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Title: The Cleverdale Mystery or, The Machine and its Wheels - A Story of American Life
Author: Wilkins, W. A.
Language: English
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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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                   THE

            CLEVERDALE MYSTERY;


        THE MACHINE AND ITS WHEELS.


        _A STORY OF AMERICAN LIFE._


                     BY
               W. A. WILKINS,
   EDITOR OF "THE WHITEHALL (N. Y.) TIMES."


                 NEW YORK:
          FORDS, HOWARD, & HULBERT.
                   1882.



             Copyright, 1882,
             By W. A. WILKINS.
            All rights reserved.



  PREFACE.


    In presenting this volume to the public, the author hopes to
    impart information to some; reflect their own character to others;
    possibly point a moral, and by the tale interest the reader.

    The warp of the fabric is reality, the woof fiction, the
    coloring domestic.

    Awaiting the verdict,

                            Respectfully,
                                    THE AUTHOR.



  CONTENTS.


                                                          PAGE
  CHAPTER   I.--BEAUTIFUL LAKE GEORGE,                       9

     "     II.--A QUARTETTE OF SCHEMERS,                    18

     "    III.--TEMPEST-TOSSED LAKE GEORGE,                 26

     "     IV.--THE BOSS AND HIS AIDS,                      33

     "      V.--TO THE RESCUE,                              44

     "     VI.--THE CAMP DINNER,                            52

     "    VII.--THE CRUEL THUNDERBOLT,                      58

     "   VIII.--AFFAIRS AT CLEVERDALE,                      65

     "     IX.--THE CAUCUS,                                 72

     "      X.--THE CRUELTY OF AMBITION,                    82

     "     XI.--THE CONVENTION,                             90

     "    XII.--A WICKED SCHEME,                            99

     "   XIII.--DALEY'S STRENGTH WANES,                    108

     "    XIV.--THE ELECTION,                              116

     "     XV.--GLOOMY FOREBODINGS,                        125

     "    XVI.--PRINCE OF MANNIS MANOR,                    134

     "   XVII.--SARGENT ENLISTED,                          144

     "  XVIII.--GEORGE AND FANNIE ALDEN,                   149

     "    XIX.--THE BURNING FACTORY,                       155

     "     XX.--THE SECRET MARRIAGE,                       164

     "    XXI.--SPOILS! SPOILS!                            172

     "   XXII.--SAD FAREWELLS,                             179

     "  XXIII.--EXILED FROM HOME AND FRIENDS,              186

     "   XXIV.--THE DISTRACTED WIFE,                       198

     "    XXV.--THE CRUEL LETTER,                          209

     "   XXVI.--A DIRTY JOB,                               215

     "  XXVII.--CLEVERDALE'S SORROW,                       223

     " XXVIII.--AMONG THE HILLS OF COLORADO,               232

     "   XXIX.--POOR MARY HARRIS,                          239

     "    XXX.--THE ATTEMPTED SUICIDE,                     247

     "   XXXI.--A REVELATION,                              258

     "  XXXII.--THE WANDERER'S RETURN,                     265

     " XXXIII.--RETRIBUTIVE JUSTICE,                       274

     "  XXXIV.--THE CLEVERDALE MYSTERY,                    277

     "   XXXV.--EPILOGUE--THE MACHINE AND ITS WHEELS,      285



  CHARACTERS.


    Hon. DARIUS HAMBLIN--State Senator and Political "Boss."

    Hon. WALTER MANNIS--State Assemblyman; one of the "Boss's"
    Lieutenants.

    ASSEMBLYMAN DALEY--Bolting candidate.

    CYRUS HART MILLER--Wily country politician.

    GEORGE ALDEN--Bank officer; hero; lover.

    SARGENT--Purchasable commodity, convenient to his owner.

    JOE RAWLINGS--Editor; wise; in the market.

    PADDY SULLIVAN--Pothouse politician; an important factor.

    FARMER JOHNSON--Honest; cheap; "_Let me speak to you privately!_"

    GEORGE HORTON--Chairman of County Committee; fertile in schemes.

    FARMER HARRIS--Avenger.

    BELLE HAMBLIN--Sweetheart; oppressed by a father's ambition.

    FANNIE ALDEN--Self-sacrificing sister.

    MARY HARRIS--Betrayed.

    MRS. DARIUS HAMBLIN--Model mother.

    MRS. NASH--Good Samaritan.

    CAMPERS, FACTORY BOSSES, VILLAGERS, MINERS, POLITICIANS, and other
    incidental characters.



  THE
  CLEVERDALE MYSTERY.



  CHAPTER I.

  BEAUTIFUL LAKE GEORGE.


The world is full of charming spots that seem to be the original site
of Paradise, but none show more perfectly the grace and grandeur of the
Creator's handiwork than Lake George. Its limpid waters reflect the
outlines of numerous islands--one for each calendar day of the year, yet
each possessing beauties distinctly its own. The mirror of the lake's
surface is framed by mountains of varying shape and size, yet each with
special charms, while between them nestle lovely valleys, over which the
eye never tires of roaming. In summer, every isle, hill, and valley is
glorious with verdure; in winter they are dazzling in snowy vesture; but
no matter what the season or condition, the lake and its surroundings
are a constant source of delight to those who are fortunate enough to
dwell on its shore.

It is to the credit of humanity that Lake George is a favorite place
of resort during the summer, and that hundreds of families delight in
building permanent summer homes there. Beautiful villas, picturesque
hotels, tasteful cottages, unique cabins, and snowy tents abound on the
water's marge, and pleasure boats of all sorts dance gaily on its waves.
The vulgar, the dissipated, and stupid classes that haunt summer resorts
seem to avoid Lake George; even humanity seems to endeavor to be in
keeping with its surroundings at this beautiful retreat, and fair women,
robust, active men, and healthy children are the rule at this modern
Eden.

On the forward deck of a steamer that ploughed its way through the
crystal waters on a bright summer day in 187- was a small party,
consisting of Hon. Darius Hamblin, Mrs. Hamblin, Miss Belle Hamblin, and
two little boys, George and Willie, aged respectively ten and six, with
their nurse.

The Hon. Darius, a man of fifty-five, had served his district as New
York State Senator at Albany for two terms. He possessed excellent
judgment, and knew this so well that no one could help seeing that he
was vain and inclined to be arbitrary in his manner. Mrs. Hamblin was a
small, brown-haired lady, with whom time had dealt so gently that the
unwelcome and indelible lines of approaching age had been sparingly
distributed across a sweet and placid countenance.

Devoting her whole attention to the wants and pleasures of her children,
she was not merely a kind mother, for with dignity and power she held
the reins firmly in her grasp, although the high-spirited boys tightly
champed the bits.

While the mother, as she sat on the steamer's deck, was all attention
to her youthful treasures, the father discussed the politics and
finances of the country with several gentlemen whom he chanced to meet.
Thoroughly engrossed in conversation, he scarce noticed his daughter
Belle, who, affectionately taking his arm, called attention to a landing
the steamer was about to make.

As the boat drew in, there was seen a gathering bevy of males and
females. Small row-boats hovered near the little coves surrounding the
dock, and as great waves from the _Horicon's_ paddles dashed their
snow-crested tops upon the rocks, the little craft danced upon the
water, some girlish voices uttering exclamations of fear for their
owners' safety. Several persons leaving the steamer were quickly
surrounded by friends gathered to meet them.

In a moment the captain cried, "All aboard!" The engine resuming its
work, the paddle-wheels lashed the water, many little boats shooting out
into the swell. Those on the steamer eagerly watched the merry throng on
the dock or the still happier ones rocked by the "rollies."

"Oh, papa," exclaimed Belle, "this is delightful! See that party on
the little island--isn't it a funny sight? See that gentleman shaking
a frying-pan over his head! See the other campers washing dishes in
the lake! Oh, how I shall enjoy this month! We are to stop at the
next landing, and in ten minutes will leave the boat. Oh, isn't it
delightful!"

The father rising took his daughter by the arm, his manner indicating
unbounded love and parental pride. Belle Hamblin was a beautiful girl
scarcely nineteen years of age. Of medium height, she possessed a
faultless form combining exquisite symmetry and grace. Full of animation
when speaking, her tender blue eyes flashed intelligence and goodness,
captivating every one who came within their reach.

She completely won the admiration of those on the boat by the tender and
sympathetic way in which she ministered to a poor woman accompanied by
four children, giving to the little ones from her lunch-basket oranges,
bananas, and cakes, while the mother was offered more substantial food
in the way of sandwiches. Tender-hearted and kind when Willie injured
his wee finger, she worked over the wound, hugged the curly-headed boy
to her heart, stilling his cries with sisterly caresses. Belle Hamblin
was no ordinary character, for God had wrought those lovely attributes
into her nature which cannot fail to command respect and admiration. She
could not avoid being a prominent figure in any life picture of which
she was part, for to her mother's instinctive quality of love was added
the natural intelligence of her father. Possessing a pride in striking
contrast with that so positive in her father's character, she readily
assumed her natural position as leader in social circles. Endowed with a
liberal education, taught the economies of life, and instructed in the
art of housekeeping, she was fitted to be queen of the kitchen or the
enchantress of the drawing-room.

The boat nearing the beautiful retreat where the Hamblins were to
sojourn, wraps, baskets, and umbrellas were gathered up while Mr.
Hamblin was taking leave of his friends. The _Horicon_ slowly
approached the dock close at hand; the party passed through the cabin
to the gangway; lines were thrown ashore and the steamer made fast.
Mr. Hamblin led the way, the children, wild as young colts, jumping in
gleeful anticipation. About thirty persons crowded to the gangway, a
rush was made for shore, when suddenly the piercing shriek of a female
startled the bystanders, as a little boy fell headlong into the lake.

"Willie is overboard! Save him!" The voice was that of Belle Hamblin.

Rushing wildly to the edge of the gangway and seeing the little fellow
sink into the water, she was nearly frantic with excitement. Mr. and
Mrs. Hamblin were filled with terror, while those standing on shore
appeared as if paralyzed. Suddenly a blue-shirted man darted through the
crowd, and throwing himself into the lake, seized Willie, and a moment
later placed him in the arms of the sister.

Belle, looking into his face, quickly exclaimed:

"Mr. Alden! I did not expect to see you here, but God bless you for
saving the life of our treasure."

The curly-headed boy, with water dripping from his locks, lay in his
sister's arms. Gasping and moving his head, the water running from his
nostrils and mouth, he was carried to the family parlor at the hotel,
where a physician soon restored him to his normal condition, and then
the family, recovering from their fatigue and fright, appeared on
the grounds, their exciting introduction and acknowledged social and
political standing making them the observed of all.

Mr. Hamblin, having held many important positions in his party, was soon
on terms of friendship with the sterner sex, Mrs. Hamblin and Belle
taking their natural places among the ladies.

Mr. Hamblin was a genial conversationalist, and with his political
reputation preceding him was of course much courted by all at the
"Lakeside." Having been a State Senator for two terms, a prominent
candidate for gubernatorial honors at a late convention, and possessing
wealth and eloquence, his power was naturally great. A candidate for
renomination the coming fall, he had already started the machinery to
obtain control of delegates needed to consummate his desired wish.

American politics are controlled entirely by "wires," those of the great
political machine being intricate as the telegraph netting one sees over
the roof-tops of a large city. Mr. Hamblin, with a perfect knowledge
of the workings of this machine, knew that a successful candidate must
be able to manipulate the little wires of the party caucus, for as the
caucuses are the expression of each town in the senatorial or assembly
district, to obtain needed support requires wire-pullers in every school
district. A candidate's personal merit is of minor consequence; he can
do nothing without understanding the working of the party machinery, and
knowing also how to lubricate the entire apparatus with money.

Mr. Hamblin had been a little uneasy of late, a rival having arisen to
contest his field. Heretofore enjoying the monopoly in the district, he
was now in danger of meeting an obstacle in his onward course. As he
sat on the piazza holding a letter in his hand, he soliloquized:

"Well, well! Making my way in politics has always been easy as knocking
the ashes from this cigar, but if Miller's letter is correct Darius
Hamblin is in danger. Let me see; I'll read this over again"--and he
closely scanned the following letter:

                                          CLEVERDALE, July 31, 187-.

    HON. DARIUS HAMBLIN:

    DEAR SIR: It is just as I feared: Daley says he will be a
    candidate at all hazards, and asserts he can drive you from the
    track very easily, having your former clerk's evidence to use
    against you. He is desperate, and has already been seen to visit
    saloons in the village, spending considerable money to win over the
    boys. Can you meet Rawlings, Horton, and myself at Saratoga Saturday
    night?

    Answer by telegraph at once.

                                            Yours,
                                                  CYRUS HART MILLER.

Mr. Hamblin knit his brow for a moment and said:

"Of course I must go. I must not be beaten this year. The next
gubernatorial nomination may be mine if I win this time. I can be
elected Governor, and Daley must be crushed or bought off. The die is
cast--I leave on the next boat for Saratoga."

Rising from his seat and wiping the perspiration from his brow, he
passed on to his room. Mrs. Hamblin expressed no surprise when informed
he was going to Saratoga, for she had become accustomed to his sudden
moves since he had gone into politics; she had learned that everything
must be secondary to his ambition and political necessities. She
quickly packed a small satchel, and the boat being due in an hour, Mr.
Hamblin walked out to bid his children good-by.

Belle, leaving the side of a gentleman sitting beneath an arbor, came to
meet him.

"Oh, papa! are you going away? That is too bad! I expected to take you
out for a row this evening. Beside, a moonlight concert at Cleverdale
Camp is announced in honor of your visit. Can't you postpone your
departure?"

"No, my pet, business before pleasure. I am to meet a few friends at
Saratoga to-night on very important business. By the way, I must send a
telegram at once."

Embracing his daughter, he stepped into the office and hastily wrote a
dispatch. When he came out Belle took his arm and said:

"Papa, we shall be _so_ disappointed if you go. Mr. Alden has arranged
to do you honor. And--"

"Belle," said he, interrupting her, "say no more about it, for I must
go. By the way, Alden, who seems to be paying you much attention, may be
good enough for a casual acquaintance at Lake George, but a daughter of
Darius Hamblin, fit to be queen, in choosing associates must look higher
than her father's bank clerk."

"But, papa, he is a gentleman--the very soul of honor--and there is not
a lady in our party but feels honored by George Alden's attentions.
Didn't he save Willie's life? He didn't know who it was, but seeing a
child fall overboard his duty was plain. Beside, he always admired you,
and you have repeatedly acknowledged that you liked him better than any
other clerk in your employ. If you could see his kindness to the boys
and myself, you would be more than ever pleased with him."

Mr. Hamblin's features grew hard; his lips became tightly compressed and
the color left his cheeks as he said:

"Belle, my honor and that of your family is in your keeping. Bestow
your affection upon that bank clerk and my affection for you will end
forever. The Hamblin family can ill afford to make low connections. You
hear my wishes--my commands. There comes the boat. Here, George, bring
my satchel, and tell your mother I am awaiting her."

Poor Belle! trembling with involuntary emotion, her pale face was a
reflection of the countenance of her proud father. She scarcely beheld
the boat as it drew near; dimly saw a happy throng on the deck and
the usual bevy of glad-hearted persons on the dock; faintly heard the
paddle-wheels beating the water, and barely caught a glimpse of the
small boats dancing in the steamer's wake, when a flood of tears burst
from her eyes. Her mother quickly led her away, but not before her
companions became conscious of her weakness.

The stern look upon her father's face and the cold good-by he returned
to all was plain evidence of something wrong in the family which all
had begun to look upon as a perfect pattern of happiness and domestic
goodness.



  CHAPTER II.

  A QUARTETTE OF SCHEMERS.


Saratoga was alive with a brilliant throng of pleasure-seekers, gay with
beauty and dress. Handsome equipages dashed along its shaded avenues
with horses gaily caparisoned, the carriage occupants being decked with
holiday splendor. The grand hotels overflowed with beauty and fashion;
the parks, where artistic bands filled the air with music, were perfect
bowers of loveliness. The hotel piazzas were crowded with visitors;
the handiwork of Worth was everywhere present, and nature's mines
contributed sparkling gems to adorn fair wearers.

All was not beauty however, for the presence of shoddy was perceptible,
and listeners were amused or disgusted when lovely exteriors shattered
hopes as stately matrons uttered words coarse and illiterate. "All
is not gold that glitters" is fully realized while spending a day at
America's famous watering-place and beholding the shams and deceptions
of the fashionable world.

Saratoga is not merely a watering-place; it is also a mart where goods
are painted and varnished to sell--in fact where many mothers introduce
their daughters, expecting to dispose of them to the highest bidder.
Politicians gather there to make and unmake men; "slates" are made or
broken according to the amount of cash or patronage controlled by the
manipulators.

As the afternoon train arrived from the north, on the piazza of
the "Grand Union" sat three men anxiously awaiting the arrival of
another. A few moments later a carriage was driven up, and the three
gentlemen--none other than Cyrus Hart Miller, Editor Rawlings, and
George Horton, chairman of a county committee--arose to greet the
Hon. Darius Hamblin. The greeting scarcely ceased when several other
gentlemen leaving their seats quickly moved forward to welcome the
new arrival. Passing into the hotel, Senator Hamblin met other
acquaintances, and it was readily seen that he was a lion among the men
gathered at the great spa to discuss politics and "lay pipe" for the
grasping of power and distribution of patronage.

After dinner four men met in Senator Hamblin's parlor. The reader by
this time being acquainted with the leading spirit of the party, we will
describe the others.

Cyrus Hart Miller, familiarly known as a local politician of the true
American type, held a position in the Customs Department of the nation,
having been appointed through the influence of his senator. One of
those bold and adventurous spirits, who know so well how to control a
caucus, he possessed a commanding presence, and when "button-holing" a
man would produce convincing arguments that the cause espoused by him
was apparently right. He always rallied the "boys" at a caucus, and when
unable to win by the preferable method of moral suasion, was abundantly
able to resort to bulldozing or "solid" methods. Just the man to take
care of Senator Hamblin's interest, he was a standing delegate to
all conventions where he could be of service to his chief. Although
prepossessing in personal appearance, his hands were ever ready to
perform any dirty work consistent with the average ward politician.

Editor Rawlings, another tool of Senator Hamblin, had been under the
protection of his chief for a long time. His paper, like many country
journals, was financially weak, but the purse-strings of the Senator,
drawn about the editor's neck, enabled him to eke out an existence.
When the Senator wished an article to appear in the _Investigator_, he
was such a liberal paymaster that Editor Rawlings never hesitated to
throw out paying advertisements to please him. The _Investigator_ was
Hamblin's organ, and Rawlings the superserviceable monkey. Every time
the "boss" desired the crank turned, the monkey danced to the uttermost
limit of the string, but if the string had broken the monkey could not
have been controlled. Rawlings was one of those detestable creatures who
have done so much to destroy the influence of respectable journalism. He
was of that breed of rodents which sneak into an honorable profession
and gnaw only where there is cheese.

George Horton, chairman of the county committee, another lieutenant of
the same general, held the office of County Clerk, and although not as
willing to perform dirty work as his companions, was an able adviser,
with a mind prolific of deep-laid schemes. Being a zealous partisan of
the "boss," in all advisory councils he was an important factor.

The quartette was a true type of the American political clique; their
deliberations a fair sample of such conferences.

"Well, gentlemen," said the Senator, "help yourselves to cigars, and let
us proceed to business. Miller, what is your opinion of my chance for
renomination? Speak out--let us be frank with each other. What is Daley
about, and does he intend to make us trouble?"

"Well--y-e-s," drawled out Miller, "he intends to beat you if possible.
Approaching Rawlings on Sunday, he began working on him, even offering
to help sustain the paper if Rawlings would not be tied to any one
individual. If I am not mistaken he actually offered to advance the cash
to buy a new press and engine for the office. Eh, Rawlings?"

The latter, turning red, was somewhat embarrassed, but soon regaining
his composure, replied:

"Yes, the cuss _did_ make a pretty good bid for my influence. You see,
he knows he can't get along without a newspaper, and knowing the Senator
would do as well as the next man I just dropped him--yes, dropped him
like a hot potato, so to speak. When I go for a man I'm always solid.
I'm a thoroughbred, and no man knows that better than our honorable
friend, the next Governor of the State BY THUNDER!" and he
emphasized the remark by bringing his closed hand down upon the table.

"Never mind that, Rawlings; I know you are all right, but we must
head off Daley. That quarrel with my clerk on the Canal Committee was
unfortunate, but the young rascal can have nothing to use against me
unless he resorts to slander and lies, which unscrupulous enemies may
put him up to. We must first get Daley out of the way. He has a little
money, but not much; although he claims, you say, that the railroad
interest are backing him against me. See here, Horton, what can you
suggest? let me hear from you. First we will take a glass of wine.
Rawlings, touch that bell. There; a waiter will soon be here. Light
fresh cigars, gentlemen; by the by, Rawlings, did you ever visit Lake
George?"

"No, sir."

"No? Well, you must go up there. I shall return soon and you must be my
guest."

"All very nice, Senator, but where are the 'spons' to liquidate the
minutiæ, eh? You millionaires think newspaper men can scoop in all the
plums, by thunder! The only time we can enjoy an excursion is when
somebody's old steamboat wants puffing up. Now look here, Senator, if
the door of heaven could be entered for a cent I couldn't afford to even
peek under the canvas."

"Well, well, Rawlings," Hamblin replied laughingly, "we will look after
the press, for if we do not keep this great lever of the world in order
the world will suffer. Now, gentlemen, let us indulge in a little
champagne. Here, waiter, fill up. Gentlemen, your health." And the
Senator raised a glass to his lips.

"Drink quick," exclaimed Rawlings, "for Daleys are dangerous."

It was a poor pun, but the point seen by the party the Senator said:

"Ah, Rawlings, you are a cool fellow. The mighty men of the Fourth
Estate are the literary and social princes of the day. Another cigar,
Rawlings, and then I move the previous question with additional power of
debate."

Thus did Senator Hamblin touch the weak points of his fellow-men. Well
knowing flattery and wine were twin demons, attractive and seductive,
with their assistance he enticed many men into his net. He had little
confidence in Rawlings, well aware that if his antagonist Daley should
offer more than he to obtain the influence of the _Investigator_,
Rawlings would not hesitate to desert him. Perceiving his embarrassment
when Miller mentioned the Daley matter, and well aware he had given
Daley to understand the _Investigator_ was in the market, Senator
Hamblin threw out the Lake George invitation, for Rawlings was
susceptible to flattery, and liking the flesh-pots well filled with
milk and honey, when approached through the stomach, the gateway to his
affection, was at the command of the man desiring to enter. A week of
feasting at the "Lakeside" and such private attention as the Senator
could show Rawlings would apparently hold him.

"Horton, let us hear from you. What shall we do to force Daley from the
course? You must have something to say on the subject?"

"I can tell you where Daley left a bar down, when elected to the
Assembly last year," replied Horton. "I know a man who will swear
he received two hundred and fifty dollars from him, with which to
buy votes. This might be worked up and Rawlings can help us, the
_Investigator_ sounding the key-note in the editor's well chosen words
and--"

"But see here, Horton, I can't run the risk of being sued for libel.
Remember, Senator, I am not a millionaire, although I may put on a
million airs," quickly replied the editor.

"Here is my plan," Horton continued, as if not noticing the remark.
"Rawlings in his next issue must write a powerful leader advocating your
renomination, hinting there is to be another candidate, and say in words
like this:

"'At this time there must be no change of horses, for Senator Hamblin
has served his constituency faithfully, his hands being free from any
taint of corruption. If the voters of this district wish to bring out a
new candidate, it must be one who has never placed himself in position
to be indicted for committing perjury, by taking the ironclad oath as a
certain Assemblyman has done.'

"There, how does that strike you, Senator, and how does it hit you,
Rawlings?"

The latter, hesitating, looked toward Senator Hamblin, who arose,
took him by the arm, and walking toward the window stepped out on the
balcony. They were absent about five minutes, and on re-entering the
room, Rawlings approaching Horton, extended his hand and said:

"All right, Horton, old fellow; put it there. The thing shall be done or
my name isn't Joe Rawlings. I must go to the telegraph office at once."

Seizing his hat he passed out as a telegraph messenger entered.

"A telegram for Cyrus Hart Miller."

"Here, boy!" replied that individual, and seizing the dispatch quickly
tore open the envelope. The telegram being in cipher, Miller took from
his pocket a memorandum, dismissed the boy, and making out the contents
his face turned red with excitement, and he said:

"Just as I feared. Rawlings has really sold out to Daley. His paper
appears on Tuesday, and unless he wires the boys immediately, we're
euchred! Did you make any arrangement with him, Senator?"

"Yes, I 'fixed' him, and he has gone to telegraph his foreman. An
article left at his office, he said, covered the whole ground and he
would wire the boys to put it in type. To-morrow evening we will go to
Cleverdale and be on the ground to cut off any attempt of Daley to beat
us. Go at once, Miller, and secure a copy of Rawlings's dispatch--money
will do it."

A few moments later Miller came in, privately handing the Senator a copy
of the dispatch, which read as follows:

                                                           SARATOGA.

    FOREMAN _Investigator_, Cleverdale, N. Y.

    Kill double-leaded leader, "A Change of Candidates Must be
    Made," and substitute article on sanctum copy-hook, entitled,
    "Senator Hamblin's Great Public Services."

                                             (Signed)   J. RAWLINGS.

Senator Hamblin stepping into his bedroom read the message; returning, a
pleasant smile illumined his countenance. Touching the bell, he ordered
another bottle of wine.



  CHAPTER III.

  TEMPEST-TOSSED LAKE GEORGE.


For three days Belle Hamblin remained in her room attended by her mother.

The cruel words of her father sank deep into her proud and sensitive
heart, and obstructed a great fount of joy, for during her short
acquaintance with George Alden she had become greatly interested in him.
A young man of irreproachable character, he had obtained a collegiate
education, had never contracted bad habits, and was called a model man
and brother. His sister gave music lessons, but that was not a sin in
this land.

With Belle, who had often wished herself differently situated in life,
the idea of self-dependence was strong. Having all that wealth could
give, she envied those who day after day toiled at some honest labor.

Poor, unsuspecting girl, with every comfort at her command, she knew
little of the sorrows of female toilers. Admiring the music teacher
in the abstract, she knew nothing of the hardships attendant upon her
labor. Looking upon the factory girls in her native town with some
degree of envy, she was ignorant of the pangs of suffering so many
undergo to make their scanty earnings sustain helpless loved ones at
home.

During her seclusion, Belle had been greatly missed by her companions.
One morning a note received from Camp Cleverdale, accompanying an
elegant bouquet, gave her much pleasure, and she exclaimed:

"Oh, mamma, I _must_ go out to-day. I feel better and think the air will
do me good. Will you consent?"

"Yes, my child, if your nerves have become quiet. Your father writes
he may be absent a week longer. He has gone to Cleverdale and seems
to be having trouble about political matters. Just what they are I am
unable to say, for he always says 'women have no business meddling with
politics.'"

"I agree with him, and only wish _he_ would also give it up. Politics
make men unmindful of everything else. Papa is so absorbed in it he
forgets the feeling of his own flesh and blood, believing everything
must play a secondary part to his detestable politics. His mind is in
constant ferment, while the companions it brings him are not such as
those with whom we like to see our loved ones associate. His only desire
now is that I will bestow my hand upon some man who can strengthen him
politically. Yes, it is too true that when a man becomes absorbed in
politics, he is willing to barter away his birthright to gain his point."

"Belle, you are getting to be as incorrigible a hater of politics as
I, but I cannot blame you. If George Alden controlled as many votes as
that man Miller, or was as ready to do such editorial work as Rawlings,
I believe your father would look upon him with favor. But never mind,
child, go out to-day and enjoy yourself. Do just as you have done
heretofore."

Having thus obtained the mother's consent, Belle arose, put on her
hat--having previously arrayed herself in her flannel boating suit--and
left the apartment. Her appearance was the occasion of many friendly
greetings.

In a few moments a boat bearing four white capped young men left the
little island at the south, where Cleverdale Camp, named in honor
of Belle, was located. The lake was beautiful, the waves running
sufficiently high to make rowing pleasant, and it was not many seconds
before the boat with its jolly crew shot into the bay. In an instant
Belle was face to face with the quartette, the first to greet her being
George Alden, whose tender looks betokened his joy at again seeing her.

"Ah, Miss Hamblin, we have missed you at Camp Cleverdale, and as soon as
you are able to bear the excitement you must come. We have postponed the
entertainment on account of your sudden illness," said Alden.

"I shall be well enough in a day or two," the girl replied; "the lake
air is my good physician."

The meeting lasted but a moment, the quartette departing together, but
Belle suddenly felt like herself again.

One morning, a week later, the sun arose with more than its usual
majesty and glory, and the cool air laden with the sweet odor of
blackberry and pine came down from the mountains. The water of the lake
was ruffled with little ripples, whose tops rose and glistened in the
sun and then flitted on toward the shore, foreboding a pleasant day
for boating, so the tiny boats riding at anchor in the bay were put in
readiness for excursions or fishing expeditions. Belle, expecting her
father, concluded to remain on shore and enjoy the children's society.
About ten o'clock, Geordie asking permission to go on the lake, Belle
gave consent, when Willie said:

"Tan't I do too? I wants to wide with Geordie--may I do?"

"Yes, but Jane must go with you."

The three were soon pushing off from shore, the little shell drifting
into the bay where Geordie had permission to row around a rock about a
quarter mile distant, and backward and forward the craft danced, the
oar-blades rising like sheets of silver, dripping diamonds into the
crystal waters.

Slowly over the north-west hills began to creep a black bank of clouds.
It grew larger and larger, a half hour later spreading overhead like
a dark ink-spot on a beautiful robe of blue. Belle, although absorbed
in a pleasing book, occasionally looked to see if the children were in
sight. The wind blew in little puffs, but she had never seen one of
those gales that spring up so suddenly on Lake George. Suddenly she rose
from her seat and laid down her book. About a mile from the boys' boat
she detected an angry sea, and as her keen eye glanced toward the hills,
nearly half a mile away, she saw the boat dancing on the rising waves.

Wildly advancing to the extreme edge of the dock she beheld the angry
waters running in toward shore, each wave seeming to push the preceding
one as if intent upon running down and absorbing it.

Beckoning to the boys, she waved her handkerchief, and called:

"Geordie! Geordie! come in--quick!" but the winds only dashed by her,
while the waves seemed to laugh her to scorn. Drops of perspiration
stood on her brow, her cries attracting the attention of her mother
and a number of ladies. Only three or four men, employés at the house,
came down, and when Belle implored them to go for the boys, they only
replied: "Ah, Miss, we are no oarsmen; the waves would swallow us up."

Looking again, the almost distracted girl saw the waves with their
great white heads, like ghostly capped spirits of evil, rushing about
the boat. Mother and daughter were like maniacs, for the boys would be
drowned unless aid was sent them, the little arms of Geordie being too
weak for such powerful antagonists. The yawning mouth of each sea seemed
to engulf the boat, which, riding for an instant upon another crest,
would suddenly dive into the trough of the sea.

"Oh, mother!" exclaimed Belle, "I cannot stand this! I must go to their
rescue, or they will be lost. I will save them."

Quickly jumping into her own boat--a perfect little craft, made to ride
the waves--she seized the oars and shot forth into the bay, only to be
buffeted about by the angry elements. Unable to go straight to the loved
ones, she gradually pointed her boat toward the north, and by great
effort ran along the dock. As she worked against a chopping sea, banks
of water struck the craft and sheets of spray rose above to break and
fall over her. The wind dashed down upon her head, clutching at her
brown locks. Still she pulled like a little giant. Occasionally catching
a glimpse of the three, she beheld Geordie at his post heroically
working his way to the rock.

The winds howled madly at her, and with all their force tried to push
the brave girl back. Seconds were like hours, yet she pulled on until
about ready to reverse her boat's position, when the waves seemed to say:

"Ah, my fine lady, when you turn, then we will swallow you."

Watching her opportunity--the sea lulling for an instant--she gave a
quick pull, and as a huge wave approached, her boat turned and she
breathed a sigh of relief as the water passed by her boat's stern. It
was an awful time to her; one of those inspiring, grand, but cruel
moments when Lake George, so beautiful in all its quiet glory, suddenly
becomes transformed into a thing ugly, wicked, and furious.

Within a short distance of the little boat and its precious load,
Belle saw a huge wave, looking like a dozen ordinary billows combined,
sweeping down upon her brothers.

"Geordie!" she screamed, "put your prow to the sea!" but the words
scarcely left her lips before the boat was caught up and the two boys
and nurse thrown into the water. Belle unconsciously closed her eyes
for an instant; on opening them she beheld Jane standing on the partly
submerged rock, with Geordie and Willie clasped in her arms. South of
the rock was the island on which Cleverdale Camp was situated.

The frantic girl saw the waves go headlong over the rock, submerging
the faithful nurse nearly to the waist, but how dare she approach them?
The children were as brave as the nurse, Geordie standing on the rock
clinging to Jane, while little Willie was clasped in her arms.

In the distance could be seen the smoke of a small steamboat, but not a
man was visible in the locality, all having gone for a day's pleasure;
and Cleverdale Camp was deserted.

Belle's strength fast failing, she knew she could hold out little
longer. Suddenly the cloud broke and in an instant the mad seas were
partially quieted, as if the flood of golden sunshine that burst through
the murky canopy had appeased them. Belle hastily ran her boat on the
rock; Jane and the children were quickly seated in the stern; the sun
disappeared behind the dark curtain of cloud, and the waters resumed
their reckless sport. But the boat was turned toward Cleverdale Camp,
and in a few moments shot into the little bay, and ran upon the sandy
beach out of all danger. Belle rose quickly, jumped ashore, beckoned
Jane and the boys to follow, staggered, and fell fainting upon the
greensward.



  CHAPTER IV.

  THE BOSS AND HIS AIDS.


One of the nation's prominent beings, indigenous with American politics,
is "The Boss."

The Boss is a great man, and stands forth mighty and inscrutable, an
autocrat wielding his sceptre with a strong hand.

He must be brave as a lion; sagacious as an elephant; with all the
cunning of a fox and the obstinacy of a bull-dog. His hide should be
thick as that of the rhinoceros, and he must be as quick as the leopard
in the mythical ability to change his spots. Like the hyena he must
have an appetite for ghoulish work, while his eyes must be powerful as
the eagle's, and his talons equal to those of any bird of prey. He must
have a backbone combining all the vertebral rigidity of the whole animal
kingdom, and his heels should resemble in their trip hammer power the
catapults of the great American mule.

He must be a man of quick conception, ready to comprehend situations at
once, and when an emergency suddenly rises he must be able to take it
by the coat-collar and make it resume its seat. He must be a positive
character in all things. He cannot be a boor, for social qualities are
useful to him.

He is not the creation of human hands; he is born, not made, and his
qualifications are merely perversions of noble gifts of the Creator. In
all deals on the political card-table, the Boss stacks the cards just as
really as do such magnates as Vanderbilt, Jay Gould, _ed omnes_, in Wall
Street.

The Boss dictates candidates and sketches plans of political action,
and if the man desiring an office does not suit the Boss, he may as
well take a back seat without waiting to be sat upon and rolled over
afterward.

The Boss does not always act openly, but generally prefers to keep in
the background. Sometimes he is a judge "out of politics," as he says.
He does not openly take part in the composition of tickets, but when a
candidate comes to the surface the question is usually asked, "Does he
suit the Judge?"

The Boss has his trusted lieutenants, selected for their fealty to
their leader, and no man can expect to obtain an appointment within
the territory of any Boss unless the latter espouses his cause. In
many cases the Boss is a Senator or an Assemblyman, or even a lesser
county official. Oftentimes he holds no elective office, but may be an
appointee of the government or State. In office or out, he exists, and
seems to be as inseparable from the political machinery of this Republic
as the engineer from the machinery driving a steamboat.

Senator Hamblin, the Boss of his senatorial district, had his trusted
aids in every town. He knew whom he could depend on when the town
caucuses were held, yet feared the attempt of Daley to overthrow him,
although confident of his ability to intercept the little scheme.

Monday evening, the four men arriving at Cleverdale, Senator Hamblin
and Miller walked together toward the home of the former, while Horton
and Rawlings went direct to the _Investigator_ office. Rawlings calling
for his proof-sheets, an article laudatory of Senator Hamblin was shown
Horton. It was read and pronounced good, Horton suggesting the addition
referred to in the conference at Saratoga. The words were quickly
penned, and copy given the compositor. This was barely done when the
sanctum door opened and Daley entered.

"Ah, Mr. Daley, how do you do?" exclaimed Rawlings. "Just returned home.
How's things in Cleverdale? Nothing new, eh?"

"No--guess not. How are you, Horton?" and he extended his hand to the
County Clerk.

"By the way, Rawlings," said Daley, "I am told you have changed your
mind about carrying out the conservative wishes of the community. Is
that so?"

"I don't exactly catch your meaning, Daley. Be a little more explicit,"
said Rawlings.

"Well, if you want it any plainer, I mean just this: the machine has
recaptured the _Investigator_, after its editor's declaring he was with
the people. That's all, Rawlings--that's all."

Rawlings, usually cool and collected, at once lost his temper; his lips
trembled, his face flushed with anger, and raising his clenched fist, he
said:

"See here, Daley, there is the door! and if you don't get out of it
d----d quick, I'll throw you out! D'ye hear?" Rawlings stepped forward
as if to execute his threat, and Daley quickly turned and left the
office.

The next morning the _Investigator_ appeared with the article reflecting
on Daley. In the mean time Senator Hamblin visited the bank, and,
meeting several party leaders, discussed the political situation,
seemingly anxious concerning the position of every one with whom he
conversed. He was suspicious of all, well knowing the hold he possessed
on his followers was only retained by the amount of patronage at his
control and the sum of money he was willing to spend for the purpose of
enthusing "the boys," for no boss must let the boys become low-spirited;
they may in such case take a notion to change bosses.

As the Senator dismissed two persons the door opened and Paddy Sullivan
entered. Paddy was a large, red-faced, sandy-haired Irishman, his cheeks
covered with a long rough beard. Holding a cigar between the second and
third fingers of his left hand, he seized his black slouched hat with
his right and dropped it on the table. His appearance seemed to please
the Senator, for he extended a more cordial welcome to Paddy than to any
previous visitors.

"How are you, Paddy?" he said, warmly grasping the great mass of flesh
that individual used for a hand.

"Foine as a top, Sinitor, and how's yersel'?" quickly answered Paddy.

"Well--very well. Sit down and let's have a quiet talk. Throw away that
old stump, there--try a choice Havana," and he passed a cigar-box taken
from a private drawer. "Now, Paddy, how are all the boys, and how goes
politics at 'The Shades'?"

"Politics has been so dull that we're only been able to dhraw about two
kegs of lager a day. I've always noticed, Sinitor, that when politics is
a little hazy, the boys are busted and the beer-tap only runs driblets.
Ah, Sinitor, if I was in Congress, be jabers! I'd go in for a law that
would have elickshun hild ivery month. But see here, Sinitor, look out
for that blagyard Daley. He bought four kegs of lager lasht week; but
shure I sot up six kegs for the b'ys--and--sh-h-h-h, d'ye moind--I tould
'em Sinitor Hamblin had left orders for me to do it--that I did. When
the Daleys get the shtart of Paddy Sullivan and his frinds it's whin
Paddy's shlapin'."

"You did right," said the Senator, "and you can send the bill to me. By
the way, Paddy, are the boys all right? How many of the laborers at the
mill can you pull for me? Ah, Paddy, you are a clear-headed man; no one
can control as many votes as yourself."

"Ah, bedad! yee's jist roight. Ayven the good Father Burns wid his
blissed callin' can't run as many men wid his holy power as Paddy
Sullivan wid his lager and whishkey. The b'ys knows who's their frind,
and when they was swallowing Daley's lager I tips 'em the wink and says
I, 'B'ys, dom Daley, but here's to the hilth of the Boss!' and, Sinitor,
ivery mother's son of 'em was rid hot for yees!"

"Well, Paddy, keep your eyes open. The caucus will be held in about six
weeks. In the mean time set a keg of lager on tap each Wednesday and
Saturday evenings and let the boys drink. If Daley comes around let
Miller know. I shall be absent a few days, but on my return we must
open the ball. One hundred copies of the _Investigator_ will be given
you each week. Give them to the boys, and call especial attention to
the leading article. Right must win. Daley is engaged in an infamous
conspiracy to help the corporations, and if it takes every dollar I am
worth I am bound to stand by the people against monopolies. Ah, Paddy,
to just such men as you are we indebted for a sound government founded
and upheld upon patriotic principles. Without such, America as a nation
would be a failure. Yes, sir, a failure."

"There's where your head is livil, Sinitor, and when yees git Paddy
Sullivan's infl_oo_ence, yees git as thrue a heart as iver wint
pitty-pat benaythe a man's vist. But I must go, and niver ye fear but
that yee'l bate that Daley. Good-mornin', sir, good-mornin'," and Paddy
was gone.

The Senator quickly threw open the window, and the fumes of tobacco,
whiskey, and onions passing out, he thus soliloquized:

"Whew! that chap is not a very sweet-smelling bouquet. Gracious! it
makes me sick. What a dirty road is the political highway to success.
Bah! But a man cannot secure good fruit without the use of unsavory
fertilizers, and so it is with politics; the tree must be nursed, and if
the gardener wants palatable fruit he must not object to the fertilizing
element needed to give the tree life and strength. No, I can stand a
thousand Sullivans if they are as strong politically as Paddy."

At that moment the door opened and Cyrus Hart Miller entered.

"Well, Miller, what is it? You seem hot and flushed. Anything new?"
quickly asked the Senator.

"Yes, and you must act at once. You remember a military company is
about to be organized here. Those in charge have succeeded in getting
enough names enrolled to obtain the necessary papers for organization.
The company is an assured fact, the next thing needed is a name. Daley
has offered to buy them a complete set of colors worth four hundred
dollars, if the company is named for him. I just learned this from Kip
Rogers, who expects to be captain, and I said to Kip, 'Senator Hamblin
would do better.' How would Hamblin Guards sound? The organization is to
be composed of the best blood in Cleverdale, and every man would be a
strong friend of a generous patron. It is a good scheme, Senator, and a
magnanimous offer from you would make the company a powerful auxiliary
to your other strings. Of course there is the 'Hamblin Mutual Benefit
Death Lottery Association,' named for you; then there is the 'Hamblin
Steam-Engine Company,' the 'Hamblin Yacht Club,' all good, substantial
aids to your ambition; but, Senator, the 'Hamblin Guards' would be of
more real benefit to you than all the rest put together. What say you? I
told Kip I would see him in an hour's time, for Daley wanted an answer
this evening."

"Miller, you are a shrewd manager. Yes, you are right. You can say to
Kip that I will present a stand of colors worth seven hundred and fifty
dollars. The company can command me for one thousand dollars cash
beside to fit up their parlors if the organization is named for me. Not
a bad idea, and when the grand centennials occur the 'Hamblin Guards'
shall go. Yes, Miller, they shall go with all the glory the men and
their patron can command. Go at once and bring me their answer."

Miller was off in an instant, when the Senator seated himself and thus
soliloquized:

"Hamblin Guards! eh? yes; it will read well in the newspapers. Ah, it
is pleasing to see one's name in print--for other people to read. Such
things as this, for instance, tell at the polls:

    "'Senator Hamblin is the generous patron of our local churches.
    He gives large sums for the support of the gospel. His charities
    are generously bestowed, while his name is recorded upon the
    hearts of all who love the church.'

"Yes, permitting Belle to bestow gifts upon charitable institutions has
been of great advantage, for every dollar thus expended has brought me
at least four votes. She gives from her heart, while I advance funds
from my pocket at the dictation of my head. She is a noble girl, and I
was cruel to her when I left Lake George. But pshaw! George Alden! only
a clerk in the bank! He has no political significance, and I cannot
allow my daughter to form an alliance with a mere private citizen.
Her heart is young and tender, and the fire of to-day can be easily
quenched. When she marries she must make a brilliant match. Belle is
sick, her mother writes, and I must return to Lake George. This evening
I must attend the church meeting; to-morrow the Cleverdale Woollen
Mill Company are to hold an important business meeting, and I must be
present. Senator, you have too many irons in the fire! Be careful, sir,
for these hard times are shrinking values. No unwise ventures, sir, or
your fortune will take wings and fly away."

Thus he soliloquized, until interrupted by a note which read as follows:

                                            _Investigator_ OFFICE.

    DEAR SENATOR: I will be at your house at 7 P.M. Will you be at
    home? Tell boy Yes or No.

                                     Yours faithfully,
                                                      J. RAWLINGS.

"Tell him Yes," said the Senator, and as the boy passed out, he
remarked: "What the devil does he want now?"

Senator Hamblin stood high in the community as a successful business
man. Until recently he had suffered but few losses. At the height of
his business career, he was the leader of numerous enterprises, and for
the past ten years president of the Cleverdale National Bank, the stock
of said institution being quoted at one dollar and ninety cents. He was
director in the Cleverdale Woollen Mill Company, capital one million
dollars. His business friends saw and regretted that his infatuation for
politics caused him to do many questionable things. In business, social,
and religious walks, a man must be the personification of all that is
good, but in politics he is allowed the fullest license to tread paths
that are crooked. Hence Senator Hamblin's friends tried to reconcile
themselves to his action, but succeeded only in stultifying themselves.

Promptly at seven that evening, Editor Rawlings was admitted into the
library at Senator Hamblin's residence.

"Good-evening, Senator! Excuse me for calling. I will not occupy much
of your valuable time. I have called to inquire concerning our business
matters. I want to go to New York on Friday to buy that press and
engine. What shall I do about payments?" said Rawlings.

"You can buy a press and engine for fifteen hundred dollars and have
them billed to me," said the Senator. "After election I will make over
same to you after you render me a bill for legitimate services and
distribution of campaign papers. Do you understand?"

"Y-e-s, I understand, but Daley sent word he would give me out-and-out
two thousand dollars to support him. Business is business, Senator, and
I must make hay while the sun shines. Now I don't want to be mean or go
back on a bargain, but hadn't you better see the two thousand dollars?
You needn't say yes now, but let Miller come around and see me--he can
fix it, for Miller is a man of business."

Senator Hamblin rose and walked toward the door. He was not in an
agreeable mood, for he knew the man was a knave. Yet he was at his
mercy. Had he followed the impulse of his mind he would have kicked him
out-doors, but conquering his feelings, he said:

"Rawlings, you are not playing fair with me. If I accede to your demand
now, will this be the last? I must know where I stand, as I cannot pay
all I am worth for the help of a newspaper. Everybody thinks I have a
gold mine and that they can tap me at their will."

"Oh, no, Senator, I don't think anything of that kind, but the railroads
are shelling out money to overthrow you, and you know that business is
business. I would rather be with you, by thunder, and am only asking
what is fair."

Senator Hamblin, aware that Rawlings would desert him if he did not
submit to his extortionate demand, and anxious to terminate the
interview, replied:

"Well, I suppose I must submit. Miller will call in the morning and
arrange matters. I have an engagement at eight, and time is most up."

Rawlings, not at all put out by the Senator's manner, rose and said:

"All right, I will leave you. I am solid, Senator--a regular
thoroughbred--and when I go for a man I go my whole length," and passed
out.

"Solid! Yes, you _are_ solid--in your cheek. You are one of the
representative men of the political arena. Bad--bad; and still you must
be tolerated--yes, courted and paid. It is a blot upon our institutions
that such rascals sometimes mould public opinion, all because they can
wield a powerful pen. They prate of honesty and rob a man by their
disgraceful blackmailing and--But how could politicians get along if it
weren't for such rascals?"



  CHAPTER V.

  TO THE RESCUE.


While the gale on the lake was putting Belle and her brothers in peril,
four young men stood at one of the docks about two miles north of
Cleverdale Camp, watching the surface of the water. One of them raised a
field-glass to his eyes and looking across the tempest-tossed lake gazed
intently toward Cleverdale Camp, and then said to his companion:

"Alden, what is that? It looks like a small boat; see, it seems to be
hovering about the island rock. As I am alive, man, there is a woman on
the rock with two objects at her side. It must be--"

His further remarks were cut short by Alden, who quickly seized the
glass, looked intently for a moment, then said:

"Bob, there is also a woman in the small boat trying to rescue another
from the rock. The two objects beside the woman on the rock look like
children. They must be helped. Come along; who will go with me? Step up,
boys; no time is to be lost; with a man at the oars and another at the
helm we can weather this storm. Quick! who goes?"

George Alden, for it was he, was greatly excited as he observed the
boat, for a terrible suspicion was filling his mind.

"George, are you a fool?" asked Bob Harkins. "No boat can stand such a
gale; you are mad, man."

"I'm neither one nor the other, Bob, but a man; when a fellow mortal is
in danger I am going to the rescue. If some one will go with me the work
will be easier, but, alone or not, I am going. Come on, for I am off!"
and he started for the bay, where his boat was safely harbored.

All efforts to dissuade him were fruitless, and no one volunteered to
accompany him. His boat, the "Nellie," shot out from under the bridge
across the little bay with only himself for crew. Fortunately the wind
was in the right direction, yet the group on shore anxiously watched
him. His boat rode the seas like a cockle-shell; she was up on a white
crest one instant, and then hid herself in the sea's trough for several
seconds, as if she had been swallowed up, but skilfully the well-trained
arms managed the oars.

Suddenly, during a lull in the wind, Alden cast his eyes toward the
submerged rock, and perceived that the objects had left it, while a
little way toward the south he beheld the rescuer and rescued dashing
over the excited lake toward Cleverdale Camp.

"Thank God!" he exclaimed, "they are saved."

Heading his craft for Cleverdale Camp, within two minutes after Belle
Hamblin had fallen George Alden was at her side.

"Oh, Mr. Alden, Belle is dead, she is dead! What shall we do?" exclaimed
Geordie, while little Willie was moaning piteously.

Quickly leaning down and placing his ear to her lips, Alden felt a
faint breath, and then was gratified to hear a deep sigh. She lay on the
grass, her face white as snow, her eyes closed, the beautiful brown hair
falling about her shoulders. Alden cast but a glance at her, and then
asked the faithful Jane: "Will you help carry her to our camp?"

The limp form was taken up and George Alden passed toward the camp with
Belle's face close to his. She was very pale, and the thought that her
stillness might, perhaps, be that of death staggered him for an instant.
Holding her in his embrace and realizing that his arms clasped all his
heart desired, he raised his eyes toward heaven, and said something more
earnest than young men often do when looking in that direction.

The camp reached, Belle was laid upon a bed of boughs, a blanket having
been previously thrown over it, and then Alden and Jane began the work
of restoration by gently rubbing the girl's brow with brandy, a little
of the same diluted being forced between her lips.

The young man, informed by Jane of the circumstances of the morning, of
the storm and the wrecked boat containing herself and the two boys, of
their rescue by the brave girl, felt assured that Belle was only paying
the usual penalty of overtaxing nature. But, feeling certain that his
own destiny was linked with the beautiful girl lying so pale and quiet
on the improvised couch, the pulsation of his heart would have told
tales if any one had been by to listen.

While chafing her hand with spirits Alden was gladdened to feel her
fingers close about his own, and then he noted movements of the lips as
if she were trying to speak. He quickly poured a portion of the spirits
into his hand and placed it to her nostrils. Nature began to reassert
itself.

Belle sighed loud and long; her eyelids unclosed, the blue filling for
an instant with wonder, and then the long fringed lids closed again.
The veins filled with blood, and the plump cheeks showed the rose-tint
of returning life. Gradually strength returning, she gently lifted her
head, opened her eyes, and said:

"Where am I? Where are Jane and the boys? Are they saved?"

"Yes, Miss Belle," he replied, "they are all here. You are at Cleverdale
Camp, with friends. Can't you sleep for a while? Jane will stay with you
while I amuse the boys. You are safe here away from the storm, and a
half-hour sleep will restore your strength."

"You are very kind," murmured Belle. Then she exclaimed, "Oh, I can see
the mad waves opening their great yawning mouths ready to swallow me. My
dear little brothers; let them come to me. Oh, Willie and Geordie! Thank
God! you are saved. Thank God!" and kissing their foreheads she fell
back exhausted.

George Alden arose to withdraw, telling Jane he would be in the tent
only a few feet distant, when Belle, opening her eyes, said:

"Oh, don't leave me yet. Stay--but no--I am not myself. I am still
filled with the horror of those cruel waves. My poor mother, God pity
her! she probably mourns us as lost. Oh, George, is there not some way
to inform her of our safety? It will kill her if she thinks us drowned."

"Yes, I will see to it at once, only promise you will try to sleep
again," he replied.

"I will promise anything if you will only manage to relieve mamma's
anxiety," and she again closed her eyes.

George, quickly obtaining a piece of white cloth, with paint he had at
hand put on it in large, bold letters:

"ALL SAFE AT CLEVERDALE CAMP."

Placing the sign in a conspicuous place and firing a pistol, he saw his
signal was heard, as several persons gathered on the dock and answered
by another pistol-shot. Raising a field-glass he beheld Mrs. Hamblin
standing on shore with a telescope to her eyes. Knowing the anxiety of
the mother was relieved, he returned to camp and ascertained that Belle
was sleeping.

The hurricane, as if sullen at being foiled in its attempt to destroy
the little party now safe at Camp Cleverdale, began to halt in its mad
career, the waves that had been roaring and dancing upon the shore
showing signs of exhaustion. Although the winds blew, it was evident
their force was nearly spent.

Later in the afternoon, while George Alden was seated upon a rock
amusing Geordie and Willie, the boys much interested in the stories he
was relating, Jane approached the trio and informed him that Belle,
awakening from her sleep, wished to see him in the tent.

Leaving the boys with Jane he walked toward the Camp, and on entering
the enclosure was gratified at finding Belle sitting up. "How are
you feeling now?" he asked. "You look rested, and I hope are much
refreshed."

"Yes, thanks to your kindness, I am feeling like myself again. Is the
storm over? What a narrow escape for us all! But, how came you here?"
she asked, anxiously.

George then told his own adventures, relating all the circumstances of
his trip, and then said:

"Ah, Belle, how happy I am that you are safe! I earnestly hope that you
may experience no ill effects from your adventure."

"No, I am feeling quite well excepting a little lameness in my arms. It
was a long, hard pull for my weak hands, but had I not undertaken it our
poor little boys would have been drowned. It was a terrible ordeal, and
when the cruel waves capsized their boat my senses nearly left me. When
I saw my loved ones on the rock clasped in Jane's arms, my heart sent
forth such a prayer of thanks! Are the boys injured?"

"Not in the least, the little fellows are perfectly safe. I trembled for
you, though, when I saw your white face, your eyes closed, and your lips
speechless."

He spoke feelingly, and as he did so gently took her hand, which she
allowed him to hold with the confidence one feels when beside a trusted
friend.

"And yourself, George," she said, "you look pale, as if the excitement
had been too much for you, but I hope it is only your anxiety for us."

"It has been an anxious day for me. Had you been drowned, my heart would
have been sorely stricken. Belle, I must speak--do forgive me--but you
are dearer to me than all the world. I see you are offended, but when
all I care for, all that I love, is before me I cannot help speaking
from my heart."

Belle arose from her seat and said: "Oh, think of what you are saying.
I am not my own mistress. You are noble and brave, and having been the
means of saving us from sorrow, I cannot be too grateful to you. You
are more to me than--than I wish; but do not talk of this to-day. The
scenes of the morning--the awful waves, that seem even now to laugh me
to scorn--make this moment too much like the bright day following the
darkness of night--too much like the sunshine after a storm. Please,
George, no more of this--at least not now."

"As you say; but hark! hear the merry laugh of the boys. Come, let us
join them. There! you look like your own dear self again."

As they stepped forth the sun suddenly hid its face behind a cloud, but
the tempest had nearly subsided. Belle's brothers ran to meet her, and
in an instant two little pairs of arms were entwined about her neck.
Then she arose and, turning to George, said:

"Can we go to our mother now? The lake is calm."

"Yes, in a short time, for I think I see the boys in the distance--if
it is, we can make one trip. I have the children's boat, washed ashore
during the gale, but Geordie's little arms cannot row to-night. See! The
boat is headed for the island, and in a few moments we will take you to
your friends."

In ten minutes the three companions of George Alden, stepping on the
shore, were quickly informed of the state of affairs, and in a short
time Jane and the children were in one boat, George and Belle in
another, all gliding over the lake, which now was calm and beautiful,
and soon Belle and the children were in their mother's arms.

Remaining with the fond hope of again seeing Belle, Alden wandered
through the hotel, and about half-past eight, discovering the girl at
the door of her parlor, he went toward her. Gently and lovingly taking
her hand he drew her toward him and somehow their lips met. That instant
a hand roughly seized the young man by the coat-collar, hurled him
across the hallway, and the Hon. Darius Hamblin stood between the two.



  CHAPTER VI.

  A CAMP DINNER.


Senator Hamblin, leaving the stage-coach at Lake George, embarked on the
little steamer Ganouski. He was accompanied by two gentlemen on their
way to join a camping party of male friends, who had pitched their tents
on an island about two miles south of Lakeside. The Senator was in good
spirits, enjoying the society of his companions. The younger of the two,
a fine-looking man about thirty years of age, resided in the same county
with Hamblin, having represented his district two terms in the State
legislature. His personal appearance was commanding, and for a young
man he had taken a high standing in the political arena of the day. He
possessed a keen black eye, sharp and piercing, around the corners of
which could be detected an expression of recklessness and trickery, so
necessary for a man of his calling.

Hon. Walter Mannis had been very successful in his political career, and
older men pointed to him as a brilliant ornament--in fact, a rising star
in the political theatre of the State; and so Senator Hamblin patronized
and courted the young member.

Mannis had inherited a large fortune, which, added to his fine personal
appearance and many accomplishments, made him a lion in both public and
private circles. He was called the handsome member of the legislature,
and many a mamma tried to win his smiles for a pretty daughter. Yet Mr.
Mannis had never yielded to the charms of female loveliness and virtue.
He remained a target, his heart seemingly impregnable to love's arrows.

His companion, a member of the legislature also, representing an
assembly district in the great metropolis, was about the age of Mannis,
although not as fine-looking or intellectually as bright.

"Senator," said Mannis, as the three sat on the deck of the little
steamer, "you must stop at the island and dine with me. Our friends
expect us, and a royal camp dinner will be awaiting our arrival. We
shall leave the steamer at the dock nearest camp, where a boat will be
waiting to convey us to the island. After dinner we will row you to your
family at Lakeside, about two miles distant. What say you?"

"I will stop on one condition, Mannis, and that your promise to spend
to-morrow with me. I would like to have some conversation with you
concerning political matters in our county. Have I your promise?"

"I shall be most happy to accept, Senator."

A half hour later the little steamer drew up at the dock, when the three
disembarked. They were soon seated in a small boat, and after a pull of
a few moments the party stepped on the rock answering as a dock for the
little island. Introductions being over, Senator Hamblin was led to the
table, where a tempting repast was spread.

Reader, have you ever participated in a camp dinner?

No?

Then you have missed one of the rarest treats of life.

The dining-room is a tent opened at one end, through the centre
extending a stationary table made of planed boards. On each side is a
bench nailed to the table, capable of seating about six persons. To seat
one's self, sit on the bench with back to the table; gracefully raising
the lower limbs, right about face, your seat acting as a pivot for the
body, swing over quickly, drop the feet beneath the table, and you are
ready for preliminaries. Before you is new bread, white and tempting;
butter of a rich golden hue; tomatoes, crimson and juicy with richness;
cucumbers, pickles, sauces, and other relishes. The waiters are clothed
in habiliments of blue surmounted by elegant crowns of native straw.

The cool breezes blowing from the lake, golden yellow-jackets in swarms
hover about your head, occasionally swooping down into the sugar-bowl to
see if the sweetness is first-class.

Presently bowls of delicious turtle soup are placed before you, and the
aroma that rises is more than appetizing to a hungry man. As you convey
luscious spoonfuls to your mouth, another aroma greets your olfactories:
it is the fumes of coffee.

S--p--p--p--p!

A pair of red squirrels go scampering up a tree near by, intent on
getting over the dining-room to enjoy the rich odors wasting themselves
on the desert air.

Soup is followed by fish--none of your canned salmon or salt cod--none
of your stale shad, a week out of water--but fish almost wriggling their
tails as you spear them with a fork. They are smoking hot, with a rich
hue of brown--the edge of the dish being ornamented with small clippings
of fried pork.

Take the fish on your fork, insert a knife-blade in the back, when the
white meat falls on your plate anxious to be eaten. Drop the knife and
with your fingers catch hold of the skeleton at the head, pull gently,
and it will divide itself from the other half. Your plate loaded with
mealy potatoes, squash, boiled onions, and corn, you have before you a
dinner fit for an epicure. How good everything tastes! All formality
having been left at home, the camp dinner is the Eden of banquets.

Counting your skeletons, you will be surprised at the number of fish you
have eaten. With your voracious appetite you will not fail to leave a
place for a dessert of fruit which follows. Pies and puddings are not
usually a part of camp dinners, fruit taking their place.

Senator Hamblin enjoyed the repast as thoroughly as his entertainer
could have wished. Indeed, the entire party, though composed of
politicians, did not easily get back to politics; for a half hour
after dinner they sat on the rocks smoking cigars and discussing the
surroundings. They could scarcely have helped it, for the scene was
charming; the golden rays of the sun fringing the western hills gave the
foliage a rare quality of splendor. The lake was like a sheet of silver,
the surface reflecting the lovely azure of an unclouded sky. The air
was pure and sweet, the breezes soft, and all the surroundings were
specially successful bits of nature's handiwork.

Senator Hamblin was enchanted as he gazed upon the beauties of nature
spread before him; for the moment he even forgot the trials and
vexations of politics. Worldly feelings that agitated him from day to
day were gone, and he felt that he stood in an earthly paradise such as
no other locality could present.

"Mannis, this is grand! In all my travels I never beheld anything so
enchanting. I do not wonder this is such a resort. In all accounts of
this beautiful lake justice has never been done it. But while I am lost
in delight and bewilderment, I am forgetting my family await me at
Lakeside. Come, let us proceed to my quarters; it is growing late, and
before we leave this place it will be dark."

The party arose, preparing to depart, and by the time adieus were said
the shades of evening had fallen. The moon burst forth over the hilltops
as Senator Hamblin, Assemblyman Mannis, with two others, jumped into
the boat. The little craft soon touched the beach, and Senator Hamblin
stepped ashore.

"Remember, Mannis, you are to spend to-morrow with me. Good-night,
gentlemen;" and in a moment the oars struck the water again and the
little boat was far away on its return trip. Watching the craft a moment
he turned toward the house and said:

"Mannis is one of nature's noblemen. What a magnificent couple he and
my proud Belle would make! Egad! if I could bring it about Belle would
have a husband every way worthy of her. We will see."

After returning the warm welcome of those on the piazza he went directly
to his room, fate decreeing his arrival at the moment George Alden so
warmly greeted Belle. The young man, taken by surprise, was pushed
violently across the hallway, while Belle confronted her stern father,
who said:

"Belle, I am astonished!" and he led her gently into the room, quickly
closing the door, and Alden was left alone.

The latter, regaining his composure, waited but a moment, then turned
and left the house, in a short time arriving at his island camp. For an
hour he remained alone on the rock with his own thoughts for company. He
thought of the few days passed at the lake; the rescue of little Willie;
the happy moments in the society of his heart's idol; the long days when
her illness prevented him seeing her; and the many happy moments since
she rejoined her friends. He thought of the day just ended; the storm;
the brave girl in the boat; the loved ones on the rock, and the poor
girl lying before him so helpless and white. His mind went back to the
happy moment when he held her hand and told his love.

George Alden was a brave man, never quailing at danger, but when he
thought of his humiliation he moaned in agony of spirit.

"I am only a bank clerk," he said, "but is that reason why this man's
daughter should be injured by my society? I love her, and I'll have her,
too, in spite of her father."



  CHAPTER VII.

  THE CRUEL THUNDERBOLT.


"Belle, what does this mean? How dare that fellow pollute your lips with
a kiss?" angrily asked Mr. Hamblin as the door closed behind him.

"Father," replied Belle quickly, "George Alden is a noble man, and
inspired by honorable impulses. His touch is not pollution."

Senator Hamblin was filled with rage; his face became scarlet; his lips
trembled, and raising his hand he exclaimed:

"Go to your room! If he dares to repeat the scene of this evening I will
send the presumptuous puppy adrift. No employé of mine must presume upon
stealing my treasure. My daughter must select her companions from a
higher circle than that of book-keepers."

Suddenly Mrs. Hamblin entered, and beholding Belle with hands clasped
over her eyes, and hearing her sobs, placed an arm lovingly about her
neck, and asked:

"What is it, Belle, darling?"

"What is it?" exclaimed the father; "it is this: she would throw away
the honor of the family on that beggar, Alden!"

"Oh, Darius! think of what you say. Are you ignorant of the events of
the day, or is your heart turned to stone? Poor child, she has saved
the lives of your boys and proved herself full of heroism. The scenes
she passed through to-day would have prostrated a person of ordinary
character. Husband, you little know what a brave and noble daughter you
have."

Senator Hamblin tried to calm himself. He walked to and fro several
times, and then, halting before his wife, asked:

"What do you mean? If anything remarkable has occurred please inform me."

As Mrs. Hamblin related the incidents of the day, the cold, hard
expression of her husband's countenance gradually softened. He forgot
for a moment his personal ambition, forgot that the sweet girl before
him had not only disobeyed but actually defied him, forgot the handsome
Mannis and the audacity of the poor bank clerk Alden. As he listened to
the thrilling recital of Belle's experience, the father predominated,
and from his heart, in spite of its hard political crust, burst natural
feelings. When his wife had finished he arose, went to Belle, lovingly
placed his arms about her, and said:

"You are a noble girl, and I am proud of you. There, wipe away those
tears. Your young heart is too good to carry a load of sorrow. The day's
excitement has been too much for you. Give me a kiss and go to your
room. A night's rest will refresh you."

Belle, raising her head, gazed into her father's face, and saw there the
old look of love and affection that it wore before he became absorbed
in public life; the cold, cruel lines disappearing, he was again the
companion of her childhood. A flood of joy filled her heart, and she
gave her father a look and embrace that would have reformed any parent
not a politician.

"Good-night, darling," said the Senator, when released by his daughter.
"Go to your room now. To-morrow you shall have a day of pleasure. I
expect a friend to spend the day and dine with us."

Belle left the room accompanied by her mother, and the proud man was
alone.

"She is a noble character," the Senator exclaimed as he paced the
floor. "And Alden--curse him!--is worthy of her admiration. Still, so
is Mannis. When she meets him she cannot help admiring him. But she is
proud and sensitive. She must be moulded by kind treatment; force and
arbitrary measures won't do. She is full of the 'no surrender' spirit of
her father, bless her. I must try strategy."

Belle entered her room, followed by her mother, and closing the door
threw herself into a chair, and burst into tears.

"Oh, mother, what trials I am having! Ever since we arrived here
something has been occurring to make me unhappy. What have I done to
deserve it? Papa is not the same man he used to be; he thinks even his
own flesh and blood must bow to his ambition. Poor George has fallen
under his displeasure, merely for the sin of loving me. Why should we
have any hearts at all?" Then she told all that had taken place between
herself and George Alden, and when she referred to the scene at the
parlor door she sobbed as if her heart would break.

Her mother, who had suffered worse and longer than her daughter by the
remorseless ambition that was demanding the entire sacrifice, comforted
the weeping girl as only a mother could, and an hour later sleep ended
for the day the sorrows of both.

The next morning opened bright and beautiful, the Hamblins as usual
appearing at the breakfast-table. Belle's exploit of the previous day
had been noised about the neighborhood, and she found herself the centre
of attraction at the Lakeside, and the little boys Geordie and Willie
came in for a share of honor. Belle bore her honors meekly. Unlike her
father, hers was not a character to be excited by public applause.
Besides, her mind was preoccupied, and her eyes often strayed toward
Cleverdale Camp. While gazing in that direction she saw a little boat
enter the bay and a gentleman step from it upon the beach, where her
father warmly greeted him, and then escorted him to her and her mother.

"Mr. Mannis, I take pleasure in introducing you to Mrs. Hamblin and my
daughter, Miss Belle."

The guest bowed to both, and said: "Ladies, I feel you are hardly
strangers to me, for my friend here, your honored husband and father, is
an old acquaintance in the forum of politics and at the State capital."

"We are always glad to meet Mr. Hamblin's friends," replied the elder
lady, "and he has often spoken of you; you are very welcome, sir."

Mannis bowed his acknowledgments and then turned to Belle.

"Miss Hamblin, allow me to congratulate you on your narrow escape
yesterday, and express my admiration of your noble exploit. It is
fortunate that you had learned to use the oar, but few even of young
ladies who row would have the courage to undertake so hazardous a trip.
Do you know your praises are being sung far and near?"

"Belle is a brave girl," said the Senator, "and I am proud of her. Don't
blush, Belle, you are too modest."

"But, papa, what did I do? I could no more resist the impulse that sent
me out than you could help reaching forth your hand and snatching one of
the boys from an approaching locomotive."

"Say what you will, Miss Hamblin, the world gives every human being
credit for the brave deeds they perform, and your modesty will not
enable you to avoid being praised for your heroism."

The conversation continued for a long time. Belle, like a true woman,
enjoyed the society of a gentleman, and as Mannis had perfect manners
and was a fluent conversationalist, the moments passed most agreeably.
The Senator was delighted by the grace with which his daughter
entertained his guest, and with great satisfaction he noticed that the
handsome Assemblyman was greatly interested in the girl. Not a word on
political topics had been spoken; for a deeper game was being played by
the proud father, who in believing that he held a winning hand forgot
that his stake was his own flesh and blood.

After dinner the two gentlemen went to enjoy a quiet smoke on the
veranda of the gentlemen's sitting-room. Mannis was profuse in
compliments regarding the Senator's family, all of which were extremely
gratifying to the honorable gentleman. Gradually the subject of the
approaching campaign came up, and Mannis disclosed that Daley had urged
him to espouse his cause against Hamblin.

"I told him from the first I was with you, and now repeat it more
strongly than before. I am more friendly to you now than ever."

"Thanks, Mannis, and if I can do anything to advance your interest you
can always command me," replied the Senator.

Just then little Willie came running to his father, who took him upon
his knee. The child's bright blue eyes and head of handsome brown curls
always attracted attention, which his amusing lisp was quite sure to
hold. Twining his little arms about his papa's neck, he began talking
in a manner so amusing that the practical Mannis at once took a great
liking to him, and Willie reciprocated it, so that Mannis was still
further impressed by the Hamblins in general.

As the party chatted a storm-cloud arose, but no one seemed to notice
it. The green was covered with children, little Willie among them, and
as he danced with all the joyousness of healthy childhood he seemed
the leader of the little party. The cloud grew larger, but no one was
alarmed, for sudden and short visits from storm-clouds are not unusual
at Lake George. Suddenly, however, there was a flash, a ball of fire
appearing over the house and then dashing swiftly down. The shock for an
instant prostrated all who were near by, but they slowly recovered--all
but one; little Willie lay motionless upon the grass.

Senator Hamblin sprang from the piazza, seized the little form, pressing
it to his bosom, and exclaimed:

"Willie--my child--speak to me! Wake up, my son! look into your father's
face!" But the little form was silent, for Willie was face to face with
his Father in heaven.

The lifeless form was carried into the parlor, and the family that
prosperity had almost estranged from its head seemed united again by its
terrible grief.

    NOTE.--A casualty like the one described in this chapter occurred
    at Lake George, in the summer of 1877, the victim being a little
    girl of nine years. The author has borrowed the incident,
    describing the electric phenomenon as related to him by several
    persons who were sitting or standing by the child when the terrible
    thunderbolt dropped from the clouds.



  CHAPTER VIII.

  AFFAIRS AT CLEVERDALE.


Cleverdale is a flourishing village of about eight thousand inhabitants.
Enjoying transportation facilities both by rail and canal, it contains
several large factories, which in turn enable a bank to do a great deal
of business and cause money to circulate freely. Churches and schools,
not excepting a young ladies' finishing school, abound, and there is no
lack of the rum-shops that in towns so large are always demanded by one
class of inhabitants.

Like all other towns, Cleverdale had its local causes of dispute, and
its differences between classes, yet so proud of Senator Hamblin was
the town that when, two or three days after Willie's death, a little
white hearse moved slowly from the Senator's door it was followed to the
cemetery by representatives of every class and interest in the town,
even the red head of Paddy Sullivan being prominent in the procession.
Paddy was dressed in his Sunday suit of black. On his head he wore a
high white hat with a narrow black band around it, and in his face was
an expression of grief that undoubtedly was honest.

One of the Senator's bids for prominence had been the erection of the
most imposing monument in the village cemetery, although he had not
at the time buried any member of his family. This monument had given
his eye much comfort, but when little Willie was laid in its shadow,
the ambitious politician was too much absorbed in grief to notice the
stately stone at all. For a few days his nobler sentiments had him
so completely in possession that he fairly forgot even his public
interests; although Miller called and reported that he had faithfully
carried out all the wishes of his chief, no further orders were given
him.

"Wait a day or two, Miller," said the Senator. "I am too much overcome
for business or politics now," were his words.

But time cures grief, and great burdens soon fall from shoulders
accustomed to other burdens. A few days passed and the doors of the
Hamblin mansion were again opened, and Senator Hamblin at his bank
looking after his large business enterprises. His political interests
also began to receive attention. In this direction he found that his
temporary withdrawal from affairs had been utilized by his opponents,
who made a vigorous push. Of course Miller had not been idle, having
worked hard--even kept Rawlings in line; in fact, no attempt had been
made of late to win the _Investigator's_ editor to Daley's side.

But an ugly paper had been privately circulated, charging Senator
Hamblin with having made admission before a former clerk of the Canal
Committee, of which Hamblin was chairman, of a character not consistent
with a man of honor. The paper accused him of boasting, during his two
years of chairmanship, of making more than a hundred thousand dollars
on bills that his committee had approved. Fortunately a copy of the
paper fell into the hands of Miller, who went to work to prevent further
circulation. He had even called on young Sargent, making threats to
intimidate him, but without obtaining satisfaction. He knew Sargent was
greatly incensed against Senator Hamblin for throwing him out of his
berth and fat salary, and also knew Daley and his friends paid well for
the information they were using.

Senator Hamblin gave Miller full power to treat with Sargent and make
him recant. Miller was a good worker, and not afraid to face any one.
Had he been going to die, he would not have hesitated to call on Satan,
if that were possible, and he would have done it in the full belief that
some satisfactory arrangement for the future could be made.

He called promptly on Sargent, who received him with great cordiality.

"Well, Sargent, how are you?" said Miller, extending his hand to greet
the ex-clerk.

"All right, Miller. Take a seat."

The visitor at once stated his business.

"Sargent, what in the world possessed you to make such a charge against
the Senator? Of course the shot may temporarily injure the man it is
fired at, but, my dear fellow, just think how it will injure you.
Hamblin is powerful and rich and stands high among the business men
of the State. He is a leading man in politics, and his influence can
be used to crush a young man like you. He will be renominated, and
that means re-elected: then all the men backing or helping Daley will
be crushed. That is as sure as fate, for when the convention meets he
will have at least three quarters of the delegates. His election is
an assured fact, and can you, a young man, afford to go down with the
wreck? I have always found, in politics, a man is safest when sticking
to the machine."

"That may be," said Sargent, "but Hamblin played a mean trick when he
shoved me out of the berth I held. I worked for him faithfully, and
just because Jim Warren was backed up by Paddy Sullivan and the factory
bosses I had to slide. I say it was a dirty trick, and I mean to get
even with him."

"See here, Sargent, didn't the Senator say he would see you provided
for? Now look here, man; there is need of another clerk in the bank,
as the cashier's health is poor and young Alden unable to do the work
alone. That place was to be given you, but when you got your back up and
'went' for the Senator, _his_ Ebenezer rose, and you lost a better place
than a temporary position on a committee."

"Why, I didn't know that," said Sargent in a surprised tone.

"Well, it is a fact; maybe it is too late now, after all you have
done to injure yourself; but see here, Sargent, can't you recall that
statement, if by so doing you can benefit yourself? Of course, if you
persist, we shall meet the paper and break its damaging points; you will
be ruined with it, for you must know Senator Hamblin will not hesitate
to kill so grave a charge against his integrity. Come, Sargent, think it
over. I don't know what I can do for you, but assure me you will recall
the words and I will try and place you in a position where you will be
taken care of. As you are now, when the polls close on election night,
your reputation will be blasted and Daley and his friends powerless to
help you. I tell you, Sargent, every young man should remember the loaf
of bread he is cutting to-day may be turned to stone to-morrow."

Miller's words made a deep impression on Sargent, who rested his head
on his hand a moment and then replied: "But how can I recall the words?
That's what bothers me."

"I can fix that. Of course you will have to follow your first paper with
a second, acknowledging your error in publishing the first--but pshaw!
who cares for that? If you get a thousand-dollar position, that will fix
you--eh, old fellow?" and Miller playfully hit Sargent in the ribs with
his cane.

"Wait and let me think it over. I cannot decide now. I don't think
anything very bad can result from it, for in politics everything is
honorable. Queer thing is politics. Eh, Miller?"

"Yes, Sargent, but you might better freeze to a live man's heritage than
walk, with your eyes open, into a dead man's grave."

The door-bell rang and Sargent recognized the voice of Daley, inquiring
for him. He heard him approaching the room, and quickly turning the key
in the lock and pointing to a closet, whispered to Miller:

"Quick! hide in there!"

As Miller entered the closet and closed the door, Sargent turned the key
and admitted Daley greatly excited.

"Are you alone, Sargent? Eh? yes? Well, all right. That infernal
Miller is raising the deuce with my canvass. Now see here, Sargent,
the caucuses have been called in most of the towns in the county for
next Saturday. Miller has succeeded in buying back the Strong Mill
gang. Last week the whole lot were red-hot for me, but this morning the
foreman informed me that he and his men should vote at the caucus for
Hamblin delegates. The caucus is to be held in the evening, something
unprecedented in town politics, so the factory hands can gag the voice
of people of intelligence. The new military company has also been bought
up for Hamblin by Miller, with a seven hundred and fifty dollar set of
colors, and the devil is to pay generally. Of course _you_ will stick to
me, and when our caucus is held we must spring a mine on the whole gang.
By the Eternal! I am going to beat the scoundrels. Yes, sir, beat 'em!"
and he walked the room like a lion at bay.

"All right, Daley, but I am not well to-day, I have a wretched headache,
and you must excuse me this morning. Call to-morrow and we will talk it
over. Excuse me now. Excuse--"

His further remarks were cut short by a crash in the closet, when the
door flew open, Miller falling headlong on the floor, prostrate at the
feet of Daley.

Miller rose from the floor, which was covered with broken glass, boxes,
and books precipitated upon his head by a chance movement of his own
as he had crouched listening at the key-hole. As Miller regained his
feet, the three men stared at one another for an instant; then Daley
exclaimed:

"Miller! you are the very evil one himself. Where in the world did you
drop from?" Then turning to Sargent, he said:

"And you too have turned against me. Well, who _is_ to be trusted?"

Seizing his hat, he hastily left the room, muttering words in such
direct conflict with the third article on the table of stone delivered
to Moses on Mount Sinai, that they must be omitted here.



  CHAPTER IX.

  THE CAUCUS.


For three weeks after the death of little Willie, Belle could not bear
to leave the mother and the little brother who remained.

She even suspended her work among the needy, and many inmates of
charitable institutions missed delicacies she had been accustomed to
distribute among them. Society in the village became dull and stupid by
her withdrawal from its circles. During this time, however, George Alden
frequently called, and the tenderness and affection of each heart for
the other was plainly manifested. Mr. Hamblin in no manner interfered
with his daughter and her lover, yet he chafed, fretted, and hoped that
something would occur to break the spell.

Shortly after her return home, Belle received a letter from Mannis, full
of sympathy, yet every line breathing sentiments that distressed her,
for unlike most young ladies she felt hurt when demands were made upon
her to which she could not respond. Admiring many qualities possessed
by the handsome Assemblyman, she had no warmer feelings than friendship
for any other man than George Alden. The latter was her ideal of true
manliness, the former only evoked admiration for his intellectual
qualifications and social gifts. Gladly would she have met Mannis on
terms of common friendship, but his letter revealed that he expected
more, for he announced a determination to lay siege to her heart.

Her father often spoke of his friend, even hinting that he would be
proud of a son-in-law so gifted and successful. She had hoped that
Willie's sudden death had changed her father's heart, but now she
realized that the temptations and ambitions of public life once more
bound him in their chains.

A lively canvass was now waging, and the inevitable discussions,
criminations, and recriminations grew more and more exciting. On the eve
of the caucuses the war of the factions waxed hot. Leaders and bullies
of both sides were on the alert, and Paddy Sullivan held matinées and
evening gatherings at "The Shades," lager beer and poor whiskey flowing
as free as water, and the "b'ys" kept full at the expense of one or the
other candidate.

"Arrah! b'ys, whoop 'er in!" Paddy would exclaim as he tapped a fresh
keg of lager.

The night before the caucus of the Senator's party Paddy Sullivan was
in his glory. The leading spirit among the class frequenting his gin
palace, his word he declared to be "lar." While the bar was flanked by
a row of men, Miller entered accompanied by Editor Rawlings, the latter
overcome with liquor. After a general hand-shaking, Miller said:

"Come, boys, what'll it be?"

"Arrah, Mishter Miller!" said Paddy, "things is jist rid-hot; the b'ys
is all sound fer our frind the Sinitor. The ould man will win as aisy
as sippin' beer. I'll bet tin dollars wid any mon in the crowd that
Daley won't git quarther of the votes to-morrow avenin'. He was jusht
in here wid his party, and the b'ys took in his beer, and when the door
closed agin him they up and give three cheers for the Sinitor. Now thin,
gintlemen, here's a sintiment: When the caucus closes may Daley be a
spilt pig wid his nose out of j'int."

"Hip! hip! guzzle 'er down!" chorused the crowd.

"Them's the sentiments!" said Rawlings, who clung to the bar for
support. "I'm solid for Sen'ter 'Amblin. Whoop 'er in, boys. I'm a
thoroughbred every time! Come, Paddy, set 'em up again--what'll y' 'ave,
boys? This is a thoroughbred drink. 'Zactly so."

The party falling in line, their guns were soon loaded with ammunition,
warranted to kill at forty rods and indirectly damage everybody in the
neighborhood. Rawlings continued:

"Gen'lemen--'ere's hopin' that to-morrer evenin' the old man'll scoop
in all the (hic) votes and every son of a gun'll be a--a Millerite. Eh,
Miller! ole man, how's that fer a thurrerbred?"

The sentiment was applauded, even the fat wife of the proprietor, at the
back door of the bar-room, responding:

"Faith, the iditor is as livel-headed as that darlin' ould mon, my
Paddy."

After ordering cigars for the party, Miller prepared to leave the
place; pausing at the door and striking an attitude, he said: "Boys,
I hope you will all attend the caucus to-morrow evening, using your
prerogatives as free citizens to help sustain an honest man--the
people's candidate--against the monopolies that are trying to overthrow
the individual rights of every man here." Then taking the red fist of
Paddy, he whispered: "Well done, old friend; you are a power, and the
Senator knows it, and won't forget it either."

Seizing the staggering editor by the arm, Miller left the saloon. This
was the last visit the pair made that night, every drinking-place in
town having been previously visited, and all hands treated to whiskey
and cigars, Miller privately slipping a ten or twenty dollar bill into
each proprietor's hand.

Leaving "The Shades," Rawlings was assisted home by lesser political
lights, Miller going directly to Senator Hamblin's residence, where
several persons were in consultation, concluding arrangements for the
morrow's caucus.

The day opened lively, Miller and aids being on duty bright and early,
while Daley and his friends, greatly discouraged, were nevertheless
determined not to give up the fight. Their cause was almost hopeless,
for on entering the canvass they expected to overthrow Senator Hamblin
by the support of the moral portion of the public. Daley, possessing no
more virtue than his opponent, had mounted the reform hobby to ride into
power, but he found that a majority of voters could not be won to his
side. The fight having become bitter--a sort of a "dog in the manger"
contest--Daley saw no way to win, so he determined to be satisfied with
preventing Senator Hamblin's re-election. Copies of Sargent's statement
had been prepared for circulation in every town, but, receiving no
explanation of Miller's sudden appearance during the interview at
Sargent's, Daley thought something had been done to counteract its
effects, and as Sargent had mysteriously disappeared, his anxiety
increased.

Cleverdale had seldom before been so excited. Politicians walked the
streets, men were button-holed in stairways, offices, or "sample-rooms,"
and importuned to vote for one or another of the delegates. Daley,
feeling the ground slip from under his feet, began working up his
friends on the issue that he was a badly used man, and prepared a
programme for a grand "bolt" at every caucus in the county where Hamblin
delegates might be chosen.

Bolting is the salve to heal wounds caused by disappointed hopes of
politicians. It is a prerogative that such men avail themselves of; yet
being a "double-ender," the end placed against the shoulder often does
the most damage.

Bitterness between opposite parties is nothing compared to the bad
blood that exists between factions of the same party. It is a bad time
for men to know the misdeeds of each other, for secrets are used after
being enlarged and exaggerated to powerful dimensions. Such occasions
furnish capital to the opposite party, and many campaigns are carried on
by simply using against candidates ammunition that members of their own
party have manufactured.

The Cleverdale drinking-saloons were in full blast, the bummers
revelling in what to them seemed paradise. Bad whiskey and ice-cool
lager were free to all, up to the hour the caucus was to be held.
Long before seven P.M. the town hall was filled with men. Air
impregnated with onions, garlic, old pipes, and poor whiskey, greeted
the olfactory organs of those entering the room. To this was added the
exudations from garments of factory hands and laborers, who had worked
hard during the excessively hot day and not availed themselves of such
cheap luxuries as soap and water. Miller, with aids and assistants well
organized for the forthcoming fray, was present, while Daley, flanked by
a coterie of followers, was active. Paddy Sullivan was on duty, moving
about among the men whom he controlled. Suddenly the chairman of the
Town Committee mounted the platform and pounded the table with his fist.
The buzzing profanity and coarse jokes of the multitude ceased at once.

Reader, take a careful look across the sea of upturned faces, for here
are the men who, choosing delegates, make the officers of the town,
the officers of the county, the officers of the State, yes, the chief
ruler of the nation. Sprinkled through the crowd are a few intellectual
countenances; but observe the majority--coarse, uncultured, ignorant
specimens of humanity--many faces stamped with the look of ruffian,
while the drunken gibberish of others disgusts one with the thought that
the elective franchise has been extended to all.

The chairman, again striking the table before him, said:

"Gentlemen! as chairman of the Town Committee I call this caucus to
order. The deliberations of this meeting cannot proceed until a chairman
has been chosen. Gentlemen, who will be your presiding officer?"

One of the Daley party quickly said:

"I move that Robert Furman be chairman of this caucus!"

"Misther Cheerman! I moves an amindmint that Iditor Rawlins bees the
gintleman to take the cheer," said Paddy Sullivan.

This was followed by shouts of "Furman!" on the Daley side, while the
Hamblin crowd were as loud in shouting, "Rawlings!"

For a few seconds there was a perfect pandemonium. The noise was
deafening. The chairman of the Town Committee, pounding vigorously on
the table, finally succeeded in quieting the enthusiasm of the factions.
He then said:

"Gentlemen! I cannot put the motion unless there is order. The motion
now is on the amendment. All who favor Editor Rawlings as chairman of
this caucus will manifest it by voting aye."

There was a tremendous shout from the Hamblin side of the house.

"All who are opposed will say No."

"No!" was given with equal force by the other side, followed by wild
shouts from each faction. For fully a minute the noise continued, the
desk resounding with blows from the chairman's fist. Men jumped upon
chairs and benches, while the platform was crowded with leaders of
both factions. But the temporary chairman knew his business. When the
excitement subsided he said:

"Being unable to decide the vote, you will now prepare to divide the
house. All who favor the amendment will go to the left side of the
hall. All opposed will take the right side--and I appoint Cyrus Hart
Miller and Harvey Barnes tellers to count the vote."

The excitement was renewed with greater fury than before, the Daley men
shouting:

"Give us a teller!" "Both tellers are Hamblin men!" "We protest agin
it!" "Shame on ye to bar us out!"

After the house was divided the tellers finished the count, announcing
the amendment carried by a large majority. The decision exasperating the
vanquished party, threats were made against the chairman of the Town
Committee, while the victors were wild with enthusiasm. Paddy Sullivan,
hardly able to contain himself, his red face glistened like a coal of
fire, while his carroty hair, stiff as bristles, stood erect.

"Hip! hip! hurray!" he cried, "bedad, the Sinitor has yees."

The newly-elected chairman mounting the platform, and thanking the
caucus for the honor done him, asked whom they desired for secretary.
The Daley crowd claimed the right to fill the place, but a vote on
two candidates resulted in a victory for the "machine," the Senator's
faction.

The chair asked the further pleasure of the caucus, when a young lawyer
named Hardy arose to address the meeting. He spoke of the unhappy
faction fight; he was for harmony, but thought the machine entirely
responsible for the existing state of affairs. Censuring Senator
Hamblin, he eulogized Daley, whom he believed actuated by the highest
and most honorable motives in seeking the nomination, and he warned
the "machine" men of the dangers besetting them trying to force a bad
nomination. He then moved that the caucus proceed to ballot for a
delegate to the senatorial convention to be held at Cleverdale, one week
from that day.

An amendment making Cyrus Hart Miller the delegate from Cleverdale,
provoked another spasm of excitement, shouts of "Ballot" being heard
from the Daley side, while cries of "Question" came with equal force
from the Hamblin party.

Although scarcely any one had large interests at stake, the audience
seemed crazed with rage; opposing leaders were like wild beasts; oaths,
threats, and invectives of all kinds were heard; the noise filling the
hall was like the roar of infuriated animals, and in some parts of the
room blows were exchanged; only by the greatest effort did the police
prevent a general fight. The chairman, on finally being able to put
the motion, heard many voices vote "Aye!" and the opposition loudly
crying "No!" but he declared that Cyrus Hart Miller seemed elected the
town delegate. Groans and hisses greeted the announcement. Amid the
excitement Daley mounted the platform, and said:

"My friends will do me a favor by withdrawing from the hall. If we
cannot receive fair treatment here we can at least hold an honest caucus
in another place. Follow me!"

Jumping to the floor, he was followed by a mad crowd. As they withdrew
from the hall, groans, hisses, cat-calls, and all sorts of wordy
invectives were hurled at them. Cyrus Hart Miller was then unanimously
chosen delegate, and a series of resolutions was passed, instructing
the delegate to vote for the Hon. Darius Hamblin. Then the caucus
adjourned. As the bolting caucus also elected a delegate, Cleverdale was
to be represented by both factions.

Senator Hamblin won a victory in the county, securing ten of the fifteen
towns, although bolting delegates had also been chosen. Several bottles
of wine were drank that evening by the men assembling in the private
office of the Boss, but the latter was not happy, for, having stirred up
a bitter faction fight, he trembled for the consequences.



  CHAPTER X.

  THE CRUELTY OF AMBITION.


Senator Hamblin sat alone in his private office at the bank, evidently
engaged in taking a moral inventory of his position. Although winning a
victory at the caucuses, he fully realized having slipped down lower in
the scale of morality. His canvass had already cost over five thousand
dollars, to say nothing of the loss of honor and the awakening of bitter
hostility against himself in his own political household.

He knew it would take a large amount of cash to elect him, and
hypocritically condemning the corrupt use of money by Daley and his
followers, agreed with himself that he must exceed Daley's corruption
fund or else be defeated. He fully realized the multiplicity of evils
that beset him, but did not desire to turn back.

"I will be elected," said he, "cost what it may, and then try to recover
what I lose. There is no backing out now, for the convention will be
held next week--then for the result. Daley will bolt the ticket, but I
will overwhelm him through the power of money. You infernal little god
Mammon, how powerful you are! You have overthrown empires and dynasties;
how easily, then, you can overthrow the machinations of a bolting
clique! We shall see."

Just then George Alden entered and handed him several letters. Glancing
over the superscriptions, his eyes fell upon the well-known handwriting
of his admired friend, Assemblyman Mannis. Quickly opening the envelope,
he read as follows:

                         MANNIS MANOR, HAVELOCK, September 20, 187-.

    MY DEAR SENATOR: I write to congratulate you on your victory over
    your enemies. We made a gallant fight for you here, and as I am
    chosen delegate from our town, you can readily understand who has
    won here. It has been reported that this place elected a bolting
    delegate, but Havelock is the only town, my dear friend, failing
    to elect one. Havelock will, therefore, be solid for you at the
    convention.

    For a long time I have contemplated addressing you upon a
    subject interesting me individually. The deep shadow of affliction
    that gathered over your loved home has delayed the request I am
    about to make.

    To say that I admire your charming daughter scarce expresses
    my feelings, yet I would not make known my affection nor presume
    upon paying her attention without the consent of her honored
    father. I now ask your consent to address her, with the honest
    intention of winning her heart and hand. I am a bachelor, and,
    until I met Miss Belle, had no thought of breaking away from a life
    of singleness. Please convey my regards to Mrs. Hamblin and Miss
    Belle, and if my request is not considered presumptuous kindly
    write me in reply at an early day.

                                   Sincerely, your friend,
                                                      WALTER MANNIS.

As the Senator concluded reading the epistle, a smile of satisfaction
crossed his face.

"This is one of the happiest moments of my life! With such a brilliant
man for my son-in-law I should indeed be a proud father--but there is
Alden. Well, she must drop him, and at once. Did I dare send him away,
he should go this very day. But no; he is a favorite with all the
directors, and he is certainly a faithful man. Ah! there's Sargent, he
can be induced to do any work I desire him to perform. After election,
he will have a position in the bank, for our cashier will surely die,
his place will be filled by young Alden, and Sargent will be chosen
teller. Alden should not be allowed to longer visit my daughter, but how
can it be prevented? I shall at once make my wishes and Mannis's request
known to my wife and daughter. Poor Belle! She is deeply interested in
Alden, but what of that? Isn't my word law in my own family? Is not a
man justified in guiding the destiny of those belonging to him? In fact,
does not the imperative duty devolve upon a parent of making provision
in life for his loved ones? This intimacy between Belle and Alden must
immediately be broken."

Thus he reasoned, trying to justify himself in allowing ambition to
mislead him, but in contemplating the programme his conscience was
not easy nor his mind comfortable. Seizing the letter, he started for
home, but on reaching the street met Miller, who wishing to see him on
important business, he returned to the office. Before Miller left others
arrived, and the hours passed quickly without the interview taking place
that was to bring pain and trouble to a young girl, merely because
her heart was to be considered of less consequence than her father's
ambition.

The engagements of the afternoon and evening made it necessary for
Senator Hamblin to postpone the proposed conversation with his wife and
daughter. On the following evening Belle, returning from the house of
a friend, met her lover, who saluted her affectionately, and, offering
his arm, proposed a walk. As the two passed along the street, they were
happy as mortals usually are when the little god of love is binding them
together with chains that do not gall except when one tries to escape
from them. Absorbed in each other's society, they spoke of the past,
the happy moments at Lake George; and then Alden poured the thoughts of
his heart into the willing ear of the maiden at his side. His tale of
love elicited from the heart of the happy girl a modest response, that
nevertheless answered its purpose completely.

Then they began to forecast the future, which was not as clear as they
desired, for both were conscious of obstacles obstructing their paths.
Belle knew her father's consent to her marriage with George Alden could
never be obtained, while the young clerk felt the enmity of Senator
Hamblin toward him was not of a nature easy to be overcome. Still, what
lover has ever lacked hope in proportion to what was to be hoped against?

Belle, full of joy, entered her home and sought her mother, telling of
the happy hour passed; and as she related her joy, the loving parent,
embracing her child, said:

"Darling, my blessing rest upon you, and may God soften the heart of
your father; may the ambition holding him in its clutches spare your
young heart sorrow."

The following morning, Mr. Hamblin arose from the breakfast-table, and
said:

"Belle, I should like a few moments' conversation with you," and gently
leading her from the room to his private apartment, he said:

"My daughter, I wish to speak of a matter that interests not only your
future, but that of our family. You have arrived at an age when you will
be called upon to make choice of all that brings happiness or sorrow.
Life's journey may be made joyous or a highway paved with sharp stones,
hedged in with thistles and pitfalls. You are beginning the road without
knowledge of the trials and vexations that may obstruct your progress.
Unskilled in the ways and manners of those who will seek to turn you
from the path of duty, you must know a father's love and anxiety for his
offspring makes him anxious about her future welfare. You have passed
from girlhood to womanhood and must soon choose a companion. I should
always reproach myself did I fail in my duty toward assisting you to
begin the journey aright."

The trembling girl, scarce knowing what reply to make, fully realized
that the long-dreaded interview had begun, and a deep sigh escaping her,
she said:

"I hardly understand your meaning, father, but I cannot believe you so
cruel as to leave the one most interested without a voice in deciding a
matter of such vital importance as you hint at."

"I see you comprehend me. Assemblyman Mannis asks the privilege of
addressing you. He is rich, respected and talented, having already won
honors of which few young men can boast. Coming from a good family, he
is a prize that any lady may well feel proud to win. Ah, I see you do
not receive this proposal as I wish. I did not expect you to think well
of it at first; but, Belle, you are possessed of good judgment, and must
see that the union of the estates of Mannis and myself would give us
great power."

"But, papa, I cannot give him my heart, that is another's. While I am
ready to obey you in everything else I cannot change the current of
affection, even at your bidding. Oh, spare me any moments of sorrow, and
do not urge me, for I cannot receive the attentions of your friend."

"Cannot! but you _must_! This is only sentimentality. Once the wife of
Walter Mannis, your affections would be his. As your father, I must see
that you start aright in life. I am older than you, and have seen the
world from all sides. People bow to station and wealth, it is the 'open
sesame' to every heart--the key unlocking the door of every house in the
land. Be not hasty in your conclusions, my darling; you are a sensible
girl, and I believe the infatuation that beset you at Lake George will
soon wear away, and the scales now dimming your vision fall, revealing
not only your duty but your path to happiness as well. Do not shed
tears, but bear up and look upon this matter as your father thinks best
for your future welfare."

Belle suddenly brushed away the tears; her eyes flashed, her flushed
face showed plainly that passion raged in her heart. Always gentle,
seldom allowing anger to rise, Belle had ever spoken kindly to her
father. Now, unable to control herself longer, she broke forth:

"As my father, I suppose, you have the right to barter or sell me, soul
and body, to the highest bidder. Yes, you can advertise and even receive
sealed proposals for my hand. But, father or not, I say distinctly that
so long as I live, with mind clear and under my own control, I shall
_never_ be the wife of Mr. Mannis! I also believe him too honorable to
desire such a union were he aware of my feelings. No, sir! I say now, as
your child, I will never marry a man who has not my love."

As she spoke she looked the proud and noble woman that she was. Her hair
hung loosely about her face, her lustrous eyes shone like diamonds, and
the rich tinge of vermilion on cheeks and lips were in striking contrast
to the paleness of her father.

Senator Hamblin was filled with conflicting emotions. Admiring his
daughter for her positive character, he was enraged at her bold defiance
of his orders. But his lips soon became firmly set and a look of anger
dispelled that of admiration and surprise.

"Belle," he exclaimed, "my orders must be obeyed. You shall marry Walter
Mannis. I have no more to say at present, except that young Alden shall
go from the bank, for it is he that has made you defy your father. Yes,
he shall go as soon as I can get rid of him. He has rewarded me for
giving him employment by stealing my best and greatest treasure, and he
shall pay for it."

He ceased speaking, and casting an angry look upon Belle, quickly left
the apartment.

Belle gazed after him for an instant, and wildly throwing up her hands,
exclaimed:

"What have I done, oh, what have I done to merit this?"

Bursting into tears, she staggered as if about to fall, when Mrs.
Hamblin entering, caught and bore her helpless daughter to a sofa. The
stricken girl opened her eyes, and exclaimed:

"Oh, Mamma! Papa has spoken cruel words to me; he will discharge
George; he wants me to marry Mr. Mannis. God help us all when a father
is willing to sell his own flesh and blood to gratify his political
ambition!"



  CHAPTER XI.

  THE CONVENTION.


Belle's heart was sad and full of forebodings of disaster to her lover,
for, knowing her father's determined nature, she feared he would at
once discharge the young man who had dared to love his daughter.
Fully realizing the situation, she kept her room during the day.
Her loving mother was her comforter, yet hardly dare plead for her
daughter, knowing so well her husband's selfish nature and overbearing
disposition. She knew that if her husband was opposed he would become
more decided in his purposes than if left to think over his own unjust
and cruel orders.

Belle decided that she must see George Alden without delay, so she wrote
a note requesting him to call at her home at once. Her father, she knew,
would be absent and they could enjoy an uninterrupted interview. She was
well aware that if her incensed parent knew George Alden was to visit
her, he would certainly give orders to prevent his entering the house.

Promptly at the appointed hour George entered the house, and saw quickly
that Belle was in trouble.

"Oh, George," said Belle, "our sunshine of last evening was followed by
a storm. I sent for you to tell you of my father's cruel purpose. He
has given orders that I must receive the attentions of another, and he
even threatened to remove you from the bank. My heart is wretched, for
should you lose your place for the reason that you love me, I should
feel that I was your evil genius. I sent for you to ask if you would
give me up, rather than lose your position at the bank. Think of it,
George, for you are dependent upon what you earn for the support of
yourself and sister. You are free to decide now, and whatever you choose
I will acquiesce in."

"Belle, do you think the ties that bind us together are lightly assumed;
or has your father's command made you regret the step you have taken?
If the latter, then you are free, for I would not cause you one moment
of grief or pain. But you are everything to me--my very existence--and
rather than surrender you to another, I would lose all this world can
give. Oh, Belle, you cannot doubt me!"

"Doubt you? No, George, I do not. My heart is yours alone; and let
my father do his worst, he cannot change the course of my affection
nor make me sacrifice myself upon the altar of his ambition. He is
determined to prevent you from even seeing me, and whatever is done we
must be guarded. I shall be advised by Mamma in all my movements. Attend
faithfully to your duties at the bank and I don't think you will lose
your place, unless the directors are dissatisfied with you. We are both
young and time will work changes, perhaps for our good. Let no action
of yours place you at a disadvantage, and be sure not to quarrel with
my father. If he treats you in an arbitrary manner do not complain.
Perhaps he may change his intentions when this hateful political
campaign is over."

"Belle, I will do all you ask. Whatever insults he may heap upon me will
be borne for your sake; but I do not believe he can discharge me from
the bank; in fact, our cashier is very ill, there is really no hope of
his recovery, and I have been told by members of the Board of Directors
that I am to fill the vacant position. Now, Belle, I will leave you, but
shall see you when I can, for I must look often upon your dear face.
Rest assured I shall retain my place unless some charge can be preferred
against me, and of that I am not afraid."

The two conversed a few moments longer, then parted, full of confidence
in each other, yet filled with anxiety for their future.

Senator Hamblin was greatly excited after his interview with his
daughter, and walking quickly to his office threw himself into a chair,
and said:

"Confound that puppy Alden! What shall I do? I am determined that Belle
shall marry Walter Mannis. I little expected so much opposition. She
has defied me, her father. H'm! I admire her spirit, but she must be
conquered, for my mind is set upon this marriage. Curse the day that
took us to Lake George! It was disaster from the time we landed from the
steamboat until we left. Dear little Willie was taken from us there, and
now my beautiful daughter has rebelled against me. I must write a letter
in reply to Mannis and delay giving him a direct answer. Let me see. I
will write at once," and taking pen and paper, he wrote as follows:

                              CLEVERDALE, N. Y., September 18, 187-.

    MY DEAR MANNIS: Your very welcome letter was duly received and
    I was gratified at its contents. Allow me to thank you for your
    expressions in my behalf, as well as your effort to aid my canvass.
    Believe me, dear Mannis, I appreciate your friendship.

    In relation to your request to address my daughter, it would
    give me inexpressible pleasure to know that she was to become the
    wife of so brilliant a man as yourself. My wife and daughter have
    deeply felt the affliction befalling us at Lake George, and I am
    urging them to withdraw from seclusion. The death of our little
    Willie has left a desolate household, and my loved ones refuse to
    be comforted. While I freely give my consent and express my great
    delight at your request, I ask you to delay, for a brief period,
    addressing my daughter. We will meet at the Convention and can then
    talk the matter over at length.

    Again thanking you for past favors, and expressing my pleasure
    at your request, I remain,

                                          Your friend,
                                                     DARIUS HAMBLIN.

Folding and addressing the letter, he said:

"That will do for the present; in the mean time I shall see if my
commands are to be obeyed."

The days flew rapidly by and Senator Hamblin was busily engaged in
managing his canvass, trying every way to break the force of Daley and
his friends. Daley, learning of Sargent's treachery, as he called it,
had not made use of the statement as expected. Having neglected to get
Sargent's affidavit to the paper made against Senator Hamblin, he was
chagrined and dumbfounded on learning that Miller had succeeded in
obtaining one to the later document.

The day of the Convention was only twenty-four hours distant, and of
course there was some excitement in the senatorial district.

As the reader may not understand the _modus operandi_ of political
conventions, we will explain how nominations are made.

There are sixty counties in the Empire State, embracing a population
of 5,082,871 persons. These sixty counties are divided into thirty-two
senatorial and one hundred and twenty-eight assembly districts,
apportioned pro rata according to population for the composition of
the State Legislature. New York County is entitled to seven senators
and twenty-four assemblymen; King's County, three senators and twelve
assemblymen; Albany County, one senator and three assemblymen; Erie
County, one senator and five assemblymen; Oneida County, one senator and
three assemblymen; leaving nineteen senators and eighty-one assemblymen
to be divided among the remaining fifty-five counties, requiring from
two to five counties to constitute a senatorial district. Each of the
fifty-five counties are allowed from one to three assemblymen, except
Fulton and Hamilton, which have but one to represent them both.

The county to which Cleverdale belongs is composed of fifteen towns,
and this, added to the adjoining county of sixteen towns, furnishes the
required quota of population for a senatorial district.

There are different methods of manipulating caucuses and conventions,
and as the exciting political scenes of this story are to take place at
the Senatorial Convention, we will explain the latter. Some counties
send a delegate direct to the Senatorial Convention from each and every
town caucus; some select three delegates at each assembly district
convention, while others at their regular county convention select three
delegates to be sent from each assembly district. In many counties, both
great political organizations adopt the same method, while neither one
of the different systems is in any manner used exclusively by either
party.

The county and senatorial district in which Cleverdale is situated is
governed by the method first described. At the caucuses held in country
towns, delegates are chosen by those present without enrolling names. In
the cities, and in fact in some large towns, these caucuses are called
"primaries," and the names of all belonging to the party holding the
primary must be enrolled before they are allowed to participate in the
regular order of business of the primary.

The respectable portion of the voting population being remiss in their
duty, the "boss" and his followers are in full control of the caucus or
primary. The entire composition of a ticket submitted to the approval
of honest voters is the work of these men. Those claiming to represent
the moral sentiment of communities rarely attend the caucus or primary,
yet seldom fail to complain of that which they could easily prevent.
Honesty in politics can never be expected until the intelligent and
honest masses awaken to the necessity of devoting a little time to
the primaries. The better element of the community is responsible for
the demoralization in political matters, for, being in overwhelming
majority, a little attention to the caucus or primary would make
unfit nominations impossible. But the American way, in politics as in
all things else, is to let everything drift until the situation is
desperate, and then to work for a cure, which generally they effect. Not
until they realize the proverbial superiority of prevention to cure will
Americans be as wise as they are smart.

The day of the Convention having arrived, Cleverdale was full of
politicians, and an irrepressible conflict raged. The thirty-one
delegates present were divided, yet Miller's careful canvass assured him
that his chief would certainly receive eighteen, if not twenty votes,
in the first ballot. Several delegates were working for a compromise
candidate; but this element, composed mostly of Daley men, was intent on
defeating Senator Hamblin at all hazards. It was their only hope now;
and while resolved to bolt his nomination if made, and run Daley as a
stump candidate, the irregularity of such a course was to be avoided, if
possible, by a compromise candidate.

In Miller's private parlor at Cleverdale's best hotel champagne, cigars,
and other refreshments were served. Miller could not prevail on all
delegates to accept his hospitality, for several moral lights in their
respective towns could not forget their standing, and enter a room where
temptations might lead them astray. Miller became somewhat alarmed
at the proposed compromise, for several of his own friends talked of
making success sure rather than run any risk of defeat. Miller was given
unlimited power by his chief to thwart Daley's purpose. So, finally,
in company with George Horton, Miller held a protracted interview with
the delegates in question, and a generous distribution of money ended
further efforts for a compromise candidate.

Promptly at one o'clock, the Convention was called to order by the
chairman of the Senatorial Committee, who nominated Hon. Walter Mannis
as chairman. A Daley delegate offered an amendment that James Kendrick,
of Silvertown, be substituted for Mr. Mannis. This was a test of the
strength of the respective candidates, and the loss of the amendment by
a vote of seventeen against fourteen was greeted with applause by the
friends of Senator Hamblin.

The deliberations proceeded with many interruptions, when a motion
for a ballot called talkers to their feet. The Daley men, with great
persistency, fought for a compromise, and the speakers in making their
appeal embraced the opportunity to attack the character of Senator
Hamblin. Sargent's statement was read, followed by the affidavit, read
by Miller, wherein Sargent retracted his charges against Hamblin,
admitting the injustice done to a man who never, to the affiant's
knowledge, performed a dishonorable act. The delegates became greatly
excited, the Daley men making another appeal for a compromise candidate,
charging the responsibility of defeat--which they declared sure to
follow--upon the Hamblin faction, if their request was ignored. Charges
of so grave a nature were preferred by both sides, that, if true, both
Senator Hamblin and ex-Assemblyman Daley would have been consigned to
felons' cells. The Daley delegates failing to carry their point, one
of their number moved to withdraw and hold another Convention. Twelve
delegates left the room, after which the nomination of Hon. Darius
Hamblin was made, and suitable resolutions passed, endorsing the action
of the Convention and condemning the course of the bolters.

A committee appointed to wait upon the candidate and inform him of
his nomination, soon returned with Senator Hamblin, who was received
with cheers. Order being restored, he thanked the delegates for the
honor conferred on him, and followed with a powerful speech, his
words being carefully and shrewdly chosen to win sympathy. While he
regretted, he said, the action of his personal enemies, he felt it his
duty to remain in the field, so long as the Daley faction attacked his
character. He deftly told of the personal sacrifices made to serve
his fellow-citizens, the speech concluding with a promise of certain
election, the cause represented by him being in the hands of the people.

Several others spoke, among them Mannis, who paid a glowing tribute to
his friend; then the Convention adjourned.

In the mean time the twelve bolting delegates assembled at another
place, where they were joined by eleven others, chosen by bolting
caucuses in the senatorial district. A Convention was organized, Daley
was nominated, and resolutions were passed declaring him the regular
candidate, adjournment following.

Two faction candidates were now before the people, the hostility between
them bordering on frenzy.



  CHAPTER XII.

  A WICKED SCHEME.


The campaign opened vigorously and malignantly, so far as the senatorial
nomination was concerned. The leaders began the work of organization
at once. Miller was manager of Senator Hamblin's canvass. Yet every
action was made at the instigation and under full direction of the Boss
himself. Money was freely used, and the men at the factories were,
through their pockets, made interested combatants.

Senator Hamblin supposed he had the support of all the bosses at the
mills, but Daley succeeded in securing several men of influence, whom
Miller found himself unable to win over. Even the great manufacturing
company of which Hamblin was a director had many Daley men in its
employ. The opposition party placed its candidate in the field, the
leaders in the full hope that the split in Senator Hamblin's party would
give them victory. Consequently there was no lack of ammunition to keep
up the fight.

It is a custom of American politics for journals of the opposite party
to help on the faction fights of their opponents by publishing the
charges made by each faction against the other, and these cause fully as
much bad blood as the most fiendish politician can desire.

One of the first demonstrations on either side was the presentation of
colors by Senator Hamblin to the newly organized Hamblin Guards. The
affair was shrewdly managed to give it all the political significance
that such affairs carry with them. The company was to be christened
and the colors presented by the honorable gentleman whose name had
been adopted. One of the best city bands was engaged, and a banquet
was ordered, to which many prominent men from abroad were invited. An
elaborate programme was prepared and the event pretty well advertised.
It was not especially intended by members of the company to use the
occasion for political purposes, but their patron shrewdly managed
otherwise.

Prominent members of the New York State National Guard were to grace the
occasion with their presence, and the gathering of shoulder-strapped
notables was to be large.

Cleverdale was to have a great gala-day, and, of course, Senator Hamblin
expected to reap the benefit. The stand of colors consisted of two
elegant silk flags--one the National colors, the other the company flag
bearing the name of HAMBLIN GUARDS and the State coat-of-arms
in gold and colors.

Senator Hamblin, desiring to bring Walter Mannis and his daughter
together upon the stage of the Opera House, shrewdly arranged that,
immediately after his presentation speech, Mannis should receive the
flags in behalf of the company from the hands of Belle. At first the
girl refused to take part in the festivities, appealing to her father
to excuse her, and pleading her grief at the loss of little Willie; but
the father was inexorable, and Belle saw that she would not be spared
the pain of taking the part assigned her in her father's political
programme. The opportunity of bringing Belle and Mannis together, added
to his inherent pride of display and political significance of the
occasion, made the Senator extremely happy, so what matter if it made
his daughter miserable?

The town, on the occasion, presented the appearance of holiday grandeur.
Bunting streamed from many public places and private residences, while
the cool October air and clear blue sky combined to make a truly royal
day for the affair. As the military company was composed of the best
blood of Cleverdale, it was natural that the citizens generally should
honor the day.

The Opera House was resplendent with beauty and brains. When, at the
appointed hour, the Hamblin Guards, commanded by Captain Rogers,
entered, delicious music filled the hall, and amid the waving of
handkerchiefs and smiles and cheers the company marched through the
aisle to the stage, and were arrayed in solid ranks at its back. The
music ceasing, Senator Hamblin appeared in front, accompanied by his
daughter and followed by Hon. Walter Mannis and Captain Rogers.

The programme opened with the presentation speech by Senator Hamblin.
It was an eloquent effort, and the points were so many and so well put
that deafening applause was frequent. Belle stood by, holding the staff
on which the company colors were furled. Beautiful in her rich attire
of satin and velvet, her sparkling eyes, rosy cheeks and lips made her
a most attractive figure. Mannis, standing beside her, glanced with
admiration at the beautiful girl. Senator Hamblin's eye flashed with
pride as he beheld his daughter, but no one understood the meaning of
the furtive glances he cast toward Mannis and Belle, except the latter,
who saw and comprehended its full significance; it caused a twinge of
pain and a sigh to escape her, and these attracted the attention of
Mannis. Realizing that she was attracting attention, a blush overspread
her face, and the handsome Assemblyman felt flattered by the belief
that his presence caused her emotion, while in reality her mind was
clouded by the remembrance of her father's cruel commands. Her agitation
was momentary, for the cue being given Belle gracefully unfurled the
beautiful ensign. It was the natural signal for applause, and the roof
fairly shook with cheers, the band playing "The Star-Spangled Banner,"
when Mannis took the flag and passed it to the captain, who placed
it in the hands of the company's ensign. The other banner then given
Belle was not fully exposed until coming into the hands of Mannis. That
gentleman then spoke in eloquent words, his handsome form and commanding
presence giving excellent effect to his utterances. On finishing he was
greeted with loud applause. The party, retiring from the stage, entered
a private box at the left while the band played several selections.
The Hamblin Guards gave a display of military drill which was greatly
enjoyed by the audience.

Assemblyman Mannis divided his attention between father and daughter,
the latter treating him with politeness. This was gratifying to her
father, who hoped she would overcome her reluctance to obey him. But he
reckoned without remembering the inflexible will of his child, who was
too well bred to act other than as a lady toward her father's guest,
especially when he was treating her with great deference.

While conversing with those about her, Belle saw George Alden occupying
a conspicuous seat, and many loving glances passed between her and
him. George could not avoid hearing the expressions of admiration that
greeted the handsome group. Senator Hamblin was a noble-looking man;
Mannis was handsome, and Belle never shone with greater brilliancy.

The ceremonies were nearly over when Captain Rogers, advancing to the
front of the stage, in a few words thanked the people of Cleverdale for
the honor done his command in assembling to witness the christening.
He also thanked his superior officers, coming from a distance to honor
the occasion; and for the magnificent gift of colors paid a handsome
eulogy to the honorable gentleman whose name the company bore. Then he
proposed three cheers for Senator Hamblin, which were given by the whole
assembly, rising to their feet. He then declared the exercises closed,
the band played "Home, Sweet Home," and the audience left the Opera
House.

Senator Hamblin and party passing from the box, Belle was followed by
Mannis. As they reached the auditorium, the handsome Assemblyman offered
his arm, saying:

"Miss Hamblin, may I have the honor of accompanying you home?"

With a pleasant smile she replied:

"Thank you, kindly, but I have a previous engagement," and with a
"Good-night, sir," turning, she took the arm of George Alden, who was at
her side.

Mannis was chagrined and Senator Hamblin's countenance quickly
overspread with anger. Whispering to his companion, he said:

"My friend, I am astonished, but we will speak of this later."

He could say no more, for, coming upon a party of distinguished military
gentlemen awaiting him--military men always know whom to waylay at such
times--the party was led to the Cleverdale House and ushered into the
banquet hall. Several tables were arranged for the company, Senator
Hamblin, Assemblyman Mannis and the military guests being placed
at a special table. At the right was another, at which were seated
Miller, Paddy Sullivan, George Horton, and several other political
celebrities. At the left were the officers--both commissioned and
non-commissioned--while at other tables were seated the members of the
company.

The tables were loaded with every delicacy that could be obtained, while
bottles of wine flanked a regular line of graceful glasses. Course after
course was partaken of, and amid the hilarity the host and his friend
appeared to forget their disappointment.

The popping of corks seemed just the kind of artillery that the
uniformed guests enjoyed best. Yet those who remember the troublous
times of twenty years ago will not forget that the Union was saved by
members of this same Home Guard, who play at soldiering with zest, but
in time of need "mean business."

Speeches, toasts, etc., followed, until the "wee sma' hours" the flow
of soul, wit, and wine continued, and Senator Hamblin reaped the full
benefit. When the last toast was drank, the host arose, and bidding
the company good-night, departed with his guests. After the military
dignitaries were conducted to their rooms, Senator Hamblin joined
Mannis, who was awaiting him.

"My dear Mannis, I am amazed at my daughter's conduct toward you this
evening. It was unexpected to me."

"I am afraid, Senator, she has deeply set her affection on that young
Alden. I can read character, and tremble lest my efforts to win her
prove unsuccessful."

"Unsuccessful? they shall not be. Do you suppose I will allow my child
to throw herself away upon a common bank clerk? No! if you love her as
you say she shall be your wife. My mind is made up, and the sentimental
nonsense of the girl shall be overcome."

"You may not be able to overcome it, Senator. Still, I never loved until
I saw your daughter, and I will wed her if her consent can be obtained,
trusting to winning her affections afterward. Be careful what you do,
though; don't frighten her with harsh treatment. She is conscientious,
and having a share of her father's self-will she must be handled
carefully, or before you know it she will fly off like a frightened
bird. I shall leave here early in the morning; before I go I beg of you,
whatever you do, to be discreet."

The angry father could not be quieted so easily. His face was hard with
passion; he swore to himself that Alden should be sent away in disgrace
and Belle be locked in her room; but when Mannis told him his canvass
would not permit anything so arbitrary, the cord controlling his every
action being touched, he became quiet, and said:

"Well, what course can I pursue? Answer me that."

Mannis suddenly rising to his feet, looked into the closet, under the
bed, behind the door, and in every place that might conceal a listener,
then approaching Senator Hamblin, whispered:

"This man Alden must be sacrificed."

Senator Hamblin started, while a shade of horror passed over his
countenance.

"No, no! Mannis, no bloodshed for me!"

"Bloodshed? Nonsense! no one said bloodshed. He is in your bank,
surrounded by temptation. Place a trap for him, do you understand? Your
daughter is too honorable and high-minded to associate with a rascal."

"Yes, I see," thoughtfully answered the Senator. "I declare, Mannis, you
are full of expedients. Yes, he shall be entrapped, for I am justified
in saving my daughter."

"Treat her kindly and do not be harsh with Alden; but work up a trap for
him. Haven't you a clerk in the bank you can enlist to help you?"

"Let me see. I have it! The cashier, Wilber, can live but a short time
and Alden will be his successor. Sargent, who published that ugly paper
about me, is promised Alden's present place. Yes; he is my man, and I
will use him."

The two talked a few moments longer, and warmly shaking hands parted,
Senator Hamblin leaving for his home. On entering the gate he heard his
name spoken, and turning saw Miller approaching, all excitement and out
of breath, for he had been running.

"More trouble, Senator; that d----d Rawlings has sold us out."

"Sold us out! the devil he has! And two thousand dollars of my money
gone! It can't be possible, Miller!"

"But it is so, for I had it from his own lips. To-morrow's edition will
fire into you from all sides. It's a bad go, and I have been afraid of
the scoundrel. I was half inclined when I heard it to let Paddy Sullivan
set a few of the lads on the office and clean it out. But that will
hardly do."

"What shall we do for a home paper, now?"

"There is only one course left us, and that is buy up the _Advertiser_,
which is in the market; but we must get legal hold of the concern. That
is the only way now, for we must have an organ."

"Call at my office early to-morrow morning, and we will arrange the
matter. Curse the luck! but I will block that little game. Good-night!"
and the Senator entered the house, not to sleep, but to lie upon his
bed thinking over the two exciting problems of the day, namely, how to
entrap Alden, and in what manner to counteract the effects of Rawlings'
treachery.



  CHAPTER XIII.

  DALEY'S STRENGTH WANES.


The appearance of the _Investigator_ next morning was like a thunderbolt
in the village of Cleverdale. It came out boldly against Senator
Hamblin, and charged that his action at the convention meant the
overthrow of his party. The editor stated that he had stood by the man
as long as he had even a piece of argument to catch his toes on, but
when the wisdom of the men controlling the convention could not bring
Senator Hamblin to see his duty, when a compromise candidate was asked
for and refused, it was time for all respectable men in the party to
declare themselves on the side of honesty, justice, and common-sense.
It cited the charges first brought by Sargent, copied Sargent's first
statement in full, and then charged that the profligate use of money had
done more than anything else to make the elective franchise a farce.
Senator Hamblin was held responsible for the disgrace of corrupting
voters in the village of Cleverdale. The article was a scathing
arraignment of Hamblin before the bar of public opinion, and apparently
its influence foreboded disaster to the regular candidate.

During the early morning hours Miller met his "boss" at the private
office of the latter, having previously seen the editor of the
_Advertiser_, who offered to sell his paper for twenty-five hundred
dollars. The price was considered high, but that being the best that
could be done, Miller was ordered to purchase the concern at once. One
of Cleverdale's young lawyers was placed in charge of the _Advertiser's_
editorial columns, and the first number devoted itself to Rawlings'
treachery and Daley's private character. The latter, the new editor
asserted, was, unlike that of Cæsar's wife, not above suspicion, while
Senator Hamblin's private character was pure and spotless.

The fight between the papers was so full of acrimony that Satan himself
would have delighted in it, had there been any possibility of his
receiving fire-proof copies. Both candidates were attacked, and the sins
of their ancestors were carefully elaborated and fired off as campaign
fireworks.

Previous to an election, American journalism of the party-organ stripe
has a demoralizing influence in the land. The good qualities of
candidates are briefly mentioned. But the bad qualities--ah! these are
what the party organs delight in. Not the part that their own candidate
occupies on the side of virtue; not the good that is in him; not the
intellectual qualifications he boasts of; not the nobleness of character
he possesses--none of these inspire the editor. No, all of this is
nothing: the amount of "pure cussedness" that can be attributed to the
opposing candidate is the indicator of journalistic inspiration. Many
a man who has thought himself a moral light has in an unguarded moment
accepted a nomination, and the astonishment of himself and friends to
see how corrupt he suddenly becomes is not infrequently a harbinger of
victory for the opposition. The English language can hardly furnish
adjectives to qualify such a man. Damned he is inevitably, and his
carcass when hung up is filled with arrows dipped in printer's poisoned
ink. When a foreigner picks up one of our party organs, during an
exciting political campaign, he cannot help thanking his Creator he
was not born in a land where public men are such rascals and robbers.
Cardinal Wolsey said, "Corruption wins not more than honesty," but
the dethroned favorite lived before America had gone into politics on
her own account, and then left the work to her parasites instead of
attending to it herself.

As an index to the feeling of the Cleverdale community, a very
interesting incident that occurred after the _Investigator's_ editor
came out against Senator Hamblin is valuable. One evening Editor
Rawlings, boldly entering the "Shades," walked up to Paddy Sullivan, and
extending his hand said:

"Good-evening, Paddy."

The man addressed rose slowly to his feet, the hot blood rushed to his
face, the florid countenance assuming an almost purple hue. Drawing back
from the outstretched hand as if it had been a viper preparing to strike
its fangs into his flesh, a look of scorn flashed from his bleared eyes,
his lips trembled, and his chin quivered as he roared:

"Shake hands! wid sich a dirty traither as yees? Judas Iscariot was a
white man beside the loike of yees, and Binedict Arnold a saint. Git out
av this house, ye villin! Bad cess to a loafer who sells hisself to a
tradin' thafe! Shake hands wid yees, is it? May me hand be cut from me
arrum afore it aven teches that pizen thing av yours."

Several men gathered about Rawlings, and each had a word to say.

"Well, gentlemen, what have I done?" asked Rawlings; "can't a
thoroughbred citizen call in here without being insulted? Come, boys,
let's take a drink. Set 'em up, Paddy."

"Set 'em up, Paddy? Not a domned set up here. D'ye hear?" and the
proprietor began pulling off his coat. "Now look ye here, Mr. Binedict
Arnold, there's the door! and if your dirty carcass isn't outside of it
in fifteen siconds, be jabers, I'm the darlint to throw yees out! No,
b'ys, yees kape back. Moind, I'm the jedge to settle wid him. Iditor,
git out!"

Rawlings, realizing that the angry Paddy was in earnest, slowly walked
toward the door, when an egg striking him full in the back caused him to
utter a savage oath.

"Paddy Sullivan, you and your gang of ruffians will repent this!"

During the interview Paddy failed to observe three men whispering
to his wife, back of the bar. The woman handing them a package, the
ugly-looking fellows stole out the side-door, and hid behind a tree as
Rawlings was leaving the saloon.

The exasperated editor unconsciously approached the trio, swearing
furiously at the outrage to his person, bitterly denouncing Senator
Hamblin, whom he held responsible for the insult. As he arrived at the
ambuscade, three men suddenly sprang out, and before recovering from
his surprise Rawlings was enveloped in a cloud of flour, the substance
filling his eyes and mouth and covering him from head to foot. For
once the _Investigator_ man could boast that he was a white man, but
he did not think to do it. And before he had recovered sufficiently to
recognize his assailants, they had fled.

Hearing approaching footsteps, he stepped aside as Senator Hamblin and
Cyrus Hart Miller passed. Hidden behind a tree, he gnashed his teeth
with rage as the objects of his hatred disappeared. He then left his
place of concealment and started homeward.

The campaign went on, and Senator Hamblin bled freely. His chances were
desperate, the Daley crowd drawing so heavily from him that at times the
election of the opposition party candidate seemed almost assured. Miller
was at work day and night, and wherever money could be used to win back
strong leaders the price was paid and the wanderers brought back to the
fold.

At the Cleverdale Woollen Mill, of which Senator Hamblin was a large
stockholder, three powerful bosses opposed him. One had seen the
necessity of "getting straight" for his employer, the others refusing
to see their duty, or rather their interest. Having been exhorted and
coaxed, it was evident they meant to "stick," and, each controlling many
men, it became necessary to resort to other means to prevent opposition
to the Senator.

As a warning to others, one of the bosses was to be removed from his
position at the factory. Of course it would not do to openly discharge
men for having political opinions of their own, for that would be called
proscription, and in this free land would never be tolerated. Besides,
a candidate could ill afford being called a "bulldozer," so, pay-day
arriving, one of the bosses was discharged, and informed that his work
did not please. He denounced the company for depriving him of the right
of enjoying his own opinions, the charge being indignantly denied, but
the company put a stanch Hamblin man in the vacant place, while the
other stubborn boss, thinking discretion the better part of valor, was
not slow in deserting Daley. The factory hands were soon made solid for
their employer, for in the factory were posted large placards bearing
the words:

    EMPLOYÉS ARE EXPECTED
         TO VOTE FOR
        DARIUS HAMBLIN
             FOR
        STATE SENATOR.

Will any man vote the bread and butter from the mouths of his wife and
children?

Senator Hamblin meanwhile treated his daughter with great kindness.
He did not refer to the scene at the Opera House, or again forbid her
meeting Alden. He gave her large sums of money to distribute among the
charitable institutions and poor of Cleverdale. Belle was happy at
being allowed to assist the needy, and her father found her a valuable
aid to his ambition. It was not strange, with so much money wisely
distributed, that his canvass should grow more promising as election
drew nearer. Men were sent into every part of the senatorial district,
and if argumentative power availed not, more solid inducements were
used. The powerful railroad interests were helping Daley, but even
with the contributions from the great monopolies he continually lost
ground. When he was nominated the mad passions of his backers held full
sway, but as time passed men became cooler, and the irregularity of
Daley's nomination, as well as the interest of the party, were powerful
arguments in favor of Senator Hamblin. Here and there strong leaders
were recaptured, and returned with their followers to the support of the
regular nominee.

Miller managed the canvass with consummate skill. He was everywhere at
the right moment, while County Clerk Horton, Assemblyman Mannis, Paddy
Sullivan, and others were valuable auxiliaries. "The machine" showed its
great strength in the emergency, and demonstrated that the most powerful
engine of American politics, when the bosses instead of the people
have their hand on it, _is_ the machine. Daley's canvass dwindled to
insignificant proportions, although danger was by no means impossible,
for it was reported that Daley would withdraw and urge his friends to
support the opposite party's candidate. As for Rawlings, he had really
been a detriment to the bolters, for his malice and treachery were so
apparent that respectable people became disgusted with him, and the
_Investigator_ became a boomerang. Rawlings was treated with contempt
by his townsmen, and of course did not enjoy the respect of those who
purchased him.

A week before election day the cashier of the Cleverdale National Bank
died. The directors at once called a meeting and elected George Alden
cashier, choosing Sargent as teller to fill the vacancy caused by
Alden's promotion. Sargent's appointment was to be kept secret until
after election, lest it might endanger the bank president's success.

It was a proud day for George Alden when he was formally made cashier,
and Belle was agreeably surprised when her father spoke kindly of the
young man, although he added:

"I hope he will do nothing to destroy the confidence the directors have
placed in him, but, like all young men, he may fall into temptation.
He has greater responsibility than ever before, and in these days of
defalcations it is hard to tell who will fall. George Alden is only
human."

Belle, biting her lip with concealed vexation, was about to reply when a
glance from her mother stifled the words she would have spoken. Feeling
the significance of her father's remark, she went to her room to reflect
upon what she had heard.



  CHAPTER XIV.

  THE ELECTION.


'Twas the eve of election, and everything had been done by all sides to
insure a full vote. Thorough canvasses having been made by the three
candidates, every party felt confident of winning the day. A mass
meeting at the Opera House was to be addressed by Senator Hamblin, and
the hour drawing nigh a vast crowd assembled. At eight o'clock the
spacious balcony was filled with ladies, stalwart men occupying seats on
the main floor. When Senator Hamblin entered cheer after cheer greeted
him. Bowing acknowledgments, he turned to greet the semi-circle of solid
men of Cleverdale occupying chairs on the stage. Although his face was
radiant with pleasure, careworn lines about his eyes gave evidence of
the strain he had undergone during the exciting canvass now drawing to a
close. As he took his seat a gentleman rose and said:

"Ladies and gentlemen, for the purpose of organizing this meeting, I
nominate as chairman, William J. Campbell. All favoring Mr. Campbell as
chairman will signify it by saying Aye."

There was a loud vote "Aye!"

"All opposed will say No!"

There being no votes in the negative, the motion was declared carried,
and Mr. Campbell escorted to the chair. Making a brief speech, he paid a
high compliment to "Cleverdale's favorite," Senator Hamblin, predicting
a sweeping victory on the morrow, looking for a more harmonious feeling
in the party after the canvass was over. His remarks were frequently
interrupted by applause, after which he asked the pleasure of the
meeting.

Cyrus Hart Miller arose and proposed a number of gentlemen as
vice-presidents of the meeting. The list contained names of many old
citizens, and it was evident an effort had been made to recognize every
element of Cleverdale. Every nationality was represented, even the names
of several colored persons--descendants of Ham--being sandwiched between
Celtic or Teutonic slices, while the native American was present in
small quantity--merely enough for seasoning.

Then followed a long list of secretaries, embracing the names of many
young men. The motion being submitted and carried, these gentlemen
were invited to take seats on the stage. After music by the band,
Cleverdale's glee club sang a piece suitable for the occasion, when
the chairman presented Senator Hamblin. This was the occasion for
more applause. When this subsided, the honorable gentleman began his
remarks. Speaking at length, the occasion offered fine opportunities
for display of his oratorical powers. Giving his views upon leading
public questions, and comprehensively elucidating all the details of
his subject, he compelled his audience to be attentive listeners. His
views upon finances were explained, and his opposition to railroads
and other monopolies graphically dilated upon. In all his remarks,
however, he held one highly-colored picture before his auditors: it was
a life-size photograph of himself as a Reformer. No reference was made
to Daley and his friends until near the close of the speech, when the
Senator paid his respects to them in words not at all complimentary. He
told his hearers of having been forced into the campaign against his
will, compelled to be their candidate simply to vindicate their honor
as well as his own. Not desiring the office, it being a detriment to
his business, he had placed himself in the hands of his friends and
neighbors, and the morrow's verdict would be received by him either as
an indorsement or condemnation of his course as their servant. Having
been told that vast sums of money would be expended by the bolting
faction, he also had the assurance of gentlemen managing the campaign on
his side that every effort would be made to thwart the corrupters of the
ballot-box. Dwelling heavily upon this one point, he somehow refrained
from telling the audience that his own check for twenty thousand
dollars had been drawn that day, and the money distributed in every
town in the senatorial district for the purpose of purchasing votes.
Had the information been given, the knowledge might have increased his
vote among that class of men whose patriotic motives at the polls are
governed by money.

The Senator spoke for two hours, and, the meeting closing, the people of
Cleverdale were left in a halo of political enthusiasm.

Election day opened pleasantly. Cyrus Hart Miller had thoroughly
organized his forces, his chief staff officer being the powerful Paddy
Sullivan. Next to his own Bridget and the children, Senator Hamblin
occupied the chief seat in Paddy's affections, for the "Boss" being a
generous paymaster Paddy adored him.

The opening hours of election day were quiet. During the morning the
honest voters cast their ballots, the marketable article appearing later
in the day. As Miller entered one of the polling-places and met Farmer
Johnson, he extended his hand and said:

"Mr. Johnson, how are you to-day?"

"Mighty well, Miller; how's things agoin' here?"

"Oh, Hamblin will be elected by a good big majority."

"Don't be sartin on it. I tell you what it is, them Daley fellers is
a-workin' like blazes into the hands of t'other party."

"That's nothing new, for Daley has been working that way all the time,
being paid to bolt and come up a stump candidate. He is a bad man, Mr.
Johnson."

"Don't know so much about that air; but see here, Miller--let me speak
to you privately--he offered to pay my team hire if I'd come down and
vote for him."

"But a farmer worth his forty thousand dollars wouldn't sell his vote!"

"Sell my vote! See here, Miller, let's go into this room. There: I can
speak to you by ourselves, now. Do you mean to insinuate I'd sell my
vote--me, a farmer who can buy the best farm in this 'ere county? No,
sir, you've got the wrong man."

"Why, Mr. Johnson, of course you wouldn't."

"No, I jest wouldn't. But you see this is a good workin' day, and me and
my two boys dropped everything to come down to vote. Daley offered to
pay for my team if we'd go for him. I don't like him half so well as I
do Hamblin; but--er--it kinder seems as if you'd oughter stand the price
of our three days' work and team-hire if we vote your ticket."

"What do you call it worth? Are the boys here?"

"Yes, they'll be here in a few minutes; and if you'll give me five
dollars--that is, two for the team and a dollar apiece for our three
days' work--we'll vote for Hamblin."

"It's a pretty good price, but I suppose I will have to do it."

"But 'tain't sellin' our votes. I'd scorn doing such a mean trick as
that. It's only gettin' pay for lost time."

"Exactly so, Mr. Johnson; I wouldn't dare offer to buy your votes for
fear of offending you. There are your boys--call them."

The good old farmer, whose fine sense of honor would not permit him to
sell his vote, said:

"Jack, you and Jim must vote for Hamblin; give us your ballots, Miller."

The ballots deposited in the box, Farmer Johnson, one of the upholders
of our free institutions, received a five-dollar greenback for
performing his duty as a patriot. This was only one instance, many of
the same character occurring during the day.

Paddy Sullivan was at the polling district, and as the "b'ys" came up,
said:

"Now, thin! here's your clane ticket--sthand aside and let the voters
come up. Here, Misther Inspecthor, take this ballot. Be jabers, thim's
the regular clane ticket, an' it's meself as knows how to git 'em in!
Whoop 'em in, b'ys!"

Crowding his fat form before those voting against his candidate, at
every opportunity, and challenging them, he ruled despotically, and
respectable men looked approval.

"Arrah! Paddy Sullivan is no slouch, and when yees wants the ballot kept
clane, I'm the daisy to do it."

Men ran hither and thither; Miller's aids receiving orders flew off,
returning with those to be "seen." Whispering consultations were held,
ballots distributed and deposited, the corrupted voters thereafter
receiving pasteboard checks representing the amount agreed upon. In a
small room in another part of the building the holders, presenting the
checks, received their cash.

During the afternoon the excitement increased, the purchasable voters
flocking about Miller and Paddy Sullivan, the latter standing near the
ballot-box and making himself obnoxious to all voting the other ticket.
He assumed to instruct the inspectors of election about their duties,
and these officials feared to dispute his authority, in many instances
their decisions being forestalled by him. Those of the other party were
at his mercy, and the power of a pothouse politician was absolute. He
was especially abusive to those of his own political party who voted for
Daley, and soon after noon the Daley crowd becoming demoralized were
driven from the polls.

So thoroughly was Senator Hamblin's programme carried out that every
voter on his side was brought to the polls, in many instances men being
paid to vote in both polling-places. All this was done in the interest
of Senator Hamblin, who claimed to represent the "honesty and reform"
element of the community.

Honesty and Reform! what sins you have to answer for! So potent are
these names that if Beelzebub ever expects to people his realms with
the good, he need only announce from platform and press that he is for
honesty and reform.

Toward night Senator Hamblin received words of encouragement from every
town. Passing the day at the bank, directing the movements of his
forces, he was in excellent spirits at the prospects of his success and
the downfall of his enemies.

The polls closing, Cyrus Hart Miller and Paddy Sullivan joined the boss
at Hamblin's private office.

"Sinitor, ye're elected by two thousand majority, and there hain't
enough lift of Daley to grase a griddle wid. Didn't we vote the b'ys
lively!"

"Paddy, you are a trump, and I shall never forget your services in
my behalf. Here is a little present for you," and he handed him two
one-hundred-dollar bills.

"God bless you, Sinitor, and whin Paddy Sullivan can help yees, he's yer
man, every time. May ye live long and niver want for a frind."

Cigars were lighted, and the trio waited for returns. It was not
long before the good news began to flow in, Cleverdale's majority
for Senator Hamblin being nearly two hundred larger than that of two
years previous. No sooner was the result announced than the streets
were illuminated with bonfires and a crowd of men approached the bank.
Telegrams kept coming in containing news of Senator Hamblin's increased
majorities on every side, so that his election was assured beyond a
doubt. His countenance beamed with delight, and Paddy Sullivan, whirling
upon his heel, shouted:

"Hip! hip! hooray! didn't we whoop 'em in!"

The shout reaching the crowd outside, they at once responded:

"Three cheers for Senator Hamblin!"

In answer to the summons, Senator Hamblin stepped out, followed by
Miller and Paddy, and was greeted with cheers from the crowd, who
demanded a speech. He responded in a few words of thanks, congratulating
his fellow-citizens that honesty and right had triumphed over
corruption. When he concluded, cries were made for Miller, who appeared
and spoke briefly, thanking his fellow-citizens for their part in the
day's victory. Of course he did not refer to the fact that at least
three quarters of those before him had received checks, ranging from two
to five dollars, for voting for Senator Hamblin.

A great victory had been won--that was enough. Senator Hamblin, figuring
the cost, found he had paid over forty thousand dollars for the honor of
holding an office for which he would receive fifteen hundred dollars per
year for two years. Contemplating the cost, he said:

"It is a pretty expensive investment, but the profits have not yet begun
to come in."

It was far into the night when, entering his residence, he retired to
his room, and said:

"Now if I can get rid of Alden and make Belle the wife of Mannis I shall
be a happy man. Mannis is rich, and I have lately met with heavy losses.
To-morrow Sargent goes into the bank, and then--for Alden!"



  CHAPTER XV.

  GLOOMY FOREBODINGS.


The excitement of election had hardly subsided when Daley was declared
bankrupt. With the loss of property his mind became shattered. Brooding
over his troubles and looking upon himself as a victim of the grossest
persecution, his brain became so diseased that he would talk of nothing
but fancied wrongs. Friends, observing his singular actions, little
thought that he contemplated revenge. Two weeks later, however, Daley
entered the bank, pulled a revolver from his pocket and fired two shots
at his late antagonist. Luckily the pistol failed to do its work, and
Daley was secured before he could do more mischief. Raving and swearing
that he would have Senator Hamblin's life, he was removed at once, his
friends promising to send him to an asylum. Senator Hamblin agreed not
to prosecute him, but the affair caused great excitement, much sympathy
being expressed for Daley. His case was only one of many: men infatuated
with politics are often overwhelmed in financial and social ruin,
occasionally followed by dethronement of reason.

Sargent's position in the bank caused much comment, but he was a good
accountant and at once became conversant with his work. Cashier Alden
gladly saw how readily he fell into the routine of a teller's duties,
for he himself had long been doing the work of two men. While glad to
have so useful an assistant, he did not feel the confidence he wished in
the new teller, for Sargent lacked that frank expression of countenance
that all business men look for in one another. Besides, the attitude
that Sargent had occupied toward the president of the bank prejudiced
Alden's mind against him. The new cashier knew that Sargent, over his
own signature, had made statements reflecting upon Senator Hamblin's
character, and had subsequently under oath denied them, his reward
being the position as bank-teller. If Alden had been a politician he
would have seen nothing unusual in such inconsistency, but being only a
business man he judged Sargent by business rules, just as if politics
was not a rule unto itself.

One evening Senator Hamblin was writing letters in his private office at
the bank when Sargent entered, and said:

"Excuse me, but I desire to get a book I have here."

"All right, Sargent. How do you like your new place?" said the Senator.

"It suits me nicely. Just my fit, thanks to you, sir. Anything I can do
to serve your interests I shall be ready to perform."

"Anything, Sargent?"

"Yes, sir! You can command me to do anything you will. I am indebted to
you, and only too anxious to serve you."

Senator Hamblin hesitated as if about to speak, and then in a low tone
of voice said:

"I have some very important work I may call upon you to perform. It is
very peculiar, and will require the greatest secrecy. You have done
private work for me before, and whatever you do now will not be without
reward. I am not quite ready. In the mean time attend strictly to your
duties, and make yourself strong with the cashier. Win his confidence in
every particular, and you will have no cause for regret. I have taken
you into my confidence as well as my employ. You can go now, as I have
letters to write, and wish to be alone."

"Good-night, sir!" said Sargent. "When you need my services, command me
and I shall obey," and he passed out of the building.

"Yes," said Senator Hamblin, "I believe he will do anything I desire,
and with his assistance a trap can be laid for Alden, for I am
determined he shall be put out of the way."

He had just written a letter to Mannis, containing the following lines:
"When shall I see you? I desire to know what has occurred to your mind
to help along that little scheme. You must have a programme. Shall we
meet soon?" Folding and addressing the letter, he soon after started for
home, and arriving there saw Belle and George Alden in the parlor. He
did not enter the room, but passing the door muttered angrily:

"We will spoil that fun soon. Curse it! I wish I could strangle him!"

His hatred for the cashier increasing, he could not drive the thought
from his mind that Alden was really doing something criminal. A certain
villain named Iago once worked himself into a similar frame of mind.
Hamblin's one absorbing thought was to ruin Alden, and thus estrange
from him his daughter's affection.

Belle felt sure that her father's tranquillity was not permanent.
Expecting another outbreak, she never awoke in the morning without
saying to herself, "I am afraid it will come to-day." Her father often
spoke of money losses, accompanying his remarks with these words:

"I should not care, if my daughter were as well provided for as I
desire." Although raising no objection to George Alden's visiting the
house, he was always cross after seeing him there. At the bank he spoke
to him only on business, and as the cashier attended strictly to his
duties there was little reason for conversation between him and the
Senator.

Of course all this could not escape the attention of the village people,
for "folks will talk." Everybody had his own views about the matter.
George Alden was often seen with the beautiful daughter of the bank
president, and it was remarked that the young lady seemed a satisfied
party to the arrangement, so the village gossips had a rich morsel to
roll about in their mouths.

One of the directors of the bank, a regular sitter in one of the
Cleverdale stores--where that detestable creature, the male gossip,
may be found every evening warming his toes as well as warming the
reputation of his neighbors--related his suspicions to fellow-sitters,
who in turn related them to their wives, and finally the news was
generally circulated that Senator Hamblin disliked Cashier Alden
because the latter admired his daughter. This was enlarged upon to
suit the crowd where the subject was under discussion, until the whole
neighborhood knew more about the private matters of the Hamblin family
than did the family itself. There is nothing wonderful about this,
though, for the family who knows as much about its own business as the
neighbors do has never yet been discovered.

Belle observed with pain her father's angry countenance, and sighed as
she thought of the change that had come over him in a few short months.
Once she was his pet; he never entered the house without uttering words
of endearment or presenting her some token of affection; now, sullen and
morose, he took his meals in silence, and the old, happy, sunshiny days
were only memories.

George Alden hearing her sigh looked into her face, and said:

"Why are you sad?"

"I was thinking--thinking of the happy past."

"And has the present or future no happy moments?"

"Yes, it has many; but oh, George, time works some dreadful changes.
Once I was my father's pride, but that day has passed, and now he has no
love, but ambition; no companions but such as Miller and Paddy Sullivan;
no thought but for politics, and few aims outside of public life. Oh,
how I should enjoy one single moment of the good old days--when I had a
father."

George offered some lover's sympathy of a kind that, although made by
lips, does not put itself into words. But he said:

"It makes me sad to realize that I am much to blame for this state of
affairs. If I thought you would be happier I would make the greatest
sacrifice man can, and give you up. I know by his every action toward
me that I am the subject of his hatred. He considers me a thief who has
stolen his most precious treasure, and if I did not fill my position at
the bank acceptably I should not be retained an hour."

"Is he unkind to you, George?"

"No, he never speaks to me except on business matters. If he has
anything to say, any little pleasantry to relate, it is always to
Sargent, whom he treats in a far more friendly manner than he does me."

"What kind of a clerk does Sargent make?"

"He is a good accountant, perfectly correct, and very apt and quick to
learn; writes a fine hand, and has the most wonderful power of imitating
handwriting I ever saw."

"Do you have confidence in him? Is he a man you can safely trust?"

"H'm--well, he is your father's choice, he trusts him; why shouldn't I?"

Belle, with true womanly instinct, was not satisfied, and said:

"Be frank with me, George. You must have reason for distrusting him,
and I ask your confidence. No one more than I can desire you to have a
trustworthy clerk."

"I can only say I am not impressed with his honesty. Perhaps I am
prejudiced, for you know he has not placed himself on record as one
whose word can be relied upon. Belle, when Sargent stepped into the
bank I should have resigned at once had it not been for you."

"For me! why?"

"Because your father wished him to have the position. No harm may come
of it, but I have a presentiment of evil. Pshaw; it's a foolish whim,
no doubt, and I should not be influenced by it, nor worry you with it.
I think it is time for me to be off when I torment my sweetheart with
presentiments. Good-night."

Belle went directly to her mother, who said:

"What is it, Belle? is anything wrong to-night?"

"Oh, I don't know. Why did papa engage that Sargent as bank clerk? He
does not bear a good reputation. George does not have confidence in him,
and I am afraid he is not a trustworthy man."

"You and George don't like him, eh? If you and George will please attend
to your own affairs you will both appear to better advantage."

Belle started; it was her father who had spoken; he had entered the room
unperceived, just in time to hear her remark.

"Papa, as you have heard me, I cannot recall my words. After his
publishing such a statement about you, I cannot repress my indignation
against the fellow. I do not like him, and with due respect to you have
no confidence in him."

"If my daughter will not interfere in the public and private business
matters of her father," said the Senator coldly, "but will be guided
more by his advice and judgment, her future will be happier, and her
companions not of that class who slander their betters."

So speaking, he left the room. Belle's temper rose quickly; the hot
blood mantled her cheek, and her eyes flashed fire.

"George Alden's character is as far above that detestable Sargent's as
the sky is above the earth. Papa hates those who are good and noble, but
he takes to his confidence such men as Cyrus Miller, Paddy Sullivan,
and that Sargent. Oh, this detestable politics! It steals the honorable
instincts from good men, and makes them willing to sacrifice any and
every thing to gain power. It has taken away my dear father, and left
you a widow and me fatherless. God pity us both!"

Sympathetic words calmed the daughter's grief somewhat, and a few
moments later, bidding her mother good-night, Belle gained her room and
fell upon her knees before the only Friend who entirely consoled her
when she felt desolate. She arose comforted. She was scarcely asleep
when she dreamed that, again a little girl, happy and free from sorrow,
she saw her father and flew to meet him. As her arms were about to
embrace him, a serpent's head darted before her, the face changing to
that of Sargent, who said:

"Beware, maiden! I am the god of political ambition, and am about to
crush you in my coils."

As it wound its dreadful length about her she reached forth her hands
and piteously implored her father to save her. He only laughed, and
said:

"Oh, no, my daughter; I am the slave of the serpent. He demands your
sacrifice, and I must obey."

Looking again, she saw the faces of her father's political friends, all
laughing at her, and the serpent said:

"Only ten seconds to live!"

Closer and closer its coils tightened about her; she could scarcely
breathe; her agony becoming unbearable, she gave a loud shriek, and
cried:

"Oh, mother, save me!"

Springing to the floor, the frightened girl beheld her mother entering
the room.

"What is it, child? How you frightened me."

"It was a hideous nightmare. I thought I was being crushed by a serpent."

After relating her dream, Belle tried again to sleep, but during the
remainder of the night the phantom haunted her. Truly, her dream was
only a presage of the grief and trouble in store for her.



  CHAPTER XVI.

  THE PRINCE OF MANNIS MANOR.


Havelock, the home of Hon. Walter Mannis, is a beautiful village
situated in a valley surrounded by lofty hills. The place is not a busy
one, but the home of many old and wealthy families who reside there
during the summer months. The streets are lined on either side with
well-grown shade trees, and the handsome residences are surrounded by
spacious grounds tastefully laid out.

Mannis Manor had passed down from father to son for four successive
generations, each inheritor marking his ownership with additions or
alterations until the fine old house displays architectural styles of
different periods of the past century. Walter Mannis inherited this old
manor and its two hundred acres, beside a fortune in cash of over a
quarter of a million dollars. Having been in possession about ten years,
with so much money at his command, is it strange that he had devoted
much of his time to pleasure and dissipation?

Both parents dying during his childhood, in the conduct of household
matters he was dependent upon a house-keeper, an inmate of the old manor
many years before he became its owner.

Mrs. Culver felt her responsibility, and considered it her privilege
as well as duty to keep a motherly eye upon the young master. One of
those good souls found in every community, she enjoyed her work, and
her word about the manor was law. Mannis humored her whims, for she was
a most valuable member of his household. She was sixty years of age,
prudent, systematic, orderly, thoroughly competent and trustworthy.
While carefully managing household affairs, she devoted much time to
the supervision of farm duties, acknowledging no authority except the
master himself, who had great confidence in her ability. Looking after
his domestic comforts, she kept his suite of rooms in perfect order;
regulated his wardrobe, and saw every garment kept in repair. She
occasionally scolded him for extravagance in dress, and he received her
severe words good-humoredly, for he really loved the kind, motherly
attention bestowed upon him. In sickness she was a valuable nurse, and
her closet of "yarbs and nostrums" a curiosity. With cup and spoon in
hand ready to dose a patient, she was supremely happy. She was proud of
"her Walter," although the young man caused her many hours of anxiety.

At college he had sought merry young men for associates, and as he was
provided with plenty of money he had no trouble to find them. Witty,
vivacious, and eloquent, these brilliant adjuncts made him a lion in
society, young men seeking him, while the ladies felt honored at his
attention. He was a great flirt, and his conquests of hearts were
frequent, yet he never until now had surrendered his own. While his eye
sparkled with intelligence, it did not impress a student of human nature
as being the eye of an honest man; even children could sometimes see in
it something that made them distrustful.

He enjoyed the gay life money enabled him to follow, and much of his
time was passed away from home. During the winter his abiding-place was
the great metropolis. Allowing himself to be led to palatial gambling
dens, he played, and lost heavily, yet his passion was not cooled by
reverses. Wall Street tempted him, and his ventures at first returned
him fair margins, but his later investments were unsuccessful. Becoming
interested in politics, he was twice elected member of assembly, and his
manner, fortune, and intellectual qualities made him a great favorite at
Albany.

The legislator who can gain the personal friendship of his associates
can accomplish more than the cold, dignified man, so often elected
simply to give character to his constituency. Mannis was not only a good
debater on the floor, but a "powerful persuader" between sessions, and
could accomplish more with members from the "rural districts" than any
man in either house. The farmer members looked upon him as a kind of
deity. He flattered them, and when they were unable to frame a bill in
presentable shape, assisted them, and thus won their regard, though for
his own part he felt that many buckwheat producers had been spoiled by
sending an equal number of farmers to the State Legislature.

Mannis was well adapted to politics, and really liked its excitements.
Having served two terms, he was only prevented seeking a renomination
because it had been the custom to alternate the office, every two years,
between the northern and southern part of his assembly district. He
seriously thought of overthrowing this old time-honored custom, but
friends persuading him to wait or look for something higher, he turned
his aspirations to Congress, and was trying to educate his forces to
assist in the consummation of this wish.

In business speculations he was seldom successful, for money invested
in many enterprises always returned him less than he put in. His losses
troubled him, and he was often haunted with the idea that he would
eventually become a poor man. Investing in government bonds and drawing
the interest at stated intervals was too slow a way of making money.
Observing friends gaining fortunes by speculation, he felt that he too
could make money in the same way.

At the time this story began he had lost half his fortune in speculation
and gambling, and realized that his available funds were gradually
passing from his hands. His farm yield, though not enough to help him
out of his difficulty, was, thanks to the management of Mrs. Culver,
sufficient to support his household without making drafts on his bank
account. But his extravagant private expenses worried and caused him
hours of anxious thought.

"There's nothing else to do," he would say to himself; "I must make a
wealthy marriage. With a fortune and a wife I can save myself and keep a
life-lease on the old manor."

It was this thought that actuated him partially in his desire to
wed Belle Hamblin. While he admired her brilliant personality,
and confessed that he was never before so charmed with a lady, he
acknowledged to himself that her father's fortune was necessary to save
him from the financial disaster which he feared.

He sat in his room one evening smoking a cigar and thinking. All about
were evidences of his æsthetic taste. Bric-à-brac crowded the mantels,
while many fine pictures adorned the walls. Easels, arranged with a view
to throwing light upon the works they held, were on all sides. Oriental
rugs lay on the floor, while the luxurious furniture about the apartment
seemed to coax the visitor or inhabitant to lounge upon soft cushions.
Curtains of costly material hung before the large plate-glass windows,
and as the afternoon sun peered through them it saw a picture of which
the owner of the apartment was not the least handsome part.

A servant entered with a number of letters, which Mannis hastily
shuffled through his fingers as if they had been cards. His eye quickly
detecting the one he was looking for, he dropped the rest, and said:

"Here it is: let me see what the Senator has to say. What a man he
is! He seems to be as infatuated with me as I am with his beautiful
daughter. Well, I am infatuated with her; she is certainly the most
charming creature I ever met; and I am determined to win with her her
father's fortune also, for I have no father of my own to return to, and
have the 'fatted calf' business done for me. Let me see what Hamblin has
written."

Opening the letter, he read it carefully through, then smiled and said:

"Yes, he will do anything to rid himself of Alden. When I proposed
entrapping him he was startled, but now can hardly wait for my
suggestions. He hates Alden; he is ambitious that his daughter shall
make a brilliant match; he thinks me the personification of brilliancy,
and, by Jove, he doesn't miss it much. Ah, Senator, if you knew how I
was running through my fortune you would change your mind. This is a
very good joke you are playing on yourself."

Returning to his letters, he opened another, when his countenance
suddenly changed, and he exclaimed:

"Great God! I am almost ruined!"

He arose, and for a moment walked the room without uttering a word, when
he suddenly stopped and said:

"Fifty thousand dollars gone at once! I must raise the money somehow to
pay what I have borrowed. What a fool a man is when he is not satisfied
to reach forth his hand and pluck the ripe fruit hanging near him,
instead of letting his appetite for the unattainable ruin him. What can
I do? I cannot mortgage the estate, for that would expose me at once.
But how can I raise the money--that is, who--will--lend--it--to--me?
S-h-h! I have it. I can raise it in New York on the notes of my friends,
and my friends need never know it. It is a desperate game, but my estate
is good for it, and in an emergency men do many queer things."

He walked the room in a nervous manner, running his fingers through his
hair, rubbing his hands together, and occasionally saying words that are
not in the dictionary.

"It is the old story," he resumed. "I've killed the goose that laid
the golden eggs. Well, there is one trick left in my hand, and that is
Belle Hamblin. I will go to work at once and help the Senator get rid
of Alden. I will go to Cleverdale on the evening train. The girl has a
strong will, and is very correct in her ideas of right and wrong; if she
hears that Alden is a defaulter she will shed a few tears and never wish
to see him again. He must be sacrificed; so the quicker the better."

Ringing the bell, a servant appeared.

"Tell Mrs. Culver I desire to see her immediately."

In a few moments Mrs. Culver entered, and said:

"What do you wish, sir?"

"I am going away this evening, and will be absent a few days."

"But you don't look well; are you sick? I am afraid you are not taking
care of yourself. I have been fixing some medicine for you, which you
must take before going away. Young men are so careless, they don't know
how to take care of their health."

"I am all right. Don't trouble your kind heart about me. I need fresh
air and out-door exercise, and a two-day jaunt will tone me up. Tell
Henry to hitch up the sorrels and take me to the seven-thirty train
this evening. I shall take a nap first, as I have a headache, and after
a light supper shall be ready to start. So, never mind your doctor's
stuff. If I am not well on my return you shall have two days' enjoyment
dosing me."

When the evening train left Havelock it bore away Hon. Walter Mannis,
who had previously sent a dispatch to Senator Hamblin stating that he
would be at the Cleverdale Hotel after the arrival of the evening train.

On his arrival he was greeted by Hamblin. A few remarks were made
concerning politics and business, when Mannis said:

"I received your letter while preparing to leave for Cleverdale. From
it I learned you have not changed your intention concerning Alden. You
still mean to get rid of him?"

"Yes, he must be put out of the way, for since his promotion he is
more obnoxious to me than ever. No time must be lost, for he is a more
frequent visitor at my house than before. He must be dropped as soon as
possible."

"Draw your chair closer to mine: we must speak low and be guarded. You
ask what I have to suggest. My plan is this: Sargent, you say, will
do anything you desire: well, is he a good penman, and can he imitate
handwriting?"

"Yes, he is an expert at that business."

"Good! now for it. He must alter the bank books, and make it appear that
Alden has embezzled five thousand dollars."

"Great God!" exclaimed Hamblin.

"Don't start, Senator; it is a desperate game, but it's often been
played successfully. You say you shall get him out of the way at all
hazards: well, this plan will effectually dispose of the ambitious young
man."

"Suppose he shows fight?"

"He must be allowed to run away. You can work that up. The affair can
be kept between yourself, Sargent, and Alden, and when the latter is
exposed you can feign sympathy, telling him if he will leave at once the
affair will remain a secret. Yes, you can even offer to loan him the
money to pay the deficiency. Make the evidence so strong against him
that he cannot possibly see a way of escape, and if I know anything of
human nature he will run away rather than be exposed."

"Suppose he should first see my daughter, and she should advise him to
remain and face the danger."

"It must be done when she is absent from home. You must find some
pretence to send your wife and daughter on a visit to friends, or else
send them to New York."

"You are a shrewd fellow, Mannis, and no mistake."

"A shrewd rogue, you mean."

"No, I do not. In this affair I am but doing the duty that a father owes
to his child. She is in danger of being sacrificed to an adventurer who
only wants her father's money. But she shall be saved."

The plotters talked a while longer about the matter; then Senator
Hamblin withdrew, and Mannis said to himself:

"Now my case does not seem as desperate as it did."

And as Senator Hamblin stepped into the street, he said:

"I don't like this affair at all, but I am losing heavily, and the
ventures I have lately made have turned out bad. Mannis' fortune added
to my own will save me from disaster. Poor Belle must be temporarily
made unhappy, but when she finds herself the wife of Hon. Walter Mannis
perhaps she will thank me for saving her."

Perhaps the state prisons will one day hold the great rogues instead
of small ones, but they did not do it in 187-, or the above recorded
conversation could not have taken place.



  CHAPTER XVII.

  SARGENT ENLISTED.


The time was approaching for Senator Hamblin to take his seat in the
State Senate. After his interview with Mannis his conduct toward his
daughter and George Alden underwent a change.

Gradually assuming a loving deportment toward the former, he paid much
attention to her personal comforts; in fact, began to act more like his
former self. His cold formality seemed to thaw, and Belle was happier,
while her mother entered a new era of existence as the husband's old
manner returned. The change not only took place in his own household,
but his demeanor toward the cashier was greatly altered for the
pleasanter.

Late one afternoon the president, calling the teller into his private
office, said:

"Sargent, I shall be here this evening doing private work. I want to
see you about half past seven o'clock. Come in here as if on your own
business, and if I am not alone go out and return soon afterward. Say
nothing about this, but come on time. You can go now."

The latter withdrew, but was shrewd enough to comprehend that he was
wanted on something important. The bank closed at the usual hour, and
all left for home except the Senator, who arose and nervously walked
the floor for a few moments, drops of perspiration standing on his brow.

"Great heavens! what am I about to do? This troubled conscience is
horrible. But shall I go to pieces financially? No! I must not give way
to this weakness. What would the world say were I to become bankrupt?"

He resumed his seat by the table, began looking over his papers, and for
an hour spoke no word, only an occasional sigh escaping him. At length
he said:

"What a villain I am! Yet, isn't it better to save myself and my
reputation than allow this opportunity to pass? Mannis and his fortune
can save me: it is no time to turn back."

Putting on overcoat and hat he left the bank, and on entering his
home met Belle, who gave him a kiss. To his conscience this token of
affection was like molten lead, and leaving her he went directly to his
own room, saying:

"My God! how can I strike this blow at her heart?"

At the tea-table he appeared uneasy and ate little, and being questioned
by his wife and daughter only said:

"I have a slight headache--that is all; it will soon pass off."

Shortly afterward Belle came near him, and said:

"Papa, won't you stay home this evening? I will bathe your head, and
perhaps it will relieve the pain."

"No, my daughter, I have very important business at the office this
evening."

"Let business go for once; be my patient, and I will be your gentle and
loving nurse."

Little did the kind-hearted girl know that she was plunging daggers into
her father's heart, and that every word of endearment pierced him to the
very soul.

Abruptly leaving the house, he went directly to his office, when he was
joined by Sargent. The latter was dressed with scrupulous care, for he
was a great dandy, and spent most of his salary for clothing. Senator
Hamblin beckoned him to approach and be seated, and hesitating before
commencing his business, fumbled over his papers a few moments, and then
said:

"Sargent, a few weeks ago you offered to do me a service. Can I enlist
you in a cause that interests me deeply, if it will also be of great
advantage to you?"

"Yes, sir; you can ask me nothing that I would refuse to do."

"That is well spoken. But first, I wish you to swear you will not betray
my confidence."

"I swear that, whatever you ask of me, no living person shall ever learn
its nature."

"To begin with, you know I do not like Alden."

"Yes, sir; I found that out the first day I entered the bank."

"I have reason to know that Alden does not like you, Sargent."

"I am also aware of that."

"You are a shrewd fellow."

"Not very, sir, but any one can see Alden has no confidence in me. A day
never passes without his showing it."

"How would you like his place, Sargent?"

"It would be the happiest day of my life when I could displace the
fellow by stepping into his shoes."

"Would you be willing to take any chances to accomplish that very thing?"

"Yes, sir, I would do anything--except resort to bloodshed--to become
cashier."

"I have a reason for wishing to get rid of him."

"Yes, sir, I think I know why."

"Ah, you do? Why is it?"

"You do not want him for a son-in-law."

"That's it, exactly. Now how can we get rid of him? Have you any ideas
on the subject?"

"I have not thought of it, but will carry out any plan you may suggest.
Don't be afraid to trust me, for I hate the fellow even worse than you
do. He has lorded it over me the past few weeks, and I would like to see
him disgraced."

"Well, have you any idea you could arrange a trap for him to fall into?"

"Yes, yes; a job could be put up that would send him to prison and,
blast him! I would be glad to boss it."

The words were spoken with force, direct from the heart of the teller,
so the Senator at once saw his way clear.

"What can you do and when can you do it?" he asked.

"With your assistance and co-operation I can fix a job making him a
defaulter," replied Sargent.

"Go to work at once. Keep me informed of your movements. Be discreet,
and report your plans to me here to-morrow evening. Your reward for the
faithful performance of the work shall be the cashiership."

The two separated, and as Sargent passed out he smiled, and said to
himself:

"I will crush the fellow, and glory in his downfall. I wonder, though,
if some day the Senator won't put somebody up to crushing me in the same
way?"



  CHAPTER XVIII.

  GEORGE AND FANNIE ALDEN.


George Alden resided in a neat little cottage on a side street. His
house was presided over by his sister Fannie, his senior by ten years.
The dwelling, in no way pretentious, was simple in all its appointments,
and the very perfection of neatness. The little parlor was not elegant,
but all about were to be seen evidences of the cultivated taste of its
occupants.

The tables were covered with books of poems from both early and later
authors, while many classical works could be seen upon the shelves of
a pretty but quaint mahogany bookcase that rose from floor to ceiling
on one side of the apartment. The handsomest piece of furniture in the
house was a large square piano. On entering we behold a dark-haired lady
sitting before the instrument, while her fingers glide over the ivory
keys.

The performer is lost in her delightful pastime, her face glowing
with enthusiasm, and, the last strain finished, she rises from the
instrument, and we behold the sister of George Alden.

A lady of medium height, slightly built, with dark hair and eyes;
goodness and intelligence are written on every lineament of her
countenance. In early life her father was able to give her many
advantages; with a natural taste for music, she became mistress of
the pianoforte, and when her father's physical energies failed,
was obliged to teach music for the support of the family. A noble
girl--self-sacrificing to an extraordinary degree. When she announced
through the village papers, ten years before our story opened, her
desire for scholars in instrumental music, the good people of Cleverdale
responded with alacrity.

The family at that time consisted of the parents and the children,
Fannie and George, the latter a boy of fourteen. Attending the
Cleverdale Academy, at the age of sixteen he was graduated with all the
honors the institution afforded. He was a model youth, and on leaving
school possessed a little fund of two hundred and fifty dollars, earned
after school hours by keeping books for a Cleverdale merchant.

His sister, his adviser in everything, possessed a decided character
and excellent judgment. She had unbounded confidence in her brother.
Assisting him in his studies, she inculcated right ideas of independence
in his mind, and taught him the value of self-reliance and education. A
great reader herself, she had, by example and conversation, succeeded
in bringing him to such a delight in histories, travels, and general
literature, that he was considered an unusually well-informed young man.

When George Alden finished his common-school education he desired to
enter college, but his little savings would scarce allow him to enjoy
the fruition of that hope.

His sister succeeded in obtaining a large music class, while her mother
attended to the household duties with such aid as her daughter could
give, and Fannie was not only able to earn sufficient to provide the
family with necessary comforts, but from time to time placed small sums
of money in the savings bank. Foreseeing that George, with his ambition
to become a scholar, would desire to enter college, to assist him she
denied herself many of the luxuries that all young ladies naturally
enjoy.

Thoroughly devoted to her parents, she always said she should never
leave them so long as either required her services. Perhaps her
resolution would not have been so well preserved if a bullet from a
Southern rifle during the war of the Rebellion had not entered the heart
of a young Captain of a Cleverdale Company.

At seventeen, George was ready to enter college. With his sister's
savings of two hundred dollars added to his own fortune of two hundred
and fifty, with an additional sum of one hundred and fifty earned during
the past year, he bade farewell to home and friends to enter upon his
collegiate course.

Time passed and the boy rose rapidly in his classes. The father's health
continued to fail; his mind becoming wholly lost, he was indeed dead to
his friends long before the dissolution of body and soul. Although he
was a great care to his daughter, the patient girl never complained,
but ministered to his wants with as much gentleness as if he were a
child. One day the poor broken-down machinery refused to work, and
before George could be summoned home the vital spark had fled, and death
completed the work begun nearly two years before.

Fannie now resumed her music class, while George, through his own
efforts of teaching and doing such work as he could get, was enabled to
continue his course at college. Two years later he was graduated with
high honors, and returning home found his mother much changed in health,
while his sister showed evident signs of fatigue. It then came with full
force to him that he must give up the idea of a profession, temporarily
at least, and seek employment that would furnish him an immediate
income. Unlike many college-educated young men, he did not expect to
command a high position, but became salesman with the merchant whose
book-keeper he had been previous to entering college.

One year later, the teller in the Cleverdale bank resigning, George
Alden was appointed to the position, where we find him at the beginning
of this story.

It was not long before the mother followed the father. The two orphans
mourned the death of their parents; and after a few months of rest
Fannie recovered from her fatigue.

George would not at first give consent to her resuming the music class,
which she had been obliged to relinquish on account of her mother's
illness, but when she declared and insisted that she should be much
happier if allowed to help support the little household, he relented,
and she was again at her work teaching music.

The little house their parents left was encumbered with a mortgage,
which was finally paid, and it became the property of the brother and
sister. Belle Hamblin loved the noble-hearted Fannie, although the
latter was much her senior. Fannie Alden was her ideal of a true woman.
She knew all about the ties that bound Belle and George together, and
also knew of Senator Hamblin's opposition to her brother's suit. Often
thinking of what "might have been," if a bullet had not cut off a life
so dear to her, she said to George:

"Have patience and all will come right. You are both young and can
wait." She thought the hard-hearted father would some time realize that
his daughter's happiness was of more consequence than his own ambition.

When George Alden heard that Sargent was to enter the bank as teller he
threatened to resign, but his sister said:

"Resign! no, George, that must not be done. You can preserve your own
honor, and if the new teller is not honest his character will soon be
known. Your duty is to remain and not throw away your opportunity,
because your employers have chosen to hire a man in whom you have no
confidence."

"Fannie, I cannot work with a rascal, and I believe Sargent to be one.
Would an honest man make such a statement against another as he made
against Senator Hamblin, and then follow it by another, swearing the
first was false? I should constantly feel that such a man would do
something dishonorable, and perhaps get me into trouble. I cannot drive
the impression from my mind, that if Sargent ever comes into the bank as
teller there will be some complication."

"Take care of your own work, and you can keep yourself free from
trouble," she replied.

George Alden could not drive these thoughts from his mind, for he looked
upon Sargent as his evil genius, and was unable to conceal the fact that
he had no confidence in the man. Several times on returning from dinner
he found the teller engaged in looking over his books, and once asked
what he was doing, but Sargent only replied:

"I am posting myself thoroughly on the whole system of banking."

Two weeks before Senator Hamblin was to take his seat in the Senate
Chamber at Albany, a disaster occurred in Cleverdale, which we will
relate in the next chapter.



  CHAPTER XIX.

  THE BURNING FACTORY.


It was a cold day in December, with everything in business and
manufacturing circles of Cleverdale full of activity; the large mill of
the Cleverdale Woollen Company running on full time. Senator Hamblin was
at the bank conversing with the cashier upon business matters, when the
ominous clang of the fire-bell startled him. The conversation ceased,
and both men, quickly stepping to the window, looked into the street.
All was bustle and confusion, the noise of the steam-engines, as they
passed, adding to the excitement. Opening the door, Senator Hamblin
asked a fireman where the fire was.

"At the Cleverdale Woollen Mill," he replied, and hastily passed on.

"The Cleverdale Woollen Mill!" exclaimed the Senator, "and there is but
a small insurance on it, for most of the polices expired yesterday, and
have not been renewed. Ruin!"

Re-entering the bank, his blanched face and agitated manner attracted
the attention of cashier and teller.

"It's our mill!" he gasped. "If the flames cannot be stayed we shall
lose heavily." Then, putting on overcoat and hat, he said: "George, come
with me, and you, Sargent, remain in charge of the bank."

A moment later the two men stood before the burning factory, where
crowds of people had already gathered. Sheets of flame were pouring
from the windows of the first and second floor, which had been cleared
of operatives. The panic-stricken crowd, gazing at the windows upon
the third floor, beheld a sight that filled them with terror, for at
each window were faces pale with fright. The fire below cutting off the
egress, one hundred and fifty men, women, and children were prisoners.

The hot flames crackled and hissed; the heat became intense. Shrieks and
cries of distress filled the air. Wives, mothers, fathers, husbands,
sisters and brothers ran wildly about the burning building, praying God
and imploring man to save their dear ones, cut off from the outer world;
meanwhile, "For God's sake save us!" came from the windows above.

Senator Hamblin, realizing the fearful condition of affairs, seized a
factory boss by the arm and asked:

"Jones, is there no way of saving the lives of those poor creatures?"

"Yes, there is one way, and only one. The large iron door, opening from
the room where the people are imprisoned into the main hallway, is
locked, and here is the key. If that door could be opened and the door
connecting with the winding staircase on the outside of the building
unbolted, every person could escape, sir."

"Cannot some one open those doors? Why, man, what are you thinking
about?"

"But, sir, to get at the main door one must pass through the narrow
hall on the first and second floors, and the first hall is on fire for a
short distance."

"My God! what can be done?" exclaimed Senator Hamblin. "It is fearful to
see those people perish. Where is this hallway, Jones?"

"Step this way and I will show you."

The two men following, Jones approached the flames, the forked tongues
darting angrily toward them. Hotter and hotter became the fire, louder
and louder rose the cries of terror and agony from the imperilled
people; some had already thrown themselves from the windows, only to be
picked up dying or dead.

"Here," said Jones, "is the entrance. If some one could enter here, and
reach and unlock the iron door, he could liberate the hands."

"See here, Jones, I will give you five hundred dollars if you will save
them," said Senator Hamblin.

"I am too old and clumsy--it needs a younger man for such a job."

Alden heard the heart-rending cries of those above begging in most
piteous tones to be saved; he saw their peril, yet he hesitated a moment
before he said:

"Mr. Hamblin, I will try to save them. Heaven knows it is worth the
trial." The Senator looked at Alden, looked at the fire, and for a
moment was honest enough to wish his own soul in a hotter place.

"Jones," said George, "get several blankets from the store-room if you
can; be quick."

"Aye, aye, sir! and Lord bless you," Jones replied, and was off,
returning in a moment.

"Dip these blankets in water; there, now wind them about me. Here, give
me that lantern; break off the frame." Then turning to the president he
said, "Sir, if I never return from this building, please tell my sister
and--and--and--your daughter I died in trying to do what they would not
have me leave undone. God bless you, sir; God bless them."

As George entered the passage-way indicated by Jones the Senator was so
filled with admiration for the young man and contempt for himself that
for an instant he was in danger of becoming an honorable man again. But
experience in practical politics teaches wonderful self-control, for a
minute after the Senator said to himself:

"Brave fellow! a man couldn't be in better condition, morally, to die;
I hope he'll realize it himself. If he does he shall have a first-class
monument, and I'll pay the cost of engrossing in first-class style the
resolutions that his associates in the bank will 'resolve' to present to
his family. I hope he will not return. It will be best--it will be best."

While George Alden was preparing to enter the burning factory, a long
ladder was placed at one window, but the brave firemen mounting it were
driven back by the scorching flames.

The puffing and pumping of the steam-engines, with their shrill signal
whistle, accompanied by the moanings and lamentations of the imperilled,
made the scene one of horror, stout hearts quailing at the prospect of
so many persons being entombed in the burning factory.

The flames had already ignited the floor dividing the second and third
stories, and amid the cries from the burning building were mingled many
voices imploring God to save them.

The information reaching the excited people, of George Alden undertaking
the perilous trip to save the operatives, blessings were invoked upon
his head by the anxious throng. But where was the brave fellow?

Entering the building, he walked rapidly along the main hall, approached
the stairs leading to the second story, and turning to ascend,
encountered a flash of flame which he soon passed. Gaining the second
floor, he encountered a fiercer flame. As he felt its warm breath strike
the glass on his visor he realized the danger, and with a quick bound
cleared the monster. Clouds of smoke rose about him to stifle him, but
the wailing of female voices reached his ears, and stimulated him; and
being a pure man at heart, he was further strengthened by the feeling
that One who once walked with some other young fellows in a fiery
furnace was by his side. Suddenly finding a bank of burning coals in
his pathway, a feeling that he was lost overpowered him. Behind were
the flames and two blank, impenetrable walls; before him a mass of live
coals--cruel and hissing hot--ready to devour him. Looking again he
beheld a small door. He seized the latch, but to his horror the door was
locked.

Praying for assistance, and casting his eyes toward the floor, he spied
a large iron bar. Seizing it he began battering the door, which to his
great joy flew open, permitting him to enter the adjoining hallway,
where he stood an instant to regain his breath, for the stifling heat
had almost stopped respiration.

Having often been in the factory, he was familiar with all its
passage-ways, and knew that the hallway Jones described had been
reached. But could he gain the iron door, at least three hundred feet
onward, and up another flight of stairs? Going about two thirds the
distance, he ran up the stairway unmolested, when the glare of flames
indicated another approaching danger. His heart quailed, but he could
not turn back, his only hope being in pushing forward. He nearly reached
the huge iron door, the key of which he grasped tightly in his hand. He
made a dash at the fire which encircled him. He gasped for breath; the
hot, seething flames seized his hand and arm, causing him to cry with
pain. In an instant his feet cleared the flames, but just as he thought
himself safe a huge burning timber fell, struck his back, felled him and
held him fast.

He was only a few feet from the door leading into the hallway, where the
flames had not yet entered. Groaning with pain, by a spasmodic effort he
rolled the burning beam from his back, but on trying to rise he found to
his horror that he could not stand, for his back was injured.

Retaining full use of his hands, he quickly tore off his blankets, and
with an herculean effort dragged himself to the door. He seemed to have
superhuman strength, for with his hands he moved himself about with a
rapidity that surprised him. Out of reach of the flames, he dragged
himself to the outer door, removed two bars, and slipping the bolt, the
solid wrought-iron screen of the narrow exit was open.

Dragging himself along, he returned and reached the great iron door,
the effort causing intense pain. Unable to raise himself high enough to
reach the lock, after great effort he mounted a box behind the door,
slipped the key into the hole, and the bolt shot back. He then removed
the iron bar, and the door, pressed hard by the people inside, flew back
upon its hinges, striking Alden and throwing him bleeding to the floor.

Like wild animals, the freed men, women and children made a rush for
liberty. The hallway was filled with human beings, and as the crowd
emerged from the narrow doorway into the open air at the back, shouts of
joy greeted them from the masses outside.

The friends of the lately imprisoned operatives made a rush for the foot
of the narrow stairway, and as those given up for lost stepped into the
open air, loving arms caught them, and those lately shedding tears of
sorrow now laughed hysterically or made other demonstrations of joy.

The release of the one hundred and fifty had been accomplished none
too soon, for the flames spread with fearful rapidity. Great angry
forks leaped from window to window and then shot upward, enveloping the
wooden cornice in sheets of flame. The roof was sending forth clouds of
smoke, while little jets of flame ignited the dry wood of the huge tower
surmounting the structure.

Suddenly, a stout, brawny, bareheaded man rushed to the entrance from
which the liberated people had just emerged. It was Jones, the boss, who
had described the passage-way to George Alden. He was greatly excited,
and as the air filled with cheers for George Alden's brave act, he cried
out:

"Alden is in the burning building!"

Immediately the cheering ceased, and word was passed from lip to lip
that Cashier Alden, who had saved the people, was himself perishing.
Every face blanched with horror.

"Follow me, two of you!" cried Jones. Two stout operatives sprang
forward, and in an instant the three men were in the hallway leading to
the iron door, where they encountered clouds of smoke. To the cry, "Come
on, men!" the heavy tramping of three pairs of feet were heard on the
floor. Through the smoke rushed the brave fellows until Jones said:

"Here's the door;" then he cried out, "Mister Alden! Mister Alden! Are
you alive?"

No voice responding, he called again and again with the same result;
then Jones, with one tremendous push, sent the great iron door shut with
a loud clang, and turning to retreat, his foot struck something on the
floor. Stooping, he touched the form of George Alden, lying insensible
before him.

"Thank God, boys, it is the cashier. Quick! men, seize him."

The three then, grasping the lifeless man, turned and hastily ran toward
the door. As they emerged from the burning building, shouts of joy
rent the air, but when the deathlike face of George Alden was visible
everybody became mute.

"Is the brave fellow dead?" were the words uttered, but they were not
answered.

Carefully George Alden was laid upon a pile of blankets, when one of the
village doctors sprang forward, placed his head upon the breast of the
wounded man, and said:

"He lives."

Two women broke through the crowd, and Belle Hamblin and Fannie Alden
were beside the almost lifeless form.

"Is he dead?" they both cried in tones of anguish.

"He lives," replied the doctor, "but must be taken away from here at
once."

A litter was procured, the wounded man placed upon it, when eight stout
pairs of hands gently raised and bore it to Alden's little cottage,
only two blocks distant. As the silent form was laid on the bed, the
two ladies entered the apartment, and the men immediately withdrew.
The physician examined the wounds on the head and announced they were
not necessarily fatal, and gave the opinion that he had fainted from
exhaustion. His hands and arms were badly burned, and there was every
indication of a hard struggle. His clothing was burned and torn, and as
he lay upon the bed gasping for breath, the two trembling women mingled
tears of sympathy with prayers for their darling's recovery.



  CHAPTER XX.

  THE SECRET MARRIAGE.


The day following the fire was gloomy; the smouldering pile of brick,
stone and charred timbers marked the work of the destroying element.
The immense factory was a ruin, and among the débris were seen the iron
frames of intricate machinery, whose busy hum had so long gladdened the
hearts of seven hundred operatives and their kindred. Many sad faces
gathered about the ruins, and with trembling voices asked: "What will
become of our wives and little ones?"

George Alden's act of heroism was the theme of general conversation,
and prayers for his recovery sprang spontaneously from the hearts of
men who had seldom prayed before. The newspapers were full of glowing
eulogiums of the brave fellow who lay in so critical a condition. His
spirit seemed undecided whether to remain in the bruised tenement or
wing its flight to another world, but two devoted women watched at his
bedside, and a skilful surgeon noted every movement of the patient,
who occasionally opened his eyes and stared unmeaningly about. No
intelligible words escaped his lips, for his mind wandered. But near the
hour of noon, he opened his eyes, exclaiming:

"Where is the key? Oh, how it burns! Tell Belle and Fannie I died doing
my duty," and, closing his eyes, was silent. Suddenly opening them
again, he looked about, as if in doubt of his whereabouts. When his gaze
became fixed on Belle and Fannie, for the first time since the disaster
he spoke coherently and said:

"God bless you both! where am I?"

"In your own bed, George. Do you feel better?" gently replied his sister.

"My poor back is broken. Did I--did I save them?"

"Yes, all escaped. Do you remember it?" said Fannie.

"Yes--yes, but never mind."

Raising his burned hand to Belle's, he said:

"You are _so_ kind to remain with me," then closed his eyes as if
exhausted. A spasmodic moan escaping him, he cried out:

"My back is broken! I shall be a cripple and a burden to my friends. Oh,
why did I escape?"

His two companions tried to calm him. As Dr. Briar entered the
apartment, George looked into his face and asked:

"Doctor, is my back broken?"

The kind-hearted physician did not reply, but soothed him with
encouraging words.

The ladies withdrawing, an examination by the physician and his
assistant revealed the fact that the poor sufferer's back was seriously
injured. Everything was done by the good doctor to make him comfortable,
and as the examination caused great suffering a sleeping potion was
given him, for a raging fever indicated danger. The two women entering
the room, to Belle's interrogations concerning her lover's injuries the
doctor replied that he hoped for the best.

Meanwhile other scenes were taking place in the community. Senator
Hamblin sat in his private room at his residence, looking haggard, and
seemingly in great trouble. He arose from his chair and began pacing the
apartment.

"Everything is against me," he said. "All my late investments have been
losses--and now comes this fire to wipe out over one hundred thousand
dollars of my property. Oh, what fools we were to hesitate about
renewing those policies! I can see nothing but financial ruin unless
I can extricate myself from the strait I am in. With my credit good,
I can raise plenty of money, but how can I repay it? Within the next
month I must borrow at least fifty thousand dollars. These losses almost
unman me. Had I kept out of politics, giving my exclusive attention to
business affairs, I should not have been in this predicament. What an
infernal fool I am to allow ambition to lead me to ruin!"

He placed his hands over his head as if to get rest, but apparently he
found none, for he continued:

"It seems like a dream, that George Alden entered the burning factory.
He is a brave fellow, and the physician says he cannot live--thank God!
but he is happier than I, for I am standing between _two_ fires--two
powers are pulling my conscience in opposite directions--one for Mannis
and his fortune, the other for George Alden and his honor. Pshaw! what
is honor? Will it buy bread? Will it obtain station and fame? Not a bit
of it. If Alden dies, Belle will be the wife of Walter Mannis, and I,
her father, will be saved. If he lives there is only one way to dispose
of him. By the way!--as Sargent is doctoring the books, why shouldn't he
make the deficit fifty thousand, which I need, instead of five thousand?
I might look over the securities and cash, stea--abstract that amount,
and give Sargent such good cause that he will have no excuse for going
back on me as he did once before. I'll go down to the bank at once."

On his way to the bank, the Senator met many persons who inquired about
the condition of Cashier Alden. To all inquiries he returned the same
answer:

"Poor fellow, I am afraid he cannot live."

Entering the bank, Sargent said to him:

"By present indications our cashier will step out without our aid, eh?"

"It does look so, but he is a brave fellow after all. What is the
latest, Sargent?"

"He awoke to consciousness at noon, complaining of his back, which Dr.
Briar, upon examination, found seriously injured, and says his case
is almost hopeless. He fears internal injuries, as Alden has a high
fever--everything pointing to danger."

"It is sad, but may be for the best," was the reply, as Senator Hamblin
entered his private office.

Greatly dejected and full of trouble, to him the future looked dark and
portentous. Gladly would he have allowed his daughter to act from the
dictation of her heart did he not think the fortune of Mannis would
extricate him from the dilemma.

Poor, foolish man, he little knew Mannis was as "deep in the mire as he
in the mud" of financial ruin.

When at first raising objections to Belle's forming an alliance with
Alden, he fairly hated the innocent cause of his ire, but gradually his
feelings underwent a change; his old affection for his child returning,
and the brave feat of the cashier touching his heart, he longed for a
way out of his trouble. Unable to entertain thoughts of bankruptcy, his
pride and fear of disgrace made him plot against the cashier.

The full significance of his political victory lost sight of, he could
not drive the one absorbing thought from his mind, namely, the marriage
of his daughter with Mannis; beside saving him, it could be easily
brought about were Alden disposed of.

For two days George Alden's life hung in the balance. Fannie and Belle
remained constantly at his bedside. On the morning of the third day,
Doctor Briar, after examining his patient, beckoned the two ladies to
follow him to an adjoining room.

"Ladies," he said, "it is my duty to inform you, you have a very sick
patient. Calm yourselves and do not give way to grief--but I fear he
cannot recover. He should be told his danger, and I think I can trust
you both to talk with him on this subject."

Belle drew a deep sigh, which found response in the heart of Fannie.

"Oh, save him, sir! if you can, for he is so dear to us. I cannot have
him die. He is too noble and good," impulsively spoke Belle.

"Whatever can be done to save his life we shall do. All the good people
of Cleverdale are praying for his recovery; let us hope their prayers
may be answered, but as his physician I cannot speak encouragingly. He
is a noble fellow, and I hope and pray it may be God's will to spare his
life."

Bravely the two women repressed their grief, for both saw the necessity
of great fortitude. The physician withdrew, and Belle and Fannie
re-entered the sick-room, when Alden opened his eyes and in a low tone
said:

"Belle, you look tired and anxious--are my injuries serious?"

"Yes, George, you are badly injured."

"Is there any possibility of my recovery?"

"We hope for the best, for oh! we could not spare you."

"By the anxiety on your faces, I feel my condition is very serious," he
said feebly. "Oh, Belle, I wish you were my wife."

A shadow of deep pain crossed his features.

"Would you be happier were I your wife?" Belle asked.

"Happier! If I am to die I should be resigned to go and wait with
outstretched arms for you to join me."

Belle, conversing with him a few moments longer, joined Fannie at
the window, the two whispered together, when Belle, returning to the
bedside, said:

"George, would you be entirely happy were I your wife?"

"Yes, I could even die happy, for I fear I am to live but a short time.
Your faces tell me I am fatally injured. But it would be too much
happiness to expect, to gaze upon you as my own wife."

Looking for a moment intently into his face, she gently raised his
burned hand with her own, and said:

"George, I will be your wife, though myself is all I have to give."

Bending over the pillow, she touched the parched lips with her own,
sealing her promise with a kiss.

"God bless you!" were all the words Alden uttered, as, closing his eyes,
he fell back exhausted.

Belle joined Fannie in an adjoining room; the latter said:

"Dear Belle, you are a precious girl--but what will your parents say?"

"Mamma will not object, and for the present Papa must not know of it. It
is all I can do for George."

She threw her arms about Fannie's neck, and a flood of tears followed.
Mrs. Hamblin came later, and to her daughter's appeal for consent to the
proposed marriage she yielded. She knew her husband would not approve
the arrangement, but acting upon her own convictions she could not
refuse.

None were present at the ceremony but Mrs. Hamblin, Fannie Alden, and
the clergyman, besides the strangely joined pair.

The sufferer had been awake a long time, his eyes beaming with pleasure
at the prospect of marriage with the girl he loved. The clergyman,
approaching the bedside, commenced the ceremony. The mother trembled,
and, turning to conceal her emotion, burst into tears at the moment the
clergyman finished the ceremony.

The husband looking into the face of his wife, his eyes filled with joy,
and he gasped:

"I--I--am so--so--happy!" and then lost consciousness.

Loving hands quickly applied restoratives, and in a few moments the
sufferer opened his eyes, and said:

"I thought I was married--but it was only a dream."

"It is not a dream, for I am your wife," said Belle.

"Mine, all mine at last," he said, and the invisible angels hovering
about his pillow recorded the nuptials in that book the entries in which
can never be altered for earthly and dishonest purposes.



  CHAPTER XXI.

  SPOILS! SPOILS!


Christmas came, the day passing quiet and gloomy at the Alden home. The
injured man grew worse and was delirious--living over the awful scenes
of the fire many times during the day, and starting from his slumbers,
crying out:

"Yes, they are saved, they are saved!" then he would moan, "Oh, how the
fire burns my flesh! Take that big timber off my back! Must I perish?
See, the iron door opens, the people are free--and I have saved them!"

For six days he was delirious, but just one week after the disaster he
opened his eyes, looked about him, and in a weak voice said:

"Give me water."

His sister, standing near, raised a glass to his lips while he drank
with a relish that he had not displayed since the disaster, his eye
flashing with a little of its natural fire; and his sister felt there
was really a change for the better. Full of hope, she could scarcely
realize that the good symptoms were real.

"Where--where is Belle?" he asked.

"Watching over you constantly. She has gone home for a little rest, but
will return in about two hours. Be quiet and go to sleep now; you are
better, but must not exhaust yourself."

"Then she will certainly return?"

"Yes, but you must not talk more."

The patient closing his eyes, his sister seated herself at his bedside.
Two hours later the young wife returned, and perceiving the happy look
upon Fannie's face, said:

"What is it? Tell me quick: is he better?"

"Yes, he opened his eyes, asked for a glass of water, and then inquired
for you; when told you would return in two hours, a look of joy crossed
his face and he again closed his eyes. He has slept quietly ever since,
and his fever has perceptibly gone down."

"Oh, that he may only live!" said Belle, while her eyes filled with
tears of joy.

Both ladies entering the sick-room, a glance toward the bed assured them
the patient was awake and awaiting their return. Belle, stooping over,
kissed him, which greeting he returned with--

"You are so good, I am trying to get well for your sake," he whispered.

When Doctor Briar made his afternoon call he was greatly encouraged.

"He is better," he said, "and if kept quiet there is now strong hope of
his recovery. Good nursing will do more for him than anything else."

From that day Alden gained slowly, and all Cleverdale was made happy by
the good news that their hero was likely to recover. All? No; there was
one exception.

Senator Hamblin, at his office, engaged in writing letters, looked
troubled and dejected. He had just returned from the State Capitol,
where he had attended the opening session of the Legislature. Before
him lay many letters, some with seals unbroken. One in the well-known
handwriting of Walter Mannis greatly interested him.

"He is anxious as ever to marry my daughter," he exclaimed. "He believes
we will have a peaceful solution of the problem, but in that we have
both reckoned wrong. When I left home a few days since, there was not
the least possible hope of Alden's ever getting up again. It is a blind
game, trying to discount fate. It seemed as if he would relieve us by
going off in a regular and legitimate way, but he disappoints us and
will remain. Why have I allowed Belle to attend him during his illness?
She has not only compromised herself, but by this act I have sanctioned
her course."

He lighted a cigar, and soon great clouds of smoke rose and circled over
his head, while his pen lay idle beside him.

"Well," he whispered, "if he recovers it will be a bad go. If he could
only look into the future, he would have no wish to live--but perhaps he
may have a relapse."

Seeming to catch a gleam of hope, he resumed his cigar again, and
continued to fill the room with clouds of smoke for at least ten
minutes. Then suddenly rising, he said:

"There is no help for it: I must see that our programme is carried
out. Sargent is ready to do his work, and I cannot let sentimentality
make me lose sight of my own danger. Alden will no doubt recover, and
there never will occur so good an opportunity as the present to make
the necessary preparations to get rid of him. The hero-worship business
is short, and by the time the good people of Cleverdale get through
admiring the noble act of Cashier Alden, we will be ready with the trap."

Observing Sargent was alone, he said:

"I wish to speak with you for a few moments."

The teller entering the president's private office, the latter said:

"Have you thought over the matter we discussed the night before the
fire?"

"Yes, sir, it has been on my mind a great deal."

"It is evident we must carry out our original intention, for I think
Alden will recover."

"It looks that way now."

"Have you any plans to suggest?"

"Yes, I can alter his books--put worthless bonds among the securities,
making it appear Alden has abstracted the currency they represent, and
carry the transaction along on his books until discovered."

"How will you manage to clear yourself of any complicity?"

"That is easily accomplished. The figures can be altered to correspond
with dates in September or August, when Alden was alone in the bank,
and make it appear that the worthless bonds were placed among the
collaterals at the time, and only discovered by the forced absence of
the cashier."

"That is very good, Sargent. Public opinion and sympathy are so strong
for Alden it will not do for him to remain here. When confronted with
the accusation he must be induced to run away rather than face exposure.
When he is accused of defalcation I can express sympathy for him--offer
to make good the missing funds--even give him money with which to
abscond."

"But, suppose he writes back to his friends--what then?"

"In that case we must plan to intercept his letters."

"That will be easily done, my brother being clerk in the post-office."

"Sargent, you are quick-witted. That will be the very thing; it is a
most important point, and has bothered me considerably. We will do
nothing until after I return home next week. By that time we shall know
more about his chance of recovery."

A customer entering the bank, the conversation ceased.

The following Monday was cold and wintry, and before Senator Hamblin
left Cleverdale for Albany he called at the bank and said to Sargent:
"He is much better this morning, and we will plant our seed on Saturday."

During the week he was engrossed in his legislative duties. Being
a recognized leader in his party, his late victory over both the
opposition and stump candidate raised him higher than ever in the
estimation of his fellow senators, and in the scramble for spoils of
office his power was great. While there were scores of applicants for
every office in the gift of the Senate or Legislature, those inducing
Senator Hamblin, to espouse their cause were usually successful. The
Senator was besieged by many callers, while every mail brought him
letters asking help to obtain some position. Every senator and member
possessed scores of friends seeking appointments. Mothers, sisters,
wives and even children appealed personally to Senator Hamblin for aid,
until he was nearly driven to distraction. It was impossible for him to
move without encountering some one with a petition, for even when seated
in the Senate Chamber, cards and letters were thrust into his hands by
the pages, requesting interviews in the cloak-room. Every man who had
peddled a vote on election day, asked another to support his candidate,
or hurrahed at a political meeting, expected to share in the spoils.
Every member unable to obtain positions for all his friends was declared
ungrateful, and curses loud and deep were heaped upon his head.

Reader, did you ever visit your State Capitol at the organization of
the Legislature, and see the scramble for spoils? A great army of
hungry office-seekers, like sharks after a ship, appear even before
the opening. Candidates for leading positions, such as speaker and
clerks of the House, clerk of the Senate, postmasters, door-keepers
and sergeant-at-arms, commence operations before the houses organize.
Senators and Assemblymen are besieged and promises obtained from them
to support some favorite candidate. Those seeking these places make
pledges to support their helpers for subordinate positions, promising
to help members voting for them to chairmanships of leading committees.
It is a persistent scramble, and honor must take a back seat until the
spoils are disposed of. After the leading offices are filled, the fight
for subordinate places follows. Railroad trains from the North, South,
East and West are laden with applicants accompanied by their backers.
Chairmen of county committees, members of the State Committee, Assembly
district, and town bosses, are all on hand to offer their assistance in
arranging the "slates."

Senator Hamblin was in a dilemma. There were two applicants from
Cleverdale for the same position; one backed by Paddy Sullivan,
the other by Cyrus Hart Miller. Miller was his first and best man,
but Senator Hamblin could not afford to ignore Paddy Sullivan. He
expostulated and plead with them, but each was persistent and obstinate.
Both were on the ground, and as the war for spoils raged, each felt
sure of winning. A rupture with one or other of the favorites seemed
imminent, when the affair was amicably arranged, at a cost to the
Senator of several hundred dollars, paid to appease his powerful
lieutenant, Paddy Sullivan.

The scramble for spoils continued several days, and when the Speaker of
the House and the President of the Senate announced their appointments,
the usual Swearing Bee began. Disappointed men vowed they would never
again support the party, and that night, as the "Swearing Train" left
the Capitol city, a long streak of sulphur must have arisen above the
car roofs, and all supplied by the profanity of those who, if they had
spent as much time in trying to obtain legitimate business employment as
they had done in crawling at the heels of appointing powers, would have
been richer, better, more useful and independent citizens.



  CHAPTER XXII.

  SAD FAREWELLS.


George Alden improved slowly, his back having received serious injuries,
from which Dr. Briar feared he would never fully recover. His faithful
nurses were in constant attendance at his bedside, bestowing every
attention that skill could suggest or loving hands perform. For many
weeks he could not be moved. He became much emaciated, paroxysms of pain
being of frequent occurrence and making opiates necessary.

Weeks passed, and spring was near at hand. Allowed to sit up for a short
time each day, Alden looked from the window upon the street, enjoying
every movement with delight known only to those confined for months
upon beds of sickness and pain. Belle sat beside him reading aloud from
a book, the patient watching her constantly, seemingly in a trance of
worshipful devotion. His eyes sent forth sympathetic and tender glances,
his heart catching every word that fell from the beautiful lips.
Forgetting himself, he was held in transports of love, soon, alas! to
be broken, leaving him a poor worshipper, removed far from his idol.
Enjoying these precious hours, and watching the expression of love and
happiness gathering upon the face of his young wife, he little thought
she was to be the victim of the ambition and lost fortunes of two other
men.

"Ah, Belle!" he said one day, "during all my sickness and suffering, I
have passed many happy hours; will it always last?"

"I hope so, my dear husband; and when you recover we will publish our
marriage, and then renew these happy moments without the attendant
suffering."

"But must I be a cripple? Oh, the thought is agony to me. What should I
do, a helpless person entirely dependent upon those I love? Even with
all the precious hours I could enjoy with you and my dear sister, I
should pray God to take me away."

"Do not talk of that. Dr. Briar says you will again be able to walk.
Do for the present let your mind rest and be contented; your recovery
depends entirely upon this."

"Yes, I know it, and were it not for my two good and loving nurses my
mind long ere this would have given way. I am truly happy, yet I am so
often reminded of the danger surrounding me that I cannot dispel the
thought that I may be permanently helpless."

Belle, rising from her chair, approached him lovingly, placed her arm
about his neck, and laughingly said:

"No more of such gloomy forebodings. If you wish to get well you must
be happy and contented; if not your nurses will retire and send two
snuff-taking, herb-giving hospital women to take care of you. How would
you like that, my impatient prisoner?"

"That being too great a punishment, I will promise to obey my nurses,
providing they will remain with me."

Week after week passing, the later spring began to send forth its balmy
breezes. The snows of winter long since gone, and the birds returned
from southern homes, the trees began taking on their garb of emerald,
while the apple blossoms were bursting forth, soon to expand their germs
into luscious fruit.

The factory had not been rebuilt, and much suffering had been
experienced among families whose members were thrown out of employment
by the disastrous fire of the previous fall.

The heavy loss to the Cleverdale Woollen Company forced several of its
stockholders into bankruptcy, and the business interests of the village
were more or less affected by the disaster. Naturally, everybody thought
Senator Hamblin too solid financially to be disturbed by the loss of one
hundred thousand dollars--the amount of his stock in the company--but
had they seen him in the solitude of his office or home meditating over
the critical condition of his business affairs, they would have formed
a far different opinion. During the winter he had been obliged to raise
large sums of money to prevent his own bank paper from going to protest,
but with an unlimited credit he could command almost any desired amount.
Men with funds lying idle were glad to place their money in the hands of
as safe a man as they supposed him to be. Widows and factory operatives
felt secure, could they induce the president of the Cleverdale Bank to
take their savings and pay them interest. In this way Senator Hamblin
succeeded in averting the calamity that would otherwise have overwhelmed
him.

He borrowed heavily from the bank on the notes of his friends.

The limited amount a bank may loan to any one individual--as regulated
by the National Banking law--is one tenth of its capital stock, but
on notes of his friends President Hamblin had already borrowed three
quarters of the bank's capital. Thus keeping himself apparently solvent,
the people of Cleverdale looked upon him as the wealthiest man in the
county, and being a shrewd actor in life's drama, by his conversation
and general demeanor he succeeded in making good the impression of his
wealth, bestowing gifts upon charitable objects with more liberality
than ever before. The Hamblin Guards were his especial pride; he
contributed largely to the company's support when occasion afforded
opportunity for the organization to do credit to its patron. At the
State Capitol he was the leader in numerous projects, and his power was
felt on many occasions, when important bills had to be carried through
both houses. He returned to his home nearly every Saturday, remaining
until Monday. While appearing happy and at ease before the public, in
private he was discontented and miserable. Inevitable ruin staring him
in the face, he planned to avert the calamity by the assistance of
Walter Mannis.

He delayed making final arrangements for disgracing the cashier, hoping
the latter would die, but as months passed and the obstinate fellow
refused to play the part assigned him, Senator Hamblin became petulant
and cross because he was so long in getting well.

He constantly chided Belle for confining herself so closely to the
sick-room.

"You must go away from home for a time. Your mother and yourself had
better make preparations immediately for the long-talked-of visit to
your aunt in Philadelphia," said he. "You need rest and recreation, my
daughter."

"I cannot leave home at present; perhaps I may be able to go next month.
George is improving rapidly and begins to walk about the room, and even
talks of soon resuming his work at the bank."

"Tell him to hurry up, for I want to see the roses back again in your
cheeks. You must have rest and at once."

As he turned and left the room, he failed to hear his daughter remark:

"What would Papa say did he know I was the wife of George Alden?"

Two weeks later George Alden, riding for the first time since his
illness through the streets of the village, received many demonstrations
of the esteem in which he was held. Not only were kind expressions
uttered by men, but the "God bless you" of many an old woman reaching
him touched his heart-strings. Each day's drive gave him new force, he
grew stronger, and the danger of being crippled for life finally passed
away.

One day, after he had returned from his drive, Belle sat at his side,
where she had passed so many anxious hours.

"Belle, my darling," he said, "you look tired and careworn, your bright
color has entirely vanished, and you need a change of air and scene. I
am improving so rapidly now, you ought to go away for a while."

"Do you think so, George? Papa said the same thing to me a short time
ago. He wants Mamma and me to visit his sister at Philadelphia, but I
cannot endure the thought of leaving you."

"I am much better, and by another week hope to be able to resume my
duties at the bank. Although I should greatly miss you, nevertheless you
must promise to go, for you need it."

Fannie entering the room at that moment, her brother appealed to her.
"Fannie, I am trying to persuade Belle to leave home for a short time.
Her father also desires her to visit his sister; and she needs rest.
Come, Fannie, be as decided with her as you have been with me, and she
will not dare disobey."

Fannie laughingly replied, "Yes, my dear Belle, you must go, for it will
greatly benefit your health. Get ready to go at once, for George will
soon be able to go into the bank."

Belle consented, and returning home, told her mother of her
determination. Mrs. Hamblin readily fell in with the arrangement; so
dressmakers were called, and everything was done to make the ladies
ready for the journey.

One week later George Alden declared himself able to resume his duties,
but postponed returning to the bank until after the departure of his
wife. Naturally enough he and Belle were constantly together, and were
as one in dreading the separation.

"I am sorry, George, I promised to go," said Belle one day. "I cannot
tell why I feel so badly about leaving you. I am not superstitious, but
I fear something will occur to keep us apart."

"It is all for the best," said George. "Go, my precious wife, for a
change is what you need. I shall resume my work at once, and while you
are absent will write you each day. Returning you will be better able to
meet your father, and tell him of our marriage."

The two were together several hours the day before the departure, but
there was an indescribable feeling in the minds of both that something
would occur affecting their happiness.

Telling their fears to Fannie, she laughed and said:

"Nonsense; lovers always feel that way when they part. Nothing is
likely to occur affecting your happiness, unless it will make you both
miserable to see the roses again in bloom upon Belle's cheeks."

But the final parting was full of sad forebodings, and as the train bore
away Mrs. Hamblin and daughter, the tears shed in silence by the latter
would not have ceased so soon had she known that her cup of happiness
was to be replaced by one so full of trouble that its very bitterness
would almost drive her into eternity.



  CHAPTER XXIII.

  EXILED FROM HOME AND FRIENDS.


The Legislative season drawing to a close, Senator Hamblin made
preparations to return home. Determining upon an active and early
canvass for the nomination as Gubernatorial candidate, his money
had been lavishly expended to win converts, while his large dinner
parties--the finest of the season--were attended by leading men and
high dignitaries. So successful had been his efforts to make friends
for himself, that even when the session closed, and before his canvass
began, he was spoken of as the probable choice of his party for the
Governor's chair. He therefore concentrated all his energies to
accomplish two objects: his own nomination and the marriage of his
daughter to Walter Mannis.

When awake these two objects were constantly on his mind; when asleep
his dreams were filled with them; when the impending financial hurricane
forced itself upon his mind he always reasoned:

"Walter Mannis will make my daughter a magnificent husband, while his
fortune will prevent my failure. Once Governor of the State, and I can
wield influence enough to extricate myself from the present dilemma."

The session had not been a profitable one to him, for no large jobs that
he was interested in came before the Senate; besides, while looking out
for his pocket, he had to avoid injuring his chances for the nomination.
The session had cost him several thousand dollars more than his salary,
which added to his embarrassments, yet his lavish use of money made all
believe his wealth increasing.

After the departure of Belle, George Alden became much depressed in
spirits. He was anxious to enter the bank at once, but by the advice
of Doctor Briar he went, accompanied by his sister, to visit a cousin
about two hundred miles distant. The change of air and scene, together
with the letters received from his wife, gave him renewed vigor, and his
despondency wore away. After a visit of one week he made preparations
to return home--his sister, as much in need of a change as himself, was
induced to remain a few days longer.

On his return, Alden was welcomed by many friends, who warmly grasped
his hand and expressed their gratification; but when, on the following
day, he entered the bank, he felt hurt at the cold greeting of the
teller. Removing his hat and stepping to his desk, he opened a book,
when Sargent said:

"Beg pardon, Mr. Alden, but the president desires to see you in his
private office before you resume your duties."

"See me?" said the astonished cashier. "For what?"

"That you will hear, sir, from his own lips."

His voice was full of irony, and the manner in which he spoke caused the
cashier to tremble, his pale face indicating agitation.

"Well, I will see him at once," Alden replied, and stepping to the door
of the private office, he gently rapped. Receiving a summons, he opened
the door and entered the apartment. The president was sitting at his
desk. Alden said:

"The teller informed me you desired my presence here."

The president, giving him a cold, meaning look, rose from his seat,
turned the key in the lock, then said:

"Yes, he was right. Be seated. I have much to say, and of a painful
nature."

George Alden's lips trembled. For a moment neither spoke, the silence
being finally broken by the president.

"George, never in my whole life did I have such a painful duty to
perform as now falls to my lot. You have served the bank for several
years, and during that time have succeeded in winning the confidence of
every officer of the institution. You have been trusted implicitly at
all times, yet an examination reveals to us that this confidence placed
in you has not been deserved."

He paused, when George Alden sprang to his feet, and gasped:

"I--I do not--that is--I cannot comprehend your meaning."

"Be seated, Alden. It almost unmans me; in fact, ever since this affair
came to my knowledge my confidence in mankind has been shaken as never
before. I see you are overcome; why not confess your crime, and let us
see that you are not as depraved as your act would indicate."

"My God! what do you mean? Confess what? At least, inform me of what I
am charged."

"Why inform you of what you already know? The abstraction of the funds
has been discovered and the worthless bonds are here."

Turning to his desk and opening a drawer, he laid before the astonished
cashier five thousand dollars in worthless paper.

"I swear before my Maker," exclaimed George, "that I never saw those
bonds before. What conspiracy is this?"

The president affected surprise and answered:

"You act your part well. You little thought, I suppose, that we would
discover your crime. The books, however, show that some time in August
last year you took five thousand dollars in money from the bank, placing
these worthless bonds in the vault as collateral."

George Alden rose to his feet, and lifting his clenched hand above his
head, and bringing it down upon the table before him, said:

"It is a lie! If anything is wrong the villain is in the other room."

"Beware, young man, how you talk; the evidence is too strong for you
to escape by any means whatever. Here is the entry made in your own
handwriting. You cannot deny this. Look here--is that written by any
other hand than your own?"

"It--it--it--does look--oh, my God! I never wrote it. Am I dreaming? No,
I am the victim of that man who has been at my desk."

Catching hold of a chair to prevent himself from falling, and turning
toward the president, in piteous tones he said:

"Mr. Hamblin, certainly you do not think me capable of robbing the bank?"

His answer being only a cold wave of the hand, the distracted man stared
at his tormentor; as he did so, anger succeeded amazement, and he
exclaimed:

"It is a foul conspiracy, and _you_ are at the bottom of it! You would
ruin me to satisfy your own ambition, you scoundrel!"

The president turned white with rage, and said:

"Have a care what you say, young man, or I will hand you over to the
courts, where your crime will receive its just punishment. Your assumed
innocence cannot stand against proofs so damaging as these books reveal."

"But I never committed the deed. I am innocent of anything so
despicable. I a defaulter! God knows I never wronged any man. Oh, why
was I brought out of the burning factory!"

His weak condition showed that he had miscalculated his strength, and
Senator Hamblin looking into his face, saw its deathly pallor, while the
poor man's eyeballs seemed almost ready to burst from their sockets.
Much alarmed, he rose hastily, and seizing the hand of George Alden,
said:

"I pity you--God knows I do. You are only human, and I will try and help
you out of this trouble, for I recognize you have claims upon me."

"Thank you; perhaps I spoke hastily just now, but answer me--do you
think I am guilty?"

"The evidence is very strong against you."

"But have you never thought another might have desired to get me out of
the way?"

"To whom do you refer?"

The cashier turned, and pointing toward the door opening into the
banking department, replied:

"The man who once went back on _you_."

"No, I cannot believe that--for he pities you, and to him you owe the
fact that no one knows of your crime but him and myself."

"My crime? Stop! do not call it that."

"Calm yourself, George, and let us talk of the future. Of course, it is
impossible for you to remain in the bank. No one but Sargent and myself
knows of the affair. You are without means to make good the missing sum.
I have suffered great anguish of mind since I learned of this matter,
and am not indifferent to the existing relations between you and my
family, which makes my course toward you far different than it would be
were our relations otherwise. Beside this, your brave act of last fall
entitles you to consideration, therefore I will befriend and help you,
if I can."

"Thank you, sir! thank you. I--I am so bewildered, I scarcely know what
to do. I cannot realize that I am awake. I know I am innocent of any
crime; but I have no adviser."

"Listen a moment," replied the president. "I can and will help you. I
will replace the money, and thus make good the defalcation--advance you
five hundred dollars beside, and you can quietly leave Cleverdale."

"I leave Cleverdale like a criminal! Confessing by flight that I am a
thief! No, sir, I cannot do that."

"You do not realize your situation. At present no one knows of this
affair. If you remain in town an excuse must be given for discharging
you from the bank, for it will be impossible for you to retain your
position here. Reflect a moment. If you desire to remain and face the
evidence, I am powerless to prevent you. I am your friend so far as I
can be, but should you remain here it will be necessary for me to report
this matter to the board of directors. I wish I might do otherwise,
but I cannot be placed in the attitude of sacrificing my own honor. I
know that warm affection exists between you and my daughter; as the
father of her whom you love and respect, I will help you if you will
help yourself, but I cannot go beyond those limits and make myself the
shielder of an openly apparent criminal. Ah! I know what you would say,
but facts exist that we must look at squarely. I offer to help you, but
you must leave Cleverdale at once."

The distracted cashier fell into a chair and groaned with agony.
Through his mind rapidly passing many thoughts, he fully realized
his situation, and knew he was the victim of a base trick, if not a
conspiracy, yet he was powerless to prove his innocence. Thoughts
of his young wife and sister passing rapidly through his mind, his
first and only consideration was to shield them from disgrace. Once
he thought of disclosing the secret of his marriage, but remembering
the solemn promise made his wife, and knowing that Senator Hamblin
was a cold-hearted man, he feared the disclosure might increase their
difficulties.

These thoughts running rapidly through his mind, he wished for his wife
and sister that he might consult them, but as they were far away, in
whatever he did he must act alone, and in his weakened condition he was
unfit to decide so serious a matter.

He believed his innocence would be established if he prevented the
conspiracy from being made public; although he was a good enough judge
of human nature to suspect Hamblin, he was loath to believe that the
president desired his ruin. He believed that Hamblin's mind had been
poisoned by Sargent, who had really robbed the bank and made a scapegoat
of the cashier. At the same time he recognized the fact that Senator
Hamblin was in the power of the teller, but desired to get rid of the
cashier. The more he thought over the subject the more he saw the utter
impossibility of proving his innocence, but concluded to make one more
appeal to the president.

"Give me time to think, sir," he replied to Senator Hamblin, when the
latter asked for his decision. "Before you drive me from home and
friends, make a more thorough examination, for I am confident you will
be convinced of my innocence."

"No, that cannot be. This was discovered immediately after your heroic
adventure. I was astonished and could not believe you guilty. I have
investigated thoroughly, and after due deliberation am convinced in my
own mind concerning this matter."

"But Sargent--what does he say?"

"He pleaded for you, as never before man did for another. When it looked
as if you must die, I decided to make good the amount and let your grave
cover the crime. I am entrusted with the funds of this institution. If
you remain in the village I must give a reason for your discharge--if
you go away your absence must be attributed to mystery; I shall never
follow you. If you can ever repay me the amount I advance, all right; if
you cannot, I shall feel that I have protected you as well as the honor
of a member of my own household."

Eloquence can make deceit appear as the purest of truths. This gift
accounted in part for Senator Hamblin's great power, for he was
a natural actor. His persuasive manner and strong language had a
perceptible effect upon George Alden, who gave evident signs of weakness
of mind and body. Long months of confinement left him powerless to cope
with a strong mind, and gradually his will succumbed to that of his
persecutor.

He could write to Belle and Fannie, he reasoned, and be advised by them.
Yes, he would save himself and friends the disgrace that must inevitably
follow the charge he knew to be false, yet was unable to disprove. It
would be a terrible ordeal, but he thought it would be only temporary
and his vindication must surely follow. As for Belle, who never could
doubt his honesty, he could keep her informed of his whereabouts,
awaiting her summons to return.

"What is your decision, George? I must know at once," asked the
president.

"Give me one day to decide."

"No, you must make your choice at once--the directors will meet this
evening, and if you remain here I must tell them of the defalcation, and
then I shall be powerless to aid you. I wish it were otherwise, but it
is not."

"Well, sir, to shield those I love I accept your offer. I hope I have
not made a wrong decision, but my vindication is sure to follow."

Senator Hamblin opened a private drawer, and taking from it five hundred
dollars, said:

"Here, George, is money--no, do not push it back--you will require
it--you need not take it as a gift, it is only lent you."

At first Alden refused the loan, but the president, pretending to be
affected almost to tears, at last succeeded in forcing the money upon
him.

The interview ended, Alden left the building and wended his footsteps
homeward. Alone in the privacy of his chamber he gave way to his
feelings, after which he began making preparations for leaving
Cleverdale. Taking up a picture of his wife that lay upon the table
before him, he covered it with kisses, and said:

"I am her evil genius, and thus far have only caused her unhappiness.
But she shall know all; yes, every word that passed between her father
and me shall be written her."

For two hours he sat beside the table, writing. He wrote of the terrible
charges against him, and placed on paper every word that passed between
the bank president and himself. He asserted his innocence; told of his
love, and begged his wife to do everything in her power to clear up
the mystery. He read and reread his letter, and added more, telling
her of his assumed name and destination. He then wrote another letter,
containing substantially the same matter, which he directed to his
sister.

Not one word concerning his marriage, or his legal relationship to
Belle, appeared in either letter. He was too much absorbed in his
situation to think of anything but his flight and the causes that led to
it.

At nine o'clock George Alden, bidding farewell to his home, went
directly to the post office, mailed his letters, and then turned toward
the depot. Meeting many friends, to their inquiries whither he was bound
he replied, he was "going for his sister." It was a falsehood, and his
conscience troubled him for it.

As the train steamed out of the depot his heart was too full of sadness
to speak to any one. Although an innocent man, his sorrows must affect
the two noble women whom he believed he was serving by leaving home.

God pity the three! Business reverses may drive a man from home and
friends, death may inflict anguish hard to be endured, calumny may cast
dark shadows over noble lives, but ambition alone can inflict unmerited
misery on honorable natures; and worse than the ambition that causes
war--worse because meaner--is the feeling that political necessities
engender and stimulate in a man until he can coolly perform deeds more
fiendish than Holy Writ anywhere ascribes to Satan. In proof whereof it
is only necessary to quote a word or two of Senator Hamblin's soliloquy
after Alden left the bank.

"_I_ am the scoundrel.--Well, a man must be one to succeed in politics."



  CHAPTER XXIV.

  THE DISTRACTED WIFE.


The next morning, as Senator Hamblin entered the bank, Sargent handed
him two letters. Receiving them in silence, he went directly to his
private office, closed and locked the door, and seating himself at the
desk, seemed much troubled.

"I am playing a dangerous game, and wish I were well out of it.
During the long, tedious night, sleep refused to relieve me of that
dreadful look of agony and despair that yesterday overshadowed Alden's
countenance. But can I do otherwise than try to prevent the crash that
would ruin me and disgrace those dependent upon me? It is a desperate
game, but I cannot retrace my steps. Let me look at these letters. Yes,
here is one addressed to my daughter and another to the Alden girl. I
cannot bear to open them, but must do so, for how else can I know his
destination?"

For a moment he was silent, then quickly opening the letter addressed to
Belle, and counting the sheets, he found there were six of them--just
twenty-four pages in all. Reading, he was soon interested in the
contents. Troubled thoughts running through his mind, he frequently
passed his hand across his brow as if hiding the words from view.
Before the letter was finished he was greatly agitated, and when all was
read, his head bowed upon the desk, sigh after sigh escaped him.

"What have I done? The writer of this letter would have made my daughter
a kind and true husband. I will recall him--I must, for I cannot go
farther in this deception. Poor Belle! God pity her! I--her father--have
basely conspired to destroy her happiness. God! what a villain I am!"

He arose and paced the floor in terrible agony of conscience.

"I have added crime to cruelty, and my hand is plotting against two
true and noble hearts. I will at once recall Alden, for Belle's letter
received last evening informs me of her return home to-morrow. What
sorrow awaits her! I must--I will make amends for all."

Resuming his seat, he was about to open the letter addressed to Fannie
Alden, when a rap at the door caused him to pause, and hastily slipping
the two letters into a private drawer, he arose, and opening the door,
to his surprise he found himself face to face with Walter Mannis.

"Ah, Senator, how do you do? Glad to see you. You look surprised. Didn't
expect to see me to-day, eh?"

"No, I did not expect you, Mannis, but I am glad to see you. Walk in,
and be seated."

Closing and locking the door, and resuming his chair, he said:

"Mannis, this is bad business. Yesterday I sent poor Alden away as if he
were a common thief. To-day I am a changed man and must give up this
business, for it is a damnable scheme."

"Pshaw! Senator, you are only doing your duty; beside it is too late to
turn back now. Tut, tut, man, another day will calm your mind and all
will be well."

"I suppose I am weak, but the scene I passed through yesterday has quite
unmanned me; I will soon throw off this spell, realizing now that only
the successful development of our scheme will save us. But I was a fool
to ever begin it."

Mannis, with his keen eye, saw that the veteran politician was really
moved. He was astonished; what politician would not have been? But he
did not lose his wits; he said:

"The only thing necessary now is to prevent Alden's return. Of course
you have intercepted his letters, for Sargent told me as I entered the
bank that he handed you two this morning."

"Yes, I have them safe; but the counterfeiting and forging business must
follow. When will bloodshed be added?"

The words were spoken in a desperate voice, so Mannis quickly replied:

"Come, Senator, put on your hat and let us walk over to my room at the
hotel. You need fresh air and a glass of wine--then we will return here
and look further into this matter."

The Senator at first refused the invitation, but persuasion finally made
him yield, and the two men left the bank.

Returning an hour later, Senator Hamblin was in better spirits, the
fresh air, together with several glasses of wine, having changed his
whole demeanor. Despondency had given way to exuberance of spirits, and
both men were soon seated side by side, smoking cigars. Then George
Alden's letters were brought from their hiding-place and examined,
Mannis remarking:

"Well, he is a gushing youth if nothing else."

It being decided an answer must be sent Alden, Mannis, taking paper and
pen, wrote as follows:

                                                "CLEVERDALE, 187-.

    "SIR: On receipt of your letter I immediately returned to
    Cleverdale. When I thought you an honest man, I respected and
    loved you, but your crime has aroused me from this dream. Never
    dare address me again, for I abhor a villain.   BELLE HAMBLIN.

    "To GEORGE ALDEN."

"There, Senator, have Sargent copy this--imitating your daughter's
handwriting--and mail it to the gusher. It will make him overflow with
rhapsody--or profanity. Gracious! how I would like to see him when he
runs his eyes over this _billet-doux_," and he ended his words with a
long, low whistle.

The interview was but a short one, and the two men shook hands. Mannis,
while leaving the private office and passing into the bank, whispered to
Sargent:

"Come to my room at the hotel at noon, I wish to see you privately."

Promptly at noon Sargent entered the Cleverdale Hotel, and hastily going
to Mannis's room rapped at the door. A voice within calling out, "Come
in," the teller entered the apartment, and Mannis rose to meet him.

"Sargent, the old man is faint-hearted, and if something is not done to
prevent, he will have Alden back here."

"Yes, I noticed he looked like a sick man when he came to the bank this
morning. If he should repent, what would you and I do?"

"We must not give him a chance. Will you stand by me in this matter,
Sargent? Remember, you are to be cashier."

"Stand by you? Yes, sir; I am with you and can take a hand in anything
you suggest."

"Well, let's shake hands over that. Now let me whisper a few words in
your ear."

For five minutes the two men whispered together; then Sargent said:

"By thunder! I never thought of that--but I am your man--that will check
things certain."

"Not a lisp of this," said Mannis; "but Saturday evening, at eight
o'clock, meet me near the hollow road, and be sure to bring along that
suit."

In another moment Mannis was alone, and an hour later, behind a span of
fleet horses, he was speeding over the road toward Havelock.

"The girl shall be mine," he said, "and the Senator's money will chip in
nicely to keep me afloat. But if he only knew I wanted his cash, even
more than his pretty daughter, he would shut down on me. Chicken-hearted
as a child, I am afraid he will repent, and try to undo the little
game. I always took him for a man of pluck; but we will arrange this
business, though. My eyes! how he will shake in his boots when Sargent
and I get through with our part of this affair--and won't all Cleverdale
be excited? Whew! There'll be a first-class rumpus!"

The following day Mrs. Hamblin and Belle arrived at the Hamblin mansion;
the husband and father was not there to receive them. Relieving
themselves of wraps, etc., they took their supper.

Belle with great impatience momentarily expected the arrival of George
Alden. Eight, half-past eight, nine o'clock came, still the young
husband failed to appear.

"It is strange, mamma," said she. "I wrote him I would be here this
evening. Can he be sick? I will send Jane to his house--possibly he is
there."

Seating herself, she hastily wrote:

    "DEAR GEORGE:
                  "I am home. Come at once.
                                            "BELLE."

Summoning Jane, instructions concerning the note were given; in twenty
minutes the faithful nurse returned and exclaimed:

"The house is dark, and no person there."

"No one there!" said Belle, in a trembling voice. "It is singular
enough. He came home three days since. Where is Papa?--he can tell us
whether George has been at the bank. There must be something wrong."

"Be calm, my child," said her mother; "he will come soon--there is some
good reason for his absence. Perhaps he is at the bank with your father."

"True; I never thought of that. It is getting late, and we had better
send James to the bank and ascertain. I must know his whereabouts before
I can sleep."

She immediately rang the bell, and Jane appeared.

"Tell James to go to the bank, and see if Papa is there. Also tell him
to inquire if Mr. Alden is there. If Papa is alone, ask him if he will
please come home at once."

Half an hour later, James returned with the information that Mr. Hamblin
was alone at his office, and would be up soon. Belle was much agitated;
her mother tried to quiet her, but without success. Shortly after,
Senator Hamblin entered the house; Belle ran to meet him, but by his
manner she was conscious that something terrible had happened. After
embracing his wife and daughter, the latter asked:

"Papa, where--is--is--George?"

Slow to answer, his hesitation only added to her agitation, for she
continued:

"Oh, speak! What has happened?"

"My daughter, he is unworthy of you, he has proven himself a villain."

"Proven himself a villain! why, what do you mean? Answer me!" Her face
became deathly pale, and she tottered as if about to fall.

"He has--I cannot speak it, for I am affected as never before--but you
must know the worst--George Alden has stolen five thousand dollars from
the bank."

There was a wild shriek, and Belle fell sobbing into her mother's arms.

"It is--it is false! he never committed a crime." Rising quickly, with
excited voice she asked: "And--and where is he?"

"Alas, my child, he has absconded. I befriended him, making good the
amount, and the crime is known only to the teller and myself."

"Father," exclaimed Belle, "this awful crime is yours, not his; you have
conspired to defame as pure a man as ever lived,--and _you have killed
his wife_."

"His wife! My God, Belle, what do you mean?"

"I mean that I am the wedded wife of George Alden, whom an unnatural
father conspired to ruin, branding him as a criminal and sending him
away a fugitive. Oh, I see it all! Weak from his late illness, not able
to cope with villains, and left by me at the mercy of his persecutors,
he is ruined, and I am murdered by--oh, God!--my father!"

The sorrow-stricken wife sobbed with intense agony; her proud sire stood
trembling like a whipped cur. Approaching his wife, he said:

"Why was I not made aware of this marriage? I would have saved him from
flight, but now I am afraid it is too late. He--he--did not tell me of
this."

"No, pledged not to reveal the marriage until my return, his fine sense
of honor, together with his weak condition, made him keep the secret.
But what is manliness, honor, or love to you? You drove him away!"
replied Belle.

"I did not drive him away, the evidence of guilt caused his flight. I
not only made good the defalcation, but gave him money for necessary
expenses. He made a fatal mistake in not informing me of this marriage;
but I promise to recall him. I will do it at once. You must bear up
until his return."

"Then you will restore him to me, and when he returns you will proclaim
his innocence?"

"Hope for the best, my child. You did wrong in keeping your marriage
from me."

The family retired, but not to sleep. All the long night Belle lay upon
her sleepless pillow, unable to drive the thought from her mind that
her husband was suffering. In the bedchamber of her father there was no
repose, for even a politician cannot always stifle conscience at will.
The Senator ordered remorse to quit his presence, but as remorse was
not in his pay, it refused to obey his mandate. The wretched man would
willingly have welcomed financial destruction, if thereby he could have
restored George Alden to his daughter. Solemnly pledging himself to
make restitution for the wrong he had done, he resolved on the morrow
to write to George Alden, bidding him return. But he reckoned without
his host, for Mannis and Sargent had not yet been interviewed by their
consciences.

When, next morning, Senator Hamblin entered the breakfast-room, his face
showed plainly the struggle through which he had passed. Inquiring for
his daughter, he was told by Mrs. Hamblin that she was sleeping soundly.

"Poor child, let her sleep. Would that she could enjoy an unbroken
slumber until the return of her husband."

At nine o'clock he went to the bank and found Sargent alone.

"Have you mailed the forged letter to Alden?" he asked.

"Yes, sir; it left this morning."

"I am sorry, for I am convinced I have done a great wrong. I have been a
fool--yes, worse than that, a villain--but I will recall him at once."

Sargent, conscious that his companion's mind had undergone a radical
change, did not at first reply, but no other remark being made by the
president, he finally said:

"Will it not be dangerous for him to return here? he might make it warm
for us."

"I care not; although there would be no danger. There are reasons why I
desire his immediate return. To-day is Friday--I will write to him at
once, and he can be here by the middle of next week."

As he entered his private office and closed the door behind him, Sargent
laughingly said to himself:

"Just as I expected--but we will nip this little game; for he has men,
not a girl, to deal with now. We hold the trump cards and he will find
himself euchred."

One hour later Senator Hamblin passed into the banking room, and handed
Sargent a letter addressed, GEORGE HOWARD, CHICAGO, ILL., saying:

"Mail this at once. And do not be disappointed in this matter; if we can
get Alden back again, I will make you a handsome present--I will remain
here while you are absent."

Sargent, leaving the bank, slipped the letter into his pocket.

"Lucky he sent me! I will take care of this for the present."



  CHAPTER XXV.

  THE CRUEL LETTER.


George Alden, with satchel in hand, stepped from a train just arrived
from the East, at Chicago; his pale face, blood-shot eyes, and whole
manner betokening a nervous condition. A stranger in a strange city,
scarcely knowing which way to go, he felt almost like a guilty wretch
fleeing from justice. The events of the past three days passing before
his mind like a row of spectres, his haggard face told plainly of his
anguish.

The sun was sinking beneath the western plains as the fugitive walked
the streets of the strange city, not knowing whither to turn. He was
faint from lack of nourishment, for he had not taken sufficient food
to preserve his strength; while severe pains in his back recalled to
his mind the fearful experience in the burning factory, when he lay in
the hallway held down by the firebrand. He entered a restaurant, and
seating himself at a small table in a recess, ordered food. Then, taking
a photograph from his pocket, he imprinted many kisses upon the pictured
face of his wife.

"Poor child!" he murmured. "She has already received my letter--God help
her! I am sure, though, she will bid me return, as soon as she reads the
letter."

The waiter soon returned, and Alden said:

"Can you direct me to an inexpensive, respectable private
boarding-house, where I can find comfort? I am not well."

"Yes, sir," replied the waiter, "I can direct you to just such a place
as you desire."

His supper finished, he paid his bill, and with directions from the
waiter he started in search of the boarding-house, which he soon found.
Making known his wants, the good lady, after asking a few questions
and looking into his honest face, decided to take him as a boarder. It
was fortunate for him that she did, for Mrs. Nash afterward proved a
valuable friend at a time when Alden stood in need of care and attention.

In the solitude of his room he threw himself into a chair and gave way
to a paroxysm of mental anguish, reproaching himself for deserting his
home and friends, for the act was an acknowledgment of guilt. Retiring
at an early hour, exhaustion made him sleep soundly. In dreamland he
forgot his troubles, again living over those happy days passed with his
loving wife and sister.

Sancho Panza uttered the sentiments of every living creature, when he
invoked God's blessing upon the man who invented sleep.

As the morning sun crept into Alden's apartment its rays fell upon the
sleeper's face and caused him to move his head upon the pillow. In a
moment he opened his eyes, gazing about the room as if in doubt of his
whereabouts; gradually the painful realities of life drove the happy
dreams from his mind, filling his heart with sad thoughts, his only
companions the past few days. Quitting his bed, he dressed himself, and
involuntarily glancing into the mirror he started back in affright, and
said:

"My God! is that haggard-looking face mine? Here I am, far away from
home and kindred, hiding in Chicago. For what? Because I was a coward.
Yes; having braved the dangers of fire, I did not have courage to face
my false accuser. Oh, why did I run away like a thief?"

Overcoming his agitation, he bathed, dressed, and was soon ready to
descend to the breakfast-room. At the table he met others, to whom he
was introduced, but his heavy heart usurping the whole space within him,
he talked little and ate less.

His meal finished, he returned to his room to wait for expected letters.
Two long days passed, and the suspense was straining his nerves to
their utmost tension; unable to divert his mind by reading, he watched
the passage of time, which never moved so slowly. Saturday evening he
sent Mrs. Nash's son to the post-office, instructing him to inquire for
letters for George Howard, the latter his mother's maiden name, assumed
by him on leaving Cleverdale; but the lad returned without tidings from
either wife or sister.

On Sunday, leaving his room for a walk, he cared nothing for the sights
that another time and under different circumstances would have pleased
and interested him. Attending morning service at church, his thoughts
were far away, an eloquent discourse failing to arouse him from his
abstraction. The service over, he sought his boarding-house, and was
going directly to his room, when Mrs. Nash accosted him, and said:

"Mr. Howard, you seem ill; can I do anything for you?"

Halting to see whom she was addressing, he recalled his assumed name,
and replied:

"No, I am weary, that is all. Thank you for your interest in me."

"But, sir, you do not look strong. Pardon me, but have you been ill?"

"Yes, I have been very ill for many months, but am getting stronger now,
and will soon be well again."

The sigh that escaped him convinced the good woman his sufferings were
mental. Observing the paleness overspreading his face, her heart was
touched, but not wishing to appear impertinent, she said:

"I have a son about your age, far away in a foreign clime, and you must
forgive me, if I, a mother, take an interest in you. If I could only
know the whereabouts of my own boy, I could close my eyes in peace
instead of lying upon my pillow each night imagining him surrounded by
all kinds of danger and temptations," and she raised her handkerchief to
her eyes.

"I pity any person in trouble," Alden said, "for I have had my share of
sorrow and suffering." He would have said more, but at that moment the
door-bell rang, and Mrs. Nash said:

"If you are in trouble confide in me, and I will try and give you the
consolation I hope some good person will give my own poor boy."

George Howard--we must for the present call him by that name--passed on
to his room, while the good woman went to answer the door-bell. At the
supper table she spoke kindly to the new boarder, who ate but little,
and soon re-entered his room.

The following day, sending again to the post-office, the boy returned
bearing in his hand a letter addressed to George Howard, Chicago, Ill.

Seizing it with trembling hands, Alden hastily tore open the envelope,
looked at the few lines it contained, and holding the sheet before his
eyes, with a trembling voice read aloud:

                                                "CLEVERDALE, 187-.

    "SIR: On receipt of your letter, I immediately returned to
    Cleverdale. When I thought you an honest man, I respected and loved
    you, but your crime has aroused me from this dream. Never dare
    address me again, for I abhor a villain.       BELLE HAMBLIN."

He crushed the letter and tore it into shreds. As the pieces fell from
his hand his pale face became suffused with scarlet, and large cords
rose on his temples and brow as he said:

"My God!--And she too believes it? I did not think that--Oh, my head is
bursting--_I am dying--God, have mercy--I--I_--"

He staggered and fell heavily to the floor. Mrs. Nash hastily entering
the room beheld him lying senseless upon the carpet. The good woman,
seeing the scattered pieces of paper, at once comprehended the
situation, for she knew her young son had brought a letter which must
have contained bad news.

"Poor fellow! I am afraid he is gone." Stooping, she placed her hand
over his heart. "No, he is not dead," she continued.

She stepped into the hall and summoned help; and two women lifted
the insensible form to the bed. A physician was called at once, and
attempted to resuscitate him. Remaining in a partial stupor all day,
toward night Alden began to show signs of returning consciousness.
The following day, as he lay upon his bed looking at the kind-hearted
woman watching over him, his mind seemed utterly broken down, for his
appearance was that of listless disinterestedness. His face was pale,
with the exception of a bright-red spot on either cheek.

For three long weary months he kept his room, yet never murmured at
fate's decrees. His hostess constantly watched her patient, and never
troubled him with questions; her only desire being for his recovery.
The physician gave orders that he must be kept perfectly quiet, and all
letters withheld from him, unless containing cheering news. No letters
came, however, and the good woman wondered; but had she known of the
scenes taking place elsewhere, she would have been filled with greater
wonder.



  CHAPTER XXVI.

  A DIRTY JOB.


Time dragged slowly, Senator Hamblin being ill at ease.

Beholding his daughter's sorrow, and knowing she could not become the
wife of Walter Mannis, he began looking about for some other method to
avert the financial disaster threatening him.

Scarcely a moment passed that he did not reproach himself for the great
wrong he had done. Overwhelmed with horror, and fully realizing that
ambition and selfishness had made him a criminal, he little realized
that he was dealing with men deeper and more desperate than himself.

One night a man left the village of Cleverdale and passed into the
country. He wore a slouched hat pulled well down over his forehead,
while his coat-collar was turned up about his neck. The night was dark
and cloudy, so the pedestrian was scarcely observed by any one; but
when he met an acquaintance, he pulled his hat further over his brow,
and passed unrecognized. Under his left arm he carried a large bundle,
his right hand holding fast a heavy cane, which he used to pick out his
pathway.

It was not long before, passing beyond the corporate limits of the
village, his feet were treading the highway leading toward Havelock. As
he kept on his way he heard the noise of an approaching carriage. The
dense clouds overhead made the night so dark that teams were compelled
to move slowly, and as the mysterious pedestrian neared the carriage he
coughed three times; a low whistle assured him his signal was heard.
The single individual in the vehicle cried out, "Whoa!" the man on foot
approached and jumped in. The team turned and headed toward Havelock,
and the horses were driven faster than was compatible with safety.

One hour later the vehicle entered a piece of dense woods. The driver,
dismounting, seized the horses by the head and led them on, through a
narrow roadway or lane, for a distance of at least a quarter of a mile.
When he stopped the man in the carriage jumped to the ground, and the
two stood side by side. The driver then reached beneath the seat of the
carriage, and drew forth a dark lantern, a pickaxe, two shovels, a hoe,
a coil of rope, and two long queer-looking hooks with wooden handles. As
he passed his hand under the seat, a noise was heard similar to the wail
of a cat.

Both men were disguised, and as they continued their work conversed in
low tones. Gathering up their tools and moving along at a rapid pace
for about five hundred feet, they stopped at the edge of the forest
and scaled a high picket fence. White slabs of marble, tall columns of
the same material, and large granite monuments rose before them like
spectres, grim and lonely.

A ghost-like stillness pervaded the scene, for the two men were in a
city of the dead, surrounded on all sides by its silent habitations.

"Follow me--it is only a short distance away. Come," said the taller of
the two, who led on, his companion following.

The two men paused at the side of a newly made mound, and laying down
their tools, pulled off their overcoats and prepared for work. As they
threw aside their disguises the reader would at once have recognized the
two men as Hon. Walter Mannis and Sargent, the teller.

"Here is the grave," said Mannis. "And we must commence our work
at once. This man was buried last Sunday, and in size and personal
appearance looks much like Alden. Let us hurry up and snake him
out--come, take that pick and loosen the earth. Eh? what's that?
S--h--h--h! Pshaw! it's only a twig which broke beneath your feet."

"This is rather serious business, Mannis. Give me a pull from that
bottle. There--that tastes good, and it will nerve a fellow up."

"Yes, we need a little backbone--be careful and do not make much noise,
for we are within a quarter mile of the road, and there is danger of
being discovered. Here--hand me that spade. The earth is not very solid,
for I can easily run this spade down a foot or two."

"This pick goes in as easy," said Sargent, "as if it were cutting
cheese. Wonder where Alden is now? Ha! ha! wouldn't he make Rome howl
if he knew what we were doing? But, d--n him! he always looked upon me
as if I was a scoundrel; now I'll be even with him. There, how is that?
Hand me that other spade."

Mannis, doing as requested, said:

"Be careful, Sargent, and throw the dirt where the grave-digger pitched
it. So the old man weakened, eh?--if he knew that you pocketed his
letter he would be apt to send you adrift. His pretty daughter is his
pride, his very life--Ah, Sargent, she is a darling, and I feel rather
sorry for her, for she will cry her pretty eyes out upon learning George
Alden will never return. Careful, Sargent; the earth is falling back
into the grave. Here, take another drink; egad! a little good spirits is
required to keep the evil spirits away. I don't just like this job; but
virtue will have its reward, and such patterns as you and I will not be
forgotten, eh?"--and both men laughed, as the devil also must have done
if he was present, as probably he was.

For a full half-hour they toiled on, until they stood at least three
feet deep in the grave. Slowly the mound of earth rose about them and
the scene became animated. In the distance was heard the rumbling of
thunder, the dark clouds overhead becoming blacker and more dense,
while the men, unaccustomed to manual labor, paused at intervals to
rest. Nearer and nearer they came to the box and its occupant, until at
last Sargent's spade struck the wood, sending back a dull, hollow thud,
startling both men.

"Gracious, Sargent! that frightened me, it came so sudden; but it will
not be long before we shall have this ugly business finished."

"It startled me too. This is a pretty tough job, Mannis."

"That's so; but remember it will make you cashier of the bank."

"Yes, that will pay--but see here, Mannis, it's mighty slippery business
after all."

"We have no time to discuss the matter now--come, let's to work; ten
minutes of lively shovelling will have the box clean as a whistle."

Both men resumed their labor, shovelful after shovelful of dirt was
thrown up on top of the mound already formed, until they stood upon the
cover of the box.

"Lay the shovels outside, Sargent, and take another drink. There, that
will set you up. Here's at you!" and he turned the bottle and drank deep
from its throat.

Taking a screw-driver from his pocket, and turning the rays of his
dark lantern into the grave, Mannis began removing the screws from the
cover. It was but the work of a few moments, when, the cover carefully
laid outside the grave, the screw-driver began its work on the lid of
the coffin. As the corpse was exposed to view, Mannis touched its cold,
clammy face. A thrill of horror went through his frame, causing him to
start and step heavily upon Sargent's toes, their owner standing behind
him on the lower part of the coffin-lid.

Both men expressed their abhorrence of the scene, and an outsider
looking upon the body-snatchers would have beheld three death-like
countenances instead of one.

"Here, Sargent, stick that hook into the clothing. Now wait a moment
until I get the other hook into this side; there--steady now! Can you
take hold of both hooks? There, don't drop him, and I will fasten this
rope about his breast. Now if you can hold on a moment, I will get out
and hang to him with the rope."

Nimble as a cat, Mannis sprang from the grave.

"Now pull out the hooks, and come and help me."

Sargent did not wait for a second summons, for his hair already stood on
end at the thought of being alone in the grave with the dead man, and he
was at the side of Mannis in an instant. The two men worked hard, and
soon had their horrid prey out on the grass. The coffin-lid was laid
back and the outside cover placed in position, the body-snatchers not
waiting to replace the screws. Quickly they plied their spades, only
stopping to tread down the loose dirt. In twenty minutes the grave was
refilled, the mound rebuilt and the ground cleared up, as it was found.

"Sargent, we have a burden to tug. First, let us take the tools to the
wagon and then return for the cold corpus."

Gathering up their tools and soon placing them beneath the
carriage-seat, the men returned, and taking up the corpse, prepared
to leave the cemetery. When approaching the fence, a sudden flash of
lightning caused them to drop their burden, and the body rolled over
into a hole near by.

"Egad! Mannis, I am sick of this. U-u-g-h! when that flash struck the
face of the corpse it sent a thrill of horror all through me. I wish the
body was in its coffin again."

"You think it rather unpleasant work, eh, Sargent? Well, that's because
you've never been in politics. But we have got over the worst of it.
Let us kick off a picket and push the fellow through the fence."

Suiting the action to the words, he gave a vigorous blow with his
foot, and two pickets flew off. The body was then lifted up and
crowded through the aperture, and ten minutes later the men and their
disagreeable burden reached the carriage.

"It is one o'clock, Sargent," said Mannis, turning the light of his
dark lantern on his watch. "We must hurry up. Get that suit of clothes,
there; spread them out. Now help me strip this fellow. It was mighty
lucky Alden left these clothes in the bank; very kind of him, and I am
much obliged for his thoughtfulness. No one will examine them critically
to see if they are old clothes or not."

"Old clothes! They are not old clothes, it is a suit he wore last year
when he slept in the bank, and he never took them away. This fellow
looks pretty fine in borrowed clothes, eh, Mannis?"

The body was soon dressed; the hardest work experienced was that of
encasing the feet in boots, although the task, after much effort, was
successfully accomplished.

The two men had labored faithfully and their work was soon finished. The
clothes taken from the dead man were buried, the form lifted into the
carriage, the men following, when Mannis turned the horses' heads toward
Cleverdale.

The clouds began discharging flashes of lightning, loud peals of thunder
adding their unpleasantness to the scene, and amid almost impenetrable
darkness the team could not be driven faster than a walk. Presently
great drops of rain spattered into the carriage, striking the occupants
full in the face. After a long, gloomy ride, which neither Mannis nor
Sargent enjoyed, the street lamps of Cleverdale were faintly seen in the
distance.

"Where are we, Sargent? Oh, I see now--that flash showed up the country.
There is the road--let us turn in and plant this chap."

The horses' heads were again turned, and approaching a clump of forest
trees the two men jumped out. The body was taken from the vehicle and
dropped over the fence. Both men then followed, and carrying the body
back some distance, placed it beneath a tree.

"Where is the pistol, Sargent? All right--now I'll put a ball into his
brain."

A sharp report followed, and Mannis had fired through the sightless
eyes, the pistol being held so near as to tear and disfigure the face
past recognition.

"There!" said he. "I guess this will be a good enough Alden until I
marry the girl."

The pistol laid beside the body, the two men hastily left the place.

One hour later, Sargent was in his bed, and as daylight began to dawn,
as naturally as if nothing unusual had happened, Mannis was on his way
toward Havelock.



  CHAPTER XXVII.

  CLEVERDALE'S SORROW.


Gradually the disappearance of George Alden became known about
Cleverdale. His sister, on returning, was greatly shocked to learn of
his absence. It was thought best by both Senator Hamblin and Belle that
the cause of his flight should be kept from her, and she was encouraged
by both assuring her of his probable restoration to them in the course
of two or three days.

Patiently the two women waited. The Sabbath was gloomy and dismal, for
a drizzling rain kept everybody within doors. Monday dawned, Tuesday,
Wednesday and Thursday following without the return of the loved
wanderer. The hours passed slowly and sadly, and the lines about the
eyes of both women showed plainly that sorrow and grief were almost
bursting two hearts.

Since the news of the cashier's departure became known, many inquiries
had been made, and much sympathy expressed for the friends of the young
man. It was feared his brain had become disturbed during his long
illness, and that he was wandering about in a weakened condition of
body as well as mind. One remembered that he appeared abstracted and
acted strangely; another recollected passing him without his scarcely
returning recognition, and many others now brought to their remembrance
strange actions on his part.

As day after day passed the excitement increased, and his disappearance
became the theme of general conversation. It was singular that no one
recollected his departure on the evening train, the night he left his
native village.

Senator Hamblin, nervous and filled with great anxiety, wondered why
his summons had not brought back the fugitive. Many times he took from
his private drawer the intercepted letters written to his daughter and
Fannie Alden, and closely examined the assumed name and address, to
convince himself that he had made no mistake in directing his letter.
Much of his time was spent at home with his wife and daughter, who saw
his anxiety, but little suspected the double load that weighed him down.
Looking upon himself as a criminal, the impending financial ruin, added
to the injury done his own daughter, nearly drove him to desperation. He
scarcely slept during the long, tedious hours of the night, while the
day gave him no peace of mind.

Receiving a visit from Mannis, the two men held a consultation for an
hour, Senator Hamblin telling of his resolve and determination to make
all reparation in his power for the wrong he had done. The wily Mannis
pretended to coincide with him, even expressing a mock penitence for the
part he had performed in the affair. So well did he act his rôle that
Senator Hamblin never suspected the deception that was to make him a
victim. He knew nothing of the body lying in the woods, soon to play an
important part in the development of the scheme. Since the change in
himself he began to look upon Mannis as a villain, even congratulating
himself that fate, more careful of his child's happiness than her own
father, had made her the wife of George Alden. But when Mannis expressed
penitence for what he had done, Senator Hamblin fell into the error of
believing him an honest man. He did not hear the words Mannis whispered
into Sargent's ear as he passed through the bank:

"The old man trembles, Sargent, and is greatly affected--how he will
rip and tear when the fellow in the woods is found! Oh, my!" Both men
laughed, and Mannis left the bank.

Friday was a pleasant day, the excitement being on the increase, for
George Alden's disappearance had become still more cause of wonder.
About noon, two little boys, greatly frightened and excited, came
running into the village, exclaiming:

"A man--a dead man--in the woods over there!"

"Where?" inquired a citizen. "Stop and tell me."

The other lad, calming himself, said:

"We were playing in the woods out yonder, and saw a man--looking as if
he was dead--lying under a tree, and we just ran away, sir."

By this time several other persons gathered about the boys, insisting
upon the little fellows leading them to the place where the cause of
their fright could be found. The lads agreed to go as far as the fence
and point out the spot. The men moved along, their numbers increasing,
and by the time they arrived at the grove there were at least twenty
persons in the crowd. The boys pointed to a large maple tree, and a
moment later the crowd surrounded the dead body. An offensive odor
filled the air, and the horrible sight caused many to turn hastily away.

"Who is it?" asked every one, but no one seemed able to answer.

The crowd was being augmented by numbers, for the news of the discovery
had spread rapidly. Finally a man broke through the crowd, and hastily
glancing at the body, said:

"It is George Alden. I know those clothes; but see, the face is pretty
much gone. Horrible!"

The news flew quickly to the village, and many people flocked to
the scene. Gazing upon the mutilated remains, many, recognizing the
clothing, corroborated the opinion first expressed. Soon it was decided
in the minds of all that the remains were those of the missing cashier,
a pistol in close proximity to the body telling a tale of suicide.

The coroner came later, a jury was empanelled, and it was discovered
that all valuables on the person had been stolen. Although the body was
so badly decomposed that a thorough examination was impossible, the
bullet-hole was plainly visible, the whole face having the appearance of
being scorched and lacerated. In this condition the remains were placed
in a handsome casket, and closed never to be opened.

The first theory was one of suicide, although the fact that the watch
and everything else of value had been taken from the pockets suggested
to many murder as the cause of death.

While the community was greatly shocked, the scenes taking place at
the Hamblin mansion were heart-rending. Fannie Alden, on returning to
Cleverdale, had been prevailed upon to remain with Belle until her
brother's return.

During the anxious days the sisters tried to comfort each other,
constantly remaining together. As the hours wore on, no tidings of the
loved one being received, hope gradually gave way to despondency, and
when the awful news reached them that the dead body of the husband and
brother had been found, it prostrated both with grief.

"Oh," cried Belle, "I must go to him, and look upon his dear face once
more."

When told it would not be possible for her to see him, her sobs and
moans were so piteous that they would have even softened the hearts of
the two villainous authors of the deep and cruel game, so full of woe to
her, had not these hearts been reserved for more appropriate treatment.

For several days Senator Hamblin visited his daughter only once, for he
knew that he was a poor comforter. Suffering the torments of hell, he
cursed his mad ambition and declared himself a murderer.

"Oh, my God!" he would exclaim, "what have I done to gratify my
ambition? Step by step, approaching this awful deed, what crimes I have
committed, and what sorrow I have brought upon my beloved daughter.
Dead? yes, and I his murderer! How can I free myself from myself? My
dreams are haunted by this awful spectre. I see him before me in his
agony, as he trembled at the false accusation that he was a thief. That
look haunts me, and almost drives me mad."

Falling into a chair and burying his head in both hands, he groaned in
agony of spirit.

"Oh, had I the courage to end this! But no, I dare not run the risk
of a worse torment than I am experiencing. If this is earth, what
must hell be? I must live and look upon her sad face--see her misery
and acknowledge that I, her unnatural father, murdered her husband!
Ambition, what a fiend you are!" and so passed hour after hour.

The remains had been removed by the coroner and placed temporarily in
the receiving vault. The funeral, appointed for the following day, was
a sad and solemn occasion for the people of Cleverdale, the eulogies
pronounced over the supposed dead hero touching the hearts of all. The
brave act of rescuing the one hundred and fifty operatives from the
burning factory was referred to in glowing words, and stout hearts were
overcome as they thought of the sad death of the estimable man whom
every one loved and respected.

The prostrated young wife was unable to attend the ceremony, for,
utterly overcome with grief, she could not leave her room.

A grave was opened in the Hamblin lot, for the Senator ordered that the
body should rest there. The crowd that followed was very great, for most
of the one hundred and fifty rescued persons followed as mourners, and
as they stood beside the yawning chasm, sobs filled the air. Never was
there such an affecting funeral in Cleverdale. The church bells tolled
sad requiems, and it was a day long to be remembered. As the earth
closed over the remains of the man stolen from his grave in Havelock,
many grief-stricken hearts were weighed down by the cruel clods; while
two jolly fellows met in a room at the Cleverdale Hotel, opened a bottle
of wine, and drank to the success of their businesslike scheme.

Instead of abating, Belle's grief increased, causing her to pass many
sad hours mourning, and reproaching herself for leaving her husband
before his body and mind had regained their natural strength. She
desired to make public her marriage and assume her lawful name, but
at the urgent solicitation of her father decided to keep her secret;
though not until Fannie Alden had acquiesced in her decision. Afterward
regretting this deception, she passed many unhappy hours in the dual
character assumed.

Senator Hamblin lost all interest in politics; he was burdened with
his crime and haunted by visions. In his chamber, at the bank, or with
his family he appeared like a broken-down man; even his old political
friends failed to arouse him from his moods of despondency. Miller
called to converse with him on subjects that heretofore occupied his
whole attention.

"I care not, Miller," he said. "I am sick and tired of politics."

Even Paddy Sullivan failed to awaken the old-time enthusiasm, and the
canvass for the gubernatorial nomination was abandoned temporarily at
least.

Day after day, week after week, month after month, he moved about
in a mechanical way. As he kept his notes renewed, no one suspected
his financial condition, but the interest on his borrowed money was
increasing his indebtedness. He was always kind to Belle, however, and
as she lost all love and interest for everything he often expostulated
with her.

"No, papa, my heart is frozen. I can only wait for the time when I shall
meet George in the other world. But you, papa, look haggard and broken
down."

"Ah! my child, I am a murderer--the brand of Cain is upon me. It will be
only for a short time, for this terrible responsibility is killing me."

The dutiful girl, throwing her arms about his neck, kissed him.

"How can you kiss me," he would say, "when I have been so cruel to you?
Oh, Belle, the world is ignorant of your relation to him and it does not
know I drove him away. If the people of Cleverdale, who loved him so,
knew that I was his murderer, think you they would spare me?"

"You knew not what you did then. For my sake throw off this grim demon
that is holding you. You must be prepared for your public duties, for it
will be but a short time before you must go to the Senate again."

"If I could recall the dead, I would willingly give all I possess; yes,
I would esteem it a privilege to lie down in the grave myself could I
give you back your dead husband."

Belle, filled with grief for the dead, beheld the suffering of the
living, and resolved to bear up and save her father if possible.

Poor Fannie Alden was spared the grief that would have been hers had
she been told of the charge preferred against her brother. She believed
that, becoming deranged, he had taken his own life. A long investigation
was made, but of course nothing was found supporting the theory of
murder excepting the fact of the pockets containing no valuables. It was
ascertained, however, that the watch of George Alden was at a jewelry
store, left there by the owner to be repaired; but the absence of all
other articles from the pockets was enveloped in deep mystery. Not one
word written by the deceased had been found. The excitement soon died
away, the suicide theory being gradually accepted.

Senator Hamblin and daughter thought they knew why he had taken his own
life. Mannis and Sargent knew George Alden was not dead. But the people
of Cleverdale, visiting the cemetery, often paused beside the grave and
said:

"Such a good and noble man! What a sad thing that he became insane and
killed himself!"



  CHAPTER XXVIII.

  AMONG THE HILLS OF COLORADO.


Four long weary months passed, and George Alden, alias George Howard,
sat in his room at the boarding-house in Chicago. His face was pale, and
lines of sorrow were plainly visible about his eyes. Gazing intently at
a photograph, his only companion in many a sad hour, he murmured:

"Lost! lost to me, all that I loved and adored! Four months ago I fled
like a thief from my native village; oh, fatal mistake, fatal mistake!
By that act acknowledging myself guilty of a crime I never committed,
I must now prepare to go forth into the world and battle for a new
existence."

Raising the picture to his lips, he kissed it again and again.

"Oh, that cruel letter! But 'grief never kills;' the fact that I am
spared proves the truthfulness of the old saying. My wife believes me
a villain, and all I might say or do would never convince her to the
contrary. And my poor sister has deserted me; she too must believe me
guilty of crime."

He was much agitated, and rising from his chair paced the room for a
few moments, when forcing a change of manner he said:

"No more of this--I must smother these remembrances of mine; henceforth
I must conquer the feeling that overwhelms me. Farewell all past loves!
Farewell all past joys and sorrows! To-morrow I go forth into the world,
and as Mrs. Nash's door closes behind me the curtain disclosing the past
will drop forever. It must be so, or I cannot expect to keep up with the
army I am soon to join."

The next morning, rising early, he packed his satchel, and descended to
the breakfast-room, where he ate more than usual. Upon leaving the table
he entered the sitting-room, where he glanced over the newspaper until
Mrs. Nash joined him.

"Mrs. Nash, I am going away to-day."

"Going away? You must not go yet, for you are hardly strong enough."

"Do not think me ungrateful to such a kind mother as you have been to
me, but I must seek a place where I can earn money. I have been dreading
departure from this home--the only one I possess in the world; but I
have fully realized the need of active employment for my mind. I must
forget myself--forget I ever lived until I came to you. Do not ask me
why. Some time I promise to tell you all; yes, open wide the book, that
you may read every line upon the pages that to me are so sad and gloomy."

The good woman noted his sorrow, and saw the necessity of cheering
words.

"Never mind all that," she said; "this world is full of sunshine, and if
clouds hide the light for a while, remember that the sun shines just the
same. I shall miss you, but wherever you go I shall always think of you,
and hope to hear of your prosperity."

"Dear, kind mother--you are all I have now--the only link binding my
heart to the past is your love and kindness. God bless you! God bless
you!"

His voice trembled with emotion, and Mrs. Nash, wiping away a tear,
forced a smile, and replied:

"If I am your mother, you are my son, and as you are to leave me, I
insist upon a promise."

"Name it, my good mother, and if it is among the possibilities I will
readily comply."

"It is this: you must try to forget all sorrow of the past and live
for the future. You must write me at least once a month, telling about
yourself. You must, above all things, be cheerful and not give way to
despondency."

Promising to obey, and regretfully bidding the good woman farewell,
Alden turned his face westward from Chicago, to seek a fortune and begin
a new life for himself in the wilds of Colorado. A week later, he stood
alone in the streets of a small settlement in the silver hills, and,
after walking about for a while, entered a hotel, and bargained for a
week's board. On entering the small room assigned him he was forced to
smile at the primitive style of the apartment and its furniture. The bed
was simply a "tick" filled with dried grass, over which was spread two
coarse woollen blankets. The bedstead was without posts, while an old
rickety chair and a barrel used as a table completed the furniture of
the apartment.

The following day he met two young men who, like himself, were strangers
in the locality and seeking a fortune. Sympathy drawing the three
together, they mutually formed plans for the future.

The next morning the three, leaving the inn on a prospecting tour, first
visited the mines in the vicinity. Every detail was carefully noted, and
they asked so many questions of those in charge, that, as they left the
place, a foreman remarked:

"There are three keen-eyed chaps, and I'll bet a silver brick they'll
strike a paying lead before they are much older."

Four days later they staked a claim, pulled off their coats and began
active operations; a few old heads smiling at the three "tender-feet"
turning miners.

Alden rapidly gained strength, and the bracing air and steady exercise
gradually restored him to health. The paleness so long overspreading his
countenance gave place to a healthy glow, and the clouds that darkened
his mind were only visible at periods when he allowed old thoughts to
disturb him.

His natural strong will-power reasserted itself as his physical vigor
returned. His principal thought now was to repay the sum which Senator
Hamblin advanced him when he fled, like a thief, from home and friends.
The amount he was accused of stealing he knew was not incumbent on
him to pay, for he now fully believed Senator Hamblin had really
manufactured the charge to get him out of the way, that he might marry
his daughter to Walter Mannis.

Belle, he knew, was his lawful wedded wife, and could not, if she
wished, marry Mannis; yet he longed at some future day to return to
Cleverdale and confront his false accusers, even though his wife
had turned against him. This thought often entered his mind, but he
dismissed it with the remark:

"No, I shall never go back to be spurned by the only woman I ever loved."

His companions often inquired concerning his past life, and as he evaded
direct answers, they concluded his presence in Colorado was the result
of a love affair. Soon learning to look upon him as the very soul of
honor, in all their movements he became an adviser with rare judgment
and foresight.

Operations were partially suspended by the three miners during the
winter, for the weather prevented much work. Being prudent during the
winter months, they made but little inroad upon their reserve fund, and
when spring opened were ready to renew operations. All about them were
evidences of rich mineral wealth, and before summer came they had gone
to a considerable depth into the earth. Day by day they toiled on, and
old miners, straying through the gulch and watching them, changed doubt
of the "tender-feet" to admiration at their plucky spirit. All through
the region in that mountain-pass spread the fame of the new company, and
when indications of paying ore began to develop itself everybody said:

"I told you so! those chaps will certainly succeed."

George Howard showed plainly that he was worthy of success. Nearly a
year had passed since his departure from Cleverdale, and during that
time, with the exception of the forged letter, he had received no
tidings from his native place. Could he have seen that silent mound
in the Cleverdale Cemetery surmounted by a plain marble slab bearing
the name of George Alden, it is possible that he might have abated his
energies, but his only ambition now being to succeed in his new life,
right royally did he concentrate all his efforts to accomplish his
desire.

He regularly wrote to his good friend Mrs. Nash, and the letters
received in return overflowed with sympathy and words of encouragement.
Greatly prizing her letters, he read and re-read them until every word
was indelibly engraved upon his mind. This was very unromantic, but it
was also very much to his credit.

One day, "Three Boys Gulch," as it was called, was the scene of
excitement, for the efforts of the partners were crowned with success
by the discovery of a rich vein of silver. The news travelled on swift
wings, and spectators looking into the shaft shook their heads at the
thought of what they had missed.

The young men became lions at once, for were they not owners of a
bonanza? and George Howard wrote a short letter to his friend Mrs. Nash
as follows:

                                                  "THREE BOYS GULCH.

    "MY DEAR FRIEND AND MOTHER:

    "I am a rich man, for we have struck a bonanza. Business may call
    me to Chicago soon, when I shall see you, and then, my good mother,
    I will tell you the secret of my life. Until then, farewell.

                                  "Ever your friend,
                                                    "GEORGE HOWARD."

Sealing the letter, he said:

"And now for a vindication of myself; even if I were guilty, everybody
will listen to me when I own a third of a rich silver mine."



  CHAPTER XXIX.

  POOR MARY HARRIS.


Go where you will, seek whom you may, converse with all whom you meet,
and you will fail to find a person of either sex, arrived at years of
discretion, whose heart does not conceal a secret. Some have secrets
of love, some secrets of business, while other heart-closets may
conceal the skeleton of a secret crime. Several of our characters have
faithfully retained secrets which, if known, would have long ere this
abruptly terminated our story.

Senator Hamblin suffered intensely by his terrible secret. Fully
conscious that George Alden had committed no crime, to the oft-repeated
inquiries of his daughter concerning the defalcation he evaded direct
answers by saying he believed him innocent, although the sum of five
thousand dollars had mysteriously disappeared. His agency in the
supposed death of George Alden weighed heavily upon him, while the
impending crash in his business affairs was a secret that gave him no
peace of mind.

His daughter possessed two secrets; one of them, her marriage with
George Alden, was faithfully kept from all except those of her own
immediate family. While it was publicly known that she mourned his
death, refusing comfort, none but those mentioned were aware of the
relation she sustained toward the late cashier. Another secret which
she guarded safely was her knowledge of the accusation which she
supposed caused her husband's death.

Fannie Alden was unconscious of the charges made against her brother's
integrity. Had she known the cause of George's disappearance, her
sensitive nature would have received a wound from which she never could
have recovered. Therefore, Belle felt justified in keeping this secret
locked in her breast, although she believed the charges false in every
particular.

Two other persons possessed a secret, over which they cracked many
jokes. Mannis and Sargent often met and talked over the success of their
scheme. The latter, now cashier of the bank, fully felt his importance.
Sargent's thoughts sometimes reverted to the night when, playing the
rôle of body-snatcher, he assisted to disguise a dead body to account
for the absence of the living; and he never felt proud of that night's
work; but when a twinge of conscience disturbed him, he quieted his mind
with the oft-repeated remark:

"Well, a man must look out for his own interests."

Walter Mannis felt little remorse at the part he performed in the
game, for his was a callous conscience, and such little episodes never
disturbed the serenity of his mind. The Congressional nomination was
sought and won by him, thanks to money, and his election was easily
accomplished. Considerable hostility to his nomination was evinced at
first, but when the convention closed its deliberations, there was a
general acquiescence in the result. The candidacy of Daley was too
fresh in the minds of recalcitrant politicians to encourage a repetition
of the "bolting" game. Poor Daley, still an inmate of the asylum, and
with small hope of recovery, left a warning behind.

Senator Hamblin, of late much with Mannis, fell under the influence of
his companion, whose wily tongue and smooth manner again completely won
the Senator's confidence and esteem. The father still entertained hope
that his daughter, recovering from grief occasioned by the death of
George Alden, would ultimately become the wife of his friend.

Mannis soliloquized one day in his room at the Manor, surrounded by
books, letters, and scraps of paper covered with figures:

"My case is desperate," he said, "and something must be done at once,
or I shall be caught napping. The note on which I took the liberty of
endorsing Hamblin's name falls due next Wednesday. By Jove! it must
be got out of the way, dead sure, or there will be trouble. It is for
ten thousand dollars, and if not taken care of at maturity, those city
bankers will make me trouble."

Lighting a cigar and stretching himself in an easy-chair, he watched
the smoke for a moment or two as it curled above his head, and then
continued: "Mannis, you are a cool fellow, and Hamblin falls an easy
prey into your clutches. I feel sorry for him; I wouldn't have his
tender conscience for a fortune. He thinks he murdered Alden--ha! ha!
ha!--a confounded good joke. But supposing the ex-cashier should walk
in some day, with papers and documents, to say nothing of his face,
to prove he is not dead? Wh-e-e-w-w! wouldn't there be a nice old time
in Cleverdale? I only hope he will wait until I secure the girl, whom
I have sworn to marry. Once married to Belle Hamblin, and I am saved;
the old man's fortune can help me out of my trouble, and it must. I
have lately hinted to him again my desire to marry his daughter, and he
takes kindly to the notion. They do say she is inconsolable at Alden's
supposed death; but she will get over that; 'grief cannot kill'--" and
singing the refrain from a popular air, he seemed very happy, for he
resumed:

"See here, old fellow, you are a Congressman, but it will be some time
before you go to Washington, and if you can get a hold there, perhaps
you too can make a strike. All those fellows get rich, and Walter Mannis
will look out for number one. Oh, if I can only capture Belle Hamblin,
and take her to Washington as my wife, what a brilliant couple we will
make, for I flatter myself I am not bad-looking. Ah, Mannis, you are an
egotistical fellow. Egad! But how can you help it? I vow I will go to
Cleverdale to-morrow, see Hamblin, and again urge my suit. What would
the old man think if he knew of that note his name is on! But, pshaw,
he will never know of it. I shall get it out of the way somehow, and at
once."

He was interrupted by a servant entering and handing him a note, which
he hastily tore open. As he read it a shade of anger crossed his
countenance.

"Confound that girl!" he said. "She thinks I will marry her, does she?
She doesn't know me. I must get rid of her some way; but how? That's
the question. Let me think."

Dropping into a chair and passing his hand across his brow, he was
engaged in deep thought for almost ten minutes. Breaking the silence, he
said:

"Well, I must get her away from here, to begin with. This affair
troubles me more than any woman scrape I was ever engaged in. If her
father knew about it there would have to be a new election for a
Congressman to fill my place. It is a bad go, for I certainly have
deceived the girl, and old Harris is a savage fellow, who wouldn't
hesitate to pop the man who betrayed his daughter."

Mannis, for once, was really troubled. He cared little for the misery
he might bring upon others, but he fully realized that his life would
be endangered, did his treatment of Mary Harris reach the ears of her
father. The poor girl had been deceived by a promise of marriage, and
the note Mannis received was an appeal begging him to fulfil his word.
The innocent creature was ignorant of the duplicity of the man she had
trusted, for although many times before he had crushed young lives as
if they were the merest baubles, he had managed to prevent any charges
appearing against him.

For many minutes his nervous agitation was very great. He tried to drive
fear from his mind by reading, but could arouse no interest in his
favorite books, for the fear of Mary Harris haunted him, and he trembled
for his own personal safety.

"This will never do," he suddenly said, "I will go to Cleverdale and
visit the Senator, and then make a pilgrimage to the great Babylon, New
York, where something must turn up to help me out of my troubles."

The same evening found him at Cleverdale, and at a late hour Sargent was
with him at the hotel. The precious couple engaged in a game of cards,
surrounding themselves with clouds of cigar smoke, and drank champagne
as they talked of Alden, and congratulated themselves their plans had
worked so well. And yet each in his heart wondered what had become of
the victim.

"How do you like your place, Sargent?" asked Mannis.

"It is a very good situation, but a man can hardly get rich on the
salary. I'll tell you what it is, Mannis, I have had a notion for
some time that the silver hills of Colorado are the place for me.
Those chaps out there are fast getting rich, while we salaried men,
working infernally hard, can lay up nothing. To-day I read an account
of three young fellows who staked a claim last fall and now they are
millionaires. The excitement is intense, and the lucky chaps have been
offered millions for the claim."

"Who are they, Sargent? Where are they from?" asked Mannis.

"Hanged if I know; but I wish I was one of them. You fellows with
fortunes don't know the hardships we paupers have to undergo; and the
more I think of the matter, the more I believe in the advice, 'Go West,
young man.'"

The two men drank so heavily that before midnight several empty bottles
stood on the side-table, and both were in a very convivial condition,
when Sargent, bidding Mannis good-night, wended his footsteps homeward
in rather uncertain fashion.

The next forenoon Mannis arose with a headache, but did not fail to call
upon Senator Hamblin, whom he found busy, as usual, but glad to meet the
Congressman-elect. After a few moments' conversation, Mannis said:

"I am going to New York, Senator, for a few days' recreation. I have
had the blues lately, and have prescribed for myself a week's sojourn
in the gay city. The metropolis is the celestial city of the world, and
when the pilgrim groans under a burden of blue devils a plunge into the
pool washes away the load, and man comes forth brighter, better, and
happier. The forced seclusion of the country clogs the brain, deadens
the intellect, and makes man's heart heavy as lead."

"You have the blues, Mannis! Why, I supposed you never felt a care
except when a candidate for the people's suffrages."

"But there is greater cause, my friend," and Mannis's voice assumed a
tone of sadness. "When a man sees the dearest object of his life before
him, yet, like Tantalus, putting forth his hand to grasp it, it recedes,
he is unhappy."

"I cannot understand you, Mannis," said the Senator. "You speak in
parables; be more explicit."

"Were I married and quietly settled in life, I should be happy; but the
only woman I ever loved I fear will never be mine. Your daughter, my
friend, could make me supremely content."

Senator Hamblin looked into the face of his companion and replied:

"It would gratify me much if your hopes could be realized. Cheer up and
do not look so despondent. My daughter has been terribly grieved by the
tragic death of her lover, but time will heal her wound. Be patient
awhile longer."

"Ah, my friend, you can easily say that, but could I have the hope
that at some future time she would be mine, I should indeed be happy.
Urge her to receive my attentions. Tell her of my affectionate regard
for her, and if she gives encouragement let me know. Here is a card
containing my New York address. One word from you, and I will be here as
soon as steam can convey me."

He arose to depart, and Senator Hamblin, warmly grasping his hand, said:

"Good-by, Mannis! Keep up a good heart and all may yet be well."

The door closing behind him, Mannis passed into the street, and said to
himself:

"Pretty well played, Mannis, my dear boy. If the old man would only give
me his ducats his pretty daughter might cry her eyes out if she wished."

An hour later he was on the train bound for New York.



  CHAPTER XXX.

  THE ATTEMPTED SUICIDE.


Over a year had elapsed since the supposed death of George Alden. During
that time Senator Hamblin had become not only changed in manner, habits,
and disposition, but lines indicative of approaching age had appeared
upon his brow and features. Instead of forgetting his responsibility for
the supposed death of George Alden, he steadily reproached himself for
his villainy.

His daughter carried her load of sorrow until it almost broke her
heart. Losing all interest in worldly matters, despondency eclipsed
the brilliancy and self-will that had always been characteristic of
her. Fannie Alden passed many hours with her, although resisting the
persistent efforts of Senator Hamblin, his wife, and daughter to induce
her to become an inmate of the mansion.

She was a cheering comforter, for having arrived at an age where she
could look back upon many sad and unhappy hours, she had become nerved
to bear affliction with better grace than the young wife.

The inroads of grief upon Belle's health caused much alarm, her friends
fearing she would not survive the shock. Her father, watching the
gradual decline, and knowing he was the cause of all her trouble,
lost all desire for public advancement. The efforts of his political
friends to arouse and make him renew his canvass for the gubernatorial
nomination proved futile. Attributing his physical condition to overwork
and excitement, his business associates, ignorant of the true cause,
urged him to temporarily lay aside all care and seek rest. His financial
ruin appeared more imminent than before, and as the crisis seemed close
at hand, peace of mind was impossible.

Still believing Mannis a rich man, and seeing no other way to extricate
himself from financial embarrassment, he secretly hoped to induce Belle
to become the young Congressman's wife. His critical situation had
been sedulously kept from his wife and daughter, but he now realized
it could not be a secret much longer. Renewing his notes often, and
asking friends for re-endorsements, he began to be questioned. He passed
many hours in his private office trying to devise a way out of his
difficulties, but all without success. Since Sargent had become cashier
of the bank, Senator Hamblin knew his situation must be known to at
least one man, yet the cashier never uttered a word on the subject.
Aware that the president was using the funds of the institution, Sargent
cared not so long as the directors possessed such confidence in the
presiding officer that they never looked into the affairs of the bank.
The president was in full command, so the cashier never talked.

When fully convinced that the calamity could not be averted, Senator
Hamblin determined to inform his wife and daughter of his condition.
Belle's gradually declining health alarmed him, and he made himself
believe that if prevailed upon to marry she might be spared. One day,
upon leaving the dinner-table, he requested the presence of both ladies
in his private room, and when they were seated he said:

"What I have to say will undoubtedly surprise you both. For many years,
enjoying the station money gives, we have been called the wealthiest
family in the county. For a long time everything I touched turned to
gold, and you, my dear wife and daughter, have never known lack of
luxuries. Freely giving to charity, my means have been devoted toward
the advancement of the community. Foolishly believing there was no
end to my success, in an evil moment I stepped aside from legitimate
business, and entered the political arena. I now curse the day the
temptation of power and station in public life allured me from my path,
for that prize once grasped only leads one farther away from friends.
It is the old, old story, yet man never considers the nine hundred and
ninety-nine engulfed in the maelstrom, without believing that he can be
the thousandth man to overcome all obstacles and attain the desires of
his heart. What fatal error!"

"Husband, what do you mean?" Mrs. Hamblin asked.

Pausing a moment to overcome his emotion, the Senator continued:

"Engrossed in public affairs, I have forgotten my duty to you both, and
spent thousands of dollars to gratify my ambition. I have neglected vast
business interests and suffered heavy losses. I have been blind--yes,
mad! Now I must pay the penalty. Oh, pity me, help me! For a year past
the torments of hell have been mine, and to-day--oh, I can hardly speak
the words--to-day I am--am bankrupt."

"Bankrupt!" exclaimed both women, rising.

"Yes, I have said it; bankrupt! Oh, I knew it would surprise you. No one
else knows of it. The world calls me a millionaire, but my estate and
business would not pay my debts."

"Darius," quietly but feelingly spoke Mrs. Hamblin, "why have you kept
us in ignorance of this? We could have helped you instead of increasing
your burden."

"I know it; but I have been a coward, walking about for a year vainly
hoping a miracle would extricate me. My poor child's troubled face
constantly before me, and my remorse at the crime of sending off her
husband, have almost made me take my own life. My daily actions have
been a lie, and the time is not far distant when I must be branded a
villain--for all men failing are so called."

"Papa," said Belle, gently putting her arms about his neck, "I can do
something to help you, and will get well for your sake. I have nothing
to live for but you, dear mamma, and brother Geordie--all else that
my heart yearns for lies in yonder graveyard. Fannie Alden supports
herself, and why cannot I?"

"My dear daughter, I little deserve this from you, whom I have caused so
much misery. Had it not been for my wife and children, I should not have
hesitated crossing the border of eternity; but meditating such an act,
the faces of my loved ones rising before me seemed to say: 'Would you
leave us to bear the disgrace alone?' My heart has been full of secret
woe, and now public humiliation and disgrace must be added."

Hiding his face, for a few moments emotion overwhelmed him, and
it required the combined efforts of wife and daughter to calm his
agitation. For a long time he talked of his condition. He told the
two women every detail of his affairs, sorrowfully confessing his own
responsibility in the matter; but withholding, of course, his part in
the conspiracy against George Alden.

"I have done it," he said. "No one is to blame but myself. Had I turned
a deaf ear to fame, I should not now be standing on the verge of
bankruptcy."

"Is there no way to extricate yourself?" asked his wife.

"I fear not, for I owe large sums of borrowed money which must be paid.
People with funds lying idle have forced their hard-earned savings upon
me. With unbounded credit I can raise large sums of money, but that
cancer, interest, is eating the vitals of my principal. I have much real
estate--enough, in fact, if advantageously disposed of, to relieve me;
but what will a forced sale return? Had I another fortune to assist, I
could prevent the impending disaster, and, in time, extricate myself
from my present dilemma."

"Is there not a way to do what you mention?" asked Belle.

"There might be--but no--" he said, suddenly checking himself, "no--not
now--I cannot hope for that."

He spoke hesitatingly, as if revolving in his mind a method whereby he
could receive help. His companions noticing this, Belle said:

"Be frank with us, and if there is any possible way to assist you, let
us know; perhaps we can advise you."

Gazing intently upon his daughter, he replied:

"Yes, there is one way out of this dilemma, and only one. But do not
ask me now, for I cannot expect aid in that direction--no, it would be
asking too much of my loved one."

"Tell us to what you refer; if in our power to assist, the danger might
be averted."

Like a drowning man catching at straws, he seemed to be filled with hope
of rescue; hesitating a moment, he said:

"You, my daughter, can save me."

The bewildered girl started with surprise.

"I can save you? How?"

"By becoming the wife of Walter Mannis."

The unexpected words went with crushing effect to the daughter's heart,
causing her to sink into a chair. Choking spasmodically for a moment,
she regained her feet, and replied:

"Marry him? No, I would die, beg, or even starve, before becoming his
wife. Oh, you know not what you ask."

The look of partial joy that had gathered upon the Senator's face was
followed by one of deep despair. He became very pale, and clasping both
hands across his head, sighed heavily.

"No, that was too much to expect. I cannot blame you, Belle; but all is
lost. We will say no more about it now. Let the crisis come; and we must
take the consequences, be they what they may," and imprinting a kiss
upon the foreheads of both wife and daughter, he left the room.

Belle, greatly agitated, when alone with her mother indulged in a
paroxysm of tears. Sadly grieved at her father's distress, his wish that
she should marry Walter Mannis almost overpowered her, for, believing
Mannis indirectly to blame for the death of her husband, the mention of
his name by her father seemed almost a crime.

"To think that papa desires me to marry him!" she said. "Were I to
comply, his victim would rise from the grave to haunt me. I wish I could
prevent the calamity. Poor papa! He is greatly overcome, and I fear his
failure will kill him. But marriage--and with Mannis--oh!"

In the mean time Senator Hamblin, entering his own apartment,
threw himself into a chair, and muttered, "Lost--all is lost! Ruin
irretrievable confronts me. The last hope is gone. I cannot blame Belle.
The poor girl has greater cause than she knows for refusing to marry
Mannis, but the act would have saved me. I cannot remain to face the
disgrace of failure. It is only a step across the chasm, and I will take
it."

Taking his pen he wrote hastily the following letter:

    "MY DEAR WIFE AND DAUGHTER: Forgive and pity your poor
    distracted husband and father. I am lost; financial ruin cannot
    be averted. When this meets your eyes, I shall have solved the
    problem of eternity. Deeply wronging you both, I have also the
    death of my daughter's husband to account for before the throne of
    God. I cannot longer bear the burden laid upon me by my mad and
    insatiable ambition. I charge you both to caution my boy against
    following in the footsteps of his father. Politics and ambition have
    held out tempting promises to me, which have never been fulfilled.
    I have used honorable public positions for my own selfish ends.
    Instead of assisting at making this the best government in the
    world of nations, my efforts have been joined with men laboring
    to attain place and emolument by overthrowing honesty. By precept
    and example I have done my share in making my country the reverse
    of that intended by its founders. Educate my boy to rise above the
    demoralizing ways of modern politicians. Impress upon his mind the
    necessity of joining with better men than his father in establishing
    this republic upon a foundation that will assure its perpetuity.
    Make him understand that politics should only be avoided when it
    leads men to seek company that destroys self-respect and corrupts
    honest purpose. Have him understand that 'nothing is right in
    politics that is wrong in any other field of life.' I lay great
    stress on this now, because I feel my duty in this direction has
    been sinfully neglected.

    "Poor Belle! Had I been mindful of your happiness, you would not
    have been a victim to my mad ambition. The house and grounds were
    deeded to you, my wife, several years since for your maintenance
    and that of your children. You must not part with the property
    without securing a price commensurate with its value. Think of me
    occasionally, and remember me as the loving companion and father I
    was before I became infatuated with the demon who has ruined so many.

    "Farewell forever.

                               "YOUR DISTRACTED HUSBAND AND FATHER."

Enclosing the letter in an envelope, he addressed it "To my Wife and
Daughter," and placed it where it would be seen. With a sad face he
then proceeded to arrange his papers and carefully prepare a schedule
containing a full inventory of his indebtedness. Then he arose, and
taking a hasty survey of the room, said:

"Farewell to all my sorrows and happiness!"

Then he left the house, going toward the barn. Passing through the yard
where Geordie was at play, he went to him, and putting his arms about
the little fellow, said:

"My son, always be a good boy and obey your mother and sister."

As he kissed him Geordie said:

"Yes, Papa; I will try and be good to them, and to you too."

Senator Hamblin entered the barn, and looking about saw he was alone.
Taking a knife from his pocket and cutting a piece from a coil of rope
upon the floor, he fastened it to a beam overhead, and placing a box
underneath measured the length necessary to reach his neck. Falling
upon his knees he poured forth his voice to God in prayer. Yes, for the
first time in many years, Senator Hamblin prayed. But the act did not
seem to do him any good, for when he had finished he mounted the box,
and adjusted the rope about his neck; his face was overspread with the
pallor of death and his eyes were suffused with tears.

"God forgive me," he said, and as he kicked away the box it went
crashing through the window near him.

The noise reaching the ears of Geordie, in an instant the boy stood in
the doorway. One glance toward the writhing form suspended in mid-air,
and the little fellow ran with lightning speed toward the house,
meeting his mother and sister coming toward him.

"Papa! quick! in the barn!" he exclaimed.

Mother and daughter, not waiting for further information, flew wildly
in the direction indicated, and entering the barn, both paused as if
paralyzed, Mrs. Hamblin catching the door for support. Belle quickly ran
and, seizing the quivering body in her arms, cried to her mother:

"Quick! quick! Cut the rope, for he is not dead." Mrs. Hamblin, pulling
the knife from the beam where her husband had placed it, a quick stroke
severed the rope, and the limp form fell to the floor. Movements of
hands and limbs showed that life still remained, and the two women
quickly began the work of restoring consciousness. After five minutes
they observed signs of returning life. Soon the Senator opened his eyes,
and seeing the women bending over him, he said:

"Why, why did you do this? I care not to live."

Half an hour later he lay upon the bed in his own room, his wife and
daughter standing over him, administering to his comfort, for he was
utterly prostrated.

"Why, oh, why did you cross my purpose?" he said. "I am lost. Belle
destroyed my last hope. But I do not blame her."

His daughter, engaged bathing his temples, said:

"Oh, Papa, do you wish to leave us?"

"No! but I cannot remain and face this disgrace. No! I must go, I must
go unless, unless--" He hesitated.

"Unless what?" quickly interrupted Belle.

"Unless you save me by marrying Walter Mannis," he said.

Belle, looking into his pale face and blood-shot eyes, fully realized
his broken-down condition. Finding that there was but one hope of saving
his life, a deep sigh escaped her, and she gasped:

"Well--I--I--I will sacrifice myself--I will--marry Mr. Mannis," and she
fell fainting across the form of her father.



  CHAPTER XXXI.

  A REVELATION.


The excitement over the "Three Boys" mine called many adventurers to the
vicinity. Capitalists came in great numbers, and the three lucky owners
were the lions of the hour. The fame of the new mine extending far away,
the leading journals of the land were filled with graphic accounts of
the bonanza. The owners described, men wondered who they really were,
as no knowledge of whence they came could be obtained. They gave their
names as George Howard, Ralph Waters, and Frank Bentley, and that was
all the curious ones could learn about them.

Already, the partners had ordered improved machinery needed to work the
mines. The wealth of the "Three Boys" was computed at several millions,
and of course the owners were abundantly able to borrow all the funds
necessary to assist them in developing their prize. Men came forward,
offering to advance all the money required and take stock in the mine,
but the shrewd owners thought best to hold aloof from any connection
with others. George Howard's thorough knowledge of banking was valuable
in assisting them to obtain money from banks, so they were independent
of any aid others could afford, and all the pressure of outsiders to be
allowed an interest was unavailing.

George Howard, under his assumed name, was the same methodical and
honorable man as when in the bank at Cleverdale. He was the head of
the firm in all financial matters; his advice always resulted in the
concern's advantage. His embrowned and healthy face covered with a
handsome beard, and his eyes sparkling with all the vivacity of yore,
the impression that his frank, straight-forward manner made upon all
with whom he associated was always favorable. He was thoroughly relied
upon by his companions, and when indulging in moments of despondency
they labored earnestly to restore him to good nature. A perfect
gentleman, a refined and cultivated spirit, and, withal, one versed so
well in business matters, they wondered why he had become an adventurer
in the wilds of Colorado. Many times the two conversed together
concerning their partner, yet no suspicion of wrong on his part ever
entered their mind. It was decided between them that a love affair and
blasted affections had sent George Howard out into the world to seek his
fortune and open a new book of life. They were satisfied to accept this
explanation, and their companion rose in their respect as they did so.

One day a stranger appeared at the new mine, and asked many questions.
He claimed to represent a wealthy banking-house in Chicago, and it was
not long before George Howard was perfectly satisfied that the gentleman
was all he represented himself to be. After forming the acquaintance of
the three partners, the stranger unfolded the object of his visit, which
was nothing less than to purchase the claim or induce the owners to open
negotiations with a view to forming a stock company. Painting a glowing
picture of the advantage to be gained by the latter plan, he assured the
firm they could realize a fortune at once.

George Howard, not in favor of the latter plan, was not averse to
selling the mine, providing the purchasers would pay enough. Although
not a jockey at a trade, he was shrewd enough to know the firm owned
wealth such as he had never dreamed of possessing. While assuring Mr.
James of the firm's disinclination to enter into a speculation, he would
confer with his companions with a view to selling their claim. And the
result of the consultation was the decision to sell the mine.

Mr. James requesting time to consult by mail with his partners, a week
afterward a letter from the bankers asked an interview with the owners
of the mine at Chicago, and three days later the four men were on their
way. For two days after their arrival the banking-house labored to
induce the miners to form a stock company, but, after exhausting their
powers of persuasion without avail, the firm finally offered three
million dollars for the mine. The offer was accepted, the sale soon
effected, and the young men, with a million dollars each, were happy.

George Alden, _alias_ Howard, sat alone in his room at a hotel, and said
to himself:

"What a change since my first visit here, one year and a half ago! Then
I was broken down in health and full of sorrow. Time has wrought many
changes in me, for to-day I am strong in both body and mind, and possess
a fortune of a million dollars. But with this money I cannot obtain
the happiness I desire. My wife's cruel letter, that nearly killed me,
recurs to my mind many times a day. What shall I do? I am a millionaire,
but cannot return to Cleverdale to be spurned by her as if I were a
thief! No, I will go and see the good Mrs. Nash, tell her the story
of my life, and then seek a foreign clime, and in travel try to drive
the one great sorrow from my heart. Oh, Belle, my darling wife, how
happy we might be! Your proud father would not scorn me now on account
of financial standing. I will go this day to see Mrs. Nash, remain
with the good woman a short time, and see that her future is made more
comfortable."

Two hours later the three partners separated, Waters and Bentley taking
trains for their destination, while George Howard went directly to the
residence of Mrs. Nash. The good woman at first did not recognize him,
as he stood before her in the little parlor of her home, but after
closely scanning his face her delight was unbounded. She had heard of
his prosperity, but when informed of his selling his interest in the
mine for one million dollars, she could scarcely realize the truth of
the assertion.

"One million dollars!" she exclaimed. "The day of miracles has returned
to us."

That day Alden told the motherly woman his story. He told her of his
childhood; his struggle to obtain an education; his career as salesman
in a store; and his appointment as teller in the bank. He told of the
happy weeks at Lake George, where he met the love of his heart, and then
related the opposition of her father. As he proceeded, Mrs. Nash became
much interested. He spoke of his adventure in the burning factory,
describing his injuries and sufferings. He told of his long illness, and
the secret marriage, and when he described the happy days following,
he could scarcely control his emotion. He told of the parting between
his wife and himself; the false accusations against his honor, his weak
condition causing him to flee from home and friends, and then he related
the particulars of his flight and the cruel letter. Suddenly Mrs. Nash
arose excitedly, and asked:

"What is your rightful name?"

"Alden--George Alden."

"George Alden? And was Cleverdale the place you fled from?"

"Yes; but you are agitated; what--what is it?"

"There has been a great mistake somewhere. You are mourned as dead."

"My God! Mrs. Nash, what do you mean?" exclaimed George. "_I_ mourned as
dead?"

"Yes, wait here a moment. I have a paper containing full particulars.
Your poor wife could never have written that letter. But I will get the
paper."

A moment later she returned. Greatly excited, Alden seized the
newspaper, which bore date of a year and a half previous. His eyes fell
upon a marked article, which read as follows:

                        "A SAD TRAGEDY.

        [From the Cleverdale, N. Y., _Investigator_.]

    "We are called upon to chronicle one of the saddest tragedies
    that ever occurred in this locality. The facts of the case are
    as follows: Last fall the Cleverdale Woollen Mill was destroyed
    by fire, and one of the bravest and noblest acts of the age was
    performed by George Alden, cashier of the Cleverdale National
    Bank. The immense factory employed seven hundred men, women, and
    children, and, as the flames burst forth, one hundred and fifty
    persons on the third floor were cut off from escape, except by the
    way of two doors only reached by running a gauntlet of fire. Poor
    Alden succeeded in relieving the captives, but his bravery nearly
    cost him his life; for several months he languished on a bed of
    suffering, and approached the door of eternity. Kind attention and
    skilful treatment brought him up, but the sad catastrophe left him
    weak in mind and body. His lifeless form was found on Friday last,
    in Reynolds Grove, a bullet-hole in the brain and a pistol lying at
    the side of the unfortunate man telling too plainly of his death by
    suicide."

George Alden paused a moment to calm his agitation, and then proceeded:

    "The body was horribly decomposed, the face being unrecognizable,
    the clothing alone proving the identity of the poor fellow.

    "It was a sad ending of a noble life, and never did a community
    mourn for one of its citizens as the people of Cleverdale mourn
    for poor George Alden. Two women in this affliction are entitled
    to our deepest sympathy. His sister has lost the companion of her
    life, while the beautiful daughter of Senator Hamblin is utterly
    prostrated by the sad event. George Alden was an estimable young
    man, and the love and respect of the whole community was shown when
    all business was suspended to allow a public demonstration of sorrow
    at the grave of Cleverdale's hero."

Alden dropped the paper and exclaimed, "Oh, my poor wife! how I have
wronged you! But who are the villains who have done this? I have been
the victim of a wicked conspiracy. To-night I will leave for Cleverdale.
I must go at once, for I have deeply wronged my wife. But perhaps she is
dead! Oh no, she _must_ be alive, and her father will not turn me off
now."

Making immediate preparations to leave Chicago, he presented his kind
friend with a generous sum of money, promising to write her on his
arrival at Cleverdale. That night he was on a train bound for the East.
He remembered how full of sorrow he was when he arrived in the city,
eighteen months previous. Now he was returning to his home and kindred,
unconscious of the events going forward at Cleverdale to rob him of his
wife.

His first thought was to telegraph his friends, informing them of his
coming, but he finally concluded to hasten on and verify his existence
in the flesh by his own person and with his own lips.



  CHAPTER XXXII.

  THE WANDERER'S RETURN.


The day after his attempted suicide, Senator Hamblin, holding an
interview with his daughter, again deceived her, saying that Mannis,
fully cognizant of his financial embarrassment, offered to assist him
when she became his wife. Belle exacted a promise from her father that
he would inform Mannis of her marriage with George Alden, and that her
heart could never be another's. If Mannis wished her to become his wife
after knowing all, she would be ready to make the sacrifice to save her
father.

For several days after this conversation, Belle, almost frantic with
grief, remained in her own private apartment. Consenting to wed a man
whom she believed indirectly responsible for her unhappiness, her
condition became pitiable, and she moaned and sobbed continually.

"If I could only die and be laid beside my husband in yonder cemetery!"
she said. "I fear I shall lose my reason, for this awful sacrifice I am
about to make will break my heart. I cannot love another, much less this
man who drove my poor sick husband into his grave. Is there no other way
to avert the calamity awaiting Papa?"

"No, my child," replied her mother. "I fear not. You have promised to
sacrifice yourself upon the altar of duty, to save your father. You
have always been a brave girl, and you must rouse yourself from this
despondency. You must be calm, or your health--yes, perhaps your life
will pay the penalty."

"Oh, why did Papa allow himself to be led into this difficulty? God pity
us all!"

Her mother was with her day and night, while Fannie Alden came often,
and to her Belle related all her trials. She did not withhold the fact
of her father's financial troubles from her sister-in-law; she even told
of the attempted suicide, which greatly shocked Fannie, for the affair
had been kept from the knowledge of the public. In words accompanied by
sobs, Belle related her promise to wed Walter Mannis in order to save
her father from ruin, and then she gave way to an outburst of tears.
Fannie mingled her tears with those of the distracted girl, but said:

"Belle, my dear sister, your duty is plain. Poor George cannot return.
You are young, and time may temper the roughness of that which now seems
so hard and cruel. Oh, it is hard that fate decrees this sacrifice, but
the ways of Providence are mysterious and past comprehension. You will,
at least, occupy a position of honor, for Mr. Mannis is a rising man in
the world, and many will envy you."

"Envy me! It seems criminal to wed such a man! He was the evil genius
that followed my dear husband; indirectly, he sent George into eternity."

Thus she reasoned, and instead of becoming reconciled to her fate,
grieved day and night.

Senator Hamblin at first felt a return of happiness. After recovering
from the shock of his attempted suicide he seemed much changed, and
began to look upon life as possessing more attractions. He desired to
live, and tried to believe the marriage of his daughter would prolong
her days; but when he saw her rapidly sink under her load of grief his
gloominess returned. He thought the calamity of failure indefinitely
postponed, but when he beheld the cost he reproached himself. He had
deceived his child, for he was well aware her sense of honor would
not permit her to marry Mannis and be a party to deceit. This thought
troubled him so greatly, his former distraction of mind returned.

"Could I restore George Alden," he said, "I would face the disgrace of
financial ruin instead of continuing this deception. Her affections are
buried in the grave on yonder hillside, and I am afraid she will hardly
live to become the wife of Mannis."

He visited her daily, and once sitting at her bedside, where she almost
constantly remained, he said:

"Belle, my daughter, would that I could extricate myself from this
dilemma at a less cost than the sacrifice of your health."

"Papa, I am a poor weak girl, and Mr. Mannis must take my hand without
my heart. It is all I can give. But as he understands it, I am ready for
the sacrifice; and if it will be the means of saving you from disgrace I
shall be repaid."

Senator Hamblin felt guilty at his deception in not informing Mannis,
as he had promised; for, writing of his daughter's consent, he simply
referred to the girl's low spirits and failing health. Mannis was
prepared for this information, and in his reply pretended to be affected
by her suffering, and expressed much sympathy for her. He closed
by informing his expectant father-in-law of his intention to visit
Cleverdale the following week, when all preliminaries could be arranged
for the consummation of his long-deferred wish.

One week later Mannis arrived. Senator Hamblin took him directly to his
home, when an interview between Belle and himself was arranged. As the
poor girl's affianced husband met her he took her cold hand in his,
raised it to his lips, and said:

"It is long since we met, but you have ever been present in my mind."

With great coldness and formality she replied:

"I have seen much trouble since then."

"I know it, and my heartfelt sympathy has ever been yours. Your decision
to become my wife has brought unspeakable joy to my heart. Ah! Miss
Belle, when you are mine we will seek other scenes, and drive away the
dark clouds of gloom surrounding you. Your pale cheeks shall bloom
again, believe me."

The interview was of short duration, Belle acting mechanically in all
her movements. She was like one in a trance, and Mannis noticed a great
change in her since the day he was her father's guest at Lake George,
nearly three years previous. He had seen her only twice since the sad
event of little Willie's death.

As he expressed his desire for an early marriage, the day was appointed
for a month later.

Mannis remained, dining with Senator Hamblin. But Belle, overcome by the
interview, retired to her room, and neither mother nor daughter appeared
at the table.

The engagement of Hon. Walter Mannis and Miss Belle Hamblin was soon the
theme of general conversation. "Society papers" recorded it, and long,
glowing descriptions of the contracting parties were printed. Mannis was
spoken of as one of the leading men in the State, while the beauty of
Miss Hamblin was extolled in rapturous terms of praise.

While the public congratulated the honorable gentleman and his beautiful
_fiancée_ on their engagement, there was one sad-hearted maiden who
secretly mourned the inconstancy of man. Poor Mary Harris received the
announcement as if it were a poisoned arrow. She had trusted him with
all the simplicity of innocence, and she was unable to cast him out of
her heart, even after being assured of his treachery.

In solitude she shed many tears, but never did she impart the secret of
her trouble to any one. A motherless girl, her father's eyes had not
been as watchful of her as of his farm duties. He knew Mannis was a
visitor at the farm-house, but never imagined that the attentions paid
his daughter were more than that of any other neighbor. The poor girl,
knowing well her father's disposition, withheld her secret, lest Mannis
should be called upon to pay the debt with his life. So she had suffered
and borne her load in silence, fondly hoping the man she loved would
eventually keep his promise, and save her from disgrace.

Preparations for the marriage commencing, dressmakers came, and Belle
submitted herself to their manipulations. As she was unable to shed
tears, the anxiety of her mother was greatly increased. Belle had met
Mannis several times, but the interviews were never of long duration,
the expectant bride acting like the bride of death. Mannis tried to
rouse her, but she remained cold, listless, and resigned, like a lamb
being prepared for slaughter. Her beautiful eyes occasionally sparkled,
but all the old intelligence had been succeeded by a languid and almost
meaningless look. This state of affairs could not be kept from the
outside world. The dressmakers saw her condition, and of course they
talked--dressmakers always do. Then Dame Rumor said the girl was slowly
dying. Some attributed her decline to the death of George Alden, even
accusing Belle of treating the cashier in such a manner as to make him
take his own life and cause her to suffer the pangs of remorse. Another
class made her the victim of a father's determination that his daughter
should marry against her will; while others mercifully believed she was
merely dying of quick consumption.

The wedding ceremony was to be very private, the bride's health not
admitting of excitement. Mannis, somewhat disappointed, as he desired
a brilliant wedding, yielded to the wishes of his betrothed. The
evening before the wedding he called at the Hamblin mansion, and held
an interview with Belle, remaining for an hour. When leaving he took
Belle's hand in his own, and before she was aware of his intention he
drew her toward him, and imprinted his first kiss upon her brow. Belle
gave a spasmodic scream, placed both hands over her heart, and drew back
suddenly as if bitten by a serpent.

"What is the matter, Belle?" inquired Mannis, greatly alarmed.

"My heart is bursting! Oh, leave me, please, for the present. It is only
a momentary pain. To-morrow I will be well and cheerful. Yes, I will
overflow with joy. Go--go, now!"

Noting the singular appearance of her face, Mannis was startled, for
he saw that Belle appeared as if unconscious of her actions. Hastily
leaving the room and going directly to the apartment of Mrs. Hamblin, he
said:

"Belle is not well. Please go to her."

Mrs. Hamblin was quickly with her daughter, whom she found lying upon
the sofa, shedding the first tears that had passed her eyelids for many
days.

"Oh, mother!" she sobbed, "his lips touched my forehead, and I the wife
of George Alden."

An hour later she was sleeping. As she roamed about dreamland, she
passed through many familiar scenes. She paused at a little cottage,
where she remained, enjoying many happy hours with her husband. As she
took her departure, Walter Mannis suddenly appeared before her, and with
one sweep of his hand dashed the little cottage and its beloved occupant
to pieces. She shrieked and started to run, when, stretching forth his
hand, he caught her by the waist, and as he placed his lips against her
forehead sharp needles entered her quivering heart, causing her to cry
with pain. The fright awakened her, and she could sleep no more for a
long time.

The day appointed for the wedding was a gloomy one. The sky was
hidden by dark clouds; rain fell during the whole day, the weather
being a reflex of the hearts of all within the Hamblin mansion. Even
little Geordie felt the gloom in his young heart, and wondered why a
wedding-day was so sad.

The ceremony was to be witnessed only by relatives of the contracting
parties. Belle's face was placid, but sad resignation to her fate
beaming peacefully from her beautiful eyes, she was more like an angel
than a bride.

While being dressed in travelling costume for the ceremony she was
passive as a doll in the hands of her mother and maid, seeming to have
lost all interest in everything about her, except her kind mother,
to whom she spoke often of the future, and of saving her father from
disgrace.

As the hour approached when she was to be made the wife of Walter
Mannis, many tokens of affection were received from friends in the way
of bridal presents.

"Take them away," she said. "They are but wreaths for a tomb."

At seven o'clock, Mrs. Hamblin entered the room, informing her daughter
the bridegroom awaited her. Tears sprang to Belle's eyes as she pressed
her lips warmly against a photograph of George Alden.

A moment later she stood in the parlor beside Walter Mannis. The
officiating clergyman had just finished a prayer, and commenced the
ceremony by taking the icy hand of the bride and placing it in that of
Mannis, and was about to pronounce the words making the twain one, when
the door was hastily thrown open, and a handsome, black-bearded man
stood in the presence of the bridal party.

"I forbid this marriage!" he exclaimed. "The woman has a living husband."

There was astonishment on the faces of all present. Belle was the first
to recognize the intruder. Throwing up her arms, she wildly cried:

"George--my husband! Thank--" and fell fainting in the arms of George
Alden.

Senator Hamblin stared at the man before him as if transfixed. Mrs.
Hamblin, Fannie Alden, the clergyman and all others present were like
statues, still and immovable. But Mannis, having looked once at the
stranger, fled hastily from the house.



  CHAPTER XXXIII.

  RETRIBUTIVE JUSTICE.


Mannis, reaching the street, was wild with excitement. "Curse the luck!
Why didn't the fellow keep away from Cleverdale? I am lost!"

Overcome by his feelings, he entered the Cleverdale Hotel, and ordering
a team was soon on his homeward way, while thoughts of inevitable
failure and exposure coursed through his mind. The fugitive's return and
the revelation made greatly astonished him, yet he had no doubt but that
Alden and Belle were really man and wife.

Reaching the old Manor at ten o'clock, he was soon in his room, where he
gave way to his feelings.

"I am a doomed man; my race is about run. What a fool I have been!
To-morrow the world will learn of this beautiful little tableau at
Hamblin's, and I shall be the butt of all jokes. But, pshaw! what do I
care for that? Other things will make the neighborhood too warm for me.
I must leave here, and at once."

Walking the room, gloom gathered upon his brow as he realized the
desperate game he had been playing. Suddenly his gaze fell upon a letter
lying upon his writing-table, the superscription being in the delicate
handwriting of Mary Harris. With trembling hands he tore off the
envelope, and read as follows:

    "DEAR WALTER: When you read this, my body will be lying in the
    pond, back of your house, and my soul before its Maker."

"Great God!" he exclaimed, "I have killed her! Poor girl! poor girl!"

After partially calming himself, he continued reading the letter.

    "When the hour of your wedding arrives, death will be my
    bridegroom. I have loved you with all the affection of my heart, and
    I forgive the wrong you have done me. God spare your life. Tears
    fall so fast I can scarcely see the paper before me or even hold my
    pen. Think occasionally of poor Mary. I cannot live and face the
    disgrace that will be mine. God bless and forgive you.

                                                      "MARY HARRIS."

Dropping the letter, he staggered and fell upon the sofa, utterly
overcome. For a few moments he moaned in anguish, but soon rousing
himself he arose and said:

"I must overcome this nervousness, and drown these thoughts with
brandy--not with water, as poor Mary did hers."

He hastily quaffed a glass of liquor, and the color returned to his
face. Then he spoke rapidly to himself.

"I must go! The suicide of Mary Harris being discovered, her father will
seek my life. Alden has returned. Now I must be the fugitive."

During the night he wrote several letters, rising at intervals and
pacing the room in great agitation. Occasionally lying down, he tried to
drive distracting thoughts from his mind, but sleep refused to respond
to his summons. Toward morning he packed a trunk and valise, intending
to take them with him.

Daylight arriving and the household astir, Mrs. Culver was amazed at
hearing him moving about in his room. Going to his door she rapped, and
being admitted expressed much surprise at his presence in the house. He
only said the wedding had been postponed, but as the good woman observed
the ghastly expression upon the face of her master, she knew something
had occurred which he did not wish to divulge.

Mannis partook of a light breakfast, and at nine o'clock, his trunk and
valise having been placed in the carriage, he bade Mrs. Culver good-by,
and said:

"I may be absent a fortnight."

As he stepped into the carriage, farmer Harris, bareheaded, with his
face full of rage, suddenly appeared before him, and, pulling a pistol
from his pocket, said:

"You miserable wretch, prepare to die! My poor daughter's body lies in
yonder house, and you are her murderer. May the devil take your soul!"

There was a flash, followed by a sharp report, and the "Honorable"
Walter Mannis fell back in his carriage. Mary Harris was avenged, as far
as the death of a deliberate villain can avenge the destruction of a
pure woman's life.



  CHAPTER XXXIV.

  THE CLEVERDALE MYSTERY.


After Mannis fled so precipitately from the parlor of the Hamblin
mansion, George Alden was the first to break the silence.

"Friends!" he exclaimed, "I am George Alden, whom you have supposed
dead. A great wrong or mistake has made me its victim, and the body
lying in yonder cemetery is that of a stranger." Then, covering the face
of his wife with kisses, he moved forward, and deposited the insensible
form of Belle on the sofa, when Fannie Alden sprang quickly toward him,
and hysterically embraced him, exclaiming:

"Yes, it is indeed my brother! Oh, what happiness!"

The fright occasioned by the sudden appearance of the supposed dead man
having been dispelled by Alden's words, all except members of the family
withdrew. In a few moments the efforts at restoration were successful;
Belle opened her eyes, and said:

"Was it a dream?"

Beholding the form kneeling beside her, feeling the warm breath on her
face, and seeing the loving eyes looking into her own, she cried:

"No--no--it is true. Oh, George, my husband, is it indeed you?"

"Yes, Belle, and I have returned never to leave you again."

Her joy was accompanied by hysterics, and she sobbed and laughed
alternately, her arms encircling the neck of her husband.

"You must not leave me--oh, it still seems like a dream--but where is
he? Had I married him? Oh, it is horrible!" and she closed her eyes, as
if to hide the memory of the scene.

"But yourself, George?" she continued; "tell us where you have been all
these long, long, weary months."

"Calm yourself, Belle. Be satisfied that we are reunited. My story is a
long one, and after you recover from this excitement you shall know all."

Senator Hamblin, although greatly bewildered, was thoroughly convinced
that George Alden really stood before him. When the apparition burst so
suddenly upon him, he reeled, and for a time nearly lost his senses, but
when he saw his daughter clasped in the arms of the intruder, and heard
the words that fell from her lips, fright was superseded by surprise.
His heart was filled with both fear and joy; the former overwhelming him
as he thought of his responsibility for all the trouble of the past two
years; yet joy taking possession of him when he beheld alive the man of
whose death he had believed himself the immediate cause. When he had
fully regained his composure, he grasped George Alden's hand, and said:

"Forgive me; I have deeply wronged you!" He stooped as if about to fall
upon his knees, but Alden said:

"No, no--not that, sir! Say nothing about those matters at present.
Surely this joy should wipe out all scores between you and me."

News of the return of George Alden, who had been mourned as dead,
quickly spread through the community, and Cleverdale could scarcely
credit the news. The hotels, stores, and street corners were scenes of
excitement; men of all classes discussed the event, and the return of
George Alden caused even greater wonder than his disappearance. When
the news reached Sargent, he exclaimed, "Alden returned? Thunder and
Mars! I must skip out of this at once. Wonder what has become of Mannis?
Well, it is every one for himself in this deal. Good-by, old Cleverdale!
good-by! Perhaps I'll see you later." An hour afterward, Sargent was on
a western-bound train, and the community was rid of its worst villain.

The following morning all arose early at the Hamblin mansion; Belle
would not allow her husband to leave her side even for an instant, and
for the first time in many months joy and happiness were visible in her
eyes. Fannie Alden had remained at the mansion, and, all anxious to hear
the wanderer's story, an hour later the family assembled in the parlor
to listen to the remarkable revelation.

"Before George commences his story," said Senator Hamblin, "I must
remove a crushing load from my own heart."

He then related every detail of the part he had acted in the conspiracy,
taking upon himself all the odium belonging to him. He gave such a
pitiful description of his terrible sufferings of mind and remorse
of conscience, that all present were deeply affected. The proud man
was truly humbled; his penitence, for once, was not assumed. Fully
exonerating his son-in-law from the charge against his integrity, he
took from his pocket two envelopes, and placed the intercepted letters
in the hand of George Alden.

"I am a guilty wretch," he said, "and deserve all the execration you can
heap upon my head. To save myself, I even urged my daughter to marry
Walter Mannis, after all the suffering I had caused her. I have been an
unnatural father. Despise me--all of you--for I deserve it."

He was utterly prostrated, and Belle, leaving the side of her husband,
threw her arms about his neck, and said:

"Papa, it is all over now; let us bury the past. Cheer up; George has
returned, and will forgive and assist you."

"I agree with Belle," said George. "You have had your share of
suffering; let us try to forget the past, and keep our secret from
the outside world. Your financial matters need not distress you
further, for my fortune is ample to help us all. But the body in yonder
cemetery--what can you tell us about that?"

"Nothing, for I was the victim of that deception. Ah, there has been a
deeper game played than I expected."

Senator Hamblin's revelation surprised all present, but no more so than
a telegram that was suddenly brought in.

It read as follows:

                                                     "HAVELOCK, ----

    "SENATOR HAMBLIN: Benjamin Harris shot and killed Walter Mannis
    this morning. The body of Harris's daughter was found in the
    mill-pond, and a letter left by the unfortunate girl charged
    Mannis with being her betrayer."

"What a narrow escape was mine!" exclaimed Belle. The Senator's eyes
sought the floor; Alden's arm encircled Belle. Then the young husband
related his story, beginning at the time of the terrible accusation and
telling every occurrence up to the time of his departure from Chicago
for Cleverdale.

"Never did a train move so slowly as the one that bore me on my
homeward journey," said he. "I dared not send a telegram--being
ignorant of matters here; but as the cars neared Cleverdale two men,
seating themselves directly behind me, began to talk, and from their
conversation I learned a wedding was to take place that evening. When
the names of the contracting parties were mentioned, my brain whirled,
and for a moment reason seemed about to leave me. Then, as they spoke
of the mystery and sadness enveloping the whole affair, and the deep
sorrow occasioned by my supposed death, I learned of the suffering that
my precious wife had experienced. In a few moments, the train stopping
at Cleverdale, I alighted, and looking at my watch saw that the hour
appointed for the ceremony was only five minutes later. Jumping into a
carriage, I gave the driver a gold piece to drive his best. The rest you
know."

"How you have suffered!" said Belle.

"Yes, we have all suffered. But now let the curtain drop upon the past.
Whatever the outside world may think, the secrets of this drama must
remain locked in the hearts of those present."

The narrations concluded, Senator Hamblin was apprised of Sargent's
flight, but the information did not disturb him; he merely said:

"Another character gone whose presence here is not desired."

George Alden was warmly greeted by his old friends, his first appearance
at the bank being the occasion for a spontaneous levée. Many crowded in
and warmly grasped his hand; for it is not every day that one can shake
hands with a man who is hero, dead-alive, and millionaire all in one.

The mystery surrounding the whole affair gave Cleverdale abundant
opportunity for gossip. The secret marriage; the flight of George Alden;
the mysterious body found in Reynolds Grove; the contemplated marriage
of Belle with Walter Mannis; the prostration of the expectant bride;
the wedding-party; the abrupt return of the supposed dead, and the good
fortune of the latter; the sudden disappearance of Sargent, and the
withdrawal of Senator Hamblin from politics, were events that stirred
the gossiping clubs of Cleverdale as they never had been before. The
body which had played a leading part in this story was disinterred and
buried in another place.

After recovering from the excitement, George Alden held an interview
with his father-in-law, and arranged to pay all his indebtedness.
Senator Hamblin was to withdraw permanently from politics and retain his
position as president of the bank. The astonishment of the ex-Senator
was great when the financial affairs of the late Hon. Walter Mannis
were shown up and that individual proved a bankrupt. The forged names
of several well-known men were found on notes which Mannis had used in
city banks, and among this forged paper the name of Senator Hamblin was
discovered.

Belle's health being already much improved, it was thought a journey
would be beneficial; and as she was desirous of seeing Mrs. Nash, a
visit to Chicago was arranged, where the young couple spent several
happy days. While guests of the kind woman, the wayward son returned,
and there was gladness in the mother's heart when she learned that her
boy had become a better man.

Belle's health returned; the roses again bloomed on her cheeks, and her
eyes flashed with their old-time brilliancy. Then an invitation brought
George Alden's late partners to Cleverdale, and a happy reunion took
place between the "Three Boys," as they were called in Colorado.

Plans were at once made for a residence on the grounds adjoining the
Hamblin homestead, and a few months later a substantial and commodious
residence was occupied by Mr. and Mrs. George Alden; a suite of rooms
being prepared expressly for Fannie Alden.

Mrs. Hamblin saw with gladness the happiness of her children, and
reoccupying the old place in her husband's affection, her joy was
complete.

Later on, George Alden entered into a copartnership with others, the
Cleverdale Woollen Mill was rebuilt, and the old company's great
manufactory again rattled and clattered through the busy days, to the
substantial delight of many who owed their lives, in a double sense, to
Alden's manliness.

Time passed on, and excitement over the events of this story gradually
subsided, but to this day many conjectures are indulged in, for the
gossips never got at the heart of the story, and no one has yet been
able to solve THE CLEVERDALE MYSTERY.



  CHAPTER XXXV.

  EPILOGUE--THE MACHINE AND ITS WHEELS.


The political incidents of this story, taken from actual life, reflect
the evils of our national system. The great political machine has many
cranks, and the scheming of office-seekers, the manipulations of the
caucus and convention, and the tactics resorted to on election day by
wire-pullers and leaders are not exaggerations.

Every public man will recognize Senator Hamblin, Ex-Assemblyman Daley,
Hon. Walter Mannis, Cyrus Hart Miller, Paddy Sullivan, Editor Rawlings,
and "honest" farmer Johnson, as wheels belonging to the great machine.

Senator Hamblin, ambitious, rich, bold, possessing natural gifts of
oratory, is a wheel with almost absolute power. The rising generation,
looking upon such men with admiration, strive to emulate their example.

Cyrus Hart Miller, bold, unscrupulous, and aggressive, is another
wheel--one that moves "the boys" at caucus and on election day.

Paddy Sullivan presides over the "gin palace," and men gathering at
the bar worship spirits in decanter and keg, while imbibing political
opinions.

In American politics the power of such wheels is very great, and no
machine is complete without them.

While it requires many wheels to work the machine, some are large, some
small, but all are dangerous. Men becoming infatuated with politics,
the desire to hold office leads them from paths of rectitude. They lose
their hold on legitimate business, and grasping for the bubble fame, go
headlong to destruction. One man may succeed in reaching the summit of
his ambition, but it is by climbing over the ruins of the nine hundred
and ninety-nine fallen on the highway.

The fight for spoils develops bad passions, creates schisms in parties.
Faction fights in both political organizations are so full of bitterness
and so empty of principle that they disgust the honest voters; yet
the latter with their preponderant majority seem to be powerless to
overthrow the politicians. One large wheel seems to have power to turn
scores of little wheels in the great machine.

The dangers of the system have lately been exemplified in a tragedy that
plunged the nation into sorrow; but while we mourn the death of a chief
magistrate the politicians still continue to propel the machine. It is
not to be supposed that all men engaged in political work or inspired
by political ambition are bad men. On the contrary, there are thousands
who are honest and honorable; politics is not only the privilege but the
duty of every American citizen, and every inducement should be held out
to the youth of the generations of to-day to go into politics with all
the strength of their manhood. But the difficulty--as every intelligent
man knows--is that caucuses and conventions and election work are left
almost entirely to those who seek not patriotism but pelf; and the aim
of this story is to show the natural tendency and actual results of
the system as it exists to-day--to try and make it so plain that men
may realize its vileness, and so to add another ounce to the weight of
infamy that "the Machine" has to carry, hoping that the accumulation may
at last beat it down. No partisan end is in view; it will puzzle the
most expert politician to say which of the two great political parties
in our land is aimed at--or rather, which is _not_ aimed at. We all
live in glass houses and cannot afford to throw stones at each other.
On the other hand--to change the figure--it is sometimes wholesome to
"see oursels as ithers see us"--or would see us if they could get a fair
inside view. It's not a pretty picture; more's the pity. Let us try to
better the original.

While the author has endeavored to briefly sketch the workings of the
system, he leaves to others the task of correcting the evils resulting
from "_The Machine and its Wheels_."



    Transcriber's Note: Although most printer's errors have been
    retained, some have been silently corrected. Spelling and
    punctuation, capitalization, accents hyphens and formatting
    markup have been normalized and include the following:

      Line 4572: wassilent is now was silent
      Line 5171: dress-makers is now dressmakers
      Line 7145: "Were I to [inserted missing "]
      Line 7392: your rightful name?" [changed ' to "]





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