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Title: Held to Answer
Author: Macfarlane, Peter Clark
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.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Held to Answer" ***

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[Illustration: "Follow your star, John," Bessie declared stoutly.
FRONTISPIECE.  _See page_ 82.]



                                  HELD
                               TO ANSWER

                               _A NOVEL_


                                   BY

                         PETER CLARK MACFARLANE

                               AUTHOR OF
                     THOSE WHO HAVE COME BACK, ETC.



                         WITH ILLUSTRATIONS BY
                               W. B. KING



                                NEW YORK
                            GROSSET & DUNLAP
                               PUBLISHERS



                           _Copyright, 1916,_
                     BY LITTLE, BROWN, AND COMPANY.

                         _All rights reserved_

                       Published, February, 1916
                 Reprinted, February, 1916 (four times)



                               *CONTENTS*


CHAPTER

I  The Face That Did not Fit
II  One Man and Another
III  When the Dark Went Away
IV  Advent and Adventure
V  The Rate Clerk
VI  On Two Fronts
VII  The High Bid
VIII  John Makes Up
IX  A Demonstration from the Gallery
X  A Stage Kiss
XI  Seed to the Wind
XII  A Thing Incalculable
XIII  The Scene Played Out
XIV  The Method of a Dream
XV  The Catastrophe
XVI  The King Still Lives
XVII  When Dreams Come True
XVIII  The House Divided
XIX  His Next Adventure
XX  A Woman with a Want
XXI  A Cry of Distress
XXII  Pursuit Begins
XXIII  Capricious Woman
XXIV  The Day of All Days
XXV  His Bright Idea
XXVI  Unexpectedly Easy
XXVII  The First Alarm
XXVIII  The Arrest
XXIX  The Angel Advises
XXX  The Scene in the Vault
XXXI  A Misadventure
XXXII  The Coward and His Conscience
XXXIII  The Battle of the Headlines
XXXIV  A Way That Women Have
XXXV  On Preliminary Examination
XXXVI  A Promise of Strength
XXXVII  The Terms of Surrender
XXXVIII  Sunday in All People’s
XXXIX  The Cup Too Full
XL  The Elder in the Chair



                            *HELD TO ANSWER*



                              *CHAPTER I*

                      *THE FACE THAT DID NOT FIT*


Two well-dressed men waited outside the rail on what was facetiously
denominated the mourners’ bench.  One was a packer of olives, the other
the owner of oil wells. A third, an orange shipper, leaned against the
rail, pulling at his red moustaches and yearning wistfully across at a
wattle-throated person behind the roll-top desk who was talking
impatiently on the telephone.  Just as the receiver was hung up with an
audible click, a buzzer on the wall croaked harshly,—one long and two
short croaks.

Instantly there was a scuffling of feet upon the linoleum over in a
corner, where mail was being opened by a huge young fellow with the
profile of a mountain and a gale of tawny hair blown up from his brow.
Undoubling suddenly, this rangy figure of a man shot upward with
Jack-in-the-box abruptness and a violence which threatened the stability
of both the desk before him and the absurdly small typewriter stand upon
his left.  Seizing a select portion of the correspondence, he lunged
past the roll-top desk of Heitmuller, the chief clerk, and aimed toward
the double doors of grained oak which loomed behind.  But his progress
was grotesque, for he careened like a camel when he walked.  In the
first stride or two these careenings only threatened to be dangerous,
but in the third or fourth they made good their promise.  One lurching
hip joint banged the drawn-out leaf of the chief clerk’s desk, sweeping
a shower of papers to the floor.

"John—dammit!" snapped Heitmuller irritably. The other hip caracoled
against the unopened half of the double doors as John yawed through.
The door complained loudly, rattling upon its hinges and in its brazen
sockets, so that for a moment there was clatter and disturbance from one
end of the office to the other.

The orange shipper started nervously, and the chief clerk, cocking his
head gander-wise, gazed in disgust at the confusion on the floor, while
far within Robert Mitchell, the General Freight Agent of the California
Consolidated Railway, lifted a massive face from his desk with a look of
mild reproof in his small blue eyes.

Yet when the huge stenographer came back, and with another scuffling of
clumsy feet stooped to retrieve the litter about Heitmuller’s revolving
chair, he seemed so regretful and his features lighted with such a
helplessly apologetic smile that even his awkwardness appeared
commendable, since it was so obviously seasoned with the grace of
perfectly good intent.

Appreciation of this was advertised in the forgiving chuckle of the
chief clerk who, standing now at the rail, remarked _sotto voce_ to the
orange shipper: "John is as good as a vaudeville act!"

At this the red moustaches undulated appreciatively, while the two
"mourners" laughed so audibly that the awkward man, once more in his
chair, darted an embarrassed glance at them, and the red flush came
again to his face.  He suspected they were laughing at him, and as if to
comfort himself, a finger and thumb went into his right vest pocket and
drew out a clipping from the advertising columns of the morning paper.
Holding it deep in his hand, he read furtively:


_ACTING TAUGHT_.  Charles Kenton, character actor, temporarily
disengaged, will receive a few select pupils in dramatic expression at
his studio in The Albemarle. Terms reasonable.


Then John looked across aggressively at the men who had laughed.  They
were not laughing now, but nodding in his direction, and whispering
busily.

What were they saying?  That he was a joke, a failure? That he had been
in this chair seven years?  That he was a big, snubbed, defeated,
over-worked handy-man about this big, loosely organized office?  That in
seven years he had neither been able to get himself promoted nor
discharged?  No doubt!

As if to get away from the thought, John turned from his typewriter to
the open window and looked out.  There was the spire of the grand old
First Church down there below him.  Yonder were the sky-notching
business blocks of the pushing city of Los Angeles, as it was in the
early nineteen hundreds.  There, too, were the villa-crowned heights to
the north, shut in at last by the barren ridges of the Sierra Madre
Mountains, some of which, in this month of January, were snow-capped.

But here were these foolish men still nodding and whispering.  Good
fellows, too, but blind.  What did they know about him really?

They knew that he was a stenographer, but they did not know that he was
a stenographer to the glory of God!—one who cleaned his typewriter,
dusted his desk, opened the mail, wrote his letters, ate, walked, slept,
all to the honor of his creator—that the whole of life to him was a sort
of sacrament.

They thought he was beaten and discouraged, an industrial slave, drawn
helplessly into the cogs.  They, poor, purblind materialists, were
without vision.  They did not know that there were finer things than
pickles and crude oil.  They did not know that he was to soar; that
already his wings were budding, nor that he lived in an inner state of
spiritual exaltation as delicious as it was unsuspected.  They pitied
him; they laughed commiseratingly.  He did not want their commiseration;
he spurned their laughter and their pity.  He was full of youth and the
exuberance of hope.  He was full of an expanding strength that made him
stronger as his dream grew brighter.  Only his eyes were tired.  The
cross lights were bad.  For a moment he shaded his brow tenderly with
his hand, reflecting that he must hereafter use an eye-shade by day as
methodically he used one in his nightly study.

The morning moved along.  The yearning orange shipper went away.  One
mourner rose and passed inside. The other waited impatiently for his
turn to do the same. Luncheon time came for John, and he ate it in the
file room—ravenously; and while he ate he read—the Congressional Record;
and reading, made notations on the margin, for John was preparing for
what he was preparing, although he did not quite know what.  The train
of destiny was rumbling along, and when it stopped at his station, he
proposed to swing on board.

His luncheon down swiftly, as much through hunger as through haste, he
swung out of the door, bound for Charles Kenton, "actor—temporarily
disengaged—Hotel Albemarle—terms reasonable," moving with such headlong
speed that he was soon within that self-important presence.

"Hampstead is my name," he blurted, with clumsy directness, "John
Hampstead," and the interview with Destiny was on.

"The first trouble with you," declared the white-haired actor
critically, "is that your face doesn’t fit."

John wet a lip and hitched a nervous leg, but sat awkwardly silent, his
eyes boring hungrily, as if waiting for more.  The actor, however, was
slow to add more. Faces were his enthusiasm, as well as the raw material
of his profession, but this face puzzled him, so that before committing
himself further he paused to survey it again: the strong nose with its
hump of energy, the well buttressed chin, and then the broad forehead
with its unusually thick, bony ridge encircling the base of the brows
like a bilge keel, proclaiming loudly that here was a man with racial
dynamite in his system, one who, whatever else he might become, was now
and always a first-class animal.

The eyebrows heightened this suggestion by being thick and yellow, and
sweeping off to the temples in a scroll-like flare.  The forehead itself
was broad, but gathered a high look from that welter of tawny hair which
was roached straight up and back, giving the effect of one who plunges
headlong.

But the eyes completely modified the countenance. They did not plunge.
They halted and beamed softly. Gray and deep-seated, they made all that
face’s force the force of tenderness, by burning with a light that was
obviously inner and spiritual.  The mouth, again, while as cleanly
chiseled as if cut from marble,—sensitive, impressionistic, fine, was,
alas! weak; or if not weak, advertising weakness by an habitual
expression of lax amiability; although along with this the actor noted
that the two lips, buttoning so loosely at the corners, could none the
less collaborate in a most engaging smile.

Kenton concluded his second appraisal with a little gesture of
impatience.  The man’s features gave each other the lie direct, and that
was all there was to it.  They said: This man is a beast, a great,
roaring lion of a man; and then they said: No, this lion is a lamb, a
mild, dreamy, sucking dove sort of person.

"That’s it," he iterated.  "Your face doesn’t fit."

Hampstead did not wince.

"The question is," he proposed, in a voice husky with a mixture of
embarrassment and determination, "how am I to make it fit?  Or, failing
that, how am I to get somewhere with a face that doesn’t fit?"

The actor’s reply was half sagacity, half "selling talk", mixed with
some judicious flattery and tinged with inevitable gallery play,
although there was no gallery.

"Elocution?" Kenton observed, with a little grimace of derision.  "No!
Oratory?  Not at all!"  The weight of his withering scorn was
tremendous.  "There are no such things.  It is all acting!  A man speaks
with the whole of himself—his eyes, his mouth, his body, his walk, his
pose—everything.  That’s what you need to learn.  Self-expression!  I
can make your face fit. That’s simple enough," and Kenton waved his hand
as if the re-stamping of a man’s features was the easiest thing he did.
"I can make your body graceful.  I can take that voice of yours and make
it strong as the roar of a bull, and as soft as rich, brown velvet.
Yes," and the actor leaped to his feet in growing enthusiasm, "I can
make ’em all respond to every whim of what’s passing inside.  But," he
asked suddenly, with a penetrating glance, "will that make an orator of
you?  Well, that depends on what’s passing inside.  It takes a great
soul to make an orator—great imagination, mind, feelings, sentiments.
Have you got ’em?  I doubt it!  I doubt it!"

The old man confirmed his dubiousness with the uncomplimentary emphasis
of hesitating silence.  In the sincerity of his critical analysis, he
had forgotten that he was trying to secure a pupil.  "And yet—and yet—"
his eye began to kindle as he looked, "I tell you I don’t know,
boy—there’s something—there might be something behind that face of
yours.  It might come out, you know, _it might come out_!"

Kenton drawled the last words out slowly in a deeply speculative tone,
and then asked abruptly: "How old are you?"

"Twenty-four," admitted John, feeling suddenly as if he confessed the
years of Methuselah.

But the dark eyes of the old actor sparkled, and his long, mobile lips
parted in the ghost of a sigh which crept out through teeth stained
yellow by years and tobacco, after which he ejaculated admiringly: "My
God, but you are young!"

This came as an inspiring thought to John.  He did feel young, all but
his eyes.  What was the matter with them that the lids were so woodeny
of late?  Yes; he was young, despite seven submerged years, and the
wings of his soul were preening.

Back in the General Freight Office, John fell upon his work with happy
vigor.  Spat, spat, spat, and a letter was on its way from Dear Sir to
Yours truly.  But in the midst of these spattings, he paused to muse.

"Kenton said he could make me graceful," the big fellow was communing
over his typewriter, when abruptly the outer door opened and, after a
single glance, John appeared to forget both his communings and his work.
Swinging about, he sat transfixed, his odd features turned eccentrically
handsome by a light of adoration which began to glow upon them, as if an
astral presence had entered.

Yet to the unprejudiced observer the newcomer was no heavenly being, but
a mere schoolgirl, whose dress had not been long at the shoe-top stage.
With a swish of skirts and an excited ripple of laughter, she had burst
in like a breeze of youth itself.  But to this breeziness of youth the
young lady added the indefinable thing called charm, and the promise of
greater charm to come.  She was already tall and would be taller, fair
to look upon and certain to be fairer.  To a dress of some warm red
color, a touch of piquancy was added by a Tam-o’-Shanter cap of plaid
that was itself pushed jauntily to one side by a wealth of crinkly brown
hair; while a bit of soft brown fur encircled the neck and cuddled
affectionately as a kitten under the smooth, plump chin.  The face was
oval with a tendency to fullness, and the nose, while by no means
_retroussé_, was as distinctively Irish as the sparkle in the blue of
her laughing eyes.  Irish, too, were the smiling lips, but the delicious
dimples that flecked the white and red of her cheeks were entirely
without nationality.  They were just woman, budding, ravishing woman;
and there is no doubt whatever that they helped to make the fascination
of that merry face complete, when its spell was cast over the soul of
Hampstead.

"Oh, John!" exclaimed the young lady with impulsive familiarity,
bounding through the gate and over to his side, "I want you to write
some invitations for me. This is my week to entertain the Phrosos.  See!
Isn’t the paper dear?"

There were caresses in the big man’s eyes as the girl drew near, but he
replied with less freedom than her own form of address invited: "Good
afternoon, Miss Bessie."

The restraint in his speech however was much in contrast to the bold
poaching of his eyes.  But Bessie appeared to notice neither restraint
nor the boldness as, standing by his desk, with the big man looking on
interestedly, she undid the package in her hand.

The picture of frank and simple comradeship so immediately established
proclaimed a certain mutual unawareness between this pretty,
half-developed girl and this big, unawakened man that was as delightful
to contemplate as it evidently was to enjoy.

"Isn’t it darling?" the girl demanded again, having exposed to view the
contents of her box, invitation paper with envelopes to match, in color
as pink as her own cheeks.

"Yes, Miss Bessie, it is dear," John concurred placidly.

"But you are not looking at it," protested the girl.

"No," the awkward man confessed, but entirely unabashed, "I am looking
at you—devouringly."

"Well, you needn’t," Bessie answered spicily.

"Yes, I need," John declared coolly.  "You do not know how much I need.
You are the only unspoiled human being I ever see in this office."

"Old Heit does look rather shopworn," Bessie whispered roguishly.  "But,
look here," and she thrust out her lips in a pout that was at once
defiant and tantalizing, while her eyes rested for a moment upon the
closed double doors: "My father is an unspoiled human being."

"What have you been doing to your hair?" Hampstead demanded critically,
refusing to be diverted.

"Doing it up, of course, as grown women should," she vouchsafed with
emphasis.  "Don’t you like it?"

With a flash of her two hands, one of which snatched out a pin while the
other swept off the plaid cap, she spun herself rapidly about so that
John might view the new coiffure from all angles.

"Oh, of course, I have to like it," he said, with mock mournfulness.  "I
have to like anything you do, because I like you, and because you are my
boss’s boss; but I am sorry to lose the thick braids down your back,
with that delicious little velvety tuft at the end that I used to catch
up and tickle your ear with in the long, long ago."

"But how long ago was that, Sir Critical?" challenged Bessie.

"Long, long ago," affirmed Hampstead, with another of his humorous
sighs, "when it was a part of my duty to take you to the circus and buy
you peanuts and lemonade of a color to match your cheeks."

"And that," dissented the young lady triumphantly, "was only last
September, and the one before that, and, in fact, almost every circus
day since I can remember."

"But now that you are doing your hair up high, you will not need me to
take you to the circus again."

This time the note of sadness in Hampstead’s voice was genuine, whereat
all the loyalty in the soul of Bessie leaped up.

"You shall," she declared, with an impulsive sweetness of manner, while
she leaned close and added in a whisper that made the assurance
deliciously confidential—"as long as you wish."

"Then I shall do it forever," declared John recklessly.

"However," and Miss Elizabeth Mitchell, with a playful acquisition of
dignity, switched the subject abruptly by announcing briskly, "business
before circuses."

"Phrosos before rhinos, as it were," consented John.

"Yes—now take your pencil and let me dictate."

"But," bantered John, "I allow no woman to dictate to me.  Besides, I
write a perfectly horrible hand."

"Oh," explained Bessie, "but I want them on the typewriter.  It’ll make
the other girls wild.  None of them can command a typewriter."

"Yet," protested Hampstead, "overlooking for the moment the
offensiveness in that word ’command’, I venture to suggest, Miss
Mitchell, that things are not done that way this year.  A typewritten
invitation isn’t considered good form in the best circles."

"I don’t care; we’ll have ’em," declared Bessie. "We’ll set a new
fashion."  Her little foot smote the floor sharply, and she stood bolt
upright, so upright that she leaned back, gazing at John through austere
lashes, her face lengthening till the dimples disappeared, while the
Cupid’s bow of her lips became almost a memory.

"Oh, very well," weakened Hampstead, bowing his head, "I cannot brook
that gaze for long.  It shall be as your Grace commands."

"Tired, aren’t you?" commented Bessie, suddenly mollified, and scanning
the big face narrowly, while a look of soberness came into her eyes.  "I
can see it; and your eyes look bad—very bad, John."  Her voice was
girlishly sympathetic.  "These people do not appreciate you, either.
But I do!  I know!" and she nodded her round chin stoutly, while she
laid a hand upon the arm of this man who, seven years her senior, was in
some respects her junior.  "You are a very great man in the day of his
obscurity.  It will come out some time.  You will be General Manager of
the railroad, or something very, very big.  Won’t you?" and she leaned
close again with that delightfully confidential whisper.

"I admit it," confessed John, with a happy chuckle.

But Bessie’s restless eye had fallen upon the clock. "Pickles and
artichokes!" she exclaimed, with a sudden change of mood, "I must flit."

Snatching from her bag a crumpled note, she tossed it on the desk,
calling back: "Here.  This is what I want to say to ’em."

Hampstead sat for a moment looking after her, his lips parted, his great
hands set upon his knees with fingers sprawled very widely, until Bessie
was out of view behind the double doors that admitted to her father’s
presence.



                              *CHAPTER II*

                         *ONE MAN AND ANOTHER*


In the dusk of the early winter’s night in that land where winter hints
its presence but slightly in any other way, two children dashed out of a
rambling shell of a cottage that sprawled rather hopelessly over an
unkempt lot, screaming: "Uncle John!  Uncle John!"

Roused from castled, starry dreams, the big stenographer, who had been
enjoying the feel of the dark upon his eyes, and the occasional happy
fragrance of orange blossoms in his nostrils, greeted each with a bear
hug, and the three clattered together up the rickety steps into a tiny
hall.  On the left was an oblong room, and beyond it, through curtains,
appeared a table set for dinner. Light streaming in from this second
room revealed the first as a sort of parlor-studio, where a piano, a
lounge, easels, malsticks, palettes, and stacks of unframed canvases
jostled each other indifferently.  An inspection would have shown that
these pictures were mostly landscapes, with now and then a flower study
in brilliant colors; and to the practised eye a distressing atmosphere
of failure would have obtruded from every one.

From somewhere beyond the dining room came the odor of cooking food, and
the sound of energetic but heavy footsteps.

"Hello, Rose," called John cheerily.

At the moment a woman came into view, bearing a steaming platter.  She
was large of frame, with gray eyes, with straight light hair, fair wide
brow, and features that showed a general resemblance to Hampstead’s own.
Her face had a weary, disturbed look, but lighted for a moment at the
sight of her brother.

Depositing the platter upon the table, the woman sank heavily into a
chair at the end, where she began immediately to serve the plates.  The
children, a girl and a boy, sat side by side, with John across from
them.  This left a vacant chair opposite Rose, and before this a plate
was laid.

For a time the family fell upon its food in silence. The girl was eleven
years old perhaps, with eyes of lustrous hazel, reddish-brown hair
massed in curls upon her shoulders and hanging below, cheeks hopelessly
freckled, mouth large, and nose also without hope through being
waggishly pugged.  The boy, whose sharp, pale features exhibited traces
of a battle with ill health begun at birth and not yet ended, had eyes
that were like his mother’s, clear and gray, and there was a brave turn
to his upper lip that excited pity on a face so pale.  He looked older
but was probably younger than his sister. Hero-worship, frank and
unbounded, was in the glance with which the two from time to time beamed
upon their uncle.

After a considerable interval, John, glancing first at the empty chair
and then at his sister, asked with significant constraint in his tone:
"Any word?"

His sister’s head was shaken disconsolately, and the angular shoulders
seemed to sink a little more wearily as her face was again bowed toward
her plate.

After another interval, Hampstead remarked: "You seem worried to-night,
Rose."

"The rent is due to-morrow," she replied in a wooden voice.

"Is that all?" exclaimed John, throwing back his head with a relieved
laugh.  At the same time a hand had stolen into his pocket, and he drew
out a twenty-dollar gold piece and tossed it across the table.

"The rent is $17.50," observed Rose, eyeing the coin doubtfully.

"Keep the change," chuckled John, "and pass the potatoes."

But the woman’s gloom appeared to deepen.

"You pay your board promptly," she protested. "This is the third month
in succession that you have also paid the rent.  Besides, you are always
doing for the children."

"Who wouldn’t, I’d like to know?" challenged John, surveying them both
proudly; whereat Dick, his mouth being otherwise engaged, darted a look
of gratitude from his great, wise eyes, while Tayna reached over and
patted her uncle’s hand affectionately.  "Tayna" was an Indian name the
girl’s father had picked up somewhere.

"Besides," went on John, "Charles is having an uphill fight of it right
now.  It’s a pleasure to stand by a gallant fellow like him.  He goes
charging after his ideal like old Sir Galahad."

But the face of his sister refused to kindle.

"Like Don Quixote, you mean," she answered cynically. "I haven’t heard
from him in three weeks.  He has not sent me any money in six.  He sends
it less and less frequently.  He becomes more and more irresponsible.
You are spoiling him to support his family for him, and," she added,
with a choke in her voice, while a tear appeared in her eye, "he is
spoiling us—killing our love for him."

The boy slipped down from his chair and stood beside his mother,
stroking her arm sympathetically.

"Poppie’s all right," he whispered in his peculiar drawl.  "He’ll come
home soon and bring a lot of money with him.  See if he don’t!"

"Oh, I know," confessed Rose, while with one hand she dabbed the corner
of her eye with an apron, and with the other clasped the boy impulsively
to her.  "I know I should not give way before the children.  But—but it
grows worse and worse, John!"

"Nonsense!" rebuked her brother.  "You’re only tired and run down.  You
need a rest, by Hokey! that’s what you need.  Charles is liable to sell
that Grand Canyon canvas of his any time, and when he does, you’ll get a
month in Catalina, that’s what you will!"

The wife was silently busy with her apron and her eyes.

"Do you know, Rose," John continued with forced enthusiasm, "my
admiration for Charles grows all the time.  He follows his star, that
boy does!"

"And forgets his family—leaves it to starve!" reproached the sister
bitterly, while the sag of her cheeks became still more noticeable.

"Ah, but that’s where you do Charles an injustice," insisted John.  "He
knows I’m here.  We have a sort of secret understanding; that is," and
he gulped a little at going too far—"that is, we understand each other.
He knows that while he is following his ideal, I won’t see you starve.
He’s a genius; I’m the dub.  It’s a fair partnership.  His eye is always
on the goal.  He will get there sure—and soon, now, too."

"He will never get there!" blurted out the dejected woman, as if with a
sudden disregardful loosing of her real convictions.  "For thirteen
years I have hoped and toiled and believed and waited.  A good while ago
I made up my mind.  He has not the vital spark.  For five years I have
pleaded with him to give it up—to surrender his ambition, to turn his
undoubted talent to account.  He has had the rarest aptitude for
decorating. We might be having an income of ten thousand a year now.
Instead he pursues this will-o’-the-wisp ambition of his.  He is crazy
about color, always chasing a foolish sunset or some wonderful desert
panorama of sky and cloud and mountain—seeing colors no one else can see
but unable to put his vision upon the canvas.  That’s the truth, John!
I have never spoken it before.  Never hinted it before the children!
Charles Langham is a failure.  He will never be anything else but a
failure!"

The words, concluded by the barely successful suppression of a sob, fell
on unprotesting silence.  Who but this life-worn woman had so good an
opportunity to know if they were true, so good a right to speak them if
she believed them true?  John looked at his plate, Tayna and Dick looked
at each other.  It required a stout heart to break the oppressive quiet,
and for the moment no one in this group had that heart.  The break came
from the outside, when some one ran swiftly up the steps and threw open
the front door.  Instant sounds of collision and confusion issued from
the hall, followed immediately by a masculine voice, thin and injured in
tone, calling excitedly:

"Well, for the love of Michael Angelo!  What do you keep stuffing the
hall so full of furniture for?  Won’t somebody please come and help me
with these things?"

The dinner table was abruptly deserted; but quick as John and the
children were, Rose was ahead of them, and when they reached the
hallway, a thin man of medium height, with an aquiline nose, dark eyes,
and long loose hair, was helplessly in the embrace of the laughing and
crying woman.

"Oh, Charles, you did come home; you did come home, didn’t you?" she was
crying.

Charles broke in volubly.  "Well, I should say I did. What did you
expect?  Have I ever impressed you as a man who would neglect his
family?"  After which, with the look of one who has put his accusers in
the wrong, he rescued himself from his wife’s emphatic embraces, held
her off for a moment with a look of real fondness, and then brushed her
with his lips, first on one cheek and then upon the other.

"Dad-dee!" clamored the children in chorus.  "Daddee!"  Yet it was
noticeable that they did not presume to rush upon their father, but
flung their voices before them, experimentally, as it were.

"Well, well, _las ninas_" (las ninas being the Spanish for children),
the father exclaimed, his piercing dark eyes upon them with delight and
displeasure mingling. "Aren’t you going to give me a hug?  Your mother
nearly strangles me, and you stand off eyeing me as if I were a new
species."

At the open arms of invitation, both of the children plunged
unhesitatingly; but their reception was brief.

"Run away now, father is tired," the nervous-looking man proclaimed
presently, straightening his shoulders, while he sniffed the atmosphere.
"Dinner, eh?  Gods and goats, but I am hungry!"

Rose led the little procession proudly back to the table, drawing out
her husband’s chair for him, hovering over him, smoothing his hair,
unfolding his napkin, and stooping to place a fresh kiss upon his fine,
high, but narrow brow.

"That will do now; that will do now," he chided, with an air of having
indulged a foolishly doting woman long enough.  "For goodness’ sake,
Rose, give me something to eat."

His wife, still upon her feet, carried him the platter from which the
family had been served.  Charles condemned it with a glance.

"Isn’t there something fresh you could give me? Something that hasn’t
been—pawed over?"

His tone was eloquent of sensibilities outraged, and his dark eyes,
having first flashed a reproach upon his wife, swept the circle with a
look of expected comprehension in them, as if he knew that all would
understand the delicacies of the artistic temperament.

"Why, yes," admitted Rose, without a sign of resentment. "I can get you
something fresh if you will wait a few minutes."

She slipped out to the kitchen from which presently the odor of broiling
meat proceeded, while the artist coolly rolled his cigarette, and,
surveying without touching the cup of coffee which John had poured for
him, raised his voice to call: "Some fresh coffee, too, Rose, please!"

After this Langham leveled his eye on his brother-in-law and asked
airily, "Well, John, how’s everything with you?"

"Fine as silk, Charles," replied Hampstead.  "How is it with you?"

"Never better," declared Langham.  "Never saw such sunsets in your life
as they are having up the Monterey coast.  I tell you there never were
such colors. There was one there in December,"—and he launched into a
detailed description of it, his eyes, his face, his hands, his whole
body laboring to convey the picture which his animated spirits
proclaimed was still upon the screen of his mind.

As the description was concluded, Rose placed a platter before him, upon
which, garnished with parsley, two small chops appeared, delicately
grilled.

Abruptly ceasing conversation, Charles sank a knife and fork into one of
them and transferred a generous morsel to his mouth.

"Thanks, old girl; just up to your topmost mark," he confessed
ungrudgingly, after a few moments, during which, with half-closed eyes,
he had been chewing vigorously and with a singleness of purpose rather
rare in him.

"Sold any pictures lately?" asked John casually.

"No," said Langham abruptly, lowering his voice, while a look of
annoyance shaded his brow.  "I dropped in at the gallery first thing,
but"—and he shrugged his shoulders—"Nothing doing!  However," and he
became immediately cheerful again, "Mrs. Lawson has been looking awfully
hard at that Grand Canyon canvas.  If she buys that, my fortune’s made."

"And if she doesn’t," observed Rose pessimistically.

"And if she doesn’t?" her husband exclaimed with sudden irritation.
"Well—it’ll be made just the same. You see if it isn’t!  Oh, say!" and a
light broke upon his face so merry that it immediately dissipated every
sign of annoyance.  "What do you think?  I saw Owens to-day, the fellow
who auctions alleged oil paintings at a minimum of two dollars each.
You know the scheme—pictures painted while you wait—roses,
chrysanthemums, landscapes even.  Well, he offered me fifteen dollars a
day to paint pictures for him.  Think of it! To sit in the window before
a gaping crowd painting those miserable daubs, a dozen or two a day,
while he auctions them off.  His impudence!  If I had been as big as you
are, Jack, I would have punched him."

"Fifteen dollars a day," commented Rose thoughtfully.

"Yes," laughed Langham, his little black eyes a-twinkle, as he clipped
the last morsel from the first of his chops.  "The idea!"

"Well, I hope you took it," his wife suggested.

"Rose!" exclaimed Langham, rising bolt upright at the table and looking
into her face as if she had unwarrantably and unexpectedly hurled the
blackest insult. "Rose!  An artist like me!"

"It is the kind of a job for an artist like you," she rejoined
stingingly, with a sarcastic emphasis on just the right words.

"Oh, my God!  My God!" exclaimed the man sharply, turning from the
table, while he threw his hands dramatically upward and clutched at the
back of his head, after which he took a turn up and down the room as if
beside himself with unutterable emotions.

John judged that this was the fitting moment for his withdrawal, but
Langham’s distress of mind was not too great for him to observe the
movement and to follow. He overtook his brother-in-law in the
studio-parlor, and his manner was coolly importunate.

"Say, old man!" he whispered, "could you let me have five?  I’m a little
short on carfare, and you’ll be gone in the morning before I get up."

"Sure," exclaimed John, without a moment’s hesitation, delving in the
depths of the pocket from which he had produced the money for the rent,
and handing out a five-dollar piece.

"Thanks, old chap," said Langham, seizing it eagerly and hastening away,
after an affectionate slap on the shoulder of his bigger and as he
thought baser metaled brother-in-law.  He did not, however, say that he
would repay the loan, and Hampstead did not remark that it was the last
gold coin in his pocket and that he should have no more till pay day,
ten days hence.

John let his admiration for the assurance of Langham play for a moment,
and then turned to the rear of the studio, opened a door, struck a
match, and groped his way to a naked gas jet.  The sudden flare of light
revealed a lean-to room, meant originally for nobody knew what, but
turned into a bedroom.  The only article of furniture which piqued
curiosity in the least was a table against the wall, across which a long
plank had been balanced.  Upon it and equilibrated as carefully as the
plank itself, was a row of books of many shapes and sizes and in various
stages of preservation.  This plank was John’s library.

Stuck about upon the walls were several large photogravures, portraying
various stirring scenes in history, mostly Roman.  They were unframed
and fastened crudely to the wall with pins.  Evidently this was the
living place of an untidy man.

The tiny table, with its balanced over-load of books, was directly
beneath the gas.  John dropped heavily into the wooden chair before it
and drew to him a number of sheets of paper, upon which, with much labor
and many erasings, he began to fashion a sort of motto or legend.
Satisfied at length with his work, he printed the finished legend
swiftly in rude capital letters in the center of a fresh sheet, snatched
down the picture of a Christian martyr which occupied the central space
above his library, and with the same four pins affixed his motto in that
particular spot, where it would greet him instantly upon opening the
door, and where it would be the last thing upon which his eyes fell as
he went to sleep and the first when he awakened in the morning.

Once it was in position, he stood off and admired it, reading aloud:

              "ETERNAL HAMMERING IS THE PRICE OF SUCCESS!"


"That’s the stuff," he croaked enthusiastically.

"Eternal hammering!"  And then he paused a moment, after which his
reverie was continued aloud.  "That actor was telling me to-day about
technique.  He said: ’There’s a right way to do everything—to pitch a
horseshoe even.’  He’s right.  The fellow with the best technique will
knock the highest persimmon.  What makes me such a good stenographer?
Technique. What makes me such a bum office flunkey?  The lack of
technique—no voice—no form—no self-confidence. I am a
young-man-afraid-of-himself—that’s who I am. Technique first and
then—gravitation!  That’s the idea!"

By gravitation, however, Hampstead did not mean that law which keeps the
heavenly bodies from getting on the wrong side of the street, but that
process, which in his short life he had already observed, by means of
which the man in the crowd who takes advantage of his opportunities and,
by the dig of an elbow here, the insert of a shoulder there, and the
stiff thrust of a foot and leg yonder, sooner or later arrives opposite
the gateway of his particular desires.

Mere opportunism?  That and a little more; a sort of conviction that
fortune herself is something of an opportunist, that what a man wants to
do, fortune, sooner or later, will help him to do, if he only wills
himself in the direction of the want early enough and long enough to
give the fickle jade her chance.

By way of proceeding immediately to hammer, Hampstead reached for a
heavy calf-bound volume, bearing the imprint of the Los Angeles Public
Library, and settled himself to read.

Most people in the railroad office were tired when they finished their
day’s work.  They were done with effort. John, however, was just ready
to begin.  They thought of recreation; John thought only of hammering.

Since his scholastic education had been broken off in the middle by
economic necessities, he had formed the plan of reading at night the
entire written history of the world, from the first cuneiform
inscription down to the last edition of the last newspaper.  In
pursuance of this plan, he had already traveled far down the centuries,
and it was with eagerness that he adjusted his eye-shade to-night,
because when he lifted the cover of his book he knew that he would swing
open the doors on one of the greatest centuries in human history, the
century in which the world discovered the individual.  Hampstead was
himself an individual.  This was in some sense the story of his own
discovery.

When John had been reading for perhaps half an hour, there came a
bird-like tap at his door, accompanied by a suppressed giggle.

"Who comes there?" called the student in sepulchral tones, stabbing the
page at a particular spot with his thumb, while his eyes were lifted.

The only audible sound was another giggle, but the door swung open
mysteriously, revealing two small, white-robed figures silhouetted
against the shadows in the studio.

"Enter, ghosts!" John commanded, in the same sepulchral voice, while his
eyes fell again upon his pages. The ghosts chortled and advanced, but
with great circumspection, to the little table with its dangerously
balanced bookshelf, its miscellaneous litter of papers, and its silent,
absorbed student.

Tayna, her long burnished curls cascading over the white of her
nightgown, and her eyes shining softly, ducked her head and arose under
one arm of her uncle, where presently she felt herself drawn close with
an affectionate, satisfying sort of squeeze.  The boy, approaching from
the other side, laid an arm upon the shoulder of the man, and stood
watching with fascination the eyes of his uncle in their steady sweep
from side to side of the printed page.

"Uncle John," asked Tayna shyly, burying her face in his neck as she put
the question, "when will you be President?"

"When _shall_ you be President?" corrected the boy, looking across at
his sister with that same old-mannish expression which was a part of all
he said and did.

Hampstead cuddled the girl closer, and his eye abandoned the page to
look down the bridge of his nose into distance.

"Why?" he asked presently.

"Oh, because," said Tayna, with a little shiver of eagerness, "I can
hardly wait."

Hampstead’s eyes wandered to his motto on the wall. The eyes of the boy
followed and spelled out the letters wonderingly, but in silence.

"We must be able to wait," said John, squeezing Tayna again.  "It’s a
long, long way; but if we just keep on keeping on, why, after a while we
are there, you know."

Tayna sighed and reached up a round, plump arm till it encircled
Hampstead’s neck, as she asked, still more shyly:

"And when you are President, every one will know just how good and great
you are, and they won’t call you awkward nor—nor homely any more, will
they?"

A flush and a chuckle marked John’s reception of this query, after which
he observed hastily and a bit apprehensively:

"Say, you wet little goldfishes!  Remember that you are never, never,
now or any time, howsoever odd I bear myself, to breathe a word to
anybody, not to a single soul, not to your mamma or your papa or your
Sunday-school teacher or anybody, of all these nice little play secrets
which we have between ourselves."

An instant seriousness came over the children’s faces.

"Cross my heart," murmured Tayna, with a twitch of her slender finger
across her breast.

"And hope to die," added Dick, with a funeral solemnity, as he completed
Tayna’s cross by a vertical movement of a stubby thumb in the direction
of his own wishbone of a breast.

Hampstead looked relieved.

"But," affirmed Tayna stoutly, "they are not play secrets.  They are
real secrets.  Aren’t they?"

John looked up at his motto again.

"Yes," he said in a low, determined voice.  "They are real secrets."

"And," half-declared, half-questioned Dick, "if you aren’t President,
you are going to be some other kind of a very great man?

"Aren’t you?" the boy persisted, when Hampstead was silent.

"Tell you to-morrow," laughed John.  "Good night, ghosts!" and with a
swift assault of his lips upon the cheeks of either, he gently impelled
them toward the door.

"Good night, your Excellency!" giggled Tayna.

"Good night, my counselors," responded Hampstead, reaching for his book.

An hour later Hampstead was still reading.  Another hour later he was
still reading.  But something like a quarter of an hour beyond that,
when it might have been, say, near half-past eleven, he was not reading.
He was turning his head strangely from side to side and digging a
knuckle into his eyes.  A surprising thing had happened.  He could no
longer see the lines upon the page—nor the page itself—nor the book—nor
anything!

His first impression was that the gas had gone out; but this swiftly
gave way to the conviction that he had gone blind—stone blind!—and so
suddenly that it happened right between the beheading of one of the
queens of Henry the Eighth and the marrying of another.  He was now
tardily conscious that for some time his eyes had been giving him pain,
that he had rubbed them periodically to clear away white opacities that
appeared upon the page; but now there was no pain; they were suffused
with moisture, and the room was dark.

After an interval he could make out the gaslight glowing feebly like the
tiny glare of a candle visible in some distant pit of darkness, but he
could discern no shapes about the room.  Not one!

A horrible fear stole into his breast and chilled it. All of him had
suddenly come to naught, and just as he was getting started.  He turned
futile, streaming orbs up to where his new-made motto should loom upon
the wall.  It was there, of course, mocking at him now; but he could not
see it.  He could not see the wall even. For fully five minutes he sat
in darkness, his hands clasped above his bowed head.  Then he arose and
groped his way along the wall to the door and opened it, and stood
facing out into the grotesque dark of the studio.  He thought of trying
to grope his way across it—of calling out—but decided to wait a few
minutes.

He felt stricken, broken, overwhelmed.  His life, his career, himself
were ruined.  He required time to get used to the sensation, time to
adjust his mind to the extent of the calamity and to gather some
elements of fortitude wherewith to face the world.  Not even Rose must
see him broken and shattered as he felt right now.

Turning back, he closed the door, felt his way to the gas, and turned it
off.  He had no need of gas now. Then he lay down, fully clothed, upon
the bed, with a cold cloth upon his eyes, thinking flightily and feeling
very sorry for himself.



                             *CHAPTER III*

                       *WHEN THE DARK WENT AWAY*


    +−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−+
    |              513               |
    |   General Freight Department   |
    |    CALIFORNIA CONSOLIDATED     |
    |        RAILWAY COMPANY         |
    |        ROBERT MITCHELL,        |
    |    General Freight Agent.      |
    |           Walk in!             |
    +−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−+


This was the sign on the door that John Hampstead had opened every
morning for seven years.  This morning he did not open it, and there was
something like consternation when as late as nine-thirty the chair of
the big, amiable, stenographic drudge was still vacant.  Old Heitmuller,
the chief clerk, after swearing his way helplessly from one point of the
compass to another, was about to dispatch the office boy to Hampstead’s
residence.

Inside, and unaware of all this pother, sat the General Freight Agent.
Big of body, with the topography of his father’s heath upon his wide
face, soft in the heart and hard in the head, Robert Mitchell was a man
of no airs.  His origin was probably shanty Irish, and he didn’t care
who suspected it.  By painful labor, a ready smile, a hearty laugh, a
square deal to his company and as square a deal to the public as he
could give—"consistently"—he had got to his present modest eminence.  He
was going higher and was not particular who suspected that either; but
was not boastful, had the respect of all men who knew him well, and the
affection of those who knew him intimately.

He sat just now in a thoroughly characteristic pose, with the stubby
fingers of one fat hand thoughtfully teasing a wisp of reddish brown
hair, while his shrewd blue eyes were screwing at the exact significance
of the top letter on a pile before him.

Over in a corner was Mitchell’s guest and vast superior, Malden H. Hale,
the president of the twelve thousand miles of shining steel which made
up the Great South-western Railway System, in which Mitchell’s little
road nestled like a rabbit in the maw of a python.  Mr. Hale was signing
some letters dictated yesterday to John, finding them paragraphed and
punctuated to his complete satisfaction, with here and there a word
better than his own looming up in the context.  For a time there was no
sound save the scratching of his pen and the fillip of the sheets as he
turned them over.  Then he chuckled softly, and presently spoke.

"Bob," he said, "that’s an odd genius, that stenographer out there."

"Yes," replied Mr. Mitchell absently, without looking up from his work,
and then suddenly he stabbed the atmosphere with a significant rising
inflection: "Genius?"

"Well, yes," affirmed Mr. Hale.  "Genius!  He impresses you first as
absurdly incompetent, but his workmanship is really superior, and later
you get a suggestion of something back of him, something buried that
might come out, you know."

"I used to think so," the General Freight Agent replied, with a tone
which indicated loss of interest in the subject, but being tardily
overtaken in his reading by a sense that he had not quite done justice
to the big stenographer, he broke the silence to add: "He is a fine
character.  He has very high thoughts,"—vacancy was in his eye for a
moment,—"so high they’re cloudy."

And that was all.  Mr. Hale made no further comment. Mr. Mitchell, a
just man, was satisfied that he had done justice.  Thus in the minds of
two arbiters of the destinies of many men, John Hampstead, loyal,
laborious, who had served faithfully for seven years, was lifted for a
moment until the sun of prospect flashed upon him,—lifted and then
dropped.  And they did not even know that nature, too, had dropped
him,—that he was blind.

But just then a privileged person knocked and entered without waiting
for an invitation.  The newcomer was Doctor Gallagher, the "Company"
oculist, his fine, dark eyes aglow with sympathy and importance.

"That boy Hampstead," he began abruptly, "is in bad shape."

"Hampstead!" ejaculated Mr. Mitchell antagonistically, as if it were
impossible that lumbering mass of bone and muscle could ever be in bad
shape.

"Yes," affirmed the physician, with the air of one who announces a
sensation, "he’s likely to go blind!"

"No!" ejaculated Mr. Mitchell, in still more emphatic tones of
disbelief, though his blue eyes opened wide and grew round with shock
and sympathetic apprehension.

"Yes," explained Doctor Gallagher volubly.  "Continual transcription,
the sweep of the eye from the notebook page to the machine and back,
year in and year out, for so long, has broken down the muscular system
of the eye.  He had a blind spell last night.  He can see all right this
morning.  But to let him go to work would be criminal.  I have him in
the Company Hospital for two weeks of absolute rest, and then he will be
all right. But the typewriter, never again!  You can put him on the
outside to solicit freight, or something like that."

A broad grin overspread the features of the General Freight Agent.  "You
don’t know John," he said. "That boy would die of nervousness the first
day out. He’s afraid of people.  Besides," went on Mitchell, "we
couldn’t get along without him.  He knows too much that nobody else
knows."

"Well, anyway, never again the typewriter!" commanded the doctor from
the door, getting out quickly and hurrying away with the consciousness
of duty extremely well performed.  He knew that he had exaggerated the
extent of John’s eye-trouble; but he believed that it was necessary to
exaggerate it, both to Hampstead and to Mr. Mitchell.

In his darkened room at the hospital, John was feeling somehow suddenly
honored of destiny.  People were thinking, talking, caring about him.
There was exaltation just in that.  But also he was fuming.  He wasn’t
ill.  He was simply confined.  He could not read.  He could not write.
He could do nothing but sit in a darkened room according to
prescription, and wait.  But on the third day Doctor Gallagher said:

"As soon as it is dusk, you may go out for a swift walk.  That’s to get
exercise.  Keep off the main streets; keep away from bright lights, do
not try to read signs, to recognize people, or in fact to look at
anything closely."

John leaped eagerly at this permission, but there was design in his
devotion to the new prescription of which the doctor knew nothing.  On
the fifth day of his confinement, Tayna and Dick, who had been coming
every afternoon to sit for an hour in the semi-darkness with their
uncle, surprised the interned one doing odd contortions in the depths of
his room: twisting his wrists; standing on one foot like a stork and
twirling his great heel and toe from the knee in some eccentric
imitation of a ballet dancer; then creeping to and fro across the room
in a silly series of bowings and scrapings and salutings that threw Dick
into irrepressible laughter.  Caught shamefacedly in the very midst of
these absurdities, John confessed to the two of them what he would at
the moment have confessed to no other living being—last of all to
Bessie.

"I am taking lessons," he said, "from an actor.  He is going to make me
easy and graceful, so people won’t call me awkward any more—nor homely,"
and he looked significantly at Tayna.

"Oh," the children both gasped respectfully, and repeated with a kind of
awe in their voices: "From an actor!"

"Yes.  Every evening the doctor lets me go for a walk. On every other
one of these walks I go to the actor’s hotel, and he teaches me."

"Awh!  An actor-r-r!" breathed Dick again, his features depicting
profoundness both of impression and speculation.

"Say!" he proposed presently.  "I would rather you would be an actor
than a president, anyway."

John laughed.  "I am not going to be an actor," he said, "I am only
going to be polished till I shine like a human diamond."  And then he
devoted himself to the entertainment of his callers.

"Remember!  Never again the typewriter!" the physician adjured sternly,
when the fortnight of John’s captivity was done.  For although conveying
this verdict immediately to Mitchell, the doctor had postponed its
announcement to his patient till his discharge from the hospital.  John
was stunned.  The typewriter was his bread.  At first he rebelled, but
with a rush like the swirl of waters over his head, the memory of that
night when he was blind for an hour came to him and humbled him.

With the trembling courage of a coward, he opened the door of room 513;
saw with sickening heart the strange face at his desk, shook the flabby
hand of Heitmuller, and inwardly braced himself to enter for the last
time between the double doors, where presently he confessed his plight
as if it had been a crime.

"You don’t imagine we would let you go, do you?" Mr. Mitchell asked,
while an expression of amazement grew upon his face till it became a
laugh.  "Why, Jack"—Mr. Mitchell had never called him Jack before—"we
should have to pay you a salary just to stick around and keep the rest
of us straight."

The stenographer gulped.  It was not the first note of praise he had
ever received from this kindly railroad man, but it was the first time
Mr. Mitchell or any one else in that whole office had ever acknowledged
to John that he was valuable for what he knew as well as for what he
beat out of his finger-tips.

"You are going to be my private secretary," explained Mr. Mitchell,
still chuckling at the simplicity of John. "I have few letters to write,
and you know enough to do most of them without dictation.  You keep me
reminded of things; handle my telephone calls and appointments.
Gallagher says your eyes will probably give you no trouble whatever
under these conditions.  The salary will be fifteen dollars more a
month."

The big awkward man was too confusedly grateful and overwhelmed even to
attempt to murmur his thanks. Instead, he did a thing of unheard-of
boldness.  He reached over and touched the General Freight Agent on the
arm,—just stabbed him in the upper, fleshy part of the arm with a thrust
of his stiff fingers, accompanying the act with a monosyllabic croak.
It was a clumsy touch, and it was presuming; but to a man of
understanding, it was eloquent.

After one month in this new position, John found himself seeing the
transportation business through new glasses.  He had passed from details
to principles, and the change stimulated his mind enormously.

One of his new duties now was to sit at the General Freight Agent’s
elbow in conferences, and later to make summaries of the arguments pro
and con.  In transcribing Mr. Mitchell’s part of these talks, it
interested John to elaborate a little.  Soon he ventured to make the
General Freight Agent’s points stronger when he felt it could be done,
and then waited, after laying the transcript on the big man’s desk, for
some word of reproof.  Reproof did not come, and yet John thought the
changes must be noticed.

But one day H. B. Anderson, Assistant General Freight Agent of the San
Francisco and El Paso, a rival line, was in the office.

"Mitchell," Anderson began, "I am compelled to admit your argument reads
a blamed sight stronger than it sounded to me the other day."

At this the General Freight Agent laughed complacently.

"The point about the demurrage especially," went on Anderson.  "I didn’t
remember that somehow."

"Um," said the General Freight Agent in a puzzled way and picked up the
transcript of the argument.  As he scanned it, his face grew more
puzzled; then light broke. "Yes," he replied emphatically, "that’s the
strongest point, in my judgment."

"Well," confessed Anderson, "it knocks me out.  I am now agreeable to
your construction."

The private secretary listened from his little cubby-hole with mingled
exultation and apprehension.  When the visitor had gone, the General
Freight Agent walked in and tossed the transcript upon the secretary’s
table.  John looked up timidly.  The Mitchell brow was ridged and
thoughtful.

"Hampstead," he declared with an air of grave reluctance, "I guess I’ll
have to lose you, after all."

"What, sir," gasped John, guilty terror shaking him somewhere inside.

At the change in John’s face, Mitchell threw back his head and laughed;
one of those huge, hearty, bellowing laughs at his own humor, from which
he extracted so much enjoyment.

"Yes," he specified, "I am going to put you in the rate department.  You
have the making of a great railroad man in you.  What you need now is
the fundamentals. That’s where you get ’em.  Your brains are coming out,
John.  I always thought you had ’em,—but it certainly took you a long
time to get any of them into the show window."

"It was seven years before you let me get to the window at all,"
suggested John, meaning to be a little bit vengeful.

"Nobody’s fault but yours, my boy," said the G.F.A. brusquely, over his
shoulder.  "By the way," he remarked, turning back again, "you aren’t
afraid of people any more, either."

John flushed with pleasure.  This was really the most desirable
compliment Mitchell could bestow.

"I think I am getting a little more confidence in myself," the big man
confessed, glowing modestly.

This was what three months of Kenton and "old Delsarte", as the actor
called the great French apostle of intelligible anatomy, had done for
John.

But Kenton and "old Delsarte" were doing something else to John that was
vastly more serious, but of which Robert Mitchell received no hint until
nearly a year later, when the knowledge came to him suddenly with a
shock that jarred and almost disconcerted him.  It was somewhere about
noon of a day in February, and he had just touched the button for John
Hampstead, rate clerk. Instead of John, Heitmuller answered the summons,
laughing softly.

Now in the rate department John had made an amazing success.  In six
months gray-headed clerks were seeking his opinions earnestly.  At the
present moment he was in charge of all rates west of Ogden, Albuquerque,
and El Paso, and half the department took orders from him.

"John’s away at rehearsal," explained Heitmuller, still chuckling.

"At rehearsal?"

"Yes,—he’s going to play Ursus, the giant, in _Quo Vadis_, with Mowrey’s
Stock Company at the Burbank next week."

"The hell!" ejaculated the General Freight Agent, while a look of blank
astonishment came upon his usually placid features.  "When did that bug
bite him?"

"I can’t tell yet whether it’s a bite or only an itch," grinned
Heitmuller.  "For a while he was reciting at smokers and parties and
things, and then I heard he was teaching elocution at home nights.  Now
he’s got a small dramatic company and goes out around giving one-act
plays and scenes from Shakespeare.  Pretty good, too, they say!"

"Well, I be damned," Mitchell commented, when Heitmuller had finished.

"He’s only away from eleven-thirty to one-thirty," explained Heitmuller.
"He was so anxious and does so much more work than any two men that I
couldn’t refuse him."

"Of course not," assented Mitchell.

"Besides," added the chief clerk, "he might have gone, anyway.  John’s
getting a little headstrong, I’ve noticed, since he’s coming out so
fast."

"Naturally," observed Mitchell drily, after which he dismissed
Heitmuller and appeared to dismiss the subject by turning again to his
desk.



                              *CHAPTER IV*

                         *ADVENT AND ADVENTURE*


But the General Freight Agent took care that Mrs. Mitchell, Bessie, and
himself were in a box at the Burbank on the following Monday night, when
the curtain went up on the Mowrey Stock Company’s sumptuous production
of _Quo Vadis_, which for more than nine days was the talk of the town
in the city of angels, oranges, atmosphere, and oil.  The Mitchells
strained their eyes for a sight of their late-grown protégé, but it
appeared he was not "on."  However, in the midst of a garden scene with
Roman lords, ladies, soldiers in armor and slaves decking the view,
there appeared a huge barbarian, long of hair and beard, his torso bound
round with an immense bearskin, his sandals tied with thongs, his sinewy
limbs apparently unclad, savage bands of silver upon his massy, muscled
arms, the alpine ruggedness of his countenance and the light of a
fanatical devotion that gleamed in his eye contributing in their every
detail to make the creature appear the thing the programme proclaimed
him, "Ursus, a Christian Slave."

But the programme claimed something more: that this Ursus was John
Hampstead.

Mitchell gaped and then rocked uneasily.  The thing was unbelievable.
If the man would only speak, perhaps some tone of voice—but the man did
not speak, not even move.  He stood half in the background, far up the
center of the stage, while the talk and action of the piece went on
beneath his lofty brow, like some mountain towering above a lakelet in
which ripples sparkle and fish are leaping.  At length, however, stage
attention does center on Ursus, when the man enacting St. Peter, struck
by the nature-man’s appearance of gigantic strength, observes:

"Thou art strong, my son?"

The rugged human statue moved.  In a voice that was low at first but
broke quickly into reverberating tones which filled the theater to the
rafters, the answer came:

"Holy Father!  I can break iron like wood!"

As the speech was delivered, the eye of Ursus gleamed, the folded arms
unbent, and one mighty muscle flexed the forearm through a short but
significant arc, after which the figure resumed its pose of respectful
but impressive immobility.

In that single speech and gesture Hampstead had achieved a personal
success and keyed the play as plausible, for by it he had come to birth
before a theater-full as a character equal to the prodigious feats of
strength upon which the action turned.

"Go to the stable, Ursus!" commanded an authoritative voice.

The huge head of the hairy man, with its crown of long, wild locks was
inclined humbly, and with an odd, rolling stride suggestive of enormous
animal-like strength, he swung deliberately across the scene and out of
it.

Robert Mitchell, staring fixedly, suddenly nodded his head with
satisfaction.  At last, in that careening walk, he had seen something
that he recognized.  That was the walk of Hampstead; but now Mitchell
recalled it was long since he had seen that gait, long since he had
heard the office door reverberate from a bang of one of those hip
joints, long since the big man had made any conspicuous exhibition of
the physical awkwardness that once had been so characteristic.  And now?
Why now John was an actor.  Not Nero yonder, harp in hand, looked more
nearly like his part.  Hampstead had put on the pose, the voice, the
walk, as he had put on the bearskin and the beard.

"Isn’t he w-o-n-d-e-r-f-u-l?" breathed Bessie, with a little squeeze of
her father’s arm.

Mitchell laughed amiably and reached out for the curling lock upon his
brow which was his mainstay in time of mental shipwreck and began to
twist it, while he waited impatiently to see more of Ursus.

But the play appeared to have forgotten Ursus.  A great party was on in
the palace of Cæsar.  The stage was alive with lights and music, and
with the movements of many people—senators in togas, generals in armor,
women with jewels in their hair and golden bands upon their white,
gracefully swelling arms.  There was drinking and laughter and high
carousal.  In right center, Cæsar upon his throne was singing and
pretending to strike notes from a harp of pasteboard and gilt, notes
which in reality proceeded from the orchestra pit.  At lower left upon a
couch sat Lygia, the Christian maiden, beautiful beyond imagining and
being greatly annoyed by the love-makings of the half-intoxicated Roman
soldier, Vinicius, who had laid aside his helmet and his sword, and was
pleading with the lovely but embarrassed girl, at first upon his knees,
then standing, with one knee upon the couch, while he trailed his
fingers luxuriously through the glossy blackness of her hair.

As the love-making proceeded, Lygia’s apprehension grew.  When Vinicius
pressed her tresses to his lips, she shrank from him.  When, after
another cup of wine and just as the whole court was in raptures over the
conclusion of Cæsar’s song, Vinicius attempted to place his kisses yet
more daringly, Lygia started up with a cry of terror.  Instantly there
sounded from the wings a bellowing roar of rage, and like a flying fury,
the wild, hairy figure of Ursus came bounding upon the scene.

Seizing Vinicius by the shoulders, Ursus shook him till all his harness
rattled, then hurled him up stage and crashing to the floor.  Lygia was
swaying dizzily as if about to faint, but with another leap Ursus had
gained her side and swung her into his arms, after which he turned and
went hurdling across the stage, running in long, springing strides as
lightly as a deer, the fair, delicious form of the girl balanced
buoyantly on his arms, while her dark hair streamed out and downward
over his shoulder—all of this to the complete consternation of the
half-drunken Court of Cæsar and the vast and tumultuously expressed
delight of the audience, which kept the curtain frisking up and down
repeatedly over this climactic conclusion of the second act, while the
principals posed and bowed and posed again and bowed again, to the
audience, to themselves, and to the scenery.  Robert Mitchell even
supposed that Ursus was bowing to him, so being naturally polite and
somewhat beside himself, the General Freight Agent was on the point of
bowing back again when Bessie screamed:

"Oh!  Oh!  He bowed directly at me."

By this time, however, the curtain had recovered from its frenzy and
stayed soberly down while the lights came up so the people could read
the advertisements on the front.  Immediately the tongues of the
audience were all a-buzz, and industriously passing up and down the
lines of the seats was the information that John Hampstead was a local
character.  "Oh, yes, indeed,—instructor in public speaking at the Young
Men’s Christian Association."

In due course, this piece of interesting information reached the
Mitchells in their box.

"I knew it all along," gurgled Bessie proudly.

"I begin to be jealous," announced Mrs. Mitchell, broad of face,
expansive of heart, aggressive of disposition. "I want all these people
to know that Ursus is our rate clerk."

"And I want them to know," said Mr. Mitchell, by way of venting his
disapproval, "that he is spoiling a mighty good rate clerk to make a
mighty poor actor."

"But," pouted the loyal Bessie, "he is not a poor actor. He’s a
w-o-n-d-e-r-f-u-l actor!  You are spoiling the plain truth to make a
poor epigram.  You," and she looked up pertly at her father, "you are
just a bunch of sour grapes!  You kept my poor Jack’s nose on the
grindstone so long that he broke out in a new place, and now you are
afraid you’ll lose him."

"Your poor Jack!" sneered Mrs. Mitchell merrily.

"Yes—mine!" answered Bessie stoutly.  "I always told you Jack Hampstead
was a great man in disguise. I saw him first—before he saw himself,
almost.  I’m going to be his friend for always and for always.  Oh, look
there!"

The curtain had gone up on an odd, out-of-the-way corner of the imperial
city.  There had been some colloquy over the gate of a small close,
participated in by the vibrant voice of an unseen Ursus and the calmer
one of a visible St. Peter, after which the gate opened and Ursus
entered, bearing the still fainting form of Lygia in his arms; giving,
of course, the desired impression that this fair figure of a woman had
been nestling on his great bosom ever since the curtain went down some
twelve minutes before, an inference that led some of the clerks in the
General Freight Office and other persons scattered through the audience,
to envy John.  This presumption, however, was some distance from the
truth.  As a matter of fact, Lygia had but recently resumed her position
in the arms of Ursus, while two stage hands, lying prone, had plucked
open the gate; and various happenings quite unsuspected of the audience
had intervened, at least one of which had been a severe shock to the
Puritan nature of John Hampstead.

However, there was the dramatic impression already referred to, and it
ate its way like acid into the consciousness of at least one person in
the playhouse.

Ursus, after looking about him for a moment in the little yard of the
Christian’s house to make sure he was entirely surrounded by friends,
drew his fair burden closer and, as if by a protective instinct, bent
over it with a look of tenderness so long and concentrated that his
flaxen beard toyed with the white cheek, and his flaxen locks gleamed
for a moment amid the raven ones.

"Well," commented Bessie, in a tone that mingled sharp annoyance with
that judicially critical note which is the right of all high-school
girls in their last year, "I do not see any dramatic necessity for
prolonging this. Why doesn’t he stick her face under the fountain there
for a moment and then lay her on the grass?"

Mercifully, Bessie was not compelled to contain her annoyance too long.
Ursus did eventually relinquish his hold upon the lady, and the piece
moved on from scene to scene to the final holocaust of Rome.

With the news instinct breaking out above the critical, the dramatic
columns of the morning papers gave the major stickful of type to the
performance of that histrionic athlete, John Hampstead, forgetting to
mention his connection with the Y.M.C.A., but making clear that in
daylight he was a highly respected member of the staff of Robert
Mitchell, the well-known railroad man.

But to John, the process of conversion from rate clerk to actor had been
even more exciting than the demonstration of the fact proved to his
friends.

To begin with, it was an experience quite unforgettable to the chairman
of the Prayer Meeting Committee of the Christian Endeavor Society of the
grand old First Church when for the first time he found himself upon the
stage of the Burbank at rehearsal time, with twenty-five or thirty real
actors and actresses about him.  He looked them over curiously, with a
puritanic instinct for moral appraisal, as they stood, lounged, sat,
gossiped, smoked, laughed or did several of these things at once; yet
all keeping a wary eye and ear for the two men who sat at the little
table in the center of the bare, empty stage with their heads together
over a manuscript.

"Just about like other people," confessed Hampstead to himself, with
something of disappointment.

There were some tailor suited women, there were some smartly dressed
young men, there were some very nice girls, not more than a whit
different in look and manner from the typists in the general office.
There were two or three gray-haired men who, so far as appearance and
demeanor went, might have served as deacons of the First Church.  There
were a couple of dignified, matronly-looking elderly ladies with
fancy-work or mending in their laps, as they swayed to and fro in the
wicker rockers that were a part of the furnishings for Act II of the
play then running.  These two ladies, so far as John could see, might
have been respectively President of the Ladies’ Aid and of the Woman’s
Missionary Society, instead of what they were, "character old women," as
he later learned.

Totaling his impressions, Mowrey’s Stock Company seemed like a large
exclusive family in which he was suffered but not seen.  Nobody
introduced him to anybody.  Mowrey merely threw him a glance, and that
was not of recognition but of observation that he was present.

"First act!" snapped the manager, with a voice as sharp as the clatter
of the ruler with which he rapped upon the table.  Stepping forward,
prompt book in one hand, ruler in the other for a pointer, he began to
outline the scene upon the bare stage:

"This chair is a tree—that stage brace is a bench—this box is a rock,"
and so forth.

The rehearsal had begun.  It moved swiftly, for Mowrey was a man with
snap to him.  His words were quick, nervous, few—until angry.  His
glance was imperative.  It was all business, hot, relentless pressure of
human beings into moulds, like hammering damp sand in a foundry.

"Go there!  Stand here!  Laugh!  Weep!  Look pleased!  Feign
intoxication!"  Each short word was a blow of Mowrey’s upon the wet
human sand.

John’s name was never mentioned.  Mowrey called him by the name of his
part, Ursus.  Ursus was "on" in the first act, but with nothing to do,
and his eyes were wide with watching.  One woman in particular attracted
him.  She was tall and shapely, clad in a close-fitting tailored suit,
with hat and veil that seemed to match both her garments and herself.
She moved through her part with a kind of distinguished nonchalance, her
veil half raised, and a vagrant fold of it flicking daringly at a rosy
spot on her cheek when she turned suddenly; while in her gloved hands
she held a short pencil with which, from time to time, additional stage
directions were noted upon the pages of her part.  This accomplished and
really beautiful young actress was Miss Marien Dounay, one of the two
leading women of the company.

Hampstead was inexperienced of women.  He confessed it now to himself.
But this was to be the day of his opportunity, and he felt the blood of
adventure leaping in his veins.  In his consciousness, too, floated
little arrows like indicators, and as if by common agreement, they
pointed their heads toward Miss Dounay.

If it were she now who played Lygia?  Yes; it was she.  They were
calling her Lygia.  Hampstead smiled to himself.  Presently he chuckled
softly, and the chuckle appeared to loose a small avalanche of new-born
emotions that leaped and jumbled somewhere inside.

But the first encounter was disappointing.  Miss Dounay seized him by
the arm, without a glance,—her eyes being fixed on Mowrey,—and led the
big man out of the scene exactly as if he had been a wooden Indian on
rollers.

"Now," she said, "you have just carried me off."  Her voice had
wonderful tones in it, tones that started more avalanches inside; but
she appeared as unconscious of the tones and their effect as of him.
She was making another note in her part.

"Better practice that ’carry off stage’ before we try it at rehearsal,"
called the sharp voice of Mowrey.  His eyes and his remark were
addressed to Miss Dounay. Miss Dounay nodded.

"Shall we?" she said, and looked straight at Hampstead, giving him his
first glance into self-confident eyes which were clear, brownish-black,
with liquescent, unsounded depths.  In form it was a question she had
asked; in effect it was a command from a very cool and business-like
young person.

"I presume we had better," said John, affecting a foolish little laugh,
which did not, however, get very far because the earnest air of Miss
Dounay was inhospitable to levity.

"See here!" she instructed.  "I throw up my arms in a faint.  My left
arm falls across your right shoulder. At the same time I give a little
spring with my right leg, and I throw up my left leg like this.  At the
same instant you throw your right arm under my shoulders, your left arm
gathers my legs; I will hold ’em stiff.  There!"

Miss Dounay’s arm was on John’s shoulder, and she was preparing to suit
the rest; of her action to her words. "Without any effort to lift me,"
she continued, talking now into his ear, "I will be extended in your
arms.  All you have to do is to be taking your running stride as I come
to you, and after that to hold me poised while you bound off the stage.
Can you do it?"

With this crisp, challenging question on her lips, Miss Dounay completed
the proposed manoeuvre of her lower limbs, and John found himself with
the long, exquisitely moulded body of a beautiful woman balancing in his
arms, while a foolish quiver passed over him and shook him till he
actually trembled.

[Illustration: A foolish quiver passed over him and shook him till he
actually trembled.]

"Am I so heavy?" asked a matter-of-fact voice from his shoulder.

"You are not heavy at all," replied Hampstead, hotly provoked at
himself.

"Run, then," she commanded.

The resultant effort was a few staggering, ungraceful steps.

"Dounay weighs a hundred and fifty if she weighs an ounce," said a
passing voice.

John, all chagrin as he deposited the lady upon her feet, saw her lip
curl, and her dark eyes flash scornfully at the leading juvenile man
who, with grimacing intent to tease, had made the remark to the ingenue
as both passed near.

"Insolence!" hissed Miss Dounay after the scoffer, and turned again to
Hampstead, speaking sharply. "Very bad!  You must be in your running
stride when my weight falls on you.  We must practice."

And practice they did, at every spare moment of the rehearsal during the
entire week.  From these "practices", Hampstead learned an unusual
number of things about women which, in his limited experience, he had
either not known or which had not been brought home to him before.  Some
of these he presumed applied generally to all women; others, he had no
doubt, were particular to Miss Dounay.

As, for instance, when he looked down at her face where it lay in the
curve of his arm, he saw that the oval outline of her cheeks was
startlingly perfect; that there were pools of liquid fire in her eyes;
that her lips were beautifully and naturally red; that they were long,
pliable, sensitive, with fleeting curves that raced like ripples upon
these shores of velvet and ruby, expressing as they ran an infinite
variety of passing moods.  The chin, too, came in for a great deal of
this attention.  It was round and smooth at the corners, with a
delicately chiseled vertical cleft in it, which at times ran up and met
a horizontal cleft that appeared beneath the lower lip, when any slight
breath of displeasure brought a pout to that ruby, pendant lobe.  This
meeting-place of the two clefts formed a kind of transitory dimple, a
trysting-place of all sorts of fugitive attractions which exercised a
singular fascination for the big man.

He used to wonder what the sensation would be like to sink his lips in
that precious, delectable valley.  It would have been physically simple.
A slight lifting of his right arm and shoulder, a slight declension of
his neck, and the mere instinctive planting of his lips, and the thing
was done.  However, John had no thought of doing this.  In the first
place he wouldn’t—without permission; for he was a man of honor and of
self-control. In the second place, he wouldn’t because a woman was a
thing very sacred to him, and a kiss, a deliberate and flesh-tingling
kiss, was a caress to be held as sacred as the woman herself and for the
expression of an emotion he had not yet felt for any woman; a statement
which to the half-cynical might prove again that John Hampstead was a
very inexperienced and very monk-minded youth indeed to be abroad in the
unromanticism of this twentieth century.  Yet the fact remains that
Hampstead did not consciously conspire to violate the neutrality of this
tiny, alluring haunt of tantalizing beauty which lurked bewitchingly
between the red lower lip and the white firm chin of Miss Marien Dounay.

But there were other things that John was learning swiftly, some of
which amounted to positive disillusionment. One was that a woman’s body
is not necessarily so sacred nor so inviolate, after all.  That instead
of inviolate, it may be made inviolable by a sort of desexing at will.
Miss Dounay could do this and did do it, so that for instance when her
form stiffened in his arms, it was no more like what he supposed the
touch of a woman’s body should be than a post.  In the first place the
body itself, beneath that trim, tailored suit, appeared to be sheathed
in steel from the shoulder almost to the knee.  John had supposed that
corsets were to confine the waist.  This one, if that were what it was
and not some sort of armor put on for these rehearsals, encased the
whole body.

Another thing that contributed to this desexing of the female person was
Miss Dounay’s bearing toward himself.  He might have been a mere
mechanical device for any regard she showed him at rehearsals.  She
pushed or pulled him about, commanded the bend and adjustment of his
arms as if he had been an artificial man, and never by any hint
indicated that she thought of him as a person, least of all as a male
person.  Undoubtedly this robbed his new adventure of some of its spice.
But a change came.  When for five days John was undecided whether he
should admire this manner of hers as supreme artistic abstraction or
resent it as supercilious disdain, Margaret O’Neil, one of the character
old ladies who had constituted herself a combination of critic and
chaperone of these "carry" practices, turned, after a word with Miss
Dounay, and said:

"We should like to know who it is that is carrying us about."

"Why, certainly," exclaimed John, all his doubt disappearing in a
toothful smile as he swept off his hat. "My name is Hampstead, John
Hampstead."

"Miss Dounay, allow me to present Mr. Hampstead," said Miss O’Neil,
without the moulting of an eyelash.

Miss Dounay extended her hand cordially for a lofty, English handshake,
accompanied by an agreeable smile and a chuckling laugh, understood by
John to be in recognition of the oddness of the situation.

After this, things were somewhat different.  There was less sense of
strain on his part, and he began to realize that there had been some
strain upon hers which now was relaxed.  Her body was less post-like;
and toward the end of rehearsal, when possibly she was a little tired,
it lay in his arms quite placidly, relaxing until its curves yielded and
conformed to the muscular lines of his own torso.

Yet Miss Dounay never betrayed the slightest self-consciousness at such
moments.  Whatever the woman as woman might be, she was, as an actress,
so absolutely devoted to the creation of the character she was
rehearsing, so painstakingly careful to reproduce in every detail of
tone and action the true impression of a pure-minded, Christian maiden
that Hampstead, with his firm religious backgrounding, unhesitatingly
imputed to the woman herself all the virtues of the chaste and
incomparable Lygia.

When dress-rehearsal time came at midnight on Sunday, just after the
regular performance had been concluded, and John saw Miss Dounay for the
first time in the dress of the character, his soul was enraptured.  The
simple folds of her Grecian robe were furled at the waist and then swept
downward in one billowy leap, unrelieved in their impressive whiteness
by any touch of color, save that afforded by the jet-bright eyes with
their assumed worshipful look and the wide, flowing stream of her dark,
luxuriant hair, which, loosely bound at the neck, waved downward to her
hips.  The devout curve of her alabaster neck, the gleaming shoulders,
the full, tapering, ivory arms, her sandaled bare feet—yes, John looked
close to make sure, and they were actually bare—rounded out the picture.

Marien Dounay stood forth more like an angel vision than a woman, at
once so beautiful and so adorable that big, sincere, open-eyed John
Hampstead worshipped her where she stood—worshipped her and loved her—as
a man should love an angel.  Yet as he looked, he was almost guiltily
conscious that he knew a secret about this angelic vision,—that this
chiseled flesh with rounded, shapely contours that would be the despair
of any sculptor was not as marble-like as it looked, was, indeed, soft
to the touch and warm, radiant and magnetic.

And John, blissfully aglow with his spiritual ardor, had no faint
suspicion that his secret might kill his illusion dead, nor that his
devotion would survive that decease, although something very like this
happened on the night of the first performance.

The great second act was on.  Things were not going as smoothly as they
appeared to from the front.  Even the inexperienced Hampstead, as he
waited for his cue, could see that his angel was being enormously vexed
by the manner in which Vinicius made love.  Henry Lester was a brilliant
actor, but flighty and erratic. During rehearsal Mowrey had much trouble
in getting him to memorize accurately the business of his part.  He
would do one thing one way to-day and forget it or reverse it on the
next.  To-night Lester was committing all these histrionic crimes.  Miss
Dounay had continually to adapt herself to his impulsive erraticisms, to
shift speeches and alter business.  The climax of exasperation came when
one of the wide metal circlets upon his arm became entangled in the
gossamer threads of Lygia’s hair and pulled it painfully.  Yet the
actress was sufficiently accomplished to play her own part
irreproachably and deliver John’s cue at the right moment to secure the
startling entrance already described, and thus to be gracefully and
dramatically swept away from the rude advances of her importunate lover.

It was at the end of this particular scene and off stage, when the
curtain was descending to the accompaniment of applause from the
audience, that the death of John’s illusion came.  For a delicious
instant, he was still holding Lygia from the floor as if instinctively
sheltering her amidst the general confusion of crowding actors and
hurrying stage hands.  Nothing loth, she lay at rest, with eyes closed
and features composed as if in the faint.  To the raw, impressionable
young man, Marien had never looked so much an angel as at this moment;
and now she was coming to, as if still in character.  Her eyelids
fluttered but did not open, and then her lips moved slightly, stiffly,
under their load of greasy carmine, as if she would speak.  In
self-forgetful ecstasy, Hampstead bent eagerly to receive the
confidence.  Perhaps she was going to thank him, to whisper a word of
congratulation. Whatever the communication might be, his soul was in
raptures of delightful anticipation as he felt her breath upon his
cheek.

The communication was made promptly and unhesitatingly, after which Miss
Dounay alertly swung her feet to the floor and walked out upon the stage
to receive her curtain call, leading Ursus by the hand, mentally dazed,
inwardly wabbling, outwardly bowing,—trying, in fact, to do just as the
others did.  But in John’s mind now there was this numbing sense of
shock, for he could not refuse to believe his ears, and what this
angelic vision had breathed into them in tones of cool, emphatic
conviction, was:

"What a damn fool that man Lester is!"

Off the stage again Hampstead stumbled about amid flying scenery, racing
stage hands, and a surging mass of supernumeraries, like a man
recovering consciousness.  He wanted to get out of sight somewhere.  He
had the feeling of having been stripped naked.  Every vestige of his
religious adoration had been dynamited out of existence. This was no
Christian maiden but an actress playing a part.  As for the woman
herself, she was very blasé and very modern, who, at this moment, as he
could see by a glance into the open door of her dressing room, was
sitting with crossed knees, head back and enveloped in a halo of smoke,
while her pretty lips were distended in a yawn, and the spark of a
cigarette glowed in her finger tips.

"And I am another!" Hampstead muttered, with a sneer that was aimed
inward.

Seven minutes later, Lygia walked out of her dressing room minus the
cigarette and looking again that angel vision, but Hampstead knew better
now.  He viewed her at first critically and then reflectively; but was
presently startled at the gist of his reflections, which was a sort of
self-congratulation because this creature that he was about to take in
his arms was not an angel, but that more alluring, less elusive thing, a
woman.

Two more minutes and the pair of stage hands were stretched stomach-wise
upon the floor ready to swing open the wings of the gate at the cue from
St. Peter, and Lygia was lying once more in John’s arms.  In the instant
of waiting before the curtain rose, he had time to notice how
contentedly and trustfully she appeared to nestle there.  Her breathing
was like his at first, easy and natural; but gradually, as the moment of
suspense lengthened and the instant of action drew near, the rhythmic
pulse of both bosoms accelerated, as if, heart on heart, their souls
beat in unison.  John was noticing, too, how soft Marien’s body was
where the armor did not extend, how deliciously warm it was, indeed how
something like an ethereal heat radiated from it and filled all his
veins with a strange, electric, impulsive wistfulness.  What was that
giddy perfume?

Involuntarily he drew her closer, with a gentle, steady pressure.  At
this she raised her eyelids and gazed at him for a moment,
contemplatively first and then passively curious, after which she
lowered the lids again, while her lips half parted in a voiceless sigh.

So far as Hampstead was concerned, illusion had gone. He knew that he
was just a man.  So far as Miss Dounay was concerned, he suspected that
she was just a woman. But devotion remained.  John did not relax his
hold. Instead there was a momentary tightening of his arms.

"Let ’er go," called the low, tense voice of Mowrey; and with a rustling
sound the great curtain slipped slowly upward.



                              *CHAPTER V*

                            *THE RATE CLERK*


The week went by like a shot.  On Sunday night the glory that was a very
stagy Rome burned down for the last time beneath the gridiron of the old
Burbank Theater. On Monday morning no odor of grease paint and no
noxious smell of stewing glue, which proclaims the scene painter at his
work, was in the nostrils of John.  Instead, the clack of typewriters,
the tinkle of telephone bells, the droning voices of dictators, and the
shuffling feet of office boys filled his ears.

As if to completely re-merge the man in his environment, Robert Mitchell
came walking in, tossed a bundle of papers upon the desk, fixed the rate
clerk with a shaft of his blue eye, and commanded drily:

"Ursus!  Make a set of tariffs embracing our new lines to correspond
with the commodity tariffs of the San Francisco and El Paso."

John colored slightly at the thrust of that name Ursus, but looked Mr.
Mitchell fairly and meekly in the eye and answered:

"Yes, sir."

"Have them effective July 1st," concluded the General Freight Agent, as
he turned away.

Burman, the lordly through rate clerk, lowered his sleek face behind his
books and snickered.  John shot a scowl at Burman and then for a few
minutes hunched his shoulders over the documents in the case.

The California Consolidated was being consolidated some more.  Two more
roads in the big system had just been pitchforked into the jurisdiction
of Robert Mitchell, adding twelve hundred additional miles to his
responsibility and pushing him several swift rounds up the ladder of
promotion.

These additions made the California Consolidated competitive with the
San Francisco and El Paso lines at hundreds of new stations.  John’s job
was to consolidate the freight tariffs of the three lines and make sure
that they equalized the rates of the competitor at competing stations.
It was an enormous task, and the General Freight Agent had breezily
commanded it to be done in ten weeks.  That was why Burman snickered.
It was also why Hampstead scowled.

Now a freight tariff starts youthfully out to be the most scientific
thing in the world, but it ends by being the most utterly unscientific
document that ever was put together.  The longer a tariff lives, the
more depraved it becomes.  The S.F. & E.P. tariffs were very old, but
not, therefore, honorable.

John turned to the shelf that contained them and scowled again, a double
scowl, as black as his blond Viking brows could manage.  These were to
be his models.  They were yellow—a disagreeable color to begin
with,—each a half inch thick and larger than a letter page,—abortions,
every one of them!  They were pea-vine growths like the monster system
which issued them, cumbered with the adjustments and easements of the
years.

The flour tariff!  The hay tariff!  The grain tariff! John took these in
his hands one by one and glowered at them.  The mistakes, the
inconsistencies, the clumsiness of thirty sprawling years were in them.
And he was asked to duplicate these confusions on his own system.

Should he do it?  No; be hanged if he would!  He felt big and
self-important as he slammed the first of them face down upon his desk
and each thereafter in succession upon its fellow, until the pile
toppled over, after which, leaving the reckless heap behind him, while
Burman snickered again, John stamped out of the room.

"These S.F. & E.P. tariffs are so old they’ve got whiskers on ’em," he
began to say to Mr. Mitchell, "and hairs!  And the hair has never been
cut nor even combed. They have been tagged and fattened and trimmed and
sliced and slewed round till the tariff is issued just to keep up the
basis and the tradition, and then you look in something else,—an
amendment, or a special, or a ’private special’, or sometimes the carbon
copy of a letter,—to find out what the rate actually is.  Sometimes when
I call their office up on the ’phone to get a rate, it takes ’em
twenty-four hours to answer, and maybe a week later they notify me the
answer was wrong.  Our slate is clean; why not simmer the figures down
to what is the actual basis instead of the assumed one, and publish the
rates as we intend to charge ’em, and as we know they do charge ’em?"

Mitchell had listened with surprise at first to this rash proposal.  It
sounded youthful and impetuous.  But it also sounded sensible.  Mitchell
hated red tape, and he knew that John’s idea was the right one; but
tradition was god on the S.F. & E.P.  They would fight the innovation
and fight it hard; they might win, too, and Mr. Mitchell had no stomach
for tilting at windmills. However, it might be a good thing for John,
this fight; might make him forget that foolish stage ambition of his;
and if he won, might crown him so lustrously that of itself it would
save him to a future already assuredly brilliant in the railroad
business.

"Do you think you could whip it out with ’em before their faces, John,
when the scrap comes?" Mr. Mitchell asked tentatively, but also by way
of further firing the soul of the fighter.

"I believe I could," replied John ardently.

"Then go to it," said Mr. Mitchell tersely.

And John went to it.

But there was another man who had been shocked by John’s theatrical
venture, and that was the pastor of the First Church, who had his
virtues, much as other men. His face was round and like his figure, full
of fatness. He was a merry soul and loved a joke.  He had a heart as
tender as his sense of humor was keen.

But beside his virtues, this man of God had also his convictions.  His
pulpit was no wash-wallowing craft. He steered her straight.  To Heaven
with Scylla!  To Gehenna with Charybdis!  Indeed, if there was one man
in all Los Angeles who knew where he was going and all the rest of the
world too, it was this same Charles Thompson Campbell, pastor of the
aforesaid grand old First Church.  Doctor Campbell’s hair and eyes were
black. His voice had the ultimate roar in it.  When he stood up, locks
flying, perspiration streaming, and thumped his pulpit with that fat
doubled fist, the palm of which had been moulded in youth upon the
handle of a plow, every nook and cranny of the auditorium echoed with
the force of his utterance.  But Doctor Campbell’s convictions, like
most people’s, were only in part based upon knowledge.

Some things in particular he wot not of yet scorned. One was the modern
novel.  Another was the stage! Shakespeare, Doctor Campbell admitted
largely, had shed some sheen upon the stage and more upon literature;
but he never quoted Shakespeare.  One could almost doubt if he had read
him, and when Shakespeare came to town, he never went to see him.

On the morning, therefore, when the good Doctor Campbell read in the
papers that the youngest of his deacons had the night before made his
debut as Ursus in _Quo Vadis_, he was not only pained but moved to
self-reproach.  Grief enveloped him.  It thrust the sharp cleft of a
frown into his smooth brow.  It thrust his chin down upon his bosom and
caused him to heave a tumultuous sigh.  He bowed his head beside his
study table and then and there put up an earnest petition for the soul
of John Hampstead.  It was a sincere and natural prayer, because Doctor
Campbell was a sincere man and believed in the efficacy of prayer.

Besides, he loved John Hampstead.  The young man’s impending fate
stirred the minister deeply and caused him to reproach himself.  In this
mood, he dug out all his sermons on the stage, nine years of annual
sermons on the influence of the drama, and read them sketchily and with
disappointment.  Paugh!  Piffle!  How weak and ineffective they seemed.
He delved into his concordance for a text and found one.  Then he drove
his pen deep into his inkwell and began to write.

The following Sunday night Doctor Campbell’s red, excited features were
seen dimly through dun, sulphurous clouds of brimstone and fire; but to
the preacher’s dismay, John Hampstead was not present for fumigation.
The reverend gentleman, in his unthinking goodness, had quite overlooked
the fact that the play in which John was performing concluded on Sunday
night instead of Saturday night; and so while his pastor was hurling his
fiery diatribes at that conspicuously assailable institution, the stage,
Deacon Hampstead was blissfully bearing Marien Dounay about in his arms.

But the next morning John read the sermon published in the newspaper.
He had already noted that the more doubtful the sermon, the more likely
it is to get into the headlines, because from the editor’s standpoint it
thus becomes news, and late Sunday night, which is the scarcest hour of
the whole week for news, there is more joy in the "city room" over one
sermon that breathes the fiery spirit of sensation than over ninety and
nine which need no hell and damnation in which to express the tender
gospel of Jesus.  John read it with a sense of wrath, of outrage, and of
humiliation.  That night he launched himself at the study door of his
pastor.

"I was very sorry you did not hear my sermon last night," began Doctor
Campbell blandly, sensing the advantage of striking first.

"Brother Campbell, I have come to arraign you for that sermon," retorted
John, with an immediate outburst of feeling.  "I say that you spoke what
you did not know.  I say," and his voice almost broke with the weight of
its own earnestness, "I say that you bore false witness!"

The amazed minister’s mouth opened, but John repressed his utterance
with a gesture.

"You will say you preached your convictions.  I say you preached your
prejudice, your ignorance.  I say you bore false witness against
struggling women, against aspiring men, against those of whose bitter
battlings you know nothing."

The Reverend Charles Thompson Campbell leaned back aghast.  No man had
ever presumed to talk to him like this, no man of twice his years and
spiritual attainments; yet here was this stripling not only talking to
him like this, but with a fervor of unction in his utterance that made
his upbraiding sound half inspired.

"You are condemning the stage as an institution," went on John
scornfully.  "You might as well condemn the printing press as an
institution.  You discriminate with regard to newspapers and books.  Do
the same with the stage.  Taboo the corrupt play and teach your people
to avoid it.  Support the good and teach the managers that you will.
Taboo the notorious actor or actress if you wish.  Give the rest of them
the benefit of the doubt, as you do in your personal contact with all
humanity. Oh, Doctor Campbell, you are so charitable in your personal
relations with men and so uncharitable in much of your preaching!"

This one exclamatory sentence had in it enough of affectionate regard to
enable the minister to contain himself a little longer, under the
impassioned tide which now flowed again.

"The stage?  The stage as an institution?"  John appeared to pause and
wind himself up.  "Why, listen! The stage function is a godlike
function.  When God created man out of the dust of the ground and
breathed into him the breath of life he planted in man’s breast also the
instinct to create.  That instinct is the foundation of all art.  Man
has always exhibited this passion to create something in his own image.
It might be a rude drawing on a rock, or only a manikin sculptured in
mud and set in the sun to dry; or it might be a marble of Phidias, with
the form, the strength, the spirit of life upon it.  The painter can go
farther.  He gets the color and the very visage of thought and even of
emotion.  Yet each falls short.  There is no God to breathe into their
creations the breath of life."

The minister leaned back a little as if to put his understanding more at
poise.

"But," continued Hampstead, "the playwright and the actor can go
farther.  They breathe into their creations that very breath of God
himself, which he breathed into man.  They make a character real because
he is a living man.  They put him in the company of other men and women
who are as real for the same reason; they toss them all into the sea of
life together; the winds of life blow upon them.  Hate and love, virtue
and vice, hope and despair, weakness and strength, birth and death, work
their will upon them."

"That is very beautiful, John," said Doctor Campbell, "very beautiful."

The tribute was sincere, but John was not to be checked even by a
compliment.

"The stage creates and recreates," he rushed on.  "It can raise the
dead.  It makes men and women live again—Julius Cæsar and Cleopatra,
Napoleon and Dolly Madison.  It seizes whole segments out of the circles
of past history and sets them down in the midst of to-day, with the glow
of life and the sheen of reality over all, so that for an afternoon or a
night we live in another continent or another age.  We see the life, the
customs, the petty quarrels, the sublimer passions, the very pulse-beats
of men of other circumstances and other generations than our own, so
that when we come out of the theater into the times of to-day, we have
actually to wake ourselves up and ask: Which is real, and which is art?"

Doctor Campbell leaned forward now.  His mouth was round, his eyes were
widely open.

"It is that which gives the stage its dignity and power," concluded
John.  "It is the highest expression of man’s instinct to create a new
life in a more ideal Eden than that in which he finds himself.  When you
condemn the stage you condemn the creative instinct, and," exhorted
John, with the sudden sternness of a hairy prophet on his desert rock,
"you had better pause to think if you do not condemn Him who planted
that instinct in the human breast."

Hampstead had now finished; but the minister was in no hurry to speak.
He felt the spell of the picture which had been painted, but he felt
still more the spell of the young man’s ardent enthusiasm.

"You must have thought that out very carefully, John," he said.

"Brother Campbell!" answered John fervently, "I have done more than
think it out.  I have felt it out.  I propose to live it out!"

But Doctor Campbell had kept his head amid this swirl of words, and his
return was quietly forceful.

"The stage of to-day," he began, "as I know it from the newspapers and
the billboards, never seemed so vulgar and damnable as it does now after
your glorious idealization of it.  I, as a preacher of righteousness,
must judge of such an institution externally, by its effects.  I have
weighed the stage in the balance, John, and I have found it wanting."

This time there was something in the minister’s calm tone, in the cool
detachment of his point of view, that held John silent.

"Isn’t it possible," the minister continued, in a kind of sweet
reasonableness, "that there is something insidiously demoralizing or
infectious about it?  Take your own experience, John.  You are a
Christian man.  You have been soaking yourself in the atmosphere of the
stage for a couple of weeks.  Examine your soul now, and answer me if
you are as fine, as pure a man as you were before you went there.  Are
you?"

"Why, of course I am," ejaculated Hampstead impulsively.

"Think," commanded the minister, in low, compelling tones; for having
controlled his emotions the better, he was just now the stronger of the
two.  "Are you—John?"

Hampstead opened his mouth eagerly, but the minister’s repressing
gesture would not let him speak.  The young man was literally compelled
to think, to question his own soul for a moment, and as he searched, a
telltale flush came upon his cheek, and then his glance fell.  There was
an embarrassing moment of silence, during which this flush of
mortification deepened perceptibly.

The minister was a wise man.  He read the sign and asked no questions.
He upbraided nothing, cackled no exultant, "I told you so."

"Let us pray, Brother John," he proposed after the interval, and knelt
by his chair with a hand upon Hampstead’s shoulder.  The prayer was
short.

"Oh, Lord," the man of God petitioned, "help us to know where the right
stops and the wrong begins.  Keep us back from the sin of presumption.
Give thy servants wisdom to serve thy cause well and work no ill to it
by over-zeal or over-confidence.  Amen!"

Doctor Campbell might have been praying for himself. But John knew that
this was only a part of his tact.

As the two men rose, John felt a sudden impulse to defend the stage from
himself.

"It was my own fault," he urged; "the fault of my own weakness in
unaccustomed surroundings.  It was not the fault of the surroundings
themselves, nor of any other person.  Besides, it was nothing very
grave."

"Deterioration of character is always grave," said the Reverend Charles
Thompson Campbell as he walked to the door with his caller, and the
minister’s tone intimated his conviction that this particular
deterioration had been very grave indeed.



                              *CHAPTER VI*

                            *ON TWO FRONTS*


There was high commotion in a big front office in the top floor of a
tall, gray building that stood in the days before the fire on the corner
of Kearney and Market streets in the city of San Francisco.  This gray
structure housed the general offices of the San Francisco and El Paso
Railroad Company, and that big front office contained the desk of the
Freight Traffic Manager.  Before this desk sat a man with a domed brow
and the beak of an eagle, hair gray, eyes piercing, complexion
colorless, and a mouth that closed so tightly it was discernible only as
a crescent-shaped pucker above his spike-like chin. His mouth at the
moment was not a pucker; it was a geyser.  The name of this man was
William N. Scofield, and he was obviously in a rage.  He had grown up
with the S.F. & E.P., his brain expanding as it expanded, his power
rising as it had risen.  Long ago, when the one lone clerk in its little
rate department, he had made with his own hands the first of those
yellow commodity tariffs that John Hampstead had scorned with
objurgations. Now Scofield held in the hand which trembled with his
anger the first of that upstart’s own contributions to the science of
tariff making—not yellow, but white, in token of the clarity it was
meant to introduce.

"How did they make it? this—this botch!" he exploded, repeating his
interrogation with other embellishing phrases not properly reproducible
and then slamming the offending white sheets down hard upon his
desk,—much harder than John had slammed the yellow ones,—this impudent,
white-livered thing that was an assault upon the customs he, Scofield,
had instituted and time itself had honored!

"Telegram!" he barked to his stenographer.  "Robert Mitchell, Los
Angeles.  Insist immediate withdrawal your entire line of commodity
tariffs, series J.  Basis carried in our own tariffs is only one we will
recognize."

Mitchell answered:

"Decline to withdraw; our tariffs issued on actual basis on which
charges are assessed."

The fight was on.

Arming himself cap-a-pie with tariffs, amendments, letters, and
memoranda, Mitchell two days later followed his telegram to San
Francisco.  Most of his resources, however, were packed behind the wide,
blond brow of John Hampstead, who accompanied his chief and was more
eager for the fray than Mitchell.  The battle began on Monday morning
about ten of the clock, and was not finished with the day.  The field of
action was a room of this same gray building, where Howison, General
Freight Agent of the S.F. & E.P., sat at the end of a long table,
flanked right and left by assistant general freight agents, rate clerks,
and even general and district freight agents called in from the field,
all to convince Robert Mitchell and his lone rate clerk sitting at the
other end of the table that their new tariff was a hodgepodge, without
practical basis or the show of reason to support it.  Scofield himself
did not take a seat in the battle line, but looked in occasionally,
either to walk about nervously or sit just back of Howison’s shoulder.

On the afternoon of the second day, the enemy Traffic Manager appeared
to watch Hampstead intently for half an hour.  Again and again the keen
old fighter saw his allied forces attack, but invariably this
self-confident, smiling young man with a ready citation, the upflashing
of a yellow "special", the digging out of a letter or a telegram from
his file, or occasionally even of an old freight bill issued by the S.F.
& E.P. showing exactly what rate had been assessed, triumphantly
repelled the assaults, until reverses began to be the order of the day.

"It strikes me," Scofield remarked sarcastically, "that this young man
has got us all pretty well buffaloed.  The trouble is, Howison," he
glowered, "that your Tariff Department needs cleaning out.  You’ve got a
lot of old mush heads in there."

With this warning shot into his own ranks, Scofield arose, went
discontentedly out, and never once came back. Keener than any of his
staff, he had already discerned that defeat was advancing down the road.

But the battle of the tariffs raged on throughout the week, and it was
not until late on Saturday afternoon that John, standing in one room of
the suite in the Palace Hotel charged to the name of Robert Mitchell,
flung the pile of papers from his arms into the bottom of a suitcase
with a swish and solid thud of satisfaction.  Victory from first to last
had perched upon his tawny head.  He had met good men and beaten them;
and he had a right to the wave of exultation that surged for a moment
dizzily through his brain.

Mr. Mitchell, too, was feeling exultant and proud beyond words, as he
stood in the door of John’s room. His hands were deep in his pockets;
his large black derby hat was pushed far back from his bulging brow.  On
his great landscape of a countenance was an oddly significant
expression.

"Well, Jack," he began, after an interval of silence, "what about the
stage?"

John started like a man surprised in a guilty act, although he had known
for months that this was a question Mr. Mitchell might ask at any
moment; but the decision involved seemed now so big that from day to day
he had hoped the inevitable might be postponed.

"I shall be naming a new chief clerk in a couple of weeks, now that
Heitmuller is to become General Agent," Mr. Mitchell went on
half-musingly, and as if to forestall a hasty reply to the question he
had asked.  "The new man will be in line to be appointed Assistant
General Freight Agent very soon, on account of the consolidations."

For a moment John saw himself as Chief Clerk, sitting in the big swivel
chair at the high, roll-top desk, with all the strings of the business
he knew so well how to pull lying on the table before him; with clerks,
stenographers, men from other departments and that important part of the
shipping public which carried its business to the general freight
office, all running to him.

And from there it was only a short, easy step to the position of
Assistant General Freight Agent.

Only the man who has toiled far down in the ranks of a railroad
organization doing routine work at the same old desk in the same old way
for half a score of years can know on what a dizzy height sits the Chief
Clerk, or how far beyond that swings the lofty title of Assistant
General Freight Agent.

"Your advancement would be very rapid," suggested Mr. Mitchell, flicking
his flies skilfully upon the whirling eddies of the young man’s thought.

John had achieved enough and glimpsed enough to see that Mitchell was
right.  Advancement would be rapid. Mitchell would soon go up the line
himself; he could follow him.  General Freight Agent, Assistant Traffic
Manager, Traffic Manager, Vice-president in charge of traffic—President!
with twelve thousand miles of shining steel flowing from his hand, which
he might swing and whirl and crack like a whip!  The prospect was
dazzling in the extreme, and yet it was only for a moment that the
picture kindled.  In the next it was dead and sparkless as burned-out
fireworks.

"You have a strong vein of traffic in your blood," the General Freight
Agent began adroitly, but John broke in upon him.

"Mr. Mitchell," he said, and his utterance was grave, "I am sorry to
disappoint you, but it comes too late.  A year ago such a hint would
have thrown me into ecstasies. To-day it leaves me cold.  I have had
another vision."

The face of Mitchell shaded from seriousness almost to sadness, but he
was too wise to increase by argument an ardor about which, to the
railroad man, there was something not easy to be understood, something,
indeed, almost fanatical.  Instead Mitchell asked with sober, interested
friendliness:

"What is your plan, John?"

"To resign July first," John answered, for the first time definitely
crossing the bridge, "to come to San Francisco and seek an engagement
with some of the stock companies playing permanently here, even though I
begin the search for an opening without money enough to last more than a
week or two."

"Without money!" exclaimed Mr. Mitchell, in surprise.

"Yes," confessed Hampstead, flushing a little.  "My salary was not very
munificent, you know, and I have usually contrived to get rid of it,
frequently before I got the pay check in my hands."

Mr. Mitchell’s small, prudent eyes looked disfavor at a spendthrift.

"However," he suggested, "you have only yourself to think of."

"That’s another point against me," confessed Hampstead.  "I have some
one else to look out for.  My brother-in-law is an artist, you know, and
he has not been very successful yet, so that I hold myself ready to help
with my sister and the children if it should ever become necessary."

"That’s a handicap," declared Mitchell flatly.

"I won’t admit it," said John loyally.  "You don’t know those children.
Tayna’s the girl, nearly twelve now, a beauty if her nose is pugged.
Such hair and eyes, and such a heart!  Dick’s the boy, past ten.  He’s
had asthma always, and is about a thousand years old, some ways.  But
they—"

Hampstead gulped queerly.

"Those two children," he plunged on, "are dearer to me than anything in
the whole wide world.  You know," and his tone became still more
confidential, while his eyes grew moist, "it would only be something
that happened to them that would keep me from going on with my stage
career."

Mitchell’s respect for John was changing oddly to a fatherly feeling.
He felt that he was getting acquainted with his clerk for the first
time.  He resolved that he would not tempt the boy, and that if it
became necessary, he would help him.  However, before he could express
this resolve, if he had intended to express it, the telephone rang.

Hampstead answered it, stammered, faltered, replied: "I will see, sir,
and call you in five minutes," hung up the ’phone and turned to confront
Mitchell, with a look almost of fright upon his face.

"It’s William N. Scofield," he exclaimed.  "He wants me to take dinner
with him at his club to-night."

A disbelieving smile appeared for a moment on the wide lips of Mitchell;
then understanding broke, and his smile was swallowed up in a hearty
laugh.

"He wants to offer you a position," Mitchell said, when his exultant
cachinnations had ceased.  "Look out that he doesn’t win you.  Scofield
is a very persuasive man.  He nearly got me once.  Besides, he has more
to offer you than I have."

Hampstead pressed his hand to his brow.  Under his tawny thatch ideas
were in a whirl.

"What shall I do?" he asked rather helplessly.

"Stay over," commanded Mitchell unhesitatingly. "Ring up and tell him
you’ll be there."

"But there’s no use, anyway," replied John suddenly, getting back to the
main point.  "My mind’s made up."

"No man’s mind is made up when he’s going to take dinner on the
proposition with William N. Scofield," answered Mitchell oracularly.

"And you?" asked Hampstead, suddenly aware how good a man at heart was
Robert Mitchell, and quite unaware that he had seized that gentleman’s
pudgy right hand and was wringing it in a manner most embarrassing to
Mitchell himself.  "You—"

But the telephone was tingling impatiently.

"Mr. Scofield wants to know," began a voice.

"Yes, yes, I’ll be happy to," interrupted John, not knowing just what
tone or form one should take in expressing the necessary amenities to
the secretary of a great man.

"Very well.  His car will call for you at six-thirty," responded the
voice.

But before John could pick up the thread of his unfinished sentence to
Mr. Mitchell, a knock sounded at the door, at first soft and cushioned,
as if from a gloved hand, then louder and more determined, and repeated
with quick impatience.

"Come in," called Mitchell.

The knob turned, and the door swung wide, leaving the panel of white to
frame the picture of a woman.  She was young, of medium height and
appealing roundness, clad from head to foot in a traveling dress of dark
green, with a small hat of a shade to match, the chief adornment of
which was a red hawk’s feather slanting backward at a jaunty angle.  A
veil enveloped both hat brim and face but was not thick enough to dim
the sparkle of bright eyes or the pink flush of dimpled cheeks, much
less to conceal two rows of gleaming teeth from between which, after a
moment’s pause for sensation, burst a ringing cadence of laughter.

"Miss Bessie!" exclaimed John excitedly.

"The very first guess!" declared that young lady, advancing and yielding
the doorframe to another figure which filled it so much more completely
as to sufficiently explain a more deliberate arrival.

"Mollie!" ejaculated Mitchell, who by this time had turned toward the
door.  "What in thunder?"

But the General Freight Agent’s lines of communication were just then
temporarily disconnected by an assault upon his features conducted by
Miss Bessie in person. During this interval, Mrs. Mitchell stood
placidly surveying the room, and as she took in its air of preparation
for immediate departure, a tantalizing smile spread itself on her
expansive features.

"Is this an accident or a calamity?" demanded Mitchell, playfully
thrusting Bessie aside and advancing to greet his wife.

"Both!" declared that lady, submitting her lips with more of formality
than enthusiasm, after which, feeling that sufficient time had elapsed
to make an explanation of her sudden appearance not undignified, she
proceeded:

"Just one of my whims, Bob!  Next week was the spring vacation; no
school, and the poor child was pale from overstudy and so anxious about
her examinations (Bessie shot a look at Hampstead), that I just made up
my mind I’d bring her up here and let her get a good bite of fog and a
breath from the Golden Gate."

"Fine idea!" declared Mitchell.  "Fine!  Now that you’ve had it," he
chuckled, "we’ll start home.  I’m leaving at eight."

"You are not!" proclaimed Mrs. Mitchell flatly. "You will stay right
here for at least three days and do nothing but devote yourself to your
child.  And to her mother!" she subjoined, as if that were an
afterthought; all with a toss of her chin, which, by way of emphasis,
held its advanced position for a moment after the speech was done.

"And the business of the company?" Mitchell suggested, with a solicitous
air.

"It can wait on me," averred Mrs. Mitchell decisively, taking a turn up
and down the room and surveying once more the signs of confusion and of
hasty packing. "Many’s the time I’ve waited on it.  You can stay, too,
John," she said, turning to Hampstead.  "I want you to take Bessie to a
lot of places Robert and I have been and won’t care to visit this time."

"Robert!" and while her eyes turned toward the windows, two of which
opened on a view of Market Street, the new commander began a
redisposition of forces, "I rather like this suite.  Bessie and I will
take the corner room.  You can take this room and Mr. Hampstead can move
across the hall, or anywhere else they can put him."

As an act of possession, Mrs. Mitchell walked to the dresser, took off
her hat, stabbed the two pins into it emphatically, and tossed it upon
the bed, where it bloomed like a flower-garden in the midst of a desert
of papers while she, still standing before the mirror, bestowed a few
comfortable pats upon her hair.

"John," Mitchell said jovially, "I know orders from headquarters when I
get ’em.  You were going to stay over, anyway; but use your own judgment
about obeying the instructions you have just received."

"Never had such agreeable instructions in my life," declared Hampstead,
turning to Mrs. Mitchell with an elaborately stagy bow, and the natural
quotation from Hamlet which leaped to his lips:

"’_I shall in all my best obey you, madam._’"

"See that you do," said that lady, not half liking the bow and shooting
a glance at Hampstead less cordial than austere.  "And by the way," she
added, "see that you don’t let that stage nonsense carry you much
further, young man," with which remark Mrs. Mitchell turned abruptly and
gave Hampstead a most complete view of a broad and uncompromising back.

In Mrs. Mitchell’s mind a man had much better be a section hand on the
Great Southwestern than a fixed star on the drama’s milky way.

"By the way, mother," remarked Mr. Mitchell, with the air of one who
makes an important revelation, "John is just going out to dine with
William N. Scofield."

Mrs. Mitchell turned quickly, and her dark eyes shot a meaningful glance
at her husband, while the line of her lower lip first grew full and then
protruded.  A squeeze of that lip at the moment, Hampstead reflected,
would extract something at least as sour as very sour lemon juice.

"Scofield is after him," bragged Mitchell.

"Well, see that he doesn’t get him," his wife commanded sternly, and
then shifting her somber glance until it rested on John with a look that
was near to menace, inquired acridly:

"Young man, you wouldn’t be disloyal?  You wouldn’t sell yourself?"  In
the second interrogatory her voice had passed from acridity to
bitterness, while the eyes bored implacably, till Hampstead at first
wriggled, then grew resentful and replied crisply, standing very
straight:

"No, Mrs. Mitchell, I would not sell myself!"

"That’s right," exclaimed Bessie, stepping impulsively toward John’s
side.  "Do not let her browbeat you.  I am sorry to say, Mr. Hampstead,
that mother is inclined to be somewhat dictatorial.  You see what she
does to poor papa!"

"And you see what you do to poor me," exclaimed that worthy lady,
turning on her daughter with surprise and injury in her glance and
tone,—"dragging me almost out of bed last night to make this foolish
trip up here with you.  Next week, of all weeks, too, when I wanted to
do so many other things."

"Ho! ho!" broke in Mitchell, "so that’s the way of it.  This trip up
here is a scheme of yours," and he turned accusingly upon his daughter,
but Bessie smiled and curtseyed, entirely unabashed.  "Well, then, I
don’t guess we’ll stay," teased Mitchell.  "And I don’t suppose you knew
a thing about Hampstead’s being here. That was all an accident."

"It was not," flashed Bessie.  "I did.  I haven’t seen dear old John for
a year.  I could go in and have delightful tête-à-têtes with him when he
was a stenographer, but out in the Rate Department there are forty
prying eyes and men with ears as long as jack-rabbits.  He hasn’t taken
me to a circus or anything for nobody knows how long.  You shall give
him money for theater tickets, for dinners, for auto rides, for
everything nice for three whole days."

Bessie was standing directly in front of her father, her eyes looking up
into his, and her two hands patting his generous jowls, as her speech
was concluded.

John listened rapturously.  This was the old Bessie talking.  She had
entered the room looking a year older, a year prettier since that day
when he wrote the Phroso invitations for her, and had taken on so easily
the lacquer and dignity of dresses and of years that he was beginning to
feel in awe of her.  This speech was a great relief.

Besides, in the whirl of the hour before she came, he had found himself
strangely wanting to take counsel with Bessie.  The Mitchells had made
of him for all these years a convenient caretaker of their daughter.
Bessie had made of him a playfellow with whom she took the same
liberties as with any other of her father’s possessions.  This attitude
on her part had created the only atmosphere in which Hampstead could
have been at ease with her.  It had permitted his soul to bask when she
was by, but it had done no more.  But now, he somehow wanted to confide
in Bessie,—not to take her advice for he wasn’t going to take anybody’s
advice; all advice was against him,—but to tell her what he was going to
do, because he believed she would listen appreciatingly, if not
sympathetically.  He felt he needed at least the added support of a
neutral mind.  He had rejected Mr. Mitchell’s proposal, but the glitter
of it flashed occasionally.  And now he was going to face the
resourceful, the ingratiating, the dominating William N. Scofield, and
he felt like a man who goes alone to meet his temptation on the mountain
top.



                             *CHAPTER VII*

                             *THE HIGH BID*


For an hour and a half at dinner, and for another hour sunk in the
depths of a great leather chair in the lounging room of the Pacific
Union Club, William N. Scofield had searched the soul of Hampstead, who
had not only been led to talk rapturously of his stage ambition but to
reveal the metes and bounds of his interest in and knowledge upon many
subjects.

"Gad, but you know a lot," ejaculated Scofield, with unfeigned
amazement.  "Where’d you get it all?"

"I have read a good deal," confessed John, trying to appear much more
modest than in his heart he felt; for it was a part of Scofield’s whim
or of his campaign to flatter him enormously, and he had succeeded.

But for a time now, the Traffic Manager was silent, puffing meditatively
at his cigar and staring at the ceiling through loafing rings of smoke
in which, as if they were floating letters, he seemed to read the
transcript of his thought,—the thought that if, beside employing this
enormously able young man, he could also enlist in behalf of the
railroad as an institution his capacity for fanatical devotion to an
ideal, the prize was one worth bidding high for, high enough to win!

"People like you, Hampstead," Scofield broke out presently, and in his
most ingratiating vein.  "We all felt that down at the office.  You did
a difficult thing without making an enemy of one of us.  Therefore what
your personality can do interests me even more than what you know."

The railroad man interrupted his speech to shoot an exploratory glance
from under veiling lids and went on calculatingly:

"The railroad business is going to change.  Now we tell the Railroad
Commission what to do.  The time is coming when it will tell us what to
do, and we will do it. But the public attitude toward the railroad has
also got to change."  Scofield’s tone had taken on new emphasis.

"You would make the type of executive that could change it!  The
successful transportation man of the future has got to be a sort of
ambassador of the railroad to the people, and the man who best serves
the people tributary to his road will best serve his stockholders."

"Do you know who gave me that point?" the Traffic Manager asked, turning
from the vision he was contemplating in the clouds of smoke over his
head and looking sharply at Hampstead.

"Naturally not," admitted the younger man.

"Bob Mitchell," said Scofield, and paused while his thin lips coaxed
persistently at the cigar which appeared to have gone out.  "Bob
Mitchell!  And I reviled him for his sagacity, told him he was an
altruistic fool.  But after a while I saw he was right.  Then I tried to
get him for us, but I didn’t succeed.  He wasn’t as sensible as I hope
you will be.  Besides, I am going to offer you more than I offered him."

More than he offered Mitchell!  There was a sudden jolt somewhere in
John’s breast, and he wet a dry, parched lip, but did not speak.

"Yes," breathed Scofield softly, almost as if he had been interrupted.
"I am going to offer you more. Hampstead!" and the voice was raised
quickly, "I want you to be our General Freight Agent!"

If Scofield had leaned over and kissed him, John would not have been
more surprised, nor have known less what to say.

"General Freight Agent!" he croaked hoarsely.

"Yes," affirmed the other coolly, almost icily, while he flicked the
ashes from his cigar and enjoyed the sensation his proposal had
produced.

"At my age?" stumbled John, still groping, but trying to see himself in
the position.

"Why, yes," reassured Scofield suavely.  "You tell me you’re past
twenty-five.  Paul Morton was Assistant General Freight Agent of the
Burlington at twenty-one. Look where he is to-day—in the cabinet of the
President of the United States.  The salary," Scofield added casually,
by way of finally clinching the argument, "will be twelve thousand a
year."

Hampstead’s lips silently formed the words—twelve thousand!  But he did
not utter them.  They dazed him. They rushed him headlong.  They made
rejection impossible.  No man had a right to throw away such a fortune
as that.  One thousand dollars a month!  He felt himself yielding,
helplessly, irresistibly.

And then, suddenly as the photographer’s bomb lights up every lineament
of every face in the darkened room, for one single moment Hampstead saw
things clearly and in their true proportions.  This Schofield was not a
man. He was a grinning devil, with horns and a barb on his tail.  He was
tempting, trapping, buying him.  He would not be bought.  "_No, Mrs.
Mitchell, I would not sell myself,_" he had said, not, however, meaning
at all what that lady meant.

Leaning back stubbornly, his fist smiting heavy blows upon the cushioned
arm of the chair, John muttered through clenched teeth:

"No!  No!  No—I’ll never do it.  No, Mr. Scofield, I cannot accept your
offer.  I thank you for it; but I cannot accept it.  The stage is to be
the place of my achievement.  Why, why, Mr. Scofield, the wonderfully
flattering offer you have made to me to-night has come because of the
training incident to the cultivation of a stage ambition.  If it can
bring me so much with so little devotion, is it not reasonable to
suppose that it will bring me more—very much more?  I will not be so
disloyal to that which has been so generous with me."

Scofield’s countenance had suddenly and impressively changed.  It became
a mask of stone, a sphinx-like thing, the brow a knot, the nose a beak,
the mouth a stitched scar.  The beady gleam of the eyes from beneath
drawn lids was sinister.  This fanatical young fool was escaping him,
and Scofield did not like any one to escape him.

But the young man refused to be swerved by frowns.

"Not to manage railroads," he declared enthusiastically, "but to mould
human character is to be my life-work; to depict the virtues and the
vices, the weaknesses and the strengths of life, to make men laugh and
love and—forget."

Scofield’s eyes twinkled, and his mouth became less a scar, but John
thought this was a very fine phrase really, and he rushed along:

"Life looks like a tangle, like a mess—drudgeries, disappointments,
injustices—the wrong man prospering—the wrong girl suffering!  The drama
composes life.  It grabs out a few people and follows them, compressing
into the action of two hours the eventualities of a lifetime and
shortening perspectives till men can see the consequences of their acts,
whether for good or for ill. The stage teaches the doctrine of the
conservation of moral energy—and of immoral energy—that sustained
effort, conserved effort is never cheated; it gets its goal at last."

"Say!" broke in Scofield; but John would not be denied what he felt was
a final smashing generalization.

"To figure the tariff on human conduct, to grade and classify the acts
of life, to quote the rates on happiness and misery in trainload lots.
That’s what I’m going to do," he concluded, with a glow upon his face.

But by this time a smile of cynic pity had appeared upon the face of the
railroad man.

"Hampstead," he exclaimed sharply, with a mimic shudder and a shrug of
relief as if he had just escaped something, "you’re not an actor.
You’re a preacher!"

John gasped.

"You’re a moralist," asserted Scofield accusingly, "a puritanical,
Sunday-school, twaddling moralist.  I have misjudged you.  I wouldn’t
want you around at all."

With a look akin to disgust upon his face, the railroad man made a
motion with his fingers in the air as if ridding them of something
sticky, and arose, not abruptly but decisively, making clear that the
interview had proved disappointingly unprofitable and was therefore at
an end.

John also arose, bewildered by the sudden change in Scofield’s
attitude—a change which he resented, and also the ground of it.  He a
preacher?  The idea was ridiculous.

Besides, it makes an astonishing difference when one has been stubbornly
refusing an offer to have the offer coolly and decisively withdrawn.
Something subtly psychological made him want the offer back.  The door
of opportunity had been closed behind him with a snap so vicious that he
wanted to turn and kick it open.

But the thin, talon-like hand of Scofield was hooking the young man’s
rather flaccid palm for a moment.

"Remember what I tell you," he barked out in parting. "You’re not an
actor.  You’re not a railroad man. You’re a preacher!"

The last word was flung bitingly, like an epithet.

John, feeling uncomfortable, walked out and along one side of Union
Square, casting a momentary wondering eye on the stabbing, twin towers
of the Hotel St. Francis, many windowed and many-lighted; then turned on
down Geary into Market and along that wide and cobbled thoroughfare to
the doors of the old Palace Hotel.  By the time he was in bed, he
realized that Scofield had shaken him terribly.  His decision was all to
make over again.

However, Bessie would be there for three days to help him, and with this
thought he felt comforted.

                     *      *      *      *      *

"It’s been a great three days," sighed John, on the following Tuesday.
Bessie also sighed.

They had clambered down from the parapet below the Cliff House and sat
watching the seals at play upon the rocks a stone’s throw out from
beneath their feet.  Their position marked the southern portal of the
famous Golden Gate, through which a mile-wide stream of liquid blue was
running.  Across the Gate rose the sheer gray cliffs of Marin County and
beyond those the rugged greens and blues of the mountains, spiked in the
center by the peak of Tamalpais.

Before their faces, the ocean, in swells and scoops of ever grayer gray,
ran out to catch the horizon as it fell, illumined in its lower reaches
by the sun, which was sinking into the haze above the waters like a
lustrous orange ball.

Southward, beyond the green head of Golden Gate Park, the yellow gray of
the sand dunes and the blue gray of the sea met in a lingering, playful
kiss that swept back and forth in a long shimmering line which ran on
sinuously, growing fainter and fainter, till lost in the shadow of the
distant cliffs.

The hour was five o’clock.  At eight that night John was to leave for
Los Angeles.  His vacation—the only vacation of his hard-driven life—was
to end, and an epoch in his existence was also nearing its end.  The
past was clear as the land behind him; the future was an area of tossing
uncertainty.  Nothing appeared,—no track, no wake, no sail, no sun even.
Only far over, beyond the curve of the horizon, was a kind of strange,
unearthly glow, and on this his eye was set.

For three days his soul had ebbed and flowed like that lip of foam upon
the beach, now stealing far up on the land,—for him the backward track;
now turning and running far out to sea,—for him the way of adventure and
advance.

But now the ultimate decision was to be made.  Bessie saw it rising like
a tide upon that face which once had seemed not to fit, a rapt look
which snuggled in the hills and hollows and then began to harden like
setting concrete. No one would call that face homely now.  Interesting,
most likely, would have been the word.

The gray eyes burned brighter, the lips grew tighter. The chin advanced,
moved out to sea a little, as it were.

"Follow your star, John," Bessie declared stoutly, though a look of pain
momentarily touched her whitening lips.  "I shall despise you if you do
not."

"The decision is made," John replied solemnly, "and you, Bessie, have
helped to make it."

Bessie did not reply; she only looked.

Silence fell between them.  Silence, too, was in the heavens; the sun,
the waves, the restless wind for the moment appeared to stand still.
All nature had paused respectfully.  A man, young, inexperienced, but
potential, had cast the horoscope of life beyond the power of gods or
men to intervene,—and with it had cast some other horoscopes as well.

Hampstead felt the spell his act of will had wrapped about them, but he
felt also the substance of his resolution framing like granite in his
soul and making him strong with a new kind of strength.

But soon the sun was descending again, the clouds were drifting once
more, and a gust of wind nipped sharply, causing the skirts of John’s
overcoat to flap lustily. Bessie twitched her fur collar closer about
the neck, and thrust both hands deep into the pockets of her gray
ulster. Hampstead passed his own hand through the curve of the girl’s
elbow, gripped her forearm possessively, selfishly, absently, and drew
her toward him.

Indeed Bessie was closer to him than she had ever been before; and yet
she had never felt so far away.

"Oh, but it’s great to have a woman by you in a crisis," John chuckled
happily.

Bessie looked up startled.  John had called her woman. But she recovered
from the start,—he had also called her _a_ woman.

"Come to understand each other pretty well, haven’t we?" John observed,
still looking oceanward, but giving the arm of Bessie what was intended
for a meaningful squeeze.

"Not at all," sighed Bessie, also still looking oceanward.

Hampstead, his thoughts bowling rapidly forward, continued motionless
until a white-winged, curious-eyed gull sailed between his line of
vision and the water.  Then, as if abruptly conscious that Bessie’s
answer was not what it should have been, he turned, and at the same time
boldly swung her body round till they stood facing each other. Bessie
met this gaze unblinkingly for a moment, with her face set and sober;
then something in John’s mystified glance touched her keen sense of
humor, and she laughed,—her old, roguish laugh,—and flirted the stupid
in the face with the end of her boa.

"You great big egoist!" she smiled.  "There, that’s the first chance
I’ve had to use that word.  I only learned the difference between it and
another last week."

"Indeed!" retorted Hampstead.  "And when did you learn the difference
between me and the other word?"

"Well, I’m not sure that there is a difference," she sparred.  "Being
polite, I just concede it."

"Oh," he chuckled.  "But," and he was serious again, "you say we don’t
understand each other?"

"Nonsense; I was only joking.  I do understand you; you great, big,
egoistical egotist!  You are just now absolutely self-centered—and all,
all ambition! And I am secretly—secretly, you understand—proud of you!"

"And you," said Hampstead, drawing her close again, "are just the
truest, most understanding friend a man ever, ever had.  You know,
Bessie, a fellow can talk to you just like a sister,—a pretty little
sister!" he subjoined, when Bessie looked less pleased than he thought
she should.

"You’ve changed a lot, too, in a year," he conceded, studying her face
critically.  "When you came into the hotel that night, you struck fear
into my heart, and then kind of made it flutter.  I said to myself,
’She’s gone—the old Bessie, that could be played with.  But here’s a
young woman, a handsome young woman, taking her place.’"

"Did you say that?" asked Bessie happily.

"An exceedingly beautiful woman," went on John, as if stimulated by the
interruption.  "By George, a very corker of a woman—look at those eyes,
those lips, those dimples.  Same old dimples, girl!" he laughed
emotionally. "And I said, ’Now, here’s a woman, a ripe, wonderful woman,
to be made love to—’"

"John!"

There was in Bessie’s sudden exclamation the surcharged sense of all the
proprieties which their relationship involved.

"Oh, don’t be alarmed," exclaimed Hampstead, suddenly very earnest and
respectful.  "I am not leading up to anything.  I do not misunderstand
the nature of your goodness to me.  I am not presuming anything.  I am
only telling you what I said to myself."

"Oh," murmured Bessie noncommittally, though she shivered for a moment
as if a gust of wind had come again.  Hampstead, feeling this, drew her
still closer and hunched his broad shoulder to shelter her more, as he
explained further:

"But it was I, you know, and there was nothing for me to do but to fly.
I was for jumping out the window. And then you suddenly made that
wonderful speech about going to the circus with dear old John, and your
mother let it out that you wanted me to run around with you here, and I
saw that toward me you were the same old Bessie; that for a few days we
could be once more just friendly, only two finer friends, because we’re
both grown up now."

"Yes," Bessie sighed, almost contentedly.  "I did want you, John.  A
girl gets tired of society, of clubs and dances and things, even in
High.  You know, I get weary of the sight of these slim, pompadoured
boys sometimes.  I just wanted somehow to feel the arm of a real man, to
hear him talk, even if he does nothing but talk about himself, and until
this minute in three days has not confessed that I have dimples, and—and
a heart."

"Slow, about some things, am I not?" confessed John. "Awfully, awfully
slow!"

"I will agree with you," said Bessie, with a mournfulness that literally
compelled him to perceive that she was some way disappointed in him.

"But," he inquired reproachfully, "aside from my usefulness as a social
escort and a sort of masculine tonic, you do admire me a little, don’t
you?"

"Oh, yes," she answered frankly.  "I admire you a lot."

"But you’re disappointed about something?"

"Apprehension is the better word," she confessed soberly.

"Apprehension?  Of what?"  John was looking at her almost accusingly.
Bessie avoided his glance.  She could not tell him what she feared nor
why she feared it.

"You think I’ll fail?" John demanded.

"No," disclaimed Bessie seriously.  "I think you will succeed!"

"You think so?" and Hampstead’s face lighted brilliantly.  "Oh, God
bless you for that!" and again he shook her, this time tenderly and drew
her closer till her breast was touching his, and she leaned her head far
back to look up into his face.

"Yes," she breathed softly, "I think so!"

"And you do not think me silly for turning my back upon solid realities
to follow my ideal?"

"No!  No!" and she shook her head emphatically, "I honor you for it,
John.  You have inspired me, John, and thrilled me.  I used to think—how
good you are!  Now I think—how noble you are!  You have made my feeling
for you one of worshipfulness almost."

The look in her face did express that, and Hampstead noticed it now.

"Ah," he murmured, pressing her arms against her sides, "you dear,
impressionable little girl!"

Quite thoughtless of how unnecessarily close he was drawing Bessie,
either to shelter her from the wind or for the purpose of conversation,
or especially in the fulfillment of his duty to his charge as guide and
protector, John was finding a pleasurable sensation in this position of
intimacy, and was indeed, just upon the threshold of one very great
discovery when he made another, perhaps equally surprising, but vastly
less important.  Looking into the upturned eyes, which after the canons
of Delsarte, he was thinking expressed "devotion" perfectly, a shadow
was seen to project itself downward from the upper lids across the iris,
as if a storm were gathering on a placid lake.  John watched the shadow
curiously as it deepened, until it became clear that a mist was
congealing in those swimming violet depths.

"Why, Bessie," he exclaimed, amazed, "you are going to cry!"

On the instant two tears trickled from the dark lashes and gleamed for a
moment like solitaire diamonds in the setting of two ruby spots that had
gathered unaccountably upon her upturned cheeks.

"You are crying," he charged straightly.

Bessie’s expression never changed, but her smooth, round chin nodded a
trembling and unabashed assent.  A sudden impulse seized John.  The
position of his arms shifted.

"Bessie!" he murmured feelingly, "I am going to kiss you!"

Bessie did not appear half as surprised at this announcement as
Hampstead at himself for making it.

"May I?" he persisted.

The expression of devotion in Bessie’s swimming orbs remained
unstartled, her pose unaltered.  Only her lips moved while she breathed
a single word: "Yes."

Instantly their ruby and velvet softness yielded to the pressure of
John’s, planted as tenderly and chastely as was his thought of her,—for
that other discovery that he was on the verge of making had been fended
off by the coming of the tear.



                             *CHAPTER VIII*

                            *JOHN MAKES UP*


That night, according to programme, John went back to Los Angeles; and a
few weeks later, also according to programme, he was again in San
Francisco, no longer a railroad man, but—in his thought—an actor.

Now calling oneself an actor and being one are quite different; but it
took an experience to prove this to John. Even the opportunity for this
experience was itself hard to get.  It was days before he even saw a
theatrical manager, weeks before he met one personally, and a month
before he got his first engagement.

When he talked of the drama to actors the way he had talked of it to the
Reverend Charles Thompson Campbell, they did not comprehend him; when he
talked to them as he had to Scofield, they smiled cynically; when he
admitted to one manager that he was without professional experience, the
admission drew a sneer which froze the stream of hope in his breast.

John thereafter told no other manager this, but learned instead the
value of a "front", and inserted in the professional columns of the _San
Francisco Dramatic Review_ a card which read:


    +−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−+
    |                  |
    |  JOHN HAMPSTEAD  |
    |       HEAVY      |
    |    AT LIBERTY    |
    |                  |
    +−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−+


"Heavy" in theatrical parlance means the villain. Modestly confessing
himself not quite equal to "leads", though in his heart John scorned to
believe his own confession, he had announced himself as a "heavy."

This card appeared for three succeeding weeks, but on the fourth week
there was a significant change.  It read:


    +−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−+
    |                                   |
    |          JOHN HAMPSTEAD           |
    |               HEAVY               |
    |  With the People's Stock Company  |
    |                                   |
    +−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−+

The People’s Stock Company was new, a "ten-twenty-thirty" organization,
got together in a day for a season of doubtful length, in a huge barn of
a house that once had been the home of bucket-of-blood melodramas, but
for a long time had been given over to cobwebs and prize fights. The
promoters had little money.  They spent most of it on new paint and
gorgeous, twelve-sheet posters.  Everything was cheap and gaudy, but the
cheapest thing was the company—and the least gaudy.

The opening play was a blood-spiller with thrills guaranteed; the scene
was laid in Cuba at a period just preceding the Spanish-American War.
Hampstead’s part was a Spanish colonel, Delaro by name.  Delaro was no
ordinary double-dyed villain.  He was triple-dyed at the least, and
would kick up all the deviltry in the piece from the beginning to the
end; he would steal the fair Yankee maiden who had strayed ashore from
her father’s yacht; he would imprison her in an out-of-the-way fortress;
court her, taunt her, threaten her—and then when the audience was
wrought to the highest pitch of excitement and the last throb of pity
for her impending fate at the hands of this fiend in yellow uniform and
brass buttons, the galloping of horses would herald the appearance of
Lieutenant Bangster, U.S.N., lover of the maiden and hero of the play.
(The Navy on horseback!)  A pitched battle would result, pistols,
rifles, cannon would be fired, the fortifications would be blown away,
and Old Glory go fluttering up the staff to the thundering applause of
the gods of the gallery.

Delaro was an enormous opportunity; but it was also an enormous
responsibility.  John went into rehearsal haunted by fear that the
carefully guarded secret of his inexperience would be discovered,
knowing that instant humiliation and discharge would follow.  He had
trudged, hoped, brazened, starved, prayed to get this part. He must not
lose it, and he must make good.  The sweat of desperation oozed daily
from his pores.

Halson, the stage manager, was a tall, tubercular person, with a husk in
his throat and a cloudy eye.  This eye seemed always to John to be
cloudier still when turned on him.  On the fourth day of rehearsal,
these clouded looks broke out in lightning.

"Stop that preaching!" Halson commanded impatiently. "You are intoning
those speeches like a parrot in a pulpit.  Colonel Delaro is not a
bishop.  He is a villain—a damned, detestable, outrageous villain!  Play
it faster; read those speeches more naturally.  My God, you must have
been playing—  By the way, Hampstead, what were you playing last?"

The shot was a bull’s-eye.  John felt himself suddenly a monstrous fraud
and had a sickening sense of predestined failure.  In his soul he
suddenly saw the truth. Acting was not bluffing.  Acting was an art!
The poorest, dullest of these people, bad as they appeared to be, knew
how to read their lines more naturally than he.  He was not an actor.
He never had been an actor.  He was only a recitationist.

"What were you playing last, I say?" bullied Halson, as if suddenly
suspicious.

But John had rallied.  "If I don’t get the experience, how will I ever
become an actor," was what he said to himself.

"My last season was in Shakespeare," was what he observed to Halson,
with deliberate dignity.

"Oh," exclaimed the stage manager, much relieved. "That explains it.  I
was beginning to think somebody had sawed off a blooming amateur on me."

John had not deemed it prudential to add that this season in Shakespeare
lasted one whole evening and consisted of some slices from the Merchant
of Venice presented in the parlor of the Hotel Green in Pasadena; and
the scorn with which Halson had immediately pronounced the word
"amateur" sent a shiver to Hampstead’s marrow, while he congratulated
himself on his discretion. Nevertheless, he suffered this day many
interruptions and much kindergarten coaching from Halson and felt
himself humiliated by certain overt glances from the cast.

"The boobs!" thought John.  "The pin-heads! They don’t know half as much
as I do.  They never taught a Y.M.C.A. class in public speaking; they
never gave a lesson in elocution in all their lives, and here they are
staring at me, because I have a little trouble mastering the mere
mechanics of stage delivery.  It’s simple.  I’ll have it by to-morrow."

But at the end of the rehearsal, John felt weak.  Instead of leaving the
theater, he slipped behind a curtain into one of the boxes and sank down
in the gloom to be alone and think.  But he was not so much alone as he
thought.  A voice came up out of the shadows in the orchestra circle.
It was the voice of Neumeyer, the ’angel’ of the enterprise, who was
even more inexperienced in things dramatic than his "heavy" man.

"How do you think it’ll go?" Neumeyer had asked anxiously.

"Oh, it’ll go all right," barked the whiskey-throat of Halson.  "It’ll
go.  All that’s worrying me is this blamed fool Hampstead.  How in time
I sawed him off on myself is more than I can tell.  However, I’ve
engaged a new heavy for next week."

John groped dumbly out into the day.  But in the sunshine his spirits
rallied.  "They can’t take this part away from me," he exulted and then
croaked resolutely: "I’ll show ’em; I’ll show ’em yet.  They’re bound to
like me when they see my finished work."

And that was what he kept saying to himself up to the very night of the
first performance.  But that significant occasion brought him face to
face with another problem,—his make-up.

The matter of costume was simple.  It had been rented for a week from
Goldstein’s.  It was fearsomely contrived.  The trousers were red.
Varnished oilcloth leggings, made to slip on over his shoes, were relied
upon to give the effect of top boots.  The coat was of yellow, with
spiked tails, with huge, leaf-like chevrons, with rows of large,
superfluous buttons, and coils on coils of cord of gold.

But make-up could not be hired from a costumer and put on like a mask.
It was a matter of experience, of individuality, and of skill upon the
part of the actor.  All John knew of make-up he had read in the books
and learned from those experimental daubs in which his features had been
presented in his own barn-storming productions.  The make-up of Ursus
had been almost entirely a matter of excess of hair, acquired by a beard
and a wig rented for the occasion.  This, therefore, was really to be
his first professional make-up, and Hampstead was blissfully determined
that it should be a stunning achievement.

In order that he might have plenty of time for experiment, the heavy man
entered the dressing rooms at six o’clock, almost an hour and a half
before any other actor felt it necessary to appear, and went gravely
about his important task.

First treating the pores of his face to a filling of cold cream,—all the
books agreed in this,—John chose a dark flesh color from among his
grease paints and proceeded to give himself a swarthy Spanish
complexion.  Judging that this swarthiness was too somber, he proceeded
next to mollify it by the over-laying of a lighter flesh tint; but
later, in an effort to redden the cheeks, he got on too much color and
was under the necessity of darkening it again. Thus alternately
lightening and darkening, experimenting and re-experimenting, seven
o’clock found him with a layer of grease paint, somewhere about an
eighth of an inch thick masking his features into almost complete
immobility.

Next he turned attention to the eyes, blackening the lashes and edging
the lids themselves with heavy mourning. At the outer corners of the
eyes he put on a smear of white to drive the eye in toward the nose;
between the corner of the eye and the nose, he was careful to deepen the
shadow.  This was to make his eyes appear close together.  Down the
bridge of the nose he drew a straight white stripe to make that organ
high and thin and narrow; while in the corner between the cheek and
nostril went another smear of white, to drive the nose up still higher
and sharper.

In the midst of this artistry, Jarvis Parks, the character man, who had
been assigned to dress with Hampstead, entered.

"Hello," said John, with an attempt at unconcern.

"Hard at it," commented Parks, and began with the ease of long practice
to arrange his make-up materials about him, after which deftly, and
almost without looking at what he was doing, he transformed himself into
a youthful, rosy-cheeked, navy chaplain.

"Half hour!" sang the voice of the call boy from below stairs.

John was busy now adjusting a pirate moustache to his upper lip by means
of liberal swabbings of spirit gum. As he worked, he hummed a little
tune just to show Parks how much at ease and with what satisfied
indifference he performed the feat of transposing his fair Saxon
features into the cruel scowls of a villainous Spanish colonel.

But catching the eye of Parks upon him for a moment, Hampstead was
puzzled by the expression, although he reflected that it was probably
admiration, since he certainly had got on ever so much better than he
expected. It surely was a fine make-up—a brilliant make-up.

"Fifteen minutes," sang the voice of the call boy.

Hampstead could really contain his self-complacency no longer.

"Well," he exclaimed, turning squarely on Parks, "what do you think of
it?"

Now if John had only known, he disclosed his whole amateurish soul to
wise old Parks in that single question, for a professional actor never
asks another professional what he thinks of his make-up.

"Great!" responded Parks drily, but again there was that look upon his
face which Hampstead could not quite interpret.

"Five minutes!" was bellowed up the stairway.

Hampstead drew on his coat of brilliant yellow, buckled on his sword,
and had opportunity to survey himself again in the glass and bestow a
few more touches to the face before the word "overture", the call boy’s
final scream of exultation, echoed through the dressing rooms.

The corridor outside John’s door was immediately filled with the sound
of trampling feet, of voices male and female, some talking excitedly,
some laughing nervously, every soul aquiver with that brooding sense of
the ominous which sheds itself over the spirits of a theatrical company
upon a first night.

Parks, with a final touch to his hair and a sidewise squint at himself,
turned and went out.  The footsteps and voices in the corridor grew
fainter and then came trailing back from the stairway like a chatterbox
recessional.

It was quiet in the dressing rooms, except for a droning from across the
way, and John knew what that was; for the sweet little ingenue had told
him in a moment of confidence: "On first nights I always go down on my
knees before I leave my dressing room."  There she was now, telling her
beads.

"Shall I pray, too?" he asked, and then answered resolutely, "No!  Let’s
wait and see what God’ll do to me."

His throat was arid.  His lips, from the drying spirit gum and the
excess of grease paint, were stiff and unresponsive.

"_Eternal Hammering is the Price of Success_" he muttered thickly,
trying to brace himself.  "Now for a great big swing with the hammer."
But his spirits sagged unaccountably, and he turned out into the
corridor as if for a death march.

At this moment the area between the foot of the stairs and the wings of
the stage was a weaving mass of idling scene-shifters, hurrying,
nervous, property men, and a horde of supernumeraries made up as
American sailors, Spanish soldiers, and Cuban natives.  All was movement
and confusion.

The principals had drifted to their entrances and taken position in the
order in which they would appear; but they too were restless; nobody
stood quite still; at every movement, at every loud word, everybody
turned or looked or started.  The hoarse voice of Halson and his
assistant, Page, repeatedly resounded.

As Hampstead descended the stairs upon this strange, moving picture, it
appeared to him to organize into a ferocious, misshapen monster that
meant him harm; or a python coiling and uncoiling its gigantic, menacing
folds. The thing was argus-eyed, too, and every eye stabbed him like a
lance.

Emerging upon the floor, John paused uncertainly before this hostile
wall of prying scrutiny.  Somebody snickered.  A woman’s voice groaned
"My Gawd!" and followed it with a hysterical giggle.

Could it be that they were laughing at him?  John felt that this was
possible; but he stoutly assured himself that it was not probable.

However, just as his features passed under the rays of a bunch light
standing where it was to illumine with the rays of the afternoon sun the
watery perspective of a jungle scene, he came face to face with the
stage manager. Halson darted one quick glance, and then a look of horror
congealed upon his face.

"In the name of God!" he hissed huskily.  "Hampstead, what have you been
doing to yourself?"

"Doing to myself?" exclaimed John, trying for one final minute to fend
off fate.  "Why?  What do you mean?"

Halson’s voice floated up in a half humorous wail of despair, as he
rolled his eyes sickly toward the flies.

"What do I mean?" he whined.  "The man comes down here with his face
daubed up like an Esquimaux totem pole, and he asks me what do I mean?"

But Halson was interrupted by a sudden silence from the front.  The
orchestra had stopped.  The curtain was about to rise.

"Page!  Page!" groaned Halson in a frantic whisper, "Hold that curtain!
Signal a repeat to the orchestra! Here, you!" to the call boy.  "Run for
my make-up box. Quick!"

John’s knees were trembling, and he felt his cheeks scalding in a sweat
of humiliation beneath their blanket of lurid grease, as Halson turned
again upon him with:

"You poor, miserable, God-forsaken amateur!"

Amateur!  There, the word was out at last, and it was terrible.  No
language can express the volume of opprobrium which Halson was able to
convey in it.  To Hampstead it could never henceforth be anything but
the most profane of epithets.  As a matter of fact, he was never after
able to hate any man sufficiently to justify calling him an amateur.

While the orchestra dawdled, while the company of "supers" crowded
close, and the principals looked sneeringly on from all distances,
Halson made up the heavy’s face for the part he was to play, thereby
submitting John Hampstead to the bitterest humiliation of his dramatic
career.

Yet once engaged upon this work of artistry, the stage manager’s wrath
appeared to soften.  Half cajoling and half pleading, he whined over and
over again, "If you had only told me, Mr. Hampstead!  If you had only
told me, I would have helped you."

"If I only had told him," reflected John, beginning all at once to like
Halson, and never suspecting that the man in his heart was hating him
like a fiend, and that his fear that the amateur would go absolutely to
pieces under the strain of the night was the sole reason for soothing
and encouraging and commiserating him by turns.

But now the orchestra grew still again.

"Aw-right," husked Halson, and Hampstead heard that ominous, sliding,
rustling sound which to the actor is like no other in all the world.



                              *CHAPTER IX*

                   *A DEMONSTRATION FROM THE GALLERY*


Every chair in the orchestra of the People’s Theater was taken; the
boxes were occupied, and as for the odd rectangular horseshoe of a
gallery, with its advancing arms reaching forward almost to the
proscenium arch, while its rearward tiers rose and faded into distance
like some vast enclosed bleachers, it seemed a solid mass of humanity.
The curtain rose on critical silence.  The repetition of the overture
had given a hint that all was not running smoothly, and at the first
spoken word a jeer came from the gallery.  The actor stammered and made
the foolish attempt to repeat his words, but the attempt was lost in a
clamor of voices.  Feet were stamped, hats were waved, peanuts and
popcorn balls were thrown.  The actors braced themselves and went on
doggedly, but so did the balconies, and it presently appeared that
something like a demonstration was in progress.  Swiftly an explanation
of the great masses in the gallery and their behavior was passed from
mouth to mouth behind the scenes.  It said they were six hundred
south-of-Market-Street hoodlums who had been hired by a rival theatrical
manager to come and break up the performance. Whether this was true, or
whether the outbreak in the gallery was merely the unsuppressible spirit
of turbulent youth, it stormed on like a simoon, gaining in volume as it
proceeded.

For a while the people down-stairs, having paid their thirty cents to
witness a theatrical performance, protested; but they appeared soon to
conclude that the show in the gallery was the more worth while.  Ceasing
to protest, they began to applaud the trouble-makers and even to abet
them.

Behind the scenes panic reigned.  The actors at their exits bounded off,
panting in terror, as if pelted by bullets. Those whose cues for
entrance came, snatched at them excitedly, and like gladiators rushing
into the arena, plunged desperately upon the stage.  The face of the
leading lady was white beneath her make-up as she almost tottered upon
the scene.  Some instinct of chivalry led the mob to desist for a minute
while she delivered her opening lines.  But the demonstration broke out
afresh as the leading man entered, though he wore the uniform of a
lieutenant in the navy.  His every speech was jeered. The excitement
grew wilder; not a word spoken upon the stage was heard, even by the
leader of the orchestra.

"My God, what they will do to you, Hampstead!" exclaimed Halson
fiercely, as a detachment in the gallery began to march up and down the
aisle, the rhythm of their heavy steps making the old house shiver like
a ship in a storm.

Yet of all the actors trembling behind the scenes, it is possible that
Hampstead was the very coolest.  He had been the most perturbed, the
most distraught; but this counter-disturbance made his own distressing
situation forgotten.  No eyes were riveted on him now.  No thoughts were
on him and the terrible humiliation he had publicly endured or the
wretched failure he was going to make.  The best, the most experienced,
were in the most complete distress—clear out of themselves.  The leading
man had become angry, had lost his lines, and did not know what he was
saying.

"Stanley’s lost; he’s ad-libbing to beat the band," John heard Page
remark.

_Ad-libbing_!  It was a new word.  In the midst of all this confusion,
John took note of it and next day learned of Parks that it was a
stage-participle made from _ad libitum_.  An actor ad-libbing was an
actor talking on and on to fill space in some kind of a stage wait or
because, as with Stanley, he had forgotten his lines.

Neumeyer, the "angel", came in from the front and added his white,
agitated face to the awed groups standing about the wings.

"They’ve lost half the first act," he groaned, through chattering teeth.
"Even when they wear ’emselves out, the piece is ruined because the
people down-stairs have missed the key to the plot."

"Your cue is coming," bawled Page to John.

"Don’t worry, though," croaked Halson in Hampstead’s ear, still fearful
that his man would collapse. "The piece is going so rotten you can’t
make it any worse. Cut in!"

But to his surprise, Hampstead’s eye glinted with the light of battle.

"Worry?" he exclaimed excitedly.  "Watch me. I’m going to get ’em!"

Halson gazed in pure pity.

"Get ’em," he gutturaled.  "You poor, God-forsaken amateur!"

But the cue had come.  Colonel Delaro, his sword clattering, his buttons
flashing, his tall figure aglow with color, leaped through the entrance
and took the center of the stage—so clumsily that he trod on Stanley’s
favorite corn and hooked a spur in the mantilla trailing from the arm of
Miss Constance Beverly, the mislaid daughter of a millionaire yachtsman;
but nevertheless, Hampstead was on. He had seized the center of the
stage and he filled it full, as with an ostentatious gesture, he swept
off his gold lace cap before Miss Beverly.

"What star’s this?" shrieked a voice on one side the gallery.

"No star at all.  It’s a comet!" bawled a man from the other side,
cupping his hands to carry his second-hand wit around the auditorium.

The Spanish War was not then so far back in memory that the sight of the
uniform did not speedily kindle a little popular wrath upon its own
account, and the demonstration began again and rose higher, but
Hampstead became neither flustered nor angry.  He maintained his
character and his dignity.  He remembered his speeches, and delivered
them in stentorian tones that sounded vibrantly above the general
clamor.  When the gallery discovered to its surprise that here was a
voice it could not entirely drown, it stopped out of sheer curiosity to
see what the voice was like and found it as attractive as it was
forceful.  Moreover, there was a kind of special appeal in it.  It was
the voice of a real man; if they had only known it,—of a man at bay.  He
was not Colonel Delaro, plotting against the liberty and affections of a
lady.  He was John Hampstead, fighting,—with his back to the
wall,—fighting for his opportunity, for an accredited position in this
poor, cheap misfit company,—a position which seemed to him just now the
most desired thing in all the world.  Furthermore, he was fighting to
justify his own faith in himself and the faith of Dick and Tayna; yes,
and the faith of Bessie.

Hampstead was, moreover, used to rough houses.  He had faced them more
than once on his own barn-storming one-night appearances.

The way to get an audience like this he knew was to play it like a fish,
to get the first nibble of interest and then hold it motionless with the
lure of some kind of dramatic story.  The situation called for a
skilled, dramatic _raconteur_, and in truth that was what Hampstead
was,—not an actor but a recitationist.  Also his talks in church circles
had given him skill in extemporaneous speaking.  It happened that his
speeches in this first act completed the introduction of the plot, but
they were meaningless without a clear knowledge of what already had been
said.  Now Hampstead began, at first instinctively and then
deliberately, as he played, to gather up these lost lines of half a
dozen actors and weave them into his own.  The fever of composition
seized him.  He used the people on the stage like puppets.  He made them
help him re-lay the plot while he struggled to grasp the attention of
the mass child-mind out there in front and enthrall it with a story.

No better way could have been devised of making Hampstead overcome his
terrible faults of action and delivery.  With marvelous intensity came
more repose. His eyes had been changed by the deft hand of Halson till
they no longer looked like holes in a blanket; and he shot out his
speeches, never once in that rhythmic, preaching tone, but rapidly,
jerkily, plausible or menacing by turns, but all the while convincingly.

Within a few minutes the audience was captured.  It lost its enthusiasm
for riot and sat silent, following first the story as Hampstead had
retold it and then the action which thereafter began to unfold.  It was
the sheer strength of the personality of the man which made this
possible.  In his strength, too, the other players took courage; and
soon the action was tightly keyed and moving forward to a better
conclusion of the act than any rehearsal had ever promised.

At the fall of the curtain, an avalanche leaped upon Hampstead, an
avalanche which consisted solely of Halson.  He seemed to have a
thousand hands.  He was slapping John on the back with all of them, in
fierce, congratulatory blows.

"Man!" he exclaimed.  "Man!  You saved it!  You saved it!"

Neumeyer was capering about deliriously, while tears of joy were
trickling from his eyes.  Others crowded round: Stanley, who had the
lead, amiable old Parks, Lindsay, Bordwell, Miss Harlan, and the rest.

The audience, too, was excitedly expressing itself with hand-clappings
and foot-stampings.

"Scatter!" bawled Page.

The stage swiftly cleared of people as the curtain began to rise.

"Miss Harlan!" Page was shouting.  "Mr. Stanley! Mr. Hampstead!"

In the order named, the three emerged and took their calls, but the
heartiest applause was for the big man in yellow and red, who, quite
ignoring the orchestra circle, showed all his teeth in a cordial and
understanding grin to the galleries, which thereupon broke out in that
hurricane of hisses which is the heavy’s hoped-for tribute.

Throughout the remainder of the performance, the yellow and scarlet
figure of Delaro, with his great, sweeping gestures and his vast,
bellowing voice, moved, a unique and dominating figure; no doubt the
first and last time in which a villain who as a character was without
one redeeming quality was made the hero of the gallery gods.

With the final fall of the curtain, Hampstead climbed to his dressing
room, tired but gloriously happy.  All the company knew his shame, the
shame of being an amateur; but all, too, knew his power, the power of a
man who could rise to emergency, who had commanding presence and
constructive force.

The dressing rooms were mere partitions open at the top, so that
everybody could hear what everybody else was saying, or could have
heard, if only they had stopped to listen.  But apparently nobody
listened.  The strain was over, and everybody talked as if the joy were
in the talking and not in being heard.  Yet after the first few minutes
of excited blowing-off of steam, there came a lull, as if all had
stopped for breath at once.

Into this lull, Dick Bordwell, the juvenile man, as he wiped the grease
paint from his face, lifted his fine tenor voice in the first half of a
queer antiphonal chant, by inquiring loudly above his four wooden walls
toward the common ceiling over all:

"_Who is the greatest leading woman on the American stage?_"

"Louise Harlan!" chanted every voice on the floor, their tones mingling
merrily, as if they were playing a familiar game.

"Right-o," sang Dick, and chanted next: "_Who is the greatest leading
man on the American stage?_"

"Billie Stanley!" chorused the voices, with shrieks of laughter.

"And who," inquired Dick, with an insinuating change in his voice, "_who
is the greatest juvenile man in America?_"

"Rich-a-r-r-r-d Bordwell!" screamed the magpies.

"Right-o-right!" echoed Dick, with a grunt of immense satisfaction; and
then he went on piping his interrogatories, as to the rest of the
company, desiring to be informed who was the greatest character old man,
character old lady, soubrette, light comedian and stage manager,
concluding yet more loudly with:

"_And who is the greatest amateur heavy on the American stage?_"

As if they had been waiting for it, the voices burst out like a college
yell:

"_John Hampstead!  John Hampstead, is the greatest amateur heavy on the
American stage!_"

The spirit of fun and hearty good will with which this initiation
ceremony had been performed was salve to the bruised, excited soul of
John.  Besides an ever present sense of meanness and hypocrisy from the
concealment he had practiced, John had suffered a feeling of extreme
loneliness that had at no time been so great as now, when, the strain of
the play over, all these children of the stage were romping joyously
together.  Now they had included him in the circle of their magic
fellowship.  True, they had used the hateful word amateur, but that was
in play, and he was sure they would never use it again.

And he was right—from that hour some of them who liked him showed it;
some who disliked him showed that; some merely revealed themselves as
cool toward him or appeared ill at ease in his presence; but never one
of them, by word or act, failed from that moment to recognize his
standing as a man entitled to all the free masonry of their unique and
fascinating profession.

But the climax of this climactic night for John was reached when,
descending the stairway, Halson honored him with an astounding
confidence.

"Marien Dounay joins the People’s to-morrow," he whispered excitedly.

"Fact!" he affirmed in response to John’s look of sheer incredulity.
"She’s a spitfire and a genius.  She can do what she likes.  She’s
quarreled with Mowrey.  She’s coming here to spite him.  Pie for us
while it lasts, huh? She opens as Isabel in _East Lynne_."

John knew that Mowrey had come up from Los Angeles and was just opening
a long season at the Grand Opera House; but Marien Dounay—almost a
star!—in that thread-bare play, _East Lynne_, in this out-at-elbows
company, and in this old barn of a house!  Impossible!

This was what John was thinking, but he was too weak to give it
utterance.  He wanted Halson’s information to be true whether it was or
not.  Yet in the midst of the elation which began to kindle swiftly, he
remembered what Halson had said to Neumeyer on Saturday in the dark of
the orchestra: that a new man had been engaged to play the heavies.

A wave of bitterness surged over him; and yet, he reflected, things must
be changed.  They would scarcely let him go after to-night, so he
mustered courage to inquire:

"By the way, Halson, what do I play in _East Lynne_?"

"You play the lead," affirmed Halson, with dramatic emphasis.

"The lead?" John gulped, struggling as if a cobblestone had just been
tossed into his throat.

"Sure!  You’ll get away with it, too," declared the stage manager with
over-enthusiasm, slapping John heavily upon the back as the big man
turned away quickly, utterly unwilling that any save two or three not
there to look should see into his face.

It would scarcely have diminished his joy to know that he was getting
the lead simply because Archibald Carlyle was such an unredeemed
mollycoddle that the leading man usually chose to enact the villain,
Levison.



                              *CHAPTER X*

                             *A STAGE KISS*


For the strange freak of Miss Marien Dounay in joining The People’s
Stock Company, the papers found ready explanation in artistic
temperament.  The brilliant young actress, so the story ran, taking
umbrage because Miss Elsie McCloskey, twin star of the Mowrey cast, was
chosen to play a part for which Miss Dounay deemed herself specially
fitted, had resigned in a huff; and thereupon, to spite Mowrey, had
signed with this obscure stock company playing a dozen blocks away,
where it was believed her popularity would be sufficient to punish the
well-known manager in his one vulnerable spot, the box-office.

But there was one person interested who did not care a rap why Marien
Dounay was playing Isabel Carlyle, the wife of Archibald Carlyle at the
People’s Stock this week, in the time-frazzled drama of _East Lynne_,
and that was the man to play Archibald.  She was there, and that was
enough for him, swimming into his ken at the first rehearsal like a
vision of some glory too entrancing to belong to anything but a dream.

Had she changed much in the four months since he had held her in his
arms?  Not at all, unless to grow more beautiful.

Yet if that crude actor fancied himself on terms of more than bare
acquaintance with this exquisite creature, his imagination presumed too
far.  Miss Dounay’s bearing made it instantly apparent that she gave
herself airs.  One comprehensive glance was bestowed upon the semicircle
of the company.  Hampstead’s portion was more and less, a look and a
nod.  The nod said: "I know you, puppet."  The look warned: "But do not
presume.  Stand."

John stood, wondering.  As rehearsals progressed, his wonder grew into
bewilderment.  Miss Dounay treated the whole company cavalierly, but she
treated him disdainfully. Her feeling for the others was simply
negative; for him it appeared to be positive.

As an actress, it developed that she was "up" in the part of Isabel,
having played it many times.  She had, moreover, ideas of how every
other part should be played and was pleased to express them.  Nobody
protested, Halson least of all.  She was a "find" for the People’s.  As
a director, too, Miss Dounay was masterful.  A languid glance, a single
word, a very slight intonation, had more force than one of Halson’s
ranting commands.  And she was instinctively competent.

Hampstead, despite his own sad experience, watched her open-mouthed.
This young woman, it appeared, was an intellectual force as well as a
magnetic one.  She cut speeches or interpolated them, altered business,
and in one instance rearranged an entire scene, while in another she
boldly reconstructed the conclusion of an act.  The storm center round
which much of this cutting, slicing, and fattening took place was
Hampstead.  She heckled him unmercifully about the reading of his lines,
ridiculed his gestures, and badgered him to madness.

On the fourth day of this, John moped out of the theater, head down,
reflecting bitterly upon the illusory character of woman, of which he
knew so little,—moped so slowly that Parks overtook him on the first
corner.

"This woman is a friend of yours," Parks proposed tentatively.

"I thought she was," sighed Hampstead weakly, "but she keeps cutting my
speeches.  By the end of the week, I won’t have any part left at all."

Parks indulged a self-satisfied chuckle at the keenness of his own
discernment.

"Don’t you see," he explained, "she’s cutting the stuff you do badly.
She took away from you a situation in which you were awkward and unreal.
She changed that scene around and left you with a climax in which you
are positively graceful as well as forceful.  You’ll get a big hand in
it.  She studies you.  I’ve watched her."

"Old man," blurted Hampstead, with sudden fervor, "it would make me the
happiest man in the world if I thought that you were right.  But you are
wrong, and her badgering has begun to get on my nerves.  Say!" and he
interrupted himself to ask a question not yet answered to his
satisfaction.  "Why is she here?—with the People’s, I mean?"

"You’ve heard the stories," answered Parks, with a shrug.  "However, I
doubt if it’s any mere whim.  She appears to me to have a cool, good
reason for anything she does."

Parks turns off at Ninth Street, and John moved on down Market.  "A cold
good reason for what she does," he murmured.  "What’s the answer, I
wonder, to what she does to me?"

As the days went on, John’s wonder grew.

Now it is according to the method of dramatists that when a husband is
to be abandoned by his wife in the second act there shall be certain
tender passages between the two in the first act, and this ancient drama
was no exception.  There were contacts, handclasps, embraces, kisses.
Through all of these at rehearsal time the two went mechanically.  Miss
Dounay apparently treated Hampstead with mere indifference, but actually
she found a thousand little ways to show utter repugnance.  After the
first shock, John’s combative instinct and his pride led him to face
this situation, so difficult for a gentleman, unflinchingly.  Taking her
hands, pressing her to him, patting her cheek, playing with the wisps of
hair upon her temple, he conscientiously rehearsed the part of the
affectionate, doting husband.  His very sincerity, it would seem, must
have been a rebuke to the woman.  She must have seen that his heart was
stirred by an unexplained feeling toward her, and might have observed in
his determined bearing under the galling fire of her man-baiting
something noble.

Here, if she could only perceive it, was a man who had turned his back
on at least one of the kingdoms of this world to become an actor; a man
who would endure anything, suffer anything to add to his knowledge and
skill in that difficult and all demanding art; which, indeed, was why he
laid himself open to her polished ridicule by over-playing every scene,
overemphasizing every word, over-expressing every gesture and emotion.

But she never relented, not even on the night of the first performance.
Instead she became more aggressive in her antagonism, her method
changing from subtle scorn to open derision.

Now among experienced actors there are a great many things which may
take place upon the stage unsuspected of the audience.  On this night,
all through the tender exchanges of that first act, Miss Dounay seized
upon intervals when her back was to the front to throw a grimace at
John,—to do, or _sotto voce_ to say, something irritating or ludicrous
that would throw him out of character, or, as the profession puts it,
"break him up."  John steeled himself against all of this and went on
playing with that dignity of earnestness which seemed to characterize
all his life, until it would appear the climax of malice was reached
when, as Miss Dounay hung about his neck, she laughed in the midst of
one of his tenderest speeches, and whispered:

"There is a daub of smut on the end of your nose."

To John this communication was an arrow poisoned by the subtle power of
suggestion.  Was there smut upon his nose?  If there were and he touched
it with a finger, it would smear and ruin his make-up.  If he did not
remove it, the audience would observe it the first time he came down
stage and laugh.  On the other hand, he did not believe that there was
smut upon his nose.  How could it get there?  In no way unless some
joker had doctored the peephole in the curtain just before he peered out
at the audience.

Smutted or not smutted?  To touch his nose or let it alone?  That was
the maddening question.  The puzzle and the doubt disconcerted him.  His
memory faltered, his tongue stumbled, and a feeling of awful
helplessness came over him.  He _was_ breaking up!  He _was_ out of
character!  This devilish woman had succeeded.  She saw it, too.  John
read the exultation in her eyes, and it filled him with indignation
until a wave of wrath surged over his great frame like a storm.  Miss
Dounay saw his eyes grow suddenly stern with a light she had never
noticed in them.  One arm was encircling her in a caress, the other hand
rested upon her shoulders.  For one instant she felt this embrace
tighten into a python grip that was terrifying.  The man’s position had
not changed.  To the audience it was still a mere pose, an expression of
endearment.

But to Marien Dounay it was an ominous hint that this great amiable
child had in him the primal elements of a brutal strength.  A look of
alarm shot into her face, and she whispered:

"Don’t, John!  Don’t."

The tone of her voice was pleading.  She, the proud, had cringed.  She
had called him John.  She had surrendered.

"It was just a mean little fib," she whispered, and for a moment clung
to him helplessly.

John, greatly surprised, was not too much surprised to feel the exultant
surge of victory.  For one moment he had lost control of himself, but in
that moment he appeared to have gained control of Marien.

The strangest thing was that Miss Dounay seemed rather happy about it
herself; and the wide range of the woman’s capacity was revealed by her
swift transition to a mood of purring contentment and a spirit of
affectionate camaraderie that presently reached a surprising climax.

The act ended in the garden, with Isabel seated on a rustic bench, and
Archibald bending over her.  As the curtain descended, he was to stoop
and print a kiss of tenderest respect upon her forehead.  But now, as
the curtain trembled, Miss Dounay lifted not her forehead but her lips,
and held them, warm and clinging, to his for an instant that to
Hampstead seemed a delicious, thrilling eternity, from which he emerged
like a man newborn.

But the male instinct to gloat was the first clear thought.

"You do like me, don’t you?" he breathed exultantly, while the curtain
was down for an instant.  Marien answered with her eyes and a quick
affirmative nod, before the curtain bounded upward again for a last
picture of husband and wife gazing into each other’s eyes with a look
expressing an infinitude of fondness.  But John had ceased to be
Archibald.  What his look expressed was an infinitude of mystery and
joy.

"And they say there is no satisfaction in a stage kiss!" he whispered to
himself as he leaped up the stairs to his dressing room.



                              *CHAPTER XI*

                           *SEED TO THE WIND*


The next night Miss Dounay gave John her forehead instead of her lips to
kiss, but she heckled him no more, and it was perfectly obvious to him,
as to Parks, that she helped him deliberately and had been helping him
all along by her stage direction.

"If you’ve got her interested in you, you’re fixed for life," grumbled
Parks wistfully.  "That girl’s going up the line, and she’s got stuff
enough to take somebody else with her."

There was a suggestion in this which John resented.

"I’m going up, too," he rejoined with the defiant exuberance of youth,
"but on my own steam."

Parks looked at John up and down, and laughed,—just that and nothing
more.  The old man’s frankness was comforting at times; at others
disagreeable.  John moved away irritated, and his head went up into the
clouds of his dreams.  But there was something in what Parks had
suggested that kept coming back to his mind.  True, Miss Dounay never
exchanged more than the merest words of courtesy with John off the
stage.  But on the stage and at rehearsal it really did seem as if there
was a very nice little understanding growing up between them.

Off stage John dreamed of going to call upon her.  In his little room he
thought of her much and hungrily. That he should think hungrily was not
strange, since he was hungry.  His salary was twenty dollars a week.  To
send half to Rose, and save money to meet his wardrobe bills, he lived
on two meals a day.  The morning meal, taken at half-past nine,
consisted of coffee and cakes, and cost ten cents.  The evening meal was
taken at half-past five.  It was a grand course dinner that went from
soup to pie, and its cost was fifteen cents.  The tip to the waitress
was a smile.

When one goes supperless to bed, dreams come lightly and are fantastic.
John’s dreams were of banqueting after the play with Marien Dounay.
Greenroom gossip had it that Marien lived royally but in modest thrift;
that her French maid, Julie, was also cook and housekeeper; that
Marian’s disposition was domestic and yet convivial.  That instead of a
supper down town in one of the brilliant cafés, she preferred the
seclusion of her small but cozy apartment, and the triumphs of Julie at
a tiny gas grill, supplemented and glorified by her own skill with the
chafing dish.  That there were nights when she supped alone, but others
when a lady or two, or much more likely a gentleman, or mayhap two
gentlemen were honored with invitations to this feast of goddesses; for
tiny, efficient, ambidextrous Julie was in her way as much of an
aristocrat as her mistress, and as skillful in imparting the suggestion
that she was herself of some superior clay.  Subject to the whims of her
mistress, she, too, had whims, and made men—and women—not only respect
but admire them.  Rumor said that if an invitation to one of these
midnight revels with toothsome food under the personal direction of this
flashing beauty ever came, it was on no account to be despised,
especially if a man were hungry either for beauty or for food.

John Hampstead was hungry for food, and now he began to feel hungry also
for beauty.  This last was really a new appetite.  John, through all his
struggling years, had of course his thoughts of woman as all men have,
but vaguely, as something a long way off, indefinitely postponed.  Yet
ever since he carried Lygia in his arms, these thoughts of woman had
been recurring as something nearer, more tangible, and more necessary
even.  As for that kiss in the garden scene of _East Lynne_!  Well,
there was something wonderfully awakening in that kiss.  It was worlds
different from that brotherly, sympathetic little kiss he had given
Bessie yonder upon the rocks.

By the way,—why did Bessie cry?  He used to wonder sometimes why she
did!  And why did Marien Dounay taunt him till he was angry enough to
beat her,—and then kiss him?

Women were hard to understand.  They seemed to do things that had no
meaning; to use words not to convey but to conceal thought; and they
spoke half their speeches in riddles.  However, John reflected that when
he had been with women more, he would know them better.  And in the
meantime he supplemented his professional contacts with Marien by
thinking of her constantly, even to the point where his absorbing
interest led him to follow her home at night after the play,—keeping
always at a safe distance behind,—and to stand across the street and
watch till the light went on in that third-story bay-window on Turk
Street near Mason; and then still to stand, trying to interpret the
meaning of shadows moving across the window for uncounted hours, till
the light went out, sometimes at two and sometimes later, or until a
policeman bade him move on.  If any one had told John that he was
falling in love with Marien Dounay, he would have indignantly rejected
the idea. She held a fascinating interest for him,—that was all.
Something basic in him was attracted by something basic in her, and he
yielded to it wonderingly, experimentally almost, and that was all it
amounted to.

But on the night that Miss Dounay completed her engagement at the
People’s, for her tiff with Mowrey was over in just four weeks, the
opportunity came to John to submit his feelings to more searching
experimentation.

It had been his custom to wait in the shadowy wings each night to see
the object of his solicitous interest depart, supposing himself always
to be unobserved.  But on this last night Marien surprised him into
nervous thrills by walking over into the shadow with the cool assurance
of an autocrat, and saying:

"Come home to supper with me, John."

At the same time Miss Dounay took the big man’s arm as comfortably as if
the matter had been arranged the week before last, and John walked out
as if on air, but hurriedly.  That soft touch upon his arm made him
hungry with indescribable anticipations.  Moreover, he was stirred by an
itching curiosity concerning the whole of the intimate personal life of
Marien Dounay.  Who was she?  What was she?  _How_ was she?

Yet on the very threshold of the little apartment, his sense of what was
conventional in the world out of which he had come halted him.

"Should I?" he asked huskily, as the door stood open.  "Would it
be—proper?"

"Most particularly proper, innocent!" laughed Marien. "At the theater
Julie is my maid; at home she is my housekeeper, my social secretary, my
companion, and chaperone."

While the light of reassurance kindled on John’s face, Marien gently
drew him inside.

"Behold!" she exclaimed with a stage gesture, when the door was closed
behind him.  "My temporary home; my balcony window overlooking the
street, my alcove wherein I sleep, the kitchenette in which we cook;
behind that the bath, and back of that Julie’s own room. Isn’t it dear?"

"Dear!"  That was a woman’s word.  Bessie said that about her invitation
paper for the Phrosos.

"Dear?" he breathed, comparing it in one swift estimating glance to his
own barren cell.  "It’s a paradise!"

"So much more seclusion than in hotels," declared Marien, and then went
on to say in that sort of tone which belongs to an air of frank and
simple comradeship: "So much less expensive, too.  Do you know what
saves a girl in this business?  Money!  Ready money.  And do you know
what ruins her? Extravagance—debt.  We are very economical, Julie and I.
We have what crooks call ’fall money’, laid by for any emergency.
That’s what you’ll need to do.  Save half your salary every week.
There’ll be weeks you don’t play, weeks when you have to go to expense.
You may be ill or have an accident, or your company will close
unexpectedly.  Save.  Save your money!"

Marien uttered these bits of practical wisdom, which were to John the
revelation of an unthought-of side of this exquisite young woman’s
character while she was conducting him toward the window.

"Sit here," she commanded.  "Look straight down Turk.  See the lights
battling with the fog.  Listen to the waning music of the night in this
noisy, cobbly, clangy city.  Don’t turn your head till I say!"

The lights were indeed beautiful, each with its halo of mist.  The
clanging bells of cars, and even the horrible squeak of the wheels as
they turned a curve, with the low singing of the cables that drew them,
did rise up like the orchestration of some strange new motif of the
night that lulled him till he was only faintly conscious of the opening
and closing of doors and a rustling at the other end of the room.

"Now!" called the voice of Marien cheerily, awakening him with a sudden
thrill to the realization of her presence.

She stood at the far end of the room, surveying herself in a long
mirror.  Her figure was draped rather than dressed in a silken,
shimmering texture of black, splashed with great red conventional
flowers.  The garment flowed loosely at neck, sleeves, and waist, and
the fabric was corrugated by a succession of narrow, vertical,
unstitched pleats, which gave an illusory effect of yielding to every
movement of the sinuous body and yet clinging the closer while it
yielded.  As John gazed, Marien belted this flowing drapery at the waist
with a knot of tiny crimson cord, and then released her coils of rich
dark hair so that they fell to her hips in a fluttering cascade as silky
as the texture of her robe.

When she advanced to him, the shimmering, billowy movements of the gown
matched the rhythmic sway of her limbs as completely as the red splashes
upon it matched the color of her cheeks.  She came laughing softly, and
bearing in her hand a pair of tiny red and gold slippers.

A low divan ran along one side of the room, piled high with gay
cushions.  Near the foot of it was a Roman chair.

"Sit here," said Marien, indicating the chair; and John, as if obeying
stage directions, complied, while his hostess sank back luxuriously amid
the cushions and by the same movement presented a slim, neatly booted
foot upon the edge of the divan, so very near to the big man’s hand as
to embarrass him.  At the same time she held up the slippers to his
notice and observed with a nod toward the boot:

"As a mark of special favor."

For a moment John’s face reddened, and he looked the awkwardness of his
state of mind, his eyes shifting from the boot to Marien’s face and back
again.

Her face took on an amused smile, and the boot wiggled suggestively.

"Oh," exclaimed John, blushing with fresh confusion at his own dullness
as he bent forward and began to struggle with the buttons of the boot.

"You see," he explained presently, still worrying with the combination
of the first button, "you see—well, I guess I don’t know women very
well."

Marien laughed happily.

"Stage women!" John added, as if by an afterthought.

"Stage women," affirmed Marien loyally, "are no different from other
women—only wiser."  Then she tagged her speech sententiously with, "They
have to be. Careful!  You will tear the buttons off.  And you—you are
pinching me!"

"I beg your pardon," stammered John.  "But there are so very many of
these buttons."

After an interval during which Marien had appeared to watch his labors
with amused interest, she asked, with mocking humor:

"Are you hurrying or delaying?  I can’t quite make out."

But John was by this time enjoying the to him novel situation, and
merely chuckled happily in reply to this thrust.  When the shoes were
off, by a mystifying movement Marien snuggled first one stockinged foot
and then the other into the gold embroidered slippers and with a sigh of
contentment appeared to float among her pillows, while she contemplated
with smiling attention the face of Hampstead.  Presently she asked
smiling:

"Are you a man or a boy, I wonder?"

Feeling himself drifting farther and farther under the personal spell of
this magnetic woman, and entirely willing to be enthralled, John
answered her only with his eyes.

"That’s the Ursus look," she laughed softly, as if it pleased her.

A silver cigarette case was on a tabaret within reach of her hand.

"Have a cigarette!" she proposed.

John declined, a trifle embarrassed by the proffer.  Miss Dounay lighted
one and puffed a small halo above her head before she looked across at
him again and asked quizzically:

"You do not smoke?"

"And I do not think women should," Hampstead replied, with level eyes.

"It is a horrid habit," she confessed, "but this business will drive
women to do horrid things.  Listen, Hampstead.  It’s hard for a man;
you’ve found that out, and you’re only beginning.  It’s harder for a
woman; the despairs, the disappointments, the bitter lonelinesses,—the
beasts of men one meets!  But—"  With a shrug of her shoulders she
suddenly broke off her train of thought, and turning an inquiring glance
on Hampstead asked:

"You never smoked?"

"Oh, yes," confessed John, "but I quit it.  I decided it would not be
good for me."

She regarded him narrowly, and asked:

"You would not do a thing which did not appear good for you?"

There was just a little accent on the "good."

"I have tried to calculate my resources," John confessed, resenting that
accent.

Again Miss Dounay contemplated him in silence.

"You are a singularly calculating young man, I should say," she decreed
finally.  "And how long, may I ask, have you been living this
calculating life?"

Marien was making a play upon his word "calculate."

"Seven years, I should say," replied John, thinking back.

"Seven years?" she mused.  "Seven!  And you feel that it has paid?"

"Immensely," replied John aggressively.

"By the way, how old are you, Ursus?"

This was what the old actor had asked.  People were always asking John
how old he was.

"Twenty-five," John answered a trifle apologetically. "I got started
late.  And you?"

The question was put without hesitation, as if it were the next thing to
say.

"A man does not ask a woman her age in polite conversation," suggested
Marien tentatively.

"He does not," replied John quickly, "if he thinks the answer is likely
to be embarrassing."

Marien’s face flushed with pleasure.

"Oh, hear him!" she laughed.  "This heavy man is not so heavy, after
all; but," she added, with another insinuating inflection, "he is always
calculating."  Then she went on, "You are right.  The confession to you
at least is not embarrassing.  I am twenty-four years old, and I, too,
have been living a calculating life for seven years."

"For seven years.  How odd!" remarked John, rather excited at
discovering even a slight parallel between himself and this brilliant
creature.

"Yes," Marien replied.  "I ran away from home at sixteen.  I have been
on the stage eight years.  The first year was a careless one.  The other
seven have been—_calculating_ years."

John could think of no words in which to describe the sinister
significance which Marien now managed to get into her drawling utterance
of that word "calculating."  She made it express somehow the plotting
villainies of an Iago, of a Richard the Third and a Lady Macbeth, and
then overlaid the sinister note with something else, an impression of
lofty abandon, of immolation, as if, in calculating her life, she had
laid upon the altar all there was of herself—everything—in order to
attain some supreme end.

John, staring at her, got a sudden intuitive gleam of a woman who was
not only ambitious as he was ambitious, but wildly, dangerously
ambitious, with a danger that was not to herself alone, but to any who
stood near enough to be trampled on as she climbed upward,—dangerous to
one who might love her, for example!

He got the thought clearly in his mind, too; yet only for a moment, and
to be crowded out immediately by another thought, or indeed, a
succession of thoughts, all induced by the picture she made amid her
cushions.

How beautiful she was!  How very, very beautiful! And how magnetic!  How
she had made the blood run in his veins when she lay upon his breast as
Lygia, their hearts beating, their souls stirring together!

And now she had resigned herself for an hour to his company, had given
him her confidence, was awaiting, as it seemed, his pleasure,—while the
color came and went in her cheeks, while subdued lights danced in the
dark pools beneath lazily drooping lashes, and the filmy gown which
sheathed her body stirred with every breath as if a part of her very
self.

Lying there like this, her presence ceased soon to induce thoughts and
began to stimulate impulses. Hampstead longed to reach out and lay a
hand upon her.  She was so alluring and so, so helpless.

For weeks now he had allowed himself to dream of her as possibly the
woman of his destiny,—not admitting it, but still dreaming it.  Here in
his presence, she suddenly ceased to be even a woman.  She was just
Woman; and the primal attraction of the elemental man is not for the
woman.  Fundamentally, it is just for woman.  And here was Woman, the
whole race of woman, beautiful, bewitching, compulsive.

An odor began to float in from the kitchenette, an odor that was not of
coffee and cakes, nor of grease upon the top of a range in a dirty
little restaurant.  It was savory and fragrant, and it filled his
nostrils.  It reminded him of all the appetizing meals he had ever
eaten.  It made him hungry with all the hungers he had ever known; his
brain was reeling; he was going to faint,—and with mere appetite.  Yet
the appetite was not for food.

With a kind of shock he recognized the nature of his appetite.  The
shock passed; but the hunger remained. John felt that he himself was
somehow changed.  He was not the Chairman of the Prayer Meeting
Committee of the Christian Endeavor Society, not a Deacon of the grand
old First Church.  He was instead the man that the Reverend Charles
Thompson Campbell feared for and prayed for.  He was the man whose heavy
ridged brows had indicated to the shrewd old actor a nature packed full
of racial dynamite.

And Woman was fulminating the dynamite.  Deliberately—or recklessly—or
innocently; but none the less surely.  Her lips were pliant.  Her form
was plastic.  The smouldering light in the eyes, the lashes drooping
lazily, the witchery of a dark tress which coiled upon the white soft
shoulder, all combined in the appeal of physical charm.  To this, Woman
added the subtle, maddening witchery of silence,—breathing, watchful,
waiting quiet.

This silence continued until it became oppressive, explosive even.

Would she not speak?  He could not.  Would she not move?  He dared not.

As if in response to this frenzy of thought, the ripe lips parted in a
smile that added one more lovely detail to the picture by revealing rows
of pearly, even teeth, and her hand began to move toward him.

"Don’t touch me—don’t," he found himself pleading suddenly.

But already the hand was laid tenderly upon his own, and Hampstead
returned the clasp like one who holds the poles of a battery and cannot
let go.

Laughing softly, Woman drew Man gently to her, his eyes gazing
fascinated into the depths of hers, his body bending weakly, nearer and
nearer.

"John!" she breathed softly, "John!"

But at the first warmth of breath upon his cheek, the explosion came.
He snatched her in his arms as if she had been a child, and pressed her
to his heart rapturously, but violently.  And then his lips found hers,
vehemently, almost brutally, as if he would take revenge upon them for
the passion their sight and touch had roused in him. She struggled, but
he pressed her tighter and tighter, till at length she gave up, and he
felt only the rhythmic pulsing of her body.

When at length he released the lips and held the face from him to gaze
into it fondly, her eyes were closed, and the head fell limply over his
arm with the long tresses sweeping to the floor.

In sudden compunction he placed her tenderly upon the divan.

"I have hurt you, Marien; I have hurt you.  Forgive me; oh, forgive me!"
he implored in tones of deep feeling.

When she remained quite motionless, he asked, foolishly, "Marien, have
you fainted?"

Slowly her bosom rose with a respiration so deep and long that it seemed
to stir every fold of her pleated gown and every cushion on the divan,
while with the eyes still closed the face moved gently from side to side
to convey the negative.

"Thank God!" he groaned, dropping to his knees beside her, where,
seizing her hand, he began to press his kisses upon it.

Presently disengaging the hand, Marien lifted it, felt her way over his
face and began to push back the towsled mop of hair from his brow, and
to stroke it affectionately.

"I thought I had hurt you," he crooned.

"You did," she murmured.

"Oh, I am so, so sorry," he breathed, seizing her hand once more and
pressing it against his heart.

"I do not think I am sorry," she sighed contentedly, and was still
again, the lashes lying flat upon her cheeks, the long tresses in
disarray about her head.

Lying there so white and motionless, she looked to John like a crushed
flower.  Her very beauty was broken.  As he gazed, remorse and
contrition overcoming him, her lips parted in a half smile while she
whispered:

"The—the calculated life cannot always be depended upon, can it?"

Innocently spoken, the words came to John with the force of a reproach,
which hurt all the more because he was sure no reproach had been meant.
She had trusted him, and he had failed.  His sense of guilt was already
strong.  At the words he leaped up and rushed toward the hat-tree upon
which his hat and coat had been disposed.  Yet before he could seize
them and start for the door, Marien was before him, barring his way,
looking pale but majestic, like a disheveled queen.

"Let me go," he said stubbornly.  "I am unworthy to be here."

"Stay," she whispered, in a tone sweeter, tenderer, than he had ever
heard her use before.  "It is my wish.  I do not," and she hesitated for
a word, "I do not misunderstand you—poor, lonely, hungry man!"

"Supper, Madame!" piped the voice of Julie.



                             *CHAPTER XII*

                         *A THING INCALCULABLE*


One whole month passed before John sat again at midnight in the Roman
chair with Marien _vis-à-vis_ upon her heaped-up cushions.  Many things
may happen in a month.  Many did in this.  For John it was a month of
progress in his art.  Though the People’s Stock Company had passed out
of existence within two weeks after Marien Dounay’s departure from it,
John had done so well that he found no difficulty in securing an
engagement as heavy man across the bay in Oakland with the Sampson
Stock, the grade of which was higher and its permanency well
established.

It was also a month of progress in his passion for Marien Dounay,
although during all those thirty days he did not see her once.  In the
meantime imagination fed him.  Every memory of that night and every
deduction from those memories fanned the flame of his infatuation. Each
in itself was slight, but they were like a thousand gossamer webs.  Once
spun, their combined holding power was as the strength of many cables.

Take, for instance, the environment in which he found her.  It spoke
gratifyingly to him of a genuinely good, modest nature to see that she
shrank away from the garish theatrical hotels to this quiet nest with
Julie.  It revealed a true woman’s instinct for domesticity not only
surviving but flourishing in this vagabond life to which her profession
compelled her.

And yet how unlike the life of the fine women he had known in the old
First Church.  It would have so shocked them,—this roving, Bohemian life
that turned the night into day, the deep-sleep time from twelve to three
into the leisure, happy, carefree hours that were like the sun at noon
instead of the dark of midnight.  How unbecoming it would have been in
those coddled home-keeping women of the First Church, this reversal of
life,—how immoral even!  Yet to her it was natural.  In her it was
moral.  It did pay a proper respect to those conventions which protect
the character and happiness of woman.  It was not prudish.  It was
better than prudish, it was good.  Her virtue was not forced.  It was
hardy, indigenous, self-enveloping.  Yes, this whole mode of life became
her in her profession.

And the thought that he was of her profession threw him into raptures.
Hers was a life into which he could enter,—had entered already, by
reason of the favor she had shown him.  What could that favor mean?
Nothing else but love.  She had given him too much, forgiven him too
much in that one evening for him to question that at all.

And he loved her!  Doubt on that score had vanished so many days ago
that he could not remember he had ever doubted it.

That the partnership could not at first be equal, he was humiliatingly
aware; but the development of his own powers would soon balance the
inequality.  However, it was something else that for the moment wiped
out of mind the enormity of his presumption, and this was that memory of
unpleasant experiences at which she had hinted.  The thought of this
beautiful, ambitious, devoted creature battling her way alone among
selfish, brutal, designing men was maddening to him.  The chivalrous
impulse to be with her, to protect her, to battle for her, made him
forget entirely considerations of inequality, and he prepared to offer
himself boldly.  If she did not invite him again soon, he meant to seek
her out; but the invitation came before his processes had reached that
stage.

John was impatiently prompt.  His eyes leaped upon her eagerly as if to
make sure she was still real, still the flesh and blood confirmation of
his passion.  She was,—not a doubt of it.  Her eye was bright; the clasp
of her hand was warm.  Her personal power was never more evident, its
whimsical manifestations never more varied, interesting, or captivating
than now.

To John, no longer quite so hungry, for his salary was larger now, that
supper was not so much a meal as a series of delightful additions to his
impressions of the finer side of the character of Marien.  But with the
supper despatched, and his beautiful hostess again lolling in luxurious
relaxation, it was her personality once more rather than her character
which began to play upon him like an instrument with strings.  Lazily
she brooded and mused, talked and was silent, drifting from momentary
vivacities to periods of depressed abstraction.  Again and again John
felt her eyes upon him scrutinizingly, estimatingly almost, it seemed to
him.  Because it was a supremely blissful experience to submit himself
thus to the play of her moods, John postponed the declaration he felt
impelled to make until it burst from him irresistibly, like a geyser.

"Listen!" he broke out excitedly, and began to pour out impetuously the
tale of his swiftly ripened infatuation.

Marien did listen at first as if surprised, and then with a flush of
pleasure that steadily deepened on her cheeks. Even when he had
concluded she sat for a moment with lips half parted, eyes half closed,
and an expression of enchantment upon her face as if listening to music
that she wished might flow on forever.

"Do not speak!" John protested suddenly, as her expression appeared to
change.  "The picture is too beautiful to spoil.  Let me take from your
lips in silence the kiss that seals our betrothal."

But Marien held him off with sudden strength.

"Marien, I love you.  I love you," he protested vehemently.

"No," Marien replied, lifting herself higher amid the pillows and
speaking alertly as if she had just been given words to answer.  "You do
not love me.  You love the thing you think I am."

John’s blond brows were lifted in mute protest.

"Listen!" she exclaimed.  "You compelled me to listen.  Now I must
compel you to listen—mad, impetuous man!" and she seemed almost
resentful.  "In what you have just been saying, you have written a part
for me. You have given me a character.  If I could play that part
always, I should be what you are in love with, and you would love me
always; but I cannot play it always; I can play it seldom.  I play it
now for an hour and then perhaps never again."

"Never again?" Hampstead gasped, something in the finality of her tone
thrilling him through with a hollow, sickening note.

Her eyelids narrowed as she replied: "You forget that I, too, live the
calculating life."

There was again that mysteriously sinister meaning in her utterance of
the word "calculating."

"The key to my life is not love; it cannot be love," she went on.  "I am
not the purring kitten you have described.  It angers me to have you
think so.  I am not a thing to love and fondle.  I am a tigress tearing
at one object.  I am," and in the vehement force of her utterance she
seemed to grow tall and terrible, "I am an ambitious woman!  An
unscrupulous, designing, clambering, ambitious woman!"

"But I love you, Marien," John iterated weakly.

"There is no place for love in the calculating life," she rejoined
unhesitatingly.  "Love is a thing incalculable."  Yet as she uttered
this sentence, her tone softened, and her eyes had a look of awe and
hunger oddly mixed in them; but immediately the expression of resolute
ambition succeeded to her features.

"When I am at the top," she proposed loftily.

"But the better part of life may be gone then," John protested bitterly.
"The top!  When shall we reach the top?"

"I shall reach it in a bound when my opportunity comes," Marien answered
with cool assurance.  "Nobody, not even myself, knows how good I am.
Any night some man may sit in front who has both the judgment to see and
the money to command playwrights, theaters, New York appearances to
order.  When they come, I shall conquer.  Oh," and her eyes sparkled
while she shivered with a thrill of self-gratulation, "it is wonderful
to feel the great potential thing inside of you, to know that your wings
are strong enough to fly and you only wait the coming of the breeze.  It
is dazzling, intoxicating, to think that within three months I may be a
Broadway star; that within a year the whole English-speaking world may
recognize that a new queen of the emotional drama and of tragedy has
been crowned.  Until that hour," and she lowered her voice as she
checked the exaltation of her mood, "until that hour a lover would be a
millstone."

"But," exulted John, "you are not at the top yet.  I may arrive first!"

Marien looked him up and down and laughed, just laughed,—about the look
and laugh that Parks had given him.

Hampstead’s eager face flushed.

"You do not think that possible," he challenged aggressively.

"No, dear boy," replied the woman, her tone and manner swiftly
sympathetic, "I know it is not possible. You do not realize how far you
have to go.  If you have genius, you do not show it.  You have talent,
temperament, intelligence, application; these may win for you, but the
way will be long and the compensation uncertain.  If you persist for
ten, fifteen, maybe twenty years, till some of your exuberance has died,
till experience has rounded you off, till you have learned from that
great big compelling teacher out there in front, the audience, what is
art and what is not; while you may not be accounted a great star, yet
the world will recognize your craftsmanship and concede you a place of
eminence upon the stage, a position well worth occupying, but one for
which you will pay long years before you get it."

"But our love," John protested helplessly.

"Who said ’our love,’" Marien declaimed almost petulantly.  "I have not
confessed to any love."

"But—but," and John’s eyes opened widely, "you would not permit—"

"I did not permit," she flashed.  "You took, and I forgave because I
told you I could understand.  Can you not, blind man, also understand?
If man is sometimes man, will not woman also sometimes be woman?"

"Did it mean—no more than that?"

John’s eyes searched hers accusingly.

Her answer was to scorn to answer.  She made it seem that she was
dismissing him, exactly as any heartless woman might dismiss a favorite
who had amused her for an hour, but whose antics and cajoleries had now
begun to pall.

Dazed and dumb, Hampstead seemed to feel his way backward toward the
door, where Julie came mysteriously, unsummoned, to help him on with his
coat and thrust his hat into his hand.  When John turned for a last
look, Marien’s back was turned, and though the head was bowed and the
side of the face half concealed, he thought he saw a look of agony upon
it.

"Marien," he murmured hoarsely, with sudden emotion. "Marien!"

But on the instant she raised her face to him, and it was the old face,
wonderful and witching, beaming with a happy, cordial smile as she laid
her hand in his without a sign of restraint of any sort.  The very
heartlessness of it completed his bewilderment.  Did the woman not know
that she was breaking his heart?  It killed his hope; it cowed him and
threw him into a sullen mood.

"Good-by, Miss Dounay," he said huskily.

Her eloquent eyes shot him a look in which reproach and tenderness
mingled, while her hand pulsed quickly like a heart beating in his palm.
What mood of sullenness could withstand that look?  Not his.  He smiled,
as if a ray of sunshine played upon his face, and amended with:

"Good night, Marien."

"Good-by, John," she answered sweetly.

The door was closed behind him before John realized that with all her
sweetness, she had said good-by, and the emphasis was on the "by."

At the corner the bewildered man turned and looked up.  He could see the
lace curtain at the window, but he could not see the pillows on the
divan quivering with sobs from a soft burden that had flung itself among
them when the door was closed.



                             *CHAPTER XIII*

                         *THE SCENE PLAYED OUT*


Marien Dounay loved him, but for the sake of her own ambition was trying
to kill that love.  This was the explanation which the sleepless,
tossing hours fed again and again into John Hampstead’s mind until he
accepted it as the demonstrated truth.

As for himself, he could no more have killed his love for Marien than he
could have killed a child.  He determined deliberately to match his will
against hers and break it; to see her again immediately, to meet her
arguments with better arguments, her firm rejections with firmer
affirmations; to melt her resolution with an appeal to her heart; in
short, and by some means not now clear, to overmaster her purpose for
the sake of her own happiness as well as his.

But a thought of Bessie Mitchell came crowding in. Now this was not
altogether strange, since John had half-consciously cherished the notion
that he would some day love Bessie, and he reflected now that she must
have had a feeling of the same sort toward himself.  Perhaps this was
why she cried that day upon the rocks; perhaps, too, that was why he
kissed her, for he was beginning now to understand some things better
than he had before.  Conscience demanded therefore that he write Bessie
a tactful letter which, while vague and general, would yet somehow
reveal the tremendous change in the drift of his affections.

Just that much, however, was going to be hard—a brutal piece of work—to
merely hint that some other woman might be coming more intimately into
his life than this trustful, jolly-hearted companion.  But it was honest
and it must, therefore, be done.

Hampstead summoned grimly all his resolution and dipped his pen in ink.

"Dear Bessie," he wrote, and then his pen stopped, and an itching
sensation came into the corners of his eyes and a lump into his throat.

Presently he laid the pen down as resolutely as he had taken it up.  He
could not write Bessie out of his life, after all; at least not like
that.  Instead he wrote a letter that was a lie, or that started out to
be a lie; but the surprising thing to Hampstead was that while he wrote,
visioning Bessie at home in Los Angeles, rose-embowered, or walking to
school beneath rows of palms, he was himself transported to Los Angeles,
and the letter was not false.  He was back again in the old life, and
Bessie was an interesting and necessary part of it.

Yet he found he could not seal himself into the old life when he closed
the flap of the envelope.  The moment the letter was mailed, his mind
went irresistibly back to Marien, whom it was a part of his plan to see
that very day.  This was possible because Mowrey rehearsals were long
and somewhat painful affairs.

Hurrying from the Sampson Stock, at the end of his own rehearsal, John
was able to cross the bay and reach the Grand Opera House while Mowrey’s
people were still wearily at work, and to make his way apparently unseen
through the huge, gloomy auditorium to a box which was deep in shadow,
as boxes usually are at rehearsal time.

Marien was "on", and the big fellow’s heart leaped at the sound of her
voice; yet presently it stood still again, for his jealous ear had
detected a disquieting note in her utterance, a sort of cajoling purr
which the lover recognized instantly.  It was not Marien Dounay in
rehearsal, nor yet in "character"; it was Marien herself when in her
most ingratiating mood, and was meant neither for the rehearsal nor for
the character, but for the actor who played the opposing rôle.

Who, by the way, was this handsome man, with the rare, low voice that
combined refinement and carrying power, so absolutely sure of himself,
whose every move betokened the seasoned, accomplished actor, and who
displayed to perfection those very graces which John himself hoped some
day to exhibit?

In the box in front of Hampstead was another ghostly figure, also
watching the rehearsal.  John reached forward and touched him on the
shoulder, whispering hollowly: "Who is the new leading man?"

"Charles Manning of New York," was the reply; "specially engaged for
this and three other rôles."

"Thank you," said John, swallowing hard, for now he understood perfectly
the disagreeable meaning of those cajoleries.  They represented just one
more element in Marien Dounay’s calculating life.  This New York actor
might go back and drop the word that would bring her opportunity, the
thing her vaulting ambition coveted more than it coveted love.
Therefore she was taking deliberate advantage of these situations to
kindle a personal interest in herself, for which, once her object was
gained, she would refuse responsibility as heartlessly as she had tried
to reject the big man who just now started so violently as he watched
her.

Look at that now!  The stage direction had required Manning to take
Marien in his arms for a minute. Hampstead ground his teeth.

Well, why didn’t they separate?  What was she clinging to him so long
for?  Why, indeed, if it were not for this same reason that to John,
stewing in jealous rage, seemed despicable and base.  This was not nice;
it was not womanly; it was not a true reflection of Marien’s character.
It was, he assured himself hotly, one of the things from which he must
save her.

But he had no opportunity to begin his work of salvation that afternoon,
for rehearsal ended, Marien walked out with Charles Manning so closely
in her company that Hampstead could not so much as catch her eye, and
his emotions were in such a riot that he dared not trust himself to
accost her.

When John had walked the streets for an hour, with the storm of his
feelings rising instead of settling, he resolved upon a note to Marien
and went to the office of the _Dramatic Review_ to dispatch it.


"Dear Marien," he wrote.  "I must see you to-night. I will call at
twelve.  JOHN."


The brevity of this communication was deliberately calculated to express
his headlong mood and the depths of his determination.  He had not asked
an answer, but waited for one, assuring himself that if none came he
would call just the same.  Yet the answer was ominously prompt.  John
tore it open with brutal strength and saw Marien’s handwriting for the
first time.  It was vigorous and rectangular, but unmistakably feminine,
and there was neither salutation nor signature.


"Stupid!" the note began abruptly.  "I saw you in the box to-day.  I
will not have you spying upon me. You must not call.  I have tried to
make you understand. Why can you not accept the situation?  Or are you
mad enough to compel me to stage the scene and play it out for you?"


John read the note twice, crumpled it in his hand, and walked slowly
down Geary Street to Market and down Market Street to the ferry.

In the second act that night he forgot to take on the knife with which
he was to stab his victim, and nearly spoiled the scene, through having
to strangle him instead.

"_Stage the scene and play it out for you?_"  What could she mean by
that.

Determined to find out, John hurried from the theater at the close of
the performance, with his lips pursed stubbornly, and at exactly twelve
o’clock Julie was answering his ring at the door of the little apartment
on Turk Street.

"Ah!" she exclaimed, smiling cordially.  "It is the big man again.  No,
Madame is not in.  She is having supper out to-night.  With whom?  La!
la!  I should not tell you that," and Julie shrugged one shoulder only,
after a way of hers, and made a movement to close the door; but
something in John’s eyes induced her to add, with both sympathy and
chiding in her tone: "You must not come to see Madame when Madame does
not want you."

"But I must see her, Julie!" John pleaded huskily, rather throwing
himself upon the mercy of the little French woman.

Julie gazed at him doubtfully.  She had fended off the attentions of
many an importunate suitor from her beautiful mistress but never one who
engaged at once so much of her sympathy and respect as he.  In her mind
she was weighing something; reflecting perhaps whether it was not
kindness to this big, earnest man to let his own eyes serve him.  Her
decision was evidently in the affirmative.

"If you go quickly to the entrance of Antone’s," she suggested
hurriedly, "you will see Madame arriving presently in an automobile."

Stubborn as John was in his purpose, he nevertheless flushed that even
Julie could think him capable of standing at the door of a French
restaurant at midnight waiting to catch a glimpse of the woman he loved
in the company of another man.  Yet pride was so completely swallowed up
in jealousy and passion that another five minutes found him loitering
before the entrance to Antone’s, resolving to go, to stay; to look and
not to look; feeling now weakly ashamed of himself and now meanly
resolute.

The place was half underground, with a gilded and illumined entrance
that yawned like the mouth of a monster.  John was sure from its outward
look that Antone’s was no more than half respectable.  The fragrance of
the food which assailed his nostrils was, he felt equally sure, an
expensive fragrance.  A meal there would cost as much as a week of meals
where he was accustomed to take his food.  Manning, of course, had a
fine salary.  He could afford to take Marien for an automobile ride and
to Antone’s for supper.

Hampstead’s envious rage flamed again at this thought, but at the moment
the flash of a headlight in his eyes called attention to an automobile
just then sweeping in toward the curb.  However, instead of the
stalwart, graceful figure of Manning, there emerged from the car a
squat, oily-faced man, huge of paunch, with thick lips, a heavy nose,
pouched cheeks, and small, pig-like eyes, upon whose broad countenance
hung an expression of bland self-complaisance.  By an odd coincidence,
this man was also connected with the stage.  John knew him by sight as
Gustav Litschi, and by reputation as a very swine among men, utterly
without scruple, although endowed with an uncanny business sense; a man
who had money and whose theatrical ventures always made money, though
often their character was as doubtful as himself.

Disappointed, Hampstead nevertheless experienced a feeling of curiosity
as to Litschi’s companion, and before drawing back, followed the gross
glance of the gimlet eyes within the car to where they rested gloatingly
upon a woman in evening clothes, who was gathering her train and cloak
about her preparatory to being helped from the car.  To John’s utter
amazement the woman was Marien.

For a moment he stared as if confronted with a specter, then felt his
great hands itching while he wavered between a desire to leap upon this
coarse creature and tear him to pieces, and the impulse to accost Marien
with reproaches and a warning.  But the swift reflection that she
probably knew the man’s character perfectly well prompted John instead
to the despicable expedient of deliberately spying upon her.  Turning
impetuously, he ran quickly down the steps in advance of the couple.

"One?" queried the headwaiter, with a keen estimating glance under which
John ordinarily would have felt himself to shrivel; but now a frenzy of
jealousy and a sense of outrage had made him bold.

"Yes," he replied brusquely; "that seat yonder in the corner where I can
see the whole show."

It was a lonely and undesirable table, smack against the side of the
wall, along which ran a row of curtained, box-like alcoves that served
as tiny private dining rooms. John could have it and welcome.  He got
it, and as he turned to sit down, his eye scanned the interior swiftly
for Marien and Litschi.  To his surprise they were coming straight at
him, Marien leading.  Certain that she had seen him and was going to
address him, John nevertheless determined to await a look of recognition
before arising.  To his further surprise, no such look came. Coldly,
icily beautiful to-night, the glitter in her eyes was hard and
desperate, with a suggestion of menace in it, reminding John of that
momentary intuition he had once experienced, that this woman could be
dangerous. Her note had warned him not to spy upon her, he recalled. It
must be that her discovery of his presence had roused a devil in her
now.  So strong did this feeling become that he felt a relief as great
as his surprise when she brushed by as if oblivious of his presence and
passed from view into the nearest box, the curtain of which a waiter was
holding aside obsequiously.

When the screening curtain dropped, swinging so near that John could
have reached across his table and touched it with a hand, he had a sense
of sudden escape, as if a tigress, sleekly beautiful and powerfully
cruel, had over-leaped him to tear a richer prey beyond.  The swine-like
Litschi, waddling after her into the box, was the chosen victim.  Yonder
by the curb John had feared for Marien; now, repulsive as the creature
was, he felt a kind of pity for Litschi.

Yet with the curtain drawn, Hampstead’s emotion passed swiftly back to
love and anxiety for her.  She had not seen him, that was all.  The
supposed look of menace was the product of his imagination and his
jealousy.

As the minutes passed unnoted, this anxiety grew again into sympathy and
consideration.  Marien had complained to him of the hard things she had
to do.  This supper with Litschi was merely one of them.  That scene
with Manning was another.  He reflected triumphantly that she had not
welcomed Litschi to her apartment; but compelled him to bring her to
this public place.  Poor, brave girl!  She had to play with all these
men; to warm them without herself getting burnt; to woo them desperately
upon the chance: Manning that he might somewhere speak the fortunate
word, Litschi that in some greedy hope of gain he might be induced to
risk his money on the venture that would give Marien the opportunity for
which she had been calculating indomitably for seven years.

But what was that?

John’s hand reached out and clutched the table violently, while his body
leaned forward as if to rise.  What was that she had said so loudly he
could hear, and so astonishing that he could not believe his ears?

He had been sitting there such a long, long time, thinking thoughts like
these, stirred, soothed, and stirred again by the sound of her voice,
heard intermittently between the numbers of the orchestra.  He had
ordered food and eaten, then ordered more and eaten that,—anything to
think and wait, he did not know for what.

Waiters bearing trays had come and gone unceasingly from behind the
curtain four feet from his eyes, and he knew that they had borne more
bottles than food. Several times he had heard a sound like "shots
off-stage."  This sound always succeeded the entry of a gold sealed
bottle.  Evidently they were drinking heavily behind the curtain,
Litschi’s voice growing lower and less coherent, and Marien’s louder and
less reserved, till for some time he had been catching little snatches
of her conversation. She had been talking about her future, painting a
picture of the success she would make when her opportunity came; but now
she had said the thing that staggered him.

"What?" he came near to saying aloud; and at the same time he heard the
drink-smothered voice of Litschi also with interrogative inflection.
Litschi, too, wanted to be sure that he had heard aright.

"I say," iterated the voice of Marien deliberately, as if with
calculated carrying power, "that a woman who is ambitious must be
prepared to pay the price demanded—her heart, her soul—if need
be—_herself_!"

She plumped out the last word ruthlessly, and broke into a half-tipsy
laugh that had in it a suggestion unmistakable as much as to say:

"You understand now, don’t you, Gustav Litschi? You realize what I am
offering to the man who buys me opportunity?"

Her heart—her soul—herself!  Hampstead, having started up, sat down
again weakly, the cold sweat of horror standing out upon his brow.

So this was what she had meant all the time in her speech about the
calculating life.  She could not give herself up to love him or any one,
because she was dangling herself as a final lure to the man who would
give her opportunity.

"Why, this woman was spiritually—morally—potentially, a—" he could
barely let himself think the hateful word.  To utter it was impossible.

Perhaps she was worse!  A choking, burning sensation was in his throat.
He tore at it with his hands, gasping for breath.  He wanted to tear at
the curtain—at the woman!  How he hated her!  She had no longer any
fineness.  She was a coarse, designing, reckless—_prostitute_! There!
In his agony, the word was out.  He sent it hurtling across the stage of
his own brain.  It flew straight.  It found its mark upon the face of
his love and stuck there blotched and quivering, biting into the picture
like acid.  It ate out the eyes of Marien Dounay from his mind; it ate
away her pliant ruby lips, her cheeks and her soft round chin, and it
left of that face only a grinning hideousness from which John Hampstead
shrank with a horrible sickness in his heart.

At this moment the curtain rings clicked sharply under the sweep of an
impetuous arm, and with the suddenness of an apparition, Marien stood
just across the table from him.  Her face was highly colored, but the
preternatural brightness of the eyes had begun to dull, and there was a
loose look, too, about the mouth, the lips of which were curled by a
mocking smile.

"Well, John Hampstead!" she sneered, with a vindictive look in her eyes,
insinuating scorn in her tones. "Now that I have played out the scene,
do you think you understand?"

John had risen stiffly, every fiber of him in riot at the horror he had
heard and was now seeing; but his self-control was perfect, and a kind
of dignity invested him for the moment.

"Yes," he said, meeting her gaze unflinchingly, "I understand!"

The tone of finality that went into this latter word was unescapable.
As it was uttered, Marien attempted one of her lightning changes of
manner but failed, breaking instead into a fit of hysterical laughter,
during which, with head thrown back, her body swayed, and she
disappeared behind the curtain, where the laughter ended abruptly in
something like a choke, or a fit of coughing.

But John’s indignation and disgust were so great that he did not concern
himself as to whether Miss Dounay’s laughter might be choking her or
not.  Embarrassed, too, by the number of eyes turned curiously upon him
from the nearer tables where the diners had observed the incident
without gathering any of its purport, his only impulse was to pay his
bill and escape, before the building and the world came clattering down
upon him.



                             *CHAPTER XIV*

                        *THE METHOD OF A DREAM*


So paralyzing to a man of Hampstead’s sensitive nature was the effect of
Marien Dounay’s startling disclosure that he experienced a partial
arrest of consciousness, the symptoms of which hung on surprisingly.

Somehow that night he got back to Oakland, and the next morning was
again about his work; but the days went by mechanically—days of risings
and retirings, eatings and sleepings, memorizing of lines, mumbling of
speeches, sliding into clothes, slipping into grease paint, walkings on
and walkings off.  Through all of these daily obligations the man moved
with a certain absent-minded precision, like a person with a split
consciousness, who does not let his right lobe know what his left lobe
is thinking.

He knew, for instance, that a telegram came to him one day with the
charges collect, and that he paid the charges and signed for the
message, but he did not know that the message lay unopened on his
dresser while he spent all his unoccupied time sunk in a stupor of
meditation upon the thing which had befallen him.

Most astonishing to John was the fact that while he felt rage and
humiliation at having so duped himself over Marien Dounay, he had no
sense of pain.  He was like a man run over by a railroad train who
experiences no throb of anguish but only a sickish, numbing sensation in
his mangled limbs.

Recognizing that his condition was not normal, Hampstead wondered if he
could be going insane.  He was eating little; he was taking no interest
in his work.  He went and came from the theater automatically, impatient
of company, impatient of noise, of newspaper headlines, of interruptions
of any sort, anxious only to get to his room, to throw himself into a
chair or upon a bed, and relapse into a state of mental drooling.  After
several days he roused from one of these reveries with the clear
impression that some presence had been there in the room, had breathed
upon him, had touched his lips, and spoken to him.  He leaped up and
looked about him.  He opened the door and scanned the corridor.  No one
was there,—no echo of corporeal footsteps resounded.

Realizing that it must have been his own dream that waked him, he came
back sheepishly and tried again to induce that state of mental dusk in
which the odd sensation had been experienced.  Soon he roused again with
the knowledge that the presence had been with him and had departed; but
this time a clear picture of the vision remained.  It was a woman,—it
was like Marien.  It was, he told himself, the image of his Love.  He
entertained it sadly, like an apparition from the grave.  The vision
came again, but with repeated visits, its form began to change, until it
no longer resembled the form of Marien.

This was exciting; the image might change still further till it
definitely resembled some one else.

This surmise proved correct.  It did change more and more until identity
was for a time completely lost, but as days passed, the features ceased
to blur and jumble.  The eyes were now constantly blue; the complexion
was consistently pink and white; the hair was brown and began to appear
crinkly; the lips grew shorter, and of a more youthful red; the chin
broadened and appeared fuller and softer.  One morning these rosier lips
smiled with a rarer spontaneity than the vision had ever shown before,
and with the smile came two dimples into the peach-blow cheeks.

"Bessie!" John cried, with a welcoming shout of incoherent joy.
"Bessie!"

But his joy was speedily swallowed up in the gloom of mortifying
reflections.  Could it be that his love was so inconstant as to transfer
itself in a few days from Marien Dounay to Bessie Mitchell, and if it
did, what was such love worth?  Besides, how could he love Bessie as he
had loved Marien.  There was no fire in her.  As yet, she was only a
girl.  But at this juncture a memory came floating in of that day on the
Cliff House rocks, when some vague impulse, which he thought to be
sympathy, had made him draw Bessie’s face up to his and kiss it. Now, as
he recalled it, the touch of her lips was the touch of a woman; and her
look that puzzled him then,—why, it was the look of love!

Hampstead leaped up excitedly.  Bessie was a woman, and she loved him!
And he loved her!  But how could he have been such a fool as to think
that he loved Marien?

"Passion," he told himself scornfully, "mere passion."

"She was the first ripe woman I ever touched, and I fell for her!
That’s all," he muttered.  "But, how could I ever, ever, ever have done
it?"

Heaping bitter self-reproaches, he took his bewildered head in his
hands, while he wrestled with the humiliating chain of ruminations.
Naturally enough, it was the memory of a speech of Marien’s which
afforded him his first clue.

"In what you have just been saying, you have given me a character," she
had replied to one of his advances. "If I could play that part always, I
should be what you are in love with, and you would love me always; but I
cannot play it always; I can play it seldom.  I play it now for an hour
and then perhaps never again."

This speech, vexatiously enigmatic then, sounded suddenly rational now.
It meant that he had unconsciously bestowed upon her his idealized
conception of womanhood. This was made comparatively easy because in the
plays Marien almost invariably enacted the heroines, always sweet,
always gentle, and almost always good; or, if erring, they were more
sinned against than sinning. Most of these piled-up virtues of her rôles
John dotingly had ascribed to her, and his professional contacts
afforded few glimpses of the real Marien by which his drawing could be
corrected.

Atop of this had come those few hours of delicious intimacy in her
apartment, when she had deliberately played the part she saw that he
would like.  This had sufficed to make his illusion complete.

Still John had no reproaches for the actress.  Instead, he found within
him a renascence of respect for her, particularly for her frankness.
Most women—most men, too, for that matter, he thought—play the hypocrite
with themselves and with others.  He must do her full credit. She had
not done so.  She might have ruined him.  He owed his escape to no
discernment of his own.  When he had not understood, she had resolutely
played the scene out for him—to the uttermost.  It must have cost a
woman, any woman, something to do that, he reasoned. Under this
interpretation, Marien was no longer repulsive to him.  Instead, he
found in her something to admire. Her courage was sublime.  Her devotion
to her god, ambition, if terrible, was also magnificent.

"Yet, why," he asked himself, "did she let me take her in my arms?
Sympathy," he answered at last.  "She never loved me.  A woman who loved
a man could not do what she did in the restaurant.  She was very sorry
for me, that was all.  She let me kiss her as she would let a dog lick
her hand."  And then he remembered another speech of hers: "If a man is
sometimes man, may not woman be also sometimes woman?"

This helped him finally and completely, as he thought, to understand;
but it left him with a still deeper sense of his own weakness and
humiliation.

Marien Dounay had roused the woman want in him and while she was near,
her personality had been strong enough to center that want upon herself.
But when she shook his passion free of her, it turned, after circling
like a homing pigeon, due upon its course to Bessie.  John saw that this
was all logical and psychological.  Patently, it was also biological.

But it was mortifying beyond words.  He felt that he had dishonored
himself and dishonored Bessie.  He had supposed himself strong; he found
himself weak.  He had been swept off his feet and out of his head.  He
was ashamed of himself, heartily.  Bessie, the good, the pure, the
noble!  Why, he could not think of her at all in the terms in which he
thought of Marien Dounay.  His instinct for Marien had been to possess.
For Bessie it was to revere, to worship—and yet—and yet—he wanted her
now with an urge that was stronger than ever he had felt for Marien.

Still, he had no impulse to rush to Bessie.  He felt unworthy.  He could
not see himself taking her hand, touching her lips, declaring his love
to her now.  It seemed to him that he must test his love for Bessie
before he declared it, and purify it by months—years, perhaps,—of
waiting, as if to expiate the sin of his weakness.

But in the meantime, Bessie loved him, and would be loving him all the
time.  And he could write to her!  Ah, what letters he would write,
letters that would not only keep her love alive but fan it, while he
punished himself for his insane disloyalty.

Disloyalty!  Yes, that was the very word.  He knew as he reflected that
he had been disloyal ever to yield to the spell of Marien Dounay.  He
had been disloyal to Bessie, to his ideals, and to himself.

He turned to where a few days before he had pinned his old Los Angeles
motto on the wall of his Oakland room: "Eternal Hammering is the Price
of Success."

Hammering, he decided, was the wrong word.  It was not high enough.  He
stepped over to the wall and changed it to the new word so that it read:

"Eternal _Loyalty_ is the Price of Success."

He liked that better; so well, in fact, that he lifted his hand
dramatically and swore his life anew, not to hammering but to
Loyalty,—loyalty to himself, to Bessie, to Dick and Tayna, and to God!

This gave him a feeling of new courage.  He turned away as from a
disagreeable experience now forever past.  His eyes wandered about the
room exactly as if he had returned from an absence, taking in detail by
detail the familiar, scanty furniture, the hateful spring rocker, the
washstand, the bed, the torn, smoke-soiled curtains at the window, the
picture of Washington at Valley Forge upon the wall, and the dresser
with its cheap speckled mirror.

His glance had just paused mystified at the sight of the unopened
telegram upon the dresser when there was a knock at the door.

With a stride, John turned the key and swung open the door.

Bud, the fourteen-year-old call boy of the Sampson Theater, entered; a
breathless, self-important youngster with freckles and a stubby
pompadour.

"Mr. Cohen’s says yer better write a letter ter yer sister," the lad
blurted, while his eyes scanned the room and the actor, where he stood
reaching in a dazed sort of way for the telegram.

"Hey," exclaimed Hampstead, looking up sharply, "my sister?"

"Ye-uh," affirmed Bud stoutly.  "Mr. Cohen’s got a letter from her, and
she wants to know if yer sick ’r anything."

"By jove, that’s right, Bud," confessed John with sudden conviction.
"I’ve had my mind on something of late, and guess I’ve rather overlooked
the folks at home. I’ll write to-day.  Awfully kind of you, old chap, to
come over.  Here!"

And Hampstead, now with the telegram in his hand, attempted to cover a
feeling of confusion before these bright, peering eyes by a pilgrimage
to the closet, from which he tossed Bud a quarter.  The lad accepted the
quarter thankfully.

"Say, Mr. Hampstead," he broke out impulsively, with an embarrassed note
in his voice, "I’m sorry you got your notice!"

"Got my notice?" asked John a bit sharply.

"Yes.  Yer let out," announced Bud, with unfeeling directness, though
consideration was in his heart.  "You been good to me, Mr. Hampstead,
and I’m sorry you’re goin’.  Some of the others is, too."

But John was roused now, thoroughly.

"Why, Bud, what are you talking about?" he demanded, turning accusingly
to the boy.

"For the love of Mike," exclaimed Bud, advancing a little fearsomely and
studying the face of Hampstead with new curiosity, "Yer let out and
don’t know it! What’d I tell ’em?  Why, there it is," and he snatched up
a blue, thin-looking envelope from the dresser.  "Y’ got it a week ago
when you got yer pay.  Y’ ain’t opened it even."

Hampstead took the blue envelope from Bud’s hand, an awful sense of
weakness running through him as he read that his services would not be
required after the customary two weeks.

"What did I get this for, Bud?" he asked, sensing the uselessness of
dissimulation before this impertinent child.

"Y’ got it fer bein’ dopey," answered Bud reproachfully. "Y’ ain’t had
no more sense than a wooden man fer ten days.  Say, Mr. Hampstead," he
ventured further with sympathetic friendliness, "yer a good actor when
you let the hop alone.  Why don’t you cut it? You’re young yet.  You got
a future, Mr. Cohen says, if you’ll let the dope alone."

Hampstead’s face took on a queer, half-amused look.

"Is that what he said?"

"That’s what he said," affirmed Bud aggressively.

"Well, then, all right, Bud.  I will cut it out.  Here’s my hand on it."

Bud took the hand, a trifle surprised and feeling a little more
important than usual.  "Say," he added confidentially, "wise me, will
y’; what kind have you been takin’? Mr. Cohen says he’s never seen
nothin’ like it, and he thought he’d seen ’em all."

"Oh, it’s a little brand I mixed myself," confessed John.  "But I’m done
with it.  Run along now, Bud. You’ve been a good pal," and he gave the
lad a pat on the shoulder and a significant shove toward the door.

"Glad I came over," reflected Bud at the door, jingling the quarter in
his pocket.  "Better write yer sister, or she’ll be comin’ up here.
Say," and Bud returned as if for a further confidence, "y’ never know
what a woman’s goin’ to do, do y’?  Las’ fall a woman shot our leadin’
juvenile in the leg—because she loved him.  Get that? Because she loved
him!"

Bud’s drawling scorn was inimitable.

"Y’ can’t figger ’em, can yuh?  Some of ’em wants to be called, and some
of ’em don’t.  Some of ’em wants their letters before the show, and some
of ’em after. Some of ’em is one way one day and the other way the next
day.  If I ever get my notice,—if I ever lose my job it’ll be about a
woman.  I never seen a man yet that I couldn’t get his nannie.  I never
seen a woman yet that couldn’t get mine and get it fresh every time I
run a step fer her.  Say!  Mr. Hampstead—honest—ain’t they the jinx?"

Bud had got his hand on the door, but getting no answer to this very
direct and to him very important question, he turned and scrutinized the
face of the big man curiously at first and then with amazement, as he
exclaimed: "Fer the love of Mike!  He ain’t heard me.  Say, Mr.
Hampstead!  Say!"  Bud went back and shook the big man’s arm, with a
look of apprehension on his face, and shouted very loud, as if to the
deaf: "Say!  Come out of it, will y’?  Don’t write.  Telegraph her.
Gosh!  She might blame me!"

After which parting gun in behalf of duty and of prudence, with a sigh
and the air of having done a man’s best, the lad got hastily through the
door and slammed it after him very loudly.



                              *CHAPTER XV*

                           *THE CATASTROPHE*


Bud was right.  John had not heard him.  He stood with the telegram torn
open in his hand.


"Charles fell from El Capitan," it ran. "Body brought here.  ROSE."


For a moment the man gazed fixedly, deliberately but absently crushing
the envelope in one hand, while the other held the open message before
him.  Then his lips moved slowly and without uttering a sound, they
framed the words of his thought: "Charles!—Dead!—Merciful God!"

For a reflective interval the gray, startled eyes set themselves on
distance and then turned again to the message. It was dated April 4.

April 4?  What day was this?

On the dresser was an unopened newspaper.  John remembered now he had
bought it yesterday, or rather he assumed it was yesterday.  The date
upon the paper was April 14.  If it were yesterday he bought that paper,
to-day was the 15th, and Charles had been dead eleven days! What had
they thought—what had they done without a word from him in this crisis?
What had become of them?

And there were unopened letters on the dresser, three of them, all from
Rose.  John tore them open, lapping up their contents with his eyes.

"Poor, poor Rose!" he groaned.  "What must she think of me?"

The first letter told of the death of Charles and the lucky sale of
"Dawn in the Grand Canyon" which afforded money for the recovery of the
body and its decent interment, but little more.

The second letter was briefer and expressed surprise at not hearing from
him in response to her message, which the telegraph company assured her
had been delivered to him in person.  This letter showed Rose bearing up
under her grief and stoutly making plans for taking up the support of
her children.

The third letter was addressed by the hand of Rose, but the brief note
enclosed was penned by the kind-hearted Doctor Morrison, the railroad’s
"company" physician, to whom, as a part of his outside practice, Rose
would have applied in case of illness.

"Your sister," Doctor Morrison wrote, "has suffered a complete nervous
breakdown.  Long rest with complete relief from financial care is
imperative."

This letter stirred John to immediate action.  He rushed to the
long-distance telephone.  The telegraph was not quick enough.

"Please reassure my sister immediately," John telephoned to Doctor
Morrison.  "Every provision will be made for her care and that of the
children."  Not satisfied with this, John sent a telegram to his sister
direct and to the same effect.

These messages were dispatched as the first and most natural impulses of
the brother’s heart, without pause to consider the responsibilities
involved; and then, having no appetite for breakfast, John returned to
his room to write to Rose.

Poor Rose!  And poor old Charles!  Such an end for him.  No great
pictures painted; no roseate successes gathered; just to follow his
vision on and on until in absent-minded admiration of a sunset glow he
stepped off the brow of El Capitan in Yosemite and fell hundreds of feet
to death.  Yet John’s grief was strangely tempered by the thought that
somehow this death was fitting.  It was like the man’s life.  In art he
had tried to walk the heights with no solid ground of ability beneath,
and he had fallen into the bottomless abyss of failure.

For a moment John pitied Charles greatly; yet when he thought of Rose,
prostrated, as he was sure, not by grief, but by long anxieties, his
feeling turned to one of reproach.  When he thought of the children left
fatherless, with no provision for their future or that of Rose, the
reproach turned to bitterness.  He found himself judging Charles very
sternly, and a verse from scripture came into his mind,—something about
the man who provides not for his own being worse than a murderer.

But in the midst of this condemnation, Hampstead’s jaw dropped, and he
sat staring at the pen with which he was preparing to write.  The
expression on the man’s face had changed from concern to one of agony.
When the pain passed, his features were gray and tenantless, almost the
look of the dead; for John Hampstead had suddenly perceived that _his
stage career was ended_!

Rose, Dick and Tayna were now "his own."  To give Rose the best of care,
upon which his heart had instantly determined, he must have what were to
him large sums of money weekly and monthly; money for nurses, money for
doctors, for sanitariums possibly; and perhaps Dick and Tayna must be
sent to boarding-school or some place like that for the present, while
their higher education must also be considered and provided for.

John knew he could never do these things and follow the stage.  He could
succeed upon the stage; he had proven that, to his own satisfaction at
least; but he could not make money there yet, not for years and years.
Marien was right.  If he persisted, rewards would come and affluence.
But they would come at the other end of life. He must have them now.

Perhaps hardest of all to John was the hurt to his pride, to his
self-confidence, the reflection that, having set his eye upon a shining
goal, he must abandon the march toward it unbeaten, with his strength
untested, or with the tests so far made distinctly in his favor.  It was
hard to think himself a "quitter."  And yet he could feel the stir of a
noble satisfaction in being a "quitter" for duty’s sake.  He remembered
with a certain sad pleasure how almost prophetically he had told Mr.
Mitchell that it would only be something that would happen to Dick and
Tayna that could keep him from going on with his ambition. Now exactly
that had come to pass; yet to make immediate surrender of the ambition
to which he had devoted himself with such enthusiasm seemed impossible.
He knew what he should do—what he intended to do—but he lacked the
resolution for the moment.

If Bessie were only here!

And yet if she were, he would shrink from her presence.  He felt just
now unworthy to look into those trusting eyes of blue.  This time he
must face his destiny alone.

His head sank low.  His hands were clasped above it, as they had been
that night when he was stricken blind. The world was dark before him.
Now, as then, he felt sorry for himself.  In a very few months a great
many things had happened to him that had wrenched him violently.  He had
been racked by doubts and inflamed by mysterious emotions.  He had hoped
and he had dared; he had struggled; he had gained some things and lost
some; but he had survived, and on the whole was conquering.  Now came
the heaviest blow, as it seemed, that could possibly fall upon his
head,—and just in the very hour when the upward way was clearing!

His face was flat upon the page he had meant to fill with words of love
and help to Rose.  Above him, on the wall, was the sheet of faded yellow
paper that bore his just amended motto.  Two pins, loosened no doubt
when he changed the word on the legend, had been whipped out by the
breeze which swept in through the open window, and this breeze now
fluttered the free end of the yellow sheet insistently like a pennant,
so that the distracted man lifted his clouded eyes and read once again,
as if to make sure:

"Eternal Loyalty is the Price of Success."

"Loyalty to what?" he demanded fiercely of himself. To his ambition?  Or
to two little growing lives that trusted and believed in him?

To put the question like that was to answer it.  John rose abruptly,
snatched the legend from the wall, crumpled it as he had the envelope,
and cast it on the floor.  He didn’t need it any more.

"And yet," he reflected after a moment, "why not?"

"Uncle John, when will you be president?" Tayna had asked him that one
night, and he smiled as in fancy he felt her arms again about his neck,
her bare feet cuddling in his lap.  The thought roused him.  He was not
surrendering all ambition when he surrendered a stage ambition.  He was
a man of greatly increased ability now as compared with then.  Surely a
man was pretty poor stuff if, having been defeated in one desire through
no fault of his own, he could not carve out another niche for himself
somewhere in the wide hall of achievement. John stooped and recovered
the crumpled square of yellow, smoothed its wrinkles reverently, and
fastened it again and more securely upon the wall above him.

                     *      *      *      *      *

That night John Hampstead went to the theater as usual, but entered the
dressing room like a man going into the presence of his dead.
Throughout the performance he made his entrances and exits solemnly.

The play for this, his final week, was _Hamlet_, and John’s part was the
King.  Every night as the Prince of Denmark killed him with a rapier
thrust, John enacted that spectacular and traditional fall by which,
since time forgotten, all Kings in _Hamlet_ go toppling to the floor,
where they die with one foot upraised upon the bottom-most step of the
throne, as if reluctant even in death to give up the perquisites and
preeminence of royalty.  So hour by hour John felt that he was killing
the King in his soul, but the King died reluctantly, always with one
foot on the throne.

The last night came, and the last hour.  Methodically the man assembled
his make-up materials, his grease paints, his hare’s feet, and the beard
he had himself fashioned for the King to wear, and put them away, with
their sweetish, unmistakable odor, in the old cigar box, to be treasured
henceforth like sacred things, symbols of a great ambition which had
stirred a young man’s breast, and remembrances of the greatest sacrifice
it seemed possible aspiring youth could be called upon to make.

But no one was to know that it was a sacrifice; not Rose, not Dick nor
Tayna even.  They were to think he did it happily and because "The
stage—the stage life, you know!  Well, probably there are better ways
for a man to spend his energies."

But, really, in his heart of hearts, Hampstead knew he would love the
drama always.  He owed it a debt that he could never repay, and some day
when he had achieved a brilliant success in another walk of life—when
Dick and Tayna were grown and far away perhaps—he would take out the old
cigar box and gather his children around him, if he should have
children, and tell them the story of his first divinest ambition as one
tells the story of one’s first love; and of the great sacrifice he had
made in the cause of duty, fingering the while these crumbling things as
one caresses a lock of hair of the long departed.

"Look, Bud, here’s a box of cold cream—nearly full. You can get a
quarter for it from somewhere along the line," suggested John, nodding
toward the row of dressing rooms as he walked away, his overcoat over
his shoulder, a suitcase in his hand.



                             *CHAPTER XVI*

                         *THE KING STILL LIVES*


To make money quickly and steadily and in considerable amounts, was his
immediate necessity.  He remembered, naturally, that only seven months
ago William N. Scofield had offered him a salary of twelve thousand
dollars a year, and he went to see that gentleman promptly. But while
the Traffic Manager’s eye lighted at sight of him, the light faded.
Scofield did not refer to the offer he had made or the things he had
talked about that night in the Pacific Union Club.  He only said
absently: "I will speak to Parsons."  The next day Parsons offered
Hampstead a position in the rate department at one hundred dollars per
month.  John was not greatly surprised. He knew the world was like that.

Of course, he might have gone next to Mr. Mitchell, but did not.  In the
first place John knew that no position which that kind-hearted gentleman
might offer could pay as much money as he must have.  In the second
place, he felt himself big with a sense of new-grown powers, of
personality that he wanted to capitalize, not for some employer, but for
himself.

"Seems to me," he communed, as he walked down Market Street, "that I
could sell real estate, or stocks, or bonds; that I could promote
enterprises, work with big men, put through their deals, and make a lot
of money. I believe I will try it."

An advertisement which seemed to promise something like this was
answered by him in person, but it proved instead a proposition to sell
books.  John revolted at the idea, but the books interested him greatly.
The set was designed for self-improvement, and the price was thirty
dollars.

"Every time you sell a young man or woman a set of these, you do them
good," he suggested to the manager, with a glow upon his face.

"Exactly," assented that suave gentleman, sighting two prime essentials
of a salesman, faith in his article and a missionary enthusiasm.  "You
could make a hundred a week selling ’em!"

One hundred dollars a week!  John looked his incredulity.

"What were you doing before?" inquired the manager.

"Acting!"

"Selling books is like acting," mused the manager. "If you are a good
actor, you could make a hundred a week easy."

Because John needed one hundred dollars a week, and reflected that the
experience would be good training for that higher form of salesmanship
upon which he meant to embark, he took his prospectus and started out.
The first week his commissions were $7.50.  He had made one sale.  But
he needed one hundred dollars worse the second week, and set forth with
greater determination. That week he made two sales.  "I’ve almost got
it," he assured himself, gritting his teeth desperately.  And the third
week he did get it.  His commissions for six days were $74.50, for the
next week $112.50, for the fifth week $145.00.  John Hampstead was
successfully launched upon an enterprise that would care for all his
money wants.

And the work itself was happy work.  It was no foot-in-the-door,
house-to-house campaign on which he had entered.  Ways were found of
gathering lists of persons likely to be interested.  He called upon
these people like a gentleman; he was received and entertained like one.
His self-respecting manner, his stage-trained presence, his growing
store of personal magnetism, his strong, interesting face, with the odd
light of spiritual ardor in his eyes, and the little choke of enthusiasm
that came into his voice, all helped to make his presence welcome and
his canvass entertaining.  He became an adept in reading character and
in playing upon the springs of desire and resolution.

He discovered, too, something to interest and admire in nearly every one
upon whom he called.  He was surprised to find how nice people were
generally.  He had before known people mainly in the mass, as publics,
as audiences, or congregations.  Now he began to know them as
individuals, and to like them, to conceive a sort of social passion for
them, and to desire fervently to do all men good. With this went the
knowledge that he was becoming socially very skillful, and a sense of
still increasing personal power peppered his veins with the sparkle of
new hopes.  Ambition flamed once more.  The king in his soul was alive
again.  He could not only meet people, but handle them.  He felt that as
a politician he could win votes, as a lawyer he could sway juries.

He might even turn again to the stage, with the prospect of swifter and
surer success; but he had begun to discover that one cannot go back,
that no life ever flows up-stream.

Yet the thing which really made the stage career no longer possible was
this sense of new powers grown up within him that were not mimetic, but
creative and constructive, and which would insistently demand some other
form of expression.

Besides, the perspective of his life was now long enough for him to look
back and see how all his experiences had enriched him.  His very
awkwardness, his temporary blindness, his dramatic ambition, the
calamity which shattered that career and made him a seller of books,
each had been a step into power.  His passion for Marien even, while it
was a fall, was a fall into knowledge, which taught him self-control and
made his love for Bessie a tenderer and, as he fancied, a stauncher
devotion than it could otherwise have been.

This gave him a feeling, half-superstitious and half-religious, that his
existence was being ordered for him by a power above his own.  The
effect of this was to increase his eager zest for life itself.  He lived
excitedly, hurrying continually, to see what would leap out at him from
behind the next corner.

Meantime, he was making money.  Within six months all the bills were
paid and he had more than a thousand dollars in the bank.  Rose was out
of the sanitarium and, with Dick and Tayna, was housed in a cottage on
the slope of a hill in western San Francisco, where the setting sun
flashed its farewell upon the windows, and the wide ocean rolled always
in the distance.

John was beginning, too, to feel that the time had come when he could go
back to Bessie and tell her of his love. The past seemed very far past
indeed.  The memory of those whirlwind hours of passionate attachment to
Marien Dounay was like a distorted dream of some drug-induced slumber
into which he had sunk but once, and from which he had awakened forever.

Letters had passed frequently between himself and Bessie.  On his part,
these were carefully studied and almost devoutly restrained in
expression; but none the less freighted in every line with the fervor of
his growing devotion to her.

On her part, the letters were as frankly and impulsively rich with the
essence of her own happy, effervescent self as they had always been.
She had expressed a loyal sympathy with him in the shattering of his
stage career, but had commended him for his renunciation, while through
the letter had run a note of relief, which led John to discover for the
first time that Bessie’s concurrence in his dramatic ambitions was never
without misgivings.  True, she had told him this once, but it was when
he had been too deaf to hear.  What pleased John most in this
correspondence was a pulse of happiness, quickening almost from letter
to letter, which the big man felt revealed her perception of his growing
love for her.

Perhaps it was this that put the past so far behind, that made it seem
as though his love for Bessie had always been a part of his life, and
the impulse to declare it a legitimate ripening of fruit that had grown
slowly towards perfection.

In this mood a day was set when John would go to Los Angeles to visit
Bessie.  As the time approached, he could think of nothing else.  On the
morning of that day, the evening of which was to mark his departure, he
was canvassing in Encina, a beautiful section of that urban population
of several hundred thousand people across the Bay from San Francisco,
the largest municipal unit of which is the City of Oakland.  But
thoughts of Bessie crowding in, so filled the lover’s mind with rosy
clouds that he had not enough of what salesmen call "closing power."

As it happened, a tiny park was just at hand, two blocks long and half a
block wide, curved at the ends, dotted with graceful palms, with tall,
shapely, shiny-leaved acacias, and covered with a thick sod of grass,
laced at intervals by curving walks.

Upon a bench in the very center of this park Hampstead dropped down and
gave himself up to blissful meditations.  Across the street from him was
a block of happy-looking cottage homes, the homes of the great
middle-class folk of America, the one class that John knew well and
sympathetically, for he himself was of it.

On the corner directly before him was a grass-sodded lot, larger than
the others, holding in its center, not a cottage, but a structure of the
country schoolhouse type, painted white, and with a small hooded
vestibule out in front.  Over the wide doors admitting to this vestibule
was a transom of glass, on which was painted in very plain letters the
words: CHRISTIAN CHAPEL.

"The house of God does not look so happy as the homes of men hereabout,"
Hampstead remarked, and just then was surprised out of his own thoughts
by seeing the door of the deserted looking chapel open and two men come
out.  One was tall and heavy, gray of moustache and red of face, wearing
a silk hat, a white necktie, and a full frock coat.

"An ex-clergyman," voted Hampstead shrewdly, because, aside from his
dress, the man looked aggressively unclerical.

The other was slender, with a black, dejected moustache and also
frock-coated, but the material of the garment was gray instead of black,
and the suit rubbed at the elbows and bagged at the knees.  This man
carried a small satchel.

"Some sort of a missionary secretary, I’ll bet you," was John’s second
venture at identification.

Another incongruous thing about the man with the clerical dress was that
he had a carpenter’s hammer in his hand.  Dropping this tool upon the
wooden landing, where it clattered loudly, he drew a key from his pocket
and locked the door, shaking it viciously to make sure that it was fast.
Then, descending the steps, with the claw of the hammer he pried loose a
plank, some six or eight feet long, from the wooden walk that ran across
the sod to the concrete pavement in front.  The missionary secretary
took one end of this, and the two raised it across the door, where the
ex-clergyman disclosed the fact that his bulging left hand contained
nails, as with swinging blows, he began to cleat the door fast.

"Nailing up God!" commented John, whose mood had become sardonic.

"What’s the story, I wonder," he remarked next, and rising, sauntered
across the narrow street and up the wooden walk, till he stopped with
one foot on the lower step, gazing casually, with mild curiosity
expressed upon his face.

The missionary secretary had noted John’s advance and appeared to
recognize that his chance interest was legitimate.

"A miserable, squabbling little church," the man remarked, an expression
of pain upon his face.  "A disgrace to the communion.  I’m the District
Evangelist. I’ve had to step in from the outside and close it up, in the
interest of peace.  Brother Burbeck, here, is a leader of one of the
wings.  He has tried to bring peace in vain."

"I have stood up for the Lord against the disturber," announced Brother
Burbeck over his shoulder, while he dealt a vicious blow, as if the head
of the nail were instead the head of the malefactor.

"And who was the disturber?" queried John.  "A man of bad character, I
suppose."

"No, you couldn’t call him that, could you, Brother Burbeck?" ventured
the District Evangelist.  "Just a young man from the Seminary, with his
head overflowing with undigested facts."

"Near facts, they was—_only_," interjected Brother Burbeck
sententiously, as he held another nail between a hard thumb and a
knotted finger, and tapped the head gently to start it.

"Rather undermining the faith of the people in the old Gospel," went on
the Evangelist.

"Takin’ away what he couldn’t never put back," amended Brother Burbeck,
between blows, and then added accusingly: "He had no respect for the
Elders, not a bit."

Brother Burbeck’s tones, as he contributed this additional detail, were
as sharp as his blows.

"You were one of the Elders?" inquired John, in an even voice that might
have been construed to mean respect for the eldership.

"I am one of ’em," corrected the driver of nails.  "I preached the old
Jerusalem Gospel myself for twenty years," he affirmed proudly, "until
my health failed, and I went into undertaking."

"You appear to have got your health back," observed John dryly, noting
marks of the hammer upon the plank where the nail heads had been beaten
almost out of sight by his slashing blows.

"Yep," admitted that gentleman, just as dryly.

Looking at Elder Burbeck’s large head, with its iron-gray hair, at the
silk hat, which stuck perilously, but persistently, to the back of it;
noticing the folds of oily flesh on his bullock neck, the working of his
broad, fat shoulders, and the sweat standing out on his heavy jowls, as
if protesting mutely this unusual activity discharged with such
vehemence, John made up his mind that he could never like Elder Burbeck.
In his heart he took the part of the disturber.

"You know what this reminds me of, somehow?" he asked, with just a minor
note of accusation in his tone.

"Not being a mind reader, I don’t," replied Elder Burbeck, turning on
John a look which showed as plainly as his speech that in the same
interval of time when John was deciding he didn’t like Burbeck, Burbeck
was deciding he didn’t like John.  "What does it?" and the
Elder-undertaker stared fiercely at the book agent.

"Nailing Jesus to the Cross," replied John, shooting a glance at Burbeck
that was hard and beamlike.

"Hey!" exclaimed Burbeck, his red face reddening more.

"But," explained the Secretary, interjecting himself anxiously, as a man
not too proud of his duty that day, "it is in the interests of peace.
We expect to give time a chance to heal the wounds.  In six months the
disturbing element will have gone away or given up, and then we can open
the doors to peace and the old faith."

"Oh, I see," said John, as instinctively liking the Missionary Secretary
as he instinctively disliked Brother Burbeck, "it is a movement in
behalf of the _status quo_?"

"Yes," replied the Secretary, smiling faintly, as he noticed the shaft
of humor in John’s eye.

"And Brother Burbeck?"  John twitched his chin in the direction of the
tipsy silk hat and the vehemently swinging hammer.  "He is the apostle
of the _status quo_?"

"Yes," assented the Missionary, smiling yet more faintly, after which he
countered with: "Are you a Christian, my brother?"

"I was a Deacon in the First Church, Los Angeles," answered John, "but
I’ve been traveling round for a year or so.  Hampstead’s my name."

The Secretary’s face lighted with unexpected pleasure.

"How do you do, Brother Hampstead," he exclaimed, putting out his hand
quickly.  "My name’s Harding."

"Glad to meet you, Brother Harding," said John; "I’ve seen your name in
the church papers."

"Brother Burbeck, this is Brother Hampstead, of the First Church, Los
Angeles," announced Harding, when that gentleman, having driven his last
nail and smashed the plank a parting blow with his hammer, turned to
them again.

Elder Burbeck’s manner instantly changed.  "Oh, one of our brethren, eh,
Hampstead?  Why, say, I remember hearing you talk one night down there
in Christian Endeavor when I was down at the Undertakers’ Convention.
They told me you were going on the stage.  That’s how I remember you so
well, I guess."

"I got over that nonsense," said John easily.  "Sorry to hear you’ve
been having trouble in your little church."

"It’s been a mighty sad case," sighed the Elder, heaving his ponderous
bosom and mopping his red brow and scalp, for the removal of his hat
revealed that his iron-gray hair was only a fringe.

"By the way," asked John, who was contemplating the bulletin board,
"what about the Sunday school?  I see it’s down for nine forty-five."

"Dwindled to a handful of children," declared Burbeck, as if a handful
of children was something entirely negligible.

John had a reason for feeling especially tender where the feelings of
children were concerned.

"But they’ll come next Sunday, and they’ll be terribly disappointed," he
urged.  "It will shake their faith in God himself.  They won’t
understand at all, will they?"

"I reckon they will when they see the church nailed up," answered
Burbeck grimly, quite too triumphant over spiking an enemy’s guns to
consider the mystified, wondering soul of childhood as it might stand
before that nailed door four mornings forward from this, for the day of
the crucifixion of the door was Wednesday.

Their task completed, the Elder and the Evangelist were turning toward
the street.  "Good-by, Brother," said Harding, again shaking hands.

"Oh, good-by, Brother Hampstead," exclaimed Burbeck, turning as if he
had forgotten something, and offering his stout, once sinewy palm.

John gave it a grip that shook the huge frame of Elder Burbeck, and made
him feel, as he seldom felt about any man, that here was a personality
and a physical force at least as vigorous as his own.

"Good-by, Brother Burbeck," John responded, with an open smile; and then
while the two men took themselves down the street in the direction of
the car line, the book-agent went back and sat contemplatively in the
park.

It was a marvelously pleasant day.  A few fleecy clouds were drifting
overhead, revealing patches of the unrivaled blue of California’s sky
above them.  The sun shone warmly when the clouds were not in the way,
and when they were, the lazy breeze made its breath seem cooler and more
bracing, as if to compensate for the absence. Down the street two or
three blocks Hampstead could see the Bay waters dancing in the sunlight.
The cottages on both sides of the park were embowered with vines, roses
mostly, white roses and red, with here and there a giant bougainvillea,
some of its lavender, clusterlike flowers abloom, and some of them still
sealed in their transparent pods that looked like envelopes of
isinglass.

High in the blue an occasional pigeon circled; off to the left a kite
appeared, sailing high, and bounding vigorously when the upper air
currents freshened.

On John’s own level, the world was faring onward very happily.

About every cottage there was an air of nature’s cheer and a suggestion
of blooming activity.  Only the little church looked hopeless and
abandoned of men, the letters of its name staring out big-eyed and
lonely from above the glass transom, while the plank of the _status
quo_, nailed rudely across its front, was a brutal advertisement of its
dishonored state.

"Some day," mused John, "I think I’ll build a church, and I believe I’ll
build it to look like a cottage, with roses round it and bougainvilleas
and palms, with broad verandas, inviting lawns, and bowering vines.
I’ll make it the most homey looking place in the whole neighborhood,
with a rustic sign stuck up somewhere that says ’The Home of God’, or
something like that."

Still musing, the scornful words spoken to John by Scofield more than a
year ago on the steps of the Pacific Union Club, came idling into his
mind: "Remember! You’re not an actor!  You’re a preacher."  He smiled as
he recalled Scofield’s irritation at the idea, and his own.  How
ridiculously impossible it had seemed then and seemed to-day!  And it
was still so irritating as to stir him into getting up and walking away
from the little chapel in the direction of the street car.  Yet his mind
reverted to the closed door.

"Won’t they be disappointed, though?  Those children!"

At the corner he turned and looked back as if to make sure.  Yes, there
was the weather-worn streak upon the door, at that reckless angle which
proclaimed the mood of the man who placed it there.

"And they nailed up God!" Hampstead commented grimly, swinging upon his
car.

That afternoon at five o’clock he left for Los Angeles.



                             *CHAPTER XVII*

                        *WHEN DREAMS COME TRUE*


It was three o’clock on Thursday afternoon, and John was sitting happily
in the Mitchell living-room in Los Angeles, waiting for Bessie to come
from school.  Mrs. Mitchell stood on the threshold, dressed for the
street save for her gloves, at one of which she was tugging.

"I have always felt, Mr. Hampstead, that you were a very good influence
for Bessie," she was saying guilefully, "and I do wish you would talk
her out of that university idea.  She graduates from High in June, you
know; and she talks nothing, thinks nothing, dreams nothing but
university, university, uni-v-e-r-s-i-t-y!"  Mrs. Mitchell’s
elocutionary climax was calculated to convey a very fine impression of
utter weariness with the word and with the idea; but John, who had
flushed with gratification at the crafty compliment, would not be
swerved by either guile or scorn from an instinctive loyalty to Bessie
and her ideals.

"I’m afraid I couldn’t do that," he said soberly.  "My heart wouldn’t be
in it.  Bessie has a wonderful mind. You should give her every
advantage."

"Well, talk her out of Stanford, then," compromised Mrs. Mitchell, as if
in her mind she had already surrendered, as she knew she must.  "She’s
determined to go there.  Stanford is a kind of man’s school, from what I
hear.  Lots of the Phrosos are going to U.C."

"But if I rather favor Stanford myself?" suggested Hampstead, feeling
his way carefully.

The front door opened and closed, and John’s heart leaped at the sound
of a light footstep in the hall.  As if hearing voices, the owner of the
footsteps turned them towards the living room.

Book strap in hand, wearing a white shirt waist and skirt of blue, with
the brown crinkly hair breaking out from under a small straw hat worn
jauntily askew, Bessie paused upon the threshold, her eyes a-sparkle
with expectancy.

"John!" she exclaimed, with a little shriek of joy. "You—you old dear!"
and she came literally bounding across the room to greet him as he rose
and advanced eagerly.

Hampstead thought he had never seen such a glowing picture of animal
health and exuberance of life.

"Well!" exclaimed Mrs. Mitchell, addressing her daughter with chiding in
her tones.  "Why don’t you throw your arms around him and be done with
it?"

Bessie blushed, but John covered her confusion by exclaiming:

"I almost did that myself, Mrs. Mitchell, I was so glad to see her!"
Whereupon he laughed hilariously, it was such a good joke; and Bessie
laughed, turning her face well away from her mother, while Mrs. Mitchell
laughed most heartily of all at the thought of John Hampstead putting
his arms around any woman, except, of course, as he might have done in
the practice of his late profession.

"And now," declared Mrs. Mitchell, as she managed the last button of her
glove, "I must abandon you to yourselves; but don’t sit here paying
compliments.  Get out into the air somewhere."

"Oh, let’s," assented Bessie, with animation.  "Only wait till I change
my hat!"

"Don’t," pleaded John.  "I like that one."

"But I have another you’ll like better," called Bessie over her
shoulder, for already she was racing out of the room past her mother.

"Good-by.  Have a good time!"  Mrs. Mitchell lifted her voice toward her
daughter racing up the stairs, and then turning, waved her ridiculous
folding sunshade at John as she adjured: "Give her your very best
advice!"

"Never doubt it," echoed John, with the sudden feeling of a man who is
left alone in a house to guard great riches.


"How do you like it?"

Bessie had taken a whole half-hour to change her hat, but her dress had
been changed as well, to something white and filmy that reached below
the shoe-tops and by those few inches of extra length added a surprising
look of maturity to the pliant youthfulness of her figure.  This was
heightened by a surplice effect in the bodice forming a V, which
accentuated the rounded fullness of the bosom and gave a hint of the
charm and power of a most bewitching woman, ripening swiftly underneath
the artless beauty of the girl.

"Wonderful!" John exclaimed rapturously, rising as she entered.

Bessie’s mood was lightly happy.  His was deeply reverent, and there was
a world of devotion and tenderness in the look he gave her, which
thrilled through the girl like an ecstasy.

All the past was coming up to John’s mind, all the long past of their
friendship with its gradual ripening into normal, all-comprehending
love, but still he was searching her uplifted face as if for a final
confirmation of the oneness of the vision of his love with this
materialization of youth and woman mingling; for he must make no mistake
this time.

Yes, the confirmation was complete.  It was the true face of his dream.
In it was everything which he had hoped to find there.  Marien Dounay
had made woman mean more to him than woman had ever meant before. But
here in the upturned, trusting face of Bessie, with its sparkle in the
eyes and its sunny witchery in the dimples, there was something
infinitely richer and more satisfying than experience or imagination had
been able to suggest.

Here, he told himself reverently, was every blessing that God had
compounded for the happiness of man.  And it was his,—modestly,
trustfully his.  Every detail of her expression and her beauty, every
subtly playing current of her personality, made him know it.  He had but
to declare himself and reach out and take her like a lover.

But, strangely, he could do neither.  An awe was on him.  He felt like
falling down upon his knees and thanking God, but not like taking her;
not like touching her even, though he could not resist that when Bessie
extended frankly both her hands, quite in the old manner of cordial,
happy comradeship.  John took them in his, and as she returned his touch
with the warm frank clasp that was characteristic of her hearty nature,
he got anew the sense of the woman in her.  It swept over him like an
intoxication that was rare and wonderful, like no rapture he had ever
known before—half-spiritual but half wholly human—therefore with
something in it that frightened him.

"Bessie," he asked, abruptly, "could we get away from here quickly—in a
very few minutes—away from men and houses and things?"

Bessie looked surprised.  "Of course; we’re going out, aren’t we?"

"But quickly," urged John, "just a mad impulse, just a romantic impulse;
the feeling that I want to get you out of doors.  You are like a flower
to me, just bursting into beautiful bloom.  Better still, a wonderful
fruit, which in some sheltered spot has grown unplucked to a rich tinted
ripeness.  You are so much a part of nature, so utterly unartificial,
that it seems I must see you and enjoy you first in a setting of
nature’s own."

This was the frankest acknowledgment of her beauty and its appeal to him
that John had ever made.  It seemed to Bessie that he made it now rather
unconsciously; but she saw that he felt it and was moved by it.  To see
this gave her another delicious thrill of happiness.  Indeed her girlish
breast was all a-tremble with joys, with curiosities, with expectancies.
She, too, felt something wonderful and intoxicating in this slight
physical contact of her lover’s fingers.  She felt herself upon the
verge of new and mysterious discoveries and recognized the naturalness
of the instinct to meet them under the vaulted blue with the warm sun
shining and the tonic breezes blowing past.

"Your impulse is right, John," Bessie answered, with quick assent and an
energetic double shake of the hands that held her own, and they went out
into the sunny street.

Not far from the Mitchell residence, on the western hills of Los
Angeles, is a little, painted park, with a maple-leaf sheet of water
embanked by closely shaved terraces of green, and once or twice a clump
of shrubbery crouching so close over graveled walks as to suggest the
thrill of something wild.  From one of these man-made thickets a toy
promontory juts into the lake.  Upon this point, as if it were a
lighthouse, is a rustic house, octagonal in shape, with benches upon its
inner circumference. Embowered at the back, screened half way on the
sides, and with the open lake before, this snug structure affords a
delicious sense of privacy and elfin-like seclusion, provided there be
no oarsmen pulling lazily or tiny sailboat loafing across the watery
foreground.

This day there was none.  The stretch of lake in front stared vacantly.
The birds twittered in the boughs behind, unguardedly.  The perfume of
jasmine or orange blossoms or honeysuckle or of love was wafted through
the rustic lattices; and here John and Bessie, seated side by side, were
able to feel themselves alone in the universe.

But it was so delightful just to have each other thus alone and know
that at any moment the great words so long preparing might be spoken,
that instinctively they postponed the blissful moment of avowal, with
vagrant talk on widely scattered subjects.  Indeed, it seemed to each
that any word the other spoke was music, and anything was blissful that
engaged their minds in mutual contemplation.  But nearer and nearer to
themselves the subjects of conversation drew until they talked of their
careers.

John, they agreed, was going to be something big,—very, very big; though
he still did not know what, and in the meantime he was going to make
money, yet not for money’s sake.

As for Bessie, she, too, had developed an ambition and surprised John
into delightful little raptures with her statement of it.

"This country has been keeping bachelor’s hall long enough," she
dogmatized, placing one slim finger affirmatively in the center of one
white palm.  "Women are going to have more to do with government.  Here
in California we’ll be voting in a few years.  When it comes, John, I’m
going to be ready for it."

The idea seemed so strange at first,—this dimpled creature voting,—that
John could not repress a smile. But Bessie, her blue eyes round and
sober, was too earnest to protest the smile.

"Father’s going up the line; you know that, of course," she affirmed.
"He’ll be a big man and rich almost before we know it; but they’re not
going to make any social buzz-buzz out of little Bessie.  That’s why I’m
aiming at Stanford.  I’m going in for political economy.  When woman’s
opportunity comes, there are lots of women that will be ready for it.
I’m going to be one of them."

Bessie nodded her head so emphatically that some crinkly brown locks
fell roguishly about her ears, and John was obliged to smile again; but
for all that the big man was very proud of the purpose so seriously
announced.  Besides, with Bessie’s manner more than her words there went
an impression of the growing depth and dignity of her character that was
to John as delightful as some other things his eyes were boldly busy in
observing. But presently these busy observations and reflections kindled
in him again an overwhelming sense of the wealth of woman in this
aspiring, dimpled girl.  With this went an exciting vision of the bliss
which life holds in store for any mutually adapted man and woman where
each is consumed with desire for the other.

"Bessie!" he broke out impulsively, arising quickly and looking down
into her upturned, intent face.  "Doesn’t everything we’ve just been
talking about seem unimportant?"

Bessie’s features expressed wonder and delightful anticipation.

"Beside ourselves, I mean," John went on, and then added impetuously:
"To me, this afternoon, there is just one fact in the universe, Bessie,
and that fact is YOU!"

The light of a shining happiness kindled like a flash on the girl’s
face, and she threw out her hands to him in the old impulsive way.

"Just one thing I feel," John rushed along, seizing the outstretched
hands and playfully but tenderly lifting her until she stood before him,
"just one thing that I want to do in the world above everything else,
and that is to love you, Bessie, to love you!"

The words as he breathed them seemed to come up out of the deeps of a
nature rich in knowledge of what such love could mean.

Bessie, her face enraptured, did not speak, but her dimples behaved
skittishly, and there was a sharp little catch of her breath.

"Just one ambition stands out above every other," continued the man with
a noble earnestness—"the ambition to make you happy—to protect you, to
worship you, and to help you do the things you want to do in the world.
For marriage isn’t a selfish thing!  It doesn’t mean the extinction of a
woman’s career in order that a man may have his.  It is the surrender of
each to the other for the greater happiness and the higher power of
both."

Suddenly a choke came in the big man’s voice.

"That’s what I feel, my dear girl," he concluded abruptly, with an
excess of reverence in his tones, "and that’s what I want to do!"

As he spoke, John had lifted her hands higher and higher till one rested
on each of his shoulders.  Man and woman, they looked straight into each
other’s eyes, as they had that day upon the cliff, but this time it was
his lip that quivered and his eyes that misted over.

Bessie, sobered for a moment almost to a sense of unworthiness, as she
felt all at once what it meant for a great-hearted man to so declare
himself to a woman, saw something in that growing mist which impelled
her to immediately reward the tenderness of such devotion with a frank
confession of her own.

"Well," she breathed naïvely, "you have my permission to do all those
things.  I’m sure, John, the biggest fact, the biggest love, the biggest
career in the world for me is just you!"

Bessie accompanied the words with an ecstatic little shrug of the
shoulders and a self-abandoning toss of the head.

Reverently John pressed his lips upon hers and held her close for a
very, very long time; while a thrill of indescribable bliss surged over
and engulfed him.  His embrace was gentle, even reverent; but it seemed
he could not let her out of his arms.  Here at last was one treasure he
could never surrender; one renunciation he could never make.

"And to think," sighed Bessie, after a long and blissful silence,
finding such rapture in nestling in those strong arms that she was still
unwilling to lift her head from where she could feel the beating of his
happy heart, "to think how long we have loved each other without
expressing it; how loyal we have been to each other’s love even before
we had grown to recognize it for what it truly was."

Bessie looked up suddenly.  It seemed to her that John’s heart had done
a funny thing; that it staggered and missed a beat.

But John ignored her look.  His face was set and stubborn.  He changed
his position slightly and gathered her yet more determinedly in his
arms, so that Bessie felt again how strong he was, and how much it means
to woman’s life to add a strength like that.

"Do you know, John," she prattled presently, out of the deepening bliss
which this enormous sense of security inspired, "do you know that I used
to fear for you?  For me rather!  To fear," she exclaimed with a happily
apologetic little laugh, "that you might fall in love with Marien
Dounay!"

But the laugh ended in a choke of surprise, when Bessie felt the body of
the big man shiver like a tree in a blast.

"Why?  Why?  What is the matter, John?" she asked in helpless
bewilderment, for the odd face with a profile like a mountain had taken
on a look of pain, and while she questioned him, he put her from him and
with a low groan sank down upon the bench.

                     *      *      *      *      *

The little summer house was still undisturbed by the rude, annoying
outer world; but its atmosphere had subtly changed.  A chill wind blew
through the shrubbery and the fragrance of bush and flower was gone.
Even the sun, as if he could not bear to look, had dropped behind the
hill; for something had edged between the lovers.

Bessie’s artless words made John remember as very, very near, what,
during this delicious hour in her presence, had seemed to be worlds and
worlds behind him, in fact made him feel his shame and guilt so deeply
that he could no longer hold her in his arms.  Then the story of his
infatuation for Marien Dounay came out, as he had always felt it must,
sometime, for the purging of his own soul, even if it were she who would
suffer most,—the old, old law of vicarious suffering again!

Bessie listened with white, set face, while John resolutely spared
himself nothing in the telling, but when the look of hurt and pain took
up its abode permanently in those mild blue eyes, a feeling of yet more
terrible misgiving overtook him and he would have checked the story if
he could.  But once started, his natural shrinking from hypocrisy
compelled him to tell the truth.

"You can never know how I have reproached myself for it," he concluded.
"I have suffered agonies of remorse.  Wild with love of you, and the
impulse to declare that love, I have stayed away six months.  It seemed
to me at first that I could hardly get my own consent to come at all
from her to you; that I must doom myself to perpetual loneliness to
expiate my sin.  And yet, Bessie," John made the mistake of trying to
extenuate, "it was probably not altogether unnatural, knowing man as I
begin to know him."

To the young girl, facing the first bitter disillusionment of love, it
came like a flash of intuition that this last was true; that men were
like that—all men!  They were mere brutes!  This intuition maddened the
girl, and her disturbed emotions expressed themselves in a burst of
flaming anger.

"You may go back to Marien Dounay," she exclaimed hotly.  "I do not want
her left-overs."

"But," protested John, with something of that sense of injury which a
man is apt to feel if forgiveness does not follow soon upon confession,
"you do not understand!"

"I understand," retorted Bessie with blazing sarcasm, "that you fell
hopelessly in love with this woman; that you embraced her, kissed her,
worshipped the ground she trod on; that you proposed to marry her almost
upon the spot; that she refused you and drove you from her; that for a
month you wrote me letters of hypocritical pretense; that when she
finally not only repulsed you but revealed herself to you as a woman
without character, you considerately revived your affections for me."

John felt that in this storm of words some injustice was being done him;
yet he could not deny that such an outburst of wrath upon Bessie’s part
was natural, and he humbled himself before the blast.

In the vehemence of her demonstration, Bessie had arisen, and after the
final word stood with her back to her lover, looking out upon the little
lake which suddenly seemed a frozen sheet of ice.

"Bessie!" John murmured huskily, after an interval.

"Don’t speak to me, don’t!" she commanded hoarsely, without turning her
head.

John obeyed her so humbly and so completely that she began to wonder if
he were still there, or if he had sunk through the ground in the shame
and mortification which she knew well enough possessed him.

When she had wondered long enough, she turned and found him not only
there but in a pose so abject and utterly remorseful that her heart
softened until she felt the need of self-justification.

"You were my god," she urged.  "You inspired me! I worshipped you!  I
thought you were as fine a man as my own father—and finer because you
had a finer ambition.  I thought you were grand, noble, strong!"  Bessie
stopped with her emphasis heavy upon the final word.

"Is not the strong man the one who has found in what his weakness lies?"
John pleaded humbly.

But as before, his attempt at palliation seemed to anger her
unaccountably, and she turned away again with feelings too intense for
utterance—with, in fact, a dismal sense of the futility of utterance.
She wanted to get away from John.  She wished he would not stand there
barring the door.  She wished he would go while her back was turned.  A
sense of humiliation greater than had possessed him, she was sure, had
come over her.  If the lake in front had been sixty feet deep instead of
six inches, she might have flung herself into it.

"But you love me!" pleaded John from behind her, his voice coming up out
of depths.

"Do you think I would care how many actresses you lost your dizzy head
over if I didn’t?" retorted Bessie petulantly, and instantly would have
given several worlds to recall the speech.

"No!  No!" she continued, stamping her foot angrily, "I don’t love you,
I love the man I thought you were."

"All the same, I love you," groaned John, rising up to proclaim his
passion hoarsely and then flinging himself again upon the bench, where
with head hanging despondently, he continued: "I love you, and I don’t
blame you for hating me, and you can punish me as long as you want and
in any way you want.  You can even try to fall in love with some one
else if you like.  Marry him if you want to.  I love you, and I’ll keep
on loving you.  No punishment is too great for the thing I’ve done."

The effect of this speech on the outraged Bessie was rather alarming to
that indignant young lady.  When John began to heap the reproaches
higher upon himself, she felt a return to sympathetic consideration for
him that was so great she dared not trust herself to hear more of them.

"Take me home!" she commanded hurriedly, walking swiftly by him, but
with scrupulous care that the swish of her white skirts should not touch
the bowed head as she passed, and no more trusting herself to a second
glance at that dejected tawny mop of hair than to hear more of his
self-indictment.



                            *CHAPTER XVIII*

                          *THE HOUSE DIVIDED*


After parting from Bessie at her father’s door, John spent twenty-four
hours in dumb agony at his hotel, devoting much time to uncounted
attempts to frame a letter to her.  But the one which finally went by
the hands of a messenger was a mere cry that broke out of his heart. All
it brought back was an answering cry,—four pages with impetuous words
rioting over them.  There were splotches of ink where the pen had been
urged too recklessly, and as John held it up to the electric light, he
tried to imagine there were watery stains upon it.

That night Hampstead left Los Angeles for San Francisco and spent an
aimless Saturday brooding upon the ocean beach, needing no sight of the
jutting Cliff House rocks upon which his lips had first touched Bessie’s
to embitter his reflections.  Sunday morning, however, as early as nine
o’clock, found him threading the graveled paths of the little park in
Encina, and taking his place upon the rustic bench across from the dingy
chapel.  The cleat remained on the door.  God was still nailed up!

John could not help thinking that he, too, was rather nailed up.
Drawing Bessie’s last letter from his pocket, he held it very tenderly
for a time in his hand, then opened it to the final paragraph, which his
eyes read dimly through a mist that overspread his vision like a curtain
of fog.

"I shall always love you, John," her pen had sobbed, "—always; or at
least, it seems so now.  But you have hurt me in what touches a woman
nearest.  I have tried to understand—I think I have forgiven—but that
full confiding trust!—Oh, John!"

The letter didn’t cut off hope exactly; but it didn’t kindle any
bonfires, either.  As John read it, he felt forlorn and helpless, and
perceived that he had made rather a mess of things generally.

And, in the meantime, there was absolutely nothing more important for
him to do than to sit on the park bench before this wretched-looking,
dishonored little church and watch to see whether any children came to
Sunday school.

Yes,—two were coming now.  One was a little girl of six or seven, in a
smock immaculately white.  She was bareheaded, but her flaxen locks were
bound with a bright blue ribbon that just matched the blue of her eyes.
Her stockings were white, and her shoes were patent leather and very
shiny.  She walked with precise, proud steps, and looked down
occasionally at the glinting tips of her toes to make sure that they
were still unspotted.  Once she stopped and touched them daintily with
the handkerchief she carried in her hand, and then glanced up and around
swiftly with a guilty look.

By her side walked little brother.  He might have been four.  He might
have been wearing his first pants; his feet might have been
uncomfortable; the elastic cord on his hat might have been pinching his
throat most irritatingly, and probably was; but for all of that he
trudged along sturdily, as careful of his four-year-old dignity as his
sister obviously was of her motherly office.

He stretched his legs, too, to take as long steps as she, which was not
so difficult, because his sister minced her gait a little.

Together they swung around the corner, and their feet pattered on the
board walk leading across the sod to the chapel.  Involuntarily they
stopped a moment where Elder Burbeck had borrowed the plank, then
stepped over the hole and mounted with confident, straining steps to the
platform.  The sister was now a little in advance, one hand holding her
brother’s and lifting stoutly as he struggled to surmount the unnatural
height.

But the door of the church was closed.  This nonplussed the little lady
for just a second, after which she thrust up her chubby hand and gave
the knob a turn.  The door did not respond.  She rattled the knob
protestingly, and then, looking higher, saw the plank nailed across.

At this the small miss stepped back confounded, to the accompaniment of
childish murmurings.  Little brother did not understand.  He clamored to
be admitted to his "Sunny Kool."  The little woman tried again, but the
door baffled her most indifferently.  However, after a moment of
wondering dismay, this tiny edition of the feminine retreated no farther
than to turn and sit down upon the steps, first dusting them carefully,
and inducing little brother to sit beside her.  Strength had been
baffled, but faith was still strong.

"The eternal woman!" commented John reverently. "So Mary waited at the
tomb."

But other children were coming, and soon a fringe of little bodies was
sitting around the platform, and soon a border of little feet decorated
the second step, the girls’ feet neatly, daintily composed; the boys’
feet restless, clumsier, beating an insistent tattoo as they awaited the
appearance of some grown-up who could admit them or explain.

"Teacher!  Teacher!"

One little girl set up the shout, and like a bevy the smaller children
swarmed across the street and into the park to meet a very slender girl,
perhaps sixteen years of age, with her light brown hair in half a dozen
long, rolling curls that, snared at the neck by a wide ribbon, hung half
way down her back.

Attended eagerly by this childish court, the babble of their voices
rising about her, the girl mounted the steps, stood a moment in
confusion before the locked and barred door, then looked about her
helplessly, almost as the children had done.

"This is my cue," John declared with decision, rising from his seat and
crossing to the chapel.

"My name’s Hampstead," he began, taking off his hat to the girl.  "I
belong to the First Church, Los Angeles."

"How do you do, Brother Hampstead," she responded, in a voice that
expressed instant confidence, while her large eyes, blue as the sky,
lighted with pleasure and relief.  "I am Helen Plummer, teacher of the
infant class."

"You seem to be embarrassed," John proceeded.

"Whatever shall I do?" confessed the young lady, looking at the barred
door, at her charges about her, and at John.

John laid his hand upon the plank at the end where it projected beyond
the edge of the little, coop-like vestibule, and gave it a tentative
pull.  It did not spring much. Burbeck’s nails had been long, and he had
driven them deep.  But John was strong.  He swung his weight upon the
end of the plank and it gave a little.  He swung harder, and it yielded
more.  Presently he heard a squeaking, protesting sound from the
straining nails, and increased his efforts till the veins knotted on his
forehead.

"Bet y’ he can’t," speculated an urchin whose chubby toes were frankly
barefoot and energetically digging into the sod of the lawn.

"Bet yuh he will," instantly countered another, shifting his gum.

"Oh, I do hope you can!" sighed the fairy thing with the curls down her
back and the eyes like the sky.

That settled it for John.  This plank was coming off. Nevertheless,
there was a pause while he mopped his brow and considered.  The result
of these considerations was to fall back for reinforcement on two
cobbles of unequal size chosen from the gutter, the larger of which he
used as a hammer while the smaller served as a wedge, till, with a final
wrench, the plank came free.

But Elder Burbeck had locked the door.

"A hairpin?" queried John of the sky blue eyes.

"I have not come to hairpins yet," blushed the teacher of the infant
class.

John remembered the buttonhook on his key ring, and after a few moments
of vigorous attack with that humble instrument the bolt shot
accommodatingly to one side and the door swung open.

"Thank you so much!" exclaimed the blue eyes, though the red lips of
pliant sixteen said never a word, but framed themselves in a very pretty
smile.

John acknowledged the smile with one of his broadest. At the same time,
he reflected that Miss Helen’s failure to regard as seriously unusual
either the barred door or its violent opening was significant of the
state to which affairs in the little church had come; and it was with a
grim sense of duty well performed that the big man followed the trooping
children into the chapel and looked about him.

The building was small, yet somehow it appeared larger inside than out.
The utmost simplicity marked its furnishings.  The seats were divided by
two aisles into a central block of sittings and two side blocks.  The
pulpit was a mere elevated platform at one side, flanked by lower
platforms, one of which supported a cabinet organ.  The dull red carpet
upon the floor was dreary looking; but the walls and ceilings were
neatly white, giving a suggestion of lightness and cheer quite out of
harmony with the circumstances under which John had entered it.

The twenty or more children massed themselves, as if by habit, upon the
front seats, and presently, with Helen at the organ, Hampstead had them
singing lustily one song after another, while the size of the audience
increased by occasional stragglers until, during the fourth song, two
women appeared, each rather breathless, and one with unmistakable
evidences of having got hurriedly into her clothes.  John felt the eyes
of the women upon him suspiciously, and noticed that neither spoke to
the other, and that they took seats on opposite sides of the church.

At the end of the song, he walked over to the older of the two ladies,
who somehow had the look of a wife and mother in Israel, and said:

"My name’s Hampstead,—First Church, Los Angeles."

"I’m Sister Nelson," replied the lady, a trifle stiffly. "I teach a
class of boys.  But I thought the church was closed till I heard the
organ.  Are you a minister?"

"Me?  No!"  And John smiled at the thought, but he also smiled
engagingly.  Mrs. Nelson instantly liked and accepted him and allowed
her stiffness to melt somewhat.

"I just happened in," John explained, as he turned to cross toward the
young lady on the other side, who appeared, he thought, to eye him
rather more suspiciously after such cordial exchange with Mrs. Nelson.

"My name’s Hampstead," he began.  "First Church, Los Angeles.  I just
happened in."

"I’m Miss Armstrong," replied the lady, with conviction, as if it were
something important to be Miss Armstrong.  "I was teaching a class of
girls before Brother Aleshire left; or rather, was driven away!" and the
lady darted a look that ran across the little auditorium like a silver
wire straight at the uncompromising figure of Sister Nelson.  "I thought
there wasn’t to be any Sunday school until I heard the organ."

"Guess I’m responsible for that," replied John.  "I just kind of butted
in."

Miss Armstrong did not ask John if he were a minister. She knew it was
unnecessary after he said "butted in."  But she also felt the warmth of
his engaging smile and yielded to it after a searching moment, for he
really did look like a well-meaning young man.

Before the pulpit, and in front of the central block of chairs where the
children were gathered, was a huge irregular patch in the carpet.  This
patch was about mid-way between the two outer plots of chair-backs, in
the midst of one of which, like a solitary outpost, sat the watchful
Mrs. Nelson, while Miss Armstrong performed grim sentinel duty in the
other.

To this patch in the carpet, as to the security of neutral ground, John
returned after establishing his identity and status with the two ladies,
and from that safely aloof position, after a moment of hesitancy,
ventured to announce:

"Since we seem somewhat disorganized this morning, I suggest that Sister
Nelson take all the boys, and Sister Armstrong take all the girls, while
Miss Helen will take the little folks, as usual."

It was evident from their respective expressions that Mrs. Nelson did
not know about this idea, and that Miss Armstrong also had her doubts;
but the children settled it. The tots rushed for the small platform on
the left of the pulpit which had some kindergarten paraphernalia upon
it, while the larger boys charged for Sister Nelson and began to arrange
the loose chairs in a circle about her.  The larger girls made the same
sort of an advance upon Miss Armstrong.

Within five minutes, preliminaries were got out of the way, heads were
ducked toward a common center, and there rose in the little church that
low buzz of intense interest, possibly more apparent than real, which an
old-fashioned Sunday school gives off at recitation period, and which is
like no other sound in the world in its capacity to suggest the
peaceful, bee-like hum of industry and contentment.

Standing meditatively in the center of the open space before the pulpit,
thrilling with pleasure at the situation, feeling somehow that he had
created it, John heard with apprehension a quick heavy step in the
little entry, saw the swinging inside doors give back, and observed the
stern, red face of Elder Burbeck confronting him across the backs of the
middle bank of chairs.

The Elder had a fighting set to his jaw; he had his undertaker hat upon
his head; and he glared at John accusingly as if he instantly connected
him with the policy of the open door.  But as if to make sure first just
what mischief had resulted, Elder Burbeck’s glance swept the room,
taking in by turns Miss Armstrong with her girls, Sister Nelson with her
boys, and Miss Helen with her kindergarteners.

As the Elder gazed, his expression changed perceptibly, and he reached
up and took off his high hat, lowering it slowly, but reverently.

John, who had been standing perfectly still upon the patch, meek but
unabashed, experienced an odd sensation as he witnessed this manoeuvre.
It was dramatic and as if some presence were in the room which the Elder
had not expected to find there.  Yet, notwithstanding this, the apostle
of the _status quo_ turned level, accusing eyes upon John across the
tiers of chairs, and began to advance down the aisle upon the right
where Sister Nelson had seated herself.  John, at the same moment, began
a strategic forward movement upon his own account, so that the two met
midway.

"You broke open the house of the Lord," charged Elder Burbeck sternly.

"You nailed it up," rebutted John flatly, his features grave and his
whole face clothed in a kind of dignity that to Elder Burbeck was as
disconcerting as it was impressive.

[Illustration: "You nailed it up," rebutted John flatly.]

The Elder opened his mouth to speak but closed it again without doing
so.  Something in the very atmosphere was a rebuke to him.  Perhaps it
was the presence of the Presence!  He had indeed nailed up the house of
the Lord! He thought he had done a righteous thing, but under this young
man’s eyes, burning with an odd spiritual light, before his calm, strong
face, and in the presence of these children, the accusation smote the
Elder deep.  He began to suspect that he had done a doubtful act.

"Keep back thy servant also from presumptuous sins," piped a high voice
sharply at his elbow, and Elder Burbeck started guiltily, as if his
conscience had shouted the sentiment aloud.  It was only one of Sister
Nelson’s boys singing out the text; nevertheless, the Elder was as
shaken as if he had heard a voice from on high.

But at this juncture John Hampstead put out his hand cordially.  Elder
Burbeck took it—tentatively, almost grudgingly,—and was again dismayed
to feel how strong that hand was and to observe how, without apparent
effort, it shook him all over, as it had shaken him that day upon the
walk outside.  Yet the Elder mustered once more the spirit of protest.

"The church was closed by order of the District Evangelist," he urged,
but his urging, even to himself, sounded strangely lacking in force.

"It was opened in the name of Him who said ’Suffer little children to
come unto me and forbid them not,’" replied the interloper, quietly and
emphatically, but not offensively.

In the meanwhile the subtle cordiality of John’s manner did not abate
but seemed rather to grow, for, still clinging to the Elder’s hand,
Hampstead walked with him back down the aisle to the open space before
the pulpit. Burbeck felt himself strangely subdued.  He was minded to
rebel, to flame up; but somehow he couldn’t.  Yet Sister Nelson’s eye
was upon him, and it would imperil his own leadership to appear beaten
by this mild-mannered young man who assumed so much so coolly and
executed his assumptions so masterfully.  The alternative strategy which
suggested itself to the mind of the Elder was to take the lead in
showing that he recognized the intrusion of Hampstead as somehow an
intervention from which good might come.  To make this strategy
effective, however, action must be immediate; but the shrewd Elder was
easily equal to that.  Sniffing the air critically for a moment, he
announced, loudly enough to be heard by all, even by Sister Nelson, busy
with her boys:

"You need some windows open, Brother Hampstead! You go on with your
superintending; I’ll attend to that myself."

Immediately the Elder laid his tall hat upon the pulpit steps and busied
himself with opening the windows at the top.

John watched him with carefully concealed amazement, until an
unmistakable awe settled in upon him; for here was obviously the
exhibition of a mystery,—the demonstration of a power within him not his
own.  Here was something he had not done; yet which had been done
through him, through the presence of the Presence.

As the lesson hour proceeded, a trickling stream of adults began to
filter in.  Their attitude, any more than Burbeck’s had been, was not
that of people who enter a house of worship.  Surprise, excitement,
conflict was written on their faces.  They took seats in one side
section with Elder Burbeck and Miss Nelson, or upon the other side with
Miss Armstrong; and then, between fierce looks across the abyss of
chair-backs at the "disturbing element,"—the other side in a church
quarrel is always that,—they bent a curious watchful eye on Hampstead.

At first the notes of the organ had notified those in the immediate
neighborhood that the house of God was no longer nailed up.  Members of
each party, fearful that the other might gain an advantage, began at
once to spread the news in person and by telephone, so that now all over
Encina women were struggling with hooks and eyes and curling irons, and
men were abandoning Sunday papers and slippers on shady porches,
shaving, dressing, and rushing in hot haste to the battle line.

When the children filed out, the opposing groups of adults remained
buzzing among themselves like angry hornets, but with no more
communication between the two ranks than bitter looks afforded.

John, extremely desirous of getting well out of the zone of hostilities,
was actually afraid to leave these belligerent Christians alone
together.  He thought they might break into pitched battle; the women
might pull hair, the men swing chairs upon each other’s heads.  His
fears were abruptly heightened by a series of violent bumps on the steps
outside, followed by a trundling sound in the vestibule as if a cannon
were being unlimbered.  Instantly, too, every face in the little chapel
turned at the ominous sounds, but John was puzzled to observe that the
expression of even the bitterest was softened at the prospect.

This was explained in part when there appeared through the swinging
inner doors not the muzzle of a fieldpiece, but a lady in a wheel chair,
who, though her dark hair had begun to silver, was dressed in youthful
white and had about her the air of one who refused to allow mere
invalidism to triumph over the stoutness of her spirit.

Her vehicle was propelled by a solemn looking Japanese, and as if by
long understanding, one man slipped forward immediately from each
faction, and the two made a way among the chairs for the Oriental to
roll his charge to the exact center of the unoccupied middle bank of
sittings.

Bestowing on each helper a look of gratitude from her dark eyes, which
were large and luminous, the lady sent a benignant smile before her
round the church like one whose presence sweetens all about it.
Evidently she was one member of the congregation who observed a
scrupulous neutrality while holding the affection and regard of all.

"The Angel of the Chair!" murmured Miss Plummer in John’s ear, as she
passed to a seat with Miss Armstrong.

John looked again at the form in the chair, so frail and orchid-like,
with its delicately chiseled face and its expression of courageous
spirituality.  Remembering how the features of all had softened at the
sound of the wheels, he felt that she well deserved the title.  This
impression of her saintly character was somehow heightened by a chain of
large jet beads ending in a cross of the same material, which the
whiteness of the gown outlined sharply upon her breast; so that John
found himself instinctively leaning upon her as a possible source of
inspiration and relief.

From her position of carefully chosen neutrality, the Angel of the Chair
immediately beckoned Miss Armstrong to her from one side and Elder
Burbeck from the other. Each approached, without in any way recognizing
the presence of the other; and Miss Armstrong was apparently asked to
detail what had happened, Burbeck’s part, it would seem, being to amend
if the narrative did his faction less than justice.

The story finished, and the Elder nodding his assent to it, the Angel of
the Chair dismissed her informants and turned a welcoming glance on
John, who advanced with extended hand, but judging that his formula of
introduction was now unnecessary.

"I am Mrs. Burbeck," the lady said pleasantly in a rich contralto voice.

Hampstead all but gasped.  This delicate, spirituelle creature that
hard, red-faced partisan’s wife!  It seemed impossible.

But Mrs. Burbeck was composedly taking from her lap a twist of tissue
paper from which she unrolled a simple boutonniere, consisting of one
very large, very corrugated and very fragrant rose geranium leaf, upon
which a perfect white carnation had been laid.

"Do you know, Mr. Hampstead," she went on placidly, "what I am going to
do?" and then, as John looked his disclaimer, continued: "I have always
been allowed the privilege of bringing a flower for the minister’s
button-hole.  Brother Ingram would never take his flower from any one
else.  When the rain kept me away, he would not wear a flower at all.
Brother Aleshire also took his flower from me."

"But," protested John, in sudden alarm, "I am not a minister at all, you
know.  I just happened in, and I assure you that all I am thinking of
now is a way to happen out."

The Angel, it appeared, was a woman with deeps of calm strength in her.

"You have been a real minister in what you have done this morning," she
said contentedly, entirely undisturbed by John’s embarrassed frankness.

"But how am I going to get out from under?" gasped the young man,
feeling more and more that he could trust this woman.

The Angel of the Chair smiled inspiringly.

"The Scripture has no rule for getting out from under," she suggested
quietly, "but there is something about not letting go of the plow once
you have grasped the handles."

The Angel was looking straight up at John now, searching his eyes for a
moment, then adding significantly:

"I do not think you are a quitting sort of person."

A quitting sort!  John could have blessed this woman. In two sentences
she had felt her way to the principle he had tried to make the very
center of his character,—loyalty to duty and everlasting persistence.
Some people rather thought he was a quitting sort.  John knew he was
not, and to prove it bent till his buttonhole was in easy reach of the
hands uplifted with the flower.

"And what," he asked, "does the minister do when he has received this
decoration from the Angel of the Chair?"

It was Mrs. Burbeck’s turn to feel a flush of pleasure at this
appellation from a stranger.

"Why," she smiled, her large eyes lighting persuasively, "he goes into
the pulpit and announces a hymn."

"Which I am not going to do," declared John, "because I should not know
what to do next."

"In that hour it shall be given you," quoted the lady.

Now it was very strange, but when Mrs. Burbeck quoted this, it did not
seem like an appeal to faith at all, but the simple statement of a fact.
It chimed in, too, with that odd suggestion of the presence of the
Presence, which had come to John a while ago.

Feeling thereby unaccountably stronger, and endued with a sort of moral
authority as if he had just taken Holy Orders because of the carnation
which bloomed so chastely white upon his breast, John squared his
shoulders and mounted into the pulpit.  There was something that God
wanted to say to these people, and he accepted the situation as an
obvious call to him to say it, but when he essayed to speak, awe came
upon him, as it had a while before.

"Brethren," he confessed humbly, in a voice barely audible to all, "I am
not a preacher.  I haven’t got any text, and I don’t know what to say,
except just perhaps to tell you how I happened to be here this morning."

Then he told them simply and unaffectedly but with unconscious eloquence
how he happened to see the church nailed up and how it sounded like the
echo of the blows upon the cross; how, this morning, with a sad ache in
his own heart, the thought of the faith of little children disturbed by
that brutal plank upon the door had brought him all the way over here
from his home in San Francisco and led him to do what he had done.  He
even told them of his meditative comparison between the houses of people
that looked so happy and the house of God that looked so unhappy.

But while John was relating this modestly, yet with some of the fervor
of unction and some comfortable degree of self-forgetfulness, he was
interrupted by a sound like a sob, and looking down beyond Elder Burbeck
to where Sister Nelson sat, he was surprised to see a handkerchief
before her eyes and her shoulders trembling. Over on the other side,
too, handkerchiefs were out, so that John suddenly realized that he or
somebody had touched something.

Who had done it?  What had caused it?  Once more there came to the young
man that eerie consciousness of a power within him not himself, and the
feeling frightened him.

"That’s all I have to say, brethren," he declared abruptly, his voice
growing suddenly hollow.  "I am terrified.  I want to get away!"

Without even the singing of a hymn, John lifted his hand, bowed his
head, and murmured something that was to pass for a benediction.



                             *CHAPTER XIX*

                          *HIS NEXT ADVENTURE*


Yet once out of the pulpit, John’s sense of terror seemed to leave him.
With some of the people coming forward to press his hand and even to
wring it; with the Angel of the Chair giving him a wonderful look from
her luminous eyes, he began to feel strangely, happily satisfied with
himself,—as though adrift upon an unknown sea but without fear and
joyously eager for the next adventure.

That adventure came when blue-eyed Helen of the Infant Class said
pleadingly:

"Oh, Brother Hampstead!  Will you call on Sister Showalter this
afternoon and read a chapter?  She is very ill and lonely."

"Yes," assented John recklessly.  "But explain who it is that’s coming—a
book agent—to read to her."

John had no idea who Mrs. Showalter was; but they gave him a number.  He
had no idea what a professional clergyman reads to a sick woman; but
that afternoon he pushed his little New Testament in his hip pocket
somewhat as Brother Charles Thompson Campbell used to do, and went out
upon his errand.

A faded, hollow-eyed, middle-aged woman met him at the door, with a face
so somber that in his instant thought and ever after, John dubbed her
the Gloom Woman.

"My name is Hampstead," he explained.  "I called to see the sick lady."

"My mother!" answered the woman, in tones as somber as her countenance.
"She has been asking for you for an hour.  She is very low to-day.  The
doctor is with her and he is apprehensive."

Through air that was close with a sickish, sweetish smell, accounted for
by large vases of flowers and by a small Chinese censer with incense
burning in it, past furnishings, that were meager, stuffy, and
old-fashioned, John was conducted to a large square room with the blinds
drawn low.  In the center of this room was a huge black walnut bedstead,
with the head rising pompously high. By the far side of the bed sat a
professional looking man in the fifties, with his chin buried in his
hand and his eyes meditatively fixed upon a very old and dreary face
amid the banked-up pillows,—a face of purplish hue that seemed without
expression except for a lipless, sunken mouth, and eyes that glowed
dully under sagging heavy lids.

"Mother!" said the woman, speaking loudly, as if to waken a soul from
the depths, "this is Brother Hampstead!"

The aged eyes roamed the shadows anxiously for a moment, while a
withered purple hand felt its way about upon the coverlet till John
touched it timidly with his. Instantly and convulsively the old fingers
gripped the young, with a pressure that to the caller was damp and
deathly.

The woman appeared to John almost lifeless.  He felt embarrassment and
resentment.  Why didn’t they tell him she was like this?

The hand was tugging at him, too, like a sort of undertow, pulling him
down and over.  The watery old eyes were fixed upon him.  John’s
embarrassment increased. What did the poor creature want?  To kiss him?
What does a minister do in such a case, he wondered, sweat breaking out
on his brow.

"I think she wants to say something; bend low so you can hear her,"
suggested the mournful voice of the Gloom Woman.  John bent over till he
felt the patient’s hectic breath upon his cheek, and shrank from it.

"The minister of God!" croaked the voice so faintly that the words
barely traveled the necessary six inches to his ear.

No man ever felt less like the minister of God.  Hampstead was hot,
flustered, self-conscious, almost irritated.

But again he felt the hand like an undertow, tugging him down.

"Read to me!" croaked the ghost of a voice.

This was something to do.  A curtain was raised slightly so that the
visitor could see, and he read the twenty-third Psalm and the
twenty-fourth.

As Hampstead read, his embarrassment departed.  He began to find a joy
in what he was doing.  He let his rich voice play upon the lines
sympathetically and had a suspicion that he could feel the strength of
the sick woman reviving as he read.

"She likes to have the minister pray with her," said the voice of the
Gloom Woman from the background, when the reading was concluded.

Again John stood gazing helplessly, till the old hand dragged him down,
and sinking upon his knees beside the bed, he found that words came to
him, and he lost himself in them.  His sympathy, his faith, his own sore
heart and its needs, all poured themselves into that prayer.

Once or twice as words flowed on, Hampstead felt the old hand tugging,
as though the undertow were pulling at it, and then he noticed after a
time that he did not feel these tuggings any more; but when the prayer
was finished and he rose from his knees, the grip of the hand did not
release itself.  Instead, the fingers hung on, rather like hooks, so
that John darted a look of inquiry at the purplish face upon the
pillows.  To his surprise, the chin had dropped and the eyes had closed
sleepily.

The doctor, who had been sitting with his hand upon the pulse, gently
placed the wrist which he had held across the aged breast and stood
erect, with an expression of decision which no one could misread.

"Oh!" sobbed a voice from the gloom.

Hampstead felt a sudden sense of shock, and his knees swayed under him
sickeningly.  That was death there upon the pillow; and that was death
with its bony hooks about his palm.  Sister Showalter had gone out with
the undertow that pulled at her while he was praying.

John lifted his hand helplessly.

"It—it doesn’t let go," he whispered.

The doctor glanced at the embarrassed Hampstead searchingly, then
reached over and straightened the aged fingers.

"Young man," said the physician earnestly and even reverently.  "She
clung to you as she went down into the waters.  For a time I felt your
young strength actually holding her back, and then your words seemed to
make her strong enough to push off boldly of her own accord. It is a
great thing, my friend," and the doctor seemed deeply affected, "to have
strength enough and sympathy and faith enough to rob death of its terror
for a feeble soul like that—a very great thing!"

The earnestness of the doctor brought a lump into John’s throat.

"Thank you, sir," he murmured, but immediately was lost in looking
curiously at the thing upon the pillows.

"You have another duty," said the physician, nodding toward the shadows
at the back, where a single heart-broken wail had been followed by a
convulsive sobbing.

John went and stood beside the Gloom Woman.

"Mother is go—h-h-gone!" she sobbed.

"Yes," said Hampstead simply.

And somehow he didn’t feel embarrassed at all now by the presence of
death.  He did not hesitate as to what to do.  He just put out his hand
and laid it in a brotherly way on the woman’s shoulder, noticing as he
did so that it was a frail, bony shoulder, and that it trembled as much
from weakness as with emotion.

"Let the tears flow, sister," he suggested, "it is good for you."

And the tears did flow, like rivers, and all the while John’s speech was
flowing in much the same way, and with tears in it, until presently the
woman looked up at him, surprised both at the manner and the matter of
his speech.  Was it he who had spoken,—this man who said he was only a
book agent?

John too was surprised at his words, at their tone, at the superior
faith and wisdom which they expressed.  He really did not know he was
going to say them.  When spoken, it did not seem as if it could have
been he that had uttered them, and he had again that awesome sense of a
power within him not himself.

"You _are_ a minister of God!" declared the Gloom Woman with sudden
conviction.

Hampstead trembled.  This was what the dead had whispered to him.  It
frightened him then, it frightened him now.  He was not a minister of
God.  He was a man misplaced.  He wanted to get out and fly.  Yet before
he could check her, the Gloom Woman had raised his hand and kissed it.

This made him want to fly more than ever; but he managed first to ask:
"Is there anything more that I can do?"

There was, it seemed, and he did it; and then, getting into the outside
as expeditiously as possible, he filled his lungs with long, refreshing
drafts of the sun-filtered ozone and found his footsteps leading him, as
if by a kind of instinct of their own, down one of the short side
streets to where the waters of the Bay lapped soothingly against the
sea-wall.

But the Bay zephyrs could not wash that series of vivid experiences,
half-ghastly and half-inspiring, out of mind.

He had blundered, all unprepared, into the presence of death.  His sense
of the fitness of things revolted. He was unworthy—unable—unclean.  He—a
book agent! a rate clerk! an actor! who had held Marien Dounay in his
arms and felt his body thrill at the beating of her heart!

Yet this old woman had called him a minister of God! This Gloom Woman
too had called him the same. Minister!  Minister!  What was it?
Minister meant to serve.  A servant of God!  But he had not served God!
At least not consciously.  He had only served humanity a little.  He had
served the old woman as a prop to her fears, like an anchor to her soul
when she drifted out into the deeper running tide that ebbs but never
floods.  He had served the Gloom Woman when he stood beside her while
she opened the tear-gates of her grief.

It was very little!  Yet that much he had really served. To reflect upon
it now gave him a sense of elation greater than when he had beaten
Scofield and his tariff department; greater than when he had quelled the
mob at the People’s; greater than when he had crushed Marien in his arms
like a flower; greater even than when Bessie had looked her love into
his eyes.

He began to perceive that his life was surely mounting from one plane to
another and reflected that he had reached the highest plane of all
to-day when the Angel of the Chair had pinned upon his coat the badge of
Holy Orders; when this other saint, sinking into the dark tide, had
hailed him a minister of God!  Highest of all, when this Gloom Woman,
out of her soul’s Gethsemane, had wrung his hand and kissed it so purely
and also hailed him as Minister of God!


For some weeks the little chapel in Encina, its troubles and its
troubled members, continued to exercise a strange fascination over John.
Each Sunday he shepherded the Sunday school and talked a blundering
quarter of an hour to the older folk who gathered; while between Sundays
he devoted an astonishing portion of his time to visiting these
wrangling Christians in their homes, for the ambition to heal this
disgraceful quarrel had taken hold on him like some knightly passion.

And in the midst of all these busy comings and goings, odd,
half-humorous reflections upon his own status used to break in upon
John’s mind.  Not a self-respecting church in the communion, he knew,
but would have eyed him askance because he had been an actor.  Only this
little helpless church, whose condition was so miserable it could not
reject any real help, accepted him; and that merely in a relation that
was entirely unofficial and undefined.  Still a sense of his fitness for
this particular task grew upon him continually; and it was really
astonishing how every experience through which he had passed had
equipped him for his peacemaker task: most of all those pangs endured
because of his break with Bessie, which, although eating into his heart
like an acid, yielded a kind of ascetic joy in the pain as if some sort
of character bleaching and expiation were at work within him.

In the meantime, an arbitration committee consisting of the District
Evangelist, Brother Harding, and Professor Hamilton, the Dean of the
Seminary, was at work upon the affairs of the little church.  Both wings
consented to this, but with misgivings, since the one man they were
really coming to trust was Hampstead himself; and when the night for the
report of the arbitration committee arrived, each faction turned out in
full strength, with suspicions freshly roused, and all a-buzz with angry
conversation as if the church were a nest of wasps.

"Things are pretty hot," remarked the Dean under his breath, coming up
to read the report.

"They are awful," groaned the District Evangelist.

John presided, standing carefully on his neutral patch in the carpet,
and was dismayed and sickened by this new and terrible display of
feeling.  He had come to know a very great deal about these people in
the last few weeks; he had seen how some of these men struggled to make
a living; how some of these women bore awful crosses in their hearts;
how sickness was in some houses, cold despair in others; how much each
needed the strength, the joy, the consolation of religion, and how large
a mission there was for this church and for its minister.

But the Dean was reading his report now, in a high, lecture-room voice.
It was very brief.

"As for the matters at issue," it confessed, "your committee finds it
humanly impossible to place the responsibility for this regretful
division.  It believes the only future for the congregation is in a
wise, constructive, forward-moving leadership which can forget the past
entirely.

"It finds that such a leadership now exists in one thoroughly familiar
with the difficulties of the situation and enjoying the confidence of
both factions; and it recommends that this congregation make sure the
future by calling to its pastorate the one man whom the committee
believes supremely fitted for the task, our wise and faithful brother,
John Hampstead."

The congregation had not thought of Hampstead as a minister.  He had not
permitted them to do so.  To them this recommendation was a surprise.

But to John it was a shock!  His face turned a faded yellow.  His eyes
wandered in a hunted way from the face of the Dean to that of the
Evangelist, and then slowly they swept the congregation to meet
everywhere looks of approval at the Dean’s words.

"But," he protested breathlessly, like a man fighting for air, "I am not
a minister.  I am a book agent.  I have been an actor.  I am unfit to
stand before the table of the Lord, to hold the hand of the dying, to
speak consolation to the living beside the open grave!  I am
unfit—unfit—for any holy office!"

But his desperate protestation sounded unconvincing even to himself.  He
had been doing some of these things already and with a measure at least
of acceptation. All at once it seemed as if there was no resisting, as
if a trap had been laid for him and for his liberties; and he struck out
more vehemently:

"Think what it means, you young men!  I ask you especially—" and John
held out his hands towards them, scattered through the audience—"What it
means to abandon life and the world by donning the uniform of the
professional clergyman!  Wherever you go, in a train, in a restaurant,
upon a street, you are no longer free, but a slave—to forms and to
conventions.  You must live up, not to your ideal of what a minister is,
but to the popular ideal of how a minister should appear.  It is a vow
to hypocrisy!

"It is a vow also to loneliness.  The minister is cut off from the life
of other men.  No man thereafter feels quite at ease in his presence,
but puts on something or puts off something, and the minister never sees
or feels the real man except by accident.

"For a few weeks," and John lowered his voice to a more tempered note,
"I have been happy to do some service among you; but I was free!  As I
walked down the street I wore the uniform of business.  No man could
say: ’There goes a priest; watch him!’

"Listen!"  In the silence John himself appeared to be listening to some
debate that went on within himself, and when he began to speak once more
it was with the chastened utterance of one who takes his hearers into a
sacred confidence.

"I have had ambitions, brethren, and I have given them up.  I have had a
great love and all but lost it.  Failures have humbled me.
Disappointment and surrenders have taught me some of the true values of
life.  I have tried to gain things for myself and lost them.  When I
think of seeking anything for myself again, after my experiences, I feel
very weak and can command no resolution; but when I think of seeking
happiness for others, for little children in particular, for wives and
mothers, for all women, in fact, with their capacity to love and trust;
for striving, up-climbing men—yes, and the weak ones too, for I have
learned that the flesh is very weak—when I think of seeking the good of
humanity at large, I feel immensely strong and immensely determined.
For that I am ready to bury my life in the soil of sacrifice, but not
professionally!

"I hate sham.  I hate professionalism.  I am done with part-playing.  I
will not do it.  I cannot be your minister!"

John’s last words rang out sharply, and the audience, seeing that the
heart of a man with an experience had been shown to them, sat breathless
and still expectant.

In the silence, the voice of the District Evangelist was presently
audible.

"Brother Hampstead," he was saying quietly, "is a man I don’t exactly
understand, but I think in his very words of protest he has given us the
reasons why he should be a minister, and he has revealed to us why he
has gained your confidence.  Because of his humility and his sincerity,
I feel that I can trust him.  You feel that you can."

"But," protested John, with a gesture of desperation, "I am not educated
for the ministry."

"You have something more needed here than education," interjected the
Dean of the Seminary, still in his lecture-room voice.  "Besides, the
seminary is but ten miles away, by street car.  You may complete the
full three years’ course at the same time you are making this little
church into a big one!"

Something in John’s breast leaped at the prospect of a college course,
and the idea of making a little church into a big one appealed to his
inborn passion for definite achievement; yet with it all came once more
the feeling that he was being hopelessly and helplessly entangled.

"But," he struggled, looking with moist, appealing eyes, first at
Hamilton and then at Harding, "I have not been ordained, and I have no
call!"

"No call?" queried Dean Hamilton, laughing nervously, as was his way of
modifying the intensity of the situation.  "Your capacity to do is your
call."

"Being honest with yourself, do you not believe that you can save this
church?" argued Brother Harding.

John felt that he could, but his soul still strained within him, and his
eyes roved over the audience, the corners of the room and the very beams
in the ceiling, as if seeking a way of escape.

Suddenly a man stood up in the back of the church.

"Will he take a side?" this man demanded excitedly, with hoarse
impatience.  "What side is he on?"

The very crassness of this partisan creature, so seething with personal
feeling that he understood nothing of the young man’s agony of soul,
lashed the tender sensibilities of Hampstead like a scourge, so that all
his nature rose in protest.  From a figure of cowering doubt, he
suddenly stood forth bold and challenging.

"No!" he thundered.  "I will not take a side!  The curse of God is upon
sides, and every man and every woman who takes a side in His church!  I
will take the Lord’s side.  I challenge every one of you who is willing
to leave his or her petty personal feeling in this controversy, for
to-night and forever, to come out here and stand beside me.  I place my
life career upon the issue.  I will let your coming be my call.  If you
call me, I will answer. If you do not, God has set me free from any
responsibility to you."

The questioning partisan sank down abashed before such prophetic fervor.
John stood waiting.  No eye looked at any other eye but his.  The
silence was electric and pregnant, but brief, broken almost immediately
by a low, rumbling sound and the rattle of wheels against chairs.  The
Angel of the Chair, propelling her vehicle herself, was coming to take
her place beside John.

She had barely reached the front when the tall form of Elder Burbeck was
seen to advance stiffly and offer his hand to Hampstead.

The venerable Elder Lukenbill, goat-whiskered and doddering, leader of
the Aleshire faction, hesitated only long enough to gloat a little at
this spectacle of his rival, Burbeck, eating humble pie, and then,
prodded from behind, arose and careened on weak knees down the aisle.

Others began to follow, till presently it seemed that the whole church
was moving; everybody stood up, everybody slipped forward, or tried to.
Failing that, they spoke, or laughed, or sobbed, or shook hands with
themselves or some one near; then craned on tiptoe to see what was
happening down where half the church was massed about the two elders,
about the Dean and the Evangelist and John.

Abruptly the tall forms of these men sank from view; then the front
ranks of people, crowding around, also began to sink, almost as ripe
grain bows before a breeze, until even the people at the back could see
that Brother Hampstead was kneeling, with the yellow crest of his hair
falling in abandon about his face.

The long, skeleton hand of Elder Lukenbill was sprawled over John’s
bowed head, overlapped aggressively by the stout, red fingers of Elder
Burbeck, while the dapper digits of the Dean of the Seminary capped and
clasped the two hands and tangled nervously in the tawny locks
themselves.

"With this laying on of hands," the Dean was saying, still in that high
lecture-room cackle, although his tone was deeply impressive, "I ordain
thee to the ministry of Jesus Christ!"

When, succeeding this, the voice of the District Evangelist had been
heard in prayer, there followed an impressive waiting silence, in which
no one seemed to know quite what to do, except to gaze fixedly at the
face of John Hampstead, which continued as bloodless and as motionless
as chiseled marble; until, bowed in her chair, as if she brooded like a
real angel over the kneeling congregation, the rich contralto voice of
Mrs. Burbeck began to sing:

    "Take my life and let it be
    Consecrated, Lord, to Thee,
    Take my hands and let them move
    At the impulse of Thy love."


Presently her voice changed to "Nearer My God to Thee", while other
voices joined until the whole church was filled with the sound, and when
the last note had died, the very air of the little chapel seemed
tear-washed and clear.

In this atmosphere John Hampstead arose, and when one hand swept back
the yellow mass of hair, a kind of glory appeared upon his brow.  Once
an actor, once a man of ambition, he was now consecrated to the service
of humanity.

But he had not surrendered his love for Bessie Mitchell, and Marien
Dounay was still in the world, mounting higher and higher toward the
goal she had imperiously set for herself.



                              *CHAPTER XX*

                         *A WOMAN WITH A WANT*


Five years walked along, and great events took place. The earthquake
seized the San Francisco Bay district and shook it as a dog shakes a
rat.  Fire swept the great city on the peninsula almost out of
existence; it made rich men poor, and hard hearts soft—for a few days at
least—and by shifting populations and business centers, affected the
east side of the Bay almost as much as the west, so that in all that
water-circling population there was no business and no society, no man
or woman or child even, that was thereafter quite as it or he or she had
been.

In this seething ferment of change nothing altered more than the
circumstances of John Hampstead.  He had buried himself and found
himself.  He had sought relief in a self-abandoning plunge into
obscurity, yet never had a minister so humble gained such burning
prominence. The town hung on him.  Men who never went to church at all
leaned upon him and upon the things they read about him from day to day.

He had gone upon a thousand missions of mercy; he had fought for his
lambs like a lion; he had faced calumny; he had dared personal assault.
He had triumphed in all his conflicts and stood out before this
sprawling, half metropolitan, half-suburban community of half a million
people as a man whom it trusted—too much almost.

Under his ministry in these five years, the wretched little chapel had
grown into the great All People’s Church. To attend All People’s was a
fad; to belong to it almost a fashion.  The newspapers daily made its
pastor into a hero, and the moral element in the population looked upon
him as its most fearless champion and aggressive leader.

But into this situation and into All People’s one morning a woman came
walking, with power to shake it more violently than an earthquake could
have done.

The choir was just disposing of the anthem.  The Reverend John Hampstead
sat, but not at ease, in his high pulpit chair, which, somehow, this
morning reminded him of the throne chair of Denmark upon its stage in
that barn of a theater which at this very instant was only five
years—and five miles—distant; the chair from which he used to arise
suddenly to receive the rapier thrust of his nephew, Hamlet.  This
morning a vague uneasiness filled him, as if he were about to receive a
real rapier thrust.

The minister’s sermon outline was in his hand, but his eye roamed the
congregation.  It took note of who was there and who was absent; it took
note of who came in; but suddenly the eye ceased to rove and started
forward in its socket.

Deacon Morris was escorting a lady down the right-center aisle.  To
distinction of dress and bearing the newcomer added a striking type of
beauty.  Her figure was tall, combining rounded curves and willowy
grace. In the regularity of its smooth chiseling, her profile was purely
Greek.  The eyes were dark and lustrous, the cheeks had a soft bloom
upon them, the lips were ripely red; and if art had helped to achieve
these contrasts with a skin that was satiny smooth and of ivory
creaminess, it was an art contributory and not an art subversive.

"More beautiful than ever!" murmured the minister with the emphasis of
deep conviction.

The lady accepted a sitting well to the front.  Her head was reverently
bowed for an interval and then raised, while the black eyes darted one
illuminative glance of recognition at the man in the pulpit, a glance
that made the minister start again and confess to himself an error by
admitting beneath his breath: "No, not more beautiful—more powerful!"

Lengthened scrutiny confirmed this judgment.  Soft contours had yielded,
though ever so slightly, to lines of strength.  There was greater
majesty in her bearing. She was less appealing, but more commanding.
John reflected that it was rather impossible it should be otherwise.
The man or the woman who fights and conquers always sacrifices lines of
beauty to those muscle clamps of strength which seem to sleep but
ill-concealed upon the face.

And Marien Dounay had conquered!  In five years she had mounted to the
top.  With the memory of her latest Broadway triumphs still ringing,
this very day her name would be mentioned in every dramatic column in
every Sunday paper in America.  To have uttered that name aloud in this
congregation would have caused every neck to crane.

Alone conscious of her presence, John found himself counting the cost of
her success.  Part of that cost he could see tabulated on her face.
Another part of it was the grisly and horrible intimation to the
loathsome Litschi, which he had overheard on the unforgetable night in
the restaurant.  He found himself assuming that she had paid this latter
price and experienced a feeling of revulsion at recalling how once this
woman’s mere presence, the glance of an eye, the touch of a hand, the
purring tones of her voice, had been sufficient to melt him with
unutterable emotions.  This morning, gazing at her through that peculiar
mist of apprehension, almost of fear, that had been clouding his mind
since before her entry, John knew that she was a more dangerous woman
now than then; and yet the same glance showed that she was not dangerous
to him, for the dark eyes looked at him hungrily, with something
strangely like adoration in them, and there was an expression of longing
upon the beautiful face.

When he stood up to preach, she followed his every movement and appeared
to drink down his utterance thirstily.  Skilled now in spiritual
diagnosis, the minister of All People’s read her swiftly.  She had
gained—but she had not gained all.  Something was still desired, and, he
could not help but believe, desired of him.  Having coldly driven him
from her with a terrible kind of violence, she had come back humbly,
almost beseechingly.

So marked was this suggestion of intense longing that the feeling of
horror and revulsion which had come to Hampstead with the entry of the
actress gave way entirely to an emotion of pity and a desire to help,
and he tried earnestly to make his sermon in some degree a message to
the woman’s heart.


The position of the Reverend John Hampstead in All People’s Church and
in the community round about was due to no miracle, but had grown
naturally enough out of the strong heart of the man and his experiences.

When, for instance, in the early days at the chapel, John missed the
Pedersen children from the Sunday school, and found their mother in
tears at home because the children had no shoes, and that they had no
shoes because Olaf gambled away his weekly wage in "Beaney" Webster’s
pool room where race-track bets were made, and poker and other gambling
games were played, all in defiance of law,—and when he found the police
supine and prosecutors indifferent,—the practical minded young divine
sent Deacon Mullin—who, to his frequent discomfiture resembled a "tin
can" sport more than a church official—into Beaney’s to bet upon a
horse.  When the Deacon’s horse won, and Beaney all unsuspecting paid
the winnings over in a sealed envelope, the next Sunday night John took
the envelope into the pulpit and shook it till it jingled as he told the
story which next morning the newspapers printed widely, while the
minister himself was swearing out a warrant for the arrest of Beaney.

That was the beginning, but to John’s surprise it was not the end.
Beaney did not plead guilty meekly.  He fought and desperately, for this
meddlesome amateur clergyman had lifted the cover on a sneaking
underground system of petty gambling, of illicit liquor selling, and of
graver violations of the moral laws, which ramified widely.  Attacked in
one part, all its members rallied to a defence of the whole that was
impudent, determined and astonishingly powerful.

Hampstead was unknown, his church small and wretched and despised.  His
sole weapon was the newspapers who would not endorse him, but who would
print what he said and what he did.  What he said was not so much, but
what John Hampstead did was presently considerable, for a few
public-spirited citizens put money in his hand for detectives and
special prosecutors, and he spent more hours that year in police courts
than he did in his church.

In the end he won.  The lawless element, sore and chastened,
acknowledged their defeat, while the forces of good and evil alike
recognized thus early the entry into the community of a man whose
character and personality were henceforth to be reckoned with.

But while these battlings earned John publicity and high regard, they
also won him hate and trouble.  The work cost him tremendous expenditure
of energy and sleepless nights.  It made enemies of men whose friendship
he desired.  It brought him threats innumerable.  A stick of dynamite
was found beneath his study window.  Yet John’s devotion made him
careless of personal danger. He trembled for Rose and Dick and Tayna; he
trembled for the man who had crept through the shadow of the palms to
plant that stick and time that fuse, which mercifully went out; but
somehow he did not tremble for himself.

Besides, out of the shadow of danger, there seemed to reach sometimes
the flexing muscles of an omnipotent arm.  As, for instance, when an
arrested gambler, out upon bail, came into his study one night with
intent to kill. At first the minister was talking on the telephone, and
some chivalric instinct restrained the would-be assassin from shooting
his nemesis in the back.

Next John laughed at the preposterous idea of being killed, failing to
understand that the threat was earnest or to perceive how much his
caller was fired by liquor. Such merriment was unseemly to the man on
murder bent; he found himself unable to shoot a bullet into the open
mouth of laughter, and fumbled helplessly with his hand behind him and
his tongue shamefacedly tied until the minister directed his mind aside
with a question about his baby, following quickly with sympathetic talk
about the man’s wife and mother, until the spirit of vengeance went out
of him, and he broke down and cried and went away meekly with a parting
handshake from his intended victim.

It was only after the man had gone that John felt strangely weak with
fright and bewildered by an odd sense of deliverance.

Yet all these battles were only a part of John’s activities; nor did
they grow out of a fighting spirit, but out of a sympathetic nature, out
of his passion for the hurt and helpless, and his brave pity for the
defenceless.

His impulsive boldness, his ready tact, and his disposition to follow an
obligation or an opportunity through to the end, no matter where it led,
had made him father confessor to men and women of every sort and the
unofficial priest of a parish that extended widely on the surface and in
the underworld of the life about him.

Naturally, All People’s was extremely proud of its pastor, of his broad
sympathies and his devoted activities. Impressionable ladies felt that
there was something romantic in seeing him stand yonder in the pulpit,
so grave and priestly; in seeing him come down at the end of the
service, so approachable to all; and in taking his hand, not knowing
whether some archcriminal had not wrung it an hour before he entered the
pulpit, or whether last night those firm fingers might not have smoothed
back the hair from the brow of some dying nameless woman in a place
about which nice people could scarcely permit themselves to think.

There was even excitement in attending the church, because one never
knew who would be sitting next,—some famous personage or some notorious
one,—for Doctor Hampstead won his friends and admirers from the
strangest sources imaginable.

As to pulpit eloquence, there was admittedly seldom a flash of it at All
People’s.  By an enormous digestive feat, John had assimilated that
seminary course of which the Dean had spoken, boasting that he read his
Greek Testament entirely through in the three years, upon the street
cars that plied between his home and the seat of theological learning.
But this did not make of Hampstead a strong preacher, although the
impression that he might be, if he chose, was unescapable.  His passion,
he declared, was not to preach the gospel but to _do_ the gospel. People
sat before him spellbound, not by his eloquence, but by a sense of
mysterious spiritual forces at work about them.  At times, the mere
exhalations of the man’s sunny personality seemed sufficient to account
for all his influence; at others there was that mysterious feeling of
the Presence.

But as the membership grew and the sphere of its pastor’s influence
extended, there began to be less and less of his personality left for
expenditure upon that "backbone of the church" which had been there
longest and felt it first.

More than once Elder Burbeck took occasion to voice a protest over this.
John put these protests aside mildly until one day, when the minister’s
nerves had been more than usually frazzled by a series of petty
annoyances, the Elder blunderingly declared that the church paid the
minister his salary and was entitled to have his services.

"Is that the way you look at it?" asked John sharply. "That you pay me
my salary?  Then don’t ever put another coin in the contribution box.  I
thought you gave the money to God, and God gave it to me.  I do not
acknowledge to you or to any member of this church one single obligation
except to be true in your or their soul’s relation.  I owe you neither
obedience nor coddling nor back-smoothing."

"But you don’t realize," urged the Elder.  "These things were well
enough when our church was small. But now it is big.  It occupies a
dignified position in the community, and all this riff-raff that you are
running after—"

"Riff-raff!" John exploded.  "Jesus gathered his disciples from the
riff-raff!  His message was to the riff-raff!  He said: ’Leave the
avenues and boulevards and go unto the riff-raff!’  What is any church
but riff-raff redeemed?  What is any sanctimonious, self-satisfied
Pharisee but a soul on the way to make riff-raff of himself again?  What
gave this church its dignified position in the community?  Did you, when
you nailed the plank across the door?"

Elder Burbeck flushed redder than ever and turned stiffly on his heel,
not only inflamed by the crushing sarcasm of this rebuke, but stolidly
accepting it as one more evidence that in his heart this minister of All
People’s was much more human and much less godlike than many gaping
people seemed to think.  Both the resentment and the inference the Elder
stored up carefully against a day which he felt that he could see
advancing, while the minister, too intent upon his work to scan the
horizon for a cloud, hurried away upon another of his errands to the
riff-raff.

With this fanatic ardor of personal service now highly developed, it was
inevitable that the appeal in the eyes of Marien Dounay should act like
a challenge upon the chivalrous nature of John Hampstead.



                             *CHAPTER XXI*

                          *A CRY OF DISTRESS*


At the close of the service, Doctor Hampstead moved freely and
affectionately among his people, according to his habit.  To the Angel
of the Chair, who during all these five years had been his spiritual
intimate and practical counselor, until in his regard she stood frankly
canonized, went the last hearty handclasp, after which the minister
hurried to where the actress still waited in her pew.  Save for a
dapple-whiskered janitor tactfully busy in the far-off loft of the
choir, the two were alone in the large auditorium.

"Miss Dounay," John began in sincere tones, extending his hand
cordially, "I congratulate you heartily on the splendid success that you
have won."

He felt a sense of real triumph in his heart, that after what had passed
between them he was able to greet her like this in all sincerity,
although she had helped greatly by receiving him with that odd look of
worshipfulness which he had discerned from the distance of the pulpit.

"Thank you, but please do not congratulate me," the actress exclaimed
quickly, while a look of pain came undisguised into her eyes, and with a
mere shrug of those expressive shoulders she hurled aside all pretense
at formal amenities.  "Oh, Doctor Hampstead," she began, breathing his
name in tones of respect that deepened into reverence, and frankly
confessing herself a woman in acute distress by adding impulsively:

"I have gained everything we once talked about, and yet I believe I am
the unhappiest woman in the world."

There was almost a sob in her voice as she uttered the words, and the
minister looked at her intently, with his face more gravely sympathetic
than usual.

"I am trying to revive something," she hurried on, as if there was
relief in thus hastily declaring herself, "trying to get back something.
You alone can help me. My happiness, my very life, it seems to me,
depends upon you.  Will you come to see me this afternoon at the Hotel
St. Albans, say at four?"

"I should like to," responded the minister frankly, his desire to help
her growing rapidly; "but I have a funeral this afternoon."

"Then to-night," the actress urged, "after your sermon is done?"

As if anxious to forestall refusal, she gave him no chance to reply, but
continued with some display of her old vivacity of spirit: "We will have
a supper, as we did that night you came in after the play.  Julie is
still with me, and another maid, and a secretary, and sometimes my
’personal representative.’  Oh, I have quite a retinue now!  Do say you
will come, even though it is an unseemly hour for a ministerial call,"
she pleaded, and again her eyes were eloquent.

But it was not the hour that made John hesitate.  He felt himself immune
from charges of indiscretion.  He knew that despite his youthful thirty
years, he seemed ages older than the oldest of his congregation, a man
removed from every possibility of error; one whose simple, open life of
day-by-day devotion to the good of all who sought him seemed in itself a
sufficient armor-proof against mischance.

He came and went, in the upper and in the underworld, almost as he
would; saw whom he would and where he would.  Jails, theaters, hotels,
questionable side entrances, boulevards and alleys were accustomed to
the sight of his comings and goings.  If the stalwart figure of the man
loomed at midnight in a dance hall on the Barbary Coast of San Francisco
or in the darkest alleys of an Oakland water-front saloon, his presence
was remarked, but his purpose was never doubted.  He was there for the
good of some one, to save some girl, to haul back some mother’s boy, to
fight side by side with some man against his besetting sin, whether it
be wine or woman, or the gaming table.  Therefore he could go to call on
Marien Dounay at ten o’clock at night at the Hotel St. Albans as freely
as on a brother minister at noon.

What had made him suddenly withhold his acceptance of the invitation was
the entry of something of the old lightness of spirit into her tones for
a moment, accompanied by the suggestion of a supper.  He knew enough of
the whimsical obliquities of Marien Dounay’s nature to appreciate that
he must meet her socially in order to minister to her spiritually; but
he did not propose that the solemn purposes of his call should be made
an opportunity for entertainment or personal display.

However, Marien had instantly divined her mistake. "Doctor Hampstead!"
she began afresh, and this time her voice was low and her utterance
rapid.  "My season closed in New York last Saturday night.  I was
compelled to wait over three days to sign the contract for my London
engagement.  The moment that was out of the way, I rushed entirely
across this country to see you!  I arrived this morning.  I came here at
once.  Oh, I must talk to you immediately and disabuse your mind of
something—something terrible that I have waited five years to wipe out."

She clasped her hands nervously, and her luminous eyes grew misty, while
she seemed in danger of losing her composure entirely, an unheard-of
thing for Marien Dounay.

Her imploring looks and the impetuous earnestness of her appeal were
already leading John to self-reproach for the sudden hardening of his
judgment upon her; but it was the last sentence that decided him.  He
knew well enough what she meant, and something in him deeper than the
minister leaped at it.  If she could wipe out that grisly memory, the
earliest opportunity was due her, and it would relieve him exactly as if
a smirch had been wiped from the brow of womanhood itself.  Besides,
there had always been to him something puzzling and incomprehensible
about that scene in the restaurant, which, as the years went by, was
more and more like a horrible dream than an actual experience.

"I will come, Miss Dounay," he assured her gravely.

"Oh, I am so glad!" the woman exclaimed with a little outstretching of
her hand, which would have fallen upon John’s on the back of the pew, if
it had not been raised at the moment in a gesture of negation as he
said:

"But please omit the supper.  I am coming at your
call—eagerly—happily—but not even as an old friend; solely as a
minister!"

This speech was so subtly modulated as to make its meaning clear,
without the shadow of offense, and Marien’s humbly grateful manner of
receiving it indicated tacit acknowledgment of the exact nature of the
visit.

Nevertheless, the minister found that in thus specifying he had written
for himself a prescription larger than he could fill.  Between the
whiles of his busy afternoon and evening he was conscious of growing
feelings of curiosity and personal interest that threatened to engulf
the loftier object of his intended call.  Old memories would revive
themselves; old emotions would surge again. The spirit of adventure and
the spice of expectancy thrust themselves into his thought, so that it
was with a half-guilty feeling that he found himself at the hour
appointed in the hotel corridor outside her room.  He was minded to go
back, but stood still instead, reproaching himself for cowardice.  His
very uncertainty gave him a feeling of littleness.

Eternal Loyalty was still and forever to be his guiding principle; and
should he not be as true to this actress who had appealed to, him, who
perhaps was to tell him something that would prove she had a right to
appeal to him, as to any other needy one?  Should he shrink because of
the irresistible feeling that it was more as a man interested in a woman
than as a priest to confess a soul, that he found himself before her
door?  Should all of his experience go for nothing, and was his
character, strengthened by years and chastened by some bitter lessons,
still so undependable that he dared not put himself to the test of this
woman, even though her mysterious power was so great that she could
command a man’s love and deserve his hate, yet send him away from her
without a hurt and feeling admiration mingled with his horror!

For a man with John Hampstead’s chivalrous nature to put a question like
this to himself was to answer it in the affirmative.  Temptation comes
to the minister as to other men, and it had come to John.  But had not
Marien Dounay herself taught him of what weakness to beware? That flesh
is flesh?  That juxtaposition is danger? Besides, should not the
disastrous consequences which had followed from his contacts with the
woman have made him forever immune from the effect of her presence?

John approached and knocked upon the door.

His knock was greeted with a sound like the purr of an expectant kitten,
and the knob was turned by Marien herself, with a sudden vigor which
indicated that she had bounded instantly to admit him.

Her manner, in most startling contrast to that which she had displayed
at the church, was sparklingly vivacious; but her dress was more
disconcerting than her manner; in fact, to the minister, it seemed that
very same negligee gown whose pleats of shimmering black with their
splotches of red, had clung so closely to her form in those
never-to-be-forgotten hours in the little apartment on Turk Street in
San Francisco.  Her hair, too, flowed unconfined as then.  The picture
called up overwhelming memories, against which the minister in the man
struggled valiantly.

"I have not worn it since, until to-night," the woman purred softly,
happy as a child over his glance of recognition; but when Hampstead, in
uncompromising silence, stood surveying her critically, she asked archly
and a bit anxiously, "Are you shocked?"

"Well," he replied a trifle severely, "you must admit that this is not
sackcloth and ashes."

"It is my soul, not my body, that is in mourning," Marien urged
apologetically, trying the effect of a melting glance, after which,
walking half the length of the room she turned again and invited him to
lay off his overcoat and be seated.  John could not resist the playful
calculation of her manner without seeming heartless; and yet he did
resist it, standing noncommittally while his eyes sought the
circumference of the room inquiringly.

"And look!" went on Marien enthusiastically, for she was trying
pitifully by sheer force of personality to recreate the atmosphere of
their old relationship in its happiest moments.  "See, here is the Roman
chair, or at least one like it; and there the divan, piled high with
cushions; I am as fond of cushions as ever.  You shall sit where you
sat; I shall recline where I reclined.  We will stage the old scene
again."

"Not the old scene," replied the minister, with quiet emphasis, feeling
just a little as if he had been trapped.

Still his strength was always sapped on Sunday night; and no doubt in
utter weariness, one’s power of resistance is somewhat lowered.
Besides, Marien was so beautiful and so winning in manner; her arms
gleamed so softly in their circle of silk and filmy lace, and there was
in the atmosphere of the room an abundance of an indefinable something
which was like a rare perfume and yet was not a perfume at all, but that
effect of lure and challenge which her mere presence always had upon the
senses of this man.

Moreover, it seemed so fitting to see this exquisite creature happy
instead of sad that it would have taken a coarser nature than John
Hampstead’s to break in brutally upon her whimsical happiness of mood.
He judged it therefore the mere part of tact to remove his overcoat.

"Julie!" called Marien, and there was a not entirely suppressed note of
triumph in her tone.

The little French maid appeared with suspicious promptness from behind
swinging portières to receive the coat and to give the big man, whom she
had always liked, shy welcome upon her own account.

True to her nature, Miss Dounay’s every movement was theatric.  She
stood complacently by until the maid had done her service and withdrawn.
Then pointing to the Roman chair, she said to Hampstead:

"Sit there and wait.  I have something to show you, something
beautiful—wonderful—overwhelming almost!"

Hesitating only long enough to see that the minister, although a bit
suspicious, complied politely with her request, Marien, with dramatic
directness, and humming the while a teasing little tune, followed Julie
out through the portières, but in passing swung the curtains wide as an
invitation to her caller’s eyes to pursue her to where she stopped
before a chiffonier which was turned obliquely across the corner of the
large inner room.

Marien’s shoulder was toward John, but the mirror beyond framed her face
exquisitely, with its hood of flowing hair and the expansive whiteness
of her bosom to the corsage, while the long dark lashes painted a
feathery shadow upon her cheeks as her eyes looked downward to something
before her on the chiffonier.  For a moment she stood motionless, as if
charmed by the sight on which their glance rested.  Then, using both
hands, she lifted the object, and instantly the mirror flashed to the
watching man the picture of a swaying rope of diamonds.  They seemed to
him an aurora-borealis of jewels, sparkling more brilliantly than the
light of Marien’s eyes, as she held them before her face for an instant,
and then, with a graceful movement which magnified the beauty of her
rounded arms and the smoothly-chiseled column of her throat, threw back
the close-lying strands of her hair to fasten the chain behind her neck.

For another second the mirror showed her patting her bosom complacently,
as if her white fingers were loving the diamonds into the form of a
perfect crescent, which, presently attained, she surveyed with evident
satisfaction. Turning, she advanced toward her guest with hands at first
uplifted and then clasped before her in an ecstasy of delight, while she
laughed musically, like a child intoxicated by the joy of some long
anticipated pleasure.

Upon a man whose love of beauty was as great as John Hampstead’s, the
effect was shrewdly calculated and the result all that heaven had
intended.

"Wonderful!" he exclaimed, leaping up to meet her as she advanced.
"Splendid!  Magnificent!"

Each adjective was more emphatically uttered than the last.

Satisfied beyond measure with the effect of her diversion, the
calculating woman drew close with a complete return of all her old
assurance and stood like a radiant statue, a happy flush heightening on
her cheeks, while the minister, entirely unabashed, feasted his eyes
frankly on the beauty of the jewels and the snowy softness of their
setting.  When, after a moment, Marien made use of his hand as a support
on which to pivot gracefully about and let herself down with dainty
elegance into the midst of her throne of cushions, Hampstead stood, a
little lost, gazing downward at the vision as though spellbound by its
loveliness.

For a moment the actress was supremely confident. Breathing softly, her
dark eyes swimming like pools of liquid light, into which her long
lashes cast a fringe of foliate shadows, she contemplated John
Hampstead, tall, strong, clean, healthful looking, his yellow hair, his
high-arched viking brows, the look of kindliness and the cast of
nobility into which the years had moulded his features, until it seemed
to her that she must spring up and drag him down to her lair of cushions
like a prize.

But she made no impulsive move.  Instead, she breathed softly: "Doctor
Hampstead, will you touch that button, please?"

John complied courteously, but mechanically, as if charmed.  The more
brilliant lights in the room were instantly extinguished.  What remained
flowed from the shrouding red silk of the table lamp so softly that
while all objects in the room remained clearly distinguishable even to
their detail, there was not a garish beam anywhere.

It was a fitting atmosphere for confession, and even the diamonds in
this smothered light seemed suddenly to grow communicative, to multiply
their luster, and to break more readily into the prismatic elements of
color.

"More and more beautiful," Hampstead murmured, passing a hand across his
brow.

"Sit down!" Marien breathed softly, motioning toward the Roman chair.

Hampstead was surprised to find how near the divan the inanimate chair
appeared to have removed itself.  Had he pushed it absently with his
leg, as he made place for her, or had she, or had the thing
itself—insensate wood and leather and plush—felt, too, the irresistible
thrall of this magnetic, beauty-dowered creature who snuggled amid these
silken panniers?

"I do not know diamonds very well," the minister confessed, sinking down
into the chair.

"Look at them," Marien said, with a delightful note of intimacy in her
voice, at the same time lowering her chin close, in order to survey the
jewels as they lay upon her breast.

In John’s eyes, this downcast glance gave Marien an expression that was
Madonna-like and holy, and this again deepened his feeling of pity for
her heartaches, and his anxiety to help her in what it was her whim to
mask from him for the moment with all this childish play of interest in
her jewels and in her own beauty.  But it also disposed him to humor her
the more, removing all sense of restraint when he followed the glance of
her eye to where the more brilliant stones of the pendant lay in the
snowy vale of her bosom, or when, leaning closer still, he could see
that their intermittent flashing facets were responding to the pulsing
of her heart.

"And what is the amber stone?" he asked innocently.

"Amber!" Marien laughed.  "It is a canary diamond, the finest stone of
all.  It alone cost four thousand dollars."

"Four thousand dollars!"  The minister drew in his breath slowly.  "It
had not occurred to me that there were such jewels outside of royal
crowns and detective stories," he stammered.  "Four thousand dollars!
What did the whole necklace cost?"

"Twenty-two," the actress answered almost boastfully, again bending to
survey the blazing inverted arch of jewels.

"Thousand?"  The minister’s inflection expressed his incredulousness.

"Thousand," Marien iterated with a complacent drop of the voice, and
then, while the fingers of one hand toyed with the pendant, went on: "I
have a perfect passion for diamonds!  That canary stone has temperament,
life almost.  Perhaps it is a whim of mine, but it seems to me that it
reflects my moods.  When I am downcast, it is dull and lusterless; when
I am happy, it flashes brilliantly, like a blazing sun.

"It is influenced by those whom I am with.  It never burned so
brilliantly as now.  Your presence has an effect upon it.  Cup your
fingers and hold it for a moment, and see, after an interval, if its
luster does not change."

Astonished at the feeling of easy intimacy which had been established
between them so completely that he saw no reason at all why he should
refuse, Hampstead did as he was bidden, although to hold the brilliant
stone it was necessary for the heads of the two to be drawn very close,
so that the tawny, wavy, loose-lying locks of the minister and the dark
glistening mass of the woman’s hair were all but intertwined, while the
four eyes converged upon the diamond, and the two bodies were breathless
and poised with watching.

Presently the man felt his vision swimming.  He saw no single jewel, but
a myriad of lights.  He ceased to feel the gem in his hollowed fingers,
and was conscious instead of a soft, magnetic glow upon the under side
of his hand.

In the same instant, he became aware that Marien’s eyes no longer
watched the stone, but were bent upon his face, and he felt a breath
upon his cheek as her lips parted, and she murmured softly:

"John."

This word and touch together gave instant warning to the Reverend Doctor
Hampstead of the spell under which he was passing,—a spell mixed in
equal parts from the responsiveness of his own nature to all beauty of
form, animate or inanimate, and from the subtle sympathy which the rich,
seductive personality of Marien Dounay had swiftly conjured.  The shock
of this discovery was entirely sufficient to break the potency of the
charm.

"It did seem to change, I thought," the minister said casually, at the
same time slipping his hand gently from beneath the jewel.

By the slightly altered tone in his speech and the easy resumption of
his pose in the chair, Marien perceived that the minister and his
purpose was again uppermost in her caller.

As for John, slightly irritated with himself, and yet feeling it still
the part of tact to show no irritation with Marien, he guided the
situation safely past its moment of restraint.

"You said there was something you wished to tell me," he reminded her
gently; then added gravely: "That is why I came to-night.  I was to be
your father-confessor."

The considerateness of Hampstead’s tone and manner was as impressive as
it was compelling.  Marien’s face became instantly sober, and she
fidgeted for a time in silence as if it were increasingly difficult to
broach the subject, but finally she labored out:

"You misunderstood me horribly once—horribly!"

With this much communicated, she stopped as abruptly as she had begun,
while a frightened look invaded her liquid eyes.

"Misunderstood you," Hampstead iterated gently, but with firmness, "I
understood you so well that except through an impersonal desire to be
helpful, I should never have come here."

The very dignity and measured self-restraint of the minister’s utterance
robbed the woman of her usual admirable self-mastery.  She cowered with
timid face amid her pillows, as her mind leaped back to that night in
the restaurant with Litschi, and the terrible lengths to which she had
gone to shock this same big, dynamic, ardent Hampstead from his pursuit
of her.

As if it were compromising himself to sit silent while he read her
thoughts and heard again in his own ears that terrible speech, the
minister went on to say sternly:

"You know that I shrank then, as from a loathsome thing, at the price
you were willing to pay for your success.  I must forewarn you that the
memory does not seem less abhorrent now than the fact did then."

When Hampstead bit out these sentences with a fire of moral intensity
burning in his eyes, the quivering figure upon the cushions shuddered
and shrank.

"Oh, John!" a broken voice pleaded.  "Did I ever, ever say those hateful
words?  Can you not conceive that they were false?  That they were
spoken with intent to deceive you, to drive you from me, to leave me
free to make my way alone, unhampered, as I knew I must?"

The minister, his face still white and stern, his gray eyes beaming
straight through widening lids, declared hotly: "No!  I cannot conceive
that a good woman would voluntarily smirch herself like that in the eyes
of a man who loved her for any other single purpose than the one which
she confessed, an ambition that was inordinate and—immoral.  That
thought was in your speech, and by Heaven"—he shook an accusing finger
at her—"I believe it was in your purpose!"

The woman cowered for a moment longer before Hampstead’s gaze, then a
single dry sob broke from her, while one hand covered her eyes, and the
other stretched gropingly to him, across the pillows.

"I had the purpose," she admitted haltingly.  "I confess it.  Is it not
pitiful?" and the lily hand which had felt its way so pleadingly across
the embroidered cushions opened and closed its fingers on nothing, with
a movement that was convulsive and appealing beyond words.

"Pitiful," the minister groaned.  "My God, it is tragic!"

"Yes," she went on presently, in a calmer voice that was more resigned
and sadly reminiscent: "I purposed it."

And there she stopped.  Her tone was as dry as ashes. This man had
surprised her by revealing a startling amount of moral force, which had
quickly and easily broken down her coolly conceived purpose to make him
believe that his sense of hearing had played him false that night in the
restaurant.  She had, however, confessed only to what she knew he knew;
but the roused conscience of the preacher of righteousness detected this
and was not to be evaded.  He proposed to confront this woman with her
sin.

"You confess only to the purpose?" John demanded accusingly.

The glance of the woman fell before his blazing eye. She had meant to
answer boldly, triumphantly; but the sudden fear that she might not be
believed made her a coward, and forced the realization that she must not
attempt to deceive this man in anything.

"Sometimes one says more than one is able to perform," she whispered
weakly.  "Sometimes a woman names a price, and does not know what the
price means, and when the time of settlement comes, will not pay
it—cannot pay it—because there is something in her deeper, more
overruling than her own conscious will, something that refuses to be
betrayed!"  The last words were torn out of her throat with desperate
emphasis.

John sat watching the woman critically, with an all but unfriendly eye,
while she struggled over this utterance, yet the very manner of it
compelled him to believe in her absolute sincerity at the moment.  Her
revelation was truthful, no doubt, but just what was she revealing?  The
substance was so contrary to his presumption that his comprehension was
slow.

"You mean," he began doubtfully—

Marien took instant courage in his doubt; he was almost convinced.

"I mean," she exclaimed, leaping up with an expansive gesture of her
arms, while the jewels, like her eyes, blazed with the intensity of her
emotion: "_I mean that I never paid the price!_"  Her voice broke into a
wild crescendo of laughter that was half delirious in its mingled
triumph and joy.  Hampstead himself arose involuntarily and stood with a
look first of amazement, and then almost of anger, as he suddenly seized
her wrists, holding them close in his powerful grasp, while he demanded
in tones hoarse with a pleading that was in contrast to his manner:

"Marien, are you telling me the truth?"

The woman faced his searching gaze doubtfully for an instant; then
seeing that the man was actually anxious to believe her, she swayed
toward him, weakened by relief and joy, as she cried impulsively:

"It is the truth!  It is the truth!  Oh, God knows it is the truth!"

The fierceness of the minister’s grip upon her wrists instantly relaxed,
and he lowered her gently to the cushions, where she sat overcome by her
emotions while he stood gazing at her as on one brought back from the
dead, expressions of wonder and thanksgiving mingled upon his face.

But presently a reminiscent look came into Marien’s eyes, and she began
to speak rapidly, as if eager to confirm her vindication by the summary
of her experiences.

"It was hard, very hard," she began.  "It commenced in that first
careless, ignorant year I told you about.  I was fighting it all the
time; fighting it when you were with me.  That was really why I broke
out of Mowrey’s Company.  Men—such beasts of men!—proffered their help
continually, but not upon terms that I could accept. It seemed,
eventually, that I must surrender.  I taught myself to think that some
day, perhaps when I stood at last upon the very threshold—" she paused
and looked over her shoulder at some unseen terror.  "But the time never
came.  I burst through the barriers ahead of my pursuing fears."

The actress ceased to speak and sat breathing quickly, as if from the
effects of an exhausting chase.

Hampstead turned and walked to the window, where, throwing up the sash,
he stood filling his lungs deeply with delicious, refreshing draughts of
the outside air.  Coming back, he halted before her to say in tones of
earnest conviction:

"Marien"—he had called her Marien!—"I feel as if the burden of years had
been removed.  Few things have ever lain upon my heart with a more
oppressive sense of the awful than this vision of you, so beautiful and
so possessed of genius, consecrating yourself with such noble devotion
to a lofty, artistic aim, and yet prepared to—to—"  His words faded to a
horrified whisper, and finding himself unable to conclude the sentence,
he reached down and took her hand in both of his, shaking it emotionally
while he was able presently to say reverently and with unction:

"God has preserved you, Marien.  You owe Him everything."

"It was you who preserved me," she amended, with jealous emphasis and
that look again of hungry devotion which he had seen first in the
church.  "It is you to whom I owe everything."

"I preserved you?" Hampstead asked, now completely mystified, as he
remembered with what scornful words and looks she had whipped him from
her presence.  "I do not understand.  We pass from mystery to mystery.
Is it that which you said you must tell me?"

"No.  I have told you what I wanted to tell you."

The woman was again entirely at her ease, shrugging her beautiful
shoulders and yawning lazily,—a carefully-staged and cat-like yawn, in
which she appeared for an instant to show sharp teeth and claws, and
then as suddenly to bury them in velvet.

The minister stood gazing at her doubtfully.



                             *CHAPTER XXII*

                            *PURSUIT BEGINS*


Both recognized that the time had come to close the interview, and each
was extremely pleased with its result.  Marien had demonstrated to her
complete satisfaction that this minister was still a man; that his flesh
was wax and would therefore melt.  She believed that to-night she had
seen it soften.

As for John: He believed that this evening had witnessed a triumph for
his tact and his moral force.  His sympathy was wholly with the woman.
Convinced afresh that there was something sublime in her character, he
determined to give her every opportunity to reveal herself to him, and
to spare no effort upon his own account to redeem her life from that
ingrowing selfishness which he felt sure was making her unhappy now and
might ultimately rob her of all joy in its most splendid achievements.

"I shall save three o’clock to-morrow for you," Miss Dounay proposed, as
if reading the minister’s purpose in his eye.

But John Hampstead was a man of many duties, whose time was not easy to
command.

"At three," he objected, "I am to address a mother’s meeting.

"At four then," Marien suggested, with an engaging smile.

"At four I have to go with a sad-hearted man to see his son in the
county jail," John explained apologetically, as he scanned his date
book.

"At five!" persisted Marien, the smile giving way before a shadow of
impatience.

John laughed.

"It must seem funny to you," he declared, "but I have an engagement at
five-thirty which makes it impossible to be here at five.  The
engagement itself would seem funnier still; but to me it is not
funny—only one of the tragedies into which my life is continually drawn.
At that hour I am to visit a poor woman who lives on a house boat on the
canal.  Monday is her husband’s pay day, and he invariably reaches home
on that night inflamed with liquor, and abuses the woman outrageously. I
have promised to be with her when he comes in.  I may wait an hour, and
I may wait half the night."

"Oh," gasped Marien, with a note of apprehension. "And suppose he turns
his violence on you?"

"Why, then I shall defend myself," John answered, good-humoredly, "but
without hurting Olaf."

"I am likely to spend the night on that canal boat," he added, "and in
the morning Olaf will be ashamed and perhaps penitent.  He may thank me
and ask me to meet him at the factory gate next Monday night and walk
home with him to make sure that his pay envelope gets safely past the
door of intervening saloons."

"But why so much concern about unimportant people like that?" questioned
Marien, her eyes big with curiosity and wonder.

"Any person in need is important to me," confessed John modestly.

"But how can you spare the time from the regular work of the church?"

"That is my regular work."

Marien paused a moment as if baffled.

"But—but I thought a minister’s work was to preach—so eloquently that
people will not get drunk; to pray, so earnestly that God will make men
strong enough to resist temptation."

"But suppose," smiled John, "that I am God’s answer to prayer, his means
of helping Olaf to resist temptation.  That is the mission of my church,
at least that is my ideal for it; not a group of heaven-bound
joy-riders, but a life-saving crew.  There are twenty men in my church
who would meet Olaf at a word from me and walk home with him every night
till he felt able to get by the swinging doors upon his own will."

Marien’s eyes were shining with a new light.

"That is practical religion," she declared.

"Cut out the modifier," amended John.  "That _is_ religion!  There are,"
he went on, "even some in my congregation who would take my watch upon
the canal boat; but I prefer to go myself because—"

"Because," Marien broke in suddenly, "because it is dangerous."  Her
glance was full of a new admiration for the quiet-speaking man before
her, in whose eyes burned that light of almost fanatical ardor which she
and others had marked before.

"More because it is a delicate responsibility," the minister amended
once more.  "Tact that comes with experience is essential, as well as
strength."

"And do you do many things like that?" Marien asked, deeply impressed.

"Each day is like a quilt of crazy patchwork," John laughed, and then
added earnestly: "You would hardly believe the insight I get into lives
of every sort and at every stage of human experience, divorces,
quarrels, feuds, hatreds, crimes, loves, collapses of health or
character or finance—crises of one sort or another, that make people
lean heavily upon a man who is disinterestedly and sympathetically
helpful."

"And your reward for all this busybodying?" the actress finally asked,
at the same time forcing a laugh, as if trying to make light of what had
compelled her to profound thought.

"A sufficient reward," answered John happily, "is the grateful regard in
which hundreds, and I think I may even say thousands, of people
throughout the city hold me: this, and the ever-widening doors of
opportunity are my reward.  These things could lift poorer clay than
mine and temper it like steel.  The people lean upon me.  I could never
fail them, and they could never fail me."

The exalted confidence of the man, as he uttered these last words, which
were yet without egotism, suggested the tapping of vast reservoirs of
spiritual force, and as before, this awed Marien a little; but it also
aroused a petty note in her nature, filling her with a jealousy like
that she had experienced in the church when she saw John surrounded by
all those people who seemed to take possession of him so absolutely and
with such disgusting self-assurance.

Manoeuvering her features into something like a pout, she asked
mockingly:

"And since you would not leave your mother’s meeting and your jail-bird
and your wife-beater for me, is there any time at all when an all-seeing
Providence would send you again to the side of a lonely woman?"

The minister smiled at the irony, while scanning once more the pages of
his little date-book.  "To look in after prayer meeting about
nine-thirty on Wednesday night would be my next opportunity, I should
say," he reported presently.

"Wednesday!" complained Marien.  "It is three eternities away.
However," and her voice grew crisp with decision, "Wednesday night it
shall be.  In the meantime, do you speak anywhere?  I shall attend the
mother’s meeting, if you will tell me where it is.  I shall even come to
prayer meeting; and," she concluded vivaciously; "you will be borne away
by me triumphantly in my new French car, which was sent out here weeks
and weeks ago to be tuned up and ready for my coming."

On Wednesday night Miss Dounay made good her word.  When the little
prayer-meeting audience emerged from the chapel room of All People’s, it
gazed wonderingly at a huge black shape on wheels that rested at the
curb with two giant, fiery eyes staring into the night.

The old sexton, looking down from the open doorway, saw his pastor shut
into this luxurious equipage with two strange women, for Marien was
properly accompanied by Julie, and nodded his head with emphatic
approval.

"Some errand of mercy," he mumbled with fervency. "Brother Hampstead is
the most helpful man in the world."

Nor was this the last appearance of Marien Dounay’s shining motor-car
before the door of All People’s.  It was seen also in front of the
palm-surrounded cottage on the bay front, where John Hampstead lived
with his sister, Rose, and the children, and enjoyed, at times, some
brief seclusion from his busy, pottering life of general helpfulness.

Once the car even stopped before the home of the Angel of the Chair,
perhaps because Hampstead had told Marien casually that of all women
Mrs. Burbeck had alone been consistently able to understand him, and the
actress wished to learn her secret.  But the Angel of the Chair, while
quite unabashed by the glamour of the actress-presence, nevertheless
refused entirely to be drawn into talk about Brother Hampstead, who was
usually the most enthusiastic subject of her conversation.  Instead she
spent most of the time searching the depths of Miss Dounay’s baffling
eyes with a look from her own luminous orbs, half-apprehensive and
half-appealing, that made the caller exceedingly uncomfortable; so that
Marien would have accounted the visit fruitless and even unpleasant, if
she had not, while there, chanced to meet the young man known to fortune
and the social registers as Rollo Charles Burbeck.

Rollo was the darling son of the Angel and the pride of the Elder’s
heart.  Tall, blond, handsome, and twenty-eight, endowed with his
mother’s charm of manner and a certain mixture of the coarse
practicality and instinct for leadership which his father possessed, the
young man had come to look upon himself as a sort of favorite of the
fickle goddess for whom nothing could be expected to fall out otherwise
than well.  Without money and without prestige, in fact, without much
real ability, and more because as a figure of a youth he was good to
look upon and possessed of smooth amiability, Rollie, as his friends and
his doting mother called him, had risen through the lower rounds of the
Amalgamated National to be one of its assistant cashiers and a sort of
social handy-man to the president, very much in the sense that this
astute executive had political handy-men and business handy-men in the
capacity of directors, vice-presidents, and even minor official
positions in his bank.

But there were, nevertheless, some grains of sand in the bearings of
Rollo’s spinning chariot wheels.

In his capacity as an Ambassador to the Courts of Society, he had the
privilege of leaving the bank quite early in the afternoon, when his
presence at some daylight function might give pleasure to a hostess
whose wealth or influence made her favor of advantage to the Amalgamated
National.  He might sometimes place himself and a motor-car at the
disposal of a distinguished visitor from outside the city, might dine
this visitor and wine him, might roll him far up the Piedmont Heights,
and spread before his eye that wonderful picture of commercial and
industrial life below, clasped on all sides by the blue breast and the
silvery, horn-like arms of the Bay of San Francisco.

All these things, of course, involved expenditures of money as well as
time.  The bills for such expenditures Rollo might take to the president
of the bank, who wrote upon them with his fat hand and a gold pencil,
"O.K.—J.M." after which they were paid and charged to a certain account
in the bank entitled: "Miscellaneous."  This, not unnaturally, got
Rollie, in the course of a couple of years, into luxurious habits.
After eating a seven-dollar dinner with the financial man of a Chicago
firm of bond dealers, it was not the easiest thing in the world to
content himself the next day with the fifty-cent luncheon which his own
salary permitted.  Furthermore, Rollo, because of his standing at the
bank and his social gifts, was drawn into clubs, played at golf, or
dawdled in launches, yachts, or automobiles with young men of idle mind
who were able to toss out money like confetti. It was inevitable that
circumstances should arise under which Rollo also had to toss, or look
to himself like the contemptible thing called "piker."  Consequently, he
frequently tossed more than he could afford, and eventually more than he
had.

To meet this drain upon resources the debonair youth did not possess,
Rollie resorted to undue fattening of his expense accounts, but, when
the amounts became too large to be safely concealed by this means from
the scrutiny of J.M., he had dangerous recourse to misuse of checks upon
a certain trust fund of which he was the custodian.  He did this
reluctantly, it must be understood, and was always appalled by the
increasing size of the deficit he was making.  He knew too that some day
there must come a reckoning, but against that inevitable day several
hopes were cherished.

One was that old J.M., brooding genius of the Amalgamated National,
might become appreciative and double Rollie’s salary.  Yet the heart of
J.M. was traditionally so hard that this hope was comparatively feeble.
In fact, Rollie would have confessed himself that the lottery ticket
which he bought every week, and whereby he stood to win fifteen thousand
dollars, was a more solid one. Besides this, hope had other resources.
There were, for instance, the "ponies" which part of the year were
galloping at Emeryville, only a few miles away, and there were other
race tracks throughout the country, and pool rooms conveniently at hand.
While Rollie was too timid to lose any great sum at these, nevertheless
they proved a constant drain, and the only real asset of his almost
daily venturing was the doubtful one of the friendship of "Spider"
Welsh, the bookmaker.

Rollie’s first test of this friendship was made necessary by the receipt
of a letter notifying him that the executors of the estate which
included the trust fund he had been looting would call the next day at
eleven for a formal examination of the account.  Rollie at the moment
was more than fifteen hundred dollars short, and getting shorter.  That
night he went furtively through an alley to the back room of the
bookmaker.

"Let me have seventeen hundred, Spider, for three days, and I’ll give
you my note for two thousand," he whispered nervously.

"What security?" asked the Spider, craft and money-lust swimming in his
small, greenish-yellow eye.

"My signature’s enough," said Rollie, bluffing weakly.

"Nothin’ doin’," quoth the Spider decisively.

Cold sweat broke out on Rollie’s brow faster than He could wipe it off.

"I’ll make it twenty-five hundred," the young man said hoarsely.

Spider looked interested.  He leaned across the table, his darting,
peculiar glance shifting searchingly from first one of Rollie’s eyes to
the other, his form half crouching, his whole body alert, cruelty
depicted on his face and suggesting that his nickname was no accident
but a sure bit of underworld characterization.

"Make it three thousand, and I’ll lay the money in your hand," said the
Spider coldly.

Rollie’s case was desperate.  He drew a blank note from his pocket,
filled it, and signed it; then passed it across the table.  But with the
Spider’s seventeen hundred deep in his trousers pockets, the feeling
that he had been grossly taken advantage of seemed to demand of Rollie
that his manhood should assert itself.

"Spider, you are a thief!" he proclaimed truculently.

"I guess you must be one yourself, or you wouldn’t want seventeen
hundred in such a hell of a hurry," was Spider’s cool rejoinder, as he
practically shoved Rollie out of his back door.

Now this retort of Spider’s was quite a shock to Rollie; but there are
shocks and shocks.  Moreover, when the executors upon their scheduled
hour came to Rollo Charles Burbeck, trustee, and found his accounts and
cash balancing to a cent, which was exactly as they expected to find
them, why this in itself was some compensation for taking the back-talk
even of a bookmaker.

But the next day Spider Welsh’s roll was the fatter by three thousand
dollars, and the trust account was short the same amount.

Thereafter, and despite good resolutions, the size of the defalcation
began immediately to grow again, although Rollo, if he suffered much
anxiety on that account, concealed it admirably.  He knew that under the
system he was safe for the present, and outwardly he moulted no single
feather, but wore his well tailored clothes with the same sleek
distinction, and laughed, chatted, and danced his way farther and
farther into the good graces of clambering society, partly sustained by
the hope that even though lotteries and horse races failed him, and the
"Old Man’s" heart proved adamant, some rich woman’s tender fancy might
fasten itself upon him, and a wealthy marriage become the savior of his
imperiled fortunes.

It was while still in this state of being, but with that semi-annual
turning over of dead papers again only a few weeks distant, Rollo was
greatly amazed to blunder into the presence of Marien Dounay in his
mother’s sun-room at four o’clock one afternoon, when chance had sent
him home to don a yachting costume.  A little out of touch with things
at All People’s, the young man’s surprise at finding Miss Dounay
tête-à-tête with his own mother was the greater by the fact that he knew
a score of ambitious matrons who were at the very time pulling every
string within their reach to get the actress on exhibition as one of
their social possessions.

Because young Burbeck’s interest in women was by the nature of his
association with them largely mercenary, and just now peculiarly so on
account of his own haunting embarrassment, he was rather impervious to
the physical charms of Miss Dounay herself.  He only saw something
brilliant, dazzling, convertible, and exerted himself to impress her
favorably, postponing the departure upon his yachting trip dangerously
it would seem, had not the two got on so well together that the actress
offered to take him in her car to shorten his tardiness at the yacht
pier.

After this, acquaintance between the two young people ripened swiftly.
Because John Hampstead was so busy, Marien had an abundance of idle time
upon her hands.  Agitated continually by a cat-like restlessness,
seeking a satiety she was unable to find, the actress had no objections
to spending a great deal of this idle time upon Rollo.  He rode with her
in that swift-scudding, smooth-spinning foreign car.  She sailed with
him upon the bay in a tiny cruising sloop that courtesy dubbed a yacht.
More than once she entertained Rollie with one of these delightful
Bohemian suppers served in her hotel suite, sometimes with other guests
and sometimes flatteringly alone.

Rollie enjoyed all of this, but without succumbing seriously.  His
spread of canvas was too small, he carried too much of the lead of deep
anxiety upon his centerboard to keel far over under the breeze of her
stiffest blandishments; but all the while he held her acquaintance as a
treasured asset, introducing her to about-the-Bay society with such
calculating discrimination as to put under lasting obligations to
himself not only Mrs. von Studdeford, his friend and patron, but certain
other carefully chosen mistresses of money.

As for Marien, her triumphs were still too recent, her vanity was still
too childish, not to extract considerable enjoyment from being Exhibit
"A" at the most important social gatherings the community offered; but
her complacence was at all times modified by moods and caprices.  She
would disappoint Rollie’s society friends for the most unsubstantial
reasons and appeared to think her own whimsical change of purpose an
entirely sufficient explanation.  Sometimes she did not even bother
about an explanation, and her manner was haughty in the extreme.

Her most vexatious trick of the kind was to disappear one night five
minutes before she was to have gone with Rollie to be guest of honor at
a dinner given by Mrs. Ellsworth Harrington.  The hostess raged
inconsolably, taking her revenge on Rollie in words and looks which, in
her quarter, proclaimed thumbs down for long upon that unfortunate,
adventuring youth.

"Take me about nine hundred and ninety-nine years to square myself with
that double-chinned queen," muttered Rollie, standing at eleven o’clock
of the same night upon the corner opposite the Hotel St. Albans and
looking up inquisitively at the suite of Miss Dounay, which was on the
floor immediately beneath the roof.

The young man’s hat was pushed back so that his forehead seemed almost
high and, in addition to its seeming, the brow wore a disconsolate
frown.

"Looks as if I’d kind of lost my rabbit’s foot," he murmured, relaxing
into a vernacular that neither Mrs. Harrington, Mrs. von Studdeford, nor
other ladies of their class would have deemed it possible to flow from
the irreproachable lips of Rollo Charles Burbeck.  Yet his friends
should have been very indulgent with Rollie to-night!  The world had
grown suddenly hard for him. The executors were due again to-morrow; and
his deficit had passed four thousand dollars.

So desperate was his plight that for an hour that afternoon Rollie had
actually thought of throwing himself upon the mercy of Mrs. Ellsworth
Harrington, who had hundreds of thousands in her own right, and who
might have saved him with a scratch of the pen.  Her heart had been
really soft toward Rollie, too, but Marien’s caprice to-night had
spoiled all chance of that.  Nothing remained but the Spider.  Rollie
had an appointment with him in fifteen minutes.

But in the meantime he indulged a somber, irritated curiosity concerning
Miss Dounay.  Since staring upward at her windows brought no
satisfaction he had recourse to the telephone booth in the hotel lobby,
and got the information that Miss Dounay was out but had left word that
if Mr. Burbeck called he was to be told he was expected at ten-thirty
and there would be other guests.

That meant supper, and a lively little time.  No doubt the actress would
try to make amends.  Well, Rollie would most surely let her.  He had no
intention of quarreling with an asset, even though occasionally it
turned itself into a liability.  But it was now past ten-thirty, ten
forty-seven, to be exact, and his engagement with the Spider was at
eleven.  However, since his hostess was still out, and therefore would
be late at her own party, his prospective tardiness gave the young man
no concern.

But, on leaving the telephone booth and advancing through the wide lobby
of the hotel, young Burbeck was surprised to see Miss Dounay’s car
driven up to the curb. There she was, the beautiful devil!  Where could
she have been?  Yet, since Rollie’s curiosity and his wish for an
explanation of her conduct were nothing like so great as his desire to
avoid meeting her until this business with the Spider was off his mind,
he executed an oblique movement in the direction of the side exit; but
not until a shoulder-wise glance had revealed to him the stalwart form
of the Reverend John Hampstead emerging first from the Dounay limousine.

"The preacher!" he muttered in disgusted tones, "I thought so.  She’s
nuts on him; or he is on her, or something.  Say!" and the young man
came to an abrupt stop, while his eyes opened widely, and his nostrils
sniffed the air as if he scented scandal.  "I wonder if she tried the
same line of stuff on the parson, and he’s falling for it?  It certainly
would be tough on mother if anything went wrong with her sky pilot."

However, Rollie’s own exigencies were too great for him to forget them
long, even in contemplating the prospective downfall of a popular idol,
and he made his way to his engagement.

Rollie was a long time with Spider.  Part of this delay was due to the
fact that the Spider was broke.  He did not have forty-two hundred
dollars, nor any appreciable portion thereof.  Another part of the delay
was due to the fact that Spider took some time in elaborating a plan to
put both Rollie and himself in possession of abundant funds.  The plan
was grasped upon quickly, but, being a detestable coward, Rollie halted
long before undertaking an enterprise that required the display of nerve
and daring under circumstances where failure meant instant ruin.

However, there was at least a gambler’s chance, while with the executors
to-morrow there was no chance. Inevitably, therefore, the young man,
white of face, with a lump in his throat and a flutter in his breast,
gripped with his cold, nerveless hand the avaricious palm of Spider, and
the bargain was made.  Even then, however, there was a stage wait while
an emissary of the Spider’s went on a dive-scouring tour that in twenty
minutes turned up a short-haired, scar-nosed shadow of a man who
answered to the name of the "Red Lizard", a designation which the fiery
hue of his skin and the slimy manner of the creature amply justified.

Once out of Spider’s place, Rollie lingered in the alley long enough to
screw his scant courage to the place where it would stick for a few
hours at least; and at precisely half-past eleven, looking his handsome,
debonair self, his open overcoat revealing him still in evening dress,
and with his silk hat self-confidently a-tilt, he sauntered nonchalantly
through the lobby of the Hotel St. Albans to an elevator which bore him
skyward.

The pride of the Elder and the son of the Angel, the social ambassador
of the Amalgamated National, was prepared once more to do his duty by
his fortune.



                            *CHAPTER XXIII*

                           *CAPRICIOUS WOMAN*


With more than a month of odd hours invested upon Marien Dounay, the
Reverend John Hampstead had reluctantly made up his mind that failure
must be written over his efforts in her behalf.

She had never told him the secret want which was making her unhappy.
Her manner and her mood varied from flights of ecstasy, bordering on
intoxication of spirit, to depths of depression which suggested that the
gifted woman was suffering from some sort of mania. She was always eager
to see him, always clamoring for more of his time, and yet after the
first week or so he never left her presence without being made to feel
that her hours with him had been a disappointment.

To tell the truth, he had himself been greatly disappointed in her.  She
appeared to him altogether frivolous, altogether worldly.  He was
completely convinced that she had not only toyed with him years ago, but
was toying with him now, although of course, in an entirely different
way.

For five days he had not seen her, but hating to give up entirely, and
finding himself one evening in the vicinity of the Hotel St. Albans, he
ventured to run in upon her for a moment.  She was decked as if for an
evening party in a dress of gold and spangles, as conspicuous for an
excess of materials in the train as for an utter absence of them about
the arms and shoulders, which, on this occasion, even the blaze of
diamonds did not redeem from a look of nakedness to the eyes of the
minister,—a mental reaction which any student of psychology will
recognize as ample evidence that John Hampstead, man, had passed
entirely beyond the power of Marien Dounay, woman.

Miss Dounay received her caller with that low purr of surprise and
gladness which was characteristic, and instantly proposed that they go
out for a ride on the foothill boulevard, and a dinner at the Three
Points Inn.

While the minister had not planned to give her an evening, this was one
of the rare occasions when he had leisure time at his disposal, and
since he had resolved to make one last effort to help the woman, he
decided to accept the invitation.

The evening, however, was not a success.  The dinner was good, the roads
were smooth, the night air was balmy and full of a thousand perfumes
from field and garden; but Miss Dounay’s mood, at first merry, sagged
lower and lower into a kind of sullen despair, in which she reproached
the minister bitterly for his failure to understand her.

François, the chauffeur, had, by command of his mistress, stopped the
car on the curve of the hill, at a point where the bright moon made
faces as clear as day, and, having climbed down as if to look the car
over, they heard his boot heels grow fainter and fainter on the graveled
road as he tactfully ambled off out of earshot.

Hampstead was still patient.

"I have been so earnest in my desire to help you," he said, by way of
broaching the subject again.

"You cannot help me," Marien snapped.  "Something bars you.  Your
church, your position, all these foolish women who are in love with you,
this whole community which has made a ’property’ god of you,—they are to
blame!  They stand between us.  They prevent you from seeing what you
ought to see.  They make you blind.  You think you are humble.  It is a
mock humility.  Under its guise you hide a lofty egotism. You think you
are a preacher; you are not.  You are still an actor, playing your part,
and playing it so busily that you have ceased to be genuine.  All this
sentiment which you display for the suffering and needy and distressed
is a worked-up sentiment.  It goes with the part you play.  It makes you
blind, false, hypocritical!"

"Miss Dounay!" exclaimed the minister sharply.

But beside herself with chagrin and disappointment, the woman ran on
with growing scorn, as she asked sneeringly: "Do you not see that all
this gaping adoration is unreal?  That a touch would overthrow you?  A
single false step, and the newspapers which have made you for the sake
of a front-page holiday would have another holiday, and a bigger one, in
tearing you down?"

Hampstead gritted his teeth, but he could not have stopped her.

"Can you imagine what would be the biggest news story that could break
to-morrow morning in Oakland?" she persisted.  "It would be the fall of
John Hampstead.  Can’t you see it?" she laughed derisively. "Headlines a
foot tall?  Can’t you hear the newsboys calling?  Can’t you see the
’Sisters’ whispering?  Can’t you see the gray heads bobbing?  The pulpit
of All People’s declared vacant!  John Hampstead a by-word and worse—a
joke!  Can’t you see it?"

Not unnaturally, the minister was angry.

"No," he said sharply, "and you will never see it, for I shall not take
that single false step of which you speak."

"Oh, you really would not need to take it," sneered the actress, with a
sinister note in her voice, "a man in your position need not fall.  He
may only seem to fall."

It seemed to John that the woman was actually menacing him.

"François!" he called sharply.

The chauffeur’s heels came clicking back from around the turn, and in a
silence, which upon Miss Dounay’s part might be described as fuming, and
upon the minister’s as aggressively dignified, the couple were driven
back to the hotel, arriving in time for Rollie Burbeck to emerge from
the telephone booth, to observe the car, and to avoid its occupants.

With almost an elaboration of scrupulous courtesy, the minister helped
Miss Dounay from the automobile, walked with her to the elevator, and
ascended to the doorway of her apartment, where, extending his hand, he
said sadly, in tones of finality, but without a trace of any other
feeling than regretful sympathy: "I still desire to befriend you as I
may.  But I shall not be able to come to you again."

To his surprise, Marien answered him with something like a threat!

"It is I," she rejoined quickly, "who will come to you.  I do not know
how it is to happen yet, but I will come, and when I do—if I am not much
mistaken—you will be happier to receive my call than you ever were to
receive one in all your life before!"

Again there was menace in her tone, and never had she looked more
imperiously regal than as she stood holding the loop of her train in the
left hand, the right upon the knob of the door, the shimmering evening
cloak pushed back to reveal her gold and spangled figure, standing arrow
straight, while the dark eyes shot defiance.

Neither had she ever been guilty of a more studied or effective bit of
theatricalism than when, immediately following this insinuating speech,
the actress noiselessly propelled the door inward, revealing the
presence of a group of men in evening dress posed about the room in
various attitudes of boredom.  As the door swung, these men turned
expectantly and with quick eyes photographed the picture of the minister
in the hall, his sober, perplexed gaze set upon the figure of the
beautiful woman, whose features had instantly changed as she made her
entrance upon an entirely different drama.

"Ah, my neglected guests!" exclaimed the actress in tones of mild
self-reproach.  "You will forgive my not being here to receive you, when
you know the reason. Doctor Hampstead has been showing me some of the
more interesting and unusual phases of that eccentric parish work of
his, over which you Oaklanders rave so much.  And now, the dear good man
was hesitating in the hall at intruding upon our little party.  I have
insisted that he shall be one of us.  Am I not right, gentlemen?"

Several of Miss Dounay’s guests were well known to Hampstead personally,
and the readiness with which they dragged him within attested to the
clergyman’s wide popularity among quite different sorts of very much
worth-while persons, for, as a matter of fact, Miss Dounay’s guests were
rather representative.  The group included an editor, an associate
justice of the Supreme Court, a prominent merchant, a capitalist or two,
and other persons, either of achievement or position, to the number of
some eight or ten.

Their presence witnessed not only that Miss Dounay, in her liking for a
virile type of man, had made quick and careful selection from those she
had met during her short stay in the city, but also testified to the
readiness with which this type responded to the Dounay personality.

That no other woman was present, and that the actress should assume the
entire responsibility of entertaining so many gentlemen at one time, was
entirely in keeping with her particular kind of vanity and the
situations it was bound to create.

Standing in the center of the room, wearing that expression of happy
radiance which admiration invariably brought to her face, her bare
shoulders gleaming, her jewels blazing, she rotated upon her heel till
her train wound up in a swirling eddy at her feet, out of which she
bloomed like some voluptuous flower, while a chorus of "Oh’s" and "Ah’s"
of laughing adulation followed the revolution of her eyes about the
circuit; for the guests knew that to their hostess this little gathering
was a play, and their part was to enact a vigorously approving audience.

"Gentlemen," she proposed, "you are all in evening dress; but I,"—and
she shrugged her bewitching shoulders naïvely,—"I have been in this gown
for ages—until I hate it.  Will you indulge me a little longer?"  And
she inclined her head in the direction of the red portières through
which she had gone that first night to don the diamonds for Hampstead.

Of course the gentlemen excused her, and Miss Dounay achieved another
startling theatricalism by reappearing in an astonishingly short time,
offering the most surprising contrast to her former self.  The yellow
and spangles were gone.  In their place was the simplest possible gown
of soft black velvet, with only a narrow band passing over the shoulders
and framing a bust like marble for its whiteness against the black.  The
dress was entirely without ornament, presenting a supreme achievement of
the art of the modiste, in that it appeared not so much to be a gown as
a bolt of velvet, suddenly caught up and draped to screen her figure
chastely but beautifully, at the same time it revealed and even
emphasized those swelling curves and long lines which lost themselves
elusively in the baffling pliancy of her remarkable figure.  The hair
was worn low upon the neck, and the jewels which had blazed in her
coiffure like a dazzling crown were no longer in evidence.  With them
had gone the pendants from her ears, and that coruscating circlet of
diamonds from the neck, which was her chief pride and most valuable
single possession.  There was not even a band of gold upon her arms, nor
a ring upon her tapering finger.  Hence what the admiring circle seemed
to see was not something brilliant because bedizened, but a creature
exquisite because genuine, a beauty depending for its power solely upon
nature’s comeliness.

No woman with less beauty or less art, desiring to be admired as Marien
Dounay passionately did, could have dared this contrast successfully.
No one who knew men less thoroughly than she would have understood that
for a purely professional artist to attain this look of a simple womanly
woman was the greatest possible triumph, stirring every instinct of
admiration and of chivalry.

And whatever was at the back of the trick Miss Dounay had played—and
there was generally something back of her caprices—in thrusting John
Hampstead, with whom she had practically quarreled, into this group of
guests, she appeared to forget him entirely in the succession of whims,
moods, and graces with which she proceeded to their entertainment.

For one thing, she admitted them to the large room which served as her
boudoir, into which they had seen her go in gold and spangles to emerge
like a miracle in demure black velvet.

Of course, there was an excuse for thus titillating the curiosity of
vigorous men with that lure of mysterious enchantment which lurks in the
boudoir of a lovely woman, and the excuse was that the room, while
half-boudoir, was also half-studio, and held tables on which were
displayed the models of the stage sets and the costumer’s designs for
Miss Dounay’s coming London production.

As the actress had divined, the inspection of these fascinating details
of stagecraft interested her guests as much as the display of them
delighted her.

In the hour which ensued before the supper, a collation that in its
variety and substance again proved how well the actress comprehended the
appetite of the male, two or three guests arrived tardily.  The earliest
of these to enter was Rollo Charles Burbeck, who came in ample time to
roam about the room of mystery at will with the remainder of the guests.
Indeed, he stayed in it so much that its enchantment for him might have
been presumed to be greater than for the others.

Before the supper, too, one of the guests craved the liberty of
departing.  This was the Reverend John Hampstead.  The farewell of his
hostess was gracious and without the slightest reminiscence of anything
unpleasant, but he was prevented from more than mentally congratulating
himself upon the change in her manner toward him by the fact that in
walking some ten feet from where he touched the fingers of his hostess
to where a butler-sort of person, borrowed from the hotel staff, stood
waiting with his overcoat, Doctor Hampstead came face to face with
Rollie Burbeck, who was just emerging from the boudoir-studio with a
disturbed look upon his usually placid face, as if, for instance, he had
seen a ghost.

In consequence, the minister moved down the corridor to the elevator,
not pondering upon his own perplexities, but thinking to himself, "I
wonder now if that young man is in any serious trouble.  It would break
his mother’s heart—it would kill her if he were."



                            *CHAPTER XXIV.*

                         *THE DAY OF ALL DAYS*


Next morning Doctor Hampstead was up bright and early, clad in his long
study gown and walking, according to custom, beneath his palm trees,
while he reflected on the duties of the day before him.  This was really
the day of all days for him, but he did not know it.

An unpleasant thought of Marien Dounay came impertinently into mind, but
he repressed it.  He had failed with her.  A pity!  Yes; but his work
was too big, too, important, for him to permit it to be interfered with
longer by any individual.

Besides, there were with him this morning thoughts of a totally
different woman, whose life was as fresh and beautiful as the dew-kissed
flowers about him.  Five years of unswerving devotion on his part had
all but wiped from her memory the admission of her lover which had so
hurt the trusting heart of Bessie.  That confiding trust, the loss of
which her pen had so eloquently lamented, had grown again.  The very day
was set.  In four months John Hampstead would hold Bessie Mitchell in
his arms, and this time it seemed to him, more surely than it had that
day in the little summer house by the tiny painted park in Los Angeles,
that he would never, never let her out of them.

In the midst of these reflections, a thud sounded on the graveled walk
at the minister’s feet.  It was the morning paper tightly rolled and
whirled from the unerring hand of a boy upon a flying bicycle.  The
minister waved his hand in response to a similar salute from the
grinning urchin, then turned and looked at the roll of ink and paper
speculatively.  That paper was the world coming to sit down at breakfast
with him, and tell him what it had been doing in the past twenty-four
hours.  It had been doing some desperate things.  The wide strip of
mourning at the end of the bent cylinder, indicating tall headlines,
showed this.  The paper had come to him to make confession of the
world’s sins.  This was right, for he was one of the world’s confessors.

But with this thought came another which had occurred to him before.
This was that he had won his confessor’s gaberdine too cheaply.  He had
gained his position as a deputy saviour of mankind at too small a cost.
Sometimes he questioned if he were not yet to be made to
suffer—excruciatingly—supremely—if, for instance, Bessie were not to be
taken from him.  Yet he knew, as he reflected somewhat morbidly to this
effect, that such a suffering would hardly be efficient.  It must be
something within himself, something volitional, a cup which he might
drink or refuse to drink.  The world’s saviour was not Simon of Cyrene,
whom they compelled to bear the cross, but the man from the north, who
took up his own cross.  True, Hampstead had thought on several occasions
that he was taking up a cross, but it proved light each time, and turned
into a crown either of public or of private approbation.  Yet the cross
was there, if he had only known it, in the tall black headlines on the
paper rolled up and bent tightly and lying like a bomb at his feet.

However, instead of picking up the paper, he strolled out upon the
sidewalk and down for a turn upon the sea-wall.  The lately risen sun
shot a ray across the eastern hills, and the dancing waters played
elfishly with its beams, as if they had been ten thousand tiny mirrors.
A fresh breeze was blowing, and as the minister filled his lungs again
and again with the wave-washed air, it seemed as if a great access of
strength were flowing into his veins.  It flowed in and in until he felt
himself stronger than he had ever been before in his life.

With this feeling of strength, which was spiritual as well as physical,
came the desire to test it against something big, bigger than he had
ever faced before.  All unconscious how weak his puny strength would be
against its demands, he lifted his arms towards the sky like a
sun-worshiper and prayed that the day before him might be a great day.

Then leaving the sea-wall, the minister walked with swinging, quite
un-gownly strides up the sidewalk and turned in between the green
patches of lawn before his own door, picking up the paper and unrolling
it as he mounted the porch.  On the step before the top one he paused.
The black headline was before his eye.

"DOUNAY DIAMONDS STOLEN" was its screaming message.

The minister was quickly gutting the column of its meaning, when a step
upon the graveled walk behind startled him into turning suddenly toward
the street, where between the polished red trunks of the palms and under
their spreading leaves which met overhead, he saw framed the figure of
Rollie Burbeck, halting uncertainly, with pale, excited face.  This
expression, indeed, was a mere exaggeration of the very look Doctor
Hampstead had last seen upon it; but he did not immediately connect the
two.

"Your mother!" exclaimed the clergyman apprehensively, for that precious
life, always hanging by a thread which any sudden shock might snap, was
a constant source of anxiety to those who loved the Angel of the Chair.
"Something has happened to her?"

"No!  To me!" groaned the young man hoarsely, hurrying forward as the
minister stepped down to meet him.

"Something awful!  Can I see you absolutely alone?"

"Why, certainly, Rollie," replied the minister with ready sympathy.
"Come this way."

Hastily the minister led his caller around the side of the wide,
low-lying cottage to the outside entrance of his study.

"Is that door locked?" asked Rollie, as, once inside the room, he darted
a frightened glance at the doorway connecting with the rest of the
house.

Although knowing himself to be safe from interruption, the minister
tactfully walked over and turned the key.  He then locked the outer door
as well, lowered the long shade at the wide side window, and snapped on
the electric light.

"No eye and no ear can see or hear us now, save one," he said with
sympathetic gravity.  "Sit down."

Rollie sat on the very edge of the Morris chair, his elbows on the ends
of its arms, while his head hung forward with an expression of
ghastliness upon the weakly handsome features.

"You saw the paper?" he began.

The minister nodded.

"Here they are!" the young man gulped, the words breaking out of him
abruptly.  At the same time there was a quick motion of his hand, and a
rainbow flash from his coat pocket to the blotter upon the desk, where
the circlet of diamonds coiled like a blazing serpent that appeared to
sway and writhe as each stone trembled from the force with which Burbeck
had rid himself of the hateful touch.  The minister started back with
shock and a sudden sense of recollection.

"Oh, Rollie," he groaned, and then asked, as if not quite able to
believe his eyes: "You took them?"

"I—I stole them," the excited man half-whispered.

"Why?" questioned Hampstead, still wrestling with his astonishment.

"Because I am short in my accounts," Rollie shuddered, passing a
despairing hand across his eyes.  "I have to have money to-day, or I am
ruined."

"But you could not turn these into money.  You must have been beside
yourself."

"No!" replied the excited man, with husky, explosive utterance; "the
scheme was all right.  Spider Welsh was going to handle ’em for me.  We
were to split four ways.  But the Red Lizard fell down."

"The Red Lizard?" interrupted the minister; for he knew the man who bore
the suggestive title.

"Yes.  He was to hang a rope down from the cornice on the roof of the
hotel, opposite her window, so it would look like an outside job, and he
didn’t do it.  I got the diamonds easy enough—easier than I expected—you
know how that was, with all those people coming and going in that room.
But I went to bed and couldn’t sleep for thinking about the rope.  I got
up before daylight and went down to see if it was there.  So help me
God, there’s no rope swinging.  That makes it an inside job; it puts it
up to the guests.  By a process of elimination, they’ll come down to me.
I am ruined any way you look at it, and the shock will kill mother!"

The minister studied the face of his caller critically. Did he love his
mother enough to greatly care on her account, or was this merely an
afterthought?

"What am I going to do?" the shaken Rollie gasped hoarsely, his eyes
fixing themselves in helpless appeal upon the clergyman.

"The thing to do is clear," announced the minister bluntly.  "Take these
diamonds straight back to Miss Dounay.  Tell her you stole them.  Throw
yourself on her mercy."

A sickly smile curled upon the young man’s lip.

"Her mercy?" he repeated.  "Do you think that woman has any mercy in
her?  She has got the worst disposition God ever gave a woman.  She
would tear me to pieces."

The young fellow again lifted a hand before his eyes, shuddering and
reeling as though he might faint.

With a feeling almost of contempt, Hampstead gripped him by the shoulder
and shook him sternly.

"Your situation calls for the exercise of some manhood—if you have it,"
he said sharply.  "Tell me. Why did you come here?"

"To get you to help me out!" the broken man murmured helplessly,
twisting his hat in his hands.  "That was all.  I won’t lie to you.
You’ve never turned anybody down.  Don’t turn me down!"

"It was on your mother’s account?"

"No, I’m not as unselfish as that.  It’s just myself. I don’t know
what’s the matter with me.  I’ve lost my nerve.  I had it all right
enough when I took ’em, except for just a minute after; that’s when I
met you going away, and with that damned uncanny way of yours you
dropped on that something was wrong.  But I had my nerve all right; I
had it till I got out there on the street this morning and that rope
wasn’t swinging there over the cornice.  Damn the Red Lizard!  All I ask
is to get out of this, and then to get him by the throat!"

Surely the man had recovered a portion of his nerve, for at the thought
of the failure of his partner in crime, his face was suffused with rage,
and his weak, writhing hands became twisting talons that groped for the
throat of an imaginary Red Lizard.

At sight of this demonstration, Hampstead leaned back in his chair, with
the air of one whose interest is merely pathological, observing the
phenomena of a soul in the throes of incurable illness.  His face was
not even sympathetic.

"You have come to the wrong place," he said briefly.

"You won’t help me out?"

"Not in your state of mind—which is a mere cowardice in defeat—mere rage
at the failure of an accomplice.  I should be accessory after the
crime."

"Not even to save my mother?" whined the wilted man.

"I should be doing your mother no kindness to confirm her son in crime."

Young Burbeck sat silent and baffled, yet somehow shocked into vigorous
thought by the notion that he had encountered something hard, a man with
a substratum of moral principle that was like immovable rock.

For a moment the culprit’s eyes wandered helplessly about the room and
then returned to the rugged face of the minister, with so much of
gentleness and so much of strength upon it.  Looking at the man thus,
Rollie had a sudden, envious wish for his power.  This man had a
strength of character that was enormous and Gibraltar-like.

"You can help me if you will!" he broke out wretchedly, straining and
twisting his neck like a man battling with suffocation.

"Yes," said the minister quietly, his eyes searching to the fellow’s
very soul, "I can—if you will let me."

"Let you?" and a hysterical smile framed itself on the young man’s face.
"My God, I will do anything."

"It’s something you must _be_, rather than do," explained the physician
to sick souls, once more deeply sympathetic, and leaning forward, he
continued significantly: "I want to help you, not for your mother’s
sake, nor your father’s, but for your own whenever you are ready to
receive help upon proper terms.  You have come here seeking a way out.
There is no way out, but there is a _way up_!"

The cowering man shook his head hopelessly.  He had not courage enough
even to survey a moral height.

For a moment the minister studied his visitor thoughtfully, wondering
what could make him see his guilt as he ought to see it; then abruptly
he drew close and began to talk in a low, confidential tone.  Almost
before the surprised Rollie could understand what was taking place, the
Reverend John Hampstead, to whom he had come to confess, was confessing
to him; this man, whom he had thought so strong, was telling the story
of a young girl’s love for him; of his weak infatuation for another
woman, of the heart-aches that half-unconscious breach of trust had
occasioned him, and worst of all, the pangs it had cost the innocent
girl who loved him and believed in his integrity with all her
impressionable heart.

There was a moisture in the minister’s eye as he concluded his story,
and there was a fresh mist in Rollie’s as he listened.

But the clergyman passed on immediately from this to tell modestly how,
when the death of Langham had imposed the lives of Dick and Tayna on him
like a trust, he had been true to it, although at the cost of his great
ambition; but that afterward this surrender had brought him all the
happiness of his present life as pastor of All People’s, while the hope
of winning that first love back had been given to him again.

"And so," Hampstead concluded, "to be disloyal to a trust has come to
seem to me the worst of all crimes; while to be true to one’s
obligations appears to me as the highest virtue.  In fact, the whole
active part of my creed could be summed up pretty well in this little
idea of trust.

"Trust is almost the highest thing in life.  It is the cement of
civilization.  Trust is the very foundation of banking.  You believe in
banking, don’t you?  In the principle?  The idea that hundreds of people
trust some banker with their surplus funds, and he puts those funds at
the service of the community as a whole through loaning them to persons
who redeposit them, to be reloaned and redeposited again, so that the
bank, a bundle of individual trusts of rich and poor, becomes one of the
fulcrums upon which civilization turns?"

Burbeck listened rather dazed.  "I never thought of the principle," he
faltered after a minute, "I thought of it as a job."

"Well, you see the point, don’t you?  It’s rather a high calling to be a
banker.  Now in this case the dead man whose fund you have looted
trusted the bank; the bank has trusted you, and you have stolen from the
bank.  Miss Dounay has trusted you, and you have stolen her diamonds.
You see at what I am getting?"

Hampstead paused and glanced penetratingly into the face of Rollie, who
had been a little swept out of himself, as much in wonder at the new
insight into the life of the minister as at the convincing clarity of
the lesson conveyed.

"Yes," he replied thoughtfully and with an air of conviction, "that I am
not to think of myself as merely a thief, but as something worse,—as a
traitor to many sacred trusts."

"Exactly," exclaimed the minister with satisfaction at the sign of moral
perception growing.  "To shield a thief from exposure is possibly
criminal.  To help a man repair the breaches of his trust, to put him in
the way of never breaking another trust as long as he lives, that is the
true work of the ministry.  If it is for that you want help, Rollie, you
have come to the right place."

"I did not come for that," admitted the young fellow, strangely able to
view himself objectively as a sadly dispiriting spectacle.  "I came, as
you said, in cowardice, because I didn’t know which way to turn,
desiring only to find a way out.  Somehow, I felt myself a victim.  You
make me see myself a crook.  I came here feeling sorry for myself.  You
make me hate myself.  You make me want to be worthy of trust.  You give
me hope.  I have a feeling I never had before, that I am not much of a
man, that I am not equal to a man’s job.  But tell me what I must do to
repair the breaches in my trust, and let me see if I think I can do
them."

Burbeck’s manner had become calmer, and something of the grayness of
despair had left his face, but now at the recurrence of all his
perplexities, he presented again the picture of a man cowering beneath a
mountain that threatened to fall upon him.

"First of all, you must go back to Miss Dounay with her diamonds,"
prescribed the minister seriously.  "If you have not manhood enough to
face her with your confession, I do not see the slightest hope for your
character’s rehabilitation."

"But the executors!" exclaimed Rollie, with the sense of danger still
greater than his sense of guilt.  "They will be checking me up at
eleven.  I’ve got to cover the shortage, or I’m lost.  J.M. would be
more terrible than Miss Dounay.  It would not be vengeance with him.
He’d send me to San Quentin, entirely without feeling, just as a matter
of cold duty.  He’d shake hands and tell me to look in when I got out.
That’s J.M."

"Yes, I think it is," said the minister, pausing for a moment of
thought.  His body was balanced and rocking gently in the swivel chair,
his hands were held before him, the tips of the thumb and fingers of the
right hand just touching the tips of the thumb and fingers of the left
hand and making a rudely elliptical basket into which he was looking as
if for inspiration.

Rollie, waiting,—hoping, without knowing what to hope,—had begun to
study Hampstead’s face with a respectful interest he had never felt
before.  He noticed the dark shadows beneath the gray eyes, and that
lines were beginning to seam the brow, while just now the broad
shoulders had a bent look.  For the first time it occurred to him that
Hampstead’s work might be hard work, and he began to feel a kind of
reverence for a man who would work so hard for other people, and to
reflect that it was noble thus to expend one’s energies,—noble to be
true to trusts of any sort.  It was admirable. It was worthy of
emulation.  A sudden envy of Hampstead’s character seized him, and he
began, in the midst of his own distress, to think how one proceeded to
get such a character.  By the simple process of being true to trusts,
the minister had suggested.  But this seemed rather hopeless for Rollie.
His chance had gone—unless! His mind halted and fastened its hope
desperately to this grave, silent, meditative face.

The minister was considering very delicate questions: trying to decide
how much weight the slender moral backbone of this softling could carry,
asking whether by leaning upon the side of mercy, by taking some very
serious responsibility upon himself, he might not shelter him from the
consequences of his crime while a new character was grown.

But such questions are not definitely answerable in advance, and it was
neither Hampstead’s usual magnanimity nor his leaning toward mercy, but
his moral enthusiasm for the rehabilitation of lost character that
impelled him to take a chance in his decision.

"When do you say they will be upon your books?" he asked abruptly.

"Before twelve, sure; by eleven, probably," was Rollie’s quick, nervous
answer.

"And how much is your defalcation?"

"Forty-two hundred," sighed Rollie.

"The expedient is almost doubtful," announced the minister solemnly, and
with evident reluctance; "and I do not say that the time will not
come—when you are stronger, perhaps—when you must tell Mr. Manton that
you were once a defaulter; but that bridge we will not cross this
morning, and in the meantime, I will let you have the money to cover
your shortage."

"Brother Hampstead!" gulped Rollie, reaching out both hands, while his
soul leaped in gratitude.  It was also the first time he had ever called
Hampstead "Brother" except in derision.

The minister waved away this demonstration with a gesture of
self-deprecation, and a smile that was almost as sweet as a woman’s
lighted up his face, while he took from a drawer of his desk a small,
flat key, familiar to Rollie because he had seen it before, and many
others resembling it.

"Here," said Hampstead, "is the key to my safe deposit box in the
Amalgamated National vault.  In that box is eleven hundred dollars.  It
is not my money, but was provided by a friend for use in a contingency
which has not arisen.  I feel at perfect liberty to use it for this
emergency.  As you will remember, there is already on file with the
vault-room custodian my signed authorization for you to visit the box,
because you have served as my messenger before.  You will be able,
therefore, to gain unquestioned access to it the minute the vaults are
open, which as you know is nine o’clock.  Take the envelope marked
’Wadham currency.’  In the meantime I will go to a friend or two, and
within thirty minutes after the bank’s doors open, I will bring you
another envelope containing thirty-one hundred dollars."

Rollie listened as a condemned man upon a scaffold listens to the
reading of his reprieve.

"How can I thank you?" he croaked finally, clutching at the minister’s
hand.

"You don’t thank me," adjured Hampstead, towering and strong, while he
gripped the pulseless palm of Burbeck.  "Don’t thank me!  Do your part;
that’s all."

Rollie clung to the strong hand uncertainly for a few seconds until he
himself felt stronger, when his face seemed to lighten somewhat.

"You have a wonderful way with you, Doctor Hampstead," he exclaimed.
"You have put conscience into me this morning—and courage."

"Both are important," smiled the minister.

At this moment, Rollie, who was beginning to recover his presence of
mind, did one of those innocent things which thereafter played so
important a part in the tragical chain of complications which followed
from this interview.  The act itself was no more than to select from a
small tray of rubber bands upon the study desk, the only red one which
happened to be there, and to snap it with several twists about the neck
of the vault-box key, remarking as he did so:

"For ready identification.  There are sometimes several of these keys in
my possession at once."

The minister nodded approvingly.  "I suppose," he commented, "other
people make use of you as a messenger to their boxes."

"Half a dozen of the women have that habit," the young man observed.

"Trusted!" exclaimed the minister impulsively, laying a cordial hand
upon the young man’s shoulder. "You have been greatly trusted.  It is a
rare privilege, isn’t it?"

Rollie nodded thoughtfully.

"And these?" questioned Doctor Hampstead, motioning to where the diamond
necklace curled, appearing to Rollie less like a serpent now and more
like a strangler’s knot.

"I’m afraid of them," said the young man with a shudder.
"Couldn’t—couldn’t you take them back to her and tell the story?"

The clergyman shook his head solemnly.

"I cannot confess your sins for you," he averred.  "If you are not man
enough for that, we might as well stop before we begin."

Hampstead’s tone was final.

"You are right," admitted Burbeck, in tones of conviction; "you are
right."

But still he could not bring himself to touch the diamonds, and stood
gazing as if charmed by the evil spell they wrought.  Sensing this, the
minister took up from his desk a long envelope which bore his name and
address in the corner, opened it, lifted the sparkling string by one
end, dropped it inside, moistened the flap, sealed it, and handed it to
Burbeck.

"There," he exclaimed, "you don’t even have to touch them again.  Go
straight to her hotel."

"Oh, but I cannot," exclaimed Rollie, apprehension trembling in his
tones.  "I shall not dare to leave the bank until the shortage is
covered.  The executors might come in ahead of time, and I must be there
to stall them off, if necessary.  But I might telephone to Miss Dounay."

"Telephones are leaky instruments," objected Hampstead, with a shake of
his head.

"Or send her a note," suggested Burbeck.

"Notes miscarry," controverted the minister sagaciously, "and they do
not always die when their mission is accomplished.  Since you are taking
my advice, I would say summon all your self-control, contain your secret
in patience during the hours you must wait until your shortage is made
good, and you can leave the bank to see Miss Dounay in person.  You must
do your part entirely alone, for my lips are sealed."

"Sealed?" questioned Rollie, not quite comprehending.

"Yes, the secret is your own.  Think of your confession as made to God!"

"You mean that you would never tell on me, no matter what happened?"

"Just that.  The liberty is not mine.  I can only expect you to be true
to your trust as I am true as a minister to mine."

This was an idea Rollie could not grasp readily.  It was taking away a
prop upon which he had meant to lean.

"But," he argued, "you make it possible for me to take your money and
that of your friends and keep it, if you don’t have some kind of a club
over me."

"Exactly," replied the minister.  "I want no club over you, Rollie.  You
must be a free agent, or else I have not really trusted you.  Your right
action would mean nothing if compulsory.  You must be true to your trust
from some inner spiritual motive."

But Rollie was still groping.  "And if I should, for instance, steal the
money you give me?"

"You would know it, and I, and one other," replied the minister, raising
his eyes devoutly.

Rollie swept his hand across his face slowly, with a gesture of
bewilderment.  This minister was taking him to higher and higher ground.
He began to feel as if he had been led up to some transfiguring mountain
peak of moral eminence.

"It is the highest appeal which could be made to the honor of another,"
he breathed in tones approaching awe.

"Exactly," declared Hampstead again with that air of finality, "and if I
should fail to be true to my part of the trust, what has passed between
us this morning has been the mere compounding of a felony and not the
act of a priest of God looking to the regeneration of a soul."

In a wordless interval, Rollie Burbeck pressed the minister’s hand once
more and departed, his face still wearing a veiled expression as if he
had not quite caught the import of all that had been said.

But neither, for that matter, had the minister; although he was never
surer of himself than now, when he ushered his guest out of the side
door with a cheery, courage-giving smile, and hastened in to his greatly
delayed breakfast.

With a thoughtful air and a feeling of intense satisfaction in his
breast, he unfolded his napkin, broke his egg, and sipped his coffee,
still with no suspicion that this was the day of all days for him, or
that he had just sawed and hammered the cross which might make his title
clear to saviourhood.



                             *CHAPTER XXV*

                           *HIS BRIGHT IDEA*


Young Burbeck’s desk at the Amalgamated National was in an open space
behind a marble counter.  About him in the same open space were desks of
two other assistant cashiers.  Back of these were the private offices of
the cashier, the president and the vice-president, as well as one or two
reception rooms.  Beyond the marble counter was a broad public aisle, on
the farther side of which the tellers and bookkeepers worked, screened
by the usual wire and glass.  The safe deposit vaults were in the
basement and reached by a stairway from the open lobby on the first
floor.

Hurrying from the minister’s house, Burbeck reached his desk at ten
minutes before the hour of nine.  This left him ten minutes of waiting
before he could get the eleven hundred dollars of the Wadham currency;
and waiting was the very hardest thing he could do under the
circumstances.  He was the first of the assistant cashiers to arrive,
but the cashier, Parma, heavy-jowled, with dark wall eyes, was visible
through the open door of his office, checking over some of the auditor’s
sheets with a gold pencil in his pudgy hand.  His thick shoulders and
broad, unresponsive back somehow threw a chill of apprehension into
Rollie.  What brought that old owl down here at this time of the
morning, he wondered.

The colored porter, resplendent in his uniform of gray and brass,
advanced with obsequious courtesy and proffered a copy of the morning
paper.  Rollie snatched at it with a sense of relief, but the relief was
only momentary.  There was the hateful headline again.  It had been
hours, days, weeks since he saw that headline first, while standing on
the street and looking up for the rope that was to be swinging over the
cornice of the Hotel St. Albans.  Couldn’t they get something else for a
headline?  Why, of course not.  The paper had been on the street but
three hours.  That headline must hold sway till the noon edition.
Besides, it was a good headline.

Rollie grasped the paper firmly with both hands, threw his head back,
and pretended to read; but he was not reading.  He was looking to see if
his hands trembled. Unmistakably they did.  They trembled so the paper
rattled as if it were having a chill.  But pshaw!  There was really
little to read anyway, beyond the headline. The news had come in too
late to make a story for the morning papers.  It only said that Miss
Dounay had been entertaining some friends and on retiring at half-past
two had chanced to notice that her diamond necklace was missing.  A
search failed to reveal it in the apartment.  She at once notified the
police.  That was all.  No word as to who was present, who was
suspected, whether a guest, or a servant, or a burglar, or whether any
clue had been discovered.  There had been no time for that.  That would
be the story for the afternoon papers.  They would find out all about
Miss Dounay’s movements the night before, and all about her party, and
who was present.  They would interview each guest, and get a statement
from him.  They would be sure to interview John Hampstead.  Rollie had a
sudden feeling of security as he thought of their investigating
Hampstead.  It was amazing what a rocklike confidence a man could feel
in Hampstead.

But they would also interview him—Rollie Burbeck. Because he was so
readily accessible, they would interview him first.  What would he tell
them?  How would he bear himself?  Would his voice tremble when he tried
to talk, as now his hands trembled when he tried to hold the newspaper?

At this very moment the diamonds were in his inside coat pocket.  Could
he receive the reporters with his usual urbanity, sit smiling
nonchalantly, and recite the incidents of the evening, suggest theories
and clues, express his righteous indignation at the crime,—all with that
envelope and its contents rustling under every movement of his arm?
Could he?

To the young man’s tortured imagination, the necklace became again a
serpent.  He could feel it crawling there over his heart, could hear it
hissing and rattling as if about to strike.  Then it ceased to be a
serpent, and was a nest of birds.  He knew that every time a reporter
asked a question, one of those birds would stretch its wings and call
"Cuckoo."

There!  It said "Cuckoo" just then.  Was the bank haunted?  Rollie
looked up frightened.  Cold sweat was on his brow.  Not his hands alone
but his whole body trembled.  He was really in a very bad way.  Could a
man have delirium tremens, just from fright?  Rollie didn’t know, but if
a reporter came in just then, he was sure that he would take out the
diamonds and hurl them at the news gatherer.

Speaking of delirium tremens, he wished he had a good stiff highball.
He must slip out presently long enough to get one.  Worse than reporters
would be coming round, too.  Detectives would come.  Chief of detectives
Benson might come in person.  Rollie disliked Benson and mistrusted him.
Benson went on the theory that it takes a crook to catch a crook!  When
it came to inducing a crook to talk, he was a very handy man with a
club.  Benson would at once scour the pool rooms and hop joints.
Suppose he got the Red Lizard in the dragnet.  Suppose he hit the Red
Lizard a clip or two with that small, ugly billy that was generally in
Benson’s pocket when he went to the sweat room; or suppose he kept Red’s
’hop’ away from him for a few hours? Or suppose Benson happened to know
in that uncanny way of his that he, Rollie, had done business with
Spider Welsh?  He might just walk into the bank and search Rollie on
suspicion.  And Rollie would have to submit, would have to seem to
invite him, almost.  His teeth were chattering at the thought.

Discovery—disgrace—conviction—ruin—that was the sequence of the ideas.
Stripes!  Ugh!  Just when the way out, "the way up," was opening to him,
too. Discovery, now that a moral hope was gleaming, would be infinitely
more terrible than an hour ago, when he was only a rat burrowing from a
terrier.

He tried to shake himself together.  He must brace up and play the game
with a cool head, or he could not play it at all.  One thing was clear.
The diamonds must be got out of his possession temporarily.  But where
should he put them?  In his desk?  Anywhere about the bank?  Benson
would find them if he started a search, and if Benson didn’t search,
some one in the bank might stumble upon them accidentally, and then the
cat would be out of the bag for fair.

There was a police whistle now!  The agitated young man looked about,
startled, and then laughed at himself. It was not a police whistle at
all.  It was the first clear, bell-like note of the bank clock,
beginning the stroke of nine.

With a sensation of relief that for a few minutes waiting was over and
there was occupation for mind and body, Rollie took the minister’s key
and strolled in the most casual manner he could command down to the
vault room.

"Doctor Hampstead’s box," he announced, exhibiting his key.  The vault
clerk turned to his card index as a mere matter of form, for he
remembered well enough Rollie’s authorization, and read upon the card of
the Reverend John Hampstead his signed permission for Rollo Charles
Burbeck to do with his box "as I might or could do if personally
present."  The clerk stepped inside the vault, scanned the numbers and
tiers, and thrust his master-key into the proper lock.  Rollie slipped
the minister’s key into its own place, turned it, and the door flew
open.  The vault clerk returned to his stand outside the door.  Rollie
took the box and walked into one of the private rooms provided for the
safe deposit patrons. In a moment he was ripping open the envelope
marked "Wadham Currency", which he found exactly as the minister had
described it.

At sight and feeling of the money in his fingers, a great wave of hope
surged over Rollie.  It was a solid assurance of escape.  With this
assurance, there came to the young man a sharp, definite impulse to
begin at once the work of character building.  As an initial step, he
wrote upon one of his personal cards: "I.O.U. $1,100," and signed it,
not with his initials, but boldly in vigorous chirography, to express
the stoutness of his purpose, with the whole of his name, "Rollo Charles
Burbeck."  When putting this card carefully back in the envelope from
which he had extracted the currency, and placing the envelope on the top
of the papers in the box, the young man experienced a fine glow of
satisfaction. He had done a good and honorable act in this bold
assumption of his debt and in thus leaving the written record there
behind him.

But when Rollie took up the currency from the table and slipped the
long, thin package into his inside pocket, his fingers came in contact
with that other envelope, the presence of which, under the strain of
what he must go through this morning, threatened to break down his nerve
completely.

With the preacher’s box lying there open before him, came a sudden
inspiration.  What safer place for the Dounay jewels than in it?  Doctor
Hampstead’s character put him absolutely above suspicion.  He was the
one guest at the supper before whose door no process of elimination
would ever halt to point the finger of suspicion.  His box, at the
moment, was the safest place in the world for the Dounay diamonds.

Rollie was all alone in the closed room.  No glance could possibly rest
on him; yet, as furtively as if a thousand eyes were peering, he slipped
the envelope containing the diamonds from his pocket into the box and
heaved a sigh of relief when he saw the lid cover the package from his
sight.  Returning to the vault room, he locked the box in its chamber
and went upstairs to his desk in quite his usual debonair manner.

With a new feeling of confidence which made him bold and precise in all
his movements, Rollie laid the safe deposit key, with its innocent
little red rubber band about it, exactly in the center of the blotter
upon his desk, where it might be every moment under his eye.  Then, in
the most casual way in the world, he pinned a penciled note to the stack
of bills representing the "Wadham currency" and sent it by one of the
bank messengers across the wide aisle to a receiving teller’s cage.
When it arrived, the gap in his financial fences had narrowed to
thirty-one hundred dollars.  This lessening of the breach increased his
self-control and strengthened his resolution. He had only to wait now
until the minister appeared with the additional currency, and then at
the first opportunity he would slip down to the vault, get the diamonds,
and go straight to Miss Dounay.

And in the meantime his premonition that reporters would lean heavily
upon him for information about the actress’s supper party proved
correct.  When he talked to these reporters, Rollie noticed that it gave
him a fresh sense of security to let his eye turn occasionally to where
the little flat key with the red band about it lay upon his desk, lay,
and almost laughed.  It was really such a good joke to think where the
diamonds were.

What made this joke better was that each reporter shrewdly inquired
whether Rollie thought the diamonds had actually been stolen, or whether
this might not be the familiar device of dramatic press agents.  Begging
in each instance that he be not quoted, Rollie admitted that of course
the whole affair might be no more than the latter.

Yet after the reporters had gone, Rollie wished he had not done this.
It was clever, but it was not just to the woman to whom he was going to
make his first exhibition of new character by returning her jewels and
making a plea for mercy.  That was not going to be an easy job—that
confession?  Besides, everything depended on whether she would grant his
plea or not.  Ruin stared again at this angle; for Miss Dounay might
hand him over to Benson.  Once more he had that distasteful vision of a
chalky head and a suit of stripes.  The thought produced a physical
sensation as if his whole body were being stung by nettles.

But here came a big man down the aisle, his features expressing grave
consideration, and his gray eyes twinkling with evident satisfaction.
It was Doctor Hampstead.  Courage and increase of confidence seemed to
come into the office with the minister, and more was imparted by his
cordial hand-clasp, as he leaned close and asked in a low voice:

"You got the Wadham currency?"

"Yes," Rollie answered eagerly and in an excited whisper told how he had
laid the foundation stone of his new character by his I.O.U. left in the
place of the currency.

"That is good," agreed the minister, his face beaming. "The right start,
my boy, exactly."

Then, with a replica of that smile, sweet as a woman’s, with which he
had two hours before passed over his vault key to Rollie, he now placed
in his hands an envelope like that which had contained the Wadham
currency, only thicker.  The young man seized it gratefully, but with
fingers trembling so he could hardly get behind the flap of the
envelope.

"It is there," said the minister, a little gurgle of emotion in his own
throat.

"It is here," mumbled Rollie woodenly, a surge of relief and gratitude
rising so high in his breast that it felt like a tense hard pain, and
for a moment stifled the power of speech so that for want of words he
reached out and touched the hand of the minister caressingly with his
clammy fingers.

Hampstead, happier, if possible, than Rollie, understood his emotion.

"It’s all right," he whispered.  "Courage, boy, courage!"  At the same
time he laid a hand upon the young man’s arm, with a pressure almost of
affection.  With the word and touch came clarity both of thought and
feeling.

"Will you excuse me three or four minutes, Brother Hampstead?" Rollie
inquired, the sudden leap of joy in his heart that the embezzlement was
now to be legitimately wiped out so great that he could not this time
stop to send the money across by a messenger.

The minister smiled understandingly, and Rollie stepped out of the
little gate and across to the teller’s window.

When he returned, old J.M. himself had come out of his office and was
chatting with the minister.  There was nothing unusual about this, since
wherever Hampstead went persons of every sort were anxious to get a word
with him.  Presently Parma too joined the group at Rollie’s desk.  Of
course the topic of conversation was Miss Dounay and her diamonds, for
both the president and the cashier had learned that the minister and
their own social ambassador were present at the supper, which every hour
became more famous.  In the midst of this conversation, a telephone call
for Mr. Manton was switched to Rollie’s desk.

"Yes," said the president, talking into the ’phone. "We will send a man
over to represent us.  Are you ready now?"

The bank president hung up the telephone and turned to Rollie.  "Step
right over to the Central Trust, Burbeck, and see us through on those
transfers, will you? They are waiting now."

There was nothing for Rollie to do but to go immediately, much as he
desired to whisper one more word of gratitude to the minister, and to
receive the additional installment of moral strength which he felt sure
would follow from a few quiet minutes with this man on whom his soul had
begun to lean so heavily.

"Certainly, Mr. Manton," he answered, and then as he reached for his
hat, he turned to the minister, saying: "Shall I find you here when I
return?"

"That depends on how long before you return," laughed the minister, but
the blandness of his expression indicated that he was in no hurry, and
Rollie went out expecting to see him again in a few minutes.

But the matter of the transfers was not so easily dispatched.  Over one
detail and another the young man was held for nearly forty minutes.  The
delays, too, were of that vexatious sort which detained him without
employing him; so that most of the irritating interval could be and was
devoted to a consideration of his own very private and very pressing
affairs.

Giving up hope of finding the minister in the bank upon his return, he
addressed both his thoughts and his fears to the subject of Miss Dounay
and her diamonds.  The prospective interview with this passionate,
self-willed, and no doubt wildly excited woman loomed before him
oppressively, and the nearer it drew, the more ominous it seemed.  A man
going unarmed to return a stolen cub to a tigress in a jungle lair would
be going upon a mission of peace and safety compared to his.  He feared
that in her passionate vehemence she would never permit him to get the
full truth before her.  How was he to turn aside the impact of her
sudden burst of rage?  She would assault him—tear him!  If that curious
Morocco dagger he had seen some of the guests fumbling with last night
were at hand, she might even kill him.

The idea occurred to him that he had best lie to her, or at least begin
by lying to her; that he might play the rôle of restorer of her
diamonds, and put her under a debt of gratitude, explaining that the
thief had brought them to him to borrow money on them; then, in the
softer mood that would come through joy over their prospective recovery,
he might elaborate the story, touch her sympathies, and make his full
confession.  She might even be happy enough over their recovery to cease
the hunt for the criminal, and thus make confession unnecessary. That in
itself would be a great relief.

Yet the common sense, if not the moral sense, of the young man rejected
a proposal to lay the bricks of new-found honesty in the mortar of a
lie.  If he were true to the trust which Hampstead had reposed in him,
he would walk straight into Miss Dounay’s apartments and say, "Here are
your diamonds.  I am the thief.  I throw myself upon your mercy!"  This
was what he resolved to do.

Reentering the bank, young Burbeck walked first to the open door of Mr.
Manton’s office.  That gentleman was engaged with a caller, but the
shadow at the door caused his eye to rove in that direction.  Rollie
waved his hand; J.M. nodded.  The transfers had been accomplished; the
president had taken note of that fact, and the assistant cashier’s
mission was discharged.

Rollie went immediately to his desk.  There was a litter of papers
representing matters of greater or less importance which had required
attention during the interval of his absence from the office.  He sifted
them quickly.  Some received his penciled O.K. and went into a basket
for the messenger; two or three took him on errands to other desks
about, or to the windows opposite; the rest went into a drawer.  He had
not removed his hat from his head, for he proposed to go immediately to
Miss Dounay before the remnants of his fast oozing resolution could
entirely trickle away.

But when he turned to pick up the vault key which his eye had seen so
many times this morning, it was not at hand.  He removed everything from
the desk, he searched every nook and cranny of it.  He took up the
waste-basket, dumped the contents upon his desk, and examined every
scrap and fold of envelope or paper. He even got down upon his knees and
made sure the key was not upon the carpet, going so far as to move the
desk.  The key had disappeared.  He searched his own pockets, realizing
that when he left the bank that was where the key should have been
placed.

In the excitement of the moment when Hampstead had brought in the money
that saved him from being a defaulter, and in the disconcerting presence
of J.M. and Parma, when he wanted to be alone with his benefactor, and
especially with the more disconcerting instruction to go out and look
after the transfers, he had, for the time being, forgotten the key.  Now
it was not to be found.

Rollie stood nonplussed first, and then aghast.  His guilty conscience
instantly suggested that some one had seen or suspected his visit to the
vault and what had occurred there.  This idea brought a rush of blood to
the head.  He was dizzy and had almost an attack of vertigo. Yet with a
few clearing minutes of thought, the explanation leaped plainly into
mind.  Doctor Hampstead had taken the key.  In the interval while Rollie
was at the teller’s window, he must have seen it lying there upon the
desk, recognized it by the red rubber band, and having been assured that
the key had served its purpose, had done the perfectly natural thing of
dropping it in his pocket, and thinking no more of it.

Where was the minister now?  Until Rollie could find him and get the
key, he could make no confession to Miss Dounay.



                             *CHAPTER XXVI*

                          *UNEXPECTEDLY EASY*


Following his instincts rather than any rule of sense, Rollie hurried
out upon the street, posted himself upon a conspicuous corner, and for
several minutes indulged the wildly improbable hope that he might spy
the minister passing in the throng.  When a little reflection had
convinced him that this was time wasted, he made a hasty inventory of
near-by places where his benefactor might have gone, and even went so
far as to hurriedly visit two of them, threading the tables of the Forum
Café, where sometimes Hampstead ate his luncheon, and scanning the
chairs in the St. Albans barber shop, where from time to time the
dominie’s tawny fleece was shorn.

But by this time a new probability forced itself into the distracted
young man’s consciousness.  This was that the minister had gone to pay
his sympathetic respects to Miss Dounay and condole with her over her
loss.  Rollie was so near the Dounay apartment that to go upstairs and
inquire if the minister were there would have been easy, but the
peculiar circumstances made it difficult. Indeed only to recall how near
he was to that fearsome lair of the tigress threw him into cold shivers
and made him fly to the safer vantage ground of the telephone upon his
own desk at the bank.  But even merely to inquire for the Reverend John
Hampstead from there was hard. In his nervous state, depleted by gloomy
forebodings and now unfortified by the possession of the diamonds,
Rollie felt utterly unequal to even a long-distance contact with that
high-powered personality.  All the morning he had been in terror lest
she herself should call him up.  All the morning he had known that in
his character as an interested friend he should have telephoned to her.
Now, the moment she recognized his voice, he would be taxed with this
breach!  What was he to say?  Why, that he had not telephoned because he
was intending to call in at the first moment he could get away from the
bank, and that he would be up very soon now.  She would be sarcastic,
but the explanation would positively have to do.  Besides, he had to
locate the minister! and so, struggling to command a tone of
indifference, he gave the St. Albans number.

Of course Julie or the secretary would answer, anyway. But evidently
Miss Dounay, in her highly aroused mental state, was keeping an ear upon
the telephone bell, for it was her own animated note that rasped at him
through the instrument.  It appeared, mercifully, that she did not
recognize his voice,—a fact which at first relieved him, but on later
reflection, at the conclusion of the incident, shook his remaining
self-confidence still further to pieces, for it showed how completely
out of hand he had allowed himself to get.

When, moreover, Rollie launched his timid inquiry if the Reverend John
Hampstead was there, he got a negative so sharp that the receiver seemed
to bite his ear.  He broke the connection hastily and sat eyeing the
telephone apprehensively, expecting the mouthpiece to open like a solemn
eye, scan him inquiringly, and report to Miss Dounay.  When it did not,
he shrugged his shoulders and elongated his neck to get rid of that
noose-like feeling which had just come upon him from nowhere.  He had
not killed anybody.  What was the noose for, then? But this reflection
got a most disagreeable answer: "It would kill your mother to know you
are an embezzler and a thief.  You would then be her murderer."  Again
he shrugged himself free of the distasteful sensation. "Buck up,
Burbeck," he commanded himself, "or you are done for."  Once more he
grabbed the telephone, and this time more determinedly, for in the midst
of his misery one really first-class inspiration had come to him: this
was to communicate with the county jail.  The minister was really much
more likely to have friends in the county jail than in the St. Albans;
and it was a safe wager that he went there more frequently.  Rollie knew
the jailer well.

"Hello—Sam," he called.  "This is Rollie.  Has Doctor Hampstead been
there this morning?"

"Yeh!"

"There now?"

"Nope."

"Know where he went?"

Evidently Sam turned to some one else in the room for information.
Rollie heard a voice answering him and caught the words "San Francisco"
and "Red Lizard."

"Did you get that?" called Sam into the ’phone. "He’s gone to San
Francisco."

"Yes,—but what’s that got to do with the Red Lizard?"

"He came down to see the Red Lizard."

"The Red Lizard!"  Rollie could not restrain a gasp, and then wondered
if gasps are transmitted over the telephone—but went on to ask: "Is the
Red Lizard in?"

"Yeh!"

"What for?"

Rollie was clinging to the telephone now like a drowning man to a rope’s
end.

"He got in some kind of a row with a service elevator man at the St.
Albans last night and landed on him with the brass knucks.  This morning
the judge gave him three months in the county."

Rollie clenched his teeth, and his shoulders rocked for a moment.  So
that was what happened to the Red Lizard!  What a long time ago last
night was!  How many things had happened!  Last night he was a crook and
a defaulter.  To-day he was an honest man, and his accounts would bear
the scrutiny of an X-ray.  Now if only those diamonds—

But Sam had gone right on talking.

"We think Doctor Hampstead went to San Francisco on some sort of errand
for the Lizard—Red’s got a woman sick over there or something.  But,
say, the parson telephoned his house before he left here, and they can
tell you sure."

"All right, thanks."

"So long, Rollie!"

Gone to San Francisco!  Worse and worse.  Rollie huddled in his chair.
But there was still a grain of hope. Sam might be mistaken, or the trip
might be a short one, or the minister might have left a telephone number
that would reach him.

But the voice of Rose Langham dashed these hopes one by one.  Her
brother had gone to San Francisco on an uncertain quest; he would not be
back until very late at night, and he had no idea himself where in the
city his search would lead him.

For the second time that day Rollie found himself in a state bordering
on physical collapse.  The very stars were fighting against him.  After
the strain of a year in which the fear of detection, however masked, had
always been present, his nerves were in none too good condition, anyway.
The events of the last twenty-four hours had racked them to the limit of
self-control.  And yet, when safely past the danger of discovery of his
defalcation, the growing sense of the enormity of the crime of theft had
brought him to a point where in sheer self-defense he felt he must seize
the jewels and literally fling them at their owner.  Now, goaded,
tricked, tantalized, defeated—everything was in a conspiracy against
him!  It was enough to drive a man insane. Burbeck felt himself very
near the maniacal point. Again he was seeing things.  One moment the
street outside was full of patrol wagons, all ringing their gongs at
once, while platoons of police were marching and surrounding the bank.
Another moment he had decided to anticipate the police by rushing out to
the corner by the plaza, tossing his hat high in the air, and shouting
and shrieking until a crowd had gathered, when he would exhibit the
diamonds and proclaim himself the thief.

But he was spared the possibility of this insane freak by the fact that
he could not exhibit the diamonds.  They were in the vault.  Damn the
vault!  To hell with them! To hell with everything!  To hell with
himself!  That was where he was going!

Suddenly he looked up, trembling.  Mercer, the assistant cashier whose
desk was next to his own, must have overheard him.  But no, Mercer was
calmly writing.  He had heard nothing, because nothing had been spoken.
Rollie had been thinking in shouts, not speaking.  And yet he looked
about him wonderingly, like a man coming out of a temporary aberration.

"I will be shouting it next," he said to himself.  "I am getting dotty;
I’ll burst if I have to hold this much longer.  I’ll burst and give the
whole thing away."

His hat had been pushed back from his brow; he drew it forward and down
until it shaded his face, and then with his jaws set in the most
determined mood he could muster, he walked out of the bank and piloted
his steps, with knees that were sometimes stiff and sometimes tottering,
in the direction of the Hotel St. Albans.

Without waiting to be announced, he went up and knocked at the door of
Miss Dounay’s apartment.  It was opened a mere crack to reveal a nose
and a bit of an eyebrow.  This facial fragment belonged to Julie, and
with it she managed to convey an expression at once forbidding and
inquisitorial.

"Oh, la la!" she exclaimed, after her survey.  "It is the handsome man.
Come in," and the door swung wide. "Madame will be glad to see you.
Perhaps you bring the diamonds."

Julie said all this in her slight but charming accent with an attempt at
good-humored vivacity, but that last was a very embarrassing remark to a
caller in young Mr. Burbeck’s delicate position.  It caused one of his
knees to knock sharply against the other as he manoeuvered to a position
where he could lean against a heavy William-and-Mary chair, and thus
remain standing until Miss Dounay should enter the room; since to sit
down and then rise again suddenly was a feat that promised to be
entirely beyond him.

Moreover, light as had been Julie’s manner, Rollie saw that her
appearance belied it.  Her eyes were red, her sharp little nose was also
highly colored, and in her hand was a tight ball of a handkerchief that
had been wetted to such compactness by tears.

Mercifully Miss Dounay did not leave time for the young man’s
apprehensions to increase.  She entered almost as Julie disappeared,
wearing something black and oddly cut, a baggy thing, like a gown he
remembered once seeing upon a sculptress when at work in her studio. It
was the nearest to an unbecoming garb that he had ever known Marien to
wear, and yet unbecoming was hardly the word.  It did become her mood,
which was somber.  Her face was pale, and there were shadows beneath her
eyes.  She looked subdued, defeated even; but by no means broken.  There
were hard lines about her mouth, lines which Rollie had never seen there
before. She wore a sullen expression, and a passion that was volcanic
appeared to smoulder in her eyes.  She greeted him rather perfunctorily,
as if her mind had been brooding and, after bidding him be seated and
sinking herself upon a couch, cushion-piled as usual, shrouded herself
again in a state of aloofness which reminded him of the weather when a
storm is brooding.

Rollie had expected her to be raging like a wild woman,—alternately
hurling anathemas at the thief for having stolen her gems and heaping
denunciations upon the police because they had not already captured the
criminal and recovered the necklace.

Her apparent indifference to that subject only emphasized to Rollie what
he had before observed,—that it was impossible ever to forecast the mind
of this woman upon any subject, or under any circumstances.  At the same
time, the young man was extremely grateful for this abstraction, because
it made what he had to do vastly easier.

"I suppose," he ventured huskily, "you are worried to death about your
diamonds."

The sentence drew one lightning flash from her eyes, and that was all.

"To tell you the truth, I have hardly thought of them," she snapped.

Rollie sat with open mouth, totally unable to comprehend, staring until
his stare annoyed her.

"I say I have hardly thought of them," she repeated, with an asperity
entirely sufficient to recall the young man from his amazement at her
manner to the real object of his visit.

"But wouldn’t you like to get your diamonds back?" he asked
perspiringly.

"Of course, silly!" the actress replied, not bothering to conceal the
fact that she regarded Burbeck as a child, sometimes useful and
sometimes a nuisance.  Apparently, she had hailed his advent because her
ill humor required a fresh butt, Julie’s face having indicated clearly
that she had been made to suffer to the breaking point.

But Rollie was in no position to insist upon niceties of speech or
manner.  He had a trouble compared to which all other troubles of which
he had ever conceived were nothing at all.  He was haunted by a terrible
fear, and to escape its torture he plumped full in the face of it by
blurting:

"I have come to tell you that you are going to get your diamonds back."

If Marien’s demeanor were a pose, it must have proved that she really
was what her press agents claimed,—the greatest actress on the English
speaking stage. She did not start, or speak.  For a few seconds not even
the direction of her glance was changed.  Then her face did shift
sufficiently for the black piercing eyes to stab straight into Rollie’s,
while her brows were lifted inquiringly.  The glance said, "Well, go
on!"

The young man obeyed desperately: "I am an ambassador for the—"

Still Miss Dounay did not speak; she did not move nor change an
expression even; and yet Rollie felt himself interrupted.  He could not
tell how this was done, but he was sure that this woman had detected him
in the first note of insincerity and by a thought-wave had emphatically
said, "Don’t lie to me!"

All at once, too, he realized that this motionless, marble-lipped
creature sitting there before him was more implacable, more potential
for evil than the raging tigress he had expected to confront.  He felt
somehow that she was not a woman, but a super-devil into whose clutches
he was being drawn.  He even had a sense that he was not going to be
allowed any increased issue of moral stock on the ground of telling this
woman the truth.  He was going to tell her the truth because he had to,
because she hypnotized it out of him.

"I say," he began, and stopped to wet his lips, but found his tongue so
furred that it could not function in that behalf.  "I say," he went on
again, croaking hoarsely, "that I am the thief."

"You?  The banker?"

Rollie fell to wondering how blue vitriol bites. Certainly it could not
be more biting than the sarcasm in look and tone with which the woman
had asked this question.

"Yes, I—"

The young man was going to prepare the soil for throwing himself upon
her mercy—this woman whom he was now positive knew no such thing as
mercy—by telling her about his defalcation; but in the wooden state of
his mind, one quivering gleam of intelligence suggested that it was
quite unnecessary to tell her anything about his defalcation; that it
might give her an added set of pincers for the torture she might choose
to inflict.

"Yes, I stole them," he affirmed doggedly.  "And I am going to bring
them back."

"Going to?" she asked, again making the fine shade of her meaning clear
with the slightest expenditure of sound.

"Yes, a little accident happened."

"An accident!"  The woman’s eyes blazed, her cheeks were aflame, and her
whole attitude expressive of menace. "You didn’t lose them?"

"I only lost control of them for a few hours through a bit of
stupidity," he confessed, and hurried on to explain: "For safe keeping
this morning I locked them in John Hampstead’s safe deposit box, and he
went off with the key.  He’s wandering around the tenderloin of San
Francisco now on an errand for a man in the county jail, and they don’t
even expect him home before to-morrow morning.  We can get them—"

Again Rollie felt himself mentally interrupted, although Miss Dounay had
not spoken.

This time, however, her features did change unmistakably.  She had been
listening with a cynical expression that somehow suggested the manner of
a cat about to pounce; and suddenly this manner had departed.  It was
succeeded by a look of surprise and then of thoughtful interest,
followed by that indefinable something which bade him cease to speak.
He paused abruptly with his tongue in air, as it were; yet she neither
spoke nor looked at him.  Her features were a sort of moving picture of
complex and swift-flying mental processes which succeeded one another
with astonishing rapidity and ended in a queer expression of glory and
triumph, while she stiffened her body and drew a full breath so quickly
that the air whistled in her narrowing nostrils.

Then, as if becoming suddenly aware of the visitor’s presence, Miss
Dounay turned her eyes directly upon him and exclaimed, with a manner
quite the most pleasant she had yet displayed:

"Oh, I beg your pardon, Mr. Burbeck.  Something you said started such an
interesting train of thought."

Her cordiality extended to the point of reaching out a hand and laying
it reassuringly upon Rollie’s arm, while she asked, and this time with a
tone of real consideration:

"Will you be kind enough to tell me again, very carefully, and a little
more in detail, just why you couldn’t bring the diamonds to-day?"

Rollie, greatly relieved at this softening in Marien’s mood at the very
point where he had feared she might actually leap on him and throttle
him, retold the story, only being careful to omit all reference as to
why he chanced to be visiting Doctor Hampstead’s box, and why Doctor
Hampstead happened to come into his office so that he might pick up the
key, as he did.

"What an odd coincidence!" commented Marien, when the recital was
finished.  Actually, she was laughing. Rollie’s heart went out to her
completely.  He felt a sting of self-reproach at the harshness of his
judgment of her, and was sensible of a new charity growing in his life
for all mankind.  It was really going to be made easy for him to take
"the way up."  He felt like singing a little psalm of thanksgiving.

"And the minister has no idea that the diamonds are in his vault?" that
mercurial lady inquired, with a chuckle.

"Not the least in the world," assured Rollie, anxious to relieve his
benefactor of any slightest odium of indiscretion.

"And when did you say Doctor Hampstead was expected home from San
Francisco?"

Miss Dounay had stopped laughing and had an intent look, as if desiring
to understand something very clearly.

"Perhaps the last boat to-night—possibly not till to-morrow morning."

"Then there is no way of getting the jewels until to-morrow morning?"

"None at all," confessed Rollie.  "But as a matter of fact, they are
perfectly safe there—safer than they are in your own apartment."

"So I should say," Miss Dounay observed dryly, "unless I revise my guest
list."

Rollie flushed.

"That was coming to me," he confessed, frowning at himself.  "That and
much more."

His tone was serious and full of bitter self-reproach. Miss Dounay’s
surprisingly indulgent attitude emboldened him to pursue the
disagreeable subject farther.

"I have not told you," he went on, "that I came to ask you for mercy."

"Do you not perceive that you are getting it without asking?" the
actress replied, with a liquid glance that was really full of gentleness
and sympathy.

"Of course," Rollie averred.  "But I am so grateful that I did not want
you to think I could take it for granted.  I was in a terrible position,
Miss Dounay. The crime was not accidental, but deliberate; that it
miscarried was the accident.  But that your diamonds are to be restored
to you, and that I myself am on my way to a sort of character
restoration, if I ever had any, which I begin to doubt, is all due to
one good friend whom I saw to-day, and who is also a good friend of
yours."

Again Rollie was interrupted; but this time there was nothing intangible
about it.

Miss Dounay’s face grew suddenly hard; cruel lines that were tense and
threatening appeared about her mouth, while her eyes bored straight into
his, as she exclaimed: "Never mind about that now.  As for the theft:
you need never hear from me one word about what you have done.  The only
injunction that I lay upon you is to keep absolute silence about it
yourself. Remember, no matter what comes to pass, you know nothing and
have nothing to say.  So long as you are silent, I will protect you
absolutely.  Break the silence, and you will go where you belong!"

Of all the hard glances Miss Dounay had given young Burbeck, the look
which accompanied this last menacing sentence was positively the
hardest.  A spasm of mortal terror wrung the young man’s heart, as he
saw how deliberately implacable this woman could be, and how completely
he was in her power.

But presently, Miss Dounay, as if suddenly ashamed of her outburst of
feeling over so slight an occasion, broke into radiant smiles, took
Rollie by the arm, and led him a few steps in the direction of the door.
Her manner was gracious and almost affectionate, proclaiming that at
least as long as all went well with her moods, the whole wretched
incident was past and forgotten absolutely.

As if to make this emphatically clear, she inquired:

"And when is it that you go out with Mrs. Ellsworth Harrington upon her
launch party?"

"With Mrs. Harrington’s launch party?" Rollie asked, in a dazed voice,
his mind groping as at some elusive memory.

"Yes," the actress replied crisply.  "You told me yesterday you were
going out to-day with her party for a cruise on the Bay."

"Yesterday!" confessed Rollie dreamily.  "By Jove, so I did.  But," and
as though it made all the difference in the world, "that was yesterday!"

"And isn’t to-day to-day?" Miss Dounay asked significantly.  "Going to
buck up, aren’t you?" she continued with intimate friendliness of tone.
"You are still to continue as the Amalgamated’s social ambassador?"

"Why, of course," the young man replied, although weakly, for after what
he had passed through of hope and fear in the past few hours and even
the past few minutes, he felt quite unequal to any such prospect as the
immediate resumption of his social duties.

But it was a part of the swiftly forming plans of the strong willed
woman that he should take them up immediately, and she cleverly recalled
his mind to the necessity of special attention to Mrs. Harrington’s
projects by inquiring tentatively: "I suppose Mrs. Harrington was very
much put out because I did not attend her dinner last night?"

"I should say!" confessed Rollie, turning a wry face at the memory.

"Suppose," suggested Miss Dounay in calculating tones, "that I went with
you upon her launch party this afternoon."

"You?  Oh!  Miss Dounay!" Rollo exclaimed, with another of his looks of
dog-like gratefulness.  "Could you be as good as that?  Why, say!" and
the young man’s enthusiasm actually began to kindle.  "You’d undo the
damage of last night and fix me with her for life.  Positively for life;
because," and he hesitated while an expression half ludicrous and half
painful crossed his face; "because you are ten times as big a social
asset now that—that—" he could not bring himself to finish the sentence.

But Miss Dounay relieved him of his embarrassment by appearing not to
notice and broke in with a practical question:

"What time does the launch leave the pier?"

"At four.  It is now one-thirty."

For a moment Miss Dounay’s brow was threaded with lines of thought, as
if she were making calculations and tying the loose ends of some project
together in her mind.

"Yes," she said, her face clearing and a look of impish happiness coming
into her eyes, "I can go.  It will be a delightful relief.  I have been
bored beyond measure by my own company to-day.  Come here at
three-thirty and François will take us to the pier."



                            *CHAPTER XXVII*

                           *THE FIRST ALARM*


Doctor Hampstead was more successful than he had dared to hope in his
quest for the woman of the underworld to whom the Red Lizard, from his
position in the county jail, acknowledged a tardy obligation.  By five
o’clock the sufferer was located, her condition inquired into, and the
services of a nurse from the Social Settlement near by arranged for,
with instructions that the minister be notified of any serious change in
the patient’s condition.

His breast warmed comfortably with the sense of duty done, the clergyman
made his way toward the water front, congratulating himself that he
would get the six o’clock boat and be at home in time for dinner; but as
he walked through the ferry building, his eye was caught by a headline
in one of the evening papers.  "MINISTER TO BE ARRESTED" it proclaimed
in tall characters of glaring black; and he reflected cynically at the
eagerness with which the headline makers seize upon that word "minister"
or any of its synonyms.  It made the black letters blacker when they
spelled minister, priest, or clergyman.

Wondering what preacher could have got himself in trouble, and feeling a
slight sense of resentment at the creature, whoever he might be, to have
thus brought notoriety and possible dishonor upon the calling, Doctor
Hampstead bought a copy of the paper from fat Hermann of the crutch and
red face, who has stood so many years at the ferry gate; but reading no
farther than the headline, he doubled the paper in his hand and elbowed
his way through the crowd to a seat on the exposed upper deck of the
ferryboat.  Wearied from the exertions of his day, the minister found
temporary diversion in watching the fountains of humanity gushing up the
stairways.  Many of the people he knew, and those who saw him nodded as
they passed.  Once or twice it struck him that there was something
peculiar in these glances of recognition, a startled look of surprise or
wonder that he could not quite understand.  Occasionally the bold look
of a man he did not know but who apparently recognized him had in it a
quality of cynicism or of gloating.

With a disagreeable feeling of embarrassment which he did not undertake
to explain, the minister turned away from the crowd and fell to watching
the sweep of bay and the plowing craft upon it.  The fresh salt breeze
was very grateful to his face and lungs after the noisome alleys through
which his mission had taken him.  The water this evening was amethyst
blue, and under the prows of the passing boats broke into foam of marble
whiteness.  The sky above was a pure turquoise, except towards the west,
where the descending sun kindled a conflagration of glory in the
low-lying clouds.  All this wealth of refreshing color and the tonic in
the stiffening breeze made the world not only seem fresh and pure, but
full of power; as if to give assurance that the ocean and the coming
night were big enough and strong enough to swallow all the
unpleasantness and all the weakness and wickedness of men, and send the
sun up to-morrow morning upon a new day that was fresh and pristine,
like the day of creation itself.

Hampstead remembered his prayer of the morning that this particular day
might be a great one, and felt a trifle disappointed.  In a kind of a
way it had been big. Rollie Burbeck had come to him, broken and
cowering. He had helped him; he believed he had saved him. Surely, for
the time being, he had saved that gifted mother of his from the awful
shock of knowing that her son was a defaulter and a thief.  True, he had
plunged heavily in rescuing that boy; yet the money came from people who
believed in Hampstead sufficiently to give him of their surplus wealth
for just such ventures.  If the effort failed, they would regret the
loss of the man more than the loss of the money.

Yet the minister really believed that Rollie was going to take the "way
up", and assuring himself once more of this, fell to wondering how Miss
Dounay received the penitent when he brought back the diamonds, and
whether she had acted generously or spitefully. Speculating next whether
the story of the return of the diamonds had been given to the newspapers
yet, and anxious to know how they had handled it, if it had, Hampstead
bethought him of the paper in his hand and unfolded it for inspection.

But the make-up of the front page forced his attention back upon the
matter of the minister who was to be arrested.  The sub-head startled
him, for it contained his own name, while the opening sentence revealed
that it was himself who was to be arrested, and that the occasion of the
arrest was the charge that he had stolen the Dounay diamonds.

At the first impact of this astounding piece of news, an exclamation of
amazement broke from the minister’s lips; but immediately his teeth were
set hard as his eye dived down the column, lapping up the words of the
story by sentences and almost by paragraphs.

Miss Dounay, it appeared, had gone to the office of District Attorney
Miller at three o’clock that afternoon by appointment, and had there
sworn to a complaint, charging him, the Reverend John Hampstead, with
the theft of her diamond necklace, valued at twenty-two thousand
dollars.  There were a few lines of an interview with District Attorney
Miller, in which that official stated that at first he had not regarded
Miss Dounay’s charges seriously, but that the actress was so emphatic in
her demand for the warrant of arrest that he had not felt himself
justified in refusing it.  At the same time, the District Attorney
expressed his personal belief in the innocence of the minister.

An attempt to serve the warrant immediately, the story said, had been
frustrated by the temporary absence of the Reverend Hampstead in San
Francisco upon one of his accustomed missions of mercy.

The article concluded with the statement that while it was generally
known that Doctor Hampstead was one of Miss Dounay’s guests on the night
before, the report that he had been charged with the theft of the
diamonds was everywhere received with a smile, and there was some harsh
criticism of the District Attorney for issuing a complaint, the only
effect of which must be to gratify the enemies of the clergyman, and to
lessen his influence, thus hampering him in the good work he was doing
in the community.  This would be all to no purpose, since even a
preliminary hearing must be sufficient to show that there was no
evidence against him, and that the complaint itself was due to the
extravagant suspicion of a highly nervous woman, laboring under great
emotional strain.

That the actress herself, a woman of moods and caprices, had no adequate
appreciation of the seriousness of her act in thus attacking the
character of Doctor Hampstead was made evident to the reporters, when a
telephone call to her apartments revealed that in the very hour when an
endeavor to serve the warrant of arrest was being made, the actress was
leaving her hotel in the company of a well-known young business man for
a pleasure cruise upon the Bay.

The minister saw with satisfaction how completely the facts as developed
had been edited into a story, the assumptions of which were entirely
favorable to him. That was good.  It was also right.  That in itself
would show this reckless woman that the people would refuse to believe
ill of him upon the word of any mere stranger.

Nevertheless, reflection on the sheer impudence of the woman’s attack
made Hampstead angry, and with a quick, nervous movement he crushed the
paper into a ball and hurled it over the side.

Was there ever a story of blacker ingratitude?  Was there ever a weaker,
more craven specimen of a man? Was there ever a more clever, more
devilish woman?

So this was the way she made good her threat.  She had set this trap,
had persuaded Rollie to pretend to steal the diamonds and to make a
false confession to him, during which the minister had actually sealed
the diamonds in one of his own envelopes.  John wished he could be sure
whether the young rascal actually took the diamonds away with him, as he
appeared to do, or whether he didn’t drop them in a drawer of the desk
or about the study, where a search would reveal them.

With facial expression quite unministerial Hampstead’s mind raced on to
the question whether the story of the defalcation was also trumped up?
But at this point his excited mental processes halted, puzzled for a
moment; and then abruptly his face cleared, as he saw the untenableness
of his suddenly conceived theory.  No; it would not do.  Rollie had
undoubtedly been perfectly sincere, and this scheming Jezebel of a woman
had merely taken advantage of him in the moment of confession, and made
him either consciously or unconsciously, and perhaps helplessly, a tool
of her desperate vengeance.

And vengeance for what?  Hampstead kept asking himself that, and never
got farther with an answer than the rage of a self-centered, heartless
woman at his failure to pay the supreme tribute to vanity by making love
to her as once he had done, and giving her the gloating satisfaction of
spurning him as she had spurned him before.  This was the extent of his
crime against her, and this bold, bald attempt to destroy him was the
punishment she had devised.  Heavens!  Had the woman no sense of
responsibility at all?  No consciousness of all the terrible harm she
would be doing to so many others besides himself if she succeeded in
ruining him?  Think of the men and women who trusted him, the young boys
and girls to whom he was pointed out as a shining example, the
struggling people who found inspiration and courage in the spectacle of
his own dauntless battlings for the right.

John felt that it was not egotism to think of himself in this way.  He
knew it as a fact because he had to know it, because men told him so
continually, and because it was a supremely steadying influence upon his
own life.  He dared not swerve.  Rollie Burbeck was not the only man in
the community who owed him for escape from a fall, or who was toiling
laboriously upward, with an eye on the minister climbing far above and
turning cheerfully to beckon or lower an Alpine rope for part of the
weakened climber’s load.

And the Dounay woman knew all of this.  Some of it he had shown to her
in the hope that it would be an inspiration.  Some of it she had seen
for herself.  But now, in her malice and hatred, she took no account of
all that.  Unable to make him swerve, she was wickedly determined to
hurl him down.  And having used Rollo Burbeck this far, John had no
doubt at all that her genius would be entirely equal to using him still
further, by binding him to absolute secrecy as to his knowledge of the
minister’s innocence.

But this thought brought home another with shocking force,—the
realization that Rollie, the one man who could vindicate him of this
charge must not vindicate him!  For Rollie to speak and ruin himself
seemed only fair, rather than for the minister to be ruined; yet for the
young man to confess would be a terrible blow to the mother,—would in
fact most likely kill her.  That was unthinkable.  That blow must be
prevented at all hazards.

But even eliminating the mother, and supposing the young man too craven
to speak out for himself, Hampstead knew, thinking back a few hours,
that on his honor as a minister he had sealed his own lips concerning
the young man’s confession; he had hinged his appeal to the moral
consciousness of that misguided youth upon his own fealty as a priest of
God to the sacred trust of confession.  How presumptuous this afternoon
sounded that speech which he had made to the wretched penitent this
morning with such easy assurance.

Yet, presumptuous or not, Hampstead’s reasonings had led him quickly to
the one outstanding fact: His knowledge of who did steal the diamonds
could never be used in his defense.  His vindication must depend solely
on the inability of Miss Dounay to prove her case. This in itself put
him in a negative and an unnatural position, an all but helpless
position.  His nature was aggressive.  He was a fighter, not a
"stander."  Instead of vindication, he could never get more than a
Scotch verdict of "not proven."  He would have to face the community
with that.  Well, thank God, he was strong enough for that; strong
enough to simply stand and endure!  Yes, testing his moral fiber by the
best judgment he could form of what the strain would be like, he felt
equal to the load.  In the consciousness of this strength, his shoulders
stiffened with pride and a sort of eagerness to take up their burden.  A
sense of triumph even came to him.  This self-deluding woman should see
how strong he was, and how unshakable was the faith of the community in
the integrity of his character.

But when the minister, rather calmed by having hardened himself thus
against what appeared to be coming upon him, lifted his eyes suddenly
from the deck, he was disconcerted to observe a group of people eyeing
him curiously at a distance of some dozen or twenty feet. These were
people whom he did not recognize, but some one of them evidently knew
him and had pointed him out to the rest.  He reflected that they must
have been watching him for some time.  No doubt they had observed his
demeanor as he read the paper, and afterwards when he tossed it away in
anger.  He must have made quite an exhibition of himself, and it gave
him a creepy sensation to catch these curious, unfeeling eyes upon him
as if they viewed the struggles of a fly in a spider’s web.  It made him
feel that he was entangled, and he began to realize what a diversion his
entanglement would afford this whole metropolitan community, and that
to-night, through the headlines in the papers, everybody was watching
him just as these people were.  He reflected, too, that there is a
fascination about watching the fall of a tall tree, of a tall flagpole,
or of a tall human being.  At the moment Hampstead did not feel so very
tall; yet he knew that deservedly or undeservedly, he was upon a
position of eminence, and his fall would afford an interesting
spectacle.

However, he did not intend to fall.  Rising vigorously from his seat,
the minister confronted with a smile the group who had been gazing at
him.  "Good evening, gentlemen," he said pleasantly, and walked toward
the front of the boat.

"Some nerve, what!" was a comment that broke out of the group as he
passed it.  Whether the words were meant for his ears or not, they
reached them and caused another smile.

"I’ll show them nerve!" he mused, with foolish but very human pride.

Mingling in the crowd which trampled and elbowed its way off the boat,
the minister was careful to bear himself with open-eyed good cheer.  He
kept his chin up, a self-confident smile upon his face, and his eyes
roving for a sight of familiar faces.  Whenever he caught the eye of an
acquaintance, the greeting he bestowed was hearty and betokened a man
without the slightest cause for anxiety of any sort.

Nevertheless, it was disturbing to perceive that people rather avoided
his eye.  Generally quite the reverse was true, and it was rare upon the
boat that some one did not approach him and fall into conversation.  Yet
so subtle is that mysterious psychology of the social impulse that now a
mere publication of the fact that he was to be arrested, even
accompanied, as it was, by the statement that nobody believed him
guilty, had yet sufficient influence to make him shunned.  What a silly
world it was, after all!

But in making the transfer from the ferry to the suburban train, there
was a walk of two hundred feet, with a news stand on the way, and then
fresh disillusionment lay in wait for Doctor Hampstead, in the form of a
later edition of another Oakland paper.

"CLERIC FLIES ARREST," bawled this headline stridently.

The minister’s lip curled sarcastically at sight of this, but he bought
the paper, reading as he walked to the car steps.  But the sub-head was
more disturbing. "Hampstead’s Premises Searched," it declared, the types
seeming to scream the words exultantly.

Searched—and in his absence!  This was outrageous! More; it was
alarming, for there were papers in his study which he had good reason
for keeping from the eyes of the police.  Fortunately, however, the most
important of these were in the safe deposit box.  He felt deeply
grateful now for this box, the key to which was in his pocket; and after
a sympathetic thought for Rose, Dick, and Tayna, and the excited,
bewildered state in which they must have received the officers, the
clergyman turned his mind to a contemplation of this new account in
detail, and thereby got his first real taste of what an unfriendly
attitude on the part of a newspaper can make of the most innocent
circumstances.

Up to now, the minister, his utterances, his denunciations, even his
moral crusades, had been popular.  The papers had put the most favorable
construction upon all his acts.  Their columns and their headlines had
done him respect and honor.  But now this paper had put every
circumstance in the worst possible light.  It cleverly touched up those
scenes in the picture which looked incriminating and left the others
unillumined, until one would never gather from the story that there was
any reason to doubt the guilt or the guilty flight of the minister.

Hampstead attributed this to mere unfriendliness, never suspecting that
in one hour between editions an editor could have subtly sensed a
popular readiness to accept the worst view of his case, and deliberately
pandered to it as a mere matter of commercial newsmongering; nor that
this unfavorable account was to be accepted as the first straw blown up
in a hurricane of adverse criticism which would rise and sweep over the
city and blow its very hardest in the aisles of All People’s Church
itself.

The effect of this narrative upon Hampstead’s mind was unspeakably
oppressive, and he looked up from its perusal with relief and pleasure
at finding a well-known physician in the seat beside him.  The doctor
was prominent in the work of one of the Encina churches, and had been
particularly sympathetic with Hampstead in campaigns against petty
crime.  The minister had a right, therefore, to feel that this man was
one of his friends; yet the physician greeted him with a self-conscious
air and immediately relapsed into silence.  Hampstead endured this until
the humor of the situation forced itself upon him.

"Oh, cheer up," he laughed, poking the physician with an elbow.  "You
probably know worse people than diamond thieves."

The doctor also laughed and disclaimed any sense of gloom, but his was
an embarrassed merriment, and he refrained from meeting the eye of the
minister.  However, after another interval of silence, as if feeling
that he should at any rate say something, he reached over and laid a
patronizing hand upon the minister’s knee.

"Of course, Doctor Hampstead," he suggested, "every one is confident you
will be able to prove your innocence."

The minister made an ejaculation that was short and sharp.

The doctor looked at him with surprise, as if questioning whether he
heard aright.

"Under the law, I thought a man was presumed to be innocent, and that
his accusers had to prove his guilt," went on Hampstead.

The doctor flushed slightly, and while his eyes roved through the car
window, declared:

"Well, I am afraid, Doctor Hampstead, you will find that a public man
against whom a charge like this is hurled is presumed to be guilty until
he proves himself innocent."

"That is your attitude?" inquired Hampstead coldly.

"Oh, by no means," protested the physician.

"It is his attitude all the same," commented the minister to himself,
somewhat bitterly, as he descended from the train at the station nearest
his home.

"How does he take it?" asked one sage citizen, crowding into the vacant
seat beside the physician, while a second leaned over from behind to
hear the answer.

"Very much worried," replied the doctor, as gravely and as oracularly as
he would have pronounced upon another man’s patient.  "Very much
worried!"

"Would you believe," the physician inquired presently of the first
citizen, with a hesitating and extremely confidential air, "would you
believe that Doctor Hampstead would say ’hell’—outside of a sermon, I
mean?"

"No," answered the man addressed, "I would not," and his eyebrows were
lifted, while his whole face expressed surprise, shock, and a desire for
confirmation.

"Well," concluded the doctor enigmatically, "neither would I."  And that
was all Doctor Mann did say upon the subject, yet citizen number one,
while casting the dice with citizen number two at the Tobacco Emporium
on the corner next the railroad station to see which should pay for
their after-dinner smoke, communicated in confidence that the Reverend
Hampstead had, in the stress of his emotion, uttered an oath; in fact,
and to be specific, had said that his persecutors, all and singular, and
this actress woman in particular, could go to hell!

This conference between citizen one and two may have been overheard.  An
inference that it was so overheard might have been drawn from the
columns of _The Sentinel_, which next morning concluded its story of the
remarkable developments of the night with the observation that the
character of the minister was evidently cracking under the strain, since
last night upon the suburban train, when a friend addressed him with a
solicitous inquiry, the accused clergyman had broken into a stream of
profane objurgations loud enough to be heard above the roar of the train
in several seats around.  It was added that the reverend gentleman
quickly regained control of his feelings and apologized for his form of
expression by saying that he had been overworked for a long time and the
developments of the day had seriously upset him.

John Hampstead read this particular paragraph in _The Sentinel_ with a
sense of utter amazement at the wicked mendacity of public rumor, since
what he had said to Doctor Mann was merely "Humph!" uttered with sharp
and scornful emphasis.

But there was a far bigger story than that in the morning _Sentinel_.
It had to do with those things which happened between the hour when John
Hampstead dropped from his train, a little irritated with Doctor Mann,
and the hour when he went to bed, but not to sleep.



                            *CHAPTER XXVIII*

                              *THE ARREST*


As the perturbed minister, hurrying from the train, turned into the
short street leading toward his home upon the Bay-side, he was charged
upon by Dick and Tayna, both of whom, in the state of their emotion,
forgot High School dignity and came rushing upon their uncle with feet
thudding like running ostriches.  Tayna’s cheeks were red as her Titian
hair with flaming indignation, and her eyes burned like lights, while
her full red lips pouted out: "Isn’t it a shame?"

"It’s a darn piece of blackmail, that’s what it is, and it’s actionable,
too!"

This oracular verdict, of course, came panting from the lips of Dick,
who, over-exerted by his run, stood with arms akimbo, hands holding his
sides, and his too heavy head tipping backward on his shoulders, while
with scrutinizing eye he studied the face of his uncle.

As for Hampstead, in the devoted loyalty of these fatherless children
and the distress of mind which each exhibited, he entirely forgot the
sense of hot injustice and wrong burning in his own breast.  All the
emotion he was then capable of turned itself into sympathy for them and
solicitous anticipations as to the effect of the whole wretched business
upon his sister Rose.  With a sweep of his strong arms, he gathered the
two young people to his breast, printing a kiss on Tayna’s cheek, which
he found burning hot, and squeezing Dick until the stripling gasped and
struggled for release as he used to do when a squirming youngster.  With
his arms still affectionately about the shoulders of the two, Hampstead
walked on down the street, palm-studded, with flower-bordered skirts of
green on either side and the blue vista of the Bay showing dimly in the
growing dusk.

Rose was waiting on the piazza.  Her face was very calm, yet to John’s
keen eye, it bore a look of desperately mustered self-control.  With the
ready intuition of her sex, she had divined far more completely than her
brother how desperate and dangerous was the struggle upon which he was
entering, and she was determined to give him every advantage that
sympathy, poise, and unwavering loyalty could supply.

"It’s all right, Rose, all right," he hastened to assure her, as the
steps were mounted.  "A mere extravagance of an excited woman that the
papers have made into a great sensation.  It will melt away like fog.
We are helpless for a few days until I can demand and receive a hearing
upon preliminary trial.  That will show that they have no case at all.
Until then, we must simply stand and be strong."

Rose was already in her brother’s arms, yet his speech, instead of
reassuring her, made the tears flow.

"It is so—so humiliating to think of you defending yourself," she
protested, "to hear you talk of their inability to make out a case.  It
seems so—so lowering, as if you were going to be put on trial just like
a criminal."

"Why," replied John, "that’s just what it all means. _Just like a
criminal!_"

He said the thing strongly enough, but after it came a choke in the
throat.  He had not really comprehended this before.  He had thought of
making his defense from the standpoint of the popular idol that he was.
As a matter of fact, he was going to trial like any criminal. His
vantage ground was merely that of the prisoner at the bar.  This
prepared him for what Rose had to say next; for subtly perceiving that
her brother had sustained an additional shock, her own self-control
revived. Wiping her eyes, she turned to lead the way within.

"They," she said solemnly, "are waiting in the study."

"They?" inquired Hampstead.

"There are four men in there," Rose replied.  "They want," and her voice
threatened to break, "they want you!"

At this bald putting of the horrible fact, Tayna burst into a wail of
woe and flung her arms about her uncle, whom she had followed into the
hall.

"There, there, girl, don’t cry," urged her uncle soothingly.  "There is
no occasion for it; this is annoying but not necessarily distressing.
It is a mere formality of the law which must be complied with.  Run
along now, all of you, and wash the tears out of your eyes.  I will be
with you in five minutes.  Let us sit down to a happy, cheerful dinner.
I confess I am a little upset myself, but not too disturbed to be
hungry," and with a weak attempt at grimacing humor, the big man laid a
hand upon the region of his diaphragm.

In his study, as Rose had forewarned him, the minister found four men:
Searle, Assistant District Attorney; Wyatt, Deputy Sheriff; and two city
detectives.

Searle was a suave, resourceful man and the one assistant in the
District Attorney’s office whom Hampstead had found himself unable to
trust; and that rather because of his personal and political
associations than for any overt act of which the minister was cognizant.

Wyatt was a bloated person, amiable in disposition, whose excess of
egotism was coupled with a paucity of intelligence, yet wholly
incorruptible and with an exaggerated sense of duty that made him a
capable officer,—a thing with which his breeding, which was obtrusively
low, did not interfere.

Hampstead was able to master his feelings sufficiently to greet the
quartet urbanely, if not cordially.

"A disagreeable duty, I assure you," conceded Searle.

"A disagreeable experience," laughed Hampstead, but with no great
suggestion of levity.

"I guess I don’t need to read this to you, Doc," said the Deputy
Sheriff, as he opened to Hampstead a document drawn from his pocket.
"It is a warrant for your arrest."

The minister took the document and glanced it through, his eyes
hesitating for a moment at the name of the complaining witness.

"Alice Higgins?" he asked, with an inquiring glance.

"The true name of the complaining witness and accuser," replied Searle.

"Oh, I see," assented John.

It had never occurred to him that Marien Dounay was only a stage name.
Was there anything at all about this woman that was not false, he
wondered.

John returned the warrant to Wyatt and caught the look in that officer’s
eye.  A sense of the horrible indignity of arrest came over the
minister, a perception of what it meant: this yielding of one’s liberty,
of one’s body to the possession of another, who might be a coarser and
more inferior person than one’s self.  With a guilty flush, John thought
how many times in his crusades against the gamblers and small
law-breakers he had procured the swearing out of complaints that led to
the arrest of scores of men.  He had marveled at the venomous hatred
which those men later displayed toward himself, regarding him as the
author of a public disgrace put upon them, and not upon them alone but
upon their families also.  Now he understood.

"The bail is fixed at ten thousand dollars," explained Searle smoothly.
"When we got your telephone message that you would be home at seven
o’clock, I took the liberty of arranging for Judge Brennan to be in his
chambers at nine to-night so that you could be there with your bondsmen
and not have to spend the night in jail."

"That was very considerate of you," assented the minister, a huskiness
in his tone despite himself.

The night in jail!  The very idea.  And ten thousand dollars bail!  He
had expected to be released upon his own recognizance.  Again that
disagreeable intimation of being treated like a common criminal came
crowding in with a suffocating effect upon his spirit.  But he rallied,
exclaiming with another effort at easy urbanity: "Very well, I
acknowledge my arrest, and it will be unnecessary to detain you
gentlemen further.  I shall be glad to meet you with my bondsmen in the
judge’s chambers."

The Deputy Sheriff coughed in an embarrassed way, but stood stolidly
before his prisoner.

"I am sorry, Doctor Hampstead," explained Searle, "but we shall have to
search you.  Benson’s men here will do that."

"Search me?" exclaimed Hampstead, with a sudden sense of insult.  "By
the appearance of things," he added, while casting a sarcastic look at
the signs of disorder about, "I should think this farce had been carried
far enough.  You did not find the diamonds here.  You do not expect to
find them upon my person, do you?"

The speaker’s tones witnessed a natural indignation and considerable
irritability.

"I got to do my duty," replied Wyatt stubbornly, making a sign to the
two detectives, who immediately arose and advanced upon the minister.

For an instant the situation was exceedingly tense. Hampstead was a very
strong man, and his resentment at what seemed an insult put upon him
with malice, was very hot.  But good sense triumphed in the interval of
thought which the officers diplomatically allowed.

"Oh, of course," he exclaimed with a gesture of submission, "you men are
only cogs.  Once the machinery of the law is put in motion, you must
turn with the other wheels.  Pardon my irritation, gentlemen, but the
situation is unusual for me and rather hard.  I feel the injustice and
indignity of it very keenly."

"We appreciate your situation perfectly," said Assistant District
Attorney Searle smoothly.  "As you say, we are all of us cogs."

Yet the actual search of his person, once entered on, seemed to
Hampstead to proceed rather perfunctorily, although at the same time he
got from the faces and manner of all four an impression of something
they were holding in reserve.

"What is this?" asked one of the detectives dramatically, holding up a
long, narrow key with a red rubber band doubled and looped about the
neck, which he had just extracted from the minister’s pocket.

"That is the key to my safe deposit box at the Amalgamated National,"
replied Hampstead, naturally enough.

"Then," said Wyatt bluntly, "we’ve got to search that box."

The minister was instantly on his guard.

Some play of eyes between the four men, accompanied by a subtle change
in the expression of their faces, warned him that they must have been
apprised of the existence of this box and that the key was the real
object of their personal search.  Hampstead resolved hastily to defeat
them.

"I decline to permit it," he declared shortly.  "There are very private
papers in that box, things which have been communicated to me in the
utmost confidence, and I would not be justified in permitting you—or any
one else—to handle them.  Under the rules of the bank, without my
consent or an order of court, you could not reach the box."

"I have that order of court here," said Searle, speaking up quickly, but
with cold precision of utterance, "in a search warrant directed
particularly to your safe deposit box."

Like a flash, Hampstead thought that he understood.

"So that is what you are here for, Searle?" he snapped sarcastically,
turning and confronting the Assistant District Attorney.  "I never have
trusted you. I couldn’t understand your presence here or your interest
in this silly charge; but now I comprehend fully. You have taken
advantage of it to get your eyes on the perjury case I have against your
bosom friend, Jack Roche.  Well, I warn you!  This is where I stop and
fight!"

But Searle refused to get angry at this bald impugnment of his integrity
and motives.  No doubt it was his confidence in an ultimate and complete
humiliation of the minister that enabled him to maintain an unruffled
demeanor while he suggested blandly:

"Perhaps you ought not to proceed further, Doctor Hampstead, without the
advice of a lawyer."

The proposal touched the minister in his pride.

"A lawyer?" he objected scornfully.  "Thank you, no!  My cause requires
no expert advocacy.  In my experience of the past four years, I have
learned quite enough about court practice to cope with this ridiculous
burlesque without professional assistance."

Searle, playing his cards deliberately, took advantage of the minister’s
assumed acquaintance with legal lore to suggest with alacrity:

"You know then, Doctor, that it is useless to fight a court order of
this sort, as you spoke of doing in your excitement a moment ago.  I
think, with the attorneys of your Civic League, you have gone through a
safe deposit box or two upon your own account, by means of just such a
search warrant as I now exhibit to you."

Again Hampstead’s second thought assured him that he was powerless to
resist.

"Yes," he confessed resignedly to Searle’s speech, after the necessary
interval for consideration, "I suppose I must admit it.  When I spoke of
fighting, I spoke in heat; partly because I feel the gross injustice and
bitter wrong this senseless charge is doing to innocent people other
than myself, who am also innocent, and partly because, as I have already
told you, I utterly distrust your motive in making the whole of this
search.  You must be as well aware as I that this charge is the work of
a woman who, to speak most charitably, is beside herself with
excitement."

But Searle only smiled, and observed with urbanity unruffled.

"I am sorry, Doctor, that you distrust me.  You may have the privilege,
of course, of being present when we examine the contents of the box."

"Naturally I shall insist upon that," said the minister.

"In that case," Searle added with significant emphasis, "I think your
observations will convince you that we are solely concerned in a search
for the diamonds."

"As I like to believe well of all men, I shall hope so," countered the
minister; and then, since the demeanor of the officers made it clear
there was no more searching to be done, he continued, after a glance at
his watch: "If I am to meet Judge Brennan and yourself with my bondsmen
at nine o’clock, I suggest that we go from there direct to the bank
vaults.  They are accessible until midnight, as you doubtless know."

"Very good, Doctor," replied Searle in that oily voice which indicated
how completely to his satisfaction affairs were progressing.

"And now," suggested the minister, with a nod toward the street door,
"as the hour is late, I will ask you gentlemen to excuse me."

Searle darted a look at Wyatt.

"Very sorry, Doc, but I got to stay with you," volunteered the deputy,
"and hand you over to the judge."

Once more the flush of offense mounted to the cheek of Hampstead.  Hand
him over to the judge!  How galling such language was when used of him!
Again he recalled with compunction how many arrests he had caused
without an emotion beyond the satisfaction of an angler when he hooks a
fish.  But he—John Hampstead—minister, preacher, pastor of All People’s;
a shining light in a vast metropolitan community!  Surely it was
something different and infinitely more degrading for him to be arrested
than for a mere plasterer, or mayhap a councilman?  He had a greater
right than they to be wrathful and resentful.  Besides, they were
guilty. Judges, juries, or their own confessions, had unfailingly so
declared.  He was innocent, spotlessly innocent of the charge against
him.  His defenselessness proceeded from relations of comparative
intimacy with the actress, and his priestly knowledge of the guilty
person.  Yet the thought of this helped humor and good sense to triumph
again, over his rising choler.

"Oh, very well," he exclaimed, half-jocularly, half-derisively.  "Make
yourself at home; all of you make yourselves at home.  We are accustomed
to an unexpected guest or two at the table.  Be prepared to come out to
dinner.  Listen, if you like, while an arrested felon telephones to his
friends, seeking bondsmen.  You may hear secret codes and signals
passing over the wire. You may even wish to put under surveillance the
gentlemen with whom I communicate."

"Doctor!  Doctor!" protested Searle, with hands uplifted comically.
"Your hospitality and your irony both embarrass us.  The detectives and
I will be on our way. Wyatt will have to do his duty."

"As you please," exclaimed Hampstead, who was fast recovering his poise;
"quite as you please."

With this speech he held open the outside door and bade the three
departing guests good evening; and then, while the Deputy waited in the
room, the clergyman was busy at the telephone until he had the promise
of three different gentlemen of his acquaintance to meet him at Judge
Brennan’s chambers at nine that night and qualify as his bondsmen in the
sum of ten thousand dollars.

This much attended to, dinner became the next order; but it was not a
very happy affair.  There had never been a time when the little family
group, bound together by ties that were unusually tender, wished more to
be alone at a meal.  Now, when the superfluous presence was the official
representative of the very thing that had plunged them into gloom, the
situation became one of torture.  Food stuck to palates.  Scraps of
conversation were dropped at rare intervals and upon entirely extraneous
subjects in which nobody, not even the speakers, had the slightest
interest.  At times there was no sound save the audible enjoyment of his
food by their guest, for the Deputy Sheriff, accustomed to the ruthless
thrust of his official self into the personal and sometimes the domestic
life of individuals, was quite too crass to sense the embarrassment and
positive pain his presence caused and was also exceedingly hungry.

In this general silence, the grating of wheels on the graveled walk
outside the study door sounded loudly.

"Mrs. Burbeck!" exclaimed Hampstead in some surprise. "She never came to
me at night before.  Finish your dinner, Deputy.  If you will excuse me,
I must receive one of my parishioners in the study."

"Sorry, but I can’t excuse you, Doc," replied Wyatt jocularly; "but if
you’ll excuse me for just a minute, while I get away with this second
piece of loganberry pie, I’ll be with you."

"Be with me?" asked the minister, color rising.  "Do you mean that you
will intrude upon the privacy of an interview with a helpless lady in a
wheel chair who comes to see me alone?"

Wyatt’s fat cheek was bulging, and there were tiny streams of crimson
juice at the corners of the lips; but he interrupted himself long enough
to reply bluntly: "I ain’t agoin’ to let you out of my sight.  Orders is
orders, that’s all I got to say."

"But tell me, Wyatt, who gave you such orders?" queried the minister,
with no effort to conceal his irritation.

"Searle.  And they were give to him," answered the Deputy
phlegmatically, his fat-imbedded eyes intent upon the white and crimson
segment of pastry on his plate.

"And who gave such orders to him?" persisted Hampstead.

"If you ask me—" began the Deputy, and then exasperatingly blotted out
the possibility of further speech by the transfer of the dripping
triangle to his mouth.

"Well, I do ask you," declared the minister curtly.

"He got ’em from Miss Dounay."

"And is that woman running the District Attorney’s office?" questioned
the minister scornfully.

"Search me!" gulped Wyatt, with a shrug of his shoulders.  "I had one
look at her.  She’s got eyes like a pair of automatics.  You take it
from me, Doc," and Wyatt laid his unoccupied hand upon the sleeve of the
minister, "if she’s got anything on you, compromise and do it quick; if
she ain’t, fight, and fight like h——."  Wyatt stopped and shot an
apologetic glance around the table.  "’Scuse my French," he blurted,
"but you know what I mean."

"Yes," said the minister, holding his head very straight, "I realize
that you do not mean to insult me."

"Insult you?" argued the Deputy, overflowing with satisfied amiability.
"After coming over here to arrest you, and you givin’ me a dinner like
this?  Pie like this? Well, I guess not.  I’m bribed, Doc, that’s what I
am. I got to go in that room with you when you see the old lady; but
I’ll hold my thumbs in my ears, and I won’t see a d—— there I go again."
Once more Wyatt’s apologetic look swept around the table.

"Mrs. Burbeck is in the study," announced the maid.



                             *CHAPTER XXIX*

                          *THE ANGEL ADVISES*


Because locomotion was not easy for her, it was to have been expected
that the conferences between John Hampstead and Mrs. Burbeck, which,
especially in the early days of his pastorate, had been so many, would
take place in that lady’s home; and they usually did.  But as time went
on, her own independence of spirit and increased consideration for the
minister led Mrs. Burbeck frequently to prefer to come to him.  To make
this easy, two planks had been laid to form a simple runway to the stoop
at the study door.  When, therefore, the minister entered his library
to-night, closely followed by Wyatt, he found that good woman waiting in
the wheel chair beside his desk.  The object of her call showed
instantly in an expression of boundless and tender solicitude; and yet
the clergyman immediately forgot himself in a conscience-stricken
concern for his visitor.

"You should not have come," he exclaimed quickly, sympathy and mild
reproach mingling, while a devotion like that of a son for a mother was
conveyed in his tone and glance.

Truly, Mrs. Burbeck had never looked so frail.  All but the faintest
glow of color had gone from her cheeks; her eyes were bright, but with a
luster that seemed unearthly, and her skin had a transparent, wax-like
look that to the clergyman was alarmingly suggestive, as if the pale
bloom of another world were upon her cheeks, which a single breath must
wither.

Making these observations swiftly as his stride carried him to her, the
minister, speaking in that rich baritone of melting tenderness which was
one of Hampstead’s most charming personal assets, concluded with: "You
are not well.  You are not at all well."

"Oh, yes," the Angel answered, "I am well."

Although she spoke in a voice that appeared to be thin to the point of
breaking, her tone was even, and her senses proclaimed their alertness
by allowing her eyes to wander from the face of the minister and fix
themselves inquiringly over his shoulder on the unembarrassed, stolid
man at the door.

"Tell her not to mind me, Doc," interjected Wyatt in a stuffy voice.  At
the same time an exploratory thumb brought up a quill from a vest
pocket, and the deputy began with entire assurance the after-dinner
toilet of his teeth, while his eyes roamed the ceiling and the tops of
the bookcases as if suddenly oblivious of the presence of other persons
in the room.

"Yes," said the minister reassuringly, "we will not be disturbed by Mr.
Wyatt’s presence.  He is merely doing his duty."

"You are—?"  Mrs. Burbeck hesitated with an upward inflection, and the
disagreeable word unuttered.

"Yes," replied the minister gravely, his inflection falling where hers
had risen.  "I am."

"Oh, that woman!  That woman!" murmured Mrs. Burbeck, "I have mistrusted
her and been sorry for her all at once.  But it was Rollie that I feared
for."

There was a sigh of relief that was as near to an exhibition of
selfishness as Mrs. Burbeck had ever approached; after which,
mother-like, she lapsed into a rhapsody over her son.

"Rollie," she began, in doting accents, "is so young, so handsome, so
responsive to beauty of any sort; so ready to believe the best of every
one.  I feared that he would fall in love with her and ruin his business
career—you know how these theatrical marriages always turn out—or that
she would jilt him and break his heart.  Rollie has such a sensitive,
expansive nature.  He has always been trusted so widely by so many
people.  Since that boy has grown up, I have lived my whole life in him.
Do you know," and she leaned forward and lowered her voice to an
impressive and exceedingly intimate note; "it seems to me that if
anything should happen to Rollie, it would crush me, that I should not
care to live,—in fact should not be able to live."

Tears came readily to the limpid pools of her eyes, and the delicately
chiseled lips trembled, though they bravely tried to smile.

Hampstead sat regarding her thoughtfully, love and apprehension mingling
upon his face.  It suddenly reoccurred to him with compelling force that
the most awful cruelty that could be inflicted would be for this
delicate and fragile woman, who to-night looked more like an
ambassadress from some other existence than a thing of flesh and blood,
to know the truth about her son.  Seeing her thus smiling trustfully
through her mother-tears, thinking of all that her sweet, saint-like
confidences had meant to him, Hampstead felt a mighty resolve growing
stronger and stronger within him.

But for once Mrs. Burbeck’s intuitions were not sure, and she
misconstrued the meaning of her pastor’s silence.

"Forgive me," she pleaded in tones of self-reproach. "Here I am in the
midst of your trouble babbling of myself and my son.  Yet that is like a
mother.  She never sees a young man’s career blighted but she grows
suddenly apprehensive for the child of her own bosom. Now that feeling
comes to me with double force.  I love you almost as a son.
Consequently, when I see my boy out there in the sun of life mounting so
buoyantly, and you, so worthy to mount, but struggling in mid-flight
under a cloud, I feel a mingling of two painful emotions. I suffer as if
struck upon the heart.  My spirit of sympathy and apprehension rushes me
to you, yet when I get to you, my doting mother’s heart makes me babble
first of my boy.  And so," she concluded, with an apologetic smile, "you
see how weak and frail and egotistic I am, after all."

"But," protested Hampstead, who had been eager to break in, "my career
is not blighted.  I am not under a cloud.  It annoyed me to-night upon
the boat and train to discover how suddenly I was pilloried by my
enemies and avoided by my friends.  They seem to take it for granted
that I am already smirched; that to me the subject must be painful, and
as there is no other subject to be thought of at the moment, hence
conversation will also be painful.  Because of this I am a pariah, to be
shunned like any leper."

With rising feeling, the young minister snatched a breath and hurried
on.

"Now, Mrs. Burbeck, I do not feel like that at all.  I have put myself
in the way of sustaining this attack through following the course of
duty, as I conceived it. I need not assure you that I am innocent of a
vulgar thing like burglary.  I need not assure the public.  It is
impossible that they should believe it.  Nevertheless, I have seen
enough in the papers to-night to show how they will revel at seeing me
enmeshed in the toils of circumstance. To them it is a rare spectacle.
Very well, let it be a spectacle.  It is one in which I shall triumph.
I propose to fight.  I feel like fighting."  His fist was clenched and
came down upon the arm of his chair, and his voice, though still low,
was full of vibrant power.

"I feel that I have the right to call upon every friend, upon every
member of All People’s, upon every believer in those things for which I
have fought in this community, to rally to my side to fight shoulder to
shoulder in the battle to repel what in effect is an assault not upon
me, but upon the things for which I stand."

Mrs. Burbeck’s expressive eyes were floating full with a look that
verged from sympathy toward pity.

"You will have to be a very expert tactician," she said soberly, drawing
on those fountains of ripe wisdom, so full at times that they seemed to
mount toward inspiration; "if you are to make the public think of your
embarrassment in that way.  It is going to look at this as a disgraceful
personal entanglement of a minister with an actress!"

Hampstead writhed in his chair.  Nothing but the depth of his
consideration for Mrs. Burbeck kept him from exclaiming vehemently
against what he deemed the enormous injustice of this assumption.

"She’s right, Doc; right’s your left leg," sounded a throaty voice,
which startled the two of them into remembering that they were not
alone.

"Why, Wyatt!" exclaimed the minister reprovingly, turning sharply on the
deputy.

"Excuse me, Doc," Wyatt mumbled abjectly.  "I just thought that out
loud.  All the same, she’s wisin’ you up to somethin’ if you’ll let ’er.
Some of these old dames that ain’t got nothin’ to do but just set and
think gets hep to a lot of things that a hustlin’ man overlooks."

Hampstead was disgusted.

"Don’t interrupt us again, please, Wyatt," he observed, combining
dignity and rebuke in his utterance.

But Wyatt, influenced no doubt by the look almost of fright on Mrs.
Burbeck’s face, was already in apologetic mood.

"Say," he mumbled contritely, "you’re right, Doc. I’m so sorry for the
break that, orders or no orders, I’ll just step out in the hall while
you finish.  But all the same, you listen to her," and he indicated the
disturbed and slightly offended Mrs. Burbeck with a stab of a toothpick
in the air, "and she’ll tell you somethin’ that’s useful."

"Thank you very much, Wyatt," replied the minister in noncommittal
tones, but with a sigh of relief as the deputy withdrew from the room.

Yet he had a growing sense of depression.  Wyatt’s boorish, croaking
interruption had thrown him out of poise.  Mrs. Burbeck’s exaggerated
sense of the gravity of the matter weighed him down like lead, and the
more because an inner voice, sounding faintly and from far away, but
with significance unmistakable, seemed to tell him her view was right.
Nevertheless, his whole soul rose in protest.  It ought not to be right.
It was a gross travesty on justice and on popular good sense.

Mrs. Burbeck, looking at him fixedly, noted this change in spirit and
the conflict of emotions which resulted.  Reaching out impulsively, she
touched the large hand of the man where it lay upon the desk.

"I feared you would take it too lightly," she reflected. "Youth always
does that.  For this world about you to turn and gnash you is mere human
nature, which it is your business to understand.  Has it never occurred
to you that the same voices who upon Sunday cried out: ’Hosannah,
Hosannah to the son of David!’ upon Friday shouted: ’Away with him!
Crucify him!  Crucify him!’"

"But I am innocent," Hampstead protested, though weakly.

"And so was He," Mrs. Burbeck replied simply.

"But He was worthy to suffer.  I am not," murmured Hampstead humbly.

"Sometimes," suggested the sweet-voiced woman, "suffering makes us
worthy."

"But," affirmed the minister, his fighting spirit coming back to him, "I
can prove my innocence!"

The face of Mrs. Burbeck lighted.  "Then you must," she said decisively.
"You give me hope when you say that.  It was to tell you that I came,
fearful that you would rely upon the public to assume your innocence
until your guilt was proven.  Alas, they are more likely to assume the
contrary, to hold you guilty until you prove yourself innocent."

"I have been made to see that already," replied Hampstead.  "At first,
no doubt, I did underestimate the gravity of the situation.  You have
helped me to appraise its dangers more accurately."

But Mrs. Burbeck had more important advice to give.

"Yes," she went on half-musingly, because tactfulness appeared to
suggest that form of utterance, "you will have to vindicate yourself
absolutely.  It is a practical situation.  The danger is not that you
will be convicted and sent to jail.  Nobody believes that, I should say.
The danger is that a question-mark will be permanently attached to your
name and character.  The Reverend John Hampstead, interrogation point!
Is he a thief, or not?  Did he compromise himself, or not?  Is he weak,
or not?  This is the thing to fear, the thing that would condemn you and
brand you as stripes brand a convict."

For a tense, reflective moment the minister’s lips had grown dry and
bloodless; and then he confessed grudgingly: "I begin to see that you
are right."

"You should begin your defense by a counter-attack," Mrs. Burbeck
continued, feeling that the man was sufficiently aroused now to
appreciate the importance of vigorous defensive actions.  "Declare your
disbelief that the diamonds have actually been stolen.  Get out a
warrant of search, and you will probably find them now concealed among
her effects.  At any rate this counter-search would hold the public
verdict in suspense; and it would be like your well-known aggressive
personality.  If the search fails to reveal them, if her diamonds really
are stolen, your complete vindication must depend upon the capture and
exposure of the real thief."

Hampstead wiped his moist brow nervously.  It was uncannily terrible
that this woman of all persons in the world should say this to him.
However, he had sufficient presence of mind to urge:

"But how unjust to force a contract like that upon me."

"It is unjust," admitted the Angel of the Chair. "Yet the innocent often
suffer injustice, and you must realize that you are not immune.  That is
your only course, and I came specifically to warn you of it.  Prove
there was no theft, or get the thief!"

There was snap and sparkle in Mrs. Burbeck’s eyes. Despite her physical
frailty, her spirit was stout, and her conviction so forcefully conveyed
that the minister delivered himself of a gesture of utter helplessness.

"I cannot do either," he said, half-whispering his desperation.  "Yet I
think I appreciate better than you how sound your advice has been.  But
there are reasons that I cannot give you, that I cannot give to any one,
why the course which you suggest cannot be followed.  I must go another
way to vindication; but," and his voice rose buoyantly, "I will go and I
will get it."

Mrs. Burbeck received with misgivings her pastor’s complete rejection of
the advice she had offered, yet some unconscious force in the young
minister’s manner swept her on quickly against her judgment and her will
to an enormous increase of faith, both in the strength and the judgment
of the man.  As for Hampstead, he concluded his rejection by doing
something he had never done before.  That was to lean low, his face
chiseled in lines of gravity and devotion, and taking the delicate hand
of Mrs. Burbeck, that in its weakness was like a drooping flower, lift
it to his lips and kiss it.

"Conserve all your spirit," he said solemnly, still clinging tenderly to
the hand.  "It may be that I shall have to lean heavily upon you."

"You may have my life to the uttermost," she breathed trustfully, never
dreaming the thought unthinkable which the words suggested to her pastor
and friend.  But an extraneous idea came pressing in, and Mrs. Burbeck
raised toward the minister, in a gesture of appeal, the hand his lips
had just been pressing, as she pleaded: "And do not think too hardly of
the woman.  She loves you."

"Loves me!" protested Hampstead, with a ghastly hoarseness.  "The woman
is incapable of love—of passion even.  She is all fire, but without
heat—though once she had it.  She is a mere blaze of ambition.  All she
cared for was to bring me to my knees, to dangle me like a scalp at her
waist."

Mrs. Burbeck steadied him with a glance from a mind unimpressed.

"Be sorry, very sorry for her!" she insisted gravely. "Acquit yourself
of no impatience—not even a reproachful look, if you can help it.  She
is to be pitied.  Only the malice of unsated love could do what she has
done. Show yourself noble enough, Christ-like enough, to be very, very
sorry for her!"

"_We got to go if we get there by nine!_"

It was the smothered voice of Wyatt, calling through the door.



                             *CHAPTER XXX*

                        *THE SCENE IN THE VAULT*


Silas Wadham, mine-owner; William Hayes, merchant, and E. H. Wilson,
capitalist, subscribed to Hampstead’s bond.  Each was a big man in his
way; each had unbounded faith in the integrity and good sense of the
minister.  They were not men to be swept off their feet by mere surface
currents.  They laughed a little and rallied John upon his plight, yet
he knew somehow by the bend of the jaw when they dipped their pens in
ink and with clamped lips subscribed their signatures, that these men
were his unshakably.

One circumstance might have seemed strange.  None of them were members
of All People’s.  Yet this was not because there were not men in All
People’s who would have qualified as unhesitatingly; but because John
had a feeling that he was being assailed as a community character rather
than as a clerical one.

Within ten minutes the formalities in Judge Brennan’s chamber were
concluded, Hampstead was free, but as he turned to Searle waiting
suavely, backed by the suggestive presence of the two detectives, there
came suddenly into his mind the memory that Rollie Burbeck’s I.O.U. for
eleven hundred dollars was in his safe deposit box in the envelope
marked "Wadham Currency."  This was a chaos-producing thought.  If
Searle once got an eye on that card, it would start innumerable trains
of suspicion, each of which must center on the young bank cashier.  In
his present state, that boy was too weak to resist pressure of any sort.
He would crumble and go to pieces, And yet, it was not the thought of
the exposure and ruin of this spoiled young man that moved Hampstead to
another of those acts which only riveted the chains of suspicion more
tightly upon himself.  It was the vision of the mother who only an hour
before had murmured tremulously: "If anything should happen to him, I
should not be able to live."

"Searle!" exclaimed the minister passionately.  "You must not proceed
with this.  If you are a man of any heart, you will not persist against
my pleadings.  I tell you frankly there are secrets in that box which,
while they would do you no good, could be used to ruin innocent
men—guilty ones, too, perhaps; but the innocent with the guilty."

Hampstead was speaking hoarsely, his voice raised and trembling with an
excitement and lack of nerve control he had never exhibited before in
public.

The prosecutor’s face pictured surprise and even gloating, but his eyes
expressed a purpose unshaken.

"Confidences in my possession must be respected," Hampstead went on,
arguing vehemently.  "The confidences of a patient to his physician, of
a penitent to his priest, are respected by the law.  Because some of
these confidences happen to be in writing, you have no right to violate
them."

"And I tell you I have no intention to violate them," Searle returned
testily.  "My order is a warrant of search for a diamond necklace."

"And I tell you I will not respect the order of the court," blazed the
minister.  "You shall not examine the box!"

Judge Mortimer was startled; the bondsmen, although surprised by the
minister’s show of feeling, were sympathetic.

"I do not care whether you consent or not," Searle rejoined
sarcastically.  "I have the key, and I have the order of court, which
the vault custodian must respect.  I have done you the courtesy to meet
you here so that you might be present when the box was examined.  You
must be beside yourself to suppose that I can be swayed from my duty,
even temporarily, by an appeal like this."

"I think, Doctor, you should have the advice of your attorney on this,"
suggested Mr. Wilson considerately; and then turning to the Assistant
District Attorney, observed sharply: "It seems to me, Searle, that this
is rather a high-handed procedure."

But this remark of the practical Mr. Wilson had an instantly calming
effect upon the minister.

"No, no," Hampstead exclaimed, turning to his friend; "I do not want an
attorney.  I do not need an attorney. I should only be misunderstood.
It is the thought of what might result to innocent people through an
examination of this box that stirs me so deeply."

"All the same, I think we had better have an attorney immediately,"
declared Wilson.  "I can send my car for Bowen and have him here in
fifteen minutes."

"An attorney," commented Searle brusquely, "could do nothing except to
get an order from a Superior Court judge enjoining the bank from obeying
the search warrant of this court.  He would be lucky if, at this time of
night, he caught a judge and got that under two or three hours.  I will
be in that box in five minutes.  Come along, if you want to."

Searle moved toward the door, followed by the two detectives, his
purpose perfectly plain; yet the minister hung back, for the first time
so confused by entangling developments that he could not see where to
put his foot down next.

"I think, Doctor Hampstead," advised Mr. Wadham kindly, "that since the
District Attorney has matters in his own hands, you had better go with
him and witness the search.  If you do not object, we shall be glad to
accompany you.  Our presence may prove helpful later."

Because his mind ran forward in an absorbed attempt to forecast and
forestall the probable developments from the impending discovery of the
clue against Rollie, the minister still paused, until his silence became
as conspicuous as his inaction.

"Oh, yes, yes," he exclaimed, suddenly aware of the waiting group about
him.  "Yes, by all means, go with me.  What we must face, we must face,"
he concluded desperately, with an uneasy inner intimation that he was
saying perhaps the wrong thing.  Yet with the vision of Mrs. Burbeck’s
saintly, smiling face before him, Hampstead, usually so calm and
self-controlled, had little care what he said or how he said it so long
as his mind was busy with some plan to fend off this frightful blow from
her.

Mr. Wadham was a man of mature years and fatherly ways.  He took the
young minister’s arm affectionately in his, and urged him forward in the
wake of Searle, who had already moved out into the wide hall accompanied
by the two plain-clothes men.  Hayes and Wilson, still sympathetic, but
no longer quite comprehending the undue excitement of the young divine
in whose integrity their confidence was so great, fell in behind.

Once before the custodian of the vault, another evidence of the
thoughtfulness of Searle appeared.  John R. Costello, attorney of the
bank, was conveniently on hand to read the warrant of the court and to
instruct the custodian of the vault upon whom it was served that it was
in proper form and must be obeyed.

Because the number of witnesses was too large to be accommodated in the
rooms provided for customers, the inspection of the minister’s box was
made upon a table in the vault room itself.  In the group of onlookers,
Hampstead, because of his commanding figure, his remarkable face, and
his very natural interest in the proceedings, was the most conspicuous
presence.  As naturally as all eyes centered on the box, just so they
kept breaking away at intervals to scan the face of the big man who
stood before them in an attitude of embarrassed helplessness.  He was
obviously making a considerable effort to control himself. Only Searle
was sure that he understood this.  But at the same moment, two of the
bondsmen, the kind-hearted Wadham and the shrewd, practical Wilson,
appeared to observe this attitude and to detect its significance.  They
exchanged questioning glances, and were further mystified when for a
single moment a look of confident reassurance flickered like the play of
a sunbeam upon the face of the minister.

That was in his one selfish moment, when he recalled how the search of
the box, after all these excessive precautions of the District
Attorney’s office, could only recoil upon their case like a boomerang;
but his countenance shaded again to an expression of anxious
helplessness as Searle paused dramatically a moment with his hand upon
the box.  Then the hand lifted the hinged cover, revealing the contents.

As if from a nervous eagerness to come quickly at the object of his
search, the Assistant District Attorney turned the box upside down and
emptied its contents on the table; and yet, when this was done, nothing
appeared but papers.

Searle attempted to open none of them.  Proceeding with deliberate care,
as if to vindicate himself in the eyes of the bondsmen from the
suspicion of the minister that he might be on a "fishing expedition", he
merely took up each piece singly and precisely, felt it over with his
long, thin fingers and laid it by, until at length but two envelopes
remained.  The first of these was long and empty looking and gave
evidence that the flap had been rudely, if not hastily, torn open.
Searle held it in his hand now.

Hampstead’s heart stood still; he knew that this must be the envelope
which had contained the Wadham currency, hence between this attorney’s
thumb and forefinger, screened by one thickness of paper, lay the card
that was the clue to Rollie Burbeck’s crime.  But the moment of suspense
passed.

Submitting it to the same inquisitive finger manipulation as the others,
yet not looking within it nor turning it over to read what might be
written on the face, Searle laid the Wadham envelope on the pile of
discards.

"Thank God," gulped Hampstead, yet with utterance so inchoate that
Hayes, the third bondsman, standing nearest, did not catch the words,
but a few minutes later, discussing the matter with Wilson, said: "I
heard the apprehensive rattle in his throat just before Searle came to
that last envelope."

But in the meantime, Hampstead was asking himself suspiciously what was
this last envelope?  He thought he knew by heart every separate document
that was in the box, and he could not recall what this might be.

"You must be convinced by now," argued Searle, as if deliberately
heightening the suspense, while he turned a straight glance upon the
minister, "that I had no object in inspecting the contents of this box
except to search for the diamonds."

"And you have not found them!"

This was obviously the remark which should have come in triumphant,
challenging tones from the minister.  As a matter of fact, it came
quietly, and with a sigh of relief, from Silas Wadham.

The minister did not speak at all, did not even raise his eyes to meet
the glance of Searle.  His gaze was fixed as his mind was fascinated by
the mystery of the last lone envelope.

"Not yet," replied Searle significantly to Wadham’s interjection, but
instead of disappointment there was that quality in his tones which
heightens and intensifies expectancy.  At the same time he took up the
envelope by one end, but, under the weight of something within, the
paper bent surprisingly in the middle and the lower end swung pendant
and baglike, accompanied by the slightest perceptible metallic sound.
Every member of the group of witnesses leaned forward with an
involuntary start. Triumph flooded the face of Searle.  With his left
hand he seized the heavy, bag-like end and raised it while the envelope
was turned in his fingers bringing into view the printing in the corner.

"This envelope bears the name and address of the Reverend John
Hampstead," he announced in formal tones.  "I now open it in your
presence."

Nervously the Assistant District Attorney tore off the end of the
envelope, squinted within, and exclaimed: "It contains—"  His voice
halted for an instant while he dramatically tipped the envelope toward
the table and a string of fire flowed out and lay quivering before the
eyes of all—"the Dounay diamonds!"

The jewels, trembling under the impulse of the movement by which they
had been deposited upon the table, sparkled as if with resentful
brilliance at having been thus darkly immured, and for an appreciable
interval they compelled the attention of all; then every eye was turned
upon the accused minister.

But these inquisitorial glances came too late.  Amazement, bewilderment,
a sense of outrage, and hot indignation, had been reeled across the
screen of his features; but that was in the ticking seconds while the
gaze of all was on the envelope and then upon the diamonds and their
aggressive scintillations.  Now the curious eyes rested upon a man who,
after a moment in which to think, had visioned himself surrounded and
overwhelmed by circumstances that were absolutely damning,—his own
conduct of the last few minutes the most damning of all.  His face was
as white as the paper of the envelope which contained the irrefutable
evidence.  His eyes revolved uncertainly and then went questioningly
from face to face in the circle round him as if for confirmation of the
conclusion to which the logic of his own mind forced him irresistibly.
In not one was that confirmation wanting.

"But," he protested wildly, and then his glance broke down.  "It has
come," he murmured hoarsely, covering his face with his hands.  "It has
come!"

His cross had come!

Some odd, disastrous chain of sequences which he had not yet had time to
reason out had fixed this crime on him.  By another equally disastrous
chain of sequences, he must bear its guilt or be false to his
confessor’s vow. Especially must he bear it, if he would shield that
doting mother who trusted him and loved him.

As if to hold himself together, he clasped his arms before him, and his
chin sunk forward on his breast.  As if to accustom his mind to the new
view from which he must look out upon the world, he closed his eyes.
The heaving chest, the tense jaws, the quivering lips, and the mop of
hair that fell disheveled round his temples, all combined to make up the
convincing picture of a strong man breaking.

Not one of those present, crass or sympathetic, but felt himself the
witness to a tragedy in which a man of noble aspirations had been
overtaken and hopelessly crushed by an ingrained weakness which had
expressed itself in sordid crime.

Even the hard face of Searle softened.  With the diamonds gleaming where
they lay, he began mechanically to replace the contents of the box.  But
at the first sound of rustling papers, the minister appeared to rouse
again.  He had stood all alone.  No one had touched him.  No one had
addressed him.  The most indifferent in this circle were stricken dumb
by the spectacle of his fall, while his friends were almost as much
appalled and dazed as he himself appeared to be.

"I suppose," he said with melancholy interest, at the same time moving
round the table to the box, "that I may take it now."

"Certainly, Doctor," replied Searle suavely, yielding his place.
Nevertheless, there was a slight expression of surprise upon his face,
as upon those of the others, at the minister’s sudden revival of concern
in what must now be an utterly trifling detail so far as his own future
went. Hampstead appeared to perceive this.

"There are sacred responsibilities here," he explained gravely, with a
halting utterance that proclaimed the deeps that heaved within him;
"which, strange as it may seem to you gentlemen, even at such an hour I
would not like to forget."

Taking up a handful of the papers, he ran them through his fingers, his
eye pausing for a moment to scan each one of them, and his expression
kindling with first one memory and then another, as if he found a
mournful satisfaction in recalling past days when many a man and woman
had found peace for their souls in making him the sharer in their
heart-burdens,—days which every member of that little circle felt
instinctively were now gone forever.

Last of all his eye checked itself upon the envelope marked "Wadham
Currency."  Allowing the other papers to slip back to their place in the
box the minister turned his glance into the open side of this remaining
envelope.  It was empty, save for a card tucked in the corner.

"This thing appears to have served its purpose," he commented absently,
as if talking to himself.  Then casually he tore the envelope across,
and then again and again; finer and finer; yet not so fine as to excite
suspicion. Looking for a wastebasket and finding none, he was about to
drop the fragments in his coat pocket.

"I will take them," said the vault custodian, holding out his hand.  To
it the minister unhesitatingly committed the shredded envelope and card
which contained the only documentary clue to any other person than
himself as the thief of the Dounay diamonds.  A few minutes later, this
clue was in the wastebasket outside.  The next morning it was in the
furnace.

The group in the vault room broke away with dispirited slowness, as
mourners turn from the freshly heaped earth.  Behind all the minister
lingered, as if unwilling to leave the presence of his dead reputation.

But the man’s appearance somewhat belied his mood. He was thinking
swiftly.  This was no uncommon plot which had overtaken him.  It was
conceived in craft and laid with power to kill.  The diabolical cunning
of the scheme was that it forced him to be silent or to be a traitor.
The indications were that he had been betrayed outrageously; but he did
not know this positively, therefore he could venture no defense at all
against this black array of circumstances.  It might be only some
terrible mistake, and for him to venture more now than the most general
denial might bring about the very calamities he was trying to avert.  He
dared not even tell the truth: that he did not know the diamonds were in
the box.  Especially, he dared not say that he did not put them there.

For the first time an emotion like fear entered his soul, but it passed
the moment the priestly ardor in him saw which way his duty lay.  If
Rollie had grossly sold him into the power of the actress at the price
of his own escape, he felt more sorry for the poor wretch than before.
He was glad that he had destroyed the I.O.U., discovery of which might
have incriminated the young man helplessly, and he resolved to continue
upon his mission as a saviour, even though he himself were lost.  It
suddenly occurred to him with doubling force that this was what it meant
to be a saviour.

With this conviction firmly in his mind, Hampstead turned to Wilson,
Wadham, and Hayes, who had been waiting in considerate silence, and led
the way upward to the dimly lighted lobby of the bank, feeling himself
grow stronger with every step he mounted; for the maze of complexities
in which he found himself had quickly reduced itself to the simple duty
of being true to trust.  Eternal Loyalty was again to be the price of
success.

As his friends gathered about him on the upper floor for a word of
conference, they were astonished at the change in his expression.  It
was calm and even confident; while a kind of spiritual radiance suffused
his features.

"My friends," the minister began in an even voice, that nevertheless was
full of the echo of deep feeling, "I can offer you no explanation of the
scene to which you have just been witnesses.  It is almost inevitable
that you should think me guilty or criminally culpable.  I am neither!"
The affirmation was made as if to acquit his conscience, rather than as
if to be expected to be believed.

"But," and his utterance became incisive, "there is nothing to that
effect which can be said now."

"Something had better be said now," blurted out the practical Wilson
flatly, "or this story in the morning papers will damn you as black as
tar."

"Not one word," declared the minister with quiet emphasis, "can be
spoken now!"

In Hampstead’s bearing there was a notable return of that subtle power
of man mastery which had been so important an element in his success.
Before this even the aggressive, outspoken Wilson was silent; but the
three men stood regarding John with an air at once sympathetic and
doubtful.  They were also expectant, for it was evident from the
minister’s manner that he was deliberating whether he might not take
them at least a little way into his confidence.

"Only this much I can indicate," he volunteered presently.  "A part of
what has happened I understand very clearly.  A part I do not understand
at all.  In the meantime, some one, but not myself, is in jeopardy.
Until the confusion is cleared, or until I can see better what to do
than I see now, I can do nothing but rest under the circumstances which
you have seen enmesh me to-night.  Of course, it is impossible that such
a monstrous injustice can long continue.  I hold the power to clear
myself instantly, but it is a power I cannot use without violating the
most sacred obligation a minister can assume. I will not violate it.  I
must insist that not one single word which I have just hinted to you be
given to the public. Silence, absolute and unwavering silence, is the
course which is forced upon me and upon every friend who would be true
to me, as I shall seek to be true to my duty."

The three friends heard this declaration rather helplessly.  In the
presence of such a lofty spirit of self-immolation, what were mere men
like themselves to say, or do?  Obviously nothing, except to look the
reverence and wonder which they felt and to bow tacitly to his will.
Hampstead knew instinctively and without one word of assurance that
these men, at first overwhelmingly convinced of his guilt by what they
had seen, and then bewildered by his manner, now believed in him
absolutely. It put him at ease with them and gave him assurance to add:

"I know that not one of you is a man to desert a friend in the hour of
his extremity, and no matter what happens I believe your faith in me
will not falter.  You will understand my wish to thank you for what you
have done and may do, and to say good-by for to-night.  My burning
desire now is to get by myself and try to comprehend what has happened
and what may yet happen before this miserable business is concluded."

Cordially taking the hand of each, while the men one after another
responded with fervent expressions of faith and confidence, the minister
turned quickly upon his heel, crossed the street, and leaped lightly
upon a passing car.

Silence!  Silence!  Unwavering silence!  The car wheels seemed to beat
this injunction up to him with every revolution.  Silence for the sake
of others, some of whom were supremely worthy, one at least of whom
might be wretchedly unworthy!  Above all, silence for the sake of his
vow as a vicar of Christ on earth.  What was it to be a Christian if not
to be a miniature Christ,—a poor, stumbling, tottering, stained and
far-off pattern of the mighty archetype of human goodness and
perfection?  According to his strength, he, John Hampstead, was to be
permitted to suffer as a saviour of a very small part of mankind and in
a very temporary and no doubt in a very inadequate way, the virtue of
which should lie in the fact that it pointed beyond himself to the one
saviour who was supremely able.  He, too, must be "dumb before his
shearers", not stubbornly, not guiltily, and not spectacularly, but
faithfully and for a worth-while purpose,—the saving of a man.

For a change had come swiftly in the relative importance of the motives
which determined his course.  With the actual coming of his cross, he
had caught a loftier vision.  It was not to save the few remaining weeks
or months or years of the life of a saintly and beautiful woman that he
was to stand silent even to trial, conviction, and disgrace.  It was to
save the soul of a man, a wretched, vain, ornamental and unutilitarian
sort of person, but none the less unusually gifted in many of his
faculties, perhaps wanting only an experience like this to precipitate
the better elements in his nature into the foundation of such a
character as his mother believed him to possess.

This change of emphasis strengthened Hampstead enormously.  It gave him
calm and resolution, increasing self-control and fortitude, a dignity of
bearing that promised at least to remain unbroken, and a sense of the
presence of the Presence which it seemed could not depart from him.

When John reached home, he found Rose, Dick, and Tayna waiting
anxiously.  A sight of his face, with the new strength and dignity upon
it, allayed their apprehension, but the solemnity of manner in which he
gathered them about him in the study roused their fears again. Briefly
he related how the diamonds had been discovered in his safe deposit
vault.  Sternly but kindly he repressed the hot outburst of Dick;
sympathetically he tried to stem the tears of Tayna, but before the pale
face and the dry, fixed eyes of Rose he stood a moment, mute and
hesitant, then said with tender brotherliness:

"Old girl, in the silence of waiting for my vindication, it is going to
be easier for you and the children to trust me than for others.  But
even for you it will be hard. Others can withdraw from me, can wash
their hands of me; and they may do it.  You cannot, and would not if you
could."

Rose clasped her brother’s hand in silent assurance; but Hampstead went
on with saddened voice to portray what was to be expected.

"You will all have to bear the shame with me.  In fact, my shame will be
yours.  You, Rose, will be pointed out upon the street as my sister.
Tayna, at school to-morrow, may encounter fewer smiles and some eyes
that refuse to meet hers.  Dick will have some hurts to bear among his
fellows, for he has been loyally and perhaps boastfully proud of me.  I
have only this to ask, that you will each walk with head up and
unafraid, with no attempt at apology nor justification, and with no
unkind word for those who in act or judgment seem unkind to me."

The feeling that they were to be honored with bearing a part of the
burden of the big man whom they loved so deeply stirred the emotions of
the little group almost beyond control.  Dick moved first, clutching his
uncle’s hand.

"You bet your life!" he blurted, then turned and bolted from the room.
Tayna next flung her arms about her uncle’s neck and wet his cheek with
scalding tears, then dashed away after Dick.  Last of all, Rose stood
with her hands upon his shoulders.  She was taller for a woman than he
for a man, and could look almost level into his eyes.

"My brother!" she said significantly.  "My strong, noble, innocent"—and
then a gleam of light shot into her eyes as she added—"my triumphant
brother!"

"My bravest, truest of sisters!"  The big man breathed softly, and
drawing the woman to him imprinted that kiss upon the forehead which,
seldom bestowed, marked when given his genuine tribute of respect and
affection to the woman who, older than himself by ten years, had been
the mother to his orphaned youth and had created the obligation which,
uncharged, he none the less acknowledged and had striven to repay by a
life of conscientious devotion to her and to her children.

The door closed after her "Good night", and John stood alone glancing
reflectively about the long, book-lined room.  Here many of his greatest
experiences had come to him.  Here he had caught the far-off kindling
visions of that rarely human Galilean, with his rarely human group about
him, trudging over the hills, sitting by the side of the sea, teaching,
healing, helping.  Here he had caught the vision of himself following,
afar off, two thousand years behind, but following—teaching, healing,
helping—in His name.

The telephone rang, its sharp, metallic jingle shocking the very
atmosphere into apprehensive tremors.  Yet instantly recalled to himself
and to the new height on which he stood, Hampstead lifted the receiver
with a firm hand and replied in an even, measured voice: "_The
Sentinel_?—Yes—Yes—No—There is nothing to say—Absolutely!—I do."

The receiver was hung up.  The only change in Hampstead’s voice from the
beginning to the end of this conversation, the larger part of which had
taken place upon the other end of the line, was a deepening gravity of
utterance.  In a few moments the ’phone rang again.  It was _The Press_.
The papers all had the story now.  The Oakland offices of the San
Francisco papers were also clamoring.  Each wanted to know what the
minister had to say to the damning discovery of the diamonds in his box.

For them all Hampstead had the same answer: "I have nothing to say—yet."
Some of the inquisitors cleverly attempted to draw the clergyman out by
suggesting that there was plenty of opportunity for a countercharge that
the diamonds had been planted in his box, since it was improbable in the
last degree that a man of ordinary intelligence would conceal stolen
diamonds in a safe deposit box held in his own name, the key to which he
carried in his own pocket; but the self-controlled man at the other end
of the telephone fell into no such trap.  To direct attention to an
inquiry as to who had visited his vault, or might have visited it,
during the time since the diamonds were stolen was the last thing the
minister would do.  Already he had reasoned that the vault custodian on
duty in the morning, knowing that Hampstead had not been to the vault
during the day, but that Assistant Cashier Burbeck had, would do some
excogitating upon his own account; but the minister reflected that this
would not be dangerous, since the custodian, sharing in the very great
confidence which Rollie enjoyed, would conclude that this young man had
been made the innocent messenger for depositing the diamonds in the
vault, and for the sake of unpleasant consequences which might result to
the bank, would no doubt keep his mouth tightly shut.

The last call of all came from Haggard, whose city editor had just told
him that the minister declined any sort of an explanation.  Haggard was
managing editor of _The Press_ and Hampstead’s true friend.

"Do you know what this does to your friends?" demanded Haggard
passionately.  "It makes them as dumb as you are.  I know you; you’ve
got something up your sleeve.  But this case isn’t going to be tried in
the courts. It’s being tried in the newspapers right now.  Once the
court of public opinion goes against you, it’s hard to get a reversal.
And it’s going against you from the minute this story gets before the
public—our version of it even—for we have got to print the news, you
know.  We’ve never had bigger."

Some sort of a protest gurgled from Hampstead’s lips.

"Oh," broke out Haggard still more impatiently, "I think the majority
have too much sense to believe you’re a common thief; but they’re going
to be convinced you’re a damned fool.  A public man had better be found
guilty of being a thief than an ass, any day.  Now, what can I say?"

"I am very sorry," replied Hampstead in a patient voice, "but you can
say nothing—absolutely nothing."



                             *CHAPTER XXXI*

                            *A MISADVENTURE*


Counting back from the scene in the vault room of the Amalgamated
National, which took place at about nine-thirty, it was five and
one-half hours to the time when Marien Dounay and Rollie Burbeck had
steamed out with Mrs. Harrington upon her luxurious launch, the _Black
Swan_, which was so commodious and powerful that it just escaped being a
sea-going yacht.

But now, after the lapse of this five and one-half hours, neither Marien
nor Rollie had returned, and only one of them had an inkling of what
might have been happening in their absence.  Information from the
Harrington residence that the _Black Swan_ would return to the pier
about ten-thirty, caused a group of hopeful young men from the newspaper
offices to take up their station on the yacht pier slightly in advance
of that hour.  But their wait was long, so long in fact that one by one
they gave up their vigil and returned to their respective offices with
no answer as yet to the burning question of what had led Miss Dounay to
suspect that her diamonds were in the minister’s safe deposit vault.
But the distress and disappointment of the reporters was nothing like so
great as the distress and disappointment upon the _Black Swan_, although
for a very different reason.

The evening with Mrs. Harrington and her guests had begun pleasantly
enough.  The party itself was a jolly one, and so far as might be judged
from outward appearances, Miss Marien Dounay was quite the jolliest of
all; excepting perhaps Mrs. Harrington herself who was elated over the
unexpected appearance of the actress; and Rollie, over its effect in
immediately restoring him to the lost favor of his hostess.  As many
times as it was demanded, Miss Dounay told and retold the story of the
loss of her jewels.  She was the recipient of much sympathy and of many
compliments because of the admirable fortitude with which she endured
her loss.

Rollie thought Miss Dounay appeared able to dispense with the sympathy,
but perceived that she greatly enjoyed the compliments.  That she should
keep the company in ignorance that her diamonds were to be recovered and
continue to enact the rôle of the heroine who had been cruelly robbed of
her chief possession, did not even surprise him.  It was her affair
entirely since she had bound him to secrecy, and whatever the motive, in
the present state of his nerves, he was exceedingly grateful for it;
having meantime not a doubt that the disclosure would be made ultimately
in a manner which would permit the actress to gratify to the full her
childish love of theatrical sensation.

The cruise began with a run far up San Pablo Bay toward Carquinez
Straits, followed by a straightaway drive out through the Golden Gate to
watch the sun sink between the horns of the Farallones; but here the
heavy swells made the ladies gasp and clamor for a return to the shelter
of the Bay.  Re-entering the Gate as night fell, there was good fun in
playing hide-and-seek from searchlight practice of the forts on either
side the famous tideway, and some mischievous satisfaction in lounging
in the track of the floundering, pounding ferryboats, and getting
vigorously whistled out of the way.  It was even enjoyable to grow
sentimental over the phosphorescent glow of the waves in the wake or the
play of the moonbeams on the bone-white crest at the bow.  But after an
hour or so of this, when it would seem that all of these things together
with the tonic of the fresh salt breeze had made everybody wolfishly
hungry, Mrs. Harrington’s butler, expertly assisted, opened great
hampers of eatables and drinkables, and began to serve them in the cabin
which would have been rather spacious if the crowd had not been so
large.

"Calmer water, James, while supper is being served!" Mrs. Harrington had
ordered with a peace-be-still air.

James communicated the order to the captain, who understood very well
that Mrs. Harrington was a lady to be obeyed.  But it happened that
there was a very fresh breeze on the Bay that night, and that a swell
which was a kind of left-over from a gale outside two days before was
still sloshing about inside, so that "calmer water" was not just the
easiest thing to find, though the captain looked for it hard.

"Calmer water, James, I said!" Mrs. Harrington directed reprovingly,
after an interval of watchful impatience, accompanying the observation
by a look that shot barbs into the eye of the butler.  A close observer
would have noticed—and James was a close observer of his mistress—that
Mrs. Harrington’s neck swelled slightly, and that a flush began to mount
upon her cheeks.

James knew this pouter-pigeon swelling well and its significance.  Mrs.
Harrington _must_ now be obeyed. Calmer water had to be had, if it had
to be made.

"Back of Yerba Buena, it is calmer," the lady concluded, with an
increase of acerbity.

James lost no time in conveying this second command and a description of
its accompanying signal, to the captain.

"’Behind the Goat,’ she said," James concluded.

Now this island which humps like a camel in the middle of the San
Francisco Bay is known to the esthetics as Yerba Buena, but to folks and
to mariners it is Goat Island.  James was folks; the captain was a
mariner. Mrs. Harrington might have been esthetic.

"She draws too much to go nosin’ round in there," replied the captain
reluctantly, and explained his reluctance with a mixture of emphasis and
the picturesque, by adding, "Behind the Goat it’s shoal from hell to
breakfast."

"She said it," replied James truculently; and stood by to see the helm
shift.

"In she goes then, dod gast her!" muttered the captain.

"So much calmer in here under the sheltering lee of Yerba Buena,"
chirped Miss Gwendolyn Briggs, another quarter of an hour later.

"Why, to be sure," assented the hostess, as with a provident air she
surveyed her contented and consuming guests who were ranged like a
circling frieze upon the seat of Pullman plush which ran round the
luxurious cabin, with James and his two assistants serving from the long
table in the center.

It has been hinted that Mrs. Harrington was inclined to stoutness.  She
was also inclined to Russian caviar. Having seen her guests abundantly
supplied, she lifted to her lips a triangle of toast, thickly spread
with the Romanof confection.  James stood before her, supporting a plate
upon which were more triangles of toast and more caviar in a frilled and
corrugated carton.

But quite abruptly Mrs. Harrington, who was proper as well as expert in
all her food-taking manners, did an unaccountable thing.  She turned the
toast sidewise and smeared the caviar across her wide cheek almost from
the corner of her mouth to her ear.  At the same moment James himself
did an even more unaccountable thing.  He lurched forward, decorated his
mistress’s shoulders with the triangles of toast, like a new form of
epaulette and upset the carton of caviar upon her expansive bosom, where
the dark, oleaginous mass clung helplessly, quivered hesitantly, and
then began to roll away in tiny, black spheres and to send out trickling
exploratory streams, the general tendency of which was downward.

Nor was Mrs. Harrington alone in this sudden eccentricity of deportment.
Over on the right Major Hassler, florid of person and extremely
dignified of manner, was filling the wine glass of Mrs. Marston Conant,
when abruptly he moved the mouth of the bottle a full twelve inches and
began to pour its contents in a frothy gurgling stream down the back of
the withered neck of John Ray, a rich, irascible, slightly deaf, and
sinfully rich bachelor, who at the moment had leaned very low and
forward to catch a remark that the lady next beyond was making.  As if
not content with the ruin thus wrought, Major Hassler next swept the
bottle in a dizzy, cascading circle round him, sprinkling every toilet
within a radius of three yards, and after dropping the bottle and
flourishing his arms wildly, ended by plunging both hands to the bottom
of the huge bowl of punch on the end of the table nearest him.

The only palliating feature of these amazing performances of Major
Hassler, of James, and of Mrs. Harrington, was that nearly everybody
else was executing the same sort of scrambling, lurching, colliding,
capsizing, and smearing manoeuvres upon their own account.  For a moment
everybody glared at everybody else accusingly, and then Ernest
Cartwright, sitting on the floor where he had been hurled, offered an
interpretation of the phenomena.

"We struck something!" he suggested brightly.

"By Gad!" declared Major Hassler with sudden conviction, as he
straightened up and viewed his dripping hands and cuffs with an
expression quite indescribable. "By Gad!  That’s just what I think!"

"James!" murmured a voice almost entirely smothered by rage.

James, despite the horrible fear in his soul, dared to turn his gaze
upon his mistress, when suddenly a spasm of pain crossed the lady’s
face.

"Oh!" she gasped.  "Oh, my heart!"  Wrath had given way to fright, and
the hue of wrath to pallor.

In the meantime, the _Black Swan_ was standing very still, as still as
if on land,—which to be exact was where she was.  From without came the
sound of waves slapping idly against her sides, and then she shivered
while the screws were reversed and churned desperately.  From end to end
of the cabin there were "Ohs" and "Ahs," and shrieks of dismay, with
short ejaculations, as the guests struggled to their feet and stood to
view the ruin which the sudden stoppage of the craft had wrought upon
toilets, dispositions, and the atmosphere of Mrs. Harrington’s happy
party.

The next half hour, to employ a marine phrase, was devoted to salvage of
one sort and another.  One thing became speedily clear.  The _Black
Swan_ had her nose fast in most tenacious clay.  No amount of churning
of the screw could drag her off.  And no amount of tooting of whistles
brought any sort of craft to her assistance. She was stuck there till
the tide should take her off. The tide was running out.  By rough
calculation, it would be eight hours till it came back strong enough to
lift up her stern and rock her nose loose.

It was an unpleasant prospect.

With Mrs. Harrington sitting propped and pale in the end of the cabin,
her guests tried to cheer her by making light of their plight and the
prospect; but as the waters slipped out and out from under the _Black
Swan_, till she lay on the bottom with a drunken list, and the hours
crept along with dreary slowness through the tiresome night, one
disposition after another succumbed to the inevitable and became cattish
or bearish, according to sex.  But the very first disposition of all to
go permanently bad was that of Marien Dounay.  Young Burbeck thought he
understood to the full her capacity to be disagreeable, but learned in
the first hour that this was a ridiculously mistaken assumption.

Nor could any mere petulance on account of weariness or cramped quarters
among people who under these circumstances speedily became a bore to
themselves and to each other, account for her behavior.  Never had
Rollie seen so many manifestations of her feline restlessness, or her
wiry endurance.  When other women had sunk exhausted to sleep upon a
cushion in a corner, or upon the shoulders of an escort who obligingly
supported the fair head with his own weary body, Miss Dounay sat bolt
and desperate, staring at the myriad shoreward lights as if they held
some secret her wilful eyes would yet bore out of them.

Though Rollie loyally tried, as endurance would permit, to watch with
Marien through the night, sustaining snubs and shafts with humble
patience and venturing an occasional dismal attempt at cheer, the first
sign of relaxation in Miss Dounay’s mood was vouchsafed not to him but
to François.

This was when at eight o’clock the next morning, after toiling painfully
up the steps at the landing pier, her eyes fell upon the huge black
limousine, with the faithful chauffeur, his arms folded upon the wheel,
his head leaning forward upon them, sound asleep.  He had been there
since ten-thirty of the night before.  Other chauffeurs had waited and
fumed, had sputtered to and fro in joy-riding intervals, and had gone
home; but not François.  A smile of pride and satisfaction played across
Miss Dounay’s face at this exhibition of faithfulness,—and especially in
the presence of this jaded, dispirited crowd.

"François," Miss Dounay exclaimed, prodding his elbow until his head
rolled sleepily into wakefulness, "I could kiss you!"

However, she did not.  Rollie opened the door, Miss Dounay stepped back,
motioned into the comfortable depths Mrs. Harrington and as many other
of the ladies as the car would accommodate, and was whirled away.



                            *CHAPTER XXXII*

                    *THE COWARD AND HIS CONSCIENCE*


On the theory that his duty as an escort still survived, Rollie was
given a seat upon the limousine beside François; but at the door of the
St. Albans Miss Dounay dismissed him as curtly as if she had quite
forgotten that he was now or ever of any importance to her.

While to escape a breakfast with that thistle-tempered lady on such a
morning would, under ordinary conditions, have been a distinct relief,
this morning it appealed to Rollie as merely palliative.  It was a
mercy, but no more.  He did not expect to know one single sensation of
real relief until he saw Miss Dounay holding her precious diamonds once
more in her hands.  It was his intention, after a hasty breakfast, to
make the swiftest possible transit to the residence of the Reverend John
Hampstead and there secure the loan of a certain key and rush back to
the bank.  Within, say, seven minutes thereafter, he anticipated that
this taste of true relief would come to him.

It was twenty minutes past eight as he crossed the wide lobby of the
hotel.  His physical condition was far from enviable.  He was clad in a
baggy-elbowed, wretchedly wrinkled, and somewhat stained yachting suit.
He had not slept since the night before, in which, he now recalled, he
had not slept at all.  During this extended period of wakefulness he had
been upset and out of his orbit.  Yet all this while the world had been
rocking along, provokingly undisturbed by his troubles, and right now a
big new day was hurrying on.  The cars were banging outside, and the
newsboys were making a devil of a racket about something, their cries
filling the street and ringing vibrantly into the lobby from without.
Everything was strident and noisy, jarring upon his nerves.  His first
instinct was a dive for the bar, but he stopped before the door was
reached.  He was on a new tack.  He resolved not to drink to-day.  He
had signed no pledges; but he felt that a highball was not in keeping
with what he proposed to do.

Instead he veered toward the grillroom and ordered a pot of hot, hot
coffee with rolls.  To fill the impatient interval between the order and
the service, he snatched eagerly at the morning paper in the extended
hand of a waiter.  At the first glance his eyes dilated, and his lips
parted.

When the coffee came, he was still absorbed.  The dark liquid was cold
before he swallowed it, mechanically, in great gulps.  It was well the
chair had arms, or his body might have fallen from it.  His mind was
reeling like a drunken thing as he tried to grasp the process by which a
woman’s malice had used him for a vicious assault upon the man who had
saved him when he stood eye to eye with ruin.

Slowly Burbeck’s muddled intelligence groped backward over the events of
yesterday.  What a fool, he! How clever, she!  How demoniacally clever!
No wonder she forgave him so lightly; no wonder she cooed so
ecstatically once she found the diamonds were in the preacher’s vault!
No wonder she had made sure that he went upon the yachting party, even
to the point of going herself.  It was to keep him out of reach until
her diabolical plot against Hampstead could take effect.  And no wonder
she sat bolt and staring at the shore lights all the long night through.

But why did she plot against Hampstead?  What was between the clergyman
and herself?  Why did Hampstead not strike out boldly and clear himself
at one stroke, by the mere opening of his lips?  He not only had not
defended himself, but the papers declared he had a guilty air, that he
fought against the opening of the box, and bore himself in a manner that
convinced even his bondsmen he was guilty.

But the newspaper chanced to relate as an interesting detail how the
minister had quickly recovered his self-possession, to the extent of
rearranging the contents of his box after their handling by Assistant
District Attorney Searle, and that he had even casually destroyed one
paper with the remark that it was something no longer to be preserved.

This almost accidental sentence gave Rollie the strangest feeling of
all.  He knew what it must have been that was destroyed,—the evidence of
his own indebtedness, to explain which would inevitably lead to his
exposure. This, too, accounted for the preacher’s protest and his
apparent guilty fear.  He could not know the diamonds were in the box;
he did know the I.O.U. was there.  He had destroyed it at the very
moment when the discovery of the diamonds must surely have convinced him
that the culprit he was shielding had betrayed him like a Judas.

"And yet he stands pat!" breathed Rollie huskily, while the greatest
emotion of human gratitude that his heart could hold swelled his breast
almost to bursting.

"I didn’t know they made a man that would stand the gaff like that," he
confessed after a further reflective interval.

Burbeck’s first instinct was to rush to the telephone and acquit himself
in the minister’s mind of all complicity in the plot; for inevitably
Rollie thought first of himself. But thought for himself recalled the
threat of Marien Dounay.  How fiercely she had warned him that his
secret was not his own, but hers!  He grasped the significance of her
threat now as she had shrewdly calculated that he would.  Let him murmur
a word, let him attempt, no matter how subtly or adroitly, to set in
motion any plan that would loosen the tightening coils about John
Hampstead, and this woman would turn her crazy vengeance on him, would
fasten his crime upon him, would do a baser thing than that,—would make
it appear that he had deliberately placed the diamonds in the minister’s
vault, thus causing her innocently to do him this grave injustice.  Thus
in his exposure he would not be contemplated with indulgent sadness as a
gentleman weakling who had descended to vulgar crime to make good
another crime as heinous; but, on the contrary, would be regarded
hatefully, repulsively, with loathsome scorn and withering contempt, as
a despicable ingrate base enough to shift his guilt to the shoulders of
the one who had rescued him.

Before this prospect, fear paralyzed every other impulse of his heart,
every faculty of his brain.  His head was aching violently.  He pressed
his hands against his temples, and wondered how he could get quietly out
of here and where he could fly.

A secluded room of this very hotel suggested the surest isolation.  He
got up-stairs to the writing room, where a hastily scrawled note to
Parma, the cashier, made the night upon the Bay the excuse for his
absence from the bank for the day.  Another to his mother,—he dared not
hear her voice telling him of what had befallen her beloved pastor,—that
he was too weary even to come home and would sleep the day out in
Oakland, leaving his exact whereabouts unknown to avoid the possibility
of disturbance.

Mustering one final rally of his volitional powers, Rollo approached the
desk and registered as some one not himself before the very eyes of the
clerk, who knew him well and laughingly became accessory to the
subterfuge.

Once within the privacy of his room, the impulse to telephone to John
Hampstead and tell that distracted man a thing which he would be greatly
desiring to know, came again to the young man; but in part exhaustion
and in part cowardice led him to postpone that simple act till he had
slept, rested, thought.

A few minutes later, with shades darkened and clothing half removed, he
buried his feverish head among the pillows and sought to bury
consciousness as well.  But the latter attempt was a failure, for the
young man found himself prodded into the extreme of
wakefulness,—thinking, thinking, thinking, until he was all but mad. Out
of all this thinking gradually emerged one solid, unshifting fact.  This
was the character of John Hampstead.  He, Rollo Burbeck, might be a
shriveling, paltering coward; Marien Dounay might be only a beautiful
fiend; but John Hampstead was a strong, unwavering man.  John Hampstead
would stand firm!

Buoying his soul on this idea, Rollie dropped off to feverish slumber.
But the sleeper awoke suddenly with one question hooking at his vitals.
Was any man physically equal to such a strain?  Was John Hampstead still
standing firm like the huge human bulwark he had begun to seem?

Shrill cries floated upward from the street, sounding above the
persistent whang of car wheels upon the rails. These were the voices of
the newsboys crying the noon edition.

Rollie rose uncertainly and tottered to the telephone, where he asked
that the latest papers be sent up to him, and awaited their coming in an
ague of suspense and fear.

When they were received, he found little upon the front of either but
the story of the minister’s arrest for the theft of the diamonds and the
finding of the jewels in his box, coupled with fresh emphasis upon his
exhibition of the demeanor of a guilty man.  It flowed up and down the
chopped-off and sawed-out columns, liberally besprinkled with
photographs of the chief actors in the drama, then turned upon the
second page and spread itself riotously, in various types.

Through these paragraphs the mind of young Burbeck scrambled like a
terrier digging for a rat, pawing his way desperately to make sure of
the answer to his one, all-consuming question: Was the preacher still
standing?  The first paper declared accusingly that he was; that, like a
guilty man taking advantage of technicalities, he refused to speak.  The
second paper affirmed the same, but with even greater emphasis, though
without the meaner implication.

In the spread-out story there were set forth details and conjectures
innumerable that would have interested and amazed Rollie, if his mind
had been able to grasp them at all; but it was not.  It fastened upon
the one thing of ultimate significance in his present water-logged
state. Hugging in his arms the papers which conveyed this supreme
assurance to him, as if they had been the spar to which his soul was
clinging, he rolled over upon the bed with a sigh of intense relief and
sank instantly into long and unbroken sleep.

Hunger wakened him at eight in the evening; but instead of ringing for
food, he asked for the evening papers.  Again their message was
reassuring.  His nerves were stronger now; his soul was gaining the
respite which it needed.  He dispatched a messenger to his home for
fresh linen and a business suit, turned on the water in the bath,
arranged for the presence of a barber in his room in fifteen minutes,
and the service of a hearty dinner in the same place in thirty.

The refreshment of invigorating sleep, plus the spectacle of John
Hampstead, that Atlas of a man, standing rock-like beneath the world of
another’s burden, had inspired Rollie sufficiently to enable him to
resume once more the pose of his presumed position in life.  To be sure,
he was still under the spell of his fear,—and could not see himself as
yet doing one thing to weaken the pressure upon his benefactor.

For this dastardly inactivity he suffered a flood of self-reproaches,
but stemmed them with reflections upon the irreproachable character of
the minister, and his impregnable position in the community.  He
reflected how futile and puerile all the endeavors of the newspapers to
involve this good man in scandal must prove.  How ridiculous the idea
that he could be a common thief! How suddenly the wide, sane public,
after a day or two’s debauch of excitement, would turn and bestow again
their unwavering confidence upon this man and laurel his brow with fresh
and more permanent expressions of their regard for his high character.
Reflections like this, winged by his own inside knowledge of the true
greatness of the victim, together with the soothing influence of a bath,
the ministrations of a skilled barber, and the sedative effects of a
good dinner, sent young Burbeck to his home somewhere about ten o’clock
in the evening, to all appearances quite his usual, happy-looking self.

The telephone had apprised his mother of his coming, and she had
remained up to meet him.

"Oh, my son!" she murmured happily, as he laid his smooth cheek against
hers and mingled his wavy brown hair with the silvering threads of her
own dark tresses.

The young man gave his mother a gentle pressure of his hands upon her
shoulders, then turned his face and kissed her cheek, but ventured no
word.  A sense of blood guiltiness had come upon him at the contact of
her presence.

"Of course you have seen what that woman and the papers are doing to
Brother Hampstead," his mother observed sadly.

"Yes," replied the young man, in a tone as dejected as hers.

"They are tearing his reputation to pieces," the mother went on.  "There
is hardly a shred of it left now.  Like vultures they are digging over
every detail of his life and putting a sinister interpretation upon the
most innocent things.  The worst of it is that even our own people begin
to turn against him.  Some of the people for whom he has done the most
and suffered the most are readiest with their tongues to blast his
character.  It is a sad commentary upon the way of the world."

"Still," urged Rollie, "the man is strong; his character is so upright;
his purposes are so high and so unselfish that no permanent harm can
come to him.  His enemies must sooner or later be confuted, and he will
emerge from all this pother—"  Pother: it took great resolution for
Rollie to force so large a fact into so small a word—"a bigger and a
more influential man in the community, even a more useful one than
before."

Mrs. Burbeck listened to this tribute from her beloved son to her
beloved minister with a joy that was pathetic. She had never known him
to speak so heartily, with such unreserved admiration before.  It told
her things about the character of her son she had hoped but had not
known. Yet she felt herself compelled to disagree with her son’s
conclusions.

"That is where you are wrong, my boy," she said, again in tones of
sadness.  "The public mind is a strange consciousness.  If it once gets
a view of a man through the smoked glasses of prejudice, it seldom
consents to look at him any other way.  Remove to-morrow every vestige
of evidence against Brother Hampstead, and, mark my words! the fickle
public will begin to discover or invent new reasons why, once having
hurled its idol down, it will not put him up again."

"You take it too seriously, mother," suggested Rollie half-heartedly,
after a moment of silence.

"No, I do not," Mrs. Burbeck replied, shaking her head gravely.  "The
worst of it is the man’s absolute silence.  If he would only say
something.  There must be some sort of explanation.  If he took the
diamonds, there must have been some laudable reason.  This morning there
were literally tens of thousands of people hoping for such an
explanation and ready to give to him the benefit of every doubt.  There
are fewer such to-night.  There will be fewer still to-morrow.

"If somebody else stole them, and Brother Hampstead, to protect the
thief, planned to hold them temporarily while immunity was gained for
the coward, he must see now that he made a terrible mistake, that for
once he has carried his extravagant leniency entirely too far.  If this
theory is correct, the thief must have fled beyond the very reach of the
newspapers, or be insane, or a drug fiend, or something like that.  I
cannot conceive of any human being so base, or in a position so delicate
that he would not instantly make a public confession to spare his
benefactor."

Rollie had turned and was looking straight at his mother, almost
reproachfully, certainly protestingly, at the torture she was causing
him.  She saw this strange look and stopped.

"Oh, my boy," she exclaimed.  "You are so sympathetic. How proud, how
selfishly happy it makes me to feel that nothing like this can ever come
upon my son!"

But Rollie’s eyes had shifted quickly to a picture on the opposite wall,
and he braced himself desperately against these bomb-like assaults of
his mother upon his position.

"Yes," he said after an interval, "it must be pretty hard on Hampstead."
But though he made this remark seem natural, his brain was again
reeling.  With mighty effort he forced himself to give the conversation
another turn by a question which had been fascinating him during the
whole day.

"Tell me," he asked, "how is father taking it?"

"Very hardly," Mrs. Burbeck confessed.  "You know your father: so proud,
so exact and scrupulous in all his dealings, with his word better than
the average man’s bond, yet not lenient toward the man who errs. He
thinks everybody good or bad, every soul white or black.  When Brother
Hampstead was prosecuting law-breakers in court, father was proud of
him; but when he goes off helping jail-birds and fallen women, father is
harsh and utterly unsympathetic.

"Last night when the first charge appeared, father was greatly incensed,
because at last, he said, Brother Hampstead had done the thing he always
feared, brought the church into a notoriety that was unpleasant.  This
morning, at the story of the diamonds in the vault, he was dumbfounded.
To-night he talks of nothing but that, whatever the outcome, All
People’s shall clear its skirts of the unpleasantness by requesting
Brother Hampstead’s resignation."

"Resignation!" Rollie gasped.  "Resignation—simply for doing his duty!
Why," he burst out excitedly, "that would be treachery!  It would be the
act of Judas. Don’t let father do it, mother," he pleaded.  "Don’t let
him put me in that position!"

A wild look had come into the young man’s face as he spoke.

"You?  In what position?"

Mrs. Burbeck was surprised at the expression on her son’s face.

For a moment Rollie floundered wildly.

"Why, you see—I—I believe in Hampstead.  I—I have told the bank that he
is all right, no matter what happens.  I don’t want my own father
reading him out of the church, do I?"

Mrs. Burbeck’s perplexity gave way to smiling comprehension, which was
met by relief and some approach to composure upon the features of her
son, who felt that he had escaped the eddy of an appalling danger.

"Naturally," replied Mrs. Burbeck soothingly.  "What a loyal nature
yours is!  By the way, Rollie," and the force of a new idea energized
her glance and tone; "it is only half-past ten.  Wouldn’t it be fine of
you to just run over and give Brother Hampstead a pressure of the hand
to-night, and tell him how loyally your heart is with him in this trying
situation?  It would mean so much to him coming from a strong,
successful, young man of the world like you, whose position he must
admire so much!"

Rollie’s face went white, and his eyes roved despairingly. It must have
been well for the mother’s peace of mind, as it certainly was for his,
that, having asked her question, instead of studying his face while she
waited for the answer, she let her eyes fall to the seal ring she had
given him upon his twenty-first birthday, and busied herself with
studying out again the complexities of the monogram and holding off the
hand itself to see how handsomely the ring adorned it.

"I think I’d rather not to-night, mother," Rollie replied, as if after a
moment of deliberation.  "This thing works me up terribly—you can see
that—and I’m a bit short on sleep yet.  If I went to see Brother
Hampstead to-night, I’m sure I shouldn’t sleep a wink afterward.
Besides, my coming might alarm him.  It might make him think his plight
is worse than it is; it would be so unusual."

Again the mother-love surged above any other emotion.  "You are right,"
she admitted, caressing his hand.  "It was only an impulse of mine,
anyway.  You must be tired, poor boy."

"Pretty tired, mother," he confessed truthfully; then stooped and kissed
her upon the cheek and seemed to leave the room naturally enough,
although in his soul he knew that he fled from her presence like a
criminal from his conscience.



                            *CHAPTER XXXIII*

                     *THE BATTLE OF THE HEADLINES*


Hampstead was determined not to show the white feather.  The morning
after the discovery of the diamonds in his box, he made the effort to go
about his daily duties unconcernedly and even happily, with a smile of
confidence upon his face.  His bearing was to proclaim his innocence.
But it would not work.  Crowds gaped.  Individuals stared.  Reporters
hounded.  The very people who needed his help and had been accustomed to
receive it gratefully, appeared to shrink from his presence.  At the
homes where he called, an atmosphere of restraint and artificiality was
created.  He tried to thaw this and failed dismally; it was evident that
the recipients of his attentions also tried, but also failed, for all
the while their doubts peeped out at him.

After half a day the minister gave up and sat at home—immured, besieged,
impounded.  He was like a man upon a rock isolated by a deluge, the
waters rolling horizon-wide and surging higher with every edition of the
newspapers.

Oh, those newspapers!  John Hampstead had not realized before how much
of modern existence is lived in the newspapers.  So amazingly skillful
were they in sweeping away his public standing that the process was
actually interesting.  He found himself absorbed by it, viewing it
almost impersonally, like a mere spectator, moved by it, swayed to one
side or the other, as the record seemed to run.  The description of the
scene in the vault room, even as it appeared unembellished in Haggard’s
paper, overwhelmed him.

"It is the manner of a thief hopelessly guilty," he confessed.

On the other hand, when Haggard’s paper in an editorial asked
argumentatively: "Why should this man steal?  What need had he for money
in large sums?"  John’s judgment approved the soundness of such a
defense.  "There were a score," affirmed the editorial, "perhaps a
hundred men who had and would freely supply Doctor Hampstead with all
the money necessary for the exigencies of the work to which he
notoriously devoted all his time.  As for his personal needs, the man
lived simply.  He had no wants beyond his income."

"True—perfectly true.  A good point that," conceded Hampstead to
himself.

But that evening one of the San Francisco papers reported that at about
the time the diamonds were stolen, the Reverend Hampstead had approached
various persons in Oakland with a view to borrowing a large sum of money
without stating for what the money was required.  The paper volunteered
the conjecture that the minister, through speculation in stocks, had
overdrawn some fund of which he was a trustee, and of which he was
presently to be called upon to give an accounting; hence the desperate
resort to the theft of the diamonds and the temporary holding of them in
his vault, boldly counting on his own immunity from suspicion.

This conjecture was extremely damaging.  It skillfully suggested a
logical hypothesis upon which the minister could be assumed to be a
thief; and so high had been the man’s standing that some such hypothesis
was necessary.

As Hampstead read this, he felt the viciousness of the thrust.  It was
false, but it had the color of an actual incident behind it.  Some
clerk, bookkeeper, or secretary to one of the men who had so promptly
enabled him to meet Rollie’s defalcation, seeing the comparatively large
sum in cash passed to the hand of the minister, had done a little
thinking at the time and when the arrest came had done a little talking.

Yet the morning papers of the next day had apparently forgotten this
incident.  They were off in full cry upon a much more dangerous trail by
digging deeper into the relations between the minister and the actress.
As if from hotel employees, or some one in Miss Dounay’s service, one of
them had elicited and put together a story of all the calls that
Hampstead had made upon Miss Dounay in her hotel during the five weeks
she had been at the St. Albans.  This story made it appear that the
minister had become infatuated with the actress, and that he had sought
every means of spending time in her company.

It was skillfully revealed that Miss Dounay at first had been greatly
attracted by the personality and the apparent sincerity of the
clergyman; but as her social acquaintance in the city rapidly extended
and the work upon her London production became more engrossing, she had
less and less time for him, and was finally compelled to deny herself
almost entirely to the divine’s unwelcome attentions, notwithstanding
which the clergyman still found means of forcing himself upon the
actress.  One such occasion, it appeared, had prevented the appearance
of Miss Dounay at a dinner given by a very prominent society lady of the
town, where the brilliant woman was to have been the guest of honor.
Some one had even recalled that the minister was not an invited guest at
the dinner during which the diamonds were stolen.  He had presented
himself, it seemed, after the affair was in progress and departed before
its conclusion.

But it was left to one of the evening papers of this day to explode the
climactic story of the series.  The writers of the morning story had
been careful to protect the conduct of Miss Dounay from injurious
inference; but now the _Evening Messenger_ went upon the streets with a
story that left Miss Dounay’s character to take care of itself, and
purported boldly to defend the minister.

PREACHER NOT THIEF, boldly ventured the headlines. The report declared
that an intimacy of long standing had existed between the minister and
the actress.  The public was reminded of what part of it had forgotten
and the rest never knew, that John Hampstead had himself been an actor.
The narrative told how the minister had made his professional debut in
Los Angeles by carrying this same Marien Dounay in his arms in _Quo
Vadis_, night after night, in scene after scene, during the run of the
play; and hinted broadly of an attachment beginning then which had
ripened quickly into something very powerful, so powerful, in fact, that
when Hampstead was playing with the "People’s", an obscure stock company
in San Francisco, Miss Dounay had broken with Mowrey at the Grand Opera
House, because he refused to have the awkward amateur in his company,
and had herself gone out to the little theater in Hayes Valley and lent
to its performance the glamour of her name and personality, merely to be
near the idol upon whom her affections had fixed themselves so fiercely.

Actors now playing in San Francisco who had been members of the People’s
Stock at the time remembered that the couple succeeded but poorly in
suppressing signs of their devotion to each other, and the stage
manager, now retired, was able to recall how in the garden scene of
_East Lynne_, Miss Dounay had deliberately changed the "business"
between Hampstead and herself in order that she might receive a kiss
upon the lips instead of upon the forehead as the script required.

This mosaic of truth and falsehood related with gustatory detail a
violent quarrel between the two which occurred one night in a restaurant
prominent in the night life of the old city, the result of which was
that Miss Dounay cast off her domineering and self-willed lover
entirely.

"After a few weeks," the article observed soberly, "the broken-hearted
lover surprised his friends by renouncing the stage and entering upon
the life of the ministry as a solace to his wounded affections."

In support of this, it was pointed out that the minister had never
married nor been known to show the slightest tendency toward gallantries
in his necessarily wide association with women.

The glittering achievement of vindication was next attempted by the
_Messenger’s_ story.  This admittedly was theory, but it was set forth
with confidence and particularity, as follows:

"The return of the actress, in the prime of her beauty and at the very
zenith of her career, upon a visit to California, which had been her
childhood home, not unnaturally led to a revival of the old passion.
For a time the two were running about together as happy as cooing doves.
Then a clash came.  This was over the question of the harmonizing of the
two careers.  Obviously, Miss Dounay could not be expected to give up
hers, and the minister was now so devoted to his own work that he found
himself unwilling to make the required concession upon his part.

"A serious disagreement resulted.  The actress was a woman of high
temper.  It had been the custom to deposit her diamonds in the
minister’s box as a matter of protection.  On the night of the party,
she had committed them to him, as usual.  But the next morning, angered
over the clergyman’s failure to keep an appointment with her, the
actress, in a moment of reckless passion, had charged him with stealing
them.  Under the circumstances, Hampstead, as a chivalrous man, declined
to speak, knowing full well that sooner or later the woman’s passion
would relent, and she would release him from the awkward position in
which he stood."

There were holes in this story.  At places it did not fit the facts; as
for instance, the minor fact that by common agreement the minister did
not leave the dinner party until considerably after twelve, consequently
at a time when the bank vault was inaccessible.  There was also the
major fact that the theft of the diamonds was discovered and reported at
two o’clock in the morning, and not the next day "after the minister’s
failure to keep an appointment with the actress had angered her."

But these trifling discrepancies were disregarded by the eager rewrite
man, who threw this story together from the harvesting of half a dozen
leg-weary reporters.

Nor did they matter greatly to Hampstead.  He read the story with
whitening lips.  He recognized it as the sort of vindication that would
ruin him.  It made his position a thousand times more difficult.  It was
infinitely harder to keep silence when the very truth itself was
blunderingly mixed to malign him.

Nor did the public mind the discrepancies greatly.  The _Messenger’s_
story was a triumph of journalism.  It was the most eagerly read, the
most convincingly detailed explanation of what had occurred.  The public
absorbed it with a sense of relief that at last it had learned how such
a man as John Hampstead could have fallen as he had. The story even
excited a little sympathy for the minister by revealing the unexpected
element of romance in his life. Nevertheless, its publication upon the
evening of the third day after the minister’s arrest battered away the
last pretense of any considerable section of the popular mind that,
whatever the outcome of his trial, Hampstead was any longer a man
entitled to public confidence.

Flying rumor, published gossip, and vociferous assault upon one side,
combined with guilty silence upon the other, had absolutely completed
the work of destruction. The reputation of the pastor of All People’s
was hopelessly blasted.  Even to the minister, sitting alone like a
convict in his cell, this effect was clearly apparent.  The question of
whether he was a thief or not a thief had faded into the background of
triviality.  The issue was whether he, a trusted minister, while
occupying his pulpit and bearing himself as a chaste and irreproachable
servant of mankind, had yielded to an intrigue of the flesh. The
indictment did not lie in definite specifications that could be refuted,
but in inferences that were unescapable.

The riot of reckless gossip had made the preacher’s honor common.
Anything was believable.  Each single incident became a convincing link
in the chain of evidence that John Hampstead was an apostate to the
creed and character he espoused.

The minister in his study, his desk and chair an island surrounded by a
sea of rumpled newspapers, harried on every side by doubt and suspicion
so aggressive that it almost forced him to doubt and suspect himself,
laid his face upon his desk.

This was more than he had prayed for.  This was no honored cross that he
was asked to bear.  It was a robe of shame to be put upon him publicly.
To be sure, it was loose, ill-fitting, diaphanous, but none the less it
was enveloping.  It did not blot out, yet it ate like a splotch of acid.

But suddenly the man sat up, and for the first time since the startling
disclosure in the vault room, a look of terror shot into his eyes,
terror mixed with pain that was indescribable.  It was a thought of the
effect of this last story upon the mind of Bessie that had stabbed him.
Bessie had grown wonderfully during these five years.  She had completed
four years at Stanford and one year of post-graduate work in the
University of Chicago.  To-morrow, if he had the date right, she would
be receiving her degree.  The beauty of her character and the beauty of
her person had ripened together, until John’s imagination could think of
nothing so exquisite in all the universe as Bessie Mitchell.  And after
the degree and a summer in Europe, she was coming back to California and
to him! Together they were going to enter upon a life and the making of
a home that was to be rich in happiness for both of them, and as they
fondly hoped, rich in happiness for all with whom they came in contact.

Reflecting that in this last week Bessie would be too busy to read the
newspapers, John had chivalrously thought to tell her nothing of what
was befalling him, that she might set out happily upon her European
journey. But now had come this alleged vindication, which was the most
terrible assault of all, with its disgusting insinuations.  He felt
instinctively that Bessie would see that story, because it was the one
of all which she ought not to see.  Seeing it, he assured himself, she
would believe it, more fully than any one else would believe it.  John
knew that despite his own years of steadfast devotion and despite her
own constant effort to do so, she had never quite wiped out the horrible
suspicions engendered by his confession of the brief attachment for Miss
Dounay.  He suspected it was a thing no woman ever successfully wipes
out.  This damnable story would revive that suspicion convincingly.  It
was inevitable that Bessie should believe that Marien Dounay’s presence
had revived the old infatuation, and that he had yielded to its power.

This reflection left Hampstead with his lips pursed, his cheeks drawn,
sitting bolt and rigid like a frozen man.

In this polar atmosphere the telephone tinkled.  The minister answered
it with wooden movements and a wooden voice:

"No, nothing to say—yet."

Always the "yet" was added.  "Yet" meant the minister’s hope for
deliverance.  The reporters who had heard that "yet" so many times in
the three days began to find in it something pathetic and almost
convincing. But though the minister had added it this last time from
sheer force of habit, the hope had just departed from him.  With his
love-hope gone, there was nothing personally for which John Hampstead
cared to ask the future. Time, for him, was at an end.  He was not a
being.  He was an instrument.

But as if to remind him for what purpose he was an instrument, he had
barely hung up the ’phone when there was a faint tap at the outer
entrance of his study, followed at his word of invitation by the figure
of a man who, with a furtive, backward glance as if afraid of the
shadows beneath the palm trees, slipped quickly through the narrowest
possible opening, closed the door and halted uncertainly, his eyes
blinking at the light, his hands rubbing nervously one upon the other.
The man was carefully dressed and tonsured.  There was every evidence
that to the world he was trying to be his old debonair self, but before
the minister he stood abject and pitiable.

"Rollie!" exclaimed Doctor Hampstead, leaping up.

"She haunted me!" the conscience-stricken man faltered helplessly,
sinking into a chair.  "She threatened to denounce me right there in the
bank, if I dared to communicate with you."  Again there was that
frightened look backward to the door.

An hour before, when the minister had not yet reasoned out the effect
upon Bessie of this awful story of his alleged relations with the
actress, he would have leaped upon Rollie vehemently, so anxious to know
how the diamonds got into his safe-deposit box as almost to tear the
story from the young man’s throat.

But now he had the feeling that there was no longer anything at stake
worth while.  All in him that quickened at the sight of his visitor was
a sort of clinical interest in the state of a soul.

As Rollie told his story, the minister gasped with relief to learn that
his own plight was due to no Judas-like betrayal, but that the young man
was, like himself, a victim of this scheming, devilish woman, and he
listened with sympathetic eagerness while the narrator depicted brokenly
the frightful conflict between fear and duty through which he had passed
during the two days gone.

But with the narrative concluded, the duty of each was still plain.  The
silence must be kept.  Moreover, in this revulsion of feeling from doubt
to active sympathy, the minister perceived that things were going very
hardly with the young man.  Knowing Miss Dounay now rather well, he was
able to understand, even without explanation, the paralyzing fear which
had kept Rollie dumb for these three days, and to realize that his
coming even tardily was a sign of some renascence of moral courage.
This perception quickened both the minister’s sympathy and his interest
in his duty.  He was able to interrogate the young man considerately and
to put him gradually somewhat at his ease, and this so tactfully as to
make it seem to Rollie that, his delay in coming was half a virtue and
that the act of coming itself was a supreme moral victory which gave
promise of greater victories to come.

But it did not require this exhibition of magnanimity to bring young
Burbeck to finish his story with an outpouring of the bitter
self-reproaches he had for two days been heaping upon himself.

"I never realized before what a despicable coward sin or crime can make
of a man," he concluded.  "This spectacle of you bearing uncomplainingly
upon your back the burden of my guilt before this whole community sets
something burning in me like a fire.  It has given me courage to come
here.  Sometimes in the last few hours I have almost had the courage to
come out and tell the truth, to denounce this devilish woman for what
she is, and to take my guilt upon myself."

For a moment Rollie’s eyes opened till a ring of white appeared about
the iris, and he shifted his position dizzily.

"But," exclaimed the minister with sudden apprehension and an outburst
of great earnestness, "you must not. You must consider your mother.  I
command you to consider her above everything else!  I should forbid you
to speak for her sake, if nothing else were involved.  I do want you to
become brave enough to take this guilt upon yourself, if circumstances
permit it; but, they do not permit.  Besides," and the minister shook
his head sadly, "even that would now be powerless to relieve me from
these awful consequences.  I might be proved spotlessly innocent of the
charge of theft, and yet my reputation would still be hopelessly ruined.
It has cost me all, Rollie—all!"

The minister and the penitent, the innocent and the guilty, drew
together for the moment linked by that bond of sympathy which invariably
exists when one man suffers willingly in the cause of another, and is
heightened when the sufferer winces under the pain.

"Even," the minister labored on, "even that hope of Her, of which I told
you the other day, has been torn from me."

Rollie’s face turned a more ghastly white.

"That?" he murmured huskily.

"That!" assented the minister, with a grave, downward bend of the head.

"It is too much," groaned the young man in real agony of spirit.
"Nothing, nothing that is at stake is worth that—can be worth that."

For a moment Hampstead was silent.

"To be loyal, Rollie, to be true to the highest duty is worth
everything."

This was what he would have liked to say; it was what he believed; it
was what he meant to demonstrate by his course of action; but for the
moment he could not say it. Instead, he swallowed hard and looked
downward, toying with a paper-knife upon his desk.  But his visitor was
going now.  There was no reason why he should stay, and the minister, as
he held open the door, was able to say warningly: "Remember!  Not one
word for the sake of your mother’s life."

"But you," protested the young man, his eyes again staring wildly.

"You are to try not to think of me," declared Hampstead, with low
emphasis, "except as my own steadfastness in my duty—if I am able to be
steadfast—may help you to be steadfast in yours.  Rollie!  We understand
each other?"

But the young fellow only shook his head negatively with a growing look
of awe and wonder in his eyes, then turned and slipped hastily away.  He
did not understand this man—the bigness of him—at all; but he found
himself leaning on him more and more heavily and felt some spiritual
cleansing process digging at the inside of himself like the scrape and
bite of a steam shovel.

As for the minister, once he was free to think of himself alone, he
perceived that Rollie’s story had set him free of silence.  It supplied
the gap in his knowledge which had made him dumb.  There was a real
defense which could now be offered.  Now, too, that there was again some
prospect of vindication, he felt his desire for vindication grow.

Up to the present he had waived arraignment on the charge, and had twice
secured the customary two days’ postponement of the hearing upon
preliminary examination.  But immediate action should now be taken.
Accordingly he located Judge Brennan at his club by telephone and the
Assistant District Attorney Searle at his residence, and without
explanation asked that the time for his arraignment and preliminary
hearing be set as soon as possible.

Next morning the papers presented as the most startling development of
the Hampstead Case the fact that the minister had announced himself
prepared to go to trial, and the preliminary hearing had been set for
Saturday at ten o’clock in Judge Brennan’s court room.

Public interest centered, of course, upon the nature of the minister’s
defense.  There was even observable something like a turn of the tide in
his favor.  Rumor, suspicion, and innuendo for the time had played
themselves out.  Shrewd managing editors—keen students of mass
psychology that they were—discerned signs that these ebbing
cross-currents of doubt and uncertainty might sweep suddenly in the
opposite direction, and they were alertly prepared to switch the
handling of the news if the popular appetite changed.



                            *CHAPTER XXXIV*

                        *A WAY THAT WOMEN HAVE*


Friday for John was a day of impatience, its tedious hours consumed in
turning over and over in his mind the story he would tell upon the
witness stand and the plea he would make to the court for a dismissal of
the complaint against him; when the day was finished, John found his
mind in a rather chaotic state, and it seemed to him that little had
been accomplished.

But if little happened that day in Encina which was of moment to his
cause, there was an interesting sequence of events transpiring in
Chicago, which had at least some relation to the matter; for this was
the day upon which the degrees were being conferred.

The assembly hall of the great university was large, and every seat was
taken.  The huge platform was decked, studded, draped and upholstered
with professors, assistant professors and presidents, all in mortar
boards and gowns, the somber black of the latter relieved by the rich
colors of the insignia indicating the rank or character of their
respective degrees.

The presence of all this banked and massed doctorial dignity made the
atmosphere of the hall to reek with erudition.  The vast number of
individuals in front felt their puny intellects dwarfed to pigeon’s
brains.  Hitherto some of them had rather congratulated themselves that
they knew the multiplication table and the rule of three. Now their
instinct was to grovel.

Yet not all of that assemblage were so impressed. Robert Mitchell was
not.  Huge of chest, thick-fingered, heavy-shouldered, amiable of his
broad countenance, shrewd of eye, and growing thin of that curly brown
thatch which had been one of Hibernia’s gifts to his ensemble, he
surveyed the scene with a critic’s air.

Not that Mitchell scorned the pundits of learning.  Being the
vice-president of a transcontinental line of railroad and therefore
necessarily a man of wide acquaintance and of wide employment of the
talents of mankind, he knew there were occasions when even he must wait
upon the pronouncements of some spectacled creature of the laboratory.
Still, he could not help reflecting that he would like to see that pale,
gangling pundit on the end try to calculate the exact instant in which
to throw the lever to make a flying switch.  He would like further to
see that fellow with a dome that loomed like a water-tank on the desert
try to pick up a string of car numbers as they ran by him on the track,
and see how many he could carry in his head and carry right.

In fact, everything about the function expressed itself to Mitchell in
terms of traffic.  Quite a hall, this.  The seats in it came from Grand
Rapids, no doubt; or perhaps from Manitowoc.  The rate from Grand Rapids
was nineteen cents a hundred or thereabouts; from Manitowoc it was
twenty,—practically an even basis.  But on a trans-continental haul now,
to San Francisco for instance, common point rates applied, and Manitowoc
had an advantage of five cents a hundred unless—unless the Michigan
roads rebated the Michigan manufacturers something of their share in the
division of the through rate.  Of course, rebates were illegal; but you
never could exactly tell what an originating line might not do to keep a
sufficient amount of business originating.  Take his own line, now, for
instance, and borax shipments from the Mojave Desert as against the
Union Pacific with borax shipments from Death Valley.

Thus the mind of the great master of transportation roved on while
professors rose and droned and presented round rolls to never-ending
strings of candidates; but at length there appeared in the serpentine
line going up for Master’s degrees one presence which took the glaze of
speculation from the eye of Mitchell.

The world at large has often noted the anomalous fact that a Doctor’s
cap and gown does not appear to detract greatly from the masculinity of
a man.  If anything, it makes a beard, a brow, or the pale, unprosperous
furze upon a lip look more virile than otherwise; but that same cap and
gown will deceitfully rob a woman of something of the indefinable air of
her femininity.  It gives her an ascetic cast, and asceticism is
unwomanly. But there are exceptions.  Some types of women’s faces look
just a little more fetchingly feminine and bewitchingly alluring under a
mortar-board cap than beneath any other form of headdress.

The eye of the railroad man rested now with benevolence and satisfaction
upon the shapely, ripened figure of such a woman.  Glowing upon her
features was a youth and a feminism so vital as to seem that nothing
could overcome them.  Her eyes were blue and bright; her hair was brown
and crinkly; while dimples that refused to be subdued by the dignity of
the occasion kept continually upon her features the suggestion of a
smile about to break.

But with these evidences of sunny personality, there went stout hints of
substantial character.  The forehead was good and finely arched to stand
for brains.  The chin was perhaps a trifle wide to permit the finest
oval to the countenance, but it suggested balance and power, and
proclaimed that what the mind of this young lady planned, her will might
be expected to accomplish.  In fact, the young lady stood at this moment
face to face with the consummation of a five years’ programme, and five
years is long for youth to hold a purpose.

With swelling satisfaction the railroad man saw the president of the
university now addressing his daughter. It was the same Latin formula
that had been repeated scores of times already this morning; but now
Mitchell made his first effort to grasp it, to reason out its meaning,
all the while greatly admiring his daughter’s unfaltering courage under
the fire of these unintelligible phrases.

The somewhat irrepressible Miss Bessie was, indeed, doing very well.
For a moment the dimples had actually composed themselves, and there was
a light of high dignity in the eye, as the candidate extended her hand
for the diploma and stood meekly while the silken collar was placed
about her neck.

"That is a very able man, that Doctor Winton," remarked Mitchell to his
wife.  "He has got the same way as the rest of them when he talks; but
what he says is sense."

Since Mitchell did not know at all what the university president had
said, this remark showed that he had fallen back upon his intuitive
judgment of men and had swiftly perceived in the university president
something of the same practical qualities that go to the making of a
business executive in any other walk.

But an excited whisper was just now coming from behind the white-gloved
hand of Mrs. Mitchell.  "Oh! look!" that lady exclaimed, "she’s got her
box lid on crooked!"

It was true that Miss Bessie by some restless twitch of her head or some
rebellious outburst of a knot of that crinkly hair, had got her mortar
board rakishly atilt.  Of course, there were other mortar boards askew,
but Bessie’s was individualistically and pronouncedly listed far to
port. And she didn’t care.  Bessie was so brimming and beaming with the
happiness of life that her whole being was this morning recklessly
atilt.

But that afternoon, at about the hour of three, in the ample suite of
rooms high up on the lake side of the Annex, which had been occupied by
the Mitchells for a week, there was nothing atilt at all about the soul
of Bessie. Her spirits were all a-droop.  One single glance around
showed that the busy preparation for the European trip had been
suspended.  Wardrobe trunks stood about on end, their contents gaping,
while dresses were draped over screens and chairs and laid out upon
beds; but the packers had ceased their work.  Mrs. Mitchell, distracted
between parental love and the fulfillment of long cherished plans, as
well as distressed at the exhibition of petulant and even tearful temper
which her daughter had been displaying for an hour, walked restlessly
from room to room.

"I tell you, it’s California for mine!" that young lady affirmed in
school-girlish vernacular, while an impatient foot stamped the floor, a
dimpled hand smote wilfully upon the arm of a huge, brocaded satin
chair, and the blue swimming eyes burned with a rebellious light.

Neither the language nor the mood would seem to become the beautiful
Mistress of Arts; but each testified to the survival of the humanness of
the young woman.  In justice to her, however, it must be explained that
she had not begun this upsetting of father’s and mother’s and her own
cherished plan with impetuous defiances.  She had begun gently, with
sighs, with remarks about longing for California.  She felt so tired;
she wished she didn’t have to travel now.  If she could just go back and
walk under the palms and orange trees in dear old Los Angeles; if she
could get one great big bite of San Francisco fog, and see a little
desert and a mountain or two, before starting out for this junky old
Europe, she would be reconciled.

Otherwise, she would not be reconciled.  Of course, she would go,—since
they had planned it for so long, and since mamma’s heart was set upon
it;—but she would go unreconciled.

Reconciled!  Mrs. Mitchell knew perfectly well what reconciled meant,
but she did not know just what Bessie meant by dinging on that word.

After fifteen minutes it appeared that Bessie was through with hints.
She had begun to boldly propose, and then earnestly to plead, and
finally tearfully to demand that the European trip be postponed two
weeks.

"But my child!  The trip is all planned.  The passages are paid for,
everything is ready," protested Mrs. Mitchell.

"But what’s the good of being the slave of your plans? You don’t have to
do a thing you don’t want to just because you’ve planned."

Bessie’s lip was full and ripe when she pouted and her voice was
freighted heavily with protest and appeal. How pretty her eyelids were
when there was a tear quivering on the lashes like a ball of
quicksilver.  And how really enchanting she looked, as with hair a bit
disheveled and color heightening, she went on to argue impetuously:

"What’s the good of having a private car?  What’s the good of being a
vice-president’s wife and daughter, if you can’t change your mind and go
galloping out to California when you feel like it?  Back to your own
home!  Back to your own people!  Back where the scenery is the grandest
in the world!  Back where the sky is high enough that you don’t have to
shoulder the zenith out of the way in the morning so that you can stand
up straight and take a full breath."

"Bessie Mitchell!" exclaimed her mother at this juncture, turning on her
offspring accusingly.  "What has got into you?  Something has!  You’re
up to something. What is it?"

Bessie brooked her mother’s discerning glance and then dodged it, very
much as if that lady had hurled at her the silver-backed hair brush she
held in her hand.

"Why," she exclaimed with an air of injured innocence; "nothing has got
into me.  I was just taking one last look at the California papers, and
it made me homesick."

She made a gesture toward a pile of papers that surrounded her chair.
Mrs. Mitchell paused and cerebrated. Somewhere about two o’clock of the
afternoon, Bessie had stepped to the telephone.

"Send me up the last week of San Francisco and Los Angeles papers," she
ordered.

The papers came.  She went through the Los Angeles papers first, turning
their pages casually, with occasional comments to her mother.  And then
she started the San Francisco file, scanning this time more swiftly and
more casually until upon the very last of them she became suddenly
absorbed in uncommunicative silence; after which the musings and the
sighings had begun, followed by this absurd proposal, this passionate
outburst, and this deadlock of the two women behind entrenchments of
newspapers on the one hand and barricades of trunks upon the other.

As between her strong-willed daughter and her strong-willed self, Mrs.
Mitchell knew that she generally emerged defeated.  So far now she had
been defeated—at least to the extent of an armistice.  The packers had
been stopped, while the argument went on.

But in the meantime Mrs. Mitchell was violating the rules of war by
bringing up reinforcements.  Mr. Mitchell was on his way over from the
Monadnock Building.  He would soon settle Miss Bessie; that is, if he
did not make a cowardly and instant surrender, because Mrs. Mitchell
knew well enough he would rather sit on the rear platform of his private
car and watch the miles of steel and cinder stream from under him for
ten hours a day for the rest of his life than visit his native sod for
five minutes.

When Mrs. Mitchell heard her husband’s voice in the next room, she
hurried out to fortify him.

Bessie also heard the voice and hurried to the bathroom to remove traces
of tears; for tears were not powerful arguments with her father.  Smiles
went farther and faster.  Kisses were the deciding artillery.

Father and mother, advancing cautiously upon daughter’s position, found
it unoccupied.  But the papers were strewn about.  Mitchell picked up
the one which lay in the chair.  His glance was entirely casual, but
suddenly his blue eye started and then blazed.

"The hell!" he ejaculated, and read eagerly down the column.

"Well, I be damned!" was his next contribution to the silence.

Mrs. Mitchell stared at her husband in amazement. Then, seizing her
reading glass, for a reading glass was so much better form than
spectacles, she glanced over her husband’s shoulder, read the headline
and a few words following.

"The deceitfulness of that child!" she ejaculated, an expression of
indignant amazement on her face, while the hand with the reading glass
dropped to her hip, and her eyes were turned upon her husband.

"I always knew that boy’s good-heartedness would get him into trouble
some day," the good woman averred after a moment.

"Well," rejoined her husband, in tones sharp with emphasis, "I’d back up
on a freight clear round the world to get him out.  Our trip to Europe
is off.  We go west on nine to-night."

Mr. Mitchell started for the telephone, and Mrs. Mitchell’s eye followed
him approvingly, a look of sympathy and motherliness triumphing over
every other expression upon her face.

Now there wasn’t any particular obligation on the part of Robert
Mitchell to John Hampstead.  Hampstead had merely worked for Mitchell
through eight years of faithfulness in small things, which was a way
that Hampstead had.  But as the Vice-President of the Great Southwestern
looked back, those eight years of faithfulness bulked rather large,
which, again, was a way that Robert Mitchell had.

As to Bessie!  But that is a way that women have. The deeper and the
more serious her attachment for John Hampstead had grown, the more
guilefully she had concealed that fact from even the suspicion of her
parents. Yet now her disguise was penetrated, she sobbed it all out on
her mother’s shoulder and got the finest, tenderest assurances of
sympathy and enthusiastic connivance that could be vouchsafed by one
woman to another.  The Mitchells were that way.  Let hearts and
happiness be concerned, and all other considerations of life could ride
on the brake-beams.



                             *CHAPTER XXXV*

                      *ON PRELIMINARY EXAMINATION*


But though a very human hope was in his breast, the man who went out to
face a public hearing on Saturday morning upon a charge of felony in the
city where a week before he had been a popular idol, was not the same
man who had stood trembling and bewildered in the vault room.

Rose had noticed first merely a physical change in her brother’s
appearance, as from day to day the situation became more intense.  She
saw lines deepen on his face, the knot of pain grow again and again upon
his brow, and the whiteness of his skin increase to a point where it
ceased to be white and became a parchment yellow, only paler than his
tawny hair.  But later she became conscious that there was taking place
also a spiritual change, a certain rare elevation of the character of
the man, giving at times the eerie feeling that this was not her
brother, but some transfiguration taking place before her eyes.

When John Hampstead appeared in Judge Brennan’s court room, something of
this exaltation of character was discernible, even to those who had
known the minister casually.  Desiring ardently a happy outcome, the man
revealed in himself something of a new capacity to endure yet further
reverses.

Rose, Dick, and Tayna had been determined to accompany John and to sit
beside him as he faced his accusers; but he forbade this, declaring that
it would be construed by his enemies as an attempt to create sympathy.

Yet, despite the stoutness of the clergyman’s hope for justice, the
sight of the court room, of Judge Brennan upon his bench, the clerk and
the official reporter at their desks, Searle, Wyatt, the detectives, the
massed spectators,—packed, craning, curious,—and the vast crowd that had
surged in the streets about the building and in the corridors, through
which way had to be made for him, were all such sinister reminders of
the position in which he stood, that for the time being they crumpled
the very breastwork of innocence itself.

"The case of the People versus John Hampstead," announced the judge in
matter-of-fact tones.

There was a slight movement among the group of attorneys, principals,
officers, and witnesses within the rail and before the long table, as
they either hitched chairs, or leaned forward with eyes and ears
attentive.  Outside, the closely packed onlookers breathed short in
hushed expectancy.

"Prisoner at the bar, stand up!"

It was the monotonous, unfeeling voice of the clerk who said this,
himself arising.

Hampstead, accustomed as his own legal battlings had made him to court
formalities and to seeing men arraigned in just this language, failed to
comprehend its significance when addressed to him.  For an appreciable
instant of time he sat unheeding, until every eye in the throng and the
glance of every officer of the court stabbing into his face with
inquiring wonder, recalled him to his position.  Then he arose hastily,
with traces of confusion which were so instantly repressed that when
necks already craned stretched a little farther, and eyes already
staring set their gaze yet more intently on the tall figure of the man,
they saw his strongly moulded features as gravely impassive as some
weather-blasted granite face upon a mountain.

But for all its massy strength, it was seen again to be a gentle face.
The lips were firmly set, but the expression of the mouth was kindly.
The eyes were fixed upon the clerk who read the charge against him,
while the prisoner listened with a look at once solemn and dutiful, for
it seemed that again John Hampstead had risen equal to the height on
which he stood.

The tableau was an impressive one.  It revealed the majesty of man
bowing before the majesty of the law. It seemed to portray at once the
ponderousness and the power fulness of organized government.  A woman
who was almost a stranger had touched a tiny lever and set the machinery
of the law in operation against the most shining mark in all the
community; and here was the man, with the guillotine of judgment poised
above his head, answerable for his acts with his liberty and his
reputation.

In feelingless monotones that galloped and hurdled through the maze of
technical phrasings, the clerk read the complaint which charged the
minister with the crime of burglary; then, pausing for breath, he asked
the formal question:

"Is this your true name?"

"It is," the minister replied quietly, but in a voice of vibrant,
carrying quality that must have penetrated to the outward corridor, and
seemed to sweep a sense of moral power to every listener’s ear.

The voice was answered by a sigh, involuntary and composite, that broke
from somewhere beyond the rail. The hearing was on.  The unbelievable
had come to pass: John Hampstead, pastor of All People’s Church, was
actually standing trial like a common felon.

Briefly and casually the Court instructed Hampstead to his rights and
that he was entitled to be represented by counsel of his own choosing,
or to have counsel appointed for him by the Court.

The minister, still standing and speaking with deliberate composure,
thanked the Court for its consideration, but stated that without
disrespect to the legal profession which he greatly honored, he did not
feel that his cause required expert defense; that in his experience he
had acquired a considerable knowledge of court practice and would depend
upon that, trusting his Honor to put him right if he stumbled into
wrong.

The judge nodded comprehension and assent, and the defendant sat down.

"Are the People ready?" inquired the Court.

"We are," answered the crisp, crackly voice of Searle.

"And the defense?"

Hampstead, his arms folded passively, responded with a slight
affirmative bow.

"We will call Miss Alice Higgins," announced Searle, his voice this time
reflecting that sense of the dramatic which hung over the court room
like a cloud, impregnating its atmosphere as if with an electric charge.

The woman known as Marien Dounay had been sitting at the right of
Searle, gowned in tailored black, her person stripped of everything that
looked like ornament. The wide, flat brim of her hat was carefully
horizontal and valanced by a curtain of veiling, which, while black and
large of cord, was wide meshed enough to show that the very colors of
her cheeks were subdued, as if her whole person were in mourning over
the somber duty to which she regretfully found herself compelled.  And
yet the beauty of her features, adorned by the black and sweeping
eyebrows and lighted by the smouldering jet of her eyes, was never more
striking than now, when, after standing for a moment, tall and graceful
on the raised platform of the witness chair, she sat down, and leaning
back composedly, swung about to where her glance could alternate between
the eye of the Court who would hear her and that of Searle who would
interrogate.

But though her composure appeared complete, and never upon any stage had
her magnetic presence more completely centered all attention upon itself
than in this melodrama of real life, it was none the less noticeable to
the discerning that she had not glanced at Hampstead, whose sleeve her
arm must have brushed in passing to the witness chair; and that she
still avoided looking where he sat, but six feet distant, his own eyes
resting upon her face with an odd, speculative light in them.

"Please state your name, business occupation or profession, and place of
residence," began Searle, putting the opening interrogatory in the usual
form through sheer force of habit.

"I am an actress by profession.  My name is Alice Higgins; my place of
residence is New York City."

"In your profession as an actress and to the public generally you are
known as Marien Dounay?"

"Yes," replied the witness.

"You are the complainant in this action?"

"Yes."

"I will ask you," began Searle, "if you have ever seen this necklace
before?"

He drew from a crumpled envelope that familiar tiny string of fire and
offered it to the witness.  Miss Dounay took it, passed it
affectionately through her fingers, during which the brilliance of the
gems appeared to be magnified, and then, holding the necklace by the two
ends, dropped it for a moment upon her bosom,—a touch of naturalness
that was either the height of art or the supreme of femininity.

"They are my diamonds," she replied.

"And what is their value?"

"Twenty-two thousand dollars."

"Lawful money of the United States?"

"Yes."

"Now, Miss Dounay," continued Searle, "will you be kind enough to relate
to the Court when and under what circumstances you first missed your
diamonds."

Miss Dounay told her story briefly and skillfully, with an appearance of
reluctance when she came to relate the circumstances and facts which
pointed to the minister as the thief.  She stated that Hampstead had
always shown curiosity regarding the diamonds and had especially
questioned her concerning their value.  As a trusted friend, whom she
had known for years, and who during the last several weeks had visited
her frequently and become rather frankly acquainted with her personal
habits and mode of life, he knew where she kept the diamonds.  That so
far as she knew, he was the only one of her acquaintances who possessed
this knowledge; that she had worn the diamonds in company with him
during the evening preceding the supper party, at which she appeared
without them; that no one but her guests were in this room in which the
diamonds were kept temporarily, and that no one but him, so far as she
remembered observing, was in that room alone; that it was her custom to
keep the box containing these and other jewels in the hotel safe, and
when, after the departure of her guests, she went to the casket to send
it down-stairs, it was gone.

Her story done, and to the attorney’s complete satisfaction, Searle then
put the final formal questions:

"This property was taken against your will and without your consent?"

"Yes."

"This all happened in the City of Oakland, County of Alameda and the
State of California?"

"Yes."

"That is all," concluded the prosecutor.

"Cross-examine," directed the Court, turning to the defendant.

"I have no desire to cross-examine," replied the minister quietly, but
again with that vibrant, far-carrying note in his utterance.

"You are excused," said the judge to the actress.

With an expression of relief, Miss Dounay left the stand, still without
once having directed her gaze at the accused, although he continued from
time to time to regard her fixedly with a curious, doubtful look.

"Miss Julie Moncrief," announced the prosecutor.

Red-eyed and frightened, the French maid took the stand.  In a trembling
voice, and with at least one appealing glance at the minister, who
appeared to regard her more sympathetically than her own mistress, the
little woman gave her testimony.  It told of finding the defendant alone
in this room where the guests had been inspecting the models for the
London production of the play.  He was not near the table upon which the
models were displayed, but standing by the chiffonier, with his arm
absently thrown across the corner of it, and the hand within a few
inches of the small drawer in which the diamonds reposed temporarily.

"What part of his body was toward the chiffonier?" asked the prosecutor.

"His back and side."

"Where was he looking?"

"Out toward the room to which the guests had withdrawn."

"As if watching for an opportunity of some sort?" suggested Searle.

Hampstead started, and his eyes kindled, but he did not speak.  The
Court, however, did.

"In view of the fact," interposed his Honor, "that Doctor Hampstead is
unrepresented by counsel and taking no advantage of a technical defense,
I will remind you, Mr. Searle, that your last question calls for a
conclusion of the witness.  She may testify where he was looking, but
she cannot tell what she thinks his actions implied."

"Of course, your Honor, that is right," confessed Searle quickly.  "The
witness is somewhat hesitant and embarrassed, and the form of my
question was inadvertent. Under the circumstances," he added suavely, "I
am being especially careful not to take advantage of the defendant."

"That must be apparent to all, Mr. Searle," the judge palavered in
return.

"Where was he looking?" queried Searle.

Having been properly coached by the attorney’s question and his reply to
the judge, the half frightened girl faltered:

"He was looking out, _as if watching for an opportunity_."

Color mounted to the cheeks of the judge.  Searle looked properly
surprised.  The defendant smiled cynically.

"Strike out that portion of the answer which involves the conclusion as
to why he was looking out," instructed the judge solemnly to the
reporter.

"Certainly," exclaimed Searle apologetically.  None the less, he was
satisfied with his manoeuvre.  He knew the effect of the little French
girl’s conclusion could not be stricken out of the mind of the judge who
had heard it expressed, nor out of the mind of the public before whom he
was in reality trying his case.

"State what further you observed," directed the attorney.  "Did you see
him move, or anything?"

"He did not move; he only smiled at me and was still there in the same
position when I went out.  A few minutes later, I was surprised to see
him bidding Miss Dounay good night."

"Strike out that the witness was surprised," commanded the Court
sternly, while Julie shivered at the sharpness of Judge Brennan’s tone.

"That is all," continued Searle.

"Do you wish to cross-examine?" inquired the judge, directing his glance
to Hampstead.

"I do not," replied the minister.

This time the judge looked surprised, and there were slight murmurings,
rustlings, and whisperings beyond the rail.  The faltering testimony of
the little maid had driven another nail deeply in the circumstantial
case against the minister, and he had not made the slightest effort to
draw it out by the few words of cross-examination that might have broken
its hold entirely.  He might, for instance, have asked if she saw any
one else alone in this room.  But the minister did not ask it.

Searle went on piling up his case.  The detectives testified to the
arrest of the minister, to the search of his person and house, and to
the finding of the diamonds in the vault box, after which the jewels
themselves were introduced in evidence and marked: People’s Exhibit "A",
while the envelope which had contained them and bore the minister’s name
and address upon the corner, became People’s Exhibit "B."

Each detective and Wyatt was asked to describe minutely the actions of
the minister from the time when the personal search ending in the
discovery of the safe deposit key was proposed until the time when the
diamonds were exposed to view upon the table in the vault room.  By this
means, Searle got before the Court the demeanor of the minister as
indicating a consciousness of guilt.

Relentless in pursuing this line, Searle put on the defendant’s own
bondsmen, Wilson, Wadham, and Hayes, compelling them to describe,
although with evident reluctance, the impetuous outburst against the
opening of the box when the bond was being arranged, and the scene in
the vault to which they had been witnesses.

Wilson, chafing at the position into which he was forced, was further
roused when Searle exclaimed suddenly:

"I will ask you if the defendant, on or about the day that these
diamonds were stolen, did not approach you for the urgent loan of a
considerable sum of money."

Wilson glared and was silent.

"Did he, or did he not?" persisted Searle sharply.

"He did," snapped Wilson.

"How did he want it, cash or checks?"

"He wanted cash, but I do not see, Mr. Searle—" he began.

"Excuse me, Mr. Wilson, but I think you do see," replied Searle.  "Did
you give it to him?"

"I did," replied Wilson, "and I would have given him more—"

"I ask that a part of this answer be stricken out, your Honor, as
volunteered by the witness, and not in response to the question,"
demanded Searle brusquely.

"I think we should not let ourselves become too technical," replied the
Court, with a chiding glance at Searle, for Mr. Wilson was a person of
some importance in the community.

Searle, slightly huffed, again addressed the witness.

"Did the defendant tell you what he wanted this large sum of money for?"

"No.  Furthermore—" began the witness.

"That will do!  That will do!" exclaimed Searle rising, and motioning
with his hand as if to stop the witness’s mouth.  "That is all," he
added quickly. "Cross-examine."

Wilson turned expectantly to Hampstead.  He was aching to be permitted
to say more, to offer testimony that would break the force of that which
he had just given.  But the minister, comprehending fully the generous
desire of his friend, merely looked him in the eye and shook his head;
for this was one of the trails neither he nor any one else must be
permitted to pursue.

Having asked this series of questions of Wilson about the money,
apparently as an afterthought, which it was not, Searle then recalled
Hayes and Wadham, and put the same questions to them.  Each made the
same attempt to qualify and enlarge, but each was carefully held to a
statement which pictured John Hampstead making desperate efforts among
his friends to raise quickly what must have been a very large sum of
money, for an unexplained purpose.

Searle felt this to be the climax of his case.

"The People rest," he exclaimed with dramatic suddenness, sitting down
and inserting a thumb in his arm-hole, while after a defiant glance at
the minister, he turned and scanned the spectators outside the rail for
signs of approval of the skillful handling of their cause by him, their
oath-bound servant.

But the eyes of the spectators were on the defendant, who now stepped to
the platform and stood with upraised right hand before the clerk to be
sworn.  As he composed himself in the witness chair, his manner was cool
and even meditative.  The central figure in this tense, emotional drama,
which had every significance for himself, he seemed scarcely more than
aware of his surroundings.

"My name," he began deliberately, "is John Hampstead. I am thirty-one
years old, and a minister of the gospel.  I reside in the County of
Alameda.  I am the person named in this complaint.  I was at Miss
Dounay’s supper party, although I did not stay to supper.  I was
probably in the exact position described by the maid, for I believe her
to be truthful.  However, I do not remember the incident, beyond the
fact that the group gradually withdrew from this room, and I remained
there in reflective mood for a short interval.  I saw Miss Dounay’s
diamonds last that evening when she excused herself from the company to
change her costume.  I saw them next the morning after, upon the desk in
my study."

The minister paused.  The massed audience leaned forward, intent and
breathless.  Now his real defense was beginning.  His manner, balanced
and impersonal, was carrying conviction with it.  The man was the
defendant—the prisoner at the bar—yet he spoke deliberately, as if not
himself but the truth were at issue.

"They were brought there," the witness was saying, "by a man who told me
that he had stolen them.  He appeared to be excited.  Indeed, his
condition was pitiable.  I advised him to immediately return the
diamonds to Miss Dounay, confess his crime to her, and throw himself
upon her mercy; but there were circumstances which made it impossible
for him to act immediately.  That is all."

The minister turned from the Court, whom he had been addressing, and
faced Searle, as if awaiting cross-examination.  The audience had
listened with painful interest to the minister’s story.  The manner of
it had unquestionably carried conviction, but its very unbolstered
simplicity had in it something of the shock which provokes doubt.  This
effect was heightened by its extreme brevity and a suggestion of
reticence in the narrative.

"Have you concluded?" asked the Court, reflecting the general surprise.

"I have," replied the minister, with the same quiet voice in which he
had given his testimony.

"Begin your cross-examination," instructed Judge Brennan.

"Who is the man who brought these diamonds to you?" asked Searle,
hurling the question swiftly.

"I cannot tell you," answered the minister gravely.

"Why can you not tell?"  The voice of Searle was harshly insistent.
"Don’t you know who the man was?"

"I do, most assuredly."

"Why can you not tell it?"

"Because the secret is not mine."

"Not yours?"  A sneer appeared on the lips of Searle.

"It came to me by way of the Protestant confessional," explained the
minister.

"The Protestant confessional!  What do you mean by that?" barked the
prosecutor.

"Simply," replied the minister, "that the instinct of confession is very
strong in every nature moved to penitence and a hope of reform; so that
every minister and priest of whatever faith becomes the repository of a
vast number of confessions of fault and failure, some trivial and some
grave.  I used the term ’Protestant confessional’ because the Roman
Catholic Church erects the confessional to a place of established and
formal importance.  In most other communions it is merely incidental to
pastoral experience, but none the less it is a factor in all effort at
rehabilitation of character."

"And you will not give the name, even to protect yourself?"

"It is not," replied the witness, "a matter in which I feel that I have
any choice.  The confession was not made to me as an individual, but to
me as a minister of God.  I will hold that confidence sacred and
inviolate at whatever cost until the Day of Judgment."

Dramatically, though unconsciously, the witness lifted his right hand,
as though he renewed an oath to God.

For the first time, too, the utterance of the defendant had betrayed
personal feeling, and for a moment there was a sheen upon his features,
as of a man who had toiled upward through shadows to where the light
from above broke radiantly upon his brow.

"And you take advantage of the fact that such a confession as you allege
is privileged under the law and need not be testified to by you?"

"As I said before," reiterated the minister, with a calm dignity that
refused to be ruffled by the sneer in the cross-examiner’s question, "I
do not feel that the secret is mine."

The impression that at this point the witness was retiring behind
intrenchments that were very strong was no more lost upon Searle than
upon the spectators, and he immediately attacked from another quarter.

"We are to understand, then, Doctor, that your guilty demeanor which has
been testified to by your friends as well as the officers was entirely
because you knew the discovery of the diamonds in your box would lend
color to the charge made against you?"

This was another trail that Hampstead must not allow to be pursued.

"You are at liberty to make whatever interpretation of my demeanor you
wish, Mr. Searle," he replied, a trifle tartly.

"Yes, Doctor Hampstead; we are agreed upon that," rejoined the
prosecutor dryly, at the same time making a gallery play with his eyes.
"You say," Searle continued presently, "it was temporarily impossible
for the man who brought these diamonds to you to return them to Miss
Dounay.  Why did you not return them yourself instead of placing them in
your vault to await the convenience of the thief?"

The insulting scorn of the latter part of this question was meant to be
diverting to the audience as well as highly disconcerting to the
witness, but the minister smothered the sneer by replying sincerely and
courteously:

"I felt, Mr. Searle, that my problem was to rebuild in the man a sense
of responsibility to a trust and the courage to act upon a moral
impulse.  Wisely, or unwisely, I insisted that the entire procedure of
restoration should devolve upon the penitent himself.  His first
spiritual battle was to nerve himself to face the owner of the
diamonds."

"Precisely," observed Mr. Searle smoothly, abandoning the jury rail,
against which he had been leaning, to balance himself upon the balls of
the feet and rub his palms blandly.  "And in the meantime, while this
thief was gathering his courage, did your consideration for your friend,
Miss Dounay, impel you to notify her that the diamonds were in your
custody and would be returned to her very soon?"

"Not alone was I impelled to do that," replied the minister; "but the
unfortunate man urged such a step upon me.  I declined for the same
reason.  My entire course of action was dictated by a desire to make
this man morally stronger by compelling him to assume and discharge his
own responsibilities.  I was willing to point out the course; but he
must walk the way alone.  I will forestall your next question by saying
that for the same reason I did not notify the police."

Searle was nettled by the easy compactness with which the minister
cemented the walls of his defense more closely by each reply to the
questions in cross-examination.

"You are aware, Mr. Hampstead," he thundered with a sudden change of
tactics, "that the act which you have just set forth, so far from
setting up a defense to this charge, proves you guilty under the law as
an accessory after the fact."

"I am not aware of it," replied the minister, with distinct emphasis.
"My impression was that the law considers not only an act but the intent
of the act.  The intent of my act was not to conceal a crime, but to
reconstruct the character of a man."

Searle darted a hasty and apprehensive glance at the massed faces behind
the rail.

"That is all," he exclaimed dramatically, with a cynical smile and an
uptoss of his hands, calculated cleverly to portray his opinion of the
utter lack of standing such replies as those of the minister could gain
him in a court of justice.

Judge Brennan looked at Hampstead.  "Have you anything in rebuttal?" he
asked.

"Nothing," replied the minister, arising and stepping down to his chair
at the long table, where he remained standing while the attentive
expression of Court and spectators indicated appreciation that the
climax of the defendant’s effort was at hand.

The very bigness of the thing the man was trying to do was in some sense
an attest of character, and here and there among the onlookers ran
little currents of reviving sympathy for the clergyman, who stood
waiting quietly for the moment in which to begin his final effort as an
attorney in his own behalf.

Keenly sensitive to the subtlest emotions of the crowd, he understood
perfectly well that the effect of his testimony had been at least
sufficient to secure a verdict of suspended judgment from the
spectators; and he expected far more from the balanced mind of the
judge; so that it was with a feeling of renewed confidence, almost an
anticipation of triumph, that he prepared to make the final move.

"If the Court please," he began dispassionately, as if pleading for a
cause that had no more than an abstract meaning for himself, "I desire
to move at this time the dismissal of the complaint, upon the ground
that the evidence is insufficient to warrant the holding of the
defendant for trial before the Superior Court."

The minister stopped for breath, and there was another of those strange,
composite sighs from beyond the rail.

"In support of that motion," and a note of growing significance appeared
in the speaker’s tone, "I argue nothing, except to ask this Court to
accept as true every word of testimony spoken by every witness heard
upon the stand this morning."

The Court looked puzzled, but the ministerial defendant went on:

"I believe the truth has been spoken by Miss Dounay—by the maid—by the
officers—and by my own friends.  Yet the facts testified to may be
true,"—the minister’s voice rose,—"and the inference to which they point
be wickedly and damnably false!  It is so with this case; for be it
noted that I ask your Honor to consider also that my testimony is true.
It denies no statement; it controverts no fact in the case of the
prosecution.  On the contrary, it confirms them; but it also explains
them."  Again the defendant’s voice was rising.  "It confirms the facts,
but it utterly refutes the inference that this defendant at the bar is
guilty.  Consider the entire fabric of evidence as a seamless garment of
truth, and you can dismiss the complaint with an untroubled brow.
Reason is satisfied!  Justice is done!"

Hampstead paused, and a shade of apprehension came to his face, for his
eye had traveled for a moment to that massed expectancy without the
rail.

"The verdict of your Honor is to _me_"—Hampstead in his growing
earnestness had abandoned the fictional distinction between the pleader
and his client,—"of more than usual importance, for by it hangs the
verdict of the people whose interest is attested by those packed benches
yonder.  Without disrespect to your Honor, I can say that I care more
for their verdict than for that of any twelve men in any jury box or any
judge upon any bench.

"But under the circumstances the whole people cannot actually judge—they
can only be my executioners. They have not heard me speak.  They can not
look me in the eye, nor observe by my demeanor whether I speak like an
honest man or a contemptible fraud.  They see me only through a cloud of
skillfully engendered suspicion.  They hear my voice only faintly amid a
clamorous confusion of poisoned tongues.  Your Honor must see for them,
and speak for them.  Your Honor’s verdict will be their verdict.  I
tremble for that verdict.  I plead for it!

"I ask your Honor to take account of the difficulty of my position,
presuming, as the law instructs the Court to presume, that it is the
position of an innocent person. Bound by the most inviolable vow which a
man can take, I am unable to offer to you a conclusive defense by
presenting the man who committed the crime.  He may be in this court
room now, cowering with a consciousness of his guilt and in awe at
beholding its consequences to the one who has helped him.  He may be an
officer of this Court; he might be your Honor, sitting upon the bench,
which, of course, is unthinkable—yet no more unthinkable to me than that
I should be charged with this crime.  But though he be here at my very
side, I cannot reach out my hand and say: ’That is the man.’  I will not
touch him nor look at him.  Unless he speaks—and I confess that there is
an outside reason why I should absolutely forbid him to speak—there is
no defense that can be offered, beyond the simple story I have told you.

"May I not, also, without being accused of egotism, remind your Honor
that if it is decided that I appear sufficiently guilty to warrant a
criminal trial in the Superior Court, my work in this community will be
at an end."

The minister was speaking for the first time with a show of deep
feeling, and an indulgent sneer appeared upon the lips of Searle.  This
was not legitimate argument.  Yet a mere preacher might not be supposed
to know it, and therefore he, Searle, would magnanimously allow the man
to talk himself out, if his Honor did not stop him.

But the Court was also complaisant, and the minister went on with
passionate earnestness to plead:

"Regardless of the ultimate verdict of a jury, the stigma of a felony
trial will be upon me for life.  From this very court room I shall be
taken to your identification bureau.  I shall be weighed, stripped,
measured—my thumb prints taken—my features photographed like those of
any criminal!"

As Hampstead proceeded, his speech began to be punctuated with spasmodic
breaks, as if the prospective humiliation was one at which his sensitive
nature revolted violently.

"And those finger prints," he labored—"those measurements—and that
photograph—will become a part—of the criminal records—of the State of
California—for as long as the paper upon which they are made shall
last!"

"No!  No!!  No!!!" shrilled a hysterical voice that burst out suddenly
and ended as abruptly as it began.

Strangely enough it was the complaining witness who had cried out.  She
had risen and stood with hands outstretched protestingly to the
minister, while whispering hoarsely: "It cannot be!  It cannot be!"

"Madam!" thundered the minister, viewing the woman sternly, his own
emotion of self-sympathy disappearing at this unexpected sign of
softness in her, while his eyes blazed indignantly: "That is a police
regulation which by long custom has come to have all the force of law.
If you doubt it, your accomplice there will so inform you!"

Hampstead, as he uttered the last words, had shifted his blazing glance
to Searle, who at first disconcerted and endeavoring to pull Miss Dounay
back into her seat, now rose and turned toward the defendant, his own
face aflame, and hot words poised upon his tongue.

But Judge Brennan was rapping for silence.

"Compose yourself, madam!" he ordered sternly.

But before the minister’s accusing glance, Miss Dounay was already
dropping back into her chair, and as if in dismay at her outbreak,
buried her face in her hands, while Searle, quivering with fury, snarled
out:

"I resent, your Honor, with all my manhood, the epithet which this
defendant has gratuitously and insultingly flung at me."

"Be seated, Mr. Searle," commanded the judge. "Doctor Hampstead’s
position is very distressing.  He will withdraw the objectionable
epithet."

"I withdraw it," acknowledged the minister, recovering his poise; yet he
said it doggedly and uncompromisingly, qualifying his withdrawal with:
"But your Honor will take into account that the manner of the
representative of the District Attorney has been offensive to me, though
some of the time veiled by an exaggerated pretense of courtesy.  It has
seemed to me the manner of an accomplice of the complaining witness, and
I withdraw the statement more out of respect to this Court than out of
consideration for him."

Searle glared, but resumed his seat, giving vent to his temper in a
violent jerk of his chair as he dropped into it.

"You may conclude your remarks," observed the Court to Hampstead.

"There is nothing to add," replied the minister, after a reflective
interval, "except to urge again that your Honor consider the grave
consequences of yielding to a one-sided view of the case.  I ask only
that truth be honored and justice done!"

With this the defendant sat down.

Miss Dounay appeared to have regained her composure, but, white and
still, her glance was now fixed as noticeably upon the face of the
defendant as before she had markedly avoided it.

With a hitch to his vest and a forward thrust of the chin, Searle rose
to attack the plea of the defendant.

"Your Honor may well ask with Pilate: ’What is truth?’" he began, the
manner of his speech showing that while his self-control was admirable,
his mood was that vindictive one into which many a prosecutor appears to
work himself when arising to assail the cause of a defendant.

"However," he prefaced, "I must first apologize to your Honor for the
momentary loss of control on the part of the complaining witness.  Your
Honor will realize that her emotions were wantonly and deliberately
played upon by the defendant in a skillful endeavor to create sympathy
for himself.  The fact that he succeeded so readily is an eloquent bit
of testimony to the sympathetic nature of this estimable and brilliant
woman, to the ease with which her confidence is gained, and the painful
reluctance with which she performs her duty in this sad case: for any
way we view it, it is a sad case, your Honor, and no one regrets more
than I the harsh words which must be spoken in the course of my own duty
to the people of this county.

"However," and Searle paused for a moment as if both gathering breath
and steeling himself for the vicious assault he proposed to make:
"Addressing myself to the plea of the defendant for a dismissal of this
case, I must say flatly that the motion itself, the argument to support
it, and the testimony upon which it is based, constitute the most
audacious combination of effrontery and offensive egotism to which a
court was ever asked to listen.  I congratulate your Honor upon the
patience and self-control with which you have contained yourself while
permitting this defendant to go on from statement to statement,
involving himself deeper in this dastardly crime with every word.

"If, your Honor, in all my days at the bar as a prosecutor, I have ever
looked into the face of a guilty man, it is the face of this man!—this
egotist!—this boastful braggart!—"  As Searle hurled each epithet, he
worked his passion higher and shook an offensively, impudently accusing
finger at the defendant; "this hypocrite!—this paddler of the palms of
neurasthenic women!—this associate of criminals!—this shepherd of black
sheep, who now sits here with a sneer upon his lips—lips which have just
committed the most appalling sacrilege by seeking to cloak the guilt of
a dastardly act with the sacred gown of a priest of God!"

As a matter of fact, there was no sneer discernible to any one else upon
the lips of the defendant.  At first smiling at the mock-fury into which
Searle was lashing himself, they had become white and bloodless under
the sting of these heaped-up insults.  But this last was more than the
man could stand in silence.

"Is my position so defenseless, I ask your Honor," Hampstead
interrupted, "that I am compelled to endure this?"

The judge bestowed a chiding glance upon the attorney, but replied to
the minister:

"A certain liberty is allowed the prosecutor."

"But that liberty should not be a license to defame!" protested the
defendant.

"Am I to be permitted to proceed with my argument or not?" bawled Searle
in his most bullying manner, while he glared at the audacious minister.

"You may proceed," replied the Court, affecting not to notice the
disrespect with which it had been addressed.

Searle continued, lapsing now into an argumentative strain.

"The defendant himself has said that the case against him is without a
flaw.  He has had the effrontery to urge that your Honor accept the
testimony against him as true testimony.  He has only argued that if we
are to believe the witnesses for the prosecution, we are also to believe
him.  I say—I affirm with all the force at my command—that we are not to
believe him at all!

"I ask your Honor to consider first the motive for his testimony.  The
man is hopelessly involved.  The charge of burglary is a simple one,
compared with the broader indictment of moral profligacy which the whole
community is at this moment prepared to find against him. Ruin stares
him in the face.  His pose is shattered.  His disguise is penetrated.
If he goes from this court room to the identification bureau of which he
has spoken in his mawkish plea for sympathy, as I believe he will go, he
goes to be catalogued with criminals, and to be damned forever in the
esteem of his neighbors.

"To avert that, would not your Honor expect this defendant to be willing
to perjure himself without a qualm? Will a man who has lived a lie
before a whole community for five years hesitate to add another in an
endeavor to avert his impending fate?  Will a man who has stolen the
jewels of his trusted friend hesitate to swear falsely in denial of such
an act?  Will a man who has worked upon the sympathy of his friends to
secure large sums of money for a purpose so doubtful that it is
undisclosed—  Will he hesitate to work upon the sympathies here by words
and implications, by innuendoes that are as false to religion as to
fact?

"Your Honor knows that he would not so hesitate. Your Honor knows,
through long familiarity with the law of evidence, that the testimony of
a defendant in his own behalf, because of his intense interest in the
outcome of his case, is always to be weighed with extreme care.

"I believe under such circumstances not only the motives, the springs of
action, but the probable mental processes of the witness are to be taken
into account.  I ask your Honor what a defendant involved in the mesh of
circumstantial evidence here presented would probably do under these
circumstances.  Your own judgment answers with mine that he would
probably lie, and exactly as this defendant has lied!"

Again Searle turned and shook his long arm with insulting undulations in
the direction of the defendant, after which he continued:

"Turning from probabilities to experience, I ask your Honor out of his
memory of years of service upon the bench, what does the arrested
thief—taken like this one, with the loot in his possession—what does he
do? Why, he either confesses his crime, or he tells you that he is not
the thief but an innocent third party, who unwittingly received the loot
from the man of straw, whom his imagination and his necessities have
created.  That latter alternative is the defense of this alleged
minister of the Gospel!  He had not the honesty to confess, but tells
instead that same old lie which criminals and felons have been telling
in that same witness chair since this Court was first established.

"Yet this defendant’s story has not even the merit of a pretense to
ignorance that the goods he held were stolen goods.  He boldly admits
that he knew they were stolen; that he was personally acquainted with
the owner; that he knew the distress of her mind; knew the police
departments of half a dozen cities were searching for the jewels, and
that the newspapers were giving the widest publicity to the facts and
thus joining in the chase for loot and looter.  And yet he calmly
permits these diamonds to repose in his vault with never a word or hint
to calm the distress of his friend or relieve the peace officers of
burdensome labors in which they were engaging and the unnecessary
expense which they were thus putting upon the taxpayers who support
them!

"Why, your Honor, if the witness’s own story is true, he has given this
Court an abundant ground for holding him to answer to the Superior
Court, not indeed upon the exact charge named in that complaint, but as
an accessory after the fact to said charge.

"But it is not true.  To use his own phrase, it is wickedly and damnably
false!  So palpably false that it collapses upon the mere examination of
your Honor’s mind without argument from me.

"Yet I cannot close without calling attention to the sheer recklessness
with which this thief and perjurer has heightened the infamy of his
position by an act of brazen sacrilege.  He has sought to make plausible
his weak, unimaginative lie that he received these goods instead of
stealing them, by pretending that he received them in his capacity as a
religious confessor, under conditions that bound him to a silence which
the voice of God alone could break.

"That, in itself, is a claim that should bring the blush of shame to the
cheek and rouse the hot resentment of every honest minister and of every
honest priest, and make them join with the outraged feelings of honest
laymen and of citizens generally in demanding that justice descend upon
this man and strike him from the pedestal of self-righteous egotism upon
which he stands.

"Turning again for a moment to the question of probabilities: I ask your
Honor if it is probable, even thinkable, that any minister, standing in
the position of regard in which this minister stood last Sunday morning
before the eyes of his people, would deem a crisis like this
insufficient to unseal his lips and absolve him from his confessional
vows?  His very duty to his God and to his congregation, to the poor
dupes of his hypocrisy, to say nothing of his duty to himself, would
compel him to go upon the witness stand voluntarily and reveal the name
of the alleged thief!

"Such a consideration again forces upon any unbiased mind the conviction
that this man is not speaking the truth.  View him as a thief, and you
suspect that his story is a lie.  Try to view him as a minister, acting
honestly and in good faith, and you no longer suspect, but you deeply
and unalterably know that his story is a lie!"

Searle, now at the height of his self-induced passion, as well as at the
climax of his argument, stood bent over, his eyes blazing at the judge,
his face red, his neck swollen, his features working in rage, and his
voice deepening to a bull-like roar, while with an upper-cut gesture of
his clenched fist and right arm, he appeared to lift the words to some
mighty height and hurl them like a thunder bolt of doom.

The minister, sitting with every muscle taut, as he strained under the
viciousness of this assault, felt just before its climax some insensible
cause directing his gaze from the face of his official accuser to that
of his real Nemesis, the actress, and was surprised to see her crouching
like a tigress for a spring, with eyes fixed upon the prosecutor, and a
look of unutterable malice, hate, and loathing in their savage beams.

But with this scene thrown for a moment on the screen of his mind, the
suddenly sobering utterance of Searle indicated that he was concluding
his argument, and the defendant’s eyes returned quickly to the
attorney’s face.

"For these reasons, your Honor," the man was saying, "so patent and
bristling from the testimony that I need not even have spoken of them in
order to bring them to your attention, I ask you to find that the
offense as charged in the complaint has been committed, and that there
is sufficient cause to believe the defendant guilty thereof, and to
order that he be held to answer before the Honorable, the Superior Court
of the County of Alameda and the State of California."

Searle sat down and wiped his brow,—confident that he had added greatly
to his reputation by a masterly argument which had sealed the fate of a
man, against whom, despite the minister’s suspicions, he really had
nothing in the world but that instinct for the chase to which, once a
strong nature gives up, it may find itself led on to excesses that are
the extreme of injustice.

The audience moved restlessly yet silently, shifting cramped muscles
tenderly and rubbing strained eyes; but still alert for the issue of the
scene which in one hour and fifty minutes had been played from one
climax to another.

"You have the opportunity to reply," said the Court, addressing
Hampstead.

"The spirit and the manner of this address is its own reply," answered
the defendant quickly, believing hopefully that it was.

But the audience, more discerning than the defendant, issued the last of
its long-drawn collective sighs, foreseeing that the drama was now at
its inevitable end.

In sharp, machine-like tones, the verdict of Judge Brennan was
pronounced:

"_Held to answer!  Bail doubled!  Adjourned!_"

The gavel fell sharply, and the eyes of the Court darted a warning
glance beyond the rail as if to forestall a possible demonstration of
any sort.  But there was none.  A kind of restraint appeared to hold the
court and spectators in thrall.  Then the official reporter closed his
notebook with an audible whisk; the clerk, gathering his papers, snapped
them loudly with rubber bands; and the judge arose and started toward
his chambers, while Wyatt moved over and took his place significantly by
the side of Hampstead.  As if this broke the spell, there was a
shuffling of many feet, while the minister was immediately surrounded by
his bondsmen and a few friends. The friends pressed his hand and stepped
away into the outgoing crowd; but the bondsmen went with him into the
judge’s chambers, where the new surety was quickly executed.  After
this, wringing the hand of each of the three men feelingly, Hampstead
asked to be excused.

"I have an humiliating experience to undergo," he explained, with a
meaningful glance at Detective Larsen who, representing the Bureau of
Identification, stood waiting.  "I prefer to face that humiliation
alone."

"I understand," exclaimed Wilson, his face flushing. "It is a damned
outrage!  I didn’t know such a thing could be done.  I thought every man
was presumed innocent until proven guilty!  Instead of that, they put
him in the Rogues’ Gallery!"

"You are as innocent as an angel from heaven," averred the white-bearded
Wadham extravagantly, as he laid an affectionate hand upon the shoulder
of the younger man.

"You are, indeed," echoed Hayes, his voice hoarse with emotion.  "I
confess again that we doubted for a time, but your character rises
triumphant to the test."

The minister was unwilling to trust himself to further speech; for his
disappointment with the verdict had been great, and the sympathetic
loyalty of these trusted friends made self-control difficult, so with
only a nod of comprehension, he turned quickly to where Detective Larsen
waited.

It was nearly one hour later when the minister, clothed again, stepped
out upon the street.  Behind him was his record in the criminal history
of the State of California.  He had seen his name go into the card index
with a wife murderer on one side of him and the author of an
unmentionable crime upon the other.  With the sickening memory of his
loathsome ordeal searing his brain he was only half-conscious of the
clatter and bang of the busy city life about him.  Mercifully the gaping
crowd had dispersed.  Hurrying people went this way and that, intent
upon their own concerns.  But a newsboy, intent, too, on his concerns,
thrust the noon edition of _The Sentinel_ before the minister’s eyes.
Seeking the headline by habit, as the eyes of the victim turn to the
torturing irons, he read in letters as black and bold as any he had seen
that week, the verdict of Judge Brennan.

"HELD TO ANSWER!"

Instinctively Hampstead paused, like a man in a daze, then passed his
hand before his eyes to blot the black letters from his sight.  In the
identification bureau, the meaning of those three words had just been
defined to the most sensitive part of his nature in abhorrent and
revolting terms.  The sight of that headline to be flaunted on every
street corner was like seeing these words, with their loathsome
connotation, spread upon a banner that arched over the whole sky of life
for him.  It overwhelmed him with a sense of the public obloquy to which
he was now to be subjected.

On the street car, as he rode homeward, the minister felt the eyes of
the people upon him,—curiously he knew, derisively he imagined; yet some
were in reality sympathetic.  The conductor, as he took the clergyman’s
nickel, touched his hat respectfully, thus subtly indicating that there
was some vestige of religious character still outwardly attaching to his
person.  And a workman, his tools in his hand and the stain of his craft
upon his clothes, leaned over and touched the minister upon the arm.

"My boy was playing the ponies in Beany Webster’s place," he said.  "You
saved him for me.  I don’t care what else you done; if they ever got me
on the jury, there’s one would never convict you of anything."

The minister recognized the friendliness of the remark with a cordial
smile, and put out his hand to grasp gratefully the soiled one of the
toiler.  That handclasp was immensely strengthening to him.  He felt as
if he had taken hold of the great, steadying hand of God.



                            *CHAPTER XXXVI*

                        *A PROMISE OF STRENGTH*


Late in the afternoon of this day, which, it will be remembered, was
Saturday, the minister had three callers in tolerably prompt succession.
The first to appear was the Angel of the Chair, hailing the minister
with a smile as if, instead of disgrace, he had achieved a triumph.

Hampstead’s sad face lighted with sheer joy at her manner.  It was such
a relief that she had not come to commiserate him.  His mood was
extremely subtle.  It irritated him to be pitied; it stung him to be
doubted. He only wanted to be believed and to be encouraged by those who
did believe him.  This fragile blossom of a woman who, with all her
gentleness and weakness, had yet in her breast the battling spirit of
the martyrs of old, touched just the right note, as after an interval of
sympathetic silence, she asked gently, with a voice full of the
tenderest consideration, "Can you—can you see it to the end?"

"To the end?"

Hampstead lifted his brows gravely.  "You mean—conviction?"

"Yes," she answered with that simple directness which showed that she
was blinking no phase of the question. "Is the issue big enough to
require such a sacrifice?"

"Oh, I think it is too improbable it could go to that length," Hampstead
answered thoughtfully.

"But it might!  Is it worth it?" Mrs. Burbeck persisted.

The calm sincerity of her manner poised the question like a lance aimed
at his heart.

Hampstead hesitated.  He really had not thought as far as this, any
farther in fact than the hateful smudge of the thumb print and the
picture in the Gallery of Rogues.  But now, with her considerately
calculating glances upon him, he did think that far, weighing all his
hopes, his work, his position at the head of All People’s, his priceless
liberty, his fathomless love for Bessie, against the pledged word of a
priest to a weak and penitent thief, whose soul at this moment trembled
on the brink, suspended alone by the spectacle of the integrity of the
confessor to his vow.

He weighed his duty to this thief now somewhat as five years before he
had weighed his duty to Dick and Tayna against the supreme ambition of
his life.  The stakes then, on both sides, large as they had seemed,
were infinitely smaller than the values at issue now.  Looking back,
John knew that then he had not only made the right decision, but the
best decision for himself.  He thought that he was humbling himself; but
instead he had exalted himself.

But now the lines were not so sharply drawn.  He was renouncing his very
position and power to do his duty.

"Is it?"

Mrs. Burbeck half-looked and half-breathed this gentle reminder that she
had asked her pastor a question.

"I believe," said the minister, revealing frankly the trend of his
thought, "that the nearest duty is the greatest duty; that the man who
spares himself for some great task will never come to a great task.  I
hold that a man ought to be true in any relation of life; and when the
issue is drawn between one duty and another, he should try to determine
calmly which is the highest duty and be true to that.  I shall try to be
that in this case—even to conviction!"

The sheen upon the face of the woman as she listened was as great as the
glow upon the face of the man as he spoke.

"That is a very simple religion," Mrs. Burbeck concurred happily, "and
it contains the larger fact of all religion.  That is why Jesus went to
the cross; because he was true.  That was why the grave couldn’t hold
him; because he was true.  You cannot bury truth, nor brand it, nor
photograph it, nor put its thumb prints in a book, nor put stripes upon
it."

Hampstead arose suddenly, enthusiasm kindling like the glow of
inspiration upon his face.  "That is why I still feel free—unscathed by
what has happened," he exclaimed.  "In a small and comparatively
unimportant way it has been given to me to be true.  Yes," he said,
sitting down again and speaking very soberly, "I shall be true to the
end—conviction, imprisonment even. Prison terms do not last forever; and
every day spent there will be a witness to the fact that I am true."
Exalted enthusiasm had passed on for a moment to a strained note that
sounded like fanatical egotism.

As if to check this Mrs. Burbeck asked quietly but with a significance
that was arresting:

"Are you strong enough, do you think?"

For a moment the minister was thoughtful and something like a shudder of
apprehension swept over him.

"No," he replied humbly.  "I begin to confess it to myself.  The fear
that I will weaken begins to come to me at times."

"That is good," the Angel of the Chair commented surprisingly, gathering
her scarf about her shoulders as she spoke.  "It is better to be too
weak than to be too strong.  But strength will be given you.  That is
what I came to say.  I feel strangely weak myself, to-day, and must be
going now."

"You should not have come," reproached the minister, as he helped Mori,
the Japanese, to wheel her to the door; "and yet I am so glad you did
come, for you have made me feel like some chivalrous champion of eternal
right jousting in the lists against an impious Lucifer."

For this the Angel gave him back a smile over the top of her chair, and
the minister watched her out of sight, reflecting that in the few days
since this strain upon them all began she had failed perceptibly, and
recalling that never before had he heard her allude to her weakness or
make her physical condition the excuse for anything she did or did not
do.

Within a quarter of an hour, so soon almost that it seemed as if he had
been waiting for his wife to depart, Elder Burbeck was announced as the
second caller at Doctor Hampstead’s door.

For the five years of his eldership before the advent of Hampstead,
Elder Burbeck had a record in the official board of never permitting any
subject to be passed upon without a word from him, nor ever having
allowed any question to be considered settled until it was settled
according to the dictates of the thing he supposed to be his conscience.

At their first momentary clash on the day when Hampstead, the book
agent, had broken open the church which Burbeck had nailed up, the older
man thought he sensed in the younger the presence of a spiritual
endowment greater than his own.  To this the ruling Elder had bowed
within himself.  Externally, his manner was not changed, nor his
leadership affected.  To the congregation his submission to the final
judgment of the minister was accounted as a virtue.  Instead of
weakening him, it strengthened his own standing with the membership.

While Burbeck had at times voiced his protests to the pastor at what he
felt to be mistaken sentimentalism, and while the protests had been
dismissed at times with an unchristian impatience, there was no one to
whom the events and disclosures of this terrible week of headlines had
been more surprising or more shocking than to the meticulous apostle of
the _status quo_.  Upon the Elder’s metallic cast of mind each
revelation impacted with the shattering effect of a solid shot.  Through
a thousand crevices thus created, suspicion, rumor, and the stream of
truths, half-truths, and lies percolated to the bed of reason.  His mind
was without elasticity.  The school of logic in which he had been
trained reasoned coldly, by straight lines to rectangular conclusions.
There was no place for allowances or adjustments.  Once a stitch was
dropped, there was no picking it up, and the blemish was in the garment.

So he reasoned now about Hampstead.  The minister, having been weak
once, must have also been wicked; being brittle, he must have been
broken; frail, he must have been fractured.  Having been wicked, broken,
fractured, this explained his immense sympathy for and capacity to reach
other frail, weak, brittle men and women; but it did not justify his
pose as a pillar unscathed by fire.  Loving All People’s as he loved
himself, his wife, his brilliant son,—with pride and
self-complacence,—Burbeck felt hot resentment at the disgrace which the
disclosures and the flood of scandal brought upon the church.

Searle himself had not believed many of the charges he hurled against
Hampstead in his concluding speech. Elder Burbeck, who heard that speech
from behind the rail, believed it all.  Believing it, and believing in
his mission to purge the church of this impostor, his zeal roused him to
the point where he forgot to be logical. He believed the preacher was a
thief, a liar and a hypocrite; and at the same time believed that he had
told the truth upon the witness stand in his own defense.  But this only
made his sin more heinous.  He was harboring some crook—some other man,
weak, frail, brittle, wicked as himself.  That man was necessarily a
hypocrite, a whited sepulcher, posing before the community as a pillar
of virtue.  It would be an act of righteousness to find and expose that
man.  But who could it be? Somebody at that supper, of course.  Now it
might be Haggard, managing editor of _The Sentinel_; newspaper men were
always suspicious characters, anyway; and surely Hampstead was under
obligations to Haggard. Haggard, with all his publicity, had given the
minister his first fame, and for years supported him upon his pedestal
as a public idol.  Yes, it probably was Haggard.  But whoever it was,
Burbeck undertook in his mind a second mission; to find and expose and
brand the thief whom the minister was protecting.

With no more fiery fanaticism did the followers of Mohammed set out with
the sword to purge the world of infidels than did Elder Burbeck purpose
to purge All People’s of its pastor and wring from the lips of Hampstead
the secret of another’s crime.

He entered the minister’s study with a pompous dignity that was ominous.
His face was as red, the bony protuberances on his boxlike and hairless
skull were as prominent, as ever.  His shaggy eyebrows lent their usual
fierceness to the steel gleam of his blue eye.  His close-cropped gray
mustache clung perilously above lips that were straight and unsmiling.

"Good evening, Hampstead," he said, with a falling inflection.

This was the first time he had ever failed to say "Brother" Hampstead.

The minister had risen to greet his visitor, but subtly discerning in
the first appearance of the man the mood in which he came, had not
advanced, but stood with his desk between them, waiting.

"How are you, Burbeck!" the minister replied evenly. This was also the
first time he had failed to address the Elder as "Brother."  He was
rather surprised at himself for omitting it now and took warning
therefrom that his feelings were poised upon hair triggers.

The Elder saw in the minister’s manner instant confirmation of his
conclusions.  The man had not the spirit of Christ.  He met hard looks
with hard looks.  This was well.  It made the Elder’s task the easier.
He could proceed at once to business.

In his hand he held a copy of the last edition of _The Sentinel_, and
now he spread the paper across the desk before the clergyman’s eye.  The
same old headline was there, "HELD TO ANSWER," but in the center of the
page was a frame or box which contained a half-tone, a smear, and a
short column of black-face type, both words and figures.

Hampstead saw at a glance that it was a printed copy of his Bertillon
record.  The smear was his thumb print; the picture was his picture, a
half-tone of the bald, unretouched photograph of himself which had been
made for the Gallery of Rogues, and across the bottom of the picture was
a suggestive space, in which was printed: "No.——?"  The inference sought
to be conveyed was clear.  So great was the sense of pain which
Hampstead felt that it was reflected in the glance he turned upon the
Elder, a glance that came as near to an appeal for pity as any that had
yet been in the clergyman’s eye.  But it met no response from the stern
old Puritan.

"Be seated!" the minister said, a trifle sadly.

"I can say what I’ve got to say better if I stand," replied the Elder
tersely.  "Of course you’ll resign!"

A look of intense surprise crossed the face of Hampstead.

"Resign what?" he asked, with raised brows.

"Why, the pulpit of All People’s!"

The minister stared in amazement.  Burbeck also stared, but in
impatience, during an interval of silence in which Hampstead had full
opportunity to weigh again the manner of his visitor and appraise its
meaning.

"No," the young man replied within a minute, firmly but almost without
inflection, "I shall not resign."

"Then," declared Burbeck aggressively, "the pulpit of All People’s will
be declared vacant."  The Elder’s chin was raised, and implacable
resolution was photographed upon his features.

Again Hampstead paused, and weighed and sounded the really sterling
character of this honest old man, whose pride was as inflexible and
undeviating as the rule of his moral life.  He saw him not as a
fanatical vengeance, but as a father.  He thought of Rollie, of the
man’s pride in his son, and of what a crushing blow it would be to him
to know the plight in which that son really stood to-day.  It brought to
him the memory of something he had read somewhere: "The more you do for
a man, the easier it is to love him and to forgive him."  His feeling
now was not of resentment, but of sympathy.  He felt very sorry for the
Elder and for the position in which he stood.

"Why, Brother Burbeck," he reproached softly, "All People’s would not do
that.  You would not let them do that.  When you have stopped to think,
you would not let me resign even.  If I am convicted by a jury, I should
have to resign; but a jury would not convict, I think. Besides, many
things can happen before that.  My accuser, who knows I am innocent,
might relent.  It is even more conceivable that a condition might arise
under which the thief could speak out, and I should be vindicated."

The upper lip of Burbeck curled till it showed a tooth and then
straightened out again.  The minister continued to speak:

"To resign now would amount to a confession of guilt.  To force me to
resign would be an act of treachery. I am guilty of nothing, proven
guilty of nothing. I am assailed because of the whimsical caprice of a
half-crazed woman.  I am temporarily helpless before that assault
because I am faithful to my vows as a minister of All People’s, vows
which I took kneeling, with your hand upon my head.  In spirit I am
unscathed, as your own observations must show you.  If my reputation is
wounded, it is a wound sustained in the course of my duty, and it is the
part of All People’s and every member of it to rally valiantly to my
support.  If I were not persuaded that they would do this, I should be
gravely disheartened."

The manner in which Hampstead spoke was clearly disconcerting to the
Elder.  He felt again that consciousness of moral superiority before
which he had bowed until bowing had become a habit.  But now he had more
information.  Reason stiffened the back of prejudice. He knew that this
assumption of the minister was a pose.  His conviction was this time
strong enough to avert its spell; and he answered unmoved, except to
deeper feeling, with still harsher utterance:

"Then Hampstead, you will be disheartened!  All People’s shall never
support you again.  I have called a meeting of the official board for
to-night.  I shall present a resolution declaring the pulpit vacant.  If
they recommend it, it will be acted upon to-morrow morning by the
congregation.  If they do not receive it, I shall myself bring it before
the congregation."

A look of deepening pain crossed the features of the minister.

"Not to-morrow," he pleaded, his voice choking strangely; "not
to-morrow.  I have been counting greatly on to-morrow.  It has been a
hard week. Man!" and Hampstead suddenly arose, "man, have you not heart
enough to realize what this has been to me.  I long passionately for the
privilege of standing again in the pulpit of All People’s.  I want them
to see how undaunted in spirit I am.  I want them to judge for
themselves the mark of conscious innocence upon my face. I want to feel
myself once more under the gaze of a thousand pairs of eyes, every one
of which I know is friendly.  I want the whole of Oakland to know that
my church is solidly behind me; that though in a Court of Justice I am
’Held to Answer’, in the Court of the Lord and before the jury of my own
church, I stand approved, with the very stigma of official shame
recognized as a decoration of honor."

Hampstead had walked around the desk.  He lifted his hand in appeal and
sought to lay it upon the shoulder of the Elder to express the sympathy
and the need of sympathy which he felt.

But Burbeck deliberately moved out of reach, replying sternly and
perhaps vindictively:

"Hampstead!  You do not appear to appreciate your position.  You will
never again stand in the pulpit of All People’s.  That is one sacrilege
which you have committed for the last time.  More than that, I hold it
to be my duty to God to wring from your own lips the secret of the man
whom you are shielding, and I shall find a way to do it!  I—"

But the man’s feeling had overmastered his speech. His body shook, his
face was purple with the vehemence of anger.  He lifted his hand as if
to call down an imprecation when words had failed him, then abruptly
turned, unwilling to trust himself to further speech, and made for the
outside door.  It closed behind him with a bang that left the key
rattling in the lock.

Perhaps this noise and the sound of the Elder’s clumping, heavy feet as
they went down the steps, prevented the minister from hearing the
chugging of a motor-car as it was brought to a stop in front.

Elder Burbeck, hurrying directly across the street to relieve his
feelings by getting away quickly from what was now a house of
detestation, almost ran into the huge black shape drawn up before the
curb.  He backed away and lunged around the corner of the car too
quickly to notice the figure that emerged from it, or his emotions might
have been still more hotly stirred.

Hampstead, sitting at his desk, trying to think calmly of this new
danger which threatened him, and to reflect upon the irony of the
circumstance by which the father of the man and the husband of the
mother he was risking everything to protect, should become the
self-appointed Nemesis to hurl him from his pulpit and wrest the secret
from his lips, heard faintly the ring at the front door, heard the door
close, and an exclamation from his sister in the hall, followed by
silence which, while lasting perhaps no more than a few seconds, was
quite long enough for him to forget, in the absorption of his own
thoughts, that some one had entered the house.  Hence he started with
surprise when the inner door was opened, and Rose appeared, her white,
strained features expressing both fright and hate.  She closed the door
carefully behind her and whispered hoarsely: "That—that woman is here!"



                            *CHAPTER XXXVII*

                        *THE TERMS OF SURRENDER*


"What woman?" asked Hampstead, in disinterested tones, too deeply
absorbed in the half cynical reflection which the mission of Elder
Burbeck had induced to realize that there was but one woman to whom his
sister’s manner could refer.

"That—that woman!" replied Rose again, unable to bring herself to
mention the name.

"Oh," exclaimed her brother absently, but starting up from his reverie.
"Oh, very well; show her in," he directed.  His tone and gesture
indicated that nothing mattered now.

Rose was evidently surprised at her brother’s instruction and for once
inclined to protest the supremacy of his will.

"You are not going to see her again?" she argued.

"I know of no one who should be in greater need of seeing me," John
rejoined, with sadness and reproach mingled in equal parts.

"But alone?  Think of the danger!"

"Seeing her alone has done about all the harm it could do," the brother
replied, with a disconsolate toss of his hands, while the drawn look
upon his face became more pronounced.  "Show her in!"

Rose turned back with a cough eloquent of dissenting judgment and left
the door flung wide.  John at his distance sensed her feeling of outrage
in the fierce rustling of her skirts as she receded down the hall, and
presently heard her voice saying icily: "The open door!"

The minister smiled, with half-guilty satisfaction. His sister had
refused Miss Dounay the courtesy of her escort to the study.  He
suspected that Rose had even refused to look at the visitor again, but
having indicated the direction in which the open door stood, had whisked
indignantly beyond into her own preserves.

The hour was now something after sunset, and the room was half in gloom.
The actress paused inside the door, standing stiffly.  Hampstead sat
before his desk, his elbows on the arms of his chair, his hands hanging
limp, his shoulders drooping, his eyes cast down and fixed.  He was
again thinking.  He had a good many things to think about.  The coming
of the actress brought one more.  He was not utterly despondent, but he
had been brought to the verge of catastrophe; perhaps beyond the verge.
The woman against whom he had done no wrong, and who had brought him to
the precipice, now stood in his room, the place of all places in which
he could feel the desolation creeping round his soul like rising waters
about a man trapped by the tide in some ocean cavern.  But the minister
was not now thinking of that.  Instead his mind recalled wonderingly
that fleeting picture of this woman in court, with her eyes gleaming
savagely at Searle and crouching like a tigress about to spring.

As if to call attention to her presence, the actress swung the door
noiselessly toward the jamb, until the lock caught it with an audible
and decisive snap.  The minister reached out a hand and touched a button
that flooded the room with light.

Miss Dounay was clad exactly as she had appeared in court, except that
she was more heavily veiled, so that the prying light revealed no more
of her features than the sparkle of an eye.  Hampstead had not risen.

"Well!" he said, quietly but emotionlessly.

"Yes," she replied, in a low, affirmative voice, exactly as if in answer
to a question.

"Why did you do it?"

Hampstead asked the question abruptly, but very quietly, and accompanied
it with a gravity of expression and a gesture slight but so inclusive
that it comprehended the entire avalanche which had been released upon
him during the six days which had passed since he had talked with this
woman in the limousine upon the moonlit point above the city.

Before replying, the actress raised both hands and lifted her veil.  The
disclosure was something of a revelation.  The features were those of
Marien Dounay, but they were changed.  There had been always something
royal in Marien’s glances, but the royal air was gone now: something
dominant in her personality, but the dominance had departed.  The
suggestion, too, of smouldering fire in her eyes was absent; instead
there appeared a liquescent, quivering light, in which suffering and the
comprehension that comes with suffering combined to suggest helpless
appeal rather than the old, imperial air.

This softening of expression had extended to her mouth as well.  The
lips, as red, as full of invitation as ever, were more pliant; they
trembled and formed themselves into tiny undulating curves which
suggested and then reinforced the imploring light of the eyes.  Her
beauty was more appealing because it was no longer commanding, but
entreating.

"Why did you do it?" the minister repeated, when his eyes had completed
his appraisal, and the woman was still eloquently silent.

"Because I loved you," she answered briefly.

Her declaration was accompanied by an attempt at a smile that was so
brave and yet so faltering that it was rather pitiful.  But Hampstead,
looking at the beautiful shell of this woman who had so vindictively
hurled him down, was not in a mood to feel pity.  Instead he was merely
incredulous.

"Love?" he asked cynically, rising from his seat.

"Yes," exclaimed the woman with convulsive eagerness, as if her voice
choked over speaking what her lips, by the traditional modesty of her
sex and the mountain of her pride and self-will, had been too long
forbidden to utter.  "Yes, I have always loved you!"

With this much of a beginning, excitedly and with the air of one whose
course was predetermined, the actress plucked off her hat, stabbed the
pin into it, and tossed it upon the window seat; then nervously stripped
the gloves from her hands; all the while hurrying on with a sort of
defensive vehemence to aver:

"I have loved you from the first moment when you held me in your arms
long enough for me to feel the electric warmth of your personality.  You
roused, kindled, and enflamed me!  The sensation was delicious; but I
resented it.  It offended my pride.  I had never been overmastered.  You
overmastered me without knowing it.  I hated you for it.  You were so—so
unsophisticated; so good, so simple, so ready to worship, to admire, to
ascribe the beauties of my body to the beauties of my soul.  I hated you
for that, for my soul was less beautiful than my body, and I knew it.  I
resisted you and yielded to you; I hated you and loved you; I spurned
you and wanted you.

"You were so awkward, so impossible; you had so much of talent and knew
so little how to use it.  It seemed to me the very mockery of fate that
my heart should fasten its affection upon you.  I tried to break the
spell, and could not.  I yielded to my heart.  I had to love you, to let
myself adore you.

"I thought of taking you with me, but the way was too long; yours was
more than talent—far more; it was genius, but buried deep and scattered
wide.  It would have taken a lifetime to chisel it out and assemble it
in the perfect whole of successful art.  I shrank before the treadmill
task.

"And something else—I was jealous of you!"

Hampstead, who despite his incredulity had been listening attentively,
raised his eyebrows.

"Jealous of the artist you might become.  Your genius when it flowered
would overtop mine as your character overtops mine."

The speaker paused, as if to mark the effect of her words.

"Go on," urged Hampstead impatiently, and for the first time betraying
feeling.  "In the name of God, woman, if you have one word of
justification to speak, let me hear it!"

"I have it," Miss Dounay rejoined, yet more impetuously, "in that one
word which I have already spoken—love!"  She paused, passed her hand
across her brow, and again resumed the thread of her story, still
speaking rapidly but with an increase of dramatic emphasis.

"Then came the final ecstasy of pain.  You loved me. You demanded me.
You charged me with loving you. You told me it was like the murder of a
beautiful child to kill a love like ours.  You argued, persuaded,
demanded—compelled—almost possessed me!"

The woman’s face whitened, her eyes closed, and she reeled dizzily under
the spell of a memory that swept her into transports.

"But," replied the minister quietly, "you killed our beautiful child."

"No!  No!!" she exclaimed, thrusting out her hands to him.  "Do not say
that!  I only exposed it—to the vicissitudes of years, to absence and to
a foul slander which my own lips breathed against myself!  But I did not
kill it!  I did not kill it!"

"At any rate, it is dead," replied the man, his voice as sadly
sympathetic as it was coolly decisive.

"But I will make it live again," the woman exclaimed desperately.  "I
love you, John!  Oh, God, how I love you!"

She endeavored to reach his neck with her arms, but the minister stepped
back, and she stood wringing them emptily, a look in her eyes as if she
implored him to understand.

But the minister was still unresponsive.

"It was a queer way for love to act," he protested, and again with that
comprehensive gesture which called accusing notice to the ruin pulled
down upon him.

"But will you not understand?" she pleaded.  "It was the last desperate
resource of love.  I could not reach the real you.  I tried for weeks.
I endured insufferable associations.  I assumed distasteful
interests—all to put myself in your company; to keep you in mine; to
create those proximities, those environments and situations in which
love grows naturally.  Again and again I thought that love was springing
up.  But I was disappointed.  You did not respond.  What I thought at
first was response was only sympathy.  To you I was no longer a woman.
I was a subject in spiritual pathology.

"When I saw this, first it irritated, then maddened me.  I knew that you
were not yourself, that your environment had insulated you.  That you
were so interested in the part which you were playing,—so absorbed by
the duty of being a public idol, that you could not be yourself, the
man, the flesh, the heart, I know you are.

"In desperation I resolved to strip you, to hurl you down, to rob you of
the public regard, of your church, of everything; to strip you until you
were nothing but the man who once held me in his arms, his whole body
quivering, and demanding with all his nature to possess me."

As the woman spoke, her voice had risen, and a half-insane enthusiasm
was gleaming on her face, while her fingers reached restlessly after the
minister who, as unconsciously as she advanced, receded until he stood
cornered against the door.

"Now," she continued, in her frenzied exaltation of mood, "it is done!
You see how easily it was accomplished.  Nothing should be so
disillusioning, so reawakening to you as to observe how light is your
hold upon this community, how selfish and insincere was all this public
adulation.  I, a stranger almost, of whom these people knew nothing, was
able, with a ridiculously impossible charge, to brush you from your
eminence like a fly.

"Of what worth has it all been?  Of what worth all that you can do for
people like these?  Your very church is turning against you.  It will
cast you out."

A shade had crossed the brow of Hampstead.

"You think that?" he asked defiantly.

"I know it," Marien replied aggressively.  "That square-headed old Elder
came to see me this afternoon. Shaking his hand was like taking hold of
a toad.  Ugh! He wanted to pry into your past through me, the old
reprobate!"

"Hush!  I will not hear him defamed.  He is an honorable and a
well-meaning man, against whose character not one word can be breathed."

Marien’s eyes flashed.  Impatient and regardless of interruption, she
continued as though Hampstead had not spoken.

"And he, the father of the man you are suffering to shield, is to be the
first to take advantage of your misfortune.  The old Pharisee!  I nearly
told him who the real thief was."

"Miss Dounay!"

The minister’s exclamation was short and sharp, like a bark of rage.
His face was drawn until his mouth was a seam, and his eyes had shrunk
to two shafts of light, "Miss Dounay!  That is God’s secret.  If you had
spoken, I should have—"  He ceased to speak but held up hands that
clenched and unclenched.

The actress was feeling confident now.  She had goaded this man to rage.
Beyond rage might lie weakness and surrender.  She threw back her head
and laughed.

"Yes, I will finish it for you.  You would have been inclined to
strangle me; but I did not tell him.  Yet not for your reason, but for
mine.  So long as you rest under the charge, your enemies gnash; your
friends turn from you.  Instead of being insulated from me by all, you
are insulated from all by me.  There is no one left but me. I love you.
I am beautiful, rich, with the glamour of success upon me.  I can
override anything; defy anything. I can be yours—altogether yours.  You
can be mine—altogether mine.  You can leave these shallow, ungrateful
gossips and scandalmongers to prey upon each other, while you and I go
away to an Eden of our own."

The actress paused, breathless and again to mark effects.  The
minister’s face had resumed its normal benignity of expression.  He was
gazing at her thoughtfully, contemplatively.  Marien took fresh hope,
knowing upon second thought now, as she had known all along, that she
could not successfully tempt this man by a life of mere luxurious
emptiness.  Falling into tones of yet more confiding intimacy, she
continued:

"Besides, John, I am not jealous of your genius any more.  My love has
surged even over that.  You have still a great dramatic career before
you.  You shall come into my company.  You shall have every opportunity.
Within two years you shall be my leading man; within five, co-star with
me.  Think of it.  Your heart is still in the actor’s art.  Acting is
religion.  After God, the actor is the greatest creator.  He alone can
simulate life.  The stage is the most powerful pulpit.  Come. We will
write your life’s story into a play.  We will play the faith and
fortitude which you have shown into the very soul of America, like a bed
of moral concrete! Are you not moved at that?"

She paused, standing with head upon one side, and the old, alluring,
coaxing glances stealing up from beneath the coquettish droop of her
lids.

"No," Hampstead replied seriously.  "I am not moved by it at all.  Had
you made this speech to me five years ago, I should have been in
transports.  To-day the art of living appeals to me beyond the art of
acting.  I have no doubt I feel as great a zest, as great a creative
thrill in standing true in the position in which you have placed me as
you ever can in the most ecstatic raptures of the mimetic art.  No,
Marien," and his tone was conclusive, "it makes no appeal to me."

The beautiful creature, perplexity and disappointment mingling on her
face, stood for a moment nonplussed. The expression of alert and
confident resourcefulness had departed.  Her intelligence had failed
her.  Yet once more the old smile mounted bravely.

"But there still remains one thing," she breathed softly, leaning toward
him.  "That is I.  Everything you have got is gone, or going.  I have
taken it away from you that I might give you instead myself.  You had no
room for me last week.  You have nothing else but me now.  It hurt me to
give you pain.  I hate Searle. I could have torn his tongue out
yesterday.  But you will forgive me, John.  I did it for love."

Her utterance was indescribably pathetic—indescribably appealing.

"I am not to blame that I love you.  You are to blame. No, the God that
constituted us is to blame."

Her tones grew lower and lower.  The spirit of humbled pride, of
chastened submission, of helpless want entered more and more into the
expression of her face and the timbre of her soft voice, while the very
outlines of her figure seemed to melt and quiver with the intensity of
yearning.

"It has been hard to humble myself in this way to you," she confessed.
"I tried to win you as once I won you, as women like to win their
lovers.  But I am not quite as other women.  I have to have you!  My
nature is imperious.  It will shatter itself or have its will.  I
shattered your love to gain my ambition’s goal. And now I have shattered
your career to gain your love again."

Hampstead, though his consideration was growing for the woman, could not
resist a shaft of irony.

"That was a sacrifice you took the liberty of making for me," he
suggested.

"But, don’t you see, it made me possible for you again," and the actress
smiled with that obtuseness which was pitiful because it would not see
defeat.  She drew closer to him now, well within reach of his arm, and
stood perfectly still, her hands clasped, her bosom heaving gently, a
thing of rounded curves and wistful eyes, the figure of passionate,
submissive, appealing love, hoping—desiring—waiting—to be taken.

Yet the minister did not take her.

But whatever agonies of lingering suspense, of dying hope, and rising
despair may have passed through the indomitable woman as she stood in
this pose of vain and helpless waiting, there was yet a spirit in her
that would not surrender because it could not.

With eyes mournfully searching the depths of the face before her, she
began her last appeal.

"And yet, John, there is a sacrifice that I am willing to make that is
all my own and none of yours.  I will renounce my own ambition, abandon
the stage, cancel my engagements, give up that for which I have bartered
everything a woman has to give but one thing.  I have kept that one
thing for you alone.  The name of Marien Dounay shall disappear.  I will
be Alice Higgins again. I will be not an artist but a wife.  I will be
the associate of your work.  You must go from here, of course.  I have
made your remaining impossible.  But we will find some place where men
and women need the kind of thing that you can do.  It is a great need.
There is a sort of glory in your work which I have not been too blind to
see.  My bridal flowers shall be the weeds of humble service.  I will
employ my art to bring cheer into homes of poverty, freshness and
brightness to the sick.  I will try to be God’s replica of all that you
yourself are.  I say I will try!"

She had raised her face now and was searching his eyes again.

"I will do all of this, eagerly, joyously, fanatically, John Hampstead,
if it will make it possible for you to love me—as once you loved me,"
she concluded, with the last words barely audible and sounding more like
heart throbs than human speech.

Hampstead, looking levelly into her face, saw that the woman spoke the
truth, that she was absolutely sincere.

She saw that he saw it, and with a gesture of mute appeal threw out her
hands to him.  But they gathered only air and fell limply to her side.

The minister, although his manner expressed a world of sympathy, shook
his head sadly.  Marien’s face grew white, and the red of her lips
almost disappeared.  A look of blank terror came into her eyes, while
one hand, with fingers half-closed, stole upward to the blanched cheek,
and the other was pressed convulsively against her breast.

"I have my answer—John!" she whispered hoarsely, after an interval.  "I
have my answer!"

"Yes, Marien," he replied, sorrowfully but decisively, "you have your
answer."

Her eyes, always eloquent, and now with a look of terrible hurt in them,
suffused quickly, and it seemed that she would burst into tears and
fling herself weakly upon the man she loved so hopelessly.  Instead,
however, only a shiny drop or two coursed down the cheeks which
continued as white as marble; and she held herself resolutely aloof, but
balancing uncertainly until all at once her rounded figure seemed to
wilt and she would have fallen, had not the minister thrown an arm about
the tottering form and with gentle brotherliness of manner helped her to
a seat in the Morris chair.

For a considerable time she sat with her face in her hands, silent but
for an occasional dry, eruptive sob.

Hampstead, standing back with arms folded and one hand making a rest for
his chin, looked on helplessly, realizing that for the first time he was
studying this complex personality with something like real
comprehension.

While he gazed a purpose appeared to stir again in the disconsolate
figure.  The dry sobs ceased, and the body straightened till her head
found its rest upon the back of the chair; but there the woman relaxed
again in seeming total exhaustion with eyes closed and lips slightly
parted.  Hampstead drew a little closer, as if in tribute to this
determined nature which now obviously fought with its grief as it had
fought to gain the object of its attachment—indomitably.  He had again
the feeling which had come to him before, that she was greater, was
worthier than he.

"How I have made you suffer!" Marien exclaimed abruptly, at the same
time opening her eyes.

"Yes," the minister confessed frankly, while the lines of pain seemed to
chisel themselves deeper upon his face with the admission, "you have
indeed made me suffer."

"Can you ever, ever forgive me?" she asked, lifting her hand
appealingly.

It was a small hand and lily white, with slim and tapering fingers.  The
minister took it in his and found it as soft as before,—but chilled.

"Yes," he said, gravely and calculatingly, "I do forgive you.  The ruin
has been almost complete; but I am strong enough to build again!"

"Oh," she exclaimed eagerly, starting up, "do you think you can?"

"Yes," he assured her stoutly, "I know it."  He was beginning to feel
sorrier for her than for himself. "You, too," he suggested gently, "must
begin to build again."

Again her features whitened, and she fell back, pressing her brow with a
gesture of pain and bewilderment, a suggestion of one who wakes to find
one’s self in chaos. It seemed a very long time that she was silent, but
with lines of thought upon her brow and the signs of strengthening
purpose gradually again appearing about her mouth and chin.  When she
spoke it was to say with determination:

"Yes; and I, too, am strong enough to build again. In these silent
minutes I have been thinking worlds and worlds of things.  I have lost
everything—yet everything remains—and more.  My art shall be my husband;
and I will be a greater actress than ever.  I shall play with a greater
power, inspired and informed by the love which I have lost.  I was never
tender enough before.  The critics charged me with hardness; I hated
them for it.  I could not understand them.  Now I know.  I could never
play but half a woman’s heart.  I was too selfish, too proud, too
imperious.  I regarded love too lightly.  That mistake will be
impossible now. I know that love is all and all.  There is no ecstasy of
love’s delight of which my imagination cannot conceive; there is no
despair which the loss of love may produce that my experience will not
have fathomed before this poignant ache in my heart is done."

At first John recoiled a little at this talk of a utilitarian extraction
from her bitter experience and his; yet he reflected that it was like
the woman.  It was but the outcrop of the dominant passion.  Since
girlhood she had seen herself solely in terms of relation to her art;
therefore this attitude now indicated, not a lack of fineness, but her
almost noble capacity for converting everything to the ultimate object
of the artist.  Without such capacity for abandon, there was, he
reflected, no supreme artist; and, he reasoned further, no supreme
minister—or man, even.  To this extent and in this moment, Marien’s
bearing in defeat was a lesson and a spur to him.

"I shall go widowed to my work," she went on to say, "but it will be a
greater work than I could have done before.  Then I had an ambition.
Now I have a mission!  To show women—and men too—the worth and weight
and height and depth and paramount value of love."

Hampstead was again deeply impressed with her enormous resiliency of
spirit.  The woman’s heart had been torn to pieces; yet while each nerve
and fiber of it was a pulse of pain, she was purposing to bind the thing
together and let its every throb be a word of warning to womankind.

"I learned it from you," she explained, almost as if she had read his
thoughts.  "I understand now the exalted mood in which you spoke a few
minutes ago.  I am sorry that I have lost you; but I am not sorry that I
have hurled you down, since it leaves revealed a nobler figure of a man
than I had thought existed."

Hampstead shuddered, in part at his own pain, in part at the ease with
which she uttered the sentiment, because this woman could really never
know how much his fall had cost him.

"Each of us in life I fear must be held to answer for his own
obtuseness," he suggested.

"But that is not all we are held to answer for," Miss Dounay replied
with sudden perception.  "We must pay the penalty of the obtuseness of
others."

"Ah!" exclaimed the minister quickly.  "There you stumbled upon one of
the greatest truths in religion, the law of vicarious suffering.  We are
each compelled, whether we will or not, to suffer for the sins of
others. If we, you or I, mere humanity that we are, can so manage such
suffering that it becomes a redemptive influence over the life of the
one who caused it, we have done in a small and distant way the thing
which the Son of Man did so perfectly for all the world."

"I see," she exclaimed eagerly, pressing her hands together in a sort of
rapture.  "It is that which you have done for me.  You have suffered for
my sin, and you have so managed the suffering that you have taken away
some of my selfishness and will send me out of here, as I said before,
not with an ambition, but with a mission."

She had risen, and though her manner was still subdued, it was again the
manner of self-possession.  Yet the new mood into which she had passed,
and the new light of spiritual enthusiasm which had come upon her face,
in no wise wiped out the impression that in the hour past she had tasted
the bitterest disappointment that a woman can know, had plunged to the
very depths of despair, and was still under its somber cloud.  Indeed it
was the fierceness of the conflagration within her which had burned out
so swiftly at least a part of that dross of selfishness of which she had
spoken, and clarified her vision, so that their two minds had leaped
quickly from one peak of thought to another, to come suddenly on
embarrassed silence just because all words, all deeds even, seemed
suddenly futile to express what each had felt and was now feeling.

As the conversation lapsed momentarily, both appeared to find relief in
trivial interests.  The minister straightened the books in the rack upon
his desk, then looked at his watch and noted that it was fifteen minutes
to seven and reflected that seven was his dinner hour.

The actress gave her hair a few touches with her hands, and stood
adjusting her hat before the mirror above the mantel.  But the veil was
still raised.  Hampstead watched these operations silently, moved by
evidences of the change in the woman.

"You have forgiven me," she began again, noticing in the mirror that his
eye was upon her; "but I do not forgive myself.  My first mission is to
repair the damage which I have done to you.  I will go immediately to
Searle and tell him the truth."

Hampstead’s mouth fell open, and a single step carried him half way
across the room.

"But you must not tell Searle nor any one else the truth!" he affirmed
vehemently.

It was Marian’s turn to be surprised.

"You mean that I am not to undo the wrong that I have done you?"’ she
asked in amazement.

"Not that way," he answered, with deliberate shakings of the head.

"You mean that you are to stand under the stigma which now rests upon
you?" she insisted, with a gleam of the old imperious manner.
"Certainly not!  I have done wrong enough!  It cannot be undone too
quickly. I shall tell the truth to Searle.  I shall gather the reporters
about me and spare myself nothing.  I will reveal the whole horrible
plot; I will confess that Searle was duped, and that you were grossly
conspired against by me!"

Again Hampstead, meeting that level glance, knew that the woman spoke in
absolute sincerity.  She was entirely capable of doing it.  Once a
course commended itself to her judgment, she had already shown that she
would spare nothing to follow it.

"But you forget young Burbeck," he exclaimed. "Your exposure would mean
his exposure."

"Well?"

Marien’s eyes and tone both expressed her meaning, though she added
incisively: "He is no reason why you should linger under this cloud."

Hampstead gazed at the woman doubtfully, speculating as to what argument
would make the strongest appeal to her.

"His mother," he began gravely, "is my dearest friend.  She is the most
saintly woman I have ever known.  One year of her life to this community
is worth more than a score of years of mine—than all of mine. Let her
know in private that her son is the thief, and she would grieve to death
in a week.  Let her know suddenly, with the force of public exposure,
and it would kill her instantly, like an electric shock."

But this note proved the wrong one.  Marien instantly took higher
ground.

"I know that woman," she replied.  "I have sensed her spirit.  You do
her injustice.  If she knew the facts, she would speak, though it killed
her and ruined her son, rather than see you endure for a single day what
you are suffering now."

Hampstead knew better than the speaker how true this was.

"But there is another reason, a higher reason," he began slowly, with a
grave significance that caught Marian’s attention instantly, "the soul
of Rollie Burbeck!"

The minister had breathed rather than spoken these last words.  They had
in them a sense of the awe he felt at what hung upon his actions now.

For an instant, the keen eyes of the woman searched the depths of
Hampstead’s own, as if she was making sure that what she heard and
understood with this new and spiritual intuition which had come so
swiftly out of her experience, was confirmed by what she saw.

"You mean," she asked, only half credulous, "that you will suffer for
his sake as you have suffered for mine, until new character begins to
grow in him just as a new objective begins to stir in me?  You mean
that?"

Hampstead nodded.  "That is my hope," he said solemnly.

"Oh!"  Marien sighed, with a prolonged aspirate note which expressed
reverence, awe, and astonishment. "But the charges?  They will be
pressed.  You will be held—convicted—imprisoned!"

"I cannot think it," argued John soberly.  "A way will appear to avoid
that.  Yet we must contemplate the worst.  One thing is sure," and his
voice appeared to increase in volume without an increase of tone, "one
thing is sure: In the position in which you have placed me I must remain
until the thing for which I am standing has been accomplished—however
long that takes—and if the wrong you have done to me confers any
obligation upon you, it is to keep your lips sealed till I give you
leave to open them."

Miss Dounay, more humbled by this steadfast magnanimity of soul which
could refuse vindication when it was offered than awed by the sudden
force of self-assertion which Hampstead manifested, looked her
submission.

"Man!" she exclaimed impulsively, seizing both his hands for an instant.
"I revere you.  You are not the flesh I thought.  You have altered
greatly.  Yours was not a pose.  It is genuine.  I am reconciled a
little to my loss.  You are not mine because I was not worthy to be
yours!"

Hampstead made a deprecating, repressive gesture.

"Let me finish," she protested.  "I am even less humiliated.  The thing
required to charm you was a thing I did not possess!"

"Beauty is a great possession," Hampstead smiled. "I have been and am
sensible to it.  I was sensible to your beauty to the last.  The woman I
love is beautiful."

"The woman you love!"  Marien’s whole manner changed.  Her face took on
the tigerish look.  "There is some one else then?  At least," she added
reproachfully, "you might have spared me this."

"It was necessary," the minister replied quietly, "if we were really to
understand each other."

The gravity of the man’s tone, as well as some subtle recovery within
herself, checked the tigerish impulse. Swiftly it gave way to pain and
humility again.

"You—you are to marry?" she faltered weakly.

"No," he replied, with ineffable sadness.  "This—" and again that
comprehensive gesture which he had used so frequently to indicate the
catastrophe which had come upon him, "this has dashed that hope
entirely!"

The actress stood completely confounded.  Within herself she wondered
why she did not fly into a jealous passion.  Surely she was changing;
she felt half bewildered, half distrustful of her own moods in which she
had believed so surely before.  She was also completely staggered by
this crowning revelation of the capacity of the man for sacrifice.
Instead of the jealous passion, she felt a sisterly kind of sympathy;
but it was only after a very considerable interval that Marien trusted
herself to ask with trembling voice:

"She is very—very beautiful—this—this woman whom you love?"

The question was put very softly, meditatively almost.

"To me, yes," replied the minister with emphasis.  "I think you would
say so too."

"You were engaged?"

"Not when I met you first; but there had been a bond of very close
sympathy between us.  After you were gone, I felt that I had never
really loved you; and my heart fastened itself on her.  I loved her and
told her so.  But I felt it my duty to tell her the truth about you.
Manlike, I thought she would comprehend.  Woman-like, she comprehended
more than I thought.  She believed me weak and uncertain.  She loved me
still, but with a pain of disappointment in her heart.  She put my love
upon a kind of probation.  The probation has lasted five years.  It was
almost finished.  After what the papers have published in the past few
days, you can imagine that now all is over."

"But you will write to her?  You will see her?  You will explain?"
Marien questioned in self-forgetful eagerness.

"Explain," he smiled sadly.  "What a futility! What explanation could
there be after what I had told her?  You know a woman’s heart.  More
firmly than any other, she would be forced to an implicit belief in what
the newspapers have falsely intimated concerning our relations in the
past few weeks."

"But I will go to her myself!" Marien exclaimed impetuously.  "I will
tell her the truth."

"Do you think she would believe you?" he asked frankly.  "Could you
expect any woman to believe in your sincerity under such circumstances,
upon such a mission?  You would not be able to believe it yourself."

"You are right!" Marien admitted after a moment of thought.  "Once away
from the restraining influence of your character, my true nature would
reveal itself. I should hate her!  I do hate her!  No, I could not go!"

"And so, you see,"—John did not finish the sentence but had recourse to
a helpless smile and a pathetic shrug of the shoulders.

Marien lowered her veil.  The interview was running on and on.  It must
come to an end.

"It all becomes uncanny," she exclaimed.  "There is too much converging
upon your heart.  There must come a rift in the clouds.  I have
submitted to your compelling altruism but only for the present.  If
something does not happen within a reasonable limit of time, I shall
positively and dangerously explode!"

John smiled at the vehemence with which she spoke.

"But in the meantime—silence!" he adjured impressively.

"Yes," she assented reluctantly.  "But at the same time I shall not know
one gleam of happiness, one moment’s freedom from mental anguish until
your vindication is flung widely to the world."

"But in the meantime, silence!" reiterated John obstinately.

"And in the meantime," she consented more resignedly, "silence!"

"Good night, Marien," said the minister, putting out his hand.

"Good night, Doctor Hampstead," she replied, seizing that hand
impulsively, then flinging it from her again as she turned, without
another glance, to the door.  It closed behind her softly, considerately
almost, but with that same decisive snap of the lock which had shut her
in three quarters of an hour before.

Hampstead stood a moment in reflection.  She had come and she had gone,
leaving behind a great sense of relief, of complexities unraveled, of
good accomplished and of further danger averted.  Of one thing he felt
sure now; he would never go to prison.  A way would be found to avoid
that.  Her vindictive malice had spent itself and been turned to an
attempt at co-operation.

But he was still under clouds: one the verdict of Judge Brennan, "Held
to Answer"; the other less black, but larger and murkier, the cloud of
public condemnation; and for the present he must remain under both.
Besides which, there was his church and Elder Burbeck to consider.

And to-morrow was Sunday!



                           *CHAPTER XXXVIII*

                        *SUNDAY IN ALL PEOPLE’S*


Elder Burbeck did not make good his threat. Hampstead stood again in the
pulpit of All People’s on Sunday, as his heart had so passionately
desired.

But the reality disappointed.  The contrast between this day and last
Lord’s day was pitiful.  To be sure, the church was packed; but not to
worship.  The people—curious and wooden-hearted—had come to be witnesses
to a spectacle, to see a man go through the business of a rôle which his
character no longer fitted him to enact. The service and the sermon were
one long agony.  John spoke upon the duty of being true.  His words came
back upon him like an echo.

As for Elder Burbeck, he had only halted.  The minister, from
considerations of delicacy which were promptly misconstrued, having
remained away from the called meeting of the Official Board on Saturday
night, all things in that session had gone to Burbeck’s satisfaction. He
held in his pocket the resolution of the Board, recommending that the
congregation request the resignation of the pastor of All People’s.  He
might have introduced this at the close of the sermon, thus turning the
ordinary congregational meeting into a business session; but the Elder
was an expert tactician.  He decided to devote the entire day to a final
estimate of just what inroads the week had made upon the ascendancy of
the minister with his people.

However, the manner in which the sermon was received encouraged him to
go forward immediately with his plans.  As the congregation was upon the
last verse of the last hymn, the Elder ascended to the pulpit beside the
minister.  He did not look at the minister.  He did not whisper that he
had an announcement to make, and Hampstead did not say at the end of the
hymn: "Elder Burbeck has an announcement to make."  This was the usual
form.  But it was not followed.  Instead, Burbeck, unannounced, with
coarse self-assertion, made the announcement:

"There will be a business meeting of the church on Monday night to
consider matters of grave import to the congregation.  Every member is
urged to be present."

There was a grave doubt if the Elder had a right of himself to call a
meeting of the church.  Yet the only man with force enough to voice that
doubt was the minister, and he did not voice it.  Instead, he stood
quietly until the announcement was concluded and then invoked the
benediction of God upon all the service, which, of course, included the
announcement.

When at the close of the service Doctor Hampstead undertook to mingle
among his people, according to custom, he found a minority hysterically
hearty in their assurances of confidence, sympathy, and support; but the
majority avoided him.  Instead of enduring this and withering under it,
the minister was roused into something like aggression.  By confronting
and accosting them, he forced aloof individuals to address him.  He made
his way into groups that did not open readily to receive him.  In all
conversations he frankly recognized his position, made it the uppermost
topic, and solicited opinion and advice.  He even eavesdropped a little.
Once people opened their mouths upon the subject, he was astonished at
their frankness.  When the sum total of the impressions thus gathered
was organized and deductions made, he was stunned almost to cynicism by
their results.  Of course, no one indicated that they believed him
guilty of theft, and in the main all accepted his defense as the true
defense.  But they found him guilty of folly—a folly with a woman.
Whether it was merely a folly and not a sin, it appeared was not to
greatly alter penalties.

Yet justice must be done these people.  They felt sorry for their
minister and showed it; and they only shrank from him to avoid showing
something else that would hurt him.  They still acknowledged their debts
of personal gratitude to him, but now they experienced a feeling of
superiority.  Their weaknesses had overtaken them in private; his had
caught up with him under the spotlight’s glare.  They looked upon him
with commiseration, pityingly, but from a lofty height.  Besides which,
they accused him of an overt offense.  He had brought shame on All
People’s.  He had preached to them this morning upon the duty of being
true; but he had himself not been true—to the proud self-interest of All
People’s.

This indignant concern for the reputation of All People’s was rather a
surprising revelation to Hampstead. He had fallen into the way of
thinking that he had made All People’s; that he and All People’s were
one.  That the congregation could have any purpose that did not include
his purpose was not thinkable.  He had never conceived of it as a social
organism, with self-consciousness, with pride, with a head to be held up
and a reputation to be sustained.  To him All People’s was not a society
of persons with a pose.  It was an association of individuals, each more
or less weak, more or less dependent in their spiritual nature upon each
other and upon him; the whole banded together to help each other and to
help others like themselves.  He had thought of himself as the
instrument of All People’s in its work of human salvage.  But he now
discovered that in these four years All People’s had suffered from an
over extension of the ego.  It had been spoiled by prosperity and public
approbation, just as other congregations, or individuals, might be or
have been.  The admiration of the members for him as their pastor, their
humble obedience to his will, was in part due, not to his spiritual
ascendancy, not to his conspicuously successful labors as a helper of
humankind in so many different ways, but to the fact that these
activities of the minister won him that public admiration and approval
which shed a glamour also upon the congregation and upon the individual
members of the congregation.  Because of this, they worshipped him,
honored him, and palavered over him to a point where Hampstead, no doubt
as unconsciously as the congregation and as dangerously, had suffered an
over-extension of his own ego.

But deflation of spirit had come to him swiftly.  Now his own pride and
his own self-sufficiency had all been shot away.  If any remained, the
effect of this Sunday morning service was quite sufficient to perform
the final operation of removal.

He was to preach that night from the text: "If God is for us, who is
against us."  He gave up the idea.  It sounded egotistical.  He preached
instead his farewell sermon, though without a word of farewell in it,
from the text:

"Brethren, even if a man be overtaken in any trespass, ye who are
spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; looking to
thyself lest thou also be tempted."

That was what the pastor of All People’s was trying to do,—to restore a
man.  In preaching this sermon, he forgot that this was his valedictory,
forgot himself, forgot everything but the great mission of spiritual
reconstruction upon which he had labored and proposed to labor as long
as life was in him, no matter what yokes and scars were put upon him.
In it he reached the oratorical height of his career, which was not
necessarily lofty.

But people listened—and with understanding.  Some of them cried a
little.  It made them reminiscent.  The man himself, now slipping, had
once restored them with great gentleness.  All said, "What a pity!"

But Hampstead, while he spoke, was steeling himself against the probable
desertion of his congregation.  He had a feeling that he could win them
back if he tried hard enough, but he began to doubt that they were worth
winning back.  He had really never sought to win them to himself
personally; he would not begin now.

Instead, he saw himself cast out.  The verdict of the church on Monday
night would also be "Held to Answer."

He saw it coming almost gloatingly, and with a fierce up-flaming of that
fanatic ardor which was always in him.  The desire came to him to seize
upon the position in which he stood as a pulpit from which to deliver a
message to the world that greatly needed to be delivered, to say
something that his fate and his life thereafter might illustrate, and
thus make his public shame a greater witness to the truth than ever his
popularity had been. In one of the loftiest of his moods of exaltation,
he strode homeward from the church.

At ten o’clock, he telephoned the morning papers that at midnight he
would have a statement to give out. It contained some rather extravagant
expressions, was couched throughout in an exalted strain, and ran as
follows:


                        AN ADDRESS TO THE PEOPLE

"They tell me that I have stood for the last time in the pulpit of _All
People’s_; that on Monday night I shall be unfrocked by the hands that
ordained me; for my ministerial standing was created by this church
which now proposes to take it away.  This act, more than a court
conviction, will seem my ruin.  I write to say I cannot call that ruin
to which a man goes willingly.

"It is not my soul that hangs in the balance, but another’s.  While this
man struggles, I declare again that I will not break in upon him.  I can
reach out and touch him; but I will not.  He will read this.  I say to
him: ’Brother, wait!  Do not hurry.  I can hold your load a while until
you get the grapple on your spirit.’

"But for saying this, I am cast out.

"Men observe to me: ’What a pity!’  I say to you: ’No pity at all!’

"Is a minister who would not thus suffer worthy to be a minister?  The
conception can be broadened.  Is any man?  Is an editor worthy to be an
editor, a merchant, a teacher, a lawyer, a doctor, standing as each must
at sometime where the issue is sharply drawn between loyalty and
disloyalty to truth or trust,—is any of them truly worthy or truly true,
who would not willingly suffer all that is demanded of me?

"It does not require a great man to be true to the clasp of his hand:
nor a minister.  I know policemen and motormen who are that.  To be
that, upon the human side, has been almost the sum of my religious
practice—not my profession, but my _practice_.  By that habit I have
gained what I have gained—_and lost what I have lost_. Humbled to the
dust, I dare yet to make one boast: I have not failed in these small
human loyalties, except as my capacities have failed.

"This last act of mine, which will be regarded as the consummation of
failure, is the greatest opportunity to be true that I have ever had.

"To go forth on foot before this community, held to answer for my
convictions, fills me with a sense of abandon to immolation upon high
altars that is almost intoxicating.

"I can almost wish it might never be known whether I spoke the truth or
not about the Dounay diamonds; that in my death, unvindicated, I might
lie yonder on the hills of Piedmont; that on a simple slab just large
enough to bear it, might be written no name but only this:

"’_He believed something hard enough to live for it._’

"I wish even that you might crucify me, take me out on Broadway here and
nail me to a trolley pole.  But you will not do this.  I am not so
worthy.  You are not so brave.  Those men had the courage of their
convictions who nailed up the Galilean and hurled down with stones the
first martyr.  You have not.  Courage to-day survives; but it is
reserved for ignoble struggles. Men are more ready to die for their
appetites than to live for their convictions.  Men fear to be
uncomfortable, to be sneered at, to be defeated.  Paugh!  Defeat is not
a thing to fear.  To be untrue is the blackest terror!  To become
involved for the sake of one’s convictions should not be regarded as
calamity.  Yet it is,—in these soft days.

"The hope that the fall, even of one so humble and unimportant as I, may
be some slight protest against this spirit of weakness, takes out the
sting and gives me a delirious kind of joy.

"I would like to have been a great preacher.  I am not.  I would I had a
tongue of eloquence to fire men to this passion of mine.  I have not.
That is the pity! I was proud and jealous of my position.  I have lost
it.

"Yet I do not doubt that I shall find a field of usefulness. Deep as you
hurl me down, I do not doubt but that there are some to whom even if
condemned, spurned, unfrocked—oh, the eternal silliness of that! as if
any decrees of men could affect the standing or potentiality of a soul—I
can come as a welcome messenger of helpfulness. To them I shall go!
They may be found here. If so, I shall remain here—go in and out—pointed
at as the man who failed.

"Perhaps I can even make failure popular.  It ought to be.  There is a
great need of failures just now, for men who will fail for their true
success’s sake.

"The world needs a new standard of appraisal.  It honors the man whose
success bulks to the eye.  It needs to be a little more discriminating;
to find out why some men failed, and to honor them because they are
failures. Some of the greatest men in America and in history were
failures.  Socrates with his cup was a failure.  Jesus was a failure.
It was written on his back in lines of blistering welts.  It was nailed
into his palms, stabbed into his brow, hissed into his ear as he died.

"Re-reading at this midnight hour what I have written, I perceive that
it sounds slightly frenzied.  But my soul just now is slightly frenzied.
If I wrote calmly, unegoistically, it would be a lie.  What is written
is what I feel.

"Here and there some will approve this document. More will sneer at it.
But it is mine.  It is I.  I sign it. It is my last will and testament
in this community where once—daring to boast again—I have been a power.

"Friends—and enemies alike!—this final word.

"I have not grasped much, but this: To be true. When somebody trusts you
worthily, make good.  Be true, children, to the plans and to the hopes
of parents. Be true, lad, to the impetuous girl who has trusted you with
more than she should have trusted you.  Be true, women, to your lovers
and your husbands; men to your wives, your partners, your fellow men,
your patrons; to your talents, your opportunities, your country, your
age, your world!  Be true to God!  If you have no God, be true to your
highest conception of what God ought to be.

"It sounds like a homily.  It is a principle.  You can multiply it
indefinitely.  It runs like a scarlet thread through religion, and it
will go all around the borders of life.

"Eternal Loyalty is the Price of true Success.

"To this conviction I subscribe my name, myself and everything that
still remains to me.

"JOHN HAMPSTEAD,
       "Pastor of All People’s Church."


John felt that he wrote this and that he signed it in the presence of
the Presence.  The address and not the sermon was his valedictory.



                            *CHAPTER XXXIX*

                           *THE CUP TOO FULL*


While the Monday morning papers played up the "Address to the People",
in the evening John noticed that his name had slipped off the front
page.  This was at once a relief and a bitterness.  It told him that he
was done for; that, as a matter of news, he was only a corpse waiting
for the funeral pyre.  That pyre was a matter to which Elder Burbeck was
attending, assisted by a committee of fellow zealots—male and female—who
were industriously conducting a house-to-house canvass of the entire
membership of All People’s during the hours between Sunday at one and
Monday night at eight. Despite the lofty mood of self-sacrifice into
which the man had worked himself, the knowledge of all this busy
bell-ringing and its sinister purpose operated irritatingly on the skin
of Hampstead.  It made his flesh creep with annoyance that grew toward
anger.

But in the midst of these creepings, a significant thing happened.  The
Reverend William Dudley Rohan, pastor of the largest, the richest, and
by material standards the most influential protestant congregation in
the city, came in person to call on Hampstead, to shake him by the hand
and say: "Your address had an apostolic ring to it.  I believe in you
sincerely."

In John’s mail that afternoon there came from Father Ansley, an
influential priest of the Roman Catholic communion, a letter to similar
effect.

Moreover, as the activity of Elder Burbeck developed, John began to hear
more and more from members of his own congregation who either refused to
believe the charges against him, or, if not so ready to acquit, none the
less refused to desert him now.

All of these things seemed definitely to testify that a wave of reaction
was upon its way.  They almost gave the man hope.  Yet by the end of an
hour of calculation, John saw that after all it was a small wave.  All
People’s church had more than eleven hundred members.  He had not heard
from one fifth of them.  Those who had communicated or come to press his
hand were very frequently the weak, obscure, and least influential.
They were the "riff-raff", as Burbeck would have called them, of the
congregation.  The pastor did not disesteem their support on this
account.  Instead he valued it a little more; yet gave himself no
illusions as to its value in a battle-line.

At the same time his friends urged him to organize against the assaults
of Elder Burbeck; to send out bell-ringing committees upon his own
account.  Yet he would not do this.  He would not make himself an issue.
But the minister’s negatives were not so stout as they had been. It was
one thing to write in a frenzy at midnight how bravely he would endure
his fate.  It was another to wait the creeping hours in passive
fortitude until the blow should fall.

By noon he confessed to himself that he was feeling rather broken.  For
a week he had eaten little, and that little nervously, absently, and
without enjoyment.  His sleep had been restless and unrefreshing.
Strong, vigorous as he was, reckless as were the draughts that could be
made upon his work-hardened constitution, a fear that it would fail him
now began to agitate the man.  He must be strong—physically.  He must
bear himself unyielding as Atlas.  His shoulders, instead of sinking,
must stiffen as the still heavier load rolled upon them.  But his mind
also must be strong.

He was almost mad with thinking on his course, with trying to reason out
some Northwest Passage for his conscience.  Every eventuality had been
considered, every resulting good or injury taken into account.  When he
did sleep, dreams had come to him—horrible, portending dreams that
lingered into wakefulness and filled the hours with vague,
tissue-weakening dread.  He knew the meaning of this.  His brain was so
wearied with thinking of the perplexities which bristled round him that
the very processes of thought had begun to operate less surely.
Conclusions that should have stood out sharp and clear became blurred.
Doubts and indecisions clamored round him.  Things settled and settled
right came trooping back to demand realignment.  This alarmed him more
than anything else,—the fear that the course he had chosen and which he
knew to be right, might seem, in some moment when his mind passed into a
fog, the wrong course; and he would falter not for lack of will but
because of the maiming of his judgment.

He longed for counsel, to talk intimately with some one, but was afraid,
afraid he might get the wrong advice and follow it.  The loyalty of
Rose, the judgment of the Angel of the Chair, he trusted; but himself he
began to mistrust.  Mistrusting himself, he dared not talk at all, lest
he either exhibit signs of weakness that would frighten Rose, or lest,
in that weakness, he confess too much to Mrs. Burbeck.

One fear like this and one alarm acted to produce another until
something like panic grew up in his soul.  A small onyx clock was on the
mantel.  The hands pointed to one—and then to two—and to three.  At
eight he must go to the church and see himself accused by those whom he
loved, and for whom he had labored.

But at half-past three he saw clearly that his intended course was
wrong, that he should defend himself and speak the truth: that his
silence was working greater ill than good.

The clock tinkled four with this decision still clear in his mind.  But
the tinkling sound appeared to ring another bell deep inside him—a bell
that boomed from far, far away and made him think of some one’s
definition of religion, "as a power within us not ourselves that makes
for godliness."  That power had spoken out.  It revived the decision of
half-past three.  His former course was right.  He must not swerve.
With a gesture of pain and terror he flung up his hands to his brow.
The calamity had fallen.  His mind was passing under a fog. Defiantly he
tried auto-suggestion to school his will against a possible reversal in
the hour of trial, saying to himself over and over again: "I will stand!
I will stand!  I will stand!"  He quoted frequently the words of Paul:
"And having done all, to stand!"

At length he fell back limply in his chair.  A vast irksomeness had
taken possession of him.  He was tired—tired of thinking of It—tired of
waiting for It to come. Why didn’t the clock hurry?  The coming of Tayna
to the study alone brought a welcome to his eye.  Tayna! So full of
buoyant, blooming youth; so quickly moved to tears of sympathy; so
lightly kindled to smiling, happy laughter!  Tayna, her melting eyes,
her red cheeks, her one intermittent dimple, who flung her long arms
about her uncle and held him close and silently as if he had been a
lover!

But it was only a moment until Tayna too irked the tortured man.  The
touch of her cheek upon his cheek and the aggressive mingling of her
thick braids with his own disheveled locks, once brushed so neat and
high, now so apt to loop disconsolate upon his temples, reminded him of
something quite unbearable but quite unbanishable,—a vision, and a
vision which must be entertained alone.

"Stay here and keep shop," her uncle said with sudden brusqueness,
forcing her down into his own chair at the desk.  "I can see no one;
talk to no one; hear from no one.  I am going up-stairs!"

"Up-stairs" meant the long, half-attic room in which Hampstead slept.
It ran the length of the cottage. There were windows in the gables, and
dormers were chopped in upon the side toward the Bay.  At one end,
pushed back toward the eaves, was a bed, fenced from the eye by a
folding screen.  Far at the other end was a table, a student-lamp and a
few books.  Between lay a long, rug-strewn space which Hampstead called
his "tramping ground."

Here, when he wished to retire most completely from the public reach, he
made his lair.  Upon that rug-strewn space he had tramped out many of
the problems of his ministry.  In the past week he had walked miles
between one gable window and the other, and stopped as many times to
gaze out through the dormer windows over the crested tops of palms to
the dancing waters on the Bay.

But now he had retreated there, not to be alone, but because he felt a
sudden longing for companionship; and for a certain and particular
companionship.  That touch of Tayna’s soft cheek upon his own had
brought with stinging poignancy the recollection of what the presence of
Bessie would be now,—Bessie as she once had been, dear, loyal,
sympathetic, wise; as she had begun to be again before that last trip
east; as she would have been when she returned and found him still
strong and faithful.

Yet now she would never come.  She was in Chicago to-day—no, upon the
Atlantic.  Last week was her final week.  She had been getting her
degree there while his unfrocking was beginning here.  She was attaining
her high hope as he was losing his.  He had meant to telegraph her his
congratulations, but he had forgotten it. That was just as well now.
All this hissing of the poisoned tongues must have poured into her ears.
The old doubts would be revived.  She would feel herself shamed,
humiliated, all but compromised by these disclosures, and she would
never see—never communicate with him again.  No letter had come in that
last week, no telegram from the ship’s side.  That proved it clearly.
She was lost to him.

Yet now his church—his liberty—his reputation—nothing else that he had
lost or might lose seemed worth while.  He wanted only her, cared only
about her.  His duty had melted into mist.  He could not see its
outlines.  But there was a face in the mist, her face; and a form, her
form.  And he would never see her in any other way but this way—a vision
to haunt and mock and torture him.

Thinking these thoughts over and over again, the man walked steadily
from gable’s end to gable’s end and back again, until his legs lost all
sense of feeling; but still he walked, and occasionally his fists were
clenched and beat upon his chest, while an expression of agony looked
out of his eyes.

The Reverend John Hampstead, pastor of All People’s, a man of some
victories and of some defeats, a man of some strength and of some
weaknesses, was fighting his most important and his hardest battle, and
he knew it. And he was no longer fit.  The preliminary days of battling
in the lower spurs and ranges had exhausted him. The summit was still
above.  The higher he toiled, the weaker he grew; the greater need for
strength, the less he had to offer.  He felt his purpose sag, his
courage breaking.  He had faced too much, and faced it too long and too
solitarily.  Others had sympathetically tried to get into his heart, and
he had shut them out.  It was a place which only one could enter, and
she was not there.  Now he knew that she would never be there.

That was the final mockery of his fate.  At the time when he loved her
most, when he needed her most, when before God, he deserved her most,
she was most irretrievably lost.  The pang of this, the awful
inevitableness of it, broke him like a reed.  From time to time he had
sighed heavily, but now a dry sob shivered in his broad breast.  His
shoulders shook, and then his legs crumpled under him; he was on his
knees and sinking lower and lower, like a man beaten down, blow upon
blow, until at length he lies prostrate before his foes.

"Not that, O God," he sobbed; "not that!  I cannot—I cannot lose her.
Leave me, oh, leave me this one thing!  I ask nothing more!  Nothing
more."

There was silence for an interval and then the pleadings began more
earnestly, more piteously.  "O God, give me her!  Give me love!  Give me
completeness!  Give me that without which no man is strong, the
undoubting love of an unwavering woman!  Give me that and I can face
anything—endure anything!"

For a moment his hands, virile and outstretched, grasped convulsively
the far edges of the Indian rug on which he had fallen, and thrust
themselves through the stoutly woven fabric as if it had been wet paper.
Scalding drops had begun to flow from his eyes like rivers.  He seized
the fabric of the rug in his teeth and bit it.  He forced the thick
folds against his eyes as if to dam the flooding tears.

"It is too much!  It is too much!" he moaned.  "O God," he reproached,
"you have left me; you have left me alone and far.  I have stood, but I
am tottering."  He dropped into a sort of vernacular in his blind
pleadings. "I can go, I can go the route, but I cannot go it alone. Give
me her, O God, give me her!"

His voice, half-delirious, died out in a final withering sob, as if the
last atom of his strength had gone with this passionate, hoarse,
uttermost plea of his soul.  His great fingers stretching out again to
the limit of his arm, knotted and unknotted themselves and then grew
still. The shoulders, too, were motionless.  The face was turned on one
side; the profile of the ridged forehead and the thrust of nose and
chin, so strongly carved, appeared against the grotesque pattern of the
rug as features delicately chiseled.  The eyes were open, tearless now
and staring.  They had expression, but it was the expression of the
beaten man.  The mouth was parted, and the firm lines were gone from it.
It was the old, loose, flabby mouth that had once marked the weak spot
in the character of the man.  Again the man was weak.  He lay so still
that life itself seemed to have gone.  The wandering afternoon breeze
that stole in through one gable window and went romping out at the other
played with the mass of hair upon his brow as indifferently as if it had
been a tuft of grass.

Even the man’s enemies must have pitied him had they seen him now.
Searle, standing over him, would have felt a twinge of conscience.
Elder Burbeck, before that spectacle, would at least have paused long
enough to murmur, sincerely, with upturned eyes and a grave shake of the
head, "God be merciful to him, a sinner."  But neither Searle nor
Burbeck, nor any other eye was there to see how he lay nor how long.
Perhaps not even Tayna, crouching on the stairs outside, hearing his
sobbings and venting tear for tear, could have computed the time.

Surely the man knew nothing himself except that he fell asleep and
dreamed, this time not horribly, but felicitously,—a dream of Bessie;
that she was coming to him; that she was there.  It was such a beautiful
dream.  It took all the strain out of the muscles of his face. It
tickled the flabby mouth into smiles of happiness.  It triumphed over
everything else.  It made every experience through which he had gone
seem a high and beautiful experience because it brought him Bessie.

A knock at the door awoke him.  It was such a cruel awakening.  Bessie
was not there.  His cheeks were hard and stiff where tears had dried
upon them.  His shoulders and neck ached from the position in which he
had slept. The rug was rumpled.  The room was bleak and desolate. The
breeze was chill and gloomy.  The situation in which he stood came to
him again with appealing acuteness and stung his memory like scourging
whips.  He rose with pain in his mind, pain in his heart, pain in every
tissue of his body.

But there are worse things than pain.  John was appalled to realize that
he had risen a quaking coward.

The knock had sounded again.  It was a soft knock, but it echoed loud,
like the crack of doom.  It stood for the outside world; it stood for
the accusing finger; it stood for the felon’s brand; it stood for the
great monster, Ruin, which threatened him, which terrorized him, which
he had faced courageously, but which at last through the workings of his
own morbid imagination and the tentacles of a great love, torn
blood-dripping from his heart, had over-awed him.  Before this monster
he now shrank, cowering as only six days before he had seen Rollie
Burbeck cower. He said to himself that he, John Hampstead, was the
greater coward.  Rollie had faltered in the face of his crime.  He, the
priest of God, was faltering in the face of his duty.  He retreated from
his own presence aghast at the thought.  He looked about him wildly, and
saw his features in the glass.  It was a coward’s face.  He felt
something stagger in his breast.  It was his coward’s heart!

Again the knock sounded.  Not because he had grown brave again, but
because he had grown too weak to resist even a knock upon a door, he
gave the rug a kick that half straightened it, and in the tone of one
who, despairing help, bids his torturers advance, he called: "Come in."

But instead of waiting to see who entered, he turned his back and walked
off down the room with slow, disconsolate stride, head hanging,
shoulders drooping, knees trembling, feet dragging, utterly unmindful to
preserve longer the pose of strength even before the dear ones whom he
wished above all to see him brave and strong.

It was the silence of the one who entered that made him turn slowly,
staring, his form lifting itself to its full height, and a hand rising
to sweep the hanging hair from his eyes as he gazed for a moment in
unbelieving bewilderment and then hoarsely shouted:

"Bessie!  Bessie!  Is it you?"

Before the broken, paralyzed man could leap to meet her, the young woman
had flung herself into his arms, with a cry almost of pain: "John!  Oh,
John!"

He clasped her hysterically, half laughing and half sobbing: "Thank God!
Thank God!" and then, murmuring incoherently, "It is the answer of the
Father!  It is the answer of the Father!"

Bessie, the first surge of her emotions over, stood looking up into
John’s storm-stressed face, with glistening, happy eyes.

It was evident that all the vapor of her doubt and misunderstanding had
been burned away.  She was again the old Bessie.  She had started to him
by an instinct of loyalty, spurred by a love that had refused to die,
yet, womanlike, was still doubting.  But the moving picture which the
papers of succeeding days had reeled before her eyes as her train sped
westward; the solemn face of Rose, the teary eyes of Tayna, whom she had
found sitting at the foot of the stairs outside; and now this glimpse of
that stooping, passionately despairing, hopelessly broken figure were
enough to banish doubt forever.  They testified that John Hampstead, in
the soul of him, was true—to love as to duty—that he had burned out the
scar of his first disloyalty to her in the fires of intense suffering.

Her radiant beauty, the soft, trusting blue of her eyes, the wonderful
witchery of smiling lips and dimpling cheeks, the proud, happy,
worshipful look upon her face, all proclaimed the bounding joy with
which she hurled herself again into his life.

John perceived this in ecstasy.  Bessie was not lost to him, but won to
him by what had happened.  The mere perception threw him into a frenzy
of joy, and yet it was a reversal of probabilities so sudden and so
overwhelming that he dared not accept it unattested.

"But, Bessie," he protested.  "But, Bessie?"

"But nothing!" she answered stoutly, flinging her arms once more about
his neck and drawing his lips down to hers, while she passionately
stamped them again and again with the seal of her love and faith.

With the submission of a child, and under the stimulus of such
convincing, such deliciously thrilling demonstration as this, the
strong-weak man surrendered unconditionally to an acceptance of facts at
once so undeniable and so excitingly happy.

But the articles of surrender could not be signed in words.  He drew her
close to him and held her there long and silently, feeling his heart
beat violently against her own, and at the same time his tissues filling
with new and glowing strength.  A sigh from Bessie, softly audible and
blissfully long-drawn, broke the silence and the pose.

John held her at arm’s length—his eyes a-dance with the emotional riot
of an experience so foreign to the ascetic life which his character had
forced upon him that he felt the wish for anchorage at which to moor
himself and his joys.  Such a mooring was offered by the long, wide
window seat before the dormer which looked over palms and acacias to the
Bay.

Taking Bessie by the hand, he led her to this tiny haven.

"Oh, John," she murmured, with a flutter in her voice and a sudden gust
of happy tears, as she cuddled down against his shoulder, "it has been
such a long, cruel wait, hasn’t it?  Such a hilly, roundabout way that
we have traveled to know and get to each other at last."

"But now it’s over," he breathed contentedly, swaying her body gently
with his own.

As if a tide had taken them, they drifted out; two argonauts upon the
sea of love with the window seat for a bark, and soon were cruising far
out of sight of land. There was little talk.  Words were so unnecessary.
To feel the presence of each other was quite enough.  For the time
being, degrees and careers and private cars, courts and newspapers,
actresses and diamonds, elders and church trials, were sunk entirely
below the horizon.

Bessie was first to come back from this nebulous state of bliss to the
more tangible realities of the situation. With her lover so close and so
secure, she experienced a stirring of possessive instincts accompanied
by an impulse to caretaking.  John was hers now, and he required
attention.  With a soft hand she smoothed the yellow locks backward from
his brow.  With pliant fingers she sought to iron out the lines of care
from his face, and with lingering, affectionate lips to kiss the
tear-stiffness from his eyelids.

To the man of loneliness, these attentions were exquisitely delightful.
They soothed and fortified him. They calmed his nerves and ministered to
clarity of thought.  This was well, for there were things that needed to
be said as well as those which needed to be done.

Dusk was falling.  John arose, lighted a pendant bulb in the center of
the long attic, and sat down again, taking Bessie’s hand in his while he
told her the story of the diamonds as he had told it in court—told her
so much and no more; then stopped.  The cessation was abrupt, decisive,
but also interrogatory.  John could not tell Bessie more than he could
tell any one else and be true to his vow.  Would she appreciate this and
acquiesce?  Or would she resent it?

Bessie understood the question in the silence.  Her answer was to
snuggle closer and after allowing time for this action to interpret
itself, to say:

"That must be the bravest, hardest thing you have done, John dear; to
stop just there, when telling me."

"It was," he answered softly.

"It makes me trust you further than ever," she assured him, passing her
hand under his chin and pulling his cheek to hers, again with that
instinct of possession. "You must not be less true but more, because of
me," she breathed softly.

"But there is one thing I can tell you," he continued, "which no one
else knows nor can know now."

And then he told her of Marien’s visit.  The girl listened at first with
cheeks flaming hot and her blue eyes fixed and sternly hard.  Yet as the
narrative proceeded, she grew thoughtful and then considerate, breaking
in finally with:

"But she did it so wantonly, so irresponsibly; what reparation does she
propose?"

"To immediately make a public confession that her charge against me was
utterly false," replied John, strangely moved to speak defensively for
Marien.

"She will do that?" exclaimed Bessie, her face alive with excitement and
intense relief.

"She would have done it," answered John, "but I forbade her."

"Forbade her?  Oh, John!"  The soft eyes looked amazement and reproach.

"Yes," acknowledged John in a steady voice.  "You see, her word would
become instantly worthless.  To be believed, her confession would have
to be supported by the naming of the real thief."

"And is the saving of a thief worth more to you than your church—your
good name—your—your everything?"

"In my conception, yes," John answered seriously. "That is what I have a
church, a name, everything, for; to use it all in saving people—or in
helping them, if the other is too strong a word."

As her lover spoke in this lofty, detached, meditative tone, Bessie held
him off and studied him.  This was the new John Hampstead speaking; the
man she did not know; the man who, up to the hour when cruel scandal
smirched it, had stirred this community with the example of his life.
Before this new man she felt her very soul bowing.  She had loved the
old John.  She adored the new.

"Oh, John!  How brave!  How strong!  How right you are!" she exclaimed,
with a note of adoration in her voice.

A pang of self-reproach shot through the big man.

"Not so brave—not so strong as I must—as I ought to be," he hastened to
explain.  "In fact, I have been doubting even if I were right, after
all."

Bessie’s startled look brought out of him like a confession the story of
the last hours before her coming; the full meaning of the state in which
she found him; how the burden of it all had overtoppled him; how she had
come to find him not brave and certain, but doubting.

"But now," she affirmed buoyantly, "you are strong, you are certain
again."

The very radiance, the fresh youthful happiness on the face of Bessie,
checked the assent to this which was on his lips.  He suddenly thought
of what this action would mean to her, this beautiful, loving, aspiring
young woman. She was his wife now in spirit.  By some miracle of God
their lives had in a moment been fused unalterably.  He might bear a
stigma for himself, but had he a right to assume a stigma for her?

"Why, John," she murmured, wonder mingling with mild reproach, as she
saw him hesitate.

"Listen, my girl," began her lover, with infinite sympathy and
tenderness in his manner, and gravely he re-sketched the elements in the
situation as they would apply to her.

Bessie did listen, and as gravely as John spoke to her,—listened until
her eyes were first perplexed and then downcast.  Sitting thus, seeing
nothing, she saw everything; all that it might mean to her to become the
partner of this public shame.  She thought of her college friends, of
her mother with her social aspirations, of her strong and high-standing
father and the circle of his business and personal associates; of the
part she hoped herself to play in the new political life that was coming
to her sex. She saw it and for a moment was afraid, cowering before it
as her lover had cowered.  John, in an agony of suspense, watched this
conflict staging itself graphically upon the features he loved so
deeply, gleaning as he waited another two-edged truth, and that truth
this: _The love of a woman may make a man surpassingly stronger; it may
also make him immeasurably weaker_.  It depends on the woman.  He was
weaker now.  He had accepted her, demanded her of God, and God had given
her.  She was part of him now.  It must no longer be his judgment but
their judgment which ruled.  She was forming their judgment now.  He
leaned forward apprehensively, like a criminal awaiting his fate.  He
had surrendered his independence of action.  Had he gained or lost
thereby?

Bessie stood up suddenly.  Her face was still white, but her square
little chin with its softly rounded corners was firmly set.

"Your decision," she affirmed stoutly, "was the right decision.  Your
course has been the right course.  You must not waver now.  I command—I
compel you to go straight forward.  And I will stand with you—go out
with you.  From this moment on, your duty is my duty; your lot shall be
my lot."

A smile of heavenly happiness broke like a sunset on the face of
Hampstead.

"Thank God!" he murmured reverently; "thank God!"

And then as a surging Niagara of new strength rushed over him, he
clasped her tightly, exclaiming enthusiastically: "I feel strong enough
now, strong enough for everything!"

Standing thus, smiling blissfully into each other’s faces, the lovers
became again the two argonauts upon a shoreless, timeless sea.  As they
came back, Bessie, a look half mischievous and half bashful upon her
face, pleaded softly:

"John!  Ask me something, please?"

"Ask you something," her lover murmured, with a look of dutiful
affection, "why, there is nothing more that I can ask."  He sighed
contentedly.

"But put it into words.  Something to which I can answer Yes," she said,
a happy blush stealing across her cheeks.

The big man gazed at her with a puzzled expression.

"So—so that our engagement can be announced in the papers to-morrow
morning."

John asked her, grimacing delight in his sudden comprehension, and took
her answer in a kiss.  But immediately after he became serious.

"To-morrow morning?" he queried apprehensively; and then answered the
interrogation himself.  "No, not to-morrow, Bessie.  Not soon.  Later.
When the issues are decided.  When we know the worst that is to fall.
Not now.  You must protect yourself as well as your father and your
mother from such notoriety!"

But Bessie’s own uncompromising spirit flashed.

"No," she exclaimed with a stamp of her foot that was characteristic.
"Now!  This is when you need me! Now you are my affianced husband; I
want the world to know that he is not as friendless as he seems.  That
we who know him best believe him most.  Do you know, big man, that my
parents cancelled their European trip and have been rushing across the
continent with me in a special train faster than anybody ever crossed
before, just to come and stand by you.  Mother had a headache and is
resting at the St. Albans, but father and I—why, father is down-stairs
in the study waiting.  He must have been there hours and hours.
Father!"

Bessie had rushed across the room and flung open the door leading
downward.

"Father," she cried.  "Father!  We are coming."

"What’s the hurry?" boomed back a big, ironic voice that proceeded from
the round moon of an amiable face in the open door of the study near the
foot of the stairs. The face, of course, belonged to Mr. Mitchell, and
he enlarged upon his first gentle sarcasm by adding: "I bought a
thousand freight cars the other day in less time than it has taken you
people to come to terms."

Nevertheless, he greeted his former employee with cordial and sincere
affection, while Bessie, radiantly happy but a little confused, asked:

"What must have you been thinking all this time?"

"Mostly I was thinking what a superfluous person a father comes to be
all at once," laughed Mr. Mitchell. "Isn’t there anything I can do at
all?" he asked, with mock seriousness.

"Yes," rejoined Bessie in the same spirit.  "Telephone the papers to
announce the engagement of your daughter to the Reverend John Hampstead,
pastor of All People’s Church."

"Oh, I did that after the first hour and a half," exclaimed the railroad
man, laughing heartily.

But the situation was too grave, the feelings of all were too tense, to
sustain this spirit of badinage for long. Bessie and Tayna fell upon
each other with instant liking. Even Dick and Rose seemed able to forget
the crisis which overhung them in the sudden advent of this beautiful
young woman who had come into their ken again so suddenly and so
mysteriously, and seemed to represent in herself and her father such a
sudden and vast access of prestige and power to the cause of their uncle
and brother.

John and his old employer sat down in the study for a quiet talk in
which the minister related what he had told Bessie, the circumstances in
which he stood, and finally and especially, his new compunction and
Bessie’s firm decision.

"She was right!"  The heavy jaws of Mitchell snapped decisively.  "The
whole thing is a community brain storm.  It will pass."

"The criminal charge," began John, feeling relieved and yet looking
serious.

"Nothing to that at all," answered the practical Mitchell, with quick
decision.  "Ridiculous!  You’re morbid from brooding over all this.
From the minute this woman comes to you with her admission, you must
have just ordinary horse sense enough to see that between us all we can
find a way to stop that prosecution without making it necessary to
expose anybody at all."

Mitchell, observing Hampstead closely, saw that he was rather careless
of this; that in fact he only thought of it when he thought of Bessie;
that the one thing gnawing into him now was the action of the church.
That was something outside of Mitchell’s experience.  Whether a church
more or less unfrocked his future son-in-law was small concern.  He was
a man who thought in thousands of miles and millions of people.

"Come, Bessie," he called, "we must be getting back to the hotel."

"You will stay for dinner, Mr. Mitchell?" suggested John.

"No, I’ll be getting back to mother.  I just came to tell you that I am
with you.  My attorneys will be your attorneys.  My friends and my
influence will be your influence.  Some of these newspapers may bark out
of the other corner of their mouths after they’ve heard from me.  Come
on, Bessie!"

"But," demurred Bessie, "I’m not coming.  I am going to the church
to-night to sit beside John."



                              *CHAPTER XL*

                        *THE ELDER IN THE CHAIR*


The auditorium of All People’s was cunningly contrived to bring a very
large number of people close to each other and to the minister.  Roughly
semicircular, with bowled main floor and rimmed around by a gallery that
edged nearer and nearer at the sides, it was possible to seat fifteen
hundred persons where a man in the pulpit could look each individual in
the eye, and except where the screen of the gallery broke in, each
auditor could see every other auditor.

The special meeting for an object unannounced but clearly understood
was, of course, an assemblage of the church itself; yet so great was the
general interest in what was to transpire, and so willing were the
moving spirits to play out their act in public, that no one was turned
away.  By an instruction from Elder Burbeck, the ushers merely sifted
people, sending the members to the main floor, and the non-members
up-stairs into the gallery.

Hampstead entered the church at precisely eight o’clock.

The auditorium was filled with the buzz of many voices, but as the
pastor of All People’s advanced down the aisle, this hum gradually
ceased, and every eye was turned upon the man, who tall and grave, with
features slightly wasted, nevertheless wore a look serenely confident
and even happy.

This expression in itself was instant occasion for wonder and surprise.
Was this man really unbreakable? Knowing nothing of what had happened in
the day to encourage its pastor and make him strong, his congregation
was much better prepared to see him as Bessie had found him three hours
before than as he now appeared.

There were glances also for the faithful Rose, pale and worn, but
bearing herself with true Hampstead dignity; for aggressive, wizened
Dick, and for Tayna, emotional and ready, as usual, for tears or
laughter.  But there were more than glances for the lady who walked at
the pastor’s side proudly, with a possessive air as if she owned him and
were glad to own him.  There was searching scrutiny and attempt at
appraisal.

All People’s had never seen this woman before.  She looked young; yet
bore herself like a person of consequence. She was beautiful, but the
dignity of her beauty was detracted from by dimples.  Yet with the
dimples went a masterful self-possession and a chin that was a trifle
square and to-night just a trifle thrust out, while her head was a
little tilted back and her blue eyes were a little aglint with shafts of
a light something like defiance, as if to say: "Hurt him at your peril.
Take him from me if you can!"

Who was she?  No one knew.  Everybody asked; but no one answered.

After standing in the aisle before his family pew, while Rose, Dick,
Tayna, and Bessie filed in before him, the minister stood for a moment
surveying the scene.  As he looked, the serenity upon his features gave
way to pain. The situation saddened him inexpressibly.  He was like a
refugee who returns to find his home ruined by the ravages of war.  How
peaceful and how helpful had been the atmosphere of All People’s!  How
happily he had seen its walls rise and its pews fill!  How many good
impulses had been started there!  What a pity that the note of
inquisition and of persecution should now be sounded.  How sad that
strife should come!  And over him of all beings!  He had often looked
upon a congregation torn by dissensions concerning its pastor, and he
had said that no church should ever undo itself over him. When his time
came to go, he would go quietly.

Yet now he was not going quietly, but that was because he felt it was
not himself that was involved; instead it was a principle.  Either this
congregation existed to mediate love, helpfulness, and a charitable
spirit to the world, or it had no reason for existence at all.  It had
better be disrupted, this gallery fall, this altar crumble, these walls
collapse, these people be scattered to the winds, than All People’s
become a society for the advancement of pharisaism.

He noted that the gallery was packed, but on the main floor empty spaces
stared at him from the central tier of pews.  Half of All People’s
members must have remained away.  John realized with new emotion what
this meant: that there were men and women in his congregation who could
not see their pastor arraigned like this, who could not bear to witness
the rising waves of bitterness, the charges and the counter-charges, the
incriminations, the malicious spirit of partisanship which invariably
breaks out in times like these.  But it meant too that these same
soft-hearted folk were also soft in the spine; unwilling to take a stand
with him; unwilling to be recorded pro or con upon a great issue like
this; people for whom he had done a service so great that they could not
now turn down their thumbs against him, yet lacking in the strength of
character either to sit as his judges or to cast a vote in his favor.

From this thought of jelly-fish the minister turned, almost with relief
to where, stretching widely behind the Burbeck pew, was a mass of
close-packed faces, with super-heated resolution depicted upon their
features. The bearing of these partisans in itself reflected how they
had been solicited, inflamed, and organized.  They were there like an
army to follow their leader.

Good people, too, some of them!  Doctor Hampstead’s very best people.
Yet to recognize them and their mood gave him a sense of personal power.
He believed that he could walk over there and talk to these people ten
minutes, and they would break like sheep from the leadership of Brother
Burbeck.  They would come pressing around him with tears and expressions
of confidence.  But it was not in John’s purpose to do that.  He was on
trial.  If on the record of his life among them, these people could
condemn and oust him, his work had been a failure.  It was as well to
know it.

One thing more the minister took into account.  The number of persons
who, half in an attitude of aggressive loyalty and half in tearful
sympathy had gathered in the tiers behind his own pew was less by half
than that massed behind the Burbeck leadership.  The issue was not in
doubt.  It had been decided already,—in the newspapers, in the court
room, and in all this busy bell-ringing of the last two days.

And now, having seen as much and reflected as much as has been recorded,
Hampstead sat down and slipped a furtive lover’s hand along the seat
until it found the hand of Bessie, and took it into his with a gentle
pressure that was affectionately reciprocated.

But if to the congregation the entry of the minister and the woman of
mystery by his side was sensation number one in this evening of
sensations, the entry of the Angel of the Chair was sensation number
two.  Mrs. Burbeck, propelled as usual by Mori, the Japanese, was just
appearing at the side door; and this time there was no trundling to the
center between two factions.  Instead, with Japanese intentness of
purpose, and as if he had his instructions beforehand, Mori drove the
chair straight across the neutral ground to the end of the Hampstead
pew.

The church, seeing this act, grasped instantly its solemn meaning.  The
house of Burbeck was divided against itself.  Mrs. Burbeck had often
disapproved of her husband’s course in church leadership, but she had
never taken sides against him.  To-night she did so.  The issue was too
great, too fundamental, to do otherwise.  That it hurt her painfully was
evident.  Her face had lost its smile. The pallor of her cheeks was more
wax-like than ever, and there was a droop in the corners of her mouth
that no physical suffering had effected.  But the lips were tightly
compressed, and the valiant spirit of the woman looked resolutely out of
her eyes.  Those near and watching the face of her husband saw that this
look affected him; saw him start as if he had hardly expected such
action, hardly realized what it would be to find her thus opposing him.
They even noted that a fleeting expression of doubt, of sudden loss of
faith in his own course, came into the eyes of the man.

Nevertheless, although with a sigh at the burdens his faithfulness to
the Lord so often compelled him to bear, Elder Burbeck set his spirit
sternly upon its task.  He was the Nemesis of God.  He would not shrink
though the flame scorched him, the innocent, while it consumed the
guilty.

Yet from the moment that this glance had passed between the husband and
the wife, it appeared that a gloom of tragedy settled upon the
gathering.  Again the congregation sank of itself to awed silence, so
intense that a cough, the clearing of a throat, the dropping of a
hymn-book into a rack, echoed hollowly.  Slight movements took on
augmented significance.  Thoughts boomed out like words, and looks had
all the force of blows.

The polity of All People’s was ultra-congregational. The proceedings had
the form of order, but were primitive and practical; yet every step,
voice, motion, detail, took on an exaggerated sense of the ominous, as
if a man’s body were on trial instead of merely his soul.

Nor was Elder Burbeck at all approving of Hampstead’s manner to-night.
The minister had shown again his utter incapacity to appreciate a
situation.  He was too cool, too unmoved.  He had taken a full minute to
stand there posing in pretended serenity while he looked the
congregation over.  From Burbeck’s point of view, this manoeuvre was
dangerous tactics.  There was always some indefinable power in that
deep-searching look of Hampstead’s.  If the man should stand up there
and look at these people for ten minutes longer, he might have them all
over there palavering about him.  He was looking in the gallery now.
Well, let him look there as long as he liked.  The gallery couldn’t
vote.  Burbeck’s own eye wandered into the gallery.  On the other side
from him, just where the horseshoe curve began to draw in toward the
choir loft, sat his son, Rollie.

"Rollie should not be up there," the Elder instructed, turning to an
usher.  "Go and tell him to come down."

"He says he is with a lady who is not a member," reported the usher on
returning.

"Huh?" ejaculated Burbeck, turning a surprised gaze upon the figure of a
woman heavily veiled who sat beside his son.

That woman!  What sacrilege had impelled his son to bring her here?  Had
she not wrought ruin enough already?  Must she gloat over the shame she
had brought upon this congregation and upon the church of the living
God?  And must his son be the means of her coming? What was that boy
thinking of, anyway?

And yet, since Rollie had grown into so fine a figure of a man, his
father had come to regard his son and what he chose to do with an
indulgence he granted to no one else.  He wished the boy would come to
church more; he wished he would give more attention to those things to
which his father had devoted his life; and yet he could make allowance
for him.  The young man’s environment, his social gifts, his business
prospects, all inclined him to another set of associations.  Besides,
the boy’s own character seemed so fine and strong, the sentiments of his
heart so truly noble, that the father’s iron judgment softened even in
the matter of an indiscretion so flagrant as this.  He reflected too
that for business reasons it was doubtless just as well if Rollie were
brought into no prominence in this unpleasant affair.  In fact, Elder
Burbeck would have been as well satisfied if his son had stayed away
altogether.

"It is time to call the meeting to order," suggested Elder Brooks, a
pale, nervous man whose eyes were continually consulting the typewritten
sheet which he held in his hand.

"Yes, Brother Brooks," agreed Elder Burbeck, advancing to the table
below and in front of the pulpit.  He was almost directly in front of
where Doctor Hampstead sat in his pew.

John noticed that the Elder looked worried and over-anxious.  His pouchy
cheeks sagged; there were huge wattles of red skin beneath his chin, and
his whole countenance had a more than usually apoplectic look.

"Brother Anderson will lead in prayer," announced the Elder in unctuous
tones.  "Let us stand, please!"

The congregation stood.  But Brother Anderson’s leadership in prayer
could not be deemed very successful. He led as if he himself were lost.
His prayer appeared to partake of the nature of an apology to God for
what the petitioner hoped was about to be done.

During the length of these whining orisons, the congregation grew
impatient.  The gallery in spots sat down. The effect of the prayer was
in total no more than a dismal thickening of the gloom of tragedy that
hung lower and lower over the meeting.  Yet once the prayer was ended,
Elder Burbeck baldly declared the object of the meeting.

His manner was strained, his voice was harsh and halting, but he began
stubbornly and plodded forward doggedly, gradually laboring himself into
the hectic fervor of his assumed position as the instrument of God to
purge All People’s of its pastor.

Yet it was in keeping with the tenseness of the situation that as the
emotions of the vehement apostle of the _status quo_ reached their
height, his words became rather less florid, and he concluded in
sentences of sycophantic calm and tones of solicitous consideration for
the feelings of the piece of riff-raff he was about to brush aside with
a sweep of his fiery fan.

"There is before us," he assured his audience finally, "no question of
the pastor’s guilt or innocence of the charges made.  The question is
one of expediency; as to what is best to do for the good name and the
future usefulness of All People’s.  The Board of Elders, after serious
and prayerful consideration," Brother Burbeck’s voice whined a little as
he said this, "has felt that it was best for the pastor and best for the
interest of the church to ask him to resign quietly and immediately.
That request has been emphatically declined.  It has become our duty,
painful as it is," the Elder sighed and twitched his red neck
regretfully in his white collar, "to present to the congregation a
resolution covering the situation. That resolution the clerk of the
church will now read."

But instead of looking at the clerk, the chairman looked at Elder
Brooks.

Those typewritten lines, the mere holding of which had given Elder
Brooks that sense of importance which it was necessary for him to feel
in order to be able to act decisively in a matter like this which went
gravely against some of the instincts of his soft nature, were, by him
now, with a final and supreme sense of this importance, passed to the
clerk of the church, a fat, ageless, colorless looking man who read
stolidly that:


Whereas, the pastor of this congregation, John Hampstead, has been held
to answer to the Superior Court of this County upon a charge of burglary
and has been otherwise involved in public scandal in such manner that he
appears either unable or unwilling to establish his innocence; and

Whereas, it is the judgment of this Board that such a situation is one
highly detrimental to the causes for which this church exists, and one
calculated to bring reproach upon the church and the sacred cause of
Christ;

Therefore, be it resolved that the pastoral relation existing between
All People’s Church and the said John Hampstead be, and now is,
immediately dissolved.


"This, brethren," announced Elder Burbeck, with an air of pain that was
no doubt real, and a fresh summoning of divine resolution to his aid,
"is the recommendation of your official Board.  What is your pleasure
concerning it?"

"I move its adoption," quavered Elder Brooks.

"I second the motion," Brother Anderson suggested faintly.

"Are you ready for the question?" hinted the ruling Elder.

But a man stood up somewhere over behind Hampstead. "I should like to
ask, Brother Burbeck," he inquired, "if that was the unanimous
resolution of the Board."

"It was not unanimous," replied the Elder, slightly nettled, "as you
know, Brother Hinton.  It is a majority resolution.  The question is now
upon its adoption."

Elder Burbeck swept a suggestive eye over his carefully organized
majority, and this time his hint was taken. Calls of "question" arose.

But Hinton remained uncompromisingly upon his feet. He was a tall man
and pale, with a high, bone-like brow, a long spiked chin, and gray
moustaches that drooped placidly over a balanced mouth.

"I understand that the chair will not attempt to railroad this
resolution," he ventured with mild sarcasm.

Elder Burbeck’s habitual flush heightened as, after a premonitory rumble
in his throat and an enormous effort at self-control, he replied
emphatically: "Brother Hinton, the resolution will not be railroaded;"
and then added warningly: "To avoid stirring up strife, however, I hope
we may vote upon it with as little discussion as possible."

"Yes," admitted Brother Hinton dryly, but still standing his ground.  "I
think it is perfectly understood that debate where its outcome is
pre-determined, is useless. Yet without having consulted the pastor of
this church as to my course, I voice the sentiment of many around me in
urging him to stand up here as its pastor, as he has a right to do, and
as the congregation has a right to ask him to do, and tell us what he
thinks should be our course in the premises."

Brother Hinton’s was a well balanced mind, and it seemed for a moment
that his own manner might inject some coolness into the situation.
Indeed, the good Elder Burbeck trembled lest it might, for the fires of
purification being up, he wished them to burn, undampened.

Certainly for John Hampstead to stand up there and tell that
congregation what to do was the last thing the Elder wanted.  Besides,
he resented some of Brother Hinton’s imputations as disagreeable.

The chairman answered curtly:

"If the pastor did not respect the eldership sufficiently to advise it,
I think it can hardly be expected of him to advise the congregation; or
that the congregation would take his advice if he gave it."

The face of Hampstead whitened, and his muscles strained in his body.

This was really a mean speech of Elder Burbeck, yet he did not wish to
be mean.  He meant only to be just—to All People’s church.  His zeal on
the one hand, his prejudgment upon the other, had led him to consider no
procedure as proper that did not look immediately to the hurling down of
the usurper.

"The pastor is not at issue," he concluded with heat almost unholy.  "It
is the good name of All People’s that is at issue."

The face of Hampstead whitened a little more.

"But," persisted Brother Hinton; "let our pastor make his answer to the
charges, that we may determine for ourselves what is the issue."

Enough had been said.  John Hampstead stood tall and statue-like in the
aisle, with the manner of a man about to speak the very soul out of
himself, if need be.  Before this manner, Elder Burbeck recoiled a
little, as he knew he must, if this man asserted himself.  For one
despairing moment the good man felt that the cause of righteousness was
lost.  But something in the manner of the minister himself reassured the
Elder.  The man’s soul went back a little from his eyes,—receded, as it
were, like a tide, while he turned toward the congregation and in
kindly, patient tones began:

"I cannot speak to charges, Brother Hinton!  None are presented against
me.  It was for this reason that I refused to appear before the
eldership.  This resolution is not a charge.  It is an assault.  There
is no proposal on the part of this Board to find out if I am guilty of
anything.  They propose a course which assumes my guilt to be of no
importance.  I tell you that it is of all importance.

"Perhaps, brethren, I have been too reticent.  Perhaps the peculiar
circumstances out of which this congregation has grown during the five
years of my ministry have made it difficult for all of us to see aright
or to act aright in this trying situation.  I stand before you to some
extent a victim of misplaced confidence in you.  I was surprised that
the newspapers should inflame public opinion against me.  I was
surprised that a Court of Justice should hold me to answer for this
improbable crime.  Yet, during all these, to me, cataclysmic, happenings
of the past week, I have looked to the loyalty of this church with an
assurance that never wavered; an assurance that in the light of what is
happening to-night seems more tragic than anything else.  I never had a
thought that you would not stand by me, at least until I was found to be
guilty."

A note of pathos had crept into the minister’s voice. The gallery
listened intent and breathless.  Elder Burbeck felt an irritation in his
throat.

But the minister was continuing:

"Indulging this faith in you, entirely occupied with the many perplexing
circumstances of this lamentable affair, I am made now to feel that I
neglected you too long.

"I perceive now that your minds, too, were inflamed with suspicion; that
well-meaning but mistaken zealots among you have felt called upon to
take advantage of the situation to purge the church of my presence.

"Once I saw this movement under way, I felt too hurt to oppose it.  It
seems to me that it has been done cunningly and calculatingly.  No
charges have been presented against me; therefore I cannot defend
myself; and I will not defend myself.  I am only analyzing the situation
for you, that what you do may be with open eyes.  It is urged that I am
not on trial; therefore as a popular tribunal, you cannot go into the
details and ascertain the truth for yourselves.

"A hasty decision is demanded; therefore there is no time for the
situation to clear and for calm counsel to prevail.  Bear in mind that
you are called upon to take action quickly, not for my sake as a
minister; not for your sake as individuals; but because the good name of
this church is alleged to be suffering.  Is it not in reality because
the vanity of some of the members of this church is suffering?

"If that is so, it is not a reason, my brethren, for hasty action
against any man.  Surely it is not a reason for hasty action against me.
I ask those of you who can remember, to go back, to recall the
circumstances under which I became your pastor.  You were humble enough
then.  There was small thought of the good name of this congregation
when I sat in the park out there and saw this man nailing a plank across
the door.  I did not question his good intentions then.  I do not
question them now. But he is proposing to do the same thing in effect
that he did then; to nail God out of His house.

"Oh, not because I am nailed out.  You may cast me out, and this church
will go on.  But if you cast out any brother, even the humblest,
wrongfully or for self-righteous reasons, you depart from the spirit of
Christ. You should be helping that man instead of hurting him. How much
less would you cast out your pastor for the same reason."

"Brother Hampstead!"  It was the voice of Elder Burbeck, grating harshly
by the forced element of self-restraint in his tones.  "You are
misapprehending the issue.  There is no proposal to cast you out of the
congregation.  The proposal is merely that you retire from the position
of eminence which you occupy, exactly as I might be asked to retire if
my own name had been smirched."

"There you are!" ejaculated Hampstead.  "’Had been smirched.’  Your
chairman’s phraseology shows that he assumes that my name has been
smirched.  I deny it. I indignantly reject the specious argument that
the action of this church to-night does not amount to a trial. Before
the eyes of the world you are finding me guilty.  You place upon me a
stigma as a minister that will follow wherever I go, the inference of
which is unescapable. From the hour when I became the minister of this
congregation until now, I have gone about as a servant of the One
Master, according to my judgment and my capacity. The point of view of
the authors of this resolution seems to be that I have been the servant
of this congregation; that I may be hired or discharged, that I am
theirs, that I have been working for them.  That was a mistake!  It is a
mistake.  I know you have paid me a salary, but I have never felt that
it conferred upon me any obligation to you. I thought you gave the money
to God, and that he gave it to me, and that with it I was to serve Him
and not you. That service was rendered in all good conscience to this
hour.  Are you now presuming to oust me because I can no longer serve
God?  Or because you are unwilling for me longer to serve you?

"Your Board has asked me to resign.  To resign would be a confession of
guilt.  I do not feel guilty.  I am not guilty.  My conscience is clear.
Personally, I was never so satisfied that I was doing right as now.

"Sometimes I must have done the wrong thing.  Looking back, it seems to
me now that sometimes when you approved most heartily, when the public
ovations were the loudest, the thing achieved was either of doubtful
worth or very transitory.  The present case touches fundamental issues.
It has to do with one of the most sacred duties of the minister.

"The resolution to which I am entitled from this congregation is a
resolution of absolute confidence.  There is but one other resolution
that could adequately express the situation, and that is the one which
is proposed by the Board.  If you cannot pass the resolution of
confidence, I think that you should pass the one that has been proposed.
That is the advice which I have to offer.  That is the answer which I
make to this unjust, this unchristian assault upon your pastor in the
moment when, tried as he has never been tried before, he needs your
loyalty and confidence more than he can ever need it again."

Hampstead sat down.  He had spoken with far more feeling than he had
intended, but he had exhibited much less than he experienced.

Yet the total effect of his words was less happy than his friends had
hoped.  Instead of appealing to his auditors, he appeared to arraign
them.  Elder Burbeck was greatly relieved.  He saw that this arraignment
had antagonized and solidified his own cohorts.

But the tall man with the lofty brow was on his feet again.

"I wish to move," said Brother Hinton, "a resolution such as Doctor
Hampstead has suggested; a resolution of sympathy and absolute
confidence, and I now do move that this church put itself upon record as
sympathizing fully with our pastor in his unpleasant position, and
assuring him of our confidence in the unswerving integrity of his
character and of our prayers that he may be true to his duty as he sees
it.  I offer that as a substitute for the resolution before the house."

The resolution was seconded.  There was an interval of silence, a
feeling that the crucial moment had been reached.  Question was called.
The substitute was put.

"All in favor of this resolution which you have heard made and with the
formal reading of which we will dispense, please stand," proclaimed
Elder Burbeck.

There was an uncertain movement.  By ones and twos, and then in groups
the persons sitting on the Hampstead side of the church rose to their
feet, until with few exceptions all were standing.

"The clerk will count."

There was an awkward silence.

"One hundred and sixty-three," the colorless man announced presently.

"All opposed, same sign."  Burbeck’s adherents arose _en masse_ at the
motion of the Elder’s arm, which was as involuntary as it was
injudicial.

The clerk did not count.  It was unnecessary.  "The motion is lost," he
said to the presiding officer.

"The resolution is lost," announced Elder Burbeck loudly, in tones that
quickened with eagerness.  "The question now recurs upon the original
resolution."

Erect, poised, feeling a sense of elation that he was now to let loose
the wrath of God upon a recreant shepherd of the flock, the Elder stood
for a moment with his eyes sweeping over the whole congregation, and
taking in every detail of the picture; the disheartened, defeated group
behind Hampstead, the flushed, determined face of the minister, the
defiant blaze in the eyes of the rosy-faced young person by his
side,—who was this strange woman, anyway?—and then his own
well-marshalled loyal forces, who to-night played the part of the
avenging hosts of Jehovah!

Up even into the gallery the Elder’s eyes wandered with satisfaction.
These galleries should see that All People’s would not suffer itself to
be put to shame before the world.  Something centered his eye for a
moment upon Rollie.  His son was gazing intently, leaning forward with a
hand reached out until it rested on the balcony rail.  Then the Elder’s
eye returned to the lower floor and to the mission now about to be
accomplished.

"Are you ready for the question?" he inquired, with forced deliberation,
enjoying the suspense before its inevitable outcome of satisfied
justice.

"Question!  Question!" came the insistent calls.

But now there was something like a movement in the gallery.  The old
Elder’s eye, noting everything, noted that; looking up, he saw that
Rollie’s seat was empty; but higher up the gallery aisle the young man
was visible, making his way quickly toward the stairs.  That was right,
he was coming down to vote; but he would be too late.

"All in favor of the resolution severing the pastoral relation between
All People’s Church and John Hampstead will signify by standing."

The Elder rolled the words out sonorously.  In his mind they stood for
the thunder of divine judgment!

The solid phalanxes upon his left arose as one man and stood while their
impressive numbers were this time carefully counted by the clerk.  The
tally took some time.

"Opposed, the same sign!"  The Elder barked out the words like a
challenge.  Again the straggling group behind Hampstead arose.  The
minister himself stood up. As a member of the congregation, he had a
right to vote, and he would protest to the last this injustice to him,
this slander of All People’s upon itself.

Mrs. Burbeck could not stand, but raised her hand, so thin and
shell-like that it trembled while she held the white palm up to view.

Elder Burbeck saw this and noted with a slight additional sense of shock
that Rollie was now beside his mother and standing also to be counted
with the Hampstead adherents.

"The resolution is carried," said the clerk to the Elder.

"The resolution—" echoed Burbeck, his voice beginning to gather enormous
volume.  But when he had got this far, his utterance was arrested by the
sudden action of his son, who remained standing in the aisle, with one
hand grasping his mother’s, and the other outstretched in some sort of
appeal to him.

"Father!" the boy whispered hoarsely; "don’t announce that vote!  Don’t
announce it!"

This startling interruption appeared to freeze the whole scene fast.
The throaty, excited tones of the young man floated to the far corners
of the auditorium, and again the sense of some impending terror forced
itself deeper into the crowd-consciousness.

"Don’t announce it?  What do you mean?" ejaculated the father in an
irritated and widely audible whisper.

The suddenness of this outbreak and the astounding fact that it should
come from his own flesh, had thrown the Elder completely off his stride.

"Because," the young man faltered, his face white, his eyes wild and
staring, "because it’s wrong!"

The huge dominating figure of a man stood for a moment nonplussed,
wondering what hysteria could have overtaken his son; but annoyance and
stubborn determination to proceed quickly manifested themselves upon his
face.

"Don’t, father!" pleaded the young man, advancing down the aisle,
"Don’t!  I’ve got something I must say!"

By this time, Hampstead, quickly apprehensive, had stepped out from his
pew and was seeking to grasp Rollie’s arm; but the excited young man
avoided him, and standing with one hand still appealing toward his
father, and with the other pointing backward toward the minister, he
announced with a sudden access of vocal force: "That man is innocent."

[Illustration: "That man is innocent."]

The words had a triumphant ring in them that echoed through the
auditorium.

"Innocent?"

The tone of the senior Burbeck was scornful in the extreme.  Increasing
anger at being thus interfered with, especially by Rollie had turned the
Elder’s face almost purple.  "Young man," he commanded harshly, "you
stand aside and let this church declare its will."

"I will not stand aside," protested the son.  "I will not let you, my
father, do this great wrong.  He forbade me to speak; but I will speak.
Yes, no matter what happens, I must speak."

The young man turned a frightened glance upon his mother.  Mrs. Burbeck
was gazing intently at her son, a look of shock giving way to one of
comprehension and then a pitiful half-smile of encouragement, as if she
urged him to go on and do his duty, whatever that involved.

"That man," Rollie began afresh, his neck thrust forward desperately,
while he pointed to the minister, who had stepped back once more as
though he felt the purposes of God in operation and no longer dared to
interfere; "that man is innocent.  I am the thief.  I stole the
diamonds.  I did it to get the money to cover a defalcation at the bank.
Fearful of the consequences, I turned to him in my distress.  He got the
money to restore what I had stolen.  I put the diamonds in his box for
an hour, and by a mistake he went off with the key.  That explains all.
When I returned from the cruise on the Bay and learned what had
happened, I was paralyzed with fear.  At first I did not even have the
manhood to go and tell him how the diamonds got into his box.  When I
did, he made me keep the silence for fear the blow would kill my mother.
It seemed to me that this was not a sufficient reason.  But I was weak;
I was a coward.  Yet the spectacle of seeing this man stand here day
after day while his reputation was torn to pieces, unwavering and
unyielding whether for the sake of my mother or such a worthless wretch
as I am, or for the sake of his priestly vow, made me stronger and
stronger.  Yet I was not strong enough to speak.  Not until to-night.
Not until I saw my mother’s hand tremble when she held it up to vote for
him.  I only came down here to stand beside her.  But one touch of hers
compelled me to speak.  I am prepared to assume my guilt before this
church and before the world.  I was a defaulter, and John Hampstead
saved me.  I was a thief, and he saved me.  I was a coward, and he made
me brave enough at least for this.  I tell you, the man is innocent,
absolutely innocent.  He is so good that you should fall down and
worship him."

Rollie’s confession in detail was addressed to the congregation as a
whole, and he finished with his arms extended and chest thrown forward
like a man who had bared his soul.

After standing for a moment motionless, his eyes turned to his mother,
and with a low cry he dashed to where Hampstead was bending over her.
She lay chalk-white and motionless, one hand in her lap, the other
swinging pendant, the hand that had just been raised to vote. The eyes
were closed; the lips half parted; the expression of her face, if
expression it might be termed, one of utter exhaustion of vital forces.

For a moment the young man stood transfixed by the spectacle of what he
had done.  How shadow thin she looked!  This was not the figure of a
woman, but some exquisite pattern of the spiritual draped limply in this
chair.

And yet, as if affected by his appealing gaze, the features moved, some
of the looseness departed from the corners of the mouth, the eye-lashes
fluttered and a delicate tint showed upon the cheek, disappeared, came
again, and went away again; but with each appearance lingered longer.
The lips moved too as if a breath were passing through them; almost
indistinguishably and yet surely, the bosom of her dress stirred,
collapsed, and stirred again. The young man had rather unconsciously
seized both wilted hands, forcing the minister somewhat away in order to
do so.  It was his mother.  He had struck her defenseless head this
blow.  Unmindful of the sudden awe of silence about him, followed by
murmurings, ejaculations, and then a universal stir of feet, the blank
looks, the questionings, the staring wonder with which neighbor looked
to neighbor, the young man watched intently that stirring of the mother
breast until it became regular and rhythmical.

The lips were moving now again; but this time as if in the formation of
words.  Rollie bent low, until his ear was close.

"Let me think, let me think," the lips murmured wearily.  "My son—was a
defaulter and a thief—John Hampstead knew.  John Hampstead showed him
the better way."  She turned her head weakly and eased her body in the
chair, as if to make even this slight effort at conversation less
laborious, and then began to speak once more:

"But he was not strong enough to walk that better way, so John Hampstead
took the burden upon his own shoulders and carried it until my boy was
strong enough to bear it for himself."

Sufficient strength had returned for one of her hands to exert a
pressure on the hand that held it.

"Yes, mother," Rollie breathed fervently into her ear.

"But now," and the voice gained more volume, "but now he is strong
enough.  He has done a brave and noble thing at last.  I forget my shame
in pride and gratitude to God for my son that was lost and is alive
again—forever more."

The last tone flowed out upon the current of a long, wavering sigh,
which seemed to take the final breath from her body.

"Yes, mother!" the young man urged anxiously, putting an instinctive
pressure upon the hands he held, as if to call the spirit back into her
again.  There was an instant in which he felt that it was gone.  She had
left him.  But the next instant he felt it coming back again like a tide
and stronger, much stronger, so that there was real color in her cheeks,
and then the eyes opened and looked at him with a clear and steady
light, with the glow of love and admiration in them.

"Thank God!" murmured the voice of Hampstead hoarsely.  "She is back.
She will stay."

"Yes," Mrs. Burbeck affirmed, faintly but valiantly, turning from the
face of her son to that of the minister with a look of inexpressible
gratitude and devotion. "Yes, I am back," she smiled reassuringly, "and
to stay. I never had so much reason—so much to live for as now."

The enactment of this scene at the chair, so intense and so significant,
could have consumed no more than two minutes of time.  The congregation,
keenly alive to the effect the disclosure must have upon the life of the
mother, was in a state to witness with the most perfect understanding
every detail of the action about the invalid’s chair. While the issue
was in doubt, the audience remained in an agony of suspense and
apprehension.

With the sudden look of relief upon the face of the minister, followed
presently by a luminous smile of pure joy while his shoulders
straightened to indicate the rolling off of the burden of his fears, the
suspense for the congregation was completely ended.  Reactions began
immediately to occur.

Far up in the gallery a woman laughed, an excited, hysterical, brainless
laugh, and every eye darted upon her in reproach.  Then down in front
somewhere near the first line of the Burbeck adherents, a man began to
sob, hoarsely and with a wailing note, as if in utter despair. Again
every eye swung from the woman who had laughed to the man who was
crying.  As they fell on him, he stood up.  It was Elder Brooks, the man
who had written the resolution declaring the pastoral relation severed.
With streaming eyes he was hurrying toward Hampstead.  But now other
women were laughing hysterically, other men were sobbing.  Everywhere
was exclamation, movement, and a sudden impulse toward the minister.
The people in the gallery came down, crowding dangerously, to the rail.
On the main floor little rivulets of excited human beings trickled out
from the pews and streamed down the aisles. The first to reach Hampstead
was a woman.  She caught his hand and kissed it.  Elder Brooks came
next.  He flung an arm about the minister’s neck, but instead of looking
at him or addressing him, covered his face in shame.

But it was no longer possible to describe what any one individual was
doing.  The entire audience had become a sea which at first rolled
toward Hampstead and then swirled and tossed its individual waves
laughing, cheering or applauding frothily.  In mutual congratulation men
shook each other’s hands and some appeared even to shake their own
hands.  Women kissed or flung their arms about one another.  Two thirds
of the main floor was devoid entirely of people.  The other third was a
struggling eddy in which the tall form of the ex-pastor,—for they had
just voted him out of the pulpit,—stood receiving every one who reached
him with a sad kind of graciousness.

Songs broke out.  For a time the people in the gallery were singing:
"Blessed be the tie that binds."  Those below sobbed through "My faith
looks up to Thee", and presently all were singing "Nearer my God to
Thee, nearer to Thee."  This continued until the gathering seemed to
sing itself somewhat out of its hysteria; and then, weaving to and fro,
the tide began to ebb back up the aisles and into the pews again.

At first the people thought they had done this of their own accord, but
later it appeared that it was Hampstead who was making them do it.  He
was a leader.  In the temporary chaos, his will alone retained its
poise, and it was the suggestion in the glance of his eye and finally in
the gestures of his hands that sent them back to their seats.

When the singing stopped, and the audience sat somewhat composed and
considering what should happen next, the minister remained master of the
situation.

To protect himself somewhat from the surging waves of humanity,
Hampstead had stepped upon the platform. He stood now with one hand
resting easily upon the back of the chair beside the communion table.
The chair was not empty, for it contained the huge, collapsed bulk of
the Elder, the upper half of whose body had sunk sideways upon the end
of the table, with his huge red face fenced off from view by one arm, as
if to shroud the shame of his features.  He was inert and still.  The
fragile human orchid in the chair had not been more motionless than he.
The tip of an ear, one bald knob of his head, were all that showed to
those in front; and the other arm was extended across the table, the
fingers overhanging the edge of it.

The spectacle of the man lying crushed and broken upon the very table
from which so often he had administered the communion, cast a deepening
spell over all.  But it also forced on all a thought of sympathy for
this rashly misguided man, who as a spiritual leader of this church had
shown himself so utterly lacking in spiritual discernment.  This was
quite in keeping with John Hampstead’s mood.

"Our very first emotion," the minister began, "must be one of sympathy
for this well-meaning brother of ours who has been the unfortunate
victim of a series of mistakes in which his has been by no means the
greatest. While he sits before us overcome with humiliation and remorse,
Elder Burbeck will pardon me if I speak for a moment as if he were not
here.  I wish to urge upon you all that no one—least of all
myself—should reproach him for the thing which he has done.  I have
never doubted that he was acting in all good conscience.  The succession
of events, once it had begun to march, has been so remarkable that now,
looking back, we must each and all of us feel how puny are men and women
to resist the winds of circumstance which blow upon them.

"To me, granting the beginning of this strange series of events for
which I am at least in part to blame, it seems now that all the rest has
been inevitable.  I think we should reproach no one.  Certainly I shall
not.  Instead, I am thinking that it is a time for great rejoicing.
That mother who has so many times shown us the better way, has shown it
to-night.  Looking up to her son whose act of moral courage, witnessing
to the new character that he has been building, has made possible the
happy climax of this tragic hour—looking up to him she has said: ’I
never had so much to live for as now.’  That should be the feeling of
each one of us.

"The events of to-night must have been graven deeply into all our
hearts.  None of us can ever be quite the same.  Each must start afresh,
with our lives enriched by the lesson and by the experiences of this
hour.

"It has brought to me the keenest suffering, the bitterest
disappointment, that I have ever known.  It has brought to me also a
deepening faith in the marvelous power of God to overrule the most
untoward incidents to His glory.  It has brought to me also the greatest
gift that any man can have upon the side of his earthly relations,—a joy
so great, so supreme, so ineffable that I cannot speak farther than to
say to you that it is mine to-night; and that you look into my eyes at
the happiest moment I have ever known."

There was a movement in the gallery.  A tall woman, heavily veiled, with
an air of unmistakable distinction about her, arose and mounted the
aisle step by step to the stairway leading downward.

Desiring with all the violent impetuosity of her nature to break out
with the truth that would vindicate the man she loved so hopelessly and
had involved so terribly, Marien had nevertheless been true to her vow
of silence. But she had brought Rollie Burbeck to this meeting, and she
had kept him there.  At the critical moment she had sent him down to
stand beside his mother, until the young man’s clay-like soul at last
had fluxed and fused into the moulding of a man.  Having seen the
mischief she had wrought undone, so far as anything done ever is undone,
she was leaving now, when the minister had begun to speak of what she
could not bear to hear.

Hampstead’s gaze watched the receding figure, and a poignant regret for
her smote in upon him in the midst of all his joy.

Desperately, with that enormous resolution of which she was capable,
Marien Dounay was stepping undemonstratively out of his life.  But as
she went, he knew that the verdict pronounced upon him by the court was
one now pronounced upon her.  All through life she would be held to
answer for the love she had slain for the sake of her ambition.

Of those who followed the eye of the minister as it marked the departure
of the woman from the gallery, some, of course, recognized her, and for
a moment they may have been puzzled over the mystery of the part she had
played in that moving drama, the last act of which was now drawing to
its end before them; but the minister was speaking again:

"It seems to me best for us all," he was saying, "to disperse quietly,
to go each to his or her own home, to our own families, into the deeper
recesses of our own hearts, to ponder that through which we have passed
and plan for each the future duty.

"Upon one point I am inclined to break into homily. The great lesson
which I myself have learned can be best expressed in the verdict of the
court at my preliminary hearing: ’Held to Answer.’  It seems to me there
is a great philosophy of life in that.  In the crowding events of the
week past, I have been ’Held to Answer’ for many mistakes of mine.  Some
of you must find yourselves held to answer now for the manner in which
you have borne yourselves.  Our young brother, Rollie Burbeck, for whom
we feel so deeply and whose courage to-night we have so greatly admired,
will be held to answer to-morrow before his associates and the world for
his past mistakes and for his proposals for the future.  But we shall be
held to answer also for our blessings and our opportunities.  A great
joy has come to me.  The woman I have loved devotedly, but perhaps
undeservingly, for years, has come thundering half way across the
continent to stand beside me here to-night.  She brings me great
happiness, an increasing opportunity to do good.  For that also I shall
be held to answer, since joys are not given to us for selfish use, but
that we may enlarge and give them back again.

"And now, though I am no longer your pastor, you will permit me, I am
sure, to lift my hand above you for this last time and invoke the
benediction of God which is eternal upon the life of every man and woman
here to-night."

"But," faltered Elder Brooks, starting up, his voice trembling, "that
was our great mistake, our great sin. You are to be our pastor again!"

The minister shook his head slowly and decisively. The Elder stared in
dumb, helpless amazement, while a murmur of dissent rose from the
congregation, but quieted before the upraised hand of the minister.

"It seems to me," said Hampstead, speaking in tones of deep conviction
and yet with humility, "that God has declared the pulpit of All People’s
vacant; that both you and I are to be held to answer for our mutual
failure by a stern decree of separation.  For there is another lesson
which has been graven deeply in my life.  It is this: No man can go
back.  No life ever flows up stream.  The tomb of yesterday is sealed.
The decision of this congregation is irrevocable.  Less than a quarter
of an hour has passed; but you are not the same, and I am not the same."

In the minister’s solemn utterance, the message of the inevitable
consequence of what had happened was carried into every consciousness.
There was no longer any protest.  The congregation bowed, mutely
submissive, while John Hampstead pronounced the benediction of St. Jude:

"Now unto him that is able to guard you from stumbling, and to set you
before the presence of his glory without blemish in exceeding joy, to
the only God our Saviour, through Jesus Christ, our Lord, be glory,
majesty, dominion and power before all time, and now, and forever more.
Amen."

The meeting was over.  But the audience sat uncertainly in the pews,
with expectant glances at Elder Burbeck. It seemed as if he should rouse
and say something. John, in recognition of the naturalness of this
impulse, turned and laid his hand upon the shoulder of the man.

"My brother," he began, and applied a gentle pressure. But something in
the unyielding bulk of the man made him stop with a puzzled look, after
which he turned and glanced toward Mrs. Burbeck.  Already Rollie was
pushing her chair forward, her face expressing both anxiety and love.
She had been eager to go to her husband before, but consideration for
his own pride, which would resent a demonstration, had withheld her.
She touched first the outstretched drooping finger.

"Hiram!" she breathed softly, coaxingly, "Hiram!"

Receiving no response, Mrs. Burbeck drew the obscuring hand gently from
before the face.  Her own features were a study.  It was curious of
Hiram to act this way. He was a man of stern purpose.  Having been
overwhelmingly shamed by his error, it would have been like him to stand
bravely and confess his wrong.  But his parted lips had no purpose in
their form at all.  The redness of his skin had changed to a purple.
She laid her fingers on his cheek and held them there, for a moment,
curiously and apprehensively.  Then a startled expression crossed her
face, and a little exclamation broke from her lips.  Instead of leaning
forward, she drew back and lifted her eyes helplessly to the minister.

Hampstead met her questioning, pitiful glance with a sad shake of the
head and affirmation in his own tear-filling eyes.  He had sensed the
solemn truth from the moment of that first touch upon the huge,
unresponsive shoulder.

For an appreciable interval the face of the woman was white and set and
unbelieving, and then she folded her hands and bowed her head in mute
acknowledgment of the widowhood which had come upon her.

With the audience aghast and breathless in sympathetic understanding,
Hampstead looked down upon the silent figures where they posed like a
sculptured group, the upper bulk of the man unmoving upon the table, the
woman unmoving in the chair, and behind the chair, the son, also bowed
and motionless.

Hiram Burbeck was dead.  He, too, had been held to answer, but before
the highest court,—for his harsh legalism, for his unsympathetic heart,
for his blind leadership of the blind.

How strange were the issues of life!  This leaflike shadow of a woman,
her mortal existence hanging by a thread, had withstood the shock for
which the minister had feared and risen strong above it.  She still had
strength to bear and strength to give.  But the proud, stern father had
crumpled and died.

Again there was the sound of sobbing in the church; but the intimates of
Mrs. Burbeck quickly gathered round and screened the group of mourners
from the eyes of the people who filed quietly out of the building.  For
a time the steady tramp of feet upon the gallery stairs, with the snort
and cough of motor-cars outside, resounded harshly, and then the church
was emptied.  Rollie had taken his mother away.  Rose, Dick, and Tayna
were gone.  The huge chair by the end of the communion table was emptied
of its burden.  That, too, was gone.  All the wreckage, all the past,
was gone.

The old sexton stood sadly by the vestibule door, his hand upon the
light switch, waiting the pleasure of his pastor for the last time.

Absently, John Hampstead climbed the pulpit stairs and stood leaning on
the pulpit itself, surveying in farewell the empty pews and the empty,
groined arches.  They had stood for something that he had tried to do
and failed; but he would try again more humbly, more in the fear of God,
more in the spirit of one who had turned failure into victory.

Standing thus, looking thus, reflecting thus, John heard a soft step
upon the pulpit stair.  It was Bessie, who had lingered in appreciative
silence, the faithful, indulgent companion of her lover’s mood.  As she
approached, the rapt man swung out his arm to enfold her, and they stood
together, both leaning upon the pulpit.

"To-night one ministry has ended," John said presently; "to-morrow
another shall begin."

"And it will be a better ministry," breathed Bessie softly, "because
there are two of us."

"_And they twain shall become one flesh!_"



                                THE END





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