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Title: Coniston — Complete
Author: Churchill, Winston
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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CONISTON

By Winston Churchill

   “We have been compelled to see what was weak in democracy as well as
   what was strong. We have begun obscurely to recognize that things
   do not go of themselves, and that popular government is not in
   itself a panacea, is no better than any other form except as the
   virtue and wisdom of the people make it so, and that when men
   undertake to do their own kingship, they enter upon, the dangers and
   responsibilities as well as the privileges of the function. Above
   all, it looks as if we were on the way to be persuaded that no
   government can be carried on by declamation.”

                 --JAMES RUSSELL LOWELL.



CONISTON



BOOK I



CHAPTER I

First I am to write a love-story of long ago, of a time some little
while after General Jackson had got into the White House and had shown
the world what a real democracy was. The Era of the first six Presidents
had closed, and a new Era had begun. I am speaking of political Eras.
Certain gentlemen, with a pious belief in democracy, but with a firmer
determination to get on top, arose,--and got in top. So many of these
gentlemen arose in the different states, and they were so clever, and
they found so many chinks in the Constitution to crawl through and steal
the people’s chestnuts, that the Era may be called the Boss-Era. After
the Boss came along certain Things without souls, but of many minds,
and found more chinks in the Constitution: bigger chinks, for the Things
were bigger, and they stole more chestnuts. But I am getting far ahead
of my love-story--and of my book.

The reader is warned that this first love-story will, in a few chapters,
come to an end: and not to a happy end--otherwise there would be no
book. Lest he should throw the book away when he arrives at this page,
it is only fair to tell him that there is another and a much longer love
story later on, if he will only continue to read, in which, it is hoped,
he may not be disappointed.

The hills seem to leap up against the sky as I describe that region
where Cynthia Ware was born, and the very old country names help to
summon up the picture. Coniston Mountain, called by some the Blue
Mountain, clad in Hercynian forests, ten good miles in length, north and
south, with its notch road that winds over the saddle behind the withers
of it. Coniston Water, that oozes out from under the loam in a hundred
places, on the eastern slope, gathers into a rushing stream to cleave
the very granite, flows southward around the south end of Coniston
Mountain, and having turned the mills at Brampton, idles through meadows
westward in its own green valley until it comes to Harwich, where it
works again and tumbles into a river. Brampton and Harwich are rivals,
but Coniston Water gives of its power impartially to each. From the
little farm clearings on the western slope of Coniston Mountain you can
sweep the broad valley of a certain broad river where grew (and grow
still) the giant pines that gave many a mast to King George’s navy as
tribute for the land. And beyond that river rises beautiful Farewell
Mountain of many colors, now sapphire, now amethyst, its crest rimmed
about at evening with saffron flame; and, beyond Farewell, the emerald
billows of the western peaks catching the level light. A dozen little
brooks are born high among the western spruces on Coniston to score
deep, cool valleys in their way through Clovelly township to the broad
music of the water and fresh river-valleys full of the music of the
water and fresh with the odor of the ferns.

To this day the railroad has not reached Coniston Village--nay, nor
Coniston Flat, four miles nearer Brampton. The village lies on its own
little shelf under the forest-clad slope of the mountain, and in the
midst of its dozen houses is the green triangle where the militia used
to drill on June days. At one end of the triangle is the great pine mast
that graced no frigate of George’s, but flew the stars and stripes
on many a liberty day. Across the road is Jonah Winch’s store, with a
platform so high that a man may step off his horse directly on to it;
with its checker-paned windows, with its dark interior smelling of
coffee and apples and molasses, yes, and of Endea rum--for this was
before the days of the revivals.

How those checker-paned windows bring back the picture of that village
green! The meeting-house has them, lantern-like, wide and high, in three
sashes--white meeting-house, seat alike of government and religion, with
its terraced steeple, with its classic porches north and south. Behind
it is the long shed, and in front, rising out of the milkweed and the
flowering thistle, the horse block of the first meeting-house, where
many a pillion has left its burden in times bygone. Honest Jock
Hallowell built that second meeting-house--was, indeed, still building
it at the time of which we write. He had hewn every beam and king post
in it, and set every plate and slip. And Jock Hallowell is the man who,
unwittingly starts this chronicle.

At noon, on one of those madcap April days of that Coniston country,
Jock descended from his work on the steeple to perceive the ungainly
figure of Jethro Bass coming toward him across the green. Jethro was
about thirty years of age, and he wore a coonskin cap even in those
days, and trousers tacked into his boots. He carried his big head
bent forward, a little to one aide, and was not, at first sight, a
prepossessing-looking person. As our story largely concerns him and we
must get started somehow, it may as well be to fix a little attention on
him.

“Heigho!” said Jock, rubbing his hands on his leather apron.

“H-how be you, Jock?” said Jethro, stopping.

“Heigho!” cried Jock, “what’s this game of fox and geese you’re
a-playin’ among the farmers?”

“C-callate to git the steeple done before frost?” inquired Jethro,
without so much as a smile. “B-build it tight, Jock--b-build it tight.”

“Guess he’ll build his’n tight, whatever it is,” said Jock, looking
after him as Jethro made his way to the little tannery near by.

Let it be known that there was such a thing as social rank in Coniston;
and something which, for the sake of an advantageous parallel, we may
call an Established Church. Coniston was a Congregational town still,
and the deacons and dignitaries of that church were likewise the pillars
of the state. Not many years before the time of which we write actual
disestablishment had occurred, when the town ceased--as a town--to pay
the salary of Priest Ware, as the minister was called. The father
of Jethro Bass, Nathan the currier, had once, in a youthful lapse,
permitted a Baptist preacher to immerse him in Coniston Water. This had
been the extent of Nathan’s religion; Jethro had none at all, and was,
for this and other reasons, somewhere near the bottom of the social
scale.

“Fox and geese!” repeated Jock, with his eyes still on Jethro’s
retreating back. The builder of the meetinghouse rubbed a great, brown
arm, scratched his head, and turned and came face to face with Cynthia
Ware, in a poke bonnet.

Contrast is a favorite trick of authors, and no greater contrast is to
be had in Coniston than that between Cynthia Ware and Jethro Bass. In
the first place; Cynthia was the minister’s daughter, and twenty-one.
I can summon her now under the great maples of the village street, a
virginal figure, gray eyes that kindled the face shaded by the poke
bonnet, and up you went above the clouds.

“What about fox and geese, Jock?” said Cynthia.

“Jethro Bass,” said Jock, who, by reason of his ability, was a
privileged character. “Mark my words, Cynthy, Jethro Bass is an
all-fired sight smarter that folks in this town think he be. They don’t
take notice of him, because he don’t say much, and stutters. He hain’t
be’n eddicated a great deal, but I wouldn’t be afeard to warrant he’d
make a racket in the world some of these days.”

“Jock Hallowell!” cried Cynthia, the gray beginning to dance, “I suppose
you think Jethro’s going to be President.”

“All right,” said Jock, “you can laugh. Ever talked with Jethro?”

“I’ve hardly spoken two words to him in my life,” she replied. And it
was true, although the little white parsonage was scarce two hundred
yards from the tannery house.

“Jethro’s never ailed much,” Jock remarked, having reference to
Cynthia’s proclivities for visiting the sick. “I’ve seed a good many
different men in my time, and I tell you, Cynthia Ware, that Jethro’s
got a kind of power you don’t often come acrost. Folks don’t suspicion
it.”

In spite of herself, Cynthia was impressed by the ring of sincerity in
the builder’s voice. Now that she thought of it, there was rugged power
in Jethro’s face, especially when he took off the coonskin cap. She
always nodded a greeting when she saw him in the tannery yard or on the
road, and sometimes he nodded back, but oftener he had not appeared to
see her. She had thought this failure to nod stupidity, but it might
after all be abstraction.

“What makes you think he has ability?” she asked, picking flowers from a
bunch of arbutus she held.

“He’s rich, for one thing,” said Jock. He had not intended a
dissertation on Jethro Bass, but he felt bound to defend his statements.

“Rich!”

“Wal, he hain’t poor. He’s got as many as thirty mortgages round among
the farmers--some on land, and some on cattle.”

“How did he make the money?” demanded Cynthia, in surprise.

“Hides an’ wool an’ bark--turned ‘em over an’ swep’ in. Gits a load, and
Lyman Hull drives him down to Boston with that six-hoss team. Lyman gits
drunk, Jethro keeps sober and saves.”

Jock began to fashion some wooden pegs with his adze, for nails were
scarce in those days. Still Cynthia lingered, picking flowers from the
bunch.

“What did you mean by ‘fox and geese’ Jock?” she said presently.

Jock laughed. He did not belong to the Establishment, but was a
Universalist; politically he admired General Jackson. “What’d you say if
Jethro was Chairman of the next Board of Selectmen?” he demanded.

No wonder Cynthia gasped. Jethro Bass, Chairman of the Board, in the
honored seat of Deacon Moses Hatch, the perquisite of the church in
Coniston! The idea was heresy. As a matter of fact, Jock himself uttered
it as a playful exaggeration. Certain nonconformist farmers, of whom
there were not a few in the town, had come into Jonah Winch’s store that
morning; and Jabez Miller, who lived on the north slope, had taken away
the breath of the orthodox by suggesting that Jethro Bass be nominated
for town office. Jock Hallowell had paused once or twice on his work
on the steeple to look across the tree-tops at Coniston shouldering the
sky. He had been putting two and two together, and now he was merely
making five out of it, instead of four. He remembered that Jethro Bass
had for some years been journeying through the town, baying his hides
and wool, and collecting the interest on his mortgages.

Cynthia would have liked to reprove Jock Hallowell, and tell him
there were some subjects which should not be joked about. Jethro Bass,
Chairman of the Board of Selectmen!

“Well, here comes, young Moses, I do believe,” said Jock, gathering his
pegs into his apron and preparing to ascend once more. “Callated he’d
spring up pretty soon.”

“Jock, you do talk foolishly for a man who is able to build a church,”
 said Cynthia, as she walked away. The young Moses referred to was Moses
Hatch, Junior, son of the pillar of the Church and State, and it was an
open secret that he was madly in love with Cynthia. Let it be said of
him that he was a steady-going young man, and that he sighed for the
moon.

“Moses,” said the girl, when they came in sight of the elms that, shaded
the gable of the parsonage, “what do you think of Jethro Bass?”

“Jethro Bass!” exclaimed honest Moses, “whatever put him into your head,
Cynthy?” Had she mentioned perhaps, any other young man in Coniston,
Moses would have been eaten with jealousy.

“Oh, Jock was joking about him. What do you think of him?”

“Never thought one way or t’other,” he answered. “Jethro never had
much to do with the boys. He’s always in that tannery, or out buyin’ of
hides. He does make a sharp bargain when he buys a hide. We always goes
shares on our’n.”

Cynthia was not only the minister’s daughter,--distinction enough,--her
reputation for learning was spread through the country roundabout, and
at the age of twenty she had had an offer to teach school in Harwich.
Once a week in summer she went to Brampton, to the Social library there,
and sat at the feet of that Miss Lucretia Penniman of whom Brampton has
ever been so proud--Lucretia Penniman, one of the first to sound the
clarion note for the intellectual independence of American women; who
wrote the “Hymn to Coniston”; who, to the awe of her townspeople,
went out into the great world and became editress of a famous woman’s
journal, and knew Longfellow and Hawthorne and Bryant. Miss Lucretia
it was who started the Brampton Social Library, and filled it with such
books as both sexes might read with profit. Never was there a stricter
index than hers. Cynthia, Miss Lucretia loved, and the training of that
mind was the pleasantest task of her life.

Curiosity as a factor has never, perhaps, been given its proper weight
by philosophers. Besides being fatal to a certain domestic animal, as
an instigating force it has brought joy and sorrow into the lives of men
and women, and made and marred careers. And curiosity now laid hold of
Cynthia Ware. Why in the world she should ever have been curious about
Jethro Bass is a mystery to many, for the two of them were as far apart
as the poles. Cynthia, of all people, took to watching the tanner’s son,
and listening to the brief colloquies he had with other men at Jonah
Winch’s store, when she went there to buy things for the parsonage; and
it seemed to her that Jock had not been altogether wrong, and that there
was in the man an indefinable but very compelling force. And when
a woman begins to admit that a man has force, her curiosity usually
increases. On one or two of these occasions Cynthia had been startled to
find his eyes fixed upon her, and though the feeling she had was closely
akin to fear, she found something distinctly pleasurable in it.

May came, and the pools dried up, the orchards were pink and white,
the birches and the maples were all yellow-green on the mountain sides
against the dark pines, and Cynthia was driving the minister’s gig to
Brampton. Ahead of her, in the canon made by the road between the great
woods, strode an uncouth but powerful figure--coonskin cap, homespun
breeches tucked into boots, and all. The gig slowed down, and Cynthia
began to tremble with that same delightful fear. She knew it must be
wicked, because she liked it so much. Unaccountable thing! She felt
all akin to the nature about her, and her blood was coursing as the sap
rushes through a tree. She would not speak to him; of that she was sure,
and equally sure that he would not speak to her. The horse was walking
now, and suddenly Jethro Bass faced around, and her heart stood still.

“H-how be you, Cynthy?” he asked.

“How do you do, Jethro?”

A thrush in the woods began to sing a hymn, and they listened. After
that a silence, save for the notes of answering birds quickened by the
song, the minister’s horse nibbling at the bushes. Cynthia herself could
not have explained why she lingered. Suddenly he shot a question at her.

“Where be you goin’?”

“To Brampton, to get Miss Lucretia to change this book,” and she held it
up from her lap. It was a very large book.

“Wh-what’s it about,” he demanded.

“Napoleon Bonaparte.”

“Who was be?”

“He was a very strong man. He began life poor and unknown, and fought
his way upward until he conquered the world.”

“C-conquered the world, did you say? Conquered the world?”

“Yes.”

Jethro pondered.

“Guess there’s somethin’ wrong about that book--somethin’ wrong. Conquer
the United States?”

Cynthia smiled. She herself did not realize that we were not a part of
the world, then.

“He conquered Europe; where all the kings and queens are, and became a
king himself--an emperor.”

“I want to-know!” said Jethro. “You said he was a poor boy?”

“Why don’t you read the book, Jethro?” Cynthia answered. “I am sure I
can get Miss Lucretia to let you have it.”

“Don’t know as I’d understand it,” he demurred.

“I’ll try to explain what you don’t understand,” said Cynthia, and her
heart gave a bound at the very idea.

“Will You?” he said, looking at her eagerly. “Will you? You mean it?”

“Certainly,” she answered, and blushed, not knowing why. “I-I must be
going,” and she gathered up the reins.

“When will you give it to me?”

“I’ll stop at the tannery when I come back from Brampton,” she said, and
drove on. Once she gave a fleeting glance over her shoulder, and he was
still standing where she had left him.

When she returned, in the yellow afternoon light that flowed over wood
and pasture, he came out of the tannery door. Jake Wheeler or Speedy
Bates, the journeyman tailoress, from whom little escaped, could not
have said it was by design--thought nothing, indeed, of that part of it.

“As I live!” cried Speedy from the window to Aunt Lucy Prescott in the
bed, “if Cynthy ain’t givin’ him a book as big as the Bible!”

Aunt Lucy hoped, first, that it was the Bible, and second, that Jethro
would read it. Aunt Lucy, and Established Church Coniston in general,
believed in snatching brands from the burning, and who so deft as
Cynthia at this kind of snatching! So Cynthia herself was a hypocrite
for once, and did not know it. At that time Jethro’s sins were mostly
of omission. As far as rum was concerned, he was a creature after
Aunt Lucy’s own heart, for he never touched it: true, gaunt Deacon
Ira Perkins, tithing-man, had once chided him for breaking the
Sabbath--shooting at a fox.

To return to the book. As long as he lived, Jethro looked back to the
joy of the monumental task of mastering its contents. In his mind,
Napoleon became a rough Yankee general; of the cities, villages, and
fortress he formed as accurate a picture as a resident of Venice from
Marco Polo’s account of Tartary. Jethro had learned to read, after
a fashion, to write, add, multiply, and divide. He knew that George
Washington and certain barefooted companions had forced a proud Britain
to her knees, and much of the warring in the book took color from
Captain Timothy Prescott’s stories of General Stark and his campaigns,
heard at Jonah Winch’s store. What Paris looked like, or Berlin, or the
Hospice of St. Bernard--though imaged by a winter Coniston--troubled
Jethro not at all; the thing that stuck in his mind was that
Napoleon--for a considerable time, at least--compelled men to do his
bidding. Constitutions crumble before the Strong. Not that Jethro
philosophized about constitutions. Existing conditions presented
themselves, and it occurred to him that there were crevices in the town
system, and ways into power through the crevices for men clever enough
to find them.

A week later, and in these same great woods on the way to Brampton,
Cynthia overtook him once more. It was characteristic of him that he
plunged at once into the subject uppermost in his mind.

“Not a very big place, this Corsica--not a very big place.”

“A little island in the Mediterranean,” said Cynthia.

“Hum. Country folks, the Bonapartes--country folks?”

Cynthia laughed.

“I suppose you might call them so,” she said. “They were poor, and lived
out of the world.”

“He was a smart man. But he found things goin’ his way. Didn’t have to
move ‘em.”

“Not at first;” she admitted; “but he had to move mountains later. How
far have you read?”

“One thing that helped him,” said Jethro, in indirect answer to this
question, “he got a smart woman for his wife--a smart woman.”

Cynthia looked down at the reins in her lap, and she felt again that
wicked stirring within her,--incredible stirring of minister’s daughter
for tanner’s son. Coniston believes, and always will believe, that the
social bars are strong enough. So Cynthia looked down at the reins.

“Poor Josephine!” she said, “I always wish he had not cast her off.”

“C-cast her off?” said Jethro. “Cast her off! Why did he do that?”

“After a while, when he got to be Emperor, he needed a wife who would
be more useful to him. Josephine had become a drag. He cared more about
getting on in the world than he did about his wife.”

Jethro looked away contemplatively.

“Wa-wahn’t the woman to blame any?” he said.

“Read the book, and you’ll see,” retorted Cynthia, flicking her horse,
which started at all gaits down the road. Jethro stood in his tracks,
staring, but this time he did not see her face above the hood of the
gig. Presently he trudged on, head downward, pondering upon another
problem than Napoleon’s. Cynthia, at length, arrived in Brampton Street,
in a humor that puzzled the good Miss Lucretia sorely.



CHAPTER II

The sun had dropped behind the mountain, leaving Coniston in amethystine
shadow, and the last bee had flown homeward from the apple blossoms in
front of Aunt Lucy Prescott’s window, before Cynthia returned. Aunt Lucy
was Cynthia’s grandmother, and eighty-nine years of age. Still she sat
in her window beside the lilac bush, lost in memories of a stout, rosy
lass who had followed a stalwart husband up a broad river into the
wilderness some seventy years agone in Indian days--Weathersfield
Massacre days. That lass was Aunt Lucy herself, and in just such a May
had Timothy’s axe rung through the Coniston forest and reared the log
cabin, where six of her children were born. Likewise in review passed
the lonely months when Timothy was fighting behind his rugged General
Stark for that privilege more desirable to his kind than life--self
government. Timothy Prescott would pull the forelock to no man, would
have such God-fearing persons as he chose make his laws for him.

Honest Captain Timothy and his Stark heroes, Aunt Lucy and her memories,
have long gone to rest. Little did they dream of the nation we have
lived to see, straining at her constitution like a great ship at anchor
in a gale, with funnels belching forth smoke, and a new race of men
thronging her decks for the mastery. Coniston is there still behind its
mountain, with its rusty firelocks and its hillside graves.

Cynthia, driving back from Brampton in the gig, smiled at Aunt Lucy
in the window, but she did not so much as glance at the tannery house
farther on. The tannery house, be it known, was the cottage where Jethro
dwelt, and which had belonged to Nathan, his father; and the tannery
sheds were at some distance behind it, nearer Coniston Water. Cynthia
did not glance at the tannery house, for a wave of orthodox indignation
had swept over her: at any rate, we may call it so. In other words,
she was angry with herself: pitied and scorned herself, if the truth be
told, for her actions--an inevitable mood.

In front of the minister’s barn under the elms on the hill Cynthia
pulled the harness from the tired horse with an energy that betokened
activity of mind. She was not one who shrank from self-knowledge, and
the question put itself to her, “Whither was this matter tending?” The
fire that is in strong men has ever been a lure to women; and many,
meaning to play with it, have been burnt thereby since the world began.
But to turn the fire to some use, to make the world better for it or
stranger for it, that were an achievement indeed! The horse munching
his hay, Cynthia lingered as the light fainted above the ridge, with the
thought that this might be woman’s province, and Miss Lucretia Penniman
might go on leading her women regiments to no avail. Nevertheless she
was angry with Jethro, not because of what he had said, but because of
what he was.

The next day is Sunday, and there is mild excitement in Coniston. For
Jethro Bass, still with the coonskin cap, but in a brass-buttoned
coat secretly purchased in Brampton, appeared at meeting! It made no
difference that he entered quietly, and sat in the rear slip, orthodox
Coniston knew that he was behind them: good Mr. Ware knew it, and
changed a little his prayers and sermon: Cynthia knew it, grew hot and
cold by turns under her poke bonnet. Was he not her brand, and would she
not get the credit of snatching him? How willingly, then, would she have
given up that credit to the many who coveted it--if it were a credit.
Was Jethro at meeting for any religious purpose?

Jethro’s importance to Coniston lay in his soul, and that soul was
numbered at present ninety and ninth. When the meeting was over, Aunt
Lucy Prescott hobbled out at an amazing pace to advise him to read
chapter seven of Matthew, but he had vanished: via the horse sheds; if
she had known it, and along Coniston Water to the house by the tannery,
where he drew breath in a state of mind not to be depicted. He had gazed
at the back of Cynthia’s poke bonnet for two hours, but he had an uneasy
feeling that he would have to pay a price.

The price was paid, in part, during the next six days. To do
Jethro’s importance absolute justice, he did inspire fear among his
contemporaries, and young men and women did not say much to his face;
what they did say gave them little satisfaction. Grim Deacon Ira stopped
him as he was going to buy hides, and would have prayed over him if
Jethro had waited; dear Aunt Lucy did pray, but in private. In six days
orthodox Coniston came to the conclusion that this ninety and ninth soul
were better left to her who had snatched it, Cynthia Ware.

As for Cynthia, nothing was farther from her mind. Unchristian as was
the thought, if this thing she had awakened could only have been put
back to sleep again, she would have thought herself happy. But would
she have been happy? When Moses Hatch congratulated her, with more humor
than sincerity, he received the greatest scare of his life. Yet in those
days she welcomed Moses’s society as she never had before; and Coniston,
including Moses himself, began thinking of a wedding.

Another Saturday came, and no Cynthia went to Brampton. Jethro may or
may not have been on the road. Sunday, and there was Jethro on the
back seat in the meetinghouse: Sunday noon, over his frugal dinner, the
minister mildly remonstrates with Cynthia for neglecting one who
has shown signs of grace, citing certain failures of others of his
congregation: Cynthia turns scarlet, leaving the minister puzzled and
a little uneasy: Monday, Miss Lucretia Penniman, alarmed, comes to
Coniston to inquire after Cynthia’s health: Cynthia drives back with her
as far as Four Corners, talking literature and the advancement of woman;
returns on foot, thinking of something else, when she discerns a figure
seated on a log by the roadside, bent as in meditation. There was no
going back the thing to do was to come on, as unconcernedly as possible,
not noticing anything,--which Cynthia did, not without a little inward
palpitating and curiosity, for which she hated herself and looked the
sterner. The figure unfolded itself, like a Jack from a box.

“You say the woman wahn’t any to blame--wahn’t any to blame?”

The poke bonnet turned away. The shoulders under it began to shake, and
presently the astonished Jethro heard what seemed to be faint peals of
laughter. Suddenly she turned around to him, all trace of laughter gone.

“Why don’t you read the book?”

“So I am,” said Jethro, “so I am. Hain’t come to this casting-off yet.”

“And you didn’t look ahead to find out?” This with scorn.

“Never heard of readin’ a book in that fashion. I’ll come to it in
time--g-guess it won’t run away.”

Cynthia stared at him, perhaps with a new interest at this plodding
determination. She was not quite sure that she ought to stand talking
to him a third time in these woods, especially if the subject of
conversation were not, as Coniston thought, the salvation of his soul.
But she stayed. Here was a woman who could be dealt with by no known
rules, who did not even deign to notice a week of marked coldness.

“Jethro,” she said, with a terrifying sternness, “I am going to ask you
a question, and you must answer me truthfully.”

“G-guess I won’t find any trouble about that,” said Jethro, apparently
not in the least terrified.

“I want you to tell me why you are going to meeting.”

“To see you,” said Jethro, promptly, “to see you.”

“Don’t you know that that is wrong?”

“H-hadn’t thought much about it,” answered Jethro.

“Well, you should think about it. People don’t go to meeting to--to look
at other people.”

“Thought they did,” said Jethro. “W-why do they wear their best
clothes--why do they wear their best clothes?”

“To honor God,” said Cynthia, with a shade lacking in the conviction,
for she added hurriedly: “It isn’t right for you to go to church to
see--anybody. You go there to hear the Scriptures expounded, and to
have your sins forgiven. Because I lent you that book, and you come to
meeting, people think I’m converting you.”

“So you be,” replied Jethro, and this time it was he who smiled, “so you
be.”

Cynthia turned away, her lips pressed together: How to deal with such a
man! Wondrous notes broke on the stillness, the thrush was singing
his hymn again, only now it seemed a paean. High in the azure a hawk
wheeled, and floated.

“Couldn’t you see I was very angry with you?”

“S-saw you was goin’ with Moses Hatch more than common.”

Cynthia drew breath sharply. This was audacity--and yet she liked it.

“I am very fond of Moses,” she said quickly.

“You always was charitable, Cynthy,” said he.

“Haven’t I been charitable to you?” she retorted.

“G-guess it has be’n charity,” said Jethro. He looked down at her
solemnly, thoughtfully, no trace of anger in his face, turned, and
without another word strode off in the direction of Coniston Flat.

He left a tumultuous Cynthia, amazement and repentance struggling with
anger, which forbade her calling him back: pride in her answering to
pride in him, and she rejoicing fiercely that he had pride. Had he but
known it, every step he took away from her that evening was a step in
advance, and she gloried in the fact that he did not once look back. As
she walked toward Coniston, the thought came to her that she was rid of
the thing she had stirred up, perhaps forever, and the thrush burst into
his song once more.

That night, after Cynthia’s candle had gone out, when the minister
sat on his doorsteps looking at the glory of the moon on the mountain
forest, he was startled by the sight of a figure slowly climbing toward
him up the slope. A second glance told him that it was Jethro’s. Vaguely
troubled, he watched his approach; for good Priest Ware, while able
to obey one-half the scriptural injunction, had not the wisdom of the
serpent, and women, as typified by Cynthia, were a continual puzzle to
him. That very evening, Moses Hatch had called, had been received with
more favor than usual, and suddenly packed off about his business.
Seated in the moonlight, the minister wondered vaguely whether Jethro
Bass were troubling the girl. And now Jethro stood before him,
holding out a book. Rising, Mr. Ware bade him good evening, mildly and
cordially.

“C-come to leave this book for Cynthy,” said Jethro.

Mr. Ware took it, mechanically.

“Have you finished it?” he asked kindly.

“All I want,” replied Jethro, “all I want.”

He turned, and went down the slope. Twice the words rose to the
minister’s lips to call him back, and were suppressed. Yet what to say
to him if he came? Mr. Ware sat down again, sadly wondering why Jethro
Bass should be so difficult to talk to.

The parsonage was of only one story, with a steep, sloping roof. On the
left of the doorway was Cynthia’s room, and the minister imagined he
heard a faint, rustling noise at her window. Presently he arose, barred
the door; could be heard moving around in his room for a while,
and after that all was silence save for the mournful crying of a
whippoorwill in the woods. Then a door opened softly, a white vision
stole into the little entry lighted by the fan-window, above, seized
the book and stole back. Had the minister been a prying man about his
household, he would have noticed next day that Cynthia’s candle was
burned down to the socket. He saw nothing of the kind: he saw, in fact,
that his daughter flitted about the house singing, and he went out into
the sun to drop potatoes.

No sooner had he reached the barn than this singing ceased. But how was
Mr. Ware to know that?

Twice Cynthia, during the week that followed, got halfway down the
slope of the parsonage hill, the book under her arm, on her way to the
tannery; twice went back, tears of humiliation and self-pity in her eyes
at the thought that she should make advances to a man, and that man
the tanner’s son. Her household work done, a longing for further motion
seized her, and she walked out under the maples of the village street.
Let it be understood that Coniston was a village, by courtesy, and its
shaded road a street. Suddenly, there was the tannery, Jethro standing
in front of it, contemplative. Did he see her? Would he come to her?
Cynthia, seized by a panic of shame, flew into Aunt Lucy Prescott’s, sat
through half an hour of torture while Aunt Lucy talked of redemption of
sinners, during ten minutes of which Jethro stood, still contemplative.
What tumult was in his breast, or whether there was any tumult, Cynthia
knew not. He went into the tannery again, and though she saw him twice
later in the week, he gave no sign of seeing her.

On Saturday Cynthia bought a new bonnet in Brampton; Sunday morning put
it on, suddenly remembered that one went to church to honor God, and
wore her old one; walked to meeting in a flutter of expectancy not to be
denied, and would have looked around had that not been a cardinal sin
in Coniston. No Jethro! General opinion (had she waited to hear it among
the horse sheds or on the green), that Jethro’s soul had slid back into
the murky regions, from which it were folly for even Cynthia to try to
drag it.



CHAPTER III

To prove that Jethro’s soul had not slid back into the murky regions,
and that it was still indulging in flights, it is necessary to follow
him (for a very short space) to Boston. Jethro himself went in Lyman
Hull’s six-horse team with a load of his own merchandise--hides that he
had tanned, and other country produce. And they did not go by the way of
Truro Pass to the Capital, but took the state turnpike over the ranges,
where you can see for miles and miles and miles on a clear summer
day across the trembling floors of the forest tops to lonely sentinel
mountains fourscore miles away.

No one takes the state turnpike nowadays except crazy tourists who
are willing to risk their necks and their horses’ legs for the sake of
scenery. The tough little Morgans of that time, which kept their feet
like cats, have all but disappeared, but there were places on that road
where Lyman Hull put the shoes under his wheels for four miles at a
stretch. He was not a companion many people would have chosen with whom
to enjoy the beauties of such a trip, and nearly everybody in Coniston
was afraid of him. Jethro Bass would sit silent on the seat for hours
and--it is a fact to be noted that when he told Lyman to do a thing,
Lyman did it; not, perhaps, without cursing and grumbling. Lyman was a
profane and wicked man--drover, farmer, trader, anything. He had a cider
mill on his farm on the south slopes of Coniston which Mr. Ware had
mentioned in his sermons, and which was the resort of the ungodly. The
cider was not so good as Squire Northcutt’s, but cheaper. Jethro was not
afraid of Lyman, and he had a mortgage on the six-horse team, and on the
farm and the cider mill.

After six days, Jethro and Lyman drove over Charlestown bridge and
into the crooked streets of Boston, and at length arrived at a drover’s
hotel, or lodging-house that did not, we may be sure, front on Mount
Vernon Street or face the Mall. Lyman proceeded to get drunk, and Jethro
to sell the hides and other merchandise which Lyman had hauled for him.

There was a young man in Boston, when Jethro arrived in Lyman Hull’s
team, named William Wetherell. By extraordinary circumstances he and
another connected with him are to take no small part in this story,
which is a sufficient excuse for his introduction. His father had been
a prosperous Portsmouth merchant in the West India trade, a man of many
attainments, who had failed and died of a broken heart; and William, at
two and twenty, was a clerk in the little jewellery shop of Mr. Judson
in Cornhill.

William Wetherell had literary aspirations, and sat from morning till
night behind the counter, reading and dreaming: dreaming that he was to
be an Irving or a Walter Scott, and yet the sum total of his works in
after years consisted of some letters to the Newcastle Guardian, and a
beginning of the Town History of Coniston!

William had a contempt for the awkward young countryman who suddenly
loomed up before him that summer’s morning across the counter. But a
moment before the clerk had been in a place where he would fain have
lingered--a city where blue waters flow swiftly between white palaces
toward the sunrise.

     “And I have fitted up some chambers there
     Looking toward the golden Eastern air,
     And level with the living winds, which flow
     Like waves above the living waves below.”

Little did William Wetherell guess, when he glanced up at the intruder,
that he was looking upon one of the forces of his own life! The
countryman wore a blue swallow tail coat (fashioned by the hand of
Speedy Bates), a neck-cloth, a coonskin cap, and his trousers were
tucked into rawhide boots. He did not seem a promising customer for
expensive jewellery, and the literary clerk did not rise, but merely
closed his book with his thumb in it.

“S-sell things here,” asked the countryman, “s-sell things here?”

“Occasionally, when folks have money to buy them.”

“My name’s Jethro Bass,” said the countryman, “Jethro Bass from
Coniston. Ever hear of Coniston?”

Young Mr. Wetherell never had, but many years afterward he remembered
his name, heaven knows why. Jethro Bass! Perhaps it had a strange ring
to it.

“F-folks told me to be careful,” was Jethro’s next remark. He did not
look at the clerk, but kept his eyes fixed on the things within the
counter.

“Somebody ought to have come with you,” said the clerk, with a smile of
superiority.

“D-don’t know much about city ways.”

“Well,” said the clerk, beginning to be amused, “a man has to keep his
wits about him.”

Even then Jethro spared him a look, but continued to study the contents
of the case.

“What can I do for you, Mr. Bass? We have some really good things here.
For example, this Swiss watch, which I will sell you cheap, for one
hundred and fifty dollars.”

“One hundred and fifty dollars--er--one hundred and fifty?”

Wetherell nodded. Still the countryman did not look up.

“F-folks told me to be careful,” he repeated without a smile. He was
looking at the lockets, and finally pointed a large finger at one of
them--the most expensive, by the way. “W-what d’ye get for that?” he
asked.

“Twenty dollars,” the clerk promptly replied. Thirty was nearer the
price, but what did it matter.

“H-how much for that?” he said, pointing to another. The clerk told him.
He inquired about them all, deliberately repeating the sums, considering
with so well-feigned an air of a purchaser that Mr. Wetherell began to
take a real joy in the situation. For trade was slack in August, and
diversion scarce. Finally he commanded that the case be put on the top
of the counter, and Wetherell humored him. Whereupon he picked up the
locket he had first chosen. It looked very delicate in his huge, rough
hand, and Wetherell was surprised that the eyes of Mr. Bass had been
caught by the most expensive, for it was far from being the showiest.

“T-twenty dollars?” he asked.

“We may as well call it that,” laughed Wetherell.

“It’s not too good for Cynthy,” he said.

“Nothing’s too good for Cynthy,” answered Mr. Wetherell, mockingly,
little knowing how he might come to mean it.

Jethro Bass paid no attention to this speech. Pulling a great cowhide
wallet from his pocket, still holding the locket in his hand, to the
amazement of the clerk he counted out twenty dollars and laid them down.

“G-guess I’ll take that one, g-guess I’ll take that one,” he said.

Then he looked at Mr. Wetherell for the first time.

“Hold!” cried the clerk, more alarmed than he cared to show, “that’s not
the price. Did you think I could sell it for that price?”

“W-wahn’t that the price you fixed?”

“You simpleton!” retorted Wetherell, with a conviction now that he was
calling him the wrong name. “Give me back the locket, and you shall have
your money, again.”

“W-wahn’t that the price you fixed?”

“Yes, but--”

“G-guess I’ll keep the locket--g-guess I’ll keep the locket.”

Wetherell looked at him aghast, and there was no doubt about his
determination. With a sinking heart the clerk realized that he should
have to make good to Mr. Judson the seven odd dollars of difference,
and then he lost his head. Slipping round the counter to the door of
the shop, he turned the key, thrust it in his pocket, and faced Mr. Bass
again--from behind the counter.

“You don’t leave this shop,” cried the clerk, “until you give me back
that locket.”

Jethro Bass turned. A bench ran along the farther wall, and there he
planted himself without a word, while the clerk stared at him,--with
what feelings of uneasiness I shall not attempt to describe,--for the
customer was plainly determined to wait until hunger should drive one
of them forth. The minutes passed, and Wetherell began to hate him. Then
some one tried the door, peered in through the glass, perceived Jethro,
shook the knob, knocked violently, all to no purpose. Jethro seemed lost
in a reverie.

“This has gone far enough,” said the clerk, trying to keep his voice
from shaking “it is beyond a joke. Give me back the locket.” And he
tendered Jethro the money again.

“W-wahn’t that the price you fixed?” asked Jethro, innocently.

Wetherell choked. The man outside shook the door again, and people on
the sidewalk stopped, and presently against the window panes a sea of
curious faces gazed in upon them. Mr. Bass’s thoughts apparently were
fixed on Eternity--he looked neither at the people nor at Wetherell. And
then, the crowd parting as for one in authority, as in a bad dream
the clerk saw his employer, Mr. Judson, courteously pushing away the
customer at the door who would not be denied. Another moment, and Mr.
Judson had gained admittance with his private key, and stood on the
threshold staring at clerk and customer. Jethro gave no sign that the
situation had changed.

“William,” said Mr. Judson, in a dangerously quiet voice, “perhaps you
can explain this extraordinary state of affairs.”

“I can, sir,” William cried. “This gentleman” (the word stuck in his
throat), “this gentleman came in here to examine lockets which I had
no reason to believe he would buy. I admit my fault, sir. He asked the
price of the most expensive, and I told him twenty dollars, merely for a
jest, sir.” William hesitated.

“Well?” said Mr. Judson.

“After pricing every locket in the case, he seized the first one, handed
me twenty dollars, and now refuses to give it up, although he knows the
price is twenty-seven.”

“Then?”

“Then I locked the door, sir. He sat down there, and hasn’t moved
since.”

Mr. Judson looked again at Mr. Bass; this time with unmistakable
interest. The other customer began to laugh, and the crowd was pressing
in, and Mr. Judson turned and shut the door in their faces. All this
time Mr. Bass had not moved, not so much as to lift his head or shift
one of his great cowhide boots.

“Well, sir,” demanded Mr. Judson, “what have you to say?”

“N-nothin’. G-guess I’ll keep the locket. I’ve, paid for it--I’ve paid
for it.”

“And you are aware, my friend,” said Mr. Judson, “that my clerk has
given you the wrong price?”

“Guess that’s his lookout.” He still sat there, doggedly unconcerned.

A bull would have seemed more at home in a china shop than Jethro
Bass in a jewellery store. But Mr. Judson himself was a man out of the
ordinary, and instead of getting angry he began to be more interested.

“Took you for a greenhorn, did he?” he remarked.

“F-folks told me to be careful--to be careful,” said Mr. Bass.

Then Mr. Judson laughed. It was all the more disconcerting to William
Wetherell, because his employer laughed rarely. He laid his hand on
Jethro’s shoulder.

“He might have spared himself the trouble, my young friend,” he said.
“You didn’t expect to find a greenhorn behind a jewellery counter, did
you?”

“S-surprised me some,” said Jethro.

Mr. Judson laughed again, all the while looking at him.

“I am going to let you keep the locket,” he said, “because it will teach
my greenhorn a lesson. William, do you hear that?”

“Yes, sir,” William said, and his face was very red.

Mr. Bass rose solemnly, apparently unmoved by his triumph in a somewhat
remarkable transaction, and William long remembered how he towered over
all of them. He held the locket out to Mr. Judson, who stared at it,
astonished.

“What’s this?” said that gentleman; “you don’t want it?”

“Guess I’ll have it marked,” said Jethro, “ef it don’t cost extry.”

“Marked!” gasped Mr. Judson, “marked!”

“Ef it don’t cost extry,” Jethro repeated.

“Well, I’ll--” exclaimed Mr. Judson, and suddenly recalled the fact that
he was a church member. “What inscription do you wish put into it?” he
asked, recovering himself with an effort.

Jethro thrust his hand into his pocket, and again the cowhide wallet
came out. He tendered Mr. Judson a somewhat soiled piece of paper, and
Mr. Judson read:--

        “Cynthy, from Jethro”

“Cynthy,” Mr. Judson repeated, in a tremulous voice, “Cynthy, not
Cynthia.”

“H-how is it written,” said Jethro, leaning over it, “h-how is it
written?”

“Cynthy,” answered Mr. Judson, involuntarily.

“Then make it Cynthy--make it Cynthy.”

“Cynthy it shall be,” said Mr. Judson, with conviction.

“When’ll you have it done?”

“To-night,” replied Mr. Judson, with a twinkle in his eye, “to-night, as
a special favor.”

“What time--w-what time?”

“Seven o’clock, sir. May I send it to your hotel? The Tremont House, I
suppose?”

“I-I’ll call,” said Jethro, so solemnly that Mr. Judson kept his
laughter until he was gone.

From the door they watched him silently as he strode across the street
and turned the corner. Then Mr. Judson turned. “That man will make his
mark, William,” he said; and added thoughtfully, “but whether for good
or evil, I know not.”



CHAPTER IV

What Cynthia may have thought or felt during Jethro’s absence in Boston,
and for some months thereafter, she kept to herself. Honest Moses Hatch
pursued his courting untroubled, and never knew that he had a rival.
Moses would as soon have questioned the seasons or the weather as
Cynthia’s changes of moods,--which were indeed the weather for him, and
when storms came he sat with his back to them, waiting for the sunshine.
He had long ceased proposing marriage, in the firm belief that Cynthia
would set the day in her own good time. Thereby he was saved much
suffering.

The summer flew on apace, for Coniston. Fragrant hay was cut on
hillsides won from rock and forest, and Coniston Water sang a gentler
melody--save when the clouds floated among the spruces on the mountain
and the rain beat on the shingles. During the still days before the turn
of the year,--days of bending fruit boughs, crab-apples glistening red
in the soft sunlight,--rumor came from Brampton to wrinkle the forehead
of Moses Hatch as he worked among his father’s orchards.

The rumor was of a Mr. Isaac Dudley Worthington, a name destined to
make much rumor before it was to be carved on the marble. Isaac D.
Worthington, indeed, might by a stretch of the imagination be called the
pioneer of all the genus to be known in the future as City Folks, who
were, two generations later, to invade the country like a devouring army
of locusts.

At that time a stranger in Brampton was enough to set the town agog.
But a young man of three and twenty, with an independent income of four
hundred dollars a year!--or any income at all not derived from his own
labor--was unheard of. It is said that when the stage from over Truro
Gap arrived in Brampton Street a hundred eyes gazed at him unseen, from
various ambushes, and followed him up the walk to Silas Wheelock’s,
where he was to board. In half an hour Brampton knew the essentials
of Isaac Worthington’s story, and Sam Price was on his way with it to
Coniston for distribution at Jonah Winch’s store.

Young Mr. Worthington was from Boston--no less; slim, pale, medium
height, but with an alert look, and a high-bridged nose. But his
clothes! Sam Price’s vocabulary was insufficient here, they were cut
in such a way, and Mr. Worthington was downright distinguished-looking
under his gray beaver. Why had he come to Brampton? demanded Deacon
Ira Perkins. Sam had saved this for the last. Young Mr. Worthington was
threatened with consumption, and had been sent to live with his distant
relative, Silas Wheelock.

The presence of a gentleman of leisure--although threatened with
consumption--became an all-absorbing topic in two villages and three
hamlets, and more than one swain, hitherto successful, felt the wind
blow colder. But in a fortnight it was known that a petticoat did not
make Isaac Worthington even turn his head. Curiosity centred on Silas
Wheelock’s barn, where Mr. Worthington had fitted up a shop, and,
presently various strange models of contrivances began to take shape
there. What these were, Silas himself knew not; and the gentleman of
leisure was, alas! close-mouthed. When he was not sawing and hammering
and planing, he took long walks up and down Coniston Water, and was
surprised deep in thought at several places.

Nathan Bass’s story-and-a-half house, devoid of paint, faced the road,
and behind it was the shed, or barn, that served as the tannery, and
between the tannery and Coniston Water were the vats. The rain flew in
silvery spray, and the drops shone like jewels on the coat of a young
man who stood looking in at the tannery door. Young Jake Wheeler, son of
the village spendthrift, was driving a lean white horse round in a ring:
to the horse was attached a beam, and on the beam a huge round stone
rolled on a circular oak platform. Jethro Bass, who was engaged in
pushing hemlock bark under the stone to be crushed, straightened. Of the
three, the horse had seen the visitor first, and stopped in his tracks.

“Jethro!” whispered Jake, tingling with an excitement that was but
natural. Jethro had begun to sweep the finer pieces of bark toward the
centre. “It’s the city man, walked up here from Brampton.”

It was indeed Mr. Worthington, slightly more sunburned and less
citified-looking than on his arrival, and he wore a woollen cap of
Brampton make. Even then, despite his wavy hair and delicate appearance,
Isaac Worthington had the hawk-like look which became famous in later
years, and at length he approached Jethro and fixed his eye upon him.

“Kind of slow work, isn’t it?” remarked Mr. Worthington.

The white horse was the only one to break the silence that followed, by
sneezing with all his might.

“How is the tannery business in these parts?” essayed Mr. Worthington
again.

“Thinkin’ of it?” said Jethro. “T-thinkin’ of it, be you?”

“No,” answered Mr. Worthington, hastily. “If I were,” he added, “I’d put
in new machinery. That horse and stone is primitive.”

“What kind of machinery would you put in?” asked Jethro.

“Ah,” answered Worthington, “that will interest you. All New Englanders
are naturally progressive, I take it.”

“W-what was it you took?”

“I was merely remarking on the enterprise of New Englanders,” said
Worthington, flushing. “On my journey up here, beside the Merrimac, I
had the opportunity to inspect the new steam-boiler, the falling-mill,
the splitting machine, and other remarkable improvements. In fact, these
suggested one or two little things to me, which might be of interest to
you.”

“Well,” said Jethro, “they might, and then again they mightn’t. Guess it
depends.”

“Depends!” exclaimed the man of leisure, “depends on what?”

“H-how much you know about it.”

Young Mr. Worthington, instead of being justly indignant, laughed and
settled himself comfortably on a pile of bark. He thought Jethro a
character, and he was not mistaken. On the other hand, Mr. Worthington
displayed a knowledge of the falling-mill and splitting-machine and the
process of tanneries in general that was surprising. Jethro, had Mr.
Worthington but known it, was more interested in animate machines: more
interested in Mr. Worthington than the falling-mill or, indeed, the
tannery business.

At length the visitor fell silent, his sense of superiority suddenly
gone. Others had had this same feeling with Jethro, even the minister;
but the man of leisure (who was nothing of the sort) merely felt a kind
of bewilderment.

“Callatin’ to live in Brampton--be you?” asked Jethro.

“I am living there now.”

“C-callatin’ to set up a mill some day?”

Mr. Worthington fairly leaped off the bark pile.

“What makes you say that?” he demanded.

“G-guesswork,” said Jethro, starting to shovel again, “g-guesswork.”

To take a walk in the wild, to come upon a bumpkin in cowhide boots
crushing bark, to have him read within twenty minutes a cherished and
well-hidden ambition which Brampton had not discovered in a month (and
did not discover for many years) was sufficiently startling. Well might
Mr. Worthington tremble for his other ambitions, and they were many.

Jethro stepped out, passing Mr. Worthington as though he had already
forgotten that gentleman’s existence, and seized an armful of bark that
lay under cover of a lean-to. Just then, heralded by a brightening of
the western sky, a girl appeared down the road, her head bent a little
as in thought, and if she saw the group by the tannery house she gave
no sign. Two of them stared at her--Jake Wheeler and Mr. Worthington.
Suddenly Jake, implike, turned and stared at Worthington.

“Cynthy Ware, the minister’s daughter,” he said.

“Haven’t I seen her in Brampton?” inquired Mr. Worthington, little
thinking of the consequences of the question.

“Guess you have,” answered Jake. “Cynthy goes to the Social Library, to
git books. She knows more’n the minister himself, a sight more.”

“Where does the minister live?” asked Mr. Worthington.

Jake pulled him by the sleeve toward the road, and pointed to the low
gable of the little parsonage under the elms on the hill beyond the
meeting-house. The visitor gave a short glance at it, swung around and
gave a longer glance at the figure disappearing in the other direction.
He did not suspect that Jake was what is now called a news agency. Then
Mr. Worthington turned to Jethro, who was stooping over the bark.

“If you come to Brampton, call and see me,” he said. “You’ll find me at
Silas Wheelock’s.”

He got no answer, but apparently expected none, and he started off down
the Brampton road in the direction Cynthia had taken.

“That makes another,” said Jake, significantly, “and Speedy Bates says
he never looks at wimmen. Godfrey, I wish I could see Moses now.”

Mr. Worthington had not been quite ingenuous with Jake. To tell the
truth, he had made the acquaintance of the Social Library and Miss
Lucretia, and that lady had sung the praises of her favorite. Once out
of sight of Jethro, Mr. Worthington quickened his steps, passed the
store, where he was remarked by two of Jonah’s customers, and his blood
leaped when he saw the girl in front of him, walking faster now. Yes,
it is a fact that Isaac Worthington’s blood once leaped. He kept on, but
when near her had a spasm of fright to make his teeth fairly chatter,
and than another spasm followed, for Cynthia had turned around.

“How do you do Mr. Worthington?” she said, dropping him a little
courtesy. Mr. Worthington stopped in his tracks, and it was some time
before he remembered to take off his woollen cap and sweep the mud with
it.

“You know my name!” he exclaimed.

“It is known from Tarleton Four Corners to Harwich,” said Cynthia, “all
that distance. To tell the truth,” she added, “those are the boundaries
of my world.” And Mr. Worthington being still silent, “How do you like
being a big frog in a little pond?”

“If it were your pond, Miss Cynthia,” he responded gallantly, “I should
be content to be a little frog.”

“Would you?” she said; “I don’t believe you.”

This was not subtle flattery, but the truth--Mr. Worthington would never
be content to be a little anything. So he had been judged twice in an
afternoon, once by Jethro and again by Cynthia.

“Why don’t you believe me?” he asked ecstatically.

“A woman’s instinct, Mr. Worthington, has very little reason in it.”

“I hear, Miss Cynthia,” he said gallantly, “that your instinct is
fortified by learning, since Miss Penniman tells me that you are quite
capable of taking a school in Boston.”

“Then I should be doubly sure of your character,” she retorted with a
twinkle.

“Will you tell my fortune?” he said gayly.

“Not on such a slight acquaintance,” she replied. “Good-by, Mr.
Worthington.”

“I shall see you in Brampton,” he cried, “I--I have seen you in
Brampton.”

She did not answer this confession, but left him, and presently
disappeared beyond the triangle of the green, while Mr. Worthington
pursued his way to Brampton by the road,--his thoughts that evening not
on waterfalls or machinery. As for Cynthia’s conduct, I do not defend or
explain it, for I have found out that the best and wisest of women can
at times be coquettish.

It was that meeting which shook the serenity of poor Moses, and he
learned of it when he went to Jonah Winch’s store an hour later. An
hour later, indeed, Coniston was discussing the man of leisure in a
new light. It was possible that Cynthia might take him, and Deacon Ira
Perkins made a note the next time he went to Brampton to question Silas
Wheelock on Mr. Worthington’s origin, habits, and orthodoxy.

Cynthia troubled herself very little about any of these. Scarcely any
purpose in the world is single, but she had had a purpose in talking
to Mr. Worthington, besides the pleasure it gave her. And the next
Saturday, when she rode off to Brampton, some one looked through the
cracks in the tannery shed and saw that she wore her new bonnet.

There is scarcely a pleasanter place in the world than Brampton Street
on a summer’s day. Down the length of it runs a wide green, shaded by
spreading trees, and on either side, tree-shaded, too, and each in its
own little plot, gabled houses of that simple, graceful architecture of
our forefathers. Some of these had fluted pilasters and cornices, the
envy of many a modern architect, and fan-shaped windows in dormer and
doorway. And there was the church, then new, that still stands to the
glory of its builders; with terraced steeple and pillared porch and the
widest of checker-paned sashes to let in the light on high-backed pews
and gallery.

The celebrated Social Library, halfway up the street, occupied part of
Miss Lucretia’s little house; or, it might better be said, Miss Lucretia
boarded with the Social Library. There Cynthia hitched her horse, gave
greeting to Mr. Ezra Graves and others who paused, and, before she was
fairly in the door, was clasped in Miss Lucretia’s arms. There were new
books to be discussed, arrived by the stage the day before; but scarce
half an hour had passed before Cynthia started guiltily at a timid
knock, and Miss Lucretia rose briskly.

“It must be Ezra Graves come for the Gibbon,” she said. “He’s early.”
 And she went to the door. Cynthia thought it was not Ezra. Then came
Miss Lucretia’s voice from the entry:--

“Why, Mr. Worthington! Have you read the Last of the Mohicans already?”

There he stood, indeed, the man of leisure, and to-day he wore his
beaver hat. No, he had not yet read the ‘Last of the Mohicans.’ There
were things in it that Mr. Worthington would like to discuss with Miss
Penniman. Was it not a social library? At this juncture there came a
giggle from within that made him turn scarlet, and he scarcely heard
Miss Lucretia offering to discuss the whole range of letters. Enter Mr.
Worthington, bows profoundly to Miss Lucretia’s guest, his beaver in his
hand, and the discussion begins, Cynthia taking no part in it. Strangely
enough, Mr. Worthington’s remarks on American Indians are not only
intelligent, but interesting. The clock strikes four, Miss Lucretia
starts up, suddenly remembering that she has promised to read to an
invalid, and with many regrets from Mr. Worthington, she departs. Then
he sits down again, twirling his beaver, while Cynthia looks at him in
quiet amusement.

“I shall walk to Coniston again, next week,” he announced.

“What an energetic man!” said Cynthia.

“I want to have my fortune told.”

“I hear that you walk a great deal,” she remarked, “up and down Coniston
Water. I shall begin to think you romantic, Mr. Worthington--perhaps a
poet.”

“I don’t walk up and down Coniston Water for that reason,” he answered
earnestly.

“Might I be so bold as to ask the reason?” she ventured.

Great men have their weaknesses. And many, close-mouthed with their own
sex, will tell their cherished hopes to a woman, if their interests
are engaged. With a bas-relief of Isaac Worthington in the town library
to-day (his own library), and a full-length portrait of him in the
capitol of the state, who shall deny this title to greatness?

He leaned a little toward her, his face illumined by his subject, which
was himself.

“I will confide in you,” he said, “that some day I shall build here in
Brampton a woollen mill which will be the best of its kind. If I gain
money, it will not be to hoard it or to waste it. I shall try to make
the town better for it, and the state, and I shall try to elevate my
neighbors.”

Cynthia could not deny that these were laudable ambitions.

“Something tells me,” he continued, “that I shall succeed. And that is
why I walk on Coniston Water--to choose the best site for a dam.”

“I am honored by your secret, but I feel that the responsibility you
repose in me is too great,” she said.

“I can think of none in whom I would rather confide,” said he.

“And am I the only one in all Brampton, Harwich, and Coniston who knows
this?” she asked.

Mr. Worthington laughed.

“The only one of importance,” he answered. “This week, when I went to
Coniston, I had a strange experience. I left the brook at a tannery, and
a most singular fellow was in the shed shovelling bark. I tried to get
him to talk, and told him about some new tanning machinery I had seen.
Suddenly he turned on me and asked me if I was ‘callatin’ to set up a
mill.’ He gave me a queer feeling. Do you have many such odd characters
in Coniston, Miss Cynthia? You’re not going?”

Cynthia had risen, and all of the laugher was gone from her eyes. What
had happened to make her grow suddenly grave, Isaac Worthington never
knew.

“I have to get my father’s supper,” she said.

He, too, rose, puzzled and disconcerted at this change in her.

“And may I not come to Coniston?” he asked.

“My father and I should be glad to see you, Mr. Worthington,” she
answered.

He untied her horse and essayed one more topic.

“You are taking a very big book,” he said. “May I look at the title?”

She showed it to him in silence. It was the “Life of Napoleon
Bonaparte.”



CHAPTER V

Isaac Worthington came to Coniston not once, but many times, before the
snow fell; and afterward, too, in Silas Wheelock’s yellow sleigh through
the great drifts under the pines, the chestnut Morgan trotting to one
side in the tracks. On one of these excursions he fell in with that
singular character of a bumpkin who had interested him on his first
visit, in coonskin cap and overcoat and mittens. Jethro Bass was
plodding in the same direction, and Isaac Worthington, out of the
goodness of his heart, invited him into the sleigh. He was scarcely
prepared for the bumpkin’s curt refusal, but put it down to native
boorishness, and thought no more about it then.

What troubled Mr. Worthington infinitely more was the progress of his
suit; for it had become a snit, though progress is a wrong word to use
in connection with it. So far had he got,--not a great distance,--and
then came to what he at length discovered was a wall, and apparently
impenetrable. He was not even allowed to look over it. Cynthia was kind,
engaging; even mirthful, at times, save when he approached it; and he
became convinced that a certain sorrow lay in the forbidden ground. The
nearest he had come to it was when he mentioned again, by accident, that
life of Napoleon.

That Cynthia would accept him, nobody doubted for an instant. It would
be madness not to. He was orthodox, so Deacon Ira had discovered, of
good habits, and there was the princely four hundred a year--almost
a minister’s salary! Little people guessed that there was no
love-making--only endless discussions of books beside the great centre
chimney, and discussions of Isaac Worthington’s career.

It is a fact--for future consideration--that Isaac Worthington proposed
to Cynthia Ware, although neither Speedy Bates nor Deacon Ira Perkins
heard him do so. It had been very carefully prepared, that speech,
and was a model of proposals for the rising young men of all time. Mr.
Worthington preferred to offer himself for what he was going to be--not
for what he was. He tendered to Cynthia a note for a large amount,
payable in some twenty years, with interest. The astonishing thing to
record is that in twenty years he could have more than paid the note,
although he could not have foreseen at that time the Worthington Free
Library and the Truro Railroad, and the stained-glass window in the
church and the great marble monument on the hill--to another woman.
All of these things, and more, Cynthia might have had if she had only
accepted that promise to pay! But she did not accept it. He was a trifle
more robust than when he came to Brampton in the summer, but perhaps she
doubted his promise to pay.

It may have been guessed, although the language we have used has been
purposely delicate, that Cynthia was already in love with--somebody
else. Shame of shames and horror of horrors--with Jethro Bass! With
Strength, in the crudest form in which it is created, perhaps, but yet
with Strength. The strength might gradually and eventually be refined.
Such was her hope, when she had any. It is hard, looking back upon that
virginal and cultured Cynthia, to be convinced that she could have loved
passionately, and such a man! But love she did, and passionately, too,
and hated herself for it, and prayed and struggled to cast out what she
believed, at times, to be a devil.

The ancient allegory of Cupid and the arrows has never been improved
upon: of Cupid, who should never in the world have been trusted with a
weapon, who defies all game laws, who shoots people in the bushes and
innocent bystanders generally, the weak and the helpless and the strong
and self-confident! There is no more reason in it than that. He shot
Cynthia Ware, and what she suffered in secret Coniston never guessed.
What parallels in history shall I quote to bring home the enormity of
such a mesalliance? Orthodox Coniston would have gone into sackcloth and
ashes,--was soon to go into these, anyway.

I am not trying to keep the lovers apart for any mere purposes of
fiction,--this is a true chronicle, and they stayed apart most of
that winter. Jethro went about his daily tasks, which were now become
manifold, and he wore the locket on its little chain himself. He did not
think that Cynthia loved him--yet, but he had the effrontery to believe
that she might, some day; and he was content to wait. He saw that she
avoided him, and he was too proud to go to the parsonage and so incur
ridicule and contempt.

Jethro was content to wait. That is a clew to his character throughout
his life. He would wait for his love, he would wait for his hate: he had
waited ten years before putting into practice the first step of a little
scheme which he had been gradually developing during that time, for
which he had been amassing money, and the life of Napoleon Bonaparte, by
the way, had given him some valuable ideas. Jethro, as well as Isaac
D. Worthington, had ambitions, although no one in Coniston had hitherto
guessed them except Jock Hallowell--and Cynthia Ware, after her
curiosity had been aroused.

Even as Isaac D. Worthington did not dream of the Truro Railroad and of
an era in the haze of futurity, it did not occur to Jethro Bass that his
ambitions tended to the making of another era that was at hand. Makers
of eras are too busy thinking about themselves and like immediate
matters to worry about history. Jethro never heard the expression
about “cracks in the Constitution,” and would not have known what it
meant,--he merely had the desire to get on top. But with Established
Church Coniston tight in the saddle (in the person of Moses Hatch,
Senior), how was he to do it?

As the winter wore on, and March town meeting approached, strange rumors
of a Democratic ticket began to drift into Jonah Winch’s store,--a
Democratic ticket headed by Fletcher Bartlett, of all men, as chairman
of the board. Moses laughed when he first heard of it, for Fletcher was
an easy-going farmer of the Methodist persuasion who was always in debt,
and the other members of the ticket, so far as Moses could learn of
it--were remarkable neither for orthodoxy or solidity. The rumors
persisted, and still Moses laughed, for the senior selectman was a big
man with flesh on him, who could laugh with dignity.

“Moses,” said Deacon Lysander Richardson as they stood on the platform
of the store one sunny Saturday in February, “somebody’s put Fletcher
up to this. He hain’t got sense enough to act that independent all by
himself.”

“You be always croakin’, Lysander,” answered Moses.

Cynthia Ware, who had come to the store for buttons for Speedy Bates,
who was making a new coat for the minister, heard these remarks, and
stood thoughtfully staring at the blue coat-tails of the elders. A brass
button was gone from Deacon Lysander’s, and she wanted to sew it on.
Suddenly she looked up, and saw Jock Hallowell standing beside her. Jock
winked--and Cynthia blushed and hurried homeward without a word. She
remembered, vividly enough, what Jack had told her the spring before,
and several times during the week that followed she thought of waylaying
him and asking what he knew. But she could not summon the courage. As a
matter of fact, Jock knew nothing, but he had a theory. He was a strange
man, Jock, who whistled all day on roof and steeple and meddled with
nobody’s business, as a rule. What had impelled him to talk to Cynthia
in the way he had must remain a mystery.

Meanwhile the disquieting rumors continued to come in. Jabez Miller, on
the north slope, had told Samuel Todd, who told Ephraim Williams, that
he was going to vote for Fletcher. Moses Hatch hitched up his team and
went out to see Jabez, spent an hour in general conversation, and then
plumped the question, taking, as he said, that means of finding out.
Jabez hemmed and hawed, said his farm was mortgaged; spoke at some
length about the American citizen, however humble, having a right to
vote as he chose. A most unusual line for Jabez, and the whole matter
very mysterious and not a little ominous. Moses drove homeward that
sparkling day, shutting his eyes to the glare of the ice crystals on
the pines, and thinking profoundly. He made other excursions, enough to
satisfy himself that this disease, so new and unheard of (the right of
the unfit to hold office), actually existed. Where the germ began that
caused it, Moses knew no better than the deacon, since those who were
suspected of leanings toward Fletcher Bartlett were strangely secretive.
The practical result of Moses’ profound thought was a meeting, in his
own house, without respect to party, Democrats and Whigs alike, opened
by a prayer from the minister himself. The meeting, after a futile
session, broke up dismally. Sedition and conspiracy existed; a chief
offender and master mind there was, somewhere. But who was he?

Good Mr. Ware went home, troubled in spirit, shaking his head. He had a
cold, and was not so strong as he used to be, and should not have gone
to the meeting at all. At supper, Cynthia listened with her eyes on her
plate while he told her of the affair.

“Somebody’s behind this, Cynthia,” he said. “It’s the most astonishing
thing in my experience that we cannot discover who has incited them. All
the unattached people in the town seem to have been organized.” Mr.
Ware was wont to speak with moderation even at his own table. He said
unattached--not ungodly.

Cynthia kept her eyes on her plate, but she felt as though her body
were afire. Little did the minister imagine, as he went off to write his
sermon, that his daughter might have given him the clew to the mystery.
Yes, Cynthia guessed; and she could not read that evening because of
the tumult of her thoughts. What was her duty in the matter? To tell
her father her suspicions? They were only suspicions, after all, and she
could make no accusations. And Jethro! Although she condemned him, there
was something in the situation that appealed to a most reprehensible
sense of humor. Cynthia caught herself smiling once or twice, and knew
that it was wicked. She excused Jethro, and told herself that, with his
lack of training, he could know no better. Then an idea came to her, and
the very boldness of it made her grow hot again. She would appeal to him
tell him that that power he had over other men could be put to better
and finer uses. She would appeal to him, and he would abandon the
matter. That the man loved her with the whole of his rude strength she
was sure, and that knowledge had been the only salve to her shame.

So far we have only suspicions ourselves; and, strange to relate, if we
go around Coniston with Jethro behind his little red Morgan, we shall
come back with nothing but--suspicions. They will amount to convictions,
yet we cannot prove them. The reader very naturally demands some
specific information--how did Jethro do it? I confess that I can only
indicate in a very general way: I can prove nothing. Nobody ever could
prove anything against Jethro Bass. Bring the following evidence before
any grand jury in the country, and see if they don’t throw it out of
court.

Jethro in the course of his weekly round of strictly business visits
throughout the town, drives into Samuel Todd’s farmyard, and hitches
on the sunny side of the red barns. The town of Coniston, it must be
explained for the benefit of those who do not understand the word “town”
 in the New England senses was a tract of country about ten miles by ten,
the most thickly settled portion of which was the village of Coniston,
consisting of twelve houses. Jethro drives into the barnyard, and Samuel
Todd comes out. He is a little man, and has a habit of rubbing the sharp
ridge of his nose.

“How be you, Jethro?” says Samuel. “Killed the brindle Thursday. Finest
hide you ever seed.”

“G-goin’ to town meetin’ Tuesday--g-goin’ to town meetin’
Tuesday--Sam’l?” says Jethro.

“I was callatin’ to, Jethro.”

“Democrat--hain’t ye--Democrat?”

“Callate to be.”

“How much store do ye set by that hide?”

Samuel rubs his nose. Then he names a price that the hide might fetch,
under favorable circumstances, in Boston--Jethro does not wince.

“Who d’ye callate to vote for, Sam’l?”

Samuel rubs his nose.

“Heerd they was a-goin’ to put up Fletcher and Amos Cuthbert, an’
Sam Price for Moderator.” (What a convenient word is they when used
politically!) “Hain’t made up my mind, clear,” says Samuel.

“C-comin’ by the tannery after town meetin’?” inquired Jethro, casually.

“Don’t know but what I kin.”

“F-fetch the hide--f-fetch the hide.”

And Jethro drives off, with Samuel looking after him, rubbing his nose.
“No bill,” says the jury--if you can get Samuel into court. But you
can’t. Even Moses Hatch can get nothing out of Samuel, who then talks
Jacksonian principles and the nights of an American citizen.

Let us pursue this matter a little farther, and form a committee of
investigation. Where did Mr. Todd learn anything about Jacksonian
principles? From Mr. Samuel Price, whom they have spoken of for
Moderator. And where did Mr. Price learn of these principles? Any one in
Coniston will tell you that Mr. Price makes a specialty of orators and
oratory; and will hold forth at the drop of a hat in Jonah Winch’s store
or anywhere else. Who is Mr. Price? He is a tall, sallow young man of
eight and twenty, with a wedge-shaped face, a bachelor and a Methodist,
who farms in a small way on the southern slope, and saves his money. He
has become almost insupportable since they have named him for Moderator.

Get Mr. Sam Price into court. Here is a man who assuredly knows who they
are: if we are, not much mistaken, he is their mouthpiece. Get, an eel
into court. There is only one man in town who can hold an eel, and he
isn’t on the jury. Mr. Price will talk plentifully, in his nasal way;
but he won’t tell you anything.

Mr. Price has been nominated to fill Deacon Lysander Richardson’s shoes
in the following manner: One day in the late autumn a man in a coonskin
cap stops beside Mr. Price’s woodpile, where Mr. Price has been chopping
wood, pausing occasionally to stare off through the purple haze at the
south shoulder of Coniston Mountain.

“How be you, Jethro?” says Mr. Price, nasally.

“D-Democrats are talkin’ some of namin’ you Moderator next meetin’,”
 says the man in the coonskin cap.

“Want to know!” ejaculates Mr. Price, dropping the axe and straightening
up in amazement. For Mr. Price’s ambition soared no higher, and he had
made no secret of it. “Wal! Whar’d you hear that, Jethro?”

“H-heerd it round--some. D-Democrat--hain’t you--Democrat?”

“Always callate to be.”

“J-Jacksonian Democrat?”

“Guess I be.”

Silence for a while, that Mr. Price may feel the gavel in his hand,
which he does.

“Know somewhat about Jacksonian principles, don’t ye--know somewhat?”

“Callate to,” says Mr. Price, proudly.

“T-talk ‘em up, Sam--t-talk ‘em up. C-canvass, Sam.”

With these words of brotherly advice Mr. Bass went off down the road,
and Mr. Price chopped no more wood that night; but repeated to himself
many times in his nasal voice, “I want to know!” In the course of the
next few weeks various gentlemen mentioned to Mr. Price that he had been
spoken of for Moderator, and he became acquainted with the names of
the other candidates on the same mysterious ticket who were mentioned.
Whereupon he girded up his loins and went forth and preached the word of
Jacksonian Democracy in all the farmhouses roundabout, with such effect
that Samuel Todd and others were able to talk with some fluency about
the rights of American citizens.

Question before the Committee, undisposed of: Who nominated Samuel Price
for Moderator? Samuel Price gives the evidence, tells the court he does
not know, and is duly cautioned and excused.

Let us call, next, Mr. Eben Williams, if we can. Moses Hatch, Senior,
has already interrogated him with all the authority of the law and the
church, for Mr. Williams is orthodox, though the deacons have to remind
him of his duty once in a while. Eben is timid, and replies to us, as
to Moses, that he has heard of the Democratic ticket, and callates that
Fletcher Bartlett, who has always been the leader of the Democratic
party, has named the ticket. He did not mention Jethro Bass to Deacon
Hatch. Why should he? What has Jethro Bass got to do with politics?

Eben lives on a southern spur, next to Amos Cuthbert, where you can look
off for forty miles across the billowy mountains of the west. From
no spot in Coniston town is the sunset so fine on distant Farewell
Mountain, and Eben’s sheep feed on pastures where only mountain-bred
sheep can cling and thrive. Coniston, be it known, at this time is one
of the famous wool towns of New England: before the industry went West,
with other industries. But Eben Williams’s sheep do not wholly belong to
him they are mortgaged--and Eben’s farm is mortgaged.

Jethro Bass--Eben testifies to us--is in the habit of visiting him once
a month, perhaps, when he goes to Amos Cuthbert’s. Just friendly calls.
Is it not a fact that Jethro Bass holds his mortgage? Yes, for eight
hundred dollars. How long has he held that mortgage? About a year and a
half. Has the interest been paid promptly? Well, the fact is that Eben
hasn’t paid any interest yet.

Now let us take the concrete incident. Before that hypocritical thaw
early in February, Jethro called upon Amos Cuthbert--not so surly then
as he has since become--and talked about buying his wool when it should
be duly cut, and permitted Amos to talk about the position of second
selectman, for which some person or persons unknown to the jury had
nominated him. On his way down to the Four Corners, Jethro had merely
pulled up his sleigh before Eben Williams’s house, which stood behind a
huge snow bank and practically on the road. Eben appeared at the door, a
little dishevelled in hair and beard, for he had been sleeping.

“How be you, Jethro?” he said nervously. Jethro nodded.

“Weather looks a mite soft.”

No answer.

“About that interest,” said Eben, plunging into the dread subject,
“don’t know as I’m ready this month after all.”

“G-goin’ to town meetin’, Eben?”

“Wahn’t callatin’ to,” answered Eben.

“G-goin’ to town meetin’, Eben?”

Eben, puzzled and dismayed, ran his hand through his hair.

“Wahn’t callatin’ to--but I kin--I kin.”

“D-Democrat--hain’t ye--D-Democrat?”

“I kin be,” said Eben. Then he looked at Jethro and added in a startled
voice, “Don’t know but what I be--Yes, I guess I be.”

“H-heerd the ticket?”

Yes, Eben had heard the ticket. What man had not. Some one has been most
industrious, and most disinterested, in distributing that ticket.

“Hain’t a mite of hurry about the interest right now--right now,” said
Jethro. “M-may be along the third week in March--may be--c-can t tell.”

And Jethro clucked to his horse, and drove away. Eben Williams went back
into his house and sat down with his head in his hands. In about two
hours, when his wife called him to fetch water, he set down the pail
on the snow and stared across the next ridge at the eastern horizon,
whitening after the sunset.

The third week in March was the week after town meeting!

“M-may be--c-can’t tell,” repeated Eben to himself, unconsciously
imitating Jethro’s stutter. “Godfrey, I’ll hev to git that ticket
straight from Amos.”

Yes, we may have our suspicions. But how can we get a bill on this
evidence? There are some thirty other individuals in Coniston whose
mortgages Jethro holds, from a horse to a house and farm. It is not
likely that they will tell Beacon Hatch, or us; that they are going to
town meeting and vote for that fatherless ticket because Jethro Bass
wishes them to do so. And Jethro has never said that he wishes them
to. If so, where are your witnesses? Have we not come back to our
starting-point, even as Moses Hatch drove around in a circle.. And we
have the advantage over Moses, for we suspect somebody, and he did not
know whom to suspect. Certainly not Jethro Bass, the man that lived
under his nose and never said anything--and had no right to. Jethro
Bass had never taken any active part in politics, though some folks had
heard, in his rounds on business, that he had discussed them, and had
spread the news of the infamous ticket without a parent. So much was
spoken of at the meeting over which Priest Ware prayed. It was even
declared that, being a Democrat, Jethro might have influenced some of
those under obligations to him. Sam Price was at last fixed upon as the
malefactor, though people agreed that they had not given him credit for
so much sense, and Jacksonian principles became as much abhorred by the
orthodox as the spotted fever.

We can call a host of other witnesses if we like, among them cranky,
happy-go-lucky Fletcher Bartlett, who has led forlorn hopes in former
years. Court proceedings make tiresome reading, and if those who
have been over ours have not arrived at some notion of the simple and
innocent method of the new Era of politics note dawning--they never
will. Nothing proved. But here is part of the ticket which nobody
started:--

     For

     SENIOR SELECTMAN, FLETCHER BARTLETT.

     (Farm and buildings on Thousand Acre Hill mortgaged to Jethro
     Bass.)

     SECOND SELECTMAN, AMOS CUTHBERT.

     (Farm and buildings on Town’s End Ridge mortgaged to Jethro
     Bass.)

     THIRD SELECTMAN, CHESTER PERKINS.

     (Sop of some kind to the Established Church party. Horse and
     cow mortgaged to Jethro Bass, though his father, the tithing-man,
doesn’t know it.)

     MODERATOR, SAMUEL PRICE.

     (Natural ambition--dove of oratory and Jacksonian principles.)

     etc., etc.

The notes are mine, not Moses’s. Strange that they didn’t occur to
Moses. What a wealthy man has our hero become at thirty-one! Jethro Bass
was rich beyond the dreams of avarice--for Coniston. Truth compels me
to admit that the sum total of all his mortgages did not amount to nine
thousand “dollars”; but that was a large sum of money for Coniston in
those days, and even now. Nathan Bass had been a saving man, and had
left to his son one-half of this fortune. If thrift and the ability to
gain wealth be qualities for a hero, Jethro had them--in those days.

The Sunday before March meeting, it blew bitter cold, and Priest Ware,
preaching in mittens, denounced sedition in general. Underneath him,
on the first landing of the high pulpit, the deacons sat with knitted
brows, and the key-note from Isaiah Prescott’s pitch pipe sounded like
mournful echo of the mournful wind without.

Monday was ushered in with that sleet storm to which the almanacs still
refer, and another scarcely less important event occurred that day which
we shall have to pass by for the present; on Tuesday, the sleet still
raging, came the historic town meeting. Deacon Moses Hatch, his chores
done and his breakfast and prayers completed, fought his way with his
head down through a white waste to the meeting-house door, and unlocked
it, and shivered as he made the fire. It was certainly not good election
weather, thought Moses, and others of the orthodox persuasion, high in
office, were of the same opinion as they stood with parted coat tails
before the stove. Whoever had stirred up and organized the hordes,
whoever was the author of that ticket of the discontented, had not
counted upon the sleet. Heaven-sent sleet, said Deacon Ira Perkins, and
would not speak to his son Chester, who sat down just then in one of the
rear slips. Chester had become an agitator, a Jacksonian Democrat, and
an outcast, to be prayed for but not spoken to.

We shall leave them their peace of mind for half an hour more,
those stanch old deacons and selectmen, who did their duty by their
fellow-citizens as they saw it and took no man’s bidding. They could not
see the trackless roads over the hills, now becoming tracked, and the
bent figures driving doggedly against the storm, each impelled by a
motive: each motive strengthened by a master mind until it had become
imperative. Some, like Eben Williams behind his rickety horse, came
through fear; others through ambition; others were actuated by both;
and still others were stung by the pain of the sleet to a still greater
jealousy and envy, and the remembrance of those who had been in power. I
must not omit the conscientious Jacksonians who were misguided enough to
believe in such a ticket.

The sheds were not large enough to hold the teams that day. Jethro’s
barn and tannery were full, and many other barns in the village. And
now the peace of mind of the orthodox is a thing of the past. Deacon
Lysander Richardson, the moderator, sits aghast in his high place as
they come trooping in, men who have not been to town meeting for ten
years. Deacon Lysander, with his white band of whiskers that goes around
his neck like a sixteenth-century ruff under his chin, will soon be a
memory. Now enters one, if Deacon Lysander had known it symbolic of the
new Era. One who, though his large head is bent, towers over most of
the men who make way for him in the aisle, nodding but not speaking,
and takes his place in the chair under the platform on the right of the
meeting-pause under one of the high, three-part windows. That chair
was always his in future years, and there he sat afterward, silent,
apparently taking no part. But not a man dropped a ballot into the box
whom Jethro Bass did not see and mark.

And now, when the meeting-house is crowded as it has never been before,
when Jonah Winch has arranged his dinner booth in the corner, Deacon
Lysander raps for order and the minister prays. They proceed, first,
to elect a representative to the General Court. The Jacksonians do not
contest that seat,--this year,--and Isaiah Prescott, fourteenth child
of Timothy, the Stark hero, father of a young Ephraim whom we shall hear
from later, is elected. And now! Now for a sensation, now for disorder
and misrule!

“Gentlemen,” says Deacon Lysander, “you will prepare your ballots for
the choice of the first Selectman.”

The Whigs have theirs written out, Deacon Moses Hatch. But who has
written out these others that are being so assiduously passed around?
Sam Price, perhaps, for he is passing them most assiduously. And what
name is written on them? Fletcher Bartlett, of course; that was on the
ticket. Somebody is tricked again. That is not the name on the ticket.
Look over Sara Price’s shoulder and you will see the name--Jethro Bass.

It bursts from the lips of Fletcher Bartlett himself--of Fletcher,
inflammable as gunpowder.

“Gentlemen, I withdraw as your candidate, and nominate a better and an
abler man,--Jethro Bass.”

“Jethro Bass for Chairman of the Selectmen!”

The cry is taken up all over the meeting-house, and rises high above the
hiss of the sleet on the great windows. Somebody’s got on the stove, to
add to the confusion and horror. The only man in the whole place who is
not excited is Jethro Bass himself, who sits in his chair regardless of
those pressing around him. Many years afterward he confessed to some one
that he was surprised--and this is true. Fletcher Bartlett had surprised
and tricked him, but was forgiven. Forty men are howling at the
moderator, who is pounding on the table with a blacksmith’s blows.
Squire Asa Northcutt, with his arms fanning like a windmill from the
edge of the platform, at length shouts down everybody else--down to a
hum. Some listen to him: hear the words “infamous outrage”--“if Jethro
Bass is elected Selectman, Coniston will never be able to hold up her
head among her sister towns for very shame.” (Momentary blank, for
somebody has got on the stove again, a scuffle going on there.) “I see
it all now,” says the Squire--(marvel of perspicacity!) “Jethro Bass has
debased and debauched this town--” (blank again, and the squire points
a finger of rage and scorn at the unmoved offender in the chair) “he
has bought and intimidated men to do his bidding. He has sinned against
heaven, and against the spirit of that most immortal of documents--”
 (Blank again. Most unfortunate blank, for this is becoming oratory, but
somebody from below has seized the squire by the leg.) Squire Northcutt
is too dignified and elderly a person to descend to rough and tumble,
but he did get his leg liberated and kicked Fletcher Bartlett in the
face. Oh, Coniston, that such scenes should take place in your town
meeting! By this time another is orating, Mr. Sam Price, Jackson
Democrat. There was no shorthand reporter in Coniston in those days,
and it is just as well, perhaps, that the accusations and recriminations
should sink into oblivion.

At last, by mighty efforts of the peace loving in both parties,
something like order is restored, the ballots are in the box, and Deacon
Lysander is counting them: not like another moderator I have heard of,
who spilled the votes on the floor until his own man was elected.
No. Had they registered his own death sentence, the deacon would have
counted them straight, and needed no town clerk to verify his
figures. But when he came to pronounce the vote, shame and sorrow and
mortification overcame him. Coniston, his native town, which he had
served and revered, was dishonored, and it was for him, Lysander
Richardson, to proclaim her disgrace. The deacon choked, and tears of
bitterness stood in his eyes, and there came a silence only broken by
the surging of the sleet as he rapped on the table.

“Seventy-five votes have been cast for Jethro Bass--sixty-three for
Moses Hatch. Necessary for a choice, seventy--and Jethro Bass is elected
senior Selectman.”

The deacon sat down, and men say that a great sob shook him, while
Jacksonian Democracy went wild--not looking into future years to see
what they were going wild about. Jethro Bass Chairman of the Board of
Selectmen, in the honored place of Deacon Moses Hatch! Bourbon royalists
never looked with greater abhorrence on the Corsican adventurer and
usurper of the throne than did the orthodox in Coniston on this tanner,
who had earned no right to aspire to any distinction, and who by his
wiles had acquired the highest office in the town government. Fletcher
Bartlett in, as a leader of the irresponsible opposition, would have
been calamity enough. But Jethro Bass!

This man whom they had despised was the master mind who had organized
and marshalled the loose vote, was the author of that ticket, who sat in
his corner unmoved alike by the congratulations of his friends and the
maledictions of his enemies; who rose to take his oath of office as
unconcerned as though the house were empty, albeit Deacon Lysander
could scarcely get the words out. And then Jethro sat down again in his
chair--not to leave it for six and thirty years. From this time forth
that chair became a seat of power, and of dominion over a state.

Thus it was that Jock Hallowell’s prophecy, so lightly uttered, came to
pass.

How the remainder of that Jacksonian ticket was elected, down to the
very hog-reeves, and amid what turmoil of the Democracy and bitterness
of spirit of the orthodox, I need not recount. There is no moral to
the story, alas--it was one of those things which inscrutable heaven
permitted to be done. After that dark town-meeting day some of those
stern old fathers became broken men, and it is said in Coniston that
this calamity to righteous government, and not the storm, gave to Priest
Ware his death-stroke.



CHAPTER VI

And now we must go back for a chapter--a very short chapter--to the day
before that town meeting which had so momentous an influence upon the
history of Coniston and of the state. That Monday, too, it will be
remembered, dawned in storm, the sleet hissing in the wide throats of
the centre-chimneys, and bearing down great boughs of trees until they
broke in agony. Dusk came early, and howling darkness that hid a muffled
figure on the ice-bound road staring at the yellow cracks in the tannery
door. Presently the figure crossed the yard; the door, flying open,
released a shaft of light that shot across the white ground, revealed a
face beneath a hood to him who stood within.

“Jethro!”

She darted swiftly past him, seizing the door and drawing it closed
after her. A lantern hung on the central post and flung its rays upon
his face. Her own, mercifully, was in the shadow, and burning now with
a shame that was insupportable. Now that she was there, beside him, her
strength failed her, and her courage--courage that she had been storing
for this dread undertaking throughout the whole of that dreadful day.
Now that she was there, she would have given her life to have been able
to retrace her steps, to lose herself in the wild, dark places of the
mountain.

“Cynthy!” His voice betrayed the passion which her presence had
quickened.

The words she would have spoken would not come. She could think of
nothing but that she was alone with him, and in bodily terror of him.
She turned to the door again, to grasp the wooden latch; but he barred
the way, and she fell back.

“Let me go,” she cried. “I did not mean to come. Do you hear?--let me
go!”

To her amazement he stepped aside--a most unaccountable action for him.
More unaccountable still, she did not move, now that she was free, but
stood poised for flight, held by she knew not what.

“G-go if you’ve a mind to, Cynthy--if you’ve a mind to.”

“I’ve come to say something to you,” she faltered. It was not, at all
the way she had pictured herself as saying it.

“H-haven’t took’ Moses--have you?”

“Oh,” she cried, “do you think I came here to speak of such a thing as
that?”

“H-haven’t took--Moses, have you?”

She was trembling, and yet she could almost have smiled at this
well-remembered trick of pertinacity.

“No,” she said, and immediately hated herself for answering him.

“H-haven’t took that Worthington cuss?”

He was jealous!

“I didn’t come to discuss Mr. Worthington,” she replied.

“Folks say it’s only a matter of time,” said he. “Made up your mind to
take him, Cynthy? M-made up your mind?”

“You’ve no right to talk to me in this way,” she said, and added, the
words seeming to slip of themselves from her lips, “Why do you do it?”

“Because I’m--interested,” he said.

“You haven’t shown it,” she flashed back, forgetting the place, and the
storm, and her errand even, forgetting that Jake Wheeler, or any one in
Coniston, might come and surprise her there.

He took a step toward her, and she retreated. The light struck her face,
and he bent over her as though searching it for a sign. The cape on her
shoulders rose and fell as she breathed.

“‘Twahn’t charity, Cynthy--was it? ‘Twahn’t charity?”

“It was you who called it such,” she answered, in a low voice.

A sleet-charged gust hurled itself against the door, and the lantern
flickered.

“Wahn’t it charity.”

“It was friendship, Jethro. You ought to have known that, and you should
not have brought back the book.”

“Friendship,” he repeated, “y-you said friendship?”

“Yes.”

“M-meant friendship?”

“Yes,” said Cynthia, but more faintly, and yet with a certain delicious
fright as she glanced at him shyly. Surely there had never been a
stranger man! Now he was apparently in a revery.

“G-guess it’s because I’m not good enough to be anything more,” he
remarked suddenly. “Is that it?”

“You have not tried even to be a friend,” she said.

“H-how about Worthington?” he persisted. “Just friends with him?”

“I won’t talk about Mr. Worthington,” cried Cynthia, desperately, and
retreated toward the lantern again.

“J-just friends with Worthington?”

“Why?” she asked, her words barely heard above the gust, “why do you
want to know?”

He came after her. It was as if she had summoned some unseen,
uncontrollable power, only to be appalled by it, and the mountain-storm
without seemed the symbol of it. His very voice seemed to partake of its
strength.

“Cynthy,” he said, “if you’d took him, I’d have killed him. Cynthy, I
love you--I want you to be my woman--”

“Your woman!”

He caught her, struggling wildly, terror-stricken, in his arms, beat
down her hands, flung back her hood, and kissed her forehead--her hair,
blown by the wind--her lips. In that moment she felt the mystery of
heaven and hell, of all kinds of power. In that moment she was like a
seed flying in the storm above the mountain spruces whither, she knew
not, cared not. There was one thought that drifted across the chaos like
a blue light of the spirit: Could she control the storm? Could she say
whither the winds might blow, where the seed might be planted? Then
she found herself listening, struggling no longer, for he held her
powerless. Strangest of all, most hopeful of all, his own mind was
working, though his soul rocked with passion.

“Cynthy--ever since we stopped that day on the road in Northcutt’s
woods, I’ve thought of nothin’ but to marry you--m-marry you. Then you
give me that book--I hain’t had much education, but it come across me
if you was to help me that way--And when I seed you with Worthington, I
could have killed him easy as breakin’ bark.”

“Hush, Jethro.”

She struggled free and leaped away from him, panting, while he tore open
his coat and drew forth something which gleamed in the lantern’s rays--a
silver locket. Cynthia scarcely saw it. Her blood was throbbing in her
temples, she could not reason, but she knew that the appeal for the sake
of which she had stooped must be delivered now.

“Jethro,” she said, “do you know why I came here--why I came to you?”

“No,” he said. “No. W--wanted me, didn’t you? Wanted me--I wanted you,
Cynthy.”

“I would never have come to you for that,” she cried, “never!”

“L-love me, Cynthy--love me, don’t you?”

How could he ask, seeing that she had been in his arms, and had not
fled? And yet she must go through with what she had come to do, at any
cost.

“Jethro, I have come to speak to you about the town meeting tomorrow.”

He halted as though he had been struck, his hand tightening over the
locket.

“T-town meetin’?”

“Yes. All this new organization is your doing,” she cried. “Do you think
that I am foolish enough to believe that Fletcher Bartlett or Sam Price
planned this thing? No, Jethro. I know who has done it, and I could have
told them if they had asked me.”

He looked at her, and the light of a new admiration was in his eye.

“Knowed it--did you?”

“Yes,” she answered, a little defiantly, “I did.”

“H-how’d you know it--how’d you know it, Cynthy?” How did she know it,
indeed?

“I guessed it,” said Cynthia, desperately, “knowing you, I guessed it.”

“A-always thought you was smart, Cynthy.”

“Tell me, did you do this thing?”

“Th-thought you knowed it--th-thought you knowed.”

“I believe that these men are doing your bidding.”

“Hain’t you guessin’ a little mite too much; Cynthy?”

“Jethro,” she said, “you told me just now that--that you loved me. Don’t
touch me!” she cried, when he would have taken her in his arms again.
“If you love me, you will tell me why you have done such a thing.”

What instinct there was in the man which forbade him speaking out to
her, I know not. I do believe that he would have confessed, if he could.
Isaac Worthington had been impelled to reveal his plans and aspirations,
but Jethro Bass was as powerless in this supreme moment of his life as
was Coniston Mountain to move the granite on which it stood. Cynthia’s
heart sank, and a note of passionate appeal came into her voice.

“Oh, Jethro!” she cried, “this is not the way to use your power, to
compel men like Eben Williams and Samuel Todd and--and Lyman Hull, who
is a drunkard and a vagabond, to come in and vote for those who are not
fit to hold office.” She was using the minister’s own arguments. “We
have always had clean men, and honorable and good men.”

He did not speak, but dropped his hands to his sides. His thoughts
were not to be fathomed, yet Cynthia took the movement for silent
confession,--which it was not, and stood appalled at the very magnitude
of his accomplishment, astonished at the secrecy he had maintained. She
had heard that his name had been mentioned in the meeting at the house
of Moses Hatch as having taken part in the matter, and she guessed
something of certain of his methods. But she had felt his force, and
knew that this was not the only secret of his power.

What might he not aspire to, if properly guided? No, she did not believe
him to be, unscrupulous--but merely ignorant: a man who was capable of
such love as she felt was in him, a man whom she could love, could not
mean to be unscrupulous. Defence of him leaped to her own lips.

“You did not know what you were doing,” she said. “I was sure of it,
or I would not have come to you. Oh, Jethro! you must stop it--you must
prevent this election.”

Her eyes met his, her own pleading, and the very wind without seemed to
pause for his answer. But what she asked was impossible. That wind
which he himself had loosed, which was to topple over institutions, was
rising, and he could no more have stopped it then than he could have
hushed the storm.

“You will not do what I ask--now?” she said, very slowly. Then her voice
failed her, she drew her hands together, and it was as if her heart had
ceased to beat. Sorrow and anger and fierce shame overwhelmed her, and
she turned from him in silence and went to the door.

“Cynthy,” he cried hoarsely, “Cynthy!”

“You must never speak to me again,” she said, and was gone into the
storm.

Yes, she had failed. But she did not know that she had left something
behind which he treasured as long as he lived.

In the spring, when the new leaves were green on the slopes of Coniston,
Priest Ware ended a life of faithful service. The high pulpit, taken
from the old meeting house, and the cricket on which he used to stand
and the Bible from which he used to preach have remained objects of
veneration in Coniston to this day. A fortnight later many tearful faces
gazed after the Truro coach as it galloped out of Brampton in a cloud
of dust, and one there was watching unseen from the spruces on the hill,
who saw within it a girl dressed in black, dry-eyed, staring from the
window.



CHAPTER VII

Out of the stump of a blasted tree in the Coniston woods a flower will
sometimes grow, and even so the story which I have now to tell springs
from the love of Cynthia Ware and Jethro Bass. The flower, when it came
to bloom, was fair in life, and I hope that in these pages it will not
lose too much of its beauty and sweetness.

For a little while we are going to gallop through the years as before we
have ambled through the days, although the reader’s breath may be
taken away in the process. How Cynthia Ware went over the Truro Pass to
Boston, and how she became a teacher in a high school there;--largely
through the kindness of that Miss Lucretia Penniman of whom we have
spoken, who wrote in Cynthia’s behalf to certain friends she had in
that city; how she met one William Wetherell, no longer a clerk in
Mr. Judson’s jewellery shop, but a newspaper man with I know not what
ambitions--and limitations in strength of body and will; how, many, many
years afterward, she nursed him tenderly through a sickness and--married
him, is all told in a paragraph. Marry him she did, to take care of him,
and told him so. She made no secret of the maternal in this love.

One evening, the summer after their marriage, they were walking in the
Mall under the great elms that border the Common on the Tremont Street
side. They often used to wander there, talking of the books he was to
write when strength should come and a little leisure, and sometimes
their glances would linger longingly on Colonnade Row that Bulfinch
built across the way, where dwelt the rich and powerful of the city--and
yet he would not have exchanged their lot for his. Could he have earned
with his own hands such a house, and sit Cynthia there in glory, what
happiness! But, I stray.

They were walking in the twilight, for the sun had sunk all red in the
marshes of the Charles, when there chanced along a certain Mr. Judson,
a jeweller, taking the air likewise. So there came into Wetherell’s mind
that amusing adventure with the country lad and the locket. His name,
by reason of some strange quality in it, he had never forgotten, and
suddenly he recalled that the place the countryman had come from was
Coniston.

“Cynthia,” said her husband, when Mr. Judson was gone, “did you know any
one in Coniston named Jethro Bass?”

She did not answer him. And, thinking she had not heard, he spoke again.

“Why do you ask?” she said, in a low tone, without looking at him.

He told her the story. Not until the end of it did the significance of
the name engraved come to him--Cynthy.

“Cynthy, from Jethro.”

“Why, it might have been you!” he said jestingly. “Was he an admirer of
yours, Cynthia, that strange, uncouth countryman? Did he give you the
locket?”

“No,” she answered, “he never did.”

Wetherell glanced at her in surprise, and saw that her lip was
quivering, that tears were on her lashes. She laid her hand on his arm.

“William,” she said, drawing him to a bench, “come, let us sit down, and
I will tell you the story of Jethro Bass. We have been happy together,
you and I, for I have found peace with you. I have tried to be honest
with you, William, and I will always be so. I told you before we were
married that I loved another man. I have tried to forget him, but as God
is my judge, I cannot. I believe I shall love him until I die.”

They sat in the summer twilight, until darkness fell, and the lights
gleamed through the leaves, and a deep, cool breath coming up from the
sea stirred the leaves above their heads. That she should have loved
Jethro seemed as strange to her as to him, and yet Wetherell was to feel
the irresistible force of him. Hers was not a love that she chose, or
would have chosen, but something elemental that cried out from the man
to her, and drew her. Something that had in it now, as of yore, much of
pain and even terror, but drew her. Strangest of all was that William
Wetherell understood and was not jealous of this thing: which leads
us to believe that some essence of virility was lacking in him, some
substance that makes the fighters and conquerors in this world. In such
mood he listened to the story of Jethro Bass.

“My dear husband,” said Cynthia, when she had finished, her hand
tightening over his, “I have never told you this for fear that it might
trouble you as it has troubled me. I have found in your love sanctuary;
and all that remains of myself I have given to you.”

“You have found a weakling to protect, and an invalid to nurse,” he
answered. “To have your compassion, Cynthia, is all I crave.”

So they lived through the happiest and swiftest years of his life,
working side by side, sharing this strange secret between them. And
after that night Cynthia talked to him often of Coniston, until he
came to know the mountain that lay along the western sky, and the sweet
hillsides by Coniston Water under the blue haze of autumn, aye, and
clothed in the colors of spring, the bright blossoms of thorn and apple
against the tender green of the woods and fields. So he grew to love the
simple people there, but little did he foresee that he was to end his
life among them!

But so it came to pass, she was taken from him, who had been the one joy
and inspiration of his weary days, and he was driven, wandering, into
unfrequented streets that he might not recall, the places where she had
once trod, and through the wakeful nights her voice haunted him,--its
laughter, its sweet notes of seriousness; little ways and manners of her
look came to twist his heart, and he prayed God to take him, too, until
it seemed that Cynthia frowned upon him for his weakness. One mild
Sunday afternoon, he took little Cynthia by the hand and led her,
toddling, out into the sunny Common, where he used to walk with her
mother, and the infant prattle seemed to bring--at last a strange peace
to his storm-tossed soul.

For many years these Sunday walks in the Common were Wetherell’s
greatest pleasure and solace, and it seemed as though little Cynthia had
come into the world with an instinct, as it were, of her mission that
lent to her infant words a sweet gravity and weight. Many people used to
stop and speak to the child, among them a great physician whom they grew
to know. He was, there every Sunday, and at length it came to be a habit
with him to sit down on the bench and take Cynthia on his knee, and his
stern face would soften as he talked to her.

One Sunday when Cynthia was eight years old he missed them, and the
next, and at dusk he strode into their little lodging behind the hill
and up to the bedside. He glanced at Wetherell, patting Cynthia on the
head the while, and bade her cheerily to go out of the room. But
she held tight hold of her father’s hand and looked up at the doctor
bravely.

“I am taking care of my father,” she said.

“So you shall, little woman,” he answered. “I would that we had such
nurses as you at the hospital. Why didn’t you send for me at once?”

“I wanted to,” said Cynthia.

“Bless her good sense;” said the doctor; “she has more than you,
Wetherell. Why didn’t you take her advice? If your father does not do
as I tell him, he will be a very sick man indeed. He must go into the
country and stay there.”

“But I must live, Doctor,” said William Wetherell.

The doctor looked at Cynthia.

“You will not live if you stay here,” he replied.

“Then he will go,” said Cynthia, so quietly that he gave her another
look, strange and tender and comprehending. He, sat and talked of many
things: of the great war that was agonizing the nation; of the strong
man who, harassed and suffering himself, was striving to guide it,
likening Lincoln unto a physician. So the doctor was wont to take the
minds of patients from themselves. And before he left he gave poor
Wetherell a fortnight to decide.

As he lay on his back in that room among the chimney tops trying vainly
to solve the problem of how he was to earn his salt in the country, a
visitor was climbing the last steep flight of stairs. That visitor
was none other than Sergeant Ephraim Prescott, son of Isaiah of the
pitch-pipe, and own cousin of Cynthia Ware’s. Sergeant Ephraim was just
home from the war and still clad in blue, and he walked with a slight
limp by reason of a bullet he had got in the Wilderness, and he had such
an honest, genial face that little Cynthia was on his knee in a moment.

“How be you, Will? Kind of poorly, I callate. So Cynthy’s b’en took,” he
said sadly. “Always thought a sight of Cynthy. Little Cynthy favors her
some. Yes, thought I’d drop in and see how you be on my way home.”

Sergeant Ephraim had much to say about the great war, and about
Coniston. True to the instincts of the blood of the Stark hero, he had
left the plough and the furrow’ at the first call, forty years of age
though he was. But it had been otherwise with many in Coniston and
Brampton and Harwich. Some of these, when the drafting came, had fled in
bands to the mountain and defied capture. Mr. Dudley Worthington, now
a mill owner, had found a substitute; Heth Sutton of Clovelly had been
drafted and had driven over the mountain to implore Jethro Bass abjectly
to get him out of it. In short, many funny things had happened--funny
things to Sergeant Ephraim, but not at all to William Wetherell, who
sympathized with Heth in his panic.

“So Jethro Bass has become a great man,” said Wetherell.

“Great!” Ephraim ejaculated. “Guess he’s the biggest man in the state
to-day. Queer how he got his power began twenty-four years ago when
I wahn’t but twenty. I call that town meetin’ to mind as if ‘twas
yesterday never was such an upset. Jethro’s be’n first Selectman
ever sense, though he turned Republican in ‘60. Old folks don’t fancy
Jethro’s kind of politics much, but times change. Jethro saved my life,
I guess.”

“Saved your life!” exclaimed Wetherell.

“Got me a furlough,” said Ephraim. “Guess I would have died in the
hospital if he hadn’t got it so all-fired quick, and he druv down to
Brampton to fetch me back. You’d have thought I was General Grant the
way folks treated me.”

“You went back to the war after your leg healed?” Wetherell asked, in
wondering admiration of the man’s courage.

“Well,” said Ephraim, simply, “the other boys was gettin’ full of
bullets and dysentery, and it didn’t seem just right. The leg troubles
me some on wet days, but not to amount to much. You hain’t thinkin’ of
dyin’ yourself, be ye, William?”

William was thinking very seriously of it, but it was Cynthia who spoke,
and startled them both.

“The doctor says he will die if he doesn’t go to the country.”

“Somethin’ like consumption, William?” asked Ephraim.

“So the doctor said.”

“So I callated,” said Ephraim. “Come back to Coniston with me; there
hain’t a healthier place in New England.”

“How could I support myself in Coniston?” Wetherell asked.

Ephraim ruminated. Suddenly he stuck his hand into the bosom of his blue
coat, and his face lighted and even gushed as he drew out a crumpled
letter.

“It don’t take much gumption to run a store, does it, William? Guess you
could run a store, couldn’t you?”

“I would try anything,” said Wetherell.

“Well,” said Ephraim’ “there’s the store at Coniston. With folks goin’
West, and all that, nobody seems to want it much.” He looked at the
letter. “Lem Hallowell’ says there hain’t nobody to take it.”

“Jonah Winch’s!” exclaimed Wetherell.

“Jonah made it go, but that was before all this hullabaloo about
Temperance Cadets and what not. Jonah sold good rum, but now you can’t
get nothin’ in Coniston but hard cider and potato whiskey. Still, it’s
the place for somebody without much get-up,” and he eyed his cousin by
marriage. “Better come and try it, William.”

So much for dreams! Instead of a successor to Irving and Emerson,
William Wetherell became a successor to Jonah Winch.

That journey to Coniston was full of wonder to Cynthia, and of wonder
and sadness to Wetherell, for it was the way his other Cynthia had come
to Boston. From the state capital the railroad followed the same deep
valley as the old coach road, but ended at Truro, and then they took
stage over Truro Pass for Brampton, where honest Ephraim awaited them
and their slender luggage with a team. Brampton, with its wide-shadowed
green, and terrace-steepled church; home once of the Social Library and
Lucretia Penniman, now famous; home now of Isaac Dudley Worthington,
whose great mills the stage driver had pointed out to them on Coniston
Water as they entered the town.

Then came a drive through the cool evening to Coniston, Ephraim showing
them landmarks. There was Deacon Lysander’s house, where little Rias
Richardson lived now; and on that slope and hidden in its forest nook,
among the birches and briers, the little schoolhouse where Cynthia had
learned to spell; here, where the road made an aisle in the woods, she
had met Jethro. The choir of the birds was singing an evening anthem now
as then, to the lower notes of Coniston Water, and the moist, hothouse
fragrance of the ferns rose from the deep places.

At last they came suddenly upon the little hamlet of Coniston itself.
There was the flagpole and the triangular green, scene of many a muster;
Jonah Winch’s store, with its horse block and checker-paned
windows, just as Jonah had left it; Nathan Bass’s tannery shed, now
weather-stained and neglected, for Jethro lived on Thousand Acre Hill
now; the Prescott house, home of the Stark hero, where Ephraim lived,
“innocent of paint” (as one of Coniston’s sons has put it), “innocent
of paint as a Coniston maiden’s face”; the white meeting-house, where
Priest Ware had preached--and the parsonage. Cynthia and Wetherell
loitered in front of it, while the blue shadow of the mountain deepened
into night, until Mr. Satterlee, the minister, found them there, and
they went in and stood reverently in the little chamber on the right of
the door, which had been Cynthia’s.

Long Wetherell lay awake that night, in his room at the gable-end
over the store, listening to the rustling of the great oak beside the
windows, to the whippoorwills calling across Coniston Water. But at last
a peace descended upon him, and he slept: yes, and awoke with the
same sense of peace at little Cynthia’s touch, to go out into the cool
morning, when the mountain side was in myriad sheens of green under the
rising sun. Behind the store was an old-fashioned garden, set about by
a neat stone wall, hidden here and there by the masses of lilac and
currant bushes, and at the south of it was a great rose-covered boulder
of granite. And beyond, through the foliage of the willows and the low
apple trees which Jonah Winch had set out, Coniston Water gleamed and
tumbled. Under an arching elm near the house was the well, stone-rimmed,
with its long pole and crotch, and bucket all green with the damp moss
which clung to it.

Ephraim Prescott had been right when he had declared that it did not
take much gumption to keep store in Coniston. William Wetherell merely
assumed certain obligations at the Brampton bank, and Lem Hallowell,
Jock’s son, who now drove the Brampton stage, brought the goods to the
door. Little Rias Richardson was willing to come in, and help move the
barrels, and on such occasions wore carpet slippers to save his shoes.
William still had time for his books; in that Coniston air he began to
feel stronger, and to wonder whether he might not be a Washington Irving
yet. And yet he had one worry and one fear, and both of these concerned
one man,--Jethro Bass. Him, by her own confession, Cynthia Ware
had loved to her dying day, hating herself for it: and he, William
Wetherell, had married this woman whom Jethro had loved so violently,
and must always love--so Wetherell thought: that was the worry. How
would Jethro treat him? that was the fear. William Wetherell was not the
most courageous man in the world.

Jethro Bass had not been in Coniston since William’s arrival. No need
to ask where he was. Jake Wheeler, Jethro’s lieutenant in Coniston, gave
William a glowing account of that Throne Room in the Pelican Hotel at
the capital, from whence Jethro ruled the state during the sessions of
the General Court. This legislature sat to him as a sort of advisory
committee of three hundred and fifty: an expensive advisory committee to
the people, relic of an obsolete form of government. Many stories of the
now all-powerful Jethro William heard from the little coterie which made
their headquarters in his store--stories of how those methods of which
we have read were gradually spread over other towns and other counties.
Not that Jethro held mortgages in these towns and counties, but the
local lieutenants did, and bowed to him as an overlord. There were funny
stories, and grim stories of vengeance which William Wetherell heard and
trembled at. Might not Jethro wish to take vengeance upon him?

One story he did not hear, because no one in Coniston knew it. No one
knew that Cynthia Ware and Jethro Bass had ever loved each other.

At last, toward the end of June, it was noised about that the great
man was coming home for a few days. One beautiful afternoon William
Wetherell stood on the platform of the store, looking off at Coniston,
talking to Moses Hatch--young Moses, who is father of six children now
and has forgotten Cynthia Ware. Old Moses sleeps on the hillside, let
us hope in the peace of the orthodox and the righteous. A cloud of dust
arose above the road to the southward, and out of it came a country
wagon drawn by a fat horse, and in the wagon the strangest couple
Wetherell had ever seen. The little woman who sat retiringly at one end
of the seat was all in brilliant colors from bonnet to flounce, like
a paroquet, red and green predominating. The man, big in build,
large-headed, wore an old-fashioned blue swallow-tailed coat with
brass buttons, a stock, and coonskin hat, though it was summer, and
the thumping of William Wetherell’s heart told him that this was Jethro
Bass. He nodded briefly at Moses Hatch, who greeted him with genial
obsequiousness.

“Legislatur’ through?” shouted Moses.

The great man shook his head and drove on.

“Has Jethro Bass ever been a member of the Legislature?” asked the
storekeeper, for the sake of something to say.

“Never would take any office but Chairman of the Selectmen,” answered
Moses, who apparently bore no ill will for his father’s sake. “Jethro
kind of fathers the Legislatur’, I guess, though I don’t take much stock
in politics. Goes down sessions to see that they don’t get too gumptious
and kick off the swaddlin’ clothes.”

“And--was that his wife?” Wetherell asked, hesitatingly.

“Aunt Listy, they call her. Nobody ever knew how he come to marry her.
Jethro went up to Wisdom once, in the centre of the state, and come back
with her. Funny place to bring a wife from--Wisdom! Funnier place to
bring Listy from. He loads her down with them ribbons and gewgaws--all
the shades of the rainbow! Says he wants her to be the best-dressed
woman in the state. Callate she is,” added Moses, with conviction.
“Listy’s a fine woman, but all she knows is enough to say, ‘Yes,
Jethro,’ and ‘No, Jethro.’--Guess that’s all Jethro wants in a wife; but
he certainly is good to her.”

“And why has he come back before the Legislature’s over?” said
Wetherell.

“Cuttin’ of his farms. Always comes back hayin’ time. That’s the way
Jethro spends the money he makes in politics, and he hain’t no more of a
farmer than--” Moses looked at Wetherell.

“Than I’m a storekeeper,” said the latter, smiling.

“Than I’m a lawyer,” said Moses, politely.

They were interrupted at this moment by the appearance of Jake Wheeler
and Sam Price, who came gaping out of the darkness of the store.

“Was that Jethro, Mose?” demanded Jake. “Guess we’ll go along up and see
if there’s any orders.”

“I suppose the humblest of God’s critturs has their uses,” Moses
remarked contemplatively, as he watched the retreating figures of Sam
and Jake. “Leastwise that’s Jethro’s philosophy. When you come to know
him, you’ll notice how much those fellers walk like him. Never seed a
man who had so many imitators. Some of, ’em’s took to talkie’ like him,
even to stutterin’. Bijah Bixby, over to Clovelly, comes pretty nigh it,
too.”

Moses loaded his sugar and beans into his wagon, and drove off.

An air of suppressed excitement seemed to pervade those who came that
afternoon to the store to trade and talk--mostly to talk. After such
purchases as they could remember were made, they lingered on the barrels
and on the stoop, in the hope of seeing Jethro, whose habit; it was,
apparently, to come down and dispense such news as he thought fit for
circulation. That Wetherell shared this excitement, too, he could not
deny, but for a different cause. At last, when the shadows of the big
trees had crept across the green, he came, the customers flocking to
the porch to greet him, Wetherell standing curiously behind them in the
door. Heedless of the dust, he strode down the road with the awkward
gait that was all his own, kicking up his heels behind. And behind him,
heels kicking up likewise, followed Jake and Sam, Jethro apparently
oblivious of their presence. A modest silence was maintained from the
stoop, broken at length by Lem Hallowell, who (men said) was an exact
reproduction of Jock, the meeting-house builder. Lem alone was not
abashed in the presence of greatness.

“How be you, Jethro?” he said heartily. “Air the Legislatur’ behavin’
themselves?”

“B-bout as common,” said Jethro.

Surely nothing very profound in this remark, but received as though it
were Solomon’s.

Be prepared for a change in Jethro, after the galloping years. He is
now fifty-seven, but he might be any age. He is still smooth-shaven, his
skin is clear, and his eye is bright, for he lives largely on bread and
milk, and eschews stimulants. But the lines in his face have deepened
and his big features seem to have grown bigger.

“Who be you thinkin’ of for next governor, Jethro?” queries Rias
Richardson, timidly.

“They say Alvy Hopkins of Gosport is willin’ to pay for it,” said
Chester Perkins, sarcastically. Chester; we fear, is a born agitator,
fated to remain always in opposition. He is still a Democrat, and
Jethro, as is well known, has extended the mortgage so as to include
Chester’s farm.

“Wouldn’t give a Red Brook Seedling for Alvy,” ejaculated the nasal Mr.
Price.

“D-don’t like Red Brook Seedlings, Sam? D-don’t like ‘em?” said Jethro.
He had parted his blue coat tails and seated himself on the stoop, his
long legs hanging over it.

“Never seed a man who had a good word to say for ‘em,” said Mr. Price,
with less conviction.

“Done well on mine,” said Jethro, “d-done well. I was satisfied with my
Red Brook Seedlings.”

Mr. Price’s sallow face looked as if he would have contradicted another
man.

“How was that, Jethro?” piped up Jake Wheeler, voicing the general
desire.

Jethro looked off into the blue space beyond the mountain line.

“G-got mine when they first come round--seed cost me considerable.
Raised more than a hundred bushels L-Listy put some of ‘em on the
table--t-then gave some to my old hoss Tom. Tom said: ‘Hain’t I always
been a good beast, Jethro? Hain’t I carried you faithful, summer
and winter, for a good many years? And now you give me Red Brook
Seedlings?’”

Here everybody laughed, and stopped abruptly, for Jethro still looked
contemplative.

“Give some of ‘em to the hogs. W-wouldn’t touch ‘em. H-had over a
hundred bushels on hand--n-new variety. W-what’s that feller’s name down
to Ayer, Massachusetts, deals in all kinds of seeds? Ellett--that’s it.
Wrote to Ellet, said I had a hundred bushels of Red Brooks to sell, as
fine a lookin’ potato as I had in my cellar. Made up my mind to take
what he offered, if it was only five cents. He wrote back a dollar a
bushel. I-I was always satisfied with my Red Brook Seedlings, Sam. But I
never raised any more--n-never raised any more.”

Uproarious laughter greeted the end of this story, and continued in fits
as some humorous point recurred to one or the other of the listeners.
William Wetherell perceived that the conversation, for the moment at
least, was safely away from politics, and in that dubious state where it
was difficult to reopen. This was perhaps what Jethro wanted. Even Jake
Wheeler was tongue-tied, and Jethro appeared to be lost in reflection.

At this instant a diversion occurred--a trifling diversion, so it seemed
at the time. Around the corner of the store, her cheeks flushed and her
dark hair flying, ran little Cynthia, her hands, browned already by the
Coniston sun, filled with wild strawberries.

“See what I’ve found, Daddy!” she cried, “see what I’ve found!”

Jethro Bass started, and flung back his head like a man who has heard a
voice from another world, and then he looked at the child with a kind of
stupefaction. The cry, died on Cynthia’s lips, and she stopped, gazing
up at him with wonder in her eyes.

“F-found strawberries?” said Jethro, at last.

“Yes,” she answered. She was very grave and serious now, as was her
manner in dealing with people.

“S-show ‘em to me,” said Jethro.

Cynthia went to him, without embarrassment, and put her hand on his
knee. Not once had he taken his eyes from her face. He put out his
own hand with an awkward, shy movement, picked a strawberry from her
fingers, and thrust it in his mouth.

“Mm,” said Jethro, gravely. “Er--what’s your name, little gal--what’s
your name?”

“Cynthia.”

There was a long pause.

“Er--er--Cynthia?” he said at length, “Cynthia?”

“Cynthia.”

“Er-er, Cynthia--not Cynthy?”

“Cynthia,” she said again.

He bent over her and lowered his voice.

“M-may I call you Cynthy--Cynthy?” he asked.

“Y-yes,” answered Cynthia, looking up to her father and then glancing
shyly at Jethro.

His eyes were on the mountain, and he seemed to have forgotten her
until she reached out to him, timidly, another strawberry. He seized
her little hand instead and held it between his own--much to the
astonishment of his friends.

“Whose little gal be you?” he asked.

“Dad’s.”

“She’s Will Wetherell’s daughter,” said Lem Hallowell. “He’s took on
the store. Will,” he added, turning to Wetherell, “let me make you
acquainted with Jethro Bass.”

Jethro rose slowly, and towered above Wetherell on the stoop. There was
an inscrutable look in his black eyes, as of one who sees without being
seen. Did he know who William Wetherell was? If so, he gave no sign, and
took Wetherell’s hand limply.

“Will’s kinder hipped on book-l’arnin’,” Lemuel continued kindly. “Come
here to keep store for his health. Guess you may have heerd, Jethro,
that Will married Cynthy Ware. You call Cynthy to mind, don’t ye?”

Jethro Bass dropped Wetherell’s hand, but answered nothing.



CHAPTER VIII

A week passed, and Jethro did not appear in the village, report having
it that he was cutting his farms on Thousand Acre Hill. When Jethro was
farming,--so it was said,--he would not stop to talk politics even with
the President of the United States were that dignitary to lean over
his pasture fence and beckon to him. On a sultry Friday morning, when
William Wetherell was seated at Jonah Winch’s desk in the cool recesses
of the store slowly and painfully going over certain troublesome
accounts which seemed hopeless, he was thrown into a panic by the sight
of one staring at him from the far side of a counter. History sometimes
reverses itself.

“What can I do for you--Mr. Bass?” asked the storekeeper, rather weakly.

“Just stepped in--stepped in,” he answered. “W-where’s Cynthy?”

“She was in the garden--shall I get her?”

“No,” he said, parting his coat tails and seating himself on the
counter. “Go on figurin’, don’t mind me.”

The thing was manifestly impossible. Perhaps Wetherell indicated as much
by his answer.

“Like storekeepin’?” Jethro asked presently, perceiving that he did not
continue his work.

“A man must live, Mr. Bass,” said Wetherell; “I had to leave the city
for my health. I began life keeping store,” he added, “but I little
thought I should end it so.”

“Given to book-l’arnin’ then, wahn’t you?” Jethro remarked. He did not
smile, but stared at the square of light that was the doorway, “Judson’s
jewellery store, wahn’t it? Judson’s?”

“Yes, Judson’s,” Wetherell answered, as soon as he recovered from his
amazement. There was no telling from Jethro’s manner whether he were
enemy or friend; whether he bore the storekeeper a grudge for having
attained to a happiness that had not been his.

“Hain’t made a great deal out of life, hev you? N-not a great deal?”
 Jethro observed at last.

Wetherell flushed, although Jethro had merely stated a truth which had
often occurred to the storekeeper himself.

“It isn’t given to all of us to find Rome in brick and leave it in
marble,” he replied a little sadly.

Jethro Bass looked at him quickly.

“Er-what’s that?” he demanded. “F-found Rome in brick, left it in
marble. Fine thought.” He ruminated a little. “Never writ anything--did
you--never writ anything?”

“Nothing worth publishing,” answered poor William Wetherell.

“J-just dreamed’--dreamed and kept store. S--something to have
dreamed--eh--something to have dreamed?”

Wetherell forgot his uneasiness in the unexpected turn the conversation
had taken. It seemed very strange to him that he was at last face to
face again wish the man whom Cynthia Ware had never been able to drive
from her heart. Would, he mention her? Had he continued to love her, in
spite of the woman he had married and adorned? Wetherell asked himself
these questions before he spoke.

“It is more to have accomplished,” he said.

“S-something to have dreamed,” repeated Jethro, rising slowly from the
counter. He went toward the doorway that led into the garden, and there
he halted and stood listening.

“C-Cynthy!” he said, “C-Cynthy!”

Wetherell dropped his pen at the sound of the name on Jethro’s lips. But
it was little Cynthia he was calling little Cynthia in the garden. The
child came at his voice, and stood looking up at him silently.

“H-how old be you, Cynthy?”

“Nine,” answered Cynthia, promptly.

“L-like the country, Cynthy--like the country better than the city?”

“Oh, yes,” said Cynthia.

“And country folks? L--like country folks better than city folks?”

“I didn’t know many city folks,” said Cynthia. “I liked the old doctor
who sent Daddy up here ever so much, and I liked Mrs. Darwin.”

“Mis’ Darwin?”

“She kept the house we lived in. She used to give me cookies,” said
Cynthia, “and bread to feed the pigeons.”

“Pigeons? F-folks keep pigeons in the city?”

“Oh, no,” said Cynthia, laughing at such an idea; “the pigeons came
on the roof under our window, and they used to fly right up on the
window-sill and feed out of my hand. They kept me company while Daddy,
was away, working. On Sundays we used to go into the Common and feed
them, before Daddy got sick. The Common was something like the country,
only not half as nice.”

“C-couldn’t pick flowers in the Common and go barefoot--e--couldn’t go
barefoot, Cynthy?”

“Oh, no,” said Cynthia, laughing again at his sober face.

“C-couldn’t dig up the Common and plant flowers--could you?”

“Of course you couldn’t.”

“P-plant ‘em out there?” asked Jethro.

“Oh, yes,” cried Cynthia; “I’ll show you.” She hesitated a moment, and
then thrust her hand into his. “Do you want to see?”

“Guess I do,” said he, energetically, and she led him into the garden,
pointing out with pride the rows of sweet peas and pansies, which she
had made herself. Impelled by a strange curiosity, William Wetherell
went to the door and watched them. There was a look on the face of
Jethro Bass that was new to it as he listened to the child talk of the
wondrous things around them that summer’s day,--the flowers and the bees
and the brook (they must go down and stand on the brink of it), and the
songs of the vireo and the hermit thrush.

“Hain’t lonely here, Cynthy--hain’t lonely here?” he said.

“Not in the country,” said Cynthia. Suddenly she lifted her eyes to his
with a questioning look. “Are you lonely, sometimes?”

He did not answer at once.

“Not with you, Cynthy--not with you.”

By all of which it will be seen that the acquaintance was progressing.
They sat down for a while on the old millstone that formed the step,
and there discussed Cynthia’s tastes. She was too old for dolls, Jethro
supposed. Yes, Cynthia was too old for dolls. She did not say so, but
the only doll she had ever owned had become insipid when the delight of
such a reality as taking care of a helpless father had been thrust upon
her. Books, suggested Jethro. Books she had known from her earliest
infancy: they had been piled around that bedroom over the roof. Books
and book lore and the command of the English tongue were William
Wetherell’s only legacies to his daughter, and many an evening that
spring she had read him to sleep from classic volumes of prose and
poetry I hesitate to name, for fear you will think her precocious. They
went across the green to Cousin Ephraim Prescott’s harness shop, where
Jethro had tied his horse, and it was settled that Cynthia liked books.

On the morning following this extraordinary conversation, Jethro Bass
and his wife departed for the state capital. Listy was bedecked in
amazing greens and yellows, and Jethro drove, looking neither to the
right nor left, his coat tails hanging down behind the seat, the reins
lying slack across the plump quarters of his horse--the same fat Tom
who, by the way, had so indignantly spurned the Iced Brook Seedlings.
And Jake Wheeler went along to bring back the team from Brampton. To
such base uses are political lieutenants sometimes put, although fate
would have told you it was an honor, and he came back to the store that
evening fairly bristling with political secrets which he could not be
induced to impart.

One evening a fortnight later, while the lieutenant was holding forth in
commendably general terms on the politics of the state to a speechless
if not wholly admiring audience, a bomb burst in their midst. William
Wetherell did not know that it was a periodical bomb, like those flung
at regular intervals from the Union mortars into Vicksburg. These bombs,
at any rate, never failed to cause consternation and fright in Coniston,
although they never did any harm. One thing noticeable, they were
always fired in Jethro’s absence. And the bombardier was always Chester
Perkins, son of the most unbending and rigorous of tithing-men, but
Chester resembled his father in no particular save that he, too, was a
deacon and a pillar of the church. Deacon Ira had been tall and gaunt
and sunken and uncommunicative. Chester was stout, and said to perspire
even in winter, apoplectic, irascible, talkative, and still, as has
been said, a Democrat. He drove up to the store this evening to the not
inappropriate rumble of distant thunder, and he stood up in his wagon in
front of the gathering and shook his fist in Jake Wheeler’s face.

“This town’s tired of puttin’ up with a King,” he cried. “Yes, King-=I
said it, and I don’t care who hears me. It’s time to stop this one-man
rule. You kin go and tell him I said it, Jake Wheeler, if you’ve a mind
to. I guess there’s plenty who’ll do that.”

An uneasy silence followed--the silence which cries treason louder than
any voice. Some shifted uneasily, and spat, and Jake Wheeler thrust
his hands in his pockets and walked away, as much as to say that it was
treason even to listen to such talk. Lem Hallowell seemed unperturbed.

“On the rampage agin, Chet?” he remarked.

“You’d ought to know better, Lem,” cried the enraged Chester; “hain’t
the hull road by the Four Corners ready to drop into the brook? What be
you a-goin’ to do about it?”

“I’ll show you when I git to it,” answered Lem, quietly. And, show them
he did.

“Git to it!” shouted Chester, scornfully, “I’ll git to it. I’ll tell
you right now I’m a candidate for the Chairman of the Selectmen, if town
meetin’ is eight months away. An’, Sam Price, I’ll expect the Democrats
to git into line.”

With this ultimatum Chester drove away as rapidly as he had come.

“I want to know!” said Sam Price, an exclamation peculiarly suited to
his voice. But nevertheless Sam might be counted on in each of these
little rebellions. He, too, had remained steadfast to Jacksonian
principles, and he had never forgiven Jethro about a little matter of a
state office which he (Sam) had failed to obtain.

Before he went to bed Jake Wheeler had written a letter which he
sent off to the state capital by the stage the next morning. In it he
indicted no less than twenty of his fellow-townsmen for treason; and
he also thought it wise to send over to Clovelly for Bijah Bixby,
a lieutenant in that section, to come and look over the ground and
ascertain by his well-known methods how far the treason had eaten into
the body politic. Such was Jake’s ordinary procedure when the bombs were
fired, for Mr. Wheeler was nothing if not cautious.

Three mornings later, a little after seven o’clock, when the storekeeper
and his small daughter were preparing to go to Brampton upon a very
troublesome errand, Chester Perkins appeared again. It is always easy to
stir up dissatisfaction among the ne’er-do-wells (Jethro had once done
it himself), and during the three days which had elapsed since Chester
had flung down the gauntlet there had been more or less of downright
treason heard in the store. William Wetherell, who had perplexities of
his own, had done his best to keep out of the discussions that had raged
on his cracker boxes and barrels, for his head was a jumble of figures
which would not come right. And now as he stood there in the freshness
of the early summer morning, waiting for Lem Hallowell’s stage, poor
Wetherell’s heart was very heavy.

“Will Wetherell,” said Chester, “you be a gentleman and a student,
hain’t you? Read history, hain’t you?”

“I have read some,” said William Wetherell.

“I callate that a man of parts,” said Chester, “such as you be, will
help us agin corruption and a dictator. I’m a-countin’ on you,
Will Wetherell. You’ve got the store, and you kin tell the boys the
difference between right and wrong. They’ll listen to you, because
you’re eddicated.”

“I don’t know anything about politics,” answered Wetherell, with an
appealing glance at the silent group,--group that was always there. Rias
Richardson, who had donned the carpet slippers preparatory to tending
store for the day, shuffled inside. Deacon Lysander, his father, would
not have done so.

“You know somethin’ about history and the Constitootion, don’t ye?”
 demanded Chester, truculently. “N’Jethro Bass don’t hold your mortgage,
does he? Bank in Brampton holds it--hain’t that so? You hain’t afeard of
Jethro like the rest on ‘em, be you?”

“I don’t know what right you have to talk to me that way, Mr. Perkins,”
 said Wetherell.

“What right? Jethro holds my mortgage--the hull town knows it-and he kin
close me out to-morrow if he’s a mind to--”

“See here, Chester Perkins,” Lem Hallowell interposed, as he drove up
with the stage, “what kind of free principles be you preachin’? You’d
ought to know better’n coerce.”

“What be you a-goin’ to do about that Four Corners road?” Chester cried
to the stage driver.

“I give ‘em till to-morrow night to fix it,” said Lem. “Git in, Will.
Cynthy’s over to the harness shop with Eph. We’ll stop as we go ‘long.”

“Give ‘em till to-morrow night!” Chester shouted after them. “What you
goin’ to do then?”

But Lem did not answer this inquiry. He stopped at the harness shop,
where Ephraim came limping out and lifted Cynthia to the seat beside her
father, and they joggled off to Brampton. The dew still lay in myriad
drops on the red herd’s-grass, turning it to lavender in the morning
sun, and the heavy scent of the wet ferns hung in the forest. Lem
whistled, and joked with little Cynthia, and gave her the reins to
drive, and of last they came in sight of Brampton Street, with its
terrace-steepled church and line of wagons hitched to the common rail,
for it was market day. Father and daughter walked up and down, hand in
hand, under the great trees, and then they went to the bank.

It was a brick building on a corner opposite the common, imposing for
Brampton, and very imposing to Wetherell. It seemed like a tomb as he
entered its door, Cynthia clutching his fingers, and never but once
in his life had he been so near to leaving all hope behind. He waited
patiently by the barred windows until the clerk, who was counting bills,
chose to look up at him.

“Want to draw money?” he demanded.

The words seemed charged with irony. William Wetherell told him,
falteringly, his name and business, and he thought the man looked at him
compassionately.

“You’ll have to see Mr. Worthington,” he said; “he hasn’t gone to the
mills yet.”

“Dudley Worthington?” exclaimed Wetherell.

The teller smiled.

“Yes. He’s the president of this bank.”’

He opened a door in the partition, and leaving Cynthia dangling her feet
from a chair, Wetherell was ushered, not without trepidation, into the
great man’s office, and found himself at last in the presence of Mr.
Isaac D. Worthington, who used to wander up and down Coniston Water
searching for a mill site.

He sat behind a table covered with green leather, on which papers were
laid with elaborate neatness, and he wore a double-breasted skirted coat
of black, with braided lapels, a dark purple blanket cravat with a large
red cameo pin. And Mr. Worthington’s features harmonized perfectly with
this costume--those of a successful, ambitious man who followed custom
and convention blindly; clean-shaven, save for reddish chops, blue eyes
of extreme keenness, and thin-upped mouth which had been tightening year
by year as the output of the Worthington Minx increased.

“Well, sir,” he said sharply, “what can I do for you?”

“I am William Wetherell, the storekeeper at Coniston.”

“Not the Wetherell who married Cynthia Ware!”

No, Mr. Worthington did not say that. He did not know that Cynthia Ware
was married, or alive or dead, and--let it be confessed at once--he did
not care.

This is what he did say:--

“Wetherell--Wetherell. Oh, yes, you’ve come about that note--the
mortgage on the store at Coniston.” He stared at William Wetherell,
drummed with his fingers on the table, and smiled slightly. “I am happy
to say that the Brampton Bank does not own this note any longer. If we
did,--merely as a matter of business, you understand” (he coughed),--“we
should have had to foreclose.”

“Don’t own the note!” exclaimed Wetherell. “Who does own it?”

“We sold it a little while ago--since you asked for the extension--to
Jethro Bass.”

“Jethro Bass!” Wetherell’s feet seemed to give way under him, and he sat
down.

“Mr. Bass is a little quixotic--that is a charitable way to put
it--quixotic. He does--strange things like this once in awhile.”

The storekeeper found no words to answer, but sat mutely staring at him.
Mr. Worthington coughed again.

“You appear to be an educated man. Haven’t I heard some story of your
giving up other pursuits in Boston to come up here for your health?
Certainly I place you now. I confess to a little interest in literature
myself--in libraries.”

In spite of his stupefaction at the news he had just received, Wetherell
thought of Mr. Worthington’s beaver hat, and of that gentleman’s first
interest in libraries, for Cynthia had told the story to her husband.

“It is perhaps an open secret,” continued Mr. Worthington, “that in the
near future I intend to establish a free library in Brampton. I feel it
my duty to do all I can for the town where I have made my success, and
there is nothing which induces more to the popular welfare than a good
library.” Whereupon he shot at Wetherell another of his keen looks.
“I do not talk this way ordinarily to my customers, Mr. Wetherell,” he
began; “but you interest me, and I am going to tell you something in
confidence. I am sure it will not be betrayed.”

“Oh, no,” said the bewildered storekeeper, who was in no condition to
listen to confidences.

He went quietly to the door, opened it, looked out, and closed it
softly. Then he looked out of the window.

“Have a care of this man Bass,” he said, in a lower voice. “He began
many years ago by debauching the liberties of that little town of
Coniston, and since then he has gradually debauched the whole state,
judges and all. If I have a case to try” (he spoke now with more
intensity and bitterness), “concerning my mills, or my bank, before I
get through I find that rascal mixed up in it somewhere, and unless I
arrange matters with him, I--”

He paused abruptly, his eyes going out of the window, pointing with a
long finger at a grizzled man crossing the street with a yellow and red
horse blanket thrown over his shoulders.

“That man, Judge Baker, holding court in this town now, Bass owns body
and soul.”

“And the horse blanket?” Wetherell queried, irresistibly.

Dudley Worthington did not smile.

“Take my advice, Mr. Wetherell, and pay off that note somehow.” An odor
of the stable pervaded the room, and a great unkempt grizzled head and
shoulders, horse blanket and all, were stuck into it.

“Mornin’, Dudley,” said the head, “busy?”

“Come right in, Judge,” answered Mr. Worthington. “Never too busy to see
you.” The head disappeared.

“Take my advice, Mr. Wetherell.”

And then the storekeeper went into the bank.

For some moments he stood dazed by what he had heard, the query ringing
in his head: Why had Jethro Bass bought that note? Did he think that the
storekeeper at Coniston would be of use to him, politically? The words
Chester Perkins had spoken that morning came back to Wetherell as he
stood in the door. And how was he to meet Jethro Bass again with no
money to pay even the interest on the note? Then suddenly he missed
Cynthia, hurried out, and spied her under the trees on the common so
deep in conversation with a boy that she did not perceive him until he
spoke to her. The boy looked up, smiling frankly at something Cynthia
had said to him. He had honest, humorous eyes, and a browned, freckled
face, and was, perhaps, two years older than Cynthia.

“What’s the matter?” said Wetherell.

Cynthia’s face was flushed, and she was plainly vexed about something.

“I gave her a whistle,” said the boy, with a little laugh of vexation,
“and now she says she won’t take it because I owned up I made it for
another girl.”

Cynthia held it out to him, not deigning to appeal her ease.

“You must take it back,” she said.

“But I want you to have it,” said the boy.

“It wouldn’t be right for me to take it when you made it for somebody
else.”

After all, people with consciences are born, not made. But this was a
finer distinction that the boy had ever met with in his experience.

“I didn’t know you when I made the whistle,” he objected, puzzled and
downcast.

“That doesn’t make any difference.”

“I like you better than the other girl.”

“You have no right to,” retorted the casuist; “you’ve known her longer.”

“That doesn’t make any difference,” said the boy; “there are lots of
people I don’t like I have always known. This girl doesn’t live in
Brampton, anyway.”

“Where does she live?” demanded Cynthia,--which was a step backward.

“At the state capital. Her name’s Janet Duncan. There, do you believe me
now?”

William Wetherell had heard of Janet Duncan’s father, Alexander Duncan,
who had the reputation of being the richest man in the state. And he
began to wonder who the boy could be.

“I believe you,” said Cynthia; “but as long as you made it for her, it’s
hers. Will you take it?”

“No,” said he, determinedly.

“Very well,” answered Cynthia. She laid down the whistle beside him on
the rail, and went off a little distance and seated herself on a bench.
The boy laughed.

“I like that girl,” he remarked; “the rest of ‘em take everything I give
‘em, and ask for more. She’s prettier’n any of ‘em, too.”

“What is your name?” Wetherell asked him, curiously, forgetting his own
troubles.

“Bob Worthington.”

“Are you the son of Dudley Worthington”

“Everybody asks me that,” he said; “I’m tired of it. When I grow up,
they’ll have to stop it.”

“But you should be proud of your father.”

“I am proud of him, everybody’s proud of him, Brampton’s proud of
him--he’s proud of himself. That’s enough, ain’t it?” He eyed Wetherell
somewhat defiantly, then his glance wandered to Cynthia, and he walked
over to her. He threw himself down on the grass in front of her, and
lay looking up at her solemnly. For a while she continued to stare
inflexibly at the line of market wagons, and then she burst into a
laugh.

“Thought you wouldn’t hold out forever,” he remarked.

“It’s because you’re so foolish,” said Cynthia, “that’s why I laughed.”
 Then she grew sober again and held out her hand to him. “Good-by.”

“Where are you going?”

“I must go back to my father. I--I think he doesn’t feel very well.”

“Next time I’ll make a whistle for you,” he called after her.

“And give it to somebody else,” said Cynthia.

She had hold of her father’s hand by that, but he caught up with her,
very red in the face.

“You know that isn’t true,” he cried angrily, and taking his way across
Brampton Street, turned, and stood staring after them until they were
out of sight.

“Do you like him, Daddy?” asked Cynthia.

William Wetherell did not answer. He had other things to think about.

“Daddy?”

“Yes.”

“Does your trouble feel any better?”

“Some, Cynthia. But you mustn’t think about it.”

“Daddy, why don’t you ask Uncle Jethro to help you?”

At the name Wetherell started as if he had had a shock.

“What put him into your head, Cynthia?” he asked sharply. “Why do you
call him ‘Uncle Jethro’?”

“Because he asked me to. Because he likes me, and I like him.”

The whole thing was a riddle he could not solve--one that was best left
alone. They had agreed to walk back the ten miles to Coniston, to save
the money that dinner at the hotel would cost. And so they started,
Cynthia flitting hither and thither along the roadside, picking the
stately purple iris flowers in the marshy places, while Wetherell
pondered.



BOOK 2.



CHAPTER IX

When William Wetherell and Cynthia had reached the last turn in the
road in Northcutt’s woods, quarter of a mile from Coniston, they met the
nasal Mr. Samuel Price driving silently in the other direction. The
word “silently” is used deliberately, because to Mr. Price appertained
a certain ghostlike quality of flitting, and to Mr. Price’s horse and
wagon likewise. He drew up for a brief moment when he saw Wetherell.

“Wouldn’t hurry back if I was you, Will.”

“Why not?”

Mr. Price leaned out of the wagon.

“Bije has come over from Clovelly to spy around a little mite.”

It was evident from Mr. Price’s manner that he regarded the storekeeper
as a member of the reform party.

“What did he say, Daddy?” asked Cynthia, as Wetherell stood staring
after the flitting buggy in bewilderment.

“I haven’t the faintest idea, Cynthia,” answered her father, and they
walked on.

“Don’t you know who ‘Bije’ is?

“No,” said her father, “and I don’t care.”

It was almost criminal ignorance for a man who lived in that part of
the country not to know Bijah Bixby of Clovelly, who was paying a
little social visit to Coniston that day on his way home from the state
capital,--tending, as it were, Jethro’s flock. Still, Wetherell must be
excused because he was an impractical literary man with troubles of
his own. But how shall we chronicle Bijah’s rank and precedence in
the Jethro army, in which there are neither shoulder-straps nor annual
registers? To designate him as the Chamberlain of that hill Rajah, the
Honorable Heth Sutton, would not be far out of the way. The Honorable
Heth, whom we all know and whom we shall see presently, is the man of
substance and of broad acres in Clovelly: Bijah merely owns certain
mortgages in that town, but he had created the Honorable Heth
(politically) as surely as certain prime ministers we could name have
created their sovereigns. The Honorable Heth was Bijah’s creation, and a
grand creation he was, as no one will doubt when they see him.

Bijah--as he will not hesitate to tell you--took Heth down in his pocket
to the Legislature, and has more than once delivered him, in certain
blocks of five and ten, and four and twenty, for certain considerations.
The ancient Song of Sixpence applies to Bijah, but his pocket was
generally full of proxies instead of rye, and the Honorable Heth was
frequently one of the four and twenty blackbirds. In short, Bijah was
the working bee, and the Honorable Heth the ornamental drone.

I do not know why I have dwelt so long on such a minor character as
Bijah, except that the man fascinates me. Of all the lieutenants in the
state, his manners bore the closest resemblance to those of Jethro Bass.
When he walked behind Jethro in the corridors of the Pelican, kicking up
his heels behind, he might have been taken for Jethro’s shadow. He was
of a good height and size, smooth-shaven, with little eyes that kindled,
and his mouth moved not at all when he spoke: unlike Jethro, he “used”
 tobacco.

When Bijah had driven into Coniston village and hitched his wagon to
the rail, he went direct to the store. Chester Perkins and others were
watching him with various emotions from the stoop, and Bijah took a
seat in the midst of them, characteristically engaging in conversation
without the usual conventional forms of greeting, as if he had been
there all day.

“H-how much did you git for your wool, Chester--h-how much?”

“Guess you hain’t here to talk about wool, Bije,” said Chester, red with
anger.

“Kind of neglectin’ the farm lately, I hear,” observed Bijah.

“Jethro Bass sent you up to find out how much I was neglectin’ it,”
 retorted Chester, throwing all caution to the winds.

“Thinkin’ of upsettin’ Jethro, be you? Thinkin’ of upsettin’ Jethro?”
 remarked Bije, in a genial tone.

“Folks in Clovelly hain’t got nothin’ to do with it, if I am,” said
Chester.

“Leetle early for campaignin’, Chester, leetle early.”

“We do our campaignin’ when we’re a mind to.”

Bijah looked around.

“Well, that’s funny. I could have took oath I seed Rias Richardson
here.”

There was a deep silence.

“And Sam Price,” continued Bijah, in pretended astonishment, “wahn’t he
settin’ on the edge of the stoop when I drove up?”

Another silence, broken only by the enraged breathing of Chester, who
was unable to retort. Moses Hatch laughed. The discreet departure of
these gentlemen certainly had its comical side.

“Rias as indoostrious as ever, Mose?” inquired Bijah.

“He has his busy times,” said Mose, grinning broadly.

“See you’ve got the boys with their backs up, Chester,” said Bijah.

“Some of us are sick of tyranny,” cried Chester; “you kin tell that to
Jethro Bass when you go back, if he’s got time to listen to you buyin’
and sellin’ out of railroads.”

“Hear Jethro’s got the Grand Gulf Road in his pocket to do as he’s a
mind to with,” said Moses, with a view to drawing Bijah out. But the
remark had exactly the opposite effect, Bijah screwing up his face into
an expression of extraordinary secrecy and cunning.

“How much did you git out of it, Bije?” demanded Chester.

“Hain’t looked through my clothes yet,” said Bijah, his face screwed
up tighter than ever. “N-never look through my clothes till I git home,
Chester, it hain’t safe.”

It has become painfully evident that Mr. Bixby is that rare type of man
who can sit down under the enemy’s ramparts and smoke him out. It was a
rule of Jethro’s code either to make an effective departure or else to
remain and compel the other man to make an ineffective departure. Lem
Hallowell might have coped with him; but the stage was late, and after
some scratching of heads and delving for effectual banter (through which
Mr. Bixby sat genial and unconcerned), Chester’s followers took their
leave, each choosing his own pretext.

In the meantime William Wetherell had entered the store by the back
door--unperceived, as he hoped. He had a vehement desire to be left in
peace, and to avoid politics and political discussions forever--vain
desire for the storekeeper of Coniston. Mr. Wetherell entered the store,
and to take his mind from his troubles, he picked up a copy of Byron:
gradually the conversation on the stoop died away, and just as he
was beginning to congratulate himself and enjoy the book, he had an
unpleasant sensation of some one approaching him measuredly. Wetherell
did not move; indeed, he felt that he could not--he was as though
charmed to the spot. He could have cried aloud, but the store was empty,
and there was no one to hear him. Mr. Bixby did not speak until he was
within a foot of his victim’s ear. His voice was very nasal, too.

“Wetherell, hain’t it?”

The victim nodded helplessly.

“Want to see you a minute.”

“What is it?”

“Where can we talk private?” asked Mr. Bixby, looking around.

“There’s no one here,” Wetherell answered. “What do you wish to say?”

“If the boys was to see me speakin’ to you, they might git
suspicious--you understand,” he confided, his manner conveying a hint
that they shared some common policy.

“I don’t meddle with politics,” said Wetherell, desperately.

“Exactly!” answered Bijah, coming even closer. “I knowed you was a
level-headed man, moment I set eyes on you. Made up my mind I’d have a
little talk in private with you--you understand. The boys hain’t got no
reason to suspicion you care anything about politics, have they?”

“None whatever.”

“You don’t pay no attention to what they say?”

“None.”

“You hear it?”

“Sometimes I can’t help it.”

“Ex’actly! You hear it.”

“I told you I couldn’t help it.”

“Want you should vote right when the time comes,” said Bijah. “D-don’t
want to see such an intelligent man go wrong an’ be sorry for it--you
understand. Chester Perkins is hare-brained. Jethro Bass runs things in
this state.”

“Mr. Bixby--”

“You understand,” said Bijah, screwing up his face. “Guess your watch
is a-comin’ out.” He tucked it back caressingly, and started for the
door--the back door. Involuntarily Wetherell put his hand to his pocket,
felt something crackle under it, and drew the something out. To his
amazement it was a ten-dollar bill.

“Here!” he cried so sharply in his fright that Mr. Bixby, turned around.
Wetherell ran after him. “Take this back!”

“Guess you got me,” said Bijah. “W-what is it?”

“This money is yours,” cried Wetherell, so loudly that Bijah started and
glanced at the front of the store.

“Guess you made some mistake,” he said, staring at the storekeeper with
such amazing innocence that he began to doubt his senses, and clutched
the bill to see if it was real.

“But I had no money in my pocket,” said Wetherell, perplexedly. And
then, gaining, indignation, “Take this to the man who sent you, and give
it back to him.”

But Bijah merely whispered caressingly in his ear, “Nobody sent me,--you
understand,--nobody sent me,” and was gone. Wetherell stood for a
moment, dazed by the man’s audacity, and then, hurrying to the front
stoop, the money still in his hand, he perceived Mr. Bixby in the sunlit
road walking, Jethro-fashion, toward Ephraim Prescott’s harness shop.

“Why, Daddy,” said Cynthia, coming in from the garden, “where did you
get all that money? Your troubles must feel better.”

“It is not mine,” said Wetherell, starting. And then, quivering with
anger and mortification, he sank down on the stoop to debate what he
should do.

“Is it somebody else’s?” asked the child, presently.

“Yes.”

“Then why don’t you give it back to them, Daddy?”

How was Wetherell to know, in his fright, that Mr. Bixby had for once
indulged in an overabundance of zeal in Jethro’s behalf? He went to the
door, laughter came to him across the green from the harness shop, and
his eye following the sound, fastened on Bijah seated comfortably in the
midst of the group there. Bitterly the storekeeper comprehended that,
had he possessed courage, he would have marched straight after Mr. Bixby
and confronted him before them all with the charge of bribery. The blood
throbbed in his temples, and yet he sat there, trembling, despising
himself, repeating that he might have had the courage if Jethro Bass
had not bought the mortgage. The fear of the man had entered the
storekeeper’s soul.

“Does it belong to that man over there?” asked Cynthia.

“Yes.”

“I’ll take it to him, Daddy,” and she held out her hand.

“Not now,” Wetherell answered nervously, glancing at the group. He went
into the store, addressed an envelope to “Mr. Bijah Bixby of Clovelly,”
 and gave it to Cynthia. “When he comes back for his wagon, hand it to
him,” he said, feeling that he would rather, at that moment, face the
devil himself than Mr. Bixby.

Half an hour later, Cynthia gave Mr. Bixby the envelope as he unhitched
his horse; and so deftly did Bijah slip it into his pocket, that he must
certainly have misjudged its contents. None of the loungers at Ephraim’s
remarked the transaction.

If Jethro had indeed instructed Bijah to look after his flock at
Coniston, it was an ill-conditioned move, and some of the flock resented
it when they were quite sure that Bijah was climbing the notch road
toward Clovelly. The discussion (from which the storekeeper was
providentially omitted) was in full swing when the stage arrived, and
Lem Hallowell’s voice silenced the uproar. It was Lem’s boast that he
never had been and never would be a politician.

“Why don’t you folks quit railin’ against Jethro and do somethin’?” he
said. “Bije turns up here, and you all scatter like a flock of crows.
I’m tired of makin’ complaints about that Brampton road, and to-day the
hull side of it give way, and put me in the ditch. Sure as the sun rises
to-morrow, I’m goin’ to make trouble for Jethro.”

“What be you a-goin’ to do, Lem?”

“Indict the town,” replied Lem, vigorously. “Who is the town? Jethro,
hain’t he? Who has charge of the highways? Jethro Bass, Chairman of the
Selectmen. I’ve spoke to him, time and agin, about that piece, and
he hain’t done nothin’. To-night I go to Harwich and git the court to
app’int an agent to repair that road, and the town’ll hev to pay the
bill.”

The boldness of Lem’s intention for the moment took away their breaths,
and then the awe-stricken hush which followed his declaration was broken
by the sound of Chester’s fist hammering on the counter.

“That’s the sperrit,” he cried; “I’ll go along with you, Lem.”

“No, you won’t,” said Lem, “you’ll stay right whar you be.”

“Chester wants to git credit for the move,” suggested Sam Price, slyly.

“It’s a lie, Sam Price,” shouted Chester. “What made you sneak off when
Bije Bixby come?”

“Didn’t sneak off,” retorted Sam, indignantly, through his nose; “forgot
them eggs I left to home.”

“Sam,” said Lem, with a wink at Moses Hatch, “you hitch up your hoss and
fetch me over to Harwich to git that indictment. Might git a chance to
see that lady.”

“Wal, now, I wish I could, Lem, but my hoss is stun lame.”

There was a roar of laughter, during which Sam tried to look
unconcerned.

“Mebbe Rias’ll take me over,” said Lem, soberly. “You hitch up, Rias?”

“He’s gone,” said Joe Northcutt, “slid out the door when you was
speakin’ to Sam.”

“Hain’t none of you folks got spunk enough to carry me over to see the
jedge?” demanded Lem; “my horses ain’t fit to travel to-night.” Another
silence followed, and Lem laughed contemptuously but good-naturedly, and
turned on his heel. “Guess I’ll walk, then,” he said.

“You kin have my white hoss, Lem,” said Moses Hatch.

“All right,” said Lem; “I’ll come round and hitch up soon’s I git my
supper.”

An hour later, when Cynthia and her father and Millicent Skinner--who
condescended to assist in the work and cooking of Mr. Wetherell’s
household--were seated at supper in the little kitchen behind the store,
the head and shoulders of the stage-driver were thrust in at the window,
his face shining from its evening application of soap and water. He was
making eyes at Cynthia.

“Want to go to Harwich, Will?” he asked.

William set his cup down quickly.

“You hain’t afeard, be you?” he continued. “Most folks that hasn’t went
West or died is afeard of Jethro Bass.”

“Daddy isn’t afraid of him, and I’m not,” said Cynthia.

“That’s right, Cynthy,” said Lem, leaning over and giving a tug to the
pigtail that hung down her back; “there hain’t nothin’ to be afeard of.”

“I like him,” said Cynthia; “he’s very good to me.”

“You stick to him, Cynthy,” said the stage driver.

“Ready, Will?”

It may readily be surmised that Mr. Wetherell did not particularly wish
to make this excursion, the avowed object of which was to get Mr. Bass
into trouble. But he went, and presently he found himself jogging along
on the mountain road to Harwich. From the crest of Town’s End ridge they
looked upon the western peaks tossing beneath a golden sky. The spell of
the evening’s beauty seemed to have fallen on them both, and for a long
time Lem spoke not a word, and nodded smilingly but absently to the
greetings that came from the farm doorways.

“Will,” he said at last, “you acted sensible. There’s no mite of use of
your gettin’ mixed up in politics. You’re too good for ‘em.”

“Too good!” exclaimed the storekeeper.

“You’re eddicated,” Lem replied, with a tactful attempt to cover up a
deficiency; “you’re a gentleman, ef you do keep store.”

Lemuel apparently thought that gentlemen and politics were
contradictions. He began to whistle, while Wetherell sat and wondered
that any one could be so care-free on such a mission. The day faded, and
went out, and the lights of Harwich twinkled in the valley. Wetherell
was almost tempted to mention his trouble to this man, as he had been to
Ephraim: the fear that each might think he wished to borrow money held
him back.

“Jethro’s all right,” Lem remarked, “but if he neglects the road, he’s
got to stand for it, same’s any other. I writ him twice to the capital,
and give him fair warning afore he went. He knows I hain’t doin’ of it
for politics. I’ve often thought,” Lem continued, “that ef some smart,
good woman could have got hold of him when he was young, it would have
made a big difference. What’s the matter?”

“Have you room enough?”

“I guess I’ve got the hull seat,” said Lem. “As I was sayin’, if some
able woman had married Jethro and made him look at things a little mite
different, he would have b’en a big man. He has all the earmarks. Why,
when he comes back to Coniston, them fellers’ll hunt their holes like
rabbits, mark my words.”

“You don’t think--”

“Don’t think what?”

“I understand he holds the mortgages of some of them,” said Wetherell.

“Shouldn’t blame him a great deal ef he did git tired and sell Chester
out soon. This thing happens regular as leap year.”

“Jethro Bass doesn’t seem to frighten you,” said the storekeeper.

“Well,” said Lem, “I hain’t afeard of him, that’s so. For the life of
me, I can’t help likin’ him, though he does things that I wouldn’t do
for all the power in Christendom. Here’s Jedge Parkinson’s house.”

Wetherell remained in the wagon while Lemuel went in to transact his
business. The judge’s house, outlined in the starlight, was a modest
dwelling with a little porch and clambering vines, set back in its own
garden behind a picket fence. Presently, from the direction of the
lines of light in the shutters, came the sound of voices, Lem’s deep
and insistent, and another, pitched in a high nasal key, deprecatory and
protesting. There was still another, a harsh one that growled something
unintelligible, and Wetherell guessed, from the fragments which he
heard, that the judge before sitting down to his duty was trying to
dissuade the stage driver from a step that was foolhardy. He guessed
likewise that Lem was not to be dissuaded. At length a silence followed,
then the door swung open, and three figures came down the illuminated
path.

“Like to make you acquainted with Jedge Abner Parkinson, Mr. Wetherell,
and Jim Irving. Jim’s the sheriff of Truro County, and I guess the
jedge don’t need any recommendation as a lawyer from me. You won’t mind
stayin’ awhile with the jedge while Jim and I go down town with the
team? You’re both literary folks.”

Wetherell followed the judge into the house. He was sallow, tall
and spare and stooping, clean-shaven, with a hooked nose and bright
eyes--the face of an able and adroit man, and he wore the long black
coat of the politician-lawyer. The room was filled with books, and from
these Judge Parkinson immediately took his cue, probably through a fear
that Wetherell might begin on the subject of Lemuel’s errand. However,
it instantly became plain that the judge was a true book lover, and
despite the fact that Lem’s visit had disturbed him not a little, he
soon grew animated in a discussion on the merits of Sir Walter Scott,
paced the room, pitched his nasal voice higher and higher, covered his
table with volumes of that author to illustrate his meaning. Neither
of them heard a knock, and they both stared dumfounded at the man who
filled the doorway.

It was Jethro Bass!

He entered the room with characteristic unconcern, as if he had just
left it on a trivial errand, and without a “How do you do?” or a “Good
evening,” parted his coat tails, and sat down in the judge’s armchair.
The judge dropped the volume of Scott on the desk, and as for Wetherell,
he realized for once the full meaning of the biblical expression of
a man’s tongue cleaving to the roof of his mouth; the gleam of one of
Jethro’s brass buttons caught his eye and held it fascinated.

“Literary talk, Judge?” said Jethro. “D-don’t mind me--go on.”

“Thought you were at the capital,” said the judge, reclaiming some of
his self-possession.

“Good many folks thought so,” answered Jethro, “g-good many folks.”

There was no conceivable answer to this, so the judge sat down with an
affectation of ease. He was a man on whom dignity lay heavily, and
was not a little ruffled because Wetherell had been a witness of
his discomfiture. He leaned back in his chair, then leaned forward,
stretching his neck and clearing his throat, a position in which he bore
a ludicrous resemblance to a turkey gobbler.

“Most through the Legislature?” inquired the judge.

“‘Bout as common,” said Jethro.

There was a long silence, and, forgetful for the moment of his own
predicament, Wetherell found a fearful fascination in watching the
contortions of the victim whose punishment was to precede his. It had
been one of the delights of Louis XI to contemplate the movements of a
certain churchman whom he had had put in a cage, and some inkling of the
pleasure to be derived from this pastime of tyrants dawned on Wetherell.
Perhaps the judge, too, thought of this as he looked at “Quentin
Durward” on the table.

“I was just sayin’ to Lem Hallowell,” began the judge, at last, “that I
thought he was a little mite hasty--”

“Er--indicted us, Judge?” said Jethro.

The judge and Wetherell heard the question with different emotions. Mr.
Parkinson did not seem astonished at the miracle which had put Jethro in
possession of this information, but heaved a long sigh of relief, as a
man will when the worst has at length arrived.

“I had to, Jethro--couldn’t help it. I tried to get Hallowell to wait
till you come back and talk it over friendly, but he wouldn’t listen;
said the road was dangerous, and that he’d spoken about it too often. He
said he hadn’t anything against you.”

“Didn’t come in to complain,” said Jethro, “didn’t come in to complain.
Road is out of repair. W-what’s the next move?”

“I’m sorry, Jethro--I swan I’m sorry.” He cleared his throat. “Well,” he
continued in his judicial manner, “the court has got to appoint an agent
to repair that road, the agent will present the bill, and the town will
have to pay the bill--whatever it is. It’s too bad, Jethro, that you
have allowed this to be done.”

“You say you’ve got to app’int an agent?”

“Yes--I’m sorry--”

“Have you app’inted one?”

“No.”

“G-got any candidates?”

The judge scratched his head.

“Well, I don’t know as I have.”

“Well, have you?”

“No,” said the judge.

“A-any legal objection to my bein’ app’inted?” asked Jethro.

The judge looked at him and gasped. But the look was an involuntary
tribute of admiration.

“Well,” he said hesitatingly, “I don’t know as there is, Jethro. No,
there’s no legal objection to it.”

“A-any other kind of objection?” said Jethro.

The judge appeared to reflect.

“Well, no,” he said at last, “I don’t know as there is.”

“Well, is there?” said Jethro, again.

“No,” said the judge, with the finality of a decision. A smile seemed to
be pulling at the corners of his mouth.

“Well, I’m a candidate,” said Jethro.

“Do you tell me, Jethro, that you want me to appoint you agent to fix
that road?”

“I-I’m a candidate.”

“Well,” said the judge, rising, “I’ll do it.”

“When?” said Jethro, sitting still.

“I’ll send the papers over to you within two or three days.

“O-ought to be done right away, Judge. Road’s in bad shape.”

“Well, I’ll send the papers over to you to-morrow.”

“How long--would it take to make out that app’intment--how long?”

“It wouldn’t take but a little while.”

“I’ll wait,” said Jethro.

“Do you want to take the appointment along with you to-night?” asked the
judge, in surprise.

“G-guess that’s about it.”

Without a word the judge went over to his table, and for a while the
silence was broken only by the scratching of his pen.

“Er--interested in roads,--Will,--interested in roads?”

The judge stopped writing to listen, since it was now the turn of the
other victim.

“Not particularly,” answered Mr. Wetherell, whose throat was dry.

“C-come over for the drive--c-come over for the drive?”

“Yes,” replied the storekeeper, rather faintly.

“H-how’s Cynthy?” said Jethro.

The storekeeper was too astonished to answer. At that moment there was
a heavy step in the doorway, and Lem Hallowell entered the room. He took
one long look at Jethro and bent over and slapped his hand on his knee,
and burst out laughing.

“So here you be!” he cried. “By Godfrey! ef you don’t beat all outdoors,
Jethro. Wal, I got ahead of ye for once, but you can’t say I didn’t warn
ye. Come purty nigh bustin’ the stage on that road today, and now I’m
a-goin’ to hev an agent app’inted.”

“W-who’s the agent?” said Jethro.

“We’ll git one. Might app’int Will, there, only he don’t seem to want to
get mixed up in it.”

“There’s the agent,” cried the judge, holding out the appointment to
Jethro.

“Wh-what?” ejaculated Lem.

Jethro took the appointment, and put it in his cowhide wallet.

“Be you the agent?” demanded the amazed stage driver.

“C-callate to be,” said Jethro, and without a smile or another word to
any one he walked out into the night, and after various exclamations of
astonishment and admiration, the stage driver followed.

No one, indeed, could have enjoyed this unexpected coup of Jethro’s more
than Lem himself, and many times on their drive homeward he burst into
loud and unexpected fits of laughter at the sublime conception of the
Chairman of the Selectmen being himself appointed road agent.

“Will,” said he, “don’t you tell this to a soul. We’ll have some fun out
of some of the boys to-morrow.”

The storekeeper promised, but he had an unpleasant presentiment that he
himself might be one of the boys in question.

“How do you suppose Jethro Bass knew you were going to indict the town?”
 he asked of the stage driver.

Lem burst into fresh peals of laughter; but this was something which he
did not attempt to answer.



CHAPTER X

It so happened that there was a certain spinster whom Sam Price had been
trying to make up his mind to marry for ten years or more, and it was
that gentleman’s habit to spend at least one day in the month in Harwich
for the purpose of paying his respects. In spite of the fact that his
horse had been “stun lame” the night before, Mr. Price was able to start
for Harwich, via Brampton, very early the next morning. He was driving
along through Northcutt’s woods with one leg hanging over the wheel,
humming through his nose what we may suppose to have been a love-ditty,
and letting his imagination run riot about the lady in question, when he
nearly fell out of his wagon. The cause of this was the sight of fat Tom
coming around a corner, with Jethro Bass behind him. Lem Hallowell
and the storekeeper had kept their secret so well that Sam, if he was
thinking about Jethro at all, believed him at that moment to be seated
in the Throne Room at the Pelican House, in the capital.

Mr. Price, however, was one of an adaptable nature, and by the time he
had pulled up beside Jethro he had recovered sufficiently to make a few
remarks on farming subjects, and finally to express a polite surprise at
Jethro’s return.

“But you come a little mite late, hain’t you, Jethro?” he asked finally,
with all of the indifference he could assume.

“H-how’s that, Sam--how’s that?”

“It’s too bad,--I swan it is,--but Lem Hallowell rode over to Harwich
last night and indicted the town for that piece of road by the Four
Corners. Took Will Wetherell along with him.”

“D-don’t say so!” said Jethro.

“I callate he done it,” responded Sam, pulling a long face. “The
court’ll hev to send an agent to do the job, and I guess you’ll hev to
foot the bill, Jethro.”

“C-court’ll hev to app’int an agent?”

“I callate.”

“Er--you a candidate--Sam--you a candidate?”

“Don’t know but what I be,” answered the usually wary Mr. Price.

“G-goin’ to Harwich--hain’t you?”

“Mebbe I be, and mebbe I hain’t,” said Sam, not able to repress a
self-conscious snicker.

“M-might as well be you as anybody, Sam,” said Jethro, as he drove on.

It was not strange that the idea, thus planted, should grow in Mr.
Price’s favor as he proceeded. He had been surprised at Jethro’s
complaisance, and he wondered whether, after all, he had done well
to help Chester stir people up at this time. When he reached Harwich,
instead of presenting himself promptly at the spinster’s house, he
went first to the office of Judge Parkinson, as became a prudent man of
affairs.

Perhaps there is no need to go into the details of Mr. Price’s
discomfiture on the occasion of this interview. The judge was by nature
of a sour disposition, but he haw-hawed so loudly as he explained to Mr.
Price the identity of the road agent that the judge of probate in the
next office thought his colleague had gone mad. Afterward Mr. Price
stood for some time in the entry, where no one could see him, scratching
his head and repeating his favorite exclamation, “I want to know!” It
has been ascertained that he omitted to pay his respects to the spinster
on that day.

Cyamon Johnson carried the story back to Coniston, where it had the
effect of eliminating Mr. Price from local politics for some time to
come.

That same morning Chester Perkins was seen by many driving wildly about
from farm to farm, supposedly haranguing his supporters to make a
final stand against the tyrant, but by noon it was observed by those
naturalists who were watching him that his activity had ceased. Chester
arrived at dinner time at Joe Northcutt’s, whose land bordered on the
piece of road which had caused so much trouble, and Joe and half a dozen
others had been at work there all morning under the road agent whom
Judge Parkinson had appointed. Now Mrs. Northcutt was Chester’s sister,
a woman who in addition to other qualities possessed the only sense
of humor in the family. She ushered the unsuspecting Chester into the
kitchen, and there, seated beside Joe and sipping a saucer of very hot
coffee, was Jethro Bass himself. Chester halted in the doorway, his face
brick-red, words utterly failing him, while Joe sat horror-stricken,
holding aloft on his fork a smoking potato. Jethro continued to sip his
coffee.

“B-busy times, Chester,” he said, “b-busy times.”

Chester choked. Where were the burning words of denunciation which came
so easily to his tongue on other occasions? It is difficult to denounce
a man who insists upon drinking coffee.

“Set right down, Chester,” said Mrs. Northcutt, behind him.

Chester sat down, and to this day he cannot account for that action.
Once seated, habit asserted itself; and he attacked the boiled dinner
with a ferocity which should have been exercised against Jethro.

“I suppose the stores down to the capital is finer than ever, Mr. Bass,”
 remarked Mrs. Northcutt.

“So-so, Mis’ Northcutt, so-so.”

“I was there ten years ago,” remarked Mrs. Northcutt, with a sigh of
reminiscence, “and I never see such fine silks and bonnets in my life.
Now I’ve often wanted to ask you, did you buy that bonnet with the
trembly jet things for Mis’ Bass?”

“That bonnet come out full better’n I expected,” answered Jethro,
modestly.

“You have got taste in wimmin’s fixin’s, Mr. Bass. Strange? Now I
wouldn’t let Joe choose my things for worlds.”

So the dinner progressed, Joe with his eyes on his plate, Chester
silent, but bursting with anger and resentment, until at last Jethro
pushed back his chair, and said good day to Mrs. Northcutt and walked
out. Chester got up instantly and went after him, and Joe, full of
forebodings, followed his brother-in-law! Jethro was standing calmly on
the grass plot, whittling a toothpick. Chester stared at him a moment,
and then strode off toward the barn, unhitched his horse and jumped in
his wagon. Something prompted him to take another look at Jethro, who
was still whittling.

“C-carry me down to the road, Chester--c-carry me down to the road?”
 said Jethro.

Joe Northcutt’s knees gave way under him, and he sat down on a sugar
kettle. Chester tightened up his reins so suddenly that his horse
reared, while Jethro calmly climbed into the seat beside him and they
drove off. It was some time before Joe had recovered sufficiently to
arise and repair to the scene of operations on the road.

It was Joe who brought the astounding news to the store that evening.
Chester was Jethro’s own candidate for senior Selectman! Jethro himself
had said so, that he would be happy to abdicate in Chester’s favor, and
make it unanimous--Chester having been a candidate so many times, and
disappointed.

“Whar’s Chester?” said Lem Hallowell.

Joe pulled a long face.

“Just come from his house, and he hain’t done a lick of work sence noon
time. Jest sets in a corner--won’t talk, won’t eat--jest sets thar.”

Lem sat down on the counter and laughed until he was forced to brush
the tears from his cheeks at the idea of Chester Perkins being Jethro’s
candidate. Where was reform now? If Chester were elected, it would be in
the eyes of the world as Jethro’s man. No wonder he sat in a corner and
refused to eat.

“Guess you’ll ketch it next, Will, for goin’ over to Harwich with Lem,”
 Joe remarked playfully to the storekeeper, as he departed.

These various occurrences certainly did not tend to allay the uneasiness
of Mr. Wetherell. The next afternoon, at a time when a slack trade
was slackest, he had taken his chair out under the apple tree and
was sitting with that same volume of Byron in his lap--but he was
not reading. The humorous aspects of the doings of Mr. Bass did not
particularly appeal to him now; and he was, in truth, beginning to hate
this man whom the fates had so persistently intruded into his life.
William Wetherell was not, it may have been gathered, what may be called
vindictive. He was a sensitive, conscientious person whose life should
have been in the vale; and yet at that moment he had a fierce desire to
confront Jethro Bass and--and destroy him. Yes, he felt equal to that.

Shocks are not very beneficial to sensitive natures. William Wetherell
looked up, and there was Jethro Bass on the doorstep.

“G-great resource--readin’--great resource,” he remarked.

In this manner Jethro snuffed out utterly that passion to destroy,
and another sensation took its place--a sensation which made it very
difficult for William Wetherell to speak, but he managed to reply that
reading had been a great resource to him. Jethro had a parcel in his
hand, and he laid it down on the step beside him; and he seemed, for
once in his life, to be in a mood for conversation.

“It’s hard for me to read a book,” he observed. “I own to it--it’s a
little mite hard. H-hev to kind of spell it out in places. Hain’t had
much time for readin’. But it’s kind of pleasant to l’arn what other
folks has done in the world by pickin’ up a book. T-takes your mind off
things--don’t it?”

Wetherell felt like saying that his reading had not been able to do that
lately. Then he made the plunge, and shuddered as he made it.

“Mr. Bass--I--I have been waiting to speak to you about that mortgage.”

“Er--yes,” he answered, without moving his head, “er--about the
mortgage.”

“Mr. Worthington told me that you had bought it.”

“Yes, I did--yes, I did.”

“I’m afraid you will have to foreclose,” said Wetherell; “I cannot
reasonably ask you to defer the payments any longer.”

“If I foreclose it, what will you do?” he demanded abruptly.

There was but one answer--Wetherell would have to go back to the city
and face the consequences. He had not the strength to earn his bread on
a farm.

“If I’d a b’en in any hurry for the money--g-guess I’d a notified you,”
 said Jethro.

“I think you had better foreclose, Mr. Bass,” Wetherell answered; “I
can’t hold out any hopes to you that it will ever be possible for me to
pay it off. It’s only fair to tell you that.”

“Well,” he said, with what seemed a suspicion of a smile, “I don’t know
but what that’s about as honest an answer as I ever got.”

“Why did you do it?” Wetherell cried, suddenly goaded by another fear;
“why did you buy that mortgage?”

But this did not shake his composure.

“H-have a little habit of collectin’ ‘em,” he answered, “same as you do
books. G-guess some of ‘em hain’t as valuable.”

William Wetherell was beginning to think that Jethro knew something also
of such refinements of cruelty as were practised by Caligula. He
drew forth his cowhide wallet and produced from it a folded piece of
newspaper which must, Wetherell felt sure, contain the mortgage in
question.

“There’s one power I always wished I had,” he observed, “the power
to make folks see some things as I see ‘em. I was acrost the Water
to-night, on my hill farm, when the sun set, and the sky up thar above
the mountain was all golden bars, and the river all a-flamin’ purple,
just as if it had been dyed by some of them Greek gods you’re readin’
about. Now if I could put them things on paper, I wouldn’t care a
haycock to be President. No, sir.”

The storekeeper’s amazement as he listened to this speech may be
imagined. Was this Jethro Bass? If so, here was a side of him the
existence of which no one suspected. Wetherell forgot the matter in
hand.

“Why don’t you put that on paper?” he exclaimed.

Jethro smiled, and made a deprecating motion with his thumb.

“Sometimes when I hain’t busy, I drop into the state library at the
capital and enjoy myself. It’s like goin’ to another world without
any folks to bother you. Er--er--there’s books I’d like to talk to you
about--sometime.”

“But I thought you told me you didn’t read much, Mr. Bass?”

He made no direct reply, but unfolded the newspaper in his hand, and
then Wetherell saw that it was only a clipping.

“H-happened to run across this in a newspaper--if this hain’t this
county, I wahn’t born and raised here. If it hain’t Coniston Mountain
about seven o’clock of a June evening, I never saw Coniston Mountain.
Er--listen to this.”

Whereupon he read, with a feeling which Wetherell had not supposed he
possessed, an extract: and as the storekeeper listened his blood began
to run wildly. At length Jethro put down the paper without glancing at
his companion.

“There’s somethin’ about that that fetches you spinnin’ through the
air,” he said slowly. “Sh-showed it to Jim Willard, editor of the
Newcastle Guardian. Er--what do you think he said?”

“I don’t know,” said Wetherell, in a low voice.

“Willard said, ‘Bass, w-wish you’d find me that man. I’ll give him five
dollars every week for a letter like that--er--five dollars a week.’”

He paused, folded up the paper again and put it in his pocket, took out
a card and handed it to Wetherell.

        James G. Willard, Editor.
         Newcastle Guardian.

“That’s his address,” said Jethro. “Er--guess you’ll know what to do
with it. Er--five dollars a week--five dollars a week.”

“How did you know I wrote this article?” said Wetherell, as the card
trembled between his fingers.

“K-knowed the place was Coniston seen from the ‘east, knowed there
wahn’t any one is Brampton or Harwich could have done it--g-guessed the
rest--guessed the rest.”

Wetherell could only stare at him like a man who, with the halter about
his neck, has been suddenly reprieved. But Jethro Bass did not appear to
be waiting for thanks. He cleared his throat, and had Wetherell not been
in such a condition himself, he would actually have suspected him of
embarrassment.

“Er--Wetherell?”

“Yes?”

“W-won’t say nothin’ about the mortgage--p-pay it when you can.”

This roused the storekeeper to a burst of protest, but he stemmed it.

“Hain’t got the money, have you?”

“No--but--”

“If I needed money, d’ye suppose I’d bought the mortgage?”

“No,” answered the still bewildered Wetherell, “of course not.” There
he stuck, that other suspicion of political coercion suddenly rising
uppermost. Could this be what the man meant? Wetherell put his hand
to his head, but he did not dare to ask the question. Then Jethro Bass
fixed his eyes upon him.

“Hain’t never mixed any in politics--hev you n-never mixed any?”

Wetherell’s heart sank.

“No,” he answered.

“D-don’t--take my advice--d-don’t.”

“What!” cried the storekeeper, so loudly that he frightened himself.

“D-don’t,” repeated Jethro, imperturbably.

There was a short silence, the storekeeper being unable to speak.
Coniston Water, at the foot of the garden, sang the same song, but it
seemed to Wetherell to have changed its note from sorrow to joy.

“H-hear things, don’t you--hear things in the store?”

“Yes.”

“Don’t hear ‘em. Keep out of politics, Will, s-stick to store-keepin’
and--and literature.”

Jethro got to his feet and turned his back on the storekeeper and picked
up the parcel he had brought.

“C-Cynthy well?” he inquired.

“I--I’ll call her,” said Wetherell, huskily. “She--she was down by the
brook when you came.”

But Jethro Bass did not wait. He took his parcel and strode down to
Coniston Water, and there he found Cynthia seated on a rock with her
toes in a pool.

“How be you, Cynthy?” said he, looking down at her.

“I’m well, Uncle Jethro,” said Cynthia.

“R-remembered what I told you to call me, hev you,” said Jethro, plainly
pleased. “Th-that’s right. Cynthy?”

Cynthia looked up at him inquiringly.

“S-said you liked books--didn’t you? S-said you liked books?”

“Yes, I do,” she replied simply, “very much.”

He undid the wrapping of the parcel, and there lay disclosed a book with
a very gorgeous cover. He thrust it into the child’s lap.

“It’s ‘Robinson Crusoe’!” she exclaimed, and gave a little shiver of
delight that made ripples in the pool. Then she opened it--not without
awe, for William Wetherell’s hooks were not clothed in this magnificent
manner. “It’s full of pictures,” cried Cynthia. “See, there he is making
a ship!”

“Y-you read it, Cynthy?” asked Jethro, a little anxiously.

No, Cynthia hadn’t.

“L-like it, Cynthy--l-like it?” said he, not quite so anxiously.

Cynthia looked up at him with a puzzled expression.

“F-fetched it up from the capital for you, Cynthy--for you.”

“For me!”

A strange thrill ran through Jethro Bass as he gazed upon the wonder and
delight in the face of the child.

“F-fetched it for you, Cynthy.”

For a moment Cynthia sat very still, and then she slowly closed the book
and stared at the cover again, Jethro looking down at her the while. To
tell the truth, she found it difficult to express the emotions which the
event had summoned up.

“Thank you--Uncle Jethro,” she said.

Jethro, however, understood. He had, indeed, never failed to understand
her from the beginning. He parted his coat tails and sat down on the
rock beside her, and very gently opened the book again, to the first
chapter.

“G-goin’ to read it, Cynthy?”

“Oh, yes,” she said, and trembled again.

“Er--read it to me?”

So Cynthia read “Robinson Crusoe” to him while the summer afternoon wore
away, and the shadows across the pool grew longer and longer.



CHAPTER XI

Thus William Wetherell became established in Coniston, and was started
at last--poor man--upon a life that was fairly tranquil. Lem Hallowell
had once covered him with blushes by unfolding a newspaper in the
store and reading an editorial beginning: “We publish today a new
and attractive feature of the Guardian, a weekly contribution from a
correspondent whose modesty is to be compared only with his genius as a
writer. We are confident that the readers of our Raper will appreciate
the letter in another column signed ‘W. W.’” And from that day William
was accorded much of the deference due to a litterateur which the fates
had hitherto denied him. Indeed, during the six years which we are about
to skip over so lightly, he became a marked man in Coniston, and it was
voted in towns meeting that he be intrusted with that most important of
literary labors, the Town History of Coniston.

During this period, too, there sprang up the strangest of intimacies
between him and Jethro Bass. Surely no more dissimilar men than these
have ever been friends, and that the friendship was sometimes misjudged
was one of the clouds on William Wetherell’s horizon. As the years went
on he was still unable to pay off the mortgage; and sometimes, indeed,
he could not even meet the interest, in spite of the princely sum he
received from Mr. Willard of the Guardian. This was one of the clouds on
Jethro’s horizon, too, if men had but known it, and he took such moneys
as Wetherell insisted upon giving him grudgingly enough. It is needless
to say that he refrained from making use of Mr. Wetherell politically,
although no poorer vessel for political purposes was ever constructed.
It is quite as needless to say, perhaps, that Chester Perkins never got
to be Chairman of the Board of Selectmen.

After Aunt Listy died, Jethro was more than ever to be found, when in
Coniston, in the garden or the kitchen behind the store. Yes, Aunt Listy
is dead. She has flitted through these pages as she flitted through life
itself, arrayed by Jethro like the rainbow, and quite as shadowy and
unreal. There is no politician of a certain age in the state who does
not remember her walking, clad in dragon-fly colors, through the streets
of the capital on Jethro’s arm, or descending the stairs of the Pelican
House to supper. None of Jethro’s detractors may say that he ever failed
in kindness to her, and he loved her as much as was in his heart to love
any woman after Cynthia Ware. As for Aunt Listy, she never seemed to
feel any resentment against the child Jethro brought so frequently to
Thousand Acre Hill. Poor Aunt Listy! some people used to wonder whether
she ever felt any emotion at all. But I believe that she did, in her own
way.

It is a well-known fact that Mr. Bijah Bixby came over from Clovelly, to
request the place of superintendent of the funeral, a position which had
already been filled. A special office, too, was created on this occasion
for an old supporter of Jethro’s, Senator Peleg Hartington of Brampton.
He was made chairman of the bearers, of whom Ephraim Prescott was one.

After this, as we have said, Jethro was more than ever at the store--or
rather in that domestic domain behind it which Wetherell and Cynthia
shared with Miss Millicent Skinner. Moses Hatch was wont to ask Cynthia
how her daddies were. It was he who used to clear out the road to the
little schoolhouse among the birches when the snow almost buried the
little village, and on sparkling mornings after the storms his oxen
would stop to breathe in front of the store, a cluster of laughing
children clinging to the snow-plough and tumbling over good-natured
Moses in their frolics. Cynthia became a country girl, and grew long and
lithe of limb, and weather-burnt, and acquired an endurance that spoke
wonders for the life-giving air of Coniston. But she was a serious
child, and Wetherell and Jethro sometimes wondered whether she was ever
a child at all. When Eben Hatch fell from the lumber pile on the ice,
it was she who bound the cut in his head; and when Tom Richardson
unexpectedly embraced the schoolhouse stove, Cynthia, not Miss Rebecca
Northcutt, took charge of the situation.

It was perhaps inevitable, with such a helpless father, that the girl
should grow up with a sense of responsibility, being what she was. Did
William Wetherell go to Brampton, Cynthia examined his apparel, and he
was marched shamefacedly back to his room to change; did he read too
late at night, some unseen messenger summoned her out of her sleep, and
he was packed off to bed. Miss Millicent Skinner, too, was in a like
mysterious way compelled to abdicate her high place in favor of Cynthia,
and Wetherell was utterly unable to explain how this miracle was
accomplished. Not only did Millicent learn to cook, but Cynthia, at
the age of fourteen, had taught her. Some wit once suggested that the
national arms of the United States should contain the emblem of crossed
frying-pans, and Millicent was in this respect a true American. When
Wetherell began to suffer from her pies and doughnuts, the revolution
took place--without stampeding, or recriminations, or trouble of any
kind. One evening he discovered Cynthia, decked in an apron, bending
over the stove, and Millicent looking on with an expression that was
(for Millicent) benign.

This was to some extent explained, a few days later, when Wetherell
found himself gazing across the counter at the motherly figure of Mrs.
Moses Hatch, who held the well-deserved honor of being the best cook in
Coniston.

“Hain’t had so much stomach trouble lately, Will?” she remarked.

“No,” he answered, surprised; “Cynthia is learning to cook.”

“Guess she is,” said Mrs. Moses. “That gal is worth any seven grown-up
women in town. And she was four nights settin’ in my kitchen before I
knowed what she was up to.”

“So you taught her, Amanda?

“I taught her some. She callated that Milly was killin’ you, and I guess
she was.”

During her school days, Jethro used frequently to find himself in
front of the schoolhouse when the children came trooping out--quite
by accident, of course. Winter or summer, when he went away on his
periodical trips, he never came back without a little remembrance in his
carpet bag, usually a book, on the subject of which he had spent hours
in conference with the librarian at the state library at the capital.
But in June of the year when Cynthia was fifteen, Jethro yielded to
that passion which was one of the man’s strangest characteristics, and
appeared one evening in the garden behind the store with a bundle which
certainly did not contain a book. With all the gravity of a ceremony he
took off the paper, and held up in relief against the astonished Cynthia
a length of cardinal cloth. William Wetherell, who was looking out
of the window, drew his breath, and even Jethro drew back with an
exclamation at the change wrought in her. But Cynthia snatched the roll
from his hand and wound it up with a feminine deftness.

“Wh-what’s the matter, Cynthy?”

“Oh, I can’t wear that, Uncle Jethro,” she said.

“C-can’t wear it! Why not?”

Cynthia sat down on the grassy mound under the apple tree and clasped
her hands across her knees. She looked up at him and shook her head.

“Don’t you see that I couldn’t wear it, Uncle Jethro?”

“Why not?” he demanded. “Ch-change it if you’ve a mind to hev green.”

She shook her head, and smiled at him a little sadly.

“T-took me a full hour to choose that, Cynthy,” said he. “H-had to go to
Boston so I got it there.”

He was, indeed, grievously disappointed at this reception of his gift,
and he stood eying the cardinal cloth very mournfully as it lay on the
paper. Cynthia, remorseful, reached up and seized his hand.

“Sit down here, Uncle Jethro.” He sat down on the mound beside her, very
much perplexed. She still held his hand in hers. “Uncle Jethro,” she
said slowly, “you mustn’t think I’m not grateful.”

“N-no,” he answered; “I don’t think that, Cynthy. I know you be.”

“I am grateful--I’m very grateful for everything you give me, although I
should love you just as much if you didn’t give me anything.”

She was striving very hard not to offend him, for in some ways he was
as sensitive as Wetherell himself. Even Coniston folk had laughed at the
idiosyncrasy which Jethro had of dressing his wife in brilliant colors,
and the girl knew this.

“G-got it for you to wear to Brampton on the Fourth of July, Cynthy,” he
said.

“Uncle Jethro, I couldn’t wear that to Brampton!”

“You’d look like a queen,” said he.

“But I’m not a queen,” objected Cynthia.

“Rather hev somethin’ else?”

“Yes,” she said, looking at him suddenly with the gleam of laughter in
her eyes, although she was on the verge of tears.

“Wh-what?” Jethro demanded.

“Well,” said Cynthia, demurely gazing down at her ankles, “shoes and
stockings.” The barefooted days had long gone by.

Jethro laughed. Perhaps some inkling of her reasons came to him, for
he had a strange and intuitive understanding of her. At any rate, he
accepted her decision with a meekness which would have astonished many
people who knew only that side of him which he showed to the world.
Gently she released her hand, and folded up the bundle again and gave it
to him.

“B-better keep it--hadn’t you?”

“No, you keep it. And I will wear it for you when I am rich, Uncle
Jethro.”

Jethro did keep it, and in due time the cardinal cloth had its uses. But
Cynthia did not wear it on the Fourth of July.

That was a great day for Brampton, being not only the nation’s birthday,
but the hundredth year since the adventurous little band of settlers
from Connecticut had first gazed upon Coniston Water at that place.
Early in the morning wagon loads began to pour into Brampton Street
from Harwich, from Coniston, from Tarleton Four Corners, and even from
distant Clovelly, and Brampton was banner-hung for the occasion--flags
across the stores, across the dwellings, and draped along the whole
breadth of the meeting-house; but for sheer splendor the newly built
mansion of Isaac D. Worthington outshone them all. Although its owner
was a professed believer in republican simplicity, no such edifice
ornamented any town to the west of the state capital. Small wonder that
the way in front of it was blocked by a crowd lost in admiration of
its Gothic proportions! It stands to-day one of many monuments to its
builder, with its windows of one pane (unheard-of magnificence), its
tower of stone, its porch with pointed arches and scroll-work. No fence
divides its grounds from the public walk, and on the smooth-shaven lawn
between the ornamental flower beds and the walk stand two stern mastiffs
of iron, emblematic of the solidity and power of their owner. It was
as much to see this house as to hear the oratory that the countryside
flocked to Brampton that day.

All the day before Cynthia and Milly, and many another housewife, had
been making wonderful things for the dinners they were to bring, and
stowing them in the great basket ready for the early morning start. At
six o’clock Jethro’s three-seated farm wagon was in front of the store.
Cousin Ephraim Prescott, in a blue suit and an army felt hat with a
cord, got up behind, a little stiffly by reason of that Wilderness
bullet; and there were also William Wetherell and Lem Hallowell, his
honest face shining, and Sue, his wife, and young Sue and Jock and
Lilian, all a-quiver with excitement in their Sunday best.

And as they drove away there trotted up behind them Moses and Amandy
Hatch, with their farm team, and all the little Hatches,--Eben and
George and Judy and Liza. As they jogged along they drank in the
fragrance of the dew-washed meadows and the pines, and a great
blue heron stood knee-deep on the far side of Deacon Lysander’s old
mill-pond, watching them philosophically as they passed.

It was eight o’clock when they got into the press of Brampton Street,
and there was a hush as they made their way slowly through the throng,
and many a stare at the curious figure in the old-fashioned blue
swallowtail and brass buttons and tall hat, driving the farm wagon.
Husbands pointed him out to their wives, young men to sisters and
sweethearts, some openly, some discreetly. “There goes Jethro Bass,” and
some were bold enough to say, “Howdy, Jethro?” Jake Wheeler was to be
observed in the crowd ahead of them, hurried for once out of his
Jethro step, actually running toward the tavern, lest such a one arrive
unheralded. Commotion is perceived on the tavern porch,--Mr. Sherman,
the proprietor, bustling out, Jake Wheeler beside him; a chorus of “How
be you, Jethros?” from the more courageous there,--but the farm team
jogs on, leaving a discomfited gathering, into the side street, up an
alley, and into the cool, ammonia-reeking sheds of lank Jim Sanborn’s
livery stable. No obsequiousness from lank Jim, who has the traces
slipped and the reins festooned from the bits almost before Jethro has
lifted Cynthia to the floor. Jethro, walking between Cynthia and her
father, led the way, Ephraim, Lem, and Sue Hallowell following, the
children, in unwonted shoes and stockings, bringing up the rear.
The people parted, and presently they found themselves opposite the
new-scrolled band stand among the trees, where the Harwich band in
glittering gold and red had just been installed. The leader; catching
sight of Jethro’s party, and of Ephraim’s corded army hat, made a bow,
waved his baton, and they struck up “Marching through Georgia.” It was,
of course, not dignified to cheer, but I think that the blood of every
man and woman and child ran faster with the music, and so many of them
looked at Cousin Ephraim that he slipped away behind the line of wagons.
So the day began.

“Jest to think of bein’ that rich, Will!” exclaimed Amanda Hatch to the
storekeeper, as they stood in the little group which had gathered in
front of the first citizen’s new mansion. “I own it scares me. Think how
much that house must hev cost, and even them dogs,” said Amanda, staring
at the mastiffs with awe. “They tell me he has a grand piano from
New York, and guests from Boston railroad presidents. I call Isaac
Worthington to mind when he wahn’t but a slip of a boy with a cough,
runnin’ after Cynthy Ware.” She glanced down at Cynthia with something
of compassion. “Just to think, child, he might have be’n your father!”

“I’m glad he isn’t,” said Cynthia, hotly.

“Of course, of course,” replied the good-natured and well-intentioned
Amanda, “I’d sooner have your father than Isaac Worthington. But I was
only thinkin’ how nice it would be to be rich.”

Just then one of the glass-panelled doors of this house opened, and a
good-looking lad of seventeen came out.

“That’s Bob Worthington,” said Amanda, determined that they should miss
nothing. “My! it wahn’t but the other day when he put on long pants. It
won’t be a great while before he’ll go into the mills and git all that
money. Guess he’ll marry some city person. He’d ought to take you,
Cynthy.”

“I don’t want him,” said Cynthia, the color flaming into her cheeks. And
she went off across the green in search of Jethro.

There was a laugh from the honest country folk who had listened. Bob
Worthington came to the edge of the porch and stood there, frankly
scanning the crowd, with an entire lack of self-consciousness. Some of
them shifted nervously, with the New Englander’s dislike of being caught
in the act of sight-seeing.

“What in the world is he starin’ at me for?” said Amanda, backing behind
the bulkier form of her husband. “As I live, I believe he’s comin’
here.”

Young Mr. Worthington was, indeed, descending the steps and walking
across the lawn toward them, nodding and smiling to acquaintances as he
passed. To Wetherell’s astonishment he made directly for the place where
he was standing and held out his hand.

“How do you do, Mr. Wetherell?” he said. “Perhaps you don’t remember
me,--Bob Worthington.”

“I can’t say that I should have known you,” answered the storekeeper.
They were all absurdly silent, thinking of nothing to say and admiring
the boy because he was at ease.

“I hope you have a good seat at the exercises,” he said, pressing
Wetherell’s hand again, and before he could thank him, Bob was off in
the direction of the band stand.

“One thing,” remarked Amanda, “he ain’t much like his dad. You’d never
catch Isaac Worthington bein’ that common.”

Just then there came another interruption for William Wetherell, who was
startled by the sound of a voice in his ear--a nasal voice that awoke
unpleasant recollections. He turned to confront, within the distance of
eight inches, the face of Mr. Bijah Bixby of Clovelly screwed up into
a greeting. The storekeeper had met Mr. Bixby several times since that
first memorable meeting, and on each occasion, as now, his hand had made
an involuntary movement to his watch pocket.

“Hain’t seed you for some time, Will,” remarked Mr. Bixby; “goin’ over
to the exercises? We’ll move along that way,” and he thrust his hand
under Mr. Wetherell’s elbow. “Whar’s Jethro?”

“He’s here somewhere,” answered the storekeeper, helplessly, moving
along in spite of himself.

“Keepin’ out of sight, you understand,” said Bijah, with a knowing wink,
as much as to say that Mr. Wetherell was by this time a past master in
Jethro tactics. Mr. Bixby could never disabuse his mind of a certain
interpretation which he put on the storekeeper’s intimacy with Jethro.
“You done well to git in with him, Will. Didn’t think you had it in you
when I first looked you over.”

Mr. Wetherell wished to make an indignant denial, but he didn’t know
exactly how to begin.

“Smartest man in the United States of America--guess you know that,” Mr.
Bixby continued amiably. “They can’t git at him unless he wants ‘em to.
There’s a railroad president at Isaac Worthington’s who’d like to git at
him to-day,--guess you know that,--Steve Merrill.”

Mr. Wetherell didn’t know, but he was given no time to say so.

“Steve Merrill, of the Grand Gulf and Northern. He hain’t here to see
Worthington; he’s here to see Jethro, when Jethro’s a mind to. Guess you
understand.”

“I know nothing about it,” answered Wetherell, shortly. Mr. Bixby gave
him a look of infinite admiration, as though he could not have pursued
any more admirable line.

“I know Steve Merrill better’n I know you,” said Mr. Bixby, “and he
knows me. Whenever he sees me at the state capital he says, ‘How be you,
Bije?’ just as natural as if I was a railroad president, and slaps me
on the back. When be you goin’ to the capital, Will? You’d ought to come
down and be thar with the boys on this Truro Bill. You could reach some
on ‘em the rest of us couldn’t git at.”

William Wetherell avoided a reply to this very pointed inquiry by
escaping into the meeting-house, where he found Jethro and Cynthia and
Ephraim already seated halfway up the aisle.

On the platform, behind a bank of flowers, are the velvet covered chairs
which contain the dignitaries of the occasion. The chief of these is, of
course, Mr. Isaac Worthington, the one with the hawk-like look, sitting
next to the Rev. Mr. Sweet, who is rather pudgy by contrast. On the
other side of Mr. Sweet, next to the parlor organ and the quartette,
is the genial little railroad president Mr. Merrill, batting the flies
which assail the unprotected crown of his head, and smiling benignly on
the audience.

Suddenly his eye becomes fixed, and he waves a fat hand vigorously at
Jethro, who answers the salute with a nod of unwonted cordiality for
him. Then comes a hush, and the exercises begin.

There is a prayer, of course, by the Rev. Mr. Sweet, and a rendering
of “My Country” and “I would not Change my Lot,” and other choice
selections by the quartette; and an original poem recited with much
feeling by a lady admirer of Miss Lucretia Penniman, and the “Hymn to
Coniston” declaimed by Mr. Gamaliel Ives, president of the Brampton
Literary Club. But the crowning event is, of course, the oration by Mr.
Isaac D. Worthington, the first citizen, who is introduced under that
title by the chairman of the day; and as the benefactor of Brampton, who
has bestowed upon the town the magnificent gift which was dedicated such
a short time ago, the Worthington Free Library.

Mr. Isaac D. Worthington stood erect beside the table, his hand thrust
into the opening of his coat, and spoke at the rate of one hundred and
eight words a minute, for exactly one hour. He sketched with much skill
the creed of the men who had fought their way through the forests to
build their homes by Coniston Water, who had left their clearings to
risk their lives behind Stark and Ethan Allen for that creed; he paid a
graceful tribute to the veterans of the Civil War, scattered among his
hearers--a tribute, by the way, which for some reason made Ephraim very
indignant. Mr. Worthington went on to outline the duty of citizens of
the present day, as he conceived it, and in this connection referred,
with becoming modesty, to the Worthington Free Library. He had made his
money in Brampton, and it was but right that he should spend it for
the benefit of the people of Brampton. The library, continued Mr.
Worthington when the applause was over, had been the dream of a certain
delicate youth who had come, many years ago, to Brampton for his health.
(It is a curious fact, by the way, that Mr. Worthington seldom recalled
the delicate youth now, except upon public occasions.)

Yes, the dream of that youth had been to benefit in some way that
community in which circumstances had decreed that he should live, and
in this connection it might not be out of place to mention a bill then
before the Legislature of the state, now in session. If the bill became
a law, the greatest modern factor of prosperity, the railroad, would
come to Brampton. The speaker was interrupted here by more applause.
Mr. Worthington did not deem it dignified or necessary to state that the
railroad to which he referred was the Truro Railroad; and that he, as
the largest stockholder, might indirectly share that prosperity with
Brampton. That would be wandering too far, from his subject, which, it
will be recalled, was civic duties. He took a glass of water, and went
on to declare that he feared--sadly feared--that the ballot was not held
as sacred as it had once been. He asked the people of Brampton, and
of the state, to stop and consider who in these days made the laws and
granted the franchises. Whereupon he shook his head very slowly and
sadly, as much as to imply that, if the Truro Bill did not pass, the
corruption of the ballot was to blame. No, Mr. Worthington could
think of no better subject on this Birthday of Independence than a
recapitulation of the creed of our forefathers, from which we had so far
wandered.

In short, the first citizen, as became him, had delivered the first
reform speech ever heard in Brampton, and the sensation which it created
was quite commensurate to the occasion. The presence in the audience of
Jethro Bass, at whom many believed the remarks to have been aimed, added
no little poignancy to that sensation, although Jethro gave no outward
signs of the terror and remorse by which he must have been struck while
listening to Mr. Worthington’s ruminations of the corruption of the
ballot. Apparently unconscious of the eyes upon him, he walked out of
the meeting-house with Cynthia by his side, and they stood waiting for
Wetherell and Ephraim under the maple tree there.

The be-ribboned members of the Independence Day committee were now on
the steps, and behind them came Isaac Worthington and Mr. Merrill. The
people, scenting a dramatic situation, lingered. Would the mill owner
speak to the boss? The mill owner, with a glance at the boss, did
nothing of the kind, but immediately began to talk rapidly to Mr.
Merrill. That gentleman, however, would not be talked to, but came
running over to Jethro and seized his hand, leaving Mr. Worthington to
walk on by himself.

“Jethro,” cried the little railroad president, “upon my word. Well,
well. And Miss Jethro,” he took off his hat to Cynthia, “well, well.
Didn’t know you had a girl, Jethro.”

“W-wish she was mine, Steve,” said Jethro. “She’s a good deal to me as
it is. Hain’t you, Cynthy?”

“Yes,” said Cynthia.

“Well, well,” said Mr. Merrill, staring at her, “you’ll have to look out
for her some day--keep the boys away from her--eh? Upon my word! Well,
Jethro,” said he, with a twinkle in his eye, “are you goin’ to reform?
I’ll bet you’ve got an annual over my road in your pocket right now.”

“Enjoy the speech-makin’, Steve?” inquired Mr. Bass, solemnly.

Mr. Merrill winked at Jethro, and laughed heartily.

“Keep the boys away from her, Jethro,” he repeated, laying his hand on
the shoulder of the lad who stood beside him. “It’s a good thing Bob’s
going off to Harvard this fall. Seems to me I heard about some cutting
up at Andover--eh, Bob?”

Bob grinned, showing a line of very white teeth.

Mr. Merrill took Jethro by the arm and led him off a little distance,
having a message of some importance to give him, the purport of which
will appear later. And Cynthia and Bob were left face to face. Of course
Bob could have gone on, if he had wished it.

“Don’t remember me, do you?” he said.

“I do now,” said Cynthia, looking at him rather timidly through her
lashes. Her face was hot, and she had been, very uncomfortable during
Mr. Merrill’s remarks. Furthermore, Bob had not taken his eyes off her.

“I remembered you right away,” he said reproachfully; “I saw you in
front of the house this morning, and you ran away.”

“I didn’t runaway,” replied Cynthia, indignantly.

“It looked like it, to me,” said Bob.. “I suppose you were afraid I was
going to give you anther whistle.”

Cynthia bit her lip, and then she laughed. Then she looked around to see
where Jethro was, and discovered that they were alone in front of the
meeting-house. Ephraim and her father had passed on while Mr. Merrill
was talking.

“What’s the matter?” asked Bob.

“I’m afraid they’ve gone,” said Cynthia. “I ought to be going after
them. They’ll miss me.”

“Oh, no, they won’t,” said Bob, easily, “let’s sit down under the tree.
They’ll come back.”

Whereupon he sat down under the maple. But Cynthia remained standing,
ready to fly. She had an idea that it was wrong to stay--which made it
all the more delightful.

“Sit down--Cynthia,” said he.

She glanced down at him, startled. He was sitting, with his legs
crossed, looking up at her intently.

“I like that name,” he observed. “I like it better than any girl’s name
I know. Do be good-natured and sit down.” And he patted the ground close
beside him.

Shy laughed again. The laugh had in it an exquisite note of shyness,
which he liked.

“Why do you want me to sit down?” she asked suddenly.

“Because I want to talk to you.”

“Can’t you talk to me standing up?”

“I suppose I could,” said Bob, “but--I shouldn’t be able to say such
nice things to you.”

The corners of her mouth trembled a little.

“And whose loss would that be?” she asked.

Bob Worthington was surprised at this retort, and correspondingly
delighted. He had not expected it in a country storekeeper’s daughter,
and he stared at Cynthia so frankly that she blushed again, and
turned away. He was a young man who, it may be surmised, had had some
experience with the other sex at Andover and elsewhere. He had not spent
all of his life in Brampton.

“I’ve often thought of you since that day when you wouldn’t take the
whistle,” he declared. “What are you laughing at?”

“I’m laughing at you,” said Cynthia, leaning against the tree, with her
hands behind her.

“You’ve been laughing at me ever since you’ve stood there,” he said,
aggrieved that his declarations should not betaken more seriously.

“What have you thought about me?” she demanded. She was really beginning
to enjoy this episode.

“Well--” he began, and hesitated--and broke down and laughed--Cynthia
laughed with him.

“I can tell you what I didn’t think,” said Bob.

“What?” asked Cynthia, falling into the trap.

“I didn’t think you’d be so--so good-looking,” said he, quite boldly.

“And I didn’t think you’d be so rude,” responded Cynthia. But though she
blushed again, she was not exactly displeased.

“What are you going to do this afternoon?” he asked. “Let’s go for a
walk.”

“I’m going back to Coniston.”

“Let’s go for a walk now,” said he, springing to his feet. “Come on.”

Cynthia looked at him and shook her head smilingly.

“Here’s Uncle Jethro--”

“Uncle Jethro!” exclaimed Bob, “is he your uncle?”

“Oh, no, not really. But he’s just the same. He’s very good to me.”

“I wonder whether he’d mind if I called him Uncle Jethro, too,” said
Bob, and Cynthia laughed at the notion. This young man was certainly
very comical, and very frank. “Good-by,” he said; “I’ll come to see you
some day in Coniston.”



CHAPTER XII

That evening, after Cynthia had gone to bed, William Wetherell sat down
at Jonah Winch’s desk in the rear of the store to gaze at a blank sheet
of paper until the Muses chose to send him subject matter for his weekly
letter to the Guardian. The window was open, and the cool airs from the
mountain spruces mingled with the odors of corn meal and kerosene and
calico print. Jethro Bass, who had supped with the storekeeper, sat in
the wooden armchair silent, with his head bent. Sometimes he would sit
there by the hour while Wetherell wrote or read, and take his departure
when he was so moved without saying good night. Presently Jethro lifted
his chin, and dropped it again; there was a sound of wheels without,
and, after an interval, a knock at the door.

William Wetherell dropped his pen with a start of surprise, as it was
late for a visitor in Coniston. He glanced at Jethro, who did not move,
and then he went to the door and shot back the great forged bolt of
it, and stared out. On the edge of the porch stood a tallish man in a
double-breasted frock coat.

“Mr. Worthington!” exclaimed the storekeeper.

Mr. Worthington coughed and pulled at one of his mutton-chop whiskers,
and seemed about to step off the porch again. It was, indeed, the
first citizen and reformer of Brampton. No wonder William Wetherell was
mystified.

“Can I do anything for you?” he asked. “Have you missed your way?”

Wetherell thought he heard him muttering, “No, no,” and then he was
startled by another voice in his ear. It was Jethro who was standing
beside him.

“G-guess he hain’t missed his way a great deal. Er--come in--come in.”

Mr. Worthington took a couple of steps forward.

“I understood that you were to be alone,” he remarked, addressing Jethro
with an attempted severity of manner.

“Didn’t say so--d-didn’t say so, did I?” answered Jethro.

“Very well,” said Mr. Worthington, “any other time will do for this
little matter.”

“Er--good night,” said Jethro, shortly, and there was the suspicion of
a gleam in his eye as Mr. Worthington turned away. The mill-owner,
in fact, did not get any farther than the edge of the porch before he
wheeled again.

“The affair which I have to discuss with you is of a private nature, Mr.
Bass,” he said.

“So I callated,” said Jethro.

“You may have the place to yourselves, gentlemen,” Wetherell put in
uneasily, and then Mr. Worthington came as far as the door, where he
stood looking at the storekeeper with scant friendliness. Jethro turned
to Wetherell.

“You a politician, Will?” he demanded.

“No,” said Wetherell.

“You a business man?”

“No,” he said again.

“You ever tell folks what you hear other people say?”

“Certainly not,” the storekeeper answered; “I’m not interested in other
people’s business.”

“Exactly,” said Jethro. “Guess you’d better stay.”

“But I don’t care to stay,” Wetherell objected.

“Stay to oblige me--stay to oblige me?” he asked.

“Well, yes, if you put it that way,” Wetherell said, beginning to get
some amusement out of the situation.

He did not know what Jethro’s object was in this matter; perhaps others
may guess.

Mr. Worthington, who had stood by with ill-disguised impatience during
this colloquy, note broke in.

“It is most unusual, Mr. Bass, to have a third person present at a
conference in which he has no manner of concern. I think on the whole,
since you have insisted upon my coming to you--”

“H-hain’t insisted that I know of,” said Jethro.

“Well,” said Mr. Worthington, “never mind that.

“Perhaps it would be better for me to come to you some other time, when
you are alone.”

In the meantime Wetherell had shut the door, and they had gradually
walked to the rear of the store. Jethro parted his coat tails, and sat
down again in the armchair. Wetherell, not wishing to be intrusive, went
to his desk again, leaving the first citizen standing among the barrels.

“W-what other time?” Jethro asked.

“Any other time,” said Mr. Worthington.

“What other time?”

“To-morrow night?” suggested Mr. Worthington, striving to hide his
annoyance.

“B-busy to-morrow night,” said Jethro.

“You know that what I have to talk to you about is of the utmost
importance,” said Worthington. “Let us say Saturday night.”

“B-busy Saturday night,” said Jethro. “Meet you to-morrow.”

“What time?”

“Noon,” said Jethro, “noon.”

“Where?” asked Mr. Worthington, dubiously.

“Band stand in Brampton Street,” said Jethro, and the storekeeper was
fain to bend over his desk to conceal his laughter, busying himself with
his books. Mr. Worthington sat down with as much dignity as he could
muster on one of Jonah’s old chairs, and Jonah Winch’s clock ticked and
ticked, and Wetherell’s pen scratched and scratched on his weekly
letter to Mr. Willard, although he knew that he was writing the sheerest
nonsense. As a matter of fact, he tore up the sheets the next morning
without reading them. Mr. Worthington unbuttoned his coat, fumbled in
his pocket, and pulled out two cigars, one of which he pushed toward
Jethro, who shook his head. Mr. Worthington lighted his cigar and
cleared his throat.

“Perhaps you have observed, Mr. Bass,” he said, “that this is a rapidly
growing section of the state--that the people hereabouts are every day
demanding modern and efficient means of communication with the outside
world.”

“Struck you as a mill owner, has it?” said Jethro.

“I do not care to emphasize my private interests,” answered Mr.
Worthington, at last appearing to get into his stride again. “I wish to
put the matter on broader grounds. Men like you and me ought not to be
so much concerned with our own affairs as with those of the population
amongst whom we live. And I think I am justified in putting it to you on
these grounds.”

“H-have to be justified, do you--have to be justified?” Jethro inquired.
“Er--why?”

This was a poser, and for a moment he stared at Jethro, blankly, until
he decided how to take it. Then he crossed his legs and blew smoke
toward the ceiling.

“It is certainly fairer to everybody to take the broadest view of a
situation,” he remarked; “I am trying to regard this from the aspect of
a citizen, and I am quite sure that it will appeal to you in the same
light. If the spirit which imbued the founders of this nation means
anything, Mr. Bass, it means that the able men who are given a chance
to rise by their own efforts must still retain the duties and
responsibilities of the humblest citizens. That, I take it, is our
position, Mr. Bass,--yours and mine.”

Mr. Worthington had uncrossed his legs, and was now by the inspiration
of his words impelled to an upright position. Suddenly he glanced at
Jethro, and started for Jethro had sunk down on the small of his back,
his chin on his chest, in an attitude of lassitude if not of oblivion.
There was a silence perhaps a little disconcerting for Mr. Worthington,
who chose the opportunity to relight his cigar.

“G-got through?” said Jethro, without moving, “g-got through?”

“Through?” echoed Mr. Worthington, “through what?”

“T-through Sunday-school,” said Jethro.

Worthington dropped his match and stamped on it, and Wetherell began
to wonder how much the man would stand. It suddenly came over the
storekeeper that the predicament in which Mr. Worthington found himself
whatever it was--must be a very desperate one. He half rose in his
chair, sat down again, and lighted another match.

“Er--director in the Truro Road, hain’t you, Mr. Worthington?” asked
Jethro, without looking at him.

“Yes.”

“Er--principal stockholder--ain’t you?”

“Yes--but that is neither here nor there, sir.”

“Road don’t pay--r-road don’t pay, does it?”

“It certainly does not.”

“W-would pay if it went to Brampton and Harwich?”

“Mr. Bass, the company consider that they are pledged to the people of
this section to get the road through. I am not prepared to say whether
the road would pay, but it is quite likely that it would not.”

“Ch-charitable organization?” said Jethro, from the depths of his chair.

“The pioneers in such matters take enormous risks for the benefit of the
community, sir. We believe that we are entitled to a franchise, and in
my opinion the General Court are behaving disgracefully in refusing
us one. I will not say all I think about that affair, Mr. Bass. I am
convinced that influences are at work--” He broke off with a catch in
his throat.

“T-tried to get a franchise, did you?”

“I am not here to quibble with you, Mr. Bass. We tried to get it by
every legitimate means, and failed, and you know it as well as I do.”

“Er--Heth Sutton didn’t sign his receipt--er--did he?”

The storekeeper, not being a politician, was not aware that the somewhat
obscure reference of Jethro’s to the Speaker of the House concerned
an application which Mr. Worthington was supposed to have made to that
gentleman, who had at length acknowledged his inability to oblige,
and had advised Mr. Worthington to go to headquarters. And Mr. Stephen
Merrill, who had come to Brampton out of the kindness of his heart, had
only arranged this meeting in a conversation with Jethro that day, after
the reform speech.

Mr. Worthington sprang to his feet, and flung out a hand toward Jethro.

“Prove your insinuations, air,” he cried; “I defy you to prove your
insinuations.”

But Jethro still sat unmoved.

“H-Heth in the charitable organization, too?” he asked.

“People told me I was a fool to believe in honesty, but I thought better
of the lawmakers of my state. I’ll tell you plainly what they said to
me, sir. They said, ‘Go to Jethro Bass.’”

“Well, so you have, hain’t you? So you have.”

“Yes, I have. I’ve come to appeal to you in behalf of the people of your
section to allow that franchise to go through the present Legislature.”

“Er--come to appeal, have you--come to appeal?”

“Yes,” said Mr. Worthington, sitting down again; “I have come to-night
to appeal to you in the name of the farmers and merchants of this
region--your neighbors,--to use your influence to get that franchise. I
have come to you with the conviction that I shall not have appealed in
vain.”

“Er--appealed to Heth in the name of the farmers and merchants?”

“Mr. Sutton is Speaker of the House.”

“F-farmers and merchants elected him,” remarked Jethro, as though
stating a fact.

Worthington coughed.

“It is probable that I made a mistake in going to Sutton,” he admitted.

“If I w-wanted to catch a pike, w-wouldn’t use a pin-hook.”

“I might have known,” remarked Worthington, after a pause, “that Sutton
could not have been elected Speaker without your influence.”

Jethro did not answer that, but still remained sunk in his chair. To all
appearances he might have been asleep.

“W-worth somethin’ to the farmers and merchants to get that road
through--w-worth somethin’, ain’t it?”

Wetherell held his breath. For a moment Mr. Worthington sat very still,
his face drawn, and then he wet his lips and rose slowly.

“We may as well end this conversation, Mr. Bass,” he said, and though
he tried to speak firmly his voice shook, “it seems to be useless. Good
night.”

He picked up his hat and walked slowly toward the door, but Jethro did
not move or speak. Mr. Worthington reached the door opened it, and the
night breeze started the lamp to smoking. Wetherell got up and turned it
down, and the first citizen was still standing in the doorway. His back
was toward them, but the fingers of his left hand--working convulsively
caught Wetherell’s eye and held it; save for the ticking of the clock
and the chirping of the crickets in the grass, there was silence. Then
Mr. Worthington closed the door softly, hesitated, turned, and came back
and stood before Jethro.

“Mr. Bass,” he said, “we’ve got to have that franchise.”

William Wetherell glanced at the countryman who, without moving in
his chair, without raising his voice, had brought the first citizen of
Brampton to his knees. The thing frightened the storekeeper, revolted
him, and yet its drama held him fascinated. By some subtle process which
he had actually beheld, but could not fathom, this cold Mr. Worthington,
this bank president who had given him sage advice, this preacher of
political purity, had been reduced to a frenzied supplicant. He stood
bending over Jethro.

“What’s your price? Name it, for God’s sake.”

“B-better wait till you get the bill--hadn’t you? b-better wait till you
get the bill.”

“Will you put the franchise through?”

“Goin’ down to the capital soon?” Jethro inquired.

“I’m going down on Thursday.”

“B-better come in and see me,” said Jethro.

“Very well,” answered Mr. Worthington; “I’ll be in at two o’clock on
Thursday.” And then, without another word to either of them, he swung on
his heel and strode quickly out of the store. Jethro did not move.

William Wetherell’s hand was trembling so that he could not write,
and he could not trust his voice to speak. Although Jethro had never
mentioned Isaac Worthington’s name to him, Wetherell knew that Jethro
hated the first citizen of Brampton.

At length, when the sound of the wheels had died away, Jethro broke the
silence.

“Er--didn’t laugh--did he, Will? Didn’t laugh once--did he?”

“Laugh!” echoed the storekeeper, who himself had never been further from
laughter in his life.

“M-might have let him off easier if he’d laughed,” said Jethro, “if he’d
laughed just once, m-might have let him off easier.”

And with this remark he went out of the store and left Wetherell alone.



CHAPTER XIII

The weekly letter to the Newcastle Guardian was not finished that night,
but Coniston slept, peacefully, unaware of Mr. Worthington’s visit; and
never, indeed, discovered it, since the historian for various reasons
of his own did not see fit to insert the event in his plan of the Town
History. Before another sun had set Jethro Bass had departed for the
state capital, not choosing to remain to superintend the haying of the
many farms which had fallen into his hand,--a most unusual omission for
him.

Presently rumors of a mighty issue about the Truro Railroad began to
be discussed by the politicians at the Coniston store, and Jake
Wheeler held himself in instant readiness to answer a summons to the
capital--which never came.

Delegations from Brampton and Harwich went to petition the Legislature
for the franchise, and the Brampton Clarion and Harwich Sentinel
declared that the people of Truro County recognized in Isaac Worthington
a great and public-spirited man, who ought by all means to be the next
governor--if the franchise went through.

One evening Lem Hallowell, after depositing a box of trimmings at
Ephraim Prescott’s harness shop, drove up to the platform of the store
with the remark that “things were gittin’ pretty hot down to the capital
in that franchise fight.”

“Hain’t you b’en sent for yet, Jake?” he cried, throwing his reins over
the backs of his sweating Morgans; “well, that’s strange. Guess the
fight hain’t as hot as we hear about. Jethro hain’t had to call out his
best men.”

“I’m a-goin’ down if there’s trouble,” declared Jake, who consistently
ignored banter.

“Better git up and git,” said Lem; “there’s three out of the five
railroads against Truro, and Steve Merrill layin’ low. Bije Bixby’s
down there, and Heth Sutton, and Abner Parkinson, and all the big bugs.
Better get aboard, Jake.”

At this moment the discussion was interrupted by the sight of Cynthia
Wetherell coming across the green with an open letter in her hand.

“It’s a message from Uncle Jethro,” she said.

The announcement was sufficient to warrant the sensation it produced on
all sides.

“‘Tain’t a letter from Jethro, is it?” exclaimed Sam Price, overcome by
a pardonable curiosity. For it was well known that one of Jethro’s fixed
principles in life was embodied in his own motto, “Don’t write--send.”

“It’s very funny,” answered Cynthia, looking down at the paper with a
puzzled expression. “‘Dear Cynthia: Judge Bass wished me to say to you
that he would be pleased if you and Will would come to the capital and
spend a week with him at the Pelican House, and see the sights. The
judge says Rias Richardson will tend store. Yours truly, P. Hartington.’
That’s all,” said Cynthia, looking up.

For a moment you could have heard a pine needle drop on the stoop. Then
Rias thrust his hands in his pockets and voiced the general sentiment.

“Well, I’ll be--goldurned!” said he.

“Didn’t say nothin’ about Jake?” queried Lem.

“No,” answered Cynthia, “that’s all--except two pieces of cardboard with
something about the Truro Railroad and our names. I don’t know what they
are.” And she took them from the envelope.

“Guess I could tell you if I was pressed,” said Lem, amid a shout of
merriment from the group.

“Air you goin’, Will?” said Sam Price, pausing with his foot on the step
of his buggy, that he might have the complete news before he left.

“Godfrey, Will,” exclaimed Rigs, breathlessly, “you hain’t a-goin’ to
throw up a chance to stay a hull week at the Pelican, be you?” The mere
possibility of refusal overpowered Rias.

Those who are familiar with that delightful French song which treats of
the leave-taking of one Monsieur Dumollet will appreciate, perhaps, the
attentions which were showered upon William Wetherell and Cynthia upon
their departure for the capital next morning. Although Mr. Wetherell
had at one time been actually a resident of Boston, he received quite as
many cautions from his neighbors as Monsieur Dumollet. Billets doux and
pistols were, of course, not mentioned, but it certainly behooved him,
when he should have arrived at that place of intrigues, to be on the
lookout for cabals.

They took the stage-coach from Brampton over the pass: picturesque
stage-coach with its apple-green body and leather springs, soon to be
laid away forever if the coveted Truro Franchise Bill becomes a law;
stage-coach which pulls up defiantly beside its own rival at Truro
station, where our passengers take the train down the pleasant waterways
and past the little white villages among the fruit trees to the capital.
The thrill of anticipation was in Cynthia’s blood, and the flush of
pleasure on her cheeks, when they stopped at last under the sheds. The
conductor snapped his fingers and cried, “This way, Judge,” and there
was Jethro in his swallow-tailed coat and stove-pipe hat awaiting them.
He seized Wetherell’s carpet-bag with one hand and Cynthia’s arm with
the other, and shouldered his way through the people, who parted when
they saw who it was.

“Uncle Jethro,” cried Cynthia, breathlessly, “I didn’t know you were a
judge. What are you judge of?”

“J-judge of clothes, Cynthy. D-don’t you wish you had the red cloth to
wear here?”

“No, I don’t,” said Cynthia. “I’m glad enough to be here without it.”

“G-glad to hev you in any fixin’s, Cynthy,” he said, giving her arm
a little squeeze, and by that time they were up the hill and William
Wetherell quite winded. For Jethro was strong as an ox, and Cynthia’s
muscles were like an Indian’s.

They were among the glories of Main Street now. The capital was then,
and still remains, a typically beautiful New England city, with wide
streets shaded by shapely maples and elms, with substantial homes set
back amidst lawns and gardens. Here on Main Street were neat brick
business buildings and banks and shops, with the park-like grounds of
the Capitol farther on, and everywhere, from curb to doorway, were
knots of men talking politics; broad-faced, sunburned farmers in store
clothes, with beards that hid their shirt fronts; keen-featured, sallow,
country lawyers in long black coats crumpled from much sitting on the
small of the back; country storekeepers with shrewd eyes, and local
proprietors and manufacturers.

“Uncle Jethro, I didn’t know you were such a great man,” she said.

“H-how did ye find out, Cynthy?”

“The way people treat you here. I knew you were great, of course,” she
hastened to add.

“H-how do they treat me?” he asked, looking down at her.

“You know,” she answered. “They all stop talking when you come along and
stare at you. But why don’t you speak to them?”

Jethro smiled and squeezed her arm again, and then they were in the
corridor of the famous Pelican Hotel, hazy with cigar smoke and
filled with politicians. Some were standing, hanging on to pillars,
gesticulating, some were ranged in benches along the wall, and a chosen
few were in chairs grouped around the spittoons. Upon the appearance
of Jethro’s party, the talk was hushed, the groups gave way, and they
accomplished a kind of triumphal march to the desk. The clerk, descrying
them, desisted abruptly from a conversation across the cigar counter,
and with all the form of a ceremony dipped the pen with a flourish into
the ink and handed it to Jethro.

“Your rooms are ready, Judge,” he said.

As they started for the stairs, Jethro and Cynthia leading the way,
Wetherell felt a touch on his elbow and turned to confront Mr. Bijah
Bixby--at very close range, as usual.

“C-come down at last, Will?” he said. “Thought ye would. Need everybody
this time--you understand.”

“I came on pleasure,” retorted Mr. Wetherell, somewhat angrily.

Mr. Bixby appeared hugely to enjoy the joke.

“So I callated,” he cried, still holding Wetherell’s hand in a mild, but
persuasive grip. “So I callated. Guess I done you an injustice, Will.”

“How’s that?”

“You’re a leetle mite smarter than I thought you was. So long. Got a
leetle business now--you understand a leetle business.”

Was it possible, indeed, for the simple-minded to come to the capital
and not become involved in cabals? With some misgivings William
Wetherell watched Mr. Bixby disappear among the throng, kicking up his
heels behind, and then went upstairs. On the first floor Cynthia was
standing by an open door.

“Dad,” she cried, “come and see the rooms Uncle Jethro’s got for us!”
 She took Wetherell’s hand and led him in. “See the lace curtains, and
the chandelier, and the big bureau with the marble top.”

Jethro had parted his coat tails and seated himself enjoyably on the
bed.

“D-don’t come often,” he said, “m-might as well have the best.”

“Jethro,” said Wetherell, coughing nervously and fumbling in the pocket
of his coat, “you’ve been very kind to us, and we hardly know how to
thank you. I--I didn’t have any use for these.”

He held out the pieces of cardboard which had come in Cynthia’s letter.
He dared not look at Jethro, and his eye was fixed instead upon the
somewhat grandiose signature of Isaac D. Worthington, which they bore.
Jethro took them and tore them up, and slowly tossed the pieces into
a cuspidor conveniently situated near the foot of the bed. He rose and
thrust his hands into his pockets.

“Er--when you get freshened up, come into Number 7,” he said.

Number 7! But we shall come to that later. Supper first, in a great
pillared dining room filled with notables, if we only had the key.
Jethro sits silent at the head of the table eating his crackers and
milk, with Cynthia on his left and William Wetherell on his right.
Poor William, greatly embarrassed by his sudden projection into the
limelight, is helpless in the clutches of a lady-waitress who is
demanding somewhat fiercely that he make an immediate choice from a list
of dishes which she is shooting at him with astonishing rapidity. But
who is this, sitting beside him, who comes to William’s rescue, and
demands that the lady repeat the bill of fare? Surely a notable, for he
has a generous presence, and jet-black whiskers which catch the light,
which give the gentleman, as Mr. Bixby remarked, “quite a settin’.”
 Yes, we have met him at last. It is none other than the Honorable Heth
Sutton, Rajah of Clovelly, Speaker of the House, who has condescended to
help Mr. Wetherell.

His chamberlain, Mr. Bijah Bixby, sits on the other side of the
Honorable Heth, and performs the presentation of Mr. Wetherell. But
Mr. Sutton, as becomes a man of high position, says little after he
has rebuked the waitress, and presently departs with a carefully chosen
toothpick; whereupon Mr. Bixby moves into the vacant seat--not to Mr.
Wetherell’s unqualified delight.

“I’ve knowed him ever sense we was boys,” said Mr. Bixby; “you saw how
intimate we was. When he wants a thing done, he says, ‘Bije, you go
out and get ‘em.’ Never counts the cost. He was nice to you--wahn’t he,
Will?” And then Mr. Bixby leaned over and whispered in Mr. Wetherell’s
ear; “He knows--you understand--he knows.”

“Knows what?” demanded Mr. Wetherell.

Mr. Bixby gave him another admiring look.

“Knows you didn’t come down here with Jethro jest to see the sights.”

At this instant the talk in the dining room fell flat, and looking up
William Wetherell perceived a portly, rubicund man of middle age
being shown to his seat by the headwaiter. The gentleman wore a great,
glittering diamond in his shirt, and a watch chain that contained much
fine gold. But the real cause of the silence was plainly in the young
woman who walked beside him, and whose effective entrance argued no
little practice and experience. She was of a type that catches the eye
involuntarily and holds it,--tall, well-rounded, fresh-complexioned,
with heavy coils of shimmering gold hair. Her pawn, which was far
from unbecoming, was in keeping with those gifts with which nature had
endowed her. She carried her head high, and bestowed swift and evidently
fatal glances to right and left during her progress through the room.
Mr. Bixby’s voice roused the storekeeper from this contemplation of the
beauty.

“That’s Alvy Hopkins of Gosport and his daughter. Fine gal, hain’t she?
Ever sense she come down here t’other day she’s stirred up more turmoil
than any railroad bill I ever seed. She was most suffocated at the
governor’s ball with fellers tryin’ to get dances--some of ‘em old
fellers, too. And you understand about Alvy?”

“What about him?”

“Alvy says he’s a-goin’ to be the next governor, or fail up.” Mr.
Bixby’s voice sank to a whisper, and he spoke into Mr. Wetherell’s ear.
“Alvy says he has twenty-five thousand dollars to put in if necessary.
I’ll introduce you to him, Will,” he added meaningly. “Guess you can
help him some--you understand?”

“Mr. Bixby!” cried Mr. Wetherell, putting down his knife and fork.

“There!” said Mr. Bixby, reassuringly; “‘twon’t be no bother. I know him
as well as I do you--call each other by our given names. Guess I was the
first man he sent for last spring. He knows I go through all them river
towns. He says, ‘Bije, you get ‘em.’ I understood.”

William Wetherell began to realize the futility of trying to convince
Mr. Bixby of his innocence in political matters, and glanced at Jethro.

“You wouldn’t think he was listenin’, would you, Will?” Mr. Bixby
remarked.

“Listening?”

“Ears are sharp as a dog’s. Callate he kin hear as far as the governor’s
table, and he don’t look as if he knows anything. One way he built up
his power--listenin’ when they’re talkin’ sly out there in the rotunda.
They’re almighty surprised when they l’arn he knows what they’re up to.
Guess you understand how to go along by quiet and listen when they’re
talkin’ sly.”

“I never did such a thing in my life,” cried William Wetherell,
indignantly aghast.

But Mr. Bixby winked.

“So long, Will,” he said, “see you in Number 7.”

Never, since the days of Pompadour and Du Barry, until modern American
politics were invented, has a state been ruled from such a place as
Number 7 in the Pelican House--familiarly known as the Throne Room. In
this historic cabinet there were five chairs, a marble-topped table,
a pitcher of iced water, a bureau, a box of cigars and a Bible, a
chandelier with all the gas jets burning, and a bed, whereon sat such
dignitaries as obtained an audience,--railroad presidents, governors and
ex-governors and prospective governors, the Speaker, the President of
the Senate, Bijah Bixby, Peleg Hartington, mighty chiefs from the North
Country, and lieutenants from other parts of the state. These sat on the
bed by preference. Jethro sat in a chair by the window, and never took
any part in the discussions that raged, but listened. Generally there
was some one seated beside him who talked persistently in his ear; as at
present, for instance, Mr. Chauncey Weed, Chairman of the Committee on
Corporations of the House, who took the additional precaution of putting
his hand to his mouth when he spoke.

Mr. Stephen Merrill was in the Throne Room that evening, and
confidentially explained to the bewildered William Wetherell the exact
situation in the Truro Franchise fight. Inasmuch as it has become our
duty to describe this celebrated conflict,--in a popular and engaging
manner, if possible,--we shall have to do so through Mr. Wetherell’s
eyes, and on his responsibility. The biographies of some of
the gentlemen concerned have since been published, and for some
unaccountable reason contain no mention of the Truro franchise.

“All Gaul,” said Mr. Merrill--he was speaking to a literary man--“all
Gaul is divided into five railroads. I am one, the Grand Gulf and
Northern, the impecunious one. That is the reason I’m so nice to
everybody, Mr. Wetherell. The other day a conductor on my road had
a shock of paralysis when a man paid his fare. Then there’s Batch,
president of the ‘Down East’ road, as we call it. Batch and I are out
of this fight,--we don’t care whether Isaac D. Worthington gets his
franchise or not, or I wouldn’t be telling you this. The two railroads
which don’t want him to get it, because the Truro would eventually
become a competitor with them, are the Central and the Northwestern.
Alexander Duncan is president of the Central.”

“Alexander Duncan!” exclaimed Wetherell. “He’s the richest man in the
state, isn’t he?”

“Yes,” said Mr. Merrill, “and he lives in a big square house right here
in the capital. He ain’t a bad fellow, Duncan. You’d like him. He loves
books. I wish you could see his library.”

“I’m afraid there’s not much chance of that,” answered Wetherell.

“Well, as I say, there’s Duncan, of the Central, and the other is
Lovejoy, of the Northwestern. Lovejoy’s a bachelor and a skinflint.
Those two, Duncan and Lovejoy, are using every means in their power
to prevent Worthington from getting that franchise. Have I made myself
clear?”

“Do you think Mr. Worthington will get it?” asked Wetherell, who had in
mind a certain nocturnal visit at his store.

Mr. Merrill almost leaped out of his chair at the question. Then he
mopped his face, and winked very deliberately at the storekeeper. Then
Mr. Merrill laughed.

“Well, well,” he said, “for a man who comes down here to stay with
Jethro Bass to ask me that!” Whereupon Mr. Wetherell flushed, and began
to perspire himself. “Didn’t you hear Isaac D. Worthington’s virtuous
appeal to the people at Brampton?” said Mr. Merrill.

“Yes,” replied Wetherell, getting redder.

“I like you, Will,” said Mr. Merrill, unexpectedly, “darned if I don’t.
I’ll tell you what I know about it, and you can have a little fun while
you’re here, lookin’ on, only it won’t do to write about it to the
Newcastle Guardian. Guess Willard wouldn’t publish it, anyhow. I
suppose you know that Jethro pulls the strings, end we little railroad
presidents dance. We’re the puppets now, but after a while, when I’m
crowded out, all these little railroads will get together and
there’ll be a row worth looking at, or I’m mistaken. But to go back to
Worthington,” continued Mr. Merrill, “he made a little mistake with
his bill in the beginning. Instead of going to Jethro, he went to Heth
Sutton, and Heth got the bill as far as the Committee on Corporations,
and there she’s been ever since, with our friend Chauncey Weed, who’s
whispering over there.”

“Mr. Sutton couldn’t even get it out of the Committee!” exclaimed
Wetherell.

“Not an inch. Jethro saw this thing coming about a year ago, and he took
the precaution to have Chauncey Weed and the rest of the Committee in
his pocket--and of course Heth Sutton’s always been there.”

William Wetherell thought of that imposing and manly personage, the
Honorable Heth Sutton, being in Jethro’s pocket, and marvelled.
Mr. Chauncey Weed seemed of a species better able to thrive in the
atmosphere of pockets.

“Well, as I say, there was the Truro Franchise Bill sound asleep in the
Committee, and when Isaac D. Worthington saw that his little arrangement
with Heth Sutton wasn’t any good, and that the people of the state
didn’t have anything more to say about it than the Crow Indians, and
that the end of the session was getting nearer and nearer, he got
desperate and went to Jethro, I suppose. You know as well as I do that
Jethro has agreed to put the bill through.”

“Then why doesn’t he get the Committee to report it and put it through?”
 asked Wetherell.

“Bless your simple literary nature,” exclaimed Mr Merrill, “Jethro’s
got more power than any man in the state, but that isn’t saying that he
doesn’t have to fight occasionally. He has to fight now. He has seven
of the twelve senators hitched, and the governor. But Duncan and Lovejoy
have bought up all the loose blocks of representatives, and it is
supposed that the franchise forces only control a quorum. The end of the
session is a week off, and never in all my experience have I seen a more
praiseworthy attendance on the part of members.”

“Do you mean that they are being paid to remain in their seats?” cried
the amazed Mr. Wetherell.

“Well,” answered Mr. Merrill, with a twinkle in his eye, “that is a
little bald and--and unparliamentary, perhaps, but fairly accurate. Our
friend Jethro is confronted with a problem to tax even his faculties,
and to look at him, a man wouldn’t suspect he had a care in the world.”

Jethro was apparently quite as free from anxiety the next morning when
he offered, after breakfast, to show Wetherell and Cynthia the sights of
the town, though Wetherell could not but think that the Throne Room and
the Truro Franchise Bill were left at a very crucial moment to take care
of themselves. Jethro talked to Cynthia--or rather, Cynthia talked to
Jethro upon innumerable subject’s; they looked upon the statue of a
great statesman in the park, and Cynthia read aloud the quotation graven
on the rock of the pedestal, “The People’s Government, made for the
People, made by the People, and answerable to the People.” After that
they went into the state library, where Wetherell was introduced to the
librarian, Mr. Storrow. They did not go into the State House because, as
everybody knows, Jethro Bass never went there. Mr. Bijah Bixby and other
lieutenants might be seen in the lobbies, and the governor might sign
bills in his own apartment there, but the real seat of government was
that Throne Room into which we have been permitted to enter.

They walked out beyond the outskirts of the town, where there was a
grove or picnic ground which was also used as a park by some of the
inhabitants. Jethro liked the spot, and was in the habit sometimes of
taking refuge there when the atmosphere of the Pelican House became too
thick. The three of them had sat down on one of the board benches to
rest, when presently two people were seen at a little distance walking
among the trees, and the sight of them, for some reason, seemed to give
Jethro infinite pleasure.

“Why,” exclaimed Cynthia, “one of them is that horrid girl everybody was
looking at in the dining room last night.”

“D-don’t like her, Cynthy?” said Jethro.

“No,” said Cynthia, “I don’t.”

“Pretty--hain’t she--pretty?”

“She’s brazen,” declared Cynthia.

It was, indeed, Miss Cassandra Hopkins, daughter of that Honorable Alva
who--according to Mr. Bixby was all ready with a certain sum of money to
be the next governor. Miss Cassandra was arrayed fluffily in cool, pink
lawn, and she carried a fringed parasol, and she was gazing upward with
telling effect into the face of the gentleman by her side. This
would have all been very romantic if the gentleman had been young and
handsome, but he was certainly not a man to sweep a young girl off
her feet. He was tall, angular, though broad-shouldered, with a long,
scrawny neck that rose out of a very low collar, and a large head,
scantily covered with hair--a head that gave a physical as well as a
mental effect of hardness. His smooth-shaven face seemed to bear witness
that its owner was one who had pushed frugality to the borders of a
vice. It was not a pleasant face, but now it wore an almost benign
expression under the influence of Miss Cassandra’s eyes. So intent,
apparently, were both of them upon each other that they did not notice
the group on the bench at the other side of the grove. William Wetherell
ventured to ask Jethro who the man was.

“N-name’s Lovejoy,” said Jethro.

“Lovejoy!” ejaculated the storekeeper, thinking of what Mr. Merrill had
told him of the opponents of the Truro Franchise Bill. “President of the
‘Northwestern’ Railroad?”

Jethro gave his friend a shrewd look.

“G-gettin’ posted--hain’t you, Will?” he said.

“Is she going to marry that old man?” asked Cynthia.

Jethro smiled a little. “G-guess not,” said he, “g-guess not, if the old
man can help it. Nobody’s married him yet, and hain’t likely to.”

Jethro was unusually silent on the way back to the hotel, but he did
not seem to be worried or displeased. He only broke his silence once,
in fact, when Cynthia called his attention to a large poster of some
bloodhounds on a fence, announcing the fact in red letters that “Uncle
Tom’s Cabin” would be given by a certain travelling company at the Opera
House the next evening.

“L-like to go, Cynthy?”

“Oh, Uncle Jethro, do you think we can go?”

“Never b’en to a show--hev you--never b’en to a show?”

“Never in my life,” said Cynthia.

“We’ll all go,” said Jethro, and he repeated it once or twice as they
came to Main Street, seemingly greatly tickled at the prospect. And
there was the Truro Franchise Bill hanging over him, with only a week
left of the session, and Lovejoy’s and Duncan’s men sitting so tight in
their seats! William Wetherell could not understand it.



CHAPTER XIV

Half an hour later, when Mr. Wetherell knocked timidly at Number
7,--drawn thither by an irresistible curiosity,--the door was opened by
a portly person who wore a shining silk hat and ample gold watch chain.
The gentleman had, in fact, just arrived; but he seemed perfectly at
home as he laid down his hat on the marble-topped bureau, mopped his
face, took a glass of iced water at a gulp, chose a cigar, and sank
down gradually on the bed. Mr. Wetherell recognized him instantly as the
father of the celebrated Cassandra.

“Well, Jethro,” said the gentleman, “I’ve got to come into the Throne
Room once a day anyhow, just to make sure you don’t forget me--eh?”

“A-Alvy,” said Jethro, “I want you to shake hands with a particular
friend of mine, Mr. Will Wetherell of Coniston. Er--Will, the Honorable
Alvy Hopkins of Gosport.”

Mr. Hopkins rose from the bed as gradually as he had sunk down upon it,
and seized Mr. Wetherell’s hand impressively. His own was very moist.

“Heard you was in town, Mr. Wetherell,” he said heartily. “If Jethro
calls you a particular friend, it means something, I guess. It means
something to me, anyhow.”

“Will hain’t a politician,” said Jethro. “Er--Alvy?”

“Hello!” said Mr. Hopkins.

“Er--Will don’t talk.”

“If Jethro had been real tactful,” said the Honorable Alvy, sinking
down again, “he’d have introduced me as the next governor of the state.
Everybody knows I want to be governor, everybody knows I’ve got twenty
thousand dollars in the bank to pay for that privilege. Everybody knows
I’m going to be governor if Jethro says so.”

William Wetherell was a little taken aback at this ingenuous statement
of the gentleman from Gosport. He looked out of the window through the
foliage of the park, and his eye was caught by the monument there in
front of the State House, and he thought of the inscription on the base
of it, “The People’s Government.” The Honorable Alva had not mentioned
the people--undoubtedly.

“Yes, Mr. Wetherell, twenty thousand dollars.” He sighed. “Time was
when a man could be governor for ten. Those were the good old days--eh,
Jethro?”

“A-Alvy, ‘Uncle Tom’s Cabin’s’ comin’ to town tomorrow--to-morrow.”

“You don’t tell me,” said the Honorable Alva, acquiescing cheerfully
in the change of subject. “We’ll go. Pleased to have you, too, Mr.
Wetherell.”

“Alvy,” said Jethro, again, “‘Uncle Tom’s Cabin’ comes to town
to-morrow.”

Mr. Hopkins stopped fanning himself, and glanced at Jethro
questioningly.

“A-Alvy, that give you an idea?” said Jethro, mildly.

Mr. Wetherell looked blank: it gave him no idea whatsoever, except of
little Eva and the bloodhounds. For a few moments the Honorable Alva
appeared to be groping, too, and then his face began to crease into a
smile of comprehension.

“By Godfrey, Jethro, but you are smart.” he exclaimed, with involuntary
tribute; “you mean buy up the theatre?”

“C-callate you’ll find it’s bought up.”

“You mean pay for it?” said Mr. Hopkins.

“You’ve guessed it, Alvy, you’ve guessed it.”

Mr. Hopkins gazed at him in admiration, leaned out of the perpendicular,
and promptly drew from his trousers’ pocket a roll of stupendous
proportions. Wetting his thumb, he began to push aside the top bills.

“How much is it?” he demanded.

But Jethro put up his hand.

“No hurry, Alvy--n-no hurry. H-Honorable Alvy Hopkins of
Gosport--p-patron of the theatre. Hain’t the first time you’ve b’en a
patron, Alvy.”

“Jethro,” said Mr. Hopkins, solemnly, putting up his money, “I’m much
obliged to you. I’m free to say I’d never have thought of it. If you
ain’t the all-firedest smartest man in America to-day,--I don’t except
any, even General Grant,--then I ain’t the next governor of this state.”

Whereupon he lapsed into an even more expressive silence, his face still
glowing.

“Er--Alvy,” said Jethro presently, “what’s the name of your gal?”

“Well,” said Mr. Hopkins, “I guess you’ve got me. We did christen her
Lily, but she didn’t turn out exactly Lily. She ain’t the type,” said
Mr. Hopkins, slowly, not without a note of regret, and lapsed into
silence.

“W-what did you say her name was, Alvy?”

“I guess her name’s Cassandra,” said the Honorable Alva.

“C-Cassandry?”

“Well, you see,” he explained a trifle apologetically, “she’s kind of
taken some matters in her own hands, my gal. Didn’t like Lily, and it
didn’t seem to fit her anyway, so she called herself Cassandra. Read
it in a book. It means, ‘inspirer of love,’ or some such poetry, but I
don’t deny that it goes with her better than Lily would.”

“Sh-she’s a good deal of a gal, Alvy--fine-appearin’ gal, Alvy.”

“Upon my word, Jethro, I didn’t know you ever looked at a woman. But I
suppose you couldn’t help lookin’ at my gal--she does seem to draw men’s
eyes as if she was magnetized some way.” Mr. Hopkins did not speak as
though this quality of his daughter gave him unmixed delight. “But she’s
a good-hearted gal, Cassy is, high-spirited, and I won’t deny she’s
handsome and smart.”

“She’ll kind of grace my position when I’m governor. But to tell you the
truth, Jethro, one old friend to another, durned if I don’t wish she was
married. It’s a terrible thing for a father to say, I know, but I’d feel
easier about her if she was married to some good man who could hold her.
There’s young Joe Turner in Gosport, he’d give his soul to have her,
and he’d do. Cassy says she’s after bigger game than Joe. She’s
young--that’s her only excuse. Funny thing happened night before last,”
 continued Mr. Hopkins, laughing. “Lovejoy saw her, and he’s b’en out
of his head ever since. Al must be pretty near my age, ain’t he? Well,
there’s no fool like an old fool.”

“A-Alvy introduce me to Cassandry sometime will you?”

“Why, certainly,” answered Mr. Hopkins, heartily, “I’ll bring her in
here. And now how about gettin’ an adjournment to-morrow night for
‘Uncle Tom’s Cabin’? These night sessions kind of interfere.”

Half an hour later, when the representatives were pouring into the
rotunda for dinner, a crowd was pressing thickly around the desk to read
a placard pinned on the wall above it. The placard announced the coming
of Mr. Glover’s Company for the following night, and that the Honorable
Alva Hopkins of Gosport, ex-Speaker of the House, had bought three
hundred and twelve seats for the benefit of the members. And the
Honorable Alva himself, very red in the face and almost smothered, could
be dimly discerned at the foot of the stairs trying to fight his way
out of a group of overenthusiastic friends and admirers. Alva--so it was
said on all sides--was doing the right thing.

So it was that one sensation followed another at the capital, and the
politicians for the moment stopped buzzing over the Truro Franchise Bill
to discuss Mr. Hopkins and his master-stroke. The afternoon Chronicle
waxed enthusiastic on the subject of Mr. Hopkins’s generosity, and
predicted that, when Senator Hartington made the motion in the upper
house and Mr. Jameson in the lower, the General Court would unanimously
agree that there would be no evening session on the following day. The
Honorable Alva was the hero of the hour.

That afternoon Cynthia and her father walked through the green park to
make their first visit to the State House. They stood hand in hand on
the cool, marble-paved floor of the corridor, gazing silently at the
stained and battered battle-flags behind the glass, and Wetherell seemed
to be listening again to the appeal of a great President to a great
Country in the time of her dire need--the soul calling on the body to
fight for itself. Wetherell seemed to feel again the thrill he felt when
he saw the blue-clad men of this state crowded in the train at Boston:
and to hear again the cheers, and the sobs, and the prayers as he looked
upon the blood that stained stars and stripes alike with a holy stain.
With that blood the country had been consecrated, and the state--yes,
and the building where they stood. So they went on up the stairs,
reverently, nor heeded the noise of those in groups about them, and
through a door into the great hall of the representatives of the state.

Life is a mixture of emotions, a jumble of joy and sorrow and reverence
and mirth and flippancy, of right feeling and heresy. In the morning
William Wetherell had laughed at Mr. Hopkins and the twenty thousand
dollars he had put in the bank to defraud the people; but now he could
have wept over it, and as he looked down upon the three hundred members
of that House, he wondered how many of them represented their neighbors
who supposedly had sent them here--and how many Mr. Lovejoy’s railroad,
Mr. Worthington’s railroad, or another man’s railroad.

But gradually he forgot the battle-flags, and his mood changed. Perhaps
the sight of Mr. Speaker Sutton towering above the House, the very
essence and bulk of authority, brought this about. He aroused in
Wetherell unwilling admiration and envy when he arose to put a question
in his deep voice, or rapped sternly with his gavel to silence the
tumult of voices that arose from time to time; or while some member was
speaking, or the clerk was reading a bill at breathless speed, he
turned with wonderful nonchalance to listen to the conversation of the
gentlemen on the bench beside him, smiled, nodded, pulled his whiskers,
at once conscious and unconscious of his high position. And, most
remarkable of all to the storekeeper, not a man of the three hundred,
however obscure, could rise that the Speaker did not instantly call him
by name.

William Wetherell was occupied by such reflections as these when
suddenly there fell a hush through the House. The clerk had stopped
reading, the Speaker had stopped conversing, and, seizing his gavel,
looked expectantly over the heads of the members and nodded. A sleek,
comfortably dressed mail arose smilingly in the middle of the House, and
subdued laughter rippled from seat to seat as he addressed the chair.

“Mr. Jameson of Wantage.”

Mr. Jameson cleared his throat impressively and looked smilingly about
him.

“Mr. Speaker and gentlemen of the House,” he said, “if I desired to
arouse the enthusiasm--the just enthusiasm--of any gathering in this
House, or in this city, or in this state, I should mention the name of
the Honorable Alva Hopkins of Gosport. I think I am right.”

Mr. Jameson was interrupted, as he no doubt expected, by applause from
floor and gallery. He stood rubbing his hands together, and it seemed to
William Wetherell that the Speaker did not rap as sharply with his gavel
as he had upon other occasions.

“Gentlemen of the House,” continued Mr. Jameson, presently, “the
Honorable Alva Hopkins, whom we all know and love, has with unparalleled
generosity--unparalleled, I say--bought up three hundred and twelve
seats in Fosters Opera House for to-morrow night” (renewed applause),
“in order that every member of this august body may have the opportunity
to witness that most classic of histrionic productions, ‘Uncle Tom’s
Cabin’.” (Loud applause, causing the Speaker to rap sharply.) “That
we may show a proper appreciation of this compliment--I move you, Mr.
Speaker, that the House adjourn not later than six o’clock to-morrow,
Wednesday evening, not to meet again until Thursday morning.”

Mr. Jameson of Wantage handed the resolution to a page and sat down
amidst renewed applause. Mr. Wetherell noticed that many members turned
in their seats as they clapped, and glancing along the gallery he caught
a flash of red and perceived the radiant Miss Cassandra herself leaning
over the rail, her hands clasped in ecstasy. Mr. Lovejoy was not with
her--he evidently preferred to pay his attentions in private.

“There she is again,” whispered Cynthia, who had taken an instinctive
and extraordinary dislike to Miss Cassandra. Then Mr. Sutton rose
majestically to put the question.

“Gentlemen, are you ready for the question?” he cried. “All those in
favor of the resolution of the gentleman from Wantage, Mr. Jameson--”
 the Speaker stopped abruptly. The legislators in the front seats
swung around, and people in the gallery craned forward to see a member
standing at his seat in the extreme rear of the hall. He was a little
man in an ill-fitting coat, his wizened face clean-shaven save for the
broom-shaped beard under his chin, which he now held in his hand. His
thin, nasal voice was somehow absurdly penetrating as he addressed
the chair. Mr. Sutton was apparently, for once, taken by surprise, and
stared a moment, as though racking his brain for the name.

“The gentleman from Suffolk, Mr. Heath,” he said, and smiling a little,
sat down.

The gentleman from Suffolk, still holding on to his beard, pitched in
without preamble.

“We farmers on the back seats don’t often get a chance to be heard, Mr.
Speaker,” said he, amidst a general tittering from the front seats. “We
come down here without any l’arnin’ of parli’ment’ry law, and before we
know what’s happened the session’s over, and we hain’t said nothin’.”
 (More laughter.) “There’s b’en a good many times when I wanted to say
somethin’, and this time I made up my mind I was a-goin’ to--law or no
law.”

(Applause, and a general show of interest in the gentleman from
Suffolk.) “Naow, Mr. Speaker, I hain’t ag’in’ ‘Uncle Tom’s Cabin.’ It’s
a good play, and it’s done an almighty lot of good. And I hain’t sayin’
nothin’ ag’in’ Alvy Hopkins nor his munificence. But I do know there’s a
sight of little bills on that desk that won’t be passed if we don’t set
to-morrow night--little bills that are big bills for us farmers. That
thar woodchuck bill, for one.” (Laughter.) “My constituents want I
should have that bill passed. We don’t need a quorum for them bills, but
we need time. Naow, Mr. Speaker, I say let all them that wants to go and
see ‘Uncle Tom’s Cabin’ go and see it, but let a few of us fellers that
has woodchuck bills and other things that we’ve got to get through come
down here and pass ‘em. You kin put ‘em on the docket, and I guess if
anything comes along that hain’t jest right for everybody, somebody can
challenge a quorum and bust up the session. That’s all.”

The gentleman from Suffolk sat down amidst thunderous applause, and
before it died away Mr. Jameson was on his feet, smiling and rubbing his
hands together, and was recognized.

“Mr. Speaker,” he said, as soon as he could be heard, “if the gentleman
from Suffolk desires to pass woodchuck bills” (renewed laughter), “he
can do so as far as I’m concerned. I guess I know where most of the
members of this House will be to-morrow night-” (Cries of ‘You’re
right’, and sharp rapping of the gavel.) “Mr. Speaker, I withdraw my
resolution.”

“The gentleman from Wantage,” said the Speaker, smiling broadly now,
“withdraws his resolution.”

As William Wetherell was returning to the Pelican House, pondering over
this incident, he almost ran into a distinguished-looking man walking
briskly across Main Street.

“It was Mr. Worthington!” said Cynthia, looking after him.

But Mr. Worthington had a worried look on his face, and was probably too
much engrossed in his own thoughts to notice his acquaintances. He had,
in fact, just come from the Throne Room, where he had been to remind
Jethro that the session was almost over, and to ask him what he meant to
do about the Truro Bill. Jethro had given him no satisfaction.

“Duncan and Lovejoy have their people paid to sit there night and day,”
 Mr. Worthington had said. “We’ve got a bare majority on a full House;
but you don’t seem to dare to risk it. What are you going to do about
it, Mr. Bass?”

“W-want the bill to pass--don’t you?”

“Certainly,” Mr. Worthington had cried, on the edge of losing his
temper.

“L-left it to me--didn’t you?

“Yes, but I’m entitled to know what’s being done. I’m paying for it.”

“H-hain’t paid for it yet--hev you?”

“No, I most assuredly haven’t.”

“B-better wait till you do.”

There was very little satisfaction in this, and Mr. Worthington had at
length been compelled to depart, fuming, to the house of his friend the
enemy, Mr. Duncan, there to attempt for the twentieth time to persuade
Mr. Duncan to call off his dogs who were sitting with such praiseworthy
pertinacity in their seats. As the two friends walked on the lawn, Mr.
Worthington tried to explain, likewise for the twentieth time, that
the extension of the Truro Railroad could in no way lessen the Canadian
traffic of the Central, Mr. Duncan’s road. But Mr. Duncan could not see
it that way, and stuck to his present ally, Mr. Lovejoy, and refused
point-blank to call off his dogs. Business was business.

It is an apparently inexplicable fact, however, that Mr. Worthington
and his son Bob were guests at the Duncan mansion at the capital. Two
countries may not be allies, but their sovereigns may be friends. In
the present instance, Mr. Duncan and Mr. Worthington’s railroads were
opposed, diplomatically, but another year might see the Truro Railroad
and the Central acting as one. And Mr. Worthington had no intention
whatever of sacrificing Mr. Duncan’s friendship. The first citizen
of Brampton possessed one quality so essential to greatness--that of
looking into the future, and he believed that the time would come when
an event of some importance might create a perpetual alliance between
himself and Mr. Duncan. In short, Mr. Duncan had a daughter, Janet, and
Mr. Worthington, as we know, had a son. And Mr. Duncan, in addition
to his own fortune, had married one of the richest heiresses in New
England. Prudens futuri, that was Mr. Worthington’s motto.

The next morning Cynthia, who was walking about the town alone, found
herself gazing over a picket fence at a great square house with a very
wide cornice that stood by itself in the centre of a shade-flecked lawn.
There were masses of shrubbery here and there, and a greenhouse, and a
latticed summer-house: and Cynthia was wondering what it would be like
to live in a great place like that, when a barouche with two shining
horses in silver harness drove past her and stopped before the gate.
Four or five girls and boys came laughing out on the porch, and one of
them, who held a fishing-rod in his hand, Cynthia recognized. Startled
and ashamed, she began to walk on as fast as she could in the opposite
direction, when she heard the sound of footsteps on the lawn behind her,
and her own name called in a familiar voice. At that she hurried the
faster; but she could not run, and the picket fence was half a block
long, and Bob Worthington had an advantage over her. Of course it was
Bob, and he did not scruple to run, and in a few seconds he was leaning
over the fence in front of her. Now Cynthia was as red as a peony by
this time, and she almost hated him.

“Well, of all people, Cynthia Wetherell!” he cried; “didn’t you hear me
calling after you?”

“Yes,” said Cynthia.

“Why didn’t you stop?”

“I didn’t want to,” said Cynthia, glancing at the distant group on the
porch, who were watching them. Suddenly she turned to him defiantly. “I
didn’t know you were in that house, or in the capital,” she said.

“And I didn’t know you were,” said Bob, upon whose masculine
intelligence the meaning of her words was entirely lost. “If I had known
it, you can bet I would have looked you up. Where are you staying?”

“At the Pelican House.”

“What!” said Bob, “with all the politicians? How did you happen to go
there?”

“Mr. Bass asked my father and me to come down for a few days,” answered
Cynthia, her color heightening again. Life is full of contrasts, and
Cynthia was becoming aware of some of them.

“Uncle Jethro?” said Bob.

“Yes, Uncle Jethro,” said Cynthia, smiling in spite of herself. He
always made her smile.

“Uncle Jethro owns the Pelican House,” said Bob.

“Does he? I knew he was a great man, but I didn’t know how great he was
until I came down here.”

Cynthia said this so innocently that Bob repented his flippancy on the
spot. He had heard occasional remarks of his elders about Jethro.

“I didn’t mean quite that,” he said, growing red in his turn. “Uncle
Jethro--Mr. Bass--is a great man of course. That’s what I meant.”

“And he’s a very good man,” said Cynthia, who understood now that he had
spoken a little lightly of Jethro, and resented it.

“I’m sure of it,” said Bob, eagerly. Then Cynthia began to walk on,
slowly, and he followed her on the other side of the fence. “Hold on,”
 he cried, “I haven’t said half the things I want to say--yet.”

“What do you want to say?” asked Cynthia, still walking. “I have to go.”

“Oh, no, you don’t! Wait just a minute--won’t you?”

Cynthia halted, with apparent unwillingness, and put out her toe between
the pickets. Then she saw that there was a little patch on that toe, and
drew it in again.

“What do you want to say?” she repeated. “I don’t believe you have
anything to say at all.” And suddenly she flashed a look at him that
made his heart thump.

“I do--I swear I do!” he protested. “I’m coming down to the Pelican
to-morrow morning to get you to go for a walk.”

Cynthia could not but think that the remoteness of the time he set was
scarce in keeping with his ardent tone.

“I have something else to do to-morrow morning,” she answered.

“Then I’ll come to-morrow afternoon,” said Bob, instantly.

“Who lives here?” she asked irrelevantly.

“Mr. Duncan. I’m visiting the Duncans.”

At this moment a carryall joined the carriage at the gate. Cynthia
glanced at the porch again. The group there had gown larger, and they
were still staring. She began to feel uncomfortable again, and moved on
slowly.

“Mayn’t I come?” asked Bob, going after her; and scraping the butt of
the rod along the palings.

“Aren’t there enough girls here to satisfy you?” asked Cynthia.

“They’re enough--yes,” he said, “but none of ‘em could hold a candle to
you.”

Cynthia laughed outright.

“I believe you tell them all something like that,” she said.

“I don’t do any such thing,” he retorted, and then he laughed himself,
and Cynthia laughed again.

“I like you because you don’t swallow everything whole,” said Bob,
“and--well, for a good many other reams.” And he looked into her face
with such frank admiration that Cynthia blushed and turned away.

“I don’t believe a word you say,” she answered, and started to walk off,
this time in earnest.

“Hold on,” cried Bob. They were almost at the end of the fence by this,
and the pickets were sharp and rather high, or he would have climbed
them.

Cynthia paused hesitatingly.

“I’ll come at two o’clock to-morrow,” said he; “We’re going on a picnic
to-day, to Dalton’s Bend, on the river. I wish I could get out of it.”

Just then there came a voice from the gateway.

“Bob! Bob Worthington!”

They both turned involuntarily. A slender girl with light brown hair was
standing there, waving at him.

“Who’s that?” asked Cynthia.

“That?” said Bob, in some confusion, “oh, that’s Janet Duncan.”

“Good-by,” said Cynthia.

“I’m coming to-morrow,” he called after her, but she did not turn. In
a little while she heard the carryall behind her clattering down the
street, its passengers laughing and joking merrily. Her face burned,
for she thought that they were laughing at her; she wished with all
her heart that she had not stopped to talk with him at the palings.
The girls, indeed, were giggling as the carryall passed, and she heard
somebody call out his name, but nevertheless he leaned out of the seat
and waved his hat at her, amid a shout of laughter. Poor Cynthia! She
did not look at him. Tears of vexation were in her eyes, and the light
of her joy at this visit to the capital flickered, and she wished she
were back in Coniston. She thought it would be very nice to be rich, and
to live in a great house in a city, and to go on picnics.

The light flickered, but it did not wholly go out. If it has not been
shown that Cynthia was endowed with a fair amount of sense, many of
these pages have been written in vain. She sat down for a while in the
park and thought of the many things she had to be thankful for--not the
least of which was Jethro’s kindness. And she remembered that she was to
see “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” that evening.

Such are the joys and sorrows of fifteen!



CHAPTER XV

Mr. Amos Cuthbert named it so--our old friend Amos who lives high up in
the ether of Town’s End ridge, and who now represents Coniston in the
Legislature. He is the same silent, sallow person as when Jethro first
took a mortgage on his farm, only his skin is beginning to resemble
dried parchment, and he is a trifle more cantankerous. On the morning of
that memorable day when, “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” came to the capital, Amos
had entered the Throne Room and given vent to his feelings in regard to
the gentleman in the back seat who had demanded an evening sitting on
behalf of the farmers.

“Don’t that beat all?” cried Amos. “Let them have their darned
woodchuck session; there won’t nobody go to it. For cussed, crisscross
contrariness, give me a moss-back Democrat from a one-boss, one-man town
like Suffolk. I’m a-goin’ to see the show.”

“G-goin’ to the show, be you, Amos?” said Jethro.

“Yes, I be,” answered Amos, bitterly. “I hain’t agoin’ nigh the house
to-night.” And with this declaration he departed.

“I wonder if he really is going?” queried Mr. Merrill looking at the
ceiling. And then he laughed.

“Why shouldn’t he go?” asked William Wetherell.

Mr. Merrill’s answer to this question was a wink, whereupon he, too,
departed. And while Wetherell was pondering over the possible meaning of
these words the Honorable Alva Hopkins entered, wreathed in smiles, and
closed the door behind him.

“It’s all fixed,” he said, taking a seat near Jethro in the window.

“S-seen your gal--Alvy--seen your gal?”

Mr. Hopkins gave a glance at Wetherell.

“Will don’t talk,” said Jethro, and resumed his inspection through the
lace curtains of what was going on in the street.

“Cassandry’s, got him to go,” said Mr. Hopkins. “It’s all fixed, as sure
as Sunday. If it misses fire, then I’ll never mention the governorship
again. But if it don’t miss fire,” and the Honorable Alva leaned over
and put his hand on Jethro’s knee, “if it don’t miss fire, I get the
nomination. Is that right?”

“Y-you’ve guessed it, Alvy.”

“That’s all I want to know,” declared the Honorable Alva; “when you say
that much, you never go back on it. And, you can go ahead and give the
orders, Jethro. I have to see that the boys get the tickets. Cassandry’s
got a head on her shoulders, and she kind of wants to be governor, too.”
 He got as far as the door, when he turned and bestowed upon Jethro a
glance of undoubted tribute. “You’ve done a good many smart things,”
 said he, “but I guess you never beat this, and never will.”

“H-hain’t done it yet, Alvy,” answered Jethro, still looking out through
the window curtains at the ever ganging groups of gentlemen in the
street. These groups had a never ceasing interest for Jethro Bass.

Mr. Wetherell didn’t talk, but had he been the most incurable of gossips
he felt that he could have done no damage to this mysterious affair,
whatever it was. In a certain event, Mr. Hopkins was promised the
governorship: so much was plain. And it was also evident that Miss
Cassandra Hopkins was in some way to be instrumental. William Wetherell
did not like to ask Jethro, but he thought a little of sounding Mr.
Merrill, and then he came to the conclusion that it would be wiser for
him not to know.

“Er--Will,” said Jethro, presently, “you know Heth Sutton--Speaker Heth
Sutton?”

“Yes.”

“Er--wouldn’t mind askin’ him to step in and see me before the
session--if he was comin’ by--would you?”

“Certainly not.”

“Er--if he was comin’ by,” said Jethro.

Mr. Wetherell found Mr. Speaker Sutton glued to a pillar in the rotunda
below. He had some difficulty in breaking through the throng that
pressed around him, and still more in attracting his attention, as Mr.
Sutton took no manner of notice of the customary form of placing one’s
hand under his elbow and pressing gently up. Summoning up his courage,
Mr. Wetherell tried the second method of seizing him by the buttonhole.
He paused in his harangue, one hand uplifted, and turned and glanced at
the storekeeper abstractedly.

“Mr. Bass asked me to tell you to drop into Number 7,” said Wetherell,
and added, remembering express instructions, “if you were going by.”

Wetherell had not anticipated the magical effect this usual message
would have on Mr. Sutton, nor had he thought that so large and dignified
a body would move so rapidly. Before the astonished gentlemen who had
penned him could draw a breath, Mr. Sutton had reached the stairway and,
was mounting it with an agility that did him credit. Five minutes later
Wetherell saw the Speaker descending again, the usually impressive
quality of his face slightly modified by the twitching of a smile.

Thus the day passed, and the gentlemen of the Lovejoy and Duncan
factions sat, as tight as ever in their seats, and the Truro Franchise
bill still slumbered undisturbed in Mr. Chauncey Weed’s committee.

At supper there was a decided festal air about the dining room of the
Pelican House, the little band of agricultural gentlemen who wished to
have a session not being patrons of that exclusive hotel. Many of the
Solons had sent home for their wives; that they might do the utmost
justice to the Honorable Alva’s hospitality. Even Jethro, as he ate
his crackers and milk, had a new coat with bright brass buttons, and
Cynthia, who wore a fresh gingham which Miss Sukey Kittredge of Coniston
had helped to design, so far relented in deference to Jethro’s taste as
to tie a red bow at her throat.

The middle table under the chandelier was the immediate firmament of
Miss Cassandra Hopkins. And there, beside the future governor, sat the
president of the “Northwestern” Railroad, Mr. Lovejoy, as the chief
of the revolving satellites. People began to say that Mr. Lovejoy was
hooked at last, now that he had lost his head in such an unaccountable
fashion as to pay his court in public; and it was very generally known
that he was to make one of the Honorable Alva’s immediate party at the
performance of “Uncle Tam’s Cabin.”

Mr. Speaker Sutton, of course, would have to forego the pleasure of
the theatre as a penalty of his high position. Mr. Merrill, who sat at
Jethro’s table next to Cynthia that evening, did a great deal of
joking with the Honorable Heth about having to preside aver a
woodchuck session, which the Speaker, so Mr. Wetherell thought, took
in astonishingly good part, and seemed very willing to make the great
sacrifice which his duty required of him.

After supper Mr. Wetherell took a seat in the rotunda. As an observer of
human nature, he had begun to find a fascination in watching the group
of politicians there. First of all he encountered Mr. Amos Cuthbert,
his little coal-black eyes burning brightly, and he was looking very
irritable indeed.

“So you’re going to the show, Amos?” remarked the storekeeper, with an
attempt at cordiality.

To his bewilderment, Amos turned upon him fiercely.

“Who said I was going to the show?” he snapped.

“You yourself told me.”

“You’d ought to know whether I’m a-goin’ or not,” said Amos, and walked
away.

While Mr. Wetherell sat meditating, upon this inexplicable retort,
a retired, scholarly looking gentleman with a white beard, who wore
spectacles, came out of the door leading from the barber shop and
quietly took a seat beside him. The storekeeper’s attention was next
distracted by the sight of one who wandered slowly but ceaselessly from
group to group, kicking up his heels behind, and halting always in the
rear of the speakers. Needless to say that this was our friend Mr. Bijah
Bixby, who was following out his celebrated tactics of “going along by
when they were talkin’ sly.” Suddenly Mr. Bixby’s eye alighted on Mr.
Wetherell, who by a stretch of imagination conceived that it expressed
both astonishment and approval, although he was wholly at a loss to
understand these sentiments. Mr. Bixby winked--Mr. Wetherell was sure
of that. But to his surprise, Bijah did not pause in his rounds to greet
him.

Mr. Wetherell was beginning to be decidedly uneasy, and was about to
go upstairs, when Mr. Merrill came down the rotunda whistling, with
his hands in his pockets. He stopped whistling when he spied the
storekeeper, and approached him in his usual hearty manner.

“Well, well, this is fortunate,” said Mr. Merrill; “how are you, Duncan?
I want you to know Mr. Wetherell. Wetherell writes that weekly letter
for the Guardian you were speaking to me about last year. Will, this is
Mr. Alexander Duncan, president of the ‘Central.’”

“How do you do, Mr. Wetherell?” said the scholarly gentleman with the
spectacles, putting out his hand. “I’m glad to meet you, very glad,
indeed. I read your letters with the greatest pleasure.”

Mr. Wetherell, as he took Mr. Duncan’s hand, had a variety of emotions
which may be imagined, and need not be set down in particular.

“Funny thing,” Mr. Merrill continued, “I was looking for you, Duncan. It
occurred to me that you would like to meet Mr. Wetherell. I was afraid
you were in Boston.”

“I have just got back,” said Mr. Duncan.

“I wanted Wetherell to see your library. I was telling him about it.”

“I should be delighted to show it to him,” answered Mr. Duncan. That
library, as is well known, was a special weakness of Mr. Duncan’s.

Poor William Wetherell, who was quite overwhelmed by the fact that the
great Mr. Duncan had actually read his letters and liked them, could
scarcely utter a sensible word. Almost before he realized what had
happened he was following Mr. Duncan out of the Pelican House, when the
storekeeper was mystified once more by a nudge and another wink from Mr.
Bixby, conveying unbounded admiration.

“Why don’t you write a book, Mr. Wetherell?” inquired the railroad
president, when they were crossing the park.

“I don’t think I could do it,” said Mr. Wetherell, modestly. Such
incense was overpowering, and he immediately forgot Mr. Bixby.

“Yes, you can,” said Mr. Duncan, “only you don’t know it. Take your
letters for a beginning. You can draw people well enough, when you try.
There was your description of the lonely hill-farm on the spur--I shall
always remember that: the gaunt farmer, toiling every minute between sun
and sun; the thin, patient woman bending to a task that never charged or
lightened; the children growing up and leaving one by one, some to the
cities, some to the West, until the old people are left alone in the
evening of life--to the sunsets and the storms. Of course you must write
a book.”

Mr. Duncan quoted other letters, and William Wetherell thrilled. Poor
man! he had had little enough incense in his time, and none at all from
the great. They came to the big square house with the cornice which
Cynthia had seen the day before, and walked across the lawn through the
open door. William Wetherell had a glimpse of a great drawing-room
with high windows, out of which was wafted the sound of a piano and of
youthful voice and laughter, and then he was in the library. The thought
of one man owning all those books overpowered him. There they were, in
stately rows, from the floor to the high ceiling, and a portable ladder
with which to reach them.

Mr. Duncan, understanding perhaps something of the storekeeper’s
embarrassment, proceeded to take down his treasures: first editions from
the shelves, and folios and mistrals from drawers in a great iron safe
in one corner and laid them on the mahogany desk. It was the railroad
president’s hobby, and could he find an appreciative guest, he was
happy. It need scarcely be said that he found William Wetherell
appreciative, and possessed of knowledge of Shaksperiana and other
matters that astonished his host as well as pleased him. For Wetherell
had found his tongue at last.

After a while Mr. Duncan drew out his watch and gave a start.

“By George!” he exclaimed, “it’s after eight o’clock. I’ll have to ask
you to excuse me to-night, Mr. Wetherell. I’d like to show you the rest
of them--can’t you come around to-morrow afternoon?”

Mr. Wetherell, who had forgotten his own engagement and “Uncle Tom’s
Cabin,” said he would be happy to come. And they went out together and
began to walk toward the State House.

“It isn’t often I find a man who knows anything at all about these
things,” continued Mr. Duncan, whose heart was quite won. “Why do you
bury yourself in Coniston?”

“I went there from Briton for my health,” said the storekeeper.

“Jethro Bass lives there, doesn’t he” said Mr. Duncan, with a laugh. “But
I suppose you don’t know anything about politics.”

“I know nothing at all,” said Mr. Wetherell, which was quite true. He
had been in dreamland, but now the fact struck him again, with something
of a shock, that this mild-mannered gentleman was one of those who had
been paying certain legislators to remain in their seats. Wetherell
thought of speaking to Mr. Duncan of his friendship with Jethro Bass,
but the occasion passed.

“I wish to heaven I didn’t have to know anything about politics,” Mr.
Duncan was saying; “they disgust me. There’s a little matter on now,
about an extension of the Truro Railroad to Harwich, which wouldn’t
interest you, but you can’t conceive what a nuisance it has been to
watch that House day and night, as I’ve had to. It’s no joke to have
that townsman of yours; Jethro Bass, opposed to you. I won’t say
anything against him, for he many be a friend of yours, and I have to
use him sometimes myself.” Mr. Duncan sighed. “It’s all very sordid and
annoying. Now this evening, for instance, when we might have enjoyed
ourselves with those books, I’ve’ got to go to the House, just because
some backwoods farmers want to talk about woodchucks. I suppose it’s
foolish,” said Mr. Duncan; “but Bass has tricked us so often that I’ve
got into the habit of being watchful. I should have been here twenty
minutes ago.”

By this time they had come to the entrance of the State House, and
Wetherell followed Mr. Duncan in, to have a look at the woodchuck
session himself. Several members hurried by and up the stairs, some
of them in their Sunday black; and the lobby above seemed, even to the
storekeeper’s unpractised eye, a trifle active for a woodchuck session.
Mr. Duncan muttered something, and quickened his gait a little on the
steps that led to the gallery. This place was almost empty. They went
down to the rail, and the railroad president cast his eye over the
House.

“Good God!” he said sharply, “there’s almost a quorum here.” He ran his
eye over the members. “There is a quorum here.”

Mr. Duncan stood drumming nervously with his fingers on the rail,
scanning the heads below. The members were scattered far and wide
through the seats, like an army in open order, listening in silence to
the droning voice of the clerk. Moths burned in the gas flames, and June
bugs hummed in at the high windows and tilted against the walls. Then
Mr. Duncan’s finger nails whitened as his thin hands clutched the rail,
and a sense of a pending event was upon Wetherell. Slowly he realized
that he was listening to the Speaker’s deep voice.

“‘The Committee on Corporations, to whom was referred House Bill Number
109, entitled, ‘An Act to extend the Truro Railroad to Harwich, having
considered the same, report the same with the following resolution:
Resolved, that the bill ought to pass. Chauncey Weed, for the
Committee.’”

The Truro Franchise! The lights danced, and even a sudden weakness
came upon the storekeeper. Jethro’s trick! The Duncan and Lovejoy
representatives in the theatre, the adherents of the bill here!
Wetherell saw Mr. Duncan beside him, a tense figure leaning on the rail,
calling to some one below. A man darted up the centre, another up the
side aisle. Then Mr. Duncan flashed at William Wetherell from his blue
eye such a look of anger as the storekeeper never forgot, and he, too,
was gone. Tingling and perspiring, Wetherell leaned out over the railing
as the Speaker rapped calmly for order. Hysteric laughter, mingled with
hoarse cries, ran over the House, but the Honorable Heth Sutton did not
even smile.

A dozen members were on their feet shouting to the chair. One was
recognized, and that man Wetherell perceived with amazement to be Mr.
Jameson of Wantage, adherent of Jethro’s--he who had moved to adjourn
for “Uncle Tom’s Cabin”! A score of members crowded into the aisles, but
the Speaker’s voice again rose above the tumult.

“The doorkeepers will close the doors! Mr. Jameson of Wantage moves that
the report of the Committee be accepted, and on this motion a roll-call
is ordered.”

The doorkeepers, who must have been inspired, had already slammed the
doors in the faces of those seeking wildly to escape. The clerk already
had the little, short-legged desk before him and was calling the roll
with incredible rapidity. Bewildered and excited as Wetherell was, and
knowing as little of parliamentary law as the gentleman who had proposed
the woodchuck session, he began to form some sort of a notion of
Jethro’s generalship, and he saw that the innocent rural members who
belonged to Duncan and Lovejoy’s faction had tried to get away before
the roll-call, destroy the quorum, and so adjourn the House. These,
needless to say, were not parliamentarians, either. They had lacked a
leader, they were stunned by the suddenness of the onslaught, and had
not moved quickly enough. Like trapped animals, they wandered blindly
about for a few moments, and then sank down anywhere. Each answered the
roll-call sullenly, out of necessity, for every one of them was a marked
man. Then Wetherell remembered the two members who had escaped, and Mr.
Duncan, and fell to calculating how long it would take these to reach
Fosters Opera House, break into the middle of an act, and get out enough
partisans to come back and kill the bill. Mr. Wetherell began to wish he
could witness the scene there, too, but something held him here, shaking
with excitement, listening to each name that the clerk called.

Would the people at the theatre get back in time?

Despite William Wetherell’s principles, whatever these may have been,
he was so carried away that he found himself with his watch in his hand,
counting off the minutes as the roll-call went on. Fosters Opera House
was some six squares distant, and by a liberal estimate Mr. Duncan and
his advance guard ought to get back within twenty minutes of the time he
left. Wetherell was not aware that people were coming into the gallery
behind him; he was not aware that one sat at his elbow until a familiar
voice spoke, directly into his ear.

“Er--Will--held Duncan pretty tight--didn’t you? He’s a hard one to
fool, too. Never suspected a mite, did he? Look out for your watch!”

Mr. Bixby seized it or it would have fallen. If his life had depended on
it, William Wetherell could not have spoken a word to Mr. Bixby then.

“You done well, Will, sure enough,” that gentleman continued to whisper.
“And Alvy’s gal done well, too--you understand. I guess she’s the only
one that ever snarled up Al Lovejoy so that he didn’t know where he
was at. But it took a fine, delicate touch for her job and yours, Will.
Godfrey, this is the quickest roll-call I ever seed! They’ve got halfway
through Truro County. That fellow can talk faster than a side-show,
ticket-seller at a circus.”

The clerk was, indeed, performing prodigies of pronunciation. When he
reached Wells County, the last, Mr. Bixby so far lost his habitual sang
froid as to hammer on the rail with his fist.

“If there hain’t a quorum, we’re done for,” he said. “How much time has
gone away? Twenty minutes! Godfrey, some of ‘em may break loose and git
here is five minutes!”

“Break loose?” Wetherell exclaimed involuntarily.

Mr. Bixby screwed up his face.

“You understand. Accidents is liable to happen.”

Mr. Wetherell didn’t understand in the least, but just then the clerk
reached the last name on the roll; an instant of absolute silence, save
for the June-bugs, followed, while the assistant clerk ran over his
figures deftly and handed them to Mr. Sutton, who leaned forward to
receive them.

“One hundred and twelve gentlemen have voted in the affirmative
and forty-eight in the negative, and the report of the Committee is
accepted.”

“Ten more’n a quorum!” ejaculated Mr. Bixby, in a voice of thanksgiving,
as the turmoil below began again. It seemed as though every man in the
opposition was on his feet and yelling at the chair: some to adjourn;
some to indefinitely postpone; some demanding roll-calls; others
swearing at these--for a division vote would have opened the doors.
Others tried to get out, and then ran down the aisles and called
fiercely on the Speaker to open the doors, and threatened him. But
the Honorable Heth Sutton did not lose his head, and it may be doubted
whether he ever appeared to better advantage than at that moment. He had
a voice like one of the Clovelly bulls that fed in his own pastures
in the valley, and by sheer bellowing he got silence, or something
approaching it,--the protests dying down to a hum; had recognised
another friend of the bill, and was putting another question.

“Mr. Gibbs of Wareham moves that the rules of the House be so far
suspended that this bill be read a second and third time by its title,
and be put upon its final passage at this time. And on this motion,”
 thundered Mr. Sutton, above the tide of rising voices, “the yeas and
nays are called for. The doorkeepers will keep the doors shut.”

“Abbey of Ashburton.”

The nimble clerk had begun on the roll almost before the Speaker was
through, and checked off the name. Bijah Bixby mopped his brow with a
blue pocket-handkerchief.

“My God,” he said, “what a risk Jethro’s took! they can’t git through
another roll-call. Jest look at Heth! Ain’t he carryin’ it magnificent?
Hain’t as ruffled as I be. I’ve knowed him ever sence he wahn’t no
higher’n that desk. Never would have b’en in politics if it hadn’t b’en
for me. Funny thing, Will--you and I was so excited we never thought to
look at the clock. Put up your watch. Godfrey, what’s this?”

The noise of many feet was heard behind them. Men and women were
crowding breathlessly into the gallery.

“Didn’t take it long to git noised araound,” said Mr. Bixby. “Say, Will,
they’re bound to have got at ‘em in the thea’tre. Don’t see how they
held ‘em off, c-cussed if I do.”

The seconds ticked into minutes, the air became stifling, for now the
front of the gallery was packed. Now, if ever, the fate of the Truro
Franchise hung in the balance, and, perhaps, the rule of Jethro Bass.
And now, as in the distance, came a faint, indefinable stir, not yet to
be identified by Wetherell’s ears as a sound, but registered somewhere
in his brain as a warning note. Bijah Bixby, as sensitive as he,
straightened up to listen, and then the whispering was hushed. The
members below raised their heads, and some clutched the seats in front
of them and looked up at the high windows. Only the Speaker sat like a
wax statue of himself, and glanced neither to the right nor to the left.

“Harkness of Truro,” said the clerk.

“He’s almost to Wells County again,” whispered Bijah, excitedly. “I
didn’t callate he could do it. Will?”

“Yes?”

“Will--you hear somethin’?”

A distant shout floated with the night breeze in at the windows; a man
on the floor got to his feet and stood straining: a commotion was going
on at the back of the gallery, and a voice was heard crying out:--

“For the love of God, let me through!”

Then Wetherell turned to see the crowd at the back parting a little, to
see a desperate man in a gorgeous white necktie fighting his way toward
the rail. He wore no hat, his collar was wilted, and his normally ashen
face had turned white. And, strangest of all, clutched tightly in his
hand was a pink ribbon.

“It’s Al Lovejoy,” said Bijah, laconically.

Unmindful of the awe-stricken stares he got from those about him when
his identity became known, Mr. Lovejoy gained the rail and shoved aside
a man who was actually making way for him. Leaning far out, he scanned
the house with inarticulate rage while the roll-call went monotonously
on. Some of the members looked up at him and laughed; others began to
make frantic signs, indicative of helplessness; still others telegraphed
him obvious advice about reenforcements which, if anything, increased
his fury. Mr. Bixby was now fanning himself with the blue handkerchief.

“I hear ‘em!” he said, “I hear ‘em, Will!”

And he did. The unmistakable hum of the voices of many men and the sound
of feet on stone flagging shook the silent night without. The clerk read
off the last name on the roll.

“Tompkins of Ulster.”

His assistant lost no time now. A mistake would have been fatal, but he
was an old hand. Unmindful of the rumble on the wooden stairs below, Mr.
Sutton took the list with an admirable deliberation.

“One hundred and twelve gentlemen have voted in the affirmative,
forty-eight in the negative, the rules of the House are suspended, and”
 (the clerk having twice mumbled the title of the bill) “the question is:
Shall the bill pass? As many as are of opinion that the bill pass will
say Aye, contrary minded No.”

Feet were in the House corridor now, and voices rising there, and noises
that must have been scuffling--yes, and beating of door panels.
Almost every member was standing, and it seemed as if they were all
shouting,--“personal privilege,” “fraud,” “trickery,” “open the doors.”
 Bijah was slowly squeezing the blood out of William Wetherell’s arm.

“The doorkeepers has the keys in their pockets!” Mr. Bixby had to shout,
for once.

Even then the Speaker did not flinch. By a seeming miracle he got a
semblance of order, recognized his man, and his great voice rang through
the hall and drowned all other sounds.

“And on this question a roll-call is ordered. The doorkeepers will close
the doors!”

Then, as in reaction, the gallery trembled with a roar of laughter.
But Mr. Sutton did not smile. The clerk scratched off the names with
lightning rapidity, scarce waiting for the answers. Every man’s color
was known, and it was against the rules to be present and fail to vote.
The noise in the corridors grew louder, some one dealt a smashing kick
on a panel, and Wetherell ventured to ask Mr. Bixby if he thought the
doors would hold.

“They can break in all they’ve a mind to now,” he chuckled; “the Truro
Franchise is safe.”

“What do you mean?” Wetherell demanded excitedly.

“If a member hain’t present when a question is put, he can’t git into a
roll-call,” said Bijah.

The fact that the day was lost was evidently brought home to those
below, for the strife subsided gradually, and finally ceased altogether.
The whispers in the gallery died down, the spectators relayed a little.
Lovejoy alone remained tense, though he had seated himself on a
bench, and the hot anger in which he had come was now cooled into a
vindictiveness that set the hard lines of his face even harder. He
still clutched the ribbon. The last part of that famous roll-call was
conducted so quietly that a stranger entering the House would have
suspected nothing unusual. It was finished in absolute silence.

“One hundred and twelve gentlemen have voted in the affirmative,
forty-eight in the negative, and the bill passes. The House will attend
to the title of the bill.”

“An act to extend the Truro Railroad to Harwich,” said the clerk,
glibly.

“Such will be the title of the bill unless otherwise ordered by the
House,” said Mr. Speaker Sutton. “The doorkeepers will open the doors.”

Somebody moved to adjourn, the motion was carried, and thus ended what
has gone down to history as the Woodchuck Session. Pandemonium reigned.
One hundred and forty belated members fought their way in at the
four entrances, and mingled with them were lobbyists of all sorts and
conditions, residents and visitors to the capital, men and women to whom
the drama of “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” was as nothing to that of the Truro
Franchise Bill. It was a sight to look down upon. Fierce wrangles began
in a score of places, isolated personal remarks rose above the din, but
your New Englander rarely comes to blows; in other spots men with broad
smiles seized others by the hands and shook them violently, while Mr.
Speaker Sutton seemed in danger of suffocation by his friends. His
enemies, for the moment, could get nowhere near him. On this scene Mr.
Bijah Bixby gazed with pardonable pleasure.

“Guess there wahn’t a mite of trouble about the river towns,” he said,
“I had ‘em in my pocket. Will, let’s amble round to the theatre. We
ought to git in two acts.”

William Wetherell went. There is no need to go into the psychology
of the matter. It may have been numbness; it may have been temporary
insanity caused by the excitement of the battle he had witnessed, for
his brain was in a whirl; or Mr. Bixby may have hypnotized him. As they
walked through the silent streets toward the Opera House, he listened
perforce to Mr. Bixby’s comments upon some of the innumerable details
which Jethro had planned and quietly carried out while sitting, in the
window of the Throne Room. A great light dawned on William Wetherell,
but too late.

Jethro’s trusted lieutenants (of whom, needless to say, Mr. Bixby
was one) had been commanded to notify such of their supporters whose
fidelity and secrecy could be absolutely depended upon to attend the
Woodchuck Session; and, further to guard against surprise, this order
had not gone out until the last minute (hence Mr. Amos Cuthbert’s
conduct). The seats of these members at the theatre had been filled by
accommodating townspeople and visitors. Forestalling a possible vote on
the morrow to recall and reconsider, there remained some sixty members
whose loyalty was unquestioned, but whose reputation for discretion was
not of the best. So much for the parliamentary side of the affair, which
was a revelation of generalship and organization to William Wetherell.
By the time he had grasped it they were come in view of the lights of
Fosters Opera House, and they perceived, among a sprinkling of idlers,
a conspicuous and meditative gentleman leaning against a pillar. He was
ludicrously tall and ludicrously thin, his hands were in his trousers
pockets, and the skirts of his Sunday broadcloth coat hung down behind
him awry. One long foot was crossed over the other and rested on the
point of the toe, and his head was tilted to one side. He had, on the
whole, the appearance of a rather mournful stork. Mr. Bixby approached
him gravely, seized him by the lower shoulder, and tilted him down until
it was possible to speak into his ear. The gentleman apparently did not
resent this, although he seemed in imminent danger of being upset.

“How be you, Peleg? Er--you know Will?”

“No,” said the gentleman.

Mr. Bixby seized Mr. Wetherell under the elbow, and addressed himself to
the storekeeper’s ear.

“Will, I want you to shake hands with Senator Peleg Hartington,
of Brampton. This is Will Wetherell, Peleg,--from Coniston--you
understand.”

The senator took one hand from his pocket.

“How be you?” he said. Mr. Bixby was once more pulling down on his
shoulder.

“H-haow was it here?” he demanded.

“Almighty funny,” answered Senator Hartington, sadly, and waved at the
lobby. “There wahn’t standin’ room in the place.”

“Jethro Bass Republican Club come and packed the entrance,” explained
Mr. Bixby with a wink. “You understand, Will? Go on, Peleg.”

“Sidewalk and street, too,” continued Mr. Hartington, slowly. “First
come along Ball of Towles, hollerin’ like blazes. They crumpled him all
up and lost him. Next come old man Duncan himself.”

“Will kep’ Duncan,” Mr. Bixby interjected.

“That was wholly an accident,” exclaimed Mr. Wetherell, angrily.

“Will wahn’t born in the country,” said Mr. Bixby.

Mr. Hartington bestowed on the storekeeper a mournful look, and
continued:--

“Never seed Duncan sweatin’ before. He didn’t seem to grasp why the boys
was there.”

“Didn’t seem to understand,” put in Mr. Bixby, sympathetically.

“‘For God’s sake, gentlemen,’ says he, ‘let me in! The Truro Bill!’ ‘The
Truro Bill hain’t in the theatre, Mr. Duncan,’ says Dan Everett.
Cussed if I didn’t come near laughin’. ‘That’s “Uncle Tom’s Cabin,” Mr.
Duncan,’ says Dan. ‘You’re a dam fool,’ says Duncan. I didn’t know he
was profane. ‘Make room for Mr. Duncan,’ says Dan, ‘he wants to see the
show.’ ‘I’m a-goin’ to see you in jail for this, Everett,’ says Duncan.
They let him push in about half a rod, and they swallowed him. He
was makin’ such a noise that they had to close the doors of the
theatre--so’s not to disturb the play-actors.”

“You understand,” said Mr. Bixby to Wetherell. Whereupon he gave another
shake to Mr. Hartington, who had relapsed into a sort of funereal
meditation.

“Well,” resumed that personage, “there was some more come, hollerin’
about the Truro Bill. Not many. Guess they’ll all have to git their
wimmen-folks to press their clothes to-morrow. Then Duncan wanted to
git out again, but ‘twan’t exactly convenient. Callated he was
suffocatin’--seemed to need air. Little mite limp when he broke loose,
Duncan was.”

The Honorable Peleg stopped again, as if he were overcome by the
recollection of Mr. Duncan’s plight.

“Er--er--Peleg!”

Mr. Hartington started.

“What’d they do?--what’d they do?”

“Do?”

“How’d they git notice to ‘em?”

“Oh,” said Mr. Hartington, “cussed if that wuhn’t funny. Let’s see,
where was I? After awhile they went over t’other side of the street,
talkin’ sly, waitin’ for the act to end. But goldarned if it ever did
end.”

For once Mr. Bixby didn’t seem to understand.

“D-didn’t end?”

“No,” explained Mr. Hartington; “seems they hitched a kind of nigger
minstrel show right on to it--banjos and thingumajigs in front of the
curtain while they was changin’ scenes, and they hitched the second act
right on to that. Nobody come out of the theatre at all. Funny notion,
wahn’t it?”

Mr. Bixby’s face took on a look of extreme cunning. He smiled broadly
and poked Mr. Wetherell in an extremely sensitive portion of his ribs.
On such occasions the nasal quality of Bijah’s voice seemed to grow.

“You see?” he said.

“Know that little man, Gibbs, don’t ye?” inquired Mr. Hartington.

“Airley Gibbs, hain’t it? Runs a livery business daown to Rutgers, on
Lovejoy’s railroad,” replied Mr. Bixby, promptly. “I know him. Knew old
man Gibbs well’s I do you. Mean cuss.”

“This Airley’s smart--wahn’t quite smart enough, though. His bright idea
come a little mite late. Hunted up old Christy, got the key to his law
office right here in the Duncan Block, went up through the skylight,
clumb down to the roof of Randall’s store next door, shinned up the
lightnin’ rod on t’other side, and stuck his head plump into the Opery
House window.”

“I want to know!” ejaculated Mr. Bixby.

“Somethin’ terrible pathetic was goin’ on on the stage,” resumed Mr.
Hartington, “the folks didn’t see him at first,--they was all cryin’ and
everythin’ was still, but Airley wahn’t affected. As quick as he got his
breath he hollered right out loud’s he could: ‘The Truro Bill’s up in
the House, boys. We’re skun if you don’t git thar quick.’ Then they tell
me’ the lightnin’ rod give way; anyhow, he came down on Randall’s gravel
roof considerable hard, I take it.”

Mr. Hartington, apparently, had an aggravating way of falling into
mournful revery and of forgetting his subject. Mr. Bixby was forced to
jog him again.

“Yes, they did,” he said, “they did. They come out like the theatre was
afire. There was some delay in gettin’ to the street, but not much--not
much. All the Republican Clubs in the state couldn’t have held ‘em then,
and the profanity they used wahn’t especially edifyin’.”

“Peleg’s a deacon--you understand,” said Mr. Bixby. “Say, Peleg, where
was Al Lovejoy?”

“Lovejoy come along with the first of ‘em. Must have hurried some--they
tell me he was settin’ way down in front alongside of Alvy Hopkins’s
gal, and when Airley hollered out she screeched and clutched on to Al,
and Al said somethin’ he hadn’t ought to and tore off one of them pink
gew-gaws she was covered with. He was the maddest man I ever see. Some
of the club was crowded inside, behind the seats, standin’ up to see
the show. Al was so anxious to git through he hit Si Dudley in the
mouth--injured him some, I guess. Pity, wahn’t it?”

“Si hain’t in politics, you understand,” said Mr. Bixby. “Callate Si
paid to git in there, didn’t he, Peleg?”

“Callate he did,” assented Senator Hartington.

A long and painful pause followed. There seemed, indeed, nothing more
to be said. The sound of applause floated out of the Opera House doors,
around which the remaining loiterers were clustered.

“Goin’ in, be you, Peleg?” inquired Mr. Bixby.

Mr. Hartington shook his head.

“Will and me had a notion to see somethin’ of the show,” said Mr. Bixby,
almost apologetically. “I kep’ my ticket.”

“Well,” said Mr. Hartington, reflectively, “I guess you’ll find some of
the show left. That hain’t b’en hurt much, so far as I can ascertain.”

The next afternoon, when Mr. Isaac D. Worthington happened to be sitting
alone in the office of the Truro Railroad at the capital, there came a
knock at the door, and Mr. Bijah Bixby entered. Now, incredible as it
may seem, Mr. Worthington did not know Mr. Bixby--or rather, did not
remember him. Mr. Worthington had not had at that time much of an
experience in politics, and he did not possess a very good memory for
faces.

Mr. Bixby, who had, as we know, a confidential and winning manner,
seated himself in a chair very close to Mr. Worthington--somewhat to
that gentleman’s alarm. “How be you?” said Bijah, “I-I’ve got a little
bill here--you understand.”

Mr. Worthington didn’t understand, and he drew his chair away from Mr.
Bixby’s.

“I don’t know anything about it, sir,” answered the president of the
Truro Railroad, indignantly; “this is neither the manner nor the place
to present a bill. I don’t want to see it.”

Mr. Bixby moved his chair up again. “Callate you will want to see this
bill, Mr. Worthington,” he insisted, not at all abashed. “Jethro Bass
sent it--you understand--it’s engrossed.”

Whereupon Mr. Bixby drew from his capacious pocket a roll, tied with
white ribbon, and pressed it into Mr. Worthington’s hands. It was the
Truro Franchise Bill.

It is safe to say that Mr. Worthington understood.



CHAPTER XVI

There are certain instruments used by scientists so delicate that they
have to be wrapped in cotton wool and kept in ductless places, and so
sensitive that the slightest shock will derange them. And there are
certain souls which cannot stand the jars of life--souls created
to register thoughts and sentiments too fine for those of coarser
construction. Such was the soul of the storekeeper of Coniston. Whether
or not he was one of those immortalized in the famous Elegy, it is
not for us to say. A celebrated poet who read the letters to the
Guardian--at Miss Lucretia Penniman’s request--has declared Mr.
Wetherell to have been a genius. He wrote those letters, as we know,
after he had piled his boxes and rolled his barrels into place; after
he had added up the columns in his ledger and recorded, each week, the
small but ever increasing deficit which he owed to Jethro Bass. Could
he have been removed from the barrels and the ledgers, and the debts
and the cares and the implications, what might we have had from his pen?
That will never be known.

We left him in the lobby of the Opera House, but he did not go in to see
the final act of “Uncle Tom’s Cabin.” He made his way, alone, back to
the hotel, slipped in by a side entrance, and went directly to his room,
where Cynthia found him, half an hour later, seated by the open window
in the dark.

“Aren’t you well, Dad?” she asked anxiously. “Why didn’t you come to see
the play?”

“I--I was detained Cynthia,” he said. “Yes--I am well.”

She sat down beside him and felt his forehead and his hands, and the
events of the evening which were on her lips to tell him remained
unspoken.

“You ought not to have left Coniston,” she said; “the excitement is too
much for you. We will go back tomorrow.”

“Yes, Cynthia, we will go back to-morrow.”

“In the morning?”

“On the early train,” said Wetherell, “and now you must go to sleep.”

“I am glad,” said Cynthia, as she kissed him good night. “I have enjoyed
it here, and I am grateful to Uncle Jethro for bringing us, but--but I
like Coniston best.”

William Wetherell could have slept but a few hours. When he awoke the
sparrows were twittering outside, the fresh cool smells of the morning
were coming in at his windows, and the sunlight was just striking across
the roofs through the green trees of the Capitol Park. The remembrance
of a certain incident of the night before crept into his mind, and he
got up, and drew on his clothes and thrust his few belongings into the
carpet-bag, and knocked on Cynthia’s door. She was already dressed, and
her eyes rested searchingly on his face.

“Dad, you aren’t well. I know it,” she said.

But he denied that he was not.

Her belongings were in a neat little bundle under her arm. But when she
went to put them in the bag she gave an exclamation, knelt down, took
everything out that he had packed, and folded each article over again
with amazing quickness. Then she made a rapid survey of the room lest
she had forgotten anything, closed the bag, and they went out and along
the corridor. But when Wetherell turned to go down the stairs, she
stopped him.

“Aren’t you going to say goodby to Uncle Jethro?”

“I--I would rather go on and get in the train, Cynthia,” he said.
“Jethro will understand.”

Cynthia was worried, but she did not care to leave him; and she led him,
protesting, into the dining room. He had a sinking fear that they might
meet Jethro there, but only a few big-boned countrymen were scattered
about, attended by sleepy waitresses. Lest Cynthia might suspect how his
head was throbbing, Wetherell tried bravely to eat his breakfast. He did
not know that she had gone out, while they were waiting, and written a
note to Jethro, explaining that her father was ill, and that they were
going back to Coniston. After breakfast, when they went to the desk, the
clerk stared at them in astonishment.

“Going, Mr. Wetherell?” he exclaimed.

“I find that I have to get back,” stammered the storekeeper. “Will you
tell me the amount of my bill?”

“Judge Bass gave me instructions that he would settle that.”

“It is very kind of Mr. Bass,” said Wetherell, “but I prefer to pay it
myself.”

The man hesitated.

“The judge will be very angry, Mr. Wetherell.”

“Kindly give me the bill.”

The clerk made it out and handed it over in silence. Wetherell had in
his pocket the money from several contributions to the Guardian, and he
paid him. Then they set out for the station, bought their tickets and
hurried past the sprinkling of people there. The little train for Truro
was standing under the sheds, the hissing steam from the locomotive
rising perpendicular in the still air of the morning, and soon they were
settled in one of the straight-backed seats. The car was almost empty,
for few people were going up that day, and at length, after what, seemed
an eternity of waiting, they started, and soon were in the country once
more in that wonderful Truro valley with its fruit trees and its clover
scents; with its sparkling stream that tumbled through the passes and
mirrored between green meadow-banks the blue and white of the sky. How
hungrily they drank in the freshness of it.

They reached Truro village at eleven. Outside the little tavern there,
after dinner, the green stage was drawn up; and Tom the driver cracked
his long whip over the Morgan leaders and they started, swaying in the
sand ruts and jolting over the great stones that cropped out of the
road. Up they climbed, through narrow ways in the forest--ways hedged
with alder and fern and sumach and wild grape, adorned with oxeye
daisies and tiger lilies, and the big purple flowers which they knew
and loved so well. They passed, too, wild lakes overhung with primeval
trees, where the iris and the waterlily grew among the fallen trunks and
the water-fowl called to each other across the blue stretches. And at
length, when the sun was beginning visibly to fall, they came out into
an open cut on the western side and saw again the long line of Coniston
once more against the sky.

“Dad,” said Cynthia, as she gazed, “don’t you love it better than any
other place in the world?”

He did. But he could not answer her.

An hour later, from the hilltops above Isaac Worthington’s mills, they
saw the terraced steeple of Brampton church, and soon the horses were
standing with drooping heads and wet sides in front of Mr. Sherman’s
tavern in Brampton Street; and Lem Hallowell, his honest face aglow with
joy, was lifting Cynthia out of the coach as if she were a bundle of
feathers.

“Upon my word,” he cried, “this is a little might sudden! What’s the
matter with the capital, Will? Too wicked and sophisticated down thar to
suit ye?” By this time, Wetherell, too, had reached the ground, and as
Lem Hallowell gazed into his face the laughter in his own died away and
gave place to a look of concern. “Don’t wonder ye come back,” he said,
“you’re as white as Moses’s hoss.”

“He isn’t feeling very well, Lem;” said Cynthia.

“Jest tuckered, that’s all,” answered Lem; “you git him right into the
stage, Cynthy, I won’t be long. Hurry them things off, Tom,” he called,
and himself seized a huge crate from the back of the coach and flung it
on his shoulder. He had his cargo on in a jiffy, clucked to his horses,
and they turned into the familiar road to Coniston just as the sun was
dipping behind the south end of the mountain.

“They’ll be surprised some, and disappointed some,” said Lem, cheerily;
“they was kind of plannin’ a little celebration when you come back,
Will--you and Cynthy. Amandy Hatch was a-goin’ to bake a cake, and the
minister was callatin’ to say some word of welcome. Wahn’t goin’ to
be anything grand--jest homelike. But you was right to come if you was
tuckered. I guess Cynthy fetched you. Rias he kep’ store and done it
well,--brisker’n I ever see him, Rias was. Wait till I put some of them
things back, and make you more comfortable, Will.”

He moved a few parcels and packages from Wetherell’s feet and glanced at
Cynthia as he did so. The mountain cast its vast blue shadow over forest
and pasture, and above the pines the white mist was rising from Coniston
Water--rising in strange shapes. Lem’s voice seemed to William Wetherell
to have given way to a world-wide silence, in the midst of which he
sought vainly for Cynthia and the stage driver. Most extraordinary of
all, out of the silence and the void came the checker-paned windows
of the store at Coniston, then the store itself, with the great oaks
bending over it, then the dear familiar faces,--Moses and Amandy, Eph
Prescott limping toward them, and little Rias Richardson in an apron
with a scoop shovel in his hand, and many others. They were not smiling
at the storekeeper’s return--they looked very grave. Then somebody
lifted him tenderly from the stage and said:--

“Don’t you worry a mite, Cynthy. Jest tuckered, that’s all.”

William Wetherell was “just tuckered.” The great Dr. Coles, authority
on pulmonary troubles, who came all the way from Boston, could give no
better verdict than that. It was Jethro Bass who had induced Dr. Coles
to come to Coniston--much against the great man’s inclination, and to
the detriment of his patients: Jethro who, on receiving Cynthia’s note,
had left the capital on the next train and had come to Coniston, and had
at once gone to Boston for the specialist.

“I do not know why I came,” said the famous physician to Dr. Abraham
Rowell of Tarleton, “I never shall know. There is something about
that man Jethro Bass which compels you to do his will. He has a most
extraordinary personality. Is this storekeeper a great friend of his?”

“The only intimate friend he had in the world,” answered Dr. Rowell;
“none of us could ever understand it. And as for the girl, Jethro Bass
worships her.”

“If nursing could cure him, I’d trust her to do it. She’s a natural-born
nurse.”

The two physicians were talking in low tones in the little garden behind
the store when Jethro came out of the doorway.

“He looks as if he were suffering too,” said the Boston physician, and
he walked toward Jethro and laid a hand upon his shoulders. “I give him
until winter, my friend,” said Dr. Coles.

Jethro Bass sat down on the doorstep--on that same millstone where he
had talked with Cynthia many years before--and was silent for a long
while. The doctor was used to scenes of sorrow, but the sight of this
man’s suffering unnerved him, and he turned from it.

“D-doctor?” said Jethro, at last.

The doctor turned again: “Yes?” he said.

“D-doctor--if Wetherell hadn’t b’en to the capital would he have
lived--if he hadn’t been to the capital?”

“My friend,” said Dr. Coles, “if Mr. Wetherell had always lived in a
warm house, and had always been well fed, and helped over the rough
places and shielded from the storms, he might have lived longer. It is a
marvel to me that he has lived so long.”

And then the doctor went way, back to Boston. Many times in his long
professional life had the veil been lifted for him--a little. But as he
sat in the train he said to himself that in this visit to the hamlet
of Coniston he had had the strangest glimpse of all. William Wetherell
rallied, as Dr. Coles had predicted, from that first sharp attack, and
one morning they brought up a reclining chair which belonged to Mr.
Satterlee, the minister, and set it in the window. There, in the still
days of the early autumn, Wetherell looked down upon the garden he
had grown to love, and listened to the song of Coniston Water. There
Cynthia, who had scarcely left his side, read to him from Keats and
Shelley and Tennyson--yet the thought grew on her that he did not seem
to hear. Even that wonderful passage of Milton’s, beginning “So sinks
the day-star in the ocean bed,” which he always used to beg her to
repeat, did not seem to move him now.

The neighbors came and sat with him, but he would not often speak.
Cheery Lem Hallowell and his wife, and Cousin Ephraim, to talk about
the war, hobbling slowly up the stairs--for rheumatism had been added to
that trouble of the Wilderness bullet now, and Ephraim was getting
along in years; and Rias Richardson stole up in his carpet slippers;
and Moses, after his chores were done, and Amandy with her cakes and
delicacies, which he left untouched--though Amandy never knew it. Yes,
and Jethro came. Day by day he would come silently into the room, and
sit silently for a space, and go as silently out of it. The farms were
neglected now on Thousand Acre Hill. William Wetherell would take his
hand, and speak to him, but do no more than that.

There were times when Cynthia leaned over him, listening as he breathed
to know whether he slept or were awake. If he were not sleeping, he
would speak her name: he repeated it often in those days, as though the
sound of it gave him comfort; and he would fall asleep with it on his
lips, holding her hand, and thinking, perhaps, of that other Cynthia
who had tended and nursed and shielded him in other days. Then she would
steal down the stairs to Jethro on the doorstep: to Jethro who would
sit there for hours at a time, to the wonder and awe of his neighbors.
Although they knew that he loved the storekeeper as he loved no other
man, his was a grief that they could not understand.

Cynthia used to go to Jethro in the garden. Sorrow had brought them very
near together; and though she had loved him before, now he had become
her reliance and her refuge. The first time Cynthia saw him; when the
worst of the illness had passed and the strange and terrifying apathy
had come, she had hidden her head on his shoulder and wept there. Jethro
kept that coat, with the tear stains on it, to his dying day, and never
wore it again.

“Sometimes--sometimes I think if he hadn’t gone to the capital, Cynthy,
this mightn’t hev come,” he said to her once.

“But the doctor said that didn’t matter, Uncle Jethro,” she answered,
trying to comfort him. She, too, believed that something had happened at
the capital.

“N-never spoke to you about anything there--n-never spoke to you,
Cynthia?”

“No, never,” she said. “He--he hardly speaks at all, Uncle Jethro.”

One bright morning after the sun had driven away the frost, when the
sumacs and maples beside Coniston Water were aflame with red, Bias
Richardson came stealing up the stairs and whispered something to
Cynthia.

“Dad,” she said, laying down her book, “it’s Mr. Merrill. Will you see
him?”

William Wetherell gave her a great fright. He started up from his
pillows, and seized her wrist with a strength which she had not thought
remained in his fingers.

“Mr. Merrill!” he cried--“Mr. Merrill here!”

“Yes,” answered Cynthia, agitatedly, “he’s downstairs--in the store.”

“Ask him to come up,” said Wetherell, sinking back again, “ask him to
come up.”

Cynthia, as she stood in the passage, was of two minds about it. She
was thoroughly frightened, and went first to the garden to ask Jethro’s
advice. But Jethro, so Milly Skinner said, had gone off half an hour
before, and did not know that Mr. Merrill had arrived. Cynthia went back
again to her father.

“Where’s Mr. Merrill?” asked Wetherell.

“Dad, do you think you ought to see him? He--he might excite you.”

“I insist upon seeing him, Cynthia.”

William Wetherell had never said anything like that before. But Cynthia
obeyed him, and presently led Mr. Merrill into the room. The kindly
little railroad president was very serious now. The wasted face of the
storekeeper, enhanced as it was by the beard, gave Mr. Merrill such a
shock that he could not speak for a few moments--he who rarely lacked
for cheering words on any occasion. A lump rose in his throat as he went
over and stood by the chair and took the sick man’s hand.

“I am glad you came, Mr. Merrill,” said Wetherell, simply, “I wanted to
speak to you. Cynthia, will you leave us alone for a few minutes?”

Cynthia went, troubled and perplexed, wondering at the change in him. He
had had something on his mind--now she was sure of it--something which
Mr. Merrill might be able to relieve.

It was Mr. Merrill who spoke first when she was gone.

“I was coming up to Brampton,” he said, “and Tom Collins, who drives the
Truro coach, told me you were sick. I had not heard of it.”

Mr. Merrill, too, had something on his mind, and did not quite know how
to go on. There was in William Wetherell, as he sat in the chair with
his eyes fixed on his visitor’s face, a dignity which Mr. Merrill had
not seen before--had not thought the man might possess.

“I was coming to see you, anyway,” Mr. Merrill said.

“I did you a wrong--though as God judges me, I did not think of it at
the time. It was not until Alexander Duncan spoke to me last week that I
thought of it at all.”

“Yes,” said Wetherell.

“You see,” continued Mr. Merrill wiping his brow, for he found the
matter even more difficult than he had imagined, “it was not until
Duncan told me how you had acted in his library that I guessed the
truth--that I remembered myself how you had acted. I knew that you were
not mixed up in politics, but I also knew that you were an intimate
friend of Jethro’s, and I thought that you had been let into the secret
of the woodchuck session. I don’t defend the game of politics as it is
played, Mr. Wetherell, but all of us who are friends of Jethro’s are
generally willing to lend a hand in any little manoeuvre that is going
on, and have a practical joke when we can. It was not until I saw you
sitting there beside Duncan that the idea occurred to me. It didn’t make
a great deal of difference whether Duncan or Lovejoy got to the House or
not, provided they didn’t learn of the matter too early, because some
of their men had been bought off that day. It suited Jethro’s sense of
humor to play the game that way--and it was very effective. When I
saw you there beside Duncan I remembered that he had spoken about the
Guardian letters, and the notion occurred to me to get him to show you
his library. I have explained to him that you were innocent. I--I hope
you haven’t been worrying.”

William Wetherell sat very still for a while, gazing out of the window,
but a new look had come into his eyes.

“Jethro Bass did not know that you--that you had used me?” he asked at
length.

“No,” replied Mr. Merrill thickly, “no. He didn’t know a thing about
it--he doesn’t know it now, I believe.”

A smile came upon Wetherell’s face, but Mr. Merrill could not look at
it.

“You have made me very happy,” said the storekeeper, tremulously. “I--I
have no right to be proud--I have taken his money--he has supported my
daughter and myself all these years. But he had never asked me to--to do
anything, and I liked to think that he never would.”

Mr. Merrill could not speak. The tears were streaming down his cheeks.

“I want you to promise me, Mr. Merril!” he went on presently, “I want
you to promise me that you will never speak to Jethro, of this, or to my
daughter, Cynthia.”

Mr. Merrill merely nodded his head in assent. Still he could not speak.

“They might think it was this that caused my death. It was not. I know
very well that I am worn out, and that I should have gone soon in any
case. And I must leave Cynthia to him. He loves her as his own child.”

William Wetherell, his faith in Jethro restored, was facing death as he
had never faced life. Mr. Merrill was greatly affected.

“You must not speak of dying, Wetherell,” said he, brokenly. “Will you
forgive me?”

“There is nothing to forgive, now that you have explained matters, Mr.
Merrill” said the storekeeper, and he smiled again. “If my fibre had
been a little tougher, this thing would never have happened. There is
only one more request I have to make. And that is, to assure Mr. Duncan,
from me, that I did not detain him purposely.”

“I will see him on my way to Boston,” answered Mr. Merrill.

Then Cynthia was called. She was waiting anxiously in the passage
for the interview to be ended, and when she came in one glance at her
father’s face told her that he was happier. She, too, was happier.

“I wish you would come every day, Mr. Merrill” she said, when they
descended into the garden after the three had talked awhile. “It is the
first time since he fell ill that he seems himself.”

Mr. Merrill’s answer was to take her hand and pat it. He sat down on the
millstone and drew a deep breath of that sparkling air and sighed,
for his memory ran back to his own innocent boyhood in the New England
country. He talked to Cynthia until Jethro came.

“I have taken a fancy to this girl, Jethro,” said the little railroad
president, “I believe I’ll steal her; a fellow can’t have too many of
‘em, you know. I’ll tell you one thing,--you won’t keep her always shut
up here in Coniston. She’s much too good to waste on the desert air.”
 Perhaps Mr. Merrill, too, had been thinking of the Elegy that morning.
“I don’t mean to run down Coniston it’s one of the most beautiful places
I ever saw. But seriously, Jethro, you and Wetherell ought to send her
to school in Boston after a while. She’s about the age of my girls, and
she can live in my house: Ain’t I right?”

“D-don’t know but what you be, Steve,” Jethro answered slowly.

“I am right,” declared Mr. Merrill “you’ll back me in this, I know
it. Why, she’s like your own daughter. You remember what I say. I mean
it.--What are you thinking about, Cynthia?”

“I couldn’t leave Dad and Uncle Jethro,” she said.

“Why, bless your soul,” said Mr. Merrill “bring Dad along. We’ll find
room for him. And I guess Uncle Jethro will get to Boston twice a month
if you’re there.”

And Mr. Merrill got into the buggy with Mr. Sherman and drove away to
Brampton, thinking of many things.

“S-Steve’s a good man,” said Jethro. “C-come up here from Brampton to
see your father--did he?”

“Yes,” answered Cynthia, “he is very kind.” She was about to tell Jethro
what a strange difference this visit had made in her father’s spirits,
but some instinct kept her silent. She knew that Jethro had never ceased
to reproach himself for inviting Wetherell to the capital, and she was
sure that something had happened there which had disturbed her father
and brought on that fearful apathy. But the apathy was dispelled now,
and she shrank from giving Jethro pain by mentioning the fact.

He never knew, indeed, until many years afterward, what had brought
Stephen Merrill to Coniston. When Jethro went up the stairs that
afternoon, he found William Wetherell alone, looking out over the garden
with a new peace and contentment in his eyes. Jethro drew breath when he
saw that look, as if a great load had been lifted from his heart.

“F-feelin’ some better to-day, Will?” he said.

“I am well again, Jethro,” replied the storekeeper, pressing Jethro’s
hand for the first time in months.

“S-soon be, Will,” said Jethro, “s-soon be.”

Wetherell, who was not speaking of the welfare of the body, did not
answer.

“Jethro,” he said presently, “there is a little box lying in the top of
my trunk over there in the corner. Will you get it for me.”

Jethro rose and opened the rawhide trunk and handed the little rosewood
box to his friend. Wetherell took it and lifted the lid reverently, with
that same smile on his face and far-off look in his eyes, and drew out
a small daguerreotype in a faded velvet frame. He gazed at the picture
a long time, and then he held it out to Jethro; and Jethro looked at it,
and his hand trembled.

It was a picture of Cynthia Ware. And who can say what emotions it awoke
in Jethro’s heart? She was older than the Cynthia he had known, and yet
she did not seem so. There was the same sweet, virginal look in the
gray eyes, and the same exquisite purity in the features. He saw her
again--as if it were yesterday--walking in the golden green light under
the village maples, and himself standing in the tannery door; he saw the
face under the poke bonnet on the road to Brampton, and heard the thrush
singing in the woods. And--if he could only blot out that scene from his
life!--remembered her, a transformed Cynthia,--remembered that face in
the lantern-light when he had flung back the hood that shaded it; and
that hair which he had kissed, wet, then, from the sleet. Ah, God, for
that briefest of moments she had been his!

So he stared at the picture as it lay in the palm of his hand, and
forgot him who had been her husband. But at length he started, as from a
dream, and gave it back to Wetherell, who was watching him. Her name had
never been mentioned between the two men, and yet she had been the one
woman in the world to both.

“It is strange,” said William Wetherell, “it is strange that I should
have had but two friends in my life, and that she should have been one
and you the other. She found me destitute and brought me back to life
and married me, and cared for me until she died. And after that--you
cared for me.”

“You--you mustn’t think of that, Will, ‘twahn’t much what I did--no more
than any one else would hev done!”

“It was everything,” answered the storekeeper, simply; “each of you came
between me and destruction. There is something that I have always meant
to tell you, Jethro,--something that it may be a comfort for you to
know. Cynthia loved you.”

Jethro Bass did not answer. He got up and stood in the window, looking
out.

“When she married me,” Wetherell continued steadily, “she told me that
there was one whom she had never been able to drive from her heart. And
one summer evening, how well I recall it!--we were walking under the
trees on the Mall and we met my old employer, Mr. Judson, the jeweller.
He put me in mind of the young countryman who had come in to buy a
locket, and I asked her if she knew you. Strange that I should have
remembered your name, wasn’t it? It was then that she led me to a bench
and confessed that you were the man whom she could not forget. I used to
hate you then--as much as was in me to hate. I hated and feared you when
I first came to Coniston. But now I can tell you--I can even be happy in
telling you.”

Jethro Bass groaned. He put his hand to his throat as though he were
stifling. Many, many years ago he had worn the locket there. And now?
Now an impulse seized him, and he yielded to it. He thrust his hand in
his coat and drew out a cowhide wallet, and from the wallet the oval
locket itself. There it was, tarnished with age, but with that memorable
inscription still legible,--“Cynthy, from Jethro”; not Cynthia, but
Cynthy. How the years fell away as he read it! He handed it in silence
to the storekeeper, and in silence went to the window again. Jethro Bass
was a man who could find no outlet for his agony in speech or tears.

“Yes,” said Wetherell, “I thought you would have kept it. Dear, dear,
how well I remember it! And I remember how I patronized you when you
came into the shop. I believed I should live to be something in the
world, then. Yes, she loved you, Jethro. I can die more easily now that
I have told you--it has been on my mind all these years.”

The locket fell open in William Wetherell’s hand, for the clasp had
become worn with time, and there was a picture of little Cynthia within:
of little Cynthia,--not so little now,--a photograph taken in Brampton
the year before. Wetherell laid it beside the daguerreotype.

“She looks like her,” he said aloud; “but the child is more vigorous,
more human--less like a spirit. I have always thought of Cynthia Ware as
a spirit.”

Jethro turned at the words, and came and stood looking over Wetherell’s
shoulder at the pictures of mother and daughter. In the rosewood box
was a brooch and a gold ring--Cynthia Ware’s wedding ring--and two small
slips of yellow paper. William Wetherell opened one of these, disclosing
a little braid of brown hair. He folded the paper again and laid it in
the locket, and handed that to Jethro.

“It is all I have to give you,” he said, “but I know that you will
cherish it, and cherish her, when I am gone. She--she has been a
daughter to both of us.”

“Yes,” said Jethro, “I will.”

William Wetherell lived but a few days longer. They laid him to rest at
last in the little ground which Captain Timothy Prescott had hewn out
of the forest with his axe, where Captain Timothy himself lies under
his slate headstone with the quaint lettering of bygone days.--That same
autumn Jethro Bass made a pilgrimage to Boston, and now Cynthia Ware
sleeps there, too, beside her husband, amid the scenes she loved so
well.



BOOK III



CHAPTER I

One day, in the November following William Wetherell’s death, Jethro
Bass astonished Coniston by moving to the little cottage in the village
which stood beside the disused tannery, and which had been his father’s.
It was known as the tannery house. His reasons for this step, when
at length discovered, were generally commended: they were, in fact, a
disinclination to leave a girl of Cynthia’s tender age alone on Thousand
Acre Hill while he journeyed on his affairs about the country. The Rev.
Mr. Satterlee, gaunt, red-faced, but the six feet of him a man and
a Christian, from his square-toed boots to the bleaching yellow hair
around his temples, offered to become her teacher. For by this time
Cynthia had exhausted the resources of the little school among the
birches.

The four years of her life in the tannery house which are now briefly
to be chronicled were, for her, full of happiness and peace. Though the
young may sorrow, they do not often mourn. Cynthia missed her father; at
times, when the winds kept her wakeful at night, she wept for him. But
she loved Jethro Bass and served him with a devotion that filled his
heart with strange ecstasies--yes, and forebodings. In all his existence
he had never known a love like this. He may have imagined it once, back
in the bright days of his youth; but the dreams of its fulfilment had
fallen far short of the exquisite touch of the reality in which he now
spent his days at home. In summer, when she sat, in the face of all the
conventions of the village, reading under the butternut tree before the
house, she would feel his eyes upon her, and the mysterious yearning in
them would startle her. Often during her lessons with Mr. Satterlee in
the parlor of the parsonage she would hear a noise outside and perceive
Jethro leaning against the pillar. Both Cynthia and Mr. Satterlee knew
that he was there, and both, by a kind of tacit agreement, ignored the
circumstance.

Cynthia, in this period, undertook Jethro’s education, too. She could
have induced him to study the making of Latin verse by the mere asking.
During those days which he spent at home, and which he had grown to
value beyond price, he might have been seen seated on the ground
with his back to the butternut tree while Cynthia read aloud from the
well-worn books which had been her father’s treasures, books that took
on marvels of meaning from her lips. Cynthia’s powers of selection were
not remarkable at this period, and perhaps it was as well that she never
knew the effect of the various works upon the hitherto untamed soul of
her listener. Milton and Tennyson and Longfellow awoke in him by their
very music troubled and half-formed regrets; Carlyle’s “Frederick the
Great” set up tumultuous imaginings; but the “Life of Jackson” (as did
the story of Napoleon long ago) stirred all that was masterful in his
blood. Unlettered as he was, Jethro had a power which often marks the
American of action--a singular grasp of the application of any sentence
or paragraph to his own life; and often, about this time, he took
away the breath of a judge or a senator by flinging at them a chunk of
Carlyle or Parton.

It was perhaps as well that Cynthia was not a woman at this time, and
that she had grown up with him, as it were. His love, indeed, was that
of a father for a daughter; but it held within it as a core the
revived love of his youth for Cynthia, her mother. Tender as were the
manifestations of this love, Cynthia never guessed the fires within, for
there was in truth something primeval in the fierceness of his passion.
She was his now--his alone, to cherish and sweeten the declining years
of his life, and when by a chance Jethro looked upon her and thought of
the suitor who was to come in the fulness of her years, he burned with
a hatred which it is given few men to feel. It was well for Jethro that
these thoughts came not often.

Sometimes, in the summer afternoons, they took long drives through the
town behind Jethro’s white horse on business. “Jethro’s gal,” as Cynthia
came to be affectionately called, held the reins while Jethro went in
to talk to the men folk. One August evening found Cynthia thus beside
a poplar in front of Amos Cuthbert’s farmhouse, a poplar that shimmered
green-gold in the late afternoon, and from the buggy-seat Cynthia looked
down upon a thousand purple hilltops and mountain peaks of another
state. The view aroused in the girl visions of the many wonders which
life was to hold, and she did not hear the sharp voice beside her
until the woman had spoken twice. Jethro came out in the middle of the
conversation, nodded to Mrs. Cuthbert, and drove off.

“Uncle Jethro,” asked Cynthia, presently, “what is a mortgage?”

Jethro struck the horse with the whip, an uncommon action with him, and
the buggy was jerked forward sharply over the boulders.

“Er--who’s b’en talkin’ about mortgages, Cynthy?” he demanded.

“Mrs. Cuthbert said that when folks had mortgage held over them they had
to take orders whether they liked them or not. She said that Amos had to
do what you told him because there was a mortgage. That isn’t so is it?”

Jethro did not speak. Presently Cynthia laid her hand over his.

“Mrs. Cuthbert is a spiteful woman,” she said. “I know the reason why
people obey you--it’s because you’re so great. And Daddy used to tell me
so.”

A tremor shook Jethro’s frame and the hand on which hers rested, and all
the way down the mountain valleys to Coniston village he did not speak
again. But Cynthia was used to his silences, and respected them.

To Ephraim Prescott, who, as the days went on, found it more and more
difficult to sew harness on account of his rheumatism, Jethro was not
only a great man but a hero. For Cynthia was vaguely troubled at having
found one discontent. She was wont to entertain Ephraim on the days when
his hands failed him, when he sat sunning himself before his door; and
she knew that he was honest.

“Who’s b’en talkin’ to you, Cynthia?” he cried. “Why, Jethro’s the
biggest man I know, and the best. I don’t like to think where some of us
would have b’en if he hadn’t given us a lift.”

“But he has enemies, Cousin Eph,” said Cynthia, still troubled. “What
great man hain’t?” exclaimed the soldier. “Jethro’s enemies hain’t worth
thinkin’ about.”

The thought that Jethro had enemies was very painful to Cynthia, and she
wanted to know who they were that she might show them a proper contempt
if she met them. Lem Hallowell brushed aside the subject with his usual
bluff humor, and pinched her cheek and told her not to trouble her head;
Amanda Hatch dwelt upon the inherent weakness in the human race, and the
Rev. Mr. Satterlee faced the question once, during a history lesson. The
nation’s heroes came into inevitable comparison with Jethro Bass. Was
Washington so good a man? and would not Jethro have been as great as the
Father of his Country if he had had the opportunities?

The answers sorely tried Mr. Satterlee’s conscience, albeit he was not
a man of the world. It set him thinking. He liked Jethro, this man of
rugged power whose word had become law in the state. He knew best that
side of him which Cynthia saw; and--if the truth be told--as a native of
Coniston Mr. Satterlee felt in the bottom of his heart a certain pride
in Jethro. The minister’s opinions well represented the attitude of his
time. He had not given thought to the subject--for such matters had came
to be taken for granted. A politician now was a politician, his ways and
standards set apart from those of other citizens, and not to be judged
by men without the pale of public life. Mr. Satterlee in his limited
vision did not then trace the matter to its source, did not reflect that
Jethro Bass himself was almost wholly responsible in that state for the
condition of politics and politicians. Coniston was proud of
Jethro, prouder of him than ever since his last great victory in the
Legislature, which brought the Truro Railroad through to Harwich and
settled their townsman more firmly than ever before in the seat of
power. Every statesman who drove into their little mountain village
and stopped at the tannery house made their blood beat faster. Senators
came, and representatives, and judges, and governors, “to git their
orders,” as Rias Richardson briefly put it, and Jethro could make or
unmake them at a word. Each was scanned from the store where Rias now
reigned supreme, and from the harness shop across the road. Some drove
away striving to bite from their lips the tell-tale smile which arose in
spite of them; others tried to look happy, despite the sentence of doom
to which they had listened.

Jethro Bass was indeed a great man to make such as these tremble or
rejoice. When he went abroad with Cynthia awheel or afoot, some took off
their hats--an unheard-of thing in Coniston. If he stopped at the store,
they scanned his face for the mood he was in before venturing their
remarks; if he lingered for a moment in front of the house of Amanda
Hatch, the whole village was advised of the circumstance before
nightfall.

Two personages worthy of mention here visited the tannery house during
the years that Cynthia lived with Jethro. The Honorable Heth Sutton
drove over from Clovelly attended by his prime minister, Mr. Bijah
Bixby. The Honorable Heth did not attempt to conceal the smile with
which he went away, and he stopped at the store long enough to enable
Rias to produce certain refreshments from depths unknown to the United
States Internal Revenue authorities. Mr. Sutton shook hands with
everybody, including Jake Wheeler. Well he might. He came to Coniston
a private citizen, and drove away to all intents and purposes a
congressman: the darling wish of his life realized after heaven knows
how many caucuses and conventions of disappointment, when Jethro had
judged it expedient for one reason or another that a north countryman
should go. By the time the pair reached Brampton, Chamberlain Bixby was
introducing his chief as Congressman Sutton, and by this title he was
known for many years to come.

Another day, when the snow lay in great billows on the ground and filled
the mountain valleys, when the pines were rusty from the long winter,
two other visitors drove to Coniston in a two-horse sleigh. The sun was
shining brightly, the wind held its breath, and the noon-day warmth was
almost like that of spring. Those who know the mountain country will
remember the joy of many such days. Cynthia, standing in the sun on the
porch, breathing deep of the pure air, recognized, as the sleigh drew
near, the somewhat portly gentleman driving, and the young woman beside
him regally clad in furs who looked patronizingly at the tannery house
as she took the reins. The young woman was Miss Cassandra Hopkins, and
the portly gentleman, the Honorable Alva himself, patron of the drama,
who had entered upon his governorship and now wished to be senator.

“Jethro Bass home?” he called out.

“Mr. Bass is home,” answered Cynthia. The girl in the sleigh murmured
something, laughing a little, and Cynthia flushed. Mr. Hopkins gave
a somewhat peremptory knock at the door and was admitted by Millicent
Skinner, but Cynthia stood staring at Cassandra in the sleigh, some
instinct warning her of a coming skirmish.

“Do you live here all the year round?”

“Of course,” said Cynthia.

Miss Cassandra shrugged as though that were beyond her comprehension.

“I’d die in a place like this,” she said. “No balls, or theatres.
Doesn’t your father take you around the state?”

“My father’s dead,” said Cynthia.

“Oh! Your name’s Cynthia Wetherell, isn’t it? You know Bob Worthington,
don’t you? He’s gone to Harvard now, but he was a great friend of mine
at Andover.”

Cynthia didn’t answer. It would not be fair to say that she felt a pang,
though it might add to the romance of this narrative. But her dislike
for the girl in the sleigh decidedly increased. How was she, in her
inexperience, to know that the radiant beauty in furs was what the boys
at Phillips Andover called an “old stager.”

“So you live with Jethro Bass,” was Miss Cassandra’s next remark. “He’s
rich enough to take you round the state and give you everything you
want.”

“I have everything I want,” replied Cynthia.

“I shouldn’t call living here having everything I wanted,” declared Miss
Hopkins, with a contemptuous glance at the tannery house.

“I suppose you wouldn’t,” said Cynthia.

Miss Hopkins was nettled. She was out of humor that day, besides
she shared some of her father’s political ambition. If he went to
Washington, she went too.

“Didn’t you know Jethro Bass was rich?” she demanded, imprudently. “Why,
my father gave twenty thousand dollars to be governor, and Jethro Bass
must have got half of it.”

Cynthia’s eyes were of that peculiar gray which, lighted by love or
anger, once seen, are never forgotten. One hand was on the dashboard of
the cutter, the other had seized the seat. Her voice was steady, and the
three words she spoke struck Miss Hopkins with startling effect.

Miss Hopkins’s breath was literally taken away, and for once she found
no retort. Let it be said for her that this was a new experience with a
new creature. A demure country girl turn into a wildcat before her very
eyes! Perhaps it was as well for both that the door of the house opened
and the Honorable Alva interrupted their talk, and without so much as a
glance at Cynthia he got hurriedly into the sleigh and drove off. When
Cynthia turned, the points of color still high in her cheeks and the
light still ablaze in her eyes, she surprised Jethro gazing at her
from the porch, and some sorrow she felt rather than beheld stopped the
confession on her lips. It would be unworthy of her even to repeat such
slander, and the color surged again into her face for very shame of her
anger. Cassandra Hopkins had not been worthy of it.

Jethro did not speak, but slipped his hand into hers, and thus they
stood for a long time gazing at the snow fields between the pines on the
heights of Coniston.

The next summer, was the first which the painter--pioneer of summer
visitors there--spent at Coniston. He was an unsuccessful painter,
who became, by a process which he himself does not to-day completely
understand, a successful writer of novels. As a character, however, he
himself confesses his inadequacy, and the chief interest in him for the
readers of this narrative is that he fell deeply in love with Cynthia
Wetherell at nineteen. It is fair to mention in passing that other young
men were in love with Cynthia at this time, notably Eben Hatch--history
repeating itself. Once, in a moment of madness, Eben confessed his love,
the painter never did: and he has to this day a delicious memory which
has made Cynthia the heroine of many of his stories. He boarded with
Chester Perkins, and he was humored by the village as a harmless but
amiable lunatic.

The painter had never conceived that a New England conscience and a
temper of no mean proportions could dwell together in the body of a
wood nymph. When he had first seen Cynthia among the willows by Coniston
Water, he had thought her a wood nymph. But she scolded him for his
impropriety with so unerring a choice of words that he fell in love
with her intellect, too. He spent much of his time to the neglect of his
canvases under the butternut tree in front of Jethro’s house trying to
persuade Cynthia to sit for her portrait; and if Jethro himself had not
overheard one of these arguments, the portrait never would have been
painted. Jethro focussed a look upon the painter.

“Er--painter-man, be you? Paint Cynthy’s picture?”

“But I don’t want to be painted, Uncle Jethro. I won’t be painted!”

“H-how much for a good picture? Er--only want the best--only want the
best.”

The painter said a few things, with pardonable heat, to the
effect--well, never mind the effect. His remarks made no impression
whatever upon Jethro.

“Er---paint the picture--paint the picture, and then we’ll talk about
the price. Er--wait a minute.”

He went into the house, and they heard him lumbering up the stairs.
Cynthia sat with her back to the artist, pretending to read, but
presently she turned to him.

“I’ll never forgive you--never, as long as I live,” she cried, “and I
won’t be painted!”

“N-not to please me, Cynthy?” It was Jethro’s voice.

Her look softened. She laid down the book and went up to him on the
porch and put her hand on his shoulder.

“Do you really want it so much as all that, Uncle Jethro?” she said.

“Callate I do, Cynthy,” he answered. He held a bundle covered with
newspaper in his hand, he looked down at Cynthia.

He seated himself on the edge of the porch and for the moment seemed
lost in revery. Then he began slowly to unwrap the newspaper from the
bundle: there were five layers of it, but at length he disclosed a bolt
of cardinal cloth.

“Call this to mind, Cynthy?”

“Yes,” she answered with a smile.

“H-how’s this for the dress, Mr. Painter-man?” said Jethro, with a pride
that was ill-concealed.

The painter started up from his seat and took the material in his hands
and looked at Cynthia. He belonged to a city club where he was popular
for his knack of devising costumes, and a vision of Cynthia as the
daughter of a Doge of Venice arose before his eyes. Wonder of wonders,
the daughter of a Doge discovered in a New England hill village! The
painter seized his pad and pencil and with a few strokes, guided by
inspiration, sketched the costume then and there and held it up to
Jethro, who blinked at it in astonishment. But Jethro was suspicious of
his own sensations.

“Er--well--Godfrey--g-guess that’ll do.” Then came the involuntary:
“W-wouldn’t a-thought you had it in you. How about it, Cynthy?” and he
held it up for her inspection.

“If you are pleased, it’s all I care about, Uncle Jethro,” she answered,
and then, her face suddenly flushing, “You must promise me on your honor
that nobody in Coniston shall know about it, ‘Mr. Painter-man’.”

After this she always called him “Mr. Painter-man,”--when she was
pleased with him.

So the cardinal cloth was come to its usefulness at last. It was
inevitable that Sukey Kittredge, the village seamstress, should be taken
into confidence. It was no small thing to take Sukey into confidence,
for she was the legitimate successor in more ways than one of Speedy
Bates, and much of Cynthia and the artist’s ingenuity was spent upon
devising a form of oath which would hold Sukey silent. Sukey, however,
got no small consolation from the sense of the greatness of the trust
confided in her, and of the uproar she could make in Coniston if she
chose. The painter, to do him justice, was the real dressmaker, and did
everything except cut the cloth and sew it together. He sent to friends
of his in the city for certain paste jewels and ornaments, and one
day Cynthia stood in the old tannery shed--hastily transformed into a
studio--before a variously moved audience. Sukey, having adjusted the
last pin, became hysterical over her handiwork, Millicent Skinner stared
openmouthed, words having failed her for once, and Jethro thrust his
hands in his pockets in a quiet ecstasy of approbation.

“A-always had a notion that cloth’d set you off, Cynthy,” said he,
“er--next time I go to the state capital you come along--g-guess it’ll
surprise ‘em some.”

“I guess it would, Uncle Jethro,” said Cynthia, laughing.

Jethro postponed two political trips of no small importance to be
present at the painting of that picture, and he would sit silently by
the hour in a corner of the shed watching every stroke of the brush.
Never stood Doge’s daughter in her jewels and seed pearls amidst
stranger surroundings,--the beam, and the centre post around which
the old white horse had toiled in times gone by, and all the piled-up,
disused machinery of forgotten days. And never was Venetian lady more
unconscious of her environment than Cynthia.

The portrait was of the head and shoulders alone, and when he had given
it the last touch, the painter knew that, for once in his life, he
had done a good thing. Never before; perhaps, had the fire of such
inspiration been given him. Jethro, who expressed himself in terms
(for him) of great enthusiasm, was for going to Boston immediately to
purchase a frame commensurate with the importance of such a work of art,
but the artist had his own views on that subject and sent to New York
for this also.

The day after the completion of the picture a rugged figure in rawhide
boots and coonskin cap approached Chester Perkins’s house, knocked
at the door, and inquired for the “Painter-man.” It was Jethro. The
“Painter-man” forthwith went out into the rain behind the shed, where a
somewhat curious colloquy took place.

“G-guess I’m willin’ to pay you full as much as it’s worth,” said
Jethro, producing a cowhide wallet. “Er--what figure do you allow it
comes to with the frame?”

The artist was past taking offence, since Jethro had long ago become for
him an engrossing study.

“I will send you the bill for the frame, Mr. Bass,” he said, “the
picture belongs to Cynthia.”

“Earn your livin’ by paintin’, don’t you--earn your livin’?”

The painter smiled a little bitterly.

“No,” he said, “if I did, I shouldn’t be--alive. Mr. Bass, have you ever
done anything the pleasure of doing which was pay enough, and to spare?”

Jethro looked at him, and something very like admiration came into the
face that was normally expressionless.

He put up his wallet a little awkwardly, and held out his hand more
awkwardly.

“You be more of a feller than I thought for,” he said, and strode off
through the drizzle toward Coniston. The painter walked slowly to the
kitchen, where Chester Perkins and his wife were sitting down to supper.

“Jethro got a mortgage on you, too?” asked Chester.

The artist had his reward, for when the picture was hung at length in
the little parlor of the tannery house it became a source of pride to
Coniston second only to Jethro himself.



CHAPTER II

Time passes, and the engines of the Truro Railroad are now puffing in
and out of the yards of Worthington’s mills in Brampton, and a fine
layer of dust covers the old green stage which has worn the road for so
many years over Truro Gap. If you are ever in Brampton, you can still
see the stage, if you care to go into the back of what was once Jim
Sanborn’s livery stable, now owned by Mr. Sherman of the Brampton House.

Conventions and elections had come and gone, and the Honorable Heth
Sutton had departed triumphantly to Washington, cheered by his neighbors
in Clovelly. Chamberlain Bixby was left in charge there, supreme. Who
could be more desirable as a member of Congress than Mr. Sutton, who had
so ably served his party (and Jethro) by holding the House against the
insurgents in the matter of the Truro Bill? Mr. Sutton was, moreover, a
gentleman, an owner of cattle and land, a man of substance whom lesser
men were proud to mention as a friend--a very hill-Rajah with stock in
railroads and other enterprises, who owed allegiance and paid tribute
alone to the Great Man of Coniston.

Mr. Sutton was one who would make himself felt even in the capital of
the United States--felt and heard. And he had not been long in the Halls
of Congress before he made a speech which rang under the very dome of
the Capitol. So said the Brampton and Harwich papers, at least, though
rivals and detractors of Mr. Sutton declared that they could find no
matter in it which related to the subject of a bill, but that is
neither here nor there. The oration began with a lengthy tribute to the
resources and history of his state, and ended by a declaration that the
speaker was in Congress at no man’s bidding, but as the servant of the
common people of his district.

Under the lamp of the little parlor in the tannery house, Cynthia (who
has now arrived at the very serious age of nineteen) was reading the
papers to Jethro and came upon Mr. Sutton’s speech. There were four
columns of it, but Jethro seemed to take delight in every word; and
portions of the noblest parts of it, indeed, he had Cynthia read over
again. Sometimes, in the privacy of his home, Jethro was known to
chuckle, and to Cynthia’s surprise he chuckled more than usual that
evening.

“Uncle Jethro,” she said at length, when she had laid the paper down, “I
thought that you sent Mr. Sutton to Congress.”

Jethro leaned forward.

“What put that into your head, Cynthy?” he asked.

“Oh,” answered the girl, “everybody says so,--Moses Hatch, Rias, and
Cousin Eph. Didn’t you?”

Jethro looked at her, as she thought, strangely.

“You’re too young to know anything about such things, Cynthy,” he said,
“too young.”

“But you make all the judges and senators and congressmen in the state,
I know you do. Why,” exclaimed Cynthia, indignantly, “why does Mr.
Sutton say the people elected him when he owes everything to you?”

Jethro, arose abruptly and flung a piece of wood into the stove, and
then he stood with his back to her. Her instinct told her that he was
suffering, though she could not fathom the cause, and she rose swiftly
and drew him down into the chair beside her.

“What is it?” she said anxiously. “Have you got rheumatism, too, like
Cousin Eph? All old men seem to have rheumatism.”

“No, Cynthy, it hain’t rheumatism,” he managed to answer; “wimmen folks
hadn’t ought to mix up in politics. They--they don’t understand ‘em,
Cynthy.”

“But I shall understand them some day, because I am your daughter--now
that--now that I have only you, I am your daughter, am I not?”

“Yes, yes,” he answered huskily, with his hand on her hair.

“And I know more than most women now,” continued Cynthia, triumphantly.
“I’m going to be such a help to you soon--very soon. I’ve read a lot of
history, and I know some of the Constitution by heart. I know why old
Timothy Prescott fought in the Revolution--it was to get rid of kings,
wasn’t it, and to let the people have a chance? The people can always be
trusted to do what is right, can’t they, Uncle Jethro?”

Jethro was silent, but Cynthia did not seem to notice that. After a
space she spoke again:--“I’ve been thinking it all out about you, Uncle
Jethro.”

“A-about me?”

“Yes, I know why you are able to send men to Congress and make judges
of them. It’s because the people have chosen you to do all that for
them--you are so great and good.”

Jethro did not answer.

Although the month was March, it was one of those wonderful still nights
that sometimes come in the mountain-country when the wind is silent
in the notches and the stars seem to burn nearer to the earth. Cynthia
awoke and lay staring for an instant at the red planet which hung over
the black and ragged ridge, and then she arose quickly and knocked at
the door across the passage.

“Are you ill, Uncle Jethro?”

“No,” he answered, “no, Cynthy. Go to bed. Er--I was just
thinkin’--thinkin’, that’s all, Cynthy.”

Though all his life he had eaten sparingly, Cynthia noticed that he
scarcely touched his breakfast the next morning, and two hours later
he went unexpectedly to the state capital. That day, too, Coniston was
clothed in clouds, and by afternoon a wild March snowstorm was sweeping
down the face of the mountain, piling against doorways and blocking the
roads. Through the storm Cynthia fought her way to the harness shop,
for Ephraim Prescott had taken to his bed, bound hand and foot by
rheumatism.

Much of that spring Ephraim was all but helpless, and Cynthia spent
many days nursing him and reading to him. Meanwhile the harness industry
languished. Cynthia and Ephraim knew, and Coniston guessed, that Jethro
was taking care of Ephraim, and strong as was his affection for Jethro
the old soldier found dependence hard to bear. He never spoke of it to
Cynthia, but he used to lie and dream through the spring days of what he
might have done if the war had not crippled him. For Ephraim Prescott,
like his grandfather, was a man of action--a keen, intelligent American
whose energy, under other circumstances, might have gone toward the
making of the West. Ephraim, furthermore, had certain principles which
some in Coniston called cranks; for instance, he would never apply for
a pension, though he could easily have obtained one. Through all his
troubles, he held grimly to the ideal which meant more to him than ease
and comfort,--that he had served his country for the love of it.

With the warm weather he was able to be about again, and occasionally to
mend a harness, but Doctor Rowell shook his head when Jethro stopped
his buggy in the road one day to inquire about Ephraim. Whereupon Jethro
went on to the harness shop. The inspiration, by the way, had come from
Cynthia.

“Er--Ephraim, how’d you like to, be postmaster? H-haven’t any objections
to that kind of a job, hev you?”

“Why no,” said Ephraim. “We hain’t agoin’ to hev a post-office at
Coniston--air we?”

“H-how’d you like to be postmaster at Brampton?” demanded Jethro,
abruptly.

Ephraim dropped the trace he was shaving.

“Postmaster at Brampton!” he exclaimed.

“H-how’d you like it?” said Jethro again.

“Well,” said Ephraim, “I hain’t got any objections.”

Jethro started out of the shop, but paused again at the door.

“W-won’t say nothin’ about it, will you, Eph?” he inquired.

“Not till I git it,” answered Ephraim. The sorrows of three years were
suddenly lifted from his shoulders, and for an instant Ephraim wanted
to dance until he remembered the rheumatism and the Wilderness leg.
Suddenly a thought struck him, and he hobbled to the door and called out
after Jethro’s retreating figure. Jethro returned.

“Well?” he said, “well?”

“What’s the pay?” said Ephraim, in a whisper.

Jethro named the sum instantly, also in a whisper.

“You don’t tell me!” said Ephraim, and sank stupefied into the chair in
front of the shop, where lately he had spent so much of his time.

Jethro chuckled twice on his way home: he chuckled twice again to
Cynthia’s delight at supper, and after supper he sent Millicent Skinner
to find Jake Wheeler. Jake as usual, was kicking his heels in front of
the store, talking to Rias and others about the coming Fourth of July
celebration at Brampton. Brampton, as we know, was famous for its Fourth
of July celebrations. Not neglecting to let it be known that Jethro
had sent for him, Jake hurried off through the summer twilight to the
tannery house, bowed ceremoniously to Cynthia under the butternut tree,
and discovered Jethro behind the shed. It was usually Jethro’s custom to
allow the other man to begin the conversation, no matter how trivial
the subject--a method which had commended itself to Mr. Bixby and other
minor politicians who copied him. And usually the other man played
directly into Jethro’s hands. Jake Wheeler always did, and now, to cover
the awkwardness of the silence, he began on the Brampton celebration.

“They tell me Heth Sutton’s a-goin’ to make the address--seems prouder
than ever sence he went to Congress. I guess you’ll tell him what to say
when the time comes, Jethro.”

“Er--goin’ to Clovelly after wool this week, Jake?”

“I kin go to-morrow,” said Jake, scenting an affair.

“Er--goin’ to Clovelly after wool this week, Jake?”

Jake reflected. He saw it was expedient that this errand should not
smell of haste.

“I was goin’ to see Cutter on Friday,” he answered.

“Er--if you should happen to meet Heth--”

“Yes,” interrupted Jake.

“If by chance you should happen to meet Heth, or Bije” (Jethro knew that
Jake never went to Clovelly without a conference with one or the other
of these personages, if only to be able to talk about it afterward at
the store), “er--what would you say to ‘em?”

“Why,” said Jake, scratching his head for the answer, “I’d tell him you
was at Coniston.”

“Think we’ll have rain, Jake?” inquired Jethro, blandly.

Jake wended his way back to the store, filled with renewed admiration
for the great man. Jethro had given him no instructions whatever, could
deny before a jury if need be that he had sent him (Jake) to Clovelly to
tell Heth Sutton to come to Coniston for instructions on the occasion
of his Brampton speech. And Jake was filled with a mysterious importance
when he took his seat once more in the conclave.

Jake Wheeler, although in many respects a fool, was one of the most
efficient pack of political hounds that the state has ever known. By
six o’clock on Friday morning he was descending a brook valley on the
Clovelly side of the mountain, and by seven was driving between the
forest and river meadows of the Rajah’s domain, and had come in sight of
the big white house with its somewhat pretentious bay-windows and Gothic
doorway; it might be dubbed the palace of these parts. The wide river
flowed below it, and the pastures so wondrously green in the morning sun
were dotted with fat cattle and sheep. Jake was content to borrow a cut
of tobacco from the superintendent and wonder aimlessly around the farm
until Mr. Sutton’s family prayers and breakfast were accomplished. We
shall not concern ourselves with the message or the somewhat lengthy
manner in which it was delivered. Jake had merely dropped in by
accident, but the Rajah listened coldly while he picked his teeth, said
he didn’t know whether he was going to Brampton or not--hadn’t decided;
didn’t know whether he could get to Coniston or not--his affairs were
multitudinous now. In short, he set Jake to thinking deeply as his horse
walked up the western heights of Coniston on the return journey. He
had, let it be repeated, a sure instinct once his nose was fairly on
the scent, and he was convinced that a war of great magnitude was in the
air, and he; Jake Wheeler, was probably the first in all the elate to
discover it! His blood leaped at the thought.

The hill-Rajah’s defiance, boiled down, could only mean one thing,--that
somebody with sufficient power and money was about to lock horns with
Jethro Bass. Not for a moment did Jake believe that, for all his pomp
and circumstance, the Honorable Heth Sutton was a big enough man to do
this. Jake paid to the Honorable Heth all the outward respect that his
high position demanded, but he knew the man through and through. He
thought of the Honorable Heth’s reform speech in Congress, and laughed
loudly in the echoing woods. No, Mr. Sutton was not the man to lead a
fight. But to whom had he promised his allegiance? This question puzzled
Mr. Wheeler all the way home, and may it be said finally for many
days thereafter. He slid into Coniston in the dusk, big with impending
events, which he could not fathom. As to giving Jethro the careless
answer of the hill-Rajah, that was another matter.

The Fourth of July came at last, nor was any contradiction made in the
Brampton papers that the speech of the Honorable Heth Sutton had been
cancelled. Instead, advertisements appeared in the ‘Brampton
Clarion’ announcing the fact in large letters. When Cynthia read
this advertisement to Jethro, he chuckled again. They were under the
butternut tree, for the evenings were long now.

“Will you take me to Brampton, Uncle Jethro?” said she, letting fall the
paper on her lap.

“W-who’s to get in the hay?” said Jethro.

“Hay on the Fourth of July!” exclaimed Cynthia, “why, that’s--sacrilege!
You’d much better come and hear Mr. Sutton’s speech--it will do you
good.”

Cynthia could see that Jethro was intensely amused, for his eyes had a
way of snapping on such occasions when he was alone with her. She was
puzzled and slightly offended, because, to tell the truth, Jethro had
spoiled her.

“Very well, then,” she said, “I’ll go with the Painter-man.”

Jethro came and stood over her, his expression the least bit wistful.

“Er--Cynthy,” he said presently, “hain’t fond of that Painter-man, be
you?”

“Why, yes,” said Cynthia, “aren’t you?”

“He’s fond of you,” said Jethro, “sh-shouldn’t be surprised if he was in
love with you.”

Cynthia looked up at him, the corners of her mouth twitching, and then
she laughed. The Rev. Mr. Satterlee, writing his Sunday sermon in his
study, heard her and laid down his pen to listen.

“Uncle Jethro,” said Cynthia, “sometimes I forget that you’re a great,
wise man, and I think that you are just a silly old goose.”

Jethro wiped his face with his blue cotton handkerchief.

“Then you hain’t a-goin’ to marry the Painter-man?” he said.

“I’m not going to marry anybody,” cried Cynthia, contritely; “I’m going
to live with you and take care of you all my life.”

On the morning of the Fourth, Cynthia drove to Brampton with the
Painter-man, and when he perceived that she was dreaming, he ceased to
worry her with his talk. He liked her dreaming, and stole many glances
at her face of which she knew nothing at all. Through the cool and
fragrant woods, past the mill-pond stained blue and white by the sky,
and scented clover fields and wayside flowers nodding in the morning
air--Cynthia saw these things in the memory of another journey to
Brampton. On that Fourth her father had been with her, and Jethro and
Ephraim and Moses and Amanda Hatch and the children. And how well she
recalled, too, standing amidst the curious crowd before the great house
which Mr. Worthington had just built.

There are weeks and months, perhaps, when we do not think of people,
when our lives are full and vigorous, and then perchance a memory will
bring them vividly before us--so vividly that we yearn for them. There
rose before Cynthia now the vision of a boy as he stood on the Gothic
porch of the house, and how he had come down to the wondering country
people with his smile and his merry greeting, and how he had cajoled her
into lingering in front of the meeting-house. Had he forgotten her? With
just a suspicion of a twinge, Cynthia remembered that Janet Duncan she
had seen at the capital, whom she had been told was the heiress of the
state. When he had graduated from Harvard, Bob would, of course, marry
her. That was in the nature of things.

To some the great event of that day in Brampton was to be the speech of
the Honorable Heth Sutton in the meeting-house at eleven; others (and
this party was quite as numerous) had looked forward to the base-ball
game between Brampton and Harwich in the afternoon. The painter would
have preferred to walk up meeting-house hill with Cynthia, and from
the cool heights look down upon the amphitheatre in which the town
was built. But Cynthia was interested in history, and they went to the
meeting-house accordingly, where she listened for an hour and a half to
the patriotic eloquence of the representative. The painter was glad to
see and hear so great a man in the hour of his glory, though so much as
a fragment of the oration does not now remain in his memory. In size,
in figure, in expression, in the sonorous tones of his voice, Mr. Sutton
was everything that a congressman should be. “The people,” said Isaac D.
Worthington in presenting him, “should indeed be proud of such an able
and high-minded representative.” We shall have cause to recall that word
high-minded.

Many persons greeted Cynthia outside the meetinghouse, for the girl
seemed genuinely loved by all who knew her--too much loved, her
companion thought, by certain spick-and-span young men of Brampton. But
they ate the lunch Cynthia had brought, far from the crowd, under the
trees by Coniston Water. It was she who proposed going to the base-ball
game, and the painter stifled a sigh and acquiesced. Their way brought
them down Brampton Street, past a house with great iron dogs on the
lawn, so imposing and cityfied that he hung back and asked who lived
there.

“Mr. Worthington,” answered Cynthia, making to move on impatiently.

Her escort did not think much of the house, but it interested him as
the type which Mr. Worthington had built. On that same Gothic porch,
sublimely unconscious of the covert stares and subdued comments of the
passers-by, the first citizen himself and the Honorable Heth Sutton
might be seen. Mr. Worthington, whose hawklike look had become more
pronounced, sat upright, while the Honorable Heth, his legs crossed,
filled every nook and cranny of an arm-chair, and an occasional fragrant
whiff from his cigar floated out to those on the tar sidewalk. Although
the pedestrians were but twenty feet away, what Mr. Worthington said
never reached them; but the Honorable Heth on public days carried his
voice of the Forum around with him.

“Come on,” said Cynthia, in one of those startling little tempers she
was subject to; “don’t stand there like an idiot.”

Then the voice of Mr. Sutton boomed toward them.

“As I understand, Worthington,” they heard him say, “you want me to
appoint young Wheelock for the Brampton post-office.” He stuck his
thumb into his vest pocket and recrossed his legs “I guess it can be
arranged.”

When the painter at last overtook Cynthia the jewel paints he had so
often longed to catch upon a canvas were in her eyes. He fell back,
wondering how he could so greatly have offended, when she put her hand
on his sleeve.

“Did you hear what he said about the Brampton postoffice?” she cried.

“The Brampton post-office?” he repeated; dazed.

“Yes,” said Cynthia; “Uncle Jethro has promised it to Cousin Ephraim,
who will starve without it. Did you hear this man say he would give it
to Mr. Wheelock?”

Here was a new Cynthia, aflame with emotions on a question of politics
of which he knew nothing. He did, understand, however, her concern for
Ephraim Prescott, for he knew that she loved the soldier. She turned
from the painter now with a gesture which he took to mean that his
profession debarred him from such vital subjects, and she led the way
to the fair-grounds. There he meekly bought tickets, and they found
themselves hurried along in the eager crowd toward the stand.

The girl was still unaccountably angry over that mysterious affair of
the post-office, and sat with flushed cheeks staring out on the green
field, past the line of buggies and carryalls on the farther side to
the southern shoulder of Coniston towering, above them all. The painter,
already, beginning to love his New England folk, listened to the homely
chatter about him, until suddenly a cheer starting in one corner ran
like a flash of gunpowder around the field, and eighteen young men
trotted across the turf. Although he was not a devotee of sport, he
noticed that nine of these, as they took their places on the bench, wore
blue,--the Harwich Champions. Seven only of those scattering over the
field wore white; two young gentlemen, one at second base and the
other behind the batter, wore gray uniforms with crimson stockings, and
crimson piping on the caps, and a crimson H embroidered on the breast--a
sight that made the painter’s heart beat a little faster, the honored
livery of his own college.

“What are those two Harvard men doing here?” he asked.

Cynthia, who was leaning forward, started, and turned to him a face
which showed him that his question had been meaningless. He repeated it.

“Oh,” said she, “the tall one, burned brick-red like an Indian, is Bob
Worthington.”

“He’s a good type,” the artist remarked.

“You’re right, Mister, there hain’t a finer young feller anywhere,”
 chimed in Mr. Dodd, a portly person with a tuft of yellow beard on his
chin. Mr. Dodd kept the hardware store in Brampton.

“And who,” asked the painter, “is the bullet-headed little fellow, with
freckles and short red hair, behind the bat?”

“I don’t know,” said Cynthia, indifferently.

“Why,” exclaimed Mr. Dodd, with just a trace of awe in his voice,
“that’s Somers Duncan, son of Millionaire Duncan down to the capital. I
guess,” he added, “I guess them two will be the richest men in the state
some day. Duncan come up from Harvard with Bob.”

In a few minutes the game was in full swing, Brampton against Harwich,
the old rivalry in another form. Every advantage on either side awoke
thundering cheers from the partisans; beribboned young women sprang to
their feet and waved the Harwich blue at a home run, and were on the
verge of tears when the Brampton pitcher struck out their best batsman.
But beyond the facts that the tide was turning in Brampton’s favor; that
young Mr. Worthington stopped a ball flying at a phenomenal speed and
batted another at a still more phenomenal speed which was not stopped;
that his name and Duncan’s were mingled generously in the cheering, the
painter remembered little of the game. The exhibition of human passions
which the sight of it drew from an undemonstrative race: the shouting,
the comments wrung from hardy spirits off their guard, the joy and
the sorrow,--such things interested him more. High above the turmoil
Coniston, as through the ages, looked down upon the scene impassive.

He was aroused from these reflections by an incident. Some one had
leaped over the railing which separated the stand from the field and
stood before Cynthia,--a tanned and smiling young man in gray and
crimson. His honest eyes were alight with an admiration that was
unmistakable to the painter--perhaps to Cynthia also, for a glow that
might have been of annoyance or anger, and yet was like the color of the
mountain sunrise, answered in her cheek. Mr. Worthington reached out a
large brown hand and seized the girl’s as it lay on her lap.

“Hello, Cynthia,” he cried, “I’ve been looking for you all day. I
thought you might be here. Where were you?”

“Where did you look?” answered Cynthia, composedly, withdrawing her
hand.

“Everywhere,” said Bob, “up and down the street, all through the hotel.
I asked Lem Hallowell, and he didn’t know where you were. I only got
here last night myself.”

“I was in the meeting-house,” said Cynthia.

“The meeting-house!” he echoed. “You don’t mean to tell me that you
listened to that silly speech of Sutton’s?”

This remark, delivered in all earnestness, was the signal for uproarious
laughter from Mr. Dodd and others sitting near by, attending earnestly
to the conversation.

Cynthia bit her lip.

“Yes, I did,” she said; “but I’m sorry now.”

“I should think you would be,” said Bob; “Sutton’s a silly, pompous old
fool. I had to sit through dinner with him. I believe I could represent
the district better myself.”

“By gosh!” exploded Mr. Dodd, “I believe you could!”

But Bob paid no attention to him. He was looking at Cynthia.

“Cynthia, you’ve grown up since I saw you,” he said. “How’s Uncle
Jethro.

“He’s well--thanks,” said Cynthia, and now she was striving to put down
a smile.

“Still running the state?” said Bob. “You tell him I think he ought to
muzzle Sutton. What did he send him down to Washington for?”

“I don’t know,” said Cynthia.

“What are you going to do after the game?” Bob demanded.

“I’m going home of course,” said Cynthia.

His face fell.

“Can’t you come to the house for supper and stay for the fireworks?” he
begged pleadingly. “We’d be mighty glad to have your friend, too.”

Cynthia introduced her escort.

“It’s very good of you, Bob,” she said, with that New England demureness
which at times became her so well, “but we couldn’t possibly do it. And
then I don’t like Mr. Sutton.”

“Oh, hang him!” exclaimed Bob. He took a step nearer to her. “Won’t you
stay this once? I have to go West in the morning.”

“I think you are very lucky,” said Cynthia.

Bob scanned her face searchingly, and his own fell.

“Lucky!” he cried, “I think it’s the worst thing that ever happened to
me. My father’s so hard-headed when he gets his mind set--he’s making me
do it. He wants me to see the railroads and the country, so I’ve got to
go with the Duncans. I wanted to stay--” He checked himself, “I think
it’s a blamed nuisance.”

“So do I,” said a voice behind him.

It was not the first time that Mr. Somers Duncan had spoken, but Bob
either had not heard him or pretended not to. Mr. Duncan’s freckled face
smiled at them from the top of the railing, his eyes were on
Cynthia’s face, and he had been listening eagerly. Mr. Duncan’s chief
characteristic, beyond his freckles, was his eagerness--a quality
probably amounting to keenness.

“Hello,” said Bob, turning impatiently, “I might have known you couldn’t
keep away. You’re the cause of all my troubles--you and your father’s
private car.”

Somers became apologetic.

“It isn’t my fault,” he said; “I’m sure I hate going as much as you do.
It’s spoiled my summer, too.”

Then he coughed and looked at Cynthia.

“Well,” said Bob, “I suppose I’ll have to introduce you. This,” he
added, dragging his friend over the railing, “is Mr. Somers Duncan.”

“I’m awfully glad to meet you, Miss. Wetherell,” said Somers, fervently;
“to tell you the truth, I thought he was just making up yarns.”

“Yarns?” repeated Cynthia, with a look that set Mr. Duncan floundering.

“Why, yes,” he stammered. “Worthy said that you were up here, but I
thought he was crazy the way he talked--I didn’t think--”

“Think what?” inquired Cynthia, but she flushed a little.

“Oh, rot, Somers!” said Bob, blushing furiously under his tan; “you
ought never to go near a woman--you’re the darndest fool with ‘em I ever
saw.”

This time even the painter laughed outright, and yet he was a little
sorrowful, too, because he could not be even as these youths. But
Cynthia sat serene, the eternal feminine of all the ages, and it is no
wonder that Bob Worthington was baffled as he looked at her. He lapsed
into an awkwardness quite as bad as that of his friend.

“I hope you enjoyed the game,” he said at last, with a formality that
was not at all characteristic.

Cynthia did not seem to think it worth while to answer this, so the
painter tried to help him out.

“That was a fine stop you made, Mr. Worthington,” he said; “wasn’t it,
Cynthia?”

“Everybody seemed to think so,” answered Cynthia, cruelly; “but if I
were a man and had hands like that” (Bob thrust them in his pockets), “I
believe I could stop a ball, too.”

Somers laughed uproariously.

“Good-by,” said Bob, with uneasy abruptness, “I’ve got to go into the
field now. When can I see you?”

“When you get back from the West--perhaps,” said Cynthia.

“Oh,” cried Bob (they were calling him), “I must see you to-night!” He
vaulted over the railing and turned. “I’ll come back here right after
the game,” he said; “there’s only one more inning.”

“We’ll come back right after the game,” repeated Mr. Duncan.

Bob shot one look at him,--of which Mr. Duncan seemed blissfully
unconscious,--and stalked off abruptly to second base.

The artist sat pensive for a few moments, wondering at the ways
of women, his sympathies unaccountably enlisted in behalf of Mr.
Worthington.

“Weren’t you a little hard on him?” he said.

For answer Cynthia got to her feet.

“I think we ought to be going home,” she said.

“Going home!” he ejaculated in amazement.

“I promised Uncle Jethro I’d be there for supper,” and she led the way
out of the grand stand.

So they drove back to Coniston through the level evening light, and when
they came to Ephraim Prescott’s harness shop the old soldier waved at
them cheerily from under the big flag which he had hung out in honor
of the day. The flag was silk, and incidentally Ephraim’s most valued
possession. Then they drew up before the tannery house, and Cynthia
leaped out of the buggy and held out her hand to the painter with a
smile.

“It was very good of you to take me,” she said.

Jethro Bass, rugged, uncouth, in rawhide boots and swallowtail and
coonskin cap, came down from the porch to welcome her, and she ran
toward him with an eagerness that started the painter to wondering
afresh over the contrasts of life. What, he asked himself, had Fate in
store for Cynthia Wetherell?



CHAPTER III

“H-have a good time, Cynthy?” said Jethro, looking down into her face.
Love had wrought changes in Jethro; mightier changes than he suspected,
and the girl did not know how zealous were the sentries of that love,
how watchful they were, and how they told him often and again whether
her heart, too, was smiling.

“It was very gay,” said Cynthia.

“P-painter-man gay?” inquired Jethro.

Cynthia’s eyes were on the orange line of the sunset over Coniston, but
she laughed a little, indulgently.

“Cynthy?”

“Yes.”

“Er--that Painter-man hain’t such a bad fellow--w-why didn’t you ask him
in to supper?”

“I’ll give you three guesses,” said Cynthia, but she did not wait for
them. “It was because I wanted to be alone with you. Milly’s gone out,
hasn’t she?”

“G-gone a-courtin’,” said Jethro.

She smiled, and went into the house to see whether Milly had done her
duty before she left. It was characteristic of Cynthia not to have
mentioned the subject which was agitating her mind until they were
seated on opposite sides of the basswood table.

“Uncle Jethro,” she said, “I thought you told Mr. Sutton to give Cousin
Eph the Brampton post-office? Do you trust Mr. Sutton?” she demanded
abruptly.

“Er--why?” said Jethro. “Why?”

“Because I don’t,” she answered with conviction; “I think he’s a big
fraud. He must have deceived you, Uncle Jethro. I can’t see why you ever
sent him to Congress.”

Although Jethro was in no mood for mirth, he laughed in spite of
himself, for he was an American. His lifelong habit would have made him
defend Heth to any one but Cynthia.

“‘D you see Heth, Cynthy?” he asked. “Yes,” replied the girl,
disgustedly, “I should say I did, but not to speak to him. He was
sitting on Mr. Worthington’s porch, and I heard him tell Mr. Worthington
he would give the Brampton post-office to Dave Wheelock. I don’t want
you to think that I was eavesdropping,” she added quickly; “I couldn’t
help hearing it.”

Jethro did not answer.

“You’ll make him give the post-office to Cousin Eph, won’t you, Uncle
Jethro?”

“Yes;” said Jethro, very simply, “I will.” He meditated awhile, and then
said suddenly, “W-won’t speak about it--will you, Cynthy?”

“You know I won’t,” she answered.

Let it not be thought by any chance that Coniston was given over to
revelry and late hours, even on the Fourth of July. By ten o’clock the
lights were out in the tannery house, but Cynthia was not asleep. She
sat at her window watching the shy moon peeping over Coniston ridge, and
she was thinking, to be exact, of how much could happen in one short day
and how little in a long month. She was aroused by the sound of wheels
and the soft beat of a horse’s hoofs on the dirt road: then came stifled
laughter, and suddenly she sprang up alert and tingling. Her own name
came floating to her through the darkness.

The next thing that happened will be long remembered in Coniston. A
tentative chord or two from a guitar, and then the startled village
was listening with all its might to the voices of two young men singing
“When I first went up to Harvard”--probably meant to disclose the
identity of the serenaders, as if that were necessary! Coniston, never
having listened to grand opera, was entertained and thrilled, and
thought the rendering of the song better on the whole than the church
choir could have done it, or even the quartette that sung at the
Brampton celebrations behind the flowers. Cynthia had her own views on
the subject.

There were five other songs--Cynthia remembers all of them, although she
would not confess such a thing. “Naughty, naughty Clara,” was another
one; the other three were almost wholly about love, some treating it
flippantly, others seriously--this applied to the last one, which had
many farewells in it. Then they went away, and the crickets and frogs on
Coniston Water took up the refrain.

Although the occurrence was unusual,--it might almost be said
epoch-making,--Jethro did not speak of it until they had reached the
sparkling heights of Thousand Acre Hill the next morning. Even then he
did not look at Cynthia.

“Know who that was last night, Cynthy?” he inquired, as though the
matter were a casual one.

“I believe,” said Cynthia heroically, “I believe it was a boy named
Somers Duncan-and Bob Worthington.”

“Er--Bob Worthington,” repeated Jethro, but said nothing more.

Of course Coniston, and presently Brampton, knew that Bob Worthington
had serenaded Cynthia--and Coniston and Brampton talked. It is
noteworthy that (with the jocular exceptions of Ephraim and Lem
Hallowell) they did not talk to the girl herself. The painter had long
ago discovered that Cynthia was an individual. She had good blood
in her: as a mere child she had shouldered the responsibility of her
father; she had a natural aptitude for books--a quality reverenced
in the community; she visited, as a matter of habit; the sick and the
unfortunate; and lastly (perhaps the crowning achievement) she had bound
Jethro Bass, of all men, with the fetters of love. Of course I have
ended up by making her a paragon, although I am merely stating what
people thought of her. Coniston decided at once that she was to marry
the heir to the Brampton Mills.

But the heir had gone West, and as the summer wore on, the gossip died
down. Other and more absorbing gossip took its place: never distinctly
formulated, but whispered; always wishing for more definite news that
never came. The statesmen drove out from Brampton to the door of the
tannery house, as usual, only it was remarked by astute observers and
Jake Wheeler that certain statesmen did not come who had been in the
habit of coming formerly. In short, those who made it a custom to
observe such matters felt vaguely a disturbance of some kind. The organs
of the people felt it, and became more guarded in their statements. What
no one knew, except Jake and a few in high places, was that a war of no
mean magnitude was impending.

There were three men in the State--and perhaps only three--who
realized from the first that all former political combats would pale
in comparison to this one to come. Similar wars had already started in
other states, and when at length they were fought out another twist
had been given to the tail of a long-suffering Constitution; political
history in the United States had to be written from an entirely new and
unforeseen standpoint, and the unsuspecting people had changed masters.

This was to be a war of extermination of one side or the other. No
quarter would be given or asked, and every weapon hitherto known to
politics would be used. Of the three men who realized this, and all that
would happen if one side or the other were victorious, one was Alexander
Duncan, another Isaac D. Worthington, and the third was Jethro Bass.

Jethro would never have been capable of being master of the state had he
not foreseen the time when the railroads, tired of paying tribute, would
turn and try to exterminate the boss. The really astonishing thing about
Jethro’s foresight (known to few only) was that he perceived clearly
that the time would come when the railroads and other aggregations of
capital would exterminate the boss, or at least subserviate him. This
alone, the writer thinks, gives him some right to greatness. And Jethro
Bass made up his mind that the victory of the railroads, in his state
at least, should not come in his day. He would hold and keep what he had
fought all his life to gain.

Jethro knew, when Jake Wheeler failed to bring him a message back
from Clovelly, that the war had begun, and that Isaac D. Worthington,
commander of the railroad forces in the field, had captured his pawn,
the hill-Rajah. By getting through to Harwich, the Truro had made a
sad muddle in railroad affairs. It was now a connecting link; and its
president, the first citizen of Brampton, a man of no small importance
in the state. This fact was not lost upon Jethro, who perceived
clearly enough the fight for consolidation that was coming in the next
Legislature.

Seated on an old haystack on Thousand Acre Hill, that sits in turn on
the lap of Coniston, Jethro smiled as he reflected that the first
trial of strength in this mighty struggle was to be over (what the
unsuspecting world would deem a trivial matter) the postmastership of
Brampton. And Worthington’s first move in the game would be to attempt
to capture for his faction the support of the Administration itself.

Jethro thought the view from Thousand Acre Hill, especially in
September, to be one of the sublimest efforts of the Creator. It was
September, first of the purple months in Coniston, not the red-purple of
the Maine coast, but the blue-purple of the mountain, the color of the
bloom on the Concord grape. His eyes, sweeping the mountain from
the notch to the granite ramp of the northern buttress, fell on the
weather-beaten little farmhouse in which he had lived for many years,
and rested lovingly on the orchard, where the golden early apples shone
among the leaves. But Jethro was not looking at the apples.

“Cynthy,” he called out abruptly, “h-how’d you like to go to
Washington?”

“Washington!” exclaimed Cynthia. “When?”

“N-now--to-morrow.” Then he added uneasily, “C-can’t you get ready?”

Cynthia laughed.

“Why, I’ll go to-night, Uncle Jethro,” she answered.

“Well,” he said admiringly, “you hain’t one of them clutterin’ females.
We can get some finery for you in New York, Cynthy. D-don’t want any of
them town ladies to put you to shame. Er--not that they would,” he added
hastily--“not that they would.”

Cynthia climbed up beside him on the haystack.

“Uncle Jethro,” she said solemnly, “when you make a senator or a judge,
I don’t interfere, do I?”

He looked at her uneasily, for there were moments when he could not for
the life of him make out her drift.

“N-no,” he assented, “of course not, Cynthy.”

“Why is it that I don’t interfere?”

“I callate,” answered Jethro, still more uneasily, “I callate it’s
because you’re a woman.”

“And don’t you think,” asked Cynthia, “that a woman ought to know what
becomes her best?”

Jethro reflected, and then his glance fell on her approvingly.

“G-guess you’re right, Cynthy,” he said. “I always had some success in
dressin’ up Listy, and that kind of set me up.”

On such occasions he spoke of his wife quite simply. He had been
genuinely fond of her, although she was no more than an episode in his
life. Cynthia smiled to herself as they walked through the orchard to
the place where the horse was tied, but she was a little remorseful.
This feeling, on the drive homeward, was swept away by sheer elation at
the prospect of the trip before her. She had often dreamed of the great
world beyond Coniston, and no one, not even Jethro, had guessed the
longings to see it which had at times beset her. Often she had dropped
her book to summon up a picture of what a great city was like, to
reconstruct the Boston of her early childhood. She remembered the Mall,
where she used to walk with her father, and the row of houses where
the rich dwelt, which had seemed like palaces. Indeed, when she read of
palaces, these houses always came to her mind. And now she was to behold
a palace even greater than these,--and the house where the President
himself dwelt. But why was Jethro going to Washington?

As if in answer to the question, he drove directly to the harness shop
instead of to the tannery house. Ephraim greeted them from within with a
cheery hail, and hobbled out and stood between the wheels of the buggy.

“That bridle bust again?” he inquired.

“Er--Ephraim,” said Jethro, “how long since you b’en away from
Coniston--how long?”

Ephraim reflected.

“I went to Harwich with Moses before that bad spell I had in March,” he
answered.

Cynthia smiled from pure happiness, for she began to see the drift of
things now.

“H-how long since you’ve b’en in foreign parts?” said Jethro.

“‘Sixty-five,” answered Ephraim, with astonishing promptness.

“Er--like to go to Washington with us to-morrow like to go to
Washington?”

Ephraim gasped, even as Cynthia had.

“Washin’ton!” he ejaculated.

“Cynthy and I was thinkin’ of takin’ a little trip,” said Jethro, almost
apologetically, “and we kind of thought we’d like to have you with us.
Didn’t we, Cynthy? Er--we might see General Grant,” he added meaningly.

Ephraim was a New Englander, and not an adept in expressing his
emotions. Both Cynthia and Jethro felt that he would have liked to have
said something appropriate if he had known how. What he actually said
was:--“What time to-morrow?”

“C-callate to take the nine o’clock from Brampton,” said Jethro.

“I’ll report for duty at seven,” said Ephraim, and it was then he
squeezed the hand that he found in his. He watched them calmly enough
until they had disappeared in the barn behind the tannery house, and
then his thoughts became riotous. Rumors had been rife that summer,
prophecies of changes to come, and the resignation of the old man who
had so long been postmaster at Brampton was freely discussed--or rather
the matter of his successor. As the months passed, Ephraim had heard
David Wheelock mentioned with more and more assurance for the place. He
had had many nights when sleep failed him, but it was characteristic of
the old soldier that he had never once broached the subject since Jethro
had spoken to him two months before. Ephraim had even looked up the law
to see if he was eligible, and found that he was, since Coniston had
no post-office, and was within the limits of delivery of the Brampton
office.

The next morning Coniston was treated to a genuine surprise. After
loading up at the store, Lem Hallowell, instead of heading for Brampton,
drove to the tannery house, left his horses standing as he ran in, and
presently emerged with a little cowhide trunk that bore the letter W.
Following the trunk came a radiant Cynthia, following Cynthia, Jethro
Bass in a stove-pipe hat, with a carpetbag, and hobbling after Jethro,
Ephraim Prescott, with another carpet-bag. It was remarked in the buzz
of query that followed the stage’s departure that Ephraim wore the blue
suit and the army hat with a cord around it which he kept for occasions.
Coniston longed to follow them, in spirit at least, but even Milly
Skinner did not know their destination.

Fortunately we can follow them. At Brampton station they got into the
little train that had just come over Truro Pass, and steamed, with many
stops, down the valley of Coniston Water until it stretched out into a
wide range of shimmering green meadows guarded by blue hills veiled in
the morning haze. Then, bustling Harwich, and a wait of half an hour
until the express from the north country came thundering through the
Gap; then a five-hours’ journey down the broad river that runs southward
between the hills, dinner in a huge station amidst a pleasant buzz
of excitement and the ringing of many bells. Then into another train,
through valleys and factory towns and cities until they came, at
nightfall, to the metropolis itself.

Cynthia will always remember the awe with which that first view of New
York inspired her, and Ephraim confessed that he, too, had felt it, when
he had first seen the myriad lights of the city after the long, dusty
ride from the hills with his regiment. For all the flags and bunting it
had held in ‘61, Ephraim thought that city crueller than war itself.
And Cynthia thought so too, as she clung to Jethro’s arm between the
carriages and the clanging street-cars, and looked upon the riches and
poverty around her. There entered her soul that night a sense of that
which is the worst cruelty of all--the cruelty of selfishness. Every
man going his own pace, seeking to gratify his own aims and desires,
unconscious and heedless of the want with which he rubs elbows. Her
natural imagination enhanced by her life among the hills, the girl
peopled the place in the street lights with all kinds of strange
evil-doers of whose sins she knew nothing, adventurers, charlatans,
alert cormorants, who preyed upon the unwary. She shrank closer to
Ephraim from a perfumed lady who sat next to her in the car, and was
thankful when at last they found themselves in the corridor of the Astor
House standing before the desk.

Hotel clerks, especially city ones, are supernatural persons. This one
knew Jethro, greeted him deferentially as Judge Bass, and dipped the
pen in the ink and handed it to him that he might register. By half-past
nine Cynthia was dreaming of Lem Hallowell and Coniston, and Lem was
driving a yellow street-car full of queer people down the road to
Brampton.

There were few guests in the great dining room when they breakfasted at
seven the next morning. New York, in the sunlight, had taken on a more
kindly expression, and those who were near by smiled at them and seemed
full of good-will. Persons smiled at them that day as they walked the
streets or stood spellbound before the shop windows, and some who saw
them felt a lump rise in their throats at the memories they aroused of
forgotten days: the three seemed to bring the very air of the hills with
them into that teeming place, and many who, had come to the city with
high hopes, now in the shackles of drudgery; looked after them. They
were a curious party, indeed: the straight, dark girl with the light in
her eyes and the color in her cheeks; the quaint, rugged figure of
the elderly man in his swallow-tail and brass buttons and square-toed,
country boots; and the old soldier hobbling along with the aid of his
green umbrella, clad in the blue he had loved and suffered for. Had they
remained until Sunday, they might have read an amusing account of their
visit,--of Jethro’s suppers of crackers and milk at the Astor House,
of their progress along Broadway. The story was not lacking in pathos,
either, and in real human feeling, for the young reporter who wrote it
had come, not many years before, from the hills himself. But by that
time they had accomplished another marvellous span in their journey, and
were come to Washington itself.



CHAPTER IV

Cynthia was deprived, too, of that thrilling first view of the capital
from the train which she had pictured, for night had fallen when they
reached Washington likewise. As the train slowed down, she leaned a
little out of the window and looked at the shabby houses and shabby
streets revealed by the flickering lights in the lamp-posts. Finally
they came to a shabby station, were seized upon by a grinning darky
hackman, who would not take no for an answer, and were rattled away
to the hotel. Although he had been to Washington but once in his life
before, as a Lincoln elector, Jethro was greeted as an old acquaintance
by this clerk also.

“Glad to see you, Judge,” said he, genially. “Train late? You’ve come
purty nigh, missin’ supper.”

A familiar of great men, the clerk was not offended when he got no
response to his welcome. Cynthia and Ephraim, intent on getting rid of
some of the dust of their journey, followed the colored hallboy up
the stairs. Jethro stood poring over the register, when a
distinguished-looking elderly gentleman with a heavy gray beard and eyes
full of shrewdness and humor paused at the desk to ask a question.

“Er--Senator?”

The senator (for such he was, although he did not represent Jethro’s
state) turned and stared, and then held out his hand with unmistakable
warmth.

“Jethro Bass,” he exclaimed, “upon my word! What are you doing in
Washington?”

Jethro took the hand, but he did not answer the question.

“Er--Senator--when can I see the President?”

“Why,” answered the senator, somewhat taken aback, “why, to-night, if
you like. I’m going to the White House in a few minutes and I think I
can arrange it.”

“T-to-morrow afternoon--t-to-morrow afternoon?”

The senator cast his eye over the swallow-tail coat and stove-pipe hat
tilted back, and laughed.

“Thunder!” he exclaimed, “you haven’t changed a bit. I’m beginning to
look like an old man; but that milk-and-crackers diet seems to keep you
young, Jethro. I’ll fix it for to-morrow afternoon.”

“W-what time--two?”

“Well, I’ll fix it for two to-morrow afternoon. I never could understand
you, Jethro; you don’t do things like other men. Do I smell gunpowder?
What’s up now--what do you want to see Grant about?”

Jethro cast his eye around the corridor, where a few men were taking
their ease after supper, and looked at the senator mysteriously.

“Any place where we can talk?” he demanded.

“We can go into the writing room and shut the door,” answered the
senator, more amused than ever.

When Cynthia came downstairs, Jethro was standing with the gentleman in
the corridor leading to the dining room, and she heard the gentleman say
as he took his departure:--“I haven’t forgotten what you did for us in
‘70, Jethro. I’ll go right along and see to it now.”

Cynthia liked the gentleman’s looks, and rightly surmised that he was
one of the big men of the nation. She was about to ask Jethro his name
when Ephraim came limping along and put the matter out of her mind, and
the three went into the almost empty dining room. There they were served
with elaborate attention by a darky waiter who had, in some mysterious
way, learned Jethro’s name and title. Cynthia reflected with pride that
Jethro, too, was one of the nation’s great men, who could get anything
he wanted simply by coming to the capital and asking for it.

Ephraim was very much excited on finding himself in Washington, the
sight of the place reviving in his mind a score of forgotten incidents
of the war. After supper they found seats in a corner of the corridor,
where a number of people were scattered about, smoking and talking.
It did not occur to Jethro or Cynthia, or even to Ephraim, that these
people were all of the male sex, and on the other hand the guests of
the hotel were apparently used once in a while to see a lady from the
country seated there. At any rate, Cynthia was but a young girl, and
her two companions, however unusual their appearance, were clearly most
respectable. Jethro, his hands in his pockets and his hat tilted, sat
on the small of his back rapt in meditation; Cynthia, her head awhirl,
looked around her with sparkling eyes; while Ephraim was smoking a cigar
he had saved for just such a festal occasion. He did not see the stout
man with the button and corded hat until he was almost on top of him.

“Eph Prescott, I believe!” exclaimed the stout one. “How be you,
Comrade?”

Heedless of his rheumatism, Ephraim sprang to his feet and dropped the
cigar, which the stout one picked up with much difficulty.

“Well,” said Ephraim, in a voice that shook with unwonted emotion, “you
kin skin me if it ain’t Amasy Beard!” His eye travelled around Amasa’s
figure. “Wouldn’t a-knowed you, I swan, I wouldn’t. Why, when I seen you
last, Amasy, your stomach was havin’ all it could do to git hold of your
backbone.”

Cynthia laughed outright, and even Jethro sat up and smiled.

“When was it?” said Amasa, still clinging on to Ephraim’s hand and
incidentally to the cigar, which Ephraim had forgotten; “Beaver Creek,
wahn’t it?”

“July 10, 1863,” said Ephraim, instantly.

Gradually they reached a sitting position, the cigar was restored to
its rightful owner, and Mr. Beard was introduced, with some ceremony, to
Cynthia and Jethro. From Beaver Creek they began to fight the war over
again, backward and forward, much to Cynthia’s edification, when her
attention was distracted by the entrance of a street band of wind
instruments. As the musicians made their way to another corner and
began tuning up, she glanced mischievously at Jethro, for she knew his
peculiarities by heart. One of these was a most violent detestation of
any but the best music. He had often given her this excuse, laughingly,
for not going to meeting in Coniston. How he had come by his love for
good music, Cynthia never knew--he certainly had not heard much of it.

Suddenly a great volume of sound filled the corridor, and the band
burst forth into what many supposed to be “The Watch on the Rhine.” Some
people were plainly delighted; the veterans, once recovered from their
surprise, shouted their reminiscences above the music, undismayed;
Jethro held on to himself until the refrain, when he began to squirm,
and as soon as the tune was done and the scattering applause had died
down, he reached over and grabbed Mr. Amasa Beard by the knee. Mr. Beard
did not immediately respond, being at that moment behind logworks facing
a rebel charge; he felt vaguely that some one was trying to distract his
attention, and in some lobe of his brain was registered the fact that
that particular knee had gout in it. Jethro increased the pressure, and
then Mr. Beard abandoned his logworks and swung around with a snort of
pain.

“H-how much do they git for that noise--h-how much do they git?”

Mr. Beard tenderly lifted the hand from his knee and stared at Jethro
with his mouth open, like a man aroused from a bad dream.

“Who? What noise?” he demanded.

“The Dutchmen,” said Jethro. “H-how much do they git for that noise?”

“Oh!” Mr. Beard glanced at the band and began to laugh. He thought
Jethro a queer customer, no doubt, but he was a friend of Comrade
Prescott’s. “By gum!” said Mr. Beard, “I thought for a minute a rebel
chain-shot had took my leg off. Well, sir, I guess that band gets about
two dollars. They’ve come in here every evening since I’ve been at the
hotel.”

“T-two dollars? Is that the price? Er--you say two dollars is their
price?”

“Thereabouts,” answered Mr. Beard, uneasily. Veteran as he was, Jethro’s
appearance and earnestness were a little alarming.

“You say two dollars is their price?”

“Thereabouts,” shouted Mr. Beard, seating himself on the edge of his
chair.

But Jethro paid no attention to him. He rose, unfolding by degrees his
six feet two, and strode diagonally across the corridor toward the band
leader. Conversation was hushed at the sight of his figure, a titter ran
around the walls, but Jethro was oblivious to these things. He drew a
great calfskin wallet from an inside pocket of his coat, and the band
leader, a florid German, laid down his instrument and made an elaborate
bow. Jethro waited until the man had become upright and then held out a
two-dollar bill.

“Is that about right for the performance?” he said “is that about
right?”

“Ja, mein Herr,” said the man, nodding vociferously.

“I want to pay what’s right--I want to pay what’s right,” said Jethro.

“I thank you very much, sir,” said the leader, finding his English, “you
haf pay for all.”

“P-paid for everything--everything to-night?” demanded Jethro.

The leader spread out his hands.

“You haf pay for one whole evening,” said he, and bowed again.

“Then take it, take it,” said Jethro, pushing the bill into the man’s
palm; “but don’t you come back to-night--don’t you come back to-night.”

The amazed leader stared at Jethro--and words failed him. There was
something about this man that compelled him to obey, and he gathered
up his followers and led the way silently out of the hotel. Roars of
laughter and applause arose on all sides; but Jethro was as one who
heard them not as he made his way back to his seat again.

“You did a good job, my friend,” said Mr. Beard, approvingly. “I’m going
to take Eph Prescott down the street to see some of the boys. Won’t you
come, too?”

Mr. Beard doubtless accepted it as one of the man’s eccentricities that
Jethro did not respond to him, for without more ado he departed arm in
arm with Ephraim. Jethro was looking at Cynthia, who was staring toward
the desk at the other end of the corridor, her face flushed, and her
fingers closed over the arms of her chair. It never occurred to Jethro
that she might have been embarrassed.

“W-what’s the matter, Cynthy?” he asked, sinking into the chair beside
her.

Her breath caught sharply, but she tried to smile at him. He did not
discover what was the matter until long afterward, when he recalled
that evening to mind. Jethro was a man used to hotel corridors, used to
sitting in an attitude that led the unsuspecting to believe he was half
asleep; but no person of note could come or go whom he did not remember.
He had seen the distinguished party arrive at the desk, preceded by a
host of bell-boys with shawls and luggage. On the other hand, some of
the distinguished party had watched the proceeding of paying off the
band with no little amusement. Miss Janet Duncan had giggled audibly,
her mother had smiled, while her father and Mr. Worthington had
pretended to be deeply occupied with the hotel register. Somers was not
there. Bob Worthington laughed heartily with the rest until his eye,
travelling down the line of Jethro’s progress, fell on Cynthia, and now
he was striding across the floor toward them. And even in the horrible
confusion of that moment Cynthia had a vagrant thought that his clothes
had an enviable cut and became him remarkably.

“Well, of all things, to find you here!” he cried; “this is the best
luck that ever happened. I am glad to see you. I was going to steal away
to Brampton for a couple of days before the term opened, and I meant to
look you up there. And Mr. Bass,” said Bob, turning to Jethro, “I’m glad
to see you too.”

Jethro looked at the young man and smiled and held out his hand. It was
evident that Bob was blissfully unaware that hostilities between powers
of no mean magnitude were about to begin; that the generals themselves
were on the ground, and that he was holding treasonable parley with the
enemy. The situation appealed to Jethro, especially as he glanced at the
backs of the two gentlemen facing the desk. These backs seemed to him
full of expression. “Th-thank you, Bob, th-thank you,” he answered.

“I like the way you fixed that band,” said Bob; “I haven’t laughed as
much for a year. You hate music, don’t you? I hope you’ll forgive that
awful noise we made outside of your house last July, Mr. Bass.”

“You--you make that noise, Bob, you--you make that?”

“Well,” said Bob, “I’m afraid I did most of it. There was another fellow
that helped some and played the guitar. It was pretty bad,” he added,
with a side glance at Cynthia, “but it was meant for a compliment.”

“Oh,” said she, “it was meant for a compliment, was it?”

“Of course,” he answered, glad of the opportunity to turn his attention
entirely to her. “I was for slipping away right after supper, but my
father headed us off.”

“Slipping away?” repeated Cynthia.

“You see, he had a kind of a reception and fireworks afterward. We
didn’t get away till after nine, and then I thought I’d have a lecture
when I got home.”

“Did you?” asked Cynthia.

“No,” said Bob, “he didn’t know where I’d been.”

Cynthia felt the blood rush to her temples, but by habit and instinct
she knew when to restrain herself.

“Would it have made any difference to him where you had been?” she asked
calmly enough.

Bob had a presentiment that he was on dangerous ground. This new and
self-possessed Cynthia was an enigma to him--certainly a fascinating
enigma.

“My father world have thought I was a fool to go off serenading,” he
answered, flushing. Bob did not like a lie; he knew that his father
would have been angry if he had heard he had gone to Coniston; he felt,
in the small of his back, that his father was angry mow, and guessed the
reason.

She regarded him gravely as he spoke, and then her eyes left his face
and became fixed upon an object at the far end of the corridor. Bob
turned in time to see Janet Duncan swing on her heel and follow her
mother up the stairs. He struggled to find words to tide over what he
felt was an awkward moment.

“We’ve had a fine trip;” he said, “though I should much rather have
stayed at home. The West is a wonderful country, with its canons and
mountains and great stretches of plain. My father met us in Chicago, and
we came here. I don’t know why, because Washington’s dead at this time
of the year. I suppose it must be on account of politics.” Looking at
Jethro with a sudden inspiration, “I hadn’t thought of that.”

Jethro had betrayed no interest in the conversation. He was seated,
as usual, on the small of his back. But he saw a young man of short
stature, with a freckled face and close-cropped, curly red hair, come
into the corridor by another entrance; he saw Isaac D. Worthington draw
him aside and speak to him, and he saw the young man coming towards
them.

“How do you do, Miss Wetherell?” cried the young man joyously, while
still ten feet away, “I’m awfully glad to see you, upon my word; I am.
How long are you going to be in Washington?”

“I don’t know, Mr. Duncan,” answered Cynthia.

“Did Worthy know you were here?” demanded Mr. Duncan, suspiciously.

“He did when he saw me,” said Cynthia, smiling.

“Not till then?” asked Mr. Duncan. “Say, Worthy; your father wants to
see you right away. I’m going to be in Washington a day or two--will you
go walking with me to-morrow morning, Miss Wetherell?”

“She’s going walking with me,” said Bob, not in the best of tempers.

“Then I’ll go along,” said Mr. Duncan, promptly.

By this time Cynthia got up and was holding out her hand to Bob
Worthington. “I’m not going walking with either of you,” she said
“I have another engagement. And I think I’ll have to say good night,
because I’m very tired.”

“When can I see you?” Both the young men asked the question at once.

“Oh, you’ll have plenty of chances,” she answered, and was gone.

The young men looked at each other somewhat blankly; and then down at
Jethro, who did not seem to know that they were there, and then they
made their way toward the desk. But Isaac D. Worthington and his friends
had disappeared.

A few minutes later the distinguished-looking senator with whom Jethro
had been in conversation before supper entered the hotel. He seemed
preoccupied, and heedless of the salutations he received; but when he
caught sight of Jethro he crossed the corridor rapidly and sat down
beside him. Jethro did not move. The corridor was deserted now, save for
the two.

“Bass,” began the senator, “what’s the row up in your state?”

“H-haven’t heard of any row,” said Jethro.

“What did you come to Washington for?” demanded the senator, somewhat
sharply.

“Er--vacation,” said Jethro, “vacation--to show my gal, Cynthy, the
capital.”

“Now see here, Bass,” said the senator, “I don’t forget what happened
in ‘70. I don’t object to wading through a swarm of bees to get a little
honey for a friend, but I think I’m entitled to know why he wants it.”

“G-got the honey?” asked Jethro.

The senator took off his hat and wiped his brow, and then he stole a
look at Jethro, with apparently barren results.

“Jethro,” he said, “people say you run that state of yours right up
to the handle. What’s all this trouble about a two-for-a-cent
postmastership?”

“H-haven’t heard of any trouble,” said Jethro.

“Well, there is trouble,” said the senator, losing patience at last.
“When I told Grant you were here and mentioned that little Brampton
matter to him,--it didn’t seem much to me,--the bees began to fly pretty
thick, I can tell you. I saw right away that somebody had been stirring
‘em up. It looks to me, Jethro,” said the senator gravely, “it looks to
me as if you had something of a rebellion on your hands.”

“W-what’d Grant say?” Jethro inquired.

“Well, he didn’t say a great deal--he isn’t much of a talker, you know,
but what he did say was to the point. It seems that your man, Prescott,
doesn’t come from Brampton, in the first place, and Grant says that
while he likes soldiers, he hasn’t any use for the kind that want to
lie down and make the government support ‘em. I’ll tell you what I
found out. Worthington and Duncan wired the President this morning, and
they’ve gone up to the White House now. They’ve got a lot of railroad
interests back of them, and they’ve taken your friend Sutton into camp;
but I managed to get the President to promise not to do anything until
he saw you tomorrow afternoon at two.”

Jethro sat silent so long that the senator began to think he wasn’t
going to answer him at all. In his opinion, he had told Jethro some very
grave facts.

“W-when are you going to see the President again?” said Jethro, at last.

“To-morrow morning,” answered the senator; “he wants me to walk over
with him to see the postmaster-general, who is sick in bed.”

“What time do you leave the White House?--”

“At eleven,” said the senator, very much puzzled.

“Er--Grant ever pay any attention to an old soldier on the street?”

The senator glanced at Jethro, and a twinkle came into his eye.

“Sometimes he has been known to,” he answered.

“You--you ever pay any attention to an old soldier on the street?”

Then the senator’s eyes began to snap.

“Sometimes I have been known to.”

“Er--suppose an old soldier was in front of the White House at eleven
o’clock--an old soldier with a gal suppose?”

The senator saw the point, and took no pains to restrain his admiration.

“Jethro,” he said, slapping him on the shoulder, “I’m willing to bet a
few thousand dollars you’ll run your state for a while yet.”



CHAPTER V

“Heard you say you was goin’ for a walk this morning, Cynthy,” Jethro
remarked, as they sat at breakfast the next morning.

“Why, of course,” answered Cynthia, “Cousin Eph and I are going out to
see Washington, and he is to show me the places that he remembers.” She
looked at Jethro appealingly. “Aren’t you coming with us?” she asked.

“M-meet you at eleven, Cynthy,” he said.

“Eleven!” exclaimed Cynthia in dismay, “that’s almost dinner-time.”

“M-meet you in front of the White House at eleven,” said Jethro, “plumb
in front of it, under a tree.”

By half-past seven, Cynthia and Ephraim with his green umbrella were
in the street, but it would be useless to burden these pages with a
description of all the sights they saw, and with the things that Ephraim
said about them, and incidentally about the war. After New York, much of
Washington would then have seemed small and ragged to any one who lacked
ideals and a national sense, but Washington was to Cynthia as Athens
to a Greek. To her the marble Capitol shining on its hill was a sacred
temple, and the great shaft that struck upward through the sunlight,
though yet unfinished, a fitting memorial to him who had led the
barefoot soldiers of the colonies through ridicule to victory. They
looked up many institutions and monument, they even had time to go to
the Navy Yard, and they saved the contemplation of the White House till
the last. The White House, which Cynthia thought the finest and most
graceful mansion in all the world, in its simplicity and dignity, a
fitting dwelling for the chosen of the nation. Under the little tree
which Jethro had mentioned, Ephraim stood bareheaded before the walls
which had sheltered Lincoln, which were now the home of the greatest
of his captains, Grant: and wondrous emotions played upon the girl’s
spirit, too, as she gazed. They forgot the present in the past and the
future, and they did not see the two gentlemen who had left the portico
some minutes before and were now coming toward them along the sidewalk.

The two gentlemen, however, slowed their steps involuntarily at a
sight which was uncommon, even in Washington. The girl’s arm was in the
soldier’s, and her face, which even in repose had a true nobility, now
was alight with an inspiration that is seen but seldom in a lifetime. In
marble, could it have been wrought by a great sculptor, men would have
dreamed before it of high things.

The two, indeed, might have stood for a group, the girl as the spirit,
the man as the body which had risked and suffered all for it, and still
held it fast. For the honest face of the soldier reflected that spirit
as truly as a mirror.

Ephraim was aroused from his thoughts by Cynthia nudging his arm. He
started, put on his hat, and stared very hard at a man smoking a cigar
who was standing before him. Then he stiffened and raised his hand in
an involuntary salute. The man smiled. He was not very tall, he had a
closely trimmed light beard that was growing a little gray, he wore a
soft hat something like Ephraim’s, a black tie on a white pleated shirt,
and his eyeglasses were pinned to his vest. His eyes were all kindness.

“How do you do, Comrade?” he said, holding out his hand.

“General,” said Ephraim, “Mr. President,” he added, correcting himself,
“how be you?” He shifted the green umbrella, and shook the hand timidly
but warmly.

“General will do,” said the President, with a smiling glance at the tall
senator beside him, “I like to be called General.”

“You’ve growed some older, General,” said Ephraim, scanning his face
with a simple reverence and affection, “but you hain’t changed so much
as I’d a thought since I saw you whittlin’ under a tree beside the Lacy
house in the Wilderness.”

“My duty has changed some,” answered the President, quite as simply. He
added with a touch of sadness, “I liked those days best, Comrade.”

“Well, I guess!” exclaimed Ephraim, “you’re general over everything now,
but you’re not a mite bigger man to me than you was.”

The President took the compliment as it was meant.

“I found it easier to run an army than I do to run a country,” he said.

Ephraim’s blue eyes flamed with indignation.

“I don’t take no stock in the bull-dogs and the gold harness at Long
Branch and--and all them lies the dratted newspapers print about
you,”--Ephraim hammered his umbrella on the pavement as an expression of
his feelings,--“and what’s more, the people don’t.”

The President glanced at the senator again, and laughed a little,
quietly.

“Thank you; Comrade,” he said.

“You’re a plain, common man,” continued Ephraim, paying the highest
compliment known to rural New England; “the people think a sight of you,
or they wouldn’t hev chose you twice, General.”

“So you were in the Wilderness?” said the President, adroitly changing
the subject.

“Yes, General. I was pressed into orderly duty the first day--that’s
when I saw you whittlin’ under the tree, and you didn’t seem to have no
more consarn than if it had been a company drill. Had a cigar then, too.
But the second day; May the 6th, I was with the regiment. I’ll never
forget that day,” said Ephraim, warming to the subject, “when we was
fightin’ Ewell up and down the Orange Plank Road, playin’ hide-and-seek
with the Johnnies in the woods. You remember them woods, General?”

The President nodded, his cigar between his teeth. He looked as though
the scene were coming back to him.

“Never seen such woods,” said Ephraim, “scrub oak and pine and cedars
and young stuff springin’ up until you couldn’t see the length of a
company, and the Rebs jumpin’ and hollerin’ around and shoutin’ every
which way. After a while a lot of them saplings was mowed off clean by
the bullets, and then the woods caught afire, and that was hell.”

“Were you wounded?” asked the President, quickly.

“I was hurt some, in the hip,” answered Ephraim.

“Some!” exclaimed Cynthia, “why, you have walked lame ever since.” She
knew the story by heart, but the recital of it never failed to stir her
blood! “They carried him out just as he was going to be burned up, in a
blanket hung from rifles, and he was in the hospital nine months, and
had to come home for a while.”

“Cynthy,” said Ephraim in gentle reproof, “I callate the General don’t
want to hear that.”

Cynthia flushed, but the President looked at her with an added interest.

“My dear young lady,” he said, “that seems to me the vital part of the
story. If I remember rightly,” he added, turning again to Ephraim, “the
Fifth Corps was on the Orange turnpike. What brigade were you in?”

“The third brigade of the First Division,” answered Ephraim.

“Griffin’s,” said the President. “There were several splendid New
England regiments in that brigade. I sent them with Griffin to help
Sheridan at Five Forks.”

“I was thar too,” cried Ephraim.

“What!” said the President, “with the lame hip?”

“Well, General, I went back, I couldn’t help it. I couldn’t stay away
from the boys--just couldn’t. I didn’t limp as bad then as I do now. I
wahn’t much use anywhere else, and I had l’arned to fight. Five Forks!”
 exclaimed Ephraim. “I call that day to mind as if it was yesterday. I
remember how the boys yelled when they told us we was goin’ to Sheridan.
We got started about daylight, and it took us till four o’clock in
the afternoon to git into position. The woods was just comin’ a little
green, and the white dogwoods was bloomin’ around. Sheridan, he galloped
up to the line with that black horse of his’n and hollered out, ‘Come
on, boys, go in at a clean, jump or You won’t ketch one of ‘em.’ You
know how men, even veterans like that Fifth Corps, sometimes hev to be
pushed into a fight. There was a man from a Maine regiment got shot in
the head fust thing. ‘I’m killed,’ said he. ‘Oh, no, you’re not,’ says
Sheridan, ‘pickup your gun and go for ‘em.’ But he was killed. Well,
we went for ‘em through all the swamps and briers and everything, and
Sheridan, thar in front, had got the battle-flag and was rushin’ round
with it swearin’ and prayin’ and shoutin’, and the first thing we knowed
he’d jumped his horse clean over their logworks and landed right on top
of the Johnnie’s.”

“Yes,” said the President, “that was Sheridan, sure enough.”

“Mr. President,” said the senator, who stood by wonderingly while
General Grant had lost himself in this conversation, “do you realize
what time it is?”

“Yes, yes,” said the President, “we must go on. What was your rank,
Comrade?”

“Sergeant, General.”

“I hope you have got a good pension for that hip,” said the President,
kindly. It may be well to add that he was not always so incautious, but
this soldier bore the unmistakable stamp of simplicity and sincerity on
his face.

Ephraim hesitated.

“He never would ask for a pension, General,” said Cynthia.

“What!” exclaimed the President in real astonishment, “are you so rich
as all that?” and he glanced at the green umbrella.

“Well, General,” said Ephraim, uncomfortably, “I never liked the notion
of gittin’ paid for it. You see, I was what they call a war-Democrat.”

“Good Lord!” said the President, but more to himself. “What do you do
now?”

“I callate to make harness,” answered Ephraim.

“Only he can’t make it any more on account of his rheumatism, Mr.
President,” Cynthia put in.

“I think you might call me General, too,” he said, with the grace that
many simple people found inherent in him. “And may I ask your name,
young lady?”

“Cynthia Wetherell--General,” she said smiling.

“That sounds more natural,” said the President, and then to Ephraim,
“Your daughter?”

“I couldn’t think more of her if she was,” answered Ephraim; “Cynthy’s
pulled me through some tight spells. Her mother was my cousin, General.
My name’s Prescott--Ephraim Prescott.”

“Ephraim Prescott!” ejaculated the President, sharply, taking his cigar
from his mouth, “Ephraim Prescott!”

“Prescott--that’s right--Prescott, General,” repeated Ephraim, sorely
puzzled by these manifestations of amazement.

“What did you come to Washington for?” asked the President.

“Well, General, I kind of hate to tell you--I didn’t intend to mention
that. I guess I won’t say nothin’ about it,” he added, “we’ve had such
a sociable time. I’ve always b’en a little mite ashamed of it, General,
ever since ‘twas first mentioned.”

“Good Lord!” said the President again, and then he looked at Cynthia.
“What is it, Miss Cynthia?” he asked.

It was now Cynthia’s turn to be a little confused.

“Uncle Jethro--that is, Mr. Bass” (the President nodded), “went to
Cousin Eph when he couldn’t make harness any more and said he’d give him
the Brampton post-office.”

The President’s eyes met the senator’s, and both gentlemen laughed.
Cynthia bit her lip, not seeing any cause for mirth in her remark, while
Ephraim looked uncomfortable and mopped the perspiration from his brow.

“He said he’d give it to him, did he?” said the President. “Is Mr. Bass
your uncle?”

“Oh, no, General,” replied Cynthia, “he’s really no relation. He’s done
everything for me, and I live with him since my father died. He was
going to meet us here,” she continued, looking around hurriedly, “I’m
sure I can’t think what’s kept him.”

“Mr. President, we are half an hour late already,” said the senator,
hurriedly.

“Well, well,” said the President, “I suppose I must go. Good-by, Miss
Cynthia,” said he, taking the girl’s hand warmly. “Good-by, Comrade. If
ever you want to see General Grant, just send in your name. Good-by.”

The President lifted his hat politely to Cynthia and passed. He said
something to the senator which they did not hear, and the senator
laughed heartily. Ephraim and Cynthia watched them until they were out
of sight.

“Godfrey!” exclaimed Ephraim, “they told me he was hard to talk to. Why,
Cynthy, he’s as simple as a child.”

“I’ve always thought that all great men must be simple,” said Cynthia;
“Uncle Jethro is.”

“To think that the President of the United States stood talkin’ to us on
the sidewalk for half an hour,” said Ephraim, clutching Cynthia’s arm.
“Cynthy, I’m glad we didn’t press that post-office matter it was worth
more to me than all the post-offices in the Union to have that talk with
General Grant.”

They waited some time longer under the tree, happy in the afterglow of
this wonderful experience. Presently a clock struck twelve.

“Why, it’s dinner-time, Cynthy,” said Ephraim. “I guess Jethro haint’
a-comin’--must hev b’en delayed by some of them politicians.”

“It’s the first time I ever knew him to miss an appointment,” said
Cynthia, as they walked back to the hotel.

Jethro was not in the corridor, so they passed on to the dining room and
looked eagerly from group to group. Jethro was not there, either, but
Cynthia heard some one laughing above the chatter of the guests,
and drew back into the corridor. She had spied the Duncans and the
Worthingtons making merry by themselves at a corner table, and it was
Somers’s laugh that she heard. Bob, too, sitting next to Miss Duncan,
was much amused about something. Suddenly Cynthia’s exaltation over the
incident of the morning seemed to leave her, and Bob Worthington’s words
which she had pondered over in the night came back to her with renewed
force. He did not find it necessary to steal away to see Miss Duncan.
Why should he have “stolen away” to see her? Was it because she was a
country girl, and poor? That was true; but on the other hand, did she
not live in the sunlight, as it were, of Uncle Jethro’s greatness, and
was it not an honor to come to his house and see any one? And why had
Mr. Worthington turned hid back on Jethro, and sent for Bob when he
was talking to them? Cynthia could not understand these things, and her
pride was sorely wounded by them.

“Perhaps Jethro’s in his room,” suggested Ephraim.

And indeed they found him there seated on the bed, poring over some
newspapers, and both in a breath demanded where he had been. Ephraim did
not wait for an answer.

“We seen General Grant, Jethro,” he cried; “while we was waitin’ for
you under the tree he come up and stood talkin’ to us half an hour. Full
half an hour, wahn’t it, Cynthy?”

“Oh, yes,” answered Cynthia, forgetting her own grievance at the
recollection; “only it didn’t seem nearly that long.”

“W-want to know!” exclaimed Jethro, in astonishment, putting down his
paper. “H-how did it happen?”

“Come right up and spoke to us,” said Ephraim, in a tone he might have
used to describe a miracle, “jest as if he was common folk. Never had
a more sociable talk with anybody. Why, there was times when I clean
forgot he was President of the United States. The boys won’t believe it
when we git back at Coniston.”

And Ephraim, full of his subject, began to recount from the beginning
the marvellous affair, occasionally appealing to Cynthia for
confirmation. How he had lived over again the Wilderness and Five Forks;
how the General had changed since he had seen him whittling under a
tree; how the General had asked about his pension.

“D-didn’t mention the post-office, did you, Ephraim?”

“Why, no,” replied Ephraim, “I didn’t like to exactly. You see, we was
havin’ such a good time I didn’t want to spoil it, but Cynthy--”

“I told the President about it, Uncle Jethro; I told him how sick Cousin
Eph had been, and that you were going to give him the postmastership
because he couldn’t work any more with his hands.”

The training of a lifetime had schooled Jethro not to betray surprise.

“K-kind of mixin’ up in politics, hain’t you, Cynthy? P-President say
he’d give you the postmastership, Eph?” he asked.

“He didn’t say nothin’ about it, Jethro,” answered Ephraim slowly; “I
callate he has other views for the place, and he was too kind to come
right out with ‘em and spoil our mornin’. You see, Jethro, I wahn’t only
a sergeant, and Brampton’s gittin’ to be a big town.”

“But, surely,” cried Cynthia, who could scarcely wait for him to finish,
“surely you’re going to give Cousin Eph the post-office, aren’t you,
Uncle Jethro? All you have to do is to tell the President that you want
it for him. Why, I had an idea that we came down for that.”

“Now, Cynthy,” Ephraim put in, deprecatingly.

“Who else would get the post-office?” asked Cynthia. “Surely you’re not
going to let Mr. Sutton have it for Dave Wheelock!”

“Er--Cynthy,” said Jethro, slyly, “w-what’d you say to me once about
interferin’ with women’s fixin’s?”

Cynthia saw the point. She perceived also that the mazes of politics
were not to be understood by a young woman, of even by an old soldier.
She laughed and seized Jethro’s hands and pulled him from the bed.

“We won’t get any dinner unless we hurry,” she said.

When they reached the dining room she was relieved to discover that the
party in the corner had gone.

In the afternoon there were many more sights to be viewed, but they were
back in the hotel again by half-past four, because Ephraim’s Wilderness
leg had its limits of endurance. Jethro (though he had not mentioned the
fact to them) had gone to the White House.

It was during the slack hours that our friend the senator, whose
interest in the matter of the Brampton post office out-weighed for the
present certain grave problems of the Administration in which he was
involved, hurried into the Willard Hotel, looking for Jethro Bass. He
found him without much trouble in his usual attitude, occupying one of
the chairs in the corridor.

“Well,” exclaimed the senator, with a touch of eagerness he did not
often betray, “did you see Grant? How about your old soldier? He’s one
of the most delightful characters I ever met--simple as a child,” and
he laughed at the recollection. “That was a masterstroke of yours, Bass,
putting him under that tree with that pretty girl. I doubt if you ever
did anything better in your life. Did they tell you about it?”

“Yes,” said Jethro, “they told me about it.”

“And how about Grant? What did he say to you?”

“W-well, I went up there and sent in my card. D-didn’t have to wait a
great while, as I was pretty early, and soon he came in, smokin’ a black
cigar, head bent forward a little. D-didn’t ask me to sit down, and what
talkin’ we did we did standin’. D-didn’t ask me what he could do for
me, what I wanted, or anything else, but just stood there, and I stood
there. F-fust time in my life I didn’t know how to commerce or what to
say; looked--looked at me--didn’t take his eye off me. After a while I
got started, somehow; told him I was there to ask him to appoint Ephraim
Prescott to the Brampton postoffice--t-told him all about Ephraim from
the time he was locked in the cradle--never was so hard put that I
could remember. T-told him how Ephraim shook butternuts off my
fathers tree--for all I know. T-told him all about Ephraim’s war
record--leastways all I could call to mind--and, by Godfrey! before
I got through, I wished I’d listened to more of it. T-told him
about Ephraim’s Wilderness bullets--t-told him about Ephraim’s
rheumatism,--how it bothered him when he went to bed and when he got up
again.”

If Jethro had glanced at his companion, he would have seen the senator
was shaking with silent and convulsive laughter.

“All the time I talked to him I didn’t see a muscle move in his face,”
 Jethro continued, “so I started in again, and he looked--looked--looked
right at me. W-wouldn’t wink--don’t think he winked once while I was in
that room. I watched him as close as I could, and I watched to see if a
muscle moved or if I was makin’ any impression. All he would do was to
stand there and look--look--look. K-kept me there ten minutes and never
opened his mouth at all. Hardest man to talk to I ever met--never see a
man before but what I could get him to say somethin’, if it was only a
cuss word. I got tired of it after a while, made up my mind that I had
found one man I couldn’t move. Then what bothered me was to get out of
that room. If I’d a had a Bible I believe I’d a read it to him. I didn’t
know what to say, but I did say this after a while:--“‘W-well, Mr.
President, I guess I’ve kept you long enough--g-guess you’re a pretty
busy man. H-hope you’ll give Mr. Prescott that postmastership. Er--er
good-by.’

“‘Wait, sir,’ he said.

“‘Yes,’ I said, ‘I-I’ll wait.’

“Thought you was goin’ to give him that postmastership, Mr. Bass,’ he
said.”

At this point the senator could not control his mirth, and the empty
corridor echoed his laughter.

“By thunder! what did you say to that?”

“Er--I said, ‘Mr. President, I thought I was until a while ago.’

“‘And when did you change your mind?’ says he.”

Then he laughed a little--not much--but he laughed a little.

“‘I understand that your old soldier lives within the limits of the
delivery of the Brampton office,’ said he.”

“‘That’s correct, Mr. President,’ said I.”

“‘Well,’ said he, ‘I will app’int him postmaster at Brampton, Mr.
Bass.’”

“‘When?’ said I.”

Then he laughed a little more.

“I’ll have the app’intment sent to your hotel this afternoon,’ said he.”

“‘Then I said to him, ‘This has come out full better than I expected,
Mr. President. I’m much obliged to you.’ He didn’t say nothin’ more, so
I come out.”

“Grant didn’t say anything about Worthington or Duncan, did he?” asked
the senator, curiously, as he rose to go.

“G-guess I’ve told you all he said,” answered Jethro; “‘twahn’t a great
deal.”

The senator held out his hand.

“Bass,” he said, laughing, “I believe you came pretty near meeting your
match. But if Grant’s the hardest man in the Union to get anything out
of, I’ve a notion who’s the second.” And with this parting shot the
senator took his departure, chuckling to himself as he went.

As has been said, there were but few visitors in Washington at
this time, and the hotel corridor was all but empty. Presently a
substantial-looking gentleman came briskly in from the street, nodding
affably to the colored porters and bell-boys, who greeted him by name.
He wore a flowing Prince Albert coat, which served to dignify a growing
portliness, and his coal-black whiskers glistened in the light. A voice,
which appeared to come from nowhere in particular, brought the gentleman
up standing.

“How be you, Heth?”

It may not be that Mr. Sutton’s hand trembled, but the ashes of his
cigar fell to the floor. He was not used to visitations, and for the
instant, if the truth be told, he was not equal to looking around.

“Like Washington, Heth--like Washington?”

Then Mr. Sutton turned. His presence of mind, and that other presence of
which he was so proud, seemed for the moment to have deserted him.

“S-stick pretty close to business, Heth, comin’ down here out of session
time. S-stick pretty close to business, don’t you, since the people sent
you to Congress?”

Mr. Sutton might have offered another man a cigar or a drink, but (as is
well known) Jethro was proof against tobacco or stimulants.

“Well,” said the Honorable Heth, catching his breath and making a dive,
“I am surprised to see you, Jethro,” which was probably true.

“Th-thought you might be,” said Jethro. “Er--glad to see me, Heth--glad
to see me?”

As has been recorded, it is peculiarly difficult to lie to people who
are not to be deceived.

“Why, certainly I am,” answered the Honorable Heth, swallowing hard,
“certainly I am, Jethro. I meant to have got to Coniston this summer,
but I was so busy--”

“Peoples’ business, I understand. Er--hear you’ve gone in for
high-minded politics, Heth--r-read a highminded speech of yours--two
high-minded speeches. Always thought you was a high-minded man, Heth.”

“How did you like those speeches, Jethro?” asked Mr. Sutton, striving as
best he might to make some show of dignity.

“Th-thought they was high-minded,” said Jethro.

Then there was a silence, for Mr. Sutton could think of nothing more to
say. And he yearned to depart with a great yearning, but something held
him there.

“Heth,” said Jethro after a while, “you was always very friendly and
obliging. You’ve done a great many favors for me in your life.”

“I’ve always tried to be neighborly, Jethro,” said Mr. Sutton, but his
voice sounded a little husky even to himself.

“And I may have done one or two little things for you, Heth,” Jethro
continued, “but I can’t remember exactly. Er--can you remember, Heth.”

Mr. Sutton was trying with becoming nonchalance to light the stump of
his cigar. He did not succeed this time. He pulled himself together with
a supreme effort.

“I think we’ve both been mutually helpful, Jethro,” he said, “mutually
helpful.”

“Well,” said Jethro, reflectively, “I don’t know as I could have put it
as well as that--there’s somethin’ in being an orator.”

There was another silence, a much longer one. The Honorable Heth threw
his butt away, and lighted another cigar. Suddenly, as if by magic,
his aplomb returned, and in a flash of understanding he perceived the
situation. He saw himself once more as the successful congressman,
the trusted friend of the railroad interests, and he saw Jethro as a
discredited boss. He did not stop to reflect that Jethro did not act
like a discredited boss, as a keener man might have done. But if the
Honorable Heth had been a keener man, he would not have been at that
time a congressman. Mr. Sutton accused himself of having been stupid in
not grasping at once that the tables were turned, and that now he was
the one to dispense the gifts.

“K-kind of fortunate you stopped to speak to me, Heth. N-now I come to
think of it, I hev a little favor to ask of you.”

“Ah!” exclaimed Mr. Sutton, blowing out the smoke; “of course anything I
can do, Jethro--anything in reason.”

“W-wouldn’t ask a high-minded man to do anything he hadn’t ought to,”
 said Jethro; “the fact is, I’d like to git Eph Prescott appointed at
the Brampton post-office. You can fix that, Heth--can’t you--you can fix
that?”

Mr. Sutton stuck his thumb into his vest pocket and cleared his throat.

“I can’t tell you how sorry I am not to oblige you, Jethro, but I’ve
arranged to give that post-office to Dave Wheelock.”

“A-arranged it, hev You--a-arranged it?”

“Why, yes,” said Mr. Sutton, scarcely believing his own ears. Could it
be possible that he was using this patronizingly kind tone to Jethro
Bass?

“Well, that’s too bad,” said Jethro; “g-got it all fixed, hev you?”

“Practically,” answered Mr. Sutton, grandly; “indeed, I may go as far
as to say that it is as certain as if I had the appointment here in my
pocket. I’m sorry not to oblige you, Jethro; but these are matters which
a member of Congress must look after pretty closely.” He held out his
hand, but Jethro did not appear to see it,--he had his in his pockets.
“I’ve an important engagement,” said the Honorable Heth, consulting a
large gold watch. “Are you going to be in Washington long?”

“G-guess I’ve about got through, Heth--g-guess I’ve about got through,”
 said Jethro.

“Well, if you have time and there’s any other little thing, I’m in Room
29,” said Mr. Sutton, as he put his foot on the stairway.

“T-told Worthington you got that app’intment for Wheelock--t-told
Worthington?” Jethro called out after him.

Mr. Sutton turned and waved his cigar and smiled in acknowledgment of
this parting bit of satire. He felt that he could afford to smile. A
few minutes later he was ensconced on the sofa of a private sitting room
reviewing the incident, with much gusto, for the benefit of Mr. Isaac
D. Worthington and Mr. Alexander Duncan. Both of these gentlemen laughed
heartily, for the Honorable Heth Sutton knew the art of telling a story
well, at least, and was often to be seen with a group around him in the
lobbies of Congress.



CHAPTER VI

About five o’clock that afternoon Ephraim was sitting in his
shirt-sleeves by the window of his room, and Cynthia was reading aloud
to him an article (about the war, of course) from a Washington paper,
which his friend, Mr. Beard, had sent him. There was a knock at the
door, and Cynthia opened it to discover a colored hall-boy with a roll
in his hand.

“Mistah Ephum Prescott?” he said.

“Yes,” answered Ephraim, “that’s me.”

Cynthia shut the door and gave him the roll, but Ephraim took it as
though he were afraid of its contents.

“Guess it’s some of them war records from Amasy,” he said.

“Oh, Cousin Eph,” exclaimed Cynthia, excitedly, “why don’t you open it?
If you don’t I will.”

“Guess you’d better, Cynthy,” and he held it out to her with a trembling
hand.

Cynthia did open it, and drew out a large document with seals and
printing and signatures.

“Cousin Eph,” she cried, holding it under his nose, “Cousin Eph, you’re
postmaster of Brampton!”

Ephraim looked at the paper, but his eyes swam, and he could only make
out a dancing, bronze seal.

“I want to know!” he exclaimed. “Fetch Jethro.”

But Cynthia had already flown on that errand. Curiously enough, she ran
into Jethro in the hall immediately outside of Ephraim’s door. Ephraim
got to his feet; it was very difficult for him to realize that his
troubles were ended, that he was to earn his living at last. He looked
at Jethro, and his eyes filled with tears. “I guess I can’t thank you as
I’d ought to, Jethro,” he said, “leastways, not now.”

“I’ll thank him for you, Cousin Eph,” said Cynthia. And she did.

“D-don’t thank me,” said Jethro, “I didn’t have much to do with it, Eph.
Thank the President.”

Ephraim did thank the President, in one of the most remarkable letters,
from a literary point of view, ever received at the White House. For the
art of literature largely consists in belief in what one is writing, and
Ephraim’s letter had this quality of sincerity, and no lack of vividness
as well. He spent most of the evening in composing it.

Cynthia, too, had received a letter that day--a letter which she had
read several times, now with a smile, and again with a pucker of the
forehead which was meant for a frown. “Dear Cynthia,” it said. “Where do
you keep yourself? I am sure you would not be so cruel if you knew
that I was aching to see you.” Aching! Cynthia repeated the word, and
remembered the glimpse she had had of him in the dining room with Miss
Janet Duncan. “Whenever I have been free” (Cynthia repeated this also,
somewhat ironically, although she conceded it the merit of frankness),
“Whenever I have been free, I have haunted the corridors for a sight
of you. Think of me as haunting the hotel desk for an answer to this,
telling me when I can see you--and where. P.S. I shall be around all
evening.” And it was signed, “Your friend and playmate, R. Worthington.”

It is a fact--not generally known--that Cynthia did answer the
letter--twice. But she sent neither answer. Even at that age she was
given to reflection, and much as she may have approved of the spirit of
the letter, she liked the tone of it less. Cynthia did not know a great
deal of the world, it is true, but the felt instinctively that something
was wrong when Bob resorted to such means of communication. And she
was positively relieved, or thought that she was, when she went down to
supper and discovered that the table in the corner was empty.

After supper Ephraim had his letter to write, and Jethro wished to sit
in the corridor. But Cynthia had learned that the corridor was not the
place for a girl, so she explained--to Jethro that he would find her in
the parlor if he wanted her, and that she was going there to read. That
parlor Cynthia thought a handsome room, with its high windows and lace
curtains, its long mirrors and marble-topped tables. She established
herself under a light, on a sofa in one corner, and sat, with the book
on her lap watching the people who came and went. She had that delicious
sensation which comes to the young when they first travel--the sensation
of being a part of the great world; and she wished that she knew these
people, and which were the great, and which the little ones. Some of
them looked at her intently, she thought too intently, and at such
times she pretended to read. She was aroused by hearing some one
saying:--“Isn’t this Miss Wetherell?”

Cynthia looked up and caught her breath, for the young lady who
had spoken was none other than Miss Janet Duncan herself. Seen thus
startlingly at close range, Miss Duncan was not at all like what Cynthia
had expected--but then most people are not. Janet Duncan was, in fact,
one of those strange persons who do not realize the picture which their
names summon up. She was undoubtedly good-looking; her hair, of a
more golden red than her brother’s, was really wonderful; her neck was
slender; and she had a strange, dreamy face that fascinated Cynthia, who
had never seen anything like it.

She put down her book on the sofa and got up, not without a little
tremor at this unexpected encounter.

“Yes, I’m Cynthia Wetherell,” she replied.

To add to her embarrassment, Miss Duncan seized both her hands
impulsively and gazed into her face.

“You’re really very beautiful,” she said. “Do you know it?”

Cynthia’s only answer to this was a blush. She wondered if all city
girls were like Miss Duncan.

“I was determined to come up and speak to you the first chance I had,”
 Janet continued. “I’ve been making up stories about you.”

“Stories!” exclaimed Cynthia, drawing away her hands.

“Romances,” said Miss Duncan--“real romances. Sometimes I think I’m
going to be a novelist, because I’m always weaving stories about people
that I see people who interest me, I mean. And you look as if you might
be the heroine of a wonderful romance.”

Cynthia’s breath was now quite taken away.

“Oh,” she said, “I--had never thought that I looked like that.”

“But you do,” said Miss Duncan; “you’ve got all sorts of possibilities
in your face--you look as if you might have lived for ages.”

“As old as that?” exclaimed Cynthia, really startled.

“Perhaps I don’t express myself very well” said the other, hastily; “I
wish you could see what I’ve written about you already. I can do it so
much better with pen and ink. I’ve started quite a romance already.”

“What is it?” asked Cynthia, not without interest.

“Sit down on the sofa and I’ll tell you,” said Miss Duncan; “I’ve done
it all from your face, too. I’ve made you a very poor girl brought up by
peasants, only you are really of a great family, although nobody knows
it. A rich duke sees you one day when he is hunting and falls in love
with you, and you have to stand a lot of suffering and persecution
because of it, and say nothing. I believe you could do that,” added
Janet, looking critically at Cynthia’s face.

“I suppose I could if I had to,” said Cynthia, “but I shouldn’t like
it.”

“Oh, it would do you good,” said Janet; “it would ennoble your
character. Not that it needs it,” she added hastily. “And I could write
another story about that quaint old man who paid the musicians to go
away, and who made us all laugh so much.”

Cynthia’s eye kindled.

“Mr. Bass isn’t a quaint old man,” she said; “he’s the greatest man in
the state.”

Miss Duncan’s patronage had been of an unconscious kind. She knew that
she had offended, but did not quite realize how.

“I’m so sorry,” she cried, “I didn’t mean to hurt you. You live with
him, don’t you--Coniston?”

“Yes,” replied Cynthia, not knowing whether to laugh or cry.

“I’ve heard about Coniston. It must be quite a romance in itself to
live all the year round in such a beautiful place and to make your own
clothes. Yours become you very well,” said Miss Duncan, “although I
don’t know why. They’re not at all in style, and yet they give you
quite an air of distinction. I wish I could live in Coniston for a year,
anyway, and write a book about you. My brother and Bob Worthington went
out there one night and serenaded you, didn’t they?”

“Yes,” said Cynthia, that peculiar flash coming into her eyes again,
“and I think it was very foolish of them.”

“Do you?” exclaimed Miss Duncan, in surprise; “I wish somebody would
serenade me. I think it was the most romantic thing Bob ever did.
He’s wild about you, and so is Somers they have both told me so in
confidence.”

Cynthia’s face was naturally burning now.

“If it were true,” she said, “they wouldn’t have told you about it.”

“I suppose that’s so,” said Miss Duncan, thoughtfully, “only you’re
very clever to have seen it. Now that I know you, I think you a more
remarkable person than ever. You don’t seem at all like a country girl,
and you don’t talk like one.”

Cynthia laughed outright. She could not help liking Janet Duncan, mere
flesh and blood not being proof against such compliments.

“I suppose it’s because my father was an educated man,” she said; “he
taught me to read and speak when I was young.”

“Why, you are just like a person out of a novel! Who was your father?”

“He kept the store at Coniston,” answered Cynthia, smiling a little
sadly. She would have liked to have added that William Wetherell would
have been a great man if he had had health, but she found it difficult
to give out confidences, especially when they were in the nature of
surmises.

“Well,” said Janet, stoutly, “I think that is more like a story than
ever. Do you know,” she continued, “I saw you once at the state capital
outside of our grounds the day Bob ran after you. That was when I was in
love with him. We had just come back from Europe then, and I thought he
was the most wonderful person I had ever seen.”

If Cynthia had felt any emotion from this disclosure, she did not betray
it. Janet, moreover, was not looking for it.

“What made you change your mind?” asked Cynthia, biting her lip.

“Oh, Bob hasn’t the temperament,” said Janet, making use of a word that
she had just discovered; “he’s too practical--he never does or says the
things you want him to. He’s just been out West with us on a trip, and
he was always looking at locomotives and brakes and grades and bridges
and all such tiresome things. I should like to marry a poet,” said Miss
Duncan, dreamily; “I know they want me to marry Bob, and Mr. Worthington
wants it. I’m sure, of that. But he wouldn’t at all suit me.”

If Cynthia had been able to exercise an equal freedom of speech, she
might have been impelled to inquire what young Mr. Worthington’s views
were in the matter. As it was, she could think of nothing appropriate to
say, and just then four people entered the room and came towards them.
Two of these were Janet’s mother and father, and the other two were Mr.
Worthington, the elder, and the Honorable Heth Sutton. Mrs. Duncan,
whom Janet did not at all resemble was a person who naturally commanded
attention. She had strong features, and a very decided, though not
disagreeable, manner.

“I couldn’t imagine what had become of you, Janet,” she said, coming
forward and throwing off her lace shawl. “Whom have you found--a school
friend?”

“No, Mamma,” said Janet, “this is Cynthia Wetherell.” “Oh,” said Mrs.
Duncan, looking very hard at Cynthia in a near-sighted way, and, not
knowing in the least who she was; “you haven’t seen Senator and Mrs.
Meade, have you, Janet? They were to be here at eight o’clock.”

“No,” said Janet, turning again to Cynthia and scarcely hearing the
question.

“Janet hasn’t seen them, Dudley,” said Mrs. Duncan, going up to Mr.
Worthington, who was pulling his chop whiskers by the door. “Janet has
discovered such a beautiful creature,” she went on, in a voice which she
did not take the trouble to lower. “Do look at her, Alexander. And you,
Mr. Sutton--who are such a bureau of useful information, do tell me
who she is. Perhaps she comes from your part of the country--her name’s
Wetherell.”

“Wetherell? Why, of course I know her,” said Mr. Sutton, who was greatly
pleased because Mrs. Duncan had likened him to an almanac: greatly
pleased this evening in every respect, and even the diamond in his bosom
seemed to glow with a brighter fire. He could afford to be generous
to-night, and he turned to Mr. Worthington and laughed knowingly. “She’s
the ward of our friend Jethro,” he explained.

“What is she?” demanded Mrs. Duncan, who knew and cared nothing about
politics, “a country girl, I suppose.”

“Yes,” replied Mr. Sutton, “a country girl from a little village not
far from Clovelly. A good girl, I believe, in spite of the atmosphere in
which she has been raised.”

“It’s really wonderful, Mr. Sutton, how you seem to know every one in
your district, including the women and children,” said the lady; “but I
suppose you wouldn’t be where you are if you didn’t.”

The Honorable Heth cleared his throat.

“Wetherell,” Mr. Duncan was saying, staring at Cynthia through his
spectacles, “where have I heard that name?”

He must suddenly have remembered, and recalled also that he and his ally
Worthington had been on opposite sides in the Woodchuck Session, for he
sat down abruptly beside the door, and remained there for a while. For
Mr. Duncan had never believed Mr. Merrill’s explanation concerning poor
William Wetherell’ s conduct.

“Pretty, ain’t she?” said Mr. Sutton to Mr. Worthington. “Guess she’s
more dangerous than Jethro, now that we’ve clipped his wings a little.”
 The congressman had heard of Bob’s infatuation.

Isaac D. Worthington, however, was in a good humor this evening and was
moved by a certain curiosity to inspect the girl. Though what he had
seen and heard of his son’s conduct with her had annoyed him, he did not
regard it seriously.

“Aren’t you going to speak to your constituent, Mr. Sutton?” said
Mrs. Duncan, who was bored because her friends had not arrived; “a
congressman ought to keep on the right side of the pretty girls, you
know.”

It hadn’t occurred to the Honorable Heth to speak to his constituent.
The ways of Mrs. Duncan sometimes puzzled him, and he could not see why
that lady and her daughter seemed to take more than a passing interest
in the girl. But if they could afford to notice her, certainly he
could; so he went forward graciously and held out his hand to Cynthia;
interrupting Miss Duncan in the middle of a discourse upon her diary.

“How do you do, Cynthia?” said Mr. Sutton. Had he been in Coniston, he
would have said, “How be you?”

Cynthia took the hand, but did not rise, somewhat to Mr. Sutton’s
annoyance. A certain respect was due to a member of Congress and the
Rajah of Clovelly.

“How do you do, Mr. Sutton?” said Cynthia, very coolly.

“I like her,” remarked Mrs. Duncan to Mr. Worthington.

“This is a splendid trip for you, eh, Cynthia?” Mr. Sutton persisted,
with a praiseworthy determination to be pleasant.

“It has turned out to be so, Mr. Sutton,” replied Cynthia. This was
not precisely the answer Mr. Sutton expected, and to tell the truth, he
didn’t know quite what to make of it.

“A great treat to see Washington and New York, isn’t it?” said Mr.
Sutton, kindly, “a great treat for a Coniston girl. I suppose you came
through New York and saw the sights?”

“Is there another way to get to Washington?” asked Cynthia.

Mrs. Duncan nudged Mr. Worthington and drew a little nearer, while
Mr. Sutton began to wish he had not been lured into the conversation.
Cynthia had been very polite, but there was something in the quiet
manner in which the girl’s eyes were fixed upon him that made him
vaguely uneasy. He could not back out with dignity, and he felt himself
on the verge of becoming voluble. Mr. Sutton prided himself on never
being voluble.

“Why, no,” he answered, “we have to go to New York to get anywhere in
these days.” There was a slight pause. “Uncle Jethro taking you and
Mr. Prescott on a little pleasure trip?” He had not meant to mention
Jethro’s name, but he found himself, to his surprise, a little at a loss
for a subject.

“Well, partly a pleasure trip. It’s always a pleasure for Uncle Jethro
to do things for others,” said Cynthia, quietly, “although people do not
always appreciate what he does for them.”

The Honorable Heth coughed. He was now very uncomfortable, indeed.
How much did this astounding young person know, whom he had thought so
innocent?

“I didn’t discover he was in town until I ran across him in the corridor
this evening. Should have liked to have introduced him to some of the
Washington folks--some of the big men, although not many of ‘em are
here,” Mr. Sutton ran on, not caring to notice the little points of
light in Cynthia’s eyes. (The idea of Mr. Sutton introducing Uncle
Jethro to anybody!) “I haven’t seen Ephraim Prescott. It must be a
great treat for him, too, to get away on a little trip and see his army
friends. How is he?”

“He’s very happy,” said Cynthia.

“Happy!” exclaimed Mr. Sutton. “Oh, yes, of course, Ephraim’s always
happy, in spite of his troubles and his rheumatism. I always liked
Ephraim Prescott.”

Cynthia did not answer this remark at all, and Mr. Sutton suspected
strongly that she did not believe it, therefore he repeated it.

“I always liked Ephraim. I want you to tell Jethro that I’m downright
sorry I couldn’t get him that Brampton postmastership.”

“I’ll tell him that you are sorry, Mr. Sutton,” replied Cynthia,
gravely, “but I don’t think it’ll do any good.”

Not do any good!--What did the girl mean? Mr. Sutton came to the
conclusion that he had been condescending enough, that somehow he
was gaining no merit in Mrs. Duncan’s eyes by this kindness to a
constituent. He buttoned up his coat rather grandly.

“I hope you won’t misunderstand me, Cynthia,” he said. “I regret
extremely that my sense of justice demanded that I should make David
Wheelock postmaster at Brampton, and I have made him so.”

It was now Cynthia’s turn to be amazed.

“But,” she exclaimed, “but Cousin Ephraim is postmaster of Brampton.”

Mr. Sutton started violently, and that part of his face not hidden
by his whiskers seemed to pale, and Mr. Worthington, usually
self-possessed, took a step forward and seized him by the arm.

“What does this mean, Sutton?” he said.

Mr. Sutton pulled himself together, and glared at Cynthia.

“I think you are mistaken,” said he, “the congressman of the district
usually arranges these matters, and the appointment will be sent to Mr.
Wheelock to-morrow.”

“But Cousin Ephraim already has the appointment,” said Cynthia; “it
was sent to him this afternoon, and he is up in his room now writing to
thank the President for it.”

“What in the world’s the matter?” cried Mrs. Duncan, in astonishment.

Cynthia’s simple announcement had indeed caused something of a panic
among the gentlemen present. Mr. Duncan had jumped up from his seat
beside the door, and Mr. Worthington, his face anything but impassive,
tightened his hold on the congressman’s arm.

“Good God, Sutton!” he exclaimed, “can this be true?”

As for Cynthia, she was no less astonished than Mrs. Duncan by the fact
that these rich and powerful gentlemen were so excited over a little
thing like the postmastership of Brampton. But Mr. Sutton laughed; it
was not hearty, but still it might have passed muster for a laugh.

“Nonsense,” he exclaimed, making a fair attempt to regain his composure,
“the girl’s got it mixed up with something else--she doesn’t know what
she’s talking about.”

Mrs. Duncan thought the girl did look uncommonly as if she knew what
she was talking about, and Mr. Duncan and Mr. Worthington had some such
impression, too, as they stared at her. Cynthia’s eyes flashed, but her
voice was no louder than before.

“I am used to being believed, Mr. Sutton,” she said, “but here’s Uncle
Jethro himself. You might ask him.”

They all turned in amazement, and one, at least, in trepidation, to
perceive Jethro Bass standing behind them with his hands in his pockets,
as unconcerned as though he were under the butternut tree in Coniston.

“How be you, Heth?” he said. “Er--still got that appointment
p-practically in your pocket?”

“Uncle Jethro,” said Cynthia, “Mr. Sutton does not believe me when I
tell him that Cousin Ephraim has been made postmaster of Brampton. He
would like to have you tell him whether it is so or not.”

But this, as it happened, was exactly what the Honorable Heth did
not want to have Jethro tell him. How he got out of the parlor of the
Willard House he has not to this day a very clear idea. As a matter of
fact, he followed Mr. Worthington and Mr. Duncan, and they made their
exit by the farther door. Jethro did not appear to take any notice of
their departure.

“Janet,” said Mrs. Duncan, “I think Senator and Mrs. Meade must have
gone to our sitting room.” Then, to Cynthia’s surprise, the lady took
her by the hand. “I can’t imagine what you’ve done, my dear,” she
said pleasantly, “but I believe that you are capable of taking care of
yourself, and I like you.”

Thus it will be seen that Mrs. Duncan was an independent person.
Sometimes heiresses are apt to be.

“And I like you, too,” said Janet, taking both of Cynthia’s hands, “and
I hope to see you very, very often.”

Jethro looked after them.

“Er--the women folks seem to have some sense,” he said. Then he turned
to Cynthia. “B-be’n havin’ some fun with Heth, Cynthy?” he inquired.

“I haven’t any respect for Mr. Sutton,” said Cynthia, indignantly; “it
serves him right for presuming to think that he could give a post-office
to any one.”

Jethro made no remark concerning this presumption on the part of the
congressman of the district. Cynthia’s indignation against Mr. Sutton
was very real, and it was some time before she could compose herself
sufficiently to tell Jethro what had happened. His enjoyment as he
listened may be imagined but presently he forgot this, and became aware
that something really troubled her.

“Uncle Jethro,” she asked suddenly, “why do they treat me as they do?”

He did not answer at once. This was because of a pain around his
heart--had she known it. He had felt that pain before.

“H-how do they treat you, Cynthy?”

She hesitated. She had not yet learned to use the word patronize in the
social sense, and she was at a loss to describe the attitude of Mrs.
Duncan and her daughter, though her instinct had registered it. She was
at a loss to account for Mr. Worthington’s attitude, too. Mr. Sutton’s
she bitterly resented.

“Are they your enemies?” she demanded.

Jethro was in real distress.

“If they are,” she continued, “I won’t speak to them again. If they
can’t treat me as--as your daughter ought to be treated, I’ll turn
my back on them. I am--I am just like your daughter--am I not, Uncle
Jethro?”

He put out his hand and seized hers roughly, and his voice was thick
with suffering.

“Yes, Cynthy,” he said, “you--you’re all I’ve got in the world.”

She squeezed his hand in return.

“I know it, Uncle Jethro,” she cried contritely, “I oughtn’t to have
troubled you by asking. You--you have done everything for me, much more
than I deserve. And I shan’t be hurt after this when people are too
small to appreciate how good you are, and how great.”

The pain tightened about Jethro’s heart--tightened so sharply that he
could not speak, and scarcely breathe because of it. Cynthia picked up
her novel, and set the bookmark.

“Now that Cousin Eph is provided for, let’s go back to Coniston, Uncle
Jethro.” A sudden longing was upon her for the peaceful life in the
shelter of the great ridge, and she thought of the village maples all
red and gold with the magic touch of the frosts. “Not that I haven’t
enjoyed my trip,” she added; “but we are so happy there.”

He did not look at her, because he was afraid to.

“C-Cynthy,” he said, after a little pause, “th-thought we’d go to
Boston.”

“Boston, Uncle Jethro!”

“Er--to-morrow--at one--to-morrow--like to go to Boston?”

“Yes,” she said thoughtfully, “I remember parts of it. The Common, where
I used to walk with Daddy, and the funny old streets that went uphill.
It will be nice to go back to Coniston that way--over Truro Pass in the
train.”

That night a piece of news flashed over the wires to New England, and
the next morning a small item appeared in the Newcastle Guardian to
the effect that one Ephraim Prescott had bean appointed postmaster
at Brampton. Copied in the local papers of the state, it caused some
surprise in Brampton, to be sure, and excitement in Coniston. Perhaps
there were but a dozen men, however, who saw its real significance,
who knew through this item that Jethro Bass was still supreme--that the
railroads had failed to carry this first position in their war against
him.

It was with a light heart the next morning that Cynthia, packed the
little leather trunk which had been her father’s. Ephraim was in the
corridor regaling his friend, Mr. Beard, with that wonderful encounter
with General Grant which sounded so much like a Fifth Reader anecdote
of a chance meeting with royalty. Jethro’s room was full of visiting
politicians. So Cynthia, when she had finished her packing, went out
to walk about the streets alone, scanning the people who passed her,
looking at the big houses, and wondering who lived in them. Presently
she found herself, in the middle of the morning, seated on a bench in a
little park, surrounded by colored mammies and children playing in the
paths. It seemed a long time since she had left the hills, and this
glimpse of cities had given her many things to think and dream about.
Would she always live in Coniston? Or was her future to be cast among
those who moved in the world and helped to sway it? Cynthia felt that
she was to be of these, though she could not reason why, and she told
herself that the feeling was foolish. Perhaps it was that she knew
in the bottom of her heart that she had been given a spirit and
intelligence to cope with a larger life than that of Coniston. With a
sense that such imaginings were vain, she tried to think what the would
do if she were to become a great lady like Mrs. Duncan.

She was aroused from these reflections by a distant glimpse, through
the trees, of Mr. Robert Worthington. He was standing quite alone on the
edge of the park, his hands in his pockets, staring at the White House.
Cynthia half rose, and then sat down and looked at him again. He wore
a light gray, loose-fitting suit and a straw hat, and she could not but
acknowledge that there was something stalwart and clean and altogether
appealing in him. She wondered, indeed, why he now failed to appeal to
Miss Duncan, and she began to doubt the sincerity of that young lady’s
statements. Bob certainly was not romantic, but he was a man--or would
be very soon.

Cynthia sat still, although her impulse was to go away. She scarcely
analyzed her feeling of wishing to avoid him. It may not be well,
indeed, to analyze them on paper too closely. She had an instinct that
only pain could come from frequent meetings, and she knew now what but
a week ago was a surmise, that he belonged to the world of which she
had been dreaming--Mrs. Duncan’s world. Again, there was that mysterious
barrier between them of which she had seen so many evidences. And yet
she sat still on her bench and looked at him.

Presently he turned, slowly, as if her eyes had compelled his. She sat
still--it was too late, then. In less than a minute he was standing
beside her, looking down at her with a smile that had in it a touch of
reproach.

“How do you do, Mr. Worthington?” said Cynthia, quietly.

“Mr. Worthington!” he cried, “you haven’t called me that before. We are
not children any more,” she said.

“What difference does that make?”

“A great deal,” said Cynthia, not caring to define it.

“Cynthia,” said Mr. Worthington, sitting down on the beach and facing
her, “do you think you’ve treated me just right?”

“Of course I do,” she said, “or I should have treated you differently.”

Bob ignored such quibbling.

“Why did you run away from that baseball game in Brampton? And why
couldn’t you have answered my letter yesterday, if it were only a line?
And why have you avoided me here in Washington?”

It is very difficult to answer for another questions which one cannot
answer for one’s self.

“I haven’t avoided you,” said Cynthia.

“I’ve been looking for you all over town this morning,” said Bob, with
pardonable exaggeration, “and I believe that idiot Somers has, too.”

“Then why should you call him an idiot?” Cynthia flashed.

Bob laughed.

“How you do catch a fellow up!” said he; admiringly. “We both found out
you’d gone out for a walk alone.”

“How did you find it out?”

“Well,” said Bob, hesitating, “we asked the colored doorkeeper.”

“Mr. Worthington,” said Cynthia, with an indignation that made
him quail, “do you think it right to ask a doorkeeper to spy on my
movements?”

“I’m sorry, Cynthia,” he gasped, “I--I didn’t think of it that way--and
he won’t tell. Desperate cases require desperate remedies, you know.”

But Cynthia was not appeased.

“If you wanted to see me,” she said, “why didn’t you send your card to
my room, and I would have come to the parlor.”

“But I did send a note, and waited around all day.”

How was she to tell him that it was to the tone of the note she
objected--to the hint of a clandestine meeting? She turned the light of
her eyes full upon him.

“Would you have been content to see me in the parlor?” she asked. “Did
you mean to see me there?”

“Why, yes,” said he; “I would have given my head to see you anywhere,
only--”

“Only what?”

“Duncan might have came in and spoiled it.”

“Spoiled what?”

Bob fidgeted.

“Look here, Cynthia,” he said, “you’re not stupid--far from it. Of
course you know a fellow would rather talk to you alone.”

“I should have been very glad to have seen Mr. Duncan, too.”

“You would, would you!” he exclaimed. “I shouldn’t have thought that.”

“Isn’t he your friend?” asked Cynthia.

“Oh, yes,” said Bob, “and one of the best in the world. Only--I
shouldn’t have thought you’d care to talk to him.” And he looked
around for fear the vigilant Mr. Duncan was already in the park and had
discovered them. Cynthia smiled, and immediately became grave again.

“So it was only on Mr. Duncan’s account that you didn’t ask me to come
down to the parlor?” she said.

Bob was in a quandary. He was a truthful person, and he had learned
something of the world through his three years at Cambridge. He had seen
many young women, and many kinds of them. But the girl beside him was
such a mixture of innocence and astuteness that he was wholly at a loss
how to deal with her--how to parry her searching questions.

“Naturally--I wanted to have you all to myself,” he said; “you ought to
know that.”

Cynthia did not commit herself on this point. She wished to go
mercilessly to the root of the matter, but the notion of what this would
imply prevented her. Bob took advantage of her silence.

“Everybody who sees you falls a victim, Cynthia,” he went on; “Mrs.
Duncan and Janet lost their hearts. You ought to have heard them
praising you at breakfast.” He paused abruptly, thinking of the rest of
that conversation, and laughed. Bob seemed fated to commit himself that
day. “I heard the way you handled Heth Sutton,” he said, plunging
in. “I’ll bet he felt as if he’d been dropped out of the third-story
window,” and Bob laughed again. “I’d have given a thousand dollars to
have been there. Somers and I went out to supper with a classmate who
lives in Washington, in that house over there,” and he pointed casually
to one of the imposing mansions fronting on the park. “Mrs. Duncan said
she’d never heard anybody lay it on the way you did. I don’t believe you
half know what happened, Cynthia. You made a ten-strike.”

“A ten-strike?” she repeated.

“Well,” he said, “you not only laid out Heth, but my father and Mr.
Duncan, too. Mrs. Duncan laughed at ‘em--she isn’t afraid of anything.
But they didn’t say a word all through breakfast. I’ve never seen my
father so mad. He ought to have known better than to run up against
Uncle Jethro.”

“How did they run up against Uncle Jethro?” asked Cynthia, now keenly
interested.

“Don’t you know?” exclaimed Bob, in astonishment.

“No,” said Cynthia, “or I shouldn’t have asked.”

“Didn’t Uncle Jethro tell you about it?”

“He never tells me anything about his affairs,” she answered.

Bob’s astonishment did not wear off at once. Here was a new phase, and
he was very hard put. He had heard, casually, a good deal of abuse of
Jethro and his methods in the last two days.

“Well,” he said, “I don’t know anything about politics. I don’t know
myself why father and Mr. Duncan were so eager for this post-mastership.
But they were. And I heard them say something about the President going
back on them when they had telegraphed from Chicago and come to see him
here. And maybe they didn’t let Heth in for it. It seems Uncle Jethro
only had to walk up to the White House. They ought to have sense enough
to know that he runs the state. But what’s the use of wasting time over
this business?” said Bob. “I told you I was going to Brampton before the
term begins just to see you, didn’t I?”

“Yes, but I didn’t believe you,” said Cynthia.

“Why not?” he demanded.

“Because it’s my nature, I suppose,” she replied.

This was too much for Bob, exasperated though he was, and he burst into
laughter.

“You’re the queerest girl I’ve ever known,” he said.

Not a very original remark.

“That must be saying a great deal,” she answered.

“Why?”

“You must have known many.”

“I have,” he admitted, “and none of ‘em, no matter how much they’d
knocked about, were able to look out for themselves any better than
you.”

“Not even Cassandra Hopkins?” Cynthia could not resist saying. She
saw that she had scored; his expressions registered his sensations so
accurately.

“What do you know about her?” he said.

“Oh,” said Cynthia, mysteriously, “I heard that you were very fond of
her at Andover.”

Bob could not help pluming himself a little. He thought the fact that
she had mentioned the matter a flaw in Cynthia’s armor, as indeed it
was. And yet he was not proud of the Cassandra Hopkins episode in his
career.

“Cassandra is one of the institutions at Andover,” said he; “most
fellows have to take a course in Cassandra to complete their education.”

“Yours seems to be very complete,” Cynthia retorted.

“Great Scott!” he exclaimed, looking at her, “no wonder you made
mince-meat of the Honorable Heth. Where did you learn it all, Cynthia?”

Cynthia did not know. She merely wondered where she would be if she
hadn’t learned it. Something told her that if it were not for this
anchor she would be drifting out to sea: might, indeed, soon be drifting
out to sea in spite of it. It was one thing for Mr. Robert Worthington,
with his numerous resources, to amuse himself with a girl in her
position; it would be quite another thing for the girl. She got to her
feet and held out her hand to him.

“Good-by,” she said.

“Good-by?”

“We are leaving Washington at one o’clock, and Uncle Jethro will be
worried if I am not in time for dinner.”

“Leaving at one! That’s the worst luck I’ve had yet. But I’m going back
to the hotel myself.”

Cynthia didn’t see how she was to prevent him walking with her. She
would not have admitted to herself that she had enjoyed this encounter,
since she was trying so hard not to enjoy it. So they started together
out of the park. Bob, for a wonder, was silent awhile, glancing now and
then at her profile. He knew that he had a great deal to say, but he
couldn’t decide exactly what it was to be. This is often the case with
young men in his state of mind: in fact, to be paradoxical again, he
might hardly be said at this time to have had a state of mind. He lacked
both an attitude and a policy.

“If you see Duncan before I do, let me know,” he remarked finally.

Cynthia bit her lip. “Why should I?” she asked.

“Because we’ve only got five minutes more alone together, at best. If we
see him in time, we can go down a side street.”

“I think it would be hard to get away from Mr. Duncan if we met
him--even if we wanted to,” she said, laughing outright.

“You don’t know how true that is,” he replied, with feeling.

“That sounds as though you’d tried it before.”

He paid no attention to this thrust.

“I shan’t see you again till I get to Brampton,” he said; “that will be
a whole week. And then,” he ventured to look at her, “I shan’t see you
until the Christmas holidays. You might be a little kind, Cynthia. You
know I’ve--I’ve always thought the world of you. I don’t know how I’m
going to get through the three months without seeing you.”

“You managed to get through a good many years,” said Cynthia, looking at
the pavement.

“I know,” he said; “I was sent away to school and college, and our lives
separated.”

“Yes, our lives separated,” she assented.

“And I didn’t know you were going to be like--like this,” he went on,
vaguely enough, but with feeling.

“Like what?”

“Like--well, I’d rather be with you and talk to you than any girl I ever
saw. I don’t care who she is,” Bob declared, “or how much she may
have traveled.” He was running into deep water. “Why are you so cold,
Cynthia?” “Why can’t you be as you used to be? You used to like me well
enough.”

“And I like you now,” answered Cynthia. They were very near the hotel by
this time.

“You talk as if you were ten years older than I,” he said, smiling
plaintively.

She stopped and turned to him, smiling. They had reached the steps.

“I believe I am, Bob,” she replied. “I haven’t seen much of the world,
but I’ve seen something of its troubles. Don’t be foolish. If you’re
coming to Brampton just to see me, don’t come. Good-by.” And she gave
him her hand frankly.

“But I will come to Brampton,” he cried, taking her hand and squeezing
it. “I’d like to know why I shouldn’t come.”

As Cynthia drew her hand away a gentleman came out of the hotel, paused
for a brief moment by the door and stared at them, and then passed on
without a word or a nod of recognition. It was Mr. Worthington. Bob
looked after his father, and then glanced at Cynthia. There was a trifle
more color in her cheeks, and her head was raised a little, and her eyes
were fixed upon him gravely.

“You should know why not,” she said, and before he could answer her she
was gone into the hotel. He did not attempt to follow her, but stood
where she had left him in the sunlight.

He was aroused by the voice of the genial colored doorkeeper.

“Wal, suh, you found the lady, Mistah Wo’thington. Thought you would,
suh. T’other young gentleman come in while ago--looked as if he was
feelin’ powerful bad, Mistah Wo’thington.”



CHAPTER VII

When they reached Boston, Cynthia felt almost as if she were home again,
and Ephraim declared that he had had the same feeling when he returned
from the war. Though it be the prosperous capital of New England, it is
a city of homes, and the dwellers of it have held stanchly to the belief
of their forefathers that the home is the very foundation-rock of the
nation. Held stanchly to other beliefs, too: that wealth carries with it
some little measure of responsibility. The stranger within the gates of
that city feels that if he falls, a heedless world will not go charging
over his body: that a helping hand will be stretched out,--a helping and
a wise hand that will inquire into the circumstances of his fall--but
still a human hand.

They were sitting in the parlor of the Tremont House that morning with
the sun streaming in the windows, waiting for Ephraim.

“Uncle Jethro,” Cynthia asked, abruptly, “did you ever know my mother?”

Jethro started, and looked at her quickly.

“W-why, Cynthy?” he asked.

“Because she grew up in Coniston,” answered Cynthia. “I never thought of
it before, but of course you must have known her.”

“Yes, I knew her,” he said.

“Did you know her well?” she persisted.

Jethro got up and went over to the window, where he stood with his back
toward her.

“Yes, Cynthy,” he answered at length.

“Why haven’t you ever told me about her?” asked Cynthia. How was she to
know that her innocent questions tortured him cruelly; that the spirit
of the Cynthia who had come to him in the tannery house had haunted
him all his life, and that she herself, a new Cynthia, was still that
spirit? The bygone Cynthia had been much in his thoughts since they came
to Boston.

“What was she like?”

“She--she was like you, Cynthy,” he said, but he did not turn round.
“She was a clever woman, and a good woman, and--a lady, Cynthy.”

The girl said nothing for a while, but she tingled with pleasure because
Jethro had compared her to her mother. She determined to try to be like
that, if he thought her so.

“Uncle Jethro,” she said presently, “I’d like to go to see the house
where she lived.”

“Er--Ephraim knows it,” said Jethro.

So when Ephraim came the three went over the hill; past the State House
which Bulfinch set as a crown on the crest of it looking over the sweep
of the Common, and on into the maze of quaint, old-world streets on
the slope beyond: streets with white porticos, and violet panes in the
windows. They came to an old square hidden away on a terrace of the
hill, and after that the streets grew narrower and dingier. Ephraim,
whose memory never betrayed him, hobbled up to a shabby house in the
middle of one of these blocks and rang the bell.

“Here’s where I found Will when I come back from the war,” he said, and
explained the matter in full to the slatternly landlady who came to the
door. She was a good-natured woman, who thought her boarder would not
mind, and led the way up the steep stairs to the chamber over the roofs
where Wetherell and Cynthia had lived and hoped and worked together;
where he had written those pages by which, with the aid of her loving
criticism, he had thought to become famous. The room was as bare now as
it had been then, and Ephraim, poking his stick through a hole in the
carpet, ventured the assertion that even that had not been changed.
Jethro, staring out over the chimney tops, passed his hand across his
eyes. Cynthia Ware had come to this!

“I found him right here in that bed,” Ephraim was saying, and he poked
the bottom boards, too. “The same bed. Had a shack when I saw him.
Callate he wouldn’t have lived two months if the war hadn’t bust up and
I hadn’t come along.”

“Oh, Cousin Eph!” exclaimed Cynthia.

The old soldier turned and saw that there were tears in her eyes. But,
stranger than that, Cynthia saw that there were tears in his own.
He took her gently by the arm and led her down the stairs again, she
supporting him, and Jethro following.

That same morning, Jethro, whose memory was quite as good as Ephraim’s,
found a little shop tucked away in Cornhill which had been miraculously
spared in the advance of prosperity. Mr. Judson’s name, however, was
no longer in quaint lettering over the door. Standing before it, Jethro
told the story in his droll way, of a city clerk and a country bumpkin,
and Cynthia and Ephraim both laughed so heartily that the people who
were passing turned round to look at them and laughed too. For the three
were an unusual group, even in Boston. It was not until they were seated
at dinner in the hotel, Ephraim with his napkin tucked under his chin,
that Jethro gave them the key to the characters in this story.

“And who was the locket for, Uncle Jethro?” demanded Cynthia.

Jethro, however, shook his head, and would not be induced to tell.

They were still so seated when Cynthia perceived coming toward them
through the crowded dining roam a merry, middle-aged gentleman with a
bald head. He seemed to know everybody in the room, for he was kept busy
nodding right and left at the tables until he came to theirs. He was Mr.
Merrill who had come to see her father in Coniston, and who had spoken
so kindly to her on that occasion.

“Well, well, well,” he said; “Jethro, you’ll be the death of me yet.
‘Don’t write-send,’ eh? Well, as long as you sent word you were here, I
don’t complain. So you licked ‘em again, eh--down in Washington? Never
had a doubt but what you would. Is this the new postmaster? How are
you, Mr. Prescott--and Cynthia--a young lady! Bless my soul,” said Mr.
Merrill, looking her over as he shook her hand. “What have you done to
her, Jethro? What kind of beauty powder do they use in Coniston?”

Mr. Merrill took the seat next to her and continued to talk, scattering
his pleasantries equally among the three, patting her arm when her
own turn came. She liked Mr. Merrill very much; he seemed to her (as,
indeed, he was) honest and kind-hearted. Cynthia was not lacking in a
proper appreciation of herself--that may have been discovered. But she
was puzzled to know why this gentleman should make it a point to pay
such particular attention to a young country girl. Other railroad
presidents whom she could name had not done so. She was thinking of
these things, rather than listening to Mr. Merrill’s conversation, when
the sound of Mr. Worthington’s name startled her.

“Well, Jethro,” Mr. Merrill was saying, “you certainly nipped this
little game of Worthington’s in the bud. Thought he’d take you in the
rear by going to Washington, did he? Ha, ha! I’d like to know how you
did it. I’ll get you to tell me to-night--see if I don’t. You’re all
coming in to supper to-night, you know, at seven o’clock.”

Ephraim laid down his knife and fork for the first time. Were the
wonders of this journey never to cease? And Jethro, once in his life,
looked nervous.

“Er--er--Cyn’thy’ll go, Steve--Cynthy’ll go.”

“Yes, Cynthy’ll go,” laughed Mr. Merrill, “and you’ll go, and Ephraim’ll
go.” Although he by no means liked everybody, as would appear at first
glance, Mr. Merrill had a way of calling people by their first names
when he did fancy them.

“Er--Steve,” said Jethro, “what would your wife say if I was to drink
coffee out of my saucer?”

“Let’s see,” said Mr. Merrill grave for once. “What’s the punishment for
that in my house? I know what she’d do if you didn’t drink it. What do
you think she’d do, Cynthy?”

“Ask him what was the matter with it,” said Cynthia, promptly.

“Well, Cynthy,” said he, “I know why these old fellows take you round
with ‘em. To take care of ‘em, eh? They’re not fit to travel alone.”

And so it was settled, after much further argument, that they were all
to sup at Mr. Merrill’s house, Cynthia stoutly maintaining that she
would not desert them. And then Mr. Merrill, having several times
repeated the street and number, went, back to his office. There was much
mysterious whispering between Ephraim and Jethro in the hotel parlor
after dinner, while Cynthia was turning over the leaves of a magazine,
and then Ephraim proposed going out to see the sights.

“Where’s Uncle Jethro going?” she asked.

“He’ll meet us,” said Ephraim, promptly, but his voice was not quite
steady.

“Oh, Uncle Jethro!” cried Cynthia, “you’re trying to get out of it. You
remember you promised to meet us in Washington.”

“Guess he’ll keep this app’intment,” said Ephraim, who seemed to be full
of a strange mirth that bubbled over, for he actually winked at Jethro.
 went first to Faneuil Hall. Presently they found themselves among the
crowd in Washington Street, where Ephraim confessed the trepidation
which he felt over the coming supper party: a trepidation greater, so
he declared many times, than he had ever experienced before any of his
battles in the war. He stopped once or twice in the eddy of the crowd to
glance up at the numbers; and finally came to a halt before the windows
of a large dry-goods store.

“I guess I ought to buy a new shirt for this occasion, Cynthy,” he said,
staring hard at the articles of apparel displayed there: “Let’s go in.”

Cynthia laughed outright, since Ephraim could not by any chance have
worn any of the articles in question.

“Why, Cousin Ephraim,” she exclaimed, “you can’t buy gentlemen’s things
here.”

“Oh, I guess you can,” said Ephraim, and hobbled confidently in at the
doorway. There we will leave him for a while conversing in an undertone
with a floor-walker, and follow Jethro. He, curiously enough, had some
fifteen minutes before gone in at the same doorway, questioned the
same floor-walker, and he found himself in due time walking amongst a
bewildering lot of models on the third floor, followed by a giggling
saleswoman.

“What kind of a dress do you want, sir?” asked the saleslady,--for we
are impelled to call her so.

“S-silk cloth,” said Jethro.

“What shades of silk would you like, sir?”

“Shades? shades? What do you mean by shades?”

“Why, colors,” said the saleslady, giggling openly.

“Green,” said Jethro, with considerable emphasis.

The saleslady clapped her hand over her mouth and led the way to another
model.

“You don’t call that green--do you? That’s not green enough.”

They inspected another dress, and then another and another,--not all of
them were green,--Jethro expressing very decided if not expert views on
each of them. At last he paused before two models at the far end of the
room, passing his hand repeatedly over each as he had done so often with
the cattle of Coniston.

“These two pieces same kind of goods?” he demanded.

“Yes.”

“Er-this one is a little shinier than that one?”

“Perhaps the finish is a little higher,” ventured the saleslady.

“Sh-shinier,” said Jethro.

“Yes, shinier, if you please to call it so.”

“W-what would you call it?”

By this time the saleslady had become quite hysterical, and altogether
incapable of performing her duties. Jethro looked at her for a moment in
disgust, and in his predicament cast around for another to wait on him.
There was no lack of these, at a safe distance, but they all seemed to
be affected by the same mania. Jethro’s eye alighted upon the back of
another customer. She was, apparently, a respectable-looking lady
of uncertain age, and her own attention was so firmly fixed in the
contemplation of a model that she had not remarked the merriment about
her, nor its cause. She did not see Jethro, either, as he strode across
to her. Indeed, her first intimation of his presence was a dig in her
arm. The lady turned, gave a gasp of amazement at the figure confronting
her, and proceeded to annihilate it with an eye that few women possess.

“H-how do, Ma’am,” he said. Had he known anything about the appearance
of women in general, he might have realized that he had struck a tartar.
This lady was at least sixty-five, and probably unmarried. Her face,
though not at all unpleasant, was a study in character-development: she
wore ringlets, a peculiar bonnet of a bygone age, and her clothes had
certain eccentricities which, for, lack of knowledge, must be omitted.
In short, the lady was no fool, and not being one she glanced at the
giggling group of saleswomen and--wonderful to relate--they stopped
giggling. Then she looked again at Jethro and gave him a smile. One of
superiority, no doubt, but still a smile.

“How do you do, sir?”

“T-trying to buy a silk cloth gown for a woman. There’s two over here I
fancied a little. Er--thought perhaps you’d help me.”

“Where are the dresses?” she demanded abruptly.

Jethro led the way in silence until they came to the models. She planted
herself in front of them and looked them over swiftly but critically.

“What is the age of the lady?”

“W-what difference does that make?” said Jethro, whose instinct was
against committing himself to strangers.

“Difference!” she exclaimed sharply, “it makes a considerable
difference. Perhaps not to you, but to the lady. What coloring is she?”

“C-coloring? She’s white.”

His companion turned her back on him.

“What size is she?”

“A-about that size,” said Jethro, pointing to a model.

“About! about!” she ejaculated, and then she faced him. “Now look here,
my friend,” she said vigorously, “there’s something very mysterious
about all this. You look like a good man, but you may be a very wicked
one for all I know. I’ve lived long enough to discover that appearances,
especially where your sex is concerned, are deceitful. Unless you
are willing to tell me who this lady is for whom you are buying silk
dresses, and what your relationship is to her, I shall leave you. And
mind, no evasions. I can detect the truth pretty well when I hear it.”

Unexpected as it was, Jethro gave back a step or two before this
onslaught of feminine virtue, and the movement did not tend to raise him
in the lady’s esteem. He felt that he would rather face General Grant
a thousand times than this person. She was, indeed, preparing to sweep
away when there came a familiar tap-tap behind them on the bare floor,
and he turned to behold Ephraim hobbling toward them with the aid of his
green umbrella, Cynthia by his side.

“Why, it’s Uncle Jethro,” cried Cynthia, looking at him and the lady in
astonishment, and then with equal astonishment at the models. “What in
the world are you doing here?” Then a light seemed to dawn on her.

“You frauds! So this is what you were whispering about! This is the way
Cousin Ephraim buys his shirts!”

“C-Cynthy,” said Jethro, apologetically, “d-don’t you think you ought to
have a nice city dress for that supper party?”

“So you’re ashamed of my country clothes, are you?” she asked gayly.

“W-want you to have the best, Cynthy,” he replied. “I-I-meant to have
it all chose and bought when you come, but I got into a kind of argument
with this lady.”

“Argument!” exclaimed the lady. But she did not seem displeased. She had
been staring very fixedly at Cynthia. “My dear,” she continued kindly,
“you look like some one I used to know a long, long time ago, and I’ll
be glad to help you. Your uncle may be sensible enough in other matters,
but I tell him frankly he is out of place here. Let him go away and sit
down somewhere with the other gentleman, and we’ll get the dress between
us, if he’ll tell us how much to pay.”

“P-pay anything, so’s you get it,” said Jethro.

“Uncle Jethro, do you really want it so much?”

It must not be thought that Cynthia did not wish for a dress, too. But
the sense of dependence on Jethro and the fear of straining his purse
never quite wore off. So Jethro and Ephraim took to a bench at some
distance, and at last a dress was chosen--not one of the gorgeous models
Jethro had picked out, but a pretty, simple, girlish gown which Cynthia
herself had liked and of which the lady highly approved. Not content
with helping to choose it, the lady must satisfy herself that it fit,
which it did perfectly. And so Cynthia was transformed into a city
person, though her skin glowed with a health with which few city people
are blessed.

“My dear,” said the lady, still staring at her, “you look very well. I
should scarcely have supposed it.” Cynthia took the remark in good part,
for she thought the lady a character, which she was. “I hope you will
remember that we women were created for a higher purpose than mere
beauty. The Lord gave us brains, and meant that we should use them. If
you have a good mind, as I believe you have, learn to employ it for the
betterment of your sex, for the time of our emancipation is at hand.”
 Having delivered this little lecture, the lady continued to stare at her
with keen eyes. “You look very much like someone I used to love when I
was younger. What is your name.”

“Cynthia Wetherell.”

“Cynthia Wetherell? Was your mother Cynthia Ware, from Coniston?”

“Yes,” said Cynthia, amazed.

In an instant the strange lady had risen and had taken Cynthia in her
embrace, new dress and all.

“My dear,” she said, “I thought your face had a familiar look. It was
your mother I knew and loved. I’m Miss Lucretia Penniman.”

Miss Lucretia Penniman! Could this be, indeed, the authoress of the
“Hymn to Coniston,” of whom Brampton was so proud? The Miss Lucretia
Penniman who sounded the first clarion note for the independence of
American women, the friend of Bryant and Hawthorne and Longfellow?
Cynthia had indeed heard of her. Did not all Brampton point to the house
which had held the Social Library as to a shrine?

“Cynthia,” said Miss Lucretia, “I have a meeting now of a girls’ charity
to which I must go, but you will come to me at the offices of the
Woman’s Hour to-morrow morning at ten. I wish to talk to you about your
mother and yourself.”

Cynthia promised, provided they did not leave for Coniston earlier, and
in that event agreed to write. Whereupon Miss Lucretia kissed her again
and hurried off to her meeting. On the way back to the Tremont House
Cynthia related excitedly the whole circumstance to Jethro and Ephraim.
Ephraim had heard of Miss Lucretia, of course. Who had not? But he did
not read the Woman’s Hour. Jethro was silent. Perhaps he was thinking
of that fresh summer morning, so long ago, when a girl in a gig had
overtaken him in the canon made by the Brampton road through the woods.
The girl had worn a poke bonnet, and was returning a book to this same
Miss Lucretia Penniman’s Social Library. And the book was the “Life of
Napoleon Bonaparte.”

“Uncle Jethro, shall we still be in Boston to-morrow morning?” Cynthia
asked.

He roused himself. “Yes,” he said, “yes.” “When are you going home?”

He did not answer this simple question, but countered. “Hain’t you
enjoyin’ yourself, Cynthy?”

“Of course I am,” she declared. But she thought it strange that he would
not tell her when they would be in Coniston.

Ephraim did buy a new shirt, and also (in view of the postmastership in
his packet) a new necktie, his old one being slightly frayed.

The grandeur of the approaching supper party and the fear of Mrs.
Merrill hung very heavy over him; nor was Jethro’s mind completely at
rest. Ephraim even went so far as to discuss the question as to whether
Mr. Merrill had not surpassed his authority in inviting him, and full
expected to be met at the door by that gentleman uttering profuse
apologies, which Ephraim was quite prepared and willing to take in good
faith.

Nothing of the kind happened, however. Mr. Merrill’s railroad being a
modest one, his house was modest likewise. But Ephraim thought it grand
enough, and yet acknowledged a homelike quality in its grandeur. He
began by sitting on the edge of the sofa and staring at the cut-glass
chandelier, but in five minutes he discovered with a shock of surprise
that he was actually leaning back, describing in detail how his regiment
had been cheered as they marched through Boston. And incredible as it
may seem, the person whom he was entertaining in this manner was Mrs.
Stephen Merrill herself. Mrs. Merrill was as tall as Mr. Merrill was
short. She wore a black satin dress with a big cameo brooch pinned at
her throat, her hair was gray, and her face almost masculine until it
lighted up with a wonderfully sweet smile. That smile made Ephraim and
Jethro feel at home; and Cynthia, too, who liked Mrs. Merrill the moment
she laid eyes on her.

Then there were the daughters, Jane and Susan, who welcomed her with a
hospitality truly amazing for city people. Jane was big-boned like her
mother, but Susan was short and plump and merry like her father. Susan
talked and laughed, and Jane sat and listened and smiled, and Cynthia
could not decide which she liked the best. And presently they all went
into the dining room to supper, where there was another chandelier over
the table. There was also real silver, which shone brilliantly on the
white cloth--but there was nothing to eat.

“Do tell us another story, Mr. Prescott,” said Susan, who had listened
to his last one.

The sight of the table, however, had for the moment upset Ephraim, “Get
Jethro to tell you how he took dinner with Jedge Binney,” he said.

This suggestion, under the circumstances, might not have been a happy
one, but its lack of appropriateness did not strike Jethro either. He
yielded to the demand.

“Well,” he said, “I supposed I was goin’ to set down same as I would at
home, where we put the vittles on the table. W-wondered what I was goin’
to eat--wahn’t nothin’ but a piece of bread on the table. S-sat there
and watched ‘em--nobody ate anything. Presently I found out that
Binney’s wife ran her house same as they run hotels. Pretty soon a
couple of girls come in and put down some food and took it away again
before you had a chance. A-after a while we had coffee, and when I set
my cup on the table, I noticed Mis’ Binney looked kind of cross and
began whisperin’ to the girls. One of ‘em fetched a small plate and took
my cup and set it on the plate. That was all right. I used the plate.

“Well, along about next summer Binney had to come to Coniston to see me
on a little matter and fetched his wife. Listy, my wife, was alive then.
I’d made up my mind that if I could ever get Mis’ Binney to eat at my
place I would, so I asked ‘em to stay to dinner. When we set down, I
said: ‘Now, Mis’ Binney, you and the Judge take right hold, and anything
you can’t reach, speak out and we’ll wait on you.’ And Mis’ Binney?’

“Yes,” she said. “She was a little mite scared, I guess. B-begun to
suspect somethin’.”

“Mis’ Binney,” said I, “y-you can set your cup and sarcer where you’ve
a mind to.’ O-ought to have heard the Judge laugh. Says he to his wife:
‘Fanny, I told you Jethro’d get even with you some time for that sarcer
business.’”

This story, strange as it may seem, had a great success at Mr. Merrill’s
table. Mr. Merrill and his daughter Susan shrieked with laughter when
it was finished, while Mrs. Merrill and Jane enjoyed themselves quite as
much in their quiet way. Even the two neat Irish maids, who were serving
the supper very much as poor Mis’ Binney’s had been served, were fain
to leave the dining room abruptly, and one of them disgraced herself
at sight of Jethro when she came in again, and had to go out once mare.
Mrs. Merrill insisted that Jethro should pour out his coffee in what she
was pleased to call the old-fashioned way. All of which goes to prove
that table-silver and cut glass chandeliers do not invariably make their
owners heartless and inhospitable. And Ephraim, whose plan of campaign
had been to eat nothing to speak of and have a meal when he got back to
the hotel, found that he wasn’t hungry when he arose from the table.

There was much bantering of Jethro by Mr. Merrill, which the ladies did
not understand--talk of a mighty coalition of the big railroads which
was to swallow up the little railroads. Fortunately, said Mr.
Merrill, humorously, fortunately they did not want his railroad. Or
unfortunately, which was it? Jethro didn’t know. He never laughed at
anybody’s jokes. But Cynthia, who was listening with one ear while Susan
talked into the other, gathered that Jethro had been struggling with the
railroads, and was sooner or later to engage in a mightier struggle with
them. How, she asked herself in her innocence, was any one, even Uncle
Jethro, to struggle with a railroad? Many other people in these latter
days have asked themselves that very question.

All together the evening at Mr. Merrill’s passed off so quickly and so
happily that Ephraim was dismayed when he discovered that it was ten
o’clock, and he began to make elaborate apologies to the ladies. But
Jethro and Mr. Merrill were still closeted together in the dining room:
once Mrs. Merrill had been called to that conference, and had returned
after a while to take her place quietly again among the circle of
Ephraim’s listeners. Now Mr. Merrill came out of the dining room alone.

“Cynthia,” he said, and his tone was a little more grave than usual,
“your Uncle Jethro wants to speak to you.”

Cynthia rose, with a sense of something in the air which concerned her,
and went into the dining room. Was it the light falling from above that
brought out the lines of his face so strongly? Cynthia did not know, but
she crossed the room swiftly and sat down beside him.

“What is it, Uncle Jethro?”

“C-Cynthy,” he said, putting his hand over hers on the table, “I want
you to do something for me er--for me,” he repeated, emphasizing the
last word.

“I’ll do anything in the world for you, Uncle Jethro,” she answered;
“you know that. What--what is it?”

“L-like Mr. Merrill, don’t you?” “Yes, indeed.”

“L-like Mrs. Merrill--like the gals--don’t you?” “Very much,” said
Cynthia, perplexedly.

“Like ‘em enough to--to live with ‘em a winter?”

“Live with them a winter!”

“C-Cynthy, I want you should stay in Boston this winter and go to a
young ladies’ school.”

It was out. He had said it, though he never quite knew where he had
found the courage.

“Uncle Jethro!” she cried. She could only look at him in dismay, but the
tears came into her eyes and sparkled.

“You--you’ll be happy here, Cynthy. It’ll be a change for you. And I
shan’t be so lonesome as you’d think. I’ll--I’ll be busy this winter,
Cynthy.”

“You know that I wouldn’t leave you, Uncle Jethro,” she said
reproachfully. “I should be lonesome, if you wouldn’t. You would be
lonesome--you know you would be.”

“You’ll do this for me, Cynthy. S-said you would, didn’t you--said you
would?”

“Why do you want me to do this?”

“W-want you to go to school for a winter, Cynthy. Shouldn’t think I’d
done right by you if I didn’t.”

“But I have been to school. Daddy taught me a lot, and Mr. Satterlee has
taught me a great deal more. I know as much as most girls of my age, and
I will study so hard in Coniston this winter, if that is what you want.
I’ve never neglected my lessons, Uncle Jethro.”

“Tain’t book-larnin’--‘tain’t what you’d get in book larnin’ in Boston,
Cynthy.”

“What, then?” she asked.

“Well,” said Jethro, “they’d teach you to be a lady, Cynthy.”

“A lady!”

“Your father come of good people, and--and your mother was a lady. I’m
only a rough old man, Cynthy, and I don’t know much about the ways of
fine folks. But you’ve got it in ye, and I want you should be equal to
the best of ‘em: You can. And I shouldn’t die content unless I’d felt
that you’d had the chance. Er--Cynthy--will you do it for me?”

She was silent a long while before she turned to him, and then the tears
were running very swiftly down her cheeks.

“Yes, I will do it for you,” she answered. “Uncle Jethro, I believe you
are the best man, in the world.”

“D-don’t say that, Cynthy--d-don’t say that,” he exclaimed, and a sharp
agony was in his voice. He got to his feet and went to the folding doors
and opened them. “Steve!” he called, “Steve!”

“S-says she’ll stay, Steve.”

Mr. Merrill had come in, followed by his wife. Cynthia saw them but
dimly through her tears. And while she tried to wipe the tears away she
felt Mrs. Merrill’s arm about her, and heard that lady say:--“We’ll
try to make you very happy, my dear, and send you back safely in the
spring.”



CHAPTER VIII

An attempt will be made in these pages to set down such incidents which
alone may be vital to this chronicle, now so swiftly running on. The
reasons why Mr. Merrill was willing to take Cynthia into his house must
certainly be clear to the reader. In the first place, he was under very
heavy obligations to Jethro Bass for many favors; in the second place,
Mr. Merrill had a real affection for Jethro, which, strange as it may
seem to some, was quite possible; and in the third place, Mr.
Merrill had taken a fancy to Cynthia, and he had never forgotten the
unintentional wrong he had done William Wetherell. Mr. Merrill was a man
of impulses, and generally of good impulses. Had he not himself urged
upon Jethro the arrangement, it would never have come about. Lastly, he
had invited Cynthia to his house that his wife might inspect her, and
Mrs. Merrill’s verdict had been instant and favorable--a verdict not
given in words. A single glance was sufficient, for these good people
so understood each other that Mrs. Merrill had only to raise her eyes
to her husband’s, and this she did shortly after the supper party began;
while she was pouring the coffee, to be exact. Thus the compact that
Cynthia was to spend the winter in their house was ratified.

There was, first of all, the parting with Jethro and the messages
with which he and Ephraim were laden for the whole village and town of
Coniston. It was very hard, that parting, and need not be dwelt upon.
Ephraim waved his blue handkerchief as the train pulled out, but Jethro
stood on the platform, silent and motionless: more eloquent in his
sorrow--so Mr. Merrill thought--than any human being he had ever known.
Mr. Merrill wondered if Jethro’s sorrow were caused by this parting
alone; he believed it was not, and suddenly guessed at the true note
of it. Having come by chance upon the answer to the riddle, Mr. Merrill
stood still with his hand on the carriage door and marvelled that he had
not seen it all sooner. He was a man to take to heart the troubles of
his friends. A subtle change had indeed come over Jethro, and he was not
the same man Mr. Merrill had known for many years. Would others, the men
with whom Jethro contended and the men he commanded, mark this change?
And what effect would it have on the conflict for the mastery of a state
which was to be waged from now on?

“Father,” said his daughter Susan, “if you don’t get in and close the
door, we’ll drive off and leave you standing on the sidewalk.”

Thus Cynthia went to her new friends in their own carriage. Mrs. Merrill
was goodness itself, and loved the girl for what she was. How, indeed,
was she to help loving her? Cynthia was scrupulous in her efforts to
give no trouble, and yet she never had the air of a dependent or a
beneficiary; but held her head high, and when called upon gave an
opinion as though she had a right to it. The very first morning Susan,
who was prone to be late to breakfast, came down in a great state of
excitement and laughter.

“What do you think Cynthia’s done, Mother?” she cried. “I went into her
room a while ago, and it was all swept and aired, and she was making up
the bed.”

“That’s an excellent plan,” said Mrs. Merrill, “tomorrow morning you
three girls will have a race to see who makes up her room first.”

It is needless to say that the race at bed-making never came off, Susan
and Jane having pushed Cynthia into a corner as soon as breakfast was
over, and made certain forcible representations which she felt bound to
respect, and a treaty was drawn up and faithfully carried out,
between the three, that she was to do her own room if necessary to her
happiness. The chief gainer by the arrangement was the chambermaid.

Odd as it may seem, the Misses Merrill lived amicably enough
with Cynthia. It is a difficult matter to force an account of the
relationship of five people living in one house into a few pages, but
the fact that the Merrills had large hearts makes this simpler. There
are few families who can accept with ease the introduction of a stranger
into their midst, even for a time, and there are fewer strangers who can
with impunity be introduced. The sisters quarrelled among themselves
as all sisters will, and sometimes quarrelled with Cynthia. But oftener
they made her the arbiter of their disputes, and asked her advice on
certain matters. Especially was this true of Susan, whom certain young
gentlemen from Harvard College called upon more or less frequently, and
Cynthia had all of Susan’s love affairs--including the current one--by
heart in a very short time.

As for Cynthia, there were many subjects on which she had to take the
advice of the sisters. They did not criticise the joint creations of
herself and Miss Sukey Kittredge as frankly as Janet Duncan had done;
but Jethro had left in Mrs. Merrill’s hands a certain sufficient sum for
new dresses for Cynthia, and in due time the dresses were got and worn.
To do them justice, the sisters were really sincere in their rejoicings
over the very wonderful transformation which they had been chiefly
instrumental in effecting.

It is not a difficult task to praise a heroine, and one that should be
indulged in but charily. But let some little indulgence be accorded this
particular heroine by reason of the life she had led, and the situation
in which she now found herself: a poor Coniston girl, dependent on one
who was not her father, though she loved him as a father; beholden to
these good people who dwelt in a world into which she had no reasonable
expectations of entering, and which, to tell the truth, she now feared.

It was inevitable that Cynthia should be brought into contact with many
friends and relations of the family. Some of these noticed and admired
her; others did neither; others gossiped about Mrs. Merrill behind her
back at her own dinners and sewing circles and wondered what folly could
have induced her to bring the girl into her house. But Mrs. Merrill,
like many generous people who do not stop to calculate a kindness, was
always severely criticised.

And then there were Jane’s and Susan’s friends, in and out of Miss
Sadler’s school. For Mrs. Merrill’s influence had been sufficient
to induce Miss Sadler to take Cynthia as a day scholar with her own
daughters. This, be it known, was a great concession on the part of Miss
Sadler, who regarded Cynthia’s credentials as dubious enough; and her
young ladies were inclined to regard them so, likewise. Some of these
young ladies came from other cities,--New York and Philadelphia and
elsewhere,--and their fathers and mothers were usually people to be
mentioned as a matter of course--were, indeed, frequently so mentioned
by Miss Sadler, especially when a visitor called at the school.

“Isabel, I saw that your mother sailed for Europe yesterday,”
 or, “Sally, your father tells me he is building a gallery for his
collection.” Then to the visitor, “You know the Broke house in
Washington Square, of course.”

Of course the visitor did. But Sally or Isabel would often imitate
Miss Sadler behind her back, showing how well they understood her
snobbishness.

Miss Sadler was by no means the type which we have come to recognize in
the cartoons as the Boston school ma’am. She was a little, round person
with thin lips and a sharp nose all out of character with her roundness,
and bright eyes like a bird’s. To do her justice, so far as instruction
went, her scholars were equally well cared for, whether they hailed from
Washington Square or Washington Court House. There were, indeed, none
from such rural sorts of places--except Cynthia. But Miss Sadler did not
take her hand on the opening day--or afterward--and ask her about Uncle
Jethro. Oh, no. Miss Sadler had no interest for great men who did not
sail for Europe or add picture galleries on to their houses. Cynthia
laughed, a little bitterly, perhaps, at the thought of a picture gallery
being added to the tannery house. And she told herself stoutly that
Uncle Jethro was a greater man than any of the others, even if Miss
Sadler did not see fit to mention him. So she had her first taste of a
kind of wormwood that is very common in the world though it did not grow
in Coniston.

For a while after Cynthia’s introduction to the school she was calmly
ignored by many of the young ladies there, and once openly--snubbed, to
use the word in its most disagreeable sense. Not that she gave any of
them any real cause to snub her. She did not intrude her own affairs
upon them, but she was used to conversing kindly with the people about
her as equals, and for this offence; on the third day, Miss Sally Broke
snubbed her. It is hard not to make a heroine of Cynthia, not to be able
to relate that she instantly put Miss Sally’s nose out of joint. Susan
Merrill tried to do that, and failed signally, for Miss Sally’s nose was
not easily dislodged. Susan fought more than one of Cynthia’s battles.
As a matter of fact, Cynthia did not know that she had been affronted
until that evening. She did not tell her friends how she spent the night
yearning fiercely for Coniston and Uncle Jethro, at times weeping for
them, if the truth be told; how she had risen before the dawn to write
a letter, and to lay some things in the rawhide trunk. The letter was
never sent, and the packing never finished. Uncle Jethro wished her to
stay and to learn to be a lady, and stay she would, in spite of Miss
Broke and the rest of them. She went to school the next day, and for
many days and weeks thereafter, and held communion with the few alone
who chose to treat her pleasantly. Unquestionably this is making a
heroine of Cynthia.

If young men are cruel in their schools, what shall be written of young
women? It would be better to say that both are thoughtless. Miss Sally
Broke, strange as it may seem, had a heart, and many of the other young
ladies whose fathers sailed for Europe and owned picture galleries; but
these young ladies were absorbed, especially after vacation, in affairs
of which a girl from Coniston had no part. Their friends were not her
friends, their amusements not her amusements, and their talk not her
talk. But Cynthia watched them, as was her duty, and gradually absorbed
many things which are useful if not essential--outward observances of
which the world takes cognizance, and which she had been sent there by
Uncle Jethro to learn. Young people of Cynthia’s type and nationality
are the most adaptable in the world.

Before the December snows set in Cynthia had made one firm friend, at
least, in Boston; outside of the Merrill family. That friend was Miss
Lucretia Penniman, editress of the Woman’s Hour. Miss Lucretia lived in
the queerest and quaintest of the little houses tucked away under the
hill, with the back door a story higher than the fronts an arrangement
which in summer enabled the mistress to walk out of her sitting-room
windows into a little walled garden. In winter that sitting room was the
sunniest, cosiest room in the city, and Cynthia spent many hours there,
reading or listening to the wisdom that fell from the lips of Miss
Lucretia or her guests. The sitting room had uneven, yellow-white
panelling that fairly shone with enamel, mahogany bookcases filled with
authors who had chosen to comply with Miss Lucretia’s somewhat rigorous
censorship; there was a table laden with such magazines as had to do
with the uplifting of a sex, a delightful wavy floor covered with a rose
carpet; and, needless to add, not a pin or a pair of scissors out of
place in the whole apartment.

There is no intention of enriching these pages with Miss Lucretia’s
homilies. Their subject-matter may be found in the files of the Woman’s
Hour. She did not always preach, although many people will not believe
this statement. Miss Lucretia, too, had a heart, though she kept it
hidden away, only to be brought out on occasions when she was sure
of its appreciation, and she grew strangely interested in this
self-contained girl from Coniston whose mother she had known. Miss
Lucretia understood Cynthia, who also was the kind who kept her heart
hidden, the kind who conceal their troubles and sufferings because they
find it difficult to give them out. So Miss Lucretia had Cynthia to take
supper with her at least once in the week, and watched her quietly, and
let her speak of as much of her life as she chose--which was not much,
at first. But Miss Lucretia was content to wait, and guessed at many
things which Cynthia did not tell her, and made some personal effort,
unknown to Cynthia, to find out other things. It will be said that she
had designs on the girl. If so, they were generous designs; and perhaps
it was inevitable that Miss Lucretia should recognize in every young
woman of spirit and brains a possible recruit for the cause.

It has now been shown in some manner and as briefly as possible how
Cynthia’s life had changed, and what it had become. We have got her
partly through the winter, and find her still dreaming of the sparkling
snow on Coniston and of the wind whirling it on clear, cold days like
smoke among the spruces; of Uncle Jethro sitting by his stove through
the long evenings all alone; of Rias in his store and Moses Hatch and
Lem Hallowell, and Cousin Ephraim in his new post-office. Uncle Jethro
wrote for the first time in his life--letters: short letters, but in
his own handwriting, and deserving of being read for curiosity’s sake
if there were time. The wording was queer enough and guarded enough,
but they were charged with a great affection which clung to them like
lavender.

And Cynthia kept them every one, and read them over on such occasions
when she felt that she could not live another minute out of sight of her
mountain.

Such was the state of affairs one gray afternoon in December when
Cynthia, who was sitting in Mrs. Merrill’s parlor, suddenly looked up
from her book to discover that two young men were in the room. The young
men were apparently quite as much surprised as she, and the parlor maid
stood grinning behind them.

“Tell Miss Susan and Miss Jane, Ellen,” said Cynthia, preparing to
depart. One of the young men she recognized from a photograph on Susan’s
bureau. He was, for the time being, Susan’s. His name, although it does
not matter much, was Morton Browne, and he would have been considerably
astonished if he had guessed how much of his history Cynthia knew. It
was Mr. Browne’s habit to take Susan for a walk as often as propriety
permitted, and on such occasions he generally brought along a
good-natured classmate to take care of Jane. This, apparently, was
one of the occasions. Mr. Browne was tall and dark and generally
good-looking, while his friends were usually distinguished for their
good nature.

Mr. Browne stood between her and the door and looked at her rather
fixedly. Then he said:--“Excuse me.”

A great many friendships, and even love affairs, have been inaugurated
by just such an opening.

“Certainly,” said Cynthia, and tried to pass out. But Mr. Browne had no
intention of allowing her to do so if he could help it.

“I hope I am not intruding,” he said politely.

“Oh, no,” answered Cynthia, wondering how she could get by him.

“Were you waiting for Miss Merrill?”

“Oh, no,” said Cynthia again.

The other young man turned his back and became absorbed in the picture
of a lion getting ready to tear a lady to pieces. But Mr. Browne was of
that mettle which is not easily baffled in such matters. He introduced
himself, and desired to know whom he had the honor of addressing.
Cynthia could not but enlighten him. Mr. Browne was greatly astonished,
and showed it.

“So you are the mysterious young lady who has been staying here in the
house this winter,” he exclaimed, as though it were a marvellous thing.
“I have heard Miss Merrill speak of you. She admires you very much. Is
it true that you come from--Coniston?”

“Yes,” she said.

“Let me see--where is Coniston?” inquired Mr. Browne.

“Do you know where Brampton is?” asked Cynthia. “Coniston is near
Brampton.”

“Brampton!” exclaimed Mr. Browne, “I have a classmate who comes from
Brampton--Bob Worthington--You must know Bob, then.”

Yes, Cynthia knew Mr. Worthington.

“His father’s got a mint of money, they say. I’ve been told that old
Worthington was the whole show up in those parts. Is that true?”

“Not quite,” said Cynthia.

Not quite! Mr. Morton Browne eyed her in surprise, and from that moment
she began to have decided possibilities. Just then Jane and Susan
entered arrayed for the walk, but Mr. Browne showed himself in no
hurry to depart: began to speak, indeed, in a deprecating way about the
weather, appealed to his friend, Mr. King, if it didn’t look remarkably
like rain, or hail, or snow. Susan sat down, Jane sat down, Mr. Browne
and his friend prepared to sit down when Cynthia moved toward the door.

“You’re not going, Cynthia!” cried Susan, in a voice that may have had
a little too much eagerness in it. “You must stay and help us entertain
Mr. Browne.” (Mr. King, apparently, was not to be entertained.) “We’ve
tried so hard to make her come down when people called, Mr. Browne, but
she never would.”

Cynthia was not skilled in the art of making excuses. She hesitated for
one, and was lost. So she sat down, as far from Mr. Browne as possible,
next to Jane. In a few minutes Mr. Browne was seated beside her, and how
he accomplished this manoeuvre Cynthia could not have said, so skilfully
and gradually was it done. For lack of a better subject he chose Mr.
Robert Worthington. Related, for Cynthia’s delectation, several of Bob’s
escapades in his freshman year: silly escapades enough, but very bold
and daring and original they sounded to Cynthia, who listened (if Mr.
Browne could have known it) with almost breathless interest, and forgot
all about poor Susan talking to Mr. King. Did Mr. Worthington still
while away his evenings stealing barber poles and being chased around
Cambridge by irate policemen? Mr. Browne laughed at the notion. O dear,
no! seniors never descended to that. Had not Miss Wetherell heard the
song wherein seniors were designated as grave and reverend? Yes,
Miss Wetherell had heard the song. She did not say where, or how. Mr.
Worthington, said his classmate, had become very serious-minded this
year. Was captain of the base-ball team and already looking toward the
study of law.

“Study law!” exclaimed Cynthia, “I thought he would go into his father’s
mills.”

“Do you know Bob very well?” asked Mr. Browne.

She admitted that she did not.

“He’s been away from Brampton a good deal, of course,” said Mr. Browne,
who seemed pleased by her admission. To do him justice, he would not
undermine a classmate, although he had other rules of conduct which
might eventually require a little straightening out. “Worthy’s a
first-rate fellow, a little quick-tempered, perhaps, and inclined to go
his own way. He’s got a good mind, and he’s taken to using it lately. He
has come pretty near being suspended once or twice.”

Cynthia wanted to ask what “suspended” was. It sounded rather painful.
But at this instant there was the rattle of a latch key at the door, and
Mr. Merrill walked in.

“Well, well,” he said, spying Cynthia, “so you have got Cynthia to come
down and entertain the young men at last.”

“Yes,” said Susan, “we have got Cynthia to come down at last.”

Susan did not go to Cynthia’s room that night to chat, as usual, and Mr.
Morton Browne’s photograph was mysteriously removed from the prominent
position it had occupied. If Susan had carried out a plan which she
conceived in a moment of folly of placing that photograph on Cynthia’s
bureau, there would undoubtedly have been a quarrel. Cynthia’s
own feelings--seeing that Mr. Browne had not dazzled her--were
not--enviable.

But she held her peace, which indeed was all she could do, and the
next time Mr. Browne called, though he took care to mention her name
particularly at the door, she would not go down to entertain him: though
Susan implored and Jane appealed, she would not go down. Mr. Browne
called several times again, with the same result. Cynthia was
inexorable--she would have none of him. Then Susan forgave her. There
was no quarrel, indeed, but there was a reconciliation, which is the
best part of a quarrel. There were tears, of Susan’s shedding; there was
a character-sketch of Mr. Browne, of Susan’s drawing, and that gentleman
flitted lightly out of Susan’s life.

Some ten days subsequent to this reconciliation Ellen, the parlor maid,
brought up a card to Cynthia’s room. The card bore the name of Mr.
Robert Worthington. Cynthia stared at it, and bent it in her fingers,
while Ellen explained how the gentleman had begged that she might see
him. To tell the truth, Cynthia had wondered more than once why he had
not come before, and smiled when she thought of all the assurances of
undying devotion she had heard in Washington. After all, she reflected,
why should she not see him--once? He might give her news of Brampton
and Coniston. Thus willingly deceiving herself, she told Ellen that she
would go down: much to the girl’s delight, for Cynthia was a favorite in
the house.

As she entered the parlor Mr. Worthington was standing in the window.
When he turned and saw her he started to come forward in his old
impetuous way, and stopped and looked at her in surprise. She herself
did not grasp the reason for this.

“Can it be possible,” he said, “can it be possible that this is my
friend from the country?” And he took her hand with the greatest
formality, pressed it the least little bit, and released it. “How do you
do, Miss Wetherell? Do you remember me?”

“How do you do--Bob,” she answered, laughing in spite of herself at his
banter. “You haven’t changed, anyway.”

“It was Mr. Worthington in Washington,” said he. “Now it is ‘Bob’ and
‘Miss Wetherell.’ Rank patronage! How did you do it, Cynthia?”

“You are like all men,” said Cynthia, “you look at the clothes, and not
the woman. They are not very fine clothes; but if they were much finer,
they wouldn’t change me.”

“Then it must be Miss Sadler.”

“Miss Sadler would willingly change me--if she could,” said Cynthia, a
little bitterly. “How did you find out I was at Miss Sadler’s?”

“Morton Browne told me yesterday,” said Bob. “I felt like punching his
head.”

“What did he tell you?” she asked with some concern.

“He said that you were here, visiting the Merrills, among other things,
and said that you knew me.”

The “other things” Mr. Browne had said were interesting, but flippant.
He had seen Bob at a college club and declared that he had met a witch
of a country girl at the Merrills. He couldn’t make her out, because she
had refused to see him every time he called again. He had also repeated
Cynthia’s remark about Bob’s father not being quite the biggest man
in his part of the country, and ventured the surmise that she was the
daughter of a rival mill owner.

“Why didn’t you let me know you were in Boston?” said Bob,
reproachfully.

“Why should I?” asked Cynthia, and she could not resist adding, “Didn’t
you find it out when you went to Brampton--to see me?”

“Well,” said he, getting fiery red, “the fact is--I didn’t go to
Brampton.”

“I’m glad you were sensible enough to take my advice, though I suppose
that didn’t make any difference. But--from the way you spoke, I should
have thought nothing could have kept you away.”

“To tell you the truth,” said Bob, “I’d promised to visit a fellow named
Broke in my class, who lives in New York. And I couldn’t get out of it.
His sister, by the way, is in Miss Sadler’s. I suppose you know her. But
if I’d thought you’d see me, I should have gone to Brampton, anyway. You
were so down on me in Washington.”

“It was very good of you to take the trouble to come to see me here.
There must be a great many girls in Boston you have to visit.”

He caught the little note of coolness in her voice. Cynthia was asking
herself whether, if Mr. Browne had not seen fit to give a good report of
her, he would have come at all. He would have come, certainly. It is to
be hoped that Bob Worthington’s attitude up to this time toward Cynthia
has been sufficiently defined by his conversation and actions. There
had been nothing serious about it. But there can be no question that Mr.
Browne’s openly expressed admiration had enhanced her value in his eyes.

“There’s no girl in Boston that I care a rap for,” he said.

“I’m relieved to hear it,” said Cynthia, with feeling.

“Are you really?”

“Didn’t you expect me to be, when you said it?”

He laughed uncomfortably.

“You’ve learned more than one thing since you’ve been in the city,” he
remarked, “I suppose there are a good many fellows who come here all the
time.”

“Yes, there are,” she said demurely.

“Well,” he remarked, “you’ve changed a lot in three months. I always
thought that, if you had a chance, there’d be no telling where you’d end
up.”

“That doesn’t sound very complimentary,” said Cynthia. She had, indeed,
changed. “In what terrible place do you think I’ll end up?”

“I suppose you’ll marry one of these Boston men.”

“Oh,” she laughed, “that wouldn’t be so terrible, would it?”

“I believe you’re engaged to one of ‘em now,” he remarked, looking very
hard at her.

“If you believed that, I don’t think you would say it,” she answered.

“I can’t make you out. You used to be so frank with me, and now you’re
not at all so. Are you going to Coniston for the holidays?”

Her face fell at the question.

“Oh, Bob,” she cried, surprising him utterly by a glimpse of the real
Cynthia, “I wish I were--I wish I were! But I don’t dare to.”

“Don’t dare to?”

“If I went, I should’ never come back--never. I should stay with Uncle
Jethro. He’s so lonesome up there, and I’m so lonesome down here,
without him. And I promised him faithfully I’d stay a whole winter at
school in Boston.”

“Cynthia,” said Bob, in a strange voice as he leaned toward her, “do
you--do you care for him as much as all that?”

“Care for him?” she repeated.

“Care for--for Uncle Jethro?”

“Of course I care for him,” she cried, her eyes flashing at the thought.
“I love him better than anybody in the world. Certainly no one ever had
better reason to care for a person. My father failed when he came to
Coniston--he was not meant for business, and Uncle Jethro took care of
him all his life, and paid his debts. And he has taken care of me and
given me everything that a girl could wish. Very few people know what a
fine character Uncle Jethro has,” continued Cynthia, carried away as she
was by the pent-up flood of feeling within her. “I know what he has done
for others, and I should love him for that even if he never had done
anything for me.”

Bob was silent. He was, in the first place, utterly amazed at this
outburst, revealing as it did a depth of passionate feeling in the girl
which he had never suspected, and which thrilled him. It was unlike
her, for she was usually so self-repressed; and, being unlike her,
accentuated both sides of her character the more.

But what was he to say of the defence of Jethro Bass? Bob was not a
young man who had pondered much over the problems of life, because these
problems had hitherto never touched him. But now he began to perceive,
dimly, things that might become the elements of a tragedy, even as Mr.
Merrill had perceived them some months before. Could a union endure
between so delicate a creature as the girl before him and Jethro Bass?
Could Cynthia ever go back to him again, and live with him happily,
without seeing many things which before were hidden by reason of her
youth and innocence?

Bob had not been nearly four years at college without learning something
of the world; and it had not needed the lecture from his father, which
he got upon leaving Washington, to inform him of Jethro’s political
practices. He had argued soundly with his father on that occasion,
having the courage to ask Mr. Worthington in effect whether he did
not sanction his underlings to use the same tools as Jethro used.
Mr. Worthington was righteously angry, and declared that Jethro had
inaugurated those practices in the state, and had to be fought with his
own weapons. But Mr. Worthington had had the sense at that time not to
mention Cynthia’s name. He hoped and believed that that affair was not
serious, and merely a boyish fancy--as indeed it was.

It remains to be said, however, that the lecture had not been without
its effect upon Bob. Jethro Bass, after all, was--Jethro Bass. All his
life Bob had heard him familiarly and jokingly spoken of as the boss
of the state, and had listened to the tales, current in all the country
towns, of how Jethro had outwitted this man or that. Some of them
were not refined tales. Jethro Bass as the boss of the state--with the
tolerance with which the public in general regard politics--was one
thing. Bob was willing to call him “Uncle Jethro,” admire his great
strength and shrewdness, and declare that the men he had outwitted had
richly deserved it. But Jethro Bass as the ward of Cynthia Wetherell was
quite another thing.

It was not only that Cynthia had suddenly and inevitably become a lady.
That would not have mattered, for such as she would have borne Coniston
and the life of Coniston cheerfully. But Bob reflected, as he walked
back to his rooms in the dark through the snow-laden streets, that
Cynthia, young though she might be, possessed principles from which no
love would sway her a hair’s breadth. How, indeed, was she to live with
Jethro once her eyes were opened?

The thought made him angry, but returned to him persistently during the
days that followed,--in the lecture room, in the gymnasium, in his own
study, where he spent more time than formerly. By these tokens it will
be perceived that Bob, too, had changed a little. And the sight of
Cynthia in Mrs. Merrill’s parlor had set him to thinking in a very
different manner than the sight of her in Washington had affected him.
Bob had managed to shift the subject from Jethro, not without an effort,
though he had done it in that merry, careless manner which was so
characteristic of him. He had talked of many things,--his college life,
his friends,--and laughed at her questions about his freshman escapades.
But when at length, at twilight, he had risen to go, he had taken both
her hands and looked down into her face with a very different expression
than she had seen him wear before--a much more serious expression, which
puzzled her. It was not the look of a lover, nor yet that of a man who
imagines himself in love. With either of these her instinct would have
told her how to deal. It was more the look of a friend, with much of the
masculine spirit of protection in it.

“May I come to see you again?” he asked.

Gently she released her hands, and she did not answer at once. She
went to the window, and stared across the sloping street at the grilled
railing before the big house opposite, thinking. Her reason told her
that he should not come, but her spirit rebelled against that reason. It
was a pleasure to see him, so she freely admitted to herself. Why should
she not have that pleasure? If the truth be told, she had argued it all
out before, when she had wondered whether he would come. Mrs. Merrill,
she thought, would not object to his coming. But--there was the question
she had meant to ask him.

“Bob,” she said, turning to him, “Bob, would your father want you to
come?”

It was growing dark, and she could scarcely see his face. He hesitated,
but he did not attempt to evade the question.

“No, he would not,” he answered. And added, with a good deal of force
and dignity: “I am of age, and can choose my own friends. I am my own
master. If he knew you as I knew you, he would look at the matter in a
different light.”

Cynthia felt that this was not quite true. She smiled a little sadly.

“I am afraid you don’t know me very well, Bob.” He was about to protest,
but she went on, bravely, “Is it because he has quarrelled with Uncle
Jethro?”

“Yes,” said Bob. She was making it terribly hard for him, sparing indeed
neither herself nor him.

“If you come here to see me, it will cause a quarrel between you and
your father. I--I cannot do that.”

“There is nothing wrong in my seeing you,” said Bob, stoutly; “if he
cares to quarrel with me for that, I cannot help it. If the people I
choose for my friends are good people, he has no right to an objection,
even though he is my father.”

Cynthia had never come so near real admiration for him as at that
moment.

“No, Bob, you must not come,” she said. “I will not have you quarrel
with him on my account.”

“Then I will quarrel with him on my own account,” he had answered.
“Good-by. You may expect me this day week.”

He went into the hall to put on his overcoat. Cynthia stood still on
the spot of the carpet where he had left her. He put his head in at the
door.

“This day week,” he said.

“Bob, you must not come,” she answered. But the street door closed after
him as he spoke.



CHAPTER IX

“You must not come.” Had Cynthia made the prohibition strong enough?
Ought she not to have said, “If you do come, I will not see you?” Her
knowledge of the motives of the men and women in the greater world was
largely confined to that which she had gathered from novels--not trashy
novels, but those by standard authors of English life. And many another
girl of nineteen has taken a novel for a guide when she has been
suddenly confronted with the first great problem outside of her
experience. Somebody has declared that there are only seven plots in
the world. There are many parallels in English literature to Cynthia’s
position,--so far as she was able to define that position,--the wealthy
young peer, the parson’s or physician’s daughter, and the worldly,
inexorable parents who had other plans.

Cynthia was, of course, foolish. She would not look ahead, yet there
was the mirage in the sky when she allowed herself to dream. It can
truthfully be said that she was not in love with Bob Worthington. She
felt, rather than knew, that if love came to her the feeling she had for
Jethro Bass--strong though that was--would be as nothing to it. The girl
felt the intensity of her nature, and shrank from it when her thoughts
ran that way, for it frightened her.

“Mrs. Merrill” she said, a few days later, when she found herself alone
with that lady, “you once told me you would have no objection if a
friend came to see me here.”

“None whatever, my dear,” answered Mrs. Merrill. “I have asked you to
have your friends here.”

Mrs. Merrill knew that a young man had called on Cynthia. The girls had
discussed the event excitedly, had teased Cynthia about it; they had
discovered, moreover, that the young man had not been a tiller of the
soil or a clerk in a country store. Ellen, with the enthusiasm of her
race, had painted him in glowing colors--but she had neglected to read
the name on his card.

“Bob Worthington came to see me last week, and he wants to come again.
He lives in Brampton,” Cynthia explained, “and is at Harvard College.”

Mrs. Merrill was decidedly surprised. She went on with her sewing,
however, and did not betray the fact. She knew of Dudley Worthington as
one of the richest and most important men in his state; she had heard
her husband speak of him often; but she had never meddled with politics
and railroad affairs.

“By all means let him come, Cynthia,” she replied.

When Mr. Merrill got home that evening she spoke of the matter to him.

“Cynthia is a strange character,” she said. “Sometimes I can’t
understand her--she seems so much older than our girls, Stephen. Think
of her keeping this to herself for four days!”

Mr. Merrill laughed, but he went off to a little writing room he had
and sat for a long time looking into the glowing coals. Then he laughed
again. Mr. Merrill was a philosopher. After all, he could not forbid
Dudley Worthington’s son coming to his house, nor did he wish to.

That same evening Cynthia wrote a letter and posted it. She found it a
very difficult letter to write, and almost as difficult to drop into the
mail-box. She reflected that the holidays were close at hand, and then
he would go to Brampton and forget, even as he had forgotten before. And
she determined when Wednesday afternoon came around that she would take
a long walk in the direction of Brookline. Cynthia loved these walks,
for she sadly missed the country air,--and they had kept the color in
her cheeks and the courage in her heart that winter. She had amazed
the Merrill girls by the distances she covered, and on more than one
occasion she had trudged many miles to a spot from which there was a
view of Blue Hills. They reminded her faintly of Coniston.

Who can speak or write with any certainty of the feminine character, or
declare what unexpected twists perversity and curiosity may give to it?
Wednesday afternoon came, and Cynthia did not go to Brookline. She put
on her coat, and took it off again. Would he dare to come in the face of
the mandate he had received? If he did come, she wouldn’t see him. Ellen
had received her orders.

At four o’clock the doorbell rang, and shortly thereafter Ellen
appeared, simpering and apologetic enough, with a card. She had taken
the trouble to read it this time. Cynthia was angry, or thought she was,
and her cheeks were very red.

“I told you to excuse me, Ellen. Why did you let him in?”

“Miss Cynthia, darlin’,” said Ellen, “if it was made of flint I was,
wouldn’t he bring the tears out of me with his wheedlin’ an’ coaxin’?
An’ him such a fine young gintleman! And whin he took to commandin’
like, sure I couldn’t say no to him at all at all. ‘Take the card to
her, Ellen,’ he says--didn’t he know me name!--‘an’ if she says she
won’t see me, thin I won’t trouble her more.’ Thim were his words,
Miss.”

There he was before the fire, his feet slightly apart and his hands in
his pockets, waiting for her. She got a glimpse of him standing thus, as
she came down the stairs. It was not the attitude of a culprit. Nor did
he bear the faintest resemblance to a culprit as he came up to her in
the doorway. The chief recollection she carried away of that moment
was that his teeth were very white and even when he smiled. He had the
impudence to smile. He had the impudence to seize one of her hands in
his, and to hold aloft a sheet of paper in the other.

“What does this mean?” said he.

“What do you thick it means?” retorted Cynthia, with dignity.

“A summons to stay away,” said Bob, thereby more or less accurately
describing it. “What would you have thought of me if I had not come?”

Cynthia was not prepared for any such question as this. She had meant
to ask the questions herself. But she never lacked for words to protect
herself.

“I’ll tell you what I think of you for coming, Bob, for insisting upon
seeing me as you did,” she said, remembering with shame Ellen’s account
of that proceeding. “It was very unkind and very thoughtless of you.”

“Unkind?” Thus she succeeded in putting him on the defensive.

“Yes, unkind, because I know it is best for you not to come to see me,
and you know it, and yet you will not help me when I try to do what is
right. I shall be blamed for these visits,” she said. The young ladies
in the novels always were. But it was a serious matter for poor Cynthia,
and her voice trembled a little. Her troubles seemed very real.

“Who will blame you?” asked Bob, though he knew well enough. Then he
added, seeing that she did not answer: “I don’t at all agree with you
that it is best for me not to see you. I know of nobody in the world it
does me more good to see than yourself. Let’s sit down and talk it all
over,” he said, for she still remained standing uncompromisingly by the
door.

The suspicion of a smile came over Cynthia’s face. She remembered how
Ellen had been wheedled. Her instinct told her that now was the time to
make a stand or never.

“It wouldn’t do any good, Bob,” she replied, shaking her head; “we
talked it all over last week.”

“Not at all,” said he, “we only touched upon a few points last week. We
ought to thrash it out. Various aspects of the matter have occurred to
me which I ought to call to your attention.”

He could not avoid this bantering tone, but she saw that he was very
much in earnest too. He realized the necessity of winning; likewise, and
he had got in and meant to stay.

“I don’t want to argue,” said Cynthia. “I’ve thought it all out.”

“So have I,” said Bob. “I haven’t thought of anything else, to speak
of. And by the way,” he declared, shaking the envelope, “I never got a
colder and more formal letter in my life. You must have taken it from
one of Miss Sadler’s copy books.”

“I’m sorry I haven’t been able to equal the warmth of your other
correspondents,” said Cynthia, smiling at the mention of Miss Sadler.

“You’ve got a good many degrees yet to go,” he replied.

“I have no idea of doing so,” said Cynthia.

If Cynthia had lured him there, and had carefully thought out a plan of
fanning his admiration into a flame, she could not have done better
than to stand obstinately by the door. Nothing appeals to a man like
resistance--resistance for a principle appealed to Bob, although he did
not care a fig about that particular principle. In his former dealings
with young women--and they had not been few--the son of Dudley
Worthington had encountered no resistance worth the mentioning. He
looked at the girl before him, and his blood leaped at the thought of a
conquest over her. She was often demure, but behind that demureness was
firmness: she was mistress of herself, and yet possessed a marvellous
vitality.

“And now,” said Cynthia, “don’t you think you had better go?”

Go! He laughed outright. Never! He would sit down under that fortress,
and some day he meant to scale the walls. Like John Paul Jones, he
had not yet begun to fight. But he did not sit down just yet, because
Cynthia remained standing.

“I’m here now,” he said, “what’s the good of going away? I might as well
stay the rest of the afternoon.”

“You will find a photograph album on the table,” said Cynthia, “with
pictures of all the Merrill family and their friends and relations.”

In spite of the threat this remark conveyed, he could not help laughing
at it. Mrs. Merrill in her sitting room heard the laugh, and felt that
she would like Bob Worthington.

“It’s a heavy album, Cynthia,” he said; “perhaps you would hold up one
side of it.”

It was Cynthia’s turn to laugh. She could not decide whether he were a
man or a boy. Sometimes, she had to admit, he was very much of a man.

“Where are you going?” he cried.

“Upstairs, of course,” she answered.

This was really alarming. But fate thrust a final weapon into his hands.

“All right,” said he, “I’ll look at the album. What time does Mr.
Merrill get home?”

“About six,” answered Cynthia. “Why?”

“When he comes,” said Bob, “I shall put on my most disconsolate
expression. He’ll ask me what I’m doing, and I’ll tell him you went
upstairs at half-past four and haven’t come down. He’ll sympathize, I’ll
bet anything.”

Whether Bob were really capable of doing this, Cynthia could not tell.
She believed he was. Perhaps she really did not intend to go upstairs
just then. To his intense relief she seated herself on a straight-backed
chair near the door, although she had the air of being about to get up
again at any minute. It was not a surrender, not at all--but a parley,
at least.

“I really want to talk to you seriously, Bob,” she said, and her voice
was serious. “I like you very much--I always have--and I want you
to listen seriously. All of us have friends. Some people--you, for
instance--have a great many. We have but one father.” Her voice failed
a little at the word. “No friend can ever be the same to you as your
father, and no friendship can make up what his displeasure will cost
you. I do not mean to say that I shan’t always be your friend, for I
shall be.”

Young men seldom arrive at maturity by gradual steps--something sets
them thinking, a week passes, and suddenly the world has a different
aspect. Bob had thought much of his father during that week, and had
considered their relationship very carefully. He had a few precious
memories of his mother before she had been laid to rest under that
hideous and pretentious monument in the Brampton hill cemetery. How
unlike her was that monument! Even as a young boy, when on occasions he
had wandered into the cemetery, he used to stand before it with a lump
in his throat and bitter resentment in his heart, and once he had shaken
his fist at it. He had grown up out of sympathy with his father, but he
had never until now began to analyze the reasons for it. His father had
given him everything except that communion of which Cynthia spoke so
feelingly. Mr. Worthington had acted according to his lights: of all the
people in the world he thought first of his son. But his thoughts and
care had been alone of what the son would be to the world: how that son
would carry on the wealth and greatness of Isaac D. Worthington.

Bob had known this before, but it had had no such significance for him
then as now. He was by no means lacking in shrewdness, and as he had
grown older he had perceived clearly enough Mr. Worthington’s reasons
for throwing him socially with the Duncans. Mr. Worthington had never
been a plain-spoken man, but he had as much as told his son that it was
decreed that he should marry the heiress of the state. There were other
plans connected with this. Mr. Worthington meant that his son should
eventually own the state itself, for he saw that the man who controlled
the highways of a state could snap his fingers at governor and council
and legislature and judiciary: could, indeed, do more--could own them
even more completely than Jethro Bass now owned them, and without
effort. The dividends would do the work: would canvass the counties and
persuade this man and that with sufficient eloquence. By such tokens
it will be seen that Isaac D. Worthington is destined to become great,
though the greatness will be akin to that possessed by those gentlemen
who in past ages had built castles across the highway between Venice and
the North Sea. All this was in store for Bob Worthington, if he could
only be brought to see it. These things would be given him, if he would
but confine his worship to the god of wealth.

We are running ahead, however, of Bob’s reflections in Mr. Merrill’s
parlor in Mount Vernon Street, and the ceremony of showing him the
cities of his world from Brampton hill was yet to be gone through. Bob
knew his father’s plans only in a general way, but in the past week he
had come to know his father with a fair amount of thoroughness. If Isaac
D. Worthington had but chosen a worldly wife, he might have had a more
worldly son. As it was, Bob’s thoughts were a little bitter when Cynthia
spoke of his father, and he tried to think instead what his mother
would have him do. He could not, indeed, speak of Mr. Worthington’s
shortcomings as he understood them, but he answered Cynthia vigorously
enough--even if his words were not as serious as she desired.

“I tell you I am old enough to judge for myself, Cynthia,” said he, “and
I intend to judge for myself. I don’t pretend to be a paragon of virtue,
but I have a kind of a conscience which tells me when I am doing wrong,
if I listen to it. I have not always listened to it. It tells me I’m
doing right now, and I mean to listen to it.”

Cynthia could not but think there was very little self-denial attached
to this. Men are not given largely to self-denial.

“It is easy enough to listen to your conscience when you think it impels
you to do that which you want to do, Bob,” she answered, laughing at his
argument in spite of herself.

“Are you wicked?” he demanded abruptly.

“Why, no, I don’t think I am,” said Cynthia, taken aback. But she
corrected herself swiftly, perceiving his bent. “I should be doing wrong
to let you come here.”

He ignored the qualification.

“Are you vain and frivolous?”

She remembered that she had looked in the glass before she had come down
to him, and bit her lip.

“Are you given over to idle pursuits, to leading young men from their
occupations and duties?”

“If you’ve come here to recite the Blue Laws,” said she, laughing again,
“I have something better to do than to listen to them.”

“Cynthia,” he cried, “I’ll tell you what you are. I’ll draw your
character for you, and then, if you can give me one good reason why I
should not associate with you, I’ll go away and never come back.”

“That’s all very well,” said Cynthia, “but suppose I don’t admit your
qualifications for drawing my character. And I don’t admit them, not for
a minute.”

“I will draw it,” said he, standing up in front of her. “Oh, confound
it!”

This exclamation, astonishing and out of place as it was, was caused
by a ring at the doorbell. The ring was followed by a whispering and
giggling in the hall, and then by the entrance of the Misses Merrill
into the parlor. Curiosity had been too strong for them. Susan was
human, and here was the opportunity for a little revenge. In justice to
her, she meant the revenge to be very slight.

“Well, Cynthia, you should have come to the concert,” she said; “it was
fine, wasn’t it, Jane? Is this Mr. Worthington? How do you do. I’m Miss
Susan Merrill, and this is Miss Jane Merrill.” Susan only intended
to stay a minute, but how was Bob to know that? She was tempted into
staying longer. Bob lighted the gas, and she inspected him and approved.
Her approval increased when he began to talk to her in his bantering
way, as if he had known her always. Then, when she was fully intending
to go, he rose to take his leave.

“I’m awfully glad to have met you at last,” he said to Susan, “I’ve
heard so much about you.” His leave-taking of Jane was less effusive,
and then he turned to Cynthia and took her hand. “I’m going to Brampton
on Friday,” he said, “for the holidays. I wish you were going.”

“We couldn’t think of letting her go, Mr. Worthington,” cried Susan, for
the thought of the hills had made Cynthia incapable of answering. “We’re
only to have her for one short winter, you know.”

“Yes, I know,” said Mr. Worthington, gravely. “I’ll see old Ephraim,
and tell him you’re well, and what a marvel of learning, you’ve become.
And--and I’ll go to Coniston if that will please you.”

“Oh, no, Bob, you mustn’t do anything of the kind,” answered Cynthia,
trying to keep back the tears. “I--I write to Uncle Jethro very often.
Good-by. I hope you will enjoy your holidays.”

“I’m coming to see you the minute I get back and tell you all about
everybody,” said he.

How was she to forbid him to come before Susan and Jane! She could only
be silent.

“Do come, Mr. Worthington,” said Susan, warmly, wondering at Cynthia’s
coldness and, indeed, misinterpreting it. “I am sure she will be glad to
see you. And we shall always make you welcome, at any rate.”

As soon as he was out of the door, Susan became very repentant, and
slipped her hand about Cynthia’s waist.

“We shouldn’t have come in at all if we had known he would go so soon,
indeed we shouldn’t, Cynthia.” And seeing that Cynthia was still silent,
she added: “I wouldn’t do such a mean thing, Cynthia, I really wouldn’t.
Won’t you believe me and forgive me?”

Cynthia scarcely heard her at first. She was thinking of Coniston
mountain, and how the sun had just set behind it. The mountain would be
ultramarine against the white fields, and the snow on the hill pastures
to the east stained red as with wine. What would she not have given to
be going back to-morrow--yes, with Bob. She confessed--though startled
by the very boldness of the thought--that she would like to be going
there with Bob. Susan’s appeal brought her back to Boston and the
gas-lit parlor.

“Forgive you, Susan! There’s nothing to forgive. I wanted him to go.”

“You wanted him to go?” repeated Susan, amazed. She may be pardoned if
she did not believe this, but a glance at Cynthia’s face scarcely left a
room for doubt. “Cynthia Wetherell, you’re the strangest girl I’ve ever
known in all my life. If I had a--a friend” (Susan had another word on
her tongue) “if I had such a friend as Mr. Worthington, I shouldn’t be
in a hurry to let him leave me. Of course,” she added, “I shouldn’t let
him know it.”

Cynthia’s heart was very heavy during the next few days, heavier by far
than her friends in Mount Vernon Street imagined. They had grown to love
her almost as one of themselves, and because of the sympathy which comes
of such love they guessed that her thoughts would be turning homeward
at Christmastide. At school she had listened, perforce, to the festival
plans of thirty girls of her own age; to accounts of the probable
presents they were to receive, the cost of some of which would support
a family in Coniston for several months; to arrangements for visits,
during which there were to be theatre-parties and dances and other
gaieties. Cynthia could not help wondering, as she listened in silence
to this talk, whether Uncle Jethro had done wisely in sending her to
Miss Sadler’s; whether she would not have been far happier if she had
never known about such things.

Then came the last day of school, which began with leave-takings and
embraces. There were not many who embraced Cynthia, though, had she
known it, this was largely her own fault. Poor Cynthia! how was she to
know it? Many more of them than she imagined would have liked to embrace
her had they believed that the embrace would be returned. Secretly they
had grown to admire this strange, dark girl, who was too proud to bend
for the good opinion of any one--even of Miss Sally Broke. Once during
the term Cynthia had held some of them--in the hollow of her hand, and
had incurred the severe displeasure of Miss Sadler by refusing to tell
what she knew of certain mischief-makers.

Now, Miss Sadler was going about among them in the school parlor saying
good-by, sending particular remembrance to such of the fathers and
mothers as she thought worthy of that honor; kissing some, shaking,
hands with all. It was then that a dramatic incident occurred--dramatic
for a girls’ school, at least. Cynthia deliberately turned her back on
Miss Sadler and looked out of the window. The chatter in the room was
hushed, and for a moment a dangerous wrath flamed in Miss Sadler’s eyes.
Then she passed on with a smile, to send most particular messages to the
mother of Miss Isabel Burrage.

Some few moments afterward Cynthia felt a touch on her arm, and turned
to find herself confronted by Miss Sally Broke. Unfortunately there is
not much room for Miss Broke in this story, although she may appear in
another one yet to be written. She was extremely good-looking, with real
golden hair and mischievous blue eyes. She was, in brief, the leader of
Miss Sadler’s school.

“Cynthia,” she said, “I was rude to you when you first came here, and
I’m sorry for it. I want to beg your pardon.” And she held out her hand.

There was a moment’s suspense for those watching to see if Cynthia would
take it. She did take it.

“I’m sorry, too,” said Cynthia, simply, “I couldn’t see what I’d done to
offend you. Perhaps you’ll explain now.”

Miss Broke blushed violently, and for an instant looked decidedly
uncomfortable. Then she burst into laughter,--merry, irresistible
laughter that carried all before it.

“I was a snob, that’s all,” said she, “just a plain, low down snob. You
don’t understand what that means, because you’re not one.” (Cynthia did
understand, ) “But I like you, and I want you to be my friend. Perhaps
when I get to know you better, you will come home with me sometime for a
visit.”

Go home with her for a visit to that house in Washington Square with the
picture gallery!

“I want to say that I’d give my head to have been able to turn my back
on Miss Sadler as you did,” continued Miss Broke; “if you ever want a
friend, remember Sally Broke.”

Some of Cynthia’s trouble, at least, was mitigated by this episode; and
Miss Broke having led the way, Miss Broke’s followers came shyly, one by
one, with proffers of friendship. To the good-hearted Merrill girls the
walk home that day was a kind of a triumphal march, a victory over Miss
Sadler and a vindication of their friend. Mrs. Merrill, when she heard
of it, could not find it in her heart to reprove Cynthia. Miss Sadler
had got her just deserts. But Miss Sadler was not a person who was
likely to forget such an incident. Indeed, Mrs. Merrill half expected to
receive a note before the holidays ended that Cynthia’s presence was no
longer desired at the school. No such note came, however.

If one had to be away from home on Christmas, there could surely be no
better place to spend that day than in the Merrill household. Cynthia
remembers still, when that blessed season comes around, how each member
of the family vied with the others to make her happy; how they showered
presents on her, and how they strove to include her in the laughter and
jokes at the big family dinner. Mr. Merrill’s brother was there with
his wife, and Mrs. Merrill’s aunt and her husband, and two broods of
cousins. It may be well to mention that the Merrill relations, like
Sally Broke, had overcome their dislike for Cynthia.

There were eatables from Coniston on that board. A turkey sent by
Jethro for which, Mr. Merrill declared, the table would have to be
strengthened; a saddle of venison--Lem Hallowell having shot a deer on
the mountain two Sundays before; and mince-meat made by Amanda Hatch
herself. Other presents had come to Cynthia from the hills: a gorgeous
copy of Mr. Longfellow’s poems from Cousin Ephraim, and a gold locket
from Uncle Jethro. This locket was the precise counterpart (had she but
known it) of a silver one bought at Mr. Judson’s shop many years before,
though the inscription “Cynthy, from Uncle Jethro,” was within. Into
the other side exactly fitted that daguerreotype of her mother which her
father had given her when he died. The locket had a gold chain with
a clasp, and Cynthia wore it hidden beneath her gown-too intimate a
possession to be shown.

There was still another and very mysterious present, this being a huge
box of roses, addressed to Miss Cynthia Wetherell, which was delivered
on Christmas morning. If there had been a card, Susan Merrill would
certainly have found it. There was no card. There was much pretended
speculation on the part of the Merrill girls as to the sender, sly
reference to Cynthia’s heightened color, and several attempts to pin on
her dress a bunch of the flowers, and Susan declared that one of them
would look stunning in her hair. They were put on the dining-room table
in the centre of the wreath of holly, and under the mistletoe which hung
from the chandelier. Whether Cynthia surreptitiously stole one has never
been discovered.

So Christmas came and went: not altogether unhappily, deferring for a
day at least the knotty problems of life. Although Cynthia accepted the
present of the roses with such magnificent unconcern, and would not
make so much as a guess as to who sent them, Mr. Robert Worthington was
frequently in her thoughts. He had declared his intention of coming
to Mount Vernon Street as soon as the holidays ended, and had been
cordially invited by Susan to do so. Cynthia took the trouble to procure
a Harvard catalogue from the library, and discovered that he had many
holidays yet to spend. She determined to write another letter, which he
would find in his rooms when he returned. Just what terrible prohibitory
terms she was to employ in that letter Cynthia could not decide in a
moment, nor yet in a day, or a week. She went so far as to make several
drafts, some of which she destroyed for the fault of leniency, and
others for that of severity. What was she to say to him? She had
expended her arguments to no avail. She could wound him, indeed, and
at length made up her mind that this was the only resource left her,
although she would thereby wound herself more deeply. When she had
arrived at this decision, there remained still more than a week in which
to compose the letter.

On the morning after New Year’s, when the family were assembled
around the breakfast table, Mrs. Merrill remarked that her husband was
neglecting a custom which had been his for many years.

“Didn’t the newspaper come, Stephen?” she asked.

Mr. Merrill had read it.

“Read it!” repeated his wife, in surprise, “you haven’t been down long
enough to read a column.”

“It was full of trash,” said Mr. Merrill, lightly, and began on his
usual jokes with the girls. But Mrs. Merrill was troubled. She thought
his jokes not as hearty as they were wont to be, and disquieting
surmises of business worries filled her mind. The fact that he beckoned
her into his writing room as soon as breakfast was over did not tend
to allay her suspicions. He closed and locked the door after her, and
taking the paper from a drawer in his desk bade her read a certain
article in it.

The article was an arraignment of Jethro Bass--and a terrible
arraignment indeed. Step by step it traced his career from the
beginning, showing first of all how he had debauched his own town of
Coniston; how, enlarging on the same methods, he had gradually extended
his grip over the county and finally over the state; how he had bought
and sold men for his own power and profit, deceived those who had
trusted in him, corrupted governors and legislators, congressmen
and senators, and even justices of the courts: how he had trafficked
ruthlessly in the enterprises of the people. Instance upon instance was
given, and men of high prominence from whom he had received bribes were
named, not the least important of these being the Honorable Alva Hopkins
of Gosport.

Mrs. Merrill looked up from the paper in dismay.

“It’s copied from the Newcastle Guardian,” she said, for lack of
immediate power to comment. “Isn’t the Guardian the chief paper in that
state?”

“Yes, Worthington’s bought it, and he instigated the article, of course.
I’ve been afraid of this for a long time, Carry,” said Mr. Merrill,
pacing up and down. “There’s a bigger fight than they’ve ever had coming
on up there, and this is the first gun. Worthington, with Duncan behind
him, is trying to get possession of and consolidate all the railroads in
the western part of that state. If he succeeds, it will mean the end of
Jethro’s power. But he won’t succeed.”

“Stephen,” said his wife, “do you mean to say that Jethro Bass will try
to defeat this consolidation simply to keep his power?”

“Well, my dear,” answered Mr. Merrill, still pacing, “two wrongs don’t
make a right, I admit. I’ve known these things a long time, and I’ve
thought about them a good deal. But I’ve had to run along with the tide,
or give place to another man who would; and--and starve.”

Mrs. Merrill’s eyes slowly filled with tears.

“Stephen,” she began, “do you mean to say--?” There she stopped, utterly
unable to speak. He ceased his pacing and sat down beside her and took
her hand.

“Yes, my dear, I mean to say I’ve submitted to these things. God knows
whether I’ve been right or wrong, but I have. I’ve often thought I’d
be happier if I resigned my office as president of my road and became
a clerk in a store. I don’t attempt to excuse myself, Carry, but my sin
has been in holding on to my post. As long as I remain president I have
to cope with things as I find them.”

Mr. Merrill spoke thickly, for the sight of his wife’s tears wrung his
heart.

“Stephen,” she said, “when we were first married and you were a district
superintendent, you used to tell me everything.”

Stephen Merrill was a man, and a good man, as men go. How was he to tell
her the degrees by which he had been led into his present situation?
How was he to explain that these degrees had been so gradual that his
conscience had had but a passing wrench here and there? Politics being
what they were, progress and protection had to be obtained in accordance
with them, and there was a duty to the holders of bonds and stocks.

His wife had a question on her lips, a question for which she had to
summon all her courage. She chose that form for it which would hurt him
least.

“Mr. Worthington is going to try to change these things?”

Mr. Merrill roused himself at the words, and his eyes flashed. He became
a different man.

“Change them!” he cried bitterly, “change them for the worse, if he can.
He will try to wrest the power from Jethro Bass. I don’t defend him.
I don’t defend myself. But I like Jethro Bass. I won’t deny it. He’s
human, and I like him, and whatever they say about him I know that he’s
been a true friend to me. And I tell you as I hope for happiness here
and hereafter, that if Worthington succeeds in what he is trying to
do, if the railroads win in this fight, there will be no mercy for
the people of that state. I’m a railroad man myself, though I have no
interest in this affair. My turn may come later. Will come later, I
suppose. Isaac D. Worthington has a very little heart or soul or mercy
himself; but the corporation which he means to set up will have none at
all. It will grind the people and debase them and clog their progress a
hundred times more than Jethro Bass has done. Mark my words, Carry. I’m
running ahead of the times a little, but I can see it all as clearly as
if it existed now.”

Mrs. Merrill went about her duties that morning with a heavy heart, and
more than once she paused to wipe away a tear that would have fallen
on the linen she was sorting. At eleven o’clock the doorbell rang, and
Ellen appeared at the entrance to the linen closet with a card in her
hand. Mrs. Merrill looked at it with a flurry of surprise. It read:--

           MISS LUCRETIA PENNIMAN

            The Woman’s Hour



CHAPTER X

It was certainly affinity that led Miss Lucretia to choose the rosewood
sofa of a bygone age, which was covered with horsehair. Miss Lucretia’s
features seemed to be constructed on a larger and more generous
principle than those of women are nowadays. Her face was longer. With
her curls and her bonnet and her bombazine,--which she wore in all
seasons,--she was in complete harmony with the sofa. She had thrown
aside the storm cloak which had become so familiar to pedestrians in
certain parts of Boston.

“My dear Miss Penniman,” said Mrs. Merrill, “I am delighted and honored.
I scarcely hoped for such a pleasure. I have so long admired you and
your work, and I have heard Cynthia speak of you so kindly.”

“It is very good of you to say so, Mrs. Merrill” answered Miss Lucretia,
in her full, deep voice. It was by no means an unpleasant voice. She
settled herself, though she sat quite upright, in the geometrical centre
of the horsehair sofa, and cleared her throat. “To be quite honest
with you, Mrs. Merrill,” she continued, “I came upon particular errand,
though I believe it would not be a perversion of the truth if I were
to add that I have had for a month past every intention of paying you a
friendly call.”

Good Mrs. Merrill’s breath was a little taken away by this extremely
scrupulous speech. She also began to feel a misgiving about the cause of
the visit, but she managed to say something polite in reply.

“I have come about Cynthia,” announced Miss Lucretia, without further
preliminaries.

“About Cynthia?” faltered Mrs. Merrill.

Miss Lucretia opened a reticule at her waist and drew forth a newspaper
clipping, which she unfolded and handed to Mrs. Merrill.

“Have you seen this?” she demanded.

Mrs. Merrill took it, although she guessed very well what it was,
glanced at it with a shudder, and handed it back.

“Yes, I have read it,” she said.

“I have come to ask you, Mrs. Merrill” said Miss Lucretia, “if it is
true.”

Here was a question, indeed, for the poor lady to answer! But Mrs.
Merrill was no coward.

“It is partly true, I believe.”

“Partly?” said Miss Lucretia, sharply.

“Yes, partly,” said Mrs. Merrill, rousing herself for the trial; “I have
never yet seen a newspaper article which was wholly true.”

“That is because newspapers are not edited by women,” observed Miss
Lucretia. “What I wish you to tell me, Mrs. Merrill, is this: how much
of that article is true, and how much of it is false?”

“Really, Miss Penniman,” replied Mrs. Merrill, with spirit, “I don’t see
why you should expect me to know.”

“A woman should take an intelligent interest in her husband’s affairs,
Mrs. Merrill. I have long advocated it as an entering wedge.”

“An entering wedge!” exclaimed Mrs. Merrill, who had never read a page
of the Woman’s Hour.

“Yes. Your husband is the president of a railroad, I believe, which is
largely in that state. I should like to ask him whether these statements
are true in the main. Whether this Jethro Bass is the kind of man they
declare him to be.”

Mrs. Merrill was in a worse quandary than ever. Her own spirits were
none too good, and Miss Lucretia’s eye, in its search for truth, seemed
to pierce into her very soul. There was no evading that eye. But Mrs.
Merrill did what few people would have had the courage or good sense to
do.

“That is a political article, Miss Penniman,” she said, “inspired by
a bitter enemy of Jethro Bass, Mr. Worthington, who has bought the
newspaper from which it was copied. For that reason, I was right in
saying that it is partly true. You nor I, Miss Penniman, must not be
the judges of any man or woman, for we know nothing of their problems or
temptations. God will judge them. We can only say that they have acted
rightly or wrongly according to the light that is in us. You will find
it difficult to get a judgment of Jethro Bass that is not a partisan
judgment, and yet I believe that that article is in the main a history
of the life of Jethro Bass. A partisan history, but still a history. He
has unquestionably committed many of the acts of which he is accused.”

Here was talk to make the author of the “Hymn to Coniston” sit up, if
she hadn’t been sitting up already.

“And don’t you condemn him for those acts?” she gasped.

“Ah,” said Mrs. Merrill, thinking of her own husband. Yesterday she
would certainly have condemned. Jethro Bass. But now! “I do not condemn
anybody, Miss Penniman.”

Miss Lucretia thought this extraordinary, to say the least.

“I will put the question in another way, Mrs. Merrill,” said she. “Do
you think this Jethro Bass a proper guardian for Cynthia Wetherell?”

To her amazement Mrs. Merrill did not give her an instantaneous answer
to this question. Mrs. Merrill was thinking of Jethro’s love for the
girl, manifold evidences of which she had seen, and her heart was filled
with a melting pity. It was such a love, Mrs. Merrill knew, as is not
given to many here below. And there was Cynthia’s love for him. Mrs.
Merrill had suffered that morning thinking of this tragedy also.

“I do not think he is a proper guardian for her, Miss Penniman.”

It was then that the tears came to Mrs. Merrill’s eyes for there is a
limit to all human endurance. The sight of these caused a remarkable
change in Miss Lucretia, and she leaned forward and seized Mrs.
Merrill’s arm.

“My dear,” she cried, “my dear, what are we to do? Cynthia can’t go
back to that man. She loves him, I know, she loves him as few girls are
capable of loving. But when she, finds out what he is! When she finds
out how he got the money to support her father!” Miss Lucretia fumbled
in her reticule and drew forth a handkerchief and brushed her own
eyes--eyes which a moment ago were so piercing. “I have seen many young
women,” she continued; “but I have known very few who were made of as
fine a fibre and who have such principles as Cynthia Wetherell.”

“That is very true,” assented Mrs. Merrill too much cast down to be
amazed by this revelation of Miss Lucretia’s weakness.

“But what are we to do?” insisted that lady; “who is to tell her what he
is? How is it to be kept from her, indeed?”

“Yes,” said Mrs. Merrill, “there will be more, articles. Mr. Merrill
says so. It seems there is to be a great political struggle in that
state.”

“Precisely,” said Miss Lucretia, sadly. “And whoever tells the girl will
forfeit her friendship. I--I am very fond of her,” and here she applied
again to the reticule.

“Whom would she believe?” asked Mrs. Merrill, whose estimation of Miss
Lucretia was increasing by leaps and bounds.

“Precisely,” agreed Miss Lucretia. “But she must hear about it
sometime.”

“Wouldn’t it be better to let her hear?” suggested Mrs. Merrill; “we
cannot very well soften that shock: I talked the matter over a little
with Mr. Merrill, and he thinks that we must take time over it, Miss
Penniman. Whatever we do, we must not act hastily.”

“Well,” said Miss Lucretia, “as I said, I am very fond of the girl, and
I am willing to do my duty, whatever it may be. And I also wished
to say, Mrs. Merrill, that I have thought about another matter very
carefully. I am willing to provide for the girl. I am getting too old to
live alone. I am getting too old, indeed, to do my work properly, as I
used to do it. I should like to have her to live with me.”

“She has become as one of my own daughters,” said Mrs. Merrill. Yet she
knew that this offer of Miss Lucretia’s was not one to be lightly set
aside, and that it might eventually be the best solution of the problem.
After some further earnest discussion it was agreed between them that
the matter was, if possible, to be kept from Cynthia for the present,
and when Miss Lucretia departed Mrs. Merrill promised her an early
return of her call.

Mrs. Merrill had another talk with her husband, which lasted far into
the night. This talk was about Cynthia alone, and the sorrow which
threatened her. These good people knew that it would be no light thing
to break the faith of such as she, and they made her troubles their own.

Cynthia little guessed as she exchanged raillery with Mr. Merrill the
next morning that he had risen fifteen minutes earlier than usual to
search his newspaper through. He would read no more at breakfast, so he
declared in answer to his daughters’ comments; it was a bad habit which
did not agree with his digestion. It was something new for Mr. Merrill
to have trouble with his digestion.

There was another and scarcely less serious phase of the situation which
Mr. and Mrs. Merrill had yet to discuss between them--a phase of which
Miss Lucretia Penniman knew nothing.

The day before Miss Sadler’s school was to reopen nearly a week before
the Harvard term was to commence--a raging, wet snowstorm came charging
in from the Atlantic. Snow had no terrors for a Coniston person, and
Cynthia had been for her walk. Returning about five o’clock, she was
surprised to have the door opened for her by Susan herself.

“What a picture you are in those furs!” she cried, with an intention
which for the moment was lost upon Cynthia. “I thought you would never
come. You must have walked to Dedham this time. Who do you think is
here? Mr. Worthington.”

“Mr. Worthington!”

“I have been trying to entertain him, but I am afraid I have been a very
poor substitute. However, I have persuaded him to stay for supper.”

“It needed but little persuasion,” said Bob, appearing in the doorway.
All the snowstorms of the wide Atlantic could not have brought such
color to her cheeks. Cynthia, for all her confusion at the meeting, had
not lost her faculty of observation. He seemed to have changed again,
even during the brief time he had been absent. His tone was grave.

“He needs to be cheered up, Cynthia,” Susan went on, as though reading
her thoughts. “I have done my best, without success. He won’t confess
to me that he has come back to make up some of his courses. I don’t mind
owning that I’ve got to finish a theme to be handed in tomorrow.”

With these words Susan departed, and left them standing in the hall
together. Bob took hold of Cynthia’s jacket and helped her off with it.
He could read neither pleasure nor displeasure in her face, though he
searched it anxiously enough. It was she who led the way into the
parlor and seated herself, as before, on one of the uncompromising,
straight-backed chairs. Whatever inward tremors the surprise of this
visit had given her, she looked at him clearly and steadily, completely
mistress of herself, as ever.

“I thought your holidays did not end until next week,” she said.

“They do not.”

“Then why are you here?”

“Because I could not stay away, Cynthia,” he answered. It was not the
manner in which he would have said it a month ago. There was a note of
intense earnestness in his voice--now, and to it she could make no light
reply. Confronted again with an unexpected situation, she could not
decide at once upon a line of action.

“When did you leave Brampton?” she asked, to gain time. But with the
words her thoughts flew to the hill country.

“This morning,” he said, “on the early train. They have three feet
of snow up there.” He, too, seemed glad of a respite from something.
“They’re having a great fuss in Brampton about a new teacher for the
village school. Miss Goddard has got married. Did you know Miss Goddard,
the lanky one with the glasses?”

“Yes,” said Cynthia, beginning to be amused at the turn the conversation
was taking.

“Well, they can’t find anybody smart enough to replace Miss Goddard. Old
Ezra Graves, who’s on the prudential committee, told Ephraim they ought
to get you. I was in the post-office when they were talking about it.
Just see what a reputation for learning you have in Brampton!”

Cynthia was plainly pleased by the compliment.

“How is Cousin Eph?” she asked.

“Happy as a lark,” said Bob, “the greatest living authority in New
England on the Civil War. He’s made the post-office the most popular
social club I ever saw. If anybody’s missing in Brampton, you can nearly
always find them in the post-office. But I smiled at the notion of your
being a school ma’am.”

“I don’t see anything so funny about it,” replied Cynthia, smiling too.
“Why shouldn’t I be? I should like it.”

“You were made for something different,” he answered quietly.

It was a subject she did not choose to discuss with him, and dropped her
lashes before the plainly spoken admiration in his eyes. So a silence
fell between them, broken only by the ticking of the agate clock on the
mantel and the music of sleigh-bells in a distant street. Presently the
sleigh-bells died away, and it seemed to Cynthia that the sound of her
own heartbeats must be louder than the ticking of the clock. Her tact
had suddenly deserted her; without reason, and she did not dare to
glance again at Bob as he sat under the lamp. That minute--for it was
a full minute--was charged with a presage which she could not grasp.
Cynthia’s instincts were very keen. She understood, of course, that he
had cut short his holiday to come to see her, and she might have dealt
with him had that been all. But--through that sixth sense with which
some women are endowed--she knew that something troubled him. He, too,
had never yet been at a loss for words.

The silence forced him to speak first, and he tried to restore the light
tone to the conversation.

“Cousin Ephraim gave me a piece of news,” he said. “Ezra Graves got it,
too. He told us you were down in Boston at a fashionable school. Cousin
Ephraim knows a thing or two. He says he always callated you were cut
out for a fine lady.”

“Bob,” said Cynthia, nerving herself for the ordeal, “did you tell
Cousin Ephraim you had seen me?”

“I told him and Ezra that I had been a constant and welcome visitor at
this house.”

“Did, you tell your father that you had seen me?”

This was too serious a question to avoid.

“No, I did not. There was no reason why I should have.”

“There was every reason,” said Cynthia, “and you know it. Did you tell
him why you came to Boston to-day?”

“No.”

“Why does he think you came?”

“He doesn’t think anything about it,” said Bob. “He went off to Chicago
yesterday to attend a meeting of the board of directors of a western
railroad.”

“And so,” she said reproachfully, “you slipped off as soon as his back
was turned. I would not have believed that of you, Bob. Do you think
that was fair to him or me?”

Bob Worthington sprang to his feet and stood over her. She had spoken to
a boy, but she had aroused a man, and she felt an amazing thrill at the
result. The muscles in his face tightened, and deepened the lines about
his mouth, and a fire was lighted about his eyes.

“Cynthia,” he said slowly, “even you shall not speak to me like that. If
I had believed it were right, if I had believed that it would have done
any good to you or me, I should have told my father the moment I got to
Brampton. In affairs of this kind--in a matter of so much importance in
my life,” he continued, choosing his words carefully, “I am likely to
know whether I am doing right or wrong. If my mother were alive, I am
sure that she would approve of this--this friendship.”

Having got so far, he paused. Cynthia felt that she was trembling, as
though the force and feeling that was in him had charged her also.

“I did not intend to come so soon,” he went on, “but--I had a reason for
coming. I knew that you did not want me.”

“You know that that is not true, Bob,” she faltered. His next words
brought her to her feet.

“Cynthia,” he said, in a voice shaken by the intensity of his passion,
“I came because I love you better than all the world--because I always
will love you so. I came to protect you, and care for you whatever
happens. I did not mean to tell you so, now. But it cannot matter,
Cynthia!”

He seized her, roughly indeed, in his arms, but his very roughness was
a proof of the intensity of his love. For an instant she lay palpitating
against him, and as long as he lives he will remember the first
exquisite touch of her firm but supple figure and the marvellous
communion of her lips. A current from the great store that was in her,
pent up and all unknown, ran through him, and then she had struggled out
of his arms and fled, leaving him standing alone in the parlor.

It is true that such things happen, and no man or woman may foretell
the day or the hour thereof. Cynthia fled up the stairs, miraculously
arriving unnoticed at her own room, and locked the door and flung
herself on the bed.

Tears came--tears of shame, of joy, of sorrow, of rejoicing, of regret;
tears that burned, and yet relieved her, tears that pained while they
comforted. Had she sinned beyond the pardon of heaven, or had she
committed a supreme act of right? One moment she gloried in it, and the
next upbraided herself bitterly. Her heart beat with tumult, and again
seemed to stop. Such, though the words but faintly describe them, were
her feelings, for thoughts were still to emerge out of chaos. Love comes
like a flame to few women, but so it came to Cynthia Wetherell, and
burned out for a while all reason.

Only for a while. Generations which had practised self-restraint were
strong in her--generations accustomed, too, to thinking out, so far as
in them lay, the logical consequences of their acts; generations ashamed
of these very instants when nature has chosen to take command. After
a time had passed, during which the world might have shuffled from its
course, Cynthia sat up in the darkness. How was she ever to face the
light again? Reason had returned.

So she sat for another space, and thought of what she had done--thought
with a surprising calmness now which astonished her. Then she thought
of what she would do, for there was an ordeal still to be gone through.
Although she shrank from it, she no longer lacked the courage to endure
it. Certain facts began to stand out clearly from the confusion. The
least important and most immediate of these was that she would have to
face him, and incidentally face the world in the shape of the Merrill
family, at supper. She rose mechanically and lighted the gas and bathed
her face and changed her gown. Then she heard Susan’s voice at the door.

“Cynthia, what in the world are you doing?”

Cynthia opened the door and the sisters entered. Was it possible that
they did not read her terrible secret in her face? Apparently not. Susan
was busy commenting on the qualities and peculiarities of Mr. Robert
Worthington, and showering upon Cynthia a hundred questions which she
answered she knew not how; but neither Susan nor Jane, wonderful as it
may seem, betrayed any suspicion. Did he send the flowers? Cynthia had
not asked him. Did he want to know whether she read the newspapers? He
had asked Susan that, before Cynthia came. Susan was ready to repeat the
whole of her conversation with him. Why did he seem so particular about
newspapers? Had he notions that girls ought not to read them?

The significance of Bob’s remarks about newspapers was lost upon Cynthia
then. Not till afterward did she think of them, or connect them with his
unexpected visit. Then the supper bell rang, and they went downstairs.

The reader will be spared Mr. Worthington’s feelings after Cynthia left
him, although they were intense enough, and absorbing and far-reaching
enough. He sat down on a chair and buried his head in his hands. His
impulse had been to leave the house and return again on the morrow, but
he remembered that he had been asked to stay for supper, and that such a
proceeding would cause comment. At length he got up and stood before
the fire, his thoughts still above the clouds, and it was thus that Mr.
Merrill found him when he entered.

“Good evening,” said that gentleman, genially, not knowing in the least
who Bob was, but prepossessed in his favor by the way he came forward
and shook his hand and looked him clearly in the eye.

“I’m Robert Worthington, Mr. Merrill” said he.

“Eh!” Mr. Merrill gasped, “eh! Oh, certainly, how do you do, Mr.
Worthington?” Mr. Merrill would have been polite to a tax collector or a
sheriff. He separated the office from the man, which ought not always to
be done. “I’m glad to see you, Mr. Worthington. Well, well, bad storm,
isn’t it? I had an idea the college didn’t open until next week.”

“Mr. Worthington’s going to stay for supper, Papa,” said Susan,
entering.

“Good!” cried Mr. Merrill. “Capital! You won’t miss the old folks after
supper, will you, girls? Your mother wants me to go to a whist party.”

“It can’t be helped, Carry,” said Mr. Merrill to his wife, as they
walked up the hill to a neighbor’s that evening.

“He’s in love with Cynthia,” said Mrs. Merrill, somewhat sadly; “it’s as
plain as the nose on your face, Stephen.”

“That isn’t very plain. Suppose he is! You can dam a mountain stream,
but you can’t prevent it reaching the sea, as we used to say when I
was a boy in Edmundton. I like Bob,” said Mr. Merrill, with his usual
weakness for Christian names, “and he isn’t any more like Dudley
Worthington than I am. If you were to ask me, I’d say he couldn’t do a
better thing than marry Cynthia.”

“Stephen!” exclaimed Mrs. Merrill. But in her heart she thought so,
too. “What will Mr. Worthington say when he hears the young man has been
coming to our house to see her?”

Mr. Merrill had been thinking of that very thing, but with more
amusement than concern.

To return to Mr. Merrill’s house, the three girls and the one young man
were seated around the fire, and their talk, Merrill as it had begun,
was becoming minute by minute more stilted. This was largely the fault
of Susan, who would not be happy until she had taken Jane upstairs and
left Mr. Worthington and Cynthia together. This matter had been arranged
between the sisters before supper. Susan found her opening at last, and
upbraided Jane for her unfinished theme; Jane, having learned her lesson
well, accused Susan. But Cynthia, who saw through the ruse, declared
that both themes were finished. Susan, naturally indignant at such
ingratitude, denied this. The manoeuvre, in short, was executed very
clumsily and very obviously, but executed nevertheless--the sisters
marching out of the room under a fire of protests. The reader, too, will
no doubt think it a very obvious manoeuvre, but some things are managed
badly in life as well as in books.

Cynthia and Bob were left alone: left, moreover, in mortal terror of
each other. It is comparatively easy to open the door of a room and
rush into a lady’s arms if the lady be willing and alone. But to be
abandoned, as Susan had abandoned them, and with such obvious intent,
creates quite a different atmosphere. Bob had dared to hope for such an
opportunity: had made up his mind during supper, while striving to be
agreeable, just what he would do if the opportunity came. Instead, all
he could do was to sit foolishly in his chair and look at the coals, not
so much as venturing to turn his head until the sound of footsteps had
died away on the upper floors. It was Cynthia who broke the silence
and took command--a very different Cynthia from the girl who had thrown
herself on the bed not three hours before. She did not look at him, but
stared with determination into the fire.

“Bob, you must go,” she said.

“Go!” he cried. Her voice loosed the fetters of his passion, and he
dared to seize the band that lay on the arm of her chair. She did not
resist this.

“Yes, you must go. You should not have stayed for supper.”

“Cynthia,” he said, “how can I leave you? I will not leave you.”

“But you can and must,” she replied.

“Why?” he asked, looking at her in dismay.

“You know the reason,” she answered.

“Know it?” he cried. “I know why I should stay. I know that I love you
with my whole heart and soul. I know that I love you as few men have
ever loved--and that you are the one woman among millions who can
inspire such a love.”

“No, Bob, no,” she said, striving hard to keep her head, withdrawing her
hand that it might not betray the treason of her lips. Aware, strange as
it may seem, of the absurdity of the source of what she was to say, for
a trace of a smile was about her mouth as she gazed at the coals.
“You will get over this. You are not yet out of college, and many such
fancies happen there.”

For the moment he was incapable of speaking, incapable of finding an
answer sufficiently emphatic. How was he to tell her of the rocks upon
which his love was built?

How was he to declare that the very perils which threatened her had made
a man of him, with all of a man’s yearning to share these perils and
shield her from them? How was he to speak at all of those perils? He did
not declaim, yet when he spoke, an enduring sincerity which she could
not deny was in his voice.

“You know in your heart that what you say is not true, Cynthia. Whatever
happens, I shall always love you.”

Whatever happens: She shuddered at the words, reminding her as they did
of all her vague misgivings and fears.

“Whatever happens!” she found herself repeating them involuntarily.

“Yes, whatever happens I will love you truly and faithfully. I will
never desert you, never deny you, as long as I live. And you love me,
Cynthia,” he cried, “you love me, I know it.”

“No, no,” she answered, her breath coming fast. He was on his feet now,
dangerously near her, and she rose swiftly to avoid him.

She turned her head, that he might not read the denial in her eyes;
and yet had to look at him again, for he was coming toward her quickly.
“Don’t touch me,” she said, “don’t touch me.”

He stopped, and looked at her so pitifully that she could scarce keep
back her tears.

“You do love me,” he repeated.

So they stood for a moment, while Cynthia made a supreme effort to speak
calmly.

“Listen, Bob,” she said at last, “if you ever wish to see me again, you
must do as I say. You must write to your father, and tell him what you
have done and--and what you wish to do. You may come to me and tell me
his answer, but you must not come to me before.” She would have said
more, but her strength was almost gone. Yes, and more would have implied
a promise or a concession. She would not bind herself even by a hint.
But of this she was sure: that she would not be the means of wrecking
his opportunities. “And now--you must go.”

He stayed where he was, though his blood leaped within him, his
admiration and respect for the girl outran his passion. Robert
Worthington was a gentleman.

“I will do as you say, Cynthia,” he answered, “but I am doing it for
you. Whatever my father’s reply may be will not change my love or my
intentions. For I am determined that you shall be my wife.”

With these words, and one long, lingering look, he turned and left
her. He had lacked the courage to speak of his father’s bitterness and
animosity. Who will blame him? Cynthia thought none the less of him
for not telling her. There was, indeed, no need now to describe Dudley
Worthington’s feelings.

When the door had closed she stoke to the window, and listened to his
footfalls in the snow until she heard them no more.



BOOK IV



CHAPTER XI

The next morning Cynthia’s heart was heavy as she greeted her new
friends at Miss Sadler’s school. Life had made a woman of her long ago,
while these girls had yet been in short dresses, and now an experience
had come to her which few, if any, of these could ever know. It was of
no use for her to deny to herself that she loved Bob Worthington--loved
him with the full intensity of the strong nature that was hers. To how
many of these girls would come such a love? and how many would be called
upon to make such a renunciation as hers had been? No wonder she felt
out of place among them, and once more the longing to fly away to
Coniston almost overcame her. Jethro would forgive her, she knew, and
stretch out his arms to receive her, and understand that some trouble
had driven her to him.

She was aroused by some one calling her name--some one whose voice
sounded strangely familiar. Cynthia was perhaps the only person in the
school that day who did not know that Miss Janet Duncan had entered it.
Miss Sadler certainly knew it, and asked Miss Duncan very particularly
about her father and mother and even her brother. Miss Sadler knew, even
before Janet’s unexpected arrival, that Mr. and Mrs. Duncan had come to
Boston after Christmas, and had taken a large house in the Back Bay
in order to be near their son at Harvard. Mrs. Duncan was, in fact, a
Bostonian, and more at home there than at any other place.

Miss Sadler observed with a great deal of astonishment the warm embrace
that Janet bestowed on Cynthia. The occurrence started in Miss Sadler a
train of thought, as a result of which she left the drawing-room where
these reunions were held, and went into her own private study to write
a note. This she addressed to Mrs. Alexander Duncan, at a certain number
on Beacon Street, and sent it out to be posted immediately. In the
meantime, Janet Duncan had seated herself on the sofa beside Cynthia,
not having for an instant ceased to talk to her. Of what use to write a
romance, when they unfolded themselves so beautifully in real life! Here
was the country girl she had seen in Washington already in a fine way to
become the princess, and in four months! Janet would not have thought it
possible for any one to change so much in such a time. Cynthia listened,
and wondered what language Miss Duncan would use if she knew how great
and how complete that change had been. Romances, Cynthia thought sadly,
were one thing to theorize about and quite another thing to endure--and
smiled at the thought. But Miss Duncan had no use for a heroine without
a heartache.

It is not improbable that Miss Janet Duncan may appear with Miss Sally
Broke in another volume. The style of her conversation is known, and
there is no room to reproduce it here. She, too, had a heart, but she
was a young woman given to infatuations, as Cynthia rightly guessed.
Cynthia must spend many afternoons at her house--lunch with her, drive
with her. For one omission Cynthia was thankful: she did not mention Bob
Worthington’s name. There was the romance under Miss Duncan’s nose, and
she did not see it. It is frequently so with romancers.

Cynthia’s impassiveness, her complete poise, had fascinated Miss Duncan
with the others. Had there been nothing beneath that exterior, Janet
would never have guessed it, and she would have been quite as happy.
Cynthia saw very clearly that Mr. Worthington or no other man or woman
could force Bob to marry Janet.

The next morning, in such intervals as her studies permitted, Janet
continued her attentions to Cynthia. That same morning she had brought a
note from her father to Miss Sadler, of the contents of which Janet
knew nothing. Miss Sadler retired into her study to read it, and two
newspaper clippings fell out of it under the paper-cutter. This was the
note:--

   “My DEAR MISS SADLER:

   “Mrs. Duncan has referred your note to me, and I enclose two
   clippings which speak for themselves. Miss Wetherell, I believe,
   stands in the relation of ward to the person to whom they refer, and
   her father was a sort of political assistant to this person.
   Although, as you say, we are from that part of the country (Miss
   Sadler bad spoken of the Duncans as the people of importance there),
   it was by the merest accident that Miss Wetherell’s connection with
   this Jethro Bass was brought to my notice.

   “Sincerely yours,

   “ALEXANDER DUNCAN.”

It is pleasant to know that there were people in the world who could
snub Miss Sadler; and there could be no doubt, from the manner in which
she laid the letter down and took up the clippings, that Miss Sadler
felt snubbed: equally, there could be no doubt that the revenge
would fall on other shoulders than Mr. Duncan’s. And when Miss Sadler
proceeded to read the clippings, her hair would have stood on end with
horror had it not been so efficiently plastered down. Miss Sadler seized
her pen, and began a letter to Mrs. Merrill. Miss Sadler’s knowledge of
the proprieties--together with other qualifications--had made her school
what it was. No Cynthia Wetherells had ever before entered its sacred
portals, or should again.

The first of these clippings was the article containing the arraignment
of Jethro Bass which Mr. Merrill had shown to his wife, and which had
been the excuse for Miss Penniman’s call. The second was one which Mr.
Duncan had clipped from the Newcastle Guardian of the day before,
and gave, from Mr. Worthington’s side, a very graphic account of the
conflict which was to tear the state asunder. The railroads were tired
of paying toll to the chief of a band of thieves and cutthroats, to a
man who had long throttled the state which had nourished him, to--in
short,--to Jethro Bass. Miss Sadler was not much interested in the
figures and metaphors of political compositions. Right had found
a champion--the article continued--in Mr. Isaac D. Worthington of
Brampton, president of the Truro Road and owner of large holdings
elsewhere. Mr. Worthington, backed by other respectable property
interests, would fight this monster of iniquity to the death, and
release the state from his thraldom. Jethro Bass, the article alleged,
was already about his abominable work--had long been so--as in mockery
of that very vigilance which is said to be the price of liberty. His
agents were busy in every town of the state, seeing to it that the
slaves of Jethro Bass should be sent to the next legislature.

And what was this system which he had built up among these rural
communities? It might aptly be called the System of Mortgages. The
mortgage--dread name for a dreadful thing--was the chief weapon of the
monster. Even as Jethro Bass held the mortgages of Coniston and Tarleton
and round about, so his lieutenants held mortgages in every town and
hamlet of the state, What was a poor farmer to do--? His choice was not
between right and wrong, but between a roof over the heads of his wife
and children and no roof. He must vote for the candidate of Jethro Bass
end corruption or become a homeless wanderer. How the gentleman and his
other respectable backers were to fight the system the article did not
say. Were they to buy up all the mortgages? As a matter of fact, they
intended to buy up enough of these to count, but to mention this would
be to betray the methods of Mr. Worthington’s reform. The first bitter
frontier fighting between the advance cohorts of the new giant and the
old--the struggle for the caucuses and the polls--had begun. Miss Sadler
cared but little and understood less of all this matter. She lingered
over the sentences which described Jethro Bass as a monster of iniquity,
as a pariah with whom decent men would have no intercourse, and in the
heat of her passion that one who had touched him had gained admittance
to the most exclusive school for young ladies in the country she wrote a
letter.

Miss Sadler wrote the letter, and three hours later tore it up and wrote
another and more diplomatic one. Mrs. Merrill, though not by any means
of the same importance as Mrs. Duncan, was not a person to be wantonly
offended, and might--knowing nothing about the monster--in the goodness
of her heart have taken the girl into her house. Had it been otherwise,
surely Mrs. Merrill would not have had the effrontery! She would give
Mrs. Merrill a chance. The bell of release from studies was ringing as
she finished this second letter, and Miss Sadler in her haste forgot to
enclose the clippings. She ran out in time to intercept Susan Merrill at
the door, and to press into her hands the clippings and the note, with a
request to take both to her mother.

Although the Duncans dined in the evening, the Merrills had dinner at
half-past one in the afternoon, when the girls returned from school.
Mr. Merrill usually came home, but he had gone off somewhere for this
particular day, and Mrs. Merrill had a sewing circle. The girls sat
down to dinner alone. When they got up from the table, Susan suddenly
remembered the note which she had left in her coat pocket. She drew out
the clippings with it.

“I wonder what Miss Sadler is sending mamma clippings for,” she said.
“Why, Cynthia, they’re about your uncle. Look!”

And she handed over the article headed “Jethro Bass.” Jane, who
had quicker intuitions than her sister, would have snatched it from
Cynthia’s hand, and it was a long time before Susan forgave herself for
her folly. Thus Miss Sadler had her revenge.

It is often mercifully ordained that the mightiest blows of misfortune
are tempered for us. During the winter evenings in Coniston, Cynthia
had read little newspaper attacks on Jethro, and scorned them as the
cowardly devices of enemies. They had been, indeed, but guarded and
covert allusions--grimaces from a safe distance. Cynthia’s first
sensation as she read was anger--anger so intense as to send all the
blood in her body rushing to her head. But what was this? “Right had
found a champion at last” in--in Isaac D. Worthington! That was the
first blow, and none but Cynthia knew the weight of it. It sank but
slowly into her consciousness, and slowly the blood left her face,
slowly but surely: left it at length as white as the lace curtain of
the window which she clutched in her distress. Words which somebody had
spoken were ringing in her ears. Whatever happens! “Whatever happens I
will never desert you, never deny you, as long as I live.” This, then,
was what he had meant by newspapers, and why he had come to her!

The sisters, watching her, cried out in dismay. There was no need to
tell them that they were looking on at a tragedy, and all the love and
sympathy in their hearts went out to her.

“Cynthia! Cynthia! What is it?” cried Susan, who, thinking she would
faint, seized her in her arms. “What have I done?”

Cynthia did not faint, being made of sterner substance. Gently, but
with that inexorable instinct of her kind which compels them to look for
reliance within themselves even in the direst of extremities, Cynthia
released herself from Susan’s embrace and put a hand to her forehead.

“Will you leave me here a little while--alone?” she said.

It was Jane now who drew Susan out and shut the door of the parlor after
them. In utter misery they waited on the stairs while Cynthia fought out
her battle for herself.

When they were gone she sank down into the big chair under the reading
lamp--the very chair in which he had sat only two nights before. She saw
now with a terrible clearness the thing which for so long had been but a
vague premonition of disaster, and for a while she forgot the clippings.
And when after a space the touch of them in her hand brought them back
to her remembrance, she lacked the courage to read them through. But not
for long. Suddenly her fear of them gave place to a consuming hatred of
the man who had inspired these articles: of Isaac D. Worthington, for
she knew that he must have inspired them. And then she began again to
read them.

Truth, though it come perverted from the mouth of an enemy, has
in itself a note to which the soul responds, let the mind deny as
vehemently as it will. Cynthia read, and as she read her body was shaken
with sobs, though the tears came not. Could it be true? Could the least
particle of the least of these fearful insinuations be true? Oh, the
treason of those whispers in a voice that was surely not her own, and
yet which she could not hush! Was it possible that such things could be
printed about one whom she had admired and respected above all men--nay,
whom she had so passionately adored from childhood? A monster of
iniquity, a pariah! The cruel, bitter calumny of those names! Cynthia
thought of his goodness and loving kindness and his charity to her and
to many others. His charity! The dreaded voice repeated that word, and
sent a thought that struck terror into her heart: Whence had come the
substance of that charity? Then came another word--mortgage. There it
was on the paper, and at sight of it there leaped out of her memory
a golden-green poplar shimmering against the sky and the distant blue
billows of mountains in the west. She heard the high-pitched voice of a
woman speaking the word, and even then it had had a hateful sound, and
she heard herself asking, “Uncle Jethro, what is a mortgage?” He had
struck his horse with the whip.

Loyal though the girl was, the whispers would not hush, nor the doubts
cease to assail her. What if ever so small a portion of this were true?
Could the whole of this hideous structure, tier resting upon tier, have
been reared without something of a foundation? Fiercely though she told
herself she would believe none of it, fiercely though she hated Mr.
Worthington, fervently though she repeated aloud that her love for
Jethro and her faith in him had not changed, the doubts remained. Yet
they remained unacknowledged.

An hour passed. It was a thing beyond belief that one hour could have
held such a store of agony. An hour passed, and Cynthia came dry-eyed
from the parlor. Susan and Jane, waiting to give her comfort when she
was recovered a little from this unknown but overwhelming affliction,
were fain to stand mute when they saw her to pay a silent deference to
one whom sorrow had lifted far above them and transfigured. That was the
look on Cynthia’s face. She went up the stairs, and they stood in the
hall not knowing what to do, whispering in awe-struck voices. They were
still there when Cynthia came down again, dressed for the street. Jane
seized her by the hand.

“Where are you going, Cynthia?” she asked.

“I shall be back by five,” said Cynthia.

She went up the hill, and across to old Louisburg Square, and up the
hill again. The weather had cleared, the violet-paned windows caught the
slanting sunlight and flung it back across the piles of snow. It was
a day for wedding-bells. At last Cynthia came to a queerly fashioned
little green door that seemed all askew with the slanting street, and
rang the bell, and in another moment was standing on the threshold of
Miss Lucretia Penniman’s little sitting room. To Miss Lucretia, at her
writing table, one glance was sufficient. She rose quickly to meet
the girl, kissed her unresponsive cheek, and led her to a chair. Miss
Lucretia was never one to beat about the bush, even in the gravest
crisis.

“You have read the articles,” she said.

Read them! During her walk hither Cynthia had been incapable of thought,
but the epithets and arraignments and accusations, the sentences and
paragraphs, wars printed now, upon her brain, never, she believed, to
be effaced. Every step of the way she had been unconsciously repeating
them.

“Have you read them?” asked Cynthia.

“Yes, my dear.”

“Has everybody read them?” Did the whole world, then, know of her shame?

“I am glad you came to me, my dear,” said Miss Lucretia, taking her
hand. “Have you talked of this to any one else?”

“No,” said Cynthia, simply.

Miss Lucretia was puzzled. She had not looked for apathy, but she
did not know all of Cynthia’s troubles. She wondered whether she had
misjudged the girl, and was misled by her attitude.

“Cynthia,” she said, with a briskness meant to hide emotion for Miss
Lucretia had emotions, “I am a lonely old woman, getting too old,
indeed, to finish the task of my life. I went to see Mrs. Merrill the
other day to ask her if she would let you come and live with me. Will
you?”

Cynthia shook her head.

“No, Miss Lucretia, I cannot,” she answered.

“I won’t press it on you now,” said Miss Lucretia.

“I cannot, Miss Lucretia. I’m going to Coniston.”

“Going to Coniston!” exclaimed Miss Lucretia.

The name of that place--magic name, once so replete with visions of
happiness and content--seemed to recall Cynthia’s spirit from its
flight. Yes, the spirit was there, for it flashed in her eyes as she
turned and looked into Miss Lucretia’s face.

“Are these the articles you read?” she asked; taking the clippings from
her muff.

Miss Lucretia put on her spectacles.

“I have seen both of them,” she said.

“And do you believe what they say about--about Jethro Bass?”

Poor Miss Lucretia! For once in her life she was at a loss. She, too,
paid a deference to that face, young as it was. She had robbed herself
of sleep trying to make up her mind what she would say upon such an
occasion if it came. A wonderful virgin faith had to be shattered, and
was she to be the executioner? She loved the girl with that strange,
intense affection which sometimes comes to the elderly and the lonely,
and she had prayed that this cup might pass from her. Was it possible
that it was her own voice using very much the same words for which she
had rebuked Mrs. Merrill?

“Cynthia,” she said, “those articles were written by politicians, in a
political controversy. No such articles can ever be taken literally.”

“Miss Lucretia, do you believe what it says about Jethro Bass?” repeated
Cynthia.

How was she to avoid those eyes? They pierced into, her soul, even as
her own had pierced into Mrs. Merrill’s. Oh, Miss Lucretia, who pride
yourself on your plain speaking, that you should be caught quibbling!
Miss Lucretia blushed for the first time in many, years, and into her
face came the light of battle.

“I am a coward, my dear. I deserve your rebuke. To the best of my
knowledge and belief, and so far as I can judge from the inquiries I
have undertaken, Jethro Bass has made his living and gained and held his
power by the methods described in those articles.”

Miss Lucretia took off her spectacles and wiped them. She had committed
a fine act of courage.

Cynthia stood up.

“Thank you,” she said, “that is what I wanted to know.”

“But--” cried Miss Lucretia, in amazement and apprehension, “but what
are you going to do?”

“I am going to Coniston,” said Cynthia, “to ask him if those things are
true.”

“To ask him!”

“Yes. If he tells me they are true, then I shall believe them.”

“If he tells you?” Miss Lucretia gasped. Here was a courage of which she
had not reckoned. “Do you think he will tell you?”

“He will tell me, and I shall believe him, Miss Lucretia.”

“You are a remarkable girl, Cynthia,” said Miss Lucretia, involuntarily.
Then she paused for a moment. “Suppose he tells you they are true? You
surely can’t live with him again, Cynthia.”

“Do you suppose I am going to desert him, Miss Lucretia?” she asked. “He
loves me, and--and I love him.” This was the first time her voice had
faltered. “He kept my father from want and poverty, and he has brought
me up as a daughter. If his life has been as you say, I shall make my
own living!”

“How?” demanded Miss Lucretia, the practical part of her coming
uppermost.

“I shall teach school. I believe I can get a position, in a place where
I can see him often. I can break his heart, Miss Lucretia, I--I can
bring sadness to myself, but I will not desert him.”

Miss Lucretia stared at her for a moment, not knowing what to say or do.
She perceived that the girl had a spirit as strong as her own: that her
plans were formed, her mind made up, and that no arguments could change
her.

“Why did you come to me?” she asked irrelevantly.

“Because I thought that you would have read the articles, and I knew
if you had, you would have taken the trouble to inform yourself of the
world’s opinion.”

Again Miss Lucretia stared at her.

“I will go to Coniston with you,” she said, “at least as far as
Brampton.”

Cynthia’s face softened a little at the words.

“I would rather go alone, Miss Lucretia,” she answered gently, but with
the same firmness. “I--I am very grateful to you for your kindness to me
in Boston. I shall not forget it--or you. Good-by, Miss Lucretia.”

But Miss Lucretia, sobbing openly, gathered the girl in her arms and
pressed her. Age was coming on her indeed, that she should show such
weakness. For a long time she could not trust herself to speak, and then
her words were broken. Cynthia must come to her at the first sign of
doubt or trouble: this, Miss Lucretia’s house, was to be a refuge in any
storm that life might send--and Miss Lucretia’s heart. Cynthia promised,
and when she went out at last through the little door her own tears were
falling, for she loved Miss Lucretia.

Cynthia was going to Coniston. That journey was as fixed, as inevitable,
as things mortal can be. She would go to Coniston unless she perished
on the way. No loving entreaties, no fears of Mrs. Merrill or her
daughters, were of any avail. Mrs. Merrill too, was awed by the vastness
of the girl’s sorrow, and wondered if her own nature were small by
comparison. She had wept, to be sure, at her husband’s confession, and
lain awake over it in the night watches, and thought of the early days
of their marriage.

And then, Mrs. Merrill told herself, Cynthia would have to talk with Mr.
Merrill. How was he to come unscathed out of that? There was pain and
bitterness in that thought, and almost resentment against Cynthia,
quivering though she was with sympathy for the girl. For Mrs. Merrill,
though the canker remained, had already pardoned her husband and had
asked the forgiveness of God for that pardon. On other occasions, in
other crisis, she had waited and watched for him in the parlor window,
and to-night she was at the door before his key was in the lock, while
he was still stamping the snow from his boots. She drew him into the
room and told him what had happened.

“Oh, Stephen,” she cried, “what are you going to say to her?”

What, indeed? His wife had sorrowed, but she had known the obstacles and
perils by which he had been beset. But what was he to say to Cynthia?
Her very name had grown upon him, middle-aged man of affairs though he
was, until the thought of it summoned up in his mind a figure of purity,
and of the strength which was from purity. He would not have believed
it possible that the country girl whom they had taken into their house
three months before should have wrought such an influence over them all.

Even in the first hour of her sorrow which she had spent that afternoon
in the parlor, Cynthia had thought of Mr. Merrill. He could tell her
whether those accusations were true or false, for he was a friend of
Jethro’s. Her natural impulse--the primeval one of a creature which is
hurt--had been to hide herself; to fly to her own room, and perhaps
by nightfall the courage would come to her to ask him the terrible
questions. He was a friend of Jethro’s. An illuminating flash revealed
to her the meaning of that friendship--if the accusations were true. It
was then she had thought of Miss Lucretia Penniman, and somehow she had
found the courage to face the sunlight and go to her. She would spare
Mr. Merrill.

But had she spared him? Sadly the family sat down to supper without her,
and after supper Mr. Merrill sent a message to his club that he could
not attend a committee meeting there that evening. He sat with his wife
in the little writing room, he pretending to read and she pretending to
sew, until the silence grew too oppressive, and they spoke of the matter
that was in their hearts. It was one of the bitterest evenings in
Mr. Merrill’s life, and there is no need to linger on it. They talked
earnestly of Cynthia, and of her future. But they both knew why she did
not come down to them.

“So she is really going to Coniston,” said Mr. Merrill.

“Yes,” answered Mrs. Merrill, “and I think she is doing right, Stephen.”

Mr. Merrill groaned. His wife rose and put her hand on his shoulder.

“Come, Stephen,” she said gently, “you will see her in the morning.

“I will go to Coniston with her,” he said.

“No,” replied Mrs. Merrily “she wants to go alone. And I believe it is
best that she should.”



CHAPTER XII

Great afflictions generally bring in their train a host of smaller
sorrows, each with its own little pang. One of these sorrows had been
the parting with the Merrill family. Under any circumstance it was not
easy for Cynthia to express her feelings, and now she had found it very
difficult to speak of the gratitude and affection which she felt. But
they understood--dear, good people that they were: no eloquence was
needed with them. The ordeal of breakfast over, and the tearful “God
bless you, Miss Cynthia,” of Ellen the parlor-maid, the whole family had
gone with her to the station. For Susan and Jane had spent their last
day at Miss Sadler’s school.

Mr. Merrill had sent for the conductor and bidden him take care of Miss
Wetherell, and recommend her in his name to a conductor on the Truro
Road. The man took off his cap to Mr. Merrill and called him by name
and promised. It was a dark day, and long after the train had pulled out
Cynthia remembered the tearful faces of the family standing on the
damp platform of the station. As they fled northward through the flat
river-meadows, the conductor would have liked to talk to her of Mr.
Merrill; there were few employees on any railroad who did not know the
genial and kindly president of the Grand Gulf and sympathize with
his troubles. But there was a look on the girl’s face that forbade
intrusion. Passengers stared at her covertly, as though fascinated by
that look, and some tried to fathom it. But her eyes were firmly fixed
upon a point far beyond their vision. The car stopped many times, and
flew on again, but nothing seemed to break her absorption.

At last she was aroused by the touch of the conductor on her sleeve. The
people were beginning to file out of the car, and the train was under
the shadow of the snow-covered sheds in the station of the state
capital. Cynthia recognized the place, though it was cold and bare
and very different in appearance from what it had been on the summer’s
evening when she had come into it with her father. That, in effect, had
been her first glimpse of the world, and well she recalled the thrill
it had given her. The joy of such things was gone now, the rapture of
holidays and new sights. These were over, so she told herself. Sorrow
had quenched the thrills forever.

The kind conductor led her to the eating room, and when she would not
eat his concern drew greater than ever. He took a strange interest in
this young lady who had such a face and such eyes. He pointed her out to
his friend the Truro conductor, and gave him some sandwiches and fruit
which he himself had bought, with instructions to press them on her
during the afternoon.

Cynthia could not eat. She hated this place, with its memories. Hated
it, too, as a mart where men were bought and sold, for the wording
of those articles ran in her head as though some priest of evil were
chanting them in her ears. She did not remember then the sweeter aspect
of the old town, its pretty homes set among their shaded gardens--homes
full of good and kindly people. State House affairs were far removed
from most of these, and the sickness and corruption of the body politic.
And this political corruption, had she known it, was no worse than that
of the other states in the wide Union: not so bad, indeed, as many,
though this was small comfort. No comfort at all to Cynthia, who did not
think of it.

After a while she rose and followed the new conductor to the Truro
train, glad to leave the capital behind her. She was going to the
hills--to the mountains. They, in truth, could not change, though the
seasons passed over them, hot and cold, wet and dry. They were immutable
in their goodness. Presently she saw them, the lower ones: the waters of
the little stream beside her broke the black bonds of ice and raced over
the rapids; the engine was puffing and groaning on the grade. Then the
sun crept out, slowly, from the indefinable margin of vapor that hung
massed over the low country.

Yes, she had come to the hills. Up and up climbed the train, through
the little white villages in the valley nooks, banked with whiter snow;
through the narrow gorges,--sometimes hanging over them,--under steep
granite walls seared with ice-filled cracks, their brows hung with
icicles.

Truro Pass is not so high as the Brenner, but it has a grand, wild look
in winter, remote as it is from the haunts of men. A fitting refuge,
it might be, for a great spirit heavy with the sins of the world
below. Such a place might have been chosen, in the olden time, for a
monastery--a gray fastness built against the black forest over the crag
looking down upon the green clumps of spruces against the snow. Some
vague longing for such a refuge was in Cynthia’s heart as she gazed
upon that silent place, and then the waters had already begun to run
westward--the waters of Tumble Down brook, which flowed into Coniston
Water above Brampton. The sun still had more than two hours to go on its
journey to the hill crests when the train pulled into Brampton station.
There were but a few people on the platform, but the first face she saw
as she stepped from the car was Lem Hallowell’s. It was a very red face,
as we know, and its owner was standing in front of the Coniston stage,
on runners now. He stared at her for an instant, and no wonder, and then
he ran forward with outstretched hands.

“Cynthy--Cynthy Wetherell!” he cried. “Great Godfrey!”

He got so far, he seized her hands, and then he stopped, not knowing
why. There were many more ejaculations and welcomes and what not on the
end of his tongue. It was not that she had become a lady--a lady of a
type he had never before seen. He meant to say that, too, in his own
way, but he couldn’t. And that transformation would have bothered Lem
but little. What was the change, then? Why was he in awe of her--he, Lem
Hallowell, who had never been in awe of any one? He shook his head,
as though openly confessing his inability to answer that question. He
wanted to ask others, but they would not come.

“Lem,” she said, “I am so glad you are here.”

“Climb right in, Cynthy. I’ll get the trunk.” There it lay, the little
rawhide one before him on the boards, and he picked it up in his bare
hands as though it had been a paper parcel. It was a peculiarity of the
stage driver that he never wore gloves, even in winter, so remarkable
was the circulation of his blood. After the trunk he deposited,
apparently with equal ease, various barrels and boxes, and then he
jumped in beside Cynthia, and they drove down familiar Brampton Street,
as wide as a wide river; past the meeting-house with the terraced
steeple; past the postoffice,--Cousin Ephraim’s postoffice,--where Lem
gave her a questioning look--but she shook her head, and he did not wait
for the distribution of the last mail that day; past the great mansion
of Isaac D. Worthington, where the iron mastiffs on the lawn were up to
their muzzles in snow. After that they took the turn to the right, which
was the road to Coniston.

Well-remembered road, and in winter or summer, Cynthia knew every tree
and farmhouse beside it. Now it consisted of two deep grooves in the
deep snow; that was all, save for a curving turnout here and there for
team to pass team. Well-remembered scene! How often had Cynthia looked
upon it in happier days! Such a crust was on the snow as would bear a
heavy man; and the pasture hillocks were like glazed cakes in the window
of a baker’s shop. Never had the western sky looked so yellow through
the black columns of the pine trunks. A lonely, beautiful road it was
that evening.

For a long time the silence of the great hills was broken only by the
sweet jingle of the bells on the shaft. Many a day, winter and summer,
Lem had gone that road alone, whistling, and never before heeding that
silence. Now it seemed to symbolize a great sorrow: to be in subtle
harmony with that of the girl at his side. What that sorrow was he could
not guess. The good man yearned to comfort her, and yet he felt his
comfort too humble to be noticed by such sorrow. He longed to speak,
but for the first time in his life feared the sound of his own voice.
Cynthia had not spoken since she left the station, had not looked at
him, had not asked for the friends and neighbors whom she had loved so
well--had not asked for Jethro! Was there any sorrow on earth to be felt
like that? And was there one to feel it?

At length, when they reached the great forest, Lem Hallowell knew
that he must speak or cry aloud. But what would be the sound of his
voice--after such an age of disuse? Could he speak at all? Broken and
hoarse and hideous though the sound might be, he must speak. And hoarse
and broken it was. It was not his own, but still it was a voice.

“Folks--folks’ll be surprised to see you, Cynthy.”

No, he had not spoken at all. Yes, he had, for she answered him.

“I suppose they will, Lem.”

“Mighty glad to have you back, Cynthy. We think a sight of you. We
missed you.”

“Thank you, Lem.”

“Jethro hain’t lookin’ for you by any chance, be he?

“No,” she said. But the question startled her. Suppose he had not been
at home! She had never once thought of that. Could she have borne to
wait for him?

After that Lem gave it up. He had satisfied himself as to his vocal
powers, but he had not the courage even to whistle. The journey to
Coniston was faster in the winter, and at the next turn of the road the
little village came into view. There it was, among the snows. The pain
in Cynthia’s heart, so long benumbed, quickened when she saw it. How
write of the sharpness of that pain to those who have never known
it? The sight of every gable brought its agony,--the store with the
checker-paned windows, the harness shop, the meeting-house, the white
parsonage on its little hill. Rias Richardson ran out of the store in
his carpet slippers, bareheaded in the cold, and gave one shout. Lem
heeded him not; did not stop there as usual, but drove straight to the
tannery house and pulled up under the butternut tree. Milly Skinner ran
out on the porch, and gave one long look, and cried:--

“Good Lord, it’s Cynthy!”

“Where’s Jethro?” demanded Lem.

Milly did not answer at once. She was staring at Cynthia.

“He’s in the tannery shed,” she said, “choppin’ wood.” But still she
kept her eyes on Cynthia’s face. “I’ll fetch him.”

“No,” said Cynthia, “I’ll go to him there.”

She took the path, leaving Millicent with her mouth open, too amazed to
speak again, and yet not knowing why.

In the tannery shed! Would Jethro remember what happened there almost
six and thirty years before? Would he remember how that other Cynthia
had come to him there, and what her appeal had been?

Cynthia came to the doors. One of these was open now--both had been
closed that other evening against the storm of sleet--and she caught
a glimpse of him standing on the floor of chips and bark--tan-bark no
more. Cynthia caught a glimpse of him, and love suddenly welled up into
her heart as waters into a spring after a drought. He had not seen her,
not heard the sound of the sleigh-bells. He was standing with his foot
upon the sawbuck and the saw across his knee, he was staring at the
woodpile, and there was stamped upon his face a look which no man or
woman had ever seen there, a look of utter loneliness and desolation, a
look as of a soul condemned to wander forever through the infinite, cold
spaces between the worlds--alone.

Cynthia stopped at sight of it. What had been her misery and affliction
compared to this? Her limbs refused her, though she knew not whether she
would have fled or rushed into his arms. How long she stood thus, and he
stood, may not be said, but at length he put down his foot and took the
saw from his knee, his eyes fell upon her, and his lips spoke her name.

“Cynthy!”

Speechless, she ran to him and flung her arms about his neck, and he
dropped the saw and held her tightly--even as he had held that other
Cynthia in that place in the year gone by. And yet not so. Now he clung
to her with a desperation that was terrible, as though to let go of
her would be to fall into nameless voids beyond human companionship and
love. But at last he did release her, and stood looking down into her
face, as if seeking to read a sentence there.

And how was she to pronounce that sentence! Though her faith might
be taken away, her love remained, and grew all the greater because he
needed it. Yet she knew that no subterfuge or pretence would avail her
to hide why she had come. She could not hide it. It must be spoken out
now, though death was preferable.

And he was waiting. Did he guess? She could not tell. He had spoken no
word but her name. He had expressed no surprise at her appearance, asked
no reasons for it. Superlatives of suffering or joy or courage are hard
to convey--words fall so far short of the feeling. And Cynthia’s pain
was so far beyond tears.

“Uncle Jethro,” she said, “yesterday something--something happened. I
could not stay in Boston any longer.”

He nodded.

“I had to come to you. I could not wait.”

He nodded again.

“I--I read something.” To take a white-hot iron and sear herself would
have been easier than this.

“Yes,” he said.

She felt that the look was coming again--the look which she had
surprised in his face. His hands dropped lifelessly from her shoulders,
and he turned and went to the door, where he stood with his back to
her, silhouetted against the eastern sky all pink from the reflection
of sunset. He would not help her. Perhaps he could not. The things were
true. There had been a grain of hope within her, ready to sprout.

“I read two articles from the Newcastle Guardian about you--about your
life.”

“Yes,” he said. But he did not turn.

“How you had--how you had earned your living. How you had gained your
power,” she went on, her pain lending to her voice an exquisite note of
many modulations.

“Yes--Cynthy,” he said, and still stared at the eastern sky.

She took two steps toward him, her arms outstretched, her fingers
opening and closing. And then she stopped.

“I would believe no one,” she said, “I will believe no
one--until--unless you tell me. Uncle Jethro,” she cried in agony,
“Uncle Jethro, tell me that those things are not true!”

She waited a space, but he did not stir. There was no sound, save the
song of Coniston Water under the shattered ice.

“Won’t you speak to me?” she whispered. “Won’t you tell me that they are
not true?”

His shoulders shook convulsively. O for the right to turn to her and
tell her that they were lies! He would have bartered his soul for it.
What was all the power in the world compared to this priceless treasure
he had lost? Once before he had cast it away, though without meaning to.
Then he did not know the eternal value of love--of such love as those
two women had given him. Now he knew that it was beyond value, the one
precious gift of life, and the knowledge had come too late. Could he
have saved his life if he had listened to that other Cynthia?

“Won’t you tell me that they are not true?”

Even then he did not turn to her, but he answered. Curious to relate,
though his heart was breaking, his voice was steady--steady as it always
had been.

“I--I’ve seen it comin’, Cynthy,” he said. “I never knowed anything
I was afraid of before--but I was afraid of this. I knowed what your
notions of right and wrong was--your--your mother had them. They’re the
principles of good people. I--I knowed the day would come when you’d
ask, but I wanted to be happy as long as I could. I hain’t been happy,
Cynthy. But you was right when you said I’d tell you the truth. S-so I
will. I guess them things which you speak about are true--the way I got
where I am, and the way I made my livin’. They--they hain’t put just as
they’d ought to be, perhaps, but that’s the way I done it in the main.”

It was thus that Jethro Bass met the supreme crisis of his life. And
who shall say he did not meet it squarely and honestly? Few men of finer
fibre and more delicate morals would have acquitted themselves as well.
That was a Judgment Day for Jethro; and though he knew it not, he spoke
through Cynthia to his Maker, confessing his faults freely and humbly,
and dwelling on the justness of his punishment; putting not forward any
good he may have done; nor thinking of it; nor seeking excuse because
of the light that was in him. Had he been at death’s door in the face of
nameless tortures, no man could have dragged such a confession from him.
But a great love had been given him, and to that love he must speak the
truth, even at the cost of losing it.

But he was not to lose it. Even as he was speaking a thrill of
admiration ran through Cynthia, piercing her sorrow. The superb strength
of the man was there in that simple confession, and it is in the nature
of woman to admire strength. He had fought his fight, and gained, and
paid the price without a murmur, seeking no palliation. Cynthia had not
come to that trial--so bitter for her--as a judge. If the reader has
seen youth and innocence sitting in the seat of justice, with age and
experience at the bar, he has mistaken Cynthia. She came to Coniston
inexorable, it is true, because hers was a nature impelled to do right
though it perish. She did not presume to say what Jethro’s lights and
opportunities might have been. Her own she knew, and by them she must
act accordingly.

When he had finished speaking, she stole silently to his side and
slipped her hand in his. He trembled violently at her touch.

“Uncle Jethro,” she said in a low tone, “I love you.”

At the words he trembled more violently still.

“No, no, Cynthy,” he answered thickly, “don’t say that--I--I don’t
expect it, Cynthy, I know you can’t--‘twouldn’t be right, Cynthy. I
hain’t fit for it.”

“Uncle Jethro,” she said, “I love you better than I have ever loved you
in my life.”

Oh, how welcome were the tears! and how human! He turned, pitifully
incredulous, wondering that she should seek by deceit to soften the
blow; he saw them running down her cheeks, and he believed. Yes, he
believed, though it seemed a thing beyond belief. Unworthy, unfit though
he were, she loved him. And his own love as he gazed at her, sevenfold
increased as it had been by the knowledge of losing her, changed in
texture from homage to worship--nay, to adoration. His punishment would
still be heavy; but whence had come such a wondrous gift to mitigate it?

“Oh, don’t you believe me?” she cried, “can’t you see that it is true?”

And yet he could only hold her there at arm’s length with that new and
strange reverence in his face. He was not worthy to touch her, but still
she loved him.

The flush had faded from the eastern sky, and the faintest border of
yellow light betrayed the ragged outlines of the mountain as they walked
together to the tannery house.

Millicent, in the kitchen, was making great preparations--for Millicent.
Miss Skinner was a person who had hitherto laid it down as a principle
of life to pay deference or do honor to no human made of mere dust, like
herself. Millicent’s exception; if Cynthia had thought about it, was a
tribute of no mean order. Cynthia, alas, did not think about it: she
did not know that, in her absence, the fire had not been lighted in the
evening, Jethro supping on crackers and milk and Milly partaking of the
evening meal at home. Moreover, Miss Skinner had an engagement with a
young man. Cynthia saw the fire, and threw off her sealskin coat which
Mr. and Mrs. Merrill had given her for Christmas, and took down the
saucepan from the familiar nail on which it hung. It was a miraculous
fact, for which she did not attempt to account, that she was almost
happy: happy, indeed, in comparison to that which had been her state
since the afternoon before. Millicent snatched the saucepan angrily from
her hand.

“What be you doin’, Cynthy?” she demanded.

Such was Miss Skinner’s little way of showing deference. Though
deference is not usually vehement, Miss Skinner’s was very real,
nevertheless.

“Why, Milly, what’s the matter?” exclaimed Cynthia, in astonishment.

“You hain’t a-goin’ to do any cookin’, that’s all,” said Milly, very red
in the face.

“But I’ve always helped,” said Cynthia. “Why not?”

Why not? A tribute was one thing, but to have to put the reasons for
that tribute, into words was quite another.

“Why not?” cried Milly, “because you hain’t a-goin’ to, that’s all.”

Strange deference! But Cynthia turned and looked at the girl with a
little, sad smile of comprehension and affection. She took her by the
shoulders and kissed her.

Whereupon a most amazing thing happened--Millicent burst into
tears--wild, ungovernable tears they were.

“Because you hain’t a-goin’ to,” she repeated, her words interspersed
with violent sobs. “You go ‘way, Cynthy,” she cried, “git out!”

“Milly,” said Cynthia, shaking her head, “you ought to be ashamed of
yourself.” But they were not words of reproof. She took a little lamp
from the shelf, and went up the narrow stairs to her own room in the
gable, where Lemuel had deposited the rawhide trunk.

Though she had had nothing all day, she felt no hunger, but for Milly’s
sake she tried hard to eat the supper when it came. Before it had fairly
begun Moses Hatch had arrived, with Amandy and Eben; and Rias Richardson
came in, and other neighbors, to say a word of welcome to hear (if the
truth be not too disparaging to their characters) the reasons for her
sudden appearance, and such news of her Boston experiences as she might
choose to give them. They had learned from Lem Hallowell that Cynthia
had returned a lady: a real lady, not a sham one who relied on airs and
graces, such as had come to Coniston the summer before to look for a
summer place on the painter’s recommendation. Lem was not a gossip, in
the disagreeable sense of the term, and he had not said a word to his
neighbors of his feelings on that terrible drive from Brampton. Knowing
that some blow had fallen upon Cynthia, he would have spared her these
visits if he could. But Lem was wise and kind, so he merely said that
she had returned a lady.

And they had found a lady. As they stood or sat around the kitchen (Eben
and Rias stood), Cynthia talked to them--about Coniston: rather, be it
said, that they talked about Coniston in answer to her questions. The
sledding had been good; Moses had hauled so many thousand feet of lumber
to Brampton; Sam Price’s woman (she of Harwich) had had a spell of
sciatica; Chester Perkins’s bull had tossed his brother-in-law, come
from Iowy on a visit, and broke his leg; yes, Amandy guessed her
dyspepsy was somewhat improved since she had tried Graham’s Golden
Remedy--it made her feel real lighthearted; Eben (blushing furiously)
was to have the Brook Farm in the spring; there was a case of spotted
fever in Tarleton.

Yes, Lem Hallowell had been right, Cynthia was a lady, but not a mite
stuck up. What was the difference in her? Not her clothes, which she
wore as if she had been used to them all her life. Poor Cynthia, the
clothes were simple enough. Not her manner, which was as kind and sweet
as ever. What was it that compelled their talk about themselves, that
made them refrain from asking those questions about Boston, and why
she had come back? Some such query was running in their minds as they
talked, while Jethro, having finished his milk and crackers, sat
silent at the end of the table with his eyes upon her. He rose when Mr.
Satterlee came in.

Mr. Satterlee looked at her, and then he went quietly across the room
and kissed her. But then Mr. Satterlee was the minister. Cynthia thought
his hair a little thinner and the lines in his face a little deeper. And
Mr. Satterlee thought perhaps he was the only one of the visitors who
guessed why she had come back. He laid his thin hand on her head, as
though in benediction, and sat down beside her.

“And how is the learning, Cynthia?” he asked.

Now, indeed, they were going to hear something at last. An intuition
impelled Cynthia to take advantage of that opportunity.

“The learning has become so great, Mr. Satterlee,” she said, “that I
have come back to try to make some use of it. It shall be wasted no
more.”

She did not dare to look at Jethro, but she was aware that he had sat
down abruptly. What sacrifice will not a good woman make to ease the
burden of those whom she loves! And Jethro’s burden would be heavy
enough. Such a woman will speak almost gayly, though her heart be heavy.
But Cynthia’s was lighter now than it had been.

“I was always sure you would not waste your learning, Cynthia,” said Mr.
Satterlee, gravely; “that you would make the most of the advantages God
has given you.”

“I am going to try, Mr. Satterlee. I cannot be content in idleness. I
was wasting time in Boston, and I--I was not happy so far away from you
all--from Uncle Jethro. Mr. Satterlee, I am going to teach school. I
have always wanted to, and now I have made up my mind to do it.”

This was Jethro’s punishment. But had she not lightened it for him a
little by choosing this way of telling him that she could not eat his
bread or partake of his bounty? Though by reason of that bounty she was
what she was, she could not live and thrive on it longer, coming as it
did from such a source. Mr. Satterlee might perhaps surmise the truth,
but the town and village would think her ambition a very natural one,
certainly no better time could have been chosen to announce it.

“To teach school.” She was sure now that Mr. Satterlee knew and
approved, and perceived something, at least, of her little ruse. He
was a man whose talents fitted him for a larger flock than he had at
Coniston, but he possessed neither the graces demanded of city ministers
nor the power of pushing himself. Never was a more retiring man. The
years she had spent in his study had not gone for nothing, for he who
has cherished the bud can predict what the flower will be, and Mr.
Satterlee knew her spiritually better than any one else in Coniston. He
had heard of her return, and had walked over to the tannery house, full
of fears, the remembrance of those expressions of simple faith in
Jethro coming back to his mind. Had the revelation which he had so long
expected come at last? and how had she taken it? would it embitter her?
The good man believed that it would not, and now he saw that it had not,
and rejoiced accordingly.

“To teach school,” he said. “I expected that you would wish to, Cynthia.
It is a desire that most of us have, who like books and what is in them.
I should have taught school if I had not become a minister. It is a high
calling, and an absorbing one, to develop the minds of the young.” Mr.
Satterlee was often a little discursive, though there was reason for
it on this occasion, and Moses Hatch half closed his eyes and bowed his
head a little out of sheer habit at the sound of the minister’s
voice. But he raised it suddenly at the next words. “I was in Brampton
yesterday, and saw Mr. Graves, who is on the prudential committee of
that district. You may not have heard that Miss Goddard has left. They
have not yet succeeded in filling her place, and I think it more than
likely that you can get it.”

Cynthia glanced at Jethro, but the habit of years was so strong in him
that he gave no sign.

“Do you think so, Mr. Satterlee?” she said gratefully. “I had heard of
the place, and hoped for it, because it is near enough for me to spend
the Saturdays and Sundays with Uncle Jethro. And I meant to go to
Brampton tomorrow to see about it.”

“I will go with you,” said the minister; “I have business in Brampton
to-morrow.” He did not mention that this was the business.

When at length they had all departed, Jethro rose and went about the
house making fast the doors, as was his custom, while Cynthia sat
staring through the bars at the dying embers in the stove. He knew now,
and it was inevitable that he should know, what she had made up her mind
to do. It had been decreed that she, who owed him everything, should be
made to pass this most dreadful of censures upon his whole life. Oh, the
cruelty of that decree!

How, she mused, would it affect him? Had the blow been so great that he
would relinquish those practices which had become a lifelong habit with
him? Would he (she caught her breath at this thought) would he abandon
that struggle with Isaac D. Worthington in which he was striving to
maintain the mastery of the state by those very practices? Cynthia
hated Mr. Worthington. The term is not too strong, and it expresses her
feeling. But she would have got down on her knees on the board floor
of the kitchen that very night and implored Jethro to desist from that
contest, if she could. She remembered how, in her innocence, she had
believed that the people had given Jethro his power,--in those days when
she was so proud of that very power,--now she knew that he had wrested
it from them. What more supreme sacrifice could he make than to
relinquish it! Ah, there was a still greater sacrifice that Jethro was
to make, had she known it.

He came and stood over her by the stove, and she looked up into his face
with these yearnings in her eyes. Yes, she would have thrown herself
on her knees, if she could. But she could not. Perhaps he would abandon
that struggle. Perhaps--perhaps his heart was broken. And could a man
with a broken heart still fight on? She took his hand and pressed it
against her face, and he felt that it was wet with her tears.

“B-better go to bed now, Cynthy,” he said; “m-must be worn out--m-must
be worn out.”

He stooped and kissed her on the forehead. It was thus that Jethro Bass
accepted his sentence.



CHAPTER XIII

At sunrise, in that Coniston hill-country, it is the western hills which
are red; and a distant hillock on the meadow farm which was soon to be
Eden’s looked like the daintiest conical cake with pink icing as Cynthia
surveyed the familiar view the next morning. There was the mountain, the
pastures on the lower slopes all red, too, and higher up the dark masses
of bristling spruce and pine and hemlock mottled with white where the
snow-covered rocks showed through.

Sunrise in January is not very early, and sunrise at any season is not
early for Coniston. Cynthia sat at her window, and wondered whether that
beautiful landscape would any longer be hers. Her life had grown up on
it; but now her life had changed. Would the beauty be taken from it,
too? Almost hungrily she gazed at the scene. She might look upon it
again--many times, perhaps--but a conviction was strong in her that its
daily possession would now be only a memory.

Mr. Satterlee was as good as his word, for he was seated in the stage
when it drew up at the tannery house, ready to go to Brampton. And as
they drove away Cynthia took one last look at Jethro standing on the
porch. It seemed to her that it had been given her to feel all things,
and to know all things: to know, especially, this strange man, Jethro
Bass, as none other knew him, and to love him as none other loved him.
The last severe wrench was come, and she had left him standing there
alone in the cold, divining what was in his heart as though it were in
her own. How worthless was this mighty power which he had gained, how
hateful, when he could not bestow the smallest fragment of it upon one
whom he loved? Someone has described hell as disqualification in the
face of opportunity. Such was Jethro’s torment that morning as he saw
her drive away, the minister in the place where he should have been, at
her side, and he, Jethro Bass, as helpless as though he had indeed been
in the pit among the flames. Had the prudential committee at Brampton
promised the appointment ten times over, he might still have obtained it
for her by a word. And he must not speak even that word. Who shall say
that a large part of the punishment of Jethro Bass did not come to him
in the life upon this earth.

Some such thoughts were running in Cynthia’s head as they jingled away
to Brampton that dazzling morning. Perhaps the stage driver, too, who
knew something of men and things and who meddled not at all, had made
a guess at the situation. He thought that Cynthia’s spirits seemed
lightened a little, and he meant to lighten them more; so he joked as
much as his respect for his passengers would permit, and told the news
of Brampton. Not the least of the news concerned the first citizen
of that place. There was a certain railroad in the West which had got
itself much into Congress, and much into the newspapers, and Isaac D.
Worthington had got himself into that railroad: was gone West, it was
said on that business, and might not be back for many weeks. And Lem
Hallowell remembered when Mr. Worthington was a slim-cheated young
man wandering up and down Coniston Water in search of health. Good Mr.
Satterlee, thinking this a safe subject, allowed himself to be led into
a discussion of the first citizen’s career, which indeed had something
fascinating in it.

Thus they jingled into Brampton Street and stopped before the cottage of
Judge Graves--a courtesy title. The judge himself came to the door and
bestowed a pronounced bow on the minister, for Mr. Satterlee was honored
in Brampton. Just think of what Ezra Graves might have looked like, and
you have him. He greeted Cynthia, too, with a warm welcome--for Ezra
Graves,--and ushered them into a best parlor which was reserved for
ministers and funerals and great occasions in general, and actually
raised the blinds. Then Mr. Satterlee, with much hemming and hawing,
stated the business which had brought them, while Cynthia looked out of
the window.

Mr. Graves sat and twirled his lean thumbs. He went so far as to say
that he admired a young woman who scorned to live in idleness, who
wished to impart the learning with which she had been endowed. Fifteen
applicants were under consideration for the position, and the prudential
committee had so far been unable to declare that any of them were
completely qualified. (It was well named, that prudential committee?)
Mr. Graves, furthermore, volunteered that he had expressed a wish to
Colonel Prescott (Oh, Ephraim, you too have got a title with your new
honors!), to Colonel Prescott and others, that Miss Wetherell might take
the place. The middle term opened on the morrow, and Miss Bruce, of the
Worthington Free Library, had been induced to teach until a successor
could be appointed, although it was most inconvenient for Miss Bruce.

Could Miss Wetherell start in at once, provided the committee agreed?
Cynthia replied that she would like nothing better. There would be an
examination before Mr. Errol, the Brampton Superintendent of Schools.
In short, owing to the pressing nature of the occasion, the judge would
take the liberty of calling the committee together immediately. Would
Mr. Satterlee and Miss Wetherell make themselves at home in the parlor?

It very frequently happens that one member of a committee is the brain,
and the other members form the body of it. It was so in this case. Ezra
Graves typified all of prudence there was about it, which, it must be
admitted, was a great deal. He it was who had weighed in the balance
the fifteen applicants and found them wanting. Another member of the
committee was that comfortable Mr. Dodd, with the tuft of yellow beard,
the hardware dealer whom we have seen at the baseball game. Mr. Dodd
was not a person who had opinions unless they were presented to him
from certain sources, and then he had been known to cling to them
tenaciously. It is sufficient to add that, when Cynthia Wetherell’s name
was mentioned to him, he remembered the girl to whom Bob Worthington
had paid such marked attentions on the grand stand. He knew literally
nothing else about Cynthia. Judge Graves, apparently, knew all about
her; this was sufficient, at that time, for Mr. Dodd; he was sick and
tired of the whole affair, and if, by the grace of heaven, an
applicant had been sent who conformed with Judge Graves’s multitude of
requirements, he was devoutly thankful. The other member, Mr. Hill, was
a feed and lumber dealer, and not a very good one, for he was always in
difficulties; certain scholarly attainments were attributed to him,
and therefore he had been put on the committee. They met in Mr. Dodd’s
little office back of the store, and in five minutes Cynthia was a
schoolmistress, subject to examination by Mr. Errol.

Just a word about Mr. Errol. He was a retired lawyer, with some means,
who took an interest in town affairs to occupy his time. He had a very
delicate wife, whom he had been obliged to send South at the beginning
of the winter. There she had for a while improved, but had been taken
ill again, and two days before Cynthia’s appointment he had been
summoned to her bedside by a telegram. Cynthia could go into the school,
and her examination would take place when Mr. Errol returned.

All this was explained by the judge when, half an hour after he had left
them, he returned to the best parlor. Miss Wetherell would, then, be
prepared to take the school the following morning. Whereupon the judge
shook hands with her, and did not deny that he had been instrumental in
the matter.

“And, Mr. Satterlee, I am so grateful to you,” said Cynthia, when they
were in the street once more.

“My dear Cynthia, I did nothing,” answered the minister, quite
bewildered by the quick turn affairs had taken; “it is your own good
reputation that got you the place.”

Nevertheless Mr. Satterlee had done his share in the matter. He had
known Mr. Graves for a long time, and better than any other person in
Brampton. Mr. Graves remembered Cynthia Ware, and indeed had spoken to
Cynthia that day about her mother. Mr. Graves had also read poor William
Wetherell’s contributions to the Newcastle Guardian, and he had not read
that paper since they had ceased. From time to time Mr. Satterlee had
mentioned his pupil to the judge, whose mind had immediately flown to
her when the vacancy occurred. So it all came about.

“And now,” said Mr. Satterlee, “what will you do, Cynthia? We’ve got
the good part of a day to arrange where you will live, before the stage
returns.”

“I won’t go back to-night, I think,” said Cynthia, turning her head
away; “if you would be good enough to tell Uncle Jethro to send my trunk
and some other things.”

“Perhaps that is just as well,” assented the minister, understanding
perfectly. “I have thought that Miss Bruce might be glad to board you,”
 he continued, after a pause. “Let us go to see her.”

“Mr. Satterlee,” said Cynthia, “would you mind if we went first to see
Cousin Ephraim?”

“Why, of course, we must see Ephraim,” said Mr. Satterlee, briskly. So
they walked on past the mansion of the first citizen, and the new block
of stores which the first citizen had built, to the old brick building
which held the Brampton post-office, and right through the door of the
partition into the sanctum of the postmaster himself, which some one had
nicknamed the Brampton Club. On this occasion the postmaster was
seated in his shirt sleeves by the stove, alone, his listeners being
conspicuously absent. Cynthia, who had caught a glimpse of him through
the little mail-window, thought he looked very happy and comfortable.

“Great Tecumseh!” he cried,--an exclamation he reserved for
extraordinary occasions, “if it hain’t Cynthy!”

He started to hobble toward her, but Cynthia ran to him.

“Why,” said he, looking at her closely after the greeting was over, “you
be changed, Cynthy. Mercy, I don’t know as I’d have dared done that if
I’d seed you first. What have you b’en doin’ to yourself? You must have
seed a whole lot down there in Boston. And you’re a full-blown lady,
too.”

“Oh, no, I’m not, Cousin Eph,” she answered, trying to smile.

“Yes, you be,” he insisted, still scrutinizing her, vainly trying to
account for the change. Tact, as we know, was not Ephraim’s strong
point. Now he shook his head. “You always was beyond me. Got a sort
of air about you, and it grows on you, too. Wouldn’t be surprised,” he
declared, speaking now to the minister, “wouldn’t be a mite surprised to
see her in the White House, some day.”

“Now, Cousin Eph,” said Cynthia, coloring a little, “you mustn’t talk
nonsense. What have you done with your coat? You have no business to go
without it with your rheumatism.”

“It hain’t b’en so bad since Uncle Sam took me over again, Cynthy,” he
answered, “with nothin’ to do but sort letters in a nice hot room.” The
room was hot, indeed. “But where did you come from?”

“I grew tired of being taught, Cousin Eph. I--I’ve always wanted to
teach. Mr. Satterlee has been with me to see Mr. Graves, and they’ve
given me Miss Goddard’s place. I’m coming to Brampton to live, to-day.”

“Great Tecumseh!” exclaimed Ephraim again, overpowered by the yews. “I
want to know! What does Jethro say to that?”

“He--he is willing,” she replied in a low voice.

“Well,” said Ephraim, “I always thought you’d come to it. It’s in the
blood, I guess--teachin’. Your mother had it too. I’m kind of sorry
for Jethro, though, so I be. But I’m glad for myself, Cynthy. So you’re
comin’ to Brampton to live with me!

“I was going to ask Miss Bruce to take me in,” said Cynthia.

“No you hain’t, anything of the kind,” said Ephraim, indignantly. “I’ve
got a little house up the street, and a room all ready for you.”

“Will you let me share expenses, Cousin Eph?”

“I’ll let you do anything you want,” said he, “so’s you come. Don’t you
think she’d ought to come and take care of an old man, Mr. Satterlee?”

Mr. Satterlee turned. He had been contemplating, during this
conversation, a life-size print of General Grant under two crossed
flags, that was hung conspicuously on the wall.

“I do not think you could do better, Cynthia,” he answered, smiling.
The minister liked Ephraim, and he liked a little joke, occasionally.
He felt that one would not be, particularly out of place just now; so he
repeated, “I do not think you could do better than to accept the offer
of Colonel Prescott.”

Ephraim grew very red, as was his wont when twitted about his new title.
He took things literally.

“I hain’t a colonel, no more than you be, Mr. Satterlee. But the boys
down here will have it so.”

Three days later, by the early train which leaves the state capital at
an unheard-of hour in the morning, a young man arrived in Brampton. His
jaw seemed squarer than ever to the citizens who met the train out of
curiosity, and to Mr. Dodd, who was expecting a pump; and there was a
set look on his face like that of a man who is going into a race or a
fight. Mr. Dodd, though astonished, hastened toward him.

“Well, this is unexpected, Bob,” said he. “How be you? Harvard College
failed up?”

For Mr. Dodd never let slip a chance to assure a member of the
Worthington family of his continued friendship.

“How are you, Mr. Dodd?” answered Bob, nodding at him carelessly, and
passing on. Mr. Dodd did not dare to follow. What was young Worthington
doing in Brampton, and his father in the West on that railroad business?
Filled with curiosity, Mr. Dodd forgot his pump, but Bob was already
striding into Brampton Street, carrying his bag. If he had stopped for
a few moments with the hardware dealer, or chatted with any of the dozen
people who bowed and stared at him, he might have saved himself a good
deal of trouble. He turned in at the Worthington mansion, and rang the
bell, which was answered by Sarah, the housemaid.

“Mr. Bob!” she exclaimed.

“Where’s Mrs. Holden?” he asked.

Mrs. Holden was the elderly housekeeper. She had gone, unfortunately,
to visit a bereaved relative; unfortunately for Bob, because she, too,
might have told him something.

“Get me some breakfast, Sarah. Anything,” he commanded, “and tell Silas
to hitch up the black trotters to my cutter.”

Sarah, though in consternation, did as she was bid. The breakfast was
forthcoming, and in half an hour Silas had the black trotters at the
door. Bob got in without a word, seized the reins, the cutter flew down
Brampton Street (observed by many of the residents thereof) and turned
into the Coniston road. Silas said nothing. Silas, as a matter of fact,
never did say anything. He had been the Worthington coachman for five
and twenty years, and he was known in Brampton as Silas the Silent.
Young Mr. Worthington had no desire to talk that morning.

The black trotters covered the ten miles in much quicker time than Lem
Hallowell could do it in his stage, but the distance seemed endless to
Bob. It was not much more than half an hour after he had left Brampton
Street, however, that he shot past the store, and by the time Rias
Richardson in his carpet slippers reached the platform the cutter was in
front of the tannery house, and the trotters, with their sides smoking,
were pawing up the snow under the butternut tree.

Bob leaped out, hurried up the path, and knocked at the door. It was
opened by Jethro Bass himself!

“How do you do, Mr. Bass,” said the young man, gravely, and he held out
his hand. Jethro gave him such a scrutinizing look as he had given many
a man whose business he cared to guess, but Bob looked fearlessly into
his eyes. Jethro took his hand.

“C-come in,” he said.

Bob went into that little room where Jethro and Cynthia had spent so
many nights together, and his glance flew straight to the picture on the
wall,--the portrait of Cynthia Wetherell in crimson and seed pearls, so
strangely set amidst such surroundings. His glance went to the portrait,
and his feet followed, as to a lodestone. He stood in front of it for
many minutes, in silence, and Jethro watched him. At last he turned.

“Where is she?” he asked.

It was a queer question, and Jethro’s answer was quite as lacking in
convention.

“G-gone to Brampton--gone to Brampton.”

“Gone to Brampton! Do you mean to say--? What is she doing there?” Bob
demanded.

“Teachin’ school,” said Jethro; “g-got Miss Goddard’s place.”

Bob did not reply for a moment. The little schoolhouse was the only
building in Brampton he had glanced at as he came through. Mrs. Merrill
had told him that she might take that place, but he had little imagined
she was already there on her platform facing the rows of shining little
faces at the desks. He had deemed it more than possible that he might
see Jethro at Coniston, but he had not taken into account that which he
might say to him. Bob had, indeed, thought of nothing but Cynthia,
and of the blow that had fallen upon her. He had tried to realize the
multiple phases of the situation which confronted him. Here was the man
who, by the conduct of his life, had caused the blow; he, too, was her
benefactor; and again, this same man was engaged in the bitterest
of conflicts with his father, Isaac D. Worthington, and it was this
conflict which had precipitated that blow. Bob could not have guessed,
by looking at Jethro Bass, how great was the sorrow which had fallen
upon him. But Bob knew that Jethro hated his father, must hate him now,
because of Cynthia, with a hatred given to few men to feel. He thought
that Jethro would crush Mr. Worthington and ruin him if he could; and
Bob believed he could.

What was he to say? He did not fear Jethro, for Bob Worthington had
courage enough; but these things were running in his mind, and he felt
the power of the man before him, as all men did. Bob went to the window
and came back again. He knew that he must speak.

“Mr. Bass,” he said at last, “did Cynthia ever mention me to you?”

“No,” said Jethro.

“Mr. Bass, I love her. I have told her so, and I have asked her to be my
wife.”

There was no need, indeed, to have told Jethro this. The shock of that
revelation had come to him when he had seen the trotters, had been
confirmed when the young man had stood before the portrait. Jethro’s
face might have twitched when Bob stood there with his back to him.

Jethro could not speak. Once more there had come to him a moment when
he would not trust his voice to ask a question. He dreaded the answer,
though none might have surmised this. He knew Cynthia. He knew that,
when she had given her heart, it was for all time. He dreaded the
answer; because it might mean that her sorrow was doubled.

“I believe,” Bob continued painfully, seeing that Jethro would say
nothing, “I believe that Cynthia loves me. I should not dare to say it
or to hope it, without reason. She has not said so, but--” the words
were very hard for him, yet he stuck manfully to the truth; “but she
told me to write to my father and let him know what I had done, and not
to come back to her until I had his answer. This,” he added, wondering
that a man could listen to such a thing without a sign, “this was
before--before she had any idea of coming home.”

Yes, Cynthia, did love him. There was no doubt about it in Jethro’s
mind. She would not have bade Bob write to his father if she had not
loved him. Still Jethro did not speak, but by some intangible force
compelled Bob to go on.

“I shall write to my father as soon as he comes back from the West, but
I wish to say to you, Mr. Bass, that whatever his answer contains, I
mean to marry Cynthia. Nothing can shake me from that resolution. I tell
you this because my father is fighting you, and you know what he will
say.” (Jethro knew Dudley Worthington well enough to appreciate that
this would make no particular difference in his opposition to the
marriage except to make that opposition more vehement.) “And because you
do not know me,” continued Bob. “When I say a thing, I mean it. Even if
my father cuts me off and casts me out, I will marry Cynthia. Good-by,
Mr. Bass.”

Jethro took the young man’s hand again. Bob imagined that he even
pressed it--a little--something he had never done before.

“Good-by, Bob.”

Bob got as far as the door.

“Er--go back to Harvard, Bob?”

“I intend to, Mr. Bass.”

“Er--Bob?”

“Yes?”

“D-don’t quarrel with your father--don’t quarrel with your father.”

“I shan’t be the one to quarrel, Mr. Bass.”

“Bob--hain’t you pretty young--pretty young?”

“Yes,” said Bob, rather unexpectedly, “I am.” Then he added, “I know my
own mind.”

“P-pretty young. Don’t want to get married yet awhile--do you?”

“Yes, I do,” said Bob, “but I suppose I shan’t be able to.”

“Er--wait awhile, Bob. Go back to Harvard. W-wouldn’t write that letter
if I was you.”

“But I will. I’ll not have him think I’m ashamed of what I’ve done. I’m
proud of it, Mr. Bass.”

In the eyes of Coniston, which had been waiting for his reappearance,
Bob Worthington jumped into the sleigh and drove off. He left behind him
Jethro Bass, who sat in his chair the rest of the morning with his
head bent in revery so deep that Millicent had to call him twice to his
simple dinner. Bob left behind him, too, a score of rumors, sprung full
grown into life with his visit. Men and women an incredible distance
away heard them in an incredible time: those in the village found an
immediate pretext for leaving their legitimate occupation and going
to the store, and a gathering was in session there when young Mr.
Worthington drove past it on his way back. Bob thought little about the
rumors, and not thinking of them it did not occur to him that they might
affect Cynthia. The only person then in Coniston whom he thought
about was Jethro Bass. Bob decided that his liking for Jethro had not
diminished, but rather increased; he admired Jethro for the advice he
had given, although he did not mean to take it. And for the first time
he pitied him.

Bob did not know that rumor, too, was spreading in Brampton. He had his
dinner in the big walnut dining room all alone, and after it he smoked
his father’s cigars and paced up and down the big hall, watching the
clock. For he could not go to her in the school hours. At length he
put on his hat and hurried out, crossing the park-like enclosure in the
middle of the street; bowed at by Mr. Dodd, who always seemed to be on
hand, and others, and nodding absently in return. Concealment was not
in Bob Worthington’s nature. He reached the post-office, where the
partition door was open, and he walked right into a comparatively full
meeting of the Brampton Club. Ephraim sat in their midst, and for once
he was not telling war stories. He was silent. And the others fell
suddenly silent, too, at Bob’s entrance.

“How do you do, Mr. Prescott?” he said, as Ephraim struggled to his
feet. “How is the rheumatism?”

“How be you, Mr. Worthington?” said Ephraim; “this is a kind of a
surprise, hain’t it?” Ephraim was getting used to surprises. “Well, it
is good-natured of you to come in and shake hands with an old soldier.”

“Don’t mention it, Mr. Prescott,” answered honest Bob, a little abashed,
“I should have done so anyway, but the fact is, I wanted to speak to you
a moment in private.”

“Certain,” said Ephraim, glancing helplessly around him, “jest come out
front.” That space, where the public were supposed to be, was the
only private place in the Brampton post-office. But the members of the
Brampton Club could take a hint, and with one consent began to make
excuses. Bob knew them all from boyhood and spoke to them all. Some of
them ventured to ask him if Harvard had bust up.

“Where does Cynthia-live?” he demanded, coming straight to the point.

Ephraim stared at him for a moment in a bewildered fashion, and then a
light began to dawn on him.

“Lives with me,” he answered. He was quite as ashamed, for Bob’s sake,
as if he himself had asked the question, and he went on talking to cover
that embarrassment. “It’s made some difference, too, sence she come.
House looks like a different place. Afore she, come I cooked with a
kit, same as I used to in the harness shop. I l’arned it in the army.
Cynthy’s got a stove.”

It was not the way Ephraim would have gone about a love affair, had he
had one. Sam Price’s were the approved methods in that section of the
country, though Sam had overdone them somewhat. It was an unheard-of
thing to ask a man right out like that where a girl lived.

“Much obliged,” said Bob, and was gone. Ephraim raised his hands in
despair, and hobbled to the little window to get a last look at him.
Where were the proprieties in these days? The other aspect of the
affair, what Mr. Worthington would think of it when he returned, did not
occur to the innocent mind of the old soldier until people began to
talk about it that afternoon. Then it worried him into another attack of
rheumatism.

Half of Brampton must have seen Bob Worthington march up to the little
yellow house which Ephraim had rented from John Billings. It had four
rooms around the big chimney in the middle, and that was all. Simple as
it was, an architect would have said that its proportions were nearly
perfect. John Billings had it from his Grandfather Post, who built
it, and though Brampton would have laughed at the statement, Isaac D.
Worthington’s mansion was not to be compared with it for beauty. The
old cherry furniture was still in it, and the old wall papers and the
panelling in the little room to the right which Cynthia had made into a
sitting room.

Half of Brampton, too, must have seen Cynthia open the door and Bob walk
into the entry. Then the door was shut. But it had been held open for
an appreciable time, however,--while you could count twenty,--because
Cynthia had not the power to close it. For a while she could only look
into his eyes, and he into hers. She had not seen him coming, she had
but answered the knock. Then, slowly, the color came into her cheeks,
and she knew that she was trembling from head to foot.

“Cynthia,” he said, “mayn’t I come in?”

She did not answer, for fear her voice would tremble, too. And she could
not send him away in the face of all Brampton. She opened the door a
little wider, a very little, and he went in. Then she closed it, and for
a moment they stood facing each other in the entry, which was lighted
only by the fan-light over the door, Cynthia with her back against the
wall. He spoke her name again, his voice thick with the passion which
had overtaken him like a flood at the sight of her--a passion to seize
her in his arms, and cherish and comfort and protect her forever and
ever. All this he felt and more as he looked into her face and saw the
traces of her great sorrow there. He had not thought that that face
could be more beautiful in its strength and purity, but it was even so.

“Cynthia-my love!” he cried, and raised his arms. But a look as of
a great fear came into her eyes, which for one exquisite moment had
yielded to his own; and her breath came quickly, as though she were
spent--as indeed she was. So far spent that the wall at her back was
grateful.

“No!” she said; “no--you must not--you must not--you must not!” Again
and again she repeated the words, for she could summon no others. They
were a mandate--had he guessed it--to herself as to him. For the time
her brain refused its functions, and she could think of nothing but the
fact that he was there, beside her, ready to take her in his arms. How
she longed to fly into them, none but herself knew--to fly into them as
into a refuge secure against the evil powers of the world. It was not
reason that restrained her then, but something higher in her, that
restrained him likewise. Without moving from the wall she pushed open
the door of the sitting room.

“Go in there,” she said.

He went in as she bade him and stood before the flickering logs in the
wide and shallow chimney-place--logs that seemed to burn on the very
hearth itself, and yet the smoke rose unerring into the flue. No stove
had ever desecrated that room. Bob looked into the flames and waited,
and Cynthia stood in the entry fighting this second great battle which
had come upon her while her forces were still spent with that other one.
Woman in her very nature is created to be sheltered and protected; and
the yearning in her, when her love is given, is intense as nature itself
to seek sanctuary in that love. So it was with Cynthia leaning against
the entry wall, her arms full length in front of her, and her hands
clasped as she prayed for strength to withstand the temptation. At last
she grew calmer, though her breath still came deeply, and she went into
the sitting room.

Perhaps he knew, vaguely, why she had not followed him at once. He had
grown calmer himself, calmer with that desperation which comes to a man
of his type when his soul and body are burning with desire for a woman.
He knew that he would have to fight for her with herself. He knew now
that she was too strong in her position to be carried by storm, and the
interval had given him time to collect himself. He did not dare at
first to look up from the logs, for fear he should forget himself and be
defeated instantly.

“I have been to Coniston, Cynthia,” he said.

“Yes.”

“I have been to Coniston this morning, and I have seen Mr. Bass, and I
have told him that I love you, and that I will never give you up. I
told you so in Boston, Cynthia,” he said; “I knew that this this trouble
would come to you. I would have given my life to have saved you from
it--from the least part of it. I would have given my life to have been
able to say ‘it shall not touch you.’ I saw it flowing in like a great
sea between you and me, and yet I could not tell you of it. I could not
prepare you for it. I could only tell you that I would never give you
up, and I can only repeat that now.”

“You must, Bob,” she answered, in a voice so low that it was almost a
whisper; “you must give me up.”

“I would not,” he said, “I would not if the words were written on all
the rocks of Coniston Mountain. I love you.”

“Hush,” she said gently. “I have to say some things to you. They will be
very hard to say, but you must listen to them.”

“I will listen,” he said doggedly; “but they will not affect my
determination.”

“I am sure you do not wish to drive me away from Brampton,” she
continued, in the same low voice, “when I have found a place to earn my
living near-near Uncle Jethro.”

These words told him all he had suspected--almost as much as though he
had been present at the scene in the tannery shed in Coniston. She knew
now the life of Jethro Bass, but he was still “Uncle Jethro” to her. It
was even as Bob had supposed,--that her affection once given could not
be taken away.

“Cynthia,” he said, “I would not by an act or a word annoy or trouble
you. If you bade me, I would go to the other side of the world
to-morrow. You must know that. But I should come back again. You must
know, that, too. I should come back again for you.”

“Bob,” she said again, and her voice faltered a very little now, “you
must know that I can never be your wife.”

“I do not know it,” he exclaimed, interrupting her vehemently, “I will
not know it.”

“Think,” she said, “think! I must say what I, have to say, however it
hurts me. If it had not been for--for your father, those things never
would have been written. They were in his newspaper, and they express
his feelings toward--toward Uncle Jethro.”

Once the words were out, she marvelled that she had found the courage to
pronounce them.

“Yes,” he said, “yes, I know that, but listen--”

“Wait,” she went on, “wait until I have finished. I am not speaking of
the pain I had when I read these things, I--I am not speaking of the
truth that may be in them--I have learned from them what I should have
known before, and felt, indeed, that your father will never consent
to--to a marriage between us.”

“And if he does not,” cried Bob, “if he does not, do you think that I
will abide by what he says, when my life’s happiness depends upon you,
and my life’s welfare? I know that you are a good woman, and a true
woman, that you will be the best wife any man could have. Though he is
my father, he shall not deprive me of my soul, and he shall not take my
life away from me.”

As Cynthia listened she thought that never had words sounded sweeter
than these--no, and never would again. So she told herself as she let
them run into her heart to be stored among the treasures there. She
believed in his love--believed in it now with all her might. (Who,
indeed, would not?) She could not demean herself now by striving to
belittle it or doubt its continuance, as she had in Boston. He was
young, yes; but he would never be any older than this, could never love
again like this. So much was given her, ought she not to be content?
Could she expect more?

She understood Isaac Worthington, now, as well as his son understood
him. She knew that, if she were to yield to Bob Worthington, his father
would disown and disinherit him. She looked ahead into the years as a
woman will, and allowed herself for the briefest of moments to wonder
whether any happiness could thrive in spite of the violence of that
schism--any happiness for him. She would be depriving him of his
birthright, and it may be that those who are born without birthrights
often value them the most. Cynthia saw these things, and more, for
those who sit at the feet of sorrow soon learn the world’s ways. She saw
herself pointed out as the woman whose designs had beggared and ruined
him in his youth, and (agonizing and revolting thought!) the name of one
would be spoken from whom she had learned such craft. Lest he see the
scalding tears in her eyes, she turned away and conquered them. What
could she do? Where should she hide her love that it might not be seen
of men? And how, in truth, could she tell him these things?

“Cynthia,” he went on, seeing that she did not answer, and taking heart,
“I will not say a word against my father. I know you would not respect
me if I did. We are different, he and I, and find happiness in different
ways.” Bob wondered if his father had ever found it. “If I had never
met you and loved you, I should have refused to lead the life my father
wishes me to lead. It is not in me to do the things he will ask. I shall
have to carve out my own life, and I feel that I am as well able to do
it as he was. Percy Broke, a classmate of mine and my best friend, has
a position for me in a locomotive works in which his father is largely
interested. We are going in together, the day after we graduate; it is
all arranged, and his father has agreed. I shall work very hard, and
in a few years, Cynthia, we shall be together, never to part again. Oh,
Cynthia,” he cried, carried away by the ecstasy of this dream which he
had, summoned up, “why do you resist me? I love you as no man has ever
loved,” he exclaimed, with scornful egotism and contempt of those who
had made the world echo with that cry through the centuries, “and you
love me! Ah, do you think I do not see it--cannot feel it? You love
me--tell me so.”

He was coming toward her, and how was she to prevent his taking her by
storm? That was his way, and well she knew it. In her dreams she had
felt herself lifted and borne off, breathless in his arms, to Elysium.
Her breath was going now, her strength was going, and yet she made him
pause by the magic of a word. A concession was in that word, but one
could not struggle so piteously and concede nothing.

“Bob,” she said, “do you love me?”

Love her! If there was a love that acknowledged no bounds, that was
confined by no superlatives, it was his. He began to speak, but she
interrupted him with a wild passion that was new to her. As he sat in
the train on his way back to Cambridge through the darkening afternoon,
the note of it rang in his ears and gave him hope--yes, and through many
months afterward.

“If you love me I beg, I implore, I beseech you in the name of that
love--for your sake and my sake, to leave me. Oh, can you not see why
you must go?”

He stopped, even as he had before in the parlor in Mount Vernon Street.
He could but stop in the face of such an appeal--and yet the blood beat
in his head with a mad joy.

“Tell me that you love me,--once,” he cried,--“once, Cynthia.”

“Do-do not ask me,” she faltered. “Go.”

Her words were a supplication, not a command. And in that they were a
supplication he had gained a victory. Yes, though she had striven with
all her might to deny, she had bade him hope. He left her without so
much as a touch of the hand, because she had wished it. And yet she
loved him! Incredible fact! Incredible conjury which made him doubt that
his feet touched the snow of Brampton Street, which blotted, as with a
golden glow, the faces and the houses of Brampton from his sight. He saw
no one, though many might have accosted him. That part of him which was
clay, which performed the menial tasks of his being, had kindly taken
upon itself to fetch his bag from the house to the station, and to board
the train.

Ah, but Brampton had seen him!



CHAPTER XIV

Great events, like young Mr. Worthington’s visit to Brampton, are all
very well for a while, but they do not always develop with sufficient
rapidity to satisfy the audiences of the drama. Seven days were an
interlude quite long enough in which to discuss every phase and bearing
of this opening scene, and after that the play in all justice ought to
move on. But there it halted--for a while--and the curtain obstinately
refused to come up. If the inhabitants of Brampton had only known that
the drama, when it came, would be well worth waiting for, they might
have been less restless.

It is unnecessary to enrich the pages of this folio with all the
footnotes and remarks of, the sages of Brampton. These can be condensed
into a paragraph of two--and we can ring up the curtain when we like
on the next scene, for which Brampton had to wait considerably over a
month. There is to be no villain in this drama with the face of an Abbe
Maury like the seven cardinal sins. Comfortable looking Mr. Dodd of the
prudential committee, with his chin-tuft of yellow beard, is cast for
the part of the villain, but will play it badly; he would have been
better suited to a comedy part.

Young Mr. Worthington left Brampton on the five o’clock train, and at
six Mr. Dodd met his fellow-member of the committee, Judge Graves.

“Called a meetin’?” asked Mr. Dodd, pulling the yellow tuft.

“What for?” said the judge, sharply.

“What be you a-goin’ to do about it?” said Mr. Dodd.

“Do about what?” demanded the judge, looking at the hardware dealer from
under his eyebrows.

Mr. Dodd knew well enough that this was not ignorance on the part of Mr.
Graves, whose position in the matter dad been very well defined in
the two sentences he had spoken. Mr. Dodd perceived that the judge
was trying to get him to commit himself, and would then proceed to
annihilate him. He, Levi Dodd, had no intention of walking into such a
trap.

“Well,” said he, with a final tug at the tuft, “if that’s the way you
feel about it.”

“Feel about what?” said the judge, fiercely.

“Callate you know best,” said Mr. Dodd, and passed on up the street. But
he felt the judge’s gimlet eyes boring holes in his back. The judge’s
position was very fine, no doubt for the judge. All of which tends to
show that Levi Dodd had swept his mind, and that it was ready now for
the reception of an opinion.

Six weeks or more, as has been said, passed before the curtain rose
again, but the snarling trumpets of the orchestra played a fitting
prelude. Cynthia’s feelings and Cynthia’s life need not be gone into
during this interval knowing her character, they may well be imagined.
They were trying enough, but Brampton had no means of guessing them.
During the weeks she came and went between the little house and the
little school, putting all the strength that was in her into her duties.
The Prudential Committee, which sometimes sat on the platform, could
find no fault with the performance of these duties, or with the
capability of the teacher, and it is not going too far to state that the
children grew to love her better than Miss Goddard had been loved. It
may be declared that children are the fittest citizens of a republic,
because they are apt to make up their own minds on any subject without
regard to public opinion. It was so with the scholars of Brampton
village lower school: they grew to love the new teacher, careless of
what the attitude of their elders might be, and some of them could have
been seen almost any day walking home with her down the street.

As for the attitude of the elders--there was none. Before assuming one
they had thought it best, with characteristic caution, to await the next
act in the drama. There were ladies in Brampton whose hearts prompted
them, when they called on the new teacher, to speak a kindly word of
warning and advice; but somehow, when they were seated before her in
the little sitting room of the John Billings house, their courage
failed them. There was something about this daughter of the Coniston
storekeeper and ward of Jethro Bass that made them pause. So much for
the ladies of Brampton. What they said among themselves would fill a
chapter, and more.

There was, at this time, a singular falling-off in the attendance of the
Brampton Club. Ephraim sat alone most of the day in his Windsor chair
by the stove, pretending to read newspapers. But he did not mention this
fact to Cynthia. He was more lonesome than ever on the Saturdays and
Sundays which she spent with Jethro Bass.

Jethro Bass! It is he who might be made the theme of the music of the
snarling trumpets. What was he about during those six weeks? That is
what the state at large was beginning to wonder, and the state at large
was looking on at a drama, too. A rumor reached the capital and radiated
thence to every city and town and hamlet, and was followed by other
rumors like confirmations. Jethro Bass, for the first time in a long
life of activity, was inactive: inactive, too, at this most critical
period of his career, the climax of it, with a war to be waged which for
bitterness and ferocity would have no precedent; with the town meetings
at hand, where the frontier fighting was to be done, and no quarter
given. Lieutenants had gone to Coniston for further orders and
instructions, and had come back without either. Achilles was sulking in
the tannery house--some said a broken Achilles. Not a word could be got
out of him, or the sign of an intention. Jake Wheeler moped through the
days in Rias Richardson’s store, too sore at heart to speak to any man,
and could have wept if tears had been a relief to him. No more blithe
errands over the mountain to Clovelly and elsewhere, though Jake
knew the issue now and itched for the battle, and the vassals of
the hill-Rajah under a jubilant Bijah Bixby were arming cap-a-pie.
Lieutenant-General-and-Senator Peleg Hartington of Brampton, in his
office over the livery stable, shook his head like a mournful stork
when questioned by brother officers from afar. Operations were at a
standstill, and the sinews of war relaxed. Rural givers of mortgages,
who had not had the opportunity of selling them or had feared to do
so, began (mirabile dictu) to express opinions. Most ominous sign of
all--the proprietor of the Pelican Hotel had confessed that the Throne
Room had not been engaged for the coming session.

Was it possible that Jethro Bass lay crushed under the weight of the
accusations which had been printed, and were still being printed, in
the Newcastle Guardian? He did not answer them, or retaliate in other
newspapers, but Jethro Bass had never made use of newspapers in this
way. Still, nothing ever printed about him could be compared with those
articles. Had remorse suddenly overtaken him in his old age? Such were
the questions people we’re asking all over the state--people, at least,
who were interested in politics, or in those operations which went
by the name of politics: yes, and many private citizens--who had
participated in politics only to the extent of voting for such
candidates as Jethro in his wisdom had seen fit to give them, read the
articles and began to say that boss domination was at an end. A new era
was at hand, which they fondly (and very properly) believed was to be
a golden era. It was, indeed, to be a golden era--until things got
working; and then the gold would cease. The Newcastle Guardian, with
unconscious irony, proclaimed the golden era; and declared that its
columns, even in other days and under other ownership, had upheld the
wisdom of Jethro Bass. And he was still a wise man, said the Guardian,
for he had had sense enough to give up the fight.

Had he given up the fight? Cynthia fervently hoped and prayed that he
had, but she hoped and prayed in silence. Well she knew, if the event in
the tannery shed had not made him abandon his affairs, no appeal could
do so. Her happiest days in this period were the Saturdays and Sundays
spent with him in Coniston, and as the weeks went by she began to
believe that the change, miraculous as it seemed, had indeed taken
place. He had given up his power. It was a pleasure that made the weeks
bearable for her. What did it matter--whether he had made the sacrifice
for the sake of his love for her? He had made it.

On these Saturdays and Sundays they went on long drives together over
the hills, while she talked to him of her life in Brampton or the books
she was reading, and of those she had chosen for him to read. Sometimes
they did not turn homeward until the delicate tracery of the branches
on the snow warned them of the rising moon. Jethro was often silent for
hours at a time, but it seemed to Cynthia that it was the silence of
peace--of a peace he had never known before. There came no newspapers
to the tannery house now: during the mid-week he read the books of which
she had spoken William Wetherell’s books; or sat in thought, counting,
perhaps; the days until she should come again. And the boy of those
days for him was more pathetic than much that is known to the world as
sorrow.

And what did Coniston think? Coniston, indeed, knew not what to think,
when, little by little, the great men ceased to drive up to the door of
the tannery house, and presently came no more. Coniston sank then from
its proud position as the real capital of the state to a lonely hamlet
among the hills. Coniston, too, was watching the drama, and had had a
better view of the stage than Brampton, and saw some reason presently
for the change in Jethro Bass. Not that Mr. Satterlee told, but such
evidence was bound, in the end, to speak for itself. The Newcastle
Guardian had been read and debated at the store--debated with some heat
by Chester Perkins and other mortgagors; discussed, nevertheless, in a
political rather than a moral light. Then Cynthia had returned home;
her face had awed them by its sorrow, and she had begun to earn her own
living. Then the politicians had ceased to come. The credit belongs to
Rias Richardson for hawing been the first to piece these three facts
together, causing him to burn his hand so severely on the stove that
he had to carry it bandaged in soda for a week. Cynthia Wetherell had
reformed Jethro.

Though the village loved and revered Cynthia, Coniston as a whole did
not rejoice in that reform. The town had fallen from its mighty estate,
and there were certain envious ones who whispered that it had remained
for a young girl who had learned city ways to twist Jethro around
her finger; that she had made him abandon his fight with Isaac D.
Worthington because Mr. Worthington had a son--but there is no use
writing such scandal. Stripped of his power--even though he stripped
himself--Jethro began to lose their respect, a trait tending to prove
that the human race may have had wolves for ancestors as well as apes.
People had small opportunity, however, of showing a lack of respect to
his person, for in these days he noticed no one and spoke to none.

When the lion is crippled, the jackals begin to range. A jackal
reconnoitered the lair to see how badly the lion was crippled, and
conceived with astounding insolence the plan of capturing the lion’s
quarry. This jackal, who was an old one, well knew how to round up a
quarry, and fled back over the hills to consult with a bigger jackal,
his master. As a result, two days before March town-meeting day, Mr.
Bijah Bixby paid a visit to the Harwich bank and went among certain
Coniston farmers looking over the sheep, his clothes bulging out in
places when he began, and seemingly normal enough when he had finished.
History repeats itself, even among lions and jackals. Thirty-six
years before there had been a town-meeting in Coniston and a surprise.
Established Church, decent and orderly selectmen and proceedings
had been toppled over that day, every outlying farm sending its
representative through the sleet to do it. And now retribution was at
hand. This March-meeting day was mild, the grass showing a green color
on the south slopes where the snow had melted, and the outlying farmers
drove through mud-holes up to the axles. Drove, albeit, in procession
along the roads, grimly enough, and the sheds Jock Hallowell had built
around the meeting-house could not hold the horses; they lined the
fences and usurped the hitching posts of the village street, and still
they came. Their owners trooped with muddy boots into the meeting-house,
and when the moderator rapped for order the Chairman of the Board of
Selectmen, Jethro Bass, was not in his place; never, indeed, would be
there again. Six and thirty years he had been supreme in that town--long
enough for any man. The beams and king posts would know him no more. Mr.
Amos Cuthbert was elected Chairman, not without a gallant and desperate
but unsupported fight of a minority led by Mr. Jake Wheeler, whose
loyalty must be taken as a tribute to his species. Farmer Cuthbert was
elected, and his mortgage was not foreclosed! Had it been, there was
more money in the Harwich bank.

There was no telegraph to Coniston in these days, and so Mr. Sam Price,
with his horse in a lather, might have been seen driving with unseemly
haste toward Brampton, where in due time he arrived. Half an hour later
there was excitement at Newcastle, sixty-five miles away, in the office
of the Guardian, and the next morning the excitement had spread over the
whole state.

Jethro Bass was dethroned in Coniston--discredited in his own town!

And where was Jethro? Did his heart ache, did he bow his head as
he thought of that supremacy, so hardly won, so superbly held, gone
forever? Many were the curious eyes on the tannery house that day, and
for days after, but its owner gave no signs of concern. He read and
thought and chopped wood in the tannery shed as usual. Never, I believe,
did man, shorn of power, accept his lot more quietly. His struggle was
over, his battle was fought, a greater peace than he had ever thought to
hope for was won. For the opinion and regard of the world he had never
cared. A greater reward awaited him, greater than any knew--the opinion
and regard and the praise of one whom he loved beyond all the world. On
Friday she came to him, on Friday at sunset, for the days were growing
longer, and that was the happiest sunset of his life. She said nothing
as she raised her face to his and kissed him and clung to him in the
little parlor, but he knew, and he had his reward. So much for earthly
power Cynthia brought the little rawhide trunk this time, and came to
Coniston for the March vacation--a happy two weeks that was soon gone.
Happy by comparison, that is, with what they both had suffered, and a
haven of rest after the struggle and despair of the wilderness. The bond
between them had, in truth, never been stronger, for both the young girl
and the old man had denied themselves the thing they held most dear.
Jethro had taken refuge and found comfort in his love. But Cynthia! Her
greatest love had now been bestowed elsewhere.

If there were letters for the tannery house, Milly Skinner, who made it
a point to meet the stage, brought them. And there were letters during
Cynthia’s sojourn,--many of them, bearing the Cambridge postmark. One
evening it was Jethro who laid the letter on the table beside her as she
sat under the lamp. He did not look at her or speak, but she felt that
he knew her secret--felt that he deserved to have from her own lips what
he had been too proud--yes--and too humble to ask. Whose sympathy
could she be sure of, if not of his? Still she had longed to keep this
treasure to herself. She took the letter in her hand.

“I do not answer them, Uncle Jethro, but--I cannot prevent his writing
them,” she faltered. She did not confess that she kept them, every one,
and read them over and over again; that she had grown, indeed, to look
forward to them as to a sustenance. “I--I do love him, but I will not
marry him.”

Yes, she could be sure of Jethro’s sympathy, though he could not express
it in words. Yet she had not told him for this. She had told him, much
as the telling had hurt her, because she feared to cut him more deeply
by her silence.

It was a terrible moment for Jethro, and never had he desired the gift
of speech as now. Had it not been for him; Cynthia might have been
Robert Worthington’s wife. He sat down beside her and put his hand over
hers that lay on the letter in her lap. It was the only answer he could
make, but perhaps it was the best, after all. Of what use were words at
such a time!

Four days afterward, on a Monday morning, she went back to Brampton to
begin the new term.

That same Monday a circumstance of no small importance took place in
Brampton--nothing less than the return, after a prolonged absence in the
West and elsewhere, of its first citizen. Isaac D. Worthington was again
in residence. No bells were rung, indeed, and no delegation of citizens
as such, headed by the selectmen, met him at the station; and
other feudal expressions of fealty were lacking. No staff flew Mr.
Worthington’s arms; nevertheless the lord of Brampton was in his castle
again, and Brampton felt that he was there. He arrived alone, wearing
the silk hat which had become habitual with him now, and stepping into
his barouche at the station had been driven up Brampton Street behind
his grays, looking neither to the right nor left. His reddish chop
whiskers seemed to cling a little more closely to his face than
formerly, and long years of compression made his mouth look sterner
than ever. A hawk-like man, Isaac Worthington, to be reckoned with and
feared, whether in a frock coat or in breastplate and mail.

His seneschal, Mr. Flint, was awaiting him in the library. Mr. Flint was
large and very ugly, big-boned, smooth-shaven, with coarse features all
askew, and a large nose with many excrescences, and thick lips. He was
forty-two. From a foreman of the mills he had risen, step by step,
to his present position, which no one seemed able to define. He was,
indeed, a seneschal. He managed the mills in his lord’s absence, and--if
the truth be told--in his presence; knotty questions of the Truro
Railroad were brought to Mr. Flint and submitted to Mr. Worthington,
who decided them, with Mr. Flint’s advice; and, within the last three
months, Mr. Flint had invaded the realm of politics, quietly, as such a
man would, under the cover of his patron’s name and glory. Mr. Flint
it was who had bought the Newcastle Guardian, who went occasionally to
Newcastle and spoke a few effective words now and then to the editor;
and, if the truth will out, Mr. Flint had largely conceived that scheme
about the railroads which was to set Mr. Worthington on the throne of
the state, although the scheme was not now being carried out according
to Mr. Flint’s wishes. Mr. Flint was, in a sense, a Bismarck, but he
was not as yet all powerful. Sometimes his august master or one of his
fellow petty sovereigns would sweep Mr. Flint’s plans into the waste
basket, and then Mr. Flint would be content to wait. To complete the
character sketch, Mr. Flint was not above hanging up his master’s hat
and coat, Which he did upon the present occasion, and went up to Mr.
Worthington’s bedroom to fetch a pocket handkerchief out of the second
drawer. He even knew where the handkerchiefs were kept. Lucky petty
sovereigns sometimes possess Mr. Flints to make them emperors.

The august personage seated himself briskly at his desk.

“So that scoundrel Bass is actually discredited at last,” he said,
blowing his nose in the pocket handkerchief Mr. Flint had brought him.
“I lose patience when I think how long we’ve stood the rascal in this
state. I knew the people would rise in their indignation when they
learned the truth about him.”

Mr. Flint did not answer this. He might have had other views.

“I wonder we did not think of it before,” Mr. Worthington continued. “A
very simple remedy, and only requiring a little courage and--and--” (Mr.
Worthington was going to say money, but thought better of it) “and the
chimera disappears. I congratulate you, Flint.”

“Congratulate yourself,” said Mr. Flint; “that would not have been my
way.”

“Very well, I congratulate myself,” said the august personage, who was
in too good a humor to be put out by the rejection of a compliment. “You
remember what I said: the time was ripe, just publish a few biographical
articles telling people what he was, and Jethro Bass would snuff out
like a candle. Mr. Duncan tells me the town-meeting results are very
good all over the state. Even if we hadn’t knocked out Jethro Bass, we’d
have a fair majority for our bill in the next legislature.”

“You know Bass’s saying,” answered Mr. Flint, “You can hitch that kind
of a hoss, but they won’t always stay hitched.”

“I know, I know,” said Mr. Worthington; “don’t croak, Flint. We can
buy more hitch ropes, if necessary. Well, what’s the outlay up to the
present? Large, I suppose. Well, whatever it is, it’s small compared to
what we’ll get for it.” He laughed a little and rubbed his hands, and
then he remembered that capacity in which he stood before the world.
Yes, and he stood before himself in the same capacity. Isaac Worthington
may have deceived himself, but he may or may not have been a hero to
his seneschal. “We have to fight fire with fire,” he added, in a pained
voice. “Let me see the account.”

“I have tabulated the expense in the different cities and towns,”
 answered Mr. Flint; “I will show you the account in a little while. The
expenses in Coniston were somewhat greater than the size of the town
justified, perhaps. But Sutton thought--”

“Yes, yes,” interrupted Mr. Worthington, “if it had cost as much to
carry Coniston as Newcastle, it would have been worth it--for the moral
effect alone.”

Moral effect! Mr. Flint thought of Mr. Bixby with his bulging pockets
going about the hills, and smiled at the manner in which moral effects
are sometimes obtained.

“Any news, Flint?”

No news yet, Mr. Flint might have answered. In a few minutes there might
be news, and plenty of it, for it lay ready to be hatched under Mr.
Worthington’s eye. A letter in the bold and upright hand of his son
was on the top of the pile, placed there by Mr. Flint himself, who had
examined Mr. Worthington’s face closely when he came in to see how much
he might know of its contents. He had decided that Mr. Worthington was
in too good a humor to know anything of them. Mr. Flint had not steamed
the letter open, and read the news; but he could guess at them pretty
shrewdly, and so could have the biggest fool in Brampton. That letter
contained the opening scene of the next act in the drama.

Mr. Worthington cut the envelope and began to read, and while he did so
Mr. Flint, who was not afraid of man or beast, looked at him. It was a
manly and straight forward letter, and Mr. Worthington, no matter what
his opinions on the subject were, should have been proud of it. Bob
announced, first of all, that he was going to marry Cynthia Wetherell;
then he proceeded with praiseworthy self-control (for a lover) to
describe Cynthia’s character and attainments: after which he stated
that Cynthia had refused him--twice, because she believed that Mr.
Worthington would oppose the marriage, and had declared that she would
never be the cause of a breach between father and son. Bob asked for his
father’s consent, and hoped to have it, but he thought it only right to
add that he had given his word and his love, and did not mean to retract
either. He spoke of his visit to Brampton, and explained that Cynthia
was teaching school there, and urged his father to see her before he
made a decision. Mr. Worthington read it through to the end, his lips
closing tighter and tighter until his mouth was but a line across his
face. There was pain in the face, too, the kind of pain which anger
sends, and which comes with the tottering of a pride that is false. Of
what gratification now was the overthrow of Jethro Bass?

He stared at the letter for a moment after he had finished it, and
his face grew a dark red. Then he seized the paper and tore it slowly,
deliberately, into bits.

Dudley Worthington was not thinking then--not he!--of the young man in
the white beaver who had called at the Social Library many years
before to see a young woman whose name, too, had been Cynthia.--He was
thinking, in fact, for he was a man to think in anger, whether it were
not possible to remove this Cynthia from the face of the earth--at least
to a place beyond his horizon and that of his son. Had he worn the chain
mail instead of the frock coat he would have had her hung outside the
town walls.

“Good God!” he exclaimed. And the words sounded profane indeed as
he fixed his eyes upon Mr. Flint. “You knew that Robert had been to
Brampton.”

“Yes,” said Flint, “the whole village knew it.”

“Good God!” cried Mr. Worthington again, “why was I not informed of
this? Why was I not warned of this? Have I no friends? Do you pretend to
look after my interests and not take the trouble to write me on such a
subject.”

“Do you think I could have prevented it?” asked Mr. Flint, very calmly.

“You allow this--this woman to come here to Brampton and teach school in
a place where she can further her designs? What were you about?”

“When the prudential committee appointed her, nothing of this was known,
Mr. Worthington.”

“Yes, but now--now! What are you doing, what are they doing to allow her
to remain? Who are on that committee?”

Mr. Flint named the men. They had been reelected, as usual, at the
recent town-meeting. Mr. Errol, who had also been reelected, had
returned but had not yet issued the certificate or conducted the
examination.

“Send for them, have them here at once,” commanded Mr. Worthington,
without listening to this.

“If you take my advice, you will do nothing of the kind,” said Mr.
Flint, who, as usual, had the whole situation at his fingers’ ends.
He had taken the trouble to inform himself about the girl, and he had
discovered, shrewdly enough, that she was the kind which might be led,
but not driven. If Mr. Flint’s advice had been listened to, this story
might have had quite a different ending. But Mr. Flint had not reached
the stage where his advice was always listened to, and he had a maddened
man to deal with now. At that moment, as if fate had determined to
intervene, the housemaid came into the room.

“Mr. Dodd to see you, sir,” she said.

“Show him in,” shouted Mr. Worthington; “show him in!”

Mr. Dodd was not a man who could wait for a summons which he had felt in
his bones was coming. He was ordinarily, as we have seen, officious.
But now he was thoroughly frightened. He had seen the great man in the
barouche as he drove past the hardware store, and he had made up his
mind to go up at once, and have it over with. His opinions were formed
now, He put a smile on his face when he was a foot outside of the
library door.

“This is a great pleasure, Mr. Worthington, a great pleasure, to see you
back,” he said, coming forward. “I callated--”

But the great man sat in his chair, and made no attempt to return the
greeting.

“Mr. Dodd, I thought you were my friend,” he said.

Mr. Dodd went all to pieces at this reception.

“So I be, Mr. Worthington--so I be,” he cried. “That’s why I’m here now.
I’ve b’en a friend of yours ever since I can remember--never fluctuated.
I’d rather have chopped my hand off than had this happen--so I would. If
I could have foreseen what she was, she’d never have had the place, as
sure as my name’s Levi Dodd.”

If Mr. Dodd had taken the trouble to look at the seneschal’s face, he
would have seen a well-defined sneer there.

“And now that you know what she is,” cried Mr. Worthington, rising and
smiting the pile of letters on his desk, “why do you keep her there an
instant?”

Mr. Dodd stopped to pick up the letters, which had flown over the floor.
But the great man was now in the full tide of his anger.

“Never mind the letters,” he shouted; “tell me why you keep her there.”

“We callated we’d wait and see what steps you’d like taken,” said the
trembling townsman.

“Steps! Steps! Good God! What kind of man are you to serve in such a
place when you allow the professed ward of Jethro Bass--of Jethro Bass,
the most notoriously depraved man in this state, to teach the children
of this town. Steps! How soon can you call your committee together?”

“Right away,” answered Mr. Dodd, breathlessly. He would have gone on to
exculpate himself, but Mr. Worthington’s inexorable finger was pointing
at the door.

“If you are a friend of mine,” said that gentleman, “and if you have any
regard for the fair name of this town, you will do so at once.”

Mr. Dodd departed precipitately, and Mr. Worthington began to pace the
room, clasping his hands now in front of him, now behind him, in his
agony: repeating now and again various appellations which need not be
printed here, which he applied in turn to the prudential committee, to
his son, and to Cynthia Wetherell.

“I’ll run her out of Brampton,” he said at last.

“If you do,” said Mr. Flint, who had been watching him apparently
unmoved, “you may have Jethro Bass on your back.”

“Jethro Bass?” shouted Mr. Worthington, with a laugh that was not
pleasant to hear, “Jethro Bass is as dead as Julius Caesar.”

It was one thing for Mr. Dodd to promise so readily a meeting of the
committee, and quite another to decide how he was going to get through
the affair without any more burns and scratches than were absolutely
necessary. He had reversed the usual order, and had been in the
fire--now he was going to the frying-pan. He stood in the street for
some time, pulling at his tuft, and then made his way to Mr. Jonathan
Hill’s feed store. Mr. Hill was reading “Sartor Resartus” in his little
office, the temperature of which must have been 95, and Mr. Dodd was
perspiring when he got there.

“It’s come,” said Mr. Dodd, sententiously.

“What’s come?” inquired Mr. Hill, mildly.

“Isaac D.’s come, that’s what,” said Mr. Dodd. “I hain’t b’en sleepin’
well of nights, lately. I can’t think what we was about, Jonathan,
puttin’ that girl in the school. We’d ought to’ve knowed she wahn’t
fit.”

“What’s the matter with her?” inquired Mr. Hill.

“Matter with her!” exclaimed his fellow-committeeman, “she lives with
Jethro Bass--she’s his ward.”

“Well, what of it?” said Mr. Hill, who never bothered himself about
gossip or newspapers, or indeed about anything not between the covers of
a book, except when he couldn’t help it.

“Good God!” exclaimed Mr. Dodd, “he’s the most notorious, depraved man
in the state. Hain’t we got to look out for the fair name of Brampton?”

Mr. Hill sighed and closed his book.

“Well,” he said; “I’d hoped we were through with that. Let’s go up and
see what Judge Graves says about it.”

“Hold on,” said Mr. Dodd, seizing the feed dealer by the coat, “we’ve
got to get it fixed in our minds what we’re goin’ to do, first. We can’t
allow no notorious people in our schools. We’ve got to stand up to the
jedge, and tell him so. We app’inted her on his recommendation, you
know.”

“I like the girl,” replied Mr. Hill. “I don’t think we ever had a better
teacher. She’s quiet, and nice appearin’, and attends to her business.”

Mr. Dodd pulled his tuft, and cocked his head.

“Mr. Worthington holds a note of yours, don’t he, Jonathan?”

Mr. Hill reflected. He said he thought perhaps Mr. Worthington did.

“Well,” said Mr. Dodd, “I guess we might as well go along up to the
jedge now as any time.”

But when they got there Mr. Dodd’s knock was so timid that he had to
repeat it before the judge came to the door and peered at them over his
spectacles.

“Well, gentlemen, what can I do for you?” he asked, severely, though he
knew well enough. He had not been taken by surprise many times during
the last forty years. Mr. Dodd explained that they wished a little
meeting of the committee. The judge ushered them into his bedroom, the
parlor being too good for such an occasion.

“Now, gentlemen,” said he, “let us get down to business. Mr. Worthington
arrived here to-day, he has seen Mr. Dodd, and Mr. Dodd has seen Mr.
Hill. Mr. Worthington is a political opponent of Jethro Bass, and wishes
Miss Wetherell dismissed. Mr. Dodd and Mr. Hill have agreed, for various
reasons which I will spare you, that Miss Wetherell should be dismissed.
Have I stated the case, gentlemen, or have I not?”

Mr. Graves took off his spectacles and wiped them, looking from one to
the other of his very uncomfortable fellow-members. Mr. Hill did not
attempt to speak; but Mr. Dodd, who was not sure now that this was not
the fire and the other the frying-pan, pulled at his tuft until words
came to him.

“Jedge,” he said finally, “I must say I’m a mite surprised. I must say
your language is unwarranted.”

“The truth is never unwarranted,” said the judge.

“For the sake of the fair name of Brampton,” began Mr. Dodd, “we cannot
allow--”

“Mr. Dodd,” interrupted the judge, “I would rather have Mr.
Worthington’s arguments from Mr. Worthington himself, if I wanted them
at all. There is no need of prolonging this meeting. If I were to waste
my breath until six o’clock, it would be no use. I was about to say
that your opinions were formed, but I will alter that, and say that your
minds are fixed. You are determined to dismiss Miss Wetherell. Is it not
so?”

“I wish you’d hear me, Jedge,” said Mr. Dodd, desperately.

“Will you kindly answer me yes or no to that question,” said the judge;
“my time is valuable.”

“Well, if you put it that way, I guess we are agreed that she hadn’t
ought to stay. Not that I’ve anything against her personally--”

“All right,” said the judge, with a calmness that made them tremble.
They had never bearded him before. “All right, you are two to one and
no certificate has been issued. But I tell you this, gentlemen, that you
will live to see the day when you will bitterly regret this injustice
to an innocent and a noble woman, and Isaac D. Worthington will live to
regret it. You may tell him I said so. Good day, gentlemen.”

They rose.

“Jedge,” began Mr. Dodd again, “I don’t think you’ve been quite fair
with us.”

“Fair!” repeated the judge, with unutterable scorn. “Good day,
gentlemen.” And he slammed the door behind them.

They walked down the street some distance before either of them spoke.

“Goliah,” said Mr. Dodd, at last, “did you ever hear such talk? He’s got
the drattedest temper of any man I ever knew, and he never callates to
make a mistake. It’s a little mite hard to do your duty when a man talks
that way.”

“I’m not sure we’ve done it,” answered Mr. Hill.

“Not sure!” ejaculated the hardware dealer, for he was now far enough
away from the judge’s house to speak in his normal tone, “and she
connected with that depraved--”

“Hold on,” said Mr. Hill, with an astonishing amount of spirit for him,
“I’ve heard that before.”

Mr. Dodd looked at him, swallowed the wrong way and began to choke.

“You hain’t wavered, Jonathan?” he said, when he got his breath.

“No, I haven’t,” said Mr. Hill, sadly; “but I wish to hell I had.”

Mr. Dodd looked at him again, and began to choke again. It was the first
time he had known Jonathan Hill to swear.

“You’re a-goin’ to stick by what you agreed--by your principles?”

“I’m going to stick by my bread and butter,” said Mr. Hill, “not by my
principles. I wish to hell I wasn’t.”

And so saying that gentleman departed, cutting diagonally across the
street through the snow, leaving Mr. Dodd still choking and pulling at
his tuft. This third and totally-unexpected shaking-up had caused him
to feel somewhat deranged internally, though it had not altered the
opinions now so firmly planted in his head. After a few moments,
however, he had collected himself sufficiently to move on once
more, when he discovered that he was repeating to himself, quite
unconsciously, Mr. Hill’s profanity “I wish to hell I wasn’t.” The iron
mastiffs glaring at him angrily out of the snow banks reminded him that
he was in front of Mr. Worthington’s door, and he thought he might as
well go in at once and receive the great man’s gratitude. He certainly
deserved it. But as he put his hand on the bell Mr. Worthington himself
came out of the house, and would actually have gone by without noticing
Mr. Dodd if he had not spoken.

“I’ve got that little matter fixed, Mr. Worthington,” he said, “called
the committee, and we voted to discharge the--the young woman.” No, he
did not deliver Judge Graves’s message.

“Very well, Mr. Dodd,” answered the great man, passing on so that Mr.
Dodd was obliged to follow him in order to hear, “I’m glad you’ve come
to your senses at last. Kindly step into the library and tell Miss Bruce
from me that she may fill the place to-morrow.”

“Certain,” said Mr. Dodd, with his hand to his chin. He watched the
great man turn in at his bank in the new block, and then he did as he
was bid.

By the time school was out that day the news had leaped across Brampton
Street and spread up and down both sides of it that the new teacher had
been dismissed. The story ran fairly straight--there were enough clews,
certainly. The great man’s return, the visit of Mr. Dodd, the call on
Judge Graves, all had been marked. The fiat of the first citizen
had gone forth that the ward of Jethro Bass must be got rid of; the
designing young woman who had sought to entrap his son must be punished
for her amazing effrontery.

Cynthia came out of school happily unaware that her name was on the
lips of Brampton: unaware, too, that the lord of the place had come into
residence that day. She had looked forward to living in the same town
with Bob’s father as an evil which was necessary to be borne, as one of
the things which are more or less inevitable in the lives of those who
have to make their own ways in the world. The children trooped around
her, and the little girls held her hand, and she talked and laughed with
them as she came up the street in the eyes of Brampton,--came up the
street to the block of new buildings where the bank was. Stepping out of
the bank, with that businesslike alertness which characterized him,
was the first citizen--none other. He found himself entangled among
the romping children and--horror of horrors he bumped into the
schoolmistress herself! Worse than this, he had taken off his hat and
begged her pardon before he looked at her and realized the enormity of
his mistake. And the schoolmistress had actually paid no attention to
him, but with merely heightened color had drawn the children out of his
way and passed on without a word. The first citizen, raging inwardly,
but trying to appear unconcerned, walked rapidly back to his house. On
the street of his own town, before the eyes of men, he had been snubbed
by a school-teacher. And such a schoolteacher!

Mr. Worthington, as he paced his library burning with the shame of this
occurrence, remembered that he had had to glance at her twice before it
came over him who she was. His first sensation had been astonishment.
And now, in spite of his bitter anger, he had to acknowledge that the
face had made an impression on him--a fact that only served to increase
his rage. A conviction grew upon him that it was a face which his son,
or any other man, would not be likely to forget. He himself could not
forget it.

In the meantime Cynthia had reached her home, her cheeks still smarting,
conscious that people had stared at her. This much, of course, she
knew--that Brampton believed Bob Worthington to be in love with her: and
the knowledge at such times made her so miserable that the thought of
Jethro’s isolation alone deterred her from asking Miss Lucretia Penniman
for a position in Boston. For she wrote to Miss Lucretia about her life
and her reading, as that lady had made her promise to do. She sat down
now at the cherry chest of drawers that was also a desk, to write: not
to pour out her troubles, for she never had done that,--but to calm her
mind by drawing little character sketches of her pupils. But she had
only written the words, “My dear Miss Lucretia,” when she looked out of
the window and saw Judge Graves coming up the path, and ran to open the
door for him.

“How do you do, Judge?” she said, for she recognized Mr. Graves as
one of her few friends in Brampton. “I have sent to Boston for the new
reader, but it has not come.”

The judge took her hand and pressed it and led her into the little
sitting room. His face was very stern, but his eyes, which had flung
fire at Mr. Dodd, looked at her with a vast compassion. Her heart
misgave her.

“My dear,” he said,--it was long since the judge had called any woman
“my dear,”--“I have bad news for you. The committee have decided that
you cannot teach any longer in the Brampton school.”

“Oh, Judge,” she answered, trying to force back the tears which would
come, “I have tried so hard. I had begun to believe that I could fill
the place.”

“Fill the place!” cried the judge, startling her with his sudden anger.
“No woman in the state can fill it better than you.”

“Then why am I dismissed?” she asked breathlessly.

The judge looked at her in silence, his blue lips quivering. Sometimes
even he found it hard to tell the truth. And yet he had come to tell
it, that she might suffer less. He remembered the time when Isaac D.
Worthington had done him a great wrong.

“You are dismissed,” he said, “because Mr. Worthington has come
home, and because the two other members of the committee are dogs and
cowards.” Mr. Graves never minced matters when he began, and his voice
shook with passion. “If Mr. Errol had examined you, and you had your
certificate, it might have been different. Errol is not a sycophant.
Worthington does not hold his mortgage.”

“Mortgage!” exclaimed Cynthia. The word always struck terror to her
soul.

“Mr. Worthington holds Mr. Hill’s mortgage,” said Mr. Graves, more than
ever beside himself at the sight of her suffering. “That man’s tyranny
is not to be borne. We will not give up, Cynthia. I will fight him in
this matter if it takes my last ounce of strength, so help me God!”

Mortgage! Cynthia sank down in the chair by the desk. In spite of the
misery the news had brought, the thought that his father, too, who was
fighting Jethro Bass as a righteous man, dealt in mortgages and coerced
men to do his will, was overwhelming. So she sat for a while staring at
the landscape on the old wall paper.

“I will go to Coniston to-night,” she said at last.

“No,” cried the judge, seizing her shoulder in his excitement, “no. Do
you think that I have been your friend--that I am your friend?”

“Oh, Judge Graves--”

“Then stay here, where you are. I ask it as a favor to me. You need not
go to the school to-morrow--indeed, you cannot. But stay here for a day
or two at least, and if there is any justice left in a free country, we
shall have it. Will you stay, as a favor to me?”

“I will stay, since you ask it,” said Cynthia. “I will do what you think
right.”

Her voice was firmer than he expected--much firmer. He glanced at her
quickly, with something very like admiration in his eye.

“You are a good woman, and a brave woman,” he said, and with this
somewhat surprising tribute he took his departure instantly.

Cynthia was left to her thoughts, and these were harassing and sorrowful
enough. One idea, however, persisted through them all. Mr. Worthington,
whose power she had lived long enough in Brampton to know, was an unjust
man and a hypocrite. That thought was both sweet and bitter: sweet, as a
retribution; and bitter, because he was Bob’s father. She realized, now,
that Bob knew these things, and she respected and loved him the more,
if that were possible, because he had refrained from speaking of them to
her. And now another thought came, and though she put it resolutely from
her, persisted. Was she not justified now in marrying him? The reasoning
was false, so she told herself. She had no right to separate Bob from
his father, whatever his father might be. Did not she still love Jethro
Bass? Yes, but he had renounced his ways. Her heart swelled gratefully
as she spoke the words to herself, and she reflected that he, at least,
had never been a hypocrite.

Of one thing she was sure, now. In the matter of the school she had
right on her side, and she must allow Judge Graves to do whatever
he thought proper to maintain that right. If Isaac D. Worthington’s
character had been different, this would not have been her decision. Now
she would not leave Brampton in disgrace, when she had done nothing to
merit it. Not that she believed that the judge would prevail against
such mighty odds. So little did she think so that she fell, presently,
into a despondency which in all her troubles had not overtaken her--the
despondency which comes even to the pure and the strong when they feel
the unjust strength of the world against them. In this state her eyes
fell on the letter she had started to Miss Lucretia Penniman, and in
desperation she began to write.

It was a short letter, reserved enough, and quite in character. It was
right that she should defend herself, which she did with dignity, saying
that she believed the committee had no fault to find with her duties,
but that Mr. Worthington had seen fit to bring influence to bear upon
them because of her connection with Jethro Bass.

It was not the whole truth, but Cynthia could not bring herself to
write of that other reason. At the end she asked, very simply, if Miss
Lucretia could find her something to do in Boston in case her dismissal
became certain. Then she put on her coat, and walked to the postoffice
to post the letter, for she resolved that there could be no shame
without reason for it. There was a little more color in her cheeks,
and she held her head high, preparing to be slighted. But she was not
slighted, and got more salutations, if anything, than usual. She was,
indeed, in the right not to hide her head, and policy alone would have
forbade it, had Cynthia thought of policy.



CHAPTER XV

Public opinion is like the wind--it bloweth where it listeth. It
whistled around Brampton the next day, whirling husbands and wives
apart, and families into smithereens. Brampton had a storm all to
itself--save for a sympathetic storm raging in Coniston--and all about a
school-teacher.

Had Cynthia been a certain type of woman, she would have had all the men
on her side and all of her own sex against her. It is a decided point
to be recorded in her favor that she had among her sympathizers as many
women as men. But the excitement of a day long remembered in Brampton
began, for her, when a score or more of children assembled in front of
the little house, tramping down the snow on the grass plots, shouting
for her to come to school with them. Children give no mortgages, or keep
no hardware stores.

Cynthia, trying to read in front of the fire, was all in a tremble at
the sound of the high-pitched little voices she had grown to love, and
she longed to go out and kiss them, every one. Her nature, however,
shrank from any act which might appear dramatic or sensational. She
could not resist going to the window and smiling at them, though they
appeared but dimly--little dancing figures in a mist. And when they
shouted, the more she shook her head and put her finger to her lips in
reproof and vanished from their sight. Then they trooped sadly on to
school, resolved to make matters as disagreeable as possible for poor
Miss Bruce, who had not offended in any way.

Two other episodes worthy of a place in this act of the drama occurred
that morning, and one had to do with Ephraim. Poor Ephraim! His way had
ever been to fight and ask no questions, and in his journey through the
world he had gathered but little knowledge of it. He had limped home the
night before in a state of anger of which Cynthia had not believed him
capable, and had reappeared in the sitting room in his best suit of
blue.

“Where are you going, Cousin Eph?” Cynthia had asked suspiciously.

“Never you mind, Cynthy.”

“But I do mind,” she said, catching hold of his sleeve. “I won’t let you
go until you confess.”

“I’m a-goin’ to tell Isaac Worthington what I think of him, that’s whar
I’m a-goin’,” cried Ephraim “what I always hev thought of him sence he
sent a substitute to the war an’ acted treasonable here to home talkin’
ag’in’ Lincoln.”

“Oh, Cousin Eph, you mustn’t,” said Cynthia, clinging to him with all
her strength in her dismay. It had taken every whit of her influence
to persuade him to relinquish his purpose. Cynthia knew very well that
Ephraim meant to lay hands on Mr. Worthington, and it would indeed have
been a disastrous hour for the first citizen if the old soldier had ever
got into his library. Cynthia pointed out, as best she might, that it
would be an evil hour for her, too, and that her cause would be greatly
injured by such a proceeding; she knew very well that it would ruin
Ephraim, but he would not have listened to such an argument.

The next thing he wished to do was to go to Coniston and rouse Jethro.
Cynthia’s heart stood still when he proposed this, for it touched upon
her greatest fear,--which had impelled her to go to Coniston. But she
had hoped and believed that Jethro, knowing her feelings, would do
nothing--since for her sake he had chosen to give up his power. Now an
acute attack of rheumatism had come to her rescue, and she succeeded in
getting Ephraim off to bed, swathed in bandages.

The next morning he had insisted upon hobbling away to the postoffice,
where in due time he was discovered by certain members of the Brampton
Club nailing to the wall a new engraving of Abraham Lincoln, and draping
it with a little silk flag he had bought in Boston. By which it will be
seen that a potion of the Club were coming back to their old haunt. This
portion, it may be surmised, was composed of such persons alone as were
likely to be welcomed by the postmaster. Some of these had grievances
against Mr. Worthington or Mr. Flint; others, in more prosperous
circumstances, might have been moved by envy of these gentlemen; still
others might have been actuated largely by righteous resentment at what
they deemed oppression by wealth and power. These members who came that
morning comprised about one-fourth of those who formerly had been in
the habit of dropping in for a chat, and their numbers were a fair
indication of the fact that those who from various motives took the part
of the schoolteacher in Brampton were as one to three.

It is not necessary to repeat their expressions of indignation and
sympathy. There was a certain Mr. Gamaliel Ives in the town, belonging
to an old Brampton family, who would have been the first citizen if
that other first citizen had not, by his rise to wealth and power, so
completely overshadowed him. Mr. Ives owned a small mill on Coniston
Water below the town. He fairly bubbled over with civic pride, and he
was an authority on all matters pertaining to Brampton’s history. He
knew the “Hymn to Coniston” by heart. But we are digressing a
little. Mr. Ives, like that other Gamaliel of old, had exhorted his
fellow-townsmen to wash their hands of the controversy. But he was
an intimate of Judge Graves, and after talking with that gentleman he
became a partisan overnight; and when he had stopped to get his mail he
had been lured behind the window by the debate in progress. He was in
the midst of some impromptu remarks when he recognized a certain brisk
step behind him, and Isaac D. Worthington himself entered the sanctum!

It must be explained that Mr. Worthington sometimes had an important
letter to be registered which he carried to the postoffice with his own
hands. On such occasions--though not a member of the Brampton Club--he
walked, as an overlord will, into any private place he chose, and
recognized no partitions or barriers. Now he handed the letter
(addressed to a certain person in Cambridge, Massachusetts) to the
postmaster.

“You will kindly register that and give me a receipt, Mr. Prescott,” he
said.

Ephraim turned from his contemplation of the features of the martyred
President, and on his face was something of the look it might have worn
when he confronted his enemies over the log-works at Five Forks. No, for
there was a vast contempt in his gaze now, and he had had no contempt
for the Southerners, and would have shaken hands with any of them
the moment the battle was over. Mr. Worthington, in spite of himself,
recoiled a little before that look, fearing, perhaps, physical violence.

“I hain’t a-goin’ to hurt you, Mr. Worthington,” Ephraim said, “but I am
a-goin’ to ask you to git out in front, and mighty quick. If you hev any
business with the postmaster, there’s the window,” and Ephraim pointed
to it with his twisted finger. “I don’t allow nobody but my friends
here, Mr. Worthington, and people I respect.”

Mr. Worthington looked--well, eye-witnesses give various versions as
to how he looked. All agree that his lip trembled; some say his eyes
watered: at any rate, he quailed, stood a moment undecided, and then
swung on his heel and walked to the partition door. At this safe
distance he turned.

“Mr. Prescott,” he said, his voice quivering with passion and
perhaps another emotion, “I will make it my duty to report to the
postmaster-general the manner in which this office is run. Instead of
attending to your business, you make the place a resort for loafers and
idlers. Good morning, sir.”

Ten minutes later Mr. Flint himself came to register the letter. But it
was done at the window, and the loafers and idlers were still there.

The curtain had risen again, indeed, and the action was soon fast enough
for the most impatient that day. No sooner had the town heard with bated
breath of the expulsion of the first citizen from the inner sanctuary of
the post-office, than the news of another event began to go the rounds.
Mr. Worthington had other and more important things to think about than
minor postmasters, and after his anger and--yes, and momentary fear
had subsided, he forgot the incident except to make a mental note
to remember to deprive Mr. Prescott of his postmastership, which he
believed could be done readily enough now that Jethro Bass was out of
the way. Then he had stepped into the bank, which he had come to regard
as his own bank, as he regarded most institutions in Brampton. He had,
in the old days, been president of it, as we know. He stepped into the
bank, and then--he stepped out again.

Most people have experienced that sickly feeling of the diaphragm which
sometimes comes from a sadden shock. Mr. Worthington had it now as he
hurried up the street, and he presently discovered that he was walking
in the direction opposite to that of his own home. He crossed the
street, made a pretence of going into Mr. Goldthwaite’s drug store, and
hurried back again. When he reached his own library, he found Mr. Flint
busy there at his desk. Mr. Flint rose. Mr. Worthington sat down
and began to pull the papers about in a manner which betrayed to his
seneschal (who knew every mood of his master) mental perturbation.

“Flint,” he said at last, striving his best for an indifferent accent,
“Jethro Bass is here--I ran across him just now drawing money in the
bank.”

“I could have told you that this morning,” answered Mr. Flint. “Wheeler,
who runs errands for him in Coniston, drove him in this morning, and
he’s been with Peleg Hartington for two hours over Sherman’s livery
stable.”

An interval of silence followed, during which Mr. Worthington shuffled
with his letters and pretended to read them.

“Graves has called a mass meeting to-night, I understand,” he remarked
in the same casual way. “The man’s a demagogue, and mad as a loon. I
believe he sent back one of our passes once, didn’t he? I suppose Bass
has come in to get Hartington to work up the meeting. They’ll be laughed
out of the town hall, or hissed out.”

“I guess you’ll find Bass has come down for something else,” said Mr.
Flint, looking up from a division report.

“What do you mean?” demanded Mr. Worthington, changing his attitude to
one of fierceness. But he was well aware that whatever tone he took with
his seneschal, he never fooled him.

“I mean what I told you yesterday,” said Flint, “that you’ve stirred up
the dragon.”

Even Mr. Flint did not know how like a knell his words sounded in Isaac
Worthington’s ears.

“Nonsense!” he cried, “you’re talking nonsense, Flint. We maimed him too
thoroughly for that. He hasn’t power enough left to carry his own town.”

“All right,” said the seneschal.

“What do you mean by that?” said his master, with extreme irritation.

“I mean what I said yesterday, that we haven’t maimed him at all. He had
his own reasons for going into his hole, and he never would have come
out again if you hadn’t goaded him. Now he’s out, and we’ll have to step
around pretty lively, I can tell you, or he’ll maim us.”

All of which goes to show that Mr. Flint had some notion of men and
affairs. He became, as may be predicted, the head of many material
things in later days, and he may sometime reappear in company with other
characters in this story.

The sickly feeling in Mr. Worthington’s diaphragm had now returned.

“I think you will find you are mistaken, Flint,” he said, attempting
dignity now. “Very much mistaken.”

“Very well,” said Flint, “perhaps I am. But I believe you’ll find he
left for the capital on the eleven o’clock, and if you take the trouble
to inquire from Bedding you will probably learn that the Throne Room is
bespoken for the session.”

All of that which Mr. Flint had predicted turned out to be true. The
dragon had indeed waked up. It all began with the news Milly Skinner had
got from the stage driver, imparted to Jethro as he sat reading about
Hiawatha. And terrible indeed had been that awakening. This dragon did
not bellow and roar and lash his tail when he was roused, but he stood
up, and there seemed to emanate from him a fire which frightened poor
Milly Skinner, upset though she was by the news of Cynthia’s dismissal.
O, wondrous and paradoxical might of love, which can tame the most
powerful of beasts, and stir them again into furies by a touch!

Coniston was the first to tremble, as though the forces stretching
themselves in the tannery house were shaking the very ground, and the
name of Jethro Bass took on once more, as by magic, a terrible meaning.
When Vesuvius is silent, pygmies may make faces on the very lip of the
crater, and they on the slopes forget the black terror of the fiery
hail. Jake Wheeler himself, loyal as he was, did not care to look into
the crater now that he was summoned; but a force pulled him all the way
to the tannery house. He left behind him an awe-stricken gathering at
the store, composed of inhabitants who had recently spoken slightingly
of the volcano.

We are getting a little mixed in our metaphors between lions and dragons
and volcanoes, and yet none of them are too strong to represent Jethro
Bass when he heard that Isaac Worthington had had the teacher dismissed
from Brampton lower school. He did not stop to reason then that action
might distress her. The beast in him awoke again; the desire for
vengeance on a man whom he had hated most of his life, and who now had
dared to cause pain to the woman whom he loved with all his soul, and
even idolize, was too great to resist. He had no thought of resisting
it, for the waters of it swept over his soul like the Atlantic over a
lost continent. He would crush Isaac Worthington if it took the last
breath from his body.

Jake went to the tannery house and received his orders--orders of which
he made a great mystery afterward at the store, although they consisted
simply of directions to be prepared to drive Jethro to Brampton the next
morning. But the look of the man had frightened Jake. He had never seen
vengeance so indelibly written on that face, and he had never before
realized the terrible power of vengeance. Mr. Wheeler returned from that
meeting in such a state of trepidation that he found it necessary to
accompany Rias to a certain keg in the cellar; after which he found his
tongue. His description of Jethro’s appearance awed his hearers, and
Jake declared that he would not be in Isaac Worthington’s shoes for all
of Isaac Worthington’s money. There were others right here in Coniston,
Jake hinted, who might now find it convenient to emigrate to the far
West.

Jethro’s face had not changed when Jake drove him out of Coniston the
next morning. Good Mr. Satterlee saw it, and felt that the visit he had
wished to make would have been useless; Mr. Amos Cuthbert and Mr. Sam
Price saw it, from a safe distance within the store, and it is a fact
that Mr. Price seriously thought of taking Mr. Wheeler’s advice about
a residence in the West; Mr. Cuthbert, of a sterner nature, made up his
mind to be hung and quartered. A few minutes before Jethro walked into
his office over the livery stable, Senator Peleg Hartington would have
denied, with that peculiar and mournful scorn of which he was master,
that Jethro Bass could ever again have any influence over him. Peleg
was, indeed, at that moment preparing, in his own way, to make overtures
to the party of Isaac D. Worthington. Jethro walked into the office,
leaving Jake below with Mr. Sherman; and Senator Hartington was very
glad he had not made the overtures. And when he accompanied Jethro to
the station when he left for the capital, the senator felt that the eyes
of men were upon him.

And Cynthia? Happily, Cynthia passed the day in ignorance that Jethro
had gone through Brampton. Ephraim, though he knew of it, did not
speak of it when he came home to his dinner; Mr. Graves had called, and
informed her of the meeting in the town hall that night.

“It is our only chance,” he said obdurately, in answer to her protests.
“We must lay the case before the people of Brampton. If they have not
the courage to right the wrong, and force your reinstatement through
public opinion, there is nothing more to be done.”

To Cynthia, the idea of having a mass meeting concerning herself was
particularly repellent.

“Oh, Judge Graves!” she cried, “if there isn’t any other way, please
drop the matter. There are plenty of teachers who will--be acceptable to
everybody.”

“Cynthia,” said the judge, “I can understand that this publicity is
very painful to you. I beg you to remember that we are contending for a
principle. In such cases the individual must be sacrificed to the common
good.”

“But I cannot go to the meeting--I cannot.”

“No,” said the judge; “I don’t think that will be necessary.”

After he was gone, she could think of nothing but the horror of having
her name--yes, and her character--discussed in that public place; and
it seemed to her, if she listened, she could hear a clatter of tongues
throughout the length of Brampton Street, and that she must fain stop
her ears or go mad. The few ladies who called during the day out of
kindness or curiosity, or both, only added to her torture. She was not
one who could open her heart to acquaintances: the curious ones got but
little satisfaction, and the kind ones thought her cold, and they did
not perceive that she was really grateful for their little attentions.
Gratitude, on such occasions, does not always consist in pouring out
one’s troubles in the laps of visitors.

So the visitors went home, wondering whether it were worth while after
all to interest themselves in the cause of such a self-contained and
self-reliant young woman. In spite of all her efforts, Cynthia had never
wholly succeeded in making most of the Brampton ladies believe that she
did not secretly deem herself above them. They belonged to a reserved
race themselves; but Cynthia had a reserve which was even different from
their own.

As night drew on the predictions of Mr. Worthington seemed likely to be
fulfilled, and it looked as if Judge Graves would have a useless bill
to pay for gas in the new town hall. The judge had never been a man who
could compel a following, and he had no magnetism with which to lead
a cause: the town tradesmen, especially those in the new brick block,
would be chary as to risking the displeasure of their best customer.
At half-past seven Mr. Graves: came in, alone, and sat on the platform
staring grimly at his gas. Is there a lecturer, or, a playwright, or
a politician, who has not, at one time or another, been in the judge’s
place? Who cannot sympathize with him as he watched the thin and
hesitating stream of people out of the corner of his eye as they came in
at the door? The judge despised them with all his soul, but it is human
nature not to wish to sit in a hall or a theatre that is three-quarters
empty.

At sixteen minutes to eight a mild excitement occurred, an incident of
some significance which served to detain many waverers. Senator Peleg
Hartington walked up the aisle, and the judge rose and shook him by the
hand, and as Deacon Hartington he was invited to sit on the platform.
The senator’s personal influence was not to be ignored; and it had
sufficed to carry his district in the last election against the
Worthington forces, in spite of the abdication of Jethro Bass. Mr. Page,
the editor of the Clarion, Senator Hartington’s organ, was also on the
platform. But where was Mr. Ives? Where was that Gamaliel who had been
such a warm partisan in the postoffice that morning?

“Saw him outside the hall--wahn’t but ten minutes ago,” said Deacon
Hartington, sadly; “thought he was a-comin’ in.”

Eight o’clock came, and no Mr. Ives; ten minutes past--fifteen minutes
past. If the truth must be told, Mr. Ives had been on the very threshold
of the hall, and one glance at the poor sprinkling of people there had
decided him. Mr. Ives had a natural aversion to being laughed at, and as
he walked back on the darker side of the street he wished heartily that
he had stuck to his original Gamaliel-advocacy of no interference, of
allowing the Supreme Judge to decide. Such opinions were inevitably
just, Mr. Ives was well aware, though not always handed down
immediately. If he were to humble the first citizen, Mr. Ives reflected
that a better opportunity might present itself. The whistle of the
up-train served to strengthen his resolution, for he was reminded
thereby that his mill often had occasion to ask favors of the Truro
Railroad.

In the meantime it was twenty minutes past eight in the town hall, and
Mr. Graves had not rapped for order. Deacon Hartington sat as motionless
as a stork on the borders of a glassy lake at sunrise, the judge had
begun seriously to estimate the gas bill, and Mr. Page had chewed up the
end of a pencil. There was one, at least, in the audience of whom the
judge could be sure. A certain old soldier in blue sat uncompromisingly
on the front bench with his hands crossed over the head of his stick;
but the ladies and gentlemen nearest the door were beginning to vanish,
one by one, silently as ghosts, when suddenly the judge sat up. He would
have rubbed his eyes, had he been that kind of a man. Four persons had
entered the hall--he was sure of it--and with no uncertain steps as
if frightened by its emptiness. No, they came boldly. And after them
trooped others, and still others were heard in the street beyond, not
whispering, but talking in the unmistakable tones of people who had more
coming behind them. Yes, and more came. It was no illusion, or delusion:
there they were filling the hall as if they meant to stay, and buzzing
with excitement. The judge was quivering with excitement now, but
he, too, was only a spectator of the drama. And what a drama, with a
miracle-play for Brampton!

Mr. Page rose from his chair and leaned over the edge of the platform
that something might be whispered in his ear. The news, whatever it
was, was apparently electrifying, and after the first shock he turned to
impart it to Mr. Graves; but turned too late, for the judge had already
rapped for order and was clearing his throat. He could not account for
this extraordinary and unlooked-for audience, among whom he spied many
who had thought it wiser not to protest against the dictum of the
first citizen, and many who had professed to believe that the teacher’s
connection with Jethro Bass was a good and sufficient reason for
dismissal. The judge was prepared to take advantage of the tide,
whatever its cause.

“Ladies and gentlemen,” he said, “I take the liberty of calling this
meeting to order. And before a chairman be elected, I mean to ask your
indulgence to explain my purposes in requesting the use of this hall
to-night. In our system of government, the inalienable and most precious
gift--”

Whatever the gift was, the judge never explained. He paused at the
words, and repeated them, and stopped altogether because no one was
paying any attention to him. The hall was almost full, the people
had risen, with a hum, and as one man had turned toward the door. Mr.
Gamaliel Ives was triumphantly marching down the aisle, and with him
was--well, another person. Nay, personage would perhaps be the better
word.

Let us go back for a moment. There descended from that train of which
we have heard the whistle a lady with features of no ordinary moulding,
with curls and a string bonnet and a cloak that seemed strangely
to harmonize with the lady’s character. She had the way of one in
authority, and Mr. Sherman himself ran to open the door of his only
closed carriage, and the driver galloped off with her all the way to the
Brampton House. Once there, the lady seized the pen as a soldier seizes
the sword, and wrote her name in most uncompromising characters on the
register, Miss Lucretia Penniman, Boston. Then she marched up to her
room.

Miss Lucretia Penniman, author of the “Hymn to Coniston,” in the
reflected glory of whose fame Brampton had shone for thirty years!
Whose name was lauded and whose poem was recited at every Fourth of
July celebration, that the very children might learn it and honor its
composer! Stratford-on-Avon is not prouder of Shakespeare than Brampton
of Miss Lucretia, and now she was come back, unheralded, to her
birthplace. Mr. Raines, the clerk, looked at the handwriting on the
book, and would not believe his own sight until it was vouched for by
sundry citizens who had followed the lady from the station--on foot. And
then there was a to-do.

Send for Mr. Gamaliel Ives; send for Miss Bruce, the librarian; send
for Mr. Page, editor of the Clarion, and notify the first citizen. He,
indeed, could not be sent for, but had he known of her coming he would
undoubtedly have had her met at the portals and presented with the keys
in gold. Up and down the street flew the news which overshadowed and
blotted out all other, and the poor little school-teacher was forgotten.

One of these notables was at hand, though he did not deserve to be.
Mr. Gamaliel Ives sent up his card to Miss Lucretia, and was shown
deferentially into the parlor, where he sat mopping his brow and growing
hot and cold by turns. How would the celebrity treat him? The celebrity
herself answered the question by entering the room in such stately
manner as he had expected, to the rustle of the bombazine. Whereupon Mr.
Ives bounced out of his chair and bowed, though his body was not formed
to bend that way.

“Miss Penniman,” he exclaimed, “what an honor for Brampton! And what a
pleasure, the greater because so unexpected! How cruel not to have given
us warning, and we could have greeted you as your great fame deserves!
You could never take time from your great duties to accept the
invitations of our literary committee, alas! But now that you are
here, you will find a warm welcome, Miss Penniman. How long it has
been--thirty years,--you see I know it to a day, thirty years since you
left us. Thirty years, I may say, we have kept burning the vestal fire
in your worship, hoping for this hour.”

Miss Lucretia may have had her own ideas about the propriety of the
reference to the vestal fire.

“Gamaliel,” she said sharply, “straighten up and don’t talk nonsense to
me. I’ve had you on my knee, and I knew your mother and father.”

Gamaliel did straighten up, as though Miss Lucretia had applied a lump
of ice to the small of his back. So it is when the literary deities,
vestal or otherwise, return to their Stratfords. There are generally
surprises in store for the people they have had on their knees, and for
others.

“Gamaliel,” said Miss Lucretia, “I want to see the prudential committee
for the village district.”

“The prudential committee!” Mr. Ives fairly shrieked the words in his
astonishment.

“I tried to speak plainly,” said Miss Lucretia. “Who are on that
committee?”

“Ezra Graves,” said Mr. Ives, as though mechanically compelled, for his
head was spinning round. “Ezra Graves always has run it, until now. But
he’s in the town hall.”

“What’s he doing there?”

Mr. Ives was no fool. Some inkling of the facts began to shoot through
his brain, and he saw his chance.

“He called a mass meeting to protest against the dismissal of a
teacher.”

“Gamaliel,” said Miss Lucretia, “you will conduct me to that meeting. I
will get my cloak.”

Mr. Ives wasted no time in the interval, and he fairly ran out into the
office. Miss Lucretia Penniman was in town, and would attend the
mass meeting. Now, indeed, it was to be a mass meeting. Away flew the
tidings, broadcast, and people threw off their carpet slippers and
dressing gowns, and some who had gone to bed got up again. Mr. Dodd
heard it, and changed his shoes three times, and his intentions three
times three. Should he go, or should he not? Already he heard in
imagination the first distant note of the populace, and he was not of
the metal to defend a Bastille or a Louvre for his royal master with the
last drop of his blood.

In the meantime Gamaliel Ives was conducting Miss Lucretia toward
the town hall, and speaking in no measured tones of indignation of the
cringing, truckling qualities of that very Mr. Dodd. The injustice to
Miss Wetherell, which Mr. Ives explained as well as he could, made his
blood boil: so he declared.

And note we are back again at the meeting, when the judge, with his
hand on his Adam’s apple, is pronouncing the word “gift.” Mr. Ives
is triumphantly marching down the aisle, escorting the celebrity of
Brampton to the platform, and quite aware of the heart burnings of
his fellow-citizens on the benches. And Miss Lucretia, with that stern
composure with which celebrities accept public situations, follows up
the steps as of right and takes the chair he assigns her beside the
chairman. The judge, still grasping his Adam’s apple, stares at the
newcomer in amazement, and recognizes her in spite of the years, and
trembles. Miss Lucretia Penniman! Blucher was not more welcome to
Wellington, or Lafayette to Washington, than was Miss Lucretia to
Ezra Graves as he turned his back on the audience and bowed to her
deferentially. Then he turned again, cleared his throat once more to
collect his senses, and was about to utter the familiar words, “We have
with us tonight,” when they were taken out of his mouth--taken out of
his mouth by one who had in all conscience stolen enough thunder for one
man,--Mr. Gamaliel Ives.

“Mr. Chairman,” said Mr. Ives, taking a slight dropping of the judge’s
lower jaw for recognition, “and ladies and gentlemen of Brampton. It is
our great good fortune to have with us to-night, most unexpectedly,
one of whom Brampton is, and for many years has been, justly proud.”
 (Cheers.) “One whose career Brampton has followed with a mother’s eyes
and with a mother’s heart. One who has chosen a broader field for
the exercise of those great powers with which Nature endowed her than
Brampton could give. One who has taken her place among the luminaries of
literature of her time.” (Cheers.) “One who has done more than any
other woman of her generation toward the uplifting of the sex which she
honors.” (Cheers and clapping of hands.) “And one who, though her lot
has fallen among the great, has not forgotten the home of her childhood.
For has she not written those beautiful lines which we all know by
heart?

     ‘Ah, Coniston! Thy lordly form I see
     Before mine eyes in exile drear.’

“Mr. Chairman and fellow-townsmen and women, I have the extreme honor
of introducing to you one whom we all love and revere, the author of
the ‘Hymn to Coniston,’ the editor of the Woman’s Hour, Miss Lucretia
Penniman.’” (Loud and long-continued applause.)

Well might Brampton be proud, too, of Gamaliel Ives, president of
its literary club, who could make such a speech as this on such short
notice. If the truth be told, the literary club had sent Miss Lucretia
no less than seven invitations, and this was the speech Mr. Ives had
intended to make on those seven occasions. It was unquestionably a neat
speech, and Judge Graves or no other chairman should cheat him out of
making it. Mr. Ives, with a wave of his hand toward the celebrity, sat
down by no means dissatisfied with himself. What did he care how the
judge glared. He did not see how stiffly Miss Lucretia sat in her chair.
She could not take him on her knee then, but she would have liked to.

Miss Lucretia rose, and stood quite as stiffly as she had sat, and the
judge rose, too. He was very angry, but this was not the time to get
even with Mr. Ives. As it turned out, he did not need to bother about
getting even.

“Ladies and gentlemen,” said he, “in the absence of any other chairman I
take pleasure in introducing to you Miss Lucretia Penniman.”

More applause was started, but Miss Lucretia put a stop to it by the
lifting of a hand. Then there was a breathless silence. Then she
cast her eyes around the hall, as though daring any one to break that
silence, and finally they rested upon Mr. Ives.

“Mr. Chairman,” she said, with an inclination toward the judge, “my
friends--for I hope you will be my friends when I have finished” (Miss
Lucretia made it quite clear by her tone that it entirely depended upon
them whether they would be or not), “I understood when I came here that
this was to be a mass meeting to protest against an injustice, and not a
feast of literature and oratory, as Gamaliel Ives seems to suppose.”

She paused, and when the first shock of amazement was past an audible
titter ran through the audience, and Mr. Ives squirmed visibly.

“Am I right, Mr. Chairman?” asked Miss Lucretia.

“You are unquestionably right, Miss Penniman,” answered the chairman,
rising, “unquestionably.”

“Then I will proceed,” said Miss Lucretia. “I wrote the Hymn to
Coniston’ many years ago, when I was younger, and yet it is true that I
have always remembered Brampton with kindly feelings. The friends of our
youth are dear to us. We look indulgently upon their failings, even as
they do on ours. I have scanned the faces here in the hall to-night, and
there are some that have not changed beyond recognition in thirty years.
Ezra Graves I remember, and it is a pleasure to see him in that chair.”
 (Mr. Graves inclined his head, reverently. None knew how the inner man
exulted.) “But there was one who was often in Brampton in those days,”
 Miss Lucretia continued, “whom we all loved and with whom we found
no fault, and I confess that when I have thought of Brampton I have
oftenest thought of her. Her name,” said Miss Lucretia, her hand now in
the reticule, “her name was Cynthia Ware.”

There was a decided stir among the audience, and many leaned forward to
catch every word.

“Even old people may have an ideal,” said Miss Lucretia, “and you will
forgive me for speaking of mine. Where should I speak of it, if not in
this village, among those who knew her and among their children? Cynthia
Ware, although she was younger than I, has been my ideal, and is
still. She was the daughter of the Rev. Samuel Ware of Coniston, and
a descendant of Captain Timothy Prescott, whom General Stark called
‘Honest Tim.’ She was, to me, all that a woman should be, in intellect,
in her scorn of all that is ignoble and false, and in her loyalty to her
friends.” Here the handkerchief came out of the reticule. “She went to
Boston to teach school, and some time afterward I was offered a position
in New York, and I never saw her again. But she married in Boston a man
of learning and literary attainments, though his health was feeble and
he was poor, William Wetherell.” (Another stir.) “Mr. Wetherell was a
gentleman--Cynthia Ware could have married no other--and he came of good
and honorable people in Portsmouth. Very recently I read a collection of
letters which he wrote to the Newcastle Guardian, which some of you may
know. I did not trust my own judgment as to those letters, but I took
them to an author whose name is known wherever English is spoken, but
which I will not mention. And the author expressed it as his opinion, in
writing to me, that William Wetherell was undoubtedly a genius of a high
order, and that he would have been so recognized if life had given him
a chance. Mr. Wetherell, after his wife died, was taken in a dying
condition to Coniston, where he was forced, in order to earn his living,
to become the storekeeper there. But he took his books with him, and
found time to write the letters of which I have spoken, and to give his
daughter an early education such as few girls have.

“My friends, I am rejoiced to see that the spirit of justice and the
sense of right are as strong in Brampton as they used to be--strong
enough to fill this town hall to overflowing because a teacher has been
wrongly--yes, and iniquitously--dismissed from the lower school.” (Here
there was a considerable stir, and many wondered whether Miss Lucretia
was aware of the irony in her words.) “I say wrongly and iniquitously,
because I have had the opportunity in Boston this winter of learning to
know and love that teacher. I am not given to exaggeration, my friends,
and when I tell you that I know her, that her character is as high and
pure as her mother’s, I can say no more. I am here to tell you this
to-night because I do not believe you know her as I do. During the
seventy years I have lived I have grown to have but little faith in
outward demonstration, to believe in deeds and attainments rather than
expressions. And as for her fitness to teach, I believe that even the
prudential committee could find no fault with that.” (I wonder whether
Mr. Dodd was in the back of the hall.) “I can find no fault with it. I
am constantly called upon to recommend teachers, and I tell you I should
have no hesitation in sending Cynthia Wetherell to a high school, young
as she is.”

“And now, my friends, why was she dismissed? I have heard the facts,
though not from her. Cynthia Wetherell does not know that I have come
to Brampton, unless somebody has told her, and did not know that I was
coming. I have heard the facts, and I find it difficult to believe that
so great a wrong could be attempted against a woman, and if the name
of Cynthia Wetherell had meant no more to me than the letters in it I
should have travelled twice as far as Brampton, old as I am, to do my
utmost to right that wrong. I give you my word of honor that I have
never been so indignant in my life. I do not come here to stir up
enmities among you, and I will mention no more names. I prefer to
believe that the prudential committee of this district has made a
mistake, the gravity of which they must now realize, and that they will
reinstate Cynthia Wetherell to-morrow. And if they should not of their
own free will, I have only to look around this meeting to be convinced
that they will be compelled to. Compelled to, my friends, by the sense
of justice and the righteous indignation of the citizens of Brampton.”

Miss Lucretia sat down, her strong face alight with the spirit that
was in her. Not the least of the compelling forces in this world is
righteous anger, and when it is exercised by a man or a woman whose life
has been a continual warfare against the pests of wrong, it is well-nigh
irresistible. While you could count five seconds the audience sat
silent, and then began such tumult and applause as had never been seen
in Brampton--all started, so it is said, by an old soldier in the front
row with his stick. Isaac D. Worthington, sitting alone in the library
of his mansion, heard it, and had no need to send for Mr. Flint to ask
what it was, or who it was had fired the Third Estate. And Mr. Dodd
heard it. He may have been in the hall, but now he sat at home, seeing
visions of the lantern, and he would have fled to the palace had he
thought to get any sympathy from his sovereign. No, Mr. Dodd did not
hold the Bastille or even fight for it. Another and a better man gave
up the keys, for heroes are sometimes hidden away in meek and retiring
people who wear spectacles and have a stoop to their shoulders. Long
before the excitement died away a dozen men were on their feet shouting
at the chairman, and among them was the tall, stooping man with
spectacles. He did not shout, but Judge Graves saw him and made up his
mind that this was the man to speak. The chairman raised his hand and
rapped with his gavel, and at length he had obtained silence.

“Ladies and gentlemen,” he said, “I am going to recognize Mr. Hill of
the prudential committee, and ask him to step up on the platform.”

There fell another silence, as absolute as the first, when Mr. Hill
walked down the aisle and climbed the steps. Indeed, people were
stupefied, for the feed dealer was a man who had never opened his mouth
in town-meeting; who had never taken an initiative of any kind; who had
allowed other men to take advantage of him, and had never resented it.
And now he was going to speak. Would he defend the prudential committee,
or would he declare for the teacher? Either course, in Mr. Hill’s case,
required courage, and he had never been credited with any. If Mr. Hill
was going to speak at all, he was going to straddle.

He reached the platform, bowed irresolutely to the chairman, and then
stood awkwardly with one knee bent, peering at his audience over his
glasses. He began without any address whatever.

“I want to say,” he began in a low voice, “that I had no intention of
coming to this meeting. And I am going to confess--I am going to confess
that I was afraid to come.” He raised his voice a little defiantly a the
words, and paused. One could almost hear the people breathing. “I was
afraid to come for fear that I should do the very thing I am going to
do now. And yet I was impelled to come. I want to say that my conscience
has not been clear since, as a member of the prudential committee, I
gave my consent to the dismissal of Miss Wetherell. I know that I was
influenced by personal and selfish considerations which should have had
no weight. And after listening to Miss Penniman I take this opportunity
to declare, of my own free will, that I will add my vote to that of
Judge Graves to reinstate Miss Wetherell.”

Mr. Hill bowed slightly, and was about to descend the steps when the
chairman, throwing parliamentary dignity to the winds, arose and seized
the feed dealer’s hand. And the people in the hall almost as one man
sprang to their feet and cheered, and some--Ephraim Prescott among
these--even waved their hats and shouted Mr. Hill’s name. A New England
audience does not frequently forget itself, but there were few present
who did not understand the heroism of the man’s confession, who were not
carried away by the simple and dramatic dignity of it. He had no need to
mention Mr. Worthington’s name, or specify the nature of his obligations
to that gentleman. In that hour Jonathan Hill rose high in the respect
of Brampton, and some pressed into the aisle to congratulate him on his
way back to his seat. Not a few were grateful to him for another reason.
He had relieved the meeting of the necessity of taking any further
action: of putting their names, for instance, in their enthusiasm to a
paper which the first citizen might see.

Judge Graves, whose sense of a climax was acute, rapped for order.

“Ladies and gentlemen,” he said, in a voice not wholly free from
emotion, “you will all wish to pay your respects to the famous lady, who
is with us. I see that the Rev. Mr. Sweet is present, and I suggest that
we adjourn, after he has favored us with a prayer.”

As the minister came forward, Deacon Hartington dropped his head and
began to flutter his eyelids. The Rev. Mr. Sweet prayed, and so was
brought to an end the most exciting meeting ever held in Brampton town
hall.

But Miss Lucretia did not like being called “a famous lady.”



CHAPTER XVI

While Miss Lucretia was standing, unwillingly enough, listening to
the speeches that were poured into her ear by various members of the
audience, receiving the incense and myrrh to which so great a celebrity
was entitled, the old soldier hobbled away to his little house as
fast as his three legs would carry him. Only one event in his life had
eclipsed this in happiness--the interview in front of the White House.
He rapped on the window with his stick, thereby frightening Cynthia half
out of her wits as she sat musing sorrowfully by the fire.

“Cousin Ephraim,” she said, taking off his corded hat, “what in the
world’s the matter with you?”

“You’re a schoolmarm again, Cynthy.”

“Do you mean to say?”

“Miss Lucretia Penniman done it.”

“Miss Lucretia Penniman!” Cynthia began to think his rheumatism was
driving him out of his mind.

“You bet. ‘Long toward the openin’ of the engagement there wahn’t
scarcely anybody thar but me, and they was a-goin’. But they come fast
enough when they l’arned she was in town, and she blew ‘em up higher’n
the Petersburg crater. Great Tecumseh, there’s a woman! Next to General
Grant, I’d sooner shake her hand than anybody’s livin’.”

“Do you mean to say that Miss Lucretia is in Brampton and spoke at the
mass meeting?”

“Spoke!” exclaimed Ephraim, “callate she did--some. Tore ‘em all up.
They’d a hung Isaac D. Worthington or Levi Dodd if they’d a had ‘em
thar.”

Cynthia, striving to be calm herself, got him into a chair and took his
stick and straightened out his leg, and then Ephraim told her the story,
and it lost no dramatic effect in his telling. He would have talked
all night. But at length the sound of wheels was heard in the street,
Cynthia flew to the door, and a familiar voice came out of the darkness.

“You need not wait, Gamaliel. No, thank you, I think I will stay at the
hotel.”

Gamaliel was still protesting when Miss Lucretia came in and seized
Cynthia in her arms, and the door was closed behind her.

“Oh, Miss Lucretia, why did you come?” said Cynthia, “if I had known you
would do such a thing, I should never have written that letter. I have
been sorry to-day that I did write it, and now I’m sorrier than ever.”

“Aren’t you glad to see me?” demanded Miss Lucretia.

“Miss Lucretia!”

“What are friends for?” asked Miss Lucretia, patting her hand. “If you
had known how I wished to see you, Cynthia, and I thought a little trip
would be good for such a provincial Bostonian as I am. Dear, dear, I
remember this house. It used to belong to Gabriel Post in my time, and
right across from it was the Social Library, where I have spent so many
pleasant hours with your mother. And this is Ephraim Prescott. I thought
it was, when I saw him sitting in the front row, and I think he must
have been very lonesome there at one time.”

“Yes, ma’am,” said Ephraim, giving her his gnarled fingers; “I was just
sayin’ to Cynthy that I’d ruther shake your hand than anybody’s livin’
exceptin’ General Grant.”

“And I’d rather shake yours than the General’s,” said Miss Lucretia,
for the Woman’s Hour had taken the opposition side in a certain recent
public question concerning women.

“If you’d a fit with him, you wouldn’t say that, Miss Lucrety.”

“I haven’t a word to say against his fighting qualities,” she replied.

“Guess the General might say the same of you,” said Ephraim. “If you’d a
b’en a man, I callate you’d a come out of the war with two stars on your
shoulder. Godfrey, Miss Lucrety, you’d ought to’ve b’en a man.”

“A man!” cried Miss Lucretia, “and ‘stars on my shoulder’! I think this
kind of talk has gone far enough, Ephraim Prescott.”

“Cousin Eph,” said Cynthia, laughing, “you’re no match for Miss
Lucretia, and it’s long past your bedtime.”

“A man!” repeated Miss Lucretia, after he had retired, and after Cynthia
had tried to express her gratitude and had been silenced. They sat
side by side in front of the chimney. “I suppose he meant that as a
compliment. I never yet saw the man I couldn’t back down, and I haven’t
any patience with a woman who gives in to them.” Miss Lucretia poked
vigorously a log which had fallen down, as though that were a man, too,
and she was putting him back in his proper place.

Cynthia, strange to say, did not reply to this remark.

“Cynthia,” said Miss Lucretia, abruptly, “you don’t mean to say that you
are in love!”

Cynthia drew a long breath, and grew as red as the embers.

“Miss Lucretia!” she exclaimed, in astonishment and dismay.

“Well,” Miss Lucretia said, “I should have thought you could have gotten
along, for a while at least, without anything of that kind. My dear,”
 she said leaning toward Cynthia, “who is he?”

Cynthia turned away. She found it very hard to speak of her troubles,
even to Miss Lucretia, and she would have kept this secret even from
Jethro, had it been possible.

“You must let him know his place,” said Miss Lucretia, “and I hope he is
in some degree worthy of you.”

“I do not intend to marry him,” said Cynthia, with head still turned
away.

It was now Miss Lucretia who was silent.

“I came near getting married once,” she said presently, with
characteristic abruptness.

“You!” cried Cynthia, looking around in amazement.

“You see, I am franker than you, my dear--though I never told any one
else. I believe you can keep a secret.”

“Of course I can. Who--was it anyone in Brampton, Miss Lucretia?” The
question was out before Cynthia realized its import. She was turning the
tables with a vengeance.

“It was Ezra Graves,” said Miss Lucretia.

“Ezra Graves!” And then Cynthia pressed Miss Lucretia’s hand in silence,
thinking how strange it was that both of them should have been her
champions that evening.

Miss Lucretia poked the fire again.

“It was shortly after that, when I went to Boston, that I wrote the
‘Hymn to Coniston.’ I suppose we must all be fools once or twice, or we
should not be human.”

“And--weren’t you ever--sorry?” asked Cynthia.

Again there was a silence.

“I could not have done the work I have had to do in the world if I
had married. But I have often wondered whether that work was worth the
while. Such a feeling must come over all workers, occasionally. Yes,”
 said Miss Lucretia, “there have been times when I have been sorry, my
dear, though I have never confessed it to another soul. I am telling you
this for your own good--not mine. If you have the love of a good man,
Cynthia, be careful what you do with it.”

The tears had come into Cynthia’s eyes.

“I should have told you, Miss Lucretia,” she faltered. “If I could have
married him, it would have been easier.”

“Why can’t you marry him?” demanded Miss Lucretia, sharply--to hide her
own emotion.

“His name,” said Cynthia, “is Bob Worthington:”

“Isaac Worthington’s son?”

“Yes.”

Another silence, Miss Lucretia being utterly unable to say anything for
a space.

“Is he a good man?”

Cynthia was on the point of indignant-protest, but she stopped herself
in time.

“I will tell you what he has done,” she answered, “and then you shall
judge for yourself.”

And she told Miss Lucretia, simply, all that Bob had done, and all that
she herself had done.

“He is like his mother, Sarah Hollingsworth; I knew her well,” said
Miss Lucretia. “If Isaac Worthington were a man, he would be down on his
knees begging you to marry his son. He tried hard enough to marry your
own mother.”

“My mother!” exclaimed Cynthia, who had never believed that rumor.

“Yes,” said Miss Lucretia, “and you may thank your stars he didn’t
succeed. I mistrusted him when he was a young man, and now I know that
he hasn’t changed. He is a coward and a hypocrite.”

Cynthia could not deny this.

“And yet,” she said, after a moment’s silence, “I am sure you will say
that I have been right. My own conscience tells me that it is wrong to
deprive Bob of his inheritance, and to separate him from his father,
whatever his father--may be.”

“We shall see what happens in five years,” said Miss Lucretia.

“Five years!” said Cynthia, in spite of herself.

“Jacob served seven for Rachel,” answered Miss Lucretia; “that period is
scarcely too short to test a man, and you are both young.”

“No,” said Cynthia, “I cannot marry him, Miss Lucretia. The world would
accuse me of design, and I feel that I should not be happy. I am sure
that he would never reproach me, even if things went wrong, but--the day
might come when--when he would wish that it had been otherwise.”

Miss Lucretia kissed her.

“You are very young, my dear,” she repeated, “and none of us may say
what changes time may bring forth. And now I must go.”

Cynthia insisted upon walking with her friend down the street to the
hotel--an undertaking that was without danger in Brampton. And it was
only a step, after all. A late moon floated in the sky, throwing in
relief the shadow of the Worthington mansion against the white patches
of snow. A light was still burning in the library.

The next morning after breakfast Miss Lucretia appeared at the little
house, and informed Cynthia that she would walk to school with her.

“But I have not yet been notified by the Committee,” said Cynthia. There
was a knock at the door, and in walked Judge Ezra Graves. Miss Lucretia
may have blushed, but it is certain that Cynthia did. Never had she seen
the judge so spick and span, and he wore the broadcloth coat he usually
reserved for Sundays. He paused at the threshold, with his hand on his
Adam’s apple.

“Good morning, ladies,” he said, and looked shyly at Miss Lucretia and
cleared his throat, and spoke with the elaborate decorum he used on
occasions, “Miss Penniman, I wish to thank you again for your noble
action of last evening.”

“Don’t ‘Miss Penniman’ me, Ezra Graves,” retorted Miss Lucretia; “the
only noble action I know of was poor Jonathan Hill’s--unless it was
paying for the gas.”

This was the way in which Miss Lucretia treated her lover after thirty
years! Cynthia thought of what the lady had said to her a few hours
since, by this very fire, and began to believe she must have dreamed it.
Fires look very differently at night--and sometimes burn brighter then.
The judge parted his coat tails, and seated himself on the wooden edge
of a cane-bottomed chair.

“Lucretia,” he said, “you haven’t changed.”

“You have, Ezra,” she replied, looking at the Adam’s apple.

“I’m an old man,” said Ezra Graves.

Cynthia could not help thinking that he was a very different man,
in Miss Lucretia’s presence, than when at the head of the prudential
committee.

“Ezra,” said Miss Lucretia, “for a man you do very well.”

The judge smiled.

“Thank you, Lucretia,” said he. He seemed to appreciate the full extent
of the compliment.

“Judge Graves,” said Cynthia, “I can tell you how good you are, at
least, and thank you for your great kindness to me, which I shall never
forget.”

She took his withered hands from his knees and pressed them. He returned
the pressure, and then searched his coat tails, found a handkerchief,
and blew his nose violently.

“I merely did my duty, Miss Wetherell,” he said. “I would not wilfully
submit to a wrong.”

“You called me Cynthia yesterday.”

“So I did,” he answered, “so I did.” Then he looked at Miss Lucretia.

“Ezra,” said that lady, smiling a little, “I don’t believe you have
changed, after all.”

What she meant by that nobody knows.

“I had thought, Cynthia,” said the judge, “that it might be more
comfortable for you to have me go to the school with you. That is the
reason for my early call.”

“Judge Graves, I do appreciate your kindness,” said Cynthia; “I hope you
won’t think I’m rude if I say I’d rather go alone.”

“On the contrary, my dear,” replied the judge, “I think I can understand
and esteem your feeling in the matter, and it shall be as you wish.”

“Then I think I had better be going,” said Cynthia. The judge rose in
alarm at the words, but she put her hand on his shoulder. “Won’t you sit
down and stay,” she begged, “you haven’t seen Miss Lucretia for how many
years,--thirty, isn’t it?”

Again he glanced at Miss Lucretia, uncertainly. “Sit down, Ezra,” she
commanded, “and for goodness’ sake don’t be afraid of the cane bottom.
You won’t go through it. I should like to talk to you, and most of the
gossips of our day are dead. I shall stay in Brampton to-day, Cynthia,
and eat supper with you here this evening.”

Cynthia, as she went out of the door, wondered what they would talk
about. Then she turned toward the school. It was not the March wind that
burned her cheeks; as she thought of the mass meeting the night before,
which was all about her, she wished she might go to school that morning
through the woods and pasture lots rather than down Brampton Street.
What--what would Bob say when he heard of the meeting? Would he come
again to Brampton? If he did, she would run away to Boston with Miss
Lucretia. Every day it had been a trial to pass the Worthington house,
but she could not cross the wide street to avoid it. She hurried
a little, unconsciously, when she came to it, for there was Mr.
Worthington on the steps talking to Mr. Flint. How he must hate her now,
Cynthia reflected! He did not so much as look up when she passed.

The other citizens whom she met made up for Mr. Worthington’s coldness,
and gave her a hearty greeting, and some stopped to offer their
congratulations. Cynthia did not pause to philosophize: she was learning
to accept the world as it was, and hurried swiftly on to the little
schoolhouse. The children saw her coming, and ran to meet her and
escorted her triumphantly in at the door. Of their welcome she could be
sure. Thus she became again teacher of the lower school.

How the judge and Miss Lucretia got along that morning, Cynthia never
knew. Miss Lucretia spent the day in her old home, submitting to
hero-worship, and attended an evening party in her honor at Mr. Gamaliel
Ives’s house--a mansion not so large as the first citizen’s, though
it had two bay-windows and was not altogether unimposing. The first
citizen, needless to say, was not there, but the rest of the elite
attended. Mr. Ives will tell you all about the entertainment if you go
to Brampton, but the real reason Miss Lucretia consented to go was to
please Lucy Baird, who was Gamaliel’s wife, and to chat with certain old
friends whom she had not seen. The next morning she called at the school
to bid Cynthia good-by, and to whisper something in her ear which made
her very red before all the scholars. She shook her head when Miss
Lucretia said it, for it had to do with an incident in the 29th chapter
of Genesis.

While Jonathan Hill was being made a hero of in the little two-by-four
office of the feed store the morning after the mass meeting (though
nobody offered to take over his mortgage), Mr. Dodd was complaining to
his wife of shooting pains, and “callated” he would stay at home that
day.

“Shootin’ fiddlesticks!” said Mrs. Dodd. “Get along down to the store
and face the music, Levi Dodd. You’d have had shootin’ pains if you’d a
went to the meetin’.”

“I might stop by at Mr. Worthington’s house and explain how powerless I
was--”

“For goodness’ sake git out, Levi. I guess he knows how powerless
you are with your shootin’ pains. If you only could forget Isaac D.
Worthington for three minutes, you wouldn’t have ‘em.”

Mr. Dodd’s two clerks saw him enter the store by the back door and
he was very much interested in the new ploughs which were piled up in
crates outside of it. Then he disappeared into his office and shut the
door, and supposedly became very much absorbed in book-keeping. If any
one called, he was out--any one. Plenty of people did call, but he was
not disturbed--until ten o’clock. Mr. Dodd had a very sensitive ear, and
he could often recognize a man by his step, and this man he recognized.

“Where’s Mr. Dodd?” demanded the owner of the step, indignantly.

“He’s out, Mr. Worthington. Anything I can do for you, Mr. Worthington?”

“You can tell him to come up to my house the moment he comes in.”

Unfortunately Mr. Dodd in the office had got into a strained position.
He found it necessary to move a little; the day-book fell heavily to the
floor, and the perspiration popped out all over his forehead. Come out,
Levi Dodd. The Bastille is taken, but there are other fortresses still
in the royal hands where you may be confined.

“Who’s in the office?”

“I don’t know, sir,” answered the clerk, winking at his companion, who
was sorting nails.

In three strides the great man had his hand on the office door and had
flung it open, disclosing the culprit cowering over the day-book on the
floor.

“Mr. Dodd,” cried the first citizen, “what do you mean by--?”

Some natures, when terrified, are struck dumb. Mr. Dodd’s was the kind
which bursts into speech.

“I couldn’t help it, Mr. Worthington,” he cried, “they would have it. I
don’t know what got into ‘em. They lost their senses, Mr. Worthington,
plumb lost their senses. If you’d a b’en there, you might have brought
‘em to. I tried to git the floor, but Ezry Graves--”

“Confound Ezra Graves, and wait till I have done, can’t you,”
 interrupted the first citizen, angrily. “What do you mean by putting a
bath-tub into my house with the tin loose, so that I cut my leg on it?”

Mr. Dodd nearly fainted from sheer relief.

“I’ll put a new one in to-day, right now,” he gasped.

“See that you do,” said the first citizen, “and if I lose my leg, I’ll
sue you for a hundred thousand dollars.”

“I was a-goin’ to explain about them losin’ their heads at the mass
meetin’--”

“Damn their heads!” said the first citizen. “And yours, too,” he may
have added under his breath as he stalked out. It was not worth a swing
of the executioner’s axe in these times of war. News had arrived from
the state capital that morning of which Mr. Dodd knew nothing.
Certain feudal chiefs from the North Country, of whose allegiance
Mr. Worthington had felt sure, had obeyed the summons of their old
sovereign, Jethro Bass, and had come South to hold a conclave under
him at the Pelican. Those chiefs of the North Country, with their
clans behind them as one man, what a power they were in the state! What
magnificent qualities they had, in battle or strategy, and how cunning
and shrewd was their generalship! Year after year they came down from
their mountains and fought shoulder to shoulder, and year after year
they carried back the lion’s share of the spoils between them. The great
South, as a whole, was powerless to resist them, for there could be no
lasting alliance between Harwich and Brampton and Newcastle and Gosport.
Now their king had come back, and the North Country men were rallying
again to his standard. No wonder that Levi Dodd’s head, poor thing that
it was, was safe for a while.

“Organize what you have left, and be quick about it,” said Mr. Flint,
when the news had come, and they sat in the library planning a new
campaign in the face of this evident defection. There was no time to cry
over spilt milk or reinstated school-teachers. The messages flew far and
wide to the manufacturing towns to range their guilds into line for the
railroads. The seneschal wrote the messages, and sent the summons to the
sleek men of the cities, and let it be known that the coffers were full
and not too tightly sealed, that the faithful should not lack for the
sinews of war. Mr. Flint found time, too, to write some carefully worded
but nevertheless convincing articles for the Newcastle Guardian, very
damaging to certain commanders who had proved unfaithful.

“Flint,” said Mr. Worthington, when they had worked far into the night,
“if Bass beats us, I’m a crippled man.”

“And if you postpone the fight now that you have begun it? What then?”

The answer, Mr. Worthington knew, was the same either way. He did not
repeat it. He went to his bed, but not to sleep for many hours, and when
he came down to his breakfast in the morning, he was in no mood to read
the letter from Cambridge which Mrs. Holden had put on his plate. But he
did read it, with what anger and bitterness may be imagined. There was
the ultimatum,--respectful, even affectionate, but firm. “I know that
you will, in all probability, disinherit me as you say, and I tell you
honestly that I regret the necessity of quarrelling with you more than
I do the money. I do not pretend to say that I despise money, and I like
the things that it buys, but the woman I love is more to me than all
that you have.”

Mr. Worthington laid the letter down, and there came irresistibly to his
mind something that his wife had said to him before she died, shortly
after they had moved into the mansion. “Dudley, how happy we used to be
together before we were rich!” Money had not been everything to Sarah
Worthington, either. But now no tender wave of feeling swept over him
as he recalled those words. He was thinking of what weapon he had to
prevent the marriage beyond that which was now useless--disinheritance.
He would disinherit Bob, and that very day. He would punish his son
to the utmost of his power for marrying the ward of Jethro Bass. He
wondered bitterly, in case a certain event occurred, whether he would
have much to alienate.

When Mr. Flint arrived, fresh as usual in spite of the work he had
accomplished and the cigars he had smoked the night before, Mr.
Worthington still had the letter in his hand, and was pacing his library
floor, and broke into a tirade against his son.

“After all I have done for him, building up for him a position and a
fortune that is only surpassed by young Duncan’s, to treat me in this
way, to drag down the name of Worthington in the mire. I’ll never
forgive him. I’ll send for Dixon and leave the money for a hospital in
Brampton. Can’t you suggest any way out of this, Flint?”

“No,” said Flint, “not now. The only chance you have is to ignore the
thing from now on. He may get tired of her--I’ve known such things to
happen.”

“When she hears that I’ve disinherited him, she will get tired of him,”
 declared Mr. Worthington.

“Try it and see, if you like,” said Flint.

“Look here, Flint, if the woman has a spark of decent feeling, as you
seem to think, I’ll send for her and tell her that she will ruin
Robert if she marries him.” Mr. Worthington always spoke of his son as
“Robert.”

“You ought to have thought of that before the mass meeting. Perhaps it
would have done some good then.”

“Because this Penniman woman has stirred people up--is that what you
mean? I don’t care anything about that. Money counts in the long run.”

“If money counted with this school-teacher, it would be a simple matter.
I think you’ll find it doesn’t.”

“I’ve known you to make some serious mistakes,” snapped Mr. Worthington.

“Then why do you ask for my advice?”

“I’ll send for her, and appeal to her better nature,” said Mr.
Worthington, with an unconscious and sublime irony.

Flint gave no sign that he heard. Mr. Worthington seated himself at
his desk, and after some thought wrote on a piece of note-paper the
following lines: “My dear Miss Wetherell, I should be greatly obliged if
you would find it convenient to call at my house at eight o’clock this
evening,” and signed them, “Sincerely Yours.” He sealed them up in an
envelope and addressed it to Miss Wetherell, at the schoolhouse; and
handed it to Mr. Flint. That gentleman got as far as the door, and then
he hesitated and turned.

“There is just one way out of this for you, that I can see, Mr.
Worthington,” he said. “It’s a desperate measure, but it’s worth
thinking about.”

“What’s that?”

It took some courage for Mr. Flint, to make the suggestion. “The girl’s
a good girl, well educated, and by no means bad looking. Bob might do a
thousand times worse. Give your consent to the marriage, and Jethro Bass
will go back to Coniston.”

It was wisdom such as few lords get from their seneschals, but Isaac D.
Worthington did not so recognize it. His anger rose and took away his
breath as he listened to it.

“I will never give my consent to it, never--do you hear?--never. Send
that note!” he cried.

Mr. Flint walked out, sent the note, and returned and took his place
silently at his own table. He was a man of concentration, and he put his
mind on the arguments he was composing to certain political leaders. Mr.
Worthington merely pretended to work as he waited for the answer to come
back. And presently, when it did come back, he tore it open and read
it with an expression not often on his lips. He flung the paper at Mr.
Flint.

“Read that,” he said.

This is what Mr. Flint read: “Miss Wetherell begs to inform Mr. Isaac D.
Worthington that she can have no communication or intercourse with him
whatsoever.”

Mr. Flint handed it back without a word. His opinion of the
school-teacher had risen mightily, but he did not say so. Mr.
Worthington took the note, too, without a word. Speech was beyond him,
and he crushed the paper as fiercely as he would have liked to have
crushed Cynthia, had she been in his hands.

One accomplishment which Cynthia had learned at Miss Sadler’s school was
to write a letter in the third person, Miss Sadler holding that there
were occasions when it was beneath a lady’s dignity to write a direct
note. And Cynthia, sitting at her little desk in the schoolhouse during
her recess, had deemed this one of the occasions. She could not bring
herself to write, “My dear Mr. Worthington.” Her anger, when the note
had been handed to her, was for the moment so great that she could not
go on with her classes; but she had controlled it, and compelled Silas
to stand in the entry until recess, when she sat with her pen in her
hand until that happy notion of the third person occurred to her.
And after Silas had gone she sat still; though trembling a little at
intervals, picturing with some satisfaction Mr. Worthington’s appearance
when he received her answer. Her instinct told her that he had received
his son’s letter, and that he had sent for her to insult her. By sending
for her, indeed, he had insulted her irrevocably, and that is why she
trembled.

Poor Cynthia! her troubles came thick and fast upon her in those days.
When she reached home, there was the letter which Ephraim had left
on the table addressed in the familiar, upright handwriting, and when
Cynthia saw it, she caught her hand sharply at her breast, as if the
pain there had stopped the beating of her heart. Well it was for Bob’s
peace of mind that he could not see her as she read it, and before she
had come to the end there were drops on the sheets where the purple ink
had run. How precious would have been those drops to him! He would
never give her up. No mandate or decree could separate them--nothing
but death. And he was happier now so he told her--than he had been for
months: happy in the thought that he was going out into the world to win
bread for her, as became a man. Even if he had not her to strive for, he
saw now that such was the only course for him. He could not conform.

It was a manly letter,--how manly Bob himself never knew. But Cynthia
knew, and she wept over it and even pressed it to her lips--for there
was no one to see. Yes, she loved him as she would not have believed it
possible to love, and she sat through the afternoon reading his words
and repeating them until it seemed that he were there by her side,
speaking them. They came, untrammelled and undefiled, from his heart
into hers.

And now that he had quarrelled with his father for her sake, and was
bent with all the determination of his character upon making his own way
in the world, what was she to do? What was her duty? Not one letter
of the twoscore she had received (so she kept their count from day to
day)--not one had she answered. His faith had indeed been great. But
she must answer this: must write, too, on that subject of her dismissal,
lest it should be wrongly told him. He was rash in his anger, and
fearless; this she knew, and loved him for such qualities as he had.

She must stay in Brampton and do her work,--so much was clearly her
duty, although she longed to flee from it. And at last she sat down and
wrote to him. Some things are too sacred to be set forth on a printed
page, and this letter is one of those things. Try as she would, she
could not find it in her heart at such a time to destroy his hope,--or
her own. The hope which she would not acknowledge, and the love which
she strove to conceal from him seeped up between the words of her letter
like water through grains of sand. Words, indeed, are but as grains of
sand to conceal strong feelings, and as Cynthia read the letter over she
felt that every line betrayed her, and knew that she could compose no
lines which would not.

She said nothing of the summons which she had received that morning,
or of her answer; and her account of the matter of the dismissal and
reinstatement was brief and dignified, and contained no mention of Mr.
Worthington’s name or agency. It was her duty, too, to rebuke Bob for
the quarrel with his father, to point out the folly of it, and the
wrong, and to urge him as strongly as she could to retract, though she
felt that all this was useless. And then--then came the betrayal of
hope. She could not ask him never to see her again, but she did beseech
him for her sake, and for the sake of that love which he had declared,
not to attempt to see her: not for a year, she wrote, though the word
looked to her like eternity. Her reasons, aside from her own scruples,
were so obvious, while she taught in Brampton, that she felt that he
would consent to banishment--until the summer holidays in July, at
least: and then she would be in Coniston,--and would have had time to
decide upon future steps. A reprieve was all she craved,--a reprieve
in which to reflect, for she was in no condition to reflect now. Of one
thing she was sure, that it would not be right at this time to encourage
him although she had a guilty feeling that the letter had given him
encouragement in spite of all the prohibitions it contained. “If, in the
future years,” thought Cynthia, as she sealed the envelope, “he persists
in his determination, what then?” You, Miss Lucretia, of all people in
the world, have planted the seeds with your talk about Genesis!

The letter was signed “One who will always remain your friend, Cynthia
Wetherell.” And she posted it herself.

When Ephraim came home to supper that evening, he brought the Brampton
Clarion, just out, and in it was an account of Miss Lucretia Penniman’s
speech at the mass meeting, and of her visit, and of her career. It was
written in Mr. Page’s best vein, and so laudatory was it that we shall
have to spare Miss Lucretia in not repeating it here: yes, and omit
the encomiums, too, on the teacher of the Brampton lower school. Mr.
Worthington was not mentioned, and for this, at least, Cynthia drew
along breath of relief, though Ephraim was of the opinion that the
first citizen should have been scored as he deserved, and held up to the
contempt of his fellow-townsmen. The dismissal of the teacher, indeed,
was put down to a regrettable misconception on the part of “one of the
prudential committee,” who had confessed his mistake in “a manly and
altogether praiseworthy speech.” The article was as near the truth,
perhaps, as the Clarions may come on such matters--which is not very
near. Cynthia would have been better pleased if Mr. Page had spared
his readers the recital of her qualities, and she did not in the least
recognize the paragon whom Miss Lucretia had befriended and defended.
She was thankful that Mr. Page did pot state that the celebrity had come
up from Boston on her account. Miss Penniman had been “actuated by a
sudden desire to see once more the beauties of her old home, to look
into the faces of the old friends who had followed her career with such
pardonable pride.” The speech of the president of the literary club,
you may be sure, was printed in full, for Mr. Ives himself had taken the
trouble to write it out for the editor--by request, of course.

Cynthia turned over the sheet, and read many interesting items: one
concerning the beauty and fashion and intellect which attended the party
at Mr. Gamaliel Ives’s; in the Clovelly notes she saw that Miss Judy
Hatch, of Coniston, was visiting relatives there; she learned the output
of the Worthington Mills for the past week. Cynthia was about to fold up
the paper and send it to Miss Lucretia, whom she thought it would amuse,
when her eyes were arrested by the sight of a familiar name.

        “Jethro Bass come to life again.
          From the State Tribune.”

That was the heading. “One of the greatest political surprises in many
years was the arrival in the capital on Wednesday of Judge Bass, whom
it was thought, had permanently retired from politics. This, at least,
seems to have been the confident belief of a faction in the state who
have at heart the consolidation of certain lines of railroads. Judge
Bass was found by a Tribune reporter in the familiar Throne Room at the
Pelican, but, as usual, he could not be induced to talk for publication.
He was in conference throughout the afternoon with several well-known
leaders from the North Country. The return of Jethro Bass to activity
seriously complicates the railroad situation, and many prominent
politicians are freely predicting to-night that, in spite of the
town-meeting returns, the proposed bill for consolidation will not go
through. Judge Bass is a man of such remarkable personality that he has
regained at a stroke much of the influence that he lost by the sudden
and unaccountable retirement which electrified the state some months
since. His reappearance, the news of which was the one topic in all
political centres yesterday, is equally unaccountable. It is hinted that
some action on the part of Isaac D. Worthington has brought Jethro Bass
to life. They are known to be bitter enemies, and it is said that
Jethro Bass has but one object in returning to the field--to crush the
president of the Truro Railroad. Another theory is that the railroads
and interests opposed to the consolidation have induced Judge Bass
to take charge of their fight for them. All indications point to the
fiercest struggle the state has ever seen in June, when the Legislature
meets. The Tribune, whose sentiments are well known to be opposed to
the iniquity of consolidation, extends a hearty welcome to the judge. No
state, we believe, can claim a party leader of a higher order of ability
than Jethro Bass.”

Cynthia dropped the paper in her lap, and sat very still. This, then,
was what happened when Jethro had heard of her dismissal--he had left
Coniston without writing her a word and passed through Brampton without
seeing her. He had gone back to that life which he had abandoned for her
sake; the temptation had been too strong, the desire for vengeance too
great. He had not dared to see her. And yet the love for her which had
been strong enough to make him renounce the homage of men, and even
incur their ridicule, had incited him to this very act of vengeance.

What should she do now, indeed? Had those peaceful and happy Saturdays
and Sundays in Coniston passed away forever? Should she follow him to
the capital and appeal to him? Ah no, she felt that were a useless pain
to them both. She believed, now, that he had gone away from her for all
time, that the veil of limitless space was set between, them. Silently
she arose,--so silently that Ephraim, dozing by the fire, did not awake.
She went into her own room and wept, and after many hours fell into a
dreamless sleep of sheer exhaustion.

The days passed, and the weeks; the snow ran from the brown fields, and
melted at length even in the moist crotches under the hemlocks of the
northern slopes; the robin and bluebird came, the hillsides were mottled
with exquisite shades of green, and the scent of fruit blossom and balm
of Gilead was in the air. June came as a maiden and grew into womanhood.
But Jethro Bass did not return to Coniston.



CHAPTER XVII

The legends which surround the famous war which we are about to touch
upon are as dim as those of Troy or Tuscany. Decorous chronicles and
biographies and monographs and eulogies exist, bound in leather and
stamped in gold, each lauding its own hero: chronicles written in really
beautiful language, and high-minded and noble, out of which the heroes
come unstained. Horatius holds the bridge, and not a dent in his armor;
and swims the Tiber without getting wet or muddy. Castor and Pollux
fight in the front rank at Lake Regillus, in the midst of all that gore
and slaughter, and emerge all white and pure at the end of the day--but
they are gods.

Out of the classic wars to which we have referred sprang the great Roman
Republic and Empire, and legend runs into authentic and written history.
Just so, parva componere magnis, out of the cloud-wrapped conflicts
of the five railroads of which our own Gaul is composed, emerged one
imperial railroad, authentically and legally written down on the statute
books, for all men to see. We cannot go behind that statute except to
collect the legends and write homilies about the heroes who held the
bridges.

If we were not in mortal terror of the imperial power, and a little
fearful, too, of tiring our readers, we would write out all the legends
we have collected of this first fight for consolidation, and show the
blood, too.

In the statute books of a certain state may be found a number of laws
setting forth the various things that a railroad or railroads may do,
and on the margin of these pages is invariably printed a date, that
being the particular year in which these laws were passed. By a singular
coincidence it is the very year at which we have now arrived in our
story. We do not intend to give a map of the state, or discuss
the merits or demerits of the consolidation of the Central and the
Northwestern and the Truro railroads. Such discussions are not the
province of a novelist, and may all be found in the files of the Tribune
at the State Library. There were, likewise, decisions without number
handed down by the various courts before and after that celebrated
session,--opinions on the validity of leases, on the extension of
railroads, on the rights of individual stockholders--all dry reading
enough.

At the risk of being picked to pieces by the corporation lawyers who may
read these pages, we shall attempt to state the situation and with all
modesty and impartiality--for we, at least, hold no brief. When Mr.
Isaac D. Worthington obtained that extension of the Truro Railroad
(which we have read about from the somewhat verdant point of view of
William Wetherell), that railroad then formed a connection with another
road which ran northward from Harwich through another state, and with
which we have nothing to do. Having previously purchased a line to the
southward from the capital, Mr. Worthington’s railroad was in a position
to compete with Mr. Duncan’s (the “Central”) for Canadian traffic, and
also to cut into the profits of the “Northwestern,” Mr. Lovejoy’s road.
In brief, the Truro Railroad found itself very advantageously placed, as
Mr. Worthington and Mr. Flint had foreseen. There followed a period of
bickering and recrimination, of attempts of the other two railroads to
secure representation in the Truro directorate, of suits and injunctions
and appeals to the Legislature and I know not what else--in all of which
affairs Mr. Bijah Bixby and other gentlemen we could name found both
pleasure and remuneration.

Oh, that those halcyon days of the little wars would come again, when
a captain could ride out almost any time at the held of his band of
mercenaries and see honest fighting and divide honest spoils! There was
much knocking about of men and horses, but very little bloodshed, so we
are told. Mr. Bixby will sit on the sunny side of his barns in Clovelly
and tell you stories of that golden period with tears in his eyes, when
he went to conventions with a pocketful of proxies from the river towns,
and controlled in the greatest legislative year of all a “block” which
included the President of the Senate, for which he got the fabulous sum
of----. He will tell you, but I won’t. Mr. Bixby’s occupation is gone
now. We have changed all that, and we are ruled from imperial Rome. If
you don’t do right, they cut off your (political) head, and it is of no
use to run away, because there is no one to run to.

It was Isaac D. Worthington--or shall we say Mr. Flint?--who was
responsible for this pernicious change for the worse, who conceived the
notion of leasing for the Truro the Central and the Northwestern,--thus
making one railroad out of the three. If such a gigantic undertaking
could be got through, Mr. Worthington very rightly deemed that the other
railroads of the state would eventually fall like ripe fruit into their
caps--owning the ground under the tree, as they would. A movement, which
we need not go unto, was first made upon the courts, and for a while
adverse decisions came down like summer rain. A genius by the name of
Jethro Bass had for many years presided (in the room of the governor and
council at the State House) at the political birth of justices of the
Supreme Court. None of them actually wore livery, but we have seen one
of them--along time ago--in a horse blanket. None of them were favorable
to the plans of Mr. Worthington and Mr. Duncan.

We have listened to the firing on the skirmish lines for a long time,
and now the real battle is at hand. It is June, and the Legislature is
meeting, and Bijah Bixby has come down to the capital at the head of his
regiment of mercenaries, of which Mr. Sutton is the honorary colonel;
the clans are here from the north, well quartered and well fed; the
Throne Room, within the sacred precincts of which we have been before,
is occupied. But there is another headquarters now, too, in the Pelican
House--a Railroad Room; larger than the Throne Room, with a bath-room
leading out of it. Another old friend of ours, Judge Abner Parkinson of
Harwich, he who gave the sardonic laugh when Sam Price applied for the
post of road agent, may often be seen in that Railroad Room from now
on. The fact is that the judge is about to become famous far beyond
the confines of Harwich; for he, and none other, is the author of the
Consolidation Bill itself.

Mr. Flint is the generalissimo of the allied railroads, and sits in his
headquarters early and late, going over the details of the campaign with
his lieutenants; scanning the clauses of the bill with Judge Parkinson
for the last time, and giving orders to the captains of mercenaries as
to the disposition of their forces; writing out passes for the deserving
and the true. For these latter, also, and for the wavering there is a
claw-hammer on the marble-topped mantel wielded by Mr. Bijah Bixby, pro
tem chief of staff--or of the hammer, for he is self-appointed and
very useful. He opens the mysterious packing cases which come up to
the Railroad Room thrice a week, and there is water to be had in the
bath-room--and glasses. Mr. Bixby also finds time to do some of
the scouting about the rotunda and lobbies, for which he is justly
celebrated, and to drill his regiment every day. The Honorable Heth
Sutton, M.C.,--who held the bridge in the Woodchuck Session,--is there
also, sitting in a corner, swelled with importance, smoking big Florizel
cigars which come from--somewhere. There are, indeed, many great and
battle-scarred veterans who congregate in that room--too numerous and
great to mention; and saunterers in the Capitol Park opposite know when
a council of war is being held by the volumes of smoke which pour out
of the window, just as the Romans are made cognizant by the smoking of a
chimney of when another notable event takes place.

Who, then, are left to frequent the Throne Room? Is that ancient seat
of power deserted, and does Jethro Bass sit there alone behind the
curtains, in his bitterness, thinking of other bright June days that are
gone?

Of all those who had been amazed when Jethro Bass suddenly emerged from
his retirement and appeared in the capital some months before, none
were more thunderstruck than certain gentlemen who had been to Coniston
repeatedly, but in vain, to urge him to make this very fight. The most
important of these had been Mr. Balch, president of the “Down East”
 Road, and the representatives of two railroads of another state. They
had at last offered Jethro fabulous sums to take charge of their armies
in the field--sums, at least, that would seem fabulous to many people,
and had seemed so to them. When they heard that the lion had roused and
shaken himself and had unaccountably come forth of his own accord, they
hastened to the state capital to renew their offers. Another shock, but
of a different kind, was in store for them. Mr. Balch had not actually
driven the pack-mules, laden with treasure, to the door of the Pelican
House, where Jethro might see them from his window; but he requested
a private audience, and it was probably accidental that the end of his
personal check-book protruded a little from his pocket. He was a big,
coarse-grained man, Mr. Balch, who had once been a brakeman, and had
risen by what is known as horse sense to the presidency of his road.
There was a wonderful sunset beyond the Capitol, but Mr. Balch did not
talk about the sunset, although Jethro was watching it from behind the
curtains.

“If you are willing to undertake this fight against consolidation,” said
Mr. Balch, “we are ready to talk business with you.”

“D-don’t know what you’re going to, do,” answered Jethro; “I’m going to
prevent consolidation, if I can.”

“All right,” said Balch, smiling. He regarded this reply as one of
Jethro’s delicate euphemisms. “We’re prepared to give that same little
retainer.”

Jethro did not look up. Mr. Balch went to the table and seized a pen and
filled out a check for an amount that shall be nameless.

“I have made it payable to bearer, as usual,” he said, and he handed it
to Jethro.

Jethro took it, and absently tore it into little pieces, and threw the
pieces on the floor. Mr. Balch watched him in consternation. He began to
think the report that Jethro had reached his second childhood was true.

“What in Halifax are you doing, Bass?” he cried.

“W-want to stop this consolidation, don’t you--want’ to stop it?”

“Certainly I do.”

“G-goin’ to do all you can to stop it hain’t you?”

“Certainly I am.”

“I-I’ll help you,” said Jethro.

“Help us!” exclaimed Balch. “Great Scott, we want you to take charge of
it.”

“I-I’ll do all I can, but I won’t guarantee it--w-won’t guarantee it,”
 said Jethro.

“We don’t ask you to guarantee it. If you’ll do all you can, that’s
enough. You won’t take a retainer?”

“W-won’t take anything,” said Jethro.

“You mean to say you don’t want anything for your for your time and your
services if the bill is defeated?”

“T-that’s about it, Ed. Little p-private matter with both of us. You
don’t want consolidation, and I don’t. I hain’t offered to give you a
retainer--have I?”

“No,” said the astounded Mr. Balch. He scratched his head and fingered
the leaves of his check-book. The captains over the tens and the
captains over the hundreds would want little retainers--and who was to
pay these? “How about the boys?” asked Mr. Balch.

“S-still got the same office in the depot--hain’t you, Ed, s-same
office?”

“Yes.”

“G-guess the boys hev b’en there before,” said Jethro.

Mr. Balch went away, meditating upon those sayings, and took the train
for Boston. If he had waked up of a fine morning to find himself at
the head of some benevolent and charitable organization, instead of the
“Down East” Railroad, he could not have been more astonished than he
had been at the unaccountable change of heart of Jethro Bass. He did not
know what to make of it, and told his colleagues so; and at first they
feared one of two things,--treachery or lunacy. But a little later
a rumor reached Mr. Balch’s ears that Jethro’s hatred of Isaac D.
Worthington was at the bottom of his reappearance in public life,
although Jethro himself never mentioned Mr. Worthington’s name. Jethro
sat in the Throne Room, consulting, directing day after day, and when
the Legislature assembled, “the boys” began to call at Mr. Balch’s
office. But Mr. Balch never again broached the subject of money to
Jethro Bass.

We have to sing the song of sixpence for the last time in these pages;
and as it is an old song now, there will be no encores. If you can buy
one member of the lower house for ten dollars, how many members can you
buy for fifty? It was no such problem in primary arithmetic that Mr.
Balch and his associates had to solve--theirs was in higher mathematics,
in permutations and combinations, and in least squares. No wonder the
old campaigners speak with tears in their eyes of the days of that ever
memorable summer. There were spoils to be picked up in the very streets
richer than the sack of the thirty cities; and as the session wore on
it is affirmed by men still living that money rained down in the Capitol
Park and elsewhere like manna from the skies, if you were one of a
chosen band. If you were, all you had to do was to look in your vest
pockets when you took your clothes off in the evening and extract enough
legal tender to pay your bill at the Pelican for a week. Mr. Lovejoy
having been overheard one day to make a remark concerning the diet of
hogs, the next morning certain visitors to the capital were horrified
to discover trails of corn leading from the Pelican House to their
doorways. Men who had never seen a receiving teller opened bank
accounts. No, it was not a problem in simple arithmetic, and Mr. Balch
and Mr. Flint, and even Mr. Duncan and Mr. Worthington, covered whole
sheets with figures during the stifling days in July. Some men are so
valuable that they can be bought twice, or even three times, and they
make figuring complicated.

Jethro Bass did no calculating. He sat behind the curtains, and he must
have kept the figures in his head.

The battle had closed in earnest, and for twelve long, sultry weeks it
raged with unabated fierceness. Consolidation had a terror for the
rural mind, and the state Tribune skilfully played its stream upon the
constituents of those gentlemen who stood tamely at the Worthington
hitching-posts, and the constituents flocked to the capital; that able
newspaper, too, found space to return, with interest, the attacks of Mr.
Worthington’s organ, the Newcastle Guardian. These amenities are much
too personal to reproduce here, now that the smoke of battle has rolled
away. An epic could be written upon the conflict, if there were space:
Canto One, the first position carried triumphantly, though at some
expense, by the Worthington forces, who elect the Speaker. That had
been a crucial time before the town meetings, when Jethro abdicated. The
Worthington Speaker goes ahead with his committees, and it is needless
to say that Mr. Chauncey Weed is not made Chairman of the Committee
on Corporations. As an offset to this, the Jethro forces gain on the
extreme right, where the Honorable Peleg Hartington is made President of
the Senate, etc.

For twelve hot weeks, with a public spirit which is worthy of the
highest praise, the Committee sit in their shirt sleeves all day long
and listen to arguments for and against consolidation; and ask learned
questions that startle rural witnesses; and smoke big Florizel cigars (a
majority of them). Judge Abner Parkinson defends his bill, quoting from
the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence and the Bible;
a celebrated lawyer from the capital riddles it, using the same
authorities, and citing the Federalist and the Golden Rule in addition.
The Committee sit open-minded, listening with laudable impartiality; it
does not become them to arrive at a hasty decision on a question of such
magnitude. In the meantime the House passes an important bill dealing
with the bounty on hedgehogs, and there are several card games going on
in the cellar, where it is cool.

The governor of the state is a free lance, and may be seen any afternoon
walking through the park, consorting with no one. He may be recognized
even at a distance by his portly figure, his silk hat, and his dignified
mien. Yes, it is an old and valued friend, the Honorable Alva Hopkins,
patron of the drama, and sometimes he has a beautiful young woman (still
unattached) by his side. He lives in a suite of rooms at the Pelican.
It is a well-known fact (among Mr. Worthington’s supporters) that the
Honorable Alva promised in January, when Mr. Bass retired, to sign the
Consolidation Bill, and that he suddenly became open-minded in March,
and has remained open-minded ever since, listening gravely to arguments,
and giving much study to the subject. He is an executive now, although
it is the last year of his term, and of course he is never seen either
in the Throne Room or the Railroad Room. And besides, he may become a
senator.

August has come, and the forces are spent and panting, and neither side
dares to risk the final charge. The reputation of Jethro Bass is at
stake. Should he risk and lose, he must go back to Coniston a beaten
man, subject to the contempt of his neighbors and his state. People
do not know that he has nothing now to go back to, and that he cares
nothing for contempt. As he sits in his window day after day he has only
one thought and one wish,--to ruin Isaac D. Worthington. And he will do
it if he can. Those who know--and among them is Mr. Balch himself--say
that Jethro has never conducted a more masterly campaign than this, and
that all the others have been mere childish trials of strength compared
to it. So he sits there through those twelve weeks while the session
slips by, while his opponents grumble, and while even his supporters,
eager for the charge, complain. The truth is that in all the years of
his activity be has never had such an antagonist as Mr. Flint. Victory
hangs in the balance, and a false move will throw it to either side.

Victory hangs now, to be explicit, upon two factors. The first and
most immediate of these is a certain canny captain of many wars whose
regiment is still at the disposal of either army--for a price, a
regiment which has hitherto remained strictly neutral. And what a
regiment it is! A block of river towns and a senator, and not a casualty
since they marched boldly into camp twelve weeks ago. Mr. Batch is
getting very much worried about this regiment, and beginning to doubt
Jethro’s judgment.

“I tell you, Bass,” he said one evening, “if you allow him to run around
loose much longer, we’re lost, that’s all there is to it!” (Mr. Batch
referred to the captain in question.) “They’ll buy up his block at his
figure--see, if they don’t. They’re getting desperate. Don’t you think
I’d better bid him in?”

“B-bid him in if you’ve a mind to; Ed.”

“Look here, Jethro,” said Mr. Batch, savagely biting off the end of a
cigar, “I’m beginning to think you don’t care a continental about this
business. Which side are you on, anyway?” The heat and the length
and the uncertainty of the struggle were telling on the nerves of the
railroad president. “You sit there from morning till night and won’t say
anything; and now, when there’s only one block out, you won’t give the
word to buy it.”

“N-never told you to buy anything, did I--Ed?”

“No,” answered Mr. Batch, “you haven’t. I don’t know what the devil’s
got into you.”

“D-done all the payin’ without consultin’ me, hain’t you, Ed?”

“Yes; I have. What are you driving at?”

“D-done it if I hadn’t b’en here, wouldn’t you?”

“Yes, and more too,” said Mr. Batch.

“W-wouldn’t make much difference to you if I wasn’t here--would it?”

“Great Scott, Jethro, what do you mean?” cried the railroad president,
in genuine alarm; “you’re not going to pull out, are you?”

“W-wouldn’t make much odds if I did--would it, Ed?”

“The devil it wouldn’t!” exclaimed Mr. Balch. “If you pulled out, we’d
lose the North Country, and Peleg, and Gosport, and nobody can
tell which way Alva Hopkins will swing. I guess you know what he’ll
do--you’re so d--d secretive I can’t tell whether you do or not. If you
pulled out, they’d have their bill on Friday.”

“H-hain’t under any obligations to you, Ed--am I?”

“No,” said Mr. Batch, “but I don’t see why you keep harping on that.”

“J-dust wanted to have it clear,” said Jethro, and relapsed into
silence.

There was a fireproof carpet on the Throne Room, and Mr. Batch flung
down his cigar and stamped on it and went out. No wonder he could not
understand Jethro’s sudden scruples about money and obligations--about
railroad money, that is. Jethro was spending some of his own, but not in
the capital, and in a manner which was most effective. In short, at the
very moment when Mr. Batch stamped on his cigar, Jethro had the victory
in his hands--only he did not choose to say so. He had had a mysterious
telegram that day from Harwich, signed by Chauncey Weed, and Mr. Weed
himself appeared at the door of Number 7, fresh from his travels,
shortly after Mr. Batch had gone out of it. Mr. Weed closed the door
gently, and locked it, and sat down in a rocking chair close to Jethro
and put his hand over his mouth. We cannot hear what Mr. Weed is saying.
All is mystery here, and in order to preserve that mystery we shall
delay for a little the few words which will explain Mr. Weed’s
successful mission.

Mr. Batch, angry and bewildered, descended into the rotunda, where he
shortly heard two astounding pieces of news. The first was that the
Honorable Heth Sutton had abandoned the Florizel cigars and had gone
home to Clovelly. The second; that Mr. Bijah Bixby had resigned the
claw-hammer and had ceased to open the packing cases in the Railroad
Room. Consternation reigned in that room, so it was said (and this was
true). Mr. Worthington and Mr. Duncan and Mr. Lovejoy were closeted
there with Mr. Flint, and the door was locked and the transom shut, and
smoke was coming out of the windows.

Yes, Mr. Bijah Bixby is the canny captain of whom Mr. Balch spoke: he
it is who owns that block of river towns, intact, and the one senator.
Impossible! We have seen him opening the packing cases, we have seen him
working for the Worthington faction for the last two years. Mr.
Bixby was very willing to open boxes, and to make himself useful and
agreeable; but it must be remembered that a good captain of mercenaries
owes a sacred duty to his followers. At first Mr. Flint had thought he
could count on Mr. Bixby; after a while he made several unsuccessful
attempts to talk business with him; a particularly difficult thing to
do, even for Mr. Flint, when Mr. Bixby did not wish to talk business.
Mr. Balch had found it quite as difficult to entice Mr. Bixby away from
the boxes and the Railroad Room. The weeks drifted on, until twelve went
by, and then Mr. Bixby found himself, with his block of river towns and
one senator, in the incomparable position of being the arbiter of the
fate of the Consolidation Bill in the House and Senate. No wonder Mr.
Balch wanted to buy the services of that famous regiment at any price!

But Mr. Bixby, for once in his life, had waited too long.

When Mr. Balch, rejoicing, but not a little indignant at not having
been taken into confidence, ascended to the Throne Room after supper to
question Jethro concerning the meaning of the things he had heard, he
found Senator Peleg Hartington seated mournfully on the bed, talking at
intervals, and Jethro listening.

“Come up and eat out of my hand,” said the senator.

“Who?” demanded Mr. Balch.

“Bije,” answered the senator.

“Great Scott, do you mean to say you’ve got Bixby?” exclaimed the
railroad president. He felt as if he would like to shake the senator,
who was so deliberate and mournful in his answers. “What did you pay
him?”

Mr. Hartington appeared shocked by the question.

“Guess Heth Sutton will settle with him,” he said.

“Heth Sutton! Why the--why should Heth pay him?”

“Guess Heth’d like to make him a little present, under the
circumstances. I was goin’ through the barber shop,” Mr. Hartington
continued, speaking to Jethro and ignoring the railroad president,
“and I heard somebody whisperin’ my name. Sound came out of that little
shampoo closet; went in there and found Bije. ‘Peleg,’ says he, right
into my ear, ‘tell Jethro it’s all right--you understand. We want Heth
to go back--break his heart if he didn’t--you understand. If I’d knowed
last winter Jethro meant business, I wouldn’t hev’ helped Gus Flint out.
Tell Jethro he can have ‘em--you know what I mean.’ Bije waited a little
mite too long,” said the senator, who had given a very fair imitation of
Mr. Bixby’s nasal voice and manner.

“Well, I’m d--d!” ejaculated Mr. Balch, staring at Jethro. “How did you
work it?”

“Sent Chauncey through the deestrict,” said Mr. Hartington.

Mr. Chauncey Weed had, in truth, gone through a part of the
congressional district of the Honorable Heth Sutton with a little
leather bag. Mr. Weed had been able to do some of his work (with the
little leather bag) in the capital itself. In this way Mr. Bixby’s
regiment, Sutton was the honorary colonel, had been attacked in the rear
and routed. Here was to be a congressional convention that autumn, and a
large part of Mr. Sutton’s district lay in the North Country, which, as
we have seen, was loyal to Jethro to the back bone. The district, too,
was largely rural, and therefore anti-consolidation, and the inability
of the Worthington forces to get their bill through had made it apparent
that Jethro Bass was as powerful as ever. Under these circumstances
it had not been very difficult for a gentleman of Mr. Chauncey Weed’s
powers of persuasion to induce various lieutenants in the district
to agree to send delegates to the coming convention who would be
conscientiously opposed to Mr. Sutton’s renomination: hence the
departure from the capital of Mr. Sutton; hence the generous offer
of Mr. Bixby to put his regiment at the disposal of Mr. Bass--free of
charge.

The second factor on which victory hung (we can use the past tense now)
was none other than his Excellency Alva Hopkins, governor of the state.
The bill would never get to his Excellency now--so people said; would
never get beyond that committee who had listened so patiently to the
twelve weeks of argument. These were only rumors, after all, for the
rotunda never knows positively what goes on in high circles; but the
rotunda does figuring, too, when at length the problem is reduced to a
simple equation, with Bijah Bixby as x. If it were true that Bijah had
gone over to Jethro Bass, the Consolidation Bill was dead.



CHAPTER XVIII

When Jethro Bass walked out of the hotel that evening men looked at him,
and made way for him, but none spoke to him. There was something in his
face that forbade speech. He was a great man once more--a greater man
than ever; and he had, if the persistent rumors were true, accomplished
an almost incomprehensible feat, even for Jethro Bass. There was another
reason, too, why they stared at him. In all those twelve weeks of that
most trying of all sessions he had not once gone into the street, and
he had been less than ever common in the eyes of men. Twice a day he had
descended to the dining room for a simple meal--that was all; and fewer
had gained entrance to Room Number 7 this session than ever before.

There is a river that flows by the capital, a wide and gentle river
bordered by green meadows and fringed with willows; higher up, if you go
far enough, a forest comes down to the water on the western side. Jethro
walked through the hooded bridge, and up the eastern bank until he could
see the forest like a black band between the orange sky and the orange
river, and there he sat down upon a fallen log on the edge of the bank.
But Jethro was thinking of another scene,--of a granite-ribbed pasture
on Coniston Mountain that swings in limitless space, from either end of
which a man may step off into eternity. William Wetherell, in one of
his letters, had described that place as the Threshold of the Nameless
Worlds, and so it had seemed to Jethro in the years of his desolation.
He was thinking of it now, even as it had been in his mind that winter’s
evening when Cynthia had come to Coniston and had surprised him with
that look of terrible loneliness on his face.

Yes, and he was thinking of Cynthia. When, indeed, had he not been
thinking of her? How many tunes had he rehearsed the events in the
tannery house--for they were the events of his life now. The triumphs
over his opponents and enemies fell away, and the pride of power. Such
had not been his achievements. She had loved him, and no man had reached
a higher pinnacle than that.

Why he had forfeited that love for vengeance, he could not tell. The
embers of a man’s passions will suddenly burst into flame, and he will
fiddle madly while the fire burns his soul. He had avenged her as well
as himself; but had he avenged her, now that he held Isaac Worthington
in his power? By crushing him, had he not added to her trouble and her
sorrow? She had confessed that she loved Isaac Worthington’s son, and
was not he (Jethro) widening the breach between Cynthia and the son by
crushing the father? Jethro had not thought of this. But he had thought
of her, night and day, as he had sat in his room directing the battle.
Not a day had passed that he had not looked for a letter, hoping against
hope. If she had written to him once, if she had come to him once, would
he have desisted? He could not say--the fires of hatred had burned so
fiercely, and still burned so fiercely, that he clenched his fists when
it came over him that Isaac Worthington was at last in his power.

A white line above the forest was all that remained of the sunset when
he rose up and took from his coat a silver locket and opened it and held
it to the fading light. Presently he closed it again, and walked slowly
along the river bank toward the little city twinkling on its hill. He
crossed the hooded bridge and climbed the slope, stopping for a moment
at a little stationery shop; he passed through the groups which were
still loudly discussing this thing he had done, and gained his room and
locked the door. Men came to it and knocked and got no answer. The room
was in darkness, and the night breeze stirred among the trees in the
park and blew in at the window.

At last Jethro got up and lighted the gas and paused at the centre
table. He was to violate more than one principle of his life that night,
though not without a struggle; and he sat for a long while looking at
the blank paper before him. Then he wrote, and sealed the letter--which
contained three lines--and pulled the bell cord. The call was answered
by a messenger who had been far many years in the service of the Pelican
House, and who knew many secrets of the gods. The man actually grew pale
when he saw the address on the envelope which was put in his hand and
read the denomination of the crisp note under it that was the price of
silence.

“F-find the gentleman and give it to him yourself. Er--John?”

“Yes, Mr. Bass?”

“If you don’t find him, bring it--back.”

When the man had gone, Jethro turned down the gas and went again to his
chair by the window. For a while voices came up to him from the street,
but at length the groups dispersed, one by one; and a distant clock
boomed out eleven solemn strokes. Twice the clock struck again, at the
half-hour and midnight, and the noises in the house--the banging
of doors and the jangling of keys and the hurrying of feet in the
corridors--were hushed. Jethro took no thought of these or of time, and
sat gazing at the stars in the depths of the sky above the capital dome
until a shadow emerged from the black mass of the trees opposite
and crossed the street. In a few minutes there were footsteps in the
corridor,--stealthy footsteps--and a knock on the door. Jethro got up
and opened it, and closed it again and locked it. Then he turned up the
gas.

“S-sit down,” he said, and nodded his head toward the chair by the
table.

Isaac Worthington laid his silk hat on the table, and sat down. He
looked very haggard and worn in that light, very unlike the first
citizen who had entered Brampton in triumph on his return from the West
not many months before. The long strain of a long fight, in which he had
risked much for which he had labored a life to gain, had told on him,
and there were crow’s-feet at the corners of, his eyes, and dark circles
under them. Isaac Worthington had never lost before, and to destroy the
fruits of such a man’s ambition is to destroy the man. He was not as
young as he had once been. But now, in the very hour of defeat, hope
had rekindled the fire in the eyes and brought back the peculiar,
tight-lipped, mocking smile to the mouth. An hour ago, when he had
been pacing Alexander Duncan’s library, the eyes and the mouth had been
different.

Long habit asserts itself at the strangest moments. Jethro Bass took his
seat by the window, and remained silent. The clock tolled the half-hour
after midnight.

“You wanted to see me,” said Mr. Worthington, finally.

Jethro nodded, almost imperceptibly.

“I suppose,” said Mr. Worthington, slowly, “I suppose you are ready to
sell out.” He found it a little difficult to control his voice.

“Yes,” answered Jethro, “r-ready to sell out.”

Mr. Worthington was somewhat taken aback by this simple admission. He
glanced at Jethro sitting motionless by the window, and in his heart
he feared him: he had come into that room when the gas was low, afraid.
Although he would not confess it to himself, he had been in fear of
Jethro Bass all his life, and his fear had been greater than ever since
the March day when Jethro had left Coniston. And could he have known,
now, the fires of hatred burning in Jethro’s breast, Isaac Worthington
would have been in terror indeed.

“What have you got to sell?” he demanded sharply.

“G-guess you know, or you wouldn’t have come here.”

“What proof have I that you have it to sell?”

Jethro looked at him for an instant.

“M-my word,” he said.

Isaac Worthington was silent for a while: he was striving to calm
himself, for an indefinable something had shaken him. The strange
stillness of the hour and the stranger atmosphere which seemed to
surround this transaction filled him with a nameless dread. The man in
the window had been his lifelong enemy: more than this, Jethro Bass, was
not like ordinary men--his ways were enshrouded in mystery, and when he
struck, he struck hard. There grew upon Isaac Worthington a sense that
this midnight hour was in some way to be the culmination of the long
years of hatred between them.

He believed Jethro: he would have believed him even if Mr. Flint had not
informed him that afternoon that he was beaten, and bitterly he wished
he had taken Mr. Flint’s advice many months before. Denunciation
sprang to his lips which he dared not utter. He was beaten, and he must
pay--the pound of flesh. Isaac Worthington almost thought it would be a
pound of flesh.

“How much do you want?” he said.

Again Jethro looked at him.

“B-biggest price you can pay,” he answered.

“You must have made up your mind what you want. You’ve had time enough.”

“H-have made up my mind,” said Jethro.

“Make your demand,” said Mr. Worthington, “and I’ll give you my answer.”

“B-biggest price you can pay,” said Jethro, again.

Mr. Worthington’s nerves could stand it no longer.

“Look here,” he cried, rising in his chair, “if you’ve brought me here
to trifle with me, you’ve made a mistake. It’s your business to get
control of things that belong to other people, and sell them out. I
am here to buy. Nothing but necessity brings me here, and nothing but
necessity will keep me here a moment longer than I have to stay to
finish this abominable affair. I am ready to pay you twenty thousand
dollars the day that bill becomes a law.”

This time Jethro did not look at him.

“P-pay me now,” he said.

“I will pay you the day the bill becomes a law. Then I shall know where
I stand.”

Jethro did not answer this ultimatum in any manner, but remained
perfectly still looking out of the window. Mr. Worthington glanced at
him, twice, and got his fingers on the brim of his hat, but he did not
pick it up. He stood so for a while, knowing full well that if he went
out of that room his chance was gone. Consolidation might come in other
years, but he, Isaac Worthington, would not be a factor in it.

“You don’t want a check, do you?” he said at last.

“No--d-don’t want a check.”

“What in God’s name do you want? I haven’t got twenty thousand dollars
in currency in my pocket.”

“Sit down, Isaac Worthington,” said Jethro.

Mr. Worthington sat down--out of sheer astonishment, perhaps.

“W-want the consolidation--don’t you? Want it bad--don’t you?”

Mr. Worthington did, not answer. Jethro stood over him now, looking down
at him from the other side of the narrow table.

“Know Cynthy Wetherell?” he said.

Then Isaac Worthington understood that his premonitions had been real.
The pound of flesh was to be demanded, but strangely enough, he did not
yet comprehend the nature of it.

“I know that there is such a person,” he answered, for his pride would
not permit him to say more.

“W-what do you know about her?”

Isaac Worthington was bitterly angry--the more so because he was
helpless, and could not question Jethro’s right to ask. What did he
know about her? Nothing, except that she had intrigued to marry his son.
Bob’s letter had described her, to be sure, but he could not be expected
to believe that: and he had not heard Miss Lucretia Penniman’s speech.
And yet he could not tell Jethro that he knew nothing about her, for he
was shrewd enough to perceive the drift of the next question.

“Kn-know anything against her?” said Jethro.

Mr. Worthington leaned back in his chair.

“I can’t see what Miss Wetherell has to do with the present occasion,”
 he replied.

“H-had her dismissed by the prudential committee had her
dismissed--didn’t you?”

“They chose to act as they saw fit.”

“T-told Levi Dodd to dismiss her--didn’t you?”

That was a matter of common knowledge in Brampton, having leaked out
through Jonathan Hill.

“I must decline to discuss this,” said Mr. Worthington.

“W-wouldn’t if I was you.”

“What do you mean?”

“What I say. T-told Levi Dodd to dismiss her, didn’t you?”

“Yes, I did.” Isaac Worthington had lost in self-esteem by not saying so
before.

“Why? Wahn’t she honest? Wahn’t she capable? Wahn’t she a lady?”

“I can’t say that I know anything against Miss Wetherell’s character, if
that’s what you mean.”

“F-fit to teach--wahn’t she--fit to teach?”

“I believe she has since qualified before Mr. Errol.”

“Fit to teach--wahn’t fit to marry your son--was she?”

Isaac Worthington clutched the table and started from his chair. He
grew white to his lips with anger, and yet he knew that he must control
himself.

“Mr. Bass,” he said, “you have something to sell, and I have something
to buy--if the price is not ruinous. Let us confine ourselves to that.
My affairs and my son’s affairs are neither here nor there. I ask you
again, how much do you want for this Consolidation Bill?”

“N-no money will buy it.”

“What!”

“C-consent to this marriage, c-consent to this marriage.” There was yet
room for Isaac Worthington to be amazed, and for a while he stared up at
Jethro, speechless.

“Is that your price?” he asked at last.

“Th-that’s my price,” said Jethro.

Isaac Worthington got up and went to the window and stood looking
out above the black mass of trees at the dome outlined against the
star-flecked sky. At first his anger choked him, and he could not
think; he had just enough reason left not to walk out of the door. But
presently habit asserted itself in him, too, and he began to reflect
and calculate in spite of his anger. It is strange that memory plays so
small a part in such a man. Before he allowed his mind to dwell on the
fearful price, he thought of his ambitions gratified; and yet he did
not think then of the woman to whom he had once confided those
ambitions--the woman who was the girl’s mother. Perhaps Jethro was
thinking of her.

It may have been--I know not--that Isaac Worthington wondered at this
revelation of the character of Jethro Bass, for it was a revelation. For
this girl’s sake Jethro was willing to forego his revenge, was willing
at the end of his days to allow the world to believe that he had sold
out to his enemy, or that he had been defeated by him.

But when he thought of the marriage, Isaac Worthington ground his teeth.
A certain sentiment which we may call pride was so strong in him that he
felt ready to make almost any sacrifice to prevent it. To hinder it
he had quarrelled with his son, and driven him away, and threatened
disinheritance. The price was indeed heavy--the heaviest he could pay.
But the alternative--was not that heavier? To relinquish his dream of
power, to sink for a while into a crippled state; for he had spent large
sums, and one of those periodical depressions had come in the business
of the mills, and those Western investments were not looking so bright
now.

So, with his hands opening and closing in front of him, Isaac
Worthington fought out his battle. A terrible war, that, between
ambition and pride--a war to the knife. The issue may yet have been
undecided when he turned round to Jethro with a sneer which he could not
resist.

“Why doesn’t she marry him without my consent?”

In a moment Mr. Worthington knew he had gone too far. A certain kind of
an eye is an incomparable weapon, and armed men have been cowed by those
who possess it, though otherwise defenceless. Jethro Bass had that kind
of an eye.

“G-guess you wouldn’t understand if I was to tell you,” he said.

Mr. Worthington walked to the window again, perhaps to compose himself,
and then came back again.

“Your proposition is,” he said at length, “that if I give my consent
to this marriage, we are to have Bixby and the governor, and the
Consolidation Bill will become a law. Is that it?”

“Th-that’s it,” said Jethro, taking his accustomed seat.

“And this consent is to be given when the bill becomes a law?”

“Given now. T-to-night.”

Mr. Worthington took another turn as far as the door, and suddenly came
and stood before Jethro.

“Well, I consent.”

Jethro nodded toward the table.

“Er--pen and paper there,” he said.

“What do you want me to do?” demanded Mr. Worthington.

“W-write to Bob--write to Cynthy. Nice letters.”

“This is carrying matters with too high a hand, Mr. Bass. I will write
the letters to-morrow morning.” It was intolerable that he, the first
citizen of Brampton, should have to submit to such humiliation.

“Write ‘em now. W-want to see ‘em.”

“But if I give you my word they will be written and sent to you
to-morrow afternoon?”

“T-too late,” said Jethro; “sit down and write ‘em now.”

Mr. Worthington went irresolutely to the table, stood for a minute,
and dropped suddenly into the chair there. He would have given anything
(except the realization of his ambitions) to have marched out of the
room and to have slammed the door behind him. The letter paper and
envelopes which Jethro had bought stood in a little pile, and Mr.
Worthington picked up the pen. The clock struck two as he wrote the
date, as though to remind him that he had written it wrong. If Flint
could see him now! Would Flint guess? Would anybody guess? He stared at
the white paper, and his rage came on again like a gust of wind, and he
felt that he would rather beg in the streets than write such a thing.
And yet--and yet he sat there. Surely Jethro Bass must have known that
he could have taken no more exquisite vengeance than this, to compel a
man--and such a man--to sit down in the white heat of passion--and write
two letters of forgiveness! Jethro sat by the window, to all appearances
oblivious to the tortures of his victim.

He who has tried to write a note--the simplest note when his mind was
harassed, will understand something of Isaac Worthington’s sensations.
He would no sooner get an inkling of what his opening sentence was to be
than the flames of his anger would rise and sweep it away. He could
not even decide which letter he was to write first: to his son, who had
defied him and who (the father knew in his heart) condemned him? or
to the schoolteacher, who was responsible for all his misery; who--Mr.
Worthington believed--had taken advantage of his son’s youth by feminine
wiles of no mean order so as to gain possession of him. I can almost
bring myself to pity the first citizen of Brampton as he sits there
with his pen poised over the paper, and his enemy waiting to read those
tender epistles of forgiveness which he has yet to write. The clock has
almost got round to the half-hour again, and there is only the date--and
a wrong one at that.

“My dear Miss Wetherell,--Circumstances (over which I have no
control?)”--ought he not to call her Cynthia? He has to make the letter
credible in the eyes of the censor who sits by the window. “My dear Miss
Wetherell, I have come to the conclusion”--two sheets torn up, or thrust
into Mr. Worthington’s pocket. By this time words have begun to have a
colorless look. “My dear Miss Wetherell,--Having become convinced of
the sincere attachment which my son Robert has for you, I am writing
him to-night to give my full consent to his marriage. He has given me
to understand that you have hitherto persistently refused to accept him
because I have withheld that consent, and I take this opportunity of
expressing my admiration of this praiseworthy resolution on your part.”
 (If this be irony, it is sublime! Perhaps Isaac Worthington has a little
of the artist in him, and now that he is in the heat of creation has
forgotten the circumstances under which he is composing.) “My son’s
happiness and career in life are of such moment to me that, until the
present, I could not give my sanction to what I at first regarded as
a youthful fancy. Now that, my son, for your sake, has shown his
determination and ability to make his own way in the world,” (Isaac
Worthington was not a little proud of this) “I have determined that it
is wise to withdraw my opposition, and to recall Robert to his proper
place, which is near me. I am sure that my feelings in this matter will
be clear to you, and that you will look with indulgence upon any acts
of mine which sprang from a natural solicitation for the welfare and
happiness of my only child. I shall be in Brampton in a day or two, and
I shall at once give myself the pleasure of calling on you. Sincerely
yours, Isaac D. Worthington.”

Perhaps a little formal and pompous for some people, but an admirable
and conciliatory letter for the first citizen of Brampton. Written under
such trying circumstances, with I know not how many erasures and false
starts, it is little short of a marvel in art: neither too much said,
nor too little, for a relenting parent of Mr. Worthington’s character,
and I doubt whether Talleyrand or Napoleon or even Machiavelli himself
could have surpassed it. The second letter, now that Mr. Worthington had
got into the swing, was more easily written. “My dear Robert” (it said),
“I have made up my mind to give my consent to your marriage to Miss
Wetherell, and I am ready to welcome you home, where I trust I shall
see you shortly. I have not been unimpressed by the determined manner in
which you have gone to work for yourself, but I believe that your place
is in Brampton, where I trust you will show the same energy in learning
to succeed me in the business which I have founded there as you have
exhibited in Mr. Broke’s works. Affectionately, your Father.”

A very creditable and handsome letter for a forgiving father. When Mr.
Worthington had finished it, and had addressed both the envelopes, his
shame and vexation had, curious to relate, very considerably abated.
Not to go too deeply into the somewhat contradictory mental and cardiac
processes of Mr. Worthington, he had somehow tricked himself by that
magic exercise of wielding his pen into thinking that he was doing a
noble and generous action: into believing that in the course of a very
few days--or weeks, at the most, he would have recalled his erring son
and have given Cynthia his blessing. He would, he told himself, have
been forced eventually to yield when that paragon of inflexibility, Bob,
dictated terms to him at the head of the locomotive works. Better
let the generosity be on his (Mr. Worthington’s) side. At all events,
victory had never been bought more cheaply. Humiliation, in Mr.
Worthington’s eyes, had an element of publicity in it, and this
episode had had none of that element; and Jethro Bass, moreover, was a
highwayman who had held a pistol to his head. In such logical manner he
gradually bolstered up again his habitual poise and dignity. Next
week, at the latest, men would point to him as the head of the largest
railroad interests in the state.

He pushed back his chair, and rose, merely indicating the result of his
labors by a wave of his hand. And he stood in the window as Jethro Bass
got up and went to the table. I would that I had a pen able to describe
Jethro’s sensations when he read them. Unfortunately, he is a man with
few facial expressions. But I believe that he was artist enough himself
to appreciate the perfections of the first citizen’s efforts. After
a much longer interval than was necessary for their perusal, Mr.
Worthington turned.

“G-guess they’ll do,” said Jethro, as he folded them up. He was too
generous not to indulge, for once, in a little well-deserved praise.
“Hain’t underdone it, and hain’t overdone it a mite hev you? M-man of
resource. Callate you couldn’t hev beat that if you was to take a week
to it.”

“I think it only fair to tell you,” said Mr. Worthington, picking up his
silk hat, “that in those letters I have merely anticipated a very little
my intentions in the matter. My son having proved his earnestness, I was
about to consent to the marriage of my own accord.”

“G-goin’ to do it anyway--was you?”

“I had so determined.”

“A-always thought you was high-minded,” said Jethro.

Mr. Worthington was on the point of giving a tart reply to this, but
restrained himself.

“Then I may look upon the matter as settled?” he said. “The
Consolidation Bill is to become a law?”

“Yes,” said Jethro, “you’ll get your bill.” Mr. Worthington had got his
hand on the knob of the door when Jethro stopped him with a word. He had
no facial expressions, but he had an eye, as we have seen--an eye
that for the second time appeared terrible to his visitor. “Isaac
Worthington,” he said, “a-act up to it. No trickery--or look out--look
out.”

Then, the incident being closed so far as he was concerned, Jethro went
back to his chair by the window, but it is to be recorded that Isaac
Worthington did not answer him immediately. Then he said:--

“You seem to forget that you are talking to a gentleman.”

“That’s so,” answered Jethro, “so you be.”

He sat where he was long after the sky had whitened and the stars had
changed from gold to silver and gone out, and the sunlight had begun to
glance upon the green leaves of the park. Perhaps he was thinking of the
life he had lived, which was spent now: of the men he had ruled, of the
victories he had gained from that place which would know him no more.
He had won the last and the greatest of his victories there, compared
to which the others had indeed been as vanities. Perhaps he looked back
over the highway of his life and thought of the woman whom he had loved,
and wondered what it had been if she had trod it by his side. Who will
judge him? He had been what he had been; and as the Era was, so was he.
Verily, one generation passeth away, and another generation cometh.

When Mr. Isaac Worthington arrived at Mr. Duncan’s house, where he was
staying, at three o’clock in the morning, he saw to his surprise light
from the library windows lying in bars across the lawn under the trees.
He found Mr. Duncan in that room with Somers, his son, who had just
returned from a seaside place, and they were discussing a very grave
event. Miss Janet Duncan had that day eloped with a gentleman
who--to judge from the photograph Somers held--was both handsome and
romantic-looking. He had long hair and burning eyes, and a title not to
be then verified, and he owned a castle near some place on the peninsula
of Italy not on the map.



CHAPTER XIX

We are back in Brampton, owning, as we do, an annual pass over the Truro
Railroad. Cynthia has been there all the summer, and as it is now the
first of September, her school has begun again. I do not by any means
intend to imply that Brampton is not a pleasant place to spend the
summer: the number of its annual visitors is a refutation of that; but
to Cynthia the season had been one of great unhappiness. Several times
Lem Hallowell had stopped the stage in front of Ephraim’s house to beg
her to go to Coniston, and Mr. Satterlee had come himself; but she could
not have borne to be there without Jethro. Nor would she go to Boston,
though urged by Miss Lucretia; and Mrs. Merrill and the girls had
implored her to join them at a seaside place on the Cape.

Cynthia had made a little garden behind Ephraim’s house, and she spent
the summer there with her flowers and her books, many of which Lem had
fetched from Coniston. Ephraim loved to sit there of an evening and
smoke his pipe and chat with Ezra Graves and the neighbors who dropped
in. Among these were Mr. Gamaliel Ives, who talked literature with
Cynthia; and Lucy Baird, his wife, who had taken Cynthia under her
wing. I wish I had time to write about Lucy Baird. And Mr. Jonathan Hill
came--his mortgage not having been foreclosed, after all. When Cynthia
was alone with Ephraim she often read to him,--generally from books of
a martial flavor,--and listened with an admirable hypocrisy to certain
narratives which he was in the habit of telling.

They never spoke of Jethro. Ephraim was not a casuist, and his sense of
right and wrong came largely through his affections. It is safe to
say that he never made an analysis of the sorrow which he knew was
afflicting the girl, but he had had a general and most sympathetic
understanding of it ever since the time when Jethro had gone back to the
capital; and Ephraim never brought home his Guardian or his Clarion now,
but read them at the office, that their contents might not disturb her.

No wonder that Cynthia was unhappy. The letters came, almost every day,
with the postmark of the town in New Jersey where Mr. Broke’s locomotive
works were; and she answered them now (but oh, how scrupulously!),
though not every day. If the waters of love rose up through the grains
of sand, it was, at least, not Cynthia’s fault. Hers were the letters of
a friend. She was reading such and such a book--had he read it? And he
must not work too hard. How could her letters be otherwise when Jethro
Bass, her benefactor, was at the capital working to defeat and perhaps
to ruin Bob’s father? when Bob’s father had insulted and persecuted her?
She ought not to have written at all; but the lapses of such a heroine
are very rare, and very dear.

Yes, Cynthia’s life was very bitter that summer, with but little hope
on the horizon of it. Her thoughts were divided between Bob and Jethro.
Many a night she lay awake resolving to write to Jethro, even to go to
him, but when morning came she could not bring herself to do so. I do
not think it was because she feared that he might believe her appeal
would be made in behalf of Bob’s father. Knowing Jethro as she did,
she felt that it would be useless, and she could not bear to make it in
vain; if the memory of that evening in the tannery shed would not serve,
nothing would serve. And again--he had gone to avenge her.

It was inevitable that she should hear tidings from the capital. Isaac
Worthington’s own town was ringing with it. And as week after week
of that interminable session went by, the conviction slowly grew
upon Brampton that its first citizen had been beaten by Jethro Bass.
Something of Mr. Worthington’s affairs was known: the mills, for
instance, were not being run to their full capacity. And then had
come the definite news that Mr. Worthington was beaten, a local
representative having arrived straight from the rotunda. Cynthia
overheard Lem Hallowell telling it to Ephraim, and she could not for the
life of her help rejoicing, though she despised herself for it. Isaac
Worthington was humbled now, and Jethro had humbled him to avenge her.
Despite her grief over his return to that life, there was something
to compel her awe and admiration in the way he had risen and done this
thing after men had fallen from him. Her mother had had something of
these same feelings, without knowing why.

People who had nothing but praise for him before were saying hard things
about Isaac Worthington that night. When the baron is defeated, the
serfs come out of their holes in the castle rock and fling their curses
across the moat. Cynthia slept but little, and was glad when the day
came to take her to her scholars, to ease her mind of the thoughts which
tortured it.

And then, when she stopped at the post-office to speak to Ephraim on
her way homeward in the afternoon, she heard men talking behind the
partition, and she stood, as one stricken, listening beside the window.
Other tidings had come in the shape of a telegram. The first rumor
had been false. Brampton had not yet received the details, but the
Consolidation Bill had gone into the House that morning, and would be
a law before the week was out. A part of it was incomprehensible to
Cynthia, but so much she had understood. She did not wait to speak to
Ephraim, and she was going out again when a man rushed past her and
through the partition door. Cynthia paused instinctively, for she
recognized him as one of the frequenters of the station and a bearer of
news.

“Jethro’s come home, boys,” he shouted; “come in on the four o’clock,
and went right off to Coniston. Guess he’s done for, this time, for
certain. Looks it. By Godfrey, he looks eighty! Callate his day’s over,
from the way the boys talked on the train.”

Cynthia lingered to hear no more, and went out, dazed, into the
September sunshine: Jethro beaten, and broken, and gone to Coniston.
Resolution came to her as she walked. Arriving home, she wrote a little
note and left it on the table for Ephraim; and going out again, ran by
the back lane to Mr. Sherman’s livery stable behind the Brampton House,
and in half an hour was driving along that familiar road to Coniston,
alone; for she had often driven Jethro’s horses, and knew every turn of
the way. And as she gazed at the purple mountain through the haze and
drank in the sweet scents of the year’s fulness, she was strangely
happy. There was the village green in the cool evening light, and the
flagstaff with its tip silvered by the departing sun. She waved to Rias
and Lem and Moses at the store, but she drove on to the tannery house,
and hitched the horse at the rough granite post, and went in, and
through the house, softly, to the kitchen.

Jethro was standing in the doorway, and did not turn. He may have
thought she was Millicent Skinner. Cynthia could see his face. It was
older, indeed, and lined and worn, but that fearful look of desolation
which she had once surprised upon it, and which she in that instant
feared to see, was not there. Jethro’s soul was at peace, though Cynthia
could not understand why it was so. She stole to him and flung her arms
about his neck, and with a cry he seized her and held her against him
for I know not how long. Had it been possible to have held her there
always, he would never have let her go. At last he looked down into her
tear-wet face, into her eyes that were shining with tears.

“D-done wrong, Cynthy.”

Cynthia did not answer that, for she remembered how she, too,
had exulted when she had believed him to have accomplished Isaac
Worthington’s downfall. Now that he had failed, and she was in his arms,
it was not for her to judge--only to rejoice.

“Didn’t look for you to come back--didn’t expect it.”

“Uncle Jethro!” she faltered. Love for her had made him go, and she
would not say that, either.

“D-don’t hate me, Cynthy--don’t hate me?”

She shook her head.

“Love me--a little?”

She reached up her hands and brushed back his hair, tenderly, from his
forehead. Such--a loving gesture was her answer.

“You are going to stay here always, now,” she said, in a low voice, “you
are never going away again.”

“G-goin’ to stay always,” he answered. Perhaps he was thinking of the
hillside clearing in the forest--who knows! “You’ll come-sometime,
Cynthy--sometime?”

“I’ll come every Saturday and Sunday, Uncle Jethro,” she said, smiling
up at him. “Saturday is only two days away, now. I can hardly wait.”

“Y-you’ll come sometime?”

“Uncle Jethro, do you think I’ll be away from you, except--except when I
have to?”

“C-come and read to me--won’t you--come and read?”

“Of course I will!”

“C-call to mind the first book you read to me, Cynthy?”

“It was ‘Robinson Crusoe,’” she said.

“‘R-Robinson Crusoe.’ Often thought of that book. Know some of it by
heart. R-read it again, sometime, Cynthy?”

She looked up at him a little anxiously. His eyes were on the great hill
opposite, across Coniston Water.

“I will, indeed, Uncle Jethro, if we can find it,” she answered.

“Guess I can find it,” said Jethro. “R-remember when you saw him makin’
a ship?”

“Yes,” said Cynthia, “and I had my feet in the pool.”

The book had made a profound impression upon Jethro, partly because
Cynthia had first read it to him, and partly for another reason. The
isolation of Crusoe; depicted by Defoe’s genius, had been comparable to
his own isolation, and he had pondered upon it much of late. Yes, and
upon a certain part of another book which he had read earlier in life:
Napoleon had ended his days on St. Helena.

They walked out under the trees to the brook-side and stood listening
to the tinkling of the cowbells in the wood lot beyond. The light faded
early on these September evenings, and the smoky mist had begun to rise
from the water when they turned back again. The kitchen windows were
already growing yellow, and through them the faithful Millicent could be
seen bustling about in her preparations for supper. But Cynthia, having
accomplished her errand, would not go in. She could not have borne to
have any one drive back with her to Brampton then, and she must not be
late upon the road.

“I will come Friday evening, Uncle Jethro,” she said, as she kissed him
and gave one last, lingering look at his face. Had it been possible,
she would not have left him, and on her way to Brampton through the
gathering darkness she mused anxiously upon that strange calmness he had
shown after defeat.

She drove her horse on to the floor of Mr. Sherman’s stable, that
gentleman himself gallantly assisting her to alight, and walked homeward
through the lane. Ephraim had not yet returned from the postoffice,
which did not close until eight, and Cynthia smiled when she saw the
utensils of his cooking-kit strewn on the hearth. In her absence he
invariably unpacked and used it, and of course Cynthia at once set
herself to cleaning and packing it again. After that she got her own
supper--a very simple affair--and was putting the sitting room to rights
when Ephraim came thumping in.

“Well, I swan!” he exclaimed when he saw her. “I didn’t look for you to
come back so soon, Cynthy. Put up the kit--hev you?” He stood in front
of the fireplace staring with apparent interest at the place where the
kit had been, and added in a voice which he strove to make quite casual,
“How be Jethro?”

“He looks older, Cousin Eph,” she answered, after a pause, “and I think
he is very tired. But he seems he seems more tranquil and contented than
I hoped to find him.”

“I want to know,” said Ephraim. “I am glad to hear it. Glad you went up,
Cynthy--you done right to go.

“I’d have gone with you, if you’d only told me. I’ll git a chance to go
up Sunday.”

There was an air of repressed excitement about the veteran which did
not escape Cynthia. He held two letters in his hand, and, being a
postmaster, he knew the handwriting on both. One had come from that
place in New Jersey, and drew no comment. But the other! That one had
been postmarked at the capital, and as he had sat at his counter at the
post-office waiting for closing time he had turned it over and over with
many ejaculations and futile guesses. Past master of dissimulation that
he was, he had made up his mind--if he should find Cynthia at home--to
lay the letters indifferently on the table and walk into his bedroom.
This campaign he now proceeded to carry out.

Cynthia smiled again when he was gone, and shook her head and picked
up the letters: Bob’s was uppermost and she read that first, without a
thought of the other one. And she smiled as she read for Bob had had
a promotion. He was not yet at the head of the locomotive works, he
hastened to add, for fear that Cynthia might think that Mr. Broke had
resigned the presidency in his favor; and Cynthia never failed to laugh
at these little facetious asides. He was now earning the princely sum of
ninety dollars a month--not enough to marry on, alas! On Saturday nights
he and Percy Broke scrubbed as much as possible of the grime from their
hands and faces and went to spend Sunday at Elberon, the Broke place on
the Hudson; from whence Miss Sally Broke, if she happened to be at home,
always sent Cynthia her love. As Cynthia is still a heroine, I shall
not describe how she felt about Sally Broke’s love. There was plenty
of Bob’s own in the letter. Cynthia would got have blamed him if he
bad fallen in love with Miss Broke. It seemed to her little short of
miraculous that, amidst such surroundings, he could be true to her.

After a period which was no briefer than that usually occupied by Bob’s
letters, Cynthia took the other one from her lap, and stared at it in
much perplexity before she tore it open. We have seen its contents over
Mr. Worthington’s shoulder, and our hearts will not stop beating--as
Cynthia’s did. She read it twice before the full meaning of it came to
her, and after that she could not well mistake it,--the language being
so admirable in every way. She sat very still for a long while, and
presently she heard Ephraim go out. But Cynthia did not move. Mr.
Worthington relented and Bob recalled! The vista of happiness suddenly
opened up, widened and widened until it was too bright for
Cynthia’s vision, and she would compel her mind to dwell on another
prospect,--that of the father and son reconciled. Although her
temples throbbed, she tried to analyze the letter. It implied that Mr.
Worthington had allowed Bob to remain away on a sort of probation; it
implied that it had been dictated by a strong paternal love mingled with
a strong paternal justice. And then there was the appeal to her: “You
will look with indulgence upon any acts of mine which sprang from a
natural solicitation for the welfare and happiness of my only child.” A
terrible insight is theirs to whom it is given to love as Cynthia loved.

Suddenly there came a knock which frightened her, for her mind was
running on swiftly from point to point: had, indeed, flown as far as
Coniston by now, and she was thinking of that strange look of peace on
Jethro’s face which had troubled her. One letter she thrust into her
dress, but the other she laid aside, and her knees trembled under her
as she rose and went into the entry and raised the latch and opened the
door. There was a moon, and the figure in the frock coat and the silk
hat was the one which she expected to see. The silk hat came off very
promptly.

“I hope I am not disturbing you, Miss Wetherell,” said the owner of it.

“No,” answered Cynthia, faintly.

“May I come in?”

Cynthia held open the door a little wider, and Mr. Worthington walked
in. He seemed very majestic and out of place in the little house which
Gabriel Post had built, and he carried into it some of the atmosphere
of the walnut and high ceilings of his own mansion. His manner of laying
his hat, bottom up, on the table, and of unbuttoning his coat, subtly
indicated the honor which he was conferring upon the place. And he eyed
Cynthia, standing before him in the lamplight, with a modification
of the hawk-like look which was meant to be at once condescending
and conciliatory. He did not imprint a kiss upon her brow, as some
prospective fathers-in-law would have done. But his eyes, perhaps
involuntarily, paid a tribute to her personal appearance which
heightened her color. She might not, after all, be such a discredit to
the Worthington family.

“Won’t you sit down?” she asked.

“Thank you, Cynthia,” he said; “I hope I may now be allowed to call you
Cynthia?”

She did not answer him, but sat down herself, and he followed her
example; with his eyes still upon her.

“You have doubtless received my letter,” began Mr. Worthington. “I only
arrived in Brampton an hour ago, but I thought it best to come to you at
once, under the circumstances.”

“Yes,” replied Cynthia, “I received the letter.”

“I am glad,” said Mr. Worthington. He was beginning to be a little taken
aback by her calmness and her apparent absence of joy. It was scarcely
the way in which a school-teacher should receive the advances of the
first citizen, come to give a gracious consent to her marriage with his
son. Had he known it, Cynthia was anything but calm. “I am glad,” he
said, “because I took pains to explain the exact situation in that
letter, and to set forth my own sentiments. I hope you understood them.”

“Yes, I understood them,” said Cynthia, in a low tone.

This was enigmatical, to say the least. But Mr. Worthington had come
with such praiseworthy intentions that he was disposed to believe
that the girl was overwhelmed by the good fortune which had suddenly
overtaken her. He was therefore disposed to be a little conciliatory.

“My conduct may have appeared harsh to you,” he continued. “I will not
deny that I opposed the matter at first. Robert was still in college,
and he has a generous, impressionable nature which he inherits from his
poor mother--the kind of nature likely to commit a rash act which
would ruin his career. I have since become convinced that he
has--ahem--inherited likewise a determination of purpose and an ability
to get on in the world which I confess I had underestimated. My friend,
Mr. Broke, has written me a letter about him, and tells me that he has
already promoted him.”

“Yes,” said Cynthia.

“You hear from him?” inquired Mr. Worthington, giving her a quick
glance.

“Yes,” said Cynthia, her color rising a little.

“And yet,” said Mr. Worthington, slowly, “I have been under the
impression that you have persistently refused to marry him.”

“That is true,” she answered.

“I cannot refrain from complimenting you, Cynthia, upon such rare
conduct,” said he. “You will be glad to know that it has contributed
more than anything else toward my estimation of your character, and has
strengthened me in my resolution that I am now doing right. It may
be difficult for you to understand a father’s feelings. The complete
separation from my only son was telling on me severely, and I could not
forget that you were the cause of that separation. I knew nothing about
you, except--” He hesitated, for she had turned to him.

“Except what?” she asked.

Mr. Worthington coughed. Mr. Flint had told him, that very morning, of
her separation from Jethro, and of the reasons which people believed had
caused it. Unfortunately, we have not time to go into that conversation
with Mr. Flint, who had given a very good account of Cynthia indeed.
After all (Mr. Worthington reflected), he had consented to the marriage,
and there was no use in bringing Jethro’s name into the conversation.
Jethro would be forgotten soon.

“I will not deny to You that I had other plans for my son,” he said. “I
had hoped that he would marry a daughter of a friend of mine. You must
be a little indulgent with parents, Cynthia,” he added with a little
smile, “we have our castles in the air, too. Sometimes, as in this case,
by a wise provision of providence they go astray. I suppose you have
heard of Miss Duncan’s marriage.”

“No,” said Cynthia.

“She ran off with a worthless Italian nobleman. I believe, on the
whole,” he said, with what was an extreme complaisance for the first
citizen, “that I have reason to congratulate myself upon Robert’s
choice. I have made inquiries about you, and I find that I have had the
pleasure of knowing your mother, whom I respected very much. And your
father, I understand, came of very good people, and was forced by
circumstances to adopt the means of livelihood he did. My attention has
been called to the letters he wrote to the Guardian, which I hear have
been highly praised by competent critics, and I have ordered a set of
them for the files of the library. You yourself, I find, are highly
thought of in Brampton” (a, not unimportant factor, by the way); “you
have been splendidly educated, and are a lady. In short, Cynthia, I have
come to give my formal consent to your engagement to my son Robert.”

“But I am not engaged to him,” said Cynthia.

“He will be here shortly, I imagine,” said Mr. Worthington.

Cynthia was trembling more than ever by this time. She was very angry,
and she had found it very difficult to repress the things which she
had been impelled to speak. She did not hate Isaac Worthington now--she
despised him. He had not dared to mention Jethro, who had been her
benefactor, though he had done his best to have her removed from the
school because of her connection with Jethro.

“Mr. Worthington,” she said, “I have not yet made up my mind whether I
shall marry your son.”

To say that Mr. Worthington’s breath was taken away when he heard these
words would be to use a mild expression. He doubted his senses.

“What?” he exclaimed, starting forward, “what do you mean?”

Cynthia hesitated a moment. She was not frightened, but she was trying
to choose her words without passion.

“I refused to marry him,” she said, “because you withheld your consent,
and I did not wish to be the cause of a quarrel between you. It was not
difficult to guess your feelings toward me, even before certain things
occurred of which I will not speak. I did my best, from the very first,
to make Bob give up the thought of marrying me, although I loved and
honored him. Loving him as I do, I do not want to be the cause of
separating him from his father, and of depriving him of that which is
rightfully his. But something was due to myself. If I should ever make
up my mind to marry him,” continued Cynthia, looking at Mr. Worthington
steadfastly, “it will not be because your consent is given or withheld.”

“Do you tell me this to my face?” exclaimed Mr. Worthington, now in a
rage himself at such unheard-of presumption.

“To your face,” said Cynthia, who got more self-controlled as he grew
angry. “I believe that that consent, which you say you have given
freely, was wrung from you.”

It was unfortunate that the first citizen might not always have Mr.
Flint by him to restrain and caution him. But Mr. Flint could have no
command over his master’s sensations, and anger and apprehension goaded
Mr. Worthington to indiscretion.

“Jethro Bass told you this!” he cried out.

“No,” Cynthia answered, not in the least surprised by the admission,
“he did not tell me--but he will if I ask him. I guessed it from your
letter. I heard that he had come back to-day, and I went to Coniston to
see him, and he told me--he had been defeated.”

Tears came into her eyes at the remembrance of the scene in the tannery
house that afternoon, and she knew now why Jethro’s face had worn that
look of peace. He had made his supreme sacrifice--for her. No, he had
told her nothing, and she might never have known. She sat thinking of
the magnitude of this thing Jethro had done, and she ceased to speak,
and the tears coursed down her cheeks unheeded.

Isaac Worthington had a habit of clutching things when he was in a rage,
and now he clutched the arms of the chair. He had grown white. He was
furious with her, furious with himself for having spoken that which
might be construed into a confession. He had not finished writing
the letters before he had stood self-justified, and he had been
self-justified ever since. Where now were these arguments so wonderfully
plausible? Where were the refutations which he had made ready in case of
a barely possible need? He had gone into the Pelican House intending to
tell Jethro of his determination to agree to the marriage. That was one.
He had done so--that was another--and he had written the letters that
Jethro might be convinced of his good will. There were still more,
involving Jethro’s character for veracity and other things. Summoning
these, he waited for Cynthia to have done speaking, but when she had
finished--he said nothing. He looked a her, and saw the tears on her
face, and he saw that she had completely forgotten his presence.

For the life of him, Isaac Worthington could not utter a word. He was a
man, as we know, who did not talk idly, and he knew that Cynthia would
not hear what he said; and arguments and denunciations lose their effect
when repeated. Again, he knew that she would not believe him. Never in
his life had Isaac Worthington been so ignored, so put to shame, as by
this school-teacher of Brampton. Before, self-esteem and sophistry
had always carried him off between them; sometimes, in truth, with a
wound--the wound had always healed. But he had a feeling, to-night, that
this woman had glanced into his soul, and had turned away from it. As he
looked at her the texture of his anger changed; he forgot for the first
time that which he had been pleased to think of as her position in life,
and he feared her. He had matched his spirit against hers.

Before long the situation became intolerable to him, for Cynthia still
sat silent. She was thinking of how she had blamed Jethro for going back
to that life, even though his love for her had made him do it. But Isaac
Worthington did not know of what she was thinking--he thought only of
himself and his predicament. He could not remain, and yet he could not
go--with dignity. He who had come to bestow could not depart like a
whipped dog.

Suddenly a fear transfixed him: suppose that this woman, from whom he
could not hide the truth, should tell his son what he had done. Bob
would believe her. Could he, Isaac Worthington, humble his pride and ask
her to keep her suspicions to herself? He would then be acknowledging
that they were more than suspicions. If he did so, he would have to
appear to forgive her in spite of what she had said to him. And Bob
was coming home. Could he tell Bob that he had changed his mind and
withdrawn his consent to the marriage? There world be the reason, and
again Bob would believe her. And again, if he withdrew his consent,
there was Jethro to reckon with. Jethro must have a weapon still, Mr.
Worthington thought, although he could not imagine what it might be.
As Isaac Worthington sat there, thinking, it grew clear, to him at last
that there was but one exit out of a very desperate situation.

He glanced at Cynthia again, this time appraisingly. She had dried her
eyes, but she made no effort to speak. After all, she would make such
a wife for his son as few men possessed. He thought of Sarah
Hollingsworth. She had been a good woman, but there had been many
times when he had deplored--especially in his travels the lack of other
qualities in his wife. Cynthia, he thought, had these qualities,--so
necessary for the wife of one who would succeed to power--though whence
she had got them Isaac Worthington could not imagine. She would become
a personage; she was a woman of whom they had no need to be ashamed
at home or abroad. Having completed these reflections, he broke the
silence.

“I am sorry that you should have been misled into thinking such a thing
as you have expressed, Cynthia,” he said, “but I believe that I can
understand something of the feelings which prompted you. It is natural
that you should have a resentment against me after everything that has
happened. It is perhaps natural, too, that I should lose my temper under
the circumstances. Let us forget it. And I trust that in the future
we shall grow into the mutual respect and affection which our nearer
relationship will demand.”

He rose, and took up his hat, and Cynthia rose too. There was something
very fine, he thought, about her carriage and expression as she stood in
front of him.

“There is my hand,” he said,--“will you take it?”

“I will take it,” Cynthia answered, “because you are Bob’s father.”

And then Mr. Worthington went away.



CHAPTER XX

I am able to cite one notable instance, at least, to disprove the saying
a part of which is written above, and I have yet to hear of a case in
which a gentleman ever hesitated a single instant on account of the
first letter of a lady’s last name. I know, indeed, of an occasion when
locomotives could not go fast enough, when thirty miles an hour seemed a
snail’s pace to a young main who sat by the open window of a train that
crept northward on a certain hazy September morning up the beautiful
valley of a broad river which we know.

It was after three o’clock before he caught sight of the familiar crest
of Farewell Mountain, and the train ran into Harwich. How glad he was to
see everybody there, whether he knew them or not! He came near hugging
the conductor of the Truro accommodation; who, needless to say, did
not ask him for a ticket, or even a pass. And then the young man went
forward and almost shook the arms off of the engineer and the fireman,
and climbed into the cab, and actually drove the engine himself as far
as Brampton, where it arrived somewhat ahead of schedule, having taken
some of the curves and bridges at a speed a little beyond the law. The
engineer was richer by five dollars, and the son of a railroad president
is a privileged character, anyway.

Yes, here was Brampton, and in spite of the haze the sun had never shone
so brightly on the terraced steeple of the meeting-house. He leaped
out of the cab almost before the engine had stopped, and beamed upon
everybody on the platform,--even upon Mr. Dodd, who chanced to be there.
In a twinkling the young man is in Mr. Sherman’s hack, and Mr. Sherman
galloping his horse down Brampton Street, the young man with his head
out of the window, smiling; grinning would be a better word. Here are
the iron mastiffs, and they seem to be grinning, too. The young man
flings open the carriage door and leaps out, and the door is almost
broken from its hinges by the maple tree. He rushes up the steps and
through the hall, and into the library, where the first citizen and his
seneschal are sitting.

“Hello, Father, you see I didn’t waste any time,” he cried; grasping his
father’s hand in a grip that made Mr. Worthington wince. “Well, you
are a trump, after all. We’re both a little hot-headed, I guess, and do
things we’re sorry for,--but that’s all over now, isn’t it? I’m sorry.
I might have known you’d come round when you found out for yourself what
kind of a girl Cynthia was. Did you ever see anybody like her?”

Mr. Flint turned his back, and started to walk out of the room.

“Don’t go, Flint, old boy,” Bob called out, seizing Mr. Flint’s hand,
too. “I can’t stay but a minute, now. How are you?”

“All right, Bob,” answered Mr. Flint, with a curious, kindly look in his
eyes that was not often there. “I’m glad to see you home. I have to go
to the bank.”

“Well, Father,” said Bob, “school must be out, and I imagine you know
where I’m going. I just thought I’d stop in to--to thank you, and get a
benediction.”

“I am very happy to have you back, Robert,” replied Mr. Worthington,
and it was true. It would have been strange indeed if some tremor of
sentiment had not been in his voice and some gleam of pride in his eye
as he looked upon his son.

“So you saw her, and couldn’t resist her,” said Bob. “Wasn’t that how it
happened?”

Mr. Worthington sat down again at the desk, and his hand began to stray
among the papers. He was thinking of Mr. Flint’s exit.

“I do not arrive at my decisions quite in that way, Robert,” he
answered.

“But you have seen her?”

“Yes, I have seen her.”

There was a hesitation, an uneasiness in his father’s tone for which Bob
could not account, and which he attributed to emotion. He did not guess
that this hour of supreme joy could hold for Isaac Worthington another
sensation.

“Isn’t she the finest girl in the world?” he demanded. “How does she
seem? How does she look?”

“She looks extremely well,” said Mr. Worthington, who had now schooled
his voice. “In fact, I am quite ready to admit that Cynthia Wetherell
possesses the qualifications necessary for your wife. If she had not, I
should never have written you.”

Bob walked to the window.

“Father;” he said, speaking with a little difficulty, “I can’t tell you
how much I appreciate your--your coming round. I wanted to do the right
thing, but I just couldn’t give up such a girl as that.”

“We shall let bygones be bygones, Robert,” answered Mr. Worthington,
clearing his throat.

“She never would have me without your consent. By the way,” he cried,
turning suddenly, “did she say she’d have me now?”

“I believe,” said Mr. Worthington, clearing his throat again, “I believe
she reserved her decision.”

“I must be off,” said Bob, “she goes to Coniston on Fridays. I’ll drive
her out. Good-by, Father.”

He flew out of the room, ran into Mrs. Holden, whom he astonished by
saluting on the cheek, and astonished even more by asking her to tell
Silas to drive his black horses to Gabriel Post’s house--as the cottage
was still known in Brampton. And having hastily removed some of the
cinders, he flew out of the door and reached the park-like space in the
middle of Brampton Street. Then he tried to walk decorously, but it was
hard work. What if she should not be in?

The door and windows of the little house were open that balmy afternoon,
and the bees were buzzing among the flowers which Cynthia had planted on
either side of the step. Bob went up the path, and caught a glimpse of
her through the entry standing in the sitting room. She was, indeed,
waiting for the Coniston stage, and she did not see him. Shall I destroy
the mental image of the reader who has known her so long by trying
to tell what she looked like? Some heroines grow thin and worn by the
troubles which they are forced to go through. Cynthia was not this kind
of a heroine. She was neither tall nor short, and the dark blue gown
which she wore set off (so Bob thought) the curves of her figure to
perfection. Her face had become a little more grave--yes, and more
noble; and the eyes and mouth had an indescribable, womanly sweetness.

He stood for a moment outside the doorway gazing at her; hesitating to
desecrate that revery, which seemed to him to have a touch of sadness
in it. And then she turned her head, slowly, and saw him, and her lips
parted, and a startled look came into her eyes, but she did not move.
He came quickly into the room and stopped again, quivering from head
to foot with the passion which the sight of her never failed to unloose
within him. Still she did not speak, but her lip trembled, and the love
leaping in his eyes kindled a yearning in hers,--a yearning she was
powerless to resist. He may by that strange power have drawn her toward
him--he never knew. Neither of them could have given evidence on that
marvellous instant when the current bridged the space between them. He
could not say whether this woman whom he had seized by force before had
shown alike vitality in her surrender. He only knew that her arms were
woven about his neck, and that the kiss of which he had dreamed was
again on his lips, and that he felt once more her wonderful, supple body
pressed against his, and her heart beating, and her breast heaving. And
he knew that the strength of the love in her which he had gained was
beyond estimation.

Thus for a time they swung together in ethereal space, breathless
with the motion of their flight. The duration of such moments is--in
words--limitless. Now he held her against him, and again he held her
away that his eyes might feast upon hers until she dropped her lashes
and the crimson tide flooded into her face and she hid it again in the
refuge she had longed for,--murmuring his name. But at last, startled by
some sound without and so brought back to earth, she led him gently to
the window at the side and looked up at him searchingly. He was tanned
no longer.

“I was afraid you had been working too hard,” she said.

“So you do love me?” was Bob’s answer to this remark.

Cynthia smiled at him with her eyes: gravely, if such a thing may be
said of a smile.

“Bob, how can you ask?”

“Oh, Cynthia,” he cried, “if you knew what I have been through, you
wouldn’t have held out, I know it. I began to think I should never have
you.”

“But you have me now,” she said, and was silent.

“Why do you look like that?” he asked.

She smiled up at him again.

“I, too, have suffered, Bob,” she said. “And I have thought of you night
and day.”

“God bless you, sweetheart,” he cried, and kissed her again,--many
times. “It’s all right now, isn’t it? I knew my father would give his
consent when he found out what you were.”

The expression of pain which had troubled him crossed her face again,
and she put her hand on his shoulder.

“Listen, dearest,” she said, “I love you. I am doing this for you. You
must understand that.”

“Why, yes, Cynthia, I understand it--of course I do,” he answered,
perplexed. “I understand it, but I don’t deserve it.”

“I want you to know,” she continued in a low voice, “that I should have
married you anyway. I--I could not have helped it.”

“Cynthia!”

“If you were to go back to the locomotive works’ tomorrow, I would marry
you.”

“On ninety dollars a month?” exclaimed Bob.

“If you wanted me,” she said.

“Wanted you! I could live in a log cabin with you the rest of my life.”

She drew down his face to hers, and kissed him.

“But I wished you to be reconciled with your father,” she said; “I could
not bear to come between you. You--you are reconciled, aren’t you?”

“Indeed, we are,” he said.

“I am glad, Bob,” she answered simply. “I should not have been happy if
I had driven you away from the place where you should be, which is your
home.”

“Wherever you are will be my home; sweetheart,” he said, and pressed her
to him once more.

At length, looking past his shoulder into the street, she saw Lem
Hallowell pulling up the Brampton stage before the door.

“Bob,” she said, “I must go to Coniston and see Uncle Jethro. I promised
him.”

Bob’s answer was to walk into the entry, where he stood waving the most
joyous of greetings at the surprised stage driver.

“I guess you won’t get anybody here, Lem,” he called out.

“But, Bob,” protested Cynthia, from within, afraid to show her face just
then, “I have to go, I promised. And--and I want to go,” she added when
he turned.

“I’m running a stage to Coniston to-day myself, Lem,” said he “and I’m
going to steal your best passenger.”

Lemuel immediately flung down his reins and jumped out of the stage and
came up the path and into the entry, where he stood confronting Cynthia.

“Hev you took him, Cynthy?” he demanded.

“Yes, Lem,” she answered, “won’t you congratulate me?”

The warm-hearted stage driver did congratulate her in a most
unmistakable manner.

“I think a sight of her, Bob,” he said after he had shaken both of Bob’s
hands and brushed his own eyes with his coat sleeve. “I’ve knowed her
so long--” Whereupon utterance failed him, and he ran down the path and
jumped into his stage again and drove off.

And then Cynthia sent Bob on an errand--not a very long one, and
while he was gone, she sat down at the table and tried to realize her
happiness, and failed. In less than ten minutes Bob had come back with
Cousin Ephraim, as fast as he could hobble. He flung his arms around
her, stick and all, and he was crying. It is a fact that old soldiers
sometimes cry. But his tears did not choke his utterance.

“Great Tecumseh!” said Cousin Ephraim, “so you’ve went and done it,
Cynthy. Siege got a little mite too hot. I callated she’d capitulate in
the end, but she held out uncommon long.”

“That she did,” exclaimed Bob, feelingly.

“I--I was tellin’ Bob I hain’t got nothin’ against him,” continued
Ephraim.

“Oh, Cousin Eph,” said Cynthia, laughing in spite of herself, and
glancing at Bob, “is that all you can say?”

“Cousin Eph’s all right,” said Bob, laughing too. “We understand each
other.”

“Callate we do,” answered Ephraim. “I’ll go so far as to say there
hain’t nobody I’d ruther see you marry. Guess I’ll hev to go back to the
kit, now. What’s to become of the old pensioner, Cynthy?”

“The old pensioner needn’t worry,” said Cynthia.

Then drove up Silas the Silent, with Bob’s buggy and his black trotters.
All of Brampton might see them now; and all of Brampton did see them.
Silas got out,--his presence not being required,--and Cynthia was helped
in, and Bob got in beside her, and away they went, leaving Ephraim
waving his stick after them from the doorstep.

It is recorded against the black trotters that they made very poor time
to Coniston that day, though I cannot discover that either of them
was lame. Lem Hallowell, who was there nearly an hour ahead of them,
declares that the off horse had a bunch of branches in his mouth.
Perhaps Bob held them in on account of the scenery that September
afternoon. Incomparable scenery! I doubt if two lovers of the
renaissance ever wandered through a more wondrous realm of pleasance--to
quote the words of the poet. Spots in it are like a park, laid out by
that peerless landscape gardener, nature: dark, symmetrical pine trees
on the sward, and maples in the fulness of their leaf, and great oaks on
the hillsides, and, coppices; and beyond, the mountain, the evergreens
massed like cloud-shadows on its slopes; and all-trees and coppice and
mountain--flattened by the haze until they seemed woven in the softest
of blues and blue greens into one exquisite picture of an ancient
tapestry. I, myself, have seen these pictures in that country, and
marvelled.

So they drove on through that realm, which was to be their realm,
and came all too soon to Coniston green. Lem Hallowell had spread the
well-nigh incredible news, that Cynthia Wetherell was to marry the son
of the mill-owner and railroad president of Brampton, and it seemed to
Cynthia that every man and woman and child of the village was gathered
at the store. Although she loved them, every one, she whispered
something to Bob when she caught sight of that group on the platform,
and he spoke to the trotters. Thus it happened that they flew by, and
were at the tannery house before they knew it; and Cynthia, all unaided,
sprang out of the buggy and ran in, alone. She found Jethro sitting
outside of the kitchen door with a volume on his knee, and she saw that
the print of it was large, and she knew that the book was “Robinson
Crusoe.”

Cynthia knelt down on the grass beside him and caught his hands in hers.

“Uncle Jethro,” she said, “I am going to marry Bob Worthington.”

“Yes, Cynthy,” he answered. And taking the initiative for the first time
in his life, he stooped down and kissed her.

“I knew--you would be happy--in my happiness,” she said, the tears
brimming in her eyes.

“N-never have been so happy, Cynthy,--never have.”

“Uncle Jethro, I never will desert you. I shall always take care of
you.”

“R-read to me sometimes, Cynthy--r-read to me?”

But she could not answer him. She was sobbing on the pages of that book
he had given her--long ago.

I like to dwell on happiness, and I am reluctant to leave these people
whom I have grown to love. Jethro Bass lived to take Cynthia’s children
down by the brook and to show them the pictures, at least, in that
wonderful edition of “Robinson Crusoe.” He would never depart from the
tannery house, but Cynthia went to him there, many times a week. There
is a spot not far from the Coniston road, and five miles distant alike
from Brampton and Coniston, where Bob Worthington built his house, and
where he and Cynthia dwelt many years; and they go there to this day, in
the summer-time. It stands in the midst of broad lands, and the ground
in front of it slopes down to Coniston Water, artificially widened here
by a stone dam into a little lake. From the balcony of the summer-house
which overhangs the lake there is a wonderful view of Coniston Mountain,
and Cynthia Worthington often sits there with her sewing or her book,
listening to the laughter of her children, and thinking, sometimes, of
bygone days.



AFTERWORD

The reality of the foregoing pages has to the author, at least, become
so vivid that he regrets the necessity of having to add an afterword.
Every novel is, to some extent, a compound of truth and fiction, and he
has done his best to picture conditions as they were, and to make the
spirit of his book true. Certain people who were living in St. Louis
during the Civil War have been mentioned as the originals of characters
in “The Crisis,” and there are houses in that city which have been
pointed out as fitting descriptions in that novel. An author has,
frequently, people, houses, and localities in mind when he writes; but
he changes them, sometimes very materially, in the process of literary
construction.

It is inevitable, perhaps, that many people of a certain New England
state will recognize Jethro Bass. There are different opinions extant
concerning the remarkable original of this character; ardent defenders
and detractors of his are still living, but all agree that he was
a strange man of great power. The author disclaims any intention of
writing a biography of him. Some of the things set down in this book
he did, and others he did not do. Some of the anecdotes here related
concerning him are, in the main, true, and for this material the author
acknowledges his indebtedness particularly to Colonel Thomas B. Cheney
of Ashland, New Hampshire, and to other friends who have helped him.
Jethro Bass was typical of his Era, and it is of the Era that this book
attempts to treat.

Concerning the locality where Jethro Bass was born and lived, it will
and will not be recognized. It would have been the extreme of bad taste
to have put into these pages any portraits which might have offended
families or individuals, and in order that it may be known that the
author has not done so he has written this Afterword. Nor has he
particularly chosen for the field of this novel a state of which he is
a citizen, and for which he has a sincere affection. The conditions
here depicted, while retaining the characteristics of the locality,
he believes to be typical of the Era over a large part of the United
States.

Many of the Puritans who came to New England were impelled to emigrate
from the old country, no doubt, by an aversion to pulling the forelock
as well as by religious principles, and the spirit of these men
prevailed for a certain time after the Revolution was fought. Such men
lived and ruled in Coniston before the rise of Jethro Bass.

Self-examination is necessary for the moral health of nations as well
as men, and it is the most hopeful of signs that in the United States we
are to-day going through a period of self-examination.

We shall do well to ascertain the causes which have led us gradually to
stray from the political principles laid down by our forefathers for
all the world to see. Some of us do not even know what those principles
were. I have met many intelligent men, in different states of the Union,
who could not even repeat the names of the senators who sat for them in
Congress. Macaulay said, in 1852, “We now know, by the clearest of all
proof, that universal suffrage, even united with secret voting, is no
security, against the establishment of arbitrary power.” To quote James
Russell Lowell, writing a little later: “We have begun obscurely to
recognize that... popular government is not in itself a panacea, is no
better than any other form except as the virtue and wisdom of the people
make it so.”

As Americans, we cannot but believe that our political creed goes down
in its foundations to the solid rock of truth. One of the best reasons
for our belief lies in the fact that, since 1776, government after
government has imitated our example. We have, by our very existence
and rise to power, made any decided retrogression from these doctrines
impossible. So many people have tried to rule themselves, and are still
trying, that one begins to believe that the time is not far distant
when the United States, once the most radical, will become the most
conservative of nations.

Thus the duty rests to-day, more heavily than ever, upon each American
citizen to make good to the world those principles upon which his
government was built. To use a figure suggested by the calamity which
has lately befallen one of the most beloved of our cities, there is a
theory that earthquakes are caused by a necessary movement on the part
of the globe to regain its axis. Whether or not the theory be true, it
has its political application. In America to-day we are trying--whatever
the cost--to regain the true axis established for us by the founders of
our Republic.

HARLAKENDEN HOUSE, May 7, 1906.


    PG EDITOR’S BOOKMARKS:

    Books she had known from her earliest infancy
    But I wanted to be happy as long as I could
    Curiosity as a factor has never been given its proper weight
    Even old people may have an ideal
    Every novel is, to some extent, a compound of truth and fiction
    Fond of her, although she was no more than an episode in his life
    Giant pines that gave many a mast to King George’s navy
    Had exhausted the resources of the little school
    He hain’t be’n eddicated a great deal
    Life had made a woman of her long ago
    Not that I’ve anything against her personally--
    Pious belief in democracy, with a firmer determination to get on top
    Riddle he could not solve--one that was best left alone
    Stray from the political principles laid down by our forefathers
    That which is the worst cruelty of all--the cruelty of selfishness
    The home is the very foundation-rock of the nation
    The old soldier found dependence hard to bear
    The one precious gift of life
    They don’t take notice of him, because he don’t say much
    Though his heart was breaking, his voice was steady
    We know nothing of their problems or temptations





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