present spectre--he managed to gain a few hours sleep just
before day. But his cheek bones showed more plainly when he appeared
upon the street the following morning, and the faint lines about his
strong mouth had deepened.

He found Judge Colver and made his report; there was a caucus of the
board of health in Doctor Kale's office; dodgers were ordered printed
and distributed telling the fearsome news and instructing the public as
to what sanitary measures they should employ to keep down the plague.
The local physicians gave him respectful attention when he talked, and
adopted his suggestions cheerfully. This was pleasant, but it did not
lift the weight which had fallen upon him. When the business meeting was
over, John found a piece of yellow cloth at one of the dry goods stores,
armed himself with a supply of disinfectants, and started on his second
trip to his pauper patient.

He had a half formed notion when he left town to stop at the Dudleys for
a moment, and when, driving somewhat slowly in front of the house, he
saw Julia bending over gathering nasturtiums, his tentative idea became
a fixed resolution. He left his horse at the gate, securing him to one
of the iron palings, and went up the drive afoot. She had seen him
coming, and she walked forward to meet him, her face tinting delicately,
and a smile showing through the look of anxiety which she wore. She gave
him a pliant palm, holding a huge armful of vari-coloured blooms to her
breast with her other hand--the flowers spread out over her, a wonderful
breast-plate of gorgeous hues. Some matched her cheeks, and some her
lips, and some her throat, which had assumed a shy pink as she came
within arm's length of John, standing with hat breast high, and
searching eyes. He took her hand and held it a moment longer than was
necessary, but she waited until he released it, and made no effort to
draw it away. He did not attempt to veil the candid admiration which
beamed from his face.

"You are looking _very_ well this morning, if you will allow the
compliment," he said, gravely, and she quickly noted the weary note in
his voice. "I'm sure this flower bed is the most fitting environment you
could possibly have. You seem one of them."

The blood rushed up in torrents at his words, and she turned scarlet. To
hide all this she buried her face for a moment in the armful of
nasturtiums. Her eyes were a-sparkle when she lifted her head at once,
and said, reproachfully:

"Why did you run away yesterday before any of us could see you?"

"One saw me, and I left a message with him. It was too early for either
you or your father to be up. Did Peter not tell you that all went well?"

"Yes, he told us that, and I went down myself to look at The Prince.
Come here a moment, Doctor Glenning."

She crossed the drive with a faint swish of drapery, and walked across
the lawn to the base of a large maple, not many yards from the front
door of the mansion. Beneath this tree, resting against it, was an iron
settee of ornamental design. Lying upon the settee was a large revolver.
Julia picked it up, cocked as it was, and held it out, muzzle earthward.

"I found this, too, inside under the window. It isn't yours, is it?"

John recognized immediately the weapon he had wrested from the hand of
Travers, and which he had neglected to procure before leaving the
smoke-house.

"No, it isn't mine," he replied, readily.

"Peter said that you told him to say to us that nothing had happened."

"He did not quote me correctly. I told him to say that nothing of
_consequence_ had happened."

"Whose revolver is this, Doctor Glenning?"

"It belongs to the man who came to shoot The Prince."

Julia gave a little start, and uttered an involuntary exclamation.

"You--" she began, then stopped and looked at him, her breath coming
faster.

"I didn't see any use in making a fuss about it, you see," explained
John, smiling. "Travers came, as we all knew he would, and I just waited
and let him walk into the trap which Uncle Peter set when he cut that
window, and baited when he led the colt in. That's all there is to it."

"Let's sit down," suggested Julia.

Then, side by side upon the settee, the revolver still in her hand, she
resumed:

"This is a fearful looking thing. Did he have this?"

"Yes, that's what he came hunting with near three o'clock in the
morning. It would kill an elephant if properly handled."

"How did you happen to get possession of it?"

"I see you must have the whole story," said John, with his inimitable
chuckle, and thereat he proceeded, very faithfully and very accurately,
to recount the entire tale.

Julia drew back in wonder as she listened.

"And you _held_ him!" she exclaimed, her eyes wide and her brows
contracted in surprise. Doubtless she did not know it, but her gaze went
sweeping over the man, from top to toe, and her mind was wondering where
all that power was stored, for he was very lean, though wonderfully
broad of shoulder.

"Yes, it was easy, for I really took him at an unfair advantage, but it
was the only way--that or nothing."

"Yes," she said, but nothing more, for she could not understand him. But
she knew there was a sweet feeling of security when he was near. He
could do anything; of that she was entirely confident.

"There's small-pox in the county," said John, presently, with such
sudden irrelevance that the girl half rose from her seat.

"Where?"

"Some paupers out this road--I don't think you need be scared. I'm
waiting on them."

"You!"

"Yes, I'm a doctor, you know. Old Mr. Hoonover came in yesterday
afternoon with the news, and I am constrained to believe that it was
more a matter of personal interest with him than it was love for his
neighbour. He lives close to them. But what's worse than small-pox is
the fact that I was compelled to strike Devil Marston yesterday
afternoon on the streets of your town."

He rapidly detailed the encounter. Julia was all interest and concern,
and hovered on his words eagerly, yet with dread.

"Travers told me last night that he's gone to Jericho," concluded
Glenning.

"What for?"

"To try and ruin me, Miss Dudley!"

John turned upon her with a face every lineament of which bespoke
suffering and strength.

"I came away from there, my friend, because had I stayed I would have
gone to hell, along the broadest and most flowery of all the broad and
flowery ways which lead there. My feet had turned in at that wide
gate--God forgive me!--when all at once I awoke! I can't tell you now--I
have no right--but some day I will tell you, some day when we know each
other better, and there's nothing which makes for quick and
understanding companionship like a common danger. We are each
threatened, you the most, poor girl, for you cannot fight--but I have
strength for two--" he stopped, and shut his teeth. He had nearly gone
too far. Then he leaned towards her and took one of her hands, crushing
it in both of his almost roughly. The flowers fell in a gorgeous heap
between them, strewing her lap with their fresh beauty. He looked
steadily into her eyes, and she looked back into his, fearlessly and
earnestly.

"Trust me!" he said, in a strained voice. "Trust me! Believe in me! It
will come to you! Devil Marston will not let his news suffer for want of
garnishment--and you will hear! Am I asking too much to ask for your
faith and trust? It means much to me--now! It means more to me than all
of life, I believe--right now! Will you do it? Will you believe in me?
It is going to be a strong test, Miss Dudley. Answer me!"

The situation was new and strange to the girl who had never known aught
of life save that which the peaceful environs of home had disclosed.
She knew nothing of the world--of its wickedness, trials and sins. She
had never seen a strong man wrought up to a pitch like this; she had
never heard such words before, and now she but vaguely sensed their
meaning. She knew that she was trembling, but she was not afraid, for
cowardice did not run in her blood. She knew that her hand was aching
under the force he had unconsciously put upon it. Her eyes beheld the
melancholy shadows which dwelt perpetually in his; she saw the fresh
scars on his forehead and cheek where the burns had not yet healed--the
singed hair. And back of it all she seemed to see his soul, suffering,
but clean! A half sob struggled in her throat.

"I don't know what you mean!" she said, with child-like candour which
was almost pitiful. "But I know you are a man! Nothing can change that
opinion, Doctor Glenning, I do believe in you, and I have faith in you,
and trust you!"

"Thank God!" he said, huskily, and released her hand.

They sat without speaking for several minutes. Peter appeared upon the
other side of the lawn, hoe in hand, diligently searching for any weeds
which might have come up within the last few days.

"Father is not very well this morning," Julia began, her hand straying
absently among the scattered nasturtiums. "He fears a breakdown, and has
been talking a great deal of his brother, my uncle Arthur, who went west
before I was born, and from whom we haven't heard for years. We don't
know whether he's living or not, and this distresses father, for he
says he would like above all things to see him now."

"That is strange. How long has it been since you had a letter?"

"Oh, many years. Not since I was quite a little girl."

"I'm sorry to hear the Major is indisposed. Try and keep him in a
cheerful mood if you can. It won't do for a man of his age to grow
despondent. I fear these troubles which have come to him are the cause."

"Yes, he is so unlike himself. I suspect I had better go to him now."

She arose and began gathering up her flowers. Glenning picked up a few
which had fallen upon the ground, and gave them to her.

"Won't you come in?" she asked.

"Not this morning, thank you. Give Major Dudley my regards, and tell him
I'll call soon. I must go see my pauper now; the poor fellow's pretty
sick."

He pressed her hand quickly and firmly and strode rapidly away. She went
slowly towards the house, her head bent over the armful of flowers. Her
thoughts were new, many and tumultuous, but they were not bitter. At the
portico steps she remembered that this was the day when the town paper
was issued. Ordinarily she cared little for what was going on in the
vicinity, but now something made her turn and call to the old negro--

"Uncle Peter, will you please go to town at once, and bring the mail?"

The old fellow retreated to put his hoe away, and Julia, casting a
glance at a buggy now being driven briskly down the road, went in to her
father.

The Major was decidedly unwell. He was up and dressed, and was sitting
in his favourite chair by the window. But his posture was not his own.
Always erect hitherto, standing or sitting, this morning he slouched
down in his chair, listlessly, and his shoulders had pulled forward. An
expression almost of hopelessness was on his face, and Julia noticed, as
she came quietly in, that there was no book in his hand. This fact,
apparently trivial, worried her more than the dejected appearance her
father presented. For she did not remember of ever seeing him alone
before when he did not hold a book; if he was not reading it he was
nursing it. The girl quickly and noiselessly arranged the flowers in
sundry vases and bowls, then came and knelt by her father's side and
took one of his passive, unresponsive hands.

"Daddy, don't you feel a little better?" she pleaded.

He did not look at her. His eyes were directed on the floor, and he
merely shook his head slowly in answer to her solicitous query.

"What is it, daddy dear? Do you hurt anywhere? Won't you go to bed, or
lie down on the couch and let me sit by you?"

The tender words from his beloved child roused the Major. He lifted his
head and mechanically adjusted his stock. Then he turned to her and
placed his hand caressingly upon her brown hair.

"Ah, little Julia! Little Julia!"

That was all for several moments. He sat and looked at her for some
time, and the love in his soul beatified his countenance.

"I'm not sick," he said, after a while. "That is, no doctor on earth
could help me. It's just the letting go, sweet daughter. I'm old, you
must remember, and I can't endure things nor fight as I once could. It
has come in the last few days--I have seemed to crumble--to wither, and
it has weighed me down horribly. I should have risen above it. I do not
care about myself; my life is lived, but you, dear child--it is the
thought of your future which fills me with alarm and well-nigh breaks my
heart. I have no inheritance for you--I have nothing to leave you but
poverty and danger. Don't you understand?"

His voice was gravely tender as he spoke to her thus, and it made her
heart ache, and the burning tears come to her lids.

"Oh, daddy!" she cried; "you must be mistaken! You will--you _must_ stay
with me many years yet, for I could not get along without you. Tell me
you will try--you know the mind has so much to do with the body. Brace
up, daddy, for your Julia! You say you have no sickness; then try and
let your spirit be bright--for me! Won't you?"

She arose, glided into his lap, curled one arm around his neck and
kissed him on the forehead.

"For such a daughter one should try very hard for life," he replied, and
the twinkle she had not seen for several days shone in his eyes. "I'm
stricken, lassie, but I'll promise you this: I'll make the best fight of
my life now, in its last days, and that shall be to stay with my
precious little girl as long as I can. Does that satisfy you, young
miss?"

The Major's last words were almost gay, and Julia's heart bounded with
joy as she heard him speak in his old, brave way. It must be her
constant duty to buoy him up and cheer him on. She smiled into his eyes
happily, and asked him what book she should bring him. He mentioned a
certain volume relating to archaeological research, which she at once
procured, and seeing Peter coming up the drive she gave her father
another caress and went out, almost tripping, for so quickly do we
respond to conditions of joy or sadness. Peter bore nothing but the town
paper, which he delivered with an obsequious bow, and immediately sought
his hoe again. The lawn, next to The Prince, was his greatest pride, and
some weeds were beginning to come up.

Julia sank down upon the portico step, and opened the still damp pages
of the _Herald_. She tried to make herself believe that she was merely
conning the column bearing on local happenings and people of the town,
but surely such disinterested employment as that would not bring the
blood to her checks, nor an added sparkle to her eyes. Directly she
found that which she declared to herself she was not looking for, and
which she read merely because she happened to see it. The item was in
regard to the small-pox, and the attending physician. The _Herald_ had
some very nice things to say of the new doctor; in fact, he and his
actions took up a goodly portion of so much of the _Herald_ as was
printed at home, because the fire had to be told of, with all things
relating thereto. Truth to tell, Julia had never fully nor properly
appreciated her town paper until this morning, when she found it
brimming full of the most interesting news in the world. It seemed that
John Glenning's name appeared in nearly every paragraph. There was also
a notice of his encounter with Devil Marston, and this was most adroitly
written, the editor evidently not wishing to offend the rich bank
president, and at the same time endeavouring to keep the friendship of
Uncle Billy Hoonover, who had a large county connection, all of whom
subscribed for the _Herald_, and paid for it promptly. The editor
opined, in conclusion, that it "was an unfortunate incident, and
everyone hoped and believed it was now amicably settled."

But it was a news item on the other inside page which made the colour
die out of the girl's face as the clouds grow gray in the west after the
sun is gone. It was a news item only, printed without comment, but a
cold hand was laid upon Julia's heart as she read on and on, down to the
last bitter word, then sat crushed and shivering in the warm June
sunshine. The item told of the passing of the bank dividend, giving in
explanation the reasons which Marston had declared to the directors of
the institution. She could scarcely believe it. It was their
maintenance--their sole support. Without it was abject poverty,
starvation. They could not live another month, to say nothing of six
months, shorn of this income. Slowly her numbed mind came back to its
normal state, and she tried to think it out. Why had it been done? Did
the item say? Who had done it? Were there any names given? In a dazed
way she lifted the paper which she had allowed to fall to the ground,
and read the paragraph again. No names were given. "The directors deemed
it necessary" because of the reasons which followed. She could not doubt
its truth. She sat gazing in front of her, stunned, hopeless. Fate was
surely unkind. Neither she nor her father merited treatment like this.
Her spirit grew rebellious, almost wicked. After a time Aunt Frances
came to receive orders for dinner. "Anything you can find" was Julia's
reply, and she continued to gaze straight in front of her, A buggy
passed, and its occupant lifted his hat, but she made no sign. She did
not see the buggy, nor Glenning. He wondered that she did not return his
salutation. Then he saw a newspaper crushed in her hand, and his active
mind guessed the truth. He drove on with his heart seething at the
injustice of it all, and his inability to help.

The moments passed, and still Julia sat like a woman of stone, a look on
her fresh young face which was piteous in its tragic helplessness.
"Daddy must not know! Daddy must not know!" This one sentence coursed
through her mind with each throb of her pulse, and its constant
reiteration almost maddened her, for how could she hold the truth from
him? She saw nothing, not even the figure which presently laboured up
the drive, wiping the streaming perspiration from its face as it came.
Not till Dillard stopped in front of her, waiting to be recognized, did
she lift her eyes to him, dully. But she said nothing. She felt as one
who had suddenly come to the end of life, unexpectedly, in the heyday of
his youth and happiness.

"Good morning, Miss Julia," said Dillard, "may I sit down? I can't stay
but a moment."

She brushed her skirts aside, and the young man took the seat made
vacant by her movement. He was breathing hard, and had evidently come in
a hurry. He, too, noted the paper, and he saw where it was opened.

"It's a bloomin' shame, Miss Julia!" he blurted out, twirling his straw
hat nervously between his hands. "You've read it, I know, and I've
rushed out here at my dinner hour to tell you that it's the meanest
trick I ever knew anybody to do, and--"

"Who did it?"

Her voice sounded hollow and old.

"Who did it?" he repeated. "Devil Marston did it! He did it just to
spite you and the Major. We made the dividend, and two hundred and fifty
dollars of it belongs to you, but Marston's word is law in that bank.
Oh, it's a shame! I've come out here to let you know. I can't do
anything. Nobody can do anything, but I wanted you to know that it
wasn't the bank that played you false. It was Marston, and he did it to
ruin you and your father! I know I'm talkin' plain to you, and I beg
your pardon if I'm too outspoken, but I've known you a long time, Miss
Julia, and we've been friends, in a way. I'd give my right hand to set
matters right at the bank, but I can't move an inch. Does the Major
know?"

"Father is not well, and this news must be kept from him," she answered.
"The paper--I will destroy it myself, now." She began to tear it into
strips, methodically. "It's good of you to come, Tom, so good of you,
and I'm grateful. I'm glad to know who was back of this crime--for it
amounts to that as far as we are concerned. It has a bit gotten the best
of me."

She stopped her occupation of shredding the _Herald_, and gazed
pensively at the ground in front of her. Dillard's round, baby-blue eyes
dwelt upon her in a protectingly hungry way. His pudgy face showed his
keen distress, and his fat hands toyed unceasingly with his hat. It was
plain there was something else he wanted to say, but he could not find
the words in which to express himself. Then, too, the time was not
propitious. If he had loved Julia Dudley silently and in a worshiping
way for six years, he surely could love her that same way a few days
longer, when he would come to her with the offer of his honest heart,
and plead with her to come with him away from all the troubles which
beset her. So he got to his feet rather awkwardly, dropping his hat as
he did so, and remarked--

"It's hot as blazes today, Miss Julia. If I can do _anything_ for you or
the Major, call on me."

"Thank you, Tom. But I'm sorry to have been the cause of you coming out
here in the sun at noonday."

"That doesn't matter a fig. I felt that you would want to know, and I
wanted to be the one to tell you. Good-bye; I must be back by one."

He held a red, moist hand towards her. She smiled at him and took it
with a few added words of appreciation, then Dillard was departing down
the avenue with such dignity as his avoirdupois would allow, for he felt
that the eyes of the girl were following his retreating form. Such was
not the case, however. Julia arose the instant her caller's back was
turned, gathered the streaming bits of paper into a tight wad in her two
hands, and going to the kitchen, flung them in the stove.

The rest, of the day was a waking nightmare to the poor girl. She had
nowhere to turn; there was no one to whom she could go and ask for
advice or help. She dared not broach the fearful subject to her father,
for his despondency would be sure to return, and it might be she could
not raise him from it again. The blow had fallen upon tender shoulders,
unused to the bearing of loads, but she did not murmur after the first
flame of resentment had passed. She even brought herself to accept it as
right, and all that afternoon Major Dudley saw no change in the smiling,
sweet-voiced, bright-tempered being who flitted about him, attending to
his wants or engaging him in light conversation.

After tea the old gentleman seemed markedly improved, and readily
retired at a rather early hour upon his daughter's suggestion. Then,
when she knew he was asleep, the desolate girl stole out upon the lawn,
down to the spot where that morning she and Glenning had sat, and
throwing herself upon the settee, she sobbed and cried for nearly an
hour. It was awful--awful! and she was so helpless! Then bitter despair
seized her and she prayed to die. She asked God to take her with her
father and not leave her alone to fight these strange and awful battles
with the world. When her grief and terror had spent themselves in tears
she grew calmer, and still lying prone and motionless, strove to think
of a way out. The problem was set for her. Could she solve it? She
thought, and thought, and in time her thinking brought results. Marston
had done this; then Marston alone could undo it. The money was theirs;
he was stealing it from them. What then? Was there no law to protect the
innocent? She did not know, but she presumed there wasn't, in this case.
There was but one way, and that was a horrible one. She must go to Devil
Marston in person, and demand that which was her right. Insist that he
revoke his cruel order to pass the dividend, and compel him, if she
could, to have it declared yet. She sat up as she reached this
conclusion, a strange thrill sweeping through her. It would be terrible
to go to this man, this being whose nature was a composite of many
dreadful and evil strains. But she would go--she knew it on the
moment--and she would go quickly. Tomorrow morning, as soon as she could
slip away from the Major, she would make the venture. It was the only
chance to escape genteel starvation. There could be little doubt that he
would be at home. He was seldom gone longer than a day at a time.
Doctor Glenning had told her that he went away that very morning. Would
he return that night? She must know. She would sit up for the train from
Jericho. It did not come until eleven, or thereabouts, but she was not
sleepy, and she loved the calm, mysterious nights in summer. The time
sped swiftly. Some of the thoughts which came to her chilled her very
heart; some brought anxiety and worry, and some filled her virgin soul
with strange, elusive whisperings; premonitory warnings of something
wonderfully sweet. If she dwelt upon these most; if her mind's eye saw
beside her at times in the starlight a long shape, lean of limb and lean
of face, with eyes constantly filled with troubled shadows, but true and
unfaltering--who would say her nay? For the approach of love is a
beautiful mystery, fraught with emotions which frighten while they
charm, which awe while they inspire, and there is no more sacred or
precious time in a young girl's life than that when her soul quickens in
response to the summons of love.

So preoccupied was she that Julia barely heard the shriek of the express
from the north as it thundered into the station in Macon. But the sound
of the whistle recalled her to herself--made her remember why she was
sitting there. It was hard to give up dreams for reality. But she faced
the road and pressed her lips together, and waited. She heard the train
pull out and resume its journey southward; its rumble became fainter and
fainter and was lost in the distance. Then she fell to listening for
another sound which she dreaded, yet hoped to hear. She wanted him to
return that night. She wanted the fearful task over and done while her
courage was high. She was perfectly aware that nothing short of
desperation could have driven her to this determination. She felt it of
the utmost importance that he should return that night. But the minutes
passed, and he did not come. A vehicle went by, and later a horse at a
canter. Neither of these was Devil Marston. She did not need the aid of
light to tell her when he rode by. The air began to grow a little
chilly. She had come out without wrap of any kind, and all at once she
realized her imprudence. She arose with a slight shiver, and stood for a
moment with head inclined attentively. What was it? Hoofs? She held her
breath and waited. An indistinguishable sound was on the air. It was
lost; it came again faintly. Then suddenly it burst upon her ears
unmistakably--the noise of a horse running at breakneck speed. She
shuddered involuntarily, but tarried yet a moment longer to be sure.
Then he passed in his whirlwind way--she heard again that sound in the
night which never failed to bring terror to her heart--and then she went
in and locked the door and went up to her room. She had grown calm. She
was surprised at her own coolness, and the deliberateness with which she
went about her preparations to retire. Even when she opened her bureau
drawer and took therefrom a pearl-handled, thirty-two caliber revolver,
she was not stirred. Her father had given it to her on her sixteenth
birthday, and had taught her how to use it. She could shoot straight.
She even smiled as she laid it down in front of the mirror, after
breaking it to see that its chambers were full. Her adventure in the
morning would be fraught with danger, and the revolver which she knew so
well how to handle should go with her when she made her call on Devil
Marston.



CHAPTER X


That night John Glenning sat alone in his office with a letter spread
out on the table before him. Something had come to pass which he could
not understand; which had plunged him in a maze of incredulity in spite
of visual evidence. The letter had come that afternoon--had been
forwarded to him from Jericho--and he had taken it from the post-office
upon his return from his second visit to Dink Scribbens. The letter was
dated and post-marked New York City, and read as follows:

     "JOHN GLENNING, ESQ.,

     "Jericho, Ky.

     "Dear Sir--The death of our client, and your uncle, John
     Glenning, on the 14th inst., reveals the fact that one of his
     life insurance polices was executed with you as beneficiary.
     Proofs of his death having been properly forwarded to the
     company by us, we are this day in receipt of a draft for $2000,
     payable to your order. Find said draft enclosed. Please
     acknowledge receipt.

     "Yours truly,

     "BENNER & LOCKE, Attorneys."

This letter, with the draft beside it, lay upon his table in the light
of a lamp none too clean. Letter and draft had been lying there for
about an hour and a half, and a coatless, tumbled-haired, hunted-eyed
man had been sitting in front of them for the same length of time,
alternately fingering the thin piece of paper which represented two
thousand dollars, and staring at the larger sheet, with its short,
business-like message. Many men would have rejoiced wildly at this piece
of good luck, and it may be told in a whisper here that few could have
needed it worse than the one to whom it had come. But it had a quieting
and peculiar effect upon the new doctor. Parents he had none. An older
married sister lived in Missouri. He had fought pretty hard since he was
sixteen, hugging honour and truth to his heart as priceless possessions
in the great struggle before him. He did not come of wealthy folks, nor
even well-to-do. They were poor, but were people of quality. Misfortune
came, such as may come to the best, and so the death of each parent was
hastened. Yes, he had an uncle John. He was named for this relative. He
had seen him only once or twice in his life. He had heard his father
speak of him as a crotchety, peculiar person, who all his life long did
the most unexpected things. He lived in New York, but had never married,
and never amassed money. This freak he exhibited in privately taking out
life insurance in favour of his namesake was characteristic. Possibly
that accounted for it--the name. John didn't know. He had never seen
this uncle since he had been grown. Once he was tempted to write to him
and ask him to give help in getting him (John) through college, but he
had refrained from writing this letter. He had, instead, written one
telling of his struggles, and how he knew he would get through. To this
he received no reply of any kind. So John had put this strange relative
out of his mind, and had scarcely given him a thought in years. And now,
behold how he had misjudged him! The proof of his love for his brother's
child was here, silent, but convincing.

How good it was to take this first upward step towards independence!
With a balance like this in the Macon National Bank the people would
have greater respect for him; practice would come if he was diligent and
attentive, and--Suddenly his eyes set, and an undefinable look settled
upon his face. At first it seemed dismay, unbelief, then through varying
gradations of emotion the changing features passed until firm resolve
was fixed upon them, mingled with an expression of acute happiness which
was almost painful. Then he got up, the first time in two hours, slipped
the edge of a book over the precious draft as a weight, and crossing his
arms on his chest fell to walking up and down. A smile had crept to his
sensitive lips, and a musing, tender gleam to his eyes. It was plain his
thoughts sat well with him. Up and down, with measured tread he walked,
minute after minute. He was laying a plan, and if it involved deception
it evidently did not disturb his conscience. When he at length resumed
his chair, put his elbows on the table edge, and ran the long fingers
of each hand through the hair above his ears, he appeared nearer
absolute content than at any time since he had come to Macon.

The night was hot, the lamp almost touching him was hotter, but he did
not know it. He did not know that perspiration was streaming from his
forehead, and that the backs of his hands were beaded with moisture. It
was no time for such small physical concerns. He was lifted up. He was
above such trivial things as heat and cold, hunger and thirst. He had
known in that hour the first sweet joy-pangs of sacrifice! The way was
not all clear; only the beginning was plain. But he would light the
entire road by the might of his will, if it took till morning. He had
accomplished tasks of lesser import by setting his head to them; this
paramount problem he would make his own. He did not hear the passing on
the street, though both his windows were up as high as they could go.
But when a tolerably heavy step began to ascend the stair he looked up
almost with a scowl. He didn't want any callers that night. It was one
night in his life when he wanted to be let alone. If some one was
sick--there were other doctors! At any other time he would have welcomed
the approach of a possible patient, but now his whole being rebelled
against the leisurely oncomer. Would he never get up the steps! Another
moment young Dillard came dragging into the room with his hands in his
pockets, glanced about for a chair, and finding none, perched his bulk
upon the end of the table, and sighed. John rose and shoved the chair
towards him viciously.

"Sit down!" he growled.

"Damn if somethin' ain't got to be done!" was the rather peculiar
response, and Dillard looked almost scared when he said it, for it is
doubtful if he ever swore before in his life.

"What's the matter?" queried John, quelling his choler as he suddenly
realized that his visitor was the only person in town who might be able
to assist him in the work he had mapped out for that night.

"Matter! Don't you know that both Major and Miss Julia'll be dead in
four weeks unless we can put our heads together to some purpose? I was
out there today, between twelve and one, and I found her sittin' on the
front steps huddled over that _Herald_ like a bird with a broken wing.
She'd just read what that--that _devil_ had done, and she was crushed,
man, literally crushed!"

Dillard's voice rose with his anger, and he slid to his feet, his blue
eyes blinking and blazing, and his round fists clenched till the
knuckles showed white. Glenning, in striking contrast, stood disheveled
by the lamp, the angles of his face strongly outlined and his hair
falling over his forehead. One hand rested on the table, the other
lightly on his hip.

"It was a terrible sight, doctor--a terrible sight! I shan't forget it
if I live to be a thousand. There she was, a girl, alone, for she told
me the Major was sick and she couldn't tell him. Alone, I say, to bear
unaided this villain's hellish blow. Innocent, mistreated, helpless, but
brave! We've _got_ to do it, doctor, you and I; we've _got_ to find a
way--do you hear?"

Almost beside himself with love and rage, Dillard strode up and shook
his fist in his new friend's face, forgetting, no doubt, that Glenning
shared his views.

"Yes, we've got to find a way, Dillard," repeated John, in even tones,
and he looked down at the table where the papers lay.

"Then how, _how_, I say?" demanded his caller, furiously. "It's got to
be done quickly--at once! Major hasn't ten dollars in bank, and
Marston's positive orders are he shan't overdraw!"

"No, he shan't overdraw," again repeated John, and his gaze was still
downcast.

"Then how in hell are you goin' to manage it?"

Dillard's religious training was slipping away in the stress of the
moment.

John went into his reception room and came back with another chair. This
he placed on the other side of the table and occupied, motioning his
friend to draw up to the spot where he had formerly sat. When Dillard,
fuming and wrathful, had done so, he again fired the query:

"How are you goin' to do it?"

"This way," answered John, and he quietly picked up the draft and laid
it between Dillard's hands.

The bank clerk's fingers closed upon the paper, and when he had read the
wording on its face, simple amazement and a total lack of comprehension
was reflected from his flushed countenance.

"What's this got to do with it?" he asked, almost petulantly. "This is
to you--this is your money."

"It's my money tonight. The question is, how can we make it Major
Dudley's money without them, or anyone else, suspecting anything?"

Tom's mouth came open, and he lifted baffled eyes to the face before
him.

"You mean--this money--what _do_ you mean, anyway, doctor?"

Glenning merely repeated his last speech, enunciating it more clearly.

Dillard sank back in his chair, a nerveless mass.

"You mean you're goin' to _give_ them this money!" he gasped; "this
little fortune!"

John's arm shot out across the table, and his slim fingers twined about
the soft hand which lay there, inert.

"See here, Tom Dillard!" he said, earnestly. "You say you are a friend
to these people. I believe you, or I'd never have taken you into my
confidence. I'm their friend, too, and Fate has said that I shall be the
one to bring relief to them in their present predicament. Promise me to
work with me, now, to the perfecting of some plan, and to keep all this
a secret to your dying day! Promise, boy, and then we'll plot!"

"Yes, I promise!" replied Dillard, in an awed voice. "But are you sick,
or crazy, or--"

"Neither. I've nothing. Let that alone. It has nothing to do with this."

A dull flush was on the speaker's face.

"Then--" began Dillard, but he stopped, reddened, and glanced aside. In
that moment jealousy was added to his other worries. He had never
supposed for an instant that Doctor Glenning was in love with Julia
Dudley. The idea was silly, for their acquaintance had been limited to a
few days. But what did this mean? His mind was not preternaturally
acute; in fact, he was rather dull than bright, but a simpleton would
have cause to suspect something when a man, himself almost penniless,
was willing to sacrifice a considerable sum of money in order that a
destitute old man and his lovely daughter should not suffer humiliation
and hunger. It was possible for this act to be one of pure philanthropy,
but even Dillard's slow-moving intellect could not see it in that light.
It simply meant that another man had found and appreciated this
sheltered flower of womanhood that he had watched grow, and bud, and
bloom, and that she had aroused in this other man a passion akin to his
own. These thoughts traveled with unusual rapidity through Dillard's
brain, the while his companion sat with head thrust forward, watching
him.

"Then--what?" queried Glenning. "What were you going to say?"

"What are you doing this for?"

"What would _you_ do it for, if you could?"

"Friendship for the family," was the somewhat sullen reply.

"Friendship fiddlesticks!" retorted John. "You'd do it for no such
reason, but for that sweet girl-woman in distress!"

He brought his fist down on the table as he said this so that the lamp
jumped and the blaze shot up the chimney, and glared defiance at the man
across from him.

Dillard's heart seemed trying to pump the blood through his skin, but he
only looked at John as though he had been addressed in Arabic or
Chinese.

"There's no use side-tracking the truth," resumed Glenning. "We've
agreed to work together in a common cause, and do it as friends who
trust each other. There can be no good work nor full trust where there
is concealment. I know you love Miss Dudley--why shouldn't you! So own
up, and let's get to business!"

"I've loved her for six years!" Dillard said, the words struggling
through a tight throat. "But I've never told anyone before, not even
her. I'd give ten years from the other end of my life to have this
check, instead of you! I've told you the truth; you do the same," he
added, with a sort of eagerness mixed with dread.

"That's fair. This is the truth. I've never met a more lovely character
or beautiful face in a woman. I've been drawn towards her strongly--so
strongly--almost irresistibly. It must be the rare and indefinable charm
of her personality; her pure, sweet, unsullied nature. She is entirely
unlike any other woman I have ever known." A shadow of pain came and
went from his mouth unobserved by the one to whom he was talking. "You
want to know if I love her, and I tell you truly, Tom Dillard, so help
me God, I don't know! But I'll say this in all candour: were it not for
her I'd never turn this money over to Major Dudley. Now you may think me
a liar if you wish, but that is as near the truth as I can come tonight.
Now we find ourselves back to the business in hand. A mutual exchange of
confidence is good. I really fear I am drifting on the shoals, old
fellow, but I'm not near enough to them to declare it positively. Are
you satisfied?"

A grayish pallor had settled on Dillard's face as John talked.

"If you go in it's all up with me," he said, despondently. "But we'll
play fair."

The eyes which he lifted were honest and straightforward.

"You're a man, Dillard; shake hands!" said John.

They did, in a firm grasp.

"Now to business," resumed the speaker, producing a black briar pipe and
filling it slowly from a "hand" of natural leaf which lay on the top of
his desk. "You're a banker, Dillard. How's a fellow to transfer money to
another fellow and not let the other fellow nor anyone else in the world
know anything about it?" The round face before him broke into a smile,
at the same time becoming thinly veiled by the smoke of a light cigar.

"That takes me back to school," he answered. "It sounds exactly like one
of those puzzle problems in arithmetic which I used to sweat and groan
over. It's about as hard, too, don't you think?"

"Harder, by far. It seems impossible on the face of it, but it must be
done. You're the banker; you can't expect me to teach you your business.
I'll give you half an hour to solve it. In the meantime I'll be
thinking, too, just for mind culture."

"You'd better think of something closer to hand, for I'll never unriddle
it."

"Not another word for half an hour!" commanded John, placing his open
watch upon the table between them. "We'll pass this night in silence
periods of thirty minutes duration each, then have five minutes recess
after each, unless one or the other has solved the great question. It is
now ten-thirty. Aren't you sorry you came in?--To work!"

He tilted his chair, elevated his heels to the other end of the table,
let the long-stemmed pipe sink between his two hands, and lapsed into a
meditative silence.

Dillard kept his feet on the floor, probably because of his extra amount
of flesh, and likewise endeavoured to think. Just as the first half hour
was up the figment of a tenable plan floated into Glenning's brain.

"How goes it?" he asked, squinting across at the placid face of his
friend.

"Slow. You're right; it's worse than arithmetic."

"I've started," announced John, quietly elated. "Give me another thirty
minutes, and I believe I can let you go home."

"Proceed," was the laconic reply, and again silence.

Glenning, searching desperately about in his mind, had really hit upon
an entirely feasible way to carry out his idea. The project quickly
developed as he brought his brain into active service, and long before
the time he had asked for had expired, it was all clear, and ready to
his hand.

"There's no use wasting further time in reflection, my boy," said John,
suddenly lowering his feet and swinging around. "Listen, and I'll a tale
unfold."

"I'm listening. You're a wonder if you've got it straight."

"There's not a hitch in the whole thing. Here's my plan. I can't write
my name on the back of this piece of paper, walk in your bank and
request the teller to place it to the credit of Major Dudley. That would
cause comment, and Major Dudley would naturally and rightly refuse to
touch a cent of it. And I would be in bad odour with them and the
community. My plan is to make Major Dudley deposit this money himself."

He stopped for a moment to enjoy the look of undisguised curiosity and
blank amazement on Dillard's face.

"Now I know something of the family history, in spite of the fact that I
have but recently become a citizen of the town. There was a brother, you
perhaps know this also, who went west many years ago, and disappeared
soon after. They suppose he died long ago, and very likely he did, but
for our purposes we will say he died last week. He was on his way back
to Kentucky, to see his brother once more in the flesh. He reached St.
Louis, and was taken ill. His sickness assumed a malignant turn, and he
realized that he must die. He sent for a reliable lawyer, who happened
to be my college friend and chum, Will Porter. While not attaining
riches, this brother, Arthur Dudley, had something over two thousand
dollars in cash with him. The surplus was enough for his board, doctor
bill, lawyer fee and burial expenses, and he had Porter purchase a draft
with the two thousand left, payable to his brother in Kentucky. This
draft Porter forwarded to Major Dudley, with a brief letter explaining
all the circumstances. Now if you don't think I'm a first-class rascal
with a long head for schemes I don't know why. Can you find a flaw in
this skein of base duplicity?"

Dillard rose to his feet and slowly shook his head.

"You're a marvel. You've got it. When are you going to do this?"

"Tonight. Now. We'll have to explain the whole thing to Porter, but he's
true as steel, and will do his part without fail. Two days for my letter
to go to St. Louis; two for his to get back. Major and Miss Dudley will
be relieved of their financial embarrassment the fourth day from
tomorrow!"

John took a pen and endorsed the draft to the order of his western
friend in a firm, bold hand, free from flourishes.

Ten minutes later Dillard was gone, and by the light of a smoky lamp a
man sat driving a pen frantically across sheet after sheet of paper. He
had to make things plain, or Porter would think his mind had gone wrong.
He wrote feverishly, and soon the message was done, sealed and
addressed, with the draft inside. He looked at the envelope for several
moments fixedly, then suddenly he sighed, cast his arms across the table
and let his face fall in them, his laced fingers writhing and an
inarticulate prayer falling from his lips. The old phantom had returned,
even as he wrote--that dread night visitant which had robbed him of so
many hours of sleep, and planted gray streaks about his temples. It came
tonight with its eyes of languor and its scented hair and its smile of
temptation--to drag him back! Its power was awful; its presence so real.
Would not his present act be some expiation for his past weakness? Would
it not serve to help banish this haunting vision which still sought to
claim him?



CHAPTER XI


Julia slept soundly and sweetly, but awoke early and arose at once. It
was an awful thing--this sudden transition from carefree, blissful
girlhood into woman's estate, with the attending hardships and strange
trials which she had to face. Her plan of action for that morning was
not at all clear. She merely knew that she was going to face a desperate
and wicked man who had wofully mistreated her and her father. She
conceived this to be her duty, and there was no shrinking or hanging
back in her soul when she thought of it. But as she combed her hair into
place and put on a flowered muslin--she could not wear her riding habit,
because her expedition must be kept from her father--she did not know
what she would do, or say, when she came before Devil Marston. Her face
grew hot as she thought of the swiftly approaching encounter, but this
only heightened her unusual beauty. That moment, for the first time in
her life, she wished that she was plain. Her beauty had not brought her
love or happiness, but had cursed her instead with the obnoxious
attentions of a beast in the shape of a man. Concealing the revolver in
the folds of a light wrap, she went down stairs. The Major had not
risen. Swiftly she passed through the library and dining-room, and
entered the kitchen. Aunt Frances' fat person was bustling about, and
breakfast was in preparation.

"Good morning, Aunt Frances!" said Julia, cheerily; "where's Uncle
Peter?"

"Mawnin', missus--whar he allus is 'cep'n' w'en he's sleepin'--foolin'
roun' dat colt ob a Prince!"

There was a degree of asperity in the old colored lady's speech, coupled
with an ominous shake of the head. But Julia had been accustomed to the
family difficulties upon which Peter and Aunt Frances throve, since
infancy, and she paid no heed to the present demonstration of a ruffled
temper.

"Thank you," she answered, sweetly. "I want to see him, so I'll run down
to the smoke-house."

She passed onto the small kitchen porch as she said this, and here the
old negress' voice halted her. There was a protesting, plaintive, sad
inflection in the one word--

"Missus?"

Julia stopped and turned abruptly, vaguely alarmed.

"Yes, Aunt Frances?"

"Missus, de flour bar'l done gone plum', clean em'ty; de side meat goes
dis mawnin' foh breakfus', 'n' de meal bar'l ain' much bettuh. I done
kotch a chick'n foh dinner yistiddy, but de Massa lub his biscuit
breakfus', dinner, _en_ suppuh!"

"You are right to tell me when things get low," she answered bravely,
but in a peculiarly low voice. "I'll send Uncle Peter into town with an
order this morning. Be careful not to let the flour run out completely
again."

"Bress dat chile!" exclaimed Aunt Frances, lifting the corner of her
apron to her eye as Julia disappeared. "I wonduh ef she t'inks she's
foolin' her ol' mammy? Hain't I lived heah always, 'n' hain't I seen dis
house go down 'n' down 'twell now hit mos' tech rock bottom? Some'in's
gwi' drap, sho! But me 'n' Peter'll be hyar w'en it comes!"

She tossed her turbaned head, and, stanch old Methodist that she was,
began crooning a "'vival" tune, wherewith to bolster up her sinking
courage.

Julia came to a standstill in the smoke-house doorway. Within, with his
back to her, stood Peter. A curry-comb was in one hand, and a brush in
the other. He had evidently come to a halt while making The Prince's
morning toilet, to spend a few moments in silent contemplation and
admiration. He had withdrawn several feet from the satin-sleek form of
the young colt, and reposed in an attitude of adoration, his skinny,
ridged neck stretched towards the object of his devotion. Julia was
compelled to speak his name twice before he heard her. Then he turned
with his customary profound bow, and greeted her deferentially.

"Uncle Peter, I want The Prince this morning," she said, coming straight
to the point, for she knew too well the old fellow's garrulousness to
attempt circumlocution. He would have kept her there till noonday.

Now this was the first time Julia had ever said she would ride The
Prince, and the wilfully deafened ears of Peter refused to recognize
this first declaration.

"Mom--missus--mom?" he ejaculated, bending slightly from the waist and
looking up at her keenly and suspiciously. "D'ye say de Prince look well
dis mawnin'? 'Deed he do! He's had he breakfus' 'n' a good rub down--not
quite finished, though. I's tekkin' a breathin' spell w'en you come.
Hahd wuk foh an' ol' nigguh gittin' de duht 'n' stuff off'n a hoss w'en
he's slep' in it. 'Scuse me, missus, 'n' I'll finish wid 'im now!"

Peter was sly and Peter was jealous. He heard plainly enough what his
mistress had said, but he could not bear to think of the colt leaving
his sight, even for a short time. His subsequent harangue was given
simply to cause his mistress to forget her idea, or to forego its
execution. He now approached the colt and began a vigorous attack upon
its flank and hind legs, where there was no particle of dirt, and no
hair out of place.

"Uncle Peter!" called Julia, firmly, "did you not hear me?"

"Yas'm'; I heah yo', missus!" he replied, between grunts. "I's proud
you's pleased wid de way de Prince looks. Oh! he's peart, let me tell
yo'!"

"Come here, Uncle Peter; come to me!"

He could not disobey the direct summons. He straightened up with a groan
and a wry face, partly feigned and partly caused by a "ketch" from
rheumatism, and shuffled forward.

"I said I wanted The Prince this morning," repeated Julia, quite
positively, "and I meant it. I shall want him for perhaps an
hour--certainly not longer. It does not matter that I have never ridden
him. I have ridden real vicious horses before father sold his racers,
and this colt is gentle, and we are friends besides. He knows me--see
him looking at me now?--Good morning, Prince!"

She smiled and waved her hand at the intelligent face turned towards
her.

"Now, Uncle Peter," she resumed, "listen to me, and pay attention to
what I say. I'm going to ride down the road for a short distance this
morning, and I don't want anyone to know about it, not even father, or
Aunt Frances. Can I trust you, Uncle Peter, to keep this secret with
me?"

"'Deed yo' kin, missus; 'deed yo' kin!"

"I thought so. Dudleys don't lie, and you are a Dudley, Uncle Peter,
always remember that! When you give me your word, I trust you as I would
anyone else. I want you to bridle and saddle The Prince at once--you
know where my saddle is hung. Then take him through the back lot and the
side meadow around to the road. _Don't_ lead him down the drive. It is
very necessary that my father should know nothing of this. You must stay
with The Prince until I come, which will be soon, immediately after
breakfast. Do you understand now, and can I rely upon you?"

"'Deed I do, missus; 'deed yo' kin! I'll fotch de sad'l 'n' tek 'im
right roun' to de road!"

"Be careful that no one from the house sees you; hurry, now."

Upon her return she found breakfast ready, and the Major waiting for
her. He gave her a morning kiss with his old air of doting pride, and
the quick look with which she surveyed him told her that he was in
excellent spirits, but whether feigned or real she could not tell. When
the meal was over the Major settled himself in the library with a book,
and Julia's chance had come. She dared not wait a moment. Already her
heart misgave her as she realized to the full all that she was about to
undertake. Charged with a subdued excitement which shone in her eyes and
glowed on her cheeks, she put on a hat, found her gloves, and secreting
the weapon as she walked, she left the house by way of the long side
porch and sought her rendezvous with Peter. He was waiting for her like
a faithful Arab, with one arm over the neck of his charge. She whispered
a few added words of caution to the mystified old servitor, mounted, and
started slowly down the road. The distance was short, and she wanted to
have herself well in hand, and decide upon the best method in which to
approach this enemy to her house.

It was a bright June morning. The air was balmy and fresh and
invigorating; it came to her nostrils as the very essence of life from
the earth's great laboratory, and it gently lifted the curls which clung
about her forehead and neck. The sun had not gathered its full power;
its rays blessed while they did not burn. The dense foliage of the
roadside trees rustled gently, showering down upon her an elfin song of
gladness. All nature was a-thrill with the joy of living, and only this
poor little human seemed sad and out of tune. The Prince, too, felt the
call of the new day. His pointed ears were up and attentive to every
sound; his neck was arched, and his nostrils stretched to the sweet
waves of air. It was with some difficulty his rider succeeded in holding
him down to a walk. He longed to run--to race with the morning, for this
was his breeding through a long, long line of ancestors. To feel the
keen wind in his face, to have it rushing past his ears and plucking at
his mane and dashing in his eyes; to know the earth was reeling beneath
his flying hoofs and that nothing could gain a place in front of him!
But his rider kept a firm hold on the reins, and pursued her way in a
walk. She would reach her destination soon enough. How she wished the
interview was over and done, and she was now on her return trip! She
believed she would have let The Prince run, then. The road took a turn a
few rods in advance. She knew the place. When she had rounded that bend
the house of Devil Marston would be in view. She shut her eyes as she
neared it, and breathed a little prayer for strength and guidance.

As the sombre brick pile burst on her sight her face grew white, and she
felt a chill of absolute terror settling over her. She told herself
fiercely that this would never do--that a contained presence and visible
courage she must have, or assume, as they would be invaluable allies in
the success of her scheme. The thought of her old father, almost
helpless, and the cruel wrong they had each sustained, brought a sudden
flood of resentment, and borne on this same current was self-possession
and assurance. She turned off the highway directly in front of the
gloomy-looking house girt with funereal cedars, and came to a farm gate,
loosely hung, and sagging. It was hard work for her to drag it open from
the saddle sufficiently wide for The Prince to pass through, but she
managed it in time, conscious that the exertion had brought the rich
colour back to her face. A rutty, unkept road led towards the yard
fence, where it swerved around the corner and went on towards the
stables. But there was a small gate in the fence, which, while not
intended for the use of horsemen, Julia rode through. It was a dreary
place into which she had come. There was no pavement or walk of any sort
going up to the front of the house. The yard was covered with some rank
and worthless variety of grass, which was tangled and long. Bushes,
shrubs, all run wild, and an occasional flower which had come up by
chance, were dispersed about. The flowers seemed sickly and afraid to
grow, as though they had made a mistake in attempting life amid such
surroundings, and wished to bloom and die and be done with it as quickly
as possible. The cedars were nearer the house, and created a doleful,
grave-yard-like air. The sun was lost among their dark branches, and the
breeze which passed through them soughed mournfully. The ground beneath
the trees was bare and brown.

Julia had involuntarily reined in the colt when she entered this almost
gruesome demesne. She had not imagined anything so repellant. Yet it all
was a fitting environment for the master of it. It was in perfect
keeping with the unholy spirit of the man who dwelt in the house beyond.
Up to this moment Julia had seen no sign of life, but as she urged The
Prince forward towards the shut front door gleaming dingily green
between the vivid colours of the cedars, a monstrous dog appeared from
somewhere and disputed her passage with a low growl and bristling
hackles. It was a fierce beast, half-starved, huge, savage as a tiger.
It was a boar-hound of foreign breed--Marston had a number of them,
though Julia, of course, knew nothing of this. The Prince stopped as
this spectre of war took its place in front of him, and Julia felt the
rigour which swept his frame. But he did not attempt to bolt. He merely
stood with bright eyes, watching the sinister apparition. The dog was
not inclined to be aggressive; he merely appeared to be a sentinel, his
duty being to stop further progress of the intruders. Julia did not know
what to do. She would not retreat now. She was before the lion's den,
and she would see him before she withdrew. She _had_ to see him, for
life and death hung in the balance. If she did not see him she was
surely lost; if she did see him, there was a chance. The dog had no
notion of retiring, and the situation was rapidly becoming strained.
Just as she had made up her mind to call, and try and bring some one to
her aid, a shrill whistle sounded somewhere in the rear. The brute
before her turned its head, and its tail drooped. The whistle was
repeated, louder than before, and thereupon the guardian of the way
forsook his post, and retreated in a trot around the corner of the
house. Julia promptly rode forward. There was some open ground between
the trees, and she presently found herself in a clear space just in
front of the house. Some flagstones were placed before the wooden step
under the portals, and an iron knocker was imbedded in one of the panels
of the massive doors. Should she dismount, and raise a summons? The very
atmosphere was oppressive, in spite of the enveloping sunshine. She
hesitated again; she did not know what to do. Everything was so
different from all to which she had been accustomed. Here was silence,
mystery, secrecy; a house without a window or door open to that glorious
morning. And the only sign of life that had been evinced was a ferocious
dog, and a whistle from some hidden source, which must have come from
human lips. She looked about her piteously, undecided. How still
everything was! There were no birds singing--but how could bird hearts
break forth in song under that pall of cedar? She turned again to gaze
at the heavy iron knocker, and just then a piercing animal yelp of pain
or fright reached her, followed by a foul malediction in a man's rough
voice. More yelps ensued, mingled with snarls and vicious oaths, then
around the corner of the house they came--the dog which had stood in her
path, with Devil Marston in hot pursuit. Plainly the dog had trespassed
in a most unwarrantable manner, for between his strong jaws was a roast
of beef, which thus far he had refused to deliver to its owner. Its
pursuer was armed with a heavy cudgel, and he did not temper his blows
with either mercy or judgment. In this wise they swept into view, the
dog but slightly in advance of the man, who was swinging his bludgeon to
an accompaniment of awful curses.

It happened that Julia was facing this spectacle, and its presentation
made her weak and faint for the moment. Never had her tender ears
listened to such words before as fell from the lips of this man. His
swarthy face was working and twitching from the volcano-like violence of
his rage, and his fangs showed even as did the beast's he was pursuing.
The sudden and altogether unexpected appearance of Miss Julia Dudley
before his door, mounted upon The Prince, was not sufficient to calm on
the instant his superlative passion, which at times almost amounted to a
fit, or frenzy. It is true he stopped short in his mad rush, but before
he could bring himself to any degree of control he hurled the cudgel in
his hand after the fleeing hound with all his strength, at the same
moment delivering a half smothered, parting malediction.

Julia sat like a stone statue upon The Prince, which had shied violently
at first, and in a way which would have unseated a less skillful rider.
Her head was up, her brows slightly contracted, and her fine eyes set
straight at the being who now walked towards her, his hat in his hand.

By a superhuman effort of will Marston had composed his features, and as
he halted a little to one side of The Prince's head, he was smiling, if
the incongruous facial expression he now assumed could be designated
that way.

"Good morning, Miss Julia," he said.

The covert insolence in his voice was thinly veiled by a respectful
intonation.

"Good morning, Mr. Marston."

Julia was surprised at the steady tones in which she responded to his
salutation. She had feared a quiver would run through the words.

"I believe an apology is due you," resumed Marston, "before I inquire
the cause of this visit. I'm glad to see you, you know."

He paused a moment to gloat openly over her face and figure. The girl
felt herself grow colder before his bold gaze, but said nothing.

"That da--that dog was called to his breakfast, and took a fancy to my
dinner, which was on a shelf near. Of course I tried to get it away from
him, and in the chase we ran into you. But I haven't welcomed you to my
home yet; shake hands with me!"

He advanced to her side and held up his hand.

For a moment a mist swam before Julia's eyes, and she hesitated. All the
hateful story which her father had told her rose up in detail, and she
felt that to touch this monster would blast her. But she had come to sue
for a favour--really to demand justice, but it meant the same thing. She
could not afford to affront him, or anger him, if she could help it. She
bent and placed her gloved hand in his, silently. He held it in a firm,
fierce grasp until she forcibly withdrew it. His little, pig-like eyes
were flaming with a different emotion from that which had possessed them
a moment ago.

"Come--get down," he said, hoarsely. "You have come to call and I want
to receive you in my house. I will get a boy to hold your horse."

He looked at her with hungry cunning as he spoke, and the proud spirit
of the Dudleys within her rebelled.

"I shall not dismount," she said, backing The Prince a few steps ere she
was aware of what she was doing. "My business here can be told briefly,
and I haven't time to stay."

She tried to choose her words carefully, for there was so much involved.

"Ah!" he snarled; "so you refuse my hospitality!"

"I do not mean it that way, believe me. But I must hurry, and we can
talk as well here."

He came a few paces nearer, covering the distance she had placed between
them when she unconsciously backed The Prince.

"I don't like this!" he exclaimed, half rudely, looking at her with bold
deviltry in his heavy face. "We are too far apart; friends should be
nearer when they talk."

He bared his protruding teeth in a horrible grin as he said this. His
shrewd if debased intellect had told him from the first that nothing but
the direst need would bring a Dudley to his door on any sort of mission
whatsoever. And as he realized that both girl and horse were for the
time in his power, a Satanic joy possessed him, and made him toy with
the situation, in order to prolong it as far as possible.

"Let me insist on your being my guest as long as you stay!" he leered,
trying no longer to cloak the wicked passion which seethed in his
tainted soul. "I have wine--refreshments. Come into the parlour where we
can talk undisturbed."

A feeling of actual physical nausea shook Julia. She grasped the pommel
of her saddle and swayed the least bit, then the sickness passed, and
she was erect again, though whiter than one dead. She seemed the wraith
of the girl who had ridden down the road. She did not know why this man
should insist so strongly on her entering his door. She knew that he had
pretended to love her, but that was over now, and gone. They had not
seen each other for months. He could not wish to entertain her for any
worthy reason, and though she could neither comprehend nor even suspect
the depths of vileness in his heart, she knew that she had best remain
where she was.

"Please don't insist," she pleaded, her voice slightly tremulous in
spite of her will. "I must speak quickly, and be gone. I do not feel
that I have come to ask a favour, but simply to ask you to do right.
Won't you please have the dividend declared at the bank, instead of
passing it? You know it means very much to father and me."

Although she endeavoured to present her cause coolly, her voice was that
of a suppliant. It vibrated with pent-up emotion, and had a strange
effect upon the man before her. His expression changed; his hands
clenched at his sides, and he seemed battling with some internal
feeling. He had taken his eyes from her, too, and was looking at the
ground. But as she watched him, waiting breathlessly for his answer, he
lifted his face again, and she almost cried out from terror, for she was
in the presence of an incarnate fiend. His eyes seemed swimming in fire,
and his countenance was that of a demon. He did not move nor speak for
several moments; he was literally holding himself in his tracks. He was
a moral outlaw; the lawless offspring of lawless parents; begotten in
basest sin and nurtured in infamy. He had never put the slightest check
on any of his wishes or desires. With him desire had always meant
gratification. And now, in the murky gloom of his black soul's recesses
a new desire had been born; or, rather, a new flame had been given to an
old desire. Even when driven from Major Dudley's home he had not
forsaken the idea that some day this fair young thing should be his.
Subsequently the idea had slumbered in his breast, but he had been only
waiting--waiting and plotting. Now she had come within reach of his
hand, alone, and he would have given his left hand to have grasped her
with his right. No one but his hirelings were near, and it was no
innate, dormant worth or goodness which stayed his hand. In part it was
the innocence and unconscious purity of the girl herself, which wrapped
her as in a garment and held an invisible but powerful shield before
her. This moral atmosphere which enveloped her was so evident that even
the dulled and warped sensibilities of Devil Marston, at their best but
unformed and sickly fungi, recognized it, and trembled before it. Yet
the lash which was driving him would in time have made him dash aside
this shield, in all probability, had there not been another powerful,
though absent factor. The face and form of John Glenning kept constantly
recurring. Should he dare touch this girl's dress, to say nothing of
forcing his beast's lips on hers, he knew that his life would pay the
forfeit. He knew that John Glenning would certainly kill him. So he was
torn horribly by different emotions, as he stood and wrestled silently.
At length he spoke; the voice of a beast made articulate. It was
croaking and harsh; the blending of a bellow and a growl.

"So--you--need money, do you?"

The words in themselves was an insult, independent of the wagging of his
bull-like head, which slowly moved in mockery.

The terrible trial was telling upon Julia. Her great eyes were strained,
and lines of distress were forming at the corners of her mouth. She
shifted the reins to her left hand and thrust her right under the loose
folds of a light wrap which she carried. When her fingers closed upon
the handle of the revolver, new courage came. She would go on, though
something told her that her quest was hopeless.

"Yes, we need money, but we don't want any that isn't rightfully ours. I
have read in the _Herald_ all about the affair at the bank, and how the
dividend was passed that you might make improvements and buy a new
safe. Can't you do these things, and declare the dividend, too?"

"We _might_ do without these things altogether," he answered, darkly.

She grasped at the straw.

"Oh, please do! I felt that if I would come and ask you to give us what
was really ours, that you would. Won't you have it done, Mr. Marston?
Tell me, and I'll not detain you any longer."

Again he smiled his wolfish smile, and gazed on her in a sinister way.

"We do not get things for nothing in this world," he answered, in a
cold, deliberate voice. The paroxysm of passion which had shaken him was
gone now, and had left him maliciously cool and scheming. "You want me
to declare this dividend. I can do it yet, for I'm the bank, you know. I
kick those pups around down there like I do these dogs and niggers here
at home. The question is--how badly do you want this dividend?"

A rosy flush flared up into Julia's waxen cheeks.

"It is not quite fair to flaunt our need in my face," she answered, all
but imperiously. "But you know how we are situated, as does every one in
Macon, and this county. Father's bank stock is his only source of
income, if you will have me say it."

"You have not exactly answered my question," pursued Devil Marston. "I
told you that everything worth having must be bought. What will you give
me for this dividend?"

"I do not understand what you mean. It belongs to us--or our part of it
does. Why will you not let us have it?"

She could not look at him; his face was repulsive beyond measure, and
she kept her eyes on the delicately-veined ears of The Prince as she
desperately fought her battle of words.

"I will let you have it--but, there is a price to pay. You cannot get
something for nothing, from me!"

His voice rang hard and exultant on the last sentence.

"Please be plain," she urged. "Tell me what you mean, quickly."

"The dividend has its price, if you will pay!" he said, drawing a step
closer. "A little price to save you and your father from starvation. Get
down, come into my home with me, drink a glass of wine with me, kiss me
once!--Will you pay it?"



CHAPTER XII


There was the sound of rushing water in her ears, and for a moment she
was blind. How dared he! To her, a Dudley! Then she knew she was looking
full at him with unutterable scorn in her eyes. He saw the contempt and
indignity which his words had aroused, and his face blackened.

"Just as you will!" he said, roughly. "It's nothing to me. There was a
time when I would have made you mistress of this house, and had it not
been for a scoundrelly, meddling doctor you might have married me! You
love him now--I know! I'm not a fool, but precious little happiness
you'll get from him. They ran him out of Jericho for mixing up with a
married woman, and if you want to marry a rascal like that you're
welcome to do it!"

He stopped, and glared at her like a baffled animal.

She could not yet find her voice. In a vague way she knew that she had
been hurt, sorely wounded; that a profane foot had trodden in the holy
of holies in her breast, and that a profane hand had snatched at the
sacred fire which burned upon the altar there. She knew that never in
her life before had she felt as she did now. Her purity had been
affronted, and a friend's dear name had been attacked. She was crushed,
dumb, and realizing that she had failed miserably in her mission, she
dully turned The Prince's head towards the gate, and started to ride
away. But on the instant Marston's hand was on the bridle near the bit,
and Marston's figure loomed in her path.

"Not yet!" he gritted, venom flashing from his little eyes. "There is
more to tell, and I don't think I'll have a lovely opportunity like this
again soon! You refuse? You refuse my price?"

Still the girl did not answer. She could not answer, for her tongue
seemed paralyzed. A rabid sort of anger was mounting again in the fiend
before her. She saw its signals flare in a renewed gleam in his sodden
eyes, in the dull red, gorged muscles of his thick throat. His coarse
lips were twitching, as though forming words too awful for her to hear.
At this moment, too, a cloud passed before the sun, and a quick
lessening of light was perceptible. To Julia it almost amounted to
gloom, seated as she was in the dank shade of one of the funereal
cedars, and she could have cried out in pure physical terror had her
voice at that moment been subservient to her will. For there before her,
almost within arm's length, stood Devil Marston, like a huge spider in
his loathesomeness, compelling her to remain where she was, and listen
to whatever tale of malice, flavoured with a grain of truth, perhaps,
which he might care to relate.

"The terms! The terms!" he said, again, thrusting his face towards her
with all its projecting teeth visible. "You won't be hurt! What's a
glass of wine and a kiss? Tut! The first is nothing, and I'll bet that
jackanapes of a doctor gets plenty of the second! Isn't _one_ for _me_
worth two hundred and fifty dollars?"

This speech broke Julia's reserve, with its cruel, brutal accusation.

"Hush!" she exclaimed, all the dormant and deadened forces of her nature
awaking to full and vigorous protest. "Don't dare to say such things to
me, Devil Marston! I came alone to your house this morning, because,
though I knew that you were a bad man, I believed that I would be
received and treated with proper respect. You have forfeited all right
to any kind of consideration; you have trampled upon my finer feelings
and made me suffer keenly--and you shall pay! You shall pay!"

She leaned from her saddle-bow towards him, setting her flame-tinged
face with its large, distressed, undaunted eyes in opposition to his
vulgar visage lit with fires from hell.

He started at the sudden vehemence of her speech, and the quick
transition from almost lethargy to almost violent action.

"_I_ pay?--What do you mean, girl?" he cried, gripping the bridle firmer
and throwing a quick glance in the direction of the highway, which was
no great distance off, and visible for several rods from where they were
standing.

"I mean what I say!" she repeated, undismayed. Her courage was perhaps
unnatural, induced by that low speech wherein Marston had cuttingly
spoken of the kisses she had given Glenning. "My father shall hear of
this, and Dr. Glenning, too--he whom you have vilely slandered! I
withdraw the request which I made a while ago; I don't want a dividend
if it has to come through _your_ influence and _your_ power. Though it
is rightly ours, I do not want it now, for it would degrade anyone who
touched it after _your_ word had made it possible! I scorn and detest
you! I defy you, and dare you to do your worst, you pitiful thing whom
God made like a man, and gave the nature of a brute instead of a soul!
Now I am through. Let me go! Take your hand from my bridle-rein! Miss
Dudley is ready to ride back home!"

Erect in her saddle now as a young goddess, she gazed down upon him with
high-held head, disgust and anger blending charmingly on her lovely
features. She did not feel herself. Never in her life before had such
storms of feeling swept her. She knew she was unreal; that this side to
her nature she had never seen--had never known of its existence. The
flood which had carried her to that grand height where she could brave
and dare a man like Devil Marston in his own yard, was receding. It was
too powerful to last. It had given her a glorious strength to say what
was in her heart and mind, in clear words which rang with sincerity and
conviction, but now, that she was done, was sitting with her proud chin
up and disdainful eyes fastened upon the object of her displeasure, she
felt the ebb of tears which followed the flood of courage. She was
surely and quickly coming back to her own; the normal woman in her was
being reinstated. She knew that she must go, at once, or her next words
would struggle through sobs. Though her face showed naught of it, her
breast was filled with a fearful anxiety, as she watched the effect of
her words. At first the man was stunned. He could not believe his ears.
That anyone, to say nothing of a girl, should come before him and speak
such things, was past his comprehension. He actually blinked at her,
stupidly, as she went on, and his face turned a yellowish gray. But when
she concluded his brutish rage had gained the ascendency.

"You're ready to go home--I guess you are! But I'm not ready to let you
go! You defy me! You dare me! You call me ugly names! I'm not as pretty
as your doctor friend who went regularly every evenin' to see that
married woman back in Jericho! Ha! ha! ha! You don't like that, do you?
But it's true, anyway, I--"

"Let me go--let me go!" sobbed Julia, the strain overcoming her at last,
breaking down the frail fabric of her brave young courage. "You shan't
say such things to me!"

She attempted to urge The Prince on, but the iron grip of Marston held
him.

"Go easy, young lady! Don't hurry!" mocked the monster. "There's more to
tell. I'm saving the choicest morsel of scandal for the last, then I'll
fix this long-legged fellow of yours!"

Julia had purposely delayed bringing her weapon into play, but she saw
now that the time was ripe for her to use it. She drew it from its place
and quickly leveled it at the man.

"Unloose my horse, or I swear I'll shoot!" she said, and Marston,
looking in her eyes, knew that she meant it.

He feinted, dropped the bridle, and pretended to draw aside. But the
next moment he took a rapid step forward, threw up his arm, and sent the
revolver flying through the air. It alighted on the thick grass, without
exploding. It happened that the gaunt hound which had disputed Julia's
passage at the beginning of her call, having finished the roast of beef
in a further corner of the yard, was passing that moment on his way back
to the kitchen porch, his hunger doubtless still unappeased. He was a
brute used to sudden foray and quick brawls, and this movement of his
master towards the horsewoman seemed to him a signal--a call to battle.
So, as Marston deftly disarmed Julia, the dog promptly leaped at The
Prince's front with a savage roar. The wonder is the poor girl kept her
senses, but this attack of the dog was her salvation. The sensitive
animal which she rode reared and swerved with the agility of a cat,
eluding the hound's spring and colliding with Marston, who was sent
sprawling upon the ground. The way to safety was clear! She touched The
Prince's side with her heel, drew up her reins, and told him to go in a
low voice of entreaty. But he needed no urging. Down the yard they flew,
and Julia put him at the fence, for there was no time to be lost with
the narrow gate. He went over the barrier with the ease and grace of a
swallow, and on towards the road. The farm gate letting onto the pike
she had left open, and as she dashed through it she almost ran into a
buggy coming from the direction of town, with a man in it. The Prince
swerved around the obstacle--he was running at last, and his rider made
no attempt to restrain him--and was gone down the white limestone road
like a greyhound in chase.

The top of the buggy which the man drove was down flat, for it was a
summer morning, and he loved sunshine and air. He drew his horse up to a
standstill, and turning in his seat looked back at the fleeing twain,
now rapidly diminishing in a cloud of gray dust. The glimpse which he
had caught of the two as they passed was almost as brief as that one
gets of a landscape on a night of storm during a lightning flash. He
thought he knew the colt--surely there was none other like it anywhere,
and he was confident he knew the rider, although her face was white,
terror-stricken, tear-stained. Whether she had recognized him or not he
could not say. Her haunting eyes had looked straight at him for a
moment, but no gleam of understanding had lighted them. Now they were
gone; the distant hoof-beats had died. The man turned half way around,
and looked again. This time his eyes swept the home of Devil Marston and
its vicinity. As he looked his mouth grew hard, his eyes drooped at the
corners, and the muscles of his cheeks ridged themselves under his skin.
He understood. He slowly and deliberately got out, led his horse to the
roadside and carefully hitched it, then passed through the open farm
gate and strode briskly on. Two minutes later John Glenning, with folded
arms, stood fronting Devil Marston between the cedars. The hound had
disappeared. The two men were absolutely alone. There was no word of
greeting exchanged between them. Each knew that civilities would be
superfluous and out of place. They simply met as two things of primeval
creation might meet, and the feelings which governed each of them in
that moment were wholly savage. In every one this old strain is running:
animal first, then soul, and mind, and heart. Mere being first; then
civilization, with its accessories of education and refinement. Two
animals met between the cedars; the mask had been flung aside. They had
come face to face moved entirely by the world-old battle lust. The one
naturally evil; the other made so because he knew that in some way the
woman he loved had been mistreated and abused. Words were out of place
and unnecessary, but a sense of right and decency crept into Glenning's
seething brain, and made him speak.

"I want to apologize for striking you on the street in Macon."

The sentence was cold as ice, and formal. There was no feeling in it.
The man to whom it was addressed stood with arms hanging loosely at his
sides, his face sullen and crafty. He did not reply.

"You know I had to do it," went on the steel-like voice. "I regret the
necessity more than I apologize for the blow. You deserved that. Let it
pass."

Marston spoke.

"What in the devil do you want here? Begone, before I put the dogs on
you!"

"I am here to give you a thrashing you won't forget as long as you live!
You are a coward and a cur!"

The stinging words brought no added colour to Marston's face. They did
not hurt him; his sensibilities were hardened, and were difficult to
reach. But he cast an involuntary look of longing towards the revolver
lying partly concealed in the long grass a rod or more away. The sombre
eyes watching him with hawk-like intentness noticed the glance, and
instantly turned in the same direction. Glenning saw.

"Don't you wish you had that in your hand?" he said. "I know you haven't
one on your person, or you would have shot me before now. To relieve you
of any apprehension I don't mind telling you that I am totally unarmed.
How did that come there?"

He nodded abruptly in the direction of Julia's revolver.

"I don't see that I'm in a witness box!" Marston answered, viciously.

"Take comfort," retorted Glenning, evenly. "You will be if you live long
enough. We are wasting time and bandying words to no purpose," he
resumed briskly. "I met a young lady coming from your house in evident
distress a few moments ago. She was riding hard and she was scared. Did
_you_ scare her, and had she anything to do with that revolver?"

The words of the last sentence came hard as lead bullets against
Marston's ears, and frightened him. The face of his caller had suddenly
grown white and fierce. Glenning's knotted fists were writhing under
his folded arms. Marston knew he had better speak, and speak the truth.

"She came to see me of her own free will. I invited her in, and she drew
her pistol on me. I knocked it out of her hand to keep from getting
shot."

"A likely tale, and the skeleton of truth alone, I daresay. What did
_she_ want with _you_?"

A smile of triumph lit the dark features of the hybrid.

"Something _you_ could not give her, but _I_ could!--Julia Dudley came
for a favour to _me_!"

"Keep her name out of it, damn you!"

Glenning, white hot, drew two steps nearer, though still holding himself
in check.

"We can talk without the use of names. What favour did she want?"

"She came to ask me to have the bank dividend declared, or they would
starve!"

"That was no favour. The money is Major Dudley's. You have stolen it
from them by withholding it. She came to demand her own, and her own was
denied her, no need to tell me that."

Marston thought of the price he had put upon the dividend, and, while he
longed to goad and torture his enemy to the utmost, he feared to tell
him of that part of their conversation.

"No, she didn't get it!" he answered, roughly.

"Look at me, Mr. Marston!"

Little as he liked the command, Marston centered his ever shifting eyes
upon Glenning's. But they would not stay, despite his will.

"You've been to Jericho," went on the even voice. "You came back last
night. What did you go for?"

"What in hell do you mean?" he flared out, with a bluster. "I went on
business."

"_Your_ business, or _my_ business?"

This time Marston coloured perceptibly, and shrugged his shoulders. He
did not answer.

"See here!" resumed Glenning. "I know why you went to Jericho. Now
listen. If you begin spreading lies about me in this community you shall
suffer. Tell the truth--the whole truth--and I'll not say a word. But
you don't know the whole truth, nor any part of it. You didn't go to get
the truth, but all the low, indecent scandal and gossip you could scrape
together. Usually that side is not as hard to get as the other. It is
not my fault that we have been enemies from the night I came to Macon. I
would not have you for a friend, believe me, but we might at least have
been civil. You've heard a great deal of stuff while you were away that
your informants wouldn't repeat to my face. And I tell you they are all
lies! Did you voice any of them to Miss--to her?"

Again Marston felt the truth dragged from him. But a sardonic smile of
malicious pleasure spread over his face as he answered--

"I told her a little about my trip, and how a certain friend of hers had
another sweetheart back up there, but she broke away before I could tell
her all--"

"_Broke_ away!--Devil! Did you hold her?"

Restraint for the moment was cast aside.

Glenning's long hands grasped each of Marston's arms just below the
shoulders, and so he held him motionless.

"I didn't touch her!" was the snarling answer. "I held the damned colt
by the bridle until she drew on me--"

John flung him backward with an oath.

"_Strip!_"

He hissed out the word with sibilant wrath, and threw off his light
coat. Then, trembling the least bit while fighting inwardly for calm, he
began rolling back his sleeves. He ceased these preparations long enough
to toss his hat upon his coat and discard tie and collar. Marston cast
another hungry look at the revolver, while making no move to comply with
the order he had received. Glenning came towards him.

"Are you going to fight, or must I slap your face, you dog?"

The concluding word gave Marston a happy thought, and he quickly pursed
his heavy lips, and whistled shrilly. He had no mind for an encounter
with the young man where the weapons employed would be fists alone. He
was probably stronger, but he secretly felt that he would be punished
severely should they come to blows. He had much rather that his
boar-hound fight for him, so he issued the summons.

"No more of that!" said John, sternly. "Make another sound and I strike
you, whether you are prepared or not. Are you coming, or shall I break
a switch from one of your bushes, and lay you across my knee?"

This taunt was more than flesh and blood could bear. It pierced even
Marston's seared sensibilities, and stung like something hot. He got out
of his coat with one lightning-like movement, and at once assumed the
offensive. This was what Glenning wished. It would have been degrading
to knock down and batter about some one who made no resistance. The men
presented an interesting contrast as they stood on guard. Glenning wore
a white negligee shirt, and gray trousers, neatly creased. He was clean
shaven and his straight black hair fell over his forehead as he leaned
forward, alert and vigilant. One could see now the broad expanse of his
back and his wonderful breadth of shoulders. Marston at home was not the
Marston in town. He wore a sort of gray flannel shirt, carelessly
buttoned, shapeless corduroy trousers and rusty shoes. His thick neck
was corded and hairy, and there were dry, red veins in his cheeks caused
by the excessive use of liquor. He came at his opponent carefully, in
spite of his anger, and delivered his first blow so swiftly that
Glenning only partially succeeded in parrying it. The big fist slid off
his arm and caught him on the shoulder, turning him half way around. He
responded at once with a side swing, which Marston avoided. He was
remarkably quick on his feet for so heavy a man. Then they circled,
warily. Suddenly Glenning let drive from the shoulder. It was an
unexpected move, and caught Marston unprepared. A row of hard knuckles
lodged against his chin and sent him reeling. The trunk of a cedar tree
intervened, and he did not fall. His face was awful as he came on again;
enough to unnerve the strongest man. But Glenning had found himself. He
was calm now, and confident, Marston was raging, blind mad. He struck
out wildly, trusting to brute strength. Again Glenning's long arm
straightened, and for a moment the breath left the chest of his
antagonist. He staggered, and dropped his guard, but Glenning did not
follow up. Marston, with an inarticulate cry of rage, sought to close.
He no longer attempted to fight as boxers do, but came with outstretched
hands, feeling blindly for his foe. There was no mercy in the heart of
the iron-faced man fronting him. A third time Glenning struck, and his
fist caught Marston over the eye, crumpling him on the grass like a
thing of reed. He did not move. John knelt and leaned over him. His eyes
were shut, but he was breathing, spasmodically. Glenning arose.

"This is for the pain you caused her, and for the lies you told on me!"
he muttered. He walked to the spot where he had thrown his clothing and
put the various articles on. As he finished this he saw a negro in the
side yard. "Come here!" he called.

The negro obeyed.

"There's your master. He's hurt, but not badly. Carry him in and pour
water on his face and give him some whiskey."

Glenning wheeled, picked up the pearl-handled revolver as he passed, and
went on towards the road.



CHAPTER XIII


During the week which followed a number of things happened. First, Dink
Scribbens took a wonderful and sudden turn for the better. The fact that
none of his family had become infected was a matter for marvel
throughout the county, and the credit for their miraculous escape was of
course given to the attending physician. Uncle Billy Hoonover would not
pass the hovel guarded awfully and mutely with a tiny yellow flag tacked
to one corner of it--an emblem with more power to repel than a legion of
soldiers--and he could not stay away from town. Unless the lamp-post
where he invariably hitched renewed acquaintance with his gray nag every
morning, Uncle Billy almost felt it would walk away in indignation and
disappointment. Then, too, municipal, county and national affairs needed
his attention every day in front of the county clerk's office. He
occupied a chair there as regularly as he did at home, and his word was
final. By this I do not mean that it was always accepted, but it surely
was always the last spoken. Provided he secured the last word, he felt
that his opinion was the correct one. During these days Mr. Hoonover
"drove through." That is to say he made a more or less direct route for
town through his own and one of his neighbour's farms; a trip attended
with much discomfort and some peril, for the way led over ground tilled
and untilled, across unexpected gullies and into grass-hidden sinkholes.

One morning, a week after John's encounter with Marston at the latter's
home, the usual gathering began to assemble in the shade before the door
of the county clerk's office. Some were smoking pipes; some were chewing
tobacco. The use of the weed in some form was universal. Conversation
was desultory and spiritless for a time. The morning was extremely hot,
and one would have thought that fact responsible for the listlessness
which pervaded the group. The truth was, however, that their ringleader
had not arrived.

"Uncle Billy must be sick," drawled big Joe Colver, tilting his chair
onto its two rear legs and leaning his weight forward on his knees.

"More like he's fell in a ditch 'n' broke his laig!" chimed in old Tim
Mellowby. Old Tim was the town drunkard, a privileged, harmless
character, whom every one tolerated. He remained in a perpetual state of
comfortable inebriety; was inoffensive; in former years had been a boot
and shoe maker, and during that period of his life had accumulated
enough money to support himself in drunken idleness the rest of his
days. His favourite haunt was the spot he now sat. He loved to listen,
and also to express himself from time to time. A general laugh greeted
Tim's sally.

"Mr. Hoonover will arrive, never fear!" piped a third voice.

It came from against the wall, and the speaker was Colonel Whitley. He
was an old, dried-up little man, with keen eyes, bushy brows, hawk nose
and fuzzy gray side whiskers. He was the learned one of the group--quite
a scholar indeed. He had been "abroad" in his day, too, and this fact
invested him with an added dignity in the eyes of his stay-at-home
townspeople. His profession had formerly been the practice of law, but
he had retired several years before. Nevertheless he always came up to
the courthouse yard every morning to read his paper, and occasionally to
let his voice be heard.

"Possess your souls in patience," he added, "and presently you will
witness the fulfillment of my prediction."

His head went down behind the paper. His hearers were accustomed to his
bombastic style of speech, and admired him too much even to smile at the
fulness of his rhetoric.

A figure came thumping hurriedly across the yard, a black medicine case
in its hand, its vest secured by a single button at the bottom, wearing
a white shirt streaked with ambier, and a derby hat much too large.

"Hullo, doc!" greeted Judge Colver, as the new-comer halted and glared
around as though expecting some hostile move. "The small-pox didn't
spread, did it?"

"Who said it would spread?" snapped Doctor Kale.

"It has a trick o' doin' it, I believe!" retorted the judge.

"Not if it's taken in time, and handled right. You can't kill a damned
pauper!"

"You didn't try 'im!" grinned old Tim Mellowby, "or maybe you'd had
better luck than the new man!"

Doctor Kale wheeled, but when he saw from whence this remark originated
he turned his back in silent contempt.

"I've come from Tom Dudley's, and it's a good day with them," he
observed, abruptly, his harsh crust melting before some powerful inner
force.

"I presume one of them is ill, to require the presence of a physician,"
piped the voice from the wall again. "Then how can you say it is a good
day with them?"

For a wonder Doctor Kale did not retort. He heard Colonel Whitley
plainly, and his ears detected the note of irony in the question, but
his asperity seemed suddenly to have melted; to have merged with and
become engulfed in the warm feeling of joy which surged in his heart.

"You know they've been in bad lines," he said, looking on the ground, a
rather pathetic figure in his ill-fitting, haphazard agglomeration of
garments, none harmonizing with its neighbour. "They'd come almost to a
crust, gentlemen, and such of you as are business men know upon what
they depend. That was cut off something over a week ago. I was passing
this morning, and was called in hurriedly. This is good news of one of
our best citizens, therefore I give it to you. Major had had an attack
with his heart, brought on by excitement caused by the morning's mail.
I straightened him out, then Julia told me all about it. Most of you
will remember Arthur Dudley, Major's brother. He's been away for a score
of years, and they lost him, totally. Thought him dead. This morning Tom
got a letter from a lawyer in St. Louis, with a check in it for two
thousand dollars. Major's brother was on his way back here. He took sick
in St. Louis, sent for this lawyer, died, and the money came on."

"Whose money?--What money?" exclaimed Uncle Billy Hoonover, hastening up
at that moment in time to catch the last words.

Doctor Kale promptly growled something about an engagement, and departed
with the same haste which marked his approach.

The paper by the wall was lowered once more, revealing a hawk nose,
bushy brows and sharp eyes.

"I told you, gentlemen, Mr. Hoonover would arrive!" the thin voice of
Colonel Whitley declared. "Good morning, Mr. Hoonover!"

"What's that sour old coon been tellin' you?" demanded Uncle Billy,
bearing down upon old Tim Mellowby, who had inadvertently occupied his
chair, "Git up! Don't you know that's my seat?"

He made a half threatening movement with his staff, but old Tim slid off
his perch good-naturedly and sought the ground instead, no more chairs
being available.

Judge Colver thereupon essayed, in his longwinded, heavy way, to impart
to the new arrival the story they had just heard. Uncle Billy listened
with becoming patience for one of his excitable temperament.

"Well, 'pon my soul!" he ejaculated, when the recital was done. "Things
happen nowadays as queer as Jonah an' the whale! Arthur--an' who'd 'a'
thought?--two thousand dollars! He's a stiff old codger, but nobody c'n
say anything ag'in 'im! He's got a right to live by hisself an' not
neighbour any."

"Is Dink up yit?" asked a very sober looking, lank individual, who up to
this moment had remained silent. He was the jailer. The question, simple
as it was, proved an unlucky one, for the ire of Uncle Billy arose at
once. He began to thump the earth with his staff and comb his whiskers
with his fingers.

"Ain't I late this mornin'?" he demanded, instead of making direct reply
to the question. "Oughtn't I 'a' been here a half-n-hour ago?"

He glared from one to the other as though daring them to refute it. Each
person present maintained a discreet silence, though one or two nodded
acquiescence.

"Late! Late to town!" he stormed. "And what for? That pesky Lizy Ann
Scribbens had the owdacity to come to my _front_ door this very
mornin'--a beggin'. My _front_ door! An' her just been cooped up with
that diseased rat of a husban', Dink, an' small-pox microbes a-crawlin'
all over her! Didn't I pack her off? I swear, gentlemen, I got my
shotgun before she would leave! Paupers oughter live in the poorhouse
an' not purten' to be decent. Dink won't admit he's a pauper, but he
lives by stealin', what's worse. That's why I'm late, an' if I don't
ketch it I don't know why!"

The paper rustled against the wall.

"I should think, Mr. Hoonover, that you should apprehend no danger of
contagion, as you had no personal contact with your caller. Of course
that is a layman's view only, but I would not give it another thought."

A pistol shot, startlingly near and distinct, punctuated the carefully
uttered speech of Colonel Whitley. The group leaped up as one man--save
the one who had last spoken. Colonel Whitley was in a comfortable
position, and his paper was only half read. The shot sounded from Main
street, and Judge Colver, as fearless as he was big, started in a
lumbering trot across the yard to ascertain the cause of the
disturbance. But almost immediately three men appeared around the corner
of the courthouse. One was a deputy sheriff, another was a blacksmith,
and between them, struggling violently to free himself, was a low,
poorly dressed, unkempt person.

"What's up? What's Hank done?" queried the judge.

"Shot Dick Goodloe!" answered the deputy, quickly, he and the smith
hurrying their man forward as rapidly as possible. On the other side of
the yard was a little gate, and it was for this they were heading, it
being the nearest approach to the jail. "Keep back the crowd, Joe, till
we get Hank in!" called the deputy, and they pushed on.

The crowd as yet, however, was entirely harmless, and was centered
about some indistinguishable object in the middle of the street. The
live assassin was far less interesting than the fallen officer, for Dick
Goodloe was the town marshal; an honest, sober, efficient fellow whom
everyone admired for his adherence to duty. Not three minutes had passed
since the shot split the warm, still air. Before, the town had seemed
only half alive; a few people on the street, a few men in the store
doors, a few loitering negroes. Now a seething mass of humanity of all
ages was congregated in front of the post-office, almost from curb to
curb, and those who had first reached the marshal were so pushed upon
and hampered that they could do nothing.

John was in his office when the unmistakable sound came spitefully
through his window, and caused him to seize his hat and run down stairs.
The mishap had occurred at the other end of the square, and when he
reached the scene it was to find his way blocked by a human wall.

"Get out of my way!" he called, in a loud, clear voice, and begun
pushing his body in, using his hands, elbows and knees irrespective of
who they touched. "Stand back! You'll smother him! Back! Back!" he
commanded, and the stern voice carried weight. They made room for him,
and directly he was kneeling by the prostrate form. A brief examination
showed him it was bad enough. A ball through the man's right side, with
blood spouting from the wound.

"Where does he live?" he asked, quickly, turning his head and looking
up half savagely. "How far?"

"Half mile, I reck'n, anyhow," answered a bystander, with his hands in
his pockets.

"Lift his feet; I'll take his head and shoulders," said Glenning, to a
determined looking man in front of him. "Into the drug store yonder.
It's quick work now, or he's gone!"

They came up with Goodloe's weight between them. The crowd was apathetic
with curiosity.

"Back!--damn you!" gritted John Glenning, his patience leaving him at
the asinine stupidity of the class with which he was surrounded. The
lower element of Macon, which formed the inner line of that congested
caldron of people, had begun to press forward again to get a glimpse of
the senseless form which many of them had seen daily all their lives.
They gave, half in fear; a lane was opened, and Dick Goodloe was carried
across the street into the drug store.

"Lock your door!" ordered Glenning, then he was coolly removing clothing
and calling for this and that, and battling with all the skill that was
in him for the life of this stranger whom a half-drunken, altogether
mean ruffian had tried to kill. The front of the drug store was darkened
by the thronging crowd which pressed against the windows and
door--trying to see! The better class of citizens began to assemble, but
these were content to wait; they wanted to be on hand when the doctor's
verdict was given out. Squads of men had already formed up and down the
street to talk it over. Business was suspended for the time, and an
atmosphere of gloom began to settle over Main street. Very soon it
became known that Goodloe had only a thread of a chance for his life.
The bullet had been found and taken out, but the wound was in a vital
part. The chances were against the marshal. These things Glenning told
quietly and willingly to such as inquired after his patient as he left
the drug store, giving instructions that the man be carried to his home
as soon as possible.

The being whose wanton hand had stricken down the officer was a totally
worthless character; shiftless, depraved, wicked. He had that morning,
while under the influence of liquor, provoked an altercation with a
colored labourer in the street. He began using vile language; ladies
were passing. Goodloe warned him to stop, and take himself off. Then the
miscreant had shot him. That was all. And now this thing which
masqueraded as a human had been given the protection of the law, had
been sheltered in the jail from the just wrath of his fellowmen. There
were low murmurings running about the streets of the town all that day,
and men came and went, went and came from the humble cottage which was
Dick Goodloe's home, getting news of the sick man and disseminating it
to the scores who inquired of his condition. The reports were not good.
And as the afternoon waned word came that the marshal was delirious.
Some apprehensive friend had sent Doctor Kale to wait upon the marshal,
with instructions to stay in the house. The old fellow stormed and swore
that he wouldn't take any man's patient from him, that professional
etiquette forbade it, and damned if he'd go! Glenning persuaded him to
change his mind, urging him to go and do all he could. John was out of
town most of the day. His practice had increased three patients that
week, but those who had sought his services lived rather far in the
country, and it required some time for him to make his rounds. It was
dark before he returned to Macon. He did not go to supper, but ate at a
restaurant. Then he bathed, changed his linen, and started afoot for the
Dudleys.

It had taken him exactly seven days to get his own consent to call here.
During that time he had not seen Julia, even at a distance. He wanted to
see her, more than he had ever wanted to see anyone in his life, but he
did not know how she would receive him now. What had Marston told her?
To be sure he had warned her against Marston in time, but a woman's
heart is ever an unsolved riddle, and the story she had heard may have
stung, and blighted, and seared. He was at last determined to know. He
had remained in ignorance as long as he could. Better to hear from her
own lips that she cared no more to see him, than to hide from her like a
coward, and by his silence and absence confess his guilt. One thing
gladdened him as he strode along in the starlight. That morning a letter
had come from Will Porter, stating that he had carried out his part of
the plan, and sent Major Dudley the money.

Glenning's accustomed ease had entirely deserted him as he knocked at
the open front door. He was painfully harassed, and uncertain of
himself. He scarcely knew what he would say, or do. He heard a step,
heavy, flapping. Aunt Frances appeared at the rear of the long, shadowy
hall, and came waddling towards him.

"Ebenin', Marse Glen'n'" She greeted him a little stiffly.

"Where's your mistress, Aunt Frances? Tell her I am come, if you please,
and would like to see her for a few moments."

He came in and placed his hat upon the hall rack, but the old coloured
woman made no move to do his bidding.

"What's the matter?" he queried. "Isn't Miss Dudley in?"

"She am wid de Majuh, who's sick. She can't see nobody."

"Did she tell you that?"

"Yas'r."

"Did she say that you were to tell me that if I should come?"

Before Aunt Frances' thick lips could form the affirmative reply which
was on her tongue, a soft voice descended from the upper hall.

"I will be there in a moment, Doctor Glenning. Please be seated."

Aunt Frances turned her turbanned head and rolled her eyes in the
direction from whence the voice came, then with a snort of disgust
retreated, mouthing as she went in an undertone.

John took a chair near the door which commanded the full sweep of
stairway, and thus he watched Julia descend a few moments later; very
sedately and with the hint of haughtiness in her air. He arose to take
her hand, and he could not help contrasting this meeting with their
first. Her hand in his tonight was almost lifeless, and there was a
rebellious look in her dark eyes as she raised them briefly to his, he
fancied accusingly.

"I told you not to believe him!" was the mute cry in John's heart, where
little devils were beginning to cut and slash, but he smiled at her as
he clasped her hand warmly, and asked of her health.

"I am well, thank you."

How cold she was! She remained standing, although there was another
chair a short distance away. She did not look at him. She knew that she
was hurting him, but she could not help it. She had wanted him so much
the past week, and he had not come. And she had had nothing to do but
think. Marston's awful words never left her mind, and the more she dwelt
upon them the more clearly she became convinced that the love of her
life was centered upon John Glenning. She _would not_ believe that which
she had heard, but he had told her he had sinned--back there in Jericho!
But he had also said that he had fought through and had come out clean!
She had sobbed half of one night through in her distress, and had waited
day by day for him to come. At last, on the very eve of the day he did
come, she had given orders that she would not see him. But the sound of
his voice had melted her resolve. She stood before him now, her heart
hardened in that strange way which all lovers have, and which must
forever remain inexplicable, seemingly as unresponsive as a being of
marble.

"Miss Dudley!--Miss Julia!" pleaded John, purposely throwing a note of
tenderness in his voice, "what is wrong? Can you not tell me? I should
be so glad to do--anything for you!"

A tremor shot over her. How strong and good his voice was!

"Father is unwell, that is all," she answered, in the same
expressionless voice.

"For how long? Is it--anything to cause you worry?"

"No."

Colder than ever was the monosyllable, and Julia felt herself growing
wickeder and wickeder, and she knew that directly she would be bad
enough not to respond in any wise to whatever he might say.

But John had had some experience in this game of love. So he promptly
did the very best thing possible; he withdrew. He deliberately picked up
his hat and walked to the door, where he stopped and turned.

"I suspect I had better go, Miss Dudley," he announced, in a most formal
voice.

"Very well--if you wish," she added, with the adroitness of her sex.

"I have reason to believe that I am an unwelcome guest this evening,"
replied Glenning. "Be pleased to tell Major Dudley that I inquired
after his health, and know that I am always at your service."

He bowed low, and without offering his hand in farewell--she making no
sign to give him hers--he went out.

Julia stood where he had so ceremoniously left her, amazement and anger
uniting on her face. Then tears began to race down her checks, and she
flew to the old sofa in the library to cry it out in the dark. She had
not counted on this. He was cruel; he cared nothing for her, as he had
led her to believe he did. When she went upstairs in response to her
father's ring, she felt that she had never been so totally miserable in
her life before.



CHAPTER XIV


When Glenning reached the highway he did not go towards town, but turned
in the opposite direction. He had a wild craving for solitude. He wanted
to be away from everyone, to be alone in the night with his thoughts.
These were not pleasant. His reception by Julia had been more severe
than he had even anticipated. He did not believe that her conduct
towards him reflected her true feelings, but how was he to know! She had
been an iceberg that night; she had assumed a role of which he had not
deemed her capable. That low-browed man in the lonely house was
responsible. Would he win after all? Had his poisoned lies really done
their work, and robbed him of the one perfect thing which he had grown
to love with a fierce intensity? He stopped short, and was tempted to go
back, and demand an explanation. Should he permit himself to be
discouraged thus easily; should he lose her for no other reason than
that she had been cold and proud to him? He could not go back tonight.
Her heart was hardened against him, of that he was sure. He would let a
few days pass and try again, and if she sent him away that would be the
end. He resumed his swift walking, on and on, up hill and down,
unconscious of any fatigue. He met no one. When he finally came to a
halt on a small bridge he realized that his surroundings were
unfamiliar, and that he was several miles from town. He was in no hurry
to return. He filled his pipe and fell to smoking, watching the
starlight dimpling on the ripples of the tiny stream which flowed under
the bridge. In some moods this would have soothed him, but tonight it
served as an irritant. He was at war with himself, and the gentle
harmonies of Nature fretted by their very peace. He would have welcomed
a storm. He would have been glad had the rain come driving its tiny
fists in his face; had the vivid lightning staggered athwart the sky;
had thunderbolts shivered the earth about him; had the demons of storm
torn at the writhing trees. These things would have brought relief. He
was keyed for strife, and the musical water, the calm starlight and the
soft warm breeze maddened him. He pocketed his pipe with a gesture of
annoyance and swung about in his tracks. A long walk lay before him, and
he was glad. But action failed to bring relief. As he passed the Dudley
home his breast was surging with unconquerable feelings. He felt that he
was capable in that hour of leading a forlorn hope in battle. It was
near midnight when he reached the edge of town. Presently he overtook a
pedestrian, but he passed him without a sidelong glance. Further on he
passed another. At a bisecting street he saw a group, and as he went by
them he noticed that they wore masks. His mind took a revolution and
came back to the topic of the day. What did these sinister preparations
mean in the dead of night? Had Goodloe died? Were these his avengers?
Mob law was no new thing in Kentucky. Were these men massing to wreak a
summary and swift vengeance upon the marshal's slayer? A sudden idea
struck Glenning, and with it a species of wild joy. He turned up his
coat collar, drew his hat over his eyes, and hurried on. He passed other
men, all masked, but no one spoke to him or tried to intercept him.
Directly he broke into a run, and in a few moments was at the jail, and
thundering on the panels of the door with his fist. The jailer must have
been up, for he answered the summons at once, fully dressed. Evidently
he expected trouble, for he was pale with fright, which he made no
effort to hide, and he was trembling.

"Quick!" said Glenning. "They're coming! Arm yourself!"

The man stood shaking in the doorway, but did not answer. John grasped
him by the shoulder, and spoke again.

"Don't you hear? They're coming for your prisoner to hang him! Protect
him! Get your pistol and guard the jail!"

"Who?--What?" stammered the terrified man.

"The mob! I've seen them gathering! You've no time to lose!"

"I'll give 'em the keys if they ask me for 'em!" exclaimed the jailer.
"They'd shoot me if I didn't!"

"You're sworn to duty!" expostulated John. "Don't let them murder this
fellow. Has Goodloe died?"

"I don't know--but they can have the keys!"

He drew them from his pocket and jangled them in his hand, a pitiful
object.

"Listen!" whispered Glenning. "They're coming. Hear their feet? Give me
your keys! Bring me your pistols--quick!"

He took the bunch of heavy keys from the unresisting fingers, and the
jailer hastened indoors. He was back in a moment with a brace of
revolvers which he held out eagerly.

"Here they are!" he managed to say. "Keep 'em off, doc, if you can!"

"Go hide in the cellar, if you have one!" returned John, contemptuously,
and walked to the iron-barred door set in a stone wall, which gave
entrance to the main passage of the jail.

In front of this door was a small, elevated platform, not over six feet
square. Above the door a lamp burned in an iron sconce set in the
masonry. This was placed there for convenience in housing prisoners at
all hours. John looked at the lamp a moment in doubt, then walked to it
and turned the wick higher, so that the low flame sprang up and
illuminated the platform upon which he stood, as well as the ground in
front for several yards. As he faced about a reckless, devil-may-care
smile was on his lips. At one side lay a goods-box, some three feet
tall. John stooped and dragged it to the platform, and stood it on end
in front of him. His purpose was not to form a shield, for the frail
pine of which it was made could not have withstood a bullet, and it came
scarcely to his waist, leaving exposed all vital parts. Glenning
quietly dropped the keys in the long grass at the edge of the platform,
took off his hat and placed it to one side, then lay his two revolvers
upon the top of the box, gently rested his hand upon the butt of each,
and waited. The revolvers were of forty-eight calibre, and brightly
nickeled. They caught the gleam from the lamp, and shone suggestively.
The jailer had disappeared. John had heard him locking and barricading
his door. In all probability he had deserted the place by some rear
exit.

The faint sound of many moving feet which had been audible a few minutes
before had grown into a pronounced tread. As John stood and listened to
this portentous advance, his heart did not quicken a beat. Indeed, he
had grown calmer. The fever of unrest which had been tearing at him was
departed now. Here was that danger for which he had vaguely hoped--here,
before his face. Something like a hundred men came to a halt before the
jail door, and at a respectful distance from the platform where a tall,
bareheaded man stood, almost in a careless attitude. The mob was masked;
there was not a face visible.

"Out with the keys, Bill!" jeered a man in the rear; "we mean business!"

The speaker had mistaken John for the jailer.

"Bill--hell!" growled another, nearer the front. "That's the new doc,
but whut the damn fool's doin' here I don't know!"

Glenning had not said a word, nor had he shifted his position. But his
most searching scrutiny had failed to reveal the presence of a single
weapon among the besiegers.

"On! On!" cried some one in the rear. "Ain't there enough of us to 'tend
to that feller?"

They began pushing, and the mob surged closer. Those nearest the
platform were within a dozen feet of the solitary watcher now, but there
was no menace in their attitude. Glenning had been sharply viewing the
_personnel_ of this mass of men, and from apparel, bearing, and general
appearance he judged most of them to be of the rougher element. The
three or four in front, who were evidently the leaders, may have been
gentlemen. It was to these Glenning now spoke.

"Good evening," he said, pleasantly, "Perhaps I know you and perhaps I
don't, for you have seen fit to hide your faces. You have come after
Hank."

His accents were deliberate, and he appeared as much at ease as if he
were chatting with friends in his own home. His last sentence was not a
question, but a declaration.

"Yes, we've come after Hank 'n' we're goin' to git 'im!" came a rough
voice from one side.

A leader turned.

"Keep still, will you?" Then to Glenning. "May I ask by what authority
you take your place there with two loaded pistols? Are you a sworn
deputy, or officer of any sort?"

"I am not, as you well know, and I have no authority, other than a
strong feeling for fair play. May I, in turn, ask by what authority you
come at dead of night to defy the laws of your State, and seek to place
a crime upon your soul?"

"We have the law of might, and that's enough. Stand aside now, or take
the consequences!"

The man was deeply in earnest.

"Had it not struck you that you were talking to the wrong man?" asked
Glenning. "Do you want to enter this place? Then the jailer is the man
you want to see. What's the use of battering these doors down and
arousing the town when you _might_ get the keys from him, and _maybe_
get in quietly? You need some one to lead you, men. What good is it to
stand dickering with me? Rouse the jailer! He's the man you want to deal
with!"

Before the words had left his mouth three or four shadowy forms had
detached themselves from the group and run to the front door of the
jailer's residence, which connected with the prison proper, only a wall
intervening. They thumped, and pounded, and called, forgetting caution
in their untrained zeal. They gained no response, and, fearing to force
an entrance there, returned to their friends, baffled.

"Knock 'im down! Git 'im out o' the way!" The cries came again from the
rear.

"You've told Bill we were coming," said the man who had formerly spoken,
"and he's run off, or hidden. We can't waste time. Stand down! We are
armed, and you will suffer if you resist!"

"Wouldn't you rather have the keys?" asked John, simply, "than to run
the risk of bringing the citizens who love order about your ears? You
can't force that door without dynamite."

"How can we get the keys when we can't get Bill?" demanded the
spokesman, led on to conversation in spite of his haste by the
apparently ingenuous frankness of the man before him.

"Bill gave them to me," answered John, naturally, "not ten minutes ago."

"Then you have them? Pass them over, please, at once, or we shall be
compelled to take them from you by force."

"I haven't them now."

"You're fooling with us!" retorted the man, angrily. "For the last time,
get out of the way!"

"I'm not fooling you! I had the keys in my hand, but I have lost them.
They are not on my person."

"To hell wid you 'n' de keys bofe!" exclaimed a burly form standing well
back in the shadows, and with that it made a rush. The figure was to one
side; there was no one else in line. Swiftly John raised the revolver in
his right hand, and fired low. His wish was only to cripple, and he
succeeded. The man dropped with a howl of pain and fright, and his mask
fell off, revealing the face of a brutal looking negro. He sat up and
nursed his shattered knee, and mouthed curses.

"Shame on you, men of Macon!" cried Glenning, standing erect and pale
under the flickering light of the iron sconce. "Do you bring such a
thing as _that_ with you to hang a white man, however low?"

"Nobody told 'im to come!" called a voice. "He hooked on!"

"Listen to me a minute, men!" resumed Glenning, speaking very earnestly,
"Most of you don't realize what you want to do tonight. You've come out
to commit murder. Do you know that--murder! Every man among you would be
guilty of that crime did you break into this jail and drag out the
fellow you are after and string him to a limb. What good would it do? I
know what the Bible says--'An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth'
and 'Whosoever sheddeth man's blood by man shall his blood be shed.' But
let the law do it, men. If you do this thing you will be as lawless and
as guilty as that cringing thing back there in its cell. You would
deserve his fate! Let us not behave as barbarians. Don't make the
records of our State blacker than they are. I'm not here to fight. I
know you can overcome me. Accident alone apprised me of what was going
forward tonight, and I've come here to try and show you where you're
wrong. Don't let tomorrow's papers tell the news to the civilized world
that down in Kentucky a mob trespassed the law and hung a prisoner by
night! It's been done too often already. We're good people, but our
blood runs hot, and we're hasty. We act first, and think after, which is
wrong. You haven't thought this thing over. Somebody started it and you
fell in with the plan. Go home now, and go to bed, and in the morning
you'll thank God that your consciences are clear!"

For a moment there was a tense silence, broken only by the low groans of
the suffering negro.

"He shot Dick Goodloe, and he's got to die! Dick was my friend!"

It was the ringleader speaking, dogged and unpersuaded.

John leaned forward suddenly, and looked at the man.

"Is the marshal dead?" he asked.

"He wasn't dead half an hour ago, but he was mighty low," came a voice
from the darkness.

"There!" exclaimed John, triumphantly, standing erect. "You have no sort
of right to take this man now! You shall not hang him! I'll make a
compact with you, gentlemen--fellow citizens! Send at once to the home
of Dick Goodloe. If he is dead, I'll find you the keys, and step aside.
If he lives, you are to go home and leave this jail unmolested. Do you
agree?"

Various voices expressed assent to the plan, and even the ringleader
nodded acquiescence, without speaking.

A messenger was accordingly dispatched at once, a youth with nimble
legs, who started on a run. During the period of waiting the men were
quiet, though some conversed in low tones. No one paid any attention to
the wounded negro, who attempted to drag himself away, but found the
effort so painful that he gave it up. In a short time the messenger
returned with his news. Goodloe was sleeping, and Doctor Kale said that
his chances for recovery were better. Instantly the crowd melted as
silently as they had come, and soon Glenning found himself alone before
the iron-barred door, while there upon the grass before him the negro
moaned ceaselessly. There was no resentment in John's heart towards the
object his bullet had stricken down. Now he merely saw something in
distress which needed his help. He lifted the lamp from its socket and
went towards the negro, who tried to shrink away at his approach.

"Be still!" ordered Glenning, and placing the lamp on the ground, he
began an examination.

The hurt was not serious. The knee-cap was shattered, but the tough bone
had deflected the bullet.

"Where do you live?" asked John, brusquely.

The negro told him, stuttering with fright.

"You belong in there!" returned the doctor, sternly, waving his hand
towards the dark mass of stone behind him. "Don't you ever get tangled
up in anything like this again. Now you can't walk a step, and won't for
some time to come."

He took his handkerchief and bound it about the wounded limb.

"I'll have a wagon here to take you home in a few minutes," he
continued, "and I'll come in the morning and dress that knee."

Then, without waiting to hear the profuse thanks and humble apologies
which followed, he replaced the lamp, secured the keys and the
revolvers, and bent his steps in the direction of Main street. He
stopped at the livery stable and gave instructions for removing the
negro, then went to his office, tired, victorious, but unsatisfied.

What did it all amount to, he asked himself, wearily, when the love in
his soul received no answering affection. Of what account were good
deeds, if his own life was empty. His recent thrilling experience faded
from his mind, and in its stead the sweetly alluring face of Julia came
up before him. She was always with him now; waking, sleeping, reading,
or during his professional calls. She had crept into his heart
completely, and her coming had been wonderfully charming--unlike that
other, which had thrilled him with a painful joy! The other was gone
now. He felt that the awful hold had been shaken off at last--if only
Julia had not treated him as she did that evening! Such things tend to
throw a man back, but his hardly won battle had been too dear an
experience for him to waver now. He would be strong, though the future
were empty. He was facing the glass door giving onto the landing at the
head of the stairway, sitting dejectedly by a small table whereon a lamp
was burning. He had thrown off his coat and hat, for the atmosphere
indoors was almost stifling. He did not think of seeking rest, for,
though tired, he was not sleepy. It seemed to him that his affection for
the Major's daughter had grown immeasurably since darkness had fallen.
His thoughts had dwelt constantly upon her, and in his heart he had
called her many tender names, and had imagined his lips upon her hair,
and forehead, and cheeks, and mouth. He dropped his chin to his breast
and closed his eyes, his forehead showing deep furrows beneath the
straight black locks of overfalling hair. "Julia! Julia!" he said in his
mind; "don't treat me this way! I have served you faithfully from the
moment my eyes first saw you, and I have loved you almost as long.
Believe me, little girl, and let me know that you care for me, that I
may speak all that is in my heart. Julia! Julia!" Again and again the
single word throbbed through his mind, as though an imperishable record
was in his heart, and every beat thereof sent out the message on the
current of his blood. _What was that!_ He stopped breathing, but did not
open his eyes. He felt that she was near him! All in a moment he knew
that the cry of his heart had been answered. He heard steps, light
steps, barely audible through the closed door. They came
swiftly--tip-tip-tip-tip-tip-tip--up the stair--then silence.

He lifted his head and opened his eyes.

"Good God!" he cried, springing to his feet and overturning the chair in
which he sat. Then grasping the small table with both hands he leaned
across it and peered at the door, his face graying with each second that
passed. She stood there, looking at him, such terror in her eyes that it
made him tremble, absolutely fearless though he was. She wore a dark
dress, and a dark veil was wound about her head, leaving the white oval
of her face, with its terror-haunted eyes. The next moment she had
entered the room and shut the door behind her, and was coming towards
him like a sweet wraith. Yet he could say nothing. He had yearned for
her and called her in his soul, and she was before him now! There were
new lines upon his troubled face, for he could not understand. What
could it mean? It was past midnight; between one and two o'clock, he
knew. She was alone. These were his apartments. He slept in the one
where they now stood. She stopped within arm's length, pale and scared,
her large eyes burning with the burden of the secret she carried. She
spoke first, hurriedly and low. The sound of her voice brought John to
his senses.

"Has he come? Has he come?" she asked, in a half whisper, while the
interlaced fingers over her breast writhed from the stress of her
emotion.

"Dear Miss Julia!" responded Glenning, taking her by the arm, "pray be
seated--but no, you _must_ not stay here a moment! I--what is it? What
is wrong?"

"Has he been here? Oh, tell me! Has anything happened?"

Glenning got into his coat as he answered.

"I have just come in. I went into the country after leaving you. Who is
it? Marston again?"

A sob, half hysterical, struggled from the girl's throat.

"Yes--yes! He will come! He said he would! He's determined to kill you!
Oh! I couldn't stand it!"

She put her hands over her eyes, and shivered.

"Who is with you, Miss Julia? You must not remain here another moment.
You know walls have ears and eyes, even at this hour of the night. Who
came with you?"

"No one; who could come with me? But you! You must not stay here
tonight. Perhaps he came and found you were out. He will return, Promise
me!"

Before he could answer they heard a sound which each knew; the pounding
hoofs of a horse ridden at full speed.

"It is he!" gasped Julia, her face colourless as marble. "It is too
late!"

The hard-ridden horse stopped below with a crash and a rattle of small
stones.

"Courage!" whispered John, leaning towards the girl. "Trust me; all will
be well!"

Turning the lamp low, he quickly bore it into the front office and
placed it upon his desk there in a far corner of the room. In an instant
he was by her side again and had her hand in his, and even in the peril
of that moment he felt her clinging to him, and his heart exulted. The
apartment was now in almost total darkness.

"Come!" he whispered, and opening the stair door wide he led her out
into the passage, and down it for a dozen feet. Here not a ray of light
came, but he placed her behind him, holding her hand all the while in a
close grasp. There was a heavy step below--a stumble--a muttered curse.

"He has nerved himself with whiskey!" was the low message Glenning sent
over his shoulder, "Be perfectly quiet; there is nothing to fear."

Slowly a heavy form ascended the stair, feeling its way along the wall,
and halting now and then. A head and shoulders were dimly outlined,
then the figure of Devil Marston stood in the open doorway. He waited a
moment to steady himself, then entered. Glenning leaned forward to
listen. The invader made no efforts to soften his movements, and
presently John knew he had entered the front office. Then he placed his
arm around the slight form by his side and gently drew her forward.
Almost carrying her, they glided down the stair like shadows, then John
took her arm in his, and they hurried along the deserted streets. Not a
word was spoken until they had almost reached the Dudley home.

"Why did you do this?" asked John, an almost overpowering desire to
clasp her in his arms assailing him as he felt her leaning heavily upon
him, and thought of the significance of it all.

"There was no one else," she murmured, and sighed as she became
conscious of the nearness of home.

"Tell me about it," he said, and he knew that she drew closer to him in
the starlight.

"It was awful!" she replied. "I thought it would kill me. It was near
ten o'clock. Father was asleep, and I slipped out into the yard to be
alone, and enjoy the night. I had strolled down the avenue to the gate,
and was standing there when he passed, going towards his home. I wore a
white dress, and he saw me. He pulled up his horse, and without warning
told me that he was going to square accounts with you that night, and
get you out of his way. Then he laughed and rode on. I thought he was
crazy. I went back to the house and tried to forget it, but I could not
sleep. I knew he was capable of anything. There was no one to
send--Peter would not have done. So I came."

They had entered the avenue. The segment of a late moon was pushing its
way through some ragged clouds above the eastern horizon.

"_Why_ did you come?" repeated John.

They had reached the portico before she answered.

"To save you from him," she said, standing upon the step, so that her
face was almost on a level with his own.

"But why?--_why?_ What motive caused you to jeopardize your good name,
to place yourself in a position which would compromise you forever were
it known. Was it friendship alone?"

"I cannot tell you!"

"You can--you must!"

His face was almost fierce in the wan light, and his eyes were glowing.

"Not now; not yet."

There was a note of sadness in her voice, and her eyes fell.

Glenning took her hand, and came closer to her.

"Little girl, I _must_ know!"

She looked up, and her brave, truthful eyes met his squarely.

"There is yet something in the way," she said, smiling as through pain,
"before you may--"

"What is it?" he broke in, eagerly. "Speak!"

"Jericho!"

Then she was gone, and he was alone with the memory of the past.



CHAPTER XV


In the year of grace in which this story moved, the Macon fair began the
tenth day of July. All things were now leading up to it, for July had
come, and the days, while really long, passed quickly.

Glenning had a fearful task before him. Only once since that memorable
night when so many things had happened--when he had been almost scorned
by the girl he loved; when he had held a mob at bay and saved a
worthless scoundrel's life; when he had received a young lady caller in
his office at two o'clock in the morning; when he had walked home with
her to be ruthlessly wakened from his blissful love-dream--only once
since that night had he been able to get himself to that point of moral
courage which would enable him to make his confession, and plead his
cause unhampered and with a conscience at rest. And in that hour when
his soul was trembling on the verge of a full disclosure of all that had
passed during that hateful, bitter-sweet time in Jericho, an
interruption had come at the inopportune moment, and his chance went,
for when they were together again alone that very evening he knew that
it was impossible for him to speak. He knew, too, that possession and a
full reciprocity of affection would never be his until he had lain bare
that hidden portion of his life. He wanted to tell it; he wanted her to
know. It was not a desire for concealment which held his tongue. That
night when they stood in the wan moonlight by the portico steps, he had
forgotten the untold secret. He knew only that she was before him, very
close to him; that he had held her hand, had, for a few moments, pressed
her young body to his as they went down the steps at his office; knew
that she had filled him and thrilled him with a rare happiness, and that
life without her would be commonplace, sunless and dreary. Another
moment his consuming love would have been pouring from his lips in
fervent words of fire, when he heard that name which he had come to
hate--"Jericho!"

In the days which followed he fought with himself again, and some there
are who will know what this means, and others there are who will not.
But of all battles fought, surely this is the most terrible, when a man
fights himself. It was not the old struggle with which he had contended
night upon night after his arrival in Macon. That had been horrible, for
the devil and an angel had locked in his heart then, and their efforts
had torn him pitiably. But his angel had won in the end. The red-gold
hair and the eyes of wine came no more to make a picture of living
temptation above his pillow. They were banished. Now the same devil had
come again, and the same angel, and it was all to do over again. This
time the devil told him to keep his mouth shut, or tell only a part of
the truth, since he had already been fool enough to say that something
had occurred back in Jericho. The angel bade him lay the whole story
bare; this was the only honourable course. John was aware that the
outcome of this fight must be decided by his attitude. The combatant to
which he lent his aid would overcome the other. And while he knew
perfectly well what he should do, the devil pulled steadily the other
way, whispering all the time that to speak the truth would mean total
loss, and that a partial falsehood, at least, would be excusable,
considering all that was at stake.

The new doctor's leisure hours were getting less frequent now. His
remarkable success in treating the Scribbenses had all at once lifted
him on a wave of popularity. Then, too, the story of how he had whipped
Devil Marston in fair fight had gone abroad some way, and this, coupled
to his defense of the jail, had thrown him in the full glare of the
lime-light, and had also raised him on a sort of pedestal for the good
people of Macon. They had never had anyone in their quiet community who
could "do things" before. They began to hold him in a kind of awe, and
to honour him in every way they could. Some of the most substantial
recognition came from the wealthy population, who sent for him when
illness required the presence of a physician. Glenning began to realize
that his position was secure and his future assured.

One day Dillard joined him on the street, and accompanied him to his
office. He was worried, as usual. He preceded his opening remark by
shaking his head solemnly.

"It's no use, Glenning; it's no use."

Delivering this characteristic speech in a despondent tone, he walked to
the window, and looked out.

"What's no use?" came the sharp, quick question, charged with
irrepressible vim and a trace of nervousness.

"He won't do it! He won't do it!" was the still doleful reply.

"Stop your riddles and talk sense!" snapped John.

Dillard turned at this.

"I told you we'd catch Marston in some crooked work, but I've changed my
mind. He's a sly fox. He's scented something. I've watched him all
right, and he's been straight as a shingle."

"I don't see that it matters now," replied John, coolly, busy at his
desk.

"Why?"

"We don't want to ruin him just for the fun of it, do we? It was to help
the Dudleys we planned his downfall. That necessity is removed now. Of
course he should be punished for holding that dividend back, but that
alone hardly merits the penitentiary, especially since our little plan
about the insurance worked. They're easy now, but we must see that no
more tricks like that are played at the bank. Marston's behaving very
well now. At least he has quit annoying our friends."

"You're a devilish funny fellow!" commented Dillard.

"And I want him to be on hand at the races," continued John. "He has
entered the pick of his stables. Two of them--the best he has--go
against The Prince. The colt will win. I want Marston to see him win. I
want him to see a Dudley horse walk away from the fastest thing in a
Marston stable!"

He swung around in his chair with flashing eyes.

"You're pretty confident, aren't you?"

"No more than I have cause to be."

"Do you know the private record of that big black, Imperial Don?"

"No, and I don't care to. I don't care if it's two minutes flat! I tell
you, Tom Dillard, there's nothing on four legs that can outrun The
Prince! It is uncanny! Have you ever seen him go with a loosened rein?
It takes your breath away to watch him! Peter is going to work him out
this afternoon at the track. Miss Dudley and I are going. When you come
back you will understand what I mean when I say this colt was born of
the wind and the lightning!"

Dillard flushed at the mention of Julia's name and looked embarrassed.
John wondered. Had the poor fellow cast his die, and lost? His own
uncertain position brought a warm feeling of sympathy to his heart, but
he could say nothing personal.

"I don't suspect I can come," answered Dillard, in a changed voice, and
John no longer doubted it was all over with his friend. "But I hope
you're right. It would give me a lot of pleasure to see the Dudleys win
over Marston."

"There are plenty of people around here who will enjoy that pleasure,"
muttered Glenning, turning to his writing materials.

"I'll be on hand at the race, anyway," said Dillard, walking to the
door, "and I'll keep on watching Marston."

John's engagement with Julia was at five in the afternoon. The days were
extremely hot, and it had not been thought wise to allow the colt his
exercise until the sun had declined somewhat. The Prince was green. He
was young. Conditions which older and hardened horses might not feel
would likely affect him seriously. He had been sheltered and pampered
since earliest colthood. Really he had not been given a chance to prove
what was in him. The run this afternoon was a part of the process of
hardening. The race wherein his name made one was to be a mighty game
for blood and brawn. It was no place for a weakling.

Old Peter, sly and wise with his many years, years which had been given
almost entirely to learning lore about horses, and acquainting himself
with their moods and disposition--Old Peter knew all this, and he was
making ready. With all his enthusiasm and confidence, he knew there was
scant hope of his beloved colt winning in three straight heats. The race
might be drawn out to four or five, or even six or eight, and then the
horse with the greatest endurance would be the horse to win. But Peter
knew what he knew. He knew that The Prince's sire, and his grandsire,
had been noted for their staying qualities, and though the colt was
slender of barrel and limb, yet hidden somewhere within that
satin-smooth skin was power to go indefinitely.

Glenning presented himself at Julia's door promptly. She received him
cordially, but with a sort of maidenly reserve which he had noticed ever
since that night when she had almost asked him to lift the veil which
hid his past. She was not quite as open and free as upon former
occasions. Her appearance was charming, as usual. She disdained
ornaments, a small cluster of some delicate flowers or a single blossom
which had mayhap struck her fancy, being the only attempt she ever made
to adorn herself beyond the delightfully simple costumes, which were
always graceful and airy. Today she came to John swinging by its ribbons
her hat--a boy's broad-brimmed straw--and wearing a gingham dress,
belted at the waist and becomingly ruffled.

The man's heart surged as his eyes beheld her.

"Oh, let's walk!" she exclaimed, as she caught sight of a horse and
buggy on the driveway.

"Certainly, if you wish. But the roads are dusty; even driving is
unpleasant."

He tried to speak naturally, but invisible fingers had him by the
throat, and his words were strained.

She flashed a quick glance at him.

"That's one reason why I proposed walking--because of the dusty roads.
We'll go through, you know. Back through the garden, over a sparsely
wooded upland, and down to the track. You did not know we were so near,
did you?"

"No; but that will be fine. Is the Major in the library? I should like
to pay my respects, if nothing more than to greet him."

"Yes; walk in. He's reading, and seems much improved. He'll be glad to
see you."

Major Dudley looked up from his book as they appeared for a moment in
the doorway, side by side. He smiled, and essayed to rise. Then John was
at his side, gently pressing him back into his chair.

"Sit still, I beg you!" he said, taking the thin, soft hand of the old
aristocrat. "I've only a moment, for Miss Dudley has promised to go with
me to the track, and we mustn't delay. I'm glad to see you looking so
well, Major."

"My health seems excellent, suh! But I cannot undergo any exertion. My
haht is gettin' a little tahed, it seems, but it's been workin' long
enough to deserve a rest. Won't you take a chair, suh?"

"Another time, thank you. The Prince is in fine trim, I believe?"

"Great colt, suh! Peter reports his condition puhfect."

"You have no apprehension in regard to the race?"

The old gentleman's eyes shot fire under their gray brows, and his body
became more erect.

"I'm as satisfied he'll win as I am the sun will rise tuhmorrow!"

"Good! I share your belief to the full. Let me say good-bye now. The sun
will not last much over an hour."

A minute later Julia and John were passing through the garden, side by
side.

"Of course you read in the paper about Uncle Arthur's death?" she said.

John flushed guiltily, and he gave her a covert look. Her face was a
little shadowed, and very sweet.

"Yes," he answered, seeking vainly in his mind for an excuse to change
the subject.

"It was all very queer," she resumed, puckering her brow and shaking her
head slowly. "The letter from the lawyer was so formal, and was not
explicit. We have feared there was some mistake, as we have not heard
from Uncle Arthur for so many years. Father wrote to the lawyer asking
for further details, but has heard nothing from him."

"It was queer," admitted Glenning, feeling the weight of his duplicity,
while his conscience writhed as though a white hot iron had touched it.

"It saddened us so much to think that he was coming back to us, and did
not live to get home. Wasn't it dreadful?"

"Indeed it was."

John drew a long breath, and fidgeted inwardly. They had reached the
stone fence bounding the garden, and he seized his chance.

"Let me help you over!" he cried, leaping to the flat top of the fence
and extending his hand.

She took it, and allowed herself to be drawn up. Then he descended and
swung her to the ground with her hands in his. A gently sloping,
slightly wooded hill stretched up before them, and as they began the
leisurely ascent she spoke again.

"You know that local news comes to us rather slowly, and we have just
learned of what you did to Mr. Marston--that day."

Her voice was low, and she did not look at him.

John's face darkened, but he did not answer on the moment.

"I felt that I should speak to you," went on Julia; "it was because of
me you did it. You were very brave."

Her face was aflame now.

"Yes," he replied. "The cur had mistreated you in some way, and I could
not stand it!"

Here was his chance to go ahead and tell her all, for there was no
possibility of interruption. But he did not speak. Why, he could not
say. They walked on in silence. Soon they were going down a rain-washed
hill-side where it was necessary he should assist her. He offered her
his hand without speaking, and she took it dumbly. So they reached the
level again, and went towards the fair ground, now only a short distance
off. They halted in front of the grandstand. Several horses were on the
track, but their eyes were quickly drawn to the lithe, graceful figure
of The Prince. He had just come from the track stables, and was walking
down the home stretch with a withered, monkey-like figure perched upon
his back. Uncle Peter saw the twain, and guided the colt up to the low
fence enclosing the track.

"Well, Uncle Peter, are we too late?" asked Glenning.

The old fellow removed his tattered hat, and bowed.

"No, suh. I had jes' rid 'im out de stall. I gwi' limber 'im up
treckly."

"How is he running?" queried Julia, anxiously.

"Lak a skeered dawg, young missus!"

"What horses are those over yonder?"

"Couple o' plugs dat Deb'l Marston sont out hyar!" he replied,
contemptuously. "I'll go by dem lak dey's hitched to a pos'!"

"Are you sleeping with this horse every night, as I suggested you
should?" asked John.

"Yes, suh! Him 'n' me, we bunks tuhgedder, 'n' he has de bes' bed, too!"

"He will bear close watching, and as the time draws nearer for the race
you must be doubly careful."

"Dat I will, suh--doctuh. Yo' may 'pen' on me. Now 'bout dis heah hoss
I'm a-settin' straddle uv." He fairly choked with pride and emotion as
he moved his bony hand up the richly maned neck caressingly. "Dis hoss
am de none-sich hoss, whut means dar ain't anudder'n lak 'im nowhahs. He
runs lak a pig'n fly, goin' home. 'N' he's had de bes' o' kyar!
Fo't-night, come tuhmorrer, I's been out hyar, rain ur shine, 'n' I rub
dis hoss twel he shine lak a new stove. I feed 'im de right numbah yeahs
o' cawn; de right size bunch o' hay. Den I gits on 'im 'n' rides 'im
roun' dis track twel he drips lather lak soap-suds. A man frum town
stood right dar whah you is dis minute de udder day, 'n' he tol' me dat
he couldn't see 'im w'en he passed--he wuz dat fas'. Den I rub 'im dry
'n' put on de blanket, 'n' mek he bed, 'n' lock de do' 'n' we bofe go
'sleep. 'N' dat w'at I gwi' do twel de day come w'en he win de race! 'N'
he gwi' _win_, simply 'kase he can't lose!"

He stopped for breath, and the knotty hand which rested on the colt's
neck trembled. His recital had moved him, for it was truly a matter of
life and death to him.

John took out his watch.

"If you will pardon the suggestion, Miss Julia, I will say that we had
better let Uncle Peter have The Prince go. It will be dark soon."

"Certainly. Ride him around the track, Uncle Peter. Let us see what
there is in him!"

"So please yo', young missus, hit bein' de bes' way, I'll staht 'im out
roun' de track, 'n' let 'im lope easy-lak de fus' time roun'. Den, w'en
he git soop'le up de fus' time roun', I gwi' _run 'im_! Yo' watch, young
missus--I say I gwi' _run 'im_!"

His wrinkled face irradiated with a great joy, Uncle Peter gathered up
the reins and clenched the slender body with his knees. Gracefully and
slowly The Prince swung around the oval enclosure, revealing such
marvelous freedom from exertion, such spontaneity of action, that the
faces of the two spectators standing in the shadow of the grandstand
expressed almost amazement. John shifted his position a little nearer to
Julia--he wanted so much to take her hand--and they watched in silence.
The small figure on The Prince's back was humped over after the approved
attitude of a jockey, and was rising and falling with each long
undulation as though part of the animal he rode. The twain by the fence
kept silent. Back on the grandstand was a small group of men, also
watching The Prince. Julia's heart swelled with pride as her own brave
colt came down the stretch towards them, gradually increasing his
speed. He flashed past them with the lithe movements of one of the
feline tribe, and as his nose was set to the next half mile he began to
let himself out. His rider did not carry a whip. A slow slackening of
the tightly-held reins was all that was necessary for quicker action.
The Prince was born to run; to be held back was galling and unnatural.
Rapidly and more rapidly his feet rose and fell, his movements as
regular as the mechanism of a clock. Faster and faster he went, each
prodigious leap increasing his momentum. When he swung into the home
stretch the second time he was coming beautifully, and with a degree of
swiftness which dumfounded both the girl and the man. Like an autumn
leaf torn from a tree and whirled away on a cyclone, The Prince went by
his group of friends.

"Splendid!" muttered John Glenning, intense pleasure showing on his
face.

The girl turned to him with eyes which almost hurt.

"Can Marston's entries _possibly_ beat him?" she implored, impetuously
raising her hand to his arm, but refraining from laying it there.

"Nothing that runs on four feet can beat him!" declared John,
enthusiastically. "And I, like you, have seen horses run ever since I
was big enough to know what a horse was. Ah! he is a noble animal--and
how gracefully he runs! No wonder you love him, and I congratulate you
on possessing him!"

Her lips parted for a quick reply, but she stopped and gazed down the
track instead, where The Prince and his rider had at last come to a
halt. She had started to say what was in her heart, to tell him that he
had saved the colt for her twice, and that she would never forget it.
Then that awful barrier had thrust itself before her eyes; that strange
barrier of his terrible silence. She could not be free with him; she
could not be as she was in the first days when they had met. Then she
could say all she wished to say, but that was before she had awakened;
before new thoughts and feelings and vague, unguessed desires had
blossomed in her soul, at times almost drugging her with their subtle
perfume. It was so different now. The world had changed. She had burst
the chrysalis of girlhood, and her woman's nature was surging up in her,
dominant, primordial, searching, calling, demanding its own! It gave her
pain. She knew that with that hidden past cleared away, and the love
words on his lips, she would have come to his arms with a sigh of
content, and found rest, and peace, and joy. How he had proven himself!
He was a man; gentle, strong, modest, brave. He was the incarnated hero
of her girl dreams, standing this moment by her side--and yet how far
away he was! Why would he not come closer! Surely he knew she would
forgive and offer him the sweet haven of her arms, the solace of her
lips and the caresses of her hands! Surely he loved her, for he was not
deceitful, and that night, that awful, blissful night he had taken her
to him and shielded her and led her home, and had plead with her for
some tenderness. She could not give it then, though her heart was aching
with love. She could not give it now, unless he would unseal his lips,
and lay bare the hidden years. It was the test, and she knew it. She
acknowledged it with inward fear, and her soul quaked. She could do
nothing but wait. Hers was the bitter part; the hard portion. To
wait--wait--and daily place a restraining hand upon her love; to crush
it down into submission hour after hour as it rose up and demanded its
own. How long? How long? Already it seemed ages, and his presence had
come to bring suffering.

Twilight was stealing over the earth. A gentle breeze came up from the
south, laden with the scents of late summer. Peter was bringing The
Prince back for an opinion of the colt's performance.

"You have done well with him, Peter," said Julia. "I shall tell father
how nicely you ride him, and of his remarkable speed. He will be
pleased. Good-bye. Take good care of him."

Glenning felt that he should add a word, but somehow it wouldn't come.
Julia's voice had sounded unfamiliar to his ears. He had been keenly
conscious of the swift change in her after the horse had passed. He had
seen her start to speak, then close her lips, and he had wondered what
the unuttered words could have been. Then he grew troubled as he stood
silently by her side, watching her averted face. A shadow had fallen
upon it, blotting out the bright expression of joy. He saw it change as
a sun-kissed landscape might when a cloud veils the sun. Her sweet mouth
had relaxed into a pathetic little droop; the rich undercolour had
receded from her cheeks; her eyes had shaped themselves to a look of
weary sadness. Even her rounded, pliant figure seemed to lose part of
its grace, and to sag of its own weight. He saw the breeze lifting the
little curls upon her neck and ruffling the waving hair behind her ears.
Then suddenly that which had been slumbering in him woke. It woke with a
thrust like a keen knife-blade, sending a sharp quiver of pain
throughout his body. Up, up it fought its way, ruthlessly tearing a path
for its progress, and a voice spoke in his soul. It was his conscience
which he had numbed, and smothered, and choked, free at last, and with a
merciless goad in its hand. He saw how wrong he had been. He saw that,
physically brave as he knew himself to be, morally he had been a coward!
He had let her suffer--her, whom he told himself he loved! He had weakly
remained negative, drifting with the days, when a positive course was
the only one consistent with honour. He had shielded his own feelings,
and sacrificed hers. He had dwelt in guilty security, and had stretched
her, sinless, upon the altar! How sordid, and cruel, and selfish he had
been! How he would have condemned this policy in anyone else!

Slowly they walked homeward through the magic afterglow. The light
faded, and grew dimmer and dimmer, and the stars came out. Neither said
a word. From the wooded upland the country about looked phantom-like,
unreal. Far off a dog barked. Nearer at hand, in the branches of one of
the oak trees about them, a screech-owl stirred, and babbled its harsh
call. Away in the hollow where the race track lay a light gleamed at
the stables. The twigs cracked under their feet, and the dry leaves
rustled as they passed among them. It grew darker. Julia caught the toe
of her boot on something, and lurched forward. John grasped her by the
arm, and quickly righted her. How good it was to feel his strong fingers
drawing her away from harm! Then he took her hand without speaking, and
thus they went on.

Later they stood at the portico steps.

"I have been a coward!" he said, abruptly, "and there is nothing I have
shunned more all my life. I have been unfair to you, and if it is not
too late I want to set myself right. Perhaps it is weakness to tell you
that I have tried--but I have. The strength is mine now, and it will not
desert me. Will you see me tomorrow night, and hear my story?"

The "yes" which came from her lips was faint indeed, but he heard, and
pressed her hand in farewell.



CHAPTER XVI


Early the next morning a telegram came for Julia. From its condensed
message she learned that her room-mate at college, who was likewise a
dear and intimate friend, had been taken seriously ill, and wanted her
to come on the first train. Major Dudley was present when she received
the summons, and she immediately asked his advice. It was that she
should depart on the noon train for the East, and remain as long as
circumstances required. He was feeling prime, and Aunt Frances and Peter
should look after his comfort.

Transfixed upon the horns of this new dilemma, Julia rushed upstairs and
began mechanically to get her things together for a hurried departure.
She knew that she would go, although she told herself repeatedly that
she could not. She must be at home that evening, for her future
happiness depended upon the issue of that night. Yet Bess was
sick--desperately ill--and had wired her to hasten. Yes, she would go to
her friend in distress, and send a note by Peter to Doctor Glenning,
advising him of this unforeseen emergency. Perhaps it was just as well,
she told herself at length, to prolong indefinitely the hour when he
should tell her all. This, indeed, would be a supreme and unerring test.

So it came to pass that the train for the East bore Miss Julia Dudley
away from Macon that day at noon, and that Uncle Peter, for the second
time, bore to Doctor Glenning a delicately tinted, square envelope. John
groaned when he read the note, and let his hands drop despairingly. Of
course it could not be helped. He realized that she was right in going,
and he loved her the more for it, but the missive gave no date upon
which the writer might return. There was nothing for him to do but live
the days through as best he could until he should see her again, and
keep himself strong. The waiting would be hard, but he could do it. All
hesitation, all temporizing, had vanished. He would be ready for his
part on the first evening after she came home.

Filled with a peculiar elation, a joyful exultation, he went about his
daily work with a song in his heart. He was looking far better than he
did when he first came to Macon. His step was firmer, his eyes less
sombre, his face not so haggard. So ten days passed, and fair week came,
and the place began to fill up with visitors from neighbouring towns.
Fair week in Kentucky naturally represents a good time. In this State,
if in none other, the horse is king, and all homage and honour are given
him on the days of the races. And fair week, like Christmas, comes only
once a year, and is looked forward to with equally as much zest and
impatience. On this important occasion the business houses, banks, and
offices in general close their doors at noon, and do not open them again
until the last heat of the last race is over. The three or four days
during which the festivities occur are one big holiday for young and
old, and business cares and business thoughts are thrown to the wind.
The fair in Macon this year began the second week in July, and continued
four days, commencing with Wednesday. It promised to be the largest and
best attended meeting of the kind ever held. There were entries for the
various races from all over the State, and some rare sport was promised
when the blooded champions met to decide the victor. The purses were
generous, the half mile track was conceded to be the best in the
circuit, and spirits rose high in anticipation. There was to be a brass
band from Louisville, an experienced starter from Lexington, and the
judges, for the most part, were horsemen selected from towns close at
hand.

John grew more and more restless as the days passed and Julia did not
come. He had one letter from her, but she gave no hint as to when he
might expect her home. He wrote at once and urged her to come as soon as
she could, and, receiving no reply to this, fell to calling on the
Major, hoping thus to hear something definite. She sent her father a
message every day, but it was always about the sick friend, who had
taken a slight turn for the better, but would not consent for Julia to
leave her.

It was the night before the day upon which the fair began, about eleven
o'clock, when Glenning, sitting in his office with a worried face,
received a call from the home of a wealthy merchant. He arose at once,
and went to the house. It was a deep chest cold contracted by one of the
members of the family which he had to treat, but it was close onto
midnight when he came into the front hall for his hat. The servant who
was waiting to let him out stepped forward and said that there was an
old friend in the parlor who would like to speak to him. Slightly
annoyed at this further demand upon his time, John opened the door
indicated, and entered the room.

A shiver as of the pangs of death enveloped him on the instant. He stood
rigidly erect, his face growing whiter and whiter until the pallor which
rested upon it was ghastly. The room was a sumptuous apartment; a bower
of luxury. The furnishings were rich, but chaste, and blended
harmoniously, creating an effect which soothed. A lamp burned on a table
in the center of the room; a beautiful thing, glowing like some rare,
exotic flower. The thick, ruby-tinted shade smothered the flame, and
diffused it rosily. There was the odour of perfume in the air; not
grossly rank, and offensive, but subtly elusive; a delicate hint of some
rare and sense-numbing attar. She stood a little to one side of the
table. She was rather low, but superbly shaped. Her hands were behind
her, with fingers loosely laced. The lamp-glow encompassed her as in a
subdued flame. It fell upon her burnished hair--dull gold and copper
blent, and sank trembling into the depths of her eyes. Each feature was
perfect, or so nearly perfect that the chastening light made it appear
such. She was smiling.

Thus they faced each other again.

There was stark silence in the room. The man could not speak, and the
woman was not yet ready to. He stood, scarcely breathing, arms at his
sides, motionless. One straight lock of hair had fallen, and drew a
sharp black line across his forehead. He was looking at her, steadily,
desperately. His face was a mask of marble, but the woman knew too well
that the volcano was there beneath all that icy calm; surging, seething,
leaping and wrestling for a vent.

"Aren't you glad to see me?"

The voice was low and pleading, and full of melody. It smote upon the
man's sensibilities with the force and effect of an electric current.
His muscles became convulsed; his hands turned into clenched fists; his
jaws knotted.

"No!" he said, at last, in a hollow monosyllable.

"Yes, you are! Tell the truth. How are you, John?"

She was coming towards him, still smiling, one half bare arm outheld,
the embodiment and the perfect type of female loveliness. He avoided
her, and moved to another part of the room. It was all back again,
intensified an hundred fold. He knew it was of the devil; he knew that
the one great trial of his life was upon him. He did not love her in the
least--he swore in his soul that moment that he bore no particle of
affection for her. It was something else--something unearthly and
horrible, which sought to draw him on. The other nights of dalliance
which he had known returned, limned upon his conscience in lines of
burning fire. And he had thought himself safe! He moved back a pace,
where he could not see the angel-faced devils in her eyes. Look at her
he must. She saw his fear, and laughed low in her full, white throat.

"Won't you shake hands with me, and tell me that you are glad to see
me?"

There was no resentment in her voice or attitude that he had shunned
her. She stood easily, the train to her dress sweeping over the soft
carpet to one side as she had turned. The laces on her breast were
creamy and feathery, and her girdle was a zone of gold.

Again he waited till his voice was steady, and again he answered, "No!"

"Won't you but touch my hand if I ask you to?--for the sake of Jericho!"

Her supplicating words brought madness, but the man withstood. He knew,
through all the blinding wrack of emotions which tossed in his brain,
that in distance alone was safety. Should he feel but her finger tips,
he was damned. With that six or eight feet of floor space between them
he was master of himself. For the third time he answered "No!"

She had been unprepared for this reserve, this fearful coldness. The
last time they were together--the last time!--and he had left without a
word of farewell to her, without telling her that he was going away. But
she knew why he had gone. She was older than he, and had seen more of
life. But the element of mercy in her soul was wofully deficient in
magnitude. She made no further attempt at once after his third refusal,
but stood with head slightly bent, and eyes downcast.

"You were not very just to me."

Her words came in silken soft purrs from her warm lips--and Glenning
prayed!

"You treated me badly to go, with never a word, never a written message.
I should not have done the same with you John! I have missed you sorely,
but my pride has held me back from trying to communicate with you in any
way. I have come for the first two days of the fair; I cannot stay
longer. The people in this house are distant relatives. I did not know
that I would see you, except, possibly, upon the street, and then I knew
that you would not recognize me. I was present when they sent a message
for you tonight, and I planned this meeting. I wanted to see you again,
for a little while. I think you might sit down and talk with me for a
moment. It can't be for long, for the hour is late, you know."

The quality of her voice was as of one who had been mistreated. There
were short breaks in it; suppressions of emotion, and her head had bent
towards the light, while the burnished disc of her coiled hair was as a
spider's woven mesh.

"I came away because it was better for us both that I should come, and
you know a farewell was out of the question. I do not see that I have
used you badly. You know to what we were drifting. Why bandy words? You
know that had I stayed in Jericho my soul would have been lost today,
and I would have been an outcast, or dead! It is better so. It is best
that we never meet again if we can help it."

He spoke tensely and rapidly and moved towards the door as he
concluded. But she was nearer it. The game was not played out. She
silently glided in front of him and put her back against the door,
stretching her arms out to form a barricade, and again she laughed--a
sound which made the man recoil and nervously draw his hand across his
forehead and eyes.

He had heard it before! It awoke old memories which he had believed
dead, but the tomb of the heart will open again to a remembered word,
laugh, expression, or perfume. And the attar! It was hers. He had never
smelled anything like it. It was Oriental in its mysterious sweetness
and effect. Barely discernible to the nostrils, it crept to the brain
and wrought shadow-pictures upon the tapestry of the mind which it were
better for mortal eyes not to behold. He was feeling the force of this
strange perfume, which, coupled with her fascinating, if baneful
personality, was beginning to beset him mercilessly. She knew her power,
so well! But he was fortified with a hidden strength of which she did
not know--brown eyes of trust, and a face as sweet and innocent as a
flower. She barred his way. He could not pass until she gave him leave.
He might have swept her aside with two fingers, but he was afraid to
try. He knew what it was to be near her.

"Let me pass!" he exclaimed, resting the knuckle of his forefinger upon
the corner of the table.

"You look very handsome tonight!" she told him, ignoring his demand.
"Can you not find a like compliment in your heart for me?"

He did not reply, but his face was flushed and his breath was coming
faster.

"You seem to have aged considerably," she resumed, "although it has been
only a few weeks since you went away. But it has helped you. I'm going
to give you a last chance now. Won't you come and speak to me as you
used to do? If you won't, I am coming to you!"

Her arms fell to her sides.

The man knew she meant it, and a rage which was his salvation began to
mount slowly within him.

"If I do as you ask, will you stand aside, and allow me to go?"

"Yes, if you will want to go--then!"

He came straight towards her, his whole nature set and hard as adamant.
Her head was bent as he approached. Only when he stopped within arm's
length and held out his hand did she flash the wonder of her topaz eyes
full into his, and giving him her hand, bent towards him in a last
mighty effort to conquer. He felt the blood rush to his brain so that
her face was blurred before him; he was conscious of white arms gliding
above his shoulders, then with a low, strangled curse of anger he had
pushed her from him, and was in the hall. Another moment the outer door
closed behind him, and he was creeping through the deserted streets,
shivering as with palsy, an inarticulate blending of prayer, blasphemy,
and an absent woman's name upon his lips.



CHAPTER XVII


Glenning did not attend the fair the first two days. He had good and
sufficient reasons for finding his practice so urgent that he could not
leave it, but the afternoon of the third day he drove out. The sights
and sounds which greeted him as he passed through the gates were all
familiar. To one side some half grown boys were throwing at rag babies.
Further on was the merry-go-round, piping its crazy tune, and carrying
its precious freight of happy children. Yonder was the booth where beer
was dispensed, and it had a liberal patronage, for the day was hot.
Tents were scattered here and there, with gaudy, distorted pictures,
representing something impossible in nature or art, reared before them
to tempt the unsophisticated. There, too, was the fakir, crying his
swindling schemes in a strident voice. Nestled to the track, and crowded
with restless humanity, was the grandstand. At one end of this was the
betting shed. John secured his horse, and went around to the track
stables. The races that afternoon had small interest for him. His
thoughts were of The Prince, and his chances on the morrow. He found the
door to the colt's stall securely locked on the inside, and a stable
hand laughingly told him that no one was allowed to enter. John rapped
on the door and called Peter. The old fellow recognized his voice and
let him in, locking the door behind him. The stall was well lighted and
John could see the colt plainly. He appeared in the best condition, and
his bay coat was glistening from the constant rubbing his attendant gave
him.

"Does any one ever come in here but you, Uncle Peter?"

"No, _suh_! Dey ain' nobody stuck he haid in heah 'cep' me!"

"That's right. No one else has any business in here. There's lots of
trickery about horse-racing, Uncle Peter, so don't let a soul get within
arm's length of The Prince!"

"Yo' neen' pester yo' haid 'bout dat, suh!"

"Miss Dudley has not yet returned, but the Major will be here tomorrow
afternoon, and so will I. You ride The Prince, Uncle Peter?"

A pair of indignant white eyeballs rolled towards the questioner.

"Yo' 'low I gwi' let any udder nigguh git straddle dis hoss! Yes, suh, I
ride 'im, 'n' I ride 'im at de head ob de whole bunch!"

"He is looking splendid," John replied, and then he inspected the box
stall carefully, seeing that there were no holes in which a horse might
catch his foot and go lame. Then, with a few parting injunctions to
Peter, he left the grounds. He remembered that the afternoon train from
the East arrived at half past three, and there might be a letter.
Fifteen minutes later he was turning in the driveway in front of the
Dudley mansion. There were people on the portico, and at first glance he
saw that one was Julia, still in her traveling dress. And there was the
Major--but the third was an old man he had never seen before. Probably
some resident of Macon, who, learning of the Major's recent
indisposition, had come out for a friendly chat.

Glenning hitched his horse to a post at one side and turned eagerly to
the house. Julia met him at the steps with eyes swimming in tears, and a
face suffused with happiness.

"There's been some awful mistake!" she whispered, squeezing his hand
unconsciously. "Uncle Arthur is not dead at all; he is here with us!"

It would be useless to attempt a description of the many feelings which
assailed the young man when he heard this news. But his surprise and
confusion were covered by the Major, who advanced joyfully on the
instant, and took his hand.

"My brother--Doctor Glenning! Lost for over half a lifetime and home
again by the grace o' God in time to see a Dudley hoss walk away from
the pick o' Marston's stables! Sit down, all o' you! Bless me, such a
day! Daughter and brother on the same train, and neither knew each other
till they met here on this portico! Arthur, my boy, this is better than
a julep with the thuhmometuh at ninety-nine in the shade--'pon my soul!
And all this mess about you bein' dead and the money comin' in the nick
o' time to keep us out o' the po'-house--"

"Father!"

"Sit down, all o' you! I'm a bit excited, I fear! Peter! _Peter!_"

"You'll have to call louder than that, Major. Peter's in a stall at the
race track stables this minute, mothering The Prince."

While the Major was speaking John had been standing by Julia's side,
looking at the returned wanderer. He saw a man much like Major Dudley in
height and build, with long white hair and a silvery beard which swept
his chest. His face was tanned, his eyes keen, and his voice pleasant,
though a trifle loud.

"So he is, doctor--and tomorrow's the day! There's so much to tell and
so much to listen to. Arthur, we'll spend the remainder of our days
talking and listening. But the juleps! Here, Julia, you're even better
than Peter at this decoction. Make us three, child. I know your uncle's
tired. Take a chair, doctor--"

But Glenning was already in the hall following swiftly in the train of
the young lady commissioned to mix the drinks. He overtook her at the
door between the library and dining-room. She heard him in pursuit, and
turned there to smile at him.

"Oh, I'm _so_ glad you've come!" he exclaimed, taking her two hands and
looking down into her eyes. "You have been away ages!"

"So long?" she laughed archly; "did you miss me?"

She wrested herself free and ran to the old side-board, where the
decanters and sugar sat. He was by her side on the instant.

"Can it not be tonight?" he pleaded. "Will--your uncle's coming
interfere?"

She turned a sober face towards him.

"It would not be right for me to absent myself from him the first
evening after his arrival. You understand, don't you?"

"Certainly I do. I knew it was useless and silly for me to ask--but I
want so much to have you to myself for one hour!"

"You shall--tomorrow night! What can it mean, Doctor Glenning?--that
story of his death, and the money?"

"Somebody has made a mistake," he answered, and his face was very
solemn.

"Evidently they have, but that doesn't cast any light on the mystery."

"It will be cleared up in time--let me carry that tray for you. It's
silver, and heavy as lead."

She consented, and they repaired to the porch, where the juleps were
quaffed eagerly. Then John made his excuses, feeling somewhat out of
place in the flush of this reunion, but first securing Julia's promise
to accompany him to the races the following afternoon.

       *       *       *       *       *

That day was one which the people of Macon and the country round about
never forgot. A light rain fell in the forenoon, sufficient to do away
with the dust without making mud. In consequence the track was perfect,
the atmosphere tempered, and in the afternoon not a cloud showed in the
sky. The Dudleys went early and found seats just in front of the wire,
which was the most desirable location. The news of Arthur Dudley's
return had spread quickly, and people thronged about the two old men,
for though he had always lived an isolated existence, Major Dudley
enjoyed the respect and esteem of every one. The big race in which The
Prince was expected to win his laurels was the last on the program, so
there was plenty of time for receiving friends, and listening to the
opinions of well-wishers. These were legion, for Marston had not a
backer in all that vast throng. He was a pariah, by choice. He did not
like people, and he did not want them to like him. He was on hand this
afternoon. John saw his thick-set figure often in the crowd at the
betting shed during the first races. He bet on his own horses, some of
which were in every race, and he nearly always won, for his
thoroughbreds belonged to a strain which was hard to beat.

A little after four the bell in the judges' stand clanged for the last
race. John turned to Julia, who sat by his side.

"That summons The Prince!" he remarked, smiling.

He had never seen her more beautiful. Her cheeks were flushed from
excitement, and her eyes were starry. She sighed, and looked at him
anxiously.

"Be of good courage!" he said. "They cannot beat him!"

The horses were beginning to appear, and a brave showing they made; a
sight to make any Kentuckian's heart swell with enthusiasm. Devil
Marston's two racers came up first, and Glenning saw that they were
built in becoming manner. Then as the bay colt walked proudly down the
stretch with Uncle Peter on his back, a thunderous wave of acclaim rent
the air. John turned once more to Julia, and he saw that her eyes were
moist. The weighing of the jockeys and the drawing for place went
forward speedily. There were five entries, and Peter came in the middle,
the third from the pole. Then the jockeys were in the saddle again, and
had started up the stretch to score. Again the eyes of the man went to
the girl beside him. Her gloved hands were over her face, and he could
see that she was making a mighty effort for control. He heard the
piercing voice of the starter ordering some one to hold back.

"Look!" he exclaimed; "don't miss the getaway!"

Her hands dropped and her face came up bravely. She was pale now.

Leaning forward, John saw the line of horses coming nicely and well, and
Peter trying with all his puny strength to hold The Prince in his place.
His efforts were only partly successful, for the colt had come into his
own at last, but as the group dashed under the wire that thrilling word
"Go!" was hurled at them. There was a rustle and stir from end to end of
the grandstand, as the immense crowd arose to its feet, the man and the
girl with the rest. Their eyes were set on those flying forms skimming
over the earth like birds. To the first quarter there was scarcely any
change, for there was no mongrel blood racing in Kentucky on that great
day. Neck and neck the brave brutes ran; panting side to panting side.
So they whirled into the home stretch for the first time. Almost in
front of his mistress the noble colt sprang out at the half, and took
the pole! It was beyond belief! It was marvelous--unequalled in the
annals of the turf! For it was not done in a quarter of a mile; it was
done at once, in half a dozen leaps. Julia's heart sang with joy, and a
choking feeling of elation hurt her throat. A smile of wonderment crept
to her lips and stayed there, while The Prince led the next half mile
and came under the wire two lengths ahead of Daystar, his closest
antagonist.

The wooden structure upon which they stood shook, so fierce and long was
the applause, and hands were thrust at Major Dudley and Julia so fast
that they could not take them all, while a confused chorus of
congratulations was poured upon them. But this was only the beginning.
There might be many more heats. John went on the track to have a closer
look at The Prince. The colt was breathing deeply and regularly; not a
hair was turned from sweat and he showed no signs of distress. Some of
the others were full of lather and were blowing heavily. The pace had
been fast. Presently all withdrew to rest, and be rubbed down. Uncle
Peter was exalted to the seventh heaven of delight as he rode away,
prouder than Solomon in his palmiest days.

The next heat, however, was a shock, a surprise and a revelation.
Imperial Don, Devil Marston's other entry, pushed his nose under the
wire about six inches ahead of the colt's. People were dumfounded, for
the horse had run fourth in the first heat, and not one had supposed him
to be a possible winner.

Julia retained her self-possession, and spoke with a firm voice.

"Please go and ask Uncle Peter the reason."

John obediently made his way to The Prince's side.

"How did it happen?" he asked.

Peter kicked his feet free of the stirrups, and slid to the ground. He
was trembling all over, and his face had assumed a grayish hue.

"I'll tell yo' suh, 'n' you tell Marse Dudley 'n' de young Missus jes'
whut I tell yo', foh dat am de fac'! Dis ol' nigguh ain' lib dese long
yeahs foh nuffin. Now I gwi' tell yo' how 'twuz, 'n' yo' wanter pay
'tention. Dat fus' time dis Don-hoss wahn't nowhahs, 'n' t'other'n o'
Deb'l Marston's come a measly secon'. Dis time de Don-hoss he win by a
gnat's heel. Yo' know why? Jis' 'kase dey hil' 'im up de fus' time,
a-savin' 'im foh de secon'. Now I wants yo' to look at dis heah hoss!"
He placed a trembling hand upon The Prince's arching neck. "Am he
blowed? Am he tahed? Am he standin' on t'ree feet? Am he haid down
'tween he laigs? Now look at de res', 'n' please yo'. Yondah's dat
Don-hoss, whut t'inks he's done so much, scearcely able to git he breff;
ready to drap! Yondah's dat Daystah, whut didn't do nuffin 'tall, 'n'
he's dat wet wid sweat 'n' weak dat he c'n hahdly stan' on fo' feet, let
'lone t'ree. Now, suh, yo' pay 'tention to me. Dem hosses hab done dey
do. Dey's tahed to deff, bofe ob 'em. Dey's took tuhn 'bout runnin' dis
heah thuhuhbred, 'n' one of 'em manage to creep 'head o' 'im, but dey's
done. Dey'll try de same t'ing, time 'bout, dis nex' race, but 'twon't
do. Dis hoss am jus' de same as if he'd nebber run a step. We's gwi'
win, 'n' yo' c'n jis' res' on de wud o' dis ol' nigguh!"

Uncle Peter's explanation of the condition of affairs was, in truth,
feasible, and it was equally true that Marston's horses were feeling
keenly the terrible strain they had just undergone. Of their pluck,
mettle and speed there could be no doubt, but they did not have the
bottom of the bay colt, whose sires were famed for their endurance. John
took the old man by the hand.

"Peter Dudley, don't let a Marston win over you today! I hope and
believe you are right in all you've told me. I shall tell it over to
Miss Dudley for her encouragement. You know what's in this piece of
horse-flesh--_then get it out_. And listen, Uncle Peter! I've known
horses intimately all my life. Let me suggest something to you. Trail
the leading horse for the first half mile, then go to the front and stay
there!"

A moment later Glenning was back with Julia, telling her and the Major
of Peter's explanation of the last heat. Julia was hopeful, but her
father was in doubt. Glenning had his fears, too, but he kept them to
himself.

When the third heat was called it was found that two of the horses had
been withdrawn, their owners seeing that victory was hopeless. This left
The Prince, and Devil Marston's Daystar and Imperial Don. Excitement
was intense as the horses appeared for the final bout. An experienced
eye could have seen that two of them were a little fagged, but the third
was apparently as fresh and strong as he was the moment he left his
stall for the first heat.

As the horses scored for a start Imperial Don had the pole, The Prince
was second, with Daystar on the outside. They came down fast, for their
blood was up, and there was to be no dallying. They got off easily, and
everyone in that vast assemblage drew a long breath, then became silent.
Imperial Don held his place gallantly, but The Prince's hot breath
spouted upon his flank at every leap. The other horse was half a length
behind. Thus they went, scarcely shifting their relative positions the
first time around. Down the stretch and past the grandstand like winged
things they flew, and then Imperial Don began to weaken. Again and again
his rider applied the whip, but it was no use. The pace was simply
killing, and the horse had done his best. At the quarter post The Prince
took the pole, and Daystar, who had been held in reserve, came after
him. He came like the wind, too--a long, white, phantom shape which
seemed possessed of the devil. Before another quarter was run he was
neck and neck with the bay colt, but there he stuck. It was a race good
to behold. Thumping the springy earth in measured rhythm the fleet hoofs
sped towards the goal. Into the home stretch they dashed. Three thousand
pairs of eyes were watching them, and they seemed to know it. Like a
span in harness they plunged forward; like two engines of the rail. The
Prince's slim breast was flecked with white. His neck was outstretched;
his pointed ears lay flat on his head. His long mane beat in the
contorted face of the monkey-like figure on his back. Every strong
muscle in all his lithe body was strained to the last limit. The racing
blood of countless winners was aflame, and with almost human
intelligence he strove bravely for the mastery. Inch by inch he began to
lead away! On towards the wire, his red-rimmed eyes bulging, his veined
nostrils inflamed and quivering. The watching people saw, and instantly
such a shout arose that it pierced the blue above. Another moment, and
the noble animal shot past the goal a neck ahead, and the race was won!



CHAPTER XVIII


Glenning's engagement was for eight o'clock the following evening, but
he did not come till nine. Julia met him at the door, garbed in some
dainty white stuff with lace about it, and wearing one rose in her hair,
which waved from her forehead and was dressed low upon her neck.

"I must apologize for my tardiness," he said, gravely, as they walked
into the library, which was softly lighted by a shaded lamp. "But as I
was starting out I had an urgent call from a very poor family on the
edge of town. A little child had fallen and broken its leg. It was a
"charity call," but I hope you will pardon me. I could not let it
suffer."

She felt a warm glow steal to her cheeks as she listened.

"You did right," she told him; "I was sure you had a good reason for
being late."

He tried to speak of the race, but could not. She was also mute. The
hour was too tense for conventionalities. A silence fell between them.
Then suddenly the man gathered together all his moral strength and arose
to his feet. She looked up quickly. He did not meet her eyes till he had
walked to the mantel. Then, facing about, he leaned his elbow upon it,
and returned her gaze.

"The time is ripe for an understanding between us," he said, the awful
strain under which he was labouring making his voice unnatural.

The girl could see that the old haunting gloom had come to his eyes. He
was very white, and the crescent scar upon his forehead was outlined
sharply, even in the dim light.

"It is a tale I had rather suffer death than tell, but I owe it to you
before I can speak of other things which are in my heart."

She caught her breath at this, a quick, sibilant intaking, and because
her hands had at that moment begun to tremble, she clasped them in her
lap. Her large, sympathetic eyes were watching him closely.

"It is hard to begin," he resumed, "but I must do it alone; you cannot
help me. The fault has been mine; let the shame and anguish be mine,
too. Would you object if I told you of something else first?--it seems I
am doomed to ask you to forgive much tonight!"

The pathos and sorrow in his words were almost more than she could bear,
but she signed her permission dumbly, and waited.

"I think it all began that first night I saw you, in such distress. At
any rate, my interest in you and your life was deep and genuine from
that hour. I learned of your reverses--of your father's investment in
the bank stock. Then the time came when Marston withheld the dividend,
and I knew that you were without resources. Tom Dillard and I got
together to see what we could do. We seemed pretty helpless, for Marston
had everything his own way. Then something happened to me which gave me
an idea. I had an uncle, too, whom I had not seen for years. He died a
short time ago, and part of his estate came to me. It was in the shape
of a life insurance policy which he had taken out in my favour without
ever letting me know. When the check from the company came to me,
through my uncle's attorneys, the temptation was more than I could
resist." He left the mantel and took one step towards her, then stood
firm-footed as he resumed, desperately. "I did it. I did it all. I
fabricated the story of your uncle's death, and the lawyer who sent
Major Dudley that check from St. Louis was my good friend, to whom I
wrote. He simply had to buy eastern exchange in place of the insurance
company's check. It was simple enough. Forgive me. I place my trust in
your feeling heart and seeing soul, for without a clear vision and
complete understanding in an affair like this there can be no
forgiveness. Soon I will tell you why I did it all."

Her head had gently sunk as he was speaking. She did not look up when he
stopped. She did understand. She knew in a flash the reason for his
course. But his revelation numbed her. She tingled from head to foot,
and knew that should he command her eyes at this moment, swift surrender
would follow. She waited for his voice, but it did not come.

"Go on!" she said, so low that he guessed, rather than heard the words.

He cast a glance around the room such as a drowning man might give when
he felt the water closing over him. She had not encouraged him by so
much as a flash from her eyes, and heaven knew he needed courage, if
ever man did. She was so white and still! So dainty and spotless! Her
folded hands were waxen, and her forehead and the one cheek which he
could see were like some statue's. Her breathing was so soft that it did
not stir the bosom of her dress.

"I have given you a suggestion of what befell me in Jericho; since then
you have heard distorted truths, or more probably vicious falsehoods,
from another source. Now listen to what I say. It shall be the whole
truth, with nothing added, and nothing taken from.

"Jericho was my home. I was born and reared there, and I came back there
after I had graduated in medicine, and began to practice. A number of
families had moved into the place during the years I was away, and among
them were a Mr. and Mrs. Lamberton. He was a traveling man, and was at
home very little. The trouble began when I was called in one day, the
occasion being some slight difficulty in hearing. When I entered the
room I was stricken still with amazement. I had never seen such a
perfectly beautiful creature in all my life. She was young, not tall,
and possessed of a wonderful wealth of colouring. The apartment was
permeated by some essence entirely new to me, some rare and delightful
perfume. She was reclining upon a couch, alone. She, of course, knew who
I was, and she did not rise, but bade me come to her. I did as she
asked, and took a vacant chair near her. At that day I knew practically
nothing of women, good or bad. My path had been a pretty rough one, and
I had all I could do to go forward, although there was always the wish
within me to know and associate with women, the natural complement of
man. She stated her trouble briefly and clearly, in a most pleasing
tone, and when I endeavoured to put some necessary questions I found to
my dismay that my mind was muddled, and wouldn't work well. She smiled
when she noticed my embarrassment. Whenever she turned her eyes upon me
I felt dizzy. They were wine brown, and in them dwelt twin devils which
beguiled. I had to touch her with my hands; to put back the hair from
the affected ear. I was young--I was far more innocent than she--so help
me God! I maintained my professional reserve with difficulty, and
escaped from the room with my brain whizzing and my breast on fire. But
the mischief was done. I could not forget her. I thought of her
constantly during my waking hours. I did not stop to analyze the trend
or character of my thoughts. At the time I do not think they had any
definite shape. I simply could not withdraw my mind from that
incident--that half hour in her presence. Nothing was said and nothing
was done which a third person might not have heard and seen, but it was
the awful _suggestion_ back and beneath it all. Her attitude towards me,
while not in the least familiar, was charged with an undefinable under
current of what our future relations might become. I knew that I wished
to see her again, but when the summons came on the second day from the
one when I first called, I hung back. I was afraid, who had never known
fear before. I had no excuse for refusing to go. I was a servant of the
public, and my presence was demanded. To trump up a subterfuge would be
to acknowledge to myself that I was a coward. I went.

"She received me in the same room. This time she was snugly settled in a
large, easy chair, and the unbound glory of her hair swept down over the
rich-hued house dress which she wore. This visit was considerably longer
than the first. You know that a family physician very often shares the
most intimate confidences of his patients. This day she told me
something of her life; enough to lead me to believe that she was
unhappily married, and that she and her husband were not congenial. A
ready resentment sprang up in me towards the man who could call this
superb being his, and then neglect her. So the wiles of Delilah were
employed again, though at the time I did not suspect her.

"Then there grew in my heart a strange passion for this woman. Love
strove to mount, but it quickly discovered that that which it was called
upon to meet was not love. Then the devils of the flesh tore at me and
strove to drive me on--to utter and complete damnation! They had arisen
insiduously, arming themselves as they advanced, and I soon found myself
in the throes of a struggle as old as the world of creation, and more
difficult to overcome than any foe which might appear from without.
These devils haunted, harassed, goaded and tortured me. They drove me to
her again and again, and again and again I withstood them, holding fast
to the sense of right within me, and striking back with all the moral
strength of my nature. Then one day it was borne in upon me that I must
yield--or retreat. No mere mortal could continue to face this most
powerful of all earthly temptations, and keep himself unspotted. The
last night we were together in Jericho she confessed her love for me,
and offered me the bitter-sweet joy of her arms. Then a living God of
mercy gave me the victory. Long ago I knew I did not love her. I knew
that my feeling for her was born in hell--in the blackest and foulest
corner thereof! She stood before me arrayed in voluptuous robes, the
splendour of her perfect physical beauty dazzling me cruelly, and told
me unabashed that she was mine, body and soul! I swear to you that I had
never said one word of love to her. I looked upon her, and the devils
surged to the attack with thong and goad. But I did not raise my hands
from my sides. I fought them back and after a while found my voice and
told her this could not be. With the spoken words my strength returned,
and I left her thus, without farewell. The next night I came to Macon."

The deep, resonant tones ceased. The silence in the room was acute. Not
even the sound of breathing was audible.

"I found you, whom God sent to be my salvation. The battle was not
ended, though I had put the visible cause of it away. But memory will
not die, and the eyes of the mind constantly behold the visions of
yesterday. Now came the fight to stay away, and I found it just as hard
to win as the other. Had it not been for you, and the hope which I
allowed to find root in my soul, I would surely have succumbed. But this
hope grew, a pure, white flower, and it banished the noisome weeds of
grosser birth. Then a day came when I knew the old influence and the
wild longing no more, for love had found me and had reclaimed me from
the morass into which I had strayed. I need not tell you that I have
gone through perditions of living fire! You, sweet girl, know nothing of
this. But what I said to you upon the lawn not many days ago I say to
you again tonight--_I have come through clean_! It is not a debauched
body and a rotten soul I am bringing as my offering to you tonight. High
heaven bear me witness that all I say is true! I do not claim any
especial worthiness, but I do disclaim and declare false the libelous
stories which Devil Marston brought from Jericho! You have heard the
truth, and I am glad that at last you know."

An inflection almost of despair quivered through his last words. The
girl before him was motionless, but now a rigour shook her from head to
foot, then passed, and she was still looking down, apparently unmoved,
and lifeless.

"There is yet another incident."

He spoke in a dead voice, without ring or timbre. He was hopeless, yet
nerved to go to the last bitter dreg of confession.

"I saw her once while you were in the East with your sick friend--a few
days before the fair. It was quite accidental. I had a call from the
Maddoxes one evening. She was there--had come as a visitor for the
races--some sort of relative. As I was leaving the house a servant told
me a friend wished to see me in the parlour. I did not remain long. The
old charm was there, and I should have been lost without the protection
of your spirit, which armed me as I had never been armed before. When I
started to leave the room she attempted to detain me, but I thrust her
aside, and went out. That is the whole story, and horrible enough it
seems to me! I dare not think what it must seem to you--you sweet,
sheltered flower! Now that this miserable tale is told, I come tonight
and offer you my love. It is a most tender feeling I harbour for you,
Julia; a possessive, protective, jealous love, which would forever hold
you safe and blameless; which would forever cradle you in the house of
my heart, deep-walled and warm. Nothing that would hurt, or harm, or
blight, or frighten, or pain you should reach you in that sheltered fold
within my breast. Won't you say that you will come--you poor, little
storm-beaten lamb, and give me the deep, dear joy of loving you and
ministering unto you always?"

He did not approach her. He had no right. His confession stood like a
wall between them until she should speak. Her face was burning now. He
could see her flushed cheeks and tinted temples. That she still
refrained from meeting his eyes kindled a faint flame of hope.

"This is a strange story for a girl to hear," she said, speaking each
word low, but distinctly. "I forgive you for the deception about the
money. Uncle Arthur has returned wealthy, and we can refund that to you
soon. But--" she raised her head and looked at him--"can I forgive the
rest?"

"Can you forgive it?" he repeated, pillowing his elbow on his palm, and
resting his chin on his finger and thumb. "Can you forgive it? Your
heart must answer. If you love me--if you love me--"

She could not endure the appeal in his eyes, and her own dropped, with a
sigh.

The moments raced past.

"Julia, have you no word for me?"

Silence unbroken. He waited for a while longer, then moved slowly
towards the door. She heard his footsteps pass and recede, and it seemed
that the hope of her life was going too. He reached the door leading
into the hall.

"John!"

The low call was weighted with despair and love.

In a moment he was standing before her, with both her hands in his.

"You called me!" he whispered, reading the message in her swimming eyes.
"You called me!"

"Back to happiness, John, if I can give it to you! You have borne so
much, poor boy!"





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