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Title: Quintus Oakes - A Detective Story
Author: Jackson, Charles Ross
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.

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      http://archive.org/details/barriernovel00freniala



THE BARRIER

A Novel

by

ALLEN FRENCH

Author of "The Colonials"



[Illustration]

New York
Doubleday, Page & Company
1904

Copyright, 1904, by
Doubleday, Page & Company
Published, May, 1904



  To
  C. E. S. AND S. P. S.



CONTENTS


   CHAPTER                                        PAGE

       I. The Statement of the Case                  3

      II. Which Enlarges the Stage                  10

     III. Sets the Ball to Rolling                  21

      IV. An Understanding                          26

       V. Various Points of View                    32

      VI. Introducing an Eccentric                  41

     VII. Chebasset                                 52

    VIII. The Progress of Acquaintance              65

      IX. New Ideas                                 75

       X. Drawn Both Ways                           83

      XI. An Incident at the Mill                   92

     XII. Forwards Various Affairs                 102

    XIII. Which Is in Some Respects Unsatisfactory 114

     XIV. Mr. Pease Intrudes Upon a Secret         123

      XV. Which Develops the Colonel's Financial
            Strategy                               130

     XVI. Something New                            145

    XVII. Which Deals with Several of Our
            Personages                             155

   XVIII. Judith Buys a Typewriter                 163

     XIX. "Put Money in Thy Purse"                 175

      XX. The Power of Suggestion                  182

     XXI. Ellis Takes His Last Step but One        194

    XXII. Haroun Al Raschid                        206

   XXIII. Plain Language                           218

    XXIV. Bringing About an Understanding          224

     XXV. The Colonel Gives Up His Luxuries        235

    XXVI. In which Judge Harmon Enters the Story   242

   XXVII. In which Judge Harmon Leaves the Story   250

  XXVIII. Judith Binds Herself                     255

    XXIX. Knowledge of New Things                  263

     XXX. Time Begins His Revenges                 275

    XXXI. Brings About Two New Combinations        286

   XXXII. Which Is in Some Respects Satisfactory   295

  XXXIII. Contains Another Proposal of Marriage,
            and Settles an Old Score               307



LIST OF CHARACTERS

_IN THE ORDER OF THEIR MENTION_


STEPHEN F. ELLIS, promoter and political boss.

GEORGE MATHER, a young business man.

JUDITH BLANCHARD, of the social set.

MRS. HARMON, who has risen by her marriage.

JUDGE ABIEL HARMON, advanced in years.

COLONEL BLANCHARD, Judith's father.

BETH, his remaining daughter.

MR. PRICE, the fashionable jeweller.

MR. FENNO, head of one of the old families.

MR. PEASE, a banker.

JIM WAYNE, of the social set.

MR. DAGGETT, a supporter of Ellis.

MISS JENKS, Mather's stenographer.

STOCK, a labor agitator.



THE BARRIER



CHAPTER I

THE STATEMENT OF THE CASE


There is a certain circle so well-to-do that it is occupied chiefly in
guarding its property and maintaining its exclusiveness. There is a city
so small, politically, that it is buttoned in one man's pocket. The
second of these is the direct consequence of the first. Leading families
lead little except the cotillion, parvenus crowd in, and things are done
at which no gentleman will soil his gloves.

In the course of time, such a community might develop a strong active
class and a superb set of figureheads, if only the two sorts would let
each other alone. But the one will envy and the other sneer; the one
will long for ornament and the other will meddle. A desire to sparkle
meets the desire to appear to do, or at times encounters the genuine
longing to do. Dirty hands will wish to be clean; clean hands must have
a little honest dirt.

The city of Stirling lies in New England; it is one among those which
look to Boston for supplies and to New York for fashions. Its history
goes back to colonial times: hence those beautiful estates in the
residential section and the air of pride in the scions of the old
families. These said scions collect much rent and control much
water-power, yet an inquirer imbued with the modern spirit might ask
them to give an account of themselves. Their forefathers settled the
country, fought in the Revolution, and helped to build the nation and
the State, but now people whisper of degeneration. In the old city
modern men have risen to power, control the franchises, manage the local
government, and are large in the public eye.

Or perhaps it is more accurate to say that one man does this. Ellis the
promoter, Stephen F. Ellis, has grown from nothing to everything, has
consolidated businesses, mastered the city affairs, holds all the reins,
pulls all the wires. The reform politicians have never harmed him. The
fashionable people, according to their wont, for years have avoided
publicity and let things go. The man among them who, in a generation,
alone has ventured into the field of thoroughly modern enterprise, has
failed signally, though most gallantly, and in the prime of his youth
stands amid the ruins of a career. The very honour which was his
inheritance brought him low.

He had been a contrast to Ellis in the openness of his methods and the
rapidity of his success. To organise all the street-railways of his
city, to force his personality upon the stockholders of three lines, and
to weld the old clumsy systems into one efficient whole--that was George
Mather's achievement. To be head and shoulders above all others of his
years as the street-railway president, yes, and as the man in whom the
reform politicians built their best hopes--that was his pride, and his
class was proud of him. But his strength was his weakness, for he used
no trickery and he kept his word. Therefore by a business stroke
undertaken against him in the face of an agreement, a method not so
analogous to a stab in the back as to the adroit administering of poison
in a loving-cup, Mather was upon a certain spring morning, at a certain
stock-holders' meeting, by a small but neat majority voted out of
office, and stood robbed of the best fruits of his labours.

Those who saw him that afternoon upon the golf-course marvelled as he
played his match with the precision of a machine. Had the man no nerves?
But though thus he proved--to others, not to himself--that he could bear
misfortune without flinching, it was with unspeakable relief that at
last he slipped away into an empty corner of the club-house, whence he
could hear only the buzz of the Saturday crowd on the grounds outside.
The tension of the last few hours relaxed suddenly, and now that he was
freed from the gaze of others he gave way almost to despair.

The silver cup which he had won he tossed upon the table, and dropping
his clubs upon the floor he threw himself into a chair. Beaten! To have
stood so high in the little city, to fall so suddenly, and to lose so
much! True, he had made money; he had gained the support of the rich men
of his class, who had assured him that they would wait their chance to
set him again in his place. But it was Ellis who had seized that place:
when had Ellis ever given up anything which he had gained? Yet it was
not Mather's fall, nor the hurt to his pride, nor even the loss of the
chance to carry out his plans, which shook him most, but the danger to
still dearer hopes. And the young man, almost groaning, dropped his head
upon his breast.

A girl entered the room suddenly, and stood startled at the sight of
him, but she was not heard. She wished to withdraw, yet feared to rouse
him, and his deep frown fascinated her. Staring downward, scowling with
his thoughts, his face had at first expressed anger, but now showed
pain. Judith, too, he was thinking--had she changed to him? When he
hurried to her after this morning's meeting, so soon as he could free
himself from his friends, already she had heard the news. She had not
let him speak with her alone, but though she must have known his wish
she kept her father in the room. If with her ambitions she felt
disappointed in him, if she rejected him--well, he could bear even that!
The girl who was watching saw his expression change to determination,
and then suddenly he roused himself. No one should find him brooding. As
he raised his eyes from the carpet she turned to escape, but he saw her
and sprang to his feet.

"Judith!" She stopped; perceiving her desire he added: "Don't let me
keep you."

Then she came to him directly. "I thought you were outdoors. Every one
was congratulating you; the club has never seen such golf. It was
splendid!"

He smiled, indifferent to the praise, and picking up the cup from the
table, looked at it carelessly. "Only for that."

"And Jim Wayne would give his head for it," she said.

Disdainfully, he shifted the cup into his palm, and with a single effort
crushed it out of shape. "See," and he meant to personify himself, "it
is only silver; it lacks strength."

"Ah," she answered, "don't be bitter. Come, forget the street-railroad,
forget you ever were its president, forget everything except your
friends."

"Judith," he returned with meaning, "can _you_ forget what I have lost?"

She drew back, flushing. "George!"

"Oh," he cried, "I know I am rude! But to-day when I came to see you,
you knew what had happened to me. If ever I needed comfort it was then,
and you knew it. There was only one consolation that would help me, and
you knew that, but you denied me. Judith, have I lost my chance with
you?"

She flushed, as if conscience drove home a rebuke. "I did not mean to be
unkind." But then she looked about uneasily, at the door at her back,
and at the curtains which shut off the adjoining room. "I--I think I
must go."

"No," he protested. "Let us have it out; no one is near. Give me my
sentence, Judith. You know I've loved you for years. It was for you I
built up the railroad; you are the impelling cause of all my work. This
winter I thought I had pleased you. Is there any hope for me?"

He spoke without a tremor of the voice, but he clenched his hands as he
waited for her answer, and his eyes were eager. Before them she dropped
her own. "Not now," she answered.

"Tell me," he asked almost gently, "why you have changed."

She stood silent, with her eyes still downcast, but her mouth grew
harder.

"No, don't explain," he said quickly. "I understand. I understood when I
left your house to-day. Judith, don't you know that I have learned to
read you? This morning I was beaten, and you require of a man that he
shall succeed."

Her eyes flashed up at him. "Well," she demanded, "and if I do? Can I be
different from what I am?"

"We make ourselves," he replied.

Her defiance was brief, and she asked earnestly: "Why have you let me
plague you so? Choose again, some softer woman."

"My choice is fixed," he answered simply.

"Then at least," she said, "we will remain friends?"

His face cleared, and he smiled. "So far as you permit."

"But without enthusiasm," she reproached him.

"Ah, Judith," he answered, "you know you don't require it."

"And we won't speak of this again?" she asked.

"Just these last words," he said. "Remember that this defeat is not the
end of me; I shall yet give an account of myself." She saw how resolute
were his eyes, but then his look again became gentle as he added: "And
this, too. The world fascinates you. But Judith, it is very big, and
strong, and merciless!"

Was it not a beaten man who spoke? She answered, "I do not fear it," and
studied him to find his meaning.

But with a steadiness which allowed no further show of feeling he
replied: "If ever you do, then turn to me."

They finished without words of parting; she quitted him abruptly, he
took up the caddy-bag and stuffed the ruined cup in among the clubs.
Though she paused an instant at the door, there was nothing more to be
said. Regretfully he watched her go: bright, fearless, and inquisitive
as she was, where was her nature leading her? He knew her restless
energy, and at the moment feared for her more than for himself.

As for her, he had pricked her deeply by his warning. The world would
never be too much for her. Let it be however big and strong, she admired
it, must learn about it! She would never cry for mercy. The thought did
not cross her mind that he knew the world better than she, that although
defeated he was more its master. At twenty-three one is confident.

And as for his charge that she thought less of him, she told herself
that it was not his disaster that separated them. Rather it was the
quality which the disaster had but emphasised in him--the
self-confidence, real or counterfeit, with which he had always assumed
that he could go his own way in making a home in which to take care of
her. How he mistook her! She did not ask for safety from the world; it
was the key to her whole character that she wished to be more than a
mere comfort to a man. Should she ever accept a husband, she must be an
active rather than a passive element in his strength, counselling,
inspiring, almost leading him. Between herself and Mather there was an
unremitting conflict of will. She left the club-house, and went out upon
the lawn with her cheeks a little redder than usual, her black eye
brighter, her head held still more high.

Men came instantly about her--young men eager to please. But with her
thoughts still busy, she measured them and found them lacking; they had
never done anything--they had not yet arrived. The most masterly of them
all she had left in the club-house, and he, after climbing to high
place, had fallen. Was it possible that the only men of power were older
still? Then she progressed to a still more searching question. Could
this vapid and ambitionless assembly produce real men?



CHAPTER II

WHICH ENLARGES THE STAGE


On the day which brought to Mather his two crushing defeats, the cause
of them, Ellis, that type of modern success, openly embarked upon his
latest and his strangest venture. Not satisfied with his achievements,
and burning with the desire for recognition, he, whose power was
complete in every part of the city save one, turned to that quarter
where alone he had met indifference, and began his campaign against the
citadel of fashion. The guests at the golf-club tea were somewhat
startled when, at the side of their latest parvenue, whose bold beauty
and free ways they had not yet learned to tolerate, they perceived the
man whose characteristics--a short figure and large head, thinly
bearded, with sharp features and keen eyes--were known to all students
of contemporary caricature. Ellis was received with the coolness which
his companion had foreseen.

"They won't like it, Stephen," she had said when he proposed the
undertaking to her. "So soon after this morning, I mean; you know Mr.
Mather is very popular."

"I'll take the risk," he answered.

"I don't see why you bother," she went on. "It's been easy enough for
me, marrying the Judge, to go where I please--and yet it's a continual
struggle, after all. It isn't such fun as you'd think, from outside."

He scowled a partial acquiescence. Living near the social leaders, it
had been an earlier hope that to be their neighbour would open to him
their doors. He had built himself that imposing edifice upon the main
street of fashion, so that where the simple Georgian mansion of the
Waynes had stood the Gothic gorgeousness of a French château forced
attention. But in spite of the money he lavished there, it had not taken
Ellis long to discover that the widow Wayne, who was his neighbour still
(having refused to part with the original homestead of the family), had
more honour in her little clapboarded cottage than he in his granite
pile. The widow's son, who nodded so carelessly to Ellis when they met,
and yet was but a broker's clerk, had with his youth and grace a more
valuable possession still--his name.

Sometimes Ellis felt it almost too exasperating to live among these
people and be ignored by them, yet he gritted his teeth and stayed,
thinking that perseverance must win in the end, and perceiving that from
the midst of his enemies he might best plan his campaign. He spun his
webs with unconquerable patience, studying the social news with the same
keenness which he brought to the stock-market reports, and looking ahead
to a possible combination which would give him the opportunity he
desired. And now he believed that at last he actually saw his chance,
and his hopes were rising.

"Maybe I'm a fool," he said, "but by Gad I'll at least have one look
inside, and see what others find there. I notice that you worked hard
enough to get in, and now you work to stay. But, Lydia, if you want to
keep these people to yourself----"

"The idea!" she cried. "You are welcome to them."

"Or if you think I shall hurt your position----" He paused for a second
disclaimer, but none came; his directness had confused her, and he knew
he had struck near the truth. "Anyhow," he finished, "you promised me
this long ago, and I'll keep you to the bargain."

Now she, the maker of this promise to Ellis, was the wife of Judge Abiel
Harmon, whose ancient family, high position, and fine character were
everywhere honoured. Nevertheless, Ellis was able to regard her as his
entering wedge, for they had been boy and girl together in the same
little town. While yet in his teens he went to try his chances in the
city; years afterward, when her ripe charms had captivated the old
Judge, she found her fortune and followed. When she met Ellis again
their social positions were widely different, but interest drew the two
together, and though the Judge had no liking for Ellis, he did not
inquire what Mrs. Harmon did with her leisure; therefore she maintained
with the promoter an intimacy which to them both promised profit. To him
the first advantage was this visit to the golf club, but while on
inspection of the crowd he knew he could buy up any member of it at a
fair valuation, they did not appear to like him the better for that, and
their groups melted marvellously before him. As a relief, Mrs. Harmon
took him to the club-house, but the dreary promenade through its rooms,
where her vocabulary was exhausted and her enthusiasm lapsed, became at
last an evident failure. When she had said all that she could of the
conveniences of the lower floor she led him to the stairs.

"If you care to go up," she suggested, "the bedrooms might interest
you."

But she looked out on the lawn through the open door, and longed to be
there. The chattering groups called to every instinct of her nature; she
wished to get rid of this encumbrance--to hand him over to any one and
take her pleasure as she was used. And Ellis, too, looked out through
the doorway.

"Up-stairs is more likely to be stupid," he said bluntly. "Let's go
outdoors again."

In Mrs. Harmon's relief, she did not notice the characteristic which he
displayed in this answer. Ellis was a fighter; power was all very well,
but the winning of it was better. Just now he was like Alexander before
India--looking upon a domain which must be his, and eager for the
struggle. These people, and they alone, could put the capstone to the
pyramid of his successes, and could lend glamour, if not give glory, to
that wholly material structure. He would force them to it! Watching
society disport itself, he regarded it as his natural prey. That
assemblage was characterised by a suavity which deceived him; as he
viewed the throng it seemed all mildness, all amiability. He did not
appreciate the power of resistance of the apparently soft people.

And yet he had learned that money was not the effective weapon he had
once supposed it. The arrogance of possession was against him, and
though he did not understand the subtle reasons for his exclusion, he
was sure that something besides a golden key was needed to open those
doors.

It was not in Ellis to remake himself, nor did he try to change his
ways. As when he faced the difficulty of buying the city government, he
merely studied human weaknesses. The former experience had taught him
that men are easier bribed without money than with, and that there are
some passions, some ambitions, which do not include financial ease.
Moreover, he had formed his plan; it was time to make the attempt.

"Miss Judith Blanchard--she is here?" he asked.

Mrs. Harmon looked at him in surprise. Did he wish to meet a girl? So
far she had conducted the enterprise, and since their entrance on the
grounds had tried to help him by introductions to the older people. But
the experiment had failed, and he had no intention of repeating it.

"Why, she is here," she answered in doubt.

"Then introduce me to her," he directed brusquely.

Oh, if he wished! Mrs. Harmon was not pleased to be so ordered; she was
not at all satisfied with her day. It was very troublesome, this trying
to introduce Ellis. The manner of Mrs. Watson had been more distant than
ever, while as for Mrs. William Fenno, her behaviour had been arctic.
Mrs. Harmon cared for no further snubs, but if Ellis wished to run the
risk of the meeting--well, Judith would fix him! Not pausing to watch
the process, Mrs. Harmon presented Ellis to the young lady and escaped
to her own enjoyments.

Ellis was where he had many times imagined himself, standing before
Judith Blanchard, while the young men fell away on either side. He was
meeting her glance, he was seeing for himself the "queenly form," the
"regal head" (_vide_ the social columns of the _Herald_), and he was
experiencing at close hand the influence of her personality. It was
magnetic even to him, for on hearing his name she turned quickly, looked
him straight in the eye, and offered him her hand almost as a man would
have done. When she spoke her voice had not the artificial tones of the
women he had so far met; it had a genuine ring.

"So you are Mr. Ellis?"

"You know of me, then?" he asked.

"Every one has heard of you, even girls," she replied. Any one might
have said this, but not with her look, not with that bright glance. She
asked another question, which showed to those who listened her interest
in the man. "You have settled the water-works affair?"

John Trask turned and strolled away; Will Mayne bowed to Miss Blanchard
and silently betook himself elsewhere; Ripley Fenno mumbled a request to
be excused, and left Miss Blanchard alone with her new acquaintance.
Within five minutes, five times as many people were watching the pair
curiously, but absorbed in a new interest, they did not notice.

"What do you know," he asked her, "about the water-works?"

But she pursued her own inquiries. "Or does the street-railway not take
up your time? Or perhaps," she added boldly, "the court-house has no
need of the services of its contractor."

Now the boldness of this last remark consisted in the reminder of a
certain scandal, public-minded citizens (of whom the chief was Judge
Harmon) claiming that there had been boodlery in the recent repairs of
the court-house. It was more than hinted that Ellis had backed the
contractors, and that he had shared the profits. His face changed,
therefore, as she spoke, and she saw in his eyes a sudden gleam--of
anger?

"Or," she asked quickly, "have I misread the papers, and you are not the
contractor, after all?"

He was himself again, although looking--staring, almost--with deeper
interest. At first he said no more than "I am not the contractor," but
to himself he was crying: Success! He believed she had provoked him
deliberately; he saw that she had studied his doings, for the
court-house affair was almost a year old, the water-works deal occurred
months ago, and the street-railway _coup_ was of this very day.

"How much you know of matters!" he cried.

"I read the newspapers," she explained, "and with an object."

"An object?" he asked.

"I want to know what is going on," she explained. "I want to have to do
with real things. I am interested in the doings of _men_, Mr. Ellis."
And she made him a little bow, which he, still staring, made no attempt
to answer. Then she turned, and walked toward a more open space where
people could not, as they were beginning to do, press around them. "Will
you not come and see the grounds?" she asked. In great satisfaction he
kept at her side.

So this was Judith Blanchard! He had not believed it, had laughed at
himself for hoping it, but she was what he had imagined her. Months of
study had gone to make up his opinion of her; he had read of her, heard
of her, watched her. Quick, impetuous, somewhat impatient of
conventions--that was Judith.

"Do you know," she asked suddenly, "that we have met before? In a
street-car, not a fortnight ago, we rode facing each other for quite a
while. I remember meeting your eye."

He had recalled it many times. "I hope I didn't look too much at you,"
he said. "You must be used to having people watch you."

"Oh, please don't compliment," she interrupted, "or you will spoil my
idea of you. I imagine you a man who thinks to the point, and speaks so,
too. Yes, people do watch me wherever I go; they give me flattery, and
think I love it. But if you and I are to be friends----"

"Friends!" he exclaimed involuntarily.

"Are you not willing?"

"Willing!" he repeated. "Miss Blanchard, you offer what I had not dared
to hope one person here would think of in connection with me. I----" He
looked at her searchingly. "You are not teasing me?"

"I used a strong word," she said.

"Then you did not mean it?"

"Why," she endeavoured to explain, "I spoke hastily. I have few
friends."

"Few friends? You?"

"Yes, I," she answered. "Among the men, I mean. Those of my age are
so"--and she smiled--"so young! I am not posing, Mr. Ellis."

Nor was she. Her interest in the great world was genuine, even if
ill-balanced. Ruled by it, she looked into men and discovered, not how
much there was in them, but how little they had for her. The good, the
amiable, the well-intentioned, had none of them enough backbone to suit
her; it was power that she wished to find. Always among respectable
people, she was often impatient at their mediocrity; always among young
people, she was tired by their immaturity. This day she had for the
first time questioned if older people of another class had not more for
her; she had been repeating the question at the moment when Ellis was
presented. And now, without pose, she scrutinised him with frank
question: Was he one who could bring an interest into her life and let
her see the workings of the world?

And he knew she was not posing. "It is sometimes troublesome to be
friends with people," he said. "To be bound to them, to have
considerations of them prevent free action--that is what friends mean in
business."

"And you have few, as well?"

"I have dependents."

He spoke wisely, for the term struck her. Dependents! She had felt
isolation, but it was that of the looker-on. There was something regal
in this man's loneliness, for that he was lonely she divined.

"People need you," she said with approval. "They cannot get along
without you. Oh!" she exclaimed, "I have sometimes thought what power is
in the hands of such men as you. You can mould a whole community; you
can set your mark on a city so that it will tell of you forever." Behind
a steady face he concealed astonishment and question. "You can do so
much good!" she finished.

"Much good--yes," he returned uncertainly. Such enthusiasm was new to
him, especially when applied to what the opposition newspapers bluntly
called "jobs." He perceived that where he saw only money in his
enterprises, Judith saw great opportunities. "Yes, much good--if we can
only do it. Where there is power there is also responsibility. How can a
man know whether he is doing the right thing, especially"--and he
smiled--"when all the newspapers say he is doing wrong?"

"A man must follow his conscience," she replied, so gravely that he was
uncomfortable, for, thus innocently spoken, her words carried a sting.
He tried to finish the subject, and by his usual method--by meeting it
directly.

"A man works as he can," he said, "doing what seems best. He has to
think of the present, but as you seem to know, he works for the future
too. It is an interesting life and a busy one."

"Interesting?" she echoed. "Oh, it must be! Why should it not be
all-sufficient? Why should you come here?" He stared at her again, and
she asked: "What have we that can interest you?"

He answered with a simplicity that was almost great, an acknowledgment
of his desires which was unparalleled in his career, but which meant
that without hesitation he put himself in her hands, to betray if she
wished, but perhaps to save. He waved his hand toward the groups behind
him.

"I want to get in," he said.

"To get in?" She smiled, and he doubted. "To get in, when I sometimes
wish to get out? In here it's so dull!"

"I don't care for that," he replied.

"Sit down, then," she directed. "Let us talk it over."

Seated on a bench, half-facing, each had a moment to consider. She did
not take it; he did, for he was beginning to recover himself and to
study her. Beauty and grace, with that direct glance and genuine voice,
were her chief outward characteristics. Of her inward motives, most
prominent appeared her desire for something new; more strong, perhaps,
was her interest in matters beyond her sphere. This interest of hers was
to him a gift of fortune; it might bring him anywhere. But to Judith
this situation was new; therefore she enjoyed it. She paused no longer
than to consider what she should ask him next, and then pursued the
subject.

"How have you meant to go about it?" she inquired.

"Why," he hesitated, "my friends----"

"What friends?"

He acknowledged frankly: "I have but one--Mrs. Harmon."

"Oh, only Mrs. Harmon?"

Only! The tone and the word struck him. Was Mrs. Harmon, then, not fully
in? His mind reached forward blankly: who else could help him?

"But you must know some of our men," she suggested.

"Business acquaintances, yes," he said. "Yet they take care that I shall
remain a business acquaintance merely. No, I must reach the men through
the women."

"And the women?" she asked. "How will you reach them? Mrs. Fenno, for
instance, knows only one kind; she is iron against innovation. How will
you get on her list, or Mrs. Watson's, or Mrs. Branderson's?"

He did not answer. She saw that he was biting on the problem, and that
it did not please him. She made a positive statement.

"No. It is the men you must rely on."

And he, weighing the facts, believed her, though it went against his
former notions. The women--this day he had first seen them at close
quarters, and had felt them to be formidable creatures. The severe
majesty of Mrs. Fenno--how could he impress it? And Mrs. Branderson had,
beneath the good humour of her reception of him, the skill to chat
easily, and then to turn her back without excuse. He bit his
mustache--the women!

She was watching him with a half-smile. "Do you not agree?"

"But which men, then?" he inquired.

"Have you no influence over a single one?"

"There is young Mather," he said thoughtfully.

Her manner changed; she drew a little more within herself, and he noted
the difference in her tone as she asked: "You have some connection with
him?"

"None," he said. "But I can help him."

"How?"

"He is out of work," Ellis explained. "He will be fretting his heart out
for something to do. I could offer him some position."

"Do!" she said. "He is right here.--George!" she called.



CHAPTER III

SETS THE BALL TO ROLLING


No young man can bear to sit down idly under misfortune; but though the
chief results of Mather's work were lost to him, and his great
plans--his subway--swept away, and though his defeat rankled, he had not
suspected personal feeling in Ellis's action. The promoter had merely
stretched out his hand and taken, repudiating the pledges of those who
spoke in his name.

Therefore, in spite of the little shock which Mather felt when he saw
Ellis with Judith, he came forward and greeted politely. It was a
chance, of course, to "get back"; it would have been easy to express
surprise at the promoter's presence, and to ask how he liked the club
now that he really was there. Mather felt the temptation, but there was
too much behind his relations with Ellis for the younger man to be rude,
and he presently found himself saying: "I don't suppose you play golf,
Mr. Ellis?"

"No," Ellis answered. This was the first man who had greeted him freely
that day, and yet the one who most might feel resentment. While his
manner showed that he was about to speak again, Ellis looked the other
over with a smile which concealed deliberation. It was not weakness that
made Mather mild, in spite of Mrs. Harmon's belief, to which she clung
the more because the Judge rejected it. "I knew his father," her husband
had told her. "They are bulldogs in that stock." Ellis took much the
same view; once, at the beginning of his career, he had encountered
Mather's father, and had found him a bulldog indeed. The son seemed the
same in so many respects that Ellis wondered if he had thought quite
long enough in seizing this morning's opportunity. He knew well that
Mather would be stronger when next he entered the arena; besides, the
reform politicians, those bees who buzzed continually and occasionally
stung, had been after the young man, who, with the leisure to enter
politics, might be formidable. Thus Ellis, hesitating, ran over the
whole subject in his mind; and then, as he knew how to do, plunged at
his object.

"Mr. Mather, I am sorry for what happened this morning."

"Fortune of war," returned the other.

The young man certainly had a right to be bitter if he chose, judging,
at least, by the usual conduct of victims. Mather's peculiarity in this
did not escape Ellis, who spoke again with some hope of forgiveness. "I
trust that you and I may some day work together."

"I scarcely expect it," was the answer.

"Don't say that." Ellis was not sure what tone to adopt, but did his
best. "This is not the place to speak of it, perhaps, but there is
surely something I can do for you."

"Now that you have nothing to do, you know," said Judith.

Mather turned to her; he saw how she had put herself on Ellis's side;
how her interest in this offer was due to Ellis, not to himself. And the
reminder of his defeat was most unwelcome.

"Since this morning," he said, "I have been offered three positions."

"Oh!" cried Judith. The involuntary note of surprise showed how she had
underrated him, and Mather bit his lip.

Ellis spoke. "If you will take a position on the street-railroad----"

"Nothing subordinate there!" cut in Mather very positively.

"Then," said Ellis, "if you care to be the head of the water
company----"

"Oh!" Judith exclaimed before Ellis had completed his offer. "Such an
opportunity!"

Mather himself looked at Ellis in surprise. It was an opening which,
coming from any other source, he would have accepted eagerly, as a task
in which he could give free play to all his powers. Did Ellis really
mean it? But the promoter, having swiftly asked himself the same
question, was sure of his own wisdom. The place needed a man: here was
one. Besides, Ellis would have given much to tie Mather to him.

"I mean it," he said positively.

"You must accept," added Judith.

It was too much for Mather to bear. His defeat by Ellis and his loss of
Judith--both of these he could sustain as separate calamities. But when
he saw her thus siding with his victor, Mather forgot himself, forgot
that Ellis was not a man to defy lightly, and spoke the impolitic truth.

"I could not work with Mr. Ellis under any circumstances!"

"George!" cried Judith hotly.

Then there was silence as the men looked at each other. Had Judith been
the woman that in her weaker moments she was pleased to think herself,
she would have studied the two. But she was neither cool nor impartial;
she had put her feelings on Ellis's side, and looked at Mather with
indignation. She missed, therefore, the pose of his head and the fire
of his eye. She missed as well the narrowing of Ellis's eyes, the
forward stretch of his thin neck--snaky actions which expressed his
perfect self-possession, and his threat. Neither of them spoke, but
Judith did as she turned away.

"You are very rude," she said coldly. "Come, Mr. Ellis, let us walk
again." Ellis followed her; Mather stood and watched them walk away.

"It was shameful of him," said Judith when she and Ellis were out of
hearing.

"He is young," remarked the other. He was watching her now, as he had
watched Mather, out of narrow eyes. Mather's words meant a declaration
of interest in Judith, confirming gossip. She was supposed to have
refused him, and yet she was biting her lip--would she be quite so moved
if Mather had not the power to do it? Ellis promised himself that he
would remember this.

"He will know better some day," he said. "But at least he is out of the
question. Can you not suggest some one else?"

"There is Mr. Pease," she answered.

Pease and himself--oil and water! How little she knew! and he almost
laughed. But he answered meditatively: "He is very--set."

"I see my father is coming for me," she said.

"Let me ask you this, then," he begged quickly. "May I come to see
you--at your house?"

"I am afraid not--yet," she answered. She was not ungracious, and
continued with much interest: "But Mr. Ellis, I shall be so anxious to
hear how it all goes. I am sorry I cannot help you with the men, but the
principle is [she thought of Mather] choose the weak ones, not the
strong. Here is my father. Father, this is Mr. Ellis."

Colonel Blanchard was affable. "How de do?" he said breezily. "Fine day
for the match, Mr. Ellis."

"A very fine day," answered Ellis, pleased by the way in which the
Colonel looked at him; Blanchard seemed interested, like his daughter.
But Judith thought that the conversation had best end there.

"The carriage has come?" she asked.

"Yes," answered the Colonel. "Beth is in it, waiting for us. You know
she goes out to dinner." He begged Ellis to excuse them, and so carried
his daughter away.

Ellis looked after them; these two, at least, had treated him well. The
Colonel had stared with almost bourgeois interest, as if impressible by
wealth and power. Ellis mused over the possibility of such a thing.

"The weak," he said, repeating Judith's words. "The weak, not the
strong."

Then Mrs. Harmon swooped down on him. "Here you are," she said
petulantly. "Everybody's going. Let us go too."



CHAPTER IV

AN UNDERSTANDING


Mrs. Harmon was very petulant; indeed, her aspect in one of lower
station would have been deemed sulky. Reviewing the afternoon, she was
convinced that to have brought Ellis there was a great mistake. Why
should she take up with him, anyway? He could give her nothing
but--trinkets; the old acquaintance was not so close that she was bound
to help him. It had been condescension on her part; she might as well
stop it now; yes, she might as well.

Yet she thought with some uneasiness of those trinkets. To accept them
had not bound her to him, had it? Their money value was nothing to him.
She could break from him gradually--that would be simple enough--and she
could make a beginning on the drive home, for silence could show her
feelings.

Ellis understood her after one glance, which expressed not only his
impatience with her instability, but also a sudden new repulsion. The
afternoon had opened his eyes to what the finer women were. How could he
have supposed that Mrs. Harmon was really in the inner circle? How she
contrasted with Judith! She seemed so flat beside the girl; she was his
own kind, while Judith was better. He wished that he might drop the
woman and pin his hopes to the girl.

But he could not spare Mrs. Harmon, and he had no fear that she would
drop him, for he knew all her weaknesses. She was ambitious to a certain
degree, but after that, lazy; she was fond of comfort, fond
of--trinkets, with a healthy indifference to ways and means. In fact,
although Ellis did not so phrase it, there was a barbaric strain in her,
a yearning for flesh-pots and show, in which her husband's tastes and
means did not permit her to indulge herself. Ellis knew that he could
manage her.

"Lydia," he said, "I want to thank you for the afternoon. It must have
been a great bother to you. I'm afraid I spoiled your fun."

She could but respond. "Oh, not much."

"Look here," he went on. "You know me, I think; we understand each other
pretty well. These people," and he waved his hand to include the whole
golf club, "are not to be too much for us. Do you mind my saying a few
words about myself?"

"Oh, no!" she exclaimed with involuntary interest; for he seldom spoke
his thoughts.

"That girl, Miss Blanchard," he said, "was very good to me."

"She was?" Mrs. Harmon could not subdue an accent of surprise, but
hastened to explain. "I've sometimes found her haughty."

"I shan't forget you introduced me to her," said Ellis. "I mean to
follow up my acquaintance there."

"No girl," suggested Mrs. Harmon, "has much influence. No unmarried
woman, I mean."

"But when Miss Blanchard marries she will have it then?"

"Yes," answered Mrs. Harmon thoughtfully, and then very positively:
"Yes, I think she would be a leader of the younger set."

"I am sure she would." Ellis nodded confidently. Judith had faults,
notably rashness, but under wise guidance she could develop masterly
qualities.

"But why----" began Mrs. Harmon in some perplexity. Then she caught
sight of her companion's expression. "What! you don't mean to say that
you--you would?"

"Why not?" asked Ellis. "Is it so very strange?"

"You are over forty!" cried Mrs. Harmon.

"Nothing to do with the case," he replied shortly.

"N-no," agreed Mrs. Harmon slowly. "No, I believe not--not with Judith."
She looked at her companion with sudden respect. "I believe you've hit
upon it! I didn't know you thought of anything of the kind."

"I need you, just the same," said Ellis. "You will help me?"

"Yes, yes," she replied. She felt a nervous inclination to giggle. "It's
a big affair."

"All the more credit if you engineer it," he answered, and shrewdly, for
she felt stimulated. If _she_ could engineer it! Then she could plume
herself in the face of Mrs. Fenno, and would always have a strong ally
in Judith.

"Yes," she cried eagerly, "it will mean a great deal to--to everybody if
it happens. Why, I could----"

But Ellis would not let her run on. "Do you know her well?" he
interrupted.

"I will know her better soon," she stated.

"Not too quick," he warned, fearing that she might blunder. "You know
yourself that she is not a girl to be hurried. Tell me, now, what men
are there of her family?"

"Only her father."

"And what sort of man is he?"

Mrs. Harmon's vocabulary was not wide. "Why, spreading," she explained.
"Jaunty, you know."

"And his circumstances?"

"He is well off," she answered. "Keeps a carriage and spends freely.
There was money in the family, and his wife had some too. You know how
those old fortunes grow."

Or disappear, thought Ellis; he had been investigating the Colonel's
standing. "Miss Blanchard has no cousins?" he asked aloud. "No other men
attached to her?"

"Attached in one sense," she replied, "but not connected."

"Much obliged," he said. "Now, Lydia, if we stand by each other----"

Mrs. Harmon had forgotten her earlier thoughts. "Of course!" she cried.
"Oh, it will be so interesting!"

Ellis added the finishing touch, abruptly changing the subject. "You
have been to Price's recently?"

Now Price was the fashionable jeweller, and few women were indifferent
to his name. Mrs. Harmon, recollecting the cause of her recent visit
there, saw fit to be coy.

"Oh, yes," she said, turning her head away. "He keeps asking me to
come."

"He's always picking up pretty things," said Ellis approvingly. "Did he
have anything special this time?"

"Something of Orsini's," replied Mrs. Harmon, struggling to appear
indifferent. For they had been lovely, those baroque pearls so
gracefully set in dusky gold. Price had made her try the necklace on,
and she had sighed before the glass. "I wish he wouldn't pester me so,"
she said irritably. "He knows I can't afford them."

"He knows you have taste," Ellis said warmly. "He calls it a great
pleasure to show things to you."

"I know," she replied, mollified. "I think he means to flatter me. But,
Stephen, it's getting late, and I must dress for the Fennos' ball this
evening."

"Then," responded Ellis, "I will stop at Price's on my way down-town."

"Naughty! naughty!" she answered, but she radiated smiles.

Ellis, after he had left Mrs. Harmon at her door, went, as he had
promised, to the establishment of the pushing Mr. Price, and asked for
the proprietor.

"Got anything to show me?" Ellis demanded.

From his safe the jeweller brought out a leather case, and looked at
Ellis impressively before opening it.

"Pretty small," commented Ellis.

"Ah, but----" replied the other, and opened the case. "Look--Orsini's
make!"

"I don't know anything about that," Ellis said as he poked the jewels
with his finger. "Look strange to me. The fashion, however?"

"The very latest," Price assured him. "Trust me, Mr. Ellis."

It was one secret of Ellis's success that he knew where to trust. He had
ventured twice that day, with women at that, and the thought of it was
to trouble him before he slept. But he could trust Price in matters of
taste, and as to secrecy, the man was bound to him. Price had been in
politics at the time when Ellis was getting "influence" in the city
government; for the jeweller those days were past, but this store and
certain blocks of stock were the result. Besides, he was adroit. Ellis
gave the chains and pendants a final push with his finger.

"Send it, then," he said. "The usual place. By the way, how much? Whew!
some things come dear, don't they? But send it, just the same, and at
once. She's going out to some affair."

Thus it happened that Mrs. Harmon wore "the very latest" at her throat
that night.



CHAPTER V

VARIOUS POINTS OF VIEW


The Blanchards' equipage was a perfect expression of quiet
respectability, for the carriage was sober in colour, was drawn by a
strong and glossy horse, and was driven by a coachman wearing a modest
livery and a discontented countenance. As it drove away from the golf
club the carriage held the three members of the family, in front the
younger daughter, Beth, and on the rear seat the others: Judith erect
and cheerful, the Colonel cheerful also, but lounging in his corner with
the air of one who took the world without care. Blanchard was
fifty-eight, military as to voice and hair, for his tones were sonorous
and his white whiskers fierce. Yet these outward signs by no means
indicated his nature, and his manner, though bluff, appertained less to
military life than to the game of poker. Not that the Colonel played
cards; moreover, he drank merely in moderation, swore simply to maintain
his character, betrayed only by the tint of the left side of his
mustache that he liked a good cigar, and was extravagant in neither
dress nor table. He kept his carriage, of course, liked the best wines
at home and at the club, and in a small way was a collector of curios.
Yet the Blanchards, but for the brilliance of Judith, were quiet people;
he was proud to be a quiet man.

Dullness is often the penalty of indolence; the Colonel was lazy and he
had small wit. Perceiving that Judith came away from the tea stimulated
and even excited, he rallied her about her new acquaintance. "An
interesting man, hey?" he asked for the third time.

"Yes," answered Judith absently. "Father, what is there against Mr.
Ellis?"

"Only that he is a pusher. He jars." Blanchard aimed to be tolerant.

"Isn't there more?" asked little Beth.

The Colonel, as always, turned his eyes on her with pleasure. She was
dark and quiet and sweet, yet her brown eyes revealed a power of
examining questions for their moral aspects. "Nothing much," he said
indulgently. "You don't know business, Beth. He's beaten his opponents
always, and the beaten always squeal, but I doubt if he's as black as
he's painted."

"I'm glad to hear you stand up for him, father," said Judith.

"He'll be looking for a wife among us," went on the Colonel with vast
shrewdness and considerable delicacy. "How would he suit you, Judith?"

"Oh, father!" Beth protested. But Judith, with fire in her eyes,
answered: "He's at least a man. You can't say that of every one."

Her answer made him turn toward her with a soberer thought and a new
interest. His manner changed from the natural to the pompous as he set
forth his views. "Money is almost the best thing one can have."

"Father, dear!" protested Beth again.

"I mean," he explained, again softening his manner, "from a father's
standpoint. If I could see you two girls married with plenty of money, I
could die happy." But evidently the Colonel was in the best of health,
so that his words lacked impressiveness. It was one of the misfortunes
of their family life that Judith was able to perceive the incongruity
between her father's Delphic utterances and his actual feelings, and
that the Colonel knew she found him out.

"I wasn't thinking of Mr. Ellis's money," she said at this point.

"I was," retorted the Colonel. As he was struggling with a real thought,
his tones became a little less sonorous and more genuine. "In sickness
riches give everything. In health there are enough troubles without
money cares. I mean it, Judith."

She took his hand and caressed it. "Forgive me, father!"

"My dear--my dear!" he responded cordially.

So this, the type of their little jars, the sole disturbers of family
peace, passed as usual, rapidly and completely, and Ellis was spoken of
no more. Beth, with customary adroitness, came in to shift the subject,
and when the three descended at their door none of them shared the
coachman's air of gloom.

He, however, detained the Colonel while the girls went up the steps.
"Beg pardon, sir, but could you give me a little of my wages?"

"James," returned his master with his most military air, "why will you
choose such inconvenient times? Here is all I have with me." He gave
some money. "Twenty dollars."

"Yessir," replied the man, not overmuch relieved. "And the rest of it,
sir? There's a hundred more owing."

"Not to-day," returned the Colonel with vexation. But he was an
optimist. Though at the bottom of the steps he muttered to himself
something about "discharge," by the time he reached the top he was
absorbed in cheerful contemplation of the vast resources which, should
Judith ever chance to marry Ellis, would be at her disposal.

Five minds were, that evening, dominated by the occurrences of the
afternoon. One was the Colonel's, still entertaining a dream which
should properly be repugnant to one of his station. This he recognised,
but he reminded himself that as a parent his daughter's good should be
his care. Another mind was Mather's, disturbed by the jealousy and dread
which the manliest of lovers cannot master. And one was Mrs. Harmon's;
she, like Ellis, had learned much that afternoon, and meant in future to
apply her knowledge.

As that evening she went to the Fennos' ball Mrs. Harmon recalled the
snubs of the afternoon, and saw how insecure her footing was among these
people. Sometimes she had wondered if it were worth while, this struggle
to be "in"; the life was dull, lacking all natural excitements; there
was no friendship possible with any of the blue-bloods. Yet she hated to
knuckle to them; if she could engineer this match between Judith and
Ellis, then----! And Mrs. Harmon, with the hope of coming triumph, felt
fully equal to meeting Mrs. Fenno on her own ground. Mrs. Harmon wore
Ellis's jewels on her breast, she had his brain to back her, she
believed she knew Judith's weaknesses, and she saw before her a bright
future.

Judith Blanchard made at that ball a searching review of her world,
dominated as she still was by the thoughts which Ellis aroused. For he,
the strongest personality in the city, had done more than to excite her
curiosity: with his deference to her opinion and his appeal for her help
he had succeeded--as Mather never--in wakening her sympathy. Questioning
why fashion should reject him, stirred to a new comparison of reality
with sham, she looked keenly about her at the ball. She was in one of
the inner sanctuaries, where society bowed down and worshiped itself.
Judith sniffed the incense, listened to the chants, and weighed the
words of officiating priests and priestesses. She found everything to
delight the eye, except the idols; everything to charm the senses,
except sense.

In the ball-room there was dancing, pagan rites to what purpose? This
usually unrhythmic swaying, skipping, sliding, seemed a profitless way
to pass the hours when workers were in bed. Girls more or less innocent
danced with men more or less _roué_; this procedure, indefinitely
continued, gave occasion for jealousies among the girls and selfish
scheming among the men. In other rooms the older people played cards,
intent at bridge or whist upon their stakes. Near the buffet thronged
bachelors old or young, with not a few married men, busied in acquiring
an agreeable exhilaration. Their occupation was no worse than the
passionate gambling of the old women. And the house in which all this
went on was beautifully classic in design and furnishings. Beside that
quiet elegance, how vacant was the chatter! As Judith thought thus,
slowly the spirit of revolt came to her.

The master of the house approached her; he was leonine, massive,
somewhat lame from rheumatism. She saw him, as he came, speaking among
his guests; his smile was cynical. It lighted upon her father, and the
Colonel, his character somehow exposed by that smile, seemed shallow. It
turned to the men at the sideboard, and their interests seemed less than
the froth in their glasses. The smile turned on Judith, and she felt
called to give an account of herself.

But he merely asked her: "Where is Beth?"

"Gone with Miss Pease to a meeting of the Charity Board," Judith
answered.

Mr. Fenno grunted, looking at her sidewise. "Better employed than we!"

Then he rambled away, neither knowing nor caring what encouragement he
had given to her mood. He missed Beth, for his rheumatism was sharp, the
company inane, and Beth was almost the only person who could make him
contented with himself. But Judith felt the reflection of his cynicism
and was stirred still deeper. What was there to interest her here?

Among all the women Mrs. Harmon alone was in disaccord. No dressmaker
could conceal her natural style; the eye and carriage of the Judge's
wife were bolder than those of the women about her. A free humour
attracted some of the men; the women avoided her, the more delicate from
instinct, the stronger with a frank dislike. This antipathy Judith had
often felt and expressed, yet to-night she reviewed and rejected it.
Mrs. Harmon belonged to the class of the rising Americans; in that class
Judith felt interest, questioning if its vigour and freshness should not
outweigh external faults. She went to Mrs. Harmon and began to talk with
her.

She tried to find, within the exterior, the solid qualities of the
middle class. But thought and purpose seemed lacking; in Mrs. Harmon the
vulgarity lay deeper than the surface. She was frivolous; she liked the
sparkle and the show, the wine, the dancing, and the gaiety. Promising
herself an intimacy with Judith, she talked willingly, but it was only
upon the subject of Ellis that she became interesting.

She told Judith much about him. He had always been persevering and
ambitious; he had left his town as a boy because even then he found it
too little. Ellis had begun small; now he was big. Some day, said Mrs
Harmon significantly, people would recognise him.

Why not, thought Judith as she looked about her, admit Ellis here? What
was an aristocracy for but to reward success? How could it remain sound
but by the infusion of new blood? Ellis had proved his quality by the
things he had done; he had beaten Mather; yet these halls which to
Mather were open were closed to Ellis. It was unfair to refuse to
recognise him! What were the abilities of these men here, compared with
his?

Thus Judith, tolerant in her broad Americanism, admiring the forces
which to-day are accomplishing such marvellous results, thought of her
world. At the same time Ellis also was thinking of it. His was the fifth
mind moved by that afternoon's occurrence, but moved the most deeply of
them all. On leaving Judith first, like a man smitten by a slender blade
he had spoken, acted, thought as before. Then the inward bleeding began,
and the pain. He had gone away from her thinking of her as something to
be won, but no more distant, no less a commodity, than a public
franchise or a seat in the legislature. Thus he had discussed her with
Mrs. Harmon, but before night his thought of the girl had changed. Her
refinement was new to him; he recalled her in imagination and dwelt on
her features and her voice. Yet, equally with her delicacy, her spirit
charmed him with its frankness and its admiration of great things. There
was a subtle flattery in her interest in him; he had never thought of
himself as she did; he saw himself magnified in her eyes, which seemed
to refine the baseness from his employments and purposes. She gave him a
new idea of himself, and held before him vague new aims.

He had entertained some of his henchmen that evening at his table, had
tasted while they ate, sipped while they drank, listened while they
spoke of politics. He sat at the head of the table, like the Sphinx
after which he was familiarly called, indifferent to their uncouthness
and their little thoughts; then at the end he suddenly called them into
executive session, asked a few keen questions, gave some brief
directions, and dismissed them. Thus he had always ruled them, from
outside, commanding respect by his decision, almost awe by his silence.
Though his purposes were not clear, the men went to obey him, having
learned to support him blindly, for he never failed. Such was Ellis
among his subordinates, the "old man" of whom they never asked
questions, with whom they never attempted familiarity. They praised him
as they went, proud of their connection with him. But he put out the
lights as soon as the men were gone, and sat at the window, looking at
Fenno's house.

There was the temporary focus of social life; he saw the lights; had he
opened his window he might have heard the music. Carriages drove up,
people entered the house, and on the curtains of the ball-room he saw
moving shadows. In that house were what he wanted--recognition, a new
life, Judith. But she was guarded by the powers of a whole order, was
infinitely remote.

His talk with Judith had doubled his determination to enter the upper
world, and yet changed his regard for it. It became Judith's world,
seeming to-night like a house which she inhabited, more precious by her
presence. And because she was so much finer than he had imagined the
women of her class, her sphere looked farther away, and his
determination to enter it was tempered by the fear of failure.

As he took the first step in his new venture, he had been half ashamed
of his desire to "better himself," quite unable to justify himself by
appeal to the natural American wish to obtain the highest indorsement of
his community. So long as there had been anything left for him to win,
he had turned instinctively toward it. Now he suddenly realised that he
faced his greatest fight. He had often said that he liked fighting; he
had struggled for many years with all the power of nerve and mind.
To-night his brain seemed weary, bruised and scarred as a body might be.
Watching the house where Judith was, contemplating her image, a softness
came over Ellis, new to him; resolution became a wish, and then turned
to yearning. It was with difficulty that he roused himself, surprise
mingling with his contempt of the unrecognised sensation. He was in for
it now, he told himself almost roughly; the game was worth the candle,
and he would see it through.



CHAPTER VI

INTRODUCING AN ECCENTRIC


Mr. Peveril Pease had finished his week's work, and feeling no
obligation to attend the golf club tea, went home and settled himself in
his snuggery among his books. When his feet were once in slippers, his
velvet jacket was on, and he held a well-marked volume in his hand, he
felt he had more true comfort than all the golf clubs in the world could
give. So thorough was his satisfaction that rather than read he gave
himself up to the enjoyment of his well-being. Gazing about the room,
Mr. Pease permitted himself a brief retrospection of his career.

Few men in the town could with so much right compliment themselves. He
had begun life with nothing but ancestral debts and encumbered property,
and now he was nearly as rich as Ellis, who had started with the
traditional dollar in his pocket. Pease's credit was firm as a rock; the
stock of his bank was quoted--no, it was hoarded. The widow, the orphan,
the struggling clerks who had their money in Pease's hands could sleep
at ease, and the respect in which he was held by the business men of the
city--but he wasn't thinking of that.

No, this little house was his thought, and this room, and that array of
books. He had been thirteen years of age when his grandfather died, and
within the month he had refused the trustees his permission to sell a
foot of the real estate. Judge Harmon never tired of telling of the
visit of the boy, swelling with rage and resolution. "Cynthia may be
willing, but grandfather never would sell, and I won't have it!" he had
declared, and so strong was the lad's feeling that the trustees, divided
in opinion, had yielded to him, backing the debts of the estate with
their own credit. At eighteen he was practically their adviser and his
own trustee; at twenty he had redeemed the homestead with his earnings;
at twenty-five he had sold a single lot of the down-town property for
what the entire estate would not have brought twelve years before. So
much for determination and a long head.

Fifteen years more had passed, and still his life had not made him hard
nor calculating. When he left his office he left his business; he went
"home," to the house in which he was born. The little shingled building,
so quaint, had been in the family for six generations; a Percival Pease
founded it, a Pembroke Pease finished it, a Peveril Pease owned it now.
It had never been rebuilt; the wainscot was still the same, the floors
sagged, the stairs were queer, the ceilings low. It corresponded the
least in the world with his riches and his great interests. But Pease
had the heart of a boy and the affections of a woman. The house was his
paradise, the room his bower, the books his especial delight. All his
spare time he spent among them, giving himself to "mental improvement."

Many people thought him odd; some called him "poor Mr. Pease," with such
pity as is given to the struggling artist or the ambitious novelist, for
Pease had never been even to the high-school, and it seemed foolish for
him to try to cultivate his mind. They did not consider that the grace
of humility was not denied him, with just a touch of that saving
quality, humour. He knew himself fairly well, he guarded himself
successfully, only one person really knew his heart, and for the
opinion of the rest he had a smile. Let them laugh or pity, they had
nothing so fine as he, they were not so happy as he, and his kind of a
fool was not the worst.

And so we must acknowledge that he was thoroughly complacent. None of
Judith Blanchard's discontent stirred him, none of Mather's anger at the
world, and none of Ellis's desire to advance. This little room gave him
all that he wanted: intellectual improvement, the feeling of progress,
mental satisfaction. Pease went beyond cherishing an ideal of happiness;
he believed that he was happy, and that no one could take his happiness
from him.

And thinking so at this minute, his eye rested fondly on a motto on the
wall.

It was from Goethe; it was lettered in old German characters, framed in
passe-partout, and hung above the mantel. Pease had dug it out of
"Faust"; it embodied so completely his notion of existence that he
resolved to keep it before him always. No mere translation could do it
justice; "Gray, dear friend, is all theory, and green the golden tree of
life"--that was too tame. No; the sonorous German could best express it:

    "Grau, theurer Freund, ist aller Theorie,
    Und Gruen des Lebens goldner Baum."

Pease whispered the words to himself. Gray indeed were the lives of all
others; he alone dwelt beneath life's green tree and ate its golden
fruit. This house, this room, these books--ah, Paradise!

There came a knock at the door. "Peveril?"

"Yes, Cynthia."

"Don't forget, little Miss Blanchard is coming to dinner."

"No, Cynthia."

She was not requesting him to "dress." He always did. She was not asking
him to be on time; he always was. Being on the safe side of the door,
however, his cousin meant to remind him of her hardihood in inviting to
his table some one young and pretty.

Not, Miss Cynthia sighed, that it would make any difference to him. When
her visitor arrived a little early, and sat chatting in the parlour,
Miss Pease reflected that Peveril, upstairs, was dressing no more
carefully for this charming girl than he would have done for old Mrs.
Brown. Charming--but he knew nothing of the real, the true, the living
best!

Thus we may briefly record that Miss Cynthia Pease, who was the one
person that understood her cousin, was not wholly in sympathy with his
pursuits. Not that she would have acknowledged it to him, nor to anyone
else, not even to "little Miss Blanchard," Judith's sister Beth, who was
questioning her in a spirit of fun.

"I'm so afraid of dining with your cousin!" Beth exclaimed.

"No, you're not!" contradicted Miss Cynthia grimly.

"If I should make some slip in statement, or spot the table-cloth! He is
so accurate, they all say."

"You may depend on him to be polite under all circumstances," responded
Miss Cynthia, glaring.

"But I should know what he would think," persisted the young lady.

Miss Cynthia advanced to fury, scarcely repressed. "No, you wouldn't!"
she denied emphatically. "I won't have you laugh at him."

"Why, you laugh at him yourself," said Beth. "You know you do."

"And if I do?" retorted Miss Pease. "Let me tell you he's the dearest,
kindest man that ever--"

"Why, Miss Cynthia," cried the other, "don't I know?"

"Nobody knows," was the response.

Now all grades of opposition, from caustic irony to smothered
denunciation, were habitual in Miss Pease's manner, but as she said
"Nobody knows," lo! there were tears in her voice, if not in her eyes.

"Miss Cynthia!" cried Beth.

Miss Pease was gaunt and grewsome, so that her manner fitted her
perfectly, but now as she sat winking her eyes and twisting her face she
became pathetic. The girl rose quickly and came to her side.

"Have I hurt you?" she inquired anxiously.

"No, child, no," answered Miss Pease, recovering herself. "You didn't
know what a sentimental old fool I am, did you? There, sit down again.
You see," (she hesitated before committing herself further) "I was
thinking, just before you came, of what Peveril has been to me. Your
talk roused me again."

"He has done a great deal for you?" asked Beth with sympathy.

"Everything in the world!" answered Miss Cynthia warmly, not having
resumed her manner. "Since our grandfather died Peveril has been my
protector, though he is two years younger. You know we were very poor at
first."

"Very poor?"

"We had nothing but debts," stated Miss Cynthia. "We lived in
boarding-houses for seven years before Peveril could buy the homestead
and get the strangers out of it. It was a proud day when he brought me
here, and told me this was mine to live in until the end of my life. And
yet for two years more I went daily to my work--I was in Benjamin's
great dry-goods store, my dear--until when they asked me to be the head
of the linen department Peveril said I should work no more, and
insisted on my staying at home."

"I never heard of that," cried Beth. "That you were ever in Benjamin's!"

"And a very good saleswoman I was," said Miss Cynthia. "But after that
the money began to come in to us, and Peveril sold the land where the
Security Building now is. I have not done a piece of work since then,
except for Peveril or for charity. I am a rich woman, my dear."

"But you do so much for charity!" exclaimed Beth with enthusiasm.

When it came to praise, Miss Pease became grim at once. "I've got to
keep busy with something," she snapped.

"But tell me more," begged Beth.

"There is nothing more," declared Miss Cynthia. "And now I hear him
coming, five minutes before the hour, just as he always does. Don't be
afraid of him; he has the softest heart in the world, as you ought to
discover, since you had the skill to find mine."

Beth had only the time to squeeze her friend's hand as the two stood up
together. She had discovered Miss Pease's heart; it was an unconscious
specialty of Beth's to find the weak points in the armour of forbidding
persons, and she had on her list of friends more of the lonely and
unknown than had many a worker in organised charity. She was, in fact, a
worker in her own special field, the well-to-do, bringing them the
sympathy and affection which they needed as much as do the poor. She had
neither shrewdness nor experience; what she did was quite unconscious,
but her value was unique. Mr. William Fenno, who had no love for his
wife's pleasures and whose daughters took after their mother, loved to
have the girl with him. Judge Harmon, not quite at home by his own
gas-log, felt more comfortable if Beth were spending the evening with
him--for she made no pretense of coming to see his wife. Quite
unconsciously, a similar bond had been growing up between Beth and Miss
Pease, and took open recognition on that day when Miss Cynthia, allowing
her eyes to be pleased by the girl's freshness, blurted her feeling and
said: "I like you. You are so unlike your sister."

But now Mr. Pease entered the room, and stood bowing while his cousin
repeated the formula: "Peveril, here is Miss Elizabeth Blanchard. Beth,
you remember my cousin, Mr. Peveril Pease?"

Beth thought he was "funny," meaning he was peculiar. He was short and
rotund, he was immaculate and formal. His eyes met hers soberly, as if
he had little of his cousin's wit, however much less savage. Talk opened
with the golf club tea, and before the subject was exhausted he led the
conversation dexterously to the weather. Dinner was announced while the
beauty of the spring was yet under discussion, and at table, for a
while, Beth was still repeating to herself that he was a "funny" little
man.

Curiously, Pease was in an entirely new situation. Never had he been so
placed that he must give an hour's undivided attention to a girl. He had
never learned that girls have individuality; he avoided them as a rule,
and at dinners there was always one at his left hand to relieve the
other at his right, so that he never spoke to either of them long.
Besides, not being regarded as a marrying man, Pease was invariably
given the "sticks" to entertain. Girls had been to him, therefore,
undeveloped creatures, displaying similar characteristics, being usually
unacquainted with serious topics, and (quite as usually) devoid of
personal attractions. Beth Blanchard, however, was something different.
Without dwelling on her charms, it is enough to say that she was
pretty; and without entering upon her mental acquirements, let us
believe that she knew what was going on. She was quite used, moreover,
to the society of older persons, and could meet Pease on many grounds,
although it happened that the subject chosen was Europe.

"You have been there?" asked Pease quickly when Germany was mentioned.

"We spent some time there," Beth replied.

"Of course you have seen Weimar, then," Pease assumed. He happened to be
right.

"Oh, yes," she answered, quite as if Weimar were still a focus of
travel. "We spent a month there; mamma was quite ill. You know"--and
here she addressed Miss Cynthia--"that she died over there, and then we
came home."

Mr. Pease, in conjunction with his cousin, murmured his condolences, and
Miss Blanchard, not to make the evening doleful, turned again to speak
of Weimar.

"We lived quite near to Goethe's house," she said.

Then she beheld Mr. Pease glow with admiration. "You are very
fortunate," he cried. "The inspiration must have been great."

"I am no writer, Mr. Pease," returned Beth.

"But," he explained, "it must have permanently bettered and improved
you."

"Do you think I needed it?" she flashed.

Miss Cynthia, at her end of the table, was biting her lip. Pease, not
perceiving that he was being rallied, fell to apologising. "Oh, no," he
gasped. "I meant----"

She spared him. "I was not serious," she laughed. "You must pardon me."
It was no new matter with her to relieve the embarrassed. Then she led
him once more to the topic.

"You like Weimar, Mr. Pease?"

"Oh, I only like Goethe, you know, and Schiller. I've never been from
America."

"And yet you read German?"

"Not very well. You see, I----"

And then he spoke of himself. Miss Cynthia sat amazed. Here was Peveril,
who was always silent regarding his hobby, speaking from his heart. Beth
coaxed a little; he hung back a bit, but he yielded. It was as if a
miser were giving up his gold, yet the gold came. For all that she had
invited Beth there, wishing to stir her cousin from his rut, Miss
Cynthia presently became enraged. Peveril was telling more than he had
ever told her. This chit of a girl, what charm had she?

But Pease himself, as he told the unaccustomed tale in halting
sentences, felt comfort. It had been a long time repressed within him;
he had seldom touched on it with Cynthia, and though he had not known
it, the loneliness of it had been wearing on him all these years. It was
sympathy that now brought it out, that quality in Beth which could
pierce the armour of such a cynic as Miss Cynthia, or warm so cold a
heart as William Fenno's. Pease yielded to it as frost to the sun. So he
told of himself and his studies, and the impulse of all these years he
confessed at the last.

"You see," he said, flushing painfully, "it's poetry that I love."

And he sat, the man of business, with his fair skin pink as a girl's.
Then, lest she should mistake, he explained.

"You mustn't think," he said eagerly, "that I really suppose I
understand. I know I lose much--I--I'm not very deep, you know. There
are so many subtle things and such beautiful ones that pass me by.
Only, you see [more hesitation], I got such pleasure from the English
poets that I--tried the German. With a dictionary, you know, and a
grammar. And all this is so much to me that I--I don't care for anything
else. Can you understand?"

Then he was swept by doubt and fear. Would she laugh? Not she! Beth made
him understand she appreciated his feelings, and presently Miss Cynthia
found herself listening to a discussion of Shakespeare. Her lip
curled--how foolish of Peveril! What real interest could Beth take in
his ideas?

He asked himself the same question, with a sudden start, for Beth
laughed merrily. What had he said that was laughable? She held up a
finger. "Mr. Pease, I am going to accuse you of something. Will you
promise to tell me the truth?"

This, he dimly felt, was a species of banter. "I promise," he said
uncomfortably.

"Then, sir, do you memorise?"

"Why, yes," he confessed.

"I knew it!" she exclaimed. "Miss Cynthia, are you not ashamed of him? I
know nobody that memorises now, Mr. Pease, except you and--me!"

He was relieved, and they fell to speaking eagerly. For the next few
minutes Miss Cynthia felt the outrage of hearing poetry quoted at her
table. Wordsworth, Scott, Burns, and then--for Pease was truly
patriotic--Lanier and Longfellow. And so they came to discuss the
meaning of a passage, and took up the subject of "Life." Next,
"Happiness." At all this sentiment Miss Cynthia ground her teeth.

Beth was of the opinion that environment makes happiness. Pease
maintained that we make our own environment. "Impossible!" said Beth,
thinking of Mr. Fenno and the Judge.

"Easily done!" declared Pease, thinking of himself.

Then they spoke of "Ideals of Conduct"--Which of them make most for
Happiness? By little and little they came to the point where Pease felt
impelled to open his breast again. He spoke of his motto, quoting it
clumsily with his self-taught accent, so that a smile almost came to her
lips. She drew from him that he believed he knew the gray of life, and
the green.

"But, Mr. Pease," Beth objected, "how can you say you know so much of
life when you live so much alone?"

"We are late--we are late!" cried Miss Cynthia suddenly. "We shall miss
our engagement if we sit so long here."

And so the two ladies presently went away, refusing all escort. Standing
at the open door, Pease watched them with a strange regret. The thought
of returning to his books was astonishingly unwelcome; they seemed to be
but leather, ink, and paper. He looked up at the heavens. Something was
stinging in his veins: what a lovely world! For the first time he
recognised the beauty of the moon.

His thoughts were interrupted by a footstep, and there stood Mather.
"Mr. Pease," said he, "this is an unusual hour for business. But the
kind offer which you made me to-day----" He hesitated.

"The position had only possibilities," answered Pease. "You would be
your own master, because I should leave everything to you, but it would
be like beginning at the bottom again. I knew you would refuse me."

"You mistake," returned Mather with energy. "I like the chance, and will
build up your venture for you. I am ready to take your instructions
to-night, and go to work Monday morning."

"Come inside," said Mr. Pease.



CHAPTER VII

CHEBASSET


At the conference between Mather and Pease various matters were
discussed which are not to the direct purpose of this story. Such were,
for instance, the electrical and mechanical devices by which a metal was
to be produced from its ore, either in sheets, pure, or plated on iron.
Pease had bought the patent; the plan commended itself to Mather
immediately; there was "good money" in it. But before anything else
could be done a plant must be secured, a work which Pease expected would
take much time. He watched to see how Mather would propose to go about
it.

"We must have a good water-supply for the vats," mused Mather. "A
harbour-front will be needed for the coal and ore; that means a suburban
location, which calls again for railroad facilities."

"Of course there is no mill ready-made?"

"There is! The old Dye Company's plant at Chebasset."

"Impossible!" answered Pease at once.

"Because rich people have summer places thereabouts, and wouldn't like a
mill as neighbour?"

"Those rich people are our friends," reminded Pease.

"Mr. Pease," said Mather positively, "I know all the mills of this
neighbourhood. There is no other suitable. To use this plant will save
us a year's time, as well as great expense. The buildings are in good
condition; the vats are large. The harbour is deep; all we need is to
enlarge the wharf and put in new engines. What more could one ask?"

"Nothing," admitted Pease.

"Then why not buy? Colonel Blanchard has been trying to sell these ten
years; he lost much money there. The price is so low that Fenno or
Branderson could easily have protected themselves."

Pease still hesitated.

"One thing more," said Mather. "I have visited in Chebasset, for short
periods; I know the place fairly well. The mill is in the remotest
corner of the town, and the dirtiest; there are poor houses there,
wretched sanitation, and a saloon on mill property. It's a good place
gone to seed. I'd like to clean it out."

Mr. Pease thought he saw a way. "Let this settle it. If the Colonel is
willing to sell, there will be no reason why we should not buy."

"I may go ahead on that understanding?"

"You may."

Mather rose. "The Colonel will be willing to sell. If you put this in my
hands, and will not appear, I can get the place cheap. People are ready
to see me start on another fool's errand at any time."

"Go ahead, then; you know how much I am willing to spend. Attend to
everything and spare me the details. But," added Pease kindly, "I am
sorry to see you quite so bitter. Your friends will yet put you back in
Ellis's place."

"When he has a clear majority of fifty votes in our small issue of
stock? Ah, let me go my own way, Mr. Pease. I see here a chance to do a
good thing; I need a wrestle with business. After I have been a month at
this you will find me a different man."

They parted, each with a little envy of the other. Mather envied Pease
his accomplishments, the work that stood in his name; Pease coveted the
other's youth. But each was glad that they were working together. Pease
found that the purchase was accomplished within a fortnight, and that
men were soon at work on alterations in the mills. Those were matters in
which he did not concern himself; the scheme was bound to succeed; he
had little money in it (as money went with him), and he was interested
to see what Mather would make of the business. Trouble in the form of
criticism was bound to come.

When it came the ladies took an active hand in it. Mrs. Fenno complained
that the sky-line of her view would be broken by the new chimney; Mrs.
Branderson had no relish for the aspect of the projected coal-wharf.
Young people believed that the river would be spoiled for canoeing, and
all agreed that the village would be no longer bearable, with the
families of fifty imported workmen to make it noisy and dirty. Moreover,
if the villagers themselves should give up their old occupations of
fishing, clam-digging, and market-gardening, for the steadier work in
the mill, then where would the cottagers look for their lobsters, their
stews, and their fresh vegetables? But the plan was put through. The
chimney went up, the wharf was enlarged, coal and ore barges appeared in
the little harbour, and in a surprisingly short time the old Dye
Company's mill was ready for work. Pease saw his returns promised a year
before he had expected, but George Mather was no longer popular. Mrs.
Fenno frowned at him, Mrs. Branderson scolded, and though their husbands
laughed at the young man and said he had been clever, many people
clamoured, and among them Judith Blanchard.

This move of Mather's had taken her by surprise; at a step he had gained
a new position. No offers from the rich men moved him to sell; he
replied that he meant to carry out his plans. So a whole section of the
town was put in order for the families of the new workmen. Judith,
hearing of all this, complained to Mather when she met him.

"And yet," he responded, "the mill is a mile from the nearest estate;
the whole town lies between. As for what clearing up I've done, I value
picturesqueness, Judith, but the place is now ten times healthier. And
we are putting in smoke-consumers."

"Yet from most of our houses we can see your chimney."

"Judith, for that one eyesore which I put up I will remove ten from the
town."

"But who asked you to do it? You never lived here; you have no love for
the place."

"I have lived," he replied, "in other New England towns, equally
degenerate."

"I am not speaking of the townspeople," she said. "I mean the summer
residents."

"Wasn't it your father's matter to think of them?"

Judith had felt the discussion to be going against her. Therefore she
answered with some warmth: "That is another question entirely!"

"I beg your pardon, Judith," he said. "But mayn't I describe my plans?"

"No," she answered; "I don't think it is necessary."

"Very well," he returned, and made no attempt to say more. Hurt, he fell
into a mood of dogged endurance. "Very well," he repeated, and let the
matter drop. Then Judith's interest was roused too late; he might really
have had something to say. She knew that dirt was unhealthy; she
remembered that in Chebasset drunkards on the street were more plentiful
than in Stirling. Yet her generosity did not quite extend to recalling
her words--partly because of natural pride, partly because she knew his
interest in her and would not encourage it, partly again because she
still resented his words to Ellis in her presence. And so the breach
between them remained.

Yet he had already impressed her, by his manly readiness to begin life
again, and by his steadiness under her fire. Confidence was, to Judith,
almost a virtue. And the idea of reform always appealed to her: had the
place been really so bad?

One by one the households had been moving down to Chebasset, and Beth
had already opened the Blanchard cottage. On the evening after Judith
had spoken with Mather she asked if Beth had noticed the changes in
Chebasset.

"George's? At his mill?" asked Beth. "I think it's much improved. Those
horrid tumble-down shanties are gone, and there are new houses there
now--shingled and stained they are to be--with new fences."

"Father," asked Judith, "why didn't you do that?"

"My dear child," was his response, "how could I afford it?" The Colonel
was always nervous when the subject of the new mill was broached, and
quitted it as soon as possible. But Judith pursued him.

"I asked George if he had not treated us unfairly--the property owners,
I mean. He seemed to think that was your affair."

Beth was up in arms at once. "For that chimney? He laid the blame on
papa?"

The Colonel wiped his flowing mustache, and looked at Judith; Beth's
outraged cry did not interest him so much as his elder daughter's stand.
"What did you say to him?" he asked.

"I said that was another question."

"So it is," agreed the Colonel. "Entirely different." He looked at Beth
to see if she were satisfied; she rose and came behind his chair, where
she began smoothing his hair.

"Poor papa," she purred.

Blanchard swelled his chest. "Thank you, Beth," he said, but his
thoughts went back to Judith. People took different stands on this
matter; he was anxious to have Judith on his side. Fenno had told the
Colonel that he, Fenno, ought to have been informed of the proposed
sale; Branderson, less bluntly, had intimated the same. It was possible
that Judith might take a similar view.

"I had others beside myself to consider," he said. "Dear papa!" murmured
Beth. But Judith took it differently.

"I don't want to profit by the sale," she stated.

The Colonel offered no explanation. At the time of the sale he had not
been thinking of his daughters, but of certain pressing creditors. So
the money had been welcome and was already partly gone. He answered with
grim knowledge of a hidden meaning.

"I'll take care you shall not profit by the transaction, Judith. But I
am sorry that the mill is sold. I hate a disturbance."

"Don't you be sorry, papa!" exhorted Beth. But Judith delivered a shot
which hit her parent between wind and water. It was one of those
impromptus which come too quickly to be checked.

"Perhaps Mr. Fenno would have given more."

"Judith!" shouted her father, bouncing in his chair.

"I beg your pardon, papa," she said humbly.

When Judith was humble she was charming; the Colonel accepted her kiss
and pardoned her. As for herself, she felt her spirit lightened, as by
an electric discharge, and began to look at the whole question of
Mather's mill more temperately. Why should she grudge him his success?
It was so much less than Ellis's. When next she met Mather she was
gracious to him, and was ready to hear a full account of all his plans,
if only he would open the subject. He avoided it.

Then the Blanchards moved to Chebasset, and Judith saw the mill and
chimney with her own eyes. People had stopped scolding about them; she
found them not so bad as had been reported, and the chimney, though
certainly tall, gave off but the slightest film of smoke. So thorough
were Mather's improvements that they forced Judith's admiration. When
she first went to the grocer's and, after making her purchases, inquired
of the changes in the town, she heard a torrent of praise of Mather.

"It's a bad place he's cleaned out," the grocer said, coming very close
and speaking confidentially. "Many young fellows were led wrong there,
but the biggest saloon's gone now, and some of the worst men have left
the town, and a man can feel that his own children have a chance of
growing up decent. It's two boys I have, Miss Blanchard, that I was
worrying about till Mr. Mather came."

"I am glad things are so much better," Judith said.

"They'll be better yet," the grocer responded. "Gross, the other
saloon-keeper, has got to look after himself now. Mr. Mather had him in
court only the other day--look, there they are now."

On the sidewalk outside stood a large man, gross as was his name; across
the street Mather was unconcernedly walking. The saloon-keeper raised a
fist and shouted at Mather, who paused and looked over at him
inquiringly.

"I'll be even with you!" shouted Gross again.

"Wait a bit," answered Mather cheerfully, "I'll come over." He crossed
the street and stepped directly to the saloon-keeper. "You'll be even
with me for what, Mr. Gross?"

"For that fine," answered the other. "I'll have you in court yet, see if
I don't."

"You'll have me in court," rejoined Mather, "when you catch me selling
whisky to minors, not before, Mr. Gross. And while we're on this subject
I may as well say that I've just sworn out a second warrant against
you."

The saloon-keeper backed away from the very cool young man. "What yer
goin' ter do?" he asked.

"I'm going to see," Mather answered, "that you observe the liquor laws.
And when your license comes before the selectmen for renewal, I shall be
at the hearing."

On Gross's face appeared blotches of white. "We'll see!" he blustered.

"We'll see," agreed Mather, and turned away.

The grocer spoke in Judith's ear. "That's the stuff! That's what, Miss
Blanchard!" Waiting till Mather was gone, Judith left the shop and went
home very thoughtful. So George was working, on however small a scale,
for reform and progress. She could not fail to see that for his coming
the whole town had a brisker, brighter look. Chebasset streets had been
dull, sleepy, unpainted. Now fences were repaired, houses were
freshened, and the townspeople looked better dressed, because the men
were earning more money at the mill, or the women were gaining livings
by boarding and lodging the new-comers. The town was changed, and Mather
was the cause.

Then she learned more of him. He was domesticating himself there, kept a
cat-boat, and had even bought a cottage. Beth pointed out the little
house, a good example of provincial architecture.

"You didn't tell us you were going to buy," Judith reproached him when
he came to call.

"Oh," he answered indirectly, "I fell in love with the place, and the
family mahogany fits in there exactly. Did you notice my roses?"

Then he spoke of gardening, and gave Judith no chance to tell him what
she thought about his work. Had he done so, she might even have let him
know that she had overheard his talk with Gross, and that his action
pleased her. But he avoided the subject; his call was brief, and after
he had gone he did not return for a number of days. Chebasset was not
lively that summer; Judith grew lonesome, and more than once thought of
Mather. His conduct piqued and puzzled her. Now was his chance, as he
ought to know. What had become of the lover who used to bring to her his
hopes and fears?

As for that lover, he had less time at his disposal than Judith
supposed. All day he was at the mill, or else went to Stirling on
necessary business; at night he was very tired. Yet though he knew he
was leaving Judith to her own devices, he did it deliberately. Until she
was tired of freedom, until she had satisfied her interest in the great
world, she would come to no man's call. Perhaps his conclusion was wise,
perhaps it was not, for while at a distance he watched Judith and
weighed his chances, Ellis was doing the same.

To the outsider, Mather's path seemed clear; he lived in the same town
with Judith, might see her every day, and, worst of all, was prospering.
"I'll touch him up," said Ellis grimly to himself. "He'll buy a house,
will he?" And from that time he kept well informed of Mather's business
acts, watching for a chance to trip him. Ellis knew all the ways of
those three great forces: politics, capital, and labour; he could pull
so many wires that he counted on acting unobserved.

Minor annoyances met Mather in his business, traceable to no particular
source. There was evident discrimination in railroad rates, and yet so
small was the increase that proof was difficult. Freight was mislaid and
mishandled; it was frequently very vexing. But the real attempt to
cripple the new business came toward the middle of the summer, when
Ellis, weary of the weak attempts of his subordinates at annoyance, took
a hand himself, and looked for some vital flaw in the safeguards of the
Electrolytic Company. He believed he found it, and various legal notices
came to Mather, all of which remained unanswered. Finally an important
official came in person to the office. He introduced himself as Mr.
Daggett of the harbour commission.

"I have written you several times," he complained.

"So you have," answered Mather. "Miss Jenks, may Mr. Daggett and I have
the office to ourselves for a while? I take it," he added, when the door
closed behind the stenographer, "that we are going to be rude to each
other. Have a cigar?"

"Thanks," said Daggett, "but I don't see why ye didn't answer."

"I was too busy. Besides, I wanted to get you down here, so as to settle
the matter once for all. Will you state the matter plainly; your letters
were vague? That is the wharf out there."

Mr. Daggett viewed it through the window. "Yes, it's surely a long
wharf. Twenty feet beyond the harbour line. Ye'll have to take it down."

"Or else?" demanded Mather.

"Show a permit."

"Come, there's one other choice."

"Pay a fine," grinned Daggett. "We've set a pretty large sum. The
board's irritated, ye see, because ye've paid so little attention to
us."

"The board never fails to answer letters, does it?" inquired Mather.

"What do you mean?"

"You're too busy, I suppose. And you don't appear to remember seeing me
before, Mr. Daggett."

"Have I?" asked the commissioner.

"You don't recollect that I wrote about this matter two months ago? I
had to go to the office to get an answer. You were deep in affairs, Mr.
Daggett. I found you and two others playing cards."

"Was I?" asked Daggett.

"When was this harbour line established, anyway? Wasn't it about two
weeks ago?"

"Certainly," Mr. Daggett answered. "That has nothing to do with it. But
what did we tell you at the office--I can't remember your coming."

"I wasn't there long enough to make much impression," said Mather. "One
of your friends told me that all fools knew there was no harbour line
here, and I didn't need your permission."

"Hm!" remarked Daggett doubtfully. Then he brightened. "Did we give you
that in writing?"

"I didn't ask you for it. You seemed so anxious to go on with your game
that I didn't trouble you further."

"Then you have no permission," stated Daggett. "And now that there is a
harbour line, what will you do about it?"

"I learned all I wanted of you," said Mather. He had not yet risen from
his desk, but now he did so, and going over to his safe, he threw it
open. "I asked nothing further because, there being no harbour line, a
permit wouldn't have been worth the paper it was written on. I wrote to
the Secretary of the Navy." Mather drew a document from a drawer of the
safe. "Do you care to see his answer?"

"Whew!" whistled Daggett. "Well, I suppose I might as well."

Mather gave him the paper. "You will see that I have permission to build
ten feet farther if I want to, and fifteen broader. I may also build
another wharf if I wish, lower down. Are you satisfied?" He touched the
bell. "You may come in now, Miss Jenks. Thank you for taking it so
easily, Mr. Daggett. I won't keep you from your game any longer.
Good-day."

--"And before I left the office he was hard at work again, Mr. Ellis,"
reported Daggett. "Save me, but he's taken pretty good care of himself,
and that's a fact."

Ellis had no comments to make; he did his growling to himself. Seeing
nothing further to do, he left Mather alone.

Thus time passed by till that midsummer day when Ellis took the trolley
to Chebasset and, once there, strolled among its streets. He viewed the
mill from a distance and gritted his teeth at the sight. Mather was well
ensconced; it seemed altogether too likely that he might win a wife,
among his other successes. Then the promoter left the town and climbed
above it on the winding road, viewing the estates of the summer
residents as one by one he passed their gates. Should he enter at the
Judge's?

A light step sounded on the road as he hesitated at the gate. Someone
spoke his name, and there stood Judith Blanchard.

"Here, and in business hours?" she asked.

"My day's work was done," he answered. "Besides, it was not all pleasure
that brought me."

Judith's eyes brightened. "Tell me," she suggested.

"Why should I tell you?" he asked bluntly. But the brusqueness only
pleased her; he was a man of secrets.

"No reason at all," she answered.

"And yet," he said, "your advice would be valuable, if you will not
tell."

"I! I tell?" she asked. "You do not know me."

"Then," he said, "I came to look at land here."

"To look at land here?" she repeated, questioning. "Can you buy here?"

"There is land," he said. "The price would be doubled if it were known I
am after it. I have the refusal of it, through agents."

"Where does it lie?" she asked.

"Farther up the road."

"You must not be seen going to it," she declared. "People would take
alarm----" She stopped, embarrassed.

"I do not mind," he said, and yet she felt his bitterness. "I am not
considered a good neighbour."

"It is wrong of people," she declared earnestly.

"I should not be welcome on any one of these piazzas," he said,
indicating the villas beyond them. "The Judge doesn't like me--your own
father has no use for me."

"Will you come and try?" she cried. "I should like to see if my father
will be rude to my guest."

"You are very kind," he said, "but do you consider----?"

"I have invited you," she interrupted. "Will you come?"

"With pleasure," he answered. They went up the hill together.



CHAPTER VIII

THE PROGRESS OF ACQUAINTANCE


Judith, before she met Ellis for this second time, had been bored.
Chebasset was so dull that it was dreary; in the country-houses were
given little teas, slow whist-parties, or stupid luncheons. Of the young
people of her age some had married, others had gone into business, and
the self-content of the first of these was not to be disturbed, nor the
fatigue of the others to be increased, for the sake of giving Judith a
good time. She became a little impatient with her surroundings,
therefore, and as the sizzling summer brought physical discomfort, she
was inclined to lay the blame where it could scarcely with justice be
said to belong. Yet while her acquaintances were not responsible for the
heat, Judith, with her abundant energies unused, was right in feeling
that society was sunk in sloth, and that instead of giving itself to
petty diversions it had better do something worth while. She was
discontented with herself, her idleness, her uselessness; she felt that
she would rather face even the heat of the city, and be doing, than stay
longer on her piazza and keep cool. Therefore she had sought the dusty
road as a sort of penance, and meeting Ellis, had been reminded of what
he stood for: the world of working men and women.

She had thought of him many times since their first meeting, making his
achievements a standard to which only Pease and Fenno approximated, and
of which Mather fell far short. She had continued to read of Ellis in
the newspapers, to watch his slow course of uninterrupted success, and
had come to accept the popular idea of his irresistible genius. Feeling
this natural admiration of his immense energy and skill, in her heart
she made little of the two obstacles which were said to lie in his path.
For it was claimed, first, that some day the street-railway would prove
too much for him, bringing him as it did in contact with the organised
mass of labourers, and with the public which Mather had accustomed to an
excellent standard of service. Could Ellis always maintain the present
delicate balance between dividends, wages, and efficiency? Again it was
said that some day he would come in conflict with Judith's own class,
which, when it chose to exert its power, would rise and hurl him down.
Judith put no belief in either of these prophesies, considering Ellis
able to avoid all difficulties, her caste too flabby to oppose him. So
she thought of him as destined always to conquer; he would win his way
even among the elect, and might become a friend of hers. For she could
help him; they were alike in their loneliness, and their outlook upon
life was the same. Therefore when she met him she welcomed him.

A fillip to the wheel of her fate was given as she and Ellis went up the
hill. They met Miss Fenno coming down. Now Miss Fenno was the extreme
type of the society-bred person, knowing nothing but the one thing. Her
interests were so small that they included less than the proverbial
four-hundred people; her prejudices were so large that they formed a
sort of Chinese wall to exclude any real humanity of soul. And all she
did at this juncture was to gaze very superciliously at Ellis, and then
to give the coldest of nods to Judith as she passed.

"The Fenno manner," grumbled Ellis to himself.

But Judith flamed with resentment. She brought Ellis up to her own
piazza, a few minutes later, with that in her bearing which her father
recognised as her panoply of war: quietness, erectness, something of
hauteur. The Colonel rose hastily.

"I have brought Mr. Ellis," she said.

"Glad to see him!" exclaimed the Colonel as if he had been spurred. "Mr.
Ellis is a stranger in Chebasset."

Ellis had the wisdom to attempt no manner. "I come here seldom," he
responded. "You are very kind to welcome me, Colonel."

He wondered if the use of the title were proper in the upper circle, and
if he should have answered differently. Moments such as this made the
game seem scarcely worth the candle; the nerve and fiber used up were
more than a day of business would require. But his qualities asserted
themselves. Here he was where he most wanted to be; he meant to win the
right to come again.

"What do you think of our view?" the Colonel asked, leading his guest to
the edge of the piazza. The hill fell away steeply, the town lay below,
and scattered on the farther hillsides were the villas of the
well-to-do. The Colonel began pointing out the residences. "Alfred Fenno
over there--Alfred, not William, you know; richer than his brother, but
not so prominent. And down there is Branderson; he overlooks the river,
but he also sees the new chimney, which we miss." The Colonel added, "A
good deal of money he has spent there."

"I should think so," agreed Ellis.

"The Dents are over there," Blanchard proceeded. "Rather pretentious the
house is, in my opinion, like--" his voice faded away; he had had in
mind Ellis's own house in the city. "----Er, gingerbready, don't you
think?"

"The elms don't let me see it very well," Ellis was glad to answer. For
what was gingerbready? Sticky?

"But much money in it," said the Colonel. "Dent has made a good thing of
his mills."

"Very good thing," murmured Ellis. He was interested to hear these
comments of an insider.

"Kingston's place is over there," continued the Colonel. "Now, I like,
do you know, Mr. Ellis, what Kingston has done with that house. Small,
but a gem, sir--a gem! Money has not been spared--and there's lots of
money there!" quoth the Colonel, wagging his head.

Ellis began to perceive the monotony of these descriptions. Money,
riches; riches, money. And there was an unction to each utterance which
might betray the inner man. Judith perceived this also.

"Let us have tea," she said, and going where the tea-table stood, she
rang for the maid. But the Colonel continued:

"And William Fenno is over there--a fine house, Mr. Ellis; pure
Georgian, a hundred years old if it's a day. A very old family, and a
very old family fortune. The West India trade did it, before our
shipping declined."

"Long ago," murmured Ellis. He knew very little of those old days. The
present and the immediate future concerned him, and as for the causes of
industrial changes, he was one himself.

"Come," insisted Judith, "come and sit down, and let us leave off
talking of people's possessions."

"Judith! My dear!" remonstrated the Colonel. But the maid was bringing
out the steaming kettle, and he took his seat by the table. "My
daughter," he said to Ellis, half playfully, "does not concern herself
with things which you and I must consider."

Judith raised her eyebrows. "Do you take sugar, Mr. Ellis?" she asked.

"Sugar, if you please," he answered. He was divided in his interest as
he sat there, for he had taken from the chair, and now held in his hand,
the newspaper which the Colonel had been reading as they arrived. Ellis
saw pencillings beside the stock-exchange reports, but though he wished
to read them he did not dare, and so laid the paper aside to watch
Judith make the tea. This was new to him. Mrs. Harmon had never taken
the trouble to offer him tea, though the gaudy outfit stood always in
her parlour. He knew that the "proper thing" was his at last, in this
detail, but how to take the cup, how hold it, drink from it? Confound
the schoolboy feeling!

"It was hot in the city to-day?" asked the Colonel.

"Uncomfortable," answered Ellis. "You are fortunate, Miss Blanchard, not
to have to go to the city every day, as some girls do."

"I'm not so sure," she responded. "It's dull here, doing nothing. I
sometimes wish I were a stenographer."

"Judith!" exclaimed her father.

"To earn your own living?" asked Ellis.

"I should not be afraid to try," she replied.

"You'd make a good stenographer, I do believe," he exclaimed.

"Thank you," she answered.

His enthusiasm mounted. "I have a situation open!" he cried.

"You wouldn't find her spelling perfect," commented the Colonel grimly.
He laughed with immense enjoyment at his joke, and at the moment Beth
Blanchard came out of the house and joined them.

Ellis did not see her at first; he was watching the Colonel, and divined
that no great barrier separated him from the aristocrat; there had been
in Blanchard's manner nothing that expressed repulsion--nothing like
Fenno's coolness, for instance, or the constant scrutiny which was so
uncomfortable. Blanchard had seemed willing to fill up his idle hours by
speech with any one; he was a new specimen, therefore, and Ellis was
studying him, when of a sudden he heard Judith speak his name, and
looked up to meet the gaze of a pair of quiet eyes. With a little start
he scrambled to his feet.

"My sister," Judith was saying.

He bowed and endeavoured to speak, but he felt that the beginning was
wrong. Beth was in turn dissecting him; she was something entirely
different from Judith, more thoughtful, less headstrong. The idea that
here was an adverse influence came into his mind, as he stammered that
he was pleased to meet her.

"Thank you, Mr. Ellis," she answered. Judith noticed that Beth on her
part expressed no pleasure. The little sister had individuality, with a
persistence in her own opinion which sometimes contrasted strongly with
her usual softness. But the incident was brief, for Beth's eye lighted
as she saw a visitor at the corner of the piazza, hesitating with hat in
hand.

"Mr. Pease!" she exclaimed.

The little conventionalities of this new welcome also passed. Mr. Pease
had met Mr. Ellis; he was delighted to find the family at home; the
others were equally pleased that he had come. But when the pause came it
was awkward, for Judith and Ellis were clearly uncongenial with Beth and
Pease; it required the Colonel's intervention to prevent a hopeless
attempt at general conversation. He drew Ellis away; Judith followed,
and Beth sat down to serve Pease with tea.

Then the Colonel himself withdrew, on pretext of the need to catch the
mail. He went into the library to write, and Judith turned to Ellis.

"Can we go from here to see the land you spoke of?"

"The old Welton place," he said. "Do you know the way?"

"Certainly," answered Judith. They excused themselves to the others.

As they prepared to go, the Colonel looked at them from his desk; then
turned his eyes on Beth and Pease. A thrill of wonder, then a sense of
exultation seized him. Attractive girls they both were, and the men were
the two richest in the city.

Judith conducted Ellis through shrubbery and across fields, up the
hillside to a spot where little trees were growing in an old cellar,
while charred timbers lying half buried spoke of the catastrophe which
had destroyed the house. "I remember the fire," Judith said. "I was a
child then, but I stood at the window in the night, mother holding me,
and watched the house burn down. Mr. Welton would neither build again
nor sell. But the place is on the market now?"

"He's to marry again, I understand," answered Ellis. They both accepted
the fact as explaining any and all departures from previous lines of
conduct.

"Would you build on this spot?" she asked him.

"What would you advise?" he returned. She swept the situation with her
gaze.

"There are sites higher up, or lower down," she said. "Lower is too low.
Higher--you might see the chimney."

Ellis noted with satisfaction the prejudice against Mather's landmark,
but he passed the remark by. "Don't you like," he said, "a house placed
at the highest possible point? It is so striking."

"Couldn't it be too much so?" she inquired.

He turned his sharp look on her, willing to take a lesson and at the
same time make it evident that he welcomed the instruction. "That is a
new idea," he said. "It explains why that chimney, for instance, is
unpleasant."

"It is so tall and--stupid," explained Judith; "and you never can get
rid of it."

"I understand," he said. "Then perhaps this is the best place to build.
I could get it roofed in before winter, easily, and have the whole thing
ready by next summer. Stables where the barn stands, I suppose. My
architect could get out the plans in a fortnight."

"The same architect," queried Judith, "that built your city house?"
There was that in her voice which seized Ellis's attention.

"You don't like his work?" he demanded.

"Why," she hesitated, caught, "I--you wouldn't put a city house here,
would you?"

"I like the kind," he said. "Stone, you know; turrets, carvings, imps,
and that sort of thing. All hand-work, but they get them out quickly.
Kind of a tall house. Wouldn't that do here?"

"No, no, Mr. Ellis," she answered quickly, almost shuddering at his
description. "Think how out of place--here. On a hill a low house, but a
long one if you need it, is proper."

"Oh," he said slowly, thinking. "Seems reasonable. But tall is the kind
Smithson always builds."

"I know," answered Judith. Smithson was responsible for a good deal, in
the city.

Again Ellis searched her face. "You don't care for my city house?"

She had to tell the truth. "For my taste," she acknowledged, "it's a
little--ornate."

"That's ornamental?" he asked. "But that's what I like about it. Don't
the rest of my neighbours care for it any more than you do?"

"Some do not," she admitted.

"I guess that most of you don't, then," he decided. "Well, well, how a
fellow makes mistakes! One of those quiet buildings with columns, now,
such as I tore down, I suppose would have been just the thing?"

"Yes," she said. "But Mr. Ellis, you mustn't think----"

He smiled. "Never mind, Miss Blanchard. You would say something nice,
I'm sure, but the mischief's done; the building's there, ain't it?"

"I wish----" she began.

"And really I'm obliged to you," he went on. "Because I might have built
a house here just like the other. Now we'll have it right--if I decide
to build here at all."

"Then you've not made up your mind?"

"Almost," he said. "The bargain's all but closed. Only it seems so
useless, for a bachelor." He looked at her a moment. "Give me your
advice," he begged. "Sometimes I think I'm doing the foolish thing."

"Why, Mr. Ellis, what can I--and it's not my affair."

"Make it your affair!" he urged. "This is very important to me. I don't
want to sicken these people by crowding in; you saw what Miss Fenno
thought of me this afternoon. But if there is any chance for me--what do
you say?"

It was the mention of Miss Fenno that did it. She sprang up in Judith's
consciousness, clothed in her armour of correctness--proper, prim, and
stupid. And in Judith was roused wrath against this type of her life,
against her class and its narrowness. She obeyed her impulse, and turned
a quickening glance on him.

"Would you turn back now?" she asked.

"That is enough!" he cried, with sudden vehemence.

For a while they stood and said no more. Judith saw that he looked
around him on the level space where his house was to stand; then he cast
his glance down toward those estates which he would overlook. His eye
almost flashed--was there more of the hawk or the eagle in his gaze?
Judith thought it was the eagle; she knew she had stirred him anew to
the struggle, and was exhilarated. Unmarked at the moment, she had taken
a step important to them both. She had swayed him to an important
decision, and had become in a sense an adviser.

Yet aside from that, she had stimulated him strangely. Her enthusiasm
was communicable--not through its loftiness, for from that he shrank
with mistrust, but through its energy and daring. She drew him in spite
of her ignorance and misconceptions: dangerous as these might be to him
if she should come to learn the truth about his practices, he thought
that in her love of action lay an offset to them, while her restlessness
and curiosity were two strong motives in his favour. She was fearless,
even bold, and that high spirit of hers had more charm for him than all
her beauty. He did not see, and it was long before he understood, that
something entirely new in him had been roused by contact with her; the
most that he felt was that he was satisfied as never before, that she
had strengthened his impulse to work and to achieve, and that with her
to help him he would be irresistible. Yes, he had chosen well!



CHAPTER IX

NEW IDEAS


A parting shot in conversation sometimes rankles like the Parthian's
arrow. So it had been with Pease. Beth had said to him: "How can you
think you know life, when you live so much alone?"--words to that
effect. He had had no chance to defend himself to her, and in
consequence had been defending himself to himself ever since. Truly a
serious mind is a heavy burden.

Finally he had come down to Chebasset to get the matter off his mind; at
least, such was his real purpose. He coloured it with the intention of
"looking in at the mill," and gave Mather a few words at the office.
Mather had been working at his desk, as Mr. Daggett, the Harbour
Commissioner, had found and left him. Orders, Mather said, were piling
in too fast.

Pease smiled. "Enlarge, then."

"Delay in profits," warned Mather. "No dividend this quarter."

"Go ahead just the same," said Pease. "I hoped for this."

Mather began writing. "Come, leave work," invited Pease. "I'm going up
to the Blanchards'. Come with me."

"I'm ordering coal and material," said Mather. "We have plenty of ore,
but the new work must begin soon."

Pease struck his hand upon the desk. "Do you mean," he demanded, "that
you are writing about the enlargements already?"

"Plans were made long ago," answered Mather.

"What do you do for exercise?" cried Pease. "How do you keep well? I'll
not be responsible, mind, for your breakdown when it comes."

But he made no impression and went away alone, climbed the hill, and
found the Blanchards on their piazza. Ellis was more than he had
bargained for, and the Colonel had never been exactly to Pease's taste,
but they departed, leaving him alone with Beth. She presently noticed
the signs that he was endeavouring to bring the conversation to a
particular subject, as one becomes aware of a heavy vessel trying to get
under way. So she gave him the chance to speak.

"Miss Blanchard," he said, when he found that he might forge ahead, "you
said something the other day--other evening--against which I must defend
myself. That I live much alone."

She remembered at once, flashed back in her mind to that whole
conversation, and was ready to tease him. Tease him she did as he began
his explanation; she refused to be persuaded that he did not live alone.
He might enumerate dinners, might point to his pursuits, might speak of
the hundred people of all classes with whom he came in close daily
contact: she would not acknowledge that she had been wrong.

"You are your mind," she declared, "and your mind is aloof."

He would have grieved, but that he felt again, dimly as before, that she
was rallying him. And he was pleased that she did not fear him, nor call
him Sir--that title which causes such a painful feeling of seniority.
She gave him a feeling of confidence, of youthfulness, which had not
been his even in boyhood. He had been "Old Pease" then; he was "Old
Pease" to many people still. The respect in which young and old held him
was a natural, if very formal atmosphere. This defiance of Beth's came
upon him like a fresh breeze, bringing younger life. He threw off his
earnestness at last and laughed with her at himself.

"Upon my word!" thought the Colonel, on whose ears such laughter had a
new sound. He looked out of the window; Pease was actually merry.
"Second childhood," grinned the Colonel, as he returned to his writing.

Beth discovered that Pease was no fossil, and began to enjoy herself
less at his expense but more for other reasons. He could never lose the
flavour of originality, for his odd manner's sake. Even as he sat and
laughed he was upright and precise, though the twinkle was genuine and
the noise was hearty. Then she rose from the tea-table, and they went to
the piazza's edge together. There they discovered Judith returning with
Ellis.

"Come away," said Beth quickly; "there are places where we can go. They
have not seen us; take your hat."

This was wonderful, slipping with a girl away from other people, and
Pease felt the delight of it. Fleeing by passages he had never seen, in
a house he had never before entered, smacked of the youthful and
romantic. Beth brought him out behind the house, and thirty seconds put
them in shrubbery. She led the way, not suspecting that his mental
vision was dazzled by new vistas.

For Pease would have faced Ellis and Judith as a duty, borne with their
conversation, and returned home without a sigh for the wasted hour. Such
was his conception of life--to take what was sent, nor avoid the
unpleasant. It had gone so far that in some matters he did not consult
his own feelings at all, but gave his time to others, recognising
himself as a trustee for their benefit. The good which can be done in
such a way is enormous, in business or professional matters merely; but
Pease had carried the habit into his social scheme, and was therefore
the sufferer from his own good nature, the victim of every bore. It was
a revelation that one could exercise choice, and could flee (losing
dignity, but gaining in romance) from the unpleasant. So that boyish
thrill came over him, with a manly one besides as he felt the compliment
Beth paid him. It put them on a closer footing when, laughing and out of
breath, she sat in a garden seat and motioned him to take the place
beside her.

"Do you think me foolish?" she asked.

"Not at all!" he answered eagerly.

"But perhaps you wished to stay and meet Mr. Ellis?"

"Not for anything!" he averred.

Then she looked at him soberly. "What do you think of him?" She posed
him, for polite vagueness was his desire, and he could not find the
words.

"He is----" he hesitated, "very--er, pleasant, of course. Not my--kind,
perhaps."

"And you really do not like him," she stated, so simply and confidently
that in all innocence he answered "Yes," and then could have bitten his
tongue off.

"Neither do I," she acknowledged.

And so those two took the same important step which Judith and Ellis had
already taken--of showing true feeling to each other, and breaking rules
thereby. For Beth, while not reserved, chose her confidants carefully,
after long trial; and Pease's habit had been never to acknowledge
personal feeling against any one, least of all a business rival.

"Judith has encouraged him before," said Beth. "People talked of her
when she met him; they will do so the more now that she has asked him
here. Not that she will care for that, Mr. Pease, but I shall not enjoy
it."

"Of course you will not," he agreed.

They hovered on the verge of confidences for a moment, then Beth took
the plunge. She looked at Pease with a little distress in her eyes.
"Judith is headstrong," she said. "She is discontented, but does not
know what she wants. I have sometimes thought that George Mather, if he
only knew how, might----"

"Yes," said Pease, filling the pause. "I wish he did. He is not happy
himself, poor fellow. They have been intimate?"

"Till within a little while. But they are both too masterful. And yet I
sometimes think she has him always in mind, but as if defying him, do
you understand?"

"Indeed?" he murmured.

"I hope," said Beth, "that this acquaintance of hers with Mr. Ellis is
just a phase of that. If it is not, and if she should--Judith cares so
little for people's opinions, you know."

"It would be very--painful," murmured Pease. "But it has not come to
anything of that sort yet?"

"No, but I know Judith so well that I don't know what she'll do." And
Beth concluded her confidences in order to draw some from Pease. The
sort of man Ellis was: could he be called dishonest? He was not of
course a gentleman? Pease cast off restraint and answered frankly; she
found he had considerable power of defining his thoughts, saying that
Ellis had never been proved dishonest, but that his conscience seemed no
bar to questionable actions; that he was unrefined, good-natured when he
had conquered, rough in breaking his way. What his personal charms might
be Pease had never had the chance to determine. Mrs. Harmon seemed to
like him--but one must not judge by that, because--and silence fell for
a moment, as they looked at each other with understanding.

It seems simple and so commonplace, but this was one of the talks which
_accomplish_, bringing the speakers together as nothing else can do.
Such talks build human ties; Pease and Beth formed one now. By the time
they saw Ellis going away they had new feelings toward each other,
differing in degree and result--for Beth knew friendship well, but to
Pease it was altogether astonishing and momentous. When Ellis was well
away Pease also took his leave and followed down the winding road.

"Tell Mr. Mather to come," were Beth's last words to him.

So Pease went again to the mill, where Mather was still in the office.
Pease had little finesse, and went about his errand directly.

"Miss Jenks," he said, and the stenographer vanished.

"Anything?" asked Mather.

Pease put his hand on his shoulder. "Just a message," he answered. "Miss
Elizabeth Blanchard----"

"Oh, Beth, you mean," said Mather.

"Yes," replied Pease. "She told me to tell you to come and see them."

"Indeed?" asked Mather.

"She was particular about it," Pease urged. "She meant something by it."

"Thanks," was all Mather said. "Now these enlargements, Mr. Pease. You
meant what you said?"

"Yes, yes," answered Pease impatiently, and closed his hand on the
other's shoulder. "And I mean this: Take Miss Blanchard's advice. Good
day." He went to the door, and turned. "Ellis was up there this
afternoon."

On his way home he did little thinking, but he felt. He had touched
people's lives in a new way; he felt the breath of Mather's romance, and
warmed at the trust which Beth reposed in him. Odd quivers ran through
him, strange little impulses toward his kind, calling him to a youth
which his life had earlier denied him. It was not possible for him to
understand their meaning, but they were pleasurable.

In like manner Mather gave that evening to musings concerning persons
rather than things. To follow his new line of conduct with Judith, or
(now that Ellis had appeared again) to turn once more and earnestly
pursue her--which? Clearly he saw that Judith would go her own way,
would play with fire, would even burn her fingers for all that he could
do. He must wait, be her friend, and having once said his say, must
never again bother her with his warnings.

And Ellis, that evening, also mused upon the Blanchards, though his
thoughts were very definite. On leaving the house he had borrowed the
newspaper; the Colonel had asked him to post some letters in the city.
When in the train, Ellis turned the newspaper to the stock-market
reports and studied the Colonel's pencillings. Blanchard had underlined
the names of certain stocks usually considered skittish rather than
safe, and had made multiplications in the margin. When Ellis came to
post the letters, very deliberately he read the addresses. Some were
meaningless to him, but one bore the address of a broker whose
reputation was quite as uncertain as the value of the stocks he chiefly
dealt in. Ellis did not cast off thought until he reached his house.

Then he looked up at the Gothic building and scanned its various
projections. "Ornate?" he murmured. "Well, wait till the inside is
properly beautified!"

He spoke lightly, but when he entered the house his feeling changed. The
great hall was dim and shadowy; seldom aired, it seemed cold. In front
of him wound the huge staircase; to left and right were dusky apartments
which echoed his steps. Since he first built the place it had satisfied
him, but fresh from the influence of Judith, suddenly he saw the house
as it was. Empty, gloomy, it was but a vast artificial cave, without
life or warmth. For the second time a wistfulness, misunderstood, almost
bewildering, came over him, and he wondered if anybody--somebody!--would
ever brighten the house for him, and make it a home.



CHAPTER X

DRAWN BOTH WAYS


Those youthful promptings which so stirred Pease, far beyond his own
comprehension, kept working in him through the summer weeks. The joy of
living, which he supposed he had mastered, appeared to him an altered
thing, so that its object no longer reposed on shelves in his study, but
moved serenely in a cottage above the harbour at Chebasset. Pease
accepted the change with the innocence which was particularly his, and
followed his new chase with but slight idea that he was varying from his
usual course. For being a man of social preciseness, he was given to
making calls, and made no distinction between the kind to which he was
habituated, the so-named duty call, and the new visit which was made for
pleasure. Mather wondered, after a few unusual appearances of Pease at
the mill, if the banker was overseeing his work; but as on each occasion
Pease went farther up the hill Mather put the visits down to the right
cause.

As most people are gifted with that kind of insight which the manager
thus exercised, others as well came to note Pease's actions, and their
cause, before the banker did himself. Miss Cynthia, who spent summer as
well as winter in the city (for since her poor people could not get
away, neither would she), came early to know what seed she had planted
in her cousin's breast. For he was open as the day, and without thought
of concealment told her where he was going or where he had been. Miss
Cynthia set her mouth at each mention of Chebasset, but as they came
oftener she began to consider if she should not have to give up her
chamber, the best in the house, and take the one in the rear. Or perhaps
it might be best to live elsewhere altogether. But looking at her cousin
one day, all his goodness seemed lost in his homeliness and lack of
charm. So she smiled the grim smile of pity, and set about making him
more comfortable at home than ever.

Mather also had occasion to smile thus, when one day he allowed Beth
Blanchard's word of advice to move him at last. He had seen Ellis more
than once in Chebasset, and felt uneasy; Pease looked in one afternoon
and asked him to go up to the Blanchards'. As usual, Mather refused, but
after an hour he started up the hill, to be passed by Pease coming down.
They were on different ways, for Mather had just left the high road for
a path which would save distance, when looking back he saw Pease going
down the hill. Pease wore a flower which he had not had before; he was
smiling cheerfully, with a retrospective air, and Mather smiled also,
grimly as Miss Cynthia had done, at the thought of the late plant of
love springing in the barren soil of middle-age.

He went on to the Blanchards' house; Judith was not there. But Beth
welcomed him and sat him down, gave him tea, and talked to him as he sat
half-silent.

"People do not see much of you nowadays," she said with a tone of
reproach. "You are much too busy, George."

"Oh, well----!" he shrugged inattentively, and Beth might interpret as
she pleased. She looked at him as he sat, with his chair against the
piazza railing, his arm across it, and his face turned to look out upon
the bay. He was neither gloomy nor resigned, but bore the look of a
strong man waiting. Time was not of account to him.

"You do not worry much," she said.

"Not I," he answered, but he turned to her. "Is there anything to worry
about, little Beth?"

"Sometimes I think so," she replied. "I think that now you'd better stay
to dinner."

"Thank you," he said, looking at her more carefully. "I suppose you know
best," he added.

There had never been anything between these two except undefined
good-feeling, expressed only by the inattentive conversation of those
who have often met in the same house with different interests. There had
existed, besides, that consciousness of a difference in age which makes
a few years seem almost a generation, so that with boys and girls "sets"
are separated by a bar of habit which prevents an older from seeing
anything in a younger, even after the passage of years has brought them
both to maturity. Thus, to Mather, Beth had always been a little girl,
until just now her quiet, assured carriage, as she interfered in his
affairs, opened his eyes. For she answered his last remark with
confidence.

"Yes, I know best." And he believed her.

"Talk to me," he said, turning still more toward her. "I have seen no
one for a long time. Who is doing? What is doing?" So Beth talked to
him.

This was her mission in life--to talk people into cheerfulness and bring
them nearer the rest of the world. She enjoyed it always, but it was
especially pleasant to her as she spoke with Mather. For he was real, he
was big, he was not baulked by conditions which might have been too much
for him. Estrangement from Judith was not, she was glad to see, making
him melancholy. He seemed in good physical condition; though he had not
gone much with people of late, she had seen him from her window, early
in the morning, sailing on the bay before he went to his work. It was
not Judith alone, therefore, but work also, that kept him from going
about. All this she felt, or guessed, as she told him of little matters.

"It is too bad," she said after a while. "You should have a mother, or a
sister, to tell you all this."

"That Esther Fenno is away yachting, or that John Watson is attentive to
Mary Carr?" He laughed. "But, Beth, you shall be my sister of mercy, and
I will come here oftener."

"Come, then," she said. "Some day there will be better or more important
items, and you may be glad of the bargain. Or if you happen to call on
Judith when Mr. Ellis does, you may talk with me."

"Couldn't he do that?" He maintained the appearance of jesting, but she
said seriously:

"I don't like him."

Then he put out his hand to her; she took it, and Judith came upon them
thus.

A pang shot through him as he rose and greeted her; she was quiet in her
manner--his coming could not move her in the least. He wished he might
feel that there had been a flash of inquiry in her first glance at him
and Beth, but her face had not really changed. She welcomed him kindly
enough. "He is going to stay to dinner," said Beth. Judith answered with
a conventional "Good!" Then the Colonel appeared; he had brought the
mail.

"A letter for you, Judith," he said. "A thick package, rather."

Thoughtlessly, she opened it. Ellis had promised to send her his
house-plans, and for the purpose had had a set made, much reduced in
size. He had mailed them to her himself; but for carelessness she would
have recognised his hand. The Colonel, always inquisitive, craned his
neck as Judith drew the plans from the envelope.

"Plans!" he exclaimed. "Are you going into building, Judith?"

She looked at the upper plan, carelessly as before, though the red came
into her cheek. Then she put them all back into the paper. "No, I'm not
going to build," she said.

"This reminds me," said the Colonel. "They say Ellis has bought the
Welton place."

"Indeed!" cried Beth. Her glance sought Mather's; his responded,
cynically humorous. That he should be there when the news was given! But
he turned to the Colonel.

"That must be very recent, sir."

"It may not be so," replied he, "but Kingston is hopping for fury, and
Dent for fright, because they'll be his neighbours. Judith, do you
happen to know if the news is true?"

In spite of herself, she looked at the floor. "Yes, it is true."

"Aha!" cried the Colonel. "Then those plans----" She looked up now, and
flashed him into silence.

"I think," said Judith, "that I will go and dress for dinner." She went,
and Beth went also, casting a glance of sympathy at Mather.

"Will you come in?" asked the Colonel nervously of his guest.

"I'll stay here, thank you. Don't let me keep you, sir."

"Thanks. I think I will fix up."

Mather smiled scornfully at the relief the Colonel showed. Alone, he
leaned against a pillar and looked out over the bay. So this was what
he had come to learn! And being here, he must stay and put the matter
through.

It was a miserable meal. Judith was furious with her father; Beth was
appalled at the length to which matters appeared to have gone. Mather
and the Colonel struggled manfully, and spoke of matters in the business
world. The Colonel inclined toward the subject of stocks.

"Consolidated," he suggested. "Don't you think it a good investment?"

"I am leaving silver alone," responded Mather. "I consider all those
stocks very unsafe just now, sir."

So with that radical difference of opinion between them, which really
concerned the Colonel more than he would show, conversation languished
even between the gentlemen. Out upon the piazza, after dinner, matters
went more smoothly, but Mather concluded that it was wiser to "eat and
run" than to stay where constraint hung in the air like a fog. So,
pleading the habit of early sleep, he took his leave.

Then Judith, fearing that he had been suffering, roused herself. "I will
go with you to the gate," she said, as he offered his hand for good-by.
They left the piazza together, but Beth, catching his eye to signal
satisfaction, saw him shake his head. Judith's condescension could no
longer thrill him. Beth felt that his attitude, for one who was so
concerned, was strangely like that of an observer.

And Judith felt it, too. He had passed through the stage of eager
homage, a favour could no longer enrapture him; she wondered if he had
even noticed the incident of the house-plans--whether, after all, he had
been hurt, so steadily he had borne himself. When they were alone
together, walking toward the gate, he turned to her a gaze almost
quizzical.

"Have you forgiven me my chimney, Judith?"

Thus he drew a smile from her; then, for the first time, he spoke of
his mill, but left her no burden of answering. The walk was short,
and he filled it with tales of his men, their weaknesses, their
characteristics, the troubles which some of them had confided to him.
But he said nothing of his difficulties or of his growing success,
though as he talked she thought of them.

"Does it not please you," she asked, "that people speak well of what you
are doing?"

"Do they?" was all he answered. "By the way----"

"And the work of organisation?" she asked him.

"It was fun," he said, "and not difficult at all."

"I can't believe you!" she cried.

"Nothing, nothing!" he answered.

"And is all smooth sailing now?"

"One of the men is getting up a strike," he answered. "That is all."

"A strike!" she exclaimed.

"So the older men tell me. A little one."

"How can you take it so easily?" she asked.

He smiled. "I think I can meet it. Well, here we are at the gate. Thank
you for coming, Judith. Good-by." He started away briskly, then turned
back. She was looking at him seriously.

"Here is Jim Wayne coming up the road," he said. "He comes to see Beth?"

"Yes."

"And what of my employer?"

"Poor Mr. Pease!"

"_Mr._ Pease," repeated Mather. "There it all is in a nutshell. Jim is
Jim, twenty-three. Pease is Mr. Pease, forty-five. The young to the
young, as Salvation Yeo said. Poor Pease! Good-night again, Judith."

And this time he was off for good, not turning again. Judith returned
thoughtfully to the house. He had interested her--turned her back a
little toward her real self, her old self. No small part of the effect
he had made was caused by his cheerful self-command. Did he love her
still? She thought of what he had done for Chebasset. He was very much
of a man.

On the way down the hill Mather passed Wayne. This was that broker's
clerk who always nodded to Ellis so carelessly, whose mother Ellis had
bought out, and whose name the promoter envied. Handsome, thought Mather
as they greeted; on second thought he added, a bit weak. But Mrs.
Harmon, looking from her garden as they passed on the road below,
thought that Wayne was handsome without qualification. Thus those two,
both of whom were to influence Wayne's fate, thought of him as he went
on to see Beth. Mrs. Harmon followed him with her eyes until he entered
the Blanchards' gate; with her thoughts, still longer. Mather forgot him
in grieving for Pease, the poor dreamer who would wake too late.

"Beth," asked Judith, returning to the house, "where was it we read
about Salvation Yeo?"

"In Kingsley's 'Westward Ho,'" answered Beth. After Wayne had come and
gone, she noticed that Judith was reading the book.

"Do you like it?" asked Beth.

"Romance--love," said Judith. "It seems unnatural." She laid the book
aside. "A pleasant evening, Beth?"

"Very," Beth answered.

"And Mr. Pease?" asked Judith.

She saw with surprise that Beth's eyes filled with tears. "What can I
do?" asked the younger sister; but expecting no answer, she went away.

Judith took up her book again, yet held it without opening it. Romance
and love had come to Beth; why not to herself? Judith had had suitors;
and true love might win her yet. Was it to be found? Such lasting love,
she meant, as it was certain Pease would give. No wonder Beth grieved;
any woman's heart would be touched by such devotion. Yet as Judith
thought of her old suitors she could name half a dozen now married,
having forgotten their griefs. But it was Mather who was most in her
mind, who ever since his rejection had been so strangely independent,
and this evening most of all. He had shown no surprise, no dismay, at
the sight of Ellis's house-plans. At the thought Judith started up with
pique, resentment--it would have been hard to define her feeling at the
thought that Mather needed no one to sorrow for him.



CHAPTER XI

AN INCIDENT AT THE MILL


On a morning when Beth took her turn at marketing she met Mather on the
street. "It's four days since you were at the house," she reminded him.

"Is there really any advantage in my coming often?" he asked her.

"I don't know," she answered plaintively. "But Judith has very little to
do. You might ask her to visit the mill."

"Come any time. Both of you," he responded.

"I'll bring her this morning," she said quickly.

But when Mather had been another hour at the mill he forgot the
engagement thus made. For in going about he noticed that the quiet in
the place was different from the bustle of ordinary days; the men seemed
expectant. Then as he passed near one of the older workmen the man spoke
to him under his voice.

"Look out this morning, sir."

"The strike is coming, Ferguson?" Mather asked, at once alert.

"Yes, sir."

Mather returned to his desk in the office. He believed that the strike,
if it came so soon, would be ill-planned. The day was warm; all doors
and windows were open to admit the harbour breeze; as he looked through
the screen-door into the mill he watched one man in particular. Though
the fellow's station was at a window, he seemed hotter than his
neighbours: his face was flushed; he wiped his brow and moved nervously.

The stenographer rose from her desk and silently laid a slip of paper
before Mather. On it was scrawled in pencil: "Wee will stand by you,
Mister Mather. Old Hands." Mather smiled; he had but twelve out of
seventy workmen who knew what strikes and lockouts meant. Most of the
men he had picked up where he could, training them himself; he had no
idea how far he could trust them. Instead of giving him confidence, the
note suddenly showed how weak his backing was.

"Where did you get this, Miss Jenks?" he asked.

"I found it just now, sir, slipped in among my papers."

"Thank you," he answered, and she went back to her desk, pale and
frightened.

The workman whom Mather had been watching kept looking at the clock. It
began to strike eleven; at once all eyes were turned on him; all work
was suspended during the slow striking. When this ceased, the workman
left his place and went to the door of the office; all glances followed
him, and the men who were more distant left their stations and crowded
to watch. Conscious of the stir he made, the fellow walked with a
swagger, but a change came in his manner when, through the screen-door,
he saw the quiet manager also eyeing him. He knocked on the door.

"Come in, Stock," said Mather.

Now the main entrance to the office was from outside, through a short
passage. At the moment when the workman entered from the mill, Judith
and Beth came into the passage; seeing Mather in apparent conference
with an employee, they waited until he should be finished. He had
wheeled in his chair, and his back was turned to them. "Well, Stock?" he
said.

The spokesman of the employees was a lean man, somewhat wolfish, with
an eye that moved too much. He seemed a talker rather than a doer, with
something of the actor showing as he stood by the door and folded his
arms. He spoke with an important air; no voice, Judith thought, can be
impressive if it is not clear.

"I've come to say, sir, that we're dissatisfied."

"That means," asked Mather, quietly and without rising, "that _you_ are
dissatisfied?"

The man cleared his throat, but still a characteristic huskiness
remained. "Yes, sir, I am."

"Very well," was the response, and the manager turned to the
stenographer. "Miss Jenks, make out a bill of this man's time."

Beth clutched Judith by the sleeve and sought to draw her away. Judith
stood still; not for anything would she have lost the sight of those two
men as they watched each other.

"You discharge me?" cried the workman with excitement.

"You discharged yourself," answered Mather steadily. "I can't have a man
here who is dissatisfied."

"My grievances----" began the other.

Mather cut him short. "Grievance is a word that doesn't apply. You knew
the conditions of work when you came; I have changed none of them."

"Then," cried Stock, "let me tell you from the men----"

"Stop!" ordered Mather; "no one speaks for my men who is not in my
employ."

"Just the same----" began Stock, anxiety peering from his eyes. Mather
interrupted him again.

"That will do. How much, Miss Jenks? Thanks." He took the money from his
pocket and handed it to the workman. "That is correct, I think. Good
day, Stock."

The workman was visibly troubled at the turn of events. "This is most
improper treatment," he complained. As he turned to the door at his back
he ventured a threat. "You shall see!"

"Not that door," said Mather quickly. "Remember that you are no longer a
workman here. The other way leads out of doors."

"I must get my hat," the man said, his eye now truly shifty and alarmed.
For a second it met Judith's, and she felt that he glared like a trapped
rat. Nevertheless, under Mather's glance he moved away from the mill
door.

"I will send for your hat," said Mather. He rose and opened the door
himself. "Jamison, Stock is leaving us. Will you bring his hat?"

He stood at the open door and waited. Judith looked beyond him into the
mill, where machinery rumbled, and in great vats huge cylinders
revolved. The men stood and stared at each other, or looked at the door
and the manager standing there. Some of the men were shamefaced, some
uneasy, some were smiling--and these were the older hands. The man who
had gone for the hat had reached the door on his return before any sound
rose above the rumble of the machinery.

Then Judith heard a voice, high-pitched and harsh. It needed a look at
Stock to make sure his husky tones could become so sharp. He was craning
toward the door, sending his voice toward those farthest away.

"Now is the time," he cried, "to assert your manhood!"

Mather took out his watch. "Yes," he said, and though he did not raise
his voice Judith noted its splendid carrying power. "Now is your time,
boys. Any one dissatisfied, like Stock here, can go with him. I give you
three minutes."

One of the older men laughed aloud, and standing above a vat began
raking in it, apparently, with a hooked pole. Others turned to their
work, yet they all kept their attention on those of the younger men who
stood still. Judith felt her hands grow cold, and knew her heart was
beating faster, for half of the men had not moved. Then fingers as cold
as her own took her hand, and Beth pressed up to her side. The older men
stopped work again, the man above the vat stood with pole suspended, and
Stock gave a little dramatic laugh.

"One minute!" said Mather clearly.

The men's eyes were on him, Judith's eyes also. He was calm and
perfectly confident; he had no word to say, but he seemed massive as his
own chimney, and as hard to move. His eye roved among the men, then
turned to the office, and for an instant met those of the frightened
stenographer. He gave a smile of confidence, looked at his watch, then
turned again to his men.

"A minute and a half!"

His voice seemed to ring out a challenge. Before it the men broke. One
who stood nearest the door, smiling feebly, turned and shuffled toward
his place. He gave the signal to the others. One by one they went to
work, but this time the older men last, until the man by the vat, with a
disdainful sniff, plunged his pole again into the liquid. Then Stock,
reaching for his hat, snatched it and almost ran from the office. In the
passage he fairly crowded Judith and Beth against the wall. Mather,
turning to look after him, saw the sisters.

At once he closed the solid door into the mill, cutting out the sounds
and bringing quiet. "Come in," he said to Judith. "How long have you
been there?"

"About three minutes," she answered, entering. She looked him in the
eye; he saw that she was excited, and flushed under the admiration
which showed in her glance.

"I am sorry you ran into this," he said. "I had not expected it for a
fortnight."

"I am glad," she returned. "What a peaceful spot this will be for a
while. You will show us over the mill?"

"Not when this has just happened," he answered. "It would be too much
like showing off the animals I had tamed. Will you excuse me?"

"I must see the office, then," she said. "Open your safe: pretend I am a
bank inspector, do!"

He laughed and introduced the sisters to Miss Jenks, laid out his books,
opened the safe, and challenged their criticism. Judith had never been
in an office before: the excitement of what she had just seen still
dominated her. To the stenographer's eyes she was dazzling, enchanting;
even Mather, though he told himself that the interest would pass, was
deeply pleased. He showed the store-room with its stock of sheet metal,
the yard, the wharf, the coal-pockets. Returning to the mill, the three
entered the office again.

"It is almost twelve," said Beth, looking at the clock.

A new interest took Judith, and she did not hear. Miss Jenks was at work
at her typewriter; she realised that Judith was watching
her--critically, of course. The magnificent Miss Blanchard must be above
such a thing as typewriting.

But Judith was interested rather than critical as she watched the clever
fingers at their work. It did not seem hard, and it fascinated her as at
each stroke a long type-arm sprang up, reached over, and struck upon the
paper. Letters grew to words, words to lines--and a faint glow spread
over the stenographer's face as Miss Blanchard moved forward to her
side and looked down at her work.

"You don't mind, do you?" asked Judith.

Miss Jenks did mind; she was nervous and almost frightened, but she
stuck to her task. Judith bent lower over the machine, knitting her brow
as she studied its working. The regular movement of the carriage, the
flashing type-arms, the flying fingers, and the result in violet print,
took strong hold of her.

"There," said Miss Jenks at last, flushing deeply, "the letter is ready
for Mr. Mather's signature." She drew it from the machine and handed it
to Judith.

"Is it so very hard?" asked Judith, glancing at the letter for but a
moment, then fixing the stenographer with an earnest eye. "Did you have
to study long?"

"At the typewriting?" asked Miss Jenks. "No, I picked that up quickly.
But shorthand is not easy at all." She took from the desk a note-book
and offered it to Judith. "Those are my notes of what Mr. Mather
dictated."

The pothooks on the paper meant nothing to Judith, but she saw that they
were very few. "Is this whole letter in these signs?" she asked.
"Indeed! It must be hard to learn." She looked still harder at the
stenographer, who blushed again under the intense scrutiny. Judith was
thinking that if this little, anæmic girl could learn shorthand, surely
she could do so herself.

"But Judith," said Beth, interposing, "you are keeping her from her
work."

"The letters are all finished," murmured Miss Jenks, glad to turn her
embarrassed eyes elsewhere.

Judith moved to the typewriter and looked down at it. Until this morning
she had never seen one except in an advertisement; its shiny
complications grew more attractive. She said nothing, but Beth smiled
at Mather mischievously.

"Try it," she suggested to Judith.

"Oh, if you will!" exclaimed Miss Jenks. She slipped a sheet of paper
into place and placed the chair for Judith. "Will you not?" she invited.
Judith took the seat.

"You can begin," suggested Miss Jenks, "by striking the letters one by
one. You press this key----"

"For capitals; yes, I saw," Judith replied. "No, I will try to write
without practising. To whom, Beth?"

"Tell Mr. Pease," Beth suggested, "that you approve of his manager."

So Judith wrote, dating, addressing, and beginning to explain that she
liked the mill. It--she bit her lip--was not quite so easy as it might
be, nor--as she finished a line without mistake, and released her lip
again--so very hard after all. She became interested, forgot the others,
and talked to herself.

"R--where's R? Oh, thanks. That was not hard enough; it scarcely
printed. Now Y--here! Now the end of the line; how easily this runs.
Beth, how do you spell----?"

Then they laughed at her, and she rose. "Judith, it's almost twelve,"
said Beth again. "Let's get away before the workmen do."

"George," Judith said to Mather, "let me look into the mill once more."

He opened the door again. The cylinders were still turning; the men were
busy--they even looked cheerful. And but for Mather's firm hand the mill
might at this moment be empty and idle! She gave him a glance of frank
approval as she turned to say good-bye. On the way home she was so
silent that Beth wondered if she were moved by what she had seen.

In fact, Judith was deeply moved. Never before had she seen such a sight
as that in the office, and the qualities displayed by Mather had
impressed her. Thus to stand up against a danger, thus to handle men--it
seemed to Judith as if he had done something almost great. His coolness
and success were heroic; for the rest of the day he occupied her mind;
she sat on the piazza, even at the table, with thoughts visibly
abstracted, and Beth at last became so impressed that she sought the
telephone when Judith was out of hearing, meaning to give Mather a piece
of advice. But he was no longer at the office; Miss Jenks said he had
gone to the city.

"I am very sorry," said Beth.

"So am I," sympathised Miss Jenks.

"I wanted to ask him to come up here this evening," said Beth. "You are
sure I cannot get him at his hotel?"

"Very sure," replied Miss Jenks. So Beth, much disappointed, left the
telephone.

Miss Jenks could have told Beth more. When the sisters had gone from the
mill, the stenographer found in the typewriter a sheet which she took
out and laid silently before her employer. He looked at it for a while,
then--tore it up. He had passed beyond the stage of treasuring reminders
of his lady. Only the day before he had found and destroyed a little
hoard of mementos which seemed to reproach him with his lack of success.
Judith, he told himself with that grimness which was a feature of his
self-control, did not exactly inspire poetic dreaming. So he destroyed
the letter, but when his day's work was over he turned reluctantly from
going to see her.

Miss Jenks saw his hesitation as, after putting on his hat, he stood at
the door and visibly asked himself: "Which way?" To the right led up
the hill and to Judith; to the left would bring him to his cottage;
straight ahead stood a trolley-car ready to start back to the city. The
little stenographer would have been wise enough to send him where, at
that moment, Judith was thinking of him. But like a man he blundered.

"Hang it!" he thought, "she doesn't want to see me all the time." He
counted up that he had seen her twice in one week; Sunday was the
earliest that he could go again. Also he remembered Ellis's house-plans.
So Miss Jenks, with a sense of disappointment which was both personal
and unselfish, saw him board the car.

At her house Beth scratched a note to Mather; it contained only the
words: "Follow it up!" She would send it in the morning. But after
dinner Judith received a telephone message from Mrs. Harmon, asking her
if she would not come over for the evening. Judith consented; it would
be neighbourly to go.

"Will you come?" she asked of Beth.

"Is the Judge there?" Beth inquired.

"He is in the city."

"Then I think I'll stay at home," decided Beth. She forecasted events
exactly. Judith went, stayed most of the evening, and was escorted home
by--Ellis. "He came down," Judith vouchsafed, "after I arrived there."

Since morning Judith had been softer, gentler than usual; but now she
was lofty again, with her old manner underlaid by excitement. Beth went
sadly to her room and tore up her note to Mather.



CHAPTER XII

FORWARDS VARIOUS AFFAIRS


As time passed on, Colonel Blanchard watched with interest, mixed with
solicitude, the love-matters of his daughters. Judith's affairs were
going to his satisfaction, for though Mather came occasionally to the
house, Ellis came oftener. Ellis's land had been bought, his house was
going up, and at times he came to discuss his plans with Judith. So far
so good, but in another quarter the Colonel was not quite so well
pleased, since the visits of Jim Wayne to Beth were becoming very
frequent.

Beth was twenty, Jim was twenty-one. He found the way to Chebasset easy
to follow, even though he left his mother at home alone--for the Wayne
estate was low in the world, and summer-resorts were not for the widow.
She, desolate soul, counted her dollars carefully, and encouraged her
son's belief that by selling the house and land to Ellis she had made
herself comfortable for life. "It was only for that," he explained to
Beth, "I allowed her to sell. And now she doesn't need my earnings, so I
use them for myself. She likes me to dress well; she says I'm so like my
father that she can't bear to have me look shabby. And it's a mark of a
gentleman, don't you think, Beth, to look well?"

It was so sweet of Jim to admire his father, that Beth could not bear to
say how the elder Wayne was popularly regarded.

"Why," snorted Mr. Fenno, "what he spent on clothes, cigars, and wines,
would have provided enough insurance to keep his family handsomely."

Fenno, when on the subject, had intended to make it clear to Beth that
Jim was too much like his father. Innuendo, however, had failed with
Beth--not that she was unable to perceive that Jim had his weaknesses,
but she had the habit of championing her favourites against her own
judgment. Thus she was sorry for the Judge who had chosen his wife
unwisely and could not make her love him, and pitied old Fenno himself,
who realised the hollowness of the world only after he had drummed on it
for a good many years. She was fond of such men because they were weak,
weak though they knew it not themselves, though the world called them
strong. And so it was not unnatural that Beth should take into her
innermost heart something still weaker to cherish, because she was so
strong herself; something with faults, she had so few herself; something
which would get into trouble, for she was so used to getting people out.
She did not realise that the young fall far deeper into trouble than the
old, and that she could not give backbone to a man who had none.

All this is but saying that Beth, wise in the affairs of others, with
her own was not so gifted, and was so mistaken as to take Wayne at very
nearly his own valuation. For Jim had a dashing air, and dressing in the
fashion was the mark of many a girlish eye. He went smooth-shaven; his
face had a slightly petulant expression, as if complaining of the world,
yet at times he lighted with the fire of optimism, when he told Beth of
the things he meant to do. And thus he approached her on two undefended
sides, for never had she turned a deaf ear to a call for sympathy, and
nothing in a man did she admire so much as aspiration.

Thus their affinity declared itself to them, for Jim liked to be purred
over and strengthened. He enjoyed telling, to an attentive ear, the
misfortunes of his family. "That we should have to sell our house to
that fellow Ellis!" he said to Beth. "It seems too hard, doesn't it? And
to think that in a few years I shall be earning enough to support the
old house, if I had it still! But when a fellow's just starting, you've
no idea how little they pay. The business world! Ah, Beth, you're lucky
to be a girl, so that you don't have to rub up against life!"

He spoke as if life in its hardest form were to be met with only on
exchange, and shook his handsome head so convincingly that Beth believed
him. She enjoyed believing him; it gave her pleasure to think Jim a man
of the world. In fact, he carried himself very well, with none of those
mannerisms which so often betray inexperience. Little allusions to
dissipation are very common, but Jim was not given to these, and in
consequence seemed more manly than those of his set whom she met. Of
course Jim took wine when her father offered it; believing in her father
as she did, she thought it no sign of dissipation when he or others
drank at his table. It was a pleasure to Beth that Jim and the Colonel
were congenial, with more than one topic in common. For example, Wayne
had a nice taste in wines, fostered by his lamented parent, and could
discuss with Blanchard the merits of his '68 and '72. Jim liked the
Colonel's tobacco, also, and never failed to commend it. But most of all
the two enjoyed speaking of the stock-market and all which to it
pertained. The Colonel always asked Jim for the "news of the street,"
which the two discussed with as much seriousness as if Jim were not
young and the Colonel flighty. To these talks Judith and Beth always
listened silently--Judith because she knew there would be no use to say
anything, Beth because she did not suppose that anything was to be said.

Thus when the Colonel led the talk to Consolidated one evening, Judith
remembered, but Beth forgot, that Mather had advised against all silver
stocks until they should become settled. To Beth stocks were mere names,
unembodied nothings without power either to wreck lives or to make
people happy.

"Great possibilities," said Jim, wagging his head.

"Must go up soon, I think," commented her father, with deliberation.

"Sure!" Jim assented heartily.

Such incomplete sentences and bits of slang meant wisdom to Beth, and
when Judith rose from the table, the younger sister still remained
sitting to hear what further Delphic utterances might be made.

"Always said Argent would slump," stated the Colonel.

"I got out of that some time ago," declared Jim.

"Wise!" Blanchard said approvingly, not knowing that Jim's single share
had been sold under pressure of necessity, when his mother, in one of
the few decisive moments of her life, declared that Jim himself must buy
the new carpet for his room, since she thought the old one still good
enough for a couple of years' wear. Jim had at first meant to have a
good carpet, then he decided on a rug, and a large part of his Argent
went into something Turkish, while a little of what was left was devoted
to adorning his person. One small share of Consolidated remained as an
investment, and Jim was now looking for that to rise again to the point
at which he had bought it.

Jim was an optimist with the instinct of self-approval, and being "in"
Consolidated he had picked up the expressions which had fallen in his
hearing, justifying him in his wisdom in buying and his hopefulness in
waiting. He told the Colonel what Baxter said, and what Winster said,
and especially what Bullfinch had declared in regard to the stock. Now,
Bullfinch was that broker with whom the Colonel had his dealings.

"He said 'Hang on'?" asked Blanchard with pleasure.

"Yes," said Jim. "And I heard him giving Baxter a tip, sir, which I will
pass on to you, if you're interested. He said: 'Watch Poulton Mining and
Milling.'"

"Indeed?" murmured the Colonel.

"Now, you wouldn't think that, would you, sir?" asked Jim. "It's down,
way down; why, it's been down for a couple of years! I had forgotten
about it, almost. But now I'm watching it myself. It has moved a little
lately, up a point and down again. Looks as if some one were interesting
himself in it, don't you think?"

"May be," assented the Colonel judicially.

"If Consolidated rises, I'm thinking of taking my money out and putting
it into Poulton. What should you say to that, Colonel?"

"Where is Poulton now?" asked Blanchard.

"Twelve and a half," answered Jim.

"Well," explained the Colonel, "the way I have always looked at these
things is this. If your money is in a low-priced stock, and it rises a
dozen points, then perhaps you double. But if your money is in something
high-priced, then on the rise you only make twelve per cent."

"If only," said Jim, "one could be sure which stock will rise!"

"You can make sure by watching," asserted the Colonel.

Once Ellis came in as one of these conversations was in progress; he
stood listening while the two amateurs finished their duologue.

"Don't you think so?" they had appealed to him at the end.

"Ah, well," replied the master of finance, "you seem to have got hold of
something there." Then he went out on the piazza with Judith, leaving
the enthusiasts still more cheerful.

"Your father doesn't act on those ideas of his?" he asked of Judith.

"I hope not--I think not," she answered. "He just likes to talk with
Jim."

"Dabbler!" was Ellis's characterization of the young man. Meanwhile the
dabblers still babbled within the house, in high good humour with
themselves.

It will be noticed that the summer had brought progress to Ellis, in
fact almost intimacy with Judith. Their closer acquaintance, begun over
his house-plans, had been materially forwarded by Mrs. Harmon, when she
invited Judith to her house on the evening of Mather's strike.

Previously, she had been very curious to know how he had got on with
Judith. That the girl had supplanted her as chief adviser she became
aware, and was in the beginning a little piqued thereat. When she first
saw a sketch of the new house, her face fell.

"Oh, _that_ kind of a house!" she exclaimed. "Why, that's all very well
for a man with an income like my husband's, but for you it seems too
simple."

"I like it," he replied without explanation.

"But no carvings," she persisted. "No turrets, or anything of that
sort."

"No, no," he said; "this is the only thing."

"But really, change it!" she urged. "Why, it doesn't represent you. It
might be anybody's house!"

"The object isn't to attract attention," Ellis replied. "Quiet and
dignity are more genteel." He quoted Judith so exactly (all but for the
one word) that Mrs. Harmon perceived it.

"Oh," she exclaimed with some chagrin. "I see, it's Judith makes you do
this. Of course, if you want to!"

"Now," he said with a rough tolerance, "think it over. She's right,
you'll find. A city house down here won't fit. The girl has lived
abroad, remember; she ought to know."

Mrs. Harmon had reflected and acquiesced. Common sense was fundamental
to both her and Ellis, and combined with more frankness than was usual
in the Judge's circle kept them on good terms. Ellis had laid his hand
on her shoulder while he urged her to consider; she had not resented the
sign of their understanding.

"Well," she said, "Judith knows a good deal, and perhaps I am wrong."
Right or wrong, she did not intend that she and Ellis should fall out.
Life was dull for her sometimes; she liked to have him dropping in. And
then those trinkets. She turned the bracelet on her wrist.

"This is very attractive," she said.

He grunted indifferently.

"It's odd," she said further, "and bracelets aren't worn very much. It
attracts attention."

"That's what Price expected," he responded. She never thanked him for
his gifts more than by such commendations; he did not expect more.

But she was on each occasion interested to know how he got on with
Judith. He knew she kept account of his visits there. "Go oftener," she
urged him once. He was wiser, and refused. "You don't follow it up very
quickly," she repeatedly said, but "all in good time" was the most she
could get out of him.

"What do you talk about with her?" she asked.

"The doings in the city," he answered. "The big things going on
anywhere."

"Does that get you very far with her?" she asked in surprise.

"As far as I can get," he replied.

She thought to advise him. "You don't understand girls, Stephen. The
talk you give her isn't what she wants. A girl of her age
needs--flattery, you know, and nice little things said."

"You'd make me into a Jim Wayne," he retorted. "A monkey in a Panama,
saying foolish things." Mrs. Harmon drew herself up, but he did not
perceive. "Pretty fool I'd be, saying the things he does. I heard a talk
of his and Beth's, and this is the sort of thing he said--." But Ellis
misrepresented Jim entirely, having looked at him from a strictly
personal point of view. The conversation, harmless as it was, is best
taken at first hand.

"How swell you look to-night!" Jim had begun. "Gad, that rose in your
hair--trust a girl to know what's nifty!"

"Don't be silly," Beth replied.

"Straight!" Jim protested. "Never saw you look so stunning. This
moonlight brings it all out, you know. Poetic, Beth, on my word! I say,
let's go down on the beach, and you can recite me that thing of
Tennyson's."

"Shelley's," Beth corrected him.

"Just as good," said Jim cheerfully. "Come on, do!"

Such is the literal report of a conversation which Beth thought highly
delightful, but which Ellis delivered with some distortion of manner and
word, calculated to throw discredit on Wayne's attractions. "Flat and
silly," he characterised it. "Now if you suppose that a man of my age
can say that sort of thing to a girl like Judith Blanchard, you're
wrong, Lyddy--Lydia, I mean."

She seized her chance to show a little of her true feeling; long ago she
had asked him not to use the old nickname. She answered coldly: "Of
course, you know your affairs best. And equally of course, you can't do
things which Mr. Wayne can."

"Don't be hard on me," he said. "Wayne's all right in his way, but I'm
no boy, nor is Judith like her sister. If Wayne's a friend of yours, I'm
sorry." For he divined that something more than his use of her name had
caused her coldness.

"I scarcely know him," she responded. "But let me tell you that a woman
had sometimes rather a man would make a fool of himself by calling her
handsome, than be too wise in his talk."

Ellis had no answer ready, and the subject dropped, but before he left
he made an attempt at conciliation. "You see, really sometimes I don't
understand myself, even, or the girl. I'll try to remember what you say.
Keep me in her mind, you know, Lydia."

It was a truth that he spoke: he did not understand the girl, nor
himself. He still prized her fire and dreaded her theories, with each
meeting he admired her more than ever, but he was finding in her a
baffling reserve which taught him that he must go slow. He could not win
her out of hand; some spring of action in her there was yet to find,
some ideal which he must satisfy. Might it not be too high!--and there
lay the new uncertainty in himself, that he was not sure of conquering
her, while conquer her he must! For she was growing indispensable to
him, all thought of her as a commodity had fled, and he was now familiar
with that longing for her while still he found no name for it. The
emotions which he understood were his own ambition and others' greed, he
had no knowledge of the finer desires which can be roused in man. So,
somewhat puzzled, he laboured to please Judith by the only means he
knew, with far more success than might have been expected.

Then came that evening when Mrs. Harmon invited Judith to her house,
where Ellis had arrived at almost the same time. It irritated the girl
at first to be so evidently brought in his way, and with Mather's
achievement in her mind she was for some time cool and quiet, until Mrs.
Harmon, with great self-control, took herself out of the room. Then
Ellis brought the conversation at once to familiar ground. He told
Judith that he had for some time been working to bring about a
combination of the cotton manufacturers. "We can control the whole
section, and can do much toward setting prices, if this can only be
managed."

"You mean to make it a trust?" asked Judith, interested.

"Yes," he said. "But some of the operators are shy, the contracts and
the sharing are so intricate. They--I--they don't know what I'm really
at."

Judith failed to understand that his reputation stood in the way of
complete confidence. "Can't they see that the combination will benefit
them?"

"Yes," he answered, "but the scheme scares them. It's big."

"I have heard of a lawyer," she said, "a New Yorker, who gives his whole
time to nothing but framing agreements for trusts, and meeting the
corporation laws. If you could call him in, couldn't he perhaps make it
clear to the others? The advantages, I mean, and the safety?"

"Where did you hear of him?" asked Ellis.

"I read of him," she answered, "in a magazine."

"I never read magazines," he said thoughtfully. "It mightn't be a bad
idea. By Gad," he went on, warming, "I think it might be just the thing.
A stranger to us all, he'd be able to give confidence, I do believe. And
there's so much in it!" He turned to Judith with energy. "Could you find
me that magazine?"

"Yes," she answered, all her coldness gone in the rush of interest, as
she saw herself influencing affairs. "It is at home."

"Let me walk back with you, then, when you go."

Mrs. Harmon entered, having heard the last part of their talk, having
listened, in fact. "Is that the sort of thing she really cares about?"
she asked herself in surprise.

It was, indeed, the sort of thing which attracted Judith; no wonder that
there was a new light in her eyes when she came home with Ellis. No
wonder that Beth tore up her letter to Mather. Judith had gained an
interest in the future which put quite out of her mind the memory of the
trifling strike at the mill. Ellis promised to tell her if he used her
idea; she was eager to know if it bore results. He let her know, before
long, that he was working on it; he would tell her if anything happened.
Judith scanned daily the reports of industrial affairs, to see if the
combination took shape.

Thus that invitation of Mrs. Harmon's was of great value to Ellis, but
when the other tried to draw nearer to the girl it proved a different
undertaking. Mrs. Harmon was lonely; she wanted companionship; it
irritated her that Judith and Beth had cavaliers, while she had none.
One day she asked Judith out to drive, and for a while the two sat in
the victoria glum and stupid. They were too widely different in their
natures ever to be intimate.

But Mrs. Harmon made the attempt. "Mr. Ellis," she said, choosing the
most promising topic, "is a most interesting man, Judith--you will let
me call you Judith, won't you?"

"Certainly," was the answer.

"Thank you. And don't forget that my name is Lydia; Mr. Ellis calls me
by it at times. Doesn't he fascinate you with what he does?"

That was something which Judith was not prepared to admit. "He is
certainly very active in many matters," she replied, wary of what she
said, for fear of her companion's tongue.

"He controls so much; he plans and carries out such great things!" went
on Mrs. Harmon. "Ah, he is a keen man, my dear. Don't you think so?"

Judith thought so.

"He has a great future before him," prophesied Mrs. Harmon, but she
perceived that she roused no answering spasm in Judith's breast.
Therefore Mrs. Harmon's artificial palpitation presently subsided, with
some suddenness, and she had the feeling that perhaps the young lady was
overmuch for her. Before the end of the drive Mrs. Harmon found herself
obliged to say, in self-defence:

"Driving makes one so contemplative, don't you think? Sometimes I could
drive for hours, just so, perfectly content but saying nothing."

Judith confessed to the same sensation. When Mrs. Harmon was alone, she
concluded that the experiment had been fully tried. Later, Judith asked
her over to tea, but the situation was so much relieved when other
people dropped in that Mrs. Harmon lost hope of a real friendship in
that quarter.



CHAPTER XIII

WHICH IS IN SOME RESPECTS UNSATISFACTORY


Jim Wayne had been going so frequently to Chebasset that people were
beginning to talk of it. All foresaw the consummation of his courtship,
and some gloomy shakes of the head were given to the subject.

Beth, the older people said, was just such another as Jim's mother: a
soft woman, without the power either to restrain a man or to improve
him. Such unhappiness as the widow Wayne's was, therefore, reserved to
Beth--while Jim should be alive. As Jim was weaker in character than his
father, and therefore less dissipated, he promised to live longer. Poor
Beth!

Not for these reasons, however, was it that Colonel Blanchard took
serious counsel concerning the possibility of interference. For when the
inclination of the two young people was unmistakable Blanchard began to
consider the side on which it affected him, regretting the hope which
seemed about to vanish, that Beth should marry Pease. If only something
might be done! The Colonel sought Judith as the person who alone could
advise him, though until he opened the subject he had forgotten how
seldom they agreed in their views. The Colonel was often conscious that
his calibre was different from that of his daughter.

"Judith," he said, "you've been noticing what is going on between Beth
and young Wayne? You think there's something in it?"

"If there isn't," she replied, "there will be very soon."

The Colonel took a few fretful paces up and down the room. Then he
stopped before her. "What do you think of it?" he demanded.

For a moment Judith considered her answer; it is unpleasant to say
things which may be remembered later when one has a brother-in-law.
Nevertheless, as usual she spoke the truth. "I wish Beth wouldn't."

"When Pease is ready, too!" complained the Colonel. "Do you suppose he
seems too old to her?"

"Beth likes older people," returned Judith. "And she'd be so safe with
him."

"Yes," returned the Colonel, accepting all suggestions eagerly. "Yes, of
course. Now, isn't there something we can do?"

"For instance?" challenged Judith; seeing that the Colonel had nothing
to offer, she went on, "I never knew how to interfere in anything of
that sort. Of course, you, as her father----"

"Do you think I could?" asked the Colonel hopefully.

"It's not often done," Judith replied.

The Colonel considered the possibility and shrank from it. Never had he
denied anything either to himself or to his daughters; the most he had
ever ventured toward his offspring was a petulant remonstrance. This
tone, as he saw himself helpless, he took now toward Judith in default
of Beth. "It seems hard," he complained. "I've brought her up--you don't
know how much thought I've given you two girls. And now she turns back
on me!"

"Why father," asked Judith in surprise, "how can it affect you so?"

The Colonel's thoughts rapidly skirted the pit which he had opened for
himself. It is a long way from the hope of a rich son-in-law to the
consideration of a daughter's happiness, but the Colonel presently
covered it. "Her comfort," he demanded. "Have I nothing at stake
there?"

But this was obviously so artificial that he felt Judith could not fail
to perceive it. She sat silent, and the Colonel, after changing the
subject, presently got himself out of the house. Perhaps he was to be
pitied, if to be good-natured, weak, indulgent, deserves a better reward
than a vigorous daughter's too-keen comprehension. Besides, the gentle
one was turning against him. He nursed his grievance against Beth for a
while, then at last found comfort in Judith after all. She at any rate
would marry money. If she would only be quick about it!

And the Colonel, free from observation, sat down in the shrubbery to
study the newspaper which he had brought with him, in the hope of
drawing from its columns of figures information which should tell him
where to lay his bet. He was gambling from week to week, quite as if he
were laying on the red or black, although the means of his ventures were
Consolidated, and (following the hint Jim Wayne had given) Poulton
Mining and Milling, besides (a little discovery he had made for himself)
Tilly Valley Oil. They were all up a point or two, but the Colonel was
not entirely relieved as he studied the figures, because more than a few
points were needed in order to make up for the slump of last week.

A man puzzles long at these things, sometimes; the Colonel's time was on
him now, making him very peevish. It was hard, hard indeed, that both
the market and Beth should go against him.

As regards Beth, the signs of her feeling were unmistakable. The eye of
blissful brooding which she now always showed, the loving consideration
with which she fulfilled all duties, bespoke the thoughts which
mastered her. She and Jim had been drawing nearer through the weeks, a
graded progress of lingering, slow-mounting ecstasy. And on one night,
one starlight night, Beth and her lover came to a complete
understanding.

Jim begged her to go with him to the beach. He was trembling a little
himself, being genuinely inspired with a feeling above his own capacity
to retain long; she felt the tremor in his voice as he asked the favour.
"Let's get away from here," he said. "I want to speak with you."

So they went down to the beach, silent, so absorbed by what was coming
that the touch of each other as they jostled in the darkness was enough
to make them start. Jim had chosen where the proposal should be made, a
nook beneath a bank where they had often sat by moonlight; but this was
starlight, and no one was to see.

They sat beneath the bank; the dry sand made a soft seat, the breath of
the salt-water quickened their spirits, the lapping of little waves
spoke to them with a murmur of far away things. Their two hearts beat
like four; Beth felt that she was breathless, Jim knew that he was
wordless, and a long pause followed their arrival. At last Jim found
that he could speak.

"How quiet it is!"

"And how lovely!"

He felt that this was mere temporising. "We've sat here a good many
times," he began again. "Haven't we, Beth?"

"Yes," she murmured, feeling that it was coming.

"I--it's been great fun to see so much of you," he went on, "but it's
got to come to an end before long."

"Really?" asked Beth weakly, all natural power of response completely
lost.

"It's too much to stand, you know," asserted Jim. "I've--you've made me
greedy, Beth. Either I want it all, or none at all."

She answered nothing, though he listened. Ah, it was a mistake to
propose in the dark, for he lost the sight of her sweet face.

"Either to come, I mean," he went on again, "whenever I want, or never
again, Beth."

"Jim!" she murmured.

"Shall I go away?" he asked. "Or shall we just go on meeting--every
day--forever--till death do us part?" he concluded, satisfied that he
had expressed the immutability of his sentiments. Getting no answer, he
reached for Beth's hands in the darkness, and found the little
fluttering things just coming toward him. Then he enfolded her and drew
her to him, and what was said after that was too broken to be set down
in type.

Thus was accomplished, and very creditably to Jim, the understanding
which had been long in coming, and Beth whispered to him the wonderful
words, "I love you!" Her little cup was more than full; her happiness
overflowed her heart and found a somewhat larger receptacle waiting for
it, namely her mind, in which it seemed somewhat thin. Even as she
yielded herself to Wayne's embrace Beth's two natures declared
themselves not in accord, now when the test was applied. Kisses were
strangely fleshly things; Beth shrank beneath Jim's eagerness; poetry
vanished before the fierceness of his embrace. This was not a communion
of spirit with spirit; Jim did not speak with fervour of his relief from
his trials and his fears. The tremolo of praise which her heart was
prepared to utter found no response in his; the deeper thoughts were
hers alone. She had thought admission to the treasures of Jim's mind
would mean so much, and now his exultation oppressed her, while she
winced beneath his physical delight.

Thus Beth, who had thought to sit hand in hand in deep communion,
discovered that there was in Jim as man what was lacking in her as
woman, and before long she led him home. Jim went with reluctance; it
was too sweet to hold and kiss her; she was a morsel far finer than had
yet come to him, and he failed to understand her purity, as the farmer's
boy cannot comprehend the rebellion of a peach at being eaten.

Nor did Jim quite fall in with Beth's ideas, which she detailed to him
as she neared the house. Tell her father and sister, of course, and
after that, why not tell everybody else? Beth wished for a month or two
of Jim to herself, and to rush into the world flaunting her happiness as
if it were an achievement was not in her nature, so she begged of Jim
this respite.

"It won't be news to any one by that time," he grumbled.

"But to oblige me, Jim? And really, never again can we have ourselves
quite to ourselves." In their walk up the hill Beth had found time to
tell herself that she was wrong to be so timid in Jim's embrace; that
perhaps it was natural, but that every other girl felt so at first, and
the feeling would pass. Thus she meant what she said about having him to
herself; and Jim, turning and catching her, declared that there never
was a sweeter little thing, that he must have a kiss, and that he would
agree.

The Colonel and Judith had been sitting quite stolidly, back to back
beside the lamp. But while the Colonel was oblivious to what was going
on, Judith had been keenly alive to it. She had recognised the tremor in
Jim's voice as he begged for the interview; how many such requests had
been made of her! Yet having always gone to a proposal as a surgeon to
an operation, to remove painfully yet kindly the cause of a disease,
Judith knew how different her sensations had been from those of Beth, as
she went, shrinking, to meet her happiness. During the half-hour that
they were away, Judith imagined the bliss of those other two, and knew
that however simple it was, it was enviable. Then when Beth returned,
Judith started for very joy at the sight of her radiant face.

Very prettily Beth went and kissed her father, and stammered that there
was something to tell him, for she and Jim now understood each other. It
seemed to Beth natural that Judith should speak slowly, apparently
choosing her words--but that the Colonel should wait until Judith had
finished speaking, and then should burst out with more than Beth had
expected him to say, as if to cover up less than she had expected him to
feel, struck cold to Beth's warm little heart, and oppressed much of the
remainder of the evening. She had scarcely recovered from it when
train-time came, and with it Jim's good-by, almost violent--and the
evening was over.

Poor little Beth, kneeling at your bedside, praying for one who, instead
of hastening home to tell his mother, stays at the club till after
midnight--poor little Beth, a white figure in the pale light of the
late-rising moon, go to bed and dream the dreams of yesterday. It would
be happier so.

But sleep avoided her. So many thoughts passed through her mind, of the
reality which had come to her--a reality like others, hard in
places--that Beth lay wakeful. She heard the clock strike eleven, heard
her father and Judith come upstairs and say good-night, heard the two go
to their rooms. They had said so little to her, so little, and she was
so lonesome! But in a few minutes a door opened, footsteps approached,
and Judith stood by her sister's side. Beth stretched up her arms and
drew her down.

"Talk to me," Judith murmured. "Tell me about it, about him."

Ah, this was sisterly and sweet! Beth had sometimes thought her sister
cold; never would she do so again. She told her happy thoughts, not
those vague suggestions of a difficult future or imperfect
understanding. Her Jim was such a man! Her own words gave her
confidence; clasped in Judith's arms, Beth poured out her hopes; more
yet, she spoke of her fears in order to smile them away. She would face
hardships, would bear what griefs the world might send, secure in her
great love. And Judith, listening, murmured her agreement, her sympathy,
her joy.

Then when Judith said good-night, she was held still closer for a
moment. "I wish you the same good fortune, dear!" Beth kissed her, and
released her.

Beth slept at last; it was Judith who was wakeful. The same good
fortune?

Judith mused upon love. It was love which so blinded Beth's eyes and
brought this ineffable happiness. Poor Beth! Yet Judith did not even
smile with pity, for her nature told her that this love of Beth's,
should it but last, would be more of a help, a guide and strength, than
all of Judith's own knowledge. And repeating Beth's words, "the same
good fortune," Judith wished for that happiness to come to her. To love
a man, to believe in him, give herself to him: that would solve the
problem of a future which often seemed too cold.

She recognised perfectly the drift of her feelings toward Ellis. Yet her
enthusiasm for him was an impulse of the head rather than the heart; it
was not a passion, but a state of mind. How much finer was Beth's
perfect self-forgetfulness! And fearing that Ellis could never rouse her
to a greater height than this intellectual approval, Judith's thoughts
turned regretfully toward Mather. In all the years of their
acquaintance, why had he never _made_ her love him? Well, that was past!
But Judith, softened by this contact with Beth's happiness, and
perceiving that the fascination of Ellis's personality was slowly
growing on her, looked with regret upon the prospect of a merely
rational union.



CHAPTER XIV

MR. PEASE INTRUDES UPON A SECRET


The summer passed; through October the city gathered its own to itself
again. The stay-at-homes, such as Miss Cynthia and Mrs. Wayne, saw with
relief shutters go down and blinds open, saw awnings spread over
southern windows and children playing on lawns. Poor Mrs. Wayne,
threatened with the loss of her treasure, could call less formally upon
her daughter-in-law-to-be, yet could not quite reconcile herself with
matters as they stood. But that is the way of mothers. Jim began to urge
that the engagement be announced, but Beth put him off for another
little while.

And now Pease found comfort in the thought of Beth's return, since it
would give him his innocent pleasure without journeys or the neglect of
business. His winter clothes were chosen with unusual care, nor did he
this time repel the tailor's semi-annual attempt to give him a more
youthful appearance. At his home Pease became a new man, and Miss
Cynthia sneered as she fastened the charge upon him.

"More colour in your neckties!" she sniffed disdainfully.

He smiled, untroubled. "Yes; they tell me it's to be quite proper, this
fall."

Astonishment prevented her from speaking; never before had he deserted
the middle ground of fashion. Thus the lighter shade of his new overcoat
was a sign, his wearing of tan shoes a portent. And his very carriage
was different, as of a man who has at last found the spring of youth and
drinks of it daily. His mannerisms were softening, he took more interest
in social news, and an undercurrent of thought always swayed his mind in
the direction where knowledge or imagination placed Beth Blanchard.

There was stupidity in Pease, for he did not find the meaning of the
existence of Jim Wayne. But very slowly he discovered the reason for his
own sensations. He met Beth first in April; by the middle of the summer
he knew that she attracted him extremely; a month later he acknowledged
that he was going to Chebasset for the sake of seeing her; upon her
return to Stirling he felt continual odd thoracic sensations which
seemed to make him a living compass, pointing always to Beth. After a
fortnight of this sort of thing he waked one day from a reverie of her,
to realise that he loved her. The discovery affected him with vertigo;
he had to seek the air and think the matter over. In about a week he
became familiar with the situation and accepted it. He paused one
evening before his motto from Goethe, and smiled to think that he had
once considered the end of happiness to be mere culture.

Loving Beth, he did not at first include her in his hopes. There was
such delight in contemplating a definite image in absence, such
satisfaction in watching Beth herself when present, that for some time
he went no further. He made it clear to Beth that he was always willing
to attempt anything she desired, and then from time to time looked in on
her and adored. Yet the humanising process eventually proceeded. Gazing
at his idol until its every perfection was known to him, at last there
came the question: Why not possess it? And this worked on him so that in
the end he became extremely determined.

So gentle was the increase of his attentions that Beth did not at first
take the alarm. At home, no abstraction betrayed him to Miss Cynthia,
who thought that he had resigned himself. He was more lively, normal
than ever before, and only Mather suspected in him the determination to
do or die. The change of the scene of operations from Chebasset to the
city, however, gave Mather no chance to keep abreast of the march of
events, since the manager still spent most of his days and nights at the
seaside. Thus no one enlightened Pease until it became Beth's task to do
so herself.

He dressed himself with unusual care one afternoon; had it been the
evening Miss Cynthia would never have suspected. But his newest suit,
his freshest gloves, the box of violets in his hand, and (more than all)
the single pink in his lapel--all these for a moment made her suspect
the truth as she watched him leave the house. "Whatever is the man----?"
But he was gone, and there was nothing to be done.

He found Beth at home, and gave her the box of violets. She thanked him
with such prettiness as always charmed him, such warmth as always made
him glow. The poor man tried now to say words of love, he who had never
practised them even to himself. It was a long way round, through the
weather, the news, the latest invitation, to the deepest emotion of the
human heart. But he pointed straight to it at last, and Beth understood.

So she sprang to head him off in the kindest, surest way. "I----" she
hesitated with heightened colour, "I have something to tell you, Mr.
Pease. Almost nobody knows it [almost everybody was nearer the truth, as
Jim weekly complained], but you have been such a good friend that I
think I should like you to know."

"You are very kind," he answered, much pleased, and opening his bosom to
the fatal dart. "I will tell no one without your permission."

"I should like you to tell your cousin," she said. "I--I----" Her face
became scarlet. "Mr. Pease, I am engaged to marry Mr. Wayne."

Down fell his house of cards; it seemed as if the chambers of his brain
resounded, and for a moment his head bowed low. Then he raised it again
and looked at her, and for the merest instant she saw a face of misery.

"Oh, Mr. Pease," she cried, "I am so sorry!"

There was a moment of stupid silence. "I--I regret," he said at length,
"to distress you, by letting you know."

"How can I help knowing?" she answered simply. He sat dumb while she,
twisting her fingers in and out, sought for further words. "If I," she
said at last with tears in her eyes, "if I have hurt you, I hope that
you will blame me, and forget me."

"Blame?" he cried. "And forget? No, no!" She saw his face light nobly.
"Miss Blanchard, you have given me new ideals--humanised me. Blame and
forget? Why, my life was small and narrow; you have led me out of
myself! Everything is better through knowing you. Therefore, I may say
with a cheerful heart:

    "Tis better to have loved and lost
    Than never to have loved at all!"

He sat upright and smiled, but tears stood in her eyes; she could make
no response. After a moment he asked her: "You are to be married soon?"

"No," she answered, and gained command of herself. "We must wait a
while--and you know it is very slow, rising in Mr. Wayne's business."

"Yes." Then he rose and held out his hand; she gave him hers at once. "I
will go," he said. "Do not reproach yourself, and--God bless you
always!" He bent and kissed her hand, smiled again, and then was gone.

She sat down, miserable. Not his brave cheerfulness, nor his almost
comic quoting of the old-fashioned couplet, could drive from her the
knowledge that his heart was bleeding. Slowly the tears welled out upon
her cheeks.

Then Wayne entered joyously. "I passed old Pease on the steps, and he
didn't see me. What's wrong with him?"

She ran to him. "Oh, Jim!" she cried, and clung to him, weeping.

"Oho! Indeed?" he exclaimed, and horrified her by loud laughter.

Pease had not noticed whom he passed upon the steps. For a moment after
leaving the house he had stood in the vestibule, looking at the setting
sun. One would have said that its splendour passed into his face and
illumined it; indeed, a glory entered him at that moment, an ecstacy of
self-forgetfulness. The sunset faded quickly, but the inner light still
shone on his face as he went homeward.

Miss Cynthia saw it when he entered the parlour where she was sitting.
Her cousin had never appeared so to her before, and for a moment she
mistook. "Is it possible?" she asked herself.

"Cynthia," he said quietly, "Miss Beth Blanchard asked me to tell you
that she is to marry Mr. Wayne."

"No!" she cried, angry at once, her love for her cousin blazing in her
eyes. "She mustn't!" Then she was ashamed, for he answered gently:

"It seems to me a very happy fortune."

But he could say no more, for a single dry sob burst from her. Fearing
to lose his own self-command, he went up to his room.

From that minute Miss Cynthia's admiration of her cousin, which for some
time had been passive, recommenced to grow, expanding far beyond its
former boundaries as she found what further depths there were in his
character. Never, even in their early days of struggle, had he been so
considerate, kind, and wise. Indeed, on the very day after his great
disappointment he proved his manliness.

Pease travelled down to Chebasset and found Mather in the office as
usual. The manager greeted him with an inward pity, for in the morning's
mail he had received a letter from Beth, informing her dear George, whom
she had always regarded as one of her best friends, that she and Mr.
Wayne--etcetera, etcetera. With sorrow for Pease, therefore, Mather
greeted him, to be surprised by the banker's smile. When his errand was
announced Mather was surprised the more.

"You have been saying, haven't you," asked Pease, "that you must soon
have an assistant here, to take charge of the mill while you are in the
city."

"Yes," Mather answered. "We are running smoothly now, and my hands are
more than full, taking care of both making and selling. I must be in the
city all the time, so soon as I can find a capable man to take my place
here."

"I have found him," announced Pease, beaming. "James Wayne!"

"I said a _capable_ man, Mr. Pease," replied Mather. "The boy is green
and flighty."

"Yes, I know," said Pease. "But isn't he worth the trial?"

Mather rose and began to pace the office. Did he dare trust anything in
Jim's hands? "You promised me," he reminded, "that I should have full
control over the business."

"So you shall, so you shall," soothed Pease. "But a trial? Come, now!"

Between respect for his employer, affection for Beth, and interest in
Wayne himself, Mather saw that he was caught. "You're too good for
words!" he said, and yielded.

So the position was offered to Jim, and gave Beth a happy opening to her
engagement. Amid all the presents which, according to the custom that
ignores the chance of a broken betrothal, came pouring in, nothing
pleased Beth so much as the fact that now it was open to her Jim to make
his way in the world.



CHAPTER XV

WHICH DEVELOPS THE COLONEL'S FINANCIAL STRATEGY


To Judith Blanchard the publication of her sister's engagement was an
experience. Hourly Beth came to show a new letter or present, and with
head at Judith's shoulder sighed because people were so kind. Whenever
this happened, the image of Mather grew a little clearer in Judith's
heart, and that of Ellis so much less distinct. At the same time there
rose in Judith a dread of those vague misfortunes which Jim might bring
on Beth, and when one evening Ellis came to call, he found Judith
inspired with a desire to protect her sister against knowledge of the
real hard-heartedness of the world.

"Your sister is very happy," he said after glancing at the table on
which the presents were displayed. "May she always remain so!"

Judith turned on him with a curious energy. "You think she may not?"

"I hope she may," was all he would reply.

Judith studied him for a moment, then her eyes softened. "I am very fond
of Beth," she said. "We all know Jim; among us we must teach him to be
more of a man."

She spoke simply, but her words moved Ellis; her assumption that he was
capable of human, domestic feeling almost roused it in him, and as at
their first meeting he felt that she could make him better than himself.
With the mist of sisterly affection shed upon her eyes, Judith was
sweeter than he had ever known her; yet at the same time a knowledge of
her pricelessness came to him, and he feared this softer side of her as
the one on which she would be strongest in defense: it was Mather's
side. The sole feelings which Ellis knew himself capable of rousing in
her were ambition and the admiration of great things; he felt that he
must keep them constantly before her.

"I have some news for you," he said. And so he found himself safely in
the back parlour just as the door-bell rang for another visitor.

It was Mather who came; Beth met him with thanks for the roses he had
sent, perishable signs of good wishes. Jim had grumbled at the flowers:
"Why doesn't he send something practical?" But Beth had been delighted,
and now told Mather so, calling Wayne to her side to echo her words.
Next she spoke with still deeper gratitude, alluding to the position
which had been given Jim.

"And you are glad," Mather asked, "because after this you can't see so
much of him?"

"Ah," Beth replied shyly, "we shall the sooner be able to see each other
all the time."

"But don't thank me," Mather continued. "It was Pease's idea. Thank me
if Jim _keeps_ his place." He nodded at the young man with a meaning
which was not exactly jovial, and which Jim (being like others of his
age, half-loutish and half-assertive) resented accordingly. So Jim got
himself away, to talk aimless commonplaces with the next visitor, Pease,
and to glare at Mather as he still spoke with Beth.

"He's prepared to be a father to me," Jim grumbled, for, in the business
talk already held, Mather had laid down application and steadiness as
requisites. Jim had taken the warning indifferently, whence the renewed
hint, purposely given for Beth's benefit, as Jim appreciated. "Now," he
thought, "she'll rub it into me."

Meanwhile Mather and Beth spoke of matrimony, and exchanged
conventionalities while they struggled with deep thoughts. They felt
that they understood each other; besides, each had at the same time a
regret for the other's fate. Thus Beth, with her knowledge of Ellis in
the back parlour, pitied Mather, who in his turn grieved that Jim's
weaknesses were unknown to Beth. But being genuinely sympathetic, Mather
and Beth felt the thrill of their friendship, and were more closely
drawn together by this belief in each other's impending unhappiness.
Therefore, though for a time they spoke in a lighter vein, at last their
feeling came to the surface. Mather had described marriage and its
inconveniences, as seen from the bachelor's standpoint. "I am not
afraid!" declared Beth with a toss of the head. Then with an impulse he
took her hands.

"We know that troubles may come, however lucky we may seem, don't we,
Beth?" he said. "Look here, if ever you need any help, you'll remember
me, won't you?"

And Beth, instead of retorting that she had her father and Jim to rely
on, for the moment forgot those sturdy protectors, and promised that she
would. Beth was at this time always on the edge of emotional gratitude,
and there was a glimmer of tears in her affectionate eyes as she
answered. Then the Colonel came wandering into the room, at the same
time as the voices of Judith and Ellis were heard at the door of the
back parlour, and Beth and Mather separated. Jim drew her aside at once.

"Why did you hold hands with him so?" he asked.

"He's one of the oldest friends I have," she replied in surprise. "And
I'm so sorry for him, Jim!" She led him to the window recess, and tried
to interest her lover in Mather's mournful fate, but Jim did not enter
into her sorrow to the degree which she anticipated. Then that happened
which Mather had desired and Jim dreaded, for Beth spoke of the position
at the mill: he mustn't lose it. "You will work hard, won't you, Jim
dear?"

"Do you suppose I shan't?" he demanded testily. Whereby he put Beth in
the wrong, so that she repressed a sigh, and begged his pardon.

Now while Jim, after this triumph, assumed a sulky dignity which was
quite appropriate, the Colonel was still wandering, mentally at least,
if the quality of his words with Mather and Pease was a sign.
"Woolgathering," decided Mather, and relapsed into silence while the
Colonel explained to Pease that the peculiar actions of the autumn
weather were--ha, peculiar, and how were matters with Mr. Pease? Then
the Colonel did not listen, and started when the answer was innocently
ended with a question. Vaguely, he said he didn't know.

"In my business," went on Pease, apparently satisfied, "the state of the
stock market occasions considerable vigilance. One does not seem able
even to guess what will happen."

"No," acquiesced the Colonel, this time with an attention which the
fervour of his tone attested. "That is very true."

Unhappily true, he might have said without exaggeration. Indeed, were
life an opera, and had each person his _leit-motif_, the Colonel would
have taken wherever he went an undertone of jarring excitement. The
cymbals would best express the clashing of his hopes and fears; he rose
in the night to figure on bits of paper, read the news feverishly each
evening, and roused Judith's criticism of his tendency to carry away
the stock-market reports. Judith was watching those stocks in which
Ellis was interested, but while her concern was merely in the theory of
market manipulation, the Colonel's was sadly practical.

And it was on his mind this night that he was near an end; his life's
opera was approaching that grand crash when the cymbals were to be
drowned by the heavier brasses. In his pocket were barely two hundred
dollars in cash, he had placed his last thousand at the broker's, and
the broker had sent word that he must have another in the morning. The
Colonel looked at his daughters, Beth sweet and Judith proud; he looked
at Pease and Ellis, safe from calamity; he looked at Jim with his youth
and Mather with his strength. None of them had troubles; he alone was
miserable.

And the Colonel, when he could withdraw, went into a corner and brooded
over his ill-luck, thus alone, of all the company, failing to remark the
special brilliancy of Judith's beauty. Ellis saw it and was proud, for
he had caused it; Mather noted it and groaned, for it was not for him;
Beth admired; Jim came out of his sulk, swaggered, and made up to her;
even Pease was roused to a mild admiration. And Judith herself felt as
if she had moved the world a foot from its orbit.

Ellis's news had been important. "Do you remember the advice you gave
me?" he had inquired when the two were alone in the little parlour.

"About the corporation lawyer?" she asked eagerly. "Of course! Tell me,
have you done anything with him?"

"Anything? Everything!" he responded with enthusiasm. "That magazine
told all about him, and I looked him up in New York. He came on here--I
don't know how I should have put it through without him."

"Then you have managed it?" she asked.

Indeed he had, he assured her. A man gets--well, misjudged by others,
sometimes; there had been a prejudice to overcome before he could affect
this consolidation. The others had been unusually shy; the safeguards
Ellis offered had not satisfied them. But the lawyer had straightened
matters out so that all had gone smoothly, and he, Ellis, had saved
money by his means.

"Good!" cried Judith.

"We paid him twenty-five," Ellis said.

"Twenty-five?"

"Thousand," he explained.

"So much?" cried Judith.

"Oh," answered Ellis, "it was no great affair for him. He often gets
much more."

Judith was speechless.

"And," said Ellis, "there is some one else we ought to fee, if only it
were possible. But I scarcely see how I could bring her name before the
directors."

"A woman?" she asked, much excited.

"You," he replied briefly, and his mouth shut with its customary
firmness. But his eyes noted her exhilaration.

"I?" she demanded. "I? Do you mean that what I said was of importance?"

"You have saved us time. You have put money directly in my pocket. Ten
thousand is what I calculate I've saved in concessions, and in the time
gained by shortening trouble I reckon I've made as much more." He
laughed. "What percentage shall I give you?"

But she would not jest. "You're welcome, welcome!" she exclaimed. "I'm
satisfied, just to feel that I have been a factor. Just to know that
I--oh, Mr. Ellis, you can't know how I feel!"

And Judith was near the danger line at that moment, as she leaned toward
him with sparkling eyes. He saw it, believed his chance had come, and
sought to take advantage of it. "I shall consult you always after this,"
he said. "I will bring you all my difficulties. A partnership--what do
you say to that?"

She laughed in deprecation, yet she was flattered, and the stimulus
caused her to rear her head and expand her nostrils in the way she had.
In his turn he was thrilled, and fire entered his veins.

"What do you say?" he repeated, leaning toward her. "Shall we be
partners?"

"A silent partnership?" she asked. "Or will you put up the sign, Ellis
and Blanchard?"

The answer sprang to his lips, but he checked it, wondering if he dared
venture. A glance at her face decided him; she was looking, still with
those triumphant eyes, away from him, as if she saw visions of success.
He spoke hoarsely.

"Not Ellis and Blanchard, but--Ellis and Ellis!"

She looked at him. "What did you say?" she asked absently, as if her
thoughts had been elsewhere. Then, looking where her glance had been, he
saw Mather in the farther room. Mather--and she had not heard!

"I said nothing," he answered, almost choking.

Even his discomfiture escaped her, and presently she took him to the
others. Her excitement was not gone, it made her wonderfully beautiful,
but though he might triumph that he had caused it, he knew that she had
slipped away from him. He tried in vain to master his exasperation.

Judith's thoughts were of Mather; she felt that if she could tell him
what she had done, she would crush him. This was what she had hoped
for: the time when she should prove that she could influence events. He
had said the world would be too much for her! Perhaps now she could
break that masterfulness against which she had always rebelled. And she
smiled at the quiet assurance of his manner, for he had merely started a
mill and built up a business, while she had all but created a Trust! It
would humble him, if he but knew.

There is no need of describing the next half-hour's doings of that mixed
company. Pride and sweetness, loutishness, strength, amiability,
ambition, and a feeble man's weak despair, all were together in the
Blanchard's parlour, and got on very badly. It is enough to say that
Judith talked with Mather, looking at him from time to time with a gleam
of unexpressed thought which he did not understand; that Ellis, trying
to subdue a grin of fury into a suave smile, put his hands in his
pockets and clenched them there; and that by this action he exposed,
protruding from his vest pocket, the end of a narrow red book at which
the Colonel was presently staring as if fascinated.

Now the Colonel had once been, as already stated, what the early
Victorians were fond of calling a man of substance. Hence complacence to
the exclusion of persistence, and a later life dominated by the
achievements of youth. He ran away from college to go to the Civil War,
and at the coming of peace retired on his laurels. Arduous service in
the State militia brought him his title; he married, travelled, and
frittered away the years until changes in the value of property brought
him face to face with what might seem the unavoidable choice, either to
accommodate himself to a more modest establishment, or to go to work to
earn money.

Out of the seeming deadlock the Colonel's financial insight found a way.
His capital, used as income, for some years more maintained him in the
necessary way of life. Meanwhile he promised himself to regain his money
by the simple means of the stock market, but when he came to apply the
remedy, some perverseness in its workings made it fail, and to his
astonishment he found himself at the end of his resources. To none of
his friends might he turn for relief, for your friend who lends also
lectures, and the Colonel could never bear that. Our esteemed warrior
was, however, still fertile in resource, and his genius discovered a
possible base of supplies. Hence the fascination exerted by the
check-book which Ellis always carried about with him.

Some moralists might dub the Colonel weak for dwelling on this
contemplation. Yet consistency is regarded as a virtue, and the Colonel
was usually consistent in trying to get what he wanted. With his
military eye still fixed on the end of the narrow red book, he drew near
to Ellis and began to speak with him. Naturally, that which was in the
Colonel's mind came first to his lips.

"The stock market has been flighty lately," quoth he.

So were girls, thought Ellis. "Very flighty," he said. "But that
scarcely concerns you, I hope."

"Oh, no, no!" the Colonel hastily assured him. "And yet--Mr. Ellis, may
I have a word with you in my study?"

Accustomed though he was to every turn of fortune, Ellis's heart leaped.
Was the fool coming into his hands at last? Then, as he looked once more
at Judith, the unduly sensitive organ made the reverse movement,
contracting with a spasm of real pain. She was not even noticing him
now. He followed the worthy Colonel to what was called his study.

Blanchard had no moral struggle to make before he broached his subject.
His fibre had degenerated long ago; his sole feeling was regret that he
must expose himself to one who was below his station. Taking care,
therefore, not to lower himself in his own eyes by subservience in word
or manner, the Colonel indicated his need of a few thousands, "just to
tide him over." He wondered if Ellis were willing to advance the money.

Ellis took the request quietly, and sat as if thinking. His cold face
concealed a disturbance within: elation struggling with an unforeseen
doubt. This collapse on the Colonel's part Ellis had watched and hoped
for, yet now that it had come a dormant instinct stirred, questioning
whether to control Judith by such means were not unworthy of himself. A
man was fair game, but a woman--Ellis roused himself impatiently.
Entirely unaccustomed to making moral decisions, he could not see that
he stood at the parting of ways, and that from the moment when he
leagued himself with the Colonel, deceit entered into his relations with
Judith. Intolerant of what seemed a weakness, he crushed down the doubt.
What was he dreaming of? The chance was too good to be lost.

Need of appearing businesslike made him ask a few questions. "What
security can you offer?"

"Nothing whatever," answered the Colonel, grandly simple.

"This house?" asked Ellis.

"Twice mortgaged, and," added the Colonel as if the joke were upon his
mortgagees, "out of repair."

Ellis took note of the admission; if the mortgagees knew that the house
were in poor condition, they might sell cheap. "The house at Chebasset?"
he inquired.

"Merely rented."

"No stocks or bonds, no other property?" Ellis persisted.

"My furniture," was all the Colonel could suggest.

This time a real repugnance seized Ellis. "Nothing of that kind," he
answered sharply, feeling that to have a lien on the very chair which
Judith sat in was too much. Yet the thought of her, thus again brought
in, grew in spite of this spasm of right feeling, and even while he
despised the Colonel for his unmanliness, his own lower nature spoke.
"There is one other thing, however."

The Colonel saw his meaning. "Mr. Ellis," he cried, with fine
indignation, "I mean to repay you every cent!"

But the eye of the warrior fell before that of the parvenu. "Cur!"
thought Ellis. "Damn your small spirit!" Nevertheless, he drew out his
check-book. "You will give your note, of course?"

"Of course!" replied the Colonel with dignity. Two documents changed
hands, one in fact, the other by courtesy representing the value of five
thousand dollars. Then Ellis refused the Colonel's invitation to stay
and smoke; the transaction tasted badly in his mouth.

"But at least you will come into the parlour again," said the Colonel,
when they were once more in the front hall. Ellis stood without
replying, and the Colonel waited while he looked in at the others.

Pease had gone, the other four remained, and Mather was the center of
the group. Wayne was regarding him resentfully, Beth affectionately,
Judith unfathomably. She still remembered the news which Ellis had
brought.

"So you are glad to be a city man again?" asked Beth of Mather.

"Yes," he replied, "but poor Jim!"

"Poor Jim!" echoed Beth tenderly.

"He can stand it," testily rejoined the object of their sympathy.

"I don't know that I shall feel at home here, after being a countryman
so long," said Mather. "Will you tell me all that has happened down-town
in my absence. Judith?"

Without answering, she threw him a glance, meaning that she could--if
she would! In the hall Ellis turned abruptly away, and gathered up his
hat and coat.

"No, I won't come in," he said to the Colonel, and went away at once.

His hold on Blanchard, now that it was gained, seemed unaccountably
small. It would grow, Ellis had no doubt of that, for the Colonel was on
the road down hill; and yet the relationship promised less than it
might. For though by this means Ellis might win possession of Judith, he
wanted more than that; he must have her esteem. And Mather had taken her
mind from him! Ellis grew hot and cold with that strange feeling whose
name he could not discover, while yet its disturbances were stronger
from day to day.

       *       *       *       *       *

For the Colonel another act of his opera began with a pleasant jig;
cheered, he retired to his study, and began to plan how to double
Ellis's note. Jim took Beth away into the back parlour, where presently
the light grew dim. As the two went, Judith saw Beth's upward glance
into her lover's face, and her own thoughts changed and grew soft; she
turned to watch Mather as he sat before what had been, earlier in the
evening, a wood fire.

She noticed how natural it seemed for him to gather the embers together,
put on wood from the basket, and start a little blaze. The action first
carried her back to the period before he was her declared lover; next it
drew her thoughts forward to a time when he might be--what Jim was to
Beth. And Mather, unconsciously working at the fire, started for Judith
a train of musing.

Beth had taught her that to love was enviable, and that it might be a
relief to have one's future fixed. Sitting thus with Mather, it seemed
to Judith that just so must many a husband and wife be sitting,
contented and at home. When compared with the restless dissatisfaction
which so long had tormented her, the picture was alluring. Judith gave
herself to the mood.

Mather toyed with the tongs for a minute longer, then gave the logs a
final tap into place, and turned to her as if rousing from thought.
"It's pleasant to be here," he said, "and it's fine to be in the city. I
like to meet people on the street again. It's as if I had had years of
exile."

She smiled without replying, and he went on. "I think it's done me good.
Curious, isn't it, that to be knocked down and kicked out, and then to
go away and look at people through a telescope, should be a real
benefit? But I've gained a better perspective than before; I've had time
to think of the theory as well as the practice of affairs. Yes, it's
been healthful--but it's good to be back. You understand what I mean,
don't you, Judith?"

"I do," she answered. Ellis was forgotten; here was George speaking as
he had not spoken for a year, of his ideas and experiences. She was glad
to have them brought to her, glad that he spoke freely and not bitterly,
and again the remembrance of Beth's happiness brought a vision of closer
relationship.

He noted the softness of her mood, and without effort let the time drift
on, careful only not to disturb this harmony, until at last he felt that
the talk should be stopped before it ended of itself, and so he took his
leave.

She gave him one of her direct looks as she offered her hand. "You have
been too busy, George," she said. "Come oftener." With the firm
hand-clasp to express the undercurrent of their thoughts, they parted.
Alone again by the fire, Judith indulged herself by looking forward. One
could drift into marriage, easily and agreeably.

Then she heard Jim say good-night, and Beth came and leaned upon her
chair. "I want to tell you what Mr. Fenno said to me this afternoon,"
said Beth. "About George and the new combination of the cotton millers."

"What had George to do with that?" asked Judith.

"The Wampum Mills held out a long while," answered Beth; "the whole
thing depended upon them. Mr. Fenno is president; George is a director,
but he sent in his resignation soon after he went to Chebasset, and
didn't attend their meetings for weeks."

"Well?" asked Judith.

"Well, the directors couldn't make up their minds, and at last they
refused to accept George's resignation, and sent for him. He looked into
the matter, and then he----" Beth paused to laugh.

"Go on," begged Judith.

"He scolded them for not jumping at the chance. Mr. Fenno said he hadn't
been so lectured since he was a boy; he was much pleased by it. So the
Wampum Mills went into the combination three days ago, all of the little
mills followed at once, and they expect to do almost double business
now. Isn't it fine of George?"

"Fine!" agreed Judith, but her gentler mood was destroyed. Ellis also
had had part in the combination, the greater part. If one were to
compare the achievements and to choose between the men, if one were to
do rather than to dream----! She threw off her thoughts of Mather as
one throws off a cloak and looks upon it lying shapeless. Life and
action suddenly called her again; she, too, had influenced this matter.
She remembered Ellis's acknowledgment of indebtedness, the suggestion of
partnership, and the compliment pleased her. Mather passed completely
from her mind, and Ellis dominated her as before.



CHAPTER XVI

SOMETHING NEW


If Mrs. Harmon's marriage was her most brilliant success, it was also
her greatest disappointment--as it was her husband's. At times when she
thought of her position, she was satisfied; when she realised its
restraints she rebelled. For she was robust, full-blooded, stirring, but
the Judge was "set in his ways." He was mental, she was physical; as a
result she completely misprized him.

He had brought her into a circle where she did not belong; it was as if
a gardener had set among roses some hardy, showy plant, a flaunting
weed. Pleased as Mrs. Harmon was, her position irked her to maintain;
respectability was often very wearisome, very flat. There was little
spice and go to life; too much restraint was required. Not entirely
vulgar, not exactly coarse, she fretted first, then yearned for other
things. Barbaric is the word that fits her best; she was like the
educated Indian who longs for his free dress and freer ways.

Liberty was out of the question, since she would never give up the
brilliance of her position. Personal freedom she had; for the Judge,
when he found that she could not be the companion that he hoped, gave
her all the money that he could, and let her (within bounds which she
understood very well and overstepped only in secret) do as she pleased.
But she had in her the craving for physical stimuli; earth was her
mother. A five-mile walk daily might have kept her mind clear, yet she
would have had to walk alone, and that was unbearable. Loving people,
she lacked companionship, for with women below her station she would not
chum, while with those in it she could not. We have seen how Judith
failed her; there remained only the men. Handsome and shrewd, Mrs.
Harmon had gained her position without yielding to their snares; but now
that the dangers which beset her single life were past, she began to
look back at them inquiringly. Her beauty was full-blown; soon it would
begin to fade, and her nature cried out against losing youth and all its
pleasures.

Her feelings were from instinct, not calculation; her actions were
impulsive. When she first met Ellis, quite unconsciously her thoughts
had dwelt on him. He was unresponsive; the two dropped into a habit of
semi-intimacy, but having thus begun to let her fancy roam, Mrs. Harmon
yearned for an Adonis until her dreams centered with some constancy upon
a vision which answered to the name of Jim.

Circumstances are everything; there is nothing human which does not
depend upon them absolutely, and Mrs. Harmon might have "sighed and
pined and ogled" forever, had not Wayne been thrown in her path at a
time when his mind was ready to welcome diversion.

It happened that he had planned to go to the theater with Beth. They
wanted to go alone, therefore they must go in the afternoon. He chose a
Wednesday, though only Saturday afternoons belonged to him. The play was
advertised in a manner to excite Jim's interest, and he assured Beth it
would be "bully." Coming up from Chebasset at eleven o'clock, he dressed
himself in his best and lunched at the Blanchard's. Then as the hour
approached he started with Beth for the temple of amusement.

She pressed his arm as they stood for a minute in the vestibule.
"Naughty boy!" she said, beaming on him. "Naughty to spend so much money
on me!"

"We mustn't dry up, Beth," he answered. "Life's too serious to have no
fun in it."

"But to take an afternoon from work!" she said, so prettily that only
conscience would have blinded him to the intended thanks. Jim's sense of
guilt, however, made him start.

"Confound it, Beth," he cried, stopping short and looking at her, "don't
you trust me to take an afternoon off without stealing it?"

"Oh, oh!" she exclaimed. "Jim, I didn't mean that!" She tried to soothe
his irritation away, but it was a bad beginning to their pleasure, and
they could not talk freely on the way to the theater. When they entered
the lobby she felt that he was still touchy, therefore she said nothing
of the flaming posters which she saw now for the first time. Women in
tights, drunken men--but Jim had said the play would be fine; these were
only to catch the passer's eye.

Jim unbent again when they were once seated: the curtain, the bustle,
the anticipation pleased him. "It's going to be great!" he said. "It's
fun to be together, isn't it, Beth?" He was as loving as before, and her
little heart was happy.

But when the curtain went up, and the play commenced, poor Beth began to
sicken. Women with tights appeared, and said unpleasant things; the
drunken man came on, and reeled about horribly. Besides these
attractions there were two people who gave a travesty of lovers, at
which Jim nudged her; there was a woman who drank beer, and a waiter who
spilled it down her neck. At this last whimsical situation the theater
rocked with laughter, so that Beth became aware that there were people
who liked that sort of thing; next she saw that Jim at her side was weak
with merriment at the exquisite foolery. The curtain went down to a song
which the audience regarded as deliciously droll, but at which Beth rose
from her seat, her cheeks flaming.

"What is it?" asked Jim, astonished.

"I must go home," she answered. "Come."

While the curtain was going up again that the singer might be
complimented, Beth and Jim made their way out of the theater. He cast
glances behind at the prima donna; Beth looked neither right nor left.
But when they were free of the place, he came to her side with anxiety
in his face.

"Are you ill?" he asked.

"No," she said.

"Then what is it?"

"That play, Jim."

"What?" he cried, thunderstruck.

"It was dreadful," she said, "I couldn't bear it."

He could say nothing at first, but at length he tried to speak. "Then
the money I've spent--and my time?"

"Don't, Jim!" she pleaded. "Not here in the street."

"Very well," he answered stiffly, and was silent until he reached her
house. But when she started up the steps he stood still and raised his
hat.

"Jim!" she exclaimed, halting. "Aren't you coming in?"

He backed away and would not look at her. "Later," he said.

"Jim!" she cried appealingly.

He turned and went away without another word, doing what he knew he
should repent, for she was very sweet, very piteous. She would have run
after him to draw him back but--some one was coming. She went into the
house and sat in tears, waiting for him to return, but he did not come.

Now the person who was coming was Mrs. Harmon, and she saw it all. She
perceived the scowl on Jim's face; she almost heard Beth's pleading. On
impulse she turned back as if she had forgotten something, and allowed
Jim to overtake her.

"Why, Mr. Wayne!" she said, and Jim could not pass without speaking.

"Good-afternoon," he said.

"A very beautiful afternoon," she responded, so that however reluctant,
he had to delay. And now is seen the beginning of the afternoon's
development, for when she next spoke she had no thought beyond what was
expressed by her words. "An afternoon for a walk, Mr. Wayne." She had
the very faintest hope that he might offer to walk with her.

"An afternoon for the theater," answered Jim bitterly, as he remembered
the delights he had lost. Mrs. Harmon's disappointment was far greater
than her expectations.

"Are you going?" she asked him. "What, you have been, Mr. Wayne? But how
are you out so early?"

"Some people," answered Jim, "don't care for the theater."

Mrs. Harmon, recalling what she had just seen, did some swift guessing.
"My husband, for instance," she said lightly.

"And Miss Blanchard," added Jim gloomily.

She thought she guessed why Jim would not walk with her. "You are going
back to see the rest of the performance alone?"

But the idea came to him as new. He took from his pocket two slips of
blue cardboard and regarded them resentfully. "I could go back," he
said. "The man gave me these at the door. I've half a mind to."

_Two_ slips of cardboard! A thought came to her, of such weight that she
needed time to consider it; therefore she changed the subject. "How do
you like your new business?" she asked. "It must be very interesting."

Thus she opened new fields of discontent. "Interesting enough," answered
Jim. "But a fellow that has had freedom finds it very confining."

"I can imagine it," she murmured. "And it is a different line of work."

"Quite different," agreed Jim. "Compared with brokering, it's dull, Mrs.
Harmon. I miss the excitement; it's awful humdrum at the mill. There's
such lots of stupid detail."

"Then Chebasset is so far from the city," she supplemented.

"It is difficult to get any time here," he said, "unless you take an
early train, you know." Recollection came to him again, and he added:
"And when a fellow makes a special effort to give another person
pleasure, and she--well, never mind!" Jim sighed heavily.

Mrs. Harmon made a sympathetic pause. Motives were balanced in Jim's
brain just then, resentment and desire for pleasure driving him away
from Beth, affection and remorse drawing him back. Had Mrs. Harmon been
the deepest of schemers, she could not have thrown her weight more
cleverly against Beth's. Seeing that they were approaching a corner,
which might separate her from Jim, she thought only to continue the
conversation; but behold, she augmented the current of his discontent.
"How do you enjoy working under Mr. Mather?" she asked.

The gloom deepened on Jim's face. "Mather's kind of--oh, well, he
expects every one to see things the way he does."

"I can imagine he's strict," she said.

"He's arbitrary!" answered Jim emphatically.

"It's too bad!" she responded with sympathy. But they were at the
corner, and she stopped. One way led down town, one to quieter
neighbourhoods--and this in morals as well as in geography. She meant
not to separate from Jim, and yet how to keep him, or go with him? Mere
instinct guided her again, and this time she gave herself to it and
followed without further thought.

"Well?" she asked, as they stood still.

"Well?" echoed Jim, quite blank, yet seeing she expected him to say
something.

"Shall I go one way, or the other?" she demanded.

"One way, or the other?" he repeated stupidly.

"I meant to make calls," she said, accenting the preterit, "but if you
should ask me" (accenting the auxiliary) "to go with you to see the rest
of that play----" She made no finish, but cocked her head and looked
past him, sidewise.

"Gad!" cried Jim, staring.

"Ah, well!" she sighed, turning away.

"Come on!" he exclaimed. "Come along, Mrs. Harmon. Jove, it will be
great fun!"

"Why, I didn't really mean it," she replied, but smiling gaily.

She was everything that Beth was not: pronounced, vivacious,
multi-coloured. She was handsome, red-cheeked, bright of eye, and if she
was a little hard of glance, Jim did not perceive it. She pleased him;
he urged her again.

"Well, I can do some shopping," she said with a teasing accent of
reflection, and went down town by his side. The theater was not far;
when they reached it, she made as if to pass on. "Good-bye," she said.

"Oh, Mrs. Harmon!" cried he.

"You really mean you want me to come in?" she asked.

"Of course!" insisted Jim, and lied manfully. "I wanted it all the
time."

"I haven't seen this play," she said, reflecting. "My husband never
takes me to the theater."

"Then let me," he urged. A strain of music was wafted out as she
hesitated. "See, we're losing some."

"How funny," she said, looking at him and smiling, "to go in this way.
But it's a lark, isn't it, Mr. Wayne. Come on, then!" She stepped before
him to the door, and in a moment they were in the theater together.

There were again the dusk, the rustle, and the music. Some voice beyond
the footlights called "_Zwei bier!_" and a laugh followed from the
audience. A noiseless usher led the two to their seats, which they took
while watching the woman on the stage doubtfully circling away from the
waiter who had spilt beer on her before. The second act was not yet
finished; there were ten minutes more before the curtain went down,
which it did just as the actress turned a somersault, quite modestly.
The third act was even more capriciously humorous than the other two.

Mrs. Harmon and Jim enjoyed themselves keenly, the thrill of the unusual
companionship adding excitement to the pleasure. At last she was with
him; for the first time he was with some one else than Beth. He still
had enough resentment against Beth to feel that he was serving her
right; he compared her with Mrs. Harmon; he wished Beth were more--well,
sensible. Mrs. Harmon displayed an abundance of sense; she saw the good
points; jokes that Beth would have missed entirely were not lost on
Mrs. Harmon. When they walked to her house together she spoke most
appreciatively of the extravaganza. If Beth could but be thus!

But most of all Jim felt that he pleased a woman. Mrs. Harmon leaned to
him at times, put her face near his; he felt her breath; once in the
theater her hair touched him. She was sympathetic and confidential; they
reached the "you-and-I" stage very quickly. Thus:

"If the Judge were only a little more like you, Mr. Wayne!" This at
beginning; then, "I had thought you so stately, Mr. Wayne, but we seem
to have just the same tastes." Those tastes were discussed next, putting
all the rest of the world on a lower plane, so that "how amusing others
are" was a natural conclusion, and Jim realised that he and she were
looking upon life as on a spectacle.

In this there was flattery beyond his power to resist; there was,
besides, a suggestion too subtle for him to perceive at first. She made
it plain that because her husband and she were not congenial, she went
with Jim; but for a time the corollary escaped him--that because he had
gone with her, therefore he and Beth were not at one. He saw only that
he was taking a vacant place, and that she was grateful to him.

At her door Mrs. Harmon looked at him, smiling doubtfully. "I would ask
you in, only----"

Jim had grown bold. "Well, why?"

"No, no! It would never do--not after what we have already done. And you
will of course not say anything about this, Mr. Wayne?" she added
seriously.

Thus the final idea came to him that they two had been near, very near,
the border-line of convention. "Not really?" he asked.

"Of course Miss Blanchard, if you wish," she answered.

"Shall I even tell her?" he said, trying to look knowing.

"You bad man!" she murmured, bending to him. "But it has been great
fun!" Then she ran up the steps. As Jim walked away he suppressed his
gratification, and endeavoured to estimate her character. She was quite
different from what people thought her.

That evening he dined with his mother; afterwards he went to the club.
But the sense of guilt grew on him, and drove him at last to the
Blanchards'. There Beth was still watching for him, so unhappy! She
sobbed in his arms, begging his pardon--yes, the poor little thing
begged his pardon, and Jim forgave her.

He did not tell her of Mrs. Harmon, nor did he stay late, for he had to
travel to Chebasset. It was not of Beth that he thought most in the
train. Beth had only called him a naughty boy; Mrs. Harmon said he was a
bad man. He felt as if he had been pleasantly wicked, like the fellows
in New York or Paris, going about with married women.



CHAPTER XVII

WHICH DEALS WITH SEVERAL OF OUR PERSONAGES


It is assumed in many fairy tales that the story ends with the
engagement, the beginning of which marks the end of trouble. But love,
though a solvent of selfishness, works slowly, and the added friction of
constant companionship is needed to make its results perfect.
Temperament and taste, therefore, during an engagement retain most of
their power. Thus it is not surprising that two months were not
sufficient to harden Beth Blanchard to the roughness of her lover's
embraces; she even found further faults in him.

Of these shadows on his happiness Jim became early aware, and obeying a
passion which had not yet lost all its purity or force, he had
endeavoured to modify himself to suit the conditions which Beth very
gently imposed. He became less anthropophagous, moderating the violence
of his kisses; he came very near to estimating the value of her modesty,
which formed the essence of her sweetness. But he was already so much of
a man that he felt his superiority, and still so much of a boy that he
fretted at restraint. To expect him to stay always contented at Beth's
side was like asking him to admire Mozart when he had rag-time in his
blood. Her dainty harmonies were foreign to him.

One Saturday evening he was at the Blanchards' when Mather came to call.
Beth proposed to go into the front parlour and speak to him. Jim
objected. "He comes for your sister; and besides, I see enough of him
during the week."

But above her friendship for Mather, Beth possessed that spirit of
hospitality--old-fashioned, to be sure--which impelled her to greet each
visitor that came to the house. Further, she felt that to keep out of
sight of all who came, while yet she was within hearing, was not in the
best of taste. "But I haven't seen him for a long time," she said.
"And--I think we'd better go, Jim, if only for a little while."

"Cut it short, then," he grumbled, and followed her through the
curtains.

"Much of a suitor he is!" thought Jim, as he noticed how gladly Mather
rose from Judith's side and greeted Beth. Perhaps Judith thought the
same. There was a wholesome freshness about Beth which often brought
men's eyes to her and kept them there. Jim was usually proud of it; now
it irritated him. Moreover, he was left to talk with Judith, and that he
had found to be difficult. Therefore, when he had had more than enough
of her monosyllables, and felt that he had made a fool of himself in his
efforts to entertain her, he tried to break into the talk of the other
two. Beth had been speaking of Chebasset.

"A hole!" said Jim, rising and standing by her chair. "An awful hole!"

Mather laughed; Beth gave Jim a distressed little smile. "You did well
to get away and leave the work to me," continued Jim, addressing his
superior. He tried, successfully, for the effect of the true word spoken
in jest. "Winter coming on, too."

Mather laughed again. "Jim," he said, "I went through all that when I
was your age, and worked at the machines besides."

"You see, Jim," said Beth, "how much further ahead you are than George."

"Nothing wonderful," he answered, for her remark went wrong. So did his
own; Mather exchanged a glance with Judith, and Beth shrank. Jim put his
arm around her neck. "Well, well," he went on, "let's not talk
business."

Beth removed the arm, gently, as she rose. "Yes, we'll forget all that
till Monday," she said, and moved toward the door again. "We just came
in to say good-evening, George." She and Jim went away, to begin a
struggle of temperaments.

"Why did you stay so long there?" he asked at once.

"But Jim," she explained, "a little more makes no real difference, and
is so much more polite."

"It makes a difference to me," he retorted, "when I have to talk with
your sister. Darn it, you know she and I never get on."

She winced at his expletive, which seemed to hint of something stronger,
and so was just as bad. "Don't," she pleaded. "I--I'm sorry about
Judith, Jim."

"I might be allowed to say darn sometimes," he complained. "Most men say
something worse."

"It's just--manners, Jim," she answered. "And don't you think the way
you spoke to George, when so much depends upon him----"

"Look here, Beth," he interrupted, "am I not a fair judge of my own
behaviour?"

"I didn't say that, dear!" she cried.

"He needn't give himself such airs, anyway," Jim went on. "Pease is my
boss, not Mather."

"Oh, I think you mistake," she said.

"Pease gave me the place," Jim persisted, "because--you know."

The reference hurt poor Beth, to whom the thought of Pease was distress.
"Don't speak of it, dear," she begged.

"It's so," asserted Jim. "But you'd think Mather was my father, from
the advice he gave me. Great fun it was, for you to give him another
chance at me!"

There was nothing for her except submission. "I'm sorry," she said. But
Beth was not meek; she let him see, by tone and manner, that she yielded
only because she was overborne. Therefore he gave another thrust to make
his conquest sure.

"I'm sorry you don't like my arm about your neck," he said. "Please
excuse me for putting it there."

She went close to him. "Only when other people are about," she
explained, and put up her face. "You may--kiss me now, Jim, if you want
to."

Beth would have been glad even of one of his engulfing embraces, as a
sign of reconciliation; but he kissed her gingerly and then sat down,
not on the sofa, but on a chair. Next he was surly for a while; then he
rose to go.

"I'm tired," he said. "It's been a hard week."

After that lie her sympathy was a reproach. "I'm so sorry," she
whispered, caressing him. "If I was cross, forgive me, dear. You do work
hard for me." No accusation could have cut deeper; he could scarcely
look her in the eyes as he said good-night at the door.

Poor Beth laid her forehead against the dull wood, and listened to his
footsteps until they were gone. It worried her that Jim was tired, and
that she, not understanding, had been hard on him. She wished her
perceptions had been quicker; she resolved to study how to please him.
Poor, simple Beth!

Jim, grumbling at his crosses, went homeward, but not home. For the
Harmon house was by his way; he saw lights in the lower windows, and he
loitered. Next, he went and rang the bell. He was shown into the
parlour, into a new atmosphere, for Mrs. Harmon rose with evident
gladness from her book, and her very greeting changed his mood. The
Judge was in his study; should she call him? Jim took his cue from the
flash of her eye. "No, no!" he cried, and they laughed together.

And as he sat and looked at her--what a difference! There was fullness
of good looks in the face, far more pronounced than Beth's; the shoulder
was plump, the arm firm and pink. Beth never showed such attractions as
these, having the feeling that modesty became a girl. But though Mrs.
Harmon was no longer young, "Gad!" thought Jim, "if girls only knew as
much as women!" Mrs. Harmon brought cigarettes; she joked him as a man
would. Jolly, this was!

Jim took a cigarette from the case she offered. "You're sure you don't
mind the smoke?" he asked.

"I? Mind the smoke?" she returned. "I like it so much that--what do you
think of my box?" She closed the cigarette-case and showed him its
cover, standing by his side as he sat.

"Swell!" said Jim. "Those Cupids with masks are simply slap! Whose
initials, Mrs. Harmon? Yours?" He laughed.

"Why not mine?" she asked.

"L. H.," read Jim. "L. is the Judge's initial, I know."

"My name is Lydia," she said. "And my husband's name is Abiel, Mr.
Wayne."

Jim rose hastily. "Then this is really your case, Mrs. Harmon. And do
you--will you--smoke with me?"

"Of course I will!" she cried.

Jim felt himself very much indeed like those fellows in New York or
Paris. She smoked gracefully; the movements displayed her hand and the
long, bare, beautiful arm. The shoulder rounded as she raised the
cigarette to her lips; even shoulder-straps would have marred that
display. But while he admired, with a sudden movement she cast the
cigarette into the fireplace: some one was at the front door.

It was Ellis. "Oh, it's only you, Stephen," she said, when his short
form appeared in the doorway. "I needn't have spoiled my smoke, after
all."

"You needn't have stopped anything for me," said Ellis, and added: "Just
dropped in to inquire for the Judge."

Jim perceived, from Mrs. Harmon's laughter, that this was a byword with
her intimates; he offered her the box of cigarettes, and when she chose
one, struck a match.

"No, no!" she cried, "your cigarette."

She took it from him, her fingers brushing his; she lighted her own and
then offered his again. But when he was about to take it: "No, your
mouth!" she ordered, and obediently he opened his mouth to receive it.
Then she began to laugh at him, richly and infectiously, so that he
laughed with her, but did not miss the spectacle she presented. Standing
with her back against the center table, she leaned with her hands upon
it; her shoulders became more attractive than ever, and between them
rose the swelling throat. He laughed with delight, and letting his eye
wander over those charms, he missed the glances, amused and defiant,
which passed between Mrs. Harmon and Ellis.

"So you're up to this, Lydia?" he seemed to inquire, but she to respond:
"Do not you interfere, sir!"

There is no analysing those processes by which we find our affinities,
no theory of chance which will satisfactorily account for the meetings
of like states of mind. But here were Jim, once peevish, and Mrs.
Harmon, once bored, quite satisfied at last in each other's company,
and before long making this so evident that Ellis perceived that he had
interrupted. They left him out; Jim spoke to him from time to time, or
Mrs. Harmon turned on him that same warning glance. But if they chose to
act so, Ellis did not care; in fact, an idea came to him, and he smiled
as he watched Jim, like an astronomical body, moving along the line of
least resistance.

For Ellis had just parted from Colonel Blanchard, who had called on him.
Ellis had received the Colonel in the one room of his mansion which
revealed daily occupancy, which no housekeeper might invade with duster
or broom. From among many papers in many cases, Ellis drew Blanchard's
promissory note, and silently laid it before him.

"You come to redeem this?" he asked. "More than prompt, Colonel
Blanchard."

The Colonel did not offer to explain with exactness. Like that person in
the fairy tale who sought to recover the lost cheeses by rolling others
after them, Blanchard had been throwing his dollars into the bottomless
pit of the stock-market and expecting them to return many-fold. But he
had broken the ice once with Ellis; it was easier now. He had, he said,
been--unfortunate. But if Mr. Ellis would only advance a little more, he
had not the slightest doubt of repaying in full, and very soon.

Ellis knew the signs of the gambler; absolute certainty of making good
his losses, equal vagueness as to sources of supply. He made out another
check; the Colonel signed another note. They parted, but now, here at
the Harmons', Wayne seemed to recall the Colonel by his shallow,
gentlemanly ways.

Months ago Judith had told Ellis that his way lay through the men. There
were only three who in any degree, through any feeling, might influence
her in his favour. One was Mather: out of the question. One was the
Colonel: he was secure. The third was Wayne, of whom, for her sister's
sake, Judith wished to make more of a man. During his stay Ellis was
mostly silent, studying this new problem.



CHAPTER XVIII

JUDITH BUYS A TYPEWRITER


As the winter advanced, Judith found herself never free from her
struggle, the interest of which grew not only greater, but at times
intense. For gossip, as she foresaw, was busy with her name; and though
as yet she had not braved her circle in the endeavour to bring Ellis in,
her friends took occasion to disapprove of her acquaintance with him.
The disapproval being conveyed to her in a dozen ways, Judith was
frequently in a blaze of anger at people's officiousness, or as often
contemptuous of their curiosity. Since interference was always enough to
make her obstinate, her friends had no other effect on her than to make
her welcome Ellis more kindly than ever.

An unforeseen factor in her troubles was the state of public affairs.
Judith read the papers diligently; she perceived a general increase of
opposition to Ellis. This did not disturb her, since your true student
is aware that the public is as often wrong as right. And at first she
took no interest in the search for a leader which was conducted by that
usually impotent party, the Reformers. These gentlemen had so often, in
Judith's hearing, been gently ridiculed as milk-and-water politicians,
that even amusement ceased within her as she read anew of their efforts.
Any campaign which they should conduct would be the usual formal and
ineffectual protest against "practical politics"; their candidate would
be, as always, an obscure person with no claim on public regard.
Judith's interest woke very suddenly when it was whispered that the
reform candidate was to be George Mather.

Now she should see Mather and Ellis directly measured, and could know
the strength of each. And yet all this was still far away, while another
matter was of nearer interest: the rumour of a street-railway strike.
Wages had been lowered and the men were discontented; so also were the
patrons of the road. The efficiency of the service had greatly fallen
off, and the reform newspaper boldly dated the change at Mather's loss
of the presidency, charging Ellis with the desire to make money at the
public's expense. Judith sniffed at an accusation which she believed
would refute itself; she wondered that men should still trust in
campaign calumnies. One statement alone caused her serious thought,
namely the claim, soberly made, that in managing the details of a great
enterprise rather than attending to its finance Ellis was beyond his
depth. But at the call to the public to insist upon proper treatment as
well as to avert the calamity of a great strike Judith smiled to
herself. The public never interested itself in anything; and besides,
this was none of the public's business.

Yet, though Judith was right in thinking that the management of the
street-railway company concerned the stockholders alone, and though her
estimate of the general harmlessness of the reform party was quite
correct, her interest in Mather was renewed. Judith was always very well
aware of her states of mind, and had noted by this time that whenever
her interest in Ellis's brilliancy relaxed, she was certain to find
Mather doggedly adding to his own achievements. And she granted it to be
much in his favour that though he lacked the fascinating abilities of
his keener rival, he had a formidable solidity. The very fact that his
name was used in connection with the reform nomination, gave that
nomination seriousness.

Still, the caucus was months ahead, and it was hard to believe that
Ellis, who had never yet failed, could botch the management of the
street-railway. Men should be easier to manage than securities. And
though she received Mather kindly whenever he came, it was impossible
not to feel more interest in the man who came oftener, stayed longer,
and spoke most of himself. Mather had spoken of himself but once; he did
not seek, as Ellis did, to be alone with her, and no longer showed the
repressed eagerness of a suitor. He was easy, deliberate, never
preoccupied, and took no pains whatever to forward himself with her.

On that evening when Beth had dragged unwilling Jim into the front
parlour, to her consequent unhappiness, Mather showed no impatience at
the interruption; he even rose again gladly when, Jim having gone, poor
Beth came creeping back again.

"George," said Beth timidly, "Jim was a little--rude, just now."

"No, no," he answered heartily. "Don't think of it, Beth."

"If you will bear with him," she pursued, "I think he will come to see
how much he owes you."

"Of course he will," he agreed. "Not that I'm anxious for any
acknowledgment. I understand he's lonely, Beth."

"He is," she stated eagerly. "He misses----"

She blushed, and added hurriedly, "And much of what he says is just
manner."

"Don't you suppose I know him?" he asked. "Now don't worry, Beth. Just
keep him to his work, and he'll come out all right."

He took her hand; she looked up shyly. "Do you think me foolish,
George?"

"Fond used to mean foolish," he answered. "We'll call you fond. Jim must
succeed with you to back him!" And he kissed her hand.

"Thank you," said Beth, doubtless referring to the encouragement. "Thank
you so much, George! Good-night."

"Poor little thing!" said Mather, as he seated himself after she had
gone. "She's not happy, Judith."

"It's Jim," she answered.

"Have you any influence over him?" he asked. "If you have, make him
work."

"I noticed," she remarked, "that you did not tell Beth that she has no
cause for worry. Is he not satisfactory?"

"It may be inexperience," he answered, "it may be just Jim; I haven't
decided yet. The work isn't hard, for the foreman looks after everything
mechanical, yet our product is much less than it should be. All I need
to do is to go and sit in the Chebasset office for an hour, without
opening the door into the mill, and if the men know I'm there we turn
out six hundred pounds more that day."

The statement was not surprising, as Judith compared Jim with the man
before her. "You think he will not suit."

"I don't say that yet," he replied. "But it's very unpleasant, doing
business with your friends."

Again she sat watching him as he stared into the fire, but not with the
emotion of that former time, for the state of mind which Beth had
aroused was passing. She thought of Mather, with unimpassioned interest,
as a fine type of man; but it was undeniable that, emotion being absent,
Ellis took an increasingly greater share of her thoughts, and stirred
her imagination more. The world was growing larger before her, not the
world of society but of the _World's Work_, the _Harper's Weekly_,
almost of the _Scientific American_, those magazines which express the
spirit of modern enterprise and hardheadedness, and from which she drew
her current information. One of them had recently published Ellis's
portrait; Judith glanced from Mather to the table whereon the magazine
was at this moment lying, and compared the two men as, but a few moments
before, she had contrasted Jim and Mather. Now it was Mather who stood
at the little end of the sign of inequality; Ellis was the giant and
Mather the mere man. Rumour set them against each other, but though
Judith had heard the whisper, "Mather is back," she had also seen the
smiles as people added: "Now what will he do?"

"Yes," said Mather, rousing; "between us we can help Jim along." Then he
rose, and though it was early, said good-night. He left her wondering at
his method of cheerful entrance and speedy exit, his manner of being at
home in her presence. But after more thinking, she laid this to the fact
that he had nothing on his mind.

Yet he was conscious of a future which beckoned him, and of ambitions,
not of his own creating, which stood ready for him to assume. He knew
that it was said that Mather had returned, knew that the idle were
smiling, the serious were watching to see what he would do. Not only
Pease, Fenno, Watson, Branderson, those four powers, held an expectant
attitude toward him, but the reform politicians did the same. He knew
the public feeling toward abuses might easily be roused, vexed and
alarmed as people were with the street railroad. A determined man, in
whom the city had confidence, could easily draw many votes to himself.
But "wait," he said to himself, "it's not yet time." He had been
approached only by Pease, who inquired: "Have you any street-railway
stock?" but when Mather replied he had, Pease merely begged him not to
sell, and said no more. Yet there had been that in Pease's manner which
meant much.

Mather and Judith were far apart in these days; he sighed as he thought
of the distance between them, and turned more willingly to the
distractions which politics and business offered. He would have been
glad to have his opportunities closer at hand, that he might throw
himself into the work. Judith, on the other hand, shrank when first her
future came suddenly near.

Her father came home late one afternoon; going to greet him, she had
found him in the library, unwrapping a parcel. The Colonel, obeying his
impulse toward extravagance, had picked up down town a--wait till she
saw it!

"It's very much tied up," said Judith.

"It's rather a valuable thing," answered her father, struggling with the
string. "If only I had it out here, I'd cut this twine."

"Is it a pair of scissors?" she asked. "Slip the string over the end,
sir."

The Colonel displayed it at last, a Japanese dagger. Its hilt and sheath
were massive ivory, yellow with age, carved deeply with grotesques of
men in combat. A grinning mask formed the pommel, a writhing dragon the
guard; the warriors were grappling, hand to hand. The Colonel offered
the knife to Judith. "Look at it," he said with pride.

Something made Judith draw back. "I--it's been used."

The Colonel was irritated. "Upon my word, Judith, I should think you
were Beth. Of course it's been used; you can see that on the blade.
Look!"

He drew it from the sheath. The blade was of the usual stout Japanese
model, with a quick edge which much whetting had made very fine. An
injury had marred the symmetry of the weapon: it was evident that an
eighth of an inch had been broken from the point, which, ground again as
sharp as ever, had lost in beauty but gained in suggestiveness. The
Colonel touched the point.

"On armour or on bone, do you suppose?" he asked.

Judith had recovered herself. "You're rather grewsome, sir."

"Hang it," he complained, sheathing the knife again. "I thought you'd
like it. But Jim will, anyway." He laid the knife on the table.

"You're not going to keep it there?" she asked.

"Indeed I am," he answered. "Don't look at it if you don't want to." He
started to go, then paused. "Judith, I have asked Mr. Ellis to dinner."

She was surprised by the statement, so suddenly made and of such deep
meaning. All she could do was to repeat his words. "You have asked Mr.
Ellis to dinner?"

"Gad!" exclaimed the poor Colonel. "Is anything wrong with you this
afternoon? You are hard to please."

"Oh, if you asked him to please me----" she was beginning.

"Well," he explained, "what else could I do when he more than half
suggested it? I couldn't be rude to him. I--he--we are pretty good
friends."

But he only puzzled her the more. "You are pretty good friends?" asked
Judith, again repeating his words.

This conduct on her part made the Colonel spring to the door, where for
an instant he stood and beat his temples. "A woman's a devil!" he
exclaimed after that interval, and stamped upstairs.

When a man's behaviour takes this turn, or his philosophy leads him to
this conclusion, it is safe for the woman to assume that he has
something on his conscience. Judith stood startled.

On what terms was Ellis with her father that he could force an
invitation to dinner? And his object?

She watched Ellis during that first meal at her table. Judith had never
before seen him in evening dress, nor as yet considered him so
personally. His manners were good, his behaviour quiet; no one could
have said that he was not a fair representation of a gentleman. That he
was more he did not claim.

"This is the first time," he said, as he went in with her to the
dining-room, "that I have dined in these togs in any house besides my
own, public dinners excepted, of course. It feels stranger than I
expected."

"Why should it feel strange?" she asked.

"Because I was not born or bred to it, I suppose."

"Certainly," she remarked, "you show nothing of what you feel."

"When I was a boy," he answered, "when I lost by being too eager on my
first trade, I learned never again to show what I felt--unless it's my
purpose to. To be quiet and steady, looking and not speaking--you can't
imagine what that has done for me."

This frankness of his, which she felt was vouchsafed to her alone, was
one secret of his success with Judith. She was interested to hear him
acknowledge himself a learner; she sympathised with his effort to make
himself fit to sit at any table; and she was impressed by his study of
manners as earlier he had studied men and markets. She recognised the
full power of his determination and his self-control. But also she felt
that unmistakably she knew his object. And her father, in manner almost
deferential to Ellis, consciously or not was his ally.

Ellis made no approach to the subject which was most on his mind, though
through the evening he sat alone with her in the parlour. He spoke, as
he always did, of his affairs. Moreover, he went away early. But Judith,
when he had gone, gazed at the door which had closed behind him. He was
aiming at her! All that determination, all that formidable self-control,
were trained upon one object: herself. Then she must look forward, and
decide.

Did she wish to marry Ellis? She found no reply as she tried to read
herself; instead, her mind was confused by a lesser question: why should
her father be so friendly to him?

It would not be fair to Judith to say that she enjoyed the sensation
created by her intimacy with Ellis; nevertheless she found piquancy in
the little thrills of horror which she caused in her circle. For she
knew herself to be honestly interested by Ellis's Napoleonic force, and
could retaliate upon her clique by amusement at its littleness. She
looked at Ellis with clear eyes, perceiving little flaws which his great
powers could condone. Yet at the same time she understood her friends'
sincerity in their reprobation of him, and forgave them because they
knew no better.

She was perfectly aware that her father had no greater caliber than that
general to his class; without the slightest filial disrespect, she knew
that the Colonel was not capable of her interest in Ellis as a type and
as a force. She would not have resented opposition from her father half
so much as she had been puzzled at his acquiescence in Ellis's visits;
nor would she have been surprised by a sudden paternal outburst so much
as by to-night's encouragement. And understanding him so well, she
began to suspect that his motives were different from her own, were
lower, and that his interest might be personal. Such a suspicion of her
father was quite enough to make her suspect herself.

Three impulses rose within her, and battled together. The first was the
old ambition, drawing her to Ellis; the second was refinement, thrusting
her away from him. The third was maidenhood, which in Beth was modest
but in Judith militant, impelling her to the decision to marry nobody at
all. And just now this was strongest.

Nevertheless, Judith recognised the need of a weapon or at least a
shield against the assaults which were bound to come. She was not so
sure of herself that she dared depend on her own powers alone. Therefore
she needed a barrier behind which to retire at need, and she saw but
one. Friends could not shield her: she had too few; and pride stood
between herself and Mather. Her father would evidently be no protection.
Even with Beth her understanding was too slight to be put to use.
Employment alone would help her, and of all employments only one
attracted her. Yet for that she could be preparing herself.

With bent head she went into the sitting-room where were her father and
Beth; they put down their books as she entered, and from the table the
Colonel took up the Japanese knife.

"Beth doesn't like this much more than you do," he said.

"It's sinister," explained Beth. "All its beauty conceals a threat; its
only purpose is to bring death."

"In the past, in the past!" protested her father. "It's only an ornament
now."

"Perfectly horrid!" This from Beth, but Judith said: "It must have cost
a good deal."

"Oh, well----" the Colonel responded, waving away the subject.

"Father," said Judith abruptly, "I want a hundred dollars."

"A hundred dollars!" he cried. "Where is a hundred dollars to come from
in a jiffy?"

"Beth and I dislike the knife so," she suggested. "You might get the
dealer to take it back."

Experienced women know how unwilling men are to return boughten
articles. "I didn't get it on trial, like a wash-wringer," retorted the
Colonel. "What do you want your hundred dollars for?"

"A typewriter."

"A typewriter!" he exclaimed, and Beth echoed the word.

Judith made no explanation. "Why, that's quite out of the usual line of
expenditure," objected the Colonel. "It's an extravagance."

"A Japanese dagger might be called an extravagance," Judith returned.

"Then," answered her father, "so might those furs you bought the other
day. I told you your old set was good enough."

"If I return the furs," she asked, "will you return the dagger?"

"No, by Jove!" he cried. "It's for me to decide what I will do with my
own. I'm the provider."

"And you provide very well," she returned sweetly.

He looked at her with suspicion which sprang from remembrance of his
methods as provider, but since she seemed to have no hidden meaning he
returned to his reading. Judith, still sweetly, bade them good-night.

But the next day she started from the house dressed in all the glory of
her latest possessions. "Judith," asked Beth, "you aren't going to wear
those furs in the morning?"

"Say good-by to them," answered her sister.

"Judith!" gasped Beth. But Judith only smiled serenely and left the
house. By the assurance in bargaining which always carries its point,
and which is distinctly feminine, she got for her furs exactly what she
gave for them. That afternoon a typewriter was delivered at the house.

It was Mather who had helped her to buy it, Mather who, happening into
the store while she was there, had told her that the increase of his
business was forcing him to employ more stenographers. So he, even by
the most material of standards, was coming on. In order to forget him,
she was forced to think of Ellis, and to repeat such aphorisms as Anyone
can be a Gentleman, It takes Genius to be a Man. But after she had
thought of Ellis for a little while, again came the revulsion.

Judith, when in her chamber she first removed the cover of her
typewriter, stood for a long while gazing at its black enamel and its
nickeled keys. The machine became a symbol, a warning of fate, and
though in the coming days she practised its use almost eagerly, the
typewriter never lost its significance. It was but a feeble defense
against the victor of the two rivals.

Victor? The word was bitter. It came always with the force of a blow,
staggering her amazonian spirit: must she yield in the end? Bitter,
indeed, that while she rebelled against her womanhood she was forced to
recognise and dread it. Temporise or struggle as she might, she felt
that there lay before her an inevitable choice.



CHAPTER XIX

"PUT MONEY IN THY PURSE"


While Judith Blanchard, as if defying fate, held her head higher than
before, there grew on one of our characters, namely Jim Wayne, the habit
of looking at the ground. Jim was one of those who, having a weak little
conscience, cannot be wicked with an air.

And yet Mrs. Harmon, if she saw any change in him, thought it was for
the better. Into her eyes, at least, he looked freely; his glance was
more ardent, and only when she spoke of Beth did he glower and look
away. In their conversations, therefore, Beth was no longer mentioned.
Nor did he ever speak to Beth of his intimacy with Mrs. Harmon.

Thus Beth was surprised one day when, meeting Mrs. Wayne, the elder lady
asked: "Wasn't it pleasant to see Jim last night?"

"Jim?" asked Beth. "Was he in town?"

"He came to the house for just one minute. I supposed he was hurrying to
see you. Ah, Beth, we mothers!" And Mrs. Wayne sighed.

"But he didn't come to see me," said Beth. "It must have been business
that brought him. I'll ask George."

Mather said he had seen Jim, but only by accident, when, returning from
the theater, Wayne had passed him, apparently hurrying for the late
train.

"In town all the evening and didn't come to see me?" thought Beth. The
idea troubled her so much that Mather perceived it.

Yet no outsider understood the situation quite so clearly as Ellis, who
had been before Jim at the Harmons' that evening, and left soon after he
came. "I'm going to the Blanchards'," he said. "Shall I tell them to
expect you, Mr. Wayne?"

Jim was so unskilled in finesse that he said he was going to take the
early train. Ellis smiled.

"You shan't tease him!" declared Mrs. Harmon, putting her hand on Jim's
sleeve. At which childishness the smile on Ellis's face became broad,
and he went away. Returning after a couple of hours, he was in time to
see Jim leave the house hastily, on his way to the station. A woman's
silhouette showed on the glass of the vestibule door, and Ellis tried a
trick. He ran quickly up the steps and knocked on the door. It was
opened immediately.

"Back again?" asked Mrs. Harmon eagerly. "Oh, it's only you, Stephen!"

"Only me," and he turned to go, but she seized him.

"Why did you do that?" she demanded, and then not waiting for an answer
asked: "You didn't tell the Blanchards he was here?"

"Not I," he replied. "Lydia, why do you hold me so?"

"Why did you startle me so?" she retorted. "But go along with you!" So
he went, having by his manoeuver found out enough.

It was not wholly interest in his house, therefore, which took Ellis to
Chebasset before many days. He went to the office of the mill, and as he
stood before the chimney and looked up at it he mused that,
metaphorically speaking, it would not take much prying at its
foundations to make it fall: Wayne was a weak prop to such a structure.
He opened the office door. Jim, from bending over Miss Jenks as she sat
at her desk, rose up and stared at him. And the little pale stenographer
grew pink.

"People usually knock," Jim was beginning. "--Oh, Mr. Ellis!"

"Down for the afternoon," said Ellis. "I hate to lunch alone at this
hotel. Won't you come with me?"

"Why, I----" hesitated Jim.

"Going up on the hill afterward to see my house," added Ellis. "I won't
keep you long."

"You're very good," decided Jim. "Yes, I'll come."

"Of course it's wretched stuff they give us here," remarked Ellis when
they were seated at the hotel. "Will you take water, or risk the wine?"

"The wine's not so bad," said Jim. He was pleased at his invitation, but
even deference to one so rich could not subdue his pride in special
knowledge. "I don't know how it happens, but they have some very decent
Medoc."

"Then we'll try it," and Ellis ordered a bottle. He began to feel sure
of his estimate of a young man who took wine when alone in the country.
Bad blood will show; Ellis recalled his experience with Jim's father.

For although the promoter had once met Mather's father and come off
second-best, with the elder Wayne he had been easily master. Ellis had
bought up most of Wayne's outstanding notes by the time alcohol removed
from society one who so well adorned it; the sale of the house had been
merely a return of I. O. U.'s. In just the same way Ellis was providing
against Blanchard's collapse, and now was watching Jim as the wine
worked on him.

"A hole, a hole!" cried Jim, and the wave of his third glass included
all Chebasset. "If it weren't for a little girl, Mr. Ellis----!" Jim
gulped down more wine, and Ellis ordered a second bottle.

"That little girl," he asked, "whom I saw at the office?"

"She?" cried Jim loftily. "All very well to have fun with in this place,
but a fellow of my standing looks forward to something better than that.
Don't pretend ignorance, Mr. Ellis. You're learning what's worth having,
even if you didn't know it when first you came to Stirling."

"I know very little about women," returned Ellis steadily.

"Gad," cried Jim, "you've chosen pretty well, then."

"At least," was the reply, and Ellis sighed as if regretfully, "I can't
keep three going at once."

Jim laughed. "You don't regret it, I know well enough. You've got too
many other things to think of. I have to do it, to make life
interesting."

Such a cub as this, it was plain, deserved no mercy. "You won't succeed
in one quarter, at least," Ellis answered.

"Where, then?" demanded Jim.

Ellis took his first sip of wine. "At a certain lady's where we have
met."

Jim resorted to pantomime. He reached for the bottle and filled his
glass; this he held up to the light, and squinted through it; then with
deliberation he drank off the wine, and reached for the fresh bottle.
After filling, he looked at Ellis. All this he did with an air of very,
very evident amusement, and at the end he chuckled.

"For the reason," continued Ellis, quite unmoved, "that you haven't the
cash." He took his second sip, but Jim laughed outright.

Then the youth became grave. "Money," he said emphatically, "is all very
well in its place. But though you've made your way by it, sir, you
overestimate it. Why, that Mrs. Harmon would take----" Suddenly Jim grew
red in the face. "You insult her, sir!"

"Good," remarked Ellis, very coldly. "The waiter is out of the room;
recollect yourself when he returns. Recollect also that Mrs. Harmon is a
very old friend of mine."

"But," stammered Jim, somewhat abashed, "when you say that she would
sell herself----"

"You were drinking before you came here," said Ellis, "or you wouldn't
take such ideas so easily." He removed the bottle from Jim's elbow,
then, as if on second thought, he put it back again. "This is a lonely
place, Mr. Wayne; I don't wonder that you take a cock-tail occasionally
in the morning. But just remember that it may prevent you from seeing a
man's meaning."

"I thought----" began Jim, but Ellis cut him short.

"I know; but never mind. I meant, my dear man, a libel on the sex,
perhaps, but not on the individual. They're fond of finery, that's all.
And you haven't the money to give it." He looked at Jim with a smile.

"You can't give it to her!" cried Jim. But the exclamation was almost a
question.

"To some women you can't--perhaps. But I've never met the kind. And do
you suppose the Judge knows what comes into the house?"

"Gad!" murmured Jim.

"A weakness of the sex," resumed Ellis. "Just remember that. Women are
softer than we; we've got to humour them. There's no harm in it; a pearl
pin now and then--something good, oh, you need something pretty good, or
nothing at all."

"Then I'll go on the nothing-at-all system," said Jim with gloom.

"Rot!" answered Ellis. "Do you save so carefully?"

"Save!" exclaimed Jim. "Do you suppose I can save?"

"I forgot," and Ellis spoke apologetically. "Of course, with your
salary. But there'll be a good time some day, Mr. Wayne."

"When I'm old," grumbled Jim.

"Gad!" cried Ellis, "with your ability and your youth, I'd be some
thousands richer every year!"

"I know," answered the lamb, trying to look as wolfish as he should.
"But a fellow can do nothing nowadays without capital."

"But you have something?"

"Some few thousands," replied Jim with deep scorn of fate. "And in my
mother's name."

"Your mother is conservative?" asked Ellis.

"Scared," answered Jim.

"And all you learned on the market," said Ellis with sympathy, "going
here to waste! Too bad! Get some one to back you."

Jim looked at him sidewise. "Will you do it?"

But Ellis smiled. "Why should I? No; stand on your own feet. Get your
mother's power of attorney, and surprise her some day by doubling her
income. But as for that, doesn't money pass through your hands down here
every week."

"Passes through quickly," answered Wayne. "Comes down Saturday morning,
and I pay the men at noon."

"Pay every week?" Ellis inquired. "Every fortnight is what I believe in.
But of course--and yet three days, with clever placing, would be enough
to make you double that money. Three weeks, and you could--do
anything!"

"By Jove!" cried Jim, starting.

"I'll be off," said Ellis, pushing back his chair. "This lunch was
better than I expected. We must meet here again, some day."

"Good!" answered Jim. He finished his last glass, but as he rose he was
as steady as if he carried nothing. "For all that," muttered Ellis to
himself, "your brain is softer than half an hour ago." They separated at
the door of the hotel, and went their respective ways.

When Ellis, after inspecting his house, stood on the terrace and looked
down upon Chebasset, he still had Jim on his mind. Would the ideas work?
Did he still taste that wine in his mouth, or his own words? Small! and
Ellis spat. Small, but well done, as the event was to prove. And yet
Ellis had neither heard nor read of Mephisto and the student, of Iago
and Roderigo.



CHAPTER XX

THE POWER OF SUGGESTION


It is wearing when one's wishes travel faster than events, and have to
wait for time to catch up. Mrs. Harmon felt it so. "The days go too
slow," she declared to Ellis, a week after his visit to Chebasset.

"Not at all," he answered. "I think they go about right."

"You're like a cat," she said impatiently. "I watched one hunting a bird
once, and it took forever to make its spring."

"But it caught the bird. Then wasn't the time well spent, Lydia?"

"I'm not so cold-blooded," she replied. "I can't be deliberate. I must
have something going on."

"Therefore you listen for the door-bell," remarked he. "Lydia, he can't
come up to-night."

"Stephen!" she cried as if indignantly--yet she began to smile.

"Mather keeps fair track of him," said Ellis.

"I hate Mr. Mather!" declared the lady with energy.

"What's the use?" inquired the gentleman calmly.

"Upon my word, Stephen," exclaimed Mrs. Harmon, "if any one in this town
ought to hate him, it's you. He's the one man who stands between you
and--and everything you want."

Ellis smiled. "People say so?"

"It's true!" she insisted. "What are your friends in politics most
afraid of? That he will go in against them! Who can make the best stand
against your mayor? Mather, of course! With him as mayor--what then,
Stephen?"

"All talk," he answered, still smiling.

"Very well," she retorted. "But if ever it comes to Mather at city hall,
Doddridge as district attorney, and my husband on the bench, some people
will leave town hurriedly."

"You mean me?" he asked indifferently.

"Of course not," she answered. "But don't laugh, Stephen; there's really
something in all this. And in other matters, too. The Judge has sold his
street-railroad stock."

Ellis roused at once. "He has? To whom?"

"Mr. Pease."

"Well," and the promoter relaxed again. "I am glad that the Judge is out
of it, even if Pease is deeper in."

"Abiel kept back five shares," said the Judge's worthy wife, "and when
next it comes to a stockholders' meeting, he'll be there. I can't do
anything with him; you know that well enough. All I can do is to tell
you what he tells me. Stephen," and her voice became persuasive, "why
not take notice of complaints?"

"You mean transfers?" he inquired.

"Yes, and better service: more cars at the rush hours, and more
attention to the suburbs."

"Higher wages to the men, too, I suppose?" he asked.

"You don't want a strike?" she cried.

"Now stop worrying!" he commanded. "You hear the Judge at the breakfast
table, and never see my side. Who does he say are against me--Pease,
Fenno, Branderson--all their kind?"

She nodded. "Yes, every one of them."

"Well," he said, "if I have a majority of stock--either mine or
belonging to men who belong to me--all the rich swells in the State
can't touch me. Lydia, Mather made this street railroad for me; he
didn't know he was doing it, but he did it, and when I wanted it I took
it. It's the best thing I've struck yet, and I'm not going to let it go.
Nor the profits, either. Transfers and extra cars? I tell you the
public's got to ride, and ride in what I allow 'em."

"Very well," she replied. "You usually know what you're about. But the
papers----"

"Rot, rot, rot!" he interrupted. "You hear so much of this Mather talk
that you believe it. Do you read the _Newsman_?"

"Abiel won't have it in the house."

"Buy a copy once in a while, when you feel blue. You'll see that
Mather's a man of straw."

"Does Judith Blanchard think him so?"

He turned upon her. "Doesn't she?"

"I don't know what she thinks," she confessed.

"Then," he advised, softening his frown, "wait and watch. I tell you
it's going all right."

She wondered that he felt so sure, but she subsided; then other thoughts
came into her mind. "Stephen," she asked, "are you doing much now--on
the market, I mean?"

"Always doing a lot," he replied.

"What's safest and surest?"

"Government bonds," he answered with a smile.

"No, no," she said. "I mean surest to go up and do something quickly."

"Lydia," he responded, "if young Wayne wants to know anything from me,
let him ask me himself."

"Oh!" she cried, pouting, "how quick you are! Well, I did ask for Jim."
There was just a little hesitation as she spoke the name. "But he gets
so little chance to see you. Come, tell me something; give me a tip,
there's a good fellow."

"I calculated once," he replied, "that if I told every one who asked,
there would be just twice my capital in the market, after the things I
want. No, Lydia, let every man stand on his own feet; I do my hunting
alone."

"Stephen!" she coaxed. "Stephen! Oh, you obstinate thing! At least tell
me what you're buying."

"If you want to help young Wayne, don't ask that. I look long ways
ahead; sometimes I buy to hold, but he can't. I'm not afraid of a drop;
he is. Let him work out his get-rich-quick scheme by himself, and he'll
be better off than if I helped him."

"At least tell me what you think of Poulton?" But he was obdurate.
"Stephen, I'll never ask you a favour again!"

"With that pin at your throat you don't need to," he replied. "Lydia, I
never gave you that."

"I have a husband," and she affected indignation. "How can you
insinuate--oh, Stephen, you see too much. Well, what do you think of
it?"

"I think," he responded with deliberation, "that I've not seen Miss Beth
Blanchard wearing any new jewelry lately. Aren't you unkind?"

"No!" she pouted again. "I am his mother confessor." Which appeared so
humorous to them both that they laughed; and then, feeling that they had
been skating on rather thin ice, they left the subject. Only--Mrs.
Harmon wished she knew why Ellis was so sure of Judith.

Had she seen what Mather saw she might have guessed what Mather guessed.
Ellis lunching with the Colonel down town, at an out-of-the-way place,
to be sure, but lunching with him openly--that meant a good deal. It
was a French restaurant to which Mather went at times for the sake of
its specialties, but when from the door, one day, he saw the Colonel and
Ellis at one of the tables, he went away again; yet had been seen.

"He saw us," said Ellis. "And if he saw us, others will. What was the
use of insisting on such a meeting-place, Colonel?"

The Colonel was annoyed, confoundedly so.

"All very well," returned Ellis. "But our business is not secret, any
more than the transactions which go on in the open street. Come, Colonel
Blanchard, don't you think it's time for a different line of procedure?"

The Colonel apprehensively asked his meaning.

"I'll tell you," answered Ellis. "Don't think me rude, sir, if I speak
freely. All I've been thinking is that if I'm a business acquaintance
merely, keep me as such. But if I'm a little more, if I'm to come to
your house and your table, let us meet a little more openly--at the
Exchange Club, let us say. And if I dine at your house again, let's
have," the Colonel's head was bowed, and Ellis therefore spoke boldly,
"other people there."

The Colonel marked with his knife upon the cloth. Three times five
thousand, without security, meant that Ellis had passed beyond the stage
of business acquaintanceship. Well, never mind; Judith encouraged the
man, so where was the harm? The whole thing was the most natural in the
world.

"Why, Mr. Ellis," he said, looking up, "I like this little place to eat
in; it reminds me of Paris, you know. I hadn't thought we would seem to
be dodging people." ("Lies better than Wayne," thought Ellis.) "The
Exchange Club, of course, if you wish it; it's more convenient, anyway."

But Ellis's reminder, before they parted, the Colonel took hard. "And
perhaps we can have a little dinner-party soon, Colonel?"

"Yes," answered the Colonel. "Yes, yes." He was as near snappish as he
dared to be, vindicating his military character. Only the recollection
of his daughter's wishes kept him from being rude, downright rude. Thus
the Colonel to himself, as he went homeward alone. Yet, instead of
informing Judith that she was privileged to give a dinner-party, he was
much too absorbed to vouchsafe her any account of where he had been.
"Don't bother me," was his gentle reply when she asked if he had seen
any one down town.

"Father!" cried Judith, really hurt.

"But I heard this," said her father, stopping at the door of his study,
and giving his piece of news with an unction for which only the passions
of the natural man can account. "They say a street-railway strike is
coming surely, unless Mr. Ellis gives in."

Judith stood with her hands behind her back, regarding her parent
cheerfully. "Oh, well!" she said lightly.

"You don't believe it?" demanded the Colonel.

"Strikes never come as often as they are threatened," she replied.

"But this time the stockholders may have something to say."

"They need more votes for that," she answered.

The Colonel looked her over. "Ellis has been telling her what to think,"
he concluded. For a moment he entertained the impulse to propose the
dinner-party, but Ellis's virtual ordering of him rankled. He went into
his study.

Mather, on his part, took his lunch at another restaurant and then went
down to Chebasset. He felt somewhat depressed; life was not pleasant,
not with the sight of Ellis and the Colonel before his mental vision,
nor with the task he had to do. For the returns from the mill were
entirely inadequate, and Jim must be spoken to. Lecturing a sulky boy
promised to be unpleasant; besides, Jim would report it to Beth. Mather
would have given a good deal to put the matter off, if only for a day.

But Jim was not at the mill. "He has gone to Stirling, Miss Jenks?"

"Yes, sir, to the city. He had a telephone message from----" Miss Jenks
hesitated and stammered.

"Miss Blanchard? Oh, of course." And Mather, amused at the modesty of
the little stenographer, sat down at Jim's desk, which had once been his
own. "The daily reports, if you please, Miss Jenks." While she went for
them, he stared idly at the decorations by whose means Jim had sought to
domesticate himself at the mill: dance cards, an invitation, and
photographs of Beth, Jim's mother, and Mrs. Harmon. Mather frowned at
the presence of the last, in such company.

Armed with the daily reports, Mather went into the mill, and certain of
the men, at certain of the machines, heard words which were far from
pleasing. The words were not many, and were delivered quietly, but
backed by telling figures from the returns they were unanswerable. It
was a slight relief that so many men were visited in Mather's round, for
company made the misery a bit lighter, but the foreman trembled for his
turn. He took it in the office, alone with Mather and Miss Jenks. That
during the summer and fall so many pounds daily had been turned out, and
in the winter so many less, was laid before him. The foreman could
suggest only one excuse.

"Mr. Wayne, sir. The men--some of them don't like him, and some laugh at
him."

"You attend to your men, Waller, and Mr. Wayne and I will do our part.
Understand, I put the mill in your hands now; Mr. Wayne will attend
strictly to the office. If you bring the men up to the old mark, ten
dollars more for you in the month. If you don't----" And the manager
waved his hand. Waller, between fear and hope, withdrew to the safe side
of the door, and mopped his brow.

Mather also wiped his forehead; he was glad, after all, that Jim had not
been there; he would try running the mill on this system, and Beth for a
while, perhaps for good, could be spared unhappiness.

But when, after writing Jim a letter detailing the proposed change, he
rose from his chair, he found a workman standing by his side. The man,
with some appearance of unhappiness, touched his forelock. "Beg pardon,
sir, but the missis is sick."

"Your wife? I'm sorry. I suppose you've come for an advance of money."

"No, sir!" and the man showed pride. "I can get along, Mr. Mather, on my
regular pay."

"Then what can I do for you?"

"It's this new regulation, sir--fortnightly pay."

"Fortnightly pay!" echoed Mather.

"Yes, sir. It'll be all right usually, Mr. Mather, and none of the men
cares much."

There was a tightness in the manager's brain; he put up his hand and
stroked his lip. "Let me see, when did the new system begin?"

"Last week, sir. And as I say, I wouldn't care, sir, but just now it
comes so hard that I'm askin'--just as a favour, Mr. Mather--to be paid
weekly till the missis is well."

"So!" said Mather, recovering himself.

"I hope it's not too much to ask, sir?"

"No, no," and the manager turned to the safe.

What was he to find--an empty cash drawer? His hand trembled as he swung
open the heavy door; he thought of little Beth. If Jim had been so weak,
so ungrateful--it was all right! There lay the rolls of bills!

But not the same; the envelopes had been opened, the money mussed and
then crammed hastily back into the drawer again. Moreover, these were
not the fresh, crisp bills which Pease took pride in sending weekly to
the mill. Mather took the whole drawer to the desk and paid the workman.
"Make a note, Miss Jenks, that Swinton is to be paid weekly so long as
his wife is ill." The man, thankful, departed; but Mather sat over the
cash drawer, sorting the money and counting it. There were many bills of
the high denominations which never came to the mill, since they would be
of little use in paying the men. But it was all there, every cent. What
was the meaning of it? And now it was Miss Jenks who stood at Mather's
side, waiting to speak. He thrust the money again into the drawer.

"Miss Jenks?" As she did not speak at once he looked at her face, and
asked hastily: "Is anything wrong?"

"I've--I've got to leave here, Mr. Mather."

He rose and put the cash drawer in its place; then he went back to her.
"This is very astonishing. Why?"

"I must," was all she would say.

"Is it wages? Hours? Are you overworked?" To each question she shook her
head. "I consider you very valuable to us. I have thought of asking you
to come to the city office."

She looked up at him eagerly. "Oh, let me come!"

"Then there is some friction here?"

She looked down, blushing. "No friction."

"One question only, Miss Jenks. Is it Mr. Wayne?"

She nodded; Mather took his seat. Then she took a step nearer to him,
looking to see if he were angry. "Don't be put out with him. He--I--it's
nothing, Mr. Mather."

"So I should suppose," he answered grimly.

"Mr. Mather," she said suddenly, "when I worked for you here I got to
think of you almost as an older brother. Don't be offended." She made a
little gesture of one thin hand. "I have no mother. May I ask you if I
am doing right?"

He was touched, and rose again. "Certainly."

"Mr. Wayne," she began again slowly, "has been very--nice to me. I
didn't think about it; I got to like it very much. Yesterday he--kissed
me. Isn't he engaged to Miss Blanchard, sir?"

"He is."

"I thought so; and yet, Mr. Mather, I couldn't be offended. This
afternoon, when he went away, he came to kiss me again, and I couldn't
try to stop him. Was it shameful, sir?"

He ground his teeth. "Of him!"

"And he left me this." She opened the hand which she had held tight
closed, and showed a jewelled pin.

Mather took it; it was costly, very handsome. "Well, Miss Jenks?"

"I don't think I'm that kind of a girl, sir. And yet I'm frightened at
myself--for not being able to resist him, I mean. And so I've got to go,
sir." Up to this time she had spoken quietly, with little sign of
emotion, but now she clasped her hands together, and tears welled out on
her cheeks. "I cannot stay another day!"

He turned away from her, and for a space strode up and down the office,
cursing silently. Then he sat and tried to think. Jim, Jim!

"You're not offended, sir?" she asked.

"Offended? You poor little girl, it tears at my heart to see your face
and know what you feel. You're doing just right; yes, just right. You
shall come to me in the city, to-morrow if you wish. I know an old and
homely woman who will be glad of this place."

She shrank at the energy of his sneer. "You won't be angry with him,
sir?"

"Not angry?" he cried, astonished. Then he said quietly, "I shall do
nothing at once. But there are other considerations as well."

"Others?" she asked fearfully. "He isn't--going wrong, Mr. Mather?"

"What makes you think that?" he demanded.

"Perhaps," she said, "I'd better tell you something, if it will help you
help him. There's one man--oh, Mr. Mather, I've been so glad of the way
the papers speak of you--if you would only stand for mayor of Stirling,
sir! I dislike that Mr. Ellis. And it's he who's been here twice to see
Mr. Wayne, and telephoned him this afternoon to come to town."

"Of course you know there's no reason he shouldn't?"

"Only I don't like him, sir. And Mr. Wayne made something of a secret of
it, though he's been talking with me quite freely, lately. But I
couldn't help knowing, and I hope there's nothing wrong." She took a
step toward her desk. "If you've got nothing for me to do, sir, I'll go
now. To-morrow at your office, Mr. Mather?"

"To-morrow." He sank so deep in thought that he scarcely heeded her
good-bye, and leaving the pin on Jim's desk she slipped out of the
office with her hopes, fears, thanks, trembling on her lips but yet
unexpressed. She was glad to leave the little office where she had been
so frightened of herself. And since Mather had been always kind, she
felt sure he would be kind to Wayne.

Kind! Mather's fingers itched for Jim's collar. Perhaps he had intended
no harm with the girl, but such things went easily from bad to worse.
And what had he been doing with the money? But the only real reason for
complaint lay in the new system of fortnightly pay. Mather concluded
that he would wait till Saturday; then he would come down, see the men
paid, and have it out with Jim.



CHAPTER XXI

ELLIS TAKES HIS LAST STEP BUT ONE


It was midwinter, in the full swing of social events, yet Judith had
been withdrawing herself more and more from what was going on. She
disliked people's talk; besides, her interest in mere frivolity was
growing less, fixing itself with proportionate keenness upon Ellis's
affairs.

For Ellis came continually oftener, and at last she had begun to look
forward to his visits. More than one of his interests had been growing
complicated; he told her of them freely. Most of all, the street-railway
matter promised trouble from the threatened strike.

On the evening of Ellis's and the Colonel's third exchange of note and
check Ellis came to see Judith; she was very ready for a talk. It
pleased and flattered him to see the flash of the eye lighting up her
beauty, the eagerness with which she led him to the familiar subject.
"Stunning!" he thought to himself. "Is she dressed up so for me?" The
handsome gown, the few but valuable jewels--and the face! "Soon!" he
said to himself confidently. Meanwhile, step by step!

He had planned the next one carefully, spending on it more thought than
on many of his great strokes in politics or business. She was more on
his mind than ever, partly because, as a woman, she was a strange
problem to him; partly, however, because his interest in her was growing
steadily deeper, and to win her was becoming constantly of greater
moment. The unnamed emotion still increasing in him, he explained it by
the fact that it was impossible for him to be contented as he once was,
in the days when he drove without rest at his politics or business,
having nothing to look forward to at the day's end, and with only the
dull set of common-minded men as his companions. How far finer was
Judith than they! Though he still feared her idealism, it gave him a
sense of the worth of beauty and refinement. And that other faculty in
her, to appreciate his material achievements, was not only a stimulus
which he felt had become indispensable, but was also the susceptibility
by which he hoped to win her. Aiming all his powers at that weakness,
and looking back on the occasion when the mere sight of Mather was
enough to capture Judith's attention from him, Ellis planned so to raise
her interest in himself that it would permit of no interruption.

He told her of the threatened strike. The demands of the men were not
serious; it would not be a great drain on his pocket to grant the
increase in wages. The free transfers would be troublesome; the extra
service in rush hours a bother: nevertheless, all this could be
undertaken, and would be, if it were not for the principle involved. And
in order that he might know how to decide, he needed her help.

"My help!" cried Judith.

"Perhaps," he said, smiling at her interest, "you don't realise that I
consult you, Miss Blanchard. But all these things I speak to you about
have more or less dependence on the state of public feelings. Do you
know that I have come to consider you as a kind of barometer of that?"

"Me?" she cried again, much pleased.

"You read the papers, and digest the news. You see people and talk
things over. You're rather above ordinary business, naturally, and so,
looking down on its workings, it seems to me as if you see _into_ it. Do
you understand? You see clearer than the men themselves who are in the
midst of it."

"I never supposed that," she said. "I never dreamed of it!"

"You have a habit of looking forward, too," he went on. "That's what I
like, what I need. I get confused myself, sometimes; I can't see the
battle for the smoke. My own strategy is often doubtful to me. Then I
turn to you."

"You overrate me," she exclaimed.

"Not I," he answered. "You aren't offended if I speak so frankly? For I
wouldn't make use of you unless you are quite willing."

"Certainly I am willing to help," she said.

"Thank you," he replied. "Now it's this way, Miss Blanchard. I'm not
working only for the present, as I think you know. I'm looking rather
farther forward than most people. Besides, I'm mixed up in many matters.
Finally I'm rather alone. Politics, the railway, the cotton corporation,
half a dozen things I carry almost by myself; I'm the chief, anyway; I
haven't even a partner to consult. I have to watch my own lieutenants to
see they do things right, good workers as they are. It's brains I need
to help me--reliable scouts and clear-headed advisers."

"I can't be an adviser," said Judith, "but I could scout, perhaps. Will
you let me?"

"I want you for both," he returned. "You can advise, and you do. I want
some scouting just now, and advice after it, by somebody absolutely
impartial. Somebody who wouldn't hesitate to set me right if she saw
that I was wrong."

"Tell me!" begged Judith.

"I have my preconceived notions," he said. "Let me explain them to you,
so that you can understand the line I'm working on. This isn't capital
versus labour, Miss Blanchard; it isn't even the corporation against the
public--not as I look at it. No, it's the present against the future. I
could do the things the public wants; certainly I could. But that's not
the point. The question is, do they know what's best for themselves?
That's for you and me to decide!"

He had been leaning forward, speaking with emphasis; now as he finished
he sat again upright, but the flash of his eye kindled an answering fire
in hers. "For you and me!" she repeated.

He leaned forward again, holding her glance with his. "The people," he
said, "think they know what they want. But the best of them are very
shortsighted, even the educated men. Your friends are beginning to join
the cry against me; I won't deny it sounds mighty reasonable: Better
hours and pay for the men; better service for the people. Well, do you
or I suppose that's all there is in it?"

She drew in her breath; how much more he saw, and knew, than others!

"Let's go back," he said. "I'm in politics, indirectly. I'm blamed for
it. Fellows, good fellows I've known for years, are looked down on and
called Ellis's men, just because they see things as I do. All very well
for men who sit back with white gloves on their hands and say that
politics aren't clean. Come now, I'll acknowledge it to you, Miss
Blanchard, politics are not clean. I've seen things done that--well,
never mind. I believe corruption has been in the world since the first
of time; I think it's in a certain grade of human nature. You can't get
it out. But there's less of it than is supposed; and on my word, Miss
Blanchard, none of it can be laid to me!"

Again she drew a breath, and still meeting his eye, she nodded her
agreement.

"If one of those fellows, in the city government through no act of mine,
votes for my measures, shall I pay him not to? There are few enough of
them. Well, we understand that, but people might ask me why I'm in
politics at all. Miss Blanchard, I point to what I've done. And to what
I'm doing! Sometimes it hurts me that people misunderstand me; mostly I
laugh. But I want you to know, as I guess you do anyway. I'm building
this city for the future."

Again he drew away and made the impressive pause, but in a moment he was
once more at the charge. "The water-works affair, look at that! People
cry 'Steal! Boodle!' But do they know what I'm doing? Do they know what
I'm saving them from? Miss Blanchard, you know, if they don't, that this
city is at a turning point in its development. We're just growing from a
small city into a big one. Then it's the part of the men with brains to
prepare for the change. Look at Boston, look at New York: see how
they're struggling with their water problems, their lighting problems,
above all with their transportation problems--and why?" He snapped out
the question abruptly, then answered it himself. "Because they didn't
look forward and prepare! But that's just what I propose to do for
Stirling!"

She was quite his own now, listening as if fascinated. Her bright eye
was fixed on his, confusing him slightly, yet it gave encouragement. His
confidence increased, and after a moment he began again with more
energy.

"Look at the water-works--they're vast! I've condemned a whole valley
out Grantham way; the reservoirs we're making are much too large for
the city. But in ten years, what then? Still too large, I'll grant. Yet
when Stirling is twice its present size, _then_ the reservoir and park
system, for I'm combining them, will have been got so cheaply that this
city will be richer than any other. Water system installed, lighting
problems solved, all land necessary for municipal purposes bought and
paid for _now_. The next generation, Miss Blanchard, will have reason to
praise us. Isn't that plain? And I mean to do the same with the
transportation system."

"Go on!" she begged him as he paused.

"It's somewhat different in this case," he said. "The water-works are
being made with public money, the parks also. But the street-railway is
a corporation, and although I control it, there are stockholders to
consider, and a great big public to keep in good temper while at the
same time I am working for the future. There's a problem, Miss
Blanchard--to pay dividends, put on extra cars, and raise wages, while
I'm buying land for future stations, barns, and terminals, and while I'm
even thinking of the construction of a subway."

"A subway!" she cried.

"Yes," he answered, "don't you see the advantage of it?"

"Indeed I do," exclaimed Judith. "Our streets are very crowded now, down
town, and the cars make such blocks! But a subway! Wouldn't it be
terribly expensive?"

"Looked at in a broad way, no," he answered. "To condemn and take the
necessary real estate will cost nothing now to what it will ten years
hence. And can you doubt that it will be needed then? Then why not set
about it now? Why not ask the public to incommode itself for a while, to
gain a permanent benefit? What they ask is only temporary; if we let
things slip along from year to year, patching up and patching on, we'll
never be better off. There was a man hired a place; in fifteen years of
rent he paid the whole value of it and yet didn't own it. Better to have
mortgaged and bought, in the first place. That's what I propose to do
here."

"I understand," she said.

"I acknowledge," he went on, "that I appoint myself to do these things.
Officious, isn't it? And I'm selfish about it. I want to do it my own
way, and I want to have the credit of doing it. Oh, it's a job, it's a
task!" As if carried away by enthusiasm, he rose and stood before her.
"I tell you, Miss Blanchard," he cried, "I am just beginning the hardest
fight of my life! But I like work, I enjoy a fight, and with the help of
my friends (and you're the chief of them) I shall put it through!"

He took three steps away from her, and she watched him, not feeling her
throbbing heart and quickened breath. As he turned again, she asked him
how he meant to go about the work.

"By legislative help," he explained, coming back to his seat by her
side. "Prepare to hear a good deal against me: that I've bought the
common council and own seats in the legislature, for instance. It's long
been said that the mayor's my own--for purposes of corruption, of
course. Now you can see that my plans are too big for me to carry out by
myself, or even for the corporation to do alone. I must have public
money to help me. And besides that, more than that, I must be granted
the application of a principle which has seldom, almost never, been
allowed out of the hands of the legislature or the courts."

"What is that?" she asked.

He answered, "Eminent domain!"

"To be able," she asked in astonishment, "by yourself to condemn and
take land?"

"Yes," he answered confidently.

"You will meet very strong opposition."

"I expect it," he replied. "And I shall be justified in asking for the
right. I am looking to the result."

She nodded thoughtfully.

"Now, your part in this," he began again, and she looked up quickly, "is
to be, if you will let me say it so, my ear. The plan will be proposed
soon; I shall know what's said for it, I want to know what's said
against it. You can help me gage the quality of the opposition. Will you
do it?"

"Willingly," she answered. "But the strike?"

"Ah," he returned, "I wish I might ask you to help me there also. There
are two things which can assure a strike success: one is determination
in the men themselves, one is the sympathy of the public. Do you go
about enough, do you see people enough--of the middle class, I mean--to
be able to form an opinion on these two points?"

"I can do so," she answered.

"Thank you," he said eagerly. "One thing more--your advice! When you
have done all this, will you give me your opinion freely?"

"If it is of any worth," she replied, "you will be welcome to it."

The enthusiasm, he feared, had lapsed; he did his best to rouse it. "If
you range yourself against me, I shall not be surprised."

"I? Against you!" she cried.

"I appreciate the ties of habit and friendship," he said. "But for them
there are many who would be with me. Conservatism is a strong force, as
I know very well."

"Do you think," she inquired, "that I cannot see the wise course when
you show it to me so clearly?"

He concealed his gratification by a counter question. "Do you see the
struggle which is to come out of this?"

"How much and how long will it be?"

"It may take years," he said. "Political campaigns may turn on it. Next
fall's election, the mayoralty, may be determined by what we two, here
in this parlour, talk over by ourselves." He saw the flush which
overspread her face, the pride which came into her eyes, yet he
hesitated before the final stroke.

"Will all that happen?" she asked eagerly.

She opened the way for him. Dropping his eyes, he sat for a moment to
collect himself; when he looked up his face was serious. "Miss
Blanchard," he said, "there will be from all this certain results,
personal to me, which are beginning to show very clearly. Whether your
friends are going to make this a demonstration against me, or whether
they think they must act, I can't say, but we are going to come to an
open rupture." Then he looked at her with a smile which was half amused,
half deprecatory. "Do you remember that I once confessed to you my
foolish social ambition?"

"It was not foolish!" she objected.

"Perhaps not," he returned, "and yet--perhaps. At any rate, I had the
ambition once."

"Do you not now?" she asked.

"If I have," Ellis answered, "I may have to give it up. For if your
friends come out against me, and if we fight this to a finish, then it
will all amount to this: that I must choose between my career and
my--acquaintances."

He was managing her well! He felt an unauthorised emotion, prompting
him to say words akin to those which he had heard Jim say to Beth,
but--with such inspiration as Judith's--far more strong and eager. Yet
all such feeling he beat down, and though she felt the lack, he was
succeeding with her. Coldly as he made his statements and carefully
repressed all emotion, he was still able to rouse her enthusiasm.

"Would you hesitate?" she asked with spirit.

"It seems easy to you," he returned steadily, "but consider. It means
that I must live a life alone. I have the American spirit, Miss
Blanchard, which urges me upward. I have seen what is better than what I
have; I am trying for it. Whatever happens, I won't go back. But the
door is shut in my face. So I stay alone outside."

"It must not be!" she exclaimed.

"But if it happens so?"

"It is too unjust!" She could say nothing more, but her feelings
enlisted her on his side, and she restrained herself with difficulty.
Her generosity, her energy, showed so plainly in her glowing features
that he asked himself: "Is this the moment?" Then the rings of the
portieres rattled.

It was the Colonel, who, having heard the earnest tones, and knowing
well how to approach Judith on an unpleasant subject, chose to come now
in order to protect himself by the presence of a third person. "Judith,"
he said, standing before them, beaming benevolently, "I have just had an
idea. It was very pleasant when Mr. Ellis dined with us recently.
Suppose we ask him again, and have some others here: Mrs. Harmon, say,
for a matron, and some of our friends.--With Ellis here," the Colonel
thought, "she can't refuse."

But he was surprised at the eagerness with which she accepted the
suggestion. Judith began at once to plan whom she should ask, and
astonished the Colonel by the names she mentioned. The Judge, the
Fennos, none of the younger people. "A formidable affair," exclaimed he,
surprised and puzzled. "Do you think that you care to attempt so much?"

Judith turned to Ellis. "You shall see!" she said.

"You are very kind," he answered.

And now he was all on fire, waiting for the Colonel to go. This girl, so
cold to others, so kind to him, was wonderful. With her, what could he
not achieve? "Go, go!" he found himself muttering impatiently, as still
the Colonel stayed. Why did he not leave them to themselves?

But it was Judith who was keeping her father, for she had seen the
shadow of the approaching crisis, and feared it as a woman may who,
having once dreamed of love, flinches at a union devoid of passion. Not
yet! So she made the Colonel talk. Ellis finally took his leave;
certainly much had been gained. Judith accompanied him to the door.

"I shall think over all you have said," she told him. "It is wonderful,
what you have planned!"

"And you will help me?" he asked.

"Be sure of that," she replied.

Yes, much had been gained, he told himself as he went away. He had
thrilled her, and if he could rouse her so easily----He struck his hands
together. There should be no more delay.

Judith went into the sitting-room, where her father was explaining to
Beth the plans for the dinner. Judith felt that she was trembling with
the reaction from her previous excitement; as Beth's quiet eyes rested
on her it seemed as if her feelings could be read. "Don't you think it
will be pleasant, Beth?" asked the Colonel.

"No," answered Beth firmly. "I hope it will not be done."

Leaving her father to expostulate and argue, Judith went up-stairs to
her chamber. Beth's disapproval had the effect of a cold sponge pressed
upon her temples; she began to control herself. Never had Judith been
able to overlook Beth's opinion lightly; she expressed the feeling of
the best of their caste. What power had Ellis, Judith asked, that he
could so carry her away? She sat down to reason with herself, to measure
by line and square the structure reared by his imagination. Then she
began to glow again: how wonderful, far-reaching, philanthropic were his
plans!

In that mood she went to bed, and had fallen into a doze when she became
aware that some one was replenishing the fire. When the bright blaze had
lighted up the ceiling, Beth, in her wrapper, came and seated herself at
Judith's side.



CHAPTER XXII

HAROUN AL RASCHID


Beth saw that her sister was awake; stooping forward, she kissed her
gently. "Don't be put out with me, dear," she said, "for what I'm going
to say."

"I will not," answered Judith. The hour, the warm bed, the firelight,
made her unusually gentle. "What is it, dear?"

"It is that dinner," answered Beth. "I wish to make sure you
understand--what people will think of it, I mean. Excuse me, Judith; I
see it more clearly than you can, as a third person, dear."

"Well," Judith asked, "what will people think?"

"Two things," Beth answered. "First, that you are trying to get Mr.
Ellis into society."

"I am willing they should think that."

"The second is," went on Beth slowly, "that the dinner, given here at
our house, and not at Mrs. Harmon's, as perhaps you could arrange to
have it----"

"Not with the Judge's consent," Judith interrupted.

"Or some one else's, then," said Beth. "Given by us, anyway, people
would think the dinner would mean----"

"Go on," directed Judith.

"That you and Mr. Ellis are engaged."

There was silence, in which the crackling of the fire, and the darting
of the shadows on the ceiling, were painfully noticeable to Judith. It
was true! People would think thus.

"Well?" asked Beth at length. Judith made no answer, and Beth, bending
down, snuggled her head against her sister's throat. "I hope," she
whispered, "that you can manage to give it up." Still Judith made no
sign; Beth only made it harder. "Judith, Judith!" Beth urged, gently
pressing her with her arms.

"I don't see," said Judith at last, speaking with difficulty, "how I can
give up the dinner."

Beth sat up quickly. "Truly?" she demanded, with the energy of
disappointment.

"Truly," answered Judith firmly.

"Good-night," said Beth abruptly. She rose and went away without a kiss.
Then Judith lay for a long time awake: the line of cleavage was
beginning. The choice was hard, hard!

But in the morning she wrote her invitations, after agreeing upon a date
with Mrs. Harmon, who leaped at the chance. Yet she showed only too
distinctly what people would think of the event.

"Haven't you," she inquired before Judith left, "haven't you something
to tell me, Judith?"

"Nothing," answered Judith shortly. "Good-bye."

She wrote her notes in her father's name, puzzling first over the
wording. It would be easy to trap people into coming, and when they
arrived they could find Ellis of the party. But that seemed not to be
fair; unconventionally she inserted in each note the words, "to meet Mr.
Stephen F. Ellis." When the notes were written she took them out and
dropped them quickly into the post-box, lest her courage should fail
her. Thus it was settled! The notes were to the Fennos, the Watsons, Mr.
and Miss Pease. Twenty-four hours, and the whole town would be
discussing her. Twenty-four hours brought Saturday; in the morning Mr.
Fenno came to the house.

He always interested her, for he meant power. Ellis, Pease, Fenno: such
was their rank in the town; but Judith felt, as she welcomed him, that
he was as a king about to abdicate, looking back on his reign with weary
eyes, and measuring by a standard of his own. He was one to whom others
were aggregations of forces--potentialities, not men. His heavy head
with its thick hair and deep eyes reminded her more than ever of an old
lion; the rumble of his voice gave force to his slightest word.

Judith told him she would send for Beth. "No, my dear," he said, "I am
glad Beth is not here. I came to see you." With some wonder she led him
into the parlour, where Mr. Fenno handed her a note and watched her
while she read it. It was the usual short formula: "Mr. and Mrs. William
Fenno regret that they cannot accept----," etc.

"I am sorry," said Judith as she folded up the paper.

"That is my wife's answer," explained Mr. Fenno. "I came to give you my
own in person." But then he gazed at her in silence until she became
restive under the scrutiny. "My dear Miss Judith," he said suddenly, "I
like you very much."

"Mr. Fenno," she returned, "you scarcely know me."

"I have watched you a great deal," he replied. "I like your spirit, your
rebellion against the stupid life we lead. Upon my word, I don't know
what business your father has with two such daughters; he doesn't
appreciate you, I'm sure. I'll change with him and welcome.--There,
don't be offended with me. I come to beg you to be moderate. Remember
that I speak to you with the voice of generations. Not even you can
afford to disregard the wisdom of the fathers."

"I do not wish to," she answered, puzzled.

"My wife," he said, "would write that note and let the matter pass. But
I want to thank you, first, for so frankly putting your purpose in your
invitation. 'To meet Mr. Ellis.' We might have come, indeed we should
have come, but for that. But we can't mix with him, Miss Judith."

"It seems to me," she returned, "that the wisdom of the fathers usually
means crystallisation, sir."

"My wife," he said, "is beyond crystallisation: she is dead. Of course
she goes through the form of living. She called you 'that young woman'
when she received the invitation, and wrote as you see, from the dead in
heaven to the dead in--limbo. But, my dear girl, did you ever hear of me
agreeing with my wife? Almost never! This time I did."

"Mr. Fenno----" began Judith.

"Let me go on," he begged. "Of course you understand what a declaration
you are offering to your friends; what a choice as well. I know your
opinion of us; we, Society, are irksome to you. Just as irksome to me, I
assure you; I hate my own life. And yet we are a force; in spite of all
appearances we are a force for good. Come, you and I are so far apart in
age that we cannot be angry with each other. Let me say my say, and when
we part let us smile and go our ways."

"Very well," she replied.

"Miss Judith," he said, "there has been an aristocracy in every
democracy that lived three generations. Ours is very old, somewhat dried
and formal, with a hard crust. Figureheads we are to a degree; rather
useless, perhaps. That is why such a girl as you is a blessing to us; a
few more years, and you can teach us many, many things. Stay with us;
you mustn't go off in the wrong direction."

She made no answer.

"This man Ellis," he pursued. "You cannot bring him in. Believe me, it
is impossible. You must choose between us."

"What if I make the choice?" she inquired.

"And choose against us? You would be sorry. My dear, what has blinded
your eyes? I know you admire his energy, his immense capacities. But
those are not everything. Ellis is not honest."

"Mr. Fenno!" she cried, starting.

"I have watched him," he went on steadily, "since first he came to town.
I know his methods. Where did he get his money?"

"Through ordinary business," she asserted.

"Until he became president of the street-railway," said Mr. Fenno with
emphasis, "Ellis never held a position, never did any business, never
appeared before the city clearly as concerned in any legitimate
undertaking. Since he built his house over here he has become
respectable--outwardly. But that house was built with public money."

"Never!" she cried indignantly.

"He has his own little Tammany here," Mr. Fenno said unmoved. "But he is
becoming too bold. He will wreck himself by the demands he is making for
the street-railway system."

"The public will be afraid of granting eminent domain; he expects that.
For the rest, what else is he showing than wise forethought?"

"For the rest," he rejoined, his deep voice emphasising harshly, "he is
but using the plans of George Mather, which came to him with the
railway."

"No!" she cried involuntarily. He made no answer, but looked at her
silently. "Mr. Fenno," she said, to cover her confusion, "this question
is progress against conservatism."

"So," he remarked, "we have arrived at a deadlock. Well, I expected it.
Good-bye, Miss Judith. I shall be interested in the result of this."
They parted formally, yet his last keen glance troubled her.

And what he had said! No one had ever accused Ellis before--not
directly. Whispers she had heard, of course, but such quiet confidence
as Mr. Fenno showed was new to her; it brought the question nearer home,
and seemed to command her to find out where Ellis got his money. For
some hours she was troubled, but at last, as one is prone to do before a
great question, Judith put it aside for a smaller one. Whom should she
ask in the Fennos' place? She decided that she would not venture again
with the older people, and choosing George Mather and Mary Carr, wrote
the notes to invite them. Then, late in the day, she found an answer to
Mr. Fenno's arguments.

Her father approved of Ellis: that was enough. The defense was specious,
almost cowardly, for Judith knew her father. But she regained her
self-control, supported herself anew by the argument of progressiveness
against conservatism, and arrived again at complete approval of Ellis.
She recalled their last talk, remembered his request, and decided she
would try to fulfill it. She had spent most of the day in the house; it
was growing dark, she needed exercise, and would go and watch, at a
certain crowded corner, the working of the transfer system. Once in the
cold air, her spirits rose, and she hurried down town. At length she
arrived where cars loaded to the fenders groaned slowly by, or stood and
blocked the traffic.

The streets were full, the sidewalks crowded with people hurrying
homeward. Judith liked the twilight, the bustle, and the lighted shops.
At the familiar corner she found many shoppers waiting for their cars,
and went and stood among them. She seemed to herself to be doing
something romantic, and (little as such considerations usually appealed
to her) was pleased to stand among the people like a queen in disguise,
to listen to their grievances, guilelessly expressed, and to bear the
complaints to the man who best knew what was needed. It was an
attractive picture which she painted of her own importance. But just as
she was congratulating herself on the deepening dusk, which made
features dim, an electric light sputtered out overhead and flooded the
place with its palpitating radiance.

An acquaintance immediately recognised and spoke to her. Scarcely had
she got rid of him than another, catching her eye, bowed and made toward
her. "This will never do," she thought, as she gave him the slip.
Accordingly, she went to a doorway where the shadow from the lamp was
deep. There she stood and watched, while cars came and went, while men
and women rushed and struggled to board them, or while others, moving
impatiently with cold and weariness, waited and fretted while they read
in vain the wording on each car. It was an active scene, a fascinating
one to Judith, until a small figure came and stood between her and the
others, aloof and watching, like herself. It was Ellis.

She was amused, and drew within her shelter lest he should see her: she
would tease him when next they should meet. Then she saw another man, a
fellow in rough working-clothes, watching Ellis from one side. Presently
the man advanced to him and spoke; Judith did not hear their words until
Ellis, turning, led the man away from the crowd until he stood within a
few yards of her.

"Now, what did you say?" demanded Ellis, halting.

"I've never been paid, you know I've never been paid, sir, for that
Chebasset job. Only fifty I've ever got; I was to have a hundred." The
man spoke in a whine; his voice was husky and in a degree familiar to
Judith; as the light fell strongly from overhead, his hat cast a deep
shadow on his face.

"That job failed," answered Ellis.

"I did my best," answered the man sullenly. Then he quickly changed his
manner; his voice became sharp, yet still it reminded Judith of tones
she once had heard. "Pay me!" he demanded. "Pay me, Mr. Ellis, or by God
I'll have something to say to your men on those cars that will make this
strike certain. If I tell them of Chebasset----"

"Wait!" and Ellis raised a hand. "How much truth is there in this talk
of a strike among my men?"

"A good deal," snarled the fellow. "It wouldn't take much to bring it
on."

"Thank you," said Ellis composedly. He put his hand in his pocket, drew
out a roll of bank bills, and gave some to the man. "I am much obliged
to you for the information."

"Fifty?" demanded the workman.

"Sixty," Ellis replied.

The man looked at Ellis, then at the notes; suddenly his bearing
altered, and he touched his hat. "Thank you," he mumbled, and walked
away. Ellis turned again to watch the cars.

Judith stood motionless; the talk meant nothing to her, except that it
showed her Ellis's resource and revealed the small ways, as well as the
great, in which he was called on to manage men. Nevertheless, she felt
uncomfortable, and when Ellis had moved away she prepared to slip off.
But before her path was entirely clear she saw Jim Wayne approach and
speak to Ellis. In Jim's appearance was that which struck her with
astonishment.

For he, usually so neat, was untidy; his coat was buttoned askew, and
from under his hat his hair strayed in disorder. He accosted Ellis
eagerly; she heard him say "Here you are" in a tone of relief, and began
speaking quickly. Judith took a step forward, preparing to go. But then
Ellis turned and led Jim near the doorway; Judith's chance to escape was
lost, yet she was on the point of revealing herself, when Jim's words
stayed her.

"You must! You must!" he was saying, in such a tone of actual demand
that Judith wondered and shrank back. Few persons dared to speak to
Ellis thus.

"Must?" repeated Ellis angrily. But then he laughed. "Wayne, you have no
claim on me."

"Who gave me the idea?" cried Jim. "Who told me what to do? You! But it
is gone--all gone!" The gesture with which he struck his hands together
revealed both horror and despair.

"Your wits as well," returned Ellis shortly. "If you want help from a
man, don't begin by insulting him."

"But something must be done at once!" cried Jim. "If Mather----"

"I understand that he went to Chebasset this morning," remarked Ellis as
if indifferently, yet he glanced sidewise upon the young man. "He
returned very much disturbed."

"There!" exclaimed Jim. "He has found it out!" Again he clenched his
hands with that gesture of despair. Judith felt that something was
hanging over him, over her, and in spite of herself drew deeper into the
shadow.

"Mather can be quieted," said Ellis, unperturbed. "Come, this is no
place for you to carry on like this. Meet me this evening."

"Where?"

"At--some one's house. Half-past nine."

"It must be earlier," returned Jim.

"Then come to the Blanchards; I mean to dine there."

"No," answered Jim, "I can't go there. But promise me to come away
early!"

"I will come when I choose," answered Ellis impatiently. Then he added:
"Go! I see Mather."

Jim turned and darted off, holding his head low. Ellis walked composedly
in the opposite direction; and to Judith, thus left alone, the sound of
the shuffling of the crowd, the rumbling of the electrics, the subdued
roar of the more distant traffic, rose suddenly into life. She moved
forward, saw that her escape was clear, and hurried away. At the next
corner she found a public carriage and directed the driver to take her
home.

The vehicle was closed; she let down a window and leaned to it for the
air. What were these matters she had overheard? The episode of the
workman passed from her mind, but what had Jim demanded of Ellis, what
had gone wrong, and where were they to meet? They were far more intimate
than she had supposed. And why had Jim avoided Mather? Weariness came
over Judith as she considered her own ignorance. These were the things
which men did by themselves; these were the signs of those business
troubles which women heard of but never met, the smirch and jostle of
down-town affairs. Such things happened daily--and Judith roused to a
feeling of envy. Little daily worries and cares--the men had too many of
them, doubtless, but she had far too few.

And now, as still she leaned by her window, she saw Mather. He was on a
corner, full in the glare of a street-light, and he seemed to be looking
among the passers as if in search of Jim. The carriage jolted slowly
across the cobbles and the tracks; then, blocked by vehicles in front,
it stopped almost at his side. Judith drew back, but still she watched
him. Tall, strong, somewhat anxious and overburdened, why could he not
be--different?

A woman stood by his side, or rather a girl with a woman's haggard eyes.
She was looking up sidewise into Mather's face, studying it with a
vixenish eagerness. She touched him on the arm, and he looked down at
her.

"Say," she said, "you're a good-lookin' feller."

He answered soberly. "Thank you."

"Isn't there some place," she asked, "where we could eat together?"

His hand went to his pocket. As he made the motion a figure, large,
noiseless, with gleaming buttons on a blue uniform, approached and stood
close behind: a policeman, watching curiously. Mather drew out a bank
note and offered it to the girl.

"With that," he asked, "can you be good for a few days?"

"W'at yer mean?" she demanded. But she snatched the money. "Ah, you're a
real swell, you are."

"Go home," he said. "Go home--Jenny."

"Jenny!" she exclaimed. "How'd yer know my name?" Then as if warned of
the presence behind she turned and saw the policeman, shrank, and fled.
The roundsman and Mather regarded each other.

"Did you know her, sir?" asked the man.

"Never saw her before," was the answer. "You don't read Rossetti, I
suppose, officer. Here comes my car."

He stepped from the curb to go behind Judith's carriage; at the same
moment the vehicle started with a jerk and went swiftly forward. For a
little longer it was involved in the city traffic, then it turned into
a quiet street and bowled onward quickly. Once more Judith leaned at
the window, glad of the cold air. She was oppressed; to-night life
seemed complicated, awful, even tragic.



CHAPTER XXIII

PLAIN LANGUAGE


Once at home, where Beth and the Colonel were still absent, Judith went
to the book-case in the little parlour and drew out the volume of
Rossetti's poems. "Jenny," she found in the index, and turning to the
page, she read:

    "Lazy laughing languid Jenny,
    Fond of a kiss and fond of a guinea----"

No, not that kind of a Jenny was that whom she had seen. Rather this:

    "When, wealth and health slipped past, you stare
    Along the streets alone, and there,
    Round the long park, across the bridge,
    The cold lamps at the pavement's edge
    Wind on together and apart,
    A fiery serpent for your heart."

And then the moral, the world-moral, this:

    "Like a toad within a stone
    Seated while Time crumbles on;
    Which sits there since the world was curs'd
    By man's transgression at the first;
    Which always--whitherso the stone
    Be flung--sits there, deaf, blind, alone;--
    Aye, and shall not be driven out
    Till that which shuts him round about
    Break at the very Master's stroke,
    And the dust thereof vanish as smoke,
    And the seed of Man vanish as dust:--
    Even so within this world is Lust."

Judith sat with the book open in her lap, meditating. She knew enough of
that lower life to have for it a man's pity rather than a woman's scorn;
recalling Mather's action, she liked him better for it. And she began to
think of him regretfully, as one who just missed the highest capacities
and so failed to meet the supreme tests. "A fine fellow!" she murmured,
so absorbed that she did not hear the door-bell ring, nor notice
footsteps until Mather himself entered the room with hurried step. He
wore his overcoat; on his brow was still the frown of care.

"Ah," he said, "I am glad to find you. Is Jim Wayne here, Judith?"

She rose and laid the book aside, carefully, so that he should not see
what she had been reading. "No," she answered. "It is his night to come.
But I saw him down town, George, and he looked worried. Is anything
wrong?"

"It has been a bad day in stocks," he answered. "I must find Jim. Excuse
my troubling you, Judith." And he moved toward the door.

"Wait, George." She took from the table the note which earlier she had
written him. "I have an invitation for you."

He took it, opened it, and began to read. "Ah!" he said at first, as if
with pleasure. But as she watched she saw a quick and startling change
in his countenance; his forehead contracted with pain, and he closed his
lips firmly. But he read on to the end, and then looked at her quietly.

"I cannot come," he said.

With a conscious summoning of her courage she asked, "You have an
engagement?"

"No," he replied. "But I cannot march in Ellis's triumph."

"You are entirely mistaken," she said haughtily.

"If not yet, then soon," he returned. She made no answer, yet she
flushed with indignation; he bowed and turned to the door. Then he came
back. "Judith, will you allow me to speak with you frankly? A few words
may make a difference to us forever."

It was not the words which impressed her, it was the emotion which drove
them from his breast, which burned in his eyes. She was so astonished
that she made no answer; he said, to emphasise his request, "It may be
seldom that we speak again."

"Seldom speak again?" she repeated.

He took her words for a consent. "Judith," he asked, "what is this man
Ellis to you? Do you realise that he is using you?"

Her indignation rose. "Using me!"

"To get among us," he explained. "He has no gratitude, no remorse. Once
he has used a man he throws him aside like an old glove; he has never
shown personal feeling for any one. Why do you have to do with him?"

"You envy his ability," she said.

"Not I," he answered. "I admire his firmness, his persistence, his
capacity. But I cannot admire him. Judith, he is a bane, a poison in our
system, a disease!"

"You mistake him," she cried.

"Not I. I know him, and am going to fight him."

"Fight him, then!" she returned.

He spoke more quietly. "We have been careless with him; he has brought
corruption into the city. But small cities are not so conscienceless as
big ones; the better elements are rising against him. This day I was
formally asked to lead them, and I shall probably be against his man in
the mayoralty contest next fall. It is a battle of principles: that is
why I can never take salt with him."

She was quite unmoved, using her previous defense. "It will be a
struggle of the new against the old."

"Ah, Judith," he replied almost sadly, "is he blinding you thus? And do
you see my meaning clearly? All the better elements will oppose him.
Whoever is with him will be against us."

"Who are you," she cried, "to pronounce on good and evil? Take care
against self-righteousness, George."

"I will take care," he answered. "But there is another side to this,
Judith. Put this larger issue by and turn to the smaller, the personal
one between you and me. Judith, I have loved you. I thought you were
womanly at bottom. But have you no heart, after all?" His intensity was
growing.

"That still troubles you?" she inquired.

"Are you absolutely cold?" he asked. "Are your old friends nothing to
you? What if they turn from you?"

"So," she said, "you threaten me with that?"

"It is inevitable," he said with energy. "Even as my love--no boy's
love, Judith--wavers and grows sick, so will their friendship. Have we
all mistaken you? Will you give such approval to such a man?"

Anger at last grew strong within her. "George!" she said in warning.

But he, casting before her his burning reproaches, would not be
repressed. "I say the only thing which can bring you to yourself. Do my
words sting? They tear me as I utter them!" His face was changing as he
spoke, paling as if the effort weakened him, yet still he dragged out
the words. "Judith, I could see you married to an honourable man, and
still love and bless you. I will idealise you until you besmirch
yourself--but you are no child, to do that unknowingly. On the day you
give yourself to Ellis----"

"Stop!" she interrupted.

"No!" he cried. "It is in your mind; you cannot deny it. On the day,
Judith, that you give yourself to him, you sell yourself!"

He stood voiceless and panting, gazing at her with accusing eyes. And
for an instant she reeled, a voice within her cried "Jenny!" and she saw
that woman of the streets. Then fierce indignation flooded her veins;
she started to the table, seized the Japanese knife, and held it naked
in her hand. With ease she balanced and pointed the heavy weapon.

"Do you suppose," he asked, "that you can hurt me deeper?"

For a moment they stood confronting, his courage as strong as her anger.
Then she threw the dagger clattering upon the table, and pointed to the
door. "Go!"

He gave her one searching look, bowed, and went quickly from the house.

The Colonel, entering some fifteen minutes later, found Judith in the
arm-chair where she had flung herself after pacing the room. "Judith,"
he said, "I met Mr. Ellis just now, and he said he was coming up to
dinner."

"Very well," she answered inattentively.

He saw that her brow was clouded, and his desire to speak with her
seriously began to melt. When he was alone it seemed to him simple
enough to say a few fatherly words in favour of Ellis; the Colonel
wished very much to have his mind relieved about the future. But now was
not the time, not while that frown was on her face. So he went
up-stairs.

Then his statement found its way into Judith's mind, and she sprang to
her feet. Ellis was coming--then _it_ was coming! She hurried up-stairs
and dressed herself with care; when she was ready she was a picture. But
it was not her gown and scanty jewels that made her radiant, but the
glow within her, which was the smouldering indignation she still felt
against Mather. Thus to threaten, thus to dare her, thus to set himself
up as judge! She waited impatiently for Ellis to come.



CHAPTER XXIV

BRINGING ABOUT AN UNDERSTANDING


Beth was much disappointed that evening; it was Saturday, yet Jim did
not come to dinner. She wished for him especially as a relief from the
irritation of Ellis's presence; she longed for Jim as the meal
progressed, for her father was very complacent to Ellis, and it troubled
her. But Ellis was a greater cause of distress, as he spoke more than
usual, and more directly at Judith. They were talking of politics, he
and the Colonel. Municipal affairs, Judith put in; what was the prospect
in them?

"A fight," answered Ellis, "and with the man I least like as my
opponent: your friend, George Mather. I expect he will be the reform
candidate for mayor--it is too bad!"

"Why?" asked Beth.

"Because," he answered, turning to her, "I should like to be friends
with him. If he and I could agree, nothing could stand before us. He is
the most energetic and far-sighted among the other side."

"Come over to him, then," said Beth bluntly.

He smiled at her. "I see that you think as Mather does. It's very
natural. But I have not only the misfortune to be with--well, let's say
the commoner people, but I also believe as they believe, and act as I do
from conviction. Nothing would give me greater pleasure, Miss Blanchard,
than to see things as you do, and to set myself, as I believe Mr. Mather
conscientiously does, against progress. There would be great personal
advantage to me in it."

"Mr. Ellis means," explained the Colonel, "that the defensive is always
the easiest side to fight on."

"More than that," added Ellis. "The other side in this quarrel is the
respectable one. Positively, I am almost disreputable." He paused for
her comment; Beth smiled with constraint, amazed at his boldness.

"Outwardly, you mean," said Judith.

"And only outwardly, I trust," he responded. "There are underlying
principles governing my actions (he was speaking to Beth again, after
turning to Judith for a single moment) which unfortunately do not
appear. I expect to be misunderstood by your friends."

"Always?" asked Beth. "Are not the rest of us to comprehend you some
day, Mr. Ellis?"

"Let me show you," he said, "how to comprehend me now." He leaned toward
her, smiling; for the first time Beth felt a magnetic quality in his
glance, but it was reptilian and unpleasant. He told her of his outlook
on the future; he grated on her, yet he impressed her, for even with
opponents such as Ellis she was reasonable. But she felt a fundamental
falsity, felt it but could not expose it; it was instinct alone that
taught her suspicion of his unanswerable words. For no logic could meet
them; they were wisdom itself. Of one thing, however, Beth felt certain:
that they were not directed at her but at Judith.

And Judith responded. When Ellis stopped speaking, she took up the word;
with real earnestness she explained, added, and finally approved. The
plan was wise, far-reaching--oh, thought Beth, if but Mather, and not
Ellis, had been the man to originate it! Then Beth started: had she not
once heard that Mather had made plans, perhaps just such as these, at
which the older heads had wondered? Although on mere conjecture, she
took up the matter as boldly as she could.

"I did not know, Mr. Ellis, that you were such an engineer."

"I am only a promoter," he answered. "You will find the opposition
newspapers calling me that. But I often handle large matters, and that
is how I came on the idea."

"You mean you found it?" she asked. "Did you not originate it?"

Ellis flushed and hesitated; Judith spoke quickly. "I don't suppose
anything in the world is so original that it hasn't been proposed
before. Mr. Ellis, Beth, is profiting by the experience of other
cities--aren't you?" And Judith turned to him.

Gratified, he assented. Beth saw the glance of understanding that passed
between them; turning to her father, she saw him watching Judith with
satisfaction. She felt almost faint: how was the world going so wrong
that this could happen? Nothing was left for Beth but to declare, as
brightly as she could--yet Judith felt the distress in her voice--that
this was all so new that she must think it over. After that she sat
silent.

But Judith, having expressed her zeal in Ellis's cause, was more than
ever pleased with herself and with him. It struck her particularly that
he was generous toward Mather, that it was kind of Ellis to praise him
and desire him as an ally, and that, contrasting with Mather's
denunciation of his rival, Ellis showed the finer character. She was
about to question him again when the servant brought a note and laid it
at her plate.

"The messenger asked me to deliver it to you at once, Miss Judith."

Judith took it up; it was addressed in Mather's hand. Her instant
impulse to destroy it he had foreseen, for in the corner of the envelope
he had written "Not personal." So, still flushing with the indignation
she had first felt, she opened the envelope and took out the note. It
was written on the paper of the University Club.

     "_My dear Judith_: I must find Jim Wayne, but Beth must not know.
     Trusting absolutely to your secrecy, I give my reasons. Matters
     have been mismanaged at the mill; and just now, calling on Mrs.
     Wayne, I found her in despair over the disappearance of her
     securities. I fear that Jim has been speculating, and I am sure he
     is avoiding me, but I must find him before he takes it into his
     head to leave the city, for perhaps I can set matters right. If he
     comes to your house, will you immediately telephone me at the club?
     I am
                                    Yours in great haste,
                                                       GEORGE MATHER."

Judith was not one to be disturbed by sudden news, bad or good; she took
this calmly. But as she sat, still looking at the letter, its meaning
began to come upon her. Jim had been with Ellis that afternoon, had had
some previous understanding with him, had almost accused him. Jim had
fled at Mather's coming, leaving unsaid more of those reproaches and
demands with which he had showered Ellis. His very words came back to
her: "Who gave me the idea? Who told me what to do?" Then she remembered
Ellis's cold remark: "Wayne, you have no claim upon me."

Not understanding why, Judith began to tremble, and her hands grew cold.
It was as if her instinct outstripped her mind and gave warning of what
was coming. Slowly, sitting there in her place and looking straight
before her, she began to unravel the puzzle. Ellis looked at her once,
curiously; then Beth, seeing the glance and noting Judith's absorption,
took her place in the conversation. Judith thought on. If Jim had
speculated, had Ellis known? Had Ellis led him into it? Once in, did
Ellis refuse to help him? She recalled what Mather had said of Ellis
discarding his tools. But how could Jim be of use to him,
except--yes!--as a handle, a hold on her through Beth! And was this
Ellis's method of bringing Jim into his power? She heard again the boy's
despairing words: "Who gave me the idea?"

She looked at Ellis: what was this wild suspicion? Could it be true?

Beth, not knowing what else to speak about, had made him talk of the
suggested strike. Ellis had laughed about it. There would be no strike.

"Why," he was saying as Judith looked at him, "the air seems charged
with strike-talk sometimes, yet nothing comes of it. Now that I think of
it," and he paused to laugh, "a man tried blackmail on me this
afternoon. He was a fellow I once had to do with when we were both
younger, a crank if ever there was one. He has ideas of the rights of
the workingman, yet he is far from honest. He came to me with the
statement that he could bring on the strike if he wished--with his
socialistic talk, you understand. He wished me to pay him to keep from
haranguing my men."

"Did you do it?" Judith suddenly demanded.

"No, no," he said lightly. "A mere agitator, he could do no harm."

"An agitator?" asked Beth, interested. "Why, there was such a man at
George's mill this summer. Don't you remember, Judith. He tried to bring
about a strike there. I wonder if it was the same man, Mr. Ellis. Was
his name Stock?"

Judith had watched steadily. At Beth's first words Ellis had changed,
hardened, made his face stone. But at the name--did he not control a
start? Yet he answered with indifference. "Oh, no. There are many such
fellows. It is quite another man."

But he glanced at Judith, and though he did it quietly and steadily, as
once he had described his habit to be, she recalled the conversation
which she had overheard, and understood it all. She _had_ known the
voice, the husky tones which became harsh when raised. She remembered
the words, the Chebasset job for which money had been promised, yet
which had failed. And Ellis had paid--had paid! The meanness, the whole
base plot, was revealed to her.

The servant had come with the dessert, but Judith rose from her chair;
her face was white. "I cannot eat any more," she said. "You must excuse
me."

"Is anything----" began her father.

"I must go," she said, and went into the parlour, wishing only to be
alone and think, to despise herself at leisure. Ellis had revealed not
only himself, but also her blind folly. She cast herself upon the sofa
and put her face in her hands.

Then she heard his footsteps; he had followed. He crossed the room; she
felt him sit beside her, and she heard his voice. He spoke gently. "Miss
Judith--Judith!" He took her hand to draw it from her face.

His touch was a disgrace, but she yielded her hand to his; she wished
his fingers might burn like fire, to brand her punishment. Writhing in
spirit as she felt herself unclean, for very scorn would not resist him.

"Judith," he repeated, his hope rising, "you are not ill?"

"No." She turned and looked upon him resolutely; she would see once more
this man whom she had admired.

"If anything I have said," he went on, "if I have--oh, did it come over
you then so strongly that you left the table? Did you feel that we are
made for each other?"

She withdrew her hand quickly. "Made for each other!"

His face changed, the eagerness was checked, and he said the
conventional words, conventionally: "I love you."

She looked into him: how small he was! How cold his voice, which should
have been impassioned! "Love me?" she asked. "You love crooked ways!"

Slowly he rose. "What is this?" he asked.

"I so felt our--sympathy, that I left the table? Oh, yes, yes!" Scorn
overcame her; again she hid her face. Oh, but to die from the strength
of this hatred of herself!

She heard him walk away; then he returned and stood before her. "I do
not understand you," he said. "I have been foolish, perhaps, but I told
the truth. I do feel that we are made for each other. Will you marry
me?"

Her contempt of him left her; she loathed only herself. All through this
acquaintance he had been his natural man; it was she who had deceived
herself. For that she could not punish him. "I cannot marry you," she
answered.

His effort at self-control was visible, but it succeeded. "I beg," he
said, "that you will give me time. If I have been hasty----"

"No," she said, rising and facing him. "Mr. Ellis, I acknowledge that I
have treated you badly; I am as sorry as I can be. Can I say more than
that? Yes, I beg you to forgive me. But I can never marry you."

He pressed his lips firmly together; his brows contracted, and he looked
at her out of those narrow eyes which could control his subordinates or
threaten his opponents. But she met him with sorrow, not defiance, and
he could not understand.

"What has happened?" he cried. "Yesterday--this very day----"

"You were sure of me?" she asked. "Rightly, Mr. Ellis. But now it is too
late."

"What is it, then? Has that fellow Mather----?"

"Yourself only," she interrupted. "I beg you to leave me."

He looked at her a moment longer; then he left the room. But not the
house: she heard him go to the dining-room and speak to her father. Then
Beth came into the parlour quickly; she was agitated.

"Judith----"

"Not now, Beth," and Beth left her again.

There was a pause, and then her father came; she heard his dragging
step. When he appeared he showed the last shreds of his natural
feeling--shame that at Ellis's order he should come to advise his child.

"Judith," he began, "Mr. Ellis tells me that--that you----"

"I have declined to marry him," she said.

"Why is this?" he asked. "It has seemed so plain that you would take
him."

Judith hung her head. Had it then been so plain? "I have changed."

"Come," said the Colonel with an attempt at briskness. "You can't mean
this. There's nothing against Ellis that I can see."

"Nothing?" she asked. "And you say that, father? What will our friends
say."

"Girls marry out of their station," he urged uneasily. "We can bring him
in, Judith."

"Father," she demanded, "what hold has he on you, to make you say
this?"

"Hold?" he asked. "My dear child, there is nothing of the sort." But
when the truth was thrust directly at him the Colonel was a poor actor.

"There is something between you," Judith said.

"I have come to see Mr. Ellis in a different light," he explained. "That
is all there is to it."

"Father," cried Judith, "tell me!"

He turned away from her and began to walk up and down, but she held his
sleeve and stopped him.

"Father!" she beseeched.

He tried to meet her eye, and failed; he looked at the carpet and
shifted his feet. But still he felt her insistent grasp upon his arm,
and at last he spoke huskily.

"Judith, I owe him money."

"Oh!" she gasped, and fell away from him. "Father, what have you done?"
Yet feeling that she had not even the right to reproach him, she said no
more. As she stood with bowed head, he took courage.

"You see," he said, "why it must be."

"Must be?" she demanded. "Oh, father, does that make it inevitable?"

"Judith," he asked her, startled. "Do you mean that you--you won't?"

"How much do you owe him?" she questioned with energy.

"Some thousands."

"Well," she said, "what are four or five thousand? We can sell the house
and live differently."

He looked his alarm. "It is more than five," he said. "Nearer ten
thousand."

"The house is worth more than that," she responded.

"But to leave this place?" he objected. "Judith, this is absurd,
unreasonable! Where could we go?"

"Go anywhere!" she answered. "Live as we must. Father, you can work."

"Work?" he gasped. "I--work?"

"Then I will support you. Beth and I."

"No, no!" he said in despair. "I couldn't stand it; I couldn't exist. At
my age; think of that!" and his tone turned to pleading.

She heard a footstep at the threshold, and there was Ellis. He entered
and spoke to her. "I couldn't wait. Miss Blanchard, has not your father
persuaded you?"

She turned upon him with flaming eye. "How did you first persuade him?
Did you offer to release his debt?"

"So," he snarled to the Colonel, "you have told!"

The Colonel stepped away from the venomous gleam of his teeth. "She made
me," he stammered.

"Made you!"

"There is no advantage in discussing this, Mr. Ellis," said Judith.

"Do not count it against me," he urged quickly. "Your father came to me
of himself, asking for help. I did it for you."

"You would have served me better by refusing. But Mr. Ellis, the money
shall be paid."

"Paid with money?" he asked. With clenched hands he turned upon the
Colonel. "Oh, you fool!"

"Father!" cried Judith, and stepped between them to restrain the burst
of military wrath which should cast Ellis from the house. But to her
amazement her father stood motionless, almost cringing. Then first she
recognised the slow degeneration which in all these years had been going
on beneath the unchanged exterior. "Father!" she said again, but now in
pity, and took her place at his side. She felt, as he made a little
movement toward her, his gratitude for the protection--another
revelation of his loss of manliness. "Mr. Ellis, there is nothing
further to say."

"Oh, you have led me on to this!" he cried. "Was it put up between you?
Such a way to gain money!"

Instinctively she took her father's arm, to hold him; again he proved,
by his passivity, that his spirit was all gone. "Will you leave us?" she
asked coldly.

"Oh!" Ellis cried, shaking with anger and carried away. "You put it on
well! Because I am not one of you, you tricked me, then? And was it
Mather all the time? But my turn is coming!" He would have said more,
but she left her father and went toward the door. Then he saw how
hopelessly he was cutting himself off from her. "Oh, forgive me--Judith!
I am frantic."

But she turned at the door, and standing like an angry goddess, pointed
into the hallway. "Go!" she commanded.

"Miss Blanchard!" he exclaimed in consternation.

"Go!"

His hold on her was gone forever; he saw it, and his venom returned. He
went swiftly to her father; she did not hear the words that Ellis
hissed. "I have bought up the mortgages on this house; you know they are
long overdue. Monday I turn you out!"

With delight he saw the Colonel flinch, but by no effort of resolution
could Ellis meet the glance of the haughty figure at the door. Yet as he
passed her Judith quailed and shivered, for by the same commanding
gesture she had sent Mather from the house.



CHAPTER XXV

THE COLONEL GIVES UP HIS LUXURIES


The Colonel pulled himself together. Ellis was gone, and relieved from
that oppressive influence Blanchard held up his head. He tried to smile,
and found that he succeeded fairly well. He tested his voice; it came as
usual, sonorously.

"Thank Heaven!" he said, "the fellow's gone."

"Father," answered Judith, "you and I have both done wrong."

He waved his hand impatiently; would her confounded straightforwardness
not let him forget? "Never mind."

"Never mind?" she repeated. "Father, we can't put this aside for a
single minute. We must plan at once what shall be done."

"You always were fiery," he said indulgently. "Well, go ahead."

"We need Beth," and Judith went to call her in. Beth came, white with
apprehension, having heard tones but not words, and feeling rather than
knowing that there was trouble. She sought to learn all from one
question. "Where is Mr. Ellis?"

"Gone," answered Judith. "He will not come here again."

"Oh," she cried, "I am glad. Then why so grave?"

"Mr. Ellis," her sister said, "has gone away very angry, and father owes
him money." Then she looked upon the Colonel with sudden suspicion.
"Father, you said _about_ ten thousand dollars. Was it more?"

"My dear child," he protested, "this matter is not so great as you
suppose. And I cannot tell you all of my affairs."

"Father," she returned, "for my sake, if not for yours, Mr. Ellis should
be paid at once."

He rebuked her. "I know how to keep our honour clean. Mr. Ellis shall be
paid at once."

"You promise that, sir?"

"I do."

"And will it mean that we must sell the house?"

"It will." The Colonel always excelled in the delivery of monosyllables.

"Sell the house?" gasped Beth.

"Come here, dear," said Judith, and drew her to her side. "Beth, you
have plenty of courage, I know."

"I hope so." Pleased by the unusual caress, Beth controlled her
trembling. "What are you planning, Judith?"

"We must entirely change our way of life." Judith looked to her father
for confirmation; he nodded. "Are you willing to work, Beth?"

"I am willing," was the confident answer.

"Father," Judith asked, "how much will the house bring?"

"Come here," he answered. "Let me tell you what we must do."

He went to the sofa; they followed. Beth took the place he indicated at
his side; Judith sat in a chair. The Colonel, still smiling, looked on
them paternally, and began to depict in words his ready imaginings.

"When the house is sold and the debt is paid," he said, "we shall have
left--let me see, perhaps twenty thousand dollars. I don't need to
explain," he interrupted himself to say, "that had not other resources
previously failed me--mismanagements and losses, dears, not from my
fault--I should never have turned to Mr. Ellis for assistance. No, no;
of course you understand that. Therefore, the house is our only source
of capital. Well, twenty thousand left: that would mean perhaps a
thousand dollars a year to house and feed and clothe us. Yes, perhaps a
thousand." The Colonel clung to the _perhaps_; it was covering a lie,
several lies. "You see, we shall really be in difficulties."

"Yes," murmured Beth.

The Colonel warmed to his task. "Now, you are both young; on the other
hand I am not old, and I am a soldier. The habit of courage, girls, I
learned in my youth. So we are well equipped. But, only a thousand
dollars! That will pay rent; perhaps it will pay for food. And our
clothes, our little knick-knacks, we must earn for ourselves."

"Shall we take an apartment?" asked Beth, for Judith remained silent,
watching her father intently. "One of the new ones they have been
putting up?"

"Ah, no," he said kindly. "They cost five hundred a year, my child. This
must be something of an emigration, Beth: this quarter of the town is no
longer for us. But there are very respectable, quiet neighbourhoods
where we can go; and even houses, not apartments, that we can rent. Does
that dismay you?"

Beth pressed his hand. "No, father, no!"

He avoided Judith's steady look, and smoothed Beth's hair. "Servants--I
don't think we can afford them. One of you two must do the housework.
Which shall it be?"

"I!" Beth answered promptly.

"Cooking, dishwashing, sweeping," he warned her. "Are you really
willing?"

"If you will be patient with my mistakes."

"My dear little girl, I am proud of you. Judith, is she not fine?" But
still he kept his eyes upon the pleased and blushing Beth. "And we two
others will earn the money."

"I am sorry," responded Beth. Then she brightened. "But, father, need it
be so bad as this? You know so much of affairs; you can command a good
salary at once."

"Remember," he said, "that I have failed. The world has gone against me.
No one will have use for me. A clerk or a bank messenger--that is the
most I can look to be."

"No, no!" cried Beth, shocked.

"It is natural," he said with resignation. "And perhaps Judith, with her
talents and her typewriter, before long will be supporting all three of
us." For the first time Judith heard his natural tone, in this reminder
of his many little flings. "And we will all economise!"

"It will not be hard," Beth said.

"No," was the paternal response, "because we shall be doing it together.
Think--some little four-room cottage. Perhaps not all the modern
improvements, but never mind. We leave you early in the morning, Judith
and I; we take the crowded electrics with all the other people going to
their work. Judith snatches a few minutes to go to a bargain sale; I, at
a ready-made-clothing store, fit myself to a twelve-dollar suit. Then we
work hard all day, we three--and perhaps it will be hardest for you,
Beth, to be so much alone. But at night we meet over the simple meal you
have prepared, and go early to bed, fatigued by our day."

Even Beth saw how far this was from the Colonel's nature. "Father, it
will be hardest for you."

"No worse," he replied, "than the Wilderness campaign. Never you fret,
dear; I can resign my luxuries. And if our friends over here sometimes
speak of us with pity, we shall not meet them often enough to feel hurt
when they do not recognise us in our cheap clothes."

"Father," cried Beth. "Our friends will stand by us. You shall see!"

"They will patronise us," he answered. "Shall we care for that?
Especially Judith." And he turned to her at last.

"I can stand anything," she replied. "I am glad that you have foreseen
all this, father."

"Did you doubt me?" he asked. He rose, and the girls rose with him. "But
now I must go to my room; I must make a beginning on my new life.
Good-night, Beth. Kiss me. Kiss me, Judith. Dears," he said, gazing on
them affectionately, "we have had little dissensions from time to time,
but I promise never to quarrel with you more. No, don't reply; I know
you will be as forbearing toward me. Good-night; I am going to my
study." He went to the door, and paused a moment. "Judith, did you
really doubt me? You shall see what I can do."

Waving them a final good-night, he was gone. He climbed the stair
briskly at first; then his step became slower, and his head bowed. In
his study he sank into a chair and passed his hand across his forehead,
where the perspiration had already started out. That had been an effort,
but it was over, and now----!

He was sitting alone in this little room; like shadows his thoughts
closed in on him. No, he had not lied; he had said _perhaps_. But the
house was mortgaged to its full value, Ellis held the mortgages, and the
interest was long overdue. The furniture was pledged. Monday, owning
nothing but the clothes on his back, he would be turned into the street.
Judith had failed him; everything had failed him. Life, so pleasant,
had played him false at last; there was no outlook any more. Slowly,
without spirit, consumed with self-pity, he took pen and paper and began
to write. How little there was to say! The letter was finished all too
soon.

In the parlour the two girls sat and spoke together. "How brave of
father!" Beth said.

Judith answered, "I never saw him less like himself."

"He is a new man," Beth explained. "He is setting us an example. We must
work, and be a credit to him."

Judith's energy returned. She would work, she said. The typewriter was
her own; it was paid for. She would apply herself to master it. Were
they still rich, even then she would go to work. She must occupy
herself, and forget. And as for Beth, before long Jim would come and
claim her.

Then Judith remembered Mather's note, and the trouble deepened. If Jim
had gone wrong, how would Beth, innocent Beth, bear that? She stole a
glance at her sister. Beth was listening.

"Father, is that you?" she called.

The Colonel's voice answered from the hall. "I just came down for
something." They heard him go up-stairs again.

"He came down very quietly," said Beth. "I heard him in the back
parlour. Poor father! He is very brave."

Then both sat silent, thinking. "We have good blood," said Judith at
last with a tremor of pride in her voice. "We will show we are not
afraid of what may happen."

"Yes," Beth answered. "--Hush, what was that?"

"I heard nothing," Judith said.

Beth's eyes grew larger as she sat rigid. "It was a groan," she
whispered. "Listen!"

Then they both heard it, unmistakable, coming from the floor above. They
started up, but stood in fear, questioning each other with their eyes.
Again it came, but feebler, like a deep sigh.

"Father!" cried Judith, and hastened to the stairs. Up they hurried;
they were breathless when they reached the study door. There they
halted, transfixed.

The Colonel had finished his letter; it lay on the desk by his side. He
reclined in the easy-chair as if asleep, but from his breast stood out
the handle of the Japanese knife.



CHAPTER XXVI

IN WHICH JUDGE HARMON ENTERS THE STORY


Judith stood waiting at the telephone; at the Club the waiter had gone
to fetch Mather. How slow he was in coming! How tired she felt! The
wires sang in her ears; she heard faint voices speaking indistinctly;
she had a dull consciousness of surrounding space, of connection with
far-off spheres, out of which those voices rose, whispered, almost
became articulate, then died away to let the humming of the spheres
begin again. Then some man said loud and briskly: "Hello!"

"I am using the line," said Judith.

The man begged her pardon and drifted across the Styx, from whose dim
territory a tinkling voice spoke complainingly for a while, then faded
away. The buzzing in the wires increased the confusion in her head, and
Judith, very, very weary, found herself clinging to the instrument lest
she should fall. With a strong effort she regained her self-control.

Then she heard in the telephone sounds as of distant heavy strokes of
metal; they grew louder, then the wire clicked. Mather spoke: "Hello!"

"Oh, George!" she gasped. His voice was calm, quiet, perfectly
modulated, as if he stood there at her side. She released her hold on
the instrument; with him talking so to her she could stand alone.

"That is you, Judith? Jim is there?"

"Jim?" She had forgotten him. "Oh, no."

"Then can I do anything for you?"

"Something has happened here," she said, "to--to father. He left a
letter addressed to you and Mr. Pease."

"_Left_ a letter?" She heard the change in his voice.

"Tell no one, please," she begged. "We telephoned for Mr. Pease and
learned that he is at Judge Harmon's; Beth has gone there for him. Can
you come? At once, George?"

"Instantly," he answered. "That is all?"

"All. Good-bye."

She heard him hang up his receiver. In her turn she left the telephone,
and stronger in the knowledge that he was coming she began to pace the
room. Pease too was coming; Beth would bring him soon.

But Pease, who had started for the Judge's, had turned aside at the foot
of the steps when he saw Ellis waiting in the vestibule. Pease, telling
himself that he could return, had gone away half an hour before, and all
who had entered the Harmon house that evening were Ellis and Jim Wayne.

Jim had come first--a wild, dishevelled Jim. He had wandered a good deal
that day, after first leaving Chebasset in the morning and next spending
much time at a ticker. He had not been home; he had not eaten, he had
given Mather the slip a couple of times, and his moods had varied from
fear to bold resolution, and then to sullen despair. But since in the
light fluids of his nature hope easily beat up its accustomed
surface-froth, he arrived at the Harmons' in a more cheerful mood,
looking for the coming of Ellis to relieve him of the consequences of
his folly. When Mrs. Harmon had drawn the portieres, and had begun to
tell him how untidy he was, he explained matters with a laugh.

"Been sitting over my accounts," he said. "Forgot to brush my hair, did
I? Here's a mirror; just look away a moment, Mrs. Harmon, please, while
I----" He began to arrange his hair with his fingers.

But she watched him. "I can't lose a chance to see a man prink," she
said. "Tell me about the accounts, Mr. Wayne."

"Upon my word," he cried, "there's one item I forgot to put down! Just
like me; and so important, too!"

"What is it?" she inquired.

"The item, or the cost?"

"Both. Tell me."

He set a condition. "One or the other, choose. Wait!" He went to his
overcoat, which he had flung upon a chair, and drew a box from the
pocket. "Now choose," he directed, holding up the box.

"Oh," she pouted, "that is one of Price's boxes. I can't know the cost
if I am to see what you've bought. You'll show it to me, won't you?"

"You would like to see it?"

"Of course."

"Then open it," he said, giving her the box. "It's for you."

"For me?" and she opened the little case. "Oh, Mr. Wayne, a locket! What
good taste you have--oh, and I didn't see the chain!" Then she regarded
him reproachfully. "Now, Jim, you know you really mustn't."

"Always call me Jim!" he directed. "Why mustn't I?"

"Because you can't afford it."

"I can!" he asserted. "At least, I could when I bought it. I was three
thousand to the good then."

"Indeed?" she thought, "and what happened later?" Deciding that
possession was worth securing, she snapped the chain around her neck.
"And so you have had a very lucky day?"

"Well," explained Jim, "there was a steady rise at first. But then there
came a couple of flurries, and the bottom dropped out of everything I
held."

"And you lost much?"

"No, no," he said quickly. "I was watching; I got out at once. I'm not
so very badly off, and Ellis said he'd help me straighten matters. He's
coming here this evening."

She was much relieved, but covered her feeling by coquetting. "So that
is all you came here for?"

"That isn't fair," cried Jim. "Didn't I bring the locket? Now Mrs.
Harmon!" He tried to take her hand. After some resistance on her part,
he succeeded.

Holding that plump and somewhat large assembly of digits, from which no
manicurist had as yet been able to remove the fresh bright pink
reminding of its earlier uses (for Mrs. Harmon had once done her sewing
and washed her own clothes)--holding that hand, Jim felt more agitation
than when he first held Beth's. And though he looked into wide-open
eyes, which met his without a tremor of their lids or a suggestion of a
downward glance, Jim was more thrilled than by the sweet confusion Beth
so oft discovered, even to her accepted lover. This was rare; it
quickened his blood; he was preparing to taste the ruby of those lips,
when into his consciousness came the clang of the door-bell, which was
of the good old-fashioned kind. Before the noise had well begun, Mrs.
Harmon had withdrawn her hand and placed a chair between herself and her
admirer, whose ardent glance had proclaimed his intention with such
distinctness that (combined with the door-bell) it had alarmed her
modesty. And although Jim, calculating that the servant could not reach
the door for half a minute, pursued and begged her not to be so cruel,
she laughed at him and maintained her distance until in the hall were
heard the rustle of the maid's skirts and then the opening of the front
door. Jim was so disgusted that even the appearance of Ellis did not at
first recall him to a willing obedience of the laws of propriety. But
when Ellis, from an abrupt entrance, as abruptly halted and fixed him
with a scowl, Jim came back to himself.

"Oh," said Ellis, "I had forgot you."

"I--I don't want to trouble you, Mr. Ellis," replied Jim.

"But you'd like some four, five, six thousand to help you out, hey?
That's what you've been waiting here for?"

"You said you'd help me, sir."

Ellis turned his unchanged scowl on Mrs. Harmon. "Better drop him,
Lydia," he said. "He's an eternal fool."

"Stephen," she cried indignantly, "have you lost money, too? More than
he has, I'm sure." He sneered, and she added, "Something's gone wrong
with you, then, to make you so rude."

His frown became blacker still; he had been walking the streets, and
came here in the hope of distraction only to be reminded of Judith.
"Hold your tongue, Lydia," he said roughly. Then he surveyed Jim once
more. "You little fool, get out of your scrape by yourself!" Grasping
his hat as if he would crush its brim, he turned to go.

"Don't come again, Stephen," she flung after him, "until you've found
your temper."

Yet the last glimpse of Ellis, as he departed, gave distress to poor
Jim. "Why," he said helplessly, as the outer door closed. "Why, Mrs.
Harmon, he--he said he'd help me!"

But such common preoccupations as money-difficulties were, at this
moment, foreign to Mrs. Harmon's mood. Jim had stirred her blood, she
was glad that Ellis had gone. Now she moved nearer to the young man, so
that the space between them was free. "Never mind," she said lightly.

"Never mind?" repeated Jim. "But Mrs. Harmon, I've----" No, he couldn't
tell her. Yet what should he do?

"Leave business for the daytime," she said. "Forget the mill; forget the
office." She came nearer still.

Jim hung his head. Mather was after him surely; and what could he say to
his mother?

"Stephen will come round," said Mrs. Harmon. "Leave him to me."

"Oh," cried Jim, "you will help me? Just a little, Mrs. Harmon?"

"Why should I?" she asked archly. She was very close now, and was
looking in his eyes.

"For our friendship," he answered.

"Friendship!" she repeated. Her tone roused him; he looked, and her
glance kindled his. "Only friendship?" she asked softly.

"Oh!" he breathed, and caught her in his arms.

Again came the cursed interruption of the jangling door-bell. "You shall
not go!" he said, holding her fast. She murmured, "I do not wish to."
They stood motionless, and heard the servant pass through the hall and
open the front door. They listened, ready to spring apart.

"The Judge?" the servant asked. "Yes, in his study. This way." Again the
footsteps and the rustling skirt passed the door. The two in the parlour
waited until the door of the Judge's study opened and shut. Then Jim
lowered his head upon the one that nestled at his shoulder.

"At last!" he whispered. And their lips met.

But Beth was in the Judge's study. Behind his table sat the old man--no,
not so very old, in years only sixty, but he carried them ill. A life of
labour among books, a disappointment in his wife, made him seem ten
years older than he was. The Judge never exercised, was sometimes short
of breath and dizzy, but was at all times scornful of the wisdom of
doctors. His face was naturally stern, yet a smile came on it when he
saw Beth. He rose, adjusted a different pair of glasses, and then saw
the distress on her countenance.

"Why, Beth!" he exclaimed. "Is anything wrong?"

"Is Mr. Pease not here?" she asked in return.

"Pease? No, he has not been here."

"His cousin said," explained Beth, "that he was coming here. And so I
came at once, since you have no telephone. Father--oh, Judge Harmon, my
father has killed himself!"

The Judge turned white. "Killed?" He put his hand to his breast. "My
dear child! My poor Beth! Killed himself? Oh, I am so sorry!"

"There is nothing to do," said Beth with admirable calmness. "But he
left a letter directed to Mr. Mather and Mr. Pease."

"Mr. Pease is not here," the Judge repeated, much distressed. "Let me
bring you home again.--But your Mr. Wayne was here earlier. Perhaps he
is still in the parlour with my wife."

"Jim here?" cried Beth, springing to the door. "Oh, I hope he is!"
Hastily she left the study, sped along the hall, and parted the parlour
curtains. There were Jim and Mrs. Harmon, in the growing fierceness of
their first embrace. Beth saw how eagerly they strained together, and
heard their panting breaths.

She stood still and made no sound, but her senses noted everything:
Jim's hand that pressed on Mrs. Harmon's shoulder, her closed eyes, her
hands linked behind his neck--and his sudden movement as he shifted his
arm, only to press her closer. And still that clinging kiss continued,
ecstatic, terrible. Beth could not move, could scarcely breathe, until
behind her rose the Judge's cracked and horror-stricken voice.

"Lydia!"

Hurriedly they disengaged and stood apart--moist lips, hot cheeks, and
burning eyes still giving evidence of their passion. Then Mrs. Harmon
dropped her face into her hands and turned away, but Jim gazed with
mounting shame into the eyes that met his--met while yet they showed
Beth's detestation of him. And the Judge stood quiet, his hand pressed
to his breast, his breath stopped, his head confused with the noises
that roared in his ears.

At last Beth moved. Slowly she put her hands together; her eyes showed
more of indignation, less of loathing. She drew her hands apart and held
out to him the right--not with fingers upward, beckoning, but palm
downward, fingers closed together. Then she opened them. The golden
circlet fell, its diamond flashing; it bounded on the rug, and rolled;
it stopped at Mrs. Harmon's feet. She, looking downward through her
fingers, wondering at the silence, saw, and started away with a cry.

Then Beth turned her back on Jim, and went away. The old Judge followed,
dazed, and the curtains fell behind them.



CHAPTER XXVII

IN WHICH JUDGE HARMON LEAVES THE STORY


The Judge opened the street-door for Beth, and seemed to be preparing to
follow her out. In spite of all she had gone through, perhaps because of
it, her mind was alive to little things, and she saw that he was dazed.
"You're not coming with me, sir? And without your coat?"

"I was going with you, was I not?" he asked. "But I--I've forgotten. Can
you find your way alone?"

"Oh, yes," she said. "You must not come. Go in, sir." As if
mechanically, he obeyed her, and shut the door. Beth went down the
steps.

But the Judge seemed still confused. Slowly, very slowly he entered the
hall. He went to the great chair that stood opposite the parlour door,
and sat in it. His breath still came with difficulty, his head was
buzzing; he could not remember what had happened. Then, raising his
head, he looked through the portieres, which he and Beth had parted
slightly, into the parlour. He saw, he remembered, and his heart gave a
great leap in his breast.

So long as they heard voices at the door, Mrs. Harmon and Jim had stood
listening. But when the indistinct tones ceased, and the door shut, they
looked at each other.

"They've both gone!" Jim said. But they listened a moment longer. The
slow footsteps of the Judge, as he made his way over the heavy rugs,
were inaudible. Jim held his hands out to her again, but she pointed to
the ring upon the floor.

"Trouble for you!"

He picked up the ring. "Trouble for both of us," he responded gloomily.

"Worst for you," she replied. "What shall you do?"

"I don't know."

"Oh!" and she stamped her foot. "How stupid of us! It was all, at last,
just as we wished it. It could have gone on, nobody knowing. Now--oh, I
am furious!"

"You mean," he asked, "that you would have let it go on as we were?"

"Yes."

"Meeting only once in a while?"

"Of course!"

"And that would have satisfied you?"

"Satisfied? No, Jim. But that would be all we could have."

"Then I am glad we were seen!" he cried. "I couldn't have gone on that
way. Now we shall have to act."

"Act? What do you mean?"

"This," answered Jim. "Everything has got to stop for me, anyway.
I'm--I'm in trouble. Ellis----" and he stopped to curse.

"Don't, don't!" she begged him. "Explain; I don't understand."

"He led me into it," said Jim. "He suggested it all: how I could take
the money they send to the mill every Saturday for the men's pay, how I
could get my mother's power of attorney, and use her securities. I never
should have thought of it but for him--never!"

"You mean," asked Mrs. Harmon, "that you have done those things?"

"Yes," he replied. "I wanted to please you, to give you things, and have
money."

She turned partly away from him, and stood looking down. Jim came to her
side. "But we don't care, do we, Lydia?" He put his hands on her
shoulders.

She moved away quickly. "What do you mean?"

"Ellis won't help me. Mather is after me. I've got to go away--go away
this very night. Lydia, come with me!"

"Mr. Wayne," she began slowly.

"No; call me Jim!"

"You poor Jim, then. I can't do this."

"Why?" he stammered. "I thought you loved me?"

"So I do. So I will, if you'll stay here and let things go on as they
were."

"Haven't I shown you I can't?"

"It can be hushed up."

"No, no!" he cried in despair. "And I can't face people; everybody will
know. Lydia, come with me!" He neared her again, stretching out his
arms; as she sought to avoid him, he strode to her side and caught her.
"Come, come! I can't give you up." He crushed her to him and began
kissing her eagerly.

But she resisted with sudden energy. "Let me go! Shall I call the
servants?" He released her in astonishment; angrily she moved away from
him, smoothing her dress. "I believe you're a fool after all, as Mr.
Ellis said."

"Lydia!"

"I am Mrs. Harmon," she returned. "If you won't make a fight for
yourself, you're not the man I thought you. Go away, then, but not with
me."

"Then you don't love me?"

"Boy!" she said, growing scornful. "Love? What is love but
convenience?"

"Oh," he cried, "come! You must come with me. See, I have money. Seven,
eight hundred, I think. That will last a long time. We can go somewhere;
I can get work; no one will find us."

"And that," she asked, "is all you offer? Eight hundred dollars, and a
life in hiding!"

He began to understand, this poor Jim, but it was too much to grasp all
at once. "You're fooling me, aren't you? Don't; I can't bear it. Say
you'll come with me!" Beseeching her with open arms, he went toward her
so eagerly that to avoid him she slipped around the table and went to
the door. Then as she looked back at him, awkwardly pursuing, she saw
him as she had never seen him before. He had rumpled his hair again:
none but a manly head looks well when mussed. His eyes were bloodshot,
his mouth open; she turned away in disgust, and looked into the hallway
to measure her retreat.

There she saw her husband sitting, upright in his chair. With a sudden
movement she threw the curtains wide apart and revealed him to Jim.
"See," she said. "I have a protector. Now will you leave me?"

A protector! Jim, at first startled, saw the open mouth, the glazing
eyes. He pointed, gasping; she saw and was frightened. In three steps
she was at her husband's side; she grasped his arm. He was dead! Then
she recovered herself. The doctor had said this might happen.

"He is--is----" hesitated Jim. "Oh, come back here; shut it out!"

"I shall call the servants," she answered. "You had better go."

"Go? And you are free! Lydia," he cried in despair, "for the last time,
come with me!"

Cold and steady, she returned the proper response. "And you ask me that
in his dead presence! Free, when his death claims my duty to him? Go
with you, when I should stay and mourn him?"

Had she opened her breast and shown him a heart of stone, she could not
better have revealed her nature. It was to Jim as if the earth had
yawned before his feet, showing rottenness beneath its flowers. That eye
of ice, that hard mouth, those blasphemous words! Jim did not know, he
never could remember, how he got himself from the house.

He fled by night from the pursuit that never was to be. Taking the New
York train, he lay in his berth, thinking, dozing, thinking again, while
the train sped through the darkness. He slept and dreamed of burning
kisses; he woke to feel the swaying of the car, to hear the whistle
scream, or, shutting out all other sounds, to strain his ears for noises
close at hand--the rustling of the curtains or the soft footfall of the
porter. He slept again, and from a nightmare in which a serpent coiled
about him, he came to himself in a quiet station, where steam hissed
steadily, where hurrying steps resounded, where trucks rumbled by, and
voices were heard giving orders. He looked from his berth along the
curtained aisle--what misery besides his own was hiding behind those
hangings? Then he dozed again with the motion of the train, and saw
Beth, far removed and wonderfully pure, looking down on him with horror;
his dream changed and Mrs. Harmon stood at his side, leading a walking
corpse. And then he started from sleep with a smothered shriek, and with
his thoughts urged the train to go faster, faster away from Beth, from
that temptress, from the friends he had betrayed and the mother whom he
had robbed.



CHAPTER XXVIII

JUDITH BINDS HERSELF


Judith was alone, waiting for Mather, and wrestling with the question
which at the discovery of her father's body had rushed upon her. Was his
death her fault?

Had she accepted Ellis, or had she recalled her refusal when her father
begged her, the Colonel would now be living. She might have guessed the
desperate resolve that he had taken. What would have been her duty, had
she understood? Or what should she have done, had he appealed to her?
And not understanding, not having foreseen, how much was her fault?

There was here a chance for speculation to drive a weaker woman wild.
But Judith had not the nature to yield to such a danger. Essentially
combative, naturally active, her habit was to put the past behind,
accept the present, and look the future in the face. This instinct stood
by her now, and even though her shuddering mind still dwelt upon the
catastrophe, something within her called her to stand up, control
herself, look forward. And one more mental trait, which was in some
respects the great defect in her character--namely her almost masculine
fashion of judging herself and others--here stood her in good stead, and
served her by showing her father's action in the proper light.

Though she perceived that she had led him into this entanglement, she
saw more. The Colonel had had not only his own but also his wife's
fortune: where had the money gone? Strong as were Judith's grief and
pity for him, abundantly as she acknowledged her part in his error, she
could not fail to see how selfish had been his actions, how cowardly
this desertion!

But remembering her own great error, she could not blame. How deeply
they had both been at fault! She began to sympathise with the Colonel's
mistakes, to understand him better, to wish that in their relations they
had not been so aloof. He must have been many times in doubt, pain, the
deepest of trouble, and she had never suspected. Judith began to be
stirred by more daughterly feelings than since childhood; her grief and
pity grew stronger, unavailing regret seized her, and when George Mather
arrived he found her in tears.

He had never imagined such a sight, nor had he met such sweet dignity as
that with which, controlling herself, she rose and welcomed him. She
told him of her father's death. Mather had not admired the Colonel; he
was not surprised at such a weak end; and while she spoke all his senses
dwelt on her--on the wonderful fresh charm, which, springing from the
new humility, made more of a woman of her. Stoically but stupidly he
paced the room, remembering that he was not there to consider himself,
but to do what he could for her. There were things which must be done;
as gently as he could he reminded her of them, and going to the
telephone called up the doctor and asked him to bring the medical
examiner. And while Mather did this, cursing himself that he could not
console her, all the time a new sensation was occupying her--the comfort
of having, for the first time in her life, a man to depend on.

Then Beth arrived, with Pease who had met her in the street--Beth, wild
of eye, the very foundations of her nature shocked, in one evening twice
betrayed. The poor little thing still maintained a false composure,
checked from time to time the tears that would spring, and fought with
all her force against the thoughts which were ready to engulf her. She
went straight to Judith and rested at her side, feeling that there was
strength, and that with George in the house, and with Pease there,
silent and steady, no more harm could come to her.

Judith sent the two men to her father's study, where they saw the
evidence of his one resolute deed. They took the letter, the result of
his only wise one. Again in the parlour, they opened and read the letter
together; their brows clouded as they read, and at the end their eyes
met in a look of inquiry.

"Read it aloud," demanded Judith.

"I think we had better," said Pease, and Mather assented. And so the
girls learned the full extent of their calamity, for with unusual
brevity the Colonel had written:

     "I have nothing left, not a stock nor a bond. The furniture is
     mortgaged, so is the house; Ellis, through brokers I suppose, has
     bought me up completely and threatens to turn me out on Monday. He
     can do it; besides, I owe him fifteen thousand dollars. The girls
     don't own anything but their clothes and knick-knacks, and Judith's
     typewriter.

     "I don't see any way out of this, and I'm tired of thinking. You
     two are young and clever; I turn the problem over to you.

     "Take care of my girls."

And with these words the Colonel had handed his burden over to others.
Tears sprang to Beth's eyes as she understood. It was natural that even
so soon his selfishness should force itself to notice. Ah, if men could
but guide themselves by the consideration of what will be thought of
them after they are gone, how different would be their lives! Not the
religion man professes, nor even the love he actually bears, can teach
him to overcome caprice or to sink himself in others. Yet since it may
be that the punishment after death is to see ourselves as others see us,
let us not belabour the poor Colonel with words, but leave him in that
purgatory where the mirror of souls will teach self-understanding.

Judith was stunned. The real meaning of her father's statements came
upon her like a blow, the room vanished from before her eyes, and she
clutched the arm of the sofa where she sat, to keep from falling. The
house mortgaged! The furniture pledged! And the great debt besides! The
calamity overpowered her.

"Judith!" cried Mather in alarm.

She groped with her hands before her face and cleared the mist away. "It
is nothing," she said. "I am--strong."

"I hope," said Pease, "that you will let Mr. Mather and me assume your
father's trust."

"Tell me this," Judith requested, trying to command her voice. "We have
no property at all--none at all. But there is that debt to Mr. Ellis.
What is my liability to him?"

"Nothing whatever," Pease replied.

"I do not understand," she said. "I--I am responsible. If the debt were
small, I should wish to earn the money to pay it. And though it is
large, I think I ought to try to do the same."

"Impossible!" cried Pease. Judith listened while he protested and
explained, but the matter became no clearer. Her own great fault had
brought all this about: the debt was hers. She tried to make him
comprehend.

"I----" she said, and faltered. "There are things you do not know."

"Judith," began Mather, "first let me understand, Mr. Ellis broke with
your father?"

"And with me," she added simply.

"Then let me ask what object he had in lending money to your father?"

"Oh, don't you see," she cried, "that only makes it worse? If I--led him
on, if on my account father supposed----It all comes back to me. It's my
fault, my fault!" She was almost wild.

"But you did not know," he pointed out. "This debt cannot bind you."

"It is all my fault," she repeated.

"What does your sister think?" asked Pease. "What would Mr. Wayne say?"
He spoke with the hope of new influence; but Beth dissolved in sudden
tears, and holding out her hand, showed her finger bare of its ring and
red with the rubbing which all this time she had been giving it, to
remove even the mark of Jim's pledge.

"Do not speak of him!" she sobbed.

Judith gathered her in her arms; the men walked into the next room. As
Judith sought to comfort unhappy Beth she felt mounting in herself an
unknown tenderness. In this crisis all selfishness was impossible, all
worldliness was far from her thoughts. Her heart spoke naturally in
murmurings, softened the hand which gave the sweet caress, yet lent the
strength that held her sister to her breast. It was a blessed minute for
them both, for Judith learned new kindness, and Beth found, in place of
a reserved sister, one who seemed to have a mother's gentleness. And yet
their communion was brief, for the outer door--earlier left unlatched
for Beth's return--opened and then shut, steps were heard in the hall,
and a voice said inquiringly, "Colonel Blanchard?" It was Ellis!

Judith rose quickly to her feet, dashing the tears from her eyes; Beth
also rose, astonished and alarmed. Scarcely had they made an attempt to
compose themselves before Ellis appeared in the doorway. He slowly
entered.

"Excuse me," he said; "I did not ring because I was afraid you would not
receive me. I came to beg your pardon."

"It is granted," Judith answered coldly.

"I did not know what I was doing," he went on. "I--I hope we can go back
to where we were. No," as she made a gesture of denial, "hear me out. I
didn't mean what I said about the debt and mortgages--you know I did
not. Let the mortgages run. And two of your father's notes are overdue.
Look, I have written another to supersede them all, giving time for
payment. Let him sign this, and I destroy the others. Will you tell him
this?" He held out the note.

Her eyes glowed as she took it. "Have you a pen?" He drew out a fountain
pen and gave it to her.

"What are you doing?" asked Beth, alarmed.

"I will sign it," Judith answered.

"You?" Ellis cried.

"My father is dead," she replied. Quickly she went to the table and
cleared a space at its corner.

"Judith!" protested Beth. But Judith's eyes were bright with excitement,
and she did not hear. Beth turned and sped into the adjoining room.
Astonished, yet holding himself quiet, Ellis listened to the scratching
of the pen, and watched Judith's eager face as she signed the note. She
gave it to him, with the pen.

"There!" she said, in the tone of one who has fulfilled a duty.

Then Mather entered, too late. Ellis had torn the Colonel's notes and
handed them to Judith. "What have you done?" Mather cried.

She faced him proudly. "I have assumed my father's debt."

To Pease, who had followed him, Mather cast one look of impotence; then
he strode to the promoter's side.

"Mr. Ellis, give me the note!"

But Ellis put it in his pocket. "It is mine."

"I will pledge myself for it," offered Mather, "at what terms you
please."

"It is not for sale," said Ellis doggedly.

"I will bring cash for it on Monday."

"Thank you," sneered Ellis, "but I mean to keep it."

"Mr. Ellis," Mather cried, "on what terms will you part with the note?"

"I will part with it," he replied, "only to Miss Blanchard herself, as
you must admit is proper, and the terms I will arrange with her alone."

He looked his defiance into Mather's face. The tense and shaking figure
of his rival towered above him, and Pease started forward to prevent a
blow. But Mather controlled himself and pointed to the door. "Go!"

Ellis bowed to the sisters. "Good-night." No one made answer as he went
away.

       *       *       *       *       *

Beth, exhausted, was asleep at last; Judith sat by her side. The medical
examiner had come and gone, her father lay in peace, and the house was
quiet. Downstairs Mather was watching: he had offered to stay; Beth had
begged that he might. Judith would not allow her thoughts to dwell on
him, or on the comfort of his neighbourhood. She would not think of
Ellis, nor of those obligations, the extent of which she did not
understand. Of her father she did not dare to think except to promise to
take his place toward Beth, and to pay his debt even if the struggle
should bring her to face the world's worst. Yet no fear troubled her,
for a new self, an awakening soul, was stirring within her, calling for
contrition, self-examination, and for new resolves. Musing and
confessing her faults, Judith went to the window and looked up at the
stars; through them she looked into the unalterable and true. She had
been wrong; she understood the falseness of her standards. Then she saw
more, and awe began to come over her as she perceived so much where once
had appeared so little. Life held love: her sister was left to her. Life
held duty, and work to be accomplished. That work called her.

Yet how different it was from what she had expected! She had desired to
mix with affairs; now in truth she would become part of them, but only
as a wheel in the great machine. She was not disappointed nor dismayed.
Seen thus near at hand, life had rewards, giving vigour, not ennui; and
giving reality, not that artificiality of the past. She did not regret,
for she saw greater heights to the new life which she faced than to the
one dead level of the old conception.

It was also new to Judith that without reasoning she felt all this, and
knew, as never before. She would give herself to this wonderful life,
would follow it to whatever end was waiting for her, confident that,
having acted right, that end could not be evil. And so feeling, her
heart moved within her, again to her eyes came the tears, and another of
those barriers melted away which stood between Judith and her true
womanhood.



CHAPTER XXIX

KNOWLEDGE OF NEW THINGS


While the Colonel lay unburied his house was unchanged. His daughters
talked over their plans, and settled it between them, to the dismay of
their new guardians, that Judith was to become a stenographer, Beth a
governess. On the third day the fashionable part of Stirling showed as
much interest as was permitted in the two funerals which took place at
the same hour. The services for the Colonel were private, no flowers
were sent, and a single carriage brought the mourners to the grave. On
their way they passed the church where the body of the Judge, as became
his high position and his wife's love of display, was having almost a
state funeral, and where a curious throng waited at the door to see the
people who should fill the score of waiting carriages. And so the Judge
went to his rest much honoured, and the journals wrote about him; but
the poor Colonel travelled simply to the cemetery, and only his
daughters, Pease, and Mather, stood beside his grave. George remained to
watch the filling-in; the others returned home, now home no
longer--Judith could not regard it so.

"To-morrow," she said suddenly to her two companions in the carriage, "I
shall begin to look for a boarding-house."

Beth gave her a startled glance, but said nothing. Pease answered, "We
must talk it over." Even in the hurry and distress of their recent
relations, Judith had learned to understand him so well that she knew
that his reply meant opposition. Pease was something new to her; she
liked his deliberation, and was beginning to appreciate his force. When,
arriving at the house, she found Miss Cynthia there, Judith knew that
some plan had been made between them.

Miss Cynthia proposed it at once: the sisters should come to live with
her. "You shall have a room apiece," she said. "You shall do exactly as
you please. And there is nothing else for you to do."

"I knew," said Judith, "that our friends would think we oughtn't board."

"It isn't that," replied Miss Cynthia. "I say you can't. Next Monday
this house and furniture are to be given over to Mr. Ellis. My dear
girl, you haven't a penny to your name!"

Perhaps the brusque reply was merciful, as it swept away all grounds for
argument. "Take Beth," Judith answered, "but there is no reason why you
should help me. Let me go out and earn my living."

"I mean to take Beth," was the determined answer. "And I claim the
chance to know you better."

"Judith," cried Beth tearfully, "would you go away from me?"

And Pease put in his argument. "You are not able to earn money yet. You
must stay somewhere while you study."

"So," asked Judith, "all this has been talked over between you?"

Pease answered by giving her a note from Mather. "I hope," it read,
"that for Beth's sake you will accept Miss Pease's offer." For Beth's
sake! Judith looked at Beth, then at the other two, both prepared for
battle, and yielded.

"I think," was Miss Pease's sole remark, "that you are wise." Her
manner implied a threat withdrawn, much as if, had not Judith agreed,
she would have been carried off by force.

In three days more the house was vacated, and was surrendered to Ellis.
When Pease and Mather had adjusted the Colonel's accounts, some few
dollars were remaining to his estate, only to be swallowed up by the
outstanding bills, the most significant of which was the account for the
Japanese knife. And so the two girls, whose small savings had gone to
buy their mourning, were left almost literally without a cent.

Thus Judith began the world anew on the charity of friends, telling
herself that she must submit for the sake of accomplishing. She took her
place at the side of Pease's table with the air of still presiding at
her own, and Mather, coming in the evening, noted her bearing and
groaned in spirit. He explained that he had come to see if the moving
were successful. "Three trunks between us," said Judith. "Did you think
the undertaking was very great?"

"There is your typewriter," he reminded her.

But she would have no jesting. "My one really valuable asset. And now
you must tell me, George, where I should go to school. To what business
college, I mean?"

For in spite of all protests, the sisters were preparing to work. From
their old school-books they had saved those which might still be of
service, and on the morrow Beth was to begin with her geography and
arithmetic.

"It will be very unpleasant," Mather said, "going to a commercial
school. Look here, there is a little girl in my office--you saw her at
Chebasset--who can come and teach you, evenings."

"And my days?" she returned. "I am not afraid of the unpleasantness."

So he sighed and advised her. She appreciated that he had inquired into
the standing of the schools, and could tell which was the best. The
tuition was expensive, but there was a scheme by which scholars might
pay out of future wages.

"And so I go deeper into debt before I can begin to earn for my fifteen
thousand dollars?"

"Judith," he said, "let your friends make up that sum and relieve you of
all relations with Ellis."

"Mr. Pease and you?" she asked.

"And Mr. Fenno. Excuse me for telling him; he had learned something of
it from Beth."

"He is very kind," said Judith. "So are you all, but the debt would
remain."

"Ellis can annoy you," he reminded her.

"Then let me bear it as a punishment. It may help me to make something
of myself."

"How many years," he demanded, "do you mean to keep this up?"

"Forever, if necessary," she returned, but then spoke softly. "George,
don't be vexed with me. What else can I do?"

She was earnest; he saw there no other way for her. "Let me help, then,"
he said, and told her more about the school. In her questions and
comments he saw her interest in the future, her curiosity as to the life
she was about to lead. In spite of all that had passed, in spite of the
new deceptive softness, the old idea still held and ruled her: she would
be in touch with things, would know what was going on in the world.

In her new home, little lessons began to come to Judith. Pease was a
revelation of kindliness and ability--a contradiction. That such
simplicity could cover such power, that he could set up an inflexible
opinion against hers and yet be embarrassed in her presence, was
strange, yet very pleasing. Miss Cynthia with her violent manners was
another source of knowledge, for this odd person was a woman of the
world; she had experience and importance; she corresponded with
philanthropists, and people of note came to see her. And Judith gained
from her this lesson: that from a quiet home one may extend a wide
influence, and be of the world while not at all times in it. Thus the
two Peases, with their individuality, did much to show Judith that there
was force still remaining in the old families which she had rated so
low. She grew to have a little fear of Miss Pease, with her searching
questions and blunt comments, lest she should inquire into Judith's
interest in Ellis, and with that cutting tongue lay bare her folly. And
yet at the same time Judith took comfort in Miss Cynthia, who upheld her
in her plans. Miss Cynthia had worked for her living, and declared that
it did a woman good.

But the strongest new influence on Judith was in her relations with
Beth. Judith had always recognised Beth's strength. A feminine
fortitude, not disdaining tears; a perception of worldly values which
Judith was coming to see was clearer than her own; steadfastness and
charity: these were the qualities which had brought Beth through the
recent crisis with less actual change than in her sister. And Judith,
beginning to admire in Beth the traits which previously she had merely
noted, found also a great comfort in her sister's girlishness, a solace
in her softer nature which was to Judith the beginning of the
possibilities of friendship.

For, save with Ellis, Judith had never spoken freely, and with him but
little. At the same time she had never been lonely, turning from
friends. Yet in this changed life she took pleasure in Beth's nearness,
interested herself in her doings, and invited her confidences. She grew
jealous lest Miss Cynthia, so long Beth's friend, should take the place
which belonged to her; and so by gentleness Judith won from Beth the
story which weighed on her mind.

It was one evening when the sisters had gone up-stairs; Judith went into
Beth's room. Beth, with her sadness so well controlled, seemed sweeter
than she had ever been. She had grown pale over her books. "If you go to
your school," she said when Judith remonstrated with her, "why shouldn't
I work, too?" But she was often weary at the end of the day, and seemed
so now.

"Beth," said Judith, "I saw Mrs. Wayne to-day. She was looking better.
George has found a buyer for her house, and she is going to live with
some cousins."

"I am very glad that is settled so well," answered Beth, and then asked
with hesitation: "Has anything been heard from--Jim?"

"Nothing," replied Judith. "Beth, are you worrying about him?"

"No," Beth said. "I--I am sorry for him, but----" She looked up. "Oh,
Judith, I want to speak to some one about it. There is a part of it that
no one knows. May I tell you?"

Judith knelt at her side. "Tell me, dear?" she begged.

Beth, clasping Judith's hand and feeling the comfort of her sympathy,
told the story of that meeting at the Judge's--told the whole of it. Had
she done right in giving back the ring?

Judith assured her that she had.

"That is not all," said Beth. "I thought that I gave it back because he
had been--untrue, yet that I loved him just the same. But, Judith, I
have been thinking--you have seen me thinking?"

"Yes, dear," Judith answered. "What have you thought?"

Beth pressed her hands. "You must tell me if I am right. For I seem
almost hard-hearted, sometimes. Judith, why did the Judge die?"

Judith looked at her with startled eyes. "It killed him!"

Beth nodded solemnly. "_It_ killed him, or did--they!"

"They!" Judith cried.

"But she most," went on Beth, looking straight in front of her.
"Sometimes I think I understand it, Judith. It wasn't sudden; it must
have been going on for some time. I went to see Mrs. Wayne that once,
you remember, after it all happened. She doesn't blame Jim; she took me
up into his room: it was just as it was that night, with his bed opened
for him. And she cried there. But I looked on the bureau, Judith, and
saw pictures of--her."

"Of Mrs. Harmon?"

"Yes. And one almost covered the one he had of me. Judith, he hadn't
come to this all of a sudden? Tell me, for I don't want to misjudge
him."

"I have seen him with her," answered Judith. "Once I saw them at the
theater door, going out together." The coincidence made itself clearer.
"That was the day you and he went; I supposed you were behind."

"We--he--it was my fault," said Beth. "I went away from the play, and he
left me, angry. He must have met her and gone with her. And at other
times, when I knew he was not at Chebasset, and expected him to come to
me, and he didn't--do you suppose he was with her?"

"I'm afraid so."

"And that kiss," said Beth, shuddering. "It was so eager--fierce! It
wasn't just flirting. He--he preferred her to me."

"Beth, dear!" murmured Judith, soothing her.

"He was--weak," went on Beth. "I suppose I always knew it, but I
wouldn't admit it. So weak that she--I want to be charitable, but I
think she led him away from me."

"I am afraid she did, dear."

"I forgive him," said Beth, struggling to pursue her thought to the end.
"Of course you know that, Judith. But I was fond of the Judge, and he
died from--it. And Jim was--false to me, and" (Judith felt the little
form begin to quiver) "even his dishonesty was not for me but for--her,
because Mr. Price sent Mrs. Wayne a great bill for expensive jewels, and
she asked me if--if I'd give them back, and I had to say that he--hadn't
given me any!"

"Beth, dear!" cried Judith, clasping the quivering form. "Beth, be
brave!"

"I will," said Beth, struggling heroically. "But as I've thought it out
by myself----"

"Oh, you've been all alone!" cried Judith, reproaching herself. "Why
didn't I understand?"

"I had to think it out," Beth said. "I think I see it clearly now,
Judith, and I know myself better, and I'm--ashamed of myself that I'm so
selfish, but I think that I--don't love him--any more!"

Tears came to her relief, and she clung to her sister, shaken with sobs.
Judith wept with her; for them both that was a blessed hour. Long after
others were abed their murmured conference lasted, for Beth needed to be
told, over and over again, that she had done right, and felt right, and
Judith was glad of it.

Thus new feelings grew in Judith, stronger for her contact with the
outside world. For the school was disagreeable and humiliating. She had
to go back to the rudiments of knowledge; she had to do examples and
find them wrong. Her teachers were unpleasant, her fellow-pupils coarse
and inquisitive. The many little daily rubs commenced to tell on her;
her cheeks lost colour, her step something of its vigour, and she began
to look upon the outer world as something with power to do her still
more harm.

Yet to it she presented a haughty front, as one person found. Mrs.
Harmon came to call, an interesting widow, dressed in her new mourning.
It was late in the afternoon; the day had gone hard with Judith, she had
forgotten to eat luncheon, and since her return from the school had been
sitting over her "home lessons," wretched tasks which called her to make
up the accounts of a certain Mr. Y----, and also to calculate the
interest on notes at four, five, and seven and a half per cent. for
periods of from twelve to a hundred days. Her answers would not agree
with those in the book. But faint and discouraged as she was, her eyes
grew bright as she saw Mrs. Harmon's card, and she walked into the
parlour with the air of a grenadier.

"Why, Judith, child," said Mrs. Harmon, rising, "how changed you look! I
am so glad I came to comfort you."

"And I am glad you came," Judith returned. "I have been wishing to see
you."

"You have been lonesome, dear?"

"To thank you," pursued Judith steadily, "for the service you did my
sister, in ridding her of Mr. Wayne."

Very fortunately, after the two had remained looking at each other for a
quarter of a minute, while Mrs. Harmon grew very red in the face and
Judith remained unchanged, Miss Cynthia suddenly entered the room.

"Oh, I beg your pardon," she said, halting. "I didn't know that any one
was here."

"You didn't disturb us," Judith answered. "Mrs. Harmon was just going."

Mrs. Harmon, looking as if she would burst if she attempted to speak,
could only bow with an attempt at frigidity, quite spoiled by the
visible heat which was almost smothering her, and departed with
suddenness. Miss Cynthia, never surprised at people's actions, looked at
Judith, whose cheeks were very pale, while her eyes had lost their fire.

"I suppose I've insulted her," said Judith.

"I hope you have," Miss Cynthia answered. But watching Judith intently,
she suddenly seized her by the arm, forced her to the sofa, forbade her
to stir, and sent for tea. It was a sign of change that Judith took the
ministration passively.

Yet her growing weariness was not to be relieved by a short rest or a
cup of tea. Her nerves kept her at work, driving her at forced draught,
which for long at a time is good for neither machinery nor man. Mather
came that evening, and was led into the parlour by Beth, but his eyes
sought for Judith in vain. "Where is she?" he demanded.

"She's in the dining-room," Beth said. "This evening it's her shorthand;
she's expanding her notes."

"And she wouldn't want to see me?"

"She _needs_ company."

He looked at her, trying to read her meaning; she smiled and tossed her
head. "Beth is beginning to look better," he thought, and remembered
that she had never asked him for news of Jim. Then her expression
changed as a step was heard in the hall; it was Pease coming,
plantigrade and slow. "Is that it?" thought Mather.

"I think I'll go and see Judith," he said, and passed Pease at the door.

Judith was in the dining-room, bending over her note-book. Scattered
sheets lay on the table before her; her hair had in places escaped from
its confinement and strayed over forehead and nape. He saw the fatigue
in her eyes as she raised them.

"I'm all mixed up," she said.

He drew up a chair and sat down. "So I should think. How any one reads
shorthand I don't see." He took the note-book. "It seems well done."

"Sometimes I write it correctly," she said, "and then can't read it.
Sometimes I could read it if I had only written it right. To-day the man
read very fast, on purpose, and I lost some of it."

"I think," he said, "that if you could at times forget your work, you
would come back to it fresher."

"I can't forget it," she replied. "Sometimes I dream of it."

"We'll have you sick on our hands," he warned her. "Don't lecture,
George," she answered. "Give me the book."

He watched her for a while as she translated her hieroglyphs; she kept
at it doggedly. "Good-night," he said at last. She looked up to respond,
smiled mechanically, and turned to her work before he was out of the
room. He went to the parlour and stood anxiously before Beth and Pease.

"You'll have her breaking down," he said.

"There is nothing we can do," Beth answered. "She will keep at it."

"I've warned you," he responded, and took his hat. He was at the front
door, when from the dining-room Judith called him to her. "George," she
asked, "is six per cent. the legal rate of interest?"

"In this State it is," he answered.

"Then my note to Mr. Ellis is rolling up interest at nine hundred a
year?"

"I suppose so."

"Can I ever earn as much?"

"With experience you can."

"And I must earn much more in order to pay anything on the principal?"

"Yes."

She put her hands together in her lap. "I am learning something." As he
stood and looked at her, he saw two tears roll out upon her cheeks.

"Judith!" he cried, striding toward her.

But she rose quickly, putting out a hand to keep him away. "I am only
tired," she said. "I'm sorry not to be better company. Good-night,
George."

He stopped instantly, said "Good-night," and went away. Then suddenly
she felt forlorn, and more tears came into her eyes. "He would not have
gone if he loved me still."



CHAPTER XXX

TIME BEGINS HIS REVENGES


Political and social undercurrents were slowly working to the surface in
the world of Stirling. Though it was barely spring, the mayoralty
campaign was well under way, promising a close struggle in the fall. A
more immediate matter was the threatened strike, which the men's leaders
were urging in the hope that the approaching annual meeting of the
stockholders of the street-railway might bring some relief. In these
affairs the attitude of Ellis was of importance.

The newspapers called him the Sphinx, since he gave no sign of his
purposes. In politics, of course, it was to be assumed that he was on
the side of the machine. But against the strike he might take a variety
of courses, with a variety of results, all of which were, by the
speculative, mapped and calculated in advance. He might yield and avoid
the strike, he might defy it, or at the last minute he might by some
sudden action entirely change the aspect of affairs and bring himself
profit and credit. Just how this last could be done no one seemed to be
sure, but since from day to day matters were growing worse and Ellis
made no move, it was confidently stated that he had "something up his
sleeve."

Otherwise there was no explaining his conduct. His opponents did not
dare to believe that he was blinded by self-confidence, and yet his own
followers, trust him as they might, were uneasy. His manner showed a
steady, almost savage determination to win, and yet he did not "tend to
business." There were days when he was absent from his office
altogether, refusing to talk with his subordinates except by
telephone--and they hated to discuss plans except within four walls.
There was even one day when he disappeared altogether, just when the
Stirling representatives had come down from the State capital to confer
with him on the street-railway bill, the prospects of which, on account
of the clause conferring eminent domain, were none too bright. Ellis,
when at last his men found him in the evening, said only that he had
been at Chebasset. Moreover, his men got little out of him: with an odd
new gleam in his eye, he merely listened as they spoke; he gave no
directions, and when they begged him to run up to the capital and lobby
for himself he thanked them and said he'd think it over. Feeling their
journey to have been for nothing, they left him, grumbling among
themselves. Something seemed wrong with him.

Something was wrong with him. A man with a pain gnawing at his heart and
a ghost always before his eyes cannot attend to his work. It was not the
Colonel's ghost that dogged Ellis: he never troubled for his part in
Blanchard's death. Judith, splendid in cold anger, haunted him. She
spoiled his sleep, she came between him and his work, she tormented him
by the vision of what he had lost. There was a steady drain upon him, as
from an unhealed wound--or from that inward bleeding which, on the very
first day of their acquaintance, he had felt on leaving her. No, he was
not himself; his mind was confused, his energies wasted, by the constant
alternation of anger and despair.

When realisation swept upon him suddenly, then he shut himself up,
refused himself to all, and fought his fury until he had controlled it.
That day when he went to Chebasset he had not intended to go, but on
his way to his office there suddenly rushed over him the sense of his
loss. Possessed by the thought, he took the train to Chebasset and
wandered half the day among his grounds, tormenting himself by the
recollection that these drives, walks, shrubberies were laid out for
Judith, and now she would never live among them. When he took out of his
pocket a slip of paper bearing her signature and told himself that she
was in his power--in his power!--he found no pleasure in the thought.

In the evening he had not cast off his mood, and when he met his men,
sent them away dissatisfied. One, bolder or more foolhardy than the
others, lingered a moment. "Say," he asked, "what's wrong?"

"Nothing," answered Ellis.

"Honest I'm telling you," said his henchman, "a strike will kill the
bill. And the men on the road are getting ugly."

"Thanks," Ellis replied impatiently. The glow in his eyes suddenly
became fierce, and the man took himself off.

All this was extremely irritating to Ellis; he felt more angry with his
own men than with his opponents, and was ready to punish them for
insubordination without considering the cause of their alarm. It was
unfortunate for Mr. Price that he chose to come to Ellis just after his
legislators had left him. Price wore the same uneasy air.

"Now, what are you worried about?" Ellis began on him.

It was his street-railway stock, Price explained. The quotations were so
continually dropping----

"Only fifteen dollars!" Ellis interrupted scornfully.

"Yes," agreed Price, "but they will soon be down again to where I bought
them."

"Bought?" sneered Ellis. "_Bought!_"

"Well----" hesitated Price.

"What is it to you," demanded Ellis in jarring tones, "where the price
of the stock is, up or down? It cost you nothing, it pays you well, it's
a sure thing. Just you hold it and send me your proxies."

"But," suggested Price, very much brow-beaten, yet endeavouring to say
what he came for, "if it's such a good thing, won't you, perhaps, take
it?"

"What!" rasped Ellis. "My God, Price, haven't you the decency to sit
still and say nothing?"

"Oh, well," mumbled the jeweller, writhing, "if the stock is so
sure--you're sure it's solid?"

"Certainly," Ellis said. "Price, don't be an ass! The other side is just
selling itself a share or two, every little while, to make the
impression that the value is falling. Don't you be taken in."

"Oh, if that's all!" breathed Price, much relieved. He took his hat.

"There, run along," said Ellis. "You know who are your best friends." He
spoke as if directing a child, and Price went away with an irritated
sense of his own impotence and meanness.

But Ellis found no relief in scolding his dependents. He missed
something; he knew that he needed a place where he might sit quiet and
forget the grind and grime of his affairs. The best that was left to him
was Mrs. Harmon, but she never could equal Judith, and when he went to
see her now she bothered him with her advice.

"I wanted to see you," were her first words. "I have been thinking of
telephoning you."

"What is it now?" he asked drearily.

"Stephen," she demanded with energy, "do you realise what is going on?
They are all organising against you."

"What can they do?" he snarled.

"Your own men are frightened," she said. "Two of them came to me
to-day--no, I won't tell their names. They begged me to tell you there
mustn't be a strike. You'll lose your bill, your mayor will be defeated.
Can't you see that?"

"No!" he returned.

"The papers are all calling for Mather as street-railway president," she
went on. "The men say they would never strike under him. It's all very
well for you to say that the travelling public must take what you give
them, but people won't----"

"Lydia," he interrupted, "it's very good of you to be interested in my
position, but suppose you give your time to your own. It needs it bad
enough."

He touched a sore, for Judge Harmon's old friends, remembering his
disappointment in his wife, were dropping her. She was irritated, and
snapped in return. "You look very badly," she said critically. "Just for
a girl, Stephen?"

He glared at her so furiously, at a loss for speech, that she was
frightened and begged his pardon. Yet after she had given him tea she
returned again to the charge.

"You said, Stephen, that you control a majority of shareholders' votes.
You aren't afraid that some of your men will sell out to the other side?
I see the stock is down."

"But is it traded in?" he asked. "Only a share or two. You are like
Price; he came whimpering to me yesterday about his fifty shares."

"But the balance is pretty even, isn't it?" she inquired. "Mightn't
fifty shares just make the whole difference?"

"If you mean whether Price would sell me out," he answered. "He never
bought his shares. They came to him through me. He's tied to me."

"I don't see how?" she said doubtfully. "He's not in politics now; he's
independent, and he gets his money from the upper people--the other side
entirely. But I suppose you know. Still, I wish Abiel had never sold his
stock."

"Don't worry," he commanded. "Confound it, I have to supply courage to
the whole of you."

His men had need of his courage as day by day matters drifted nearer to
a crisis and they saw their enemies organising. Those nervous and eager
persons, the reform politicians, had long talks with the men of money,
who were not now averse to giving them interviews. The men of money
talked together, and the newspapers claimed that at last, after almost a
generation, the society leaders were to take a hand in politics. As
several of the reformers held railway stock, and as the fashionables
could (if they chose) muster many votes for the election, their alliance
against Ellis might prove formidable. The reformers grew more cheerful,
old Mr. Fenno more grim, Pease more thoughtful as the days went by. The
time was near for the annual meeting of the street-railway shareholders,
and the strike, if it came at all, would come before that. The whole
city was intent upon the event.

And Judith, tired as she was, roused to watch the struggle. Was her
sluggish class waking at last? Was Ellis at bay? Was Mather to come
forward and lead? Judith read the newspapers, but gleaned only such
statements as: "Mr. Fenno and Mr. Branderson at last control a majority
of street-railroad votes," or "Mr. Watson has added largely to his
holdings of street-railway stock." She knew these reports could not be
true: the stock was tied fast long ago, and Ellis would take every
pains to maintain his supremacy. But Mather would explain to her the
condition of affairs.

Yet he came seldom to the house. She knew that his mind was occupied, he
was interviewed and pestered on all hands. Day by day she read in the
papers: "Mr. Mather refuses to make any statement." But he might speak
to her. His only desire, when he came to call, appeared to be to throw
off every care save for her health. She did not like to broach the
important topic, yet with repression her interest grew, and she felt
deeply disappointed when, the opportunity being given to speak upon it,
he was reserved.

He met her in a street-car, and sat by her side. When the conductor came
for his fare Mather nodded to him and called him by name. "Good-day,
Wilson."

"I've taken Mr. Ellis's fare every day for two years," said the man,
"yet I don't think he knows me by sight. Ah, Mr. Mather, if we only had
you back there wouldn't be no strike."

Mather smiled. "We were all good friends in those days."

The man went away, and Judith asked as much as she dared. "How does it
seem to be so in demand?"

"I'm not so sure how much in demand I am," he replied, and then spoke of
other things.

She thought that he was avoiding the subject, and told herself that he
did not need her any more. Far away were those days when he sought her
advice--and this thought made her sigh occasionally over her work. The
tasks grew harder as she felt herself left out; she became eager to do
more than merely study, feeling that, with so much going on around her,
she was nothing.

One night when Mather came he spoke for a while with Pease privately,
then hurried away without waiting to see the others. Judith had put her
books away; now she took them again, and went into the dining-room to
work. But she could not fix her mind on her figures, and after a while
she said aloud in the room: "A month ago when he came to see me I would
not stop work to speak with him. Now when he comes I put away my books,
but he does not wait."

Then she heard Pease speaking with Beth in the parlour, and heard
George's name coupled with Ellis's. So Beth was learning all about the
plans! Smothering a sudden jealousy, Judith determined to go and ask
what had been said, yet at the door her resolution failed her, and she
turned back. Let others know, she would go without--and she applied
herself to her figures until her head swam with them. She went unhappily
to bed and lay there thinking.

Through her loneliness was rising a dread of Ellis as an overhanging
menace; she began to fear that he would defeat Mather a second time.
Ellis's sinister force began to oppress her, not only as a cause of
general evil, but also as threatening disaster to that friend whose
value, even whose excellence, her anxieties were teaching her to
acknowledge. As Judith's thoughts dwelt on the man in whom, without
brilliance or the stamp of genius, there was nothing false, nothing base
or mean, and nothing hidden, Ellis seemed like an enemy who, once
successful against herself, was slowly approaching for an attack on
Mather--an enemy whose skill she knew, whose resources she feared, and
whose mercy she doubted. Dreading thus for Mather, she began to tremble
also for herself: she was in Ellis's debt so deep that only a miracle
could ever clear her, while every day was rolling up the interest
against her. Where would this end?

And through her dread increased her loneliness. Looking for help, she
found that she must depend solely upon herself. Day by day she had
learned how small were her powers beside the immense energies of the
city. The definite fear of Ellis suggested still other calamities,
vague, hid in the impenetrable future; there was no misfortune which
fate could not bring upon her, no defense which she could interpose. She
was alone--and suddenly she began to long for companionship, the
fellowship which some one could give, which some one once offered, which
then she had refused, but which now seemed more precious than anything
in the world.

Thus Judith, in her trouble, was unmindful of the power which still was
hers, and ignorant of the revenge which she was to take for all of her
misfortunes. For though she felt herself so weak, it was she, and she
alone, who brought on Ellis the strike which his supporters were so
anxious to prevent.

On a morning, the consequences of whose events were to reach far, going
as usual to her school she passed Ellis in the street. Faltering and
shocked, he stood still while she passed. He had not seen her since the
night of her rejection of him, and the change in her was startling. She
was in black, had grown thin and pale, and her spirited carriage had
changed to the walk of weariness, yet her beauty of face shone out the
clearer, and still she was a picture which men turned to watch. She did
not notice Ellis, but passed with face set, eyes looking far away,
absorbed in thought. When she had gone from his sight Ellis hurried to
his offices and locked himself in the inner room. There for an hour he
walked up and down, up and down.

His clerk heard him, and dared not interrupt him for small matters; the
routine business of the morning was easily discharged. But about noon
came a deputation from the street-railway employees, asking to see Mr.
Ellis.

The secretary listened at the door; Ellis was still pacing the room, yet
the matter was important. The secretary knocked.

"Men from the union to see you," he said through the door.

"Tell them to come again," answered Ellis.

The secretary went with this answer to the deputation. The spokesman
answered: "We have wasted enough time. We must see him now or not at
all."

The secretary knocked again at Ellis's door. "They say they must see you
now, sir," he said.

"Send them to the devil," Ellis replied. The secretary, without thought
of the irony of his interpretation of the order, asked the men to wait.
They consulted among themselves and went away.

That morning the cars on the streets had run as usual, but the delegates
of the union, returning angrily from Ellis's office, gave the order for
the men to strike. As each car returned to the barn its crew left; by
one o'clock almost all the cars were housed. Then the supporters of
Ellis began to gather in his outer office. Price was there, Daggett was
there, a dozen others as well; they consulted anxiously. Not one of them
had expected that Ellis would let the trouble go so far.

At last, with pale face and fierce eye, he appeared among them. "Ha," he
said sardonically when he saw so many of them. "What has frightened you
all?"

They told him of the strike; there was still one day, they reminded him,
before the transfer books of the road should close. Some of his men
thought he was staggered at the news, and the hastier, Price loudest
among them, begged him to conciliate the men.

But the old fighting fire kindled within him, and he stopped them with
scorn. "Don't be fools," he said. "Price, you're a coward. The men will
hit first, will they? Well, we'll give them all they want!"

He began to give directions how to meet the strike, and his energy was
communicated to them all, save one. Even that one applauded with the
rest, and outwardly approved.



CHAPTER XXXI

BRINGS ABOUT TWO NEW COMBINATIONS


For some time Beth Blanchard had been changing back to her old self.
Once unburdened by confession, her heart seemed free again, and Beth
began to think of Jim Wayne as a part of a past which could in no way
affect her future. Sorry for him as she was, with her pity she mingled
shame at those remembered kisses. She found pleasure in the society of
Pease, partly because he stood for so much that Jim was not. Solid,
sober, incapable of concealment, his qualities gave her satisfaction,
and the more because she knew his thoughts to be so much of her. She
took to teasing him again, a process to which he submitted with
bewildered delight, and to which Miss Cynthia made Judith a party by
getting her out of the room whenever Beth and Pease were in it. Under
such favouring circumstances, which would have tried the stoicism of any
one, Pease was proving himself quite human, and was harbouring new
hopes. He could not fail to suspect that Beth mourned her father more
than Jim, and what he imagined Miss Pease made sure.

"You've never told me, Peveril," she asked him, "if you lost much by Mr.
Wayne?"

"Two weeks' wages of our men," he answered.

"Worth what you get for it?" she asked.

"What do I get?" he inquired.

"Her!" she answered emphatically.

"If you suppose," he said, with an appearance of confidence which was
utterly false, "that Miss Blanchard will forget Mr. Wayne, you are quite
mistaken."

"You are right," said Miss Cynthia, "she never will forget him." Her
cousin's heart sank. "She thinks of him every day" (Miss Cynthia was
watching him, and made a purposeful pause) "as something that she has
escaped from. And _now_ the way is open for a man that is a man!" Then
she smiled as she noted his relief.

The way was indeed open, and the two were progressing along it very
fast, when suddenly a position was offered to Beth. Old Mrs. Grimstone
had, for the twelfth time, lost her attendant, and some one recommended
the younger Miss Blanchard. It was a handsome offer that the old lady
made; money was nothing to her, and she had learned that she must pay
high for such service as she demanded. For she was, notoriously, the
most exacting, crabbed, fractious old woman that ever wore false teeth,
and any one who attended her lived a dog's life. Pease was utterly
dismayed, and came to Judith to beg her to prevent this calamity.

"But what can I do?" she asked. "Mrs. Grimstone offers a hundred dollars
a month--much more than any one else ever pays. How can Beth refuse?"

"Think," Pease adjured her, "of what she will have to bear!"

"I think her disposition is equal to it," Judith said.

"Oh, I don't doubt that," he hurriedly explained. "But Mrs. Grimstone is
so rough!"

"Beth seems to think she must go," was all Judith could reply. "She
usually knows her own mind, Mr. Pease."

"She does," he admitted mournfully. But he was not subdued, and blazed
out with a fitful courage: "I will do my best to prevent it!"

"Do!" said Judith heartily.

Pease did his best; knowing how weak he was against Beth, he spent no
time in discussion, but rushing into the subject he declared to Beth
that she ought not go to Mrs. Grimstone, and that was all there was to
it. Then he stood breathless at his own audacity.

"Ought not?" asked Beth, surprised at such precipitation in one who was
usually so slow. "If few persons are willing to go to Mrs. Grimstone,
isn't that a very good reason why I should?"

"It isn't that; it isn't that!" he replied, and wished, despairing, that
he could voice his thoughts. But Beth's brown eyes, just a little
quizzical, took away his courage, and all his impetus was spent. He
gasped with vexation.

"Then what is it?" she asked, smiling outright.

"Promise me three days?" was all he could say. "I'm busy now--this
street-railway----Oh, don't laugh!" he begged as Beth's smile grew
merrier. "Please promise me three days!"

To his delight she promised, and he went and began to draught a letter
of such importance that its composition was to take nearly all of the
seventy-two hours which she had accorded him. He hoped that what he had
to say would not be too sudden--but he need not have worried. A man
cannot note a girl's every movement, be solicitous at each little cold,
know to a minute the calendar of her engagements, and gradually perfect
himself in knowledge of her tastes, without declaring himself,
unconsciously, in every sentence.

Upon this pleasant by-play Judith smiled, yet knew that her future would
change with Beth's. For if Beth went to Mrs. Grimstone, Judith must find
work; she could no longer bear the consciousness that she was not
earning. A little envy stirred in her, as she feared that she could not
possibly, in spite of all her preparation, earn so much as Beth. In
this belief the principal of her school confirmed her when she asked him
if he could not find her a position.

"You understand that with your experience your salary will be small?" he
asked her.

"Have I not done well since I came?" she inquired.

"I never had a better pupil," he replied. "But a few more months, Miss
Blanchard----"

"How much could I earn to begin with?" she persisted.

"Forty dollars a month," he answered.

"So little?" she asked, disappointed.

"Perhaps fifty, if you have luck," he conceded. "But you'd better wait."

"I can't," Judith answered. "Will you tell me of any chance that you
hear of?"

He promised that he would, yet gave her no immediate hope of a position.
Judith was depressed; more and more it seemed to her that she was
nothing, and her debt loomed large before her eyes. It seemed a great
weight to carry--alone.

Nevertheless, she maintained her interest in the great combination
against Ellis, could not fail to maintain it, for soon came the strike.
It was an orderly strike and a good-natured public; people were saying
cheerfully that the cars would be running again in a week, when Mr.
Mather was president; but believing that no one could be sure of that,
and ignorant of her own deep influence, Judith wished for the fiftieth
time that she could learn how matters stood. The vagueness and
uncertainty were wearing her.

And at last came the information. At the supper table, on the evening of
the strike, Pease seemed as untroubled as usual, and as genial. Miss
Cynthia broke in upon his calm.

"Peveril," she demanded, "what do the men hope to gain by striking now?"

"To-morrow," he explained, "the transfer books close. Only to-morrow's
holders of stock can vote at the meeting a week hence."

"Oh," she said, "I see. The men hope to scare some of Ellis's supporters
into selling out."

He nodded. "The men have very clever leaders."

"And will this help you?"

"I hope so."

She followed up the indirect admission. "Then you need help?"

"Get me forty shares," he said, "and the matter is settled. But----" he
realised that he was talking shop.

"The butter, please, Cynthia?"

"Well," she said in triumph, as she passed the dish, "I have at last
learned something from you."

"Good!" he returned, undisturbed. "And I'll tell you this much more,
that I haven't the slightest idea where I can find those forty shares."

"Oh!" she cried, dismayed. "What does Mr. Mather think?"

"Mather knows nothing about it," said Pease. "His friends are working
for him without his knowledge, because they have never been sure that
they could help him."

Judith, listening to the talk, told herself that Mather would never be
president of the road; she had heard Ellis describe the little ring of
men who stood solidly around him--men whom he had made. That ring would
never be broken. Yet amid her disappointment she felt relief. Mather had
never told her of the projects of his friends because, like herself, he
had not been sure of them.

Before the meal was ended Mr. Fenno came--only for a minute, he said,
and bade them not to rise. Judith admired the picture that he made as he
stood and talked with Pease; his white hair and mustache seemed whiter
still by contrast with his coal-black eyebrows, while the dead
black-and-white evening clothes were relieved by the soft sable which
lined his overcoat. He questioned Pease with his accustomed bluntness.

"No go?"

"Nothing yet," Pease answered.

"Ah, he's clever!" said Mr. Fenno, to which encomium of Ellis Pease
assented by a nod, but seemed not inclined to pursue the subject
further. Then the servant, entering, announced that Mr. Price was at the
door, asking for Mr. Pease. As Pease started from his seat his inquiring
glance met Fenno's. The old man knit his heavy brows.

"Do you suppose----" he said.

"May be!" Pease answered with visible excitement.

"He must see you alone," added the maid.

"Show him into the parlour," Pease directed. For a minute he was alone
with the jeweller; Fenno, forgetting the presence of the ladies, stared
after him and waited. Then Pease returned.

"Can we have you with us, Mr. Fenno?" he asked.

The three shut themselves up in the parlour. Judith, as she controlled
her deep interest, felt how often it was now her part to wait. But at
last the parlour door opened again, and voices were heard. It was Price
who spoke first.

"You understand, Mr. Pease--my family----"

"Yes, yes," Pease answered.

"And my position, you see," the explanation continued. Judith saw the
jeweller, bowing and rubbing his hands together nervously.

"Yes," repeated Pease shortly, opening the outer door for him. "At my
office, Mr. Price, the first thing in the morning."

The door shut on the jeweller, and the two others came into the
dining-room. Pease looked glum, the older man scornful, and in
absorption they spoke before the others.

"It is settled, then," Mr. Fenno said grimly.

"I feel," responded Pease, "as if I had touched pitch."

"You will get over it," was the cynical retort. "Now, then, to finish
all this up. Can you answer for Mather?"

Pease shook his head. "He must answer for himself."

"He shall, to-morrow," said Mr. Fenno. "What do you say to a meeting at
my office--all of us?"

"You will need all," Pease answered.

"We can settle everything," went on Fenno in his heavy voice. "We will
have it all in writing--I'll have a stenographer on hand."

A stenographer! Judith started with eagerness, and Mr. Fenno turned to
her. "What do you say?" he asked. "Will you help us?"

Her eyes sparkled. "Gladly!" she cried.

"Good!" he said bluffly. "Nine o'clock at my office. Pease, have
everybody there, except Mather, at three; George at half-past." Pease
nodded, and Mr. Fenno smote him on the shoulder. "Come, cheer up, man!
Everything is clear at last."

But Pease could not smile. "In such a way!" he grumbled.

"Through no fault of ours." Then Mr. Fenno turned to Beth. "Beth, I
leave him to you." And next he looked on Judith with a sudden change of
manner, losing both his animation and his cynicism, and becoming very
grave. "To-morrow," he said, "you shall see what you have done."

"I?" she asked in astonishment. "I, sir?" But he merely nodded, and
hastened away.

And Pease was left to Beth. Reminded by Fenno's words that his three
days were nearly at an end, he forgot Price, forgot Mather, and
remembered only a letter which suddenly seemed to be burning a hole in
his pocket. Miss Cynthia and Judith left him alone in the parlour with
Beth, who for a while watched with amusement his nervous movements about
the room. She tried to make him talk, but failed.

"Something is very much on your mind," she said at last.

"Everything is!" he exclaimed in desperation, and dragged out the
letter. "Won't you--will you--read this, to-night?" He put the letter in
her hand, and moved toward the door.

"Why do you go?" she asked innocently, opening the envelope.

He had reached the threshold. "I will come again."

But she poised the paper in her hand and looked at him reflectively. "I
don't think you'd better go," she said, and then added positively, "No,
I can't have you go. Please sit down in that chair."

Obeying the nod of her determined little head, he dragged himself from
the door, sat down, and watched her miserably while she studied his
letter. She read it once, and sat with pursed lips; she read it again,
and knit her brows; she read it a third time and looked at him
thoughtfully. Then she read parts of it aloud.

"I apprehend much unhappiness to you in your proposed occupation ....
Admirable qualities--tender nature.... Am emboldened to say what
otherwise I might not ... if you will give yourself into my care, I will
promise you that so far as it is possible for a man to avert them, you
will never know trouble or need----"

She broke off, and looked at him. "This is a proposal of marriage, Mr.
Pease?"

He shivered. "I meant it so."

She put the letter in her lap with a regretful sigh. "I thought that
when a man asked a girl to marry him he always said something about--his
feelings for her."

"But respect, admiration--" he was beginning eagerly.

"Oh," she interrupted, "those go without saying. And I understand," she
glanced at the letter, "that you write this only because you wish to
relieve me of work. It is very good of you to sacrifice yourself."

"It is no sacrifice!" he cried.

She folded the note and thrust it into its envelope. "I never believed,"
she said emphatically, "in proposals by letter."

"I am sorry," faltered miserable Pease.

"And what you say," continued Beth, holding the note out for him to
take, "is not my idea of the essentials of a proposal."

He came and received the letter, but could answer nothing.

"I think," Beth set forth reflectively, "that just two things are
necessary to a proposal: a statement and a question. A man need only
say: 'I love you. Will you marry me?' Just seven words--no more." She
folded her hands in her lap, looked at him innocently, and waited.

Gazing at her, fascinated, slowly he grew red. An idea found lodgment,
worked deeper, penetrated to the springs of action. He crushed the
letter in his hand. "I love you!" he cried. "Will you marry me?"

She dimpled into smiles. "Yes," said little Beth.



CHAPTER XXXII

WHICH IS IN SOME RESPECTS SATISFACTORY


Judith sat in Mr. Fenno's little office, while in the larger room the
magnates were slowly gathering. She was deeply interested in the result
of the coming meeting, a little anxious as well, on account of the last
words which Mr. Fenno had said to her.

"Do you think George will accept?" he had asked.

"Why should he not?" she returned, startled.

"You see no reason?" were his words as he left her.

She puzzled to find a reason until, in the outer office, Mr. Fenno's
deep voice began to address the little meeting. Before him sat, in two
groups, the financiers and the reform politicians, whose interests were
to be reconciled. They had, between them, the power to make a new
railway president and a new mayor, but never yet had the two groups of
men worked together.

"We all know why we are here," Mr. Fenno began. "A holy crusade is our
object--or the protection of our interests."

"It is not your interests that influence you," said one of the
reformers. "We are glad to see, Mr. Fenno, that you are moved by
righteous indignation. This recent tragedy--" But Mr. Fenno stopped him
by a sudden gesture.

"My stenographer," and he emphasised the word, "my stenographer is
within hearing. If we require any other agreements than I have prepared,
she can copy them." He saw the glances which his friends exchanged at
the news of Judith's presence; moved by the sudden reference to her
misfortunes, his heavy voice trembled as he proceeded. "We all have
our--wrongs to avenge, and a good friend to place in his proper
position. Before Mr. Mather comes, suppose we arrive at an
understanding."

"Suppose," rejoined the leader of the reformers, "Mr. Fenno makes a
statement of his expectations. It seems to me," he said when the
explanation was forthcoming, "that the Good Government League is
expected to give more than it receives."

"It is more blessed----" quoted Mr. Fenno drily.

"Can't we," put in Pease mildly, "give concessions on either side? I
think we need each other."

"It is just this," said Mr. Fenno to the reformers: "Lend us your
candidate to straighten out our tangle, and we'll lend him back to
straighten yours."

"Is it possible," was the doubtful question, "that a president of the
street-railroad can stand for mayor without raising suspicion of his
motives?"

"Mather can," answered Pease promptly.

"Certainly with less suspicion than Ellis arouses," supplemented Mr.
Fenno. "Come, will you lose a chance to defeat Ellis on his first line
of battle? He will be beaten all the easier on his second."

"We are thinking of Mr. Mather's standing before the public," replied
the reformers. "He must resign from your presidency as soon as we
nominate him."

"Very well."

"That suits you?"

"Yes, if you will release him from his promise to you now."

"We will, if you will support him then."

"Here is an agreement covering these points," said Mr. Fenno. "Shall we
put our names to this?"

It was on a scene of paper-signing, then, that Mather entered. Some of
the gentlemen looked up and nodded to him; others--they were all his
seniors--continued passing the papers around the table. He paused with
his hand upon the door-knob.

"Am I in the way?" he asked.

"Everything is decided without you," answered Mr. Fenno. "We have merely
disposed of your time for the next eighteen months."

Mather laughed, threw off his coat, and took a chair. They explained
matters to him; in her seclusion Judith listened long before she heard
him say a word. Then he began to ask questions, deep and far-reaching,
but every difficulty had been considered beforehand.

"And my obligations to you, Mr. Pease?" he said once. "I was not to quit
the Electrolytic Company until the fall."

"I have arranged all that," Pease replied. "The new Chebasset manager is
very satisfactory; we will promote him."

"Well, what do you say?" asked Fenno, when every point had been covered.

Mather sat thoughtful for a while. "I may understand," he asked at
length, "that your proposition amounts to approval of my former course
as president of the street-railway?"

They assured him that it did.

"I should pursue," he next said, "the same policy. In place of Mr.
Ellis's subway bill, which was this morning thrown out of the
legislature, I should at once introduce another."

"Different in plan?" some one inquired.

"Quite," Mather answered, smiling. "Having no real estate to condemn at
high prices, I have no desire for the privilege of eminent domain."

"Have you any objection," they asked him, "to serving in these two
positions in such quick succession?"

He smiled again. "Are you sure you can elect me to either?"

"Suppose we can?" returned Mr. Fenno.

"Supposing you can," began Mather--then stopped to think.

"Well?" demanded Mr. Fenno after a moment's impatience.

Mather roused himself. "Supposing that you can elect me," he said
seriously, "there is just one thing I wish to lay before you--a
statement of my personal feelings. We all know each other well, we have
the same interests, we know and say things which are not given to the
public. I wish to define my position exactly." He paused and looked at
the attentive faces. In her little office Judith asked herself with
sudden alarm: "Will he refuse?"

"The personal element," he went on, "has recently entered into my
relations with Mr. Ellis. There are distresses which I and--friends of
mine, have suffered through him, by actions which make him morally, if
not legally, criminal. Some of you know that what I say is true."

He looked at Pease, who nodded; Fenno did the same, but no one spoke.
Mather began again with increasing energy, yet slowly, struggling for an
exact statement of his position. "I have," he said, "and acknowledge
freely, reason for the bitterest personal dislike of Mr. Ellis. And for
that reason, considering the possibility of the proposals which you make
to me, it has sometimes seemed to me as if I ought to refuse you----"

"You must consider----" cried Pease, half rising from his chair. But
Mather held up a hand to stay him.

"And yet," he said, as Pease sank back again, "I recognise the
situation here. Long ago I expressed my disapproval of Mr. Ellis as a
public man, and opposed him before--certain circumstances arose.
Besides, I am the man (excuse me if I say it) that best can meet this
strike; and again, a successful fight must be made for mayor in the
fall. I believe that I can win there for you. So if it comes to a
question between my personal feelings and my duties as a citizen,
then--if you will believe my honesty in this confession, and in trusting
myself to oppose Mr. Ellis without vindictiveness--if you will believe
this, and will fight him with me not as a man but as a force, an evil
force, then I will sign this document with you."

In her little room Judith found herself trembling in response to the
emotion which had vibrated in his voice; but in the larger office the
gentlemen rose from their chairs, crowded around Mather, and in
enthusiasm promised him their support. No one noticed the noise of the
opening of the outer door; it was a full minute before the first of them
perceived the figure which, attentive and sneering, watched them. It was
Ellis.

He heard their words and knew their purposes, yet he had guessed
beforehand what they had gathered there to do. By one of those bold
strokes which had so often succeeded for him, he had come among them in
the attempt to conciliate a strong minority. He had expected to arouse
consternation, yet on perceiving him they looked at each other as if
welcoming his presence. Still ignorant of Price's treachery, he did not
understand the sign.

"Twelve good men and true," he said, coming forward. "Is this an
inquest?"

"A funeral," Mr. Fenno replied. "Some one whom we know is dead and cold.
Will you not pronounce the benediction?"

"Ah, I am not qualified," Ellis said. "But learning that you were here
in great distress of mind, I came to see if I could not relieve you. I
hope you will excuse the interruption?"

"Willingly," Mr. Fenno answered, with much cheerfulness.

Then Ellis changed his tone; dropping the banter, he looked upon them
frankly. "Seriously, I understand that you are here to discuss what you
regard as mismanagement in the street-railway. I know I come without
invitation, yet I wish to make an offer. You have large interests in the
road, I dislike to exclude a minority from any voice in affairs, and so
I came to say that if you wish more representation on the next board of
directors----"

"Then we shall have it?" interrupted Mr. Fenno. "Gentlemen, is not Mr.
Ellis very kind?"

Ellis noted the sustained irony, and as those present murmured their
responses to the question he saw in them no conciliatory spirit. They
looked at him with that inquiring reserve which was not difficult to
meet in them singly, but which, thus directed at him by a group of the
blue-bloods, became irritatingly oppressive. And there was more in its
meaning than ever before. Suddenly he asked himself if these men could
be stronger than he had thought. He had been very busy all the morning
with messages to and from the capital in regard to his bill, and with
the strike. If anything had happened on exchange----

The serious voice of Pease began to speak. "I imagine that Mr. Ellis, in
studying the market reports to-day, failed to remark a transfer which
was recorded three minutes before the closing time. Otherwise he would
scarcely have come here."

The inquiring glances of the others grew keener, pressing upon Ellis
almost physically as those present watched for the effect of Pease's
words. Standing alone against them, Ellis felt a sudden sense of
impending calamity, between his temples a pressure began, and in the
silence his voice was scarcely audible as in spite of himself he asked
hoarsely: "What do you mean?"

"History," answered Pease slowly--never in his life before had he been
deliberately cruel--"history, Mr. Ellis, has taught some valuable
lessons, of which I should like to call two to your attention. One is
that some great men meet their Waterloo, the other that some little men
have their--Price!"

Something flashed before Ellis's eyes, and in that flash he saw the
whole treachery. His head dropped, his eyes closed, and his jaw shut
convulsively. "Price! Price!" he hissed.

Then in an instant he stood upright and faced them without flinching.
Though he saw the whole meaning of the news, though he realised the
power of the caste which, so long supine, at last had risen up against
him, even though he knew he faced two great defeats, he looked upon his
adversaries, and they saw courage in his glance. He turned to Mather.

"Mather," said Ellis, "you think you've got me."

He felt, as that same quiet glance looked down on him, the continual
irritation of it, the impossibility of ever attaining that superb
indifference. And then the answer: "For the present I have." Would they
never boast, these aristocrats--never threaten? First, despising him,
they had left him alone; even now when they turned on him they still
looked down on him. A torrent of words rushed to his lips, and yet,
feeling how powerless he was to impress those silent, attentive
spectators, he checked himself.

"For the present!" he repeated, and turned to go.

In his unfamiliar surroundings he mistook the door and opened one
leading into a little office where, facing him across a table, he
saw--who was that? Pale, intent, startled at his entrance, Judith
Blanchard rose and confronted him. For a moment he stared as at a
portent.

Then quickly he closed the door and turned to the men at his back. Fenno
and Pease had started forward; with Mather, they were the nearest to
him. He eyed them one by one. "So," he said, pointing to the little
room, "_that_ is why you are all here!"

They made no answer. "Because I wish to enter your homes, is it," he
asked, "that you combine against me? Because I nearly succeeded, I
frightened you?"

Mather did not understand, Pease and Fenno had no reply to make, but
Ellis, feeling with pain that he had pronounced a truth against himself,
waited for no answer. "But wait!" he cried, stamping. "I have avoided
you, favoured you at times, but now I am against you in everything. I
will go out of my way to meet you. What you wish, I shall oppose; what
you build, I shall throw down; what you bring in, I shall throw out! For
everything you win, you must pay; I will weary you of fighting. I will
plan while you sleep, act while you rest, work while you play. Your
virtue shall be a load to you, and I will tire your vigilance!"

He flung his phrases like bombs, to burst among his adversaries; casting
his prophecies in their faces, he startled his opponents from their
reserve. Then, turning, he rushed from the office, leaving them staring
at each other as if a whirlwind had passed.

       *       *       *       *       *

One by one Mather's supporters left the office, each renewing his
promise of assistance, yet each subdued by the thoughts aroused by
Ellis's amazing words. For they recognised a challenge which would be
hard to meet--to be as persistent in their efforts as Ellis should be
with his, to meet his subtlety, to foresee his plans, to counteract his
influence, to expose his methods. And having businesses, having
families, loving repose and pleasure, only the reformers, those modern
Puritans, could promise the self-denial necessary to meet Ellis's
unceasing activities.

Pease, Fenno, and Mather at last remained in the office. "Tremendous!"
sighed Pease, breaking a period of thought which the departure of Ellis
had inaugurated for him.

"Tremendous!" repeated Fenno.

"Are we equal to it?" asked Mather seriously.

Mr. Fenno recovered his cynicism. "Sufficient to the day is its weevil,"
he answered. "Grubs breed fast, but they can be killed. I am going
home."

The three put on their coats. "We are going the same way, I suppose?"
Mather remarked.

"Pease and I have something to talk over," replied Mr. Fenno. "Yes we
have, Pease! None of your confounded straightforwardness. You must give
us a start, George; five minutes' law, if you please. And I should like
you to wait," he pointed to the door of the inner office, "in that room.
Good-evening."

"Good-evening," repeated Pease, and followed Mr. Fenno out.

Thought Mather: "What under the sun----" He opened the door of the
little room. "Judith!"

There she sat and looked at him; on her cheeks were traces of tears, but
her eyes were bright as they met his. He looked from her to the
uncovered typewriter, the pencils and note-book. "So it was you," he
said, "that Ellis saw before he turned upon us so?"

She nodded, looking on him silently.

"What is it?" he asked, coming a step nearer. "You look--Judith, are you
ill?"

Suddenly she rose and held out her hands to him. "Oh, George," she
cried, "I am so glad for you!"

"Oh," he said, relieved, "I was afraid that--Judith, you have been
crying. Is anything wrong? Was the work hard?" She shook her head. "Then
this meeting has distressed you?"

Unashamed, she wiped her cheeks. "It is not that."

"Come to the window," he said, for the early twilight was falling. But
when he studied her in the stronger light he saw nothing in her eyes
except a resolute cheerfulness; the unwonted pink in her cheeks might be
the reflection of the sunset glow.

"Nothing is wrong with me," she said, and took her jacket from the hook
on the wall. "I suppose Mr. Fenno will not want me any more to-day, so I
may as well go home." Yet while Mather helped her to put on the jacket,
the knowledge that he was studying her set her nerves to trembling, and
it was by an effort that she controlled herself.

"You are under some strain," he said with decision. "Did Ellis frighten
you?"

She answered, "I have no fear of him." Drawing her gloves from her
pocket, she tried to put them on, but her hands trembled visibly. She
abandoned the attempt at concealment, and turned to him.

"It's just that I'm glad for you, George, and proud of you, and--I've
been making an acknowledgment to myself, that's all. Now shall we go
home?"

But he took her hand and kept her face toward the window. "I should like
to hear that acknowledgment, if I may?"

Perhaps the colours deepened in the sky; at any rate, her cheeks grew
rosier as she looked away from him, out above the roofs. "If you wish
to know," she answered.

"I wish it very much."

She folded her hands before her tightly; they showed white against her
dress. "No one else will hear," she began uncertainly, "although every
one else heard your confession, George. I heard, and somehow you set me
thinking of the time we met in the Golf Club, long ago, last April."

"Last April," he repeated, and added with meaning, "Long ago."

Her voice grew stronger. "I will tell you everything," she said. "You
will see what a foolish girl I have been--how proud I was. We spoke then
of the world, and you warned me of it; you said that it was very big,
and strong, and merciless."

"I remember," Mather said.

"But I did not believe," Judith went on. "I thought that you--you had
just lost this presidency, George--I thought that you were cowed. And I
thought that I was braver than you, and stronger than you, and I
believed that I--I, George!--could conquer the world!"

She made a little gesture of amazement at herself; gravely attentive, he
did not speak. Then she pointed down at her black dress, swept her hand
toward the typewriter, and exclaimed: "And this is the result! But I
know myself now, George, and I am glad you made me say this, for I want
to beg your pardon."

"There is no need of that," he answered.

"Then," she asked, "shall we go?"

"Not yet," he replied. But he continued looking at her without saying
more, and to cover her embarrassment she said:

"Just let me tell you first that Mr. Fenno has engaged me permanently,
and I feel that I have started a new life, George."

She was attempting to be gay, a difficult task in the face of his
continued serious scrutiny; but to her relief he spoke. "A new life?
Why, that leads to an old subject, Judith. And what you have said makes
me hope that some day I may begin a new life, too."

"Yours begins next week," she said, "with the stockholders' meeting."

"It begins," he returned, "whenever you say the word." She turned
abruptly aside from him and looked out of the window; there could now be
no doubt whence came the colour that flooded her face and even touched
her ears with coral. He came close to her side.

"See," he said, pointing out the window. "The sun is going down. Shall
it not rise again on a new life for us both?"

"George," she answered, "how can I marry any one?"

"You are thinking," he asked, "of your debt to Ellis?"

She nodded. "How can I so burden you?"

He laughed. "I can pay the money out of hand; I can earn it again in
three years. Jacob served seven years for Rachel: will you not let me
work a little while for you?" He tried to draw her to him. "Judith!
Judith!"

Suddenly she turned and nestled to him. "Oh, hold me!" she sobbed. "Take
care of me always!"



CHAPTER XXXIII

CONTAINS ANOTHER PROPOSAL OF MARRIAGE, AND SETTLES AN OLD SCORE


The whirling in Ellis's head was ceasing, the blind restlessness was
slowly leaving him. Yet still he walked up and down in his library,
unmindful of the call of hunger. For as his anger left him there grew in
its place the unassuagable yearning which he was coming to know too
well, and which he was ashamed that he could not master. For there had
never been a desire which he could not crush, or a passion which he
could not uproot, if they stood in the way of his purposes. In his
courtship of Judith he had taken care to suppress the feelings which,
apart from his appreciation of her material value, occasionally
threatened to interfere with his entirely deliberate progress in her
regard and her father's favour. But now, when all was over, the little
pains and longings which he had crushed down were constantly rising, and
he who had been so self-sufficing was now lonely, he who had never
paused to regret was often bowed with despair. And Judith, Judith was in
his mind constantly; it was she who broke his sleep, spoiled his work,
and had brought about his defeat. His rage at the disaster was not so
deep as the disturbance which the sight of her had caused in him. But
even that he would, he must, repress--or where would she, that pale
girl, bring him?

Three times in the past month had this confusion of the faculties come
upon him. Wherever lay the cause, the result was too costly to be
permitted to continue. He recognised the fits now; the next one that
came he would meet at its beginning--and this one should end at once.
What was he thinking of? His men must have the news already; they had
come to the house and he had sent them away, playing the fool here by
himself. Well, he would go out and find them now, hearten them, and
prepare at once for the long fight with which he had threatened his
enemies. Ah--and he ground his teeth with anticipation--he meant all
that he had said.

His faculties collected at last, he turned to the door, and met the
cautious face of his butler.

"A lady, sir," said the man, prepared to be damned from the room. He was
relieved when his master said: "Show her in."

But the lady, having no intention of being turned away, was close
behind. "Very wise of you," she said, entering even as he spoke.
"Because I meant to come in anyway, Stephen."

"Oh, it's you, Lydia?" asked Ellis, darting a look before which the
butler retired. "What brings you?"

Mrs. Harmon unwound the long scarf from her neck, and stood before him
smiling. "An errand of mercy, to comfort the broken-hearted. Come, don't
scowl." She unbuckled her cloak, swung it from her shoulders, and tossed
it on a chair. "There, how do you like me?"

In spite of his mood he caught his breath. For she was dressed in black
and adorned with pearls; the dress was cut so low that it more than
suggested the charms which it concealed. And those which it revealed
were perfect: the full and rosy throat, the shoulders, and the arms. The
pearls set off the blackness of the dress, and took to themselves the
warmth of her skin. For a moment Ellis looked at her with pleasure, then
he recovered himself.

"Full mourning, I see," he grunted.

"Don't be disagreeable," she returned. "It's my best and newest. Come,
say I never looked so well before."

"You never did," he agreed. Always Lydia had dressed, he reflected, as
much as she dared; now that she was free she evidently intended to go
the limit. "It certainly becomes you," he added.

"I may sit down?" she asked. "Thanks. Now, Stephen, I want to talk
business."

"Talk," he said, sitting before her. "It's about----"

"This afternoon's news. Oh, yes," as he turned his eyes away, "it's got
to me already. Some of your men, not getting in here, came to see me.
How did it happen, Stephen?"

"Price," he answered between his teeth. "By God, I----" The curse and
the threat died away, and he sat staring at the carpet.

"Oh," she cried, "and I warned you of him!"

"Well," he growled, "it's over. I'm not looking back."

She leaned toward him earnestly. "Are you looking ahead? You're not
giving up, are you?"

"No!" he cried scornfully.

"Good!" she responded, relieved, but then she asked: "What has got into
you? Three times you've shut yourself up so."

"Never again," he assured her. "It's all over, Lydia. I shall never
spend any more time--regretting."

"I thought so," she said. "It's Judith?"

"Yes," he acknowledged savagely. "I've taken a little time to be a fool.
Now I'm over it."

"If you are," she replied, "I'll tell you something."

"What next?" he asked, his face darkening.

"I went by the Peases' at half-past five," she began slowly, watching
him. "I was on the other side of the street. You know it's almost dark
at that hour?"

"Oh, tell me!" he commanded.

"I saw two people at the door," she went on more rapidly. "They were
George Mather and Judith. They opened the door, the hall was lighted
inside, and I saw their figures against the light. As they went in--it
wasn't much, but he put his arm around her."

Ellis started abruptly from his chair, went to his desk, and stood
looking down at it; his back was to her. "I thought you said you were
over it," she remarked.

As abruptly he returned and took his seat. "I expected that."

"Well," she asked, "and now what?"

"Work," he replied. "I can always have plenty of that."

"Work?" she repeated. "Like the man in the novel who works to forget?"
She pointed her finger at him, teasingly, and laughed. "Stephen, I do
believe you were in love with her!"

He scowled his contempt at the weak phrase. In love with her! But then
its central word struck home with the force of a new idea, and
involuntarily he rose again from his seat. Her laughter stopped; her
gayety changed to alarm, for he was looking at her, but he saw nothing.

"What is it?" she asked uneasily.

Love? Love! He understood. "I loved her!" he said, and then added
quietly, "I love her!"

She bridled and looked down. "I too have been through that, Stephen."

But he stood staring before him. He loved!--and all was clear to him.
Thence came those pains, those harsh distresses, those unappeasable
longings; thence the distraction which caused his failure. Judith had
set this poison in his blood. He laughed mirthlessly. How the girl had
revenged herself!

But he loved! Relief came to him as he realised that no ordinary
weakness, but the higher lot of man (so he had heard it called) was
overpowering him. He had never been fond of any one in his life, and yet
he loved! Love! That was a passion he had never expected to meet; there
was no shame in falling before it--and he felt in his pain even a fierce
delight. He loved the girl!

And now he knew he would never be the same man again--never could work
so free of soul, never forget those high ideals of hers, nor be as
mindless of the consequences of his acts. He smiled with scorn of
himself as he saw how the tables had been turned on him. Meaning to win
the girl, to buy her, he had instead roused a conscience, and learned
that there was purity in the world. This was what they meant, then,
those hitherto inexplicable fits of his: that a new nature was trying to
assert itself, that a terrible discontent was aroused, that his whole
life had changed, and that within an unsuspected recess of his nature
there was this open wound, unhealing, draining his strength.

Where then was his boast to his enemies, of what worth his threats?
Could he ever fight again as before, ever manage and plan? Again he
laughed scornfully.

"You needn't laugh," complained Mrs. Harmon. "I do understand it all."

"I wasn't laughing at you," he answered. "--Well, forget all this,
Lydia. What is it I can do for you?"

"Will you forget all this?" she asked with meaning. "Then look ahead
with me for a while, Stephen. You won't be president."

"And I've lost my mayor," he added.

"Will it mean so much?" she asked, disappointed.

"It's Mather's year," he said decidedly. "Everything's going his way; it
happens so every once in a while in New York. Then Tammany lays low; so
shall I. But in the end they come in again; so with me."

"Then, planning for the future," she began, but hesitated, stopped, and
started differently. "I've suffered a good deal, in this past year. We
haven't got anything we wished, either you or I."

He wondered what brought her. "That is true," he said, not intending to
commit himself.

"I've suffered from Judith as well as you," complained Mrs. Harmon. "She
insulted me the other day; she isn't what I thought her, Stephen."

"Nor what I thought," he said, waiting.

"And the others," she went on, "turn me down, too. You would suppose
that my position, and my loss--but they are colder to me than ever." She
looked down.

"Look here," he said, "it isn't like you to be so mild, Lydia. Aren't
you just a little mad, underneath?"

"Oh, I hate them all!" she burst out. She looked at him with flashing
eyes, then asked directly, "Do you, Stephen?"

"Well, suppose I do; what then?" he asked, wishing her to show her hand.

"I will leave them," said Mrs. Harmon with vigour. "So will you. And we
will leave them together."

"It won't be a formal leavetaking," he said, not understanding. "We just
leave them, don't we?"

"Oh," she replied, "I can't bear just to drop out. I want them to
understand that I've no more use for them." She looked to see if he
comprehended, but he remained silent and his face showed nothing. "I've
lost my husband," she said.

"Yes," he said, encouraging. "Go on."

She finished with an effort. "And you wanted--a wife?"

"Good God!" he said slowly.

"I could be of use to you," she explained quickly. "More than Judith.
See how your men come to me for advice?"

"Your husband is but two months in his grave," he cried. "And you wear
Wayne's jewels at your throat!"

"But I don't mean to do it at once," she said, aggrieved. "For a few
months it could be--understood."

"I see," he said, mastering his disgust. "Anything more, Lydia?"

"And I should like to leave something to remember us by," she went on,
taking confidence. "So that they shall feel that we aren't just beaten."

"How will you do it?"

"They are like a big family," she said. "Hurt one, and the others are
against you. I think they combined against you out of revenge
for--Judith, as much as to help Mather."

"Perhaps," he commented.

"They think a great deal of those two," she proceeded. "If we could hurt
them we could anger all the others."

"How do you propose to do it?" he inquired.

"You have that note of hers," she said. "You said she could pay at her
leisure, but----" she eyed him keenly. "Stephen, I never believed that."

"You are quite right," he acknowledged. "I could come down on her
to-morrow for the money." He looked at Mrs. Harmon impassively, but she
was satisfied.

"Then do!" she urged, rising.

"I see," he said. "If her friends have to make up the money for her it
puts her in the position of a beggar, makes her ridiculous, doesn't it?"

"More than that," she said eagerly. "If people know she has signed a
note to you, they will think, don't you see, and say things."

His brows contracted, and from under them his eyes began to glow,
characteristically. "What will they say?" he asked.

"Oh, there will be a great to-do, a quiet scandal, and under cover of it
you--we retire with credit."

"You have thought it all out very well," he said.

"Haven't I?" she asked complacently.

"And I suppose," he said, "that I might as well begin to-morrow. In
fact, I could send some kind of a summons to Miss Blanchard to-night."

"Any day, only soon," she agreed. "Before the stockholders' meeting will
be best."

"Now is the time," he said. He went to his desk, stooped over it, and
wrote rapidly. Then he brought her the paper. "Will that do?" He had
merely written: "With the best wishes of Stephen F. Ellis."

"Why," she began doubtfully. "Oh, I see; you mean to be sarcastic. And
what will you inclose with this?"

He took the note from his pocket-book and showed it to her. "For fifteen
thousand dollars, you see. And it is in legal form."

"Yes," she said with satisfaction. "You'll just remind her that you have
it, and demand immediate payment?"

"I will do this," he replied. He tore the note across, laid the pieces
together, and tore them again, and once again. Then he folded them with
the paper on which he had written.

"Stephen!" she cried.

He took an envelope from the desk and put the papers in. "And I send it
all to her. Now perhaps you understand?"

His tone was suddenly fierce, and as he approached her she backed away.
"Why----" she said, astonished.

"That was a good idea of yours," he sneered, standing close to her.
"Between us, we could smirch her name. You to do the talking, of
course." He snatched her wrist and pushed his face close to hers. "Have
you told any one I held that note?"

"No!" she answered, frightened.

"The truth!" he insisted.

"No one; no one!" she replied.

He cast her hand away, and stepped back. "If you tell any one, with that
damned tongue of yours, Lydia, I'll have your blood!"

"I will never tell!" she protested, thoroughly cowed.

He turned away from her. "Let them tell if they wish," he said over his
shoulder. "They won't, to save the Colonel's reputation; but if they
do--you keep quiet. Fool I was to tell you!" He went to the desk again,
and took up his pen to address the envelope. "Good-night, Lydia," he
said absently.

"But, Stephen!" she began to plead.

"Don't provoke me," he interrupted, pausing with his pen poised. "Don't
provoke me, Lydia." As she did not move, he turned on her. "Confound it,
go!"

She dared not say a word to anger him further; she feared even to look
her disgust, lest she should cut herself off from him forever. Taking
her cloak and scarf, she went to the door; she paused there for an
instant, only to see with fury that he had turned again to the desk and
was writing. White with rage at her failure, she went away.

But Ellis was at peace with himself, and looked the future in the face.
He loved, he would suffer, he did not even wish to forget. Deliberately
he left the house and walked to the Pease homestead. He rang the bell,
gave to the servant his missive for Judith, and for a full minute after
the door closed he stood on the sidewalk, looking at the lighted windows
of the house. But then, shivering, he drew his coat closely around him,
and hurried away from that abode of happiness.



       *       *       *       *       *



Transcriber's note:

Original spelling has been retained.

Original hyphenation has been retained, even where inconsistent; e.g.
both "golf-club" and "golf club" occur.

The following printer's errors have been corrected:

Page 35, "kuckle" changed to "knuckle". (Yet she hated to knuckle to
them;)

Page 36, "roue" changed to "roué" (Girls more or less innocent danced
with men more or less roué;)

Page 48, missing period inserted ("But," he explained, "it must have
permanently bettered and improved you.")

Page 92, quotation marks matched ("Yes, sir.' changed to "Yes, sir.")

Page 99, missing period inserted (No, I will try to write without
practising.)

Page 100, "word" changed to "work" (but when his day's work was over)

Page 172, it's corrected to its (All its beauty conceals a threat) and
(its only purpose)

Page 181, extra quotation mark removed from middle of quote. ("This
lunch was better than I expected. We must meet here again, some day.")

Page 252, quotation marks matched ("I thought you loved me?' changed to
"I thought you loved me?")

Page 258, quotation marks matched ('We have no property ... to him?"
changed to "We have no property ... to him?")





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