AND OTHER STORIES
By Frank Harris
Macmillan And Co.
And London 1894
All rights reserved
BY MACMILLAN AND CO.
THE SHERIFF AND HIS PARTNER.
A MODERN IDYLL.
THE BEST MAN IN GAROTTE.
GULMORE, THE BOSS
As soon as the Elder left the supper-table his daughter and the new
schoolmaster went out on the stoop or verandah which ran round the
frame-house. The day had been warm, but the chilliness of the evening air
betokened the near approach of the Indian summer. The house stood upon the
crest of what had been a roll in the prairie, and as the two leant
together on the railing of the stoop, they looked out over a small orchard
of peach-trees to where, a couple of hundred yards away, at the foot of
the bluff, Cottonwood Creek ran, fringed on either bank by the trees which
had suggested its name. On the horizon to their right, away beyond the
spears of yellow maize, the sun was sinking, a ball of orange fire against
the rose mist of the sky. When the girl turned towards him, perhaps to
avoid the level rays, Bancroft expressed the hope that she would go with
him to the house-warming. A little stiffly Miss Conklin replied that she'd
be pleased, but—
"What have I done, Miss Loo, to offend you?" the young man spoke
"Nothin', I guess," she answered, with assumed indifference.
"When I first came you were so kind and helped me in everything. Now for
the last two or three days you seem cold and sarcastic, as if you were
angry with me. I'd be sorry if that were so—very sorry."
"Why did you ask Jessie Stevens to go with you to the house-warmin'?" was
the girl's retort.
"I certainly didn't ask her," he replied hotly. "You must know I didn't."
"Then Seth lied!" exclaimed Miss Conklin. "But I guess he'll not try that
again with me—Seth Stevens I mean. He wanted me to go with him
to-night, and I didn't give him the mitten, as I should if I'd thought you
were goin' to ask me."
"What does 'giving the mitten' mean?" he questioned, with a puzzled air.
"Why, jest the plainest kind of refusal, I guess; but I only told him I
was afraid I'd have to go with you, seein' you were a stranger. 'Afraid,'"
she repeated, as if the word stung her. "But he'll lose nothin' by
waitin', nothin'. You hear me talk." And her eyes flashed.
As she drew herself up in indignation, Bancroft thought he had never seen
any one so lovely. "A perfect Hebe," he said to himself, and started as if
he had said the words aloud. The comparison was apt. Though Miss Loo
Conklin was only seventeen, her figure had all the ripeness of womanhood,
and her height—a couple of inches above the average—helped to
make her look older than she was. Her face was more than pretty; it was,
in fact, as beautiful as youth, good features, and healthy colouring could
make it. A knotted mass of chestnut hair set off the shapely head: the
large blue eyes were deepened by dark lashes. The underlip, however, was a
little full, and the oval of the face through short curve of jaw a trifle
too round. Her companion tried in vain to control the admiration of his
gaze. Unelated by what she felt to be merely her due, Miss Conklin was
silent for a time. At length she observed:
"I guess I'll have to go and fix up."
Just then the Elder appeared on the stoop. "Ef you're goin'," he said in
the air, as his daughter swept past him into the house, "you'd better
hitch Jack up to the light buggy."
"Thank you," said the schoolmaster; and for the sake of saying something,
he added, "What a fine view." The Elder paused but did not answer; he saw
nothing remarkable in the landscape except the Indian corn and the fruit,
and the words "fine view" conveyed no definite meaning to him; he went on
towards the stables.
The taciturnity of the Elder annoyed Bancroft excessively. He had now
passed a couple of weeks as a boarder with the Conklins, and the Elder's
unconscious rudeness was only one of many peculiarities that had brought
him to regard these Western folk as belonging almost to a distinct
species. George Bancroft was an ordinary middle-class Bostonian. He had
gone through the University course with rather more than average success,
and had the cant of unbounded intellectual sympathies. His self-esteem,
however, was not based chiefly on his intelligence, but on the ease with
which he reached a conventional standard of conduct. Not a little of his
character showed itself in his appearance. In figure he was about the
middle height, and strongly though sparely built. The head was
well-proportioned; the face a lean oval; the complexion sallow; the hair
and small moustache very dark; the brown eyes inexpressive and close-set,
revealing a tendency to suspiciousness—Bancroft prided himself on
his prudence. A certain smartness of dress and a conscious carriage
discovered a vanity which, in an older man, would have been fatuous. A
large or a sensitive nature would in youth, at least, have sought
unconsciously to bring itself into sympathy with strange surroundings, but
Bancroft looked upon those who differed from him in manners or conduct as
inferior, and this presumption in regard to the Conklins was strengthened
by his superiority in book-learning, the importance of which he had been
trained to over-estimate.
During their drive Miss Conklin made her companion talk of Eastern life;
she wanted to know what Chicago was like, and what people did in New York.
Stirred by her eager curiosity, Bancroft sketched both cities in hasty
outline, and proceeded to tell what he had read and heard of Paris, and
Rome, and London. But evidently the girl was not interested by his praise
of the art-life of European capitals or their historical associations; she
cut short his disquisition:
"See here! When I first seed you an' knew you was raised in Boston, an'
had lived in New York, I jest thought you no account for comin' to this
jumpin'-off place. Why did you come to Kansas, anyway, and what did you
reckon upon doin'? I guess you ain't goin' to teach school always."
The young man flushed under the frankness of the girl's gaze and question,
and what appeared like contempt in her opinion of him. Again he became
painfully conscious that there was a wide social difference between Miss
Conklin and himself. He had been accustomed to more reticence, and such
direct questioning seemed impertinent. But he was so completely under the
spell of her beauty, that he answered with scarcely visible hesitation:
"I came out here because I wanted to study law, and wasn't rich enough to
do it in the East. This school was the first position offered to me. I had
to take it, but I intend, after a term or two, to find a place in a
lawyer's office in some town, and get admitted to practice. If I'd had
fifteen hundred dollars I could have done that in Boston or New York, but
I suppose it will all come right in time."
"If I'd been you I'd have stayed in New York," and then, clasping her
hands on her knee, and looking intently before her, she added, "When I get
to New York—an' that won't be long—I'll stay there, you bet! I
guess New York's good enough for me. There's style there," and she nodded
her head decisively as she spoke.
Miss Loo and Bancroft were among the latest arrivals at the Morrises'. She
stood beside him while he hitched Jack to a post of the fence amidst a
crowd of other horses, and they entered the house together. In due form
she presented the schoolmaster to Mr. and Mrs. Morris, and smilingly
produced three linen tablecloths as her contribution to the warming. After
accepting the present with profuse thanks and unmeasured praise of it and
of the giver, Mrs. Morris conducted the newcomers across the passage into
the best sitting-room, which the young folk had already appropriated,
leaving the second-best room to their elders.
In the small square apartment were some twenty boys and girls, ranging
between sixteen and twenty-two years of age. The boys stood about at one
end of the room, while the girls sat at the other end chattering and
enjoying themselves. Bancroft did not go among those of his own sex, none
of whom he knew, and whom he set down as mere uncouth lads. He found it
more amusing to stand near the girls and talk with them. By so doing he
unconsciously offended the young men.
Presently a tall youth came towards them:
"I guess we'd better play somethin'?"
"Forfeits! Mr. Stevens," was a girl's quick reply, and it was arranged to
play forfeits in a queer educational fashion. First of all Mr. Stevens
left the room, presumably to think. When he came in again he went over to
Miss Conklin and asked her to spell "forgive." After a moment's pause she
spelt it correctly. He retired slowly, and on his return stopped again in
front of Miss Conklin with the word "reconciliation." She withstood the
test triumphantly. Annoyed apparently with the pains she took, Mr.
Stevens, on his next entrance, turned to a pretty, quiet girl named Miss
Black, and gave her "stranger," with a glance at Bancroft, which spread a
laugh among the boys. Miss Black began with "strai," and was not allowed
to go on, for Mr. Stevens at once offered his arm, and led her into the
"What takes place outside?" asked Bancroft confidentially of the girl
sitting nearest to him, who happened to be Miss Jessie Stevens. She
replied with surprise:
"I guess they kiss each other!"
"Ah!—Now I understand," he said to himself, and from that moment
followed the proceedings with more interest. He soon found that successive
pairs called each other out in turn, and he had begun to tire of the game,
when Miss Jessie Stevens stopped before him and pertly gave the word
"friendship." Of course he spelt it wrongly, and accompanied her outside
the door. As he kissed her cheek, she drew away her head quickly:
"I only called you out to give you a chance of kissin' Loo Conklin."
He thought it wiser not to reply to this, and contented himself with
thanking her as they entered the room. He paused before Miss Conklin, and
gave her "bumpkin," adding, by way of explanation, "a rude country
fellow." She spelt it cheerfully, without the "p." When the mistake was
made plain to her, which took some little time, she accepted his arm, and
went with him into the passage. He kissed her more than once, murmuring,
"At last, Miss Loo!" She replied seriously:
"See here! You're goin' to get into a fuss with Seth Stevens if you call
me out often. And he's the strongest of them all. You ain't afraid? O.K.
then. I guess we'll pay him out for lyin'."
On returning to the room, Bancroft became conscious of a thinly veiled
antagonism on the part of the young men. But he had hardly time to notice
it, when Miss Loo came in and said to him demurely, "Loo." He spelt "You."
Much laughter from the girls greeted the simple pleasantry.
So the game, punctuated by kisses, went on, until Miss Loo came in for the
fourth time, and stopped again before Bancroft, whereupon Seth Stevens
pushed through the crowd of young men, and said:
"Miss Loo Conklin! You know the rule is to change after three times."
At once she moved in front of the stout youth, Richards, who had come
forward to support his friend, and said "liar!" flashing at the same time
an angry glance at Stevens. "Lire," spelt Richards painfully, and the pair
Bancroft went over to the men's corner; the critical moment had come; he
measured his rival with a glance. Stevens was tall, fully six feet in
height, and though rather lank, had the bow legs and round shoulders which
often go with strength.
As he took up his new position, Stevens remarked to a companion, in a
"Schoolmasters kin talk an' teach, but kin they fight?"
Bancroft took it upon himself to answer, "Sometimes."
"Kin you?" asked Stevens sharply, turning to him.
"We kin try that to-morrow. I'll be in the lot behind Richards' mill at
"I'll be there," replied the schoolmaster, making his way again towards
the group of girls.
Nothing further happened until the old folk came in, and the party broke
up. Driving homewards with Miss Conklin, Bancroft began:
"How can I thank you enough for being so kind to me? You called me out
often, almost as often as I called you."
"I did that to rile Seth Stevens."
"And not at all to please me?"
"Perhaps a little," she said, and silence fell upon them.
His caution led him to restrain himself. He was disturbed by vague doubts,
and felt the importance of a decisive word. Presently Miss Conklin spoke,
in a lower voice than usual, but with an accent of coquettish triumph in
"So you like me after all? Like me really?"
"Do you doubt it?" His accent was reproachful. "But why do you say 'after
"You never kissed me comin' back from church last Sunday, and I showed you
the school and everythin'!"
"Might I have kissed you then? I was afraid of offending you."
"Offendin' me? Well, I guess not! Every girl expects to be kissed when she
goes out with a man."
"Let's make up for it now, Loo. May I call you Loo?" While speaking he
slipped his arm round her waist, and kissed her again and again.
"That's my name. But there! I guess you've made up enough already." And
Miss Conklin disengaged herself. On reaching the house, however, she
offered her lips before getting out of the buggy.
When alone in his bedroom, Bancroft sat and thought. The events of the
evening had been annoying. Miss Loo's conduct had displeased him; he did
not like familiarity. He would not acknowledge to himself that he was
jealous. The persistent way Stevens had tried to puzzle her had disgusted
him—that was all. It was sufficiently plain that in the past she had
encouraged Stevens. Her freedom and boldness grated upon his nerves. He
condemned her with a sense of outraged delicacy. Girls ought not to make
advances; she had no business to ask him whether he liked her; she should
have waited for him to speak plainly. He only required what was right. Yet
the consciousness that she loved him flattered his vanity and made him
more tolerant; he resolved to follow her lead or to improve upon it. Why
shouldn't he? She had said "every girl expects to be kissed." And if she
wanted to be kissed, it was the least he could do to humour her.
All the while, at the bottom of his heart there was bitterness. He would
have given much to believe that an exquisite soul animated that lovely
face. Perhaps she was better than she seemed. He tried to smother his
distrust of her, till it was rendered more acute by another reflection—she
had got him into the quarrel with Seth Stevens. He did not trouble much
about it. He was confident enough of his strength and the advantages of
his boyish training in the gymnasium to regard the trial with equanimity.
Still, the girls he had known in the East would never have set two men to
fight, never—it was not womanly. Good girls were by nature
peacemakers. There must be something in Loo, he argued, almost—vulgar,
and he shrank from the word. To lessen the sting of his disappointment, he
pictured her to himself and strove to forget her faults.
On the following morning he went to his school very early. The girls were
not as obtrusive as they had been. Miss Jessie Stevens did not bother him
by coming up every five minutes to see what he thought of her dictation,
as she had been wont to do. He was rather glad of this; it saved him
importunate glances and words, and the propinquity of girlish forms, which
had been more trying still. But what was the cause of the change? It was
evident that the girls regarded him as belonging to Miss Conklin. He
disliked the assumption; his caution took alarm; he would be more careful
in future. The forenoon melted into afternoon quietly, though there were
traces on Jake Conklin's bench of unusual agitation and excitement. To
these signs the schoolmaster paid small heed at the moment. He was
absorbed in thinking of the evening before, and in trying to appraise each
of Loo's words and looks. At last the time came for breaking up. When he
went outside to get into the buggy—he had brought Jack with him—he
noticed, without paying much attention to it, that Jake Conklin was not
there to unhitch the strap and in various other ways to give proof of a
desire to ride with him. He set off for Richards' mill, whither, needless
to say, Jake and half-a-dozen other urchins had preceded him as fast as
their legs could carry them.
As soon as he was by himself the schoolmaster recognized that the affair
was known to his scholars, and the knowledge nettled him. His anger
fastened upon Loo. It was all her fault; her determination to "pay Stevens
out" had occasioned the quarrel. Well, he would fight and win, and then
have done with the girl whose lips had doubtless been given to Stevens as
often and as readily as to himself. The thought put him in a rage, while
the idea of meeting Stevens on an equality humiliated him—strife
with such a boor was in itself a degradation. And Loo had brought it
about. He could never forgive her. The whole affair was disgraceful, and
her words, "Every girl expects to be kissed when she goes out with a man,"
were vulgar and coarse! With which conclusion in his mind he turned to the
right round the section-line, and saw the mill before him.
After the return from the house-warming, and the understanding, as she
considered it, with Bancroft, Miss Loo gave herself up to her new-born
happiness. As she lay in bed her first thought was of her lover: he was
"splendid," whereby she meant pleasant and attractive. She wondered
remorsefully how she had taken him to be quite "homely-looking" when she
first saw him. Why, he was altogether above any one she knew—not
perhaps jest in looks, but in knowledge and in manners—he didn't
stand in the corner of the room like the rest and stare till all the girls
became uncomfortable. What did looks matter after all? Besides, he wasn't
homely, he was handsome; so he was. His eyes were lovely—she had
always liked dark eyes best—and his moustache was dark, too, and she
liked that. To be sure it wasn't very long yet, or thick, but it would
grow; and here she sighed with content. Most girls in her place would be
sorry he wasn't taller, but she didn't care for very tall men; they sorter
looked down on you. Anyway, he was strong—a pang of fear shot
suddenly through her—he might be hurt by that brute Seth Stevens on
the morrow. Oh, no. That was impossible. He was brave, she felt sure, very
brave. Still she wished they weren't going to fight; it made her uneasy to
think that she had provoked the conflict. But it couldn't be helped now;
she couldn't interfere. Besides, men were always fightin' about somethin'
Mr. Crew, the Minister, had said right off that he'd make his mark in the
world; all the girls thought so too, and that was real good. She'd have
hated a stupid, ordinary man. Fancy being married to Seth Stevens, and she
shuddered; yet he was a sight better than any of the others; he had even
seemed handsome to her once. Ugh! Then Bancroft's face came before her
again, and remembering his kisses she flushed and grew hot from head to
foot. They would be married soon—right off. As George hadn't the
money, her father must give what he could and they'd go East. Her father
wouldn't refuse, though he'd feel bad p'r'aps; he never refused her
anythin'. If fifteen hundred dollars would be enough for George alone,
three thousand would do for both of them. Once admitted as a lawyer, he
would get a large practice: he was so clever and hard-working. She was
real glad that she'd be the means of giving him the opportunity he wanted
to win riches and position. But he must begin in New York. She would help
him on, and she'd see New York and all the shops and elegant folk, and
have silk dresses. They'd live in a hotel and get richer and richer, and
she'd drive about with—here she grew hot again. The vision, however,
was too entrancing to be shut out; she saw herself distinctly driving in
an open carriage, with a negro nurse holding the baby all in laces in
front, "jest too cute for anythin'," and George beside her, and every one
in Fifth Avenue starin'.
Sleep soon brought confusion into her picture of a happy future; but when
she awoke, the glad confidence of the previous night had given place to
self-reproach and fear. During the breakfast she scarcely spoke or lifted
her eyes. Her silent preoccupation was misunderstood by Bancroft; he took
it to mean that she didn't care what happened to him; she was selfish, he
decided. All the morning she went about the house in a state of nervous
restlessness, and at dinner-time her father noticed her unusual pallor and
low spirits. To the Elder, the meal-times were generally a source of
intense pleasure. He was never tired of feasting his eyes upon his
daughter when he could do so without attracting attention, and he listened
to her fluent obvious opinions on men and things with a fulness of pride
and joy which was difficult to divine since his keenest feelings never
stirred the impassibility of his features. He had small power of
expressing his thoughts, and even in youth he had felt it impossible to
render in words any deep emotion. For more than forty years the fires of
his nature had been "banked up." Reticent and self-contained, he appeared
to be hard and cold; yet his personality was singularly impressive. About
five feet ten in height, he was lean and sinewy, with square shoulders and
muscles of whipcord. His face recalled the Indian type; the same prominent
slightly beaked nose, high cheek bones and large knot of jaw. But there
the resemblance ended. The eyes were steel-blue; the upper lip long; the
mouth firm; short, bristly, silver hair stood up all over his head, in
defiant contrast to the tanned, unwrinkled skin. He was clean-shaven, and
looked less than his age, which was fifty-eight.
All through the dinner he wondered anxiously what could so affect his
daughter, and how he could find out without intruding himself upon her
confidence. His great love for his child had developed in the Elder subtle
delicacies of feeling which are as the fragrance of love's humility. In
the afternoon Loo, dressed for walking, met him, and, of her own accord,
began the conversation:
"Father, I want to talk to you."
The Elder put down the water-bucket he had been carrying, and drew the
shirt-sleeves over his nervous brown arms, whether out of unconscious
modesty or simple sense of fitness it would be impossible to say. She went
on hesitatingly, "I want to know—Do you think Mr. Bancroft's strong,
stronger than—Seth Stevens?"
The Elder gave his whole thought to the problem. "P'r'aps," he said, after
a pause, in which he had vainly tried to discover how his daughter wished
him to answer, "p'r'aps; he's older and more sot. There ain't much
difference, though. In five or six years Seth'll be a heap stronger than
the schoolmaster; but now," he added quickly, reading his daughter's face,
"he ain't man enough. He must fill out first."
She looked up with bright satisfaction, and twining her hands round his
arm began coaxingly:
"I'm goin' to ask you for somethin', father. You know you told me that on
my birthday you'd give me most anythin' I wanted. Wall, I want somethin'
this month, not next, as soon as I can get it—a pianner. I guess the
settin'-room would look smarter-like, an' I'd learn to play. All the girls
do East," she added, pouting.
"Yes," the Elder agreed thoughtfully, doubting whether he should follow
her lead eastwards, "I reckon that's so. I'll see about it right off, Loo.
I oughter hev thought of it before. But now, right off," and as he spoke
he laid his large hand with studied carelessness on her shoulder—he
was afraid that an intentional caress might be inopportune.
"I'm cert'in Mr. Bancroft's sisters play, an' I—" she looked down
nervously for a moment, and then, still blushing deeply, changed the
attack: "He's smart, ain't he, father? He'd make a good lawyer, wouldn't
"I reckon he would," replied the Elder.
"I'm so glad," the girl went on hurriedly, as if afraid to give herself
time to think of what she was about to say, "for, father, he wants to
study in an office East and he hain't got the money, and—oh,
father!" she threw her arms round his neck and hid her face on his
shoulder, "I want to go with him."
The Elder's heart seemed to stop beating, but he could not hold his loved
one in his arms and at the same time realize his own pain. He stroked the
bowed head gently, and after a pause:
"He could study with Lawyer Barkman in Wichita, couldn't he? and then
you'd be to hum still. No. Wall! Thar!" and again came a pause of silence.
"I reckon, anyhow, you knew I'd help you. Didn't you now?"
His daughter drew herself out of his embrace. Recalled thus to the matter
in hand he asked: "Did he say how much money 'twould take?"
"Two or three thousand dollars"—and she scanned his face anxiously—"for
studyin' and gettin' an office and everythin' in New York. Things are
"Wall, I guess we kin about cover that with a squeeze. It'll be full all I
kin manage to onc't—that and the pianner. I've no one to think of
but you, Loo, only you. That's what I've bin workin' for, to give you a
fair start, and I'm glad I kin jess about do it. I'd sorter take it better
if he'd done the studyin' by himself before. No! wall, it don't make much
difference p'r'aps. Anyway he works, and Mr. Crew thinks him enough
eddicated even for the Ministry. He does, and that's a smart lot. I guess
he'll get along all right." Delighted with the expression of intent
happiness in his daughter's eyes, he continued: "He's young yet, and
couldn't be expected to hev done the studyin' and law and everythin'. You
kin be sartin that the old man'll do all he knows to help start you fair.
All I kin. If you're sot upon it! That's enough fer me, I guess, ef you're
rale sot on it, and you don't think 'twould be better like to wait a
little. He could study with Barkman fer a year anyway without losin' time.
No! wall, wall. I'm right thar when you want me. I'll go to work to do
what I kin....
"P'r'aps we might sell off and go East, too. The farm's worth money now
it's all settled up round hyar. The mother and me and Jake could get
along, I reckon, East or West. I know more'n I did when I came out in '59.
"I'm glad you've told me. I think a heap more of him now. There must be a
pile of good in any one you like, Loo. Anyhow he's lucky." And he stroked
her crumpled dress awkwardly, but with an infinite tenderness.
"I've got to go now, father," she exclaimed, suddenly remembering the
time. "But there!"—and again she threw her arms round his neck and
kissed him. "You've made me very happy. I've got to go right off, and
you've all the chores to do, so I mustn't keep you any longer."
She hurried to the road along which Jake would have to come with the news
of the fight. When she reached the top of the bluff whence the road fell
rapidly to the creek, no one was in sight. She sat down and gave herself
up to joyous anticipations.
"What would George say to her news? Where should they be married?"——a
myriad questions agitated her. But a glance down the slope from time to
time checked her pleasure. At last she saw her brother running towards
her. He had taken off his boots and stockings; they were slung round his
neck, and his bare feet pattered along in the thick, white dust of the
prairie track. His haste made his sister's heart beat in gasps of fear.
Down the hill she sped, and met him on the bridge.
"Wall?" she asked quietly, but the colour had left her cheeks, and Jake
was not to be deceived so easily.
"Wall what?" he answered defiantly, trying to get breath. "I hain't said
"Oh, you mean boy!" she cried indignantly. "I'll never help you again when
father wants to whip you—never! Tell me this minute what happened.
Is he hurt?"
"Is who hurt?" asked her brother, glorying in superiority of knowledge,
and the power to tease with impunity.
"Tell me right off," she said, taking him by the collar in her
"I'll tell you nothin' till you leave go of me," was the sullen reply. But
then the overmastering impulse ran away with him, and he broke out:
"Oh, Loo! I jest seed everythin'. 'Twar a high old fight! They wuz all
there, Seth Stevens, Richards, Monkey Bill—all of 'em, when
schoolmaster rode up. He was still—looked like he wanted to hear a
class recite. He hitched up Jack and come to 'em, liftin' his hat. Oh,
'twas O.K., you bet! Then they took off their clo's. Seth Stevens jerked
hisn loose on the ground, but schoolmaster stood by himself, and folded
hisn up like ma makes me fold mine at night. Then they comed together and
Seth Stevens he jest drew off and tried to land him one, but schoolmaster
sorter moved aside and took him on the nose, an' Seth he sot down, with
the blood runnin' all over him. An'—an'—that's all. Every time
Seth Stevens hauled off to hit, schoolmaster was thar first. It war bully!—That's
all. An' I seed everythin'. You kin bet your life on that! An' then
Richards and the rest come to him an' said as how Seth Stevens was
faintin', an' schoolmaster he ran to the crick an' brought water and put
over him. An' then I runned to tell you—schoolmaster's strong, I
guess, stronger nor pappa. I seed him put on his vest, an' Seth Stevens he
was settin' up, all blood and water on his face, streaky like; he did look
bad. But, Loo——say, Loo! Why didn't schoolmaster when he got
him down the first time, jest stomp on his face with his heels?—he
had his boots on—an' that's how Seth Stevens broke Tom Cooper's jaw
when they fit."
The girl was white, and trembling from head to foot as the boy ended his
narrative, and looked inquiringly into her face. She could not answer.
Indeed, she had hardly heard the question. The thought of what might have
happened to her lover appalled her, and terror and remorse held her heart
as in a vice. But oh!—and the hot tears came into her eyes—she'd
tell him when they met how sorry she was for it all, and how bad she had
been, and how she hated herself. She had acted foolish, very; but she
hadn't meant it. She'd be more careful in future, much more careful. How
brave he was and kind! How like him it was to get the water! Oh! if he'd
All this while Jake looked at her curiously; at length he said, "Say, Loo,
s'pose he'd had his eye plugged out."
"Go away—do!" she exclaimed angrily. "I believe you boys jest love
fightin' like dogs."
Jake disappeared to tell and retell the tale to any one who cared to
Half an hour later Loo, who had climbed the bluff to command the view,
heard the sound of Jack's feet on the wooden bridge. A moment or two more
and the buggy drew up beside her; the schoolmaster bent forward and spoke,
without a trace of emotion in his voice:
"Won't you get in and let me drive you home, Miss Loo?" His victory had
put him in a good humour, without, however, altering his critical estimate
of the girl. The quiet, controlled tone of his voice chilled and pained
her, but her emotions were too recent and too acute to be restrained.
"Oh, George!" she said, leaning forward against the buggy, and scanning
his face intently. "How can you speak so? You ain't hurt, are you?"
"No!" he answered lightly. "You didn't expect I should be, did you?" The
tone was cold, a little sarcastic even.
Again she felt hurt; she scarcely knew why; the sneer was too far-fetched
for her to understand it.
"Go and put the horse up, and then come back. I'll wait right here for
He did as he was told, and in ten minutes was by her side again. After a
long pause, she began, with quivering lips:
"George, I'm sorry—so sorry. 'Twas all my fault! But I didn't know"—and
she choked down a sob—"I didn't think.
"I want you to tell me how your sisters act and—an' what they wear
and do. I'll try to act like them. Then I'd be good, shouldn't I?
"They play the pianner, don't they?" He was forced to confess that one of
"An' they talk like you?"
"An' they're good always? Oh, George, I'm jest too sorry for anythin', an'
now—now I'm too glad!" and she burst into tears. He kissed and
consoled her as in duty bound. He understood this mood as little as he had
understood her challenge to love. He was not in sympathy with her; she had
no ideal of conduct, no notion of dignity. Some suspicion of this
estrangement must have dawned upon the girl, or else she was irritated by
his acquiescence in her various phases of self-humiliation. All at once
she dashed the tears from her eyes, and winding herself out of his arms,
"See here, George Bancroft! I'll jest learn all they know—pianner
and all. I ken, and I will. I'll begin right now. You'll see!" And her
blue eyes flashed with the glitter of steel, while her chin was thrown up
in defiant vanity and self-assertion.
He watched her with indifferent curiosity; the abrupt changes of mood
repelled him. His depreciatory thoughts of her, his resolution not to be
led away again by her beauty influencing him, he noticed the keen hardness
of the look, and felt, perhaps out of a spirit of antagonism, that he
After a few quieting phrases, which, though they sprang rather from the
head than the heart, seemed to achieve their aim, he changed the subject,
by pointing across the creek and asking:
"Whose corn is that?"
"Father's, I guess!"
"I thought that was the Indian territory?"
"Is one allowed to sow corn there and to fence off the ground? Don't the
"'Tain't healthy for Indians about here," she answered carelessly, "I
hain't ever seen one. I guess it's allowed; anyhow, the corn's there an'
father'll have it cut right soon."
It seemed to Bancroft that they had not a thought in common. Wrong done by
her own folk did not even interest her. At once he moved towards the
house, and the girl followed him, feeling acutely disappointed and
humiliated, which state of mind quickly became one of rebellious
self-esteem. She guessed that other men thought big shucks of her anyway.
And with this reflection she tried to comfort herself.
A week or ten days later, Bancroft came downstairs one morning early and
found the ground covered with hoar-frost, though the sun had already
warmed the air. Elder Conklin, in his shirt-sleeves, was cleaning his
boots by the wood pile. When he had finished with the brush, but not a
moment sooner, he put it down near his boarder. His greeting, a mere nod,
had not prepared the schoolmaster for the question:
"Kin you drive kyows?"
"I think so; I've done it as a boy."
"Wall, to-day's Saturday. There ain't no school, and I've some cattle to
drive to the scales in Eureka. They're in the brush yonder, ef you'd help.
That is, supposin' you've nothin' to do."
"No. I've nothing else to do, and shall be glad to help you if I can."
Miss Loo pouted when she heard that her lover would be away the greater
part of the day, but it pleased her to think that her father had asked him
for his help, and she resigned herself, stipulating only that he should
come right back from Eureka.
After breakfast the two started. Their way lay along the roll of ground
which looked down upon the creek. They rode together in silence, until the
"You ain't a Member, air you?"
"That's bad. I kinder misdoubted it las' Sunday; but I wasn't sartin. Ef
your callin' and election ain't sure, I guess Mr. Crew oughter talk to
These phrases were jerked out with long pauses separating them, and then
the Elder was ominously silent.
In various ways Bancroft attempted to draw him into conversation—in
vain. The Elder answered in monosyllables, or not at all. Presently he
entered the woods on the left, and soon halted before the shoot-entrance
to a roughly-built corral.
"The kyows is yonder," he remarked; "ef you'll drive them hyar, I'll count
them as they come in."
The schoolmaster turned his horse's head in the direction pointed out. He
rode for some minutes through the wood without seeing a single animal.
Under ordinary circumstances this would have surprised him; but now he was
absorbed in thinking of Conklin and his peculiarities, wondering at his
habit of silence and its cause:
"Has he nothing to say? Or does he think a great deal without being able
to find words to express his thoughts?"
A prolonged moan, a lowing of cattle in pain, came to his ears. He made
directly for the sound, and soon saw the herd huddled together by the
snake-fence which zigzagged along the bank of the creek. He went on till
he came to the boundary fence which ran at right angles to the water, and
then turning tried to drive the animals towards the corral. He met,
however, with unexpected difficulties. He had brought a stock-whip with
him, and used it with some skill, though without result. The bullocks and
cows swerved from the lash, but before they had gone ten yards they
wheeled and bolted back. At first this manoeuvre amused him. The Elder, he
thought, has brought me to do what he couldn't do himself; I'll show him I
can drive. But no! in spite of all his efforts, the cattle would not be
driven. He grew warm, and set himself to the work. In a quarter of an hour
his horse was in a lather, and his whip had flayed one or two of the
bullocks, but there they stood again with necks outstretched towards the
creek, lowing piteously. He could not understand it. Reluctantly he made
up his mind to acquaint the Elder with the inexplicable fact. He had gone
some two hundred yards when his tired horse stumbled. Holding him up,
Bancroft saw he had tripped over a mound of white dust. A thought struck
him. He threw himself off the horse, and tasted the stuff; he was right;
it was salt! No wonder he could not drive the cattle; no wonder they lowed
as if in pain—the ground had been salted.
He remounted and hastened to the corral. He found the Elder sitting on his
horse by the shoot, the bars of which were down.
"I can't move those cattle!"
"You said you knew how to drive."
"I do, but they are mad with thirst; no one can do anything with them.
Besides, in this sun they might die on the road."
"Let them drink; they'll go on afterwards."
"Hum." And the Elder remained for some moments silent. Then he said, as if
thinking aloud: "It's eight miles to Eureka; they'll be thirsty again
before they get to the town."
Bancroft, too, had had his wits at work, and now answered the other's
thought. "I guess so; if they're allowed just a mouthful or two they can
be driven, and long before they reach Eureka they'll be as thirsty as
Without a word in reply the Elder turned his horse and started off at a
lope. In ten minutes the two men had taken down the snake fence for a
distance of some fifty yards, and the cattle had rushed through the gap
and were drinking greedily.
After they had had a deep draught or two, Bancroft urged his horse into
the stream and began to drive them up the bank. They went easily enough
now, and ahead of them rode the Elder, his long whitey-brown holland coat
fluttering behind him. In half an hour Bancroft had got the herd into the
corral. The Elder counted the three hundred and sixty-two beasts with
painstaking carefulness as they filed by.
The prairie-track to Eureka led along the creek, and in places ran close
to it without any intervening fence. In an hour under that hot October sun
the cattle had again become thirsty, and it needed all Bancroft's energy
and courage to keep them from dashing into the water. Once or twice indeed
it was a toss-up whether or not they would rush over him. He was nearly
exhausted when some four hours after the start they came in sight of the
little town. Here he let the herd into the creek. Glad of the rest, he sat
on his panting horse and wiped the perspiration from his face. After the
cattle had drunk their fill, he moved them quietly along the road, while
the water dripped from their mouths and bodies. At the scales the Elder
met the would-be purchaser, who as soon as he caught sight of the stock
burst into a laugh.
"Say, Conklin," he cried out, "I guess you've given them cattle enough to
drink, but I don't buy water for meat. No, sir; you bet, I don't."
"I didn't allow you would," replied the Elder gravely; "but the track was
long and hot; so they drank in the crik."
"Wall," resumed the dealer, half disarmed by this confession, which served
the Elder's purpose better than any denial could have done, "I guess
you'll take off fifty pound a head for that water."
"I guess not," was the answer. "Twenty pound of water's reckoned to be
about as much as a kyow kin drink."
The trading began and continued to Bancroft's annoyance for more than half
an hour. At last it was settled that thirty pounds' weight should be
allowed on each beast for the water it had drunk. When this conclusion had
been arrived at, it took but a few minutes to weigh the animals and pay
the price agreed upon.
The Elder now declared himself ready to go "to hum" and get somethin' to
eat. In sullen silence Bancroft remounted, and side by side they rode
slowly towards the farm. The schoolmaster's feelings may easily be
imagined. He had been disgusted by the cunning and hypocrisy of the trick,
and the complacent expression of the Elder's countenance irritated him
intensely. As he passed place after place where the cattle had given him
most trouble in the morning, anger took possession of him, and at length
forced itself to speech.
"See here, Elder Conklin!" he began abruptly, "I suppose you call yourself
a Christian. You look down on me because I'm not a Member. Yet, first of
all, you salt cattle for days till they're half mad with thirst, then
after torturing them by driving them for hours along this road side by
side with water, you act lies with the man you've sold them to, and end up
by cheating him. You know as well as I do that each of those steers had
drunk sixty-five pounds' weight of water at least; so you got" (he
couldn't use the word "stole" even in his anger, while the Elder was
looking at him) "more than a dollar a head too much. That's the kind of
Christianity you practise. I don't like such Christians, and I'll leave
your house as soon as I can. I am ashamed that I didn't tell the dealer
you were deceiving him. I feel as if I had been a party to the cheat."
While the young man was speaking the Elder looked at him intently. At
certain parts of the accusation Conklin's face became rigid, but he said
nothing. A few minutes later, having skirted the orchard, they dismounted
at the stable-door.
After he had unsaddled his horse and thrown it some Indian corn, Bancroft
hastened to the house; he wanted to be alone. On the stoop he met Loo and
said to her hastily:
"I can't talk now, Loo; I'm tired out and half crazy. I must go to my room
and rest. After supper I'll tell you everything. Please don't keep me
Supper that evening was a silent meal. The Elder did not speak once; the
two young people were absorbed in their own reflections, and Mrs.
Conklin's efforts to make talk were effectual only when she turned to
Jake. Mrs. Conklin, indeed, was seldom successful in anything she
attempted. She was a woman of fifty, or thereabouts, and her face still
showed traces of former good looks, but the light had long left her round,
dark eyes, and the colour her cheeks, and with years her figure had grown
painfully thin. She was one of the numerous class who delight in taking
strangers into their confidence. Unappreciated, as a rule, by those who
know them, they seek sympathy from polite indifference or curiosity.
Before he had been a day in the house Bancroft had heard from Mrs. Conklin
all about her early life. Her father had been a large farmer in Amherst
County, Massachusetts; her childhood had been comfortable and happy: "We
always kept one hired man right through the winter, and in summer often
had eight and ten; and, though you mightn't think it now, I was the belle
of all the parties." Dave (her husband) had come to work for her father,
and she had taken a likin' to him, though he was such a "hard case." She
told of Dave's gradual conversion and of the Revivalist Minister, who was
an Abolitionist as well, and had proclaimed the duty of emigrating to
Kansas to prevent it from becoming a slave state. Dave, it appeared, had
taken up the idea zealously, and had persuaded her to go with him. Her
story became pathetic in spite of her self-pity as she related the
hardships of that settlement in the wilds, and described her loneliness,
her shivering terror when her husband was away hauling logs for their
first home, and news came that the slave-traders from Missouri had made
another raid upon the scattered Abolitionist farmers. The woman had
evidently been unfit for such rude transplanting. She dwelt upon the fact
that her husband had never understood her feelings. If he had, she
wouldn't have minded so much. Marriage was not what girls thought; she had
not been happy since she left her father's house, and so forth. The lament
was based on an unworthy and futile egoism, but her whining timidity
appeared to Bancroft inexplicable. He did not see that just as a shrub
pales and dies away under the branches of a great tree, so a weak nature
is apt to be further enfeebled by association with a strong and
self-contained character. In those early days of loneliness and danger the
Elder's steadfastness and reticence had prevented him from affording to
his wife the sympathy which might have enabled her to overcome her fears.
"He never talked anythin' over with me," was the burden of her complaint.
Solitude had killed every power in her save vanity, and the form her
vanity took was peculiarly irritating to her husband, and in a lesser
degree to her daughter, for neither the Elder nor Loo would have founded
self-esteem on adventitious advantages of upbringing. Accordingly, Mrs.
Conklin was never more than an uncomfortable shadow in her own house, and
this evening her repeated attempts to bring about a semblance of
conversation only made the silence and preoccupation of the others
As soon as the supper things were cleared away, Loo signalled to Bancroft
to accompany her to the stoop, where she asked him what had happened.
"I insulted the Elder," he said, "and I told him I should leave his house
as soon as I could."
"You don't mean that!" she exclaimed. "You must take that back, George.
I'll speak to pappa; he'll mind me."
"No," he replied firmly; "speaking won't do any good. I've made up my
mind. It's impossible for me to stay here."
"Then you don't care for me. But that's not so. Say it's not so, George.
Say you'll stay—and I'll come down this evening after the old folks
have gone to bed, and sit with you. There!"
Of course the man yielded to a certain extent, the pleading face upturned
to his was too seductive to be denied, but he would not promise more than
that he would tell her what had taken place, and consult with her.
Shortly after nine o'clock, as usual, Mr. and Mrs. Conklin retired. Half
an hour later Bancroft and Loo were seated together in the corner of the
back stoop. They sat like lovers, his arm about her waist, while he told
his story. She expressed relief; she had feared it would be much worse; he
had only to say he didn't mean anythin', and she'd persuade her father to
forget and forgive. But the schoolmaster would not consent to that. He had
meant and did mean every word, and could take back nothing. And when she
appealed to his affection, he could only repeat that he'd think it over.
"You know I like you, Loo, but I can't do impossibilities. It's
unfortunate, perhaps, but it's done and can't be undone." And then,
annoyed at being pressed further, he thought they had better go in: it was
very cold; she'd catch a chill if she stayed longer, and there was no
sense in that. The girl, seeing that her pleading was of no avail, grew
angry; his love was good enough to talk about, but it could not be worth
much if he denied her so little a thing; it didn't matter, though, she'd
get along somehow, she guessed—here they were startled by the sound
of a door opening. Loo glided quickly round the corner of the stoop, and
entered the house. Bancroft following her heard the back door shut, and
some one go down the steps. He could not help looking to see who was on
foot at such an untimely hour, and to his surprise perceived the Elder in
a night-shirt, walking with bare feet towards the stables through the long
grass already stiff with frost. Before the white figure had disappeared
Bancroft assured himself that Loo had gone up to bed the front way.
Curiosity conquering his first impulse, which had been to follow her
example, he went after the Elder, without, however, intending to play the
spy. When he had passed through the stables and got to the top of the
slope overlooking the creek, he caught sight of the Elder twenty yards
away at the water's edge. In mute surprise he watched the old man tie his
night-shirt up under his armpits, wade into the ice-cold water, kneel
down, and begin what was evidently meant to be a prayer. His first words
were conventional, but gradually his earnestness and excitement overcame
his sense of the becoming, and he talked of what lay near his heart in
"That young man to-day jes' jumped on me! He told me I'd plagued them
cattle half to death, and I'd acted lies and cheated Ramsdell out of three
hundred dollars. 'Twas all true. I s'pose I did plague the cattle, though
I've often been as thirsty as they were—after eatin' salt pork and
workin' all day in the sun. I didn't think of hurtin' them when I salted
the floor. But I did act to deceive Ramsdell, and I reckon I made nigh on
three hundred dollars out of the deal. 'Twas wrong. But, O God!"—and
unconsciously the old man's voice rose—"You know all my life. You
know everythin'. You know I never lied or cheated any one fer myself. I've
worked hard and honest fer more'n forty years, and always been poor. I
never troubled about it, and I don't now, but fer Loo.
"She's so pretty and young. Jes' like a flower wants sunshine, she wants
pleasure, and when she don't git it, she feels bad. She's so young and
soft. Now she wants a pile of money and a pianner, and I couldn't git it
fer her no other way. I had to cheat.
"O Lord, ef I could kneel down hyar and say I repented with godly
repentance fer sin and determination never to sin agen, I'd do it, and ask
you to pardon me for Jesus' sake, but I kain't repent—I jes' kain't!
You see my heart, O God! and you know I'll go on cheatin' ef that'll get
Loo what she wants. An' so I've come down hyar to say that Loo ain't with
me in the cheatin'; it's all my sin. I know you punish sin. The
stiff-necked sinner ought to be punished. Wall; I'll take the punishment.
Put it right on to me—that's justice. But, O Lord! leave Loo out;
she don't know nothin' about it. That's why I've come down hyar into the
water to show I'm willin' to bear what you send. Amen, O Lord God! In
Jesus' name, Amen."
And he rose quietly, came out of the creek, wiped his dripping limbs with
his hand as well as he could, let down his night-shirt, and prepared to
climb the bank. Needless to say, Bancroft had slipped through the stables
and reached the house before the Elder could get within sight of him.
When alone in his room the schoolmaster grew a little ashamed of himself.
There could be no doubt of the Elder's sincerity, and he had insulted him.
The Elder had sacrificed his principles; had done violence to the habits
of his life, and shame to his faith and practice—all in order that
his daughter might have her "pianner." The grotesque pronunciation of the
word appeared pathetic to Bancroft now; it brought moisture into his eyes.
What a fine old fellow Conklin was! Of course he wished to bear the whole
burden of his sin and its punishment. It would be easy to go to him on the
morrow and beg his pardon. Wrong done as the Elder did it, he felt, was
more than right. What a Christian at heart! And what a man!
But the girl who asked for such a sacrifice—what was she? All the
jealousy, all the humiliation he had suffered on her account, came back to
him; she would have her father steal provided she got her piano. How vain
she was and self-willed; without any fine moral feeling or proper
principle! He would be worse than a fool to give his life to such a woman.
If she could drive her father—and such a father—to theft, in
what wrongdoing might she not involve her husband? He was warned in time;
he would not be guilty of such irreparable folly. He would match her
selfishness with prudence. Who could blame him? That was what the hard
glitter in her eyes betokened—cold selfishness; and he had thought
of her as Hebe—a Hebe who would give poisoned wine to those who
loved her. He was well saved from that.
The old Greek word called her up before him, and the spell of her physical
charm stole over his astonished senses like perfumed summer air. Sitting
beside her that evening, his arm round her waist, he had felt the soft,
full curves of her form, and thinking of it his pulses throbbed. How fair
her face was! That appealing air made her irresistible; and even when she
was angry, how splendidly handsome! What a pity she should be hard and
vulgar! He felt estranged from her, yet still cherished the bitterness of
disappointment. She was detestably vain, common and selfish; he would be
on his guard.
Next day at breakfast Mr. Morris came in. He was an ordinary young Western
farmer, rough but kindly, ill-educated but sensible. When his appetite was
satisfied he wanted to know whether they had heard the news.
"No," Mrs. Conklin replied eagerly, "we've heard nothing unless p'r'aps
the Elder in Eureka"—but her husband shook his head, and Morris went
"Folks say the Government in Washington has sent General Custer out with
troops to pertect the Indian Territory. Away East they think the settlers
have been stealing the Reserve, an' the soldiers are coming with surveyors
to draw the line again."
After a pause, "That seems right," said the Elder; "thar' ain't nothin'
"But you've ploughed and raised crops on the Indian land across the crik,"
objected Morris; "we all hev. Air we to give it up?"
There was no answer.
"Anyway," Morris continued, "Custer's at Wichita now. He'll be here in a
day or two, an' we've called a meetin' in the school-house for this
evenin' an' we hope you'll be on hand. 'Tain't likely we're goin' to stand
by an' see our crops destroyed. We must hold together, and all'll come
"That's true," said the Elder, thinking aloud, "and good. Ef we all held
together there'd not be much wrong done."
"Then I kin tell the boys," resumed Morris, rising, "that you'll be with
us, Elder. All us young uns hold by you, an' what you say, we'll do, every
"Wall," replied the Elder slowly, "I don't know. I kain't see my way to
goin'. I've always done fer myself by myself, and I mean to—right
through; but the meetin' seems a good idee. I'm not contradictin' that. It
seems strong. I don't go much though on meetin's; they hain't ever helped
me. But a meetin' seems strong—for them that likes it."
With this assurance Morris was fain to be satisfied and go his way.
Bancroft had listened to the colloquy with new feelings. Prepared to
regard with admiration all that the Elder said or did, it was not
difficult for him now to catch the deeper meaning of the uncouth words. He
was drawn to the Elder by moral sympathy, and his early training tended to
strengthen this attraction. It was right, he felt, that the Elder should
take his own course, fearing nothing that man could do.
In the evening he met Loo. She supposed with a careless air that he was
goin' to pack them leather trunks of his.
"No, I've reconsidered it," he answered. "I'm going to beg your father's
pardon, and take back all I said to him."
"Oh! then you do care for me, George," cried the girl enthusiastically,
"an' we ken be happy again. I've been real miserable since last night; I
cried myself to sleep, so I did. Now I know you love me I'll do anythin'
you wish, anythin'. I'll learn to play the pianner; you see if I don't."
"Perhaps," he replied harshly, the old anger growing bitter in him at the
mention of the "pianner"—"perhaps it would be better if you gave up
the idea of the piano; that costs too much," he added
significantly, "far too much. If you'd read good books and try to live in
the thought of the time, it would be better. Wisdom is to be won cheaply
and by all, but success in an art depends upon innate qualities."
"I see," she exclaimed, flaming up, "you think I can't learn to play like
your sister, and I'm very ignorant, and had better read and get to know
all other people have said, and you call that wisdom. I don't. Memory
ain't sense, I guess; and to talk like you ain't everythin'."
The attack pricked his vanity. He controlled himself, however, and took up
the argument: "Memory is not sense, perhaps; but still one ought to know
the best that has been said and done in the world. It is easier to climb
the ladder when others have shown us the rungs. And surely to talk
correctly is better than to talk incorrectly."
"It don't matter much, I reckon, so long as one gets your meanin', and as
for the ladder, a monkey could do that."
The irrelevant retort puzzled him, and her tone increased his annoyance.
But why, he asked himself, should he trouble to lift her to a higher level
of thought? He relapsed into silence.
With wounded heart the girl waited; she was hurt, afraid he did not care
for her, could not even guess how she had offended him; but, as he would
not speak, her pride came to her aid, and she remarked:
"I'm asked out this evenin', so I'll have to get ready and go. Good night,
"Good night, Miss Loo," he replied calmly, though the pain he suffered
proved that jealousy may outlive love. "I think I shall go to this meeting
at the school-house."
They parted. Loo went upstairs to her room to cry over her misery and
George's coldness; to wish she had been better taught, and had learned her
lessons in school carefully, for then he might have been kinder. She
wondered how she should get books to read. It was difficult. Besides,
couldn't he see that she was quick and would learn everythin' afterwards
if he'd be good to her. Why did he act so? Why!
Bancroft went to the meeting, and found the house crowded. A young farmer
from the next county was present, who told how a United States officer
with twelve men and a surveyor had come and drawn the boundary line, torn
up his fences, and trampled down the corn which he had planted in the
Indian Reserve. The meeting at once adopted the following resolution:
"In view of the fact that the land cultivated by American citizens in or
upon the Indian Reserve has never been used or cultivated by the Indians,
who keep to the woods, and that it is God's will that land should bring
forth fruit for the sustenance of man, we are resolved to stand upon our
rights as citizens and to defend the same against all aggressors."
Every one signed this document, copies of which were to be sent to General
Custer, and also to the President, to the Senate, and to Congress. It was
arranged further to write to their own representatives at Washington
giving an account of the situation.
After this the meeting broke up, but not before all present had agreed to
stand by any of their number who should resist the troops.
When Bancroft returned home Mr. and Mrs. Conklin were still up, and he
related to them all that had taken place. The Elder rose and stretched
himself without having made a remark. In a whisper Bancroft asked Mrs.
Conklin to let him have a word with her husband. As soon as they were
alone, he began:
"Mr. Conklin, I insulted you yesterday. I am sorry for it. I hope you'll
"Yes," replied the Elder meditatively, overlooking the proffered hand,
"yes, that's Christian, I reckon. But the truth's the truth." Turning
abruptly to leave the room, he added: "The corn's ripe, waitin' to be cut;
ef the United States troops don't eat it all up we'll have a good year."
There was a light in his steady eyes which startled the schoolmaster into
all sorts of conjectures.
A day or two later, the Conklins and Bancroft were seated at dinner when a
knock came at the door. "Come in!" said Mrs. Conklin, and a young officer
appeared in the uniform of the United States cavalry. He paused on the
threshold, lifted his cap, and apologized for his intrusion:
"Elder Conklin, I believe?" The Elder nodded his head, but continued
eating. "My business isn't pleasant, I fear, but it needn't take long. I'm
sent by General Custer to draw the boundary line between the State of
Kansas and the Indian Reserve, to break down all fences erected by
citizens of the United States in the Territory, and to destroy such crops
as they may have planted there. I regret to say our surveyor tells me the
boundary line here is Cottonwood Creek, and I must notify you that
tomorrow about noon I shall be here to carry out my orders, and to destroy
the crops and fences found on the further side of the creek."
Before withdrawing he begged pardon again, this time for the short notice
he was compelled to give—a concession apparently to Miss Conklin's
appearance and encouraging smiles.
"Oh, pappa!" cried Loo, as he disappeared, "why didn't you ask him to have
some dinner? He jest looked splendid, and that uniform's too lovely."
The Elder made no answer. Neither the courteous menace of the lieutenant
nor his daughter's reproach seemed to have had any effect upon him. He
went on with his dinner.
Loo's outspoken admiration of the officer did not move Bancroft as she had
anticipated. It simply confirmed his worst suspicions. His nature was
neither deep nor passionate; he had always lived in the conventions which
the girl constantly outraged, and they now exercised their influence.
Moreover, he had self-possession enough to see that she meant to annoy
him. He was exceedingly anxious to know what the Elder intended to do, and
what Loo might think or feel did not interest him greatly.
A few hours later a clue was given to him: Jake came and told him as a
piece of news that "Pa's shot-gun ain't in his room." Bancroft could not
rid himself of the thought that the fact was significant. But the evening
passed away quietly; Loo busied herself with some work, and the Elder
seemed content to watch her.
At breakfast next morning nothing of moment happened. Bancroft took
occasion to say that he was coming home early to dinner. On his return
from school, some three hours after, he saw a troop of horsemen riding up
the valley a mile or so away. With quickened pulses he sprang up the steps
and met the Elder in the doorway.
"There they come!" he said involuntarily, pointing to the little cloud of
"Hum," grunted the Elder, and left the stoop, going towards the outhouses.
Bancroft turned into the parlour, where he found Mrs. Conklin. She seemed
to be irritated, and not at all anxious, as he had expected:
"Did you see the Elder?"
"Yes," he replied. "He went to the barn. I thought of accompanying him,
but was afraid he wouldn't like it."
"I guess he's worrying about that corn," Mrs. Conklin explained. "When he
broke that land I told him 'twould bring trouble, but he never minds what
any one says to him. He should listen to his wife, though, sometimes,
shouldn't he? But bein' a man p'r'aps you'll take his part. Anyway, it has
all happened as I knew it would. And what'll he do now? that's what I'd
like to know. All that corn lost and the fences—he jest worked
himself to death on those logs—all lost now. We shall be bare poor
again. It's too bad. I've never had any money since I left home." And here
Mrs. Conklin's face puckered itself up as if she were about to cry, but
the impulse of vanity being stronger, she burst out angrily: "I think it's
real wicked of the Elder. I told him so. If he'd ask that young man to let
him cut the corn, I'm sure he wouldn't refuse. But he'll never take my
advice, or even answer me. It's too aggravatin' when I know I'm right."
He looked at her in astonishment. She had evidently no inkling of what
might occur, no vivid understanding of her husband's character. Preferring
to leave her in ignorance, he said lightly, "I hope it'll be all right,"
and, in order to change the subject, added, "I've not seen Miss Loo, and
Jake wasn't in school this morning."
"Oh, Mr. Bancroft, if anythin' has happened to Jake!" and Mrs. Conklin
sank weakly into the nearest chair; "but thar ain't no swimmin' nor
skatin' now. When he comes in I'll frighten him; I'll threaten to tell the
Elder. He mustn't miss his schoolin', for he's real bright, ain't he?—Loo?
Her father sent her to the Morrises, about somethin'—I don't know
When Bancroft came downstairs, taking with him a small revolver, his only
weapon, he could not find the Elder either in the outbuildings or in the
stable. Remembering, however, that the soldiers could only get to the
threatened cornfield by crossing the bridge, which lay a few hundred yards
higher up the creek, he made his way thither with all speed. When he
reached the descent, he saw the Elder in the inevitable, long,
whitey-brown holland coat, walking over the bridge. In a minute or two he
had overtaken him. As the Elder did not speak, he began:
"I thought I'd come with you, Elder. I don't know that I'm much good, but
I sympathize with you, and I'd like to help you if I could."
"Yes," replied the Elder, acknowledging thereby the proffered aid. "But I
guess you kain't. I guess not," he repeated by way of emphasis.
In silence the pair went on to the broad field of maize. At the corner of
the fence, the Elder stopped and said, as if speaking to himself:
"It runs, I reckon, seventy-five bushel to the acre, and there are two
hundred acres." After a lengthened pause he continued: "That makes nigh on
three thousand dollars. I must hev spent two hundred dollars this year in
hired labour on that ground, and the half ain't cut yet. Thar's a pile of
money and work on that quarter-section."
A few minutes more passed in silence. Bancroft did not know what to say,
for the calm seriousness of the Elder repelled sympathy. As he looked
about him there showed on the rise across the creek a knot of United
States cavalry, the young lieutenant riding in front with a civilian,
probably the surveyor, by his side. Bancroft turned and found that the
Elder had disappeared in the corn. He followed quickly, but as he swung
himself on to the fence the Elder came from behind a stook with a
burnished shot-gun in his right hand, and said decisively:
"Don't come in hyar. 'Tain't your corn and you've no cause to mix yourself
in this fuss."
Bancroft obeyed involuntarily. The next moment he began to resent the
authority conveyed in the prohibition; he ought to have protested, to have
insisted—but now it was too late. As the soldiers rode up the
lieutenant dismounted and threw his reins to a trooper. He stepped towards
the fence, and touching his cap carelessly, remarked:
"Well, Mr. Conklin, here we are." The earnestness of the Elder appeared to
have its effect, too, upon him, for he went on more respectfully: "I
regret that I've orders to pull down your fences and destroy the crop. But
there's nothing else to be done."
"Yes," said the Elder gravely, "I guess you know your orders. But you
mustn't pull down my fence," and as he spoke he drew his shot-gun in front
of him, and rested his hands upon the muzzle, "nor destroy this crop." And
the long upper lip came down over the lower, giving an expression of
obstinate resolve to the hard, tanned face.
"You don't seem to understand," replied the lieutenant a little
impatiently; "this land belongs to the Indians; it has been secured to
them by the United States Government, and you've no business either to
fence it in or plant it."
"That's all right," answered Conklin, in the same steady, quiet,
reasonable tone. "That may all be jes' so, but them Indians warn't usin'
the land; they did no good with it. I broke this prairie ten years ago,
and it took eight hosses to do it, and I've sowed it ever sence till the
crops hev grown good, and now you come and tell me you're goin' to tromple
down the corn and pull up the fences. No sir, you ain't—that ain't
"Right or wrong," the officer retorted, "I have to carry out my orders,
not reason about them. Here, sergeant, let three men hold the horses and
get to work on this fence."
As the sergeant advanced and put his hand on the top layer of the heavy
snake-fence, the Elder levelled his shot-gun and said:
"Ef you pull down that bar I'll shoot."
The sergeant took his hand from the bar quickly, and turned to his
commander as if awaiting further instructions.
"Mr. Conklin," exclaimed the lieutenant, moving forward, "this is pure
foolishness; we're twelve to one, and we're only soldiers and have to obey
orders. I'm sorry, but I must do my duty."
"That's so," said the Elder, lowering his gun deliberately. "That's so, I
guess. You hev your duty—p'r'aps I hev mine. 'Tain't my business to
teach you yours."
For a moment the lieutenant seemed to be undecided; then he spoke:
"Half-a-dozen of you advance and cover him with your rifles. Now, Mr.
Conklin, if you resist you must take the consequences. Rebellion against
the United States Government don't generally turn out well—for the
rebel. Sergeant, down with the bar."
The Elder stood as if he had not heard what had been said to him, but when
the sergeant laid hold of the bar, the shot-gun went up again to the old
man's shoulder, and he said:
"Ef you throw down that bar I'll shoot you." Again the sergeant
paused, and looked at his officer.
At this juncture Bancroft could not help interfering. The Elder's attitude
had excited in him more than mere admiration; wonder, reverence thrilled
him, and his blood boiled at the thought that the old man might possibly
be shot down. He stepped forward and said:
"Sir, you must not order your men to fire. You will raise the whole
country against you if you do. This is surely a law case, and not to be
decided by violence. Such a decision is not to be taken without reflection
and distinct instructions."
"Those instructions I have," replied the lieutenant, "and I've got to
follow them out—more's the pity," he added between his teeth, while
turning to his troopers to give the decisive command. At this moment down
from the bluff and over the wooden bridge came clattering a crowd of armed
farmers, the younger ones whirling their rifles or revolvers as they rode.
Foremost among them were Morris and Seth Stevens, and between these two
young Jake Conklin on Jack. As they reached the corner of the fence the
crowd pulled up and Morris cried out:
"Elder, we're on time, I reckon." Addressing the lieutenant he added
violently: "We don't pay United States soldiers to pull down our fences
and destroy our crops. That's got to stop right here, and right now!"
"My orders are imperative," the officer declared, "and if you resist you
must take the consequences." But while he spoke the hopelessness of his
position became clear to him, for reinforcements of farmers were still
pouring over the bridge, and already the soldiers were outnumbered two to
one. Just as Seth Stevens began with "Damn the consequences," the Elder
"Young man," he said to the lieutenant, "you'd better go back to Wichita.
I guess General Custer didn't send you to fight the hull township."
Turning to Stevens, he added, "Thar ain't no need fer any cussin'." Amid
complete silence he uncocked his shot-gun, climbed over the fence, and
went on in the same voice:
"Jake, take that horse to the stable an' wipe him dry. Tell your mother
I'm coming right up to eat."
Without another word he moved off homewards. His intervention had put an
end to the difficulty. Even the lieutenant understood that there was
nothing more to be done for the moment. Five minutes later the troopers
recrossed the bridge. Morris and a few of the older men held a brief
consultation. It was agreed that they should be on the same spot at six
o'clock on the morrow, and some of the younger spirits volunteered to act
as scouts in the direction of Wichita and keep the others informed of what
took place in that quarter.
When Bancroft reached the house with Morris—neither Stevens nor any
of the others felt inclined to trespass on the Elder's hospitality without
an express invitation—he found dinner waiting. Loo had not returned;
had, indeed, arranged, as Morris informed them, to spend the day with his
wife; but Jake was present and irrepressible; he wanted to tell all he had
done to secure the victory. But he had scarcely commenced when his father
shut him up by bidding him eat, for he'd have to go right back to school.
There was no feeling of triumph in the Elder. He scarcely spoke, and when
Morris described the protective measures that had been adopted, he merely
nodded. In fact, one would have inferred from his manner that he had had
nothing whatever to do with the contest, and took no interest in it. The
only thing that appeared to trouble him was Loo's absence and the fear
lest she should have been "fussed;" but when Morris declared that neither
his wife nor Loo knew what was going on, and Bancroft announced his
intention of driving over to fetch her, he seemed to be satisfied.
"Jack, I reckon, has had enough," he said to his boarder. "You'd better
take the white mare; she's quiet."
On their way home in the buggy, Bancroft told Loo how her father had
defied the United States troops, and with what unconcern he had taken his
"I think he's a great man, a hero. And if he had lived in another time, or
in another country, poets would have sung his courage."
"Really," she observed. Her tone was anything but enthusiastic, though
hope stirred in her at his unusual warmth. "Perhaps he cares for me after
all," she thought.
"What are you thinking about, Loo?" he asked, surprised at her silence.
"I was just wonderin'," she answered, casting off her fit of momentary
abstraction, "how father made you like him. It appears as if I couldn't,
George," and she turned towards him while she spoke her wistful eyes
seeking to read his face.
There was a suggestion of tears in her voice, and her manner showed a
submission and humility which touched Bancroft deeply. All his good
impulses had been called into active life by his admiration of the Elder.
He put his disengaged arm round her and drew her to him as he replied:
"Kiss me, Loo dear, and let us try to get on better together in future.
There's no reason why we shouldn't," he added, trying to convince himself.
The girl's vain and facile temperament required but little encouragement
to abandon itself in utter confidence. In her heart of hearts she was sure
that every man must admire her, and as her companion's manner and words
gave her hope, she chattered away in the highest spirits till the
homestead was reached. Her good-humour and self-satisfaction made the
evening pass merrily. Everything she said or did delighted the Elder,
Bancroft saw that clearly now. Whether she laughed or talked, teased Jake,
or mimicked the matronly airs of Mrs. Morris, her father's eyes followed
her with manifest pleasure and admiration. On rising to go to bed the
Elder said simply:
"It has been a good day—a good day," he repeated impressively, while
he held his daughter in his arms and kissed her.
The next morning Bancroft was early afoot. Shortly after sunrise he went
down to the famous cornfield and found a couple of youths on watch. They
had been there for more than an hour, they said, and Seth Stevens and
Richards had gone scouting towards Wichita. "Conklin's corner's all
right," was the phrase which sent the schoolmaster to breakfast with a
light heart. When the meal was over he returned to the centre of
excitement. The Elder had gone about his work; Mrs. Conklin seemed as
helplessly indifferent as usual; Loo was complacently careless; but
Bancroft, having had time for reflection, felt sure that all this was
Western presumption; General Custer could not accept defeat so easily. At
the "corner" he found a couple of hundred youths and men assembled. They
were all armed, but the general opinion was that Custer would do nothing.
One old farmer summed up the situation in the phrase, "Thar ain't nothin'
for him to do, but set still."
About eight o'clock, however, Richards raced up, with his horse in a
lather, and announced that Custer, with three hundred men, had started
from Wichita before six.
"He'll be hyar in half an hour," he concluded.
Hurried counsel was taken; fifty men sought cover behind the stooks of
corn, the rest lined the skirting woods. When all was in order, Bancroft
was deputed to go and fetch the Elder, whom he eventually discovered at
the wood pile, sawing and splitting logs for firewood.
"Make haste, Elder," he cried, "Morris has sent me for you, and there's no
time to be lost. Custer, with three hundred men, left Wichita at six
o'clock this morning, and they'll be here very soon."
The Elder paused unwillingly, and resting on his axe asked: "Is Morris
"No!" replied Bancroft, amazed to think the Elder could have forgotten the
arrangements he had heard described the evening before. "There are two
hundred men down there in the corner and in the woods," and he rapidly
sketched the position.
"It's all right then, I guess," the Elder decided. "They'll get along
without me. Tell Morris I'm at my chores." Beginning his work again, he
added, "I've something to do hyar."
From the old man's manner Bancroft was convinced that solicitation would
be a waste of time. He returned to the corner, where he found Morris
standing inside the fence.
"I guessed so," was Morris's comment upon the Elder's attitude; "we'll hev
to do without him, I reckon. You and me'll stay hyar in the open; we don't
want to shoot ef we kin avoid it; there ain't no reason to as I kin see."
Ten minutes afterwards the cavalry crossed the bridge two deep, and wound
snake-like towards the corner. With the first files came General Custer,
accompanied by half-a-dozen officers, among whom Bancroft recognized the
young lieutenant. Singling Morris out, the General rode up to the fence
and addressed him with formal politeness:
"No," replied Morris, "but I'm hyar fer him, I guess—an' about two
hundred more ef I'm not enough," he added drily, waving his hand towards
With a half-turn in his saddle and a glance at the line of trees on his
flank, General Custer took in the situation. Clearly there was nothing to
do but to retreat, with some show of dignity.
"Where shall I find Mr. Conklin? I wish to speak to him."
"I'll guide you," was Morris's answer, "ef you'll come alone; he mightn't
fancy so many visitors to onc't."
As Morris and Bancroft climbed over the fence and led the way towards the
homestead, some of the armed farmers strolled from behind the stocks into
the open, and others showed themselves carelessly among the trees on the
bank of the creek. When the Elder was informed that General Custer was at
the front door, he laid down his axe, and in his shirtsleeves went to meet
"Mr. Conklin, I believe?"
"That's my name, General."
"You've resisted United States troops with arms, and now, it seems, you've
got up a rebellion."
"I guess not, General; I guess not. I was Union all through the war; I
came hyar as an Abolitionist. I only want to keep my fences up as long as
they'll stand, an' cut my corn in peace."
"Well," General Custer resumed, after a pause, "I must send to Washington
for instructions and state the facts as I know them, but if the Federal
authorities tell me to carry out the law, as I've no doubt they will, I
shall be compelled to do so, and resistance on your part can only cause
"That's so," was the quiet reply; but what the phrase meant was not very
clear save to Bancroft, who understood that the Elder was unable or
unwilling to discuss a mere hypothesis.
With a curt motion of his hand to his cap General Custer cantered off to
rejoin his men, who shortly afterwards filed again across the bridge on
their way back to camp.
When the coast was clear of soldiers some of the older settlers went up to
Conklin's to take counsel together. It was agreed to collect from all the
farmers interested two dollars a head for law expenses, and to send at
once for Lawyer Barkman of Wichita, in order to have his opinion on the
case. Morris offered to bring Barkman next day about noon to Conklin's,
and this proposal was accepted. If any other place had been fixed upon, it
would have been manifestly impossible to secure the Elder's presence, for
his refusal again to leave the wood pile had converted his back-stoop into
the council-chamber. Without more ado the insurgents dispersed, every man
to his house.
On returning home to dinner next day Bancroft noticed a fine buggy drawn
up outside the stable, and a negro busily engaged in grooming two strange
horses. When he entered the parlour he was not surprised to find that
Morris had already arrived with the lawyer. Barkman was about forty years
of age; above the medium height and very stout, but active. His face was
heavy; its outlines obscured by fat; the nose, however, was thin and
cocked inquisitively, and the eyes, though small, were restless and
intelligent. He was over-dressed; his black frockcoat was brand new; the
diamond stud which shone in the centre of a vast expanse of shirt-front,
was nearly the size of a five-cent piece—his appearance filled
Bancroft with contempt. Nevertheless he seemed to know his business. As
soon as he had heard the story he told them that an action against the
Elder would lie in the Federal Courts, and that the damages would
certainly be heavy. Still, something might be done; the act of rebellion,
he thought, would be difficult to prove; in fine, they must wait on
At this moment Mrs. Conklin accompanied by Loo came in to announce that
dinner was ready. It was manifest that the girl's beauty made a deep
impression on Barkman. Before seeing her he had professed to regard the
position as hopeless, or nearly so; now he was ready to reconsider his
first opinion, or rather to modify it. His quick intelligence appeared to
have grown keener as he suddenly changed his line of argument, and began
to set forth the importance of getting the case fully and fairly discussed
"I must get clear affidavits from all the settlers," he said, "and then, I
guess, we'll show the authorities in Washington that this isn't a question
in which they should interfere. But if I save you," he went on, with a
laugh intended to simulate frank good-nature, "I s'pose I may reckon on
your votes when I run for Congress."
It was understood at once that he had pitched upon the best possible
method of defence. Morris seemed to speak for all when he said:
"Ef you'll take the trouble now, I guess we'll ensure your election."
"Never mind the election, that was only a jest," replied the lawyer
good-humouredly; "and the trouble's not worth talkin' about. If Miss
Conklin," and here he turned respectfully towards her, "would take a seat
in my buggy and show me the chief settlers' houses, I reckon I could fix
up the case in three or four days."
The eyes of all were directed upon Loo. Was it Bancroft's jealousy that
made him smile contemptuously as he, too, glanced at her? If so, the
disdain was ill-timed. Flushing slightly, she answered, "I guess I'll be
pleased to do what I can," and she met the schoolmaster's eyes defiantly
as she spoke.
With the advent of Barkman upon the scene a succession of new experiences
began for Bancroft. He was still determined not to be seduced into making
Loo his wife. But now the jealousy that is born of desire and vanity
tormented him, and the mere thought that Barkman might marry and live with
her irritated him intensely. She was worthy of better things than marriage
with such a man. She was vain, no doubt, and lacking in the finer
sensibilities, the tremulous moral instincts which are the crown and glory
of womanhood; but it was not her fault that her education had been faulty,
her associates coarse—and after all she was very beautiful.
On returning home one afternoon he saw Barkman walking with her in the
peach orchard. As they turned round the girl called to him, and came at
once to meet him; but his jealousy would not be appeased. Her flower-like
face, framed, so to speak, by the autumn foliage, only increased his
anger. He could not bear to see her flirting. Were she out of his
sight, he felt for the first time, he would not care what she did.
"You were goin' in without speakin'," she said reproachfully.
"You have a man with you whose trade is talk. I'm not needed," was his
Half-incensed, half-gratified by his passionate exclamation, she drew
back, while Barkman, advancing, said:
"Good day, Mr. Bancroft, good day. I was just tryin' to persuade Miss
Conklin to come for another drive this evenin' in order to get this
business of ours settled as soon as possible."
"Another drive." Bancroft repeated the words to himself, and then
steadying his voice answered coolly: "You'll have no difficulty, lawyer. I
was just telling Miss Conklin that you talked splendidly—the result
of constant practice, I presume."
"That's it, sir," replied the lawyer seriously; "it's chiefly a matter of
practice added to gift—natural gift," but here Barkman's conceit
died out as he caught an uneasy, impatient movement of Miss Conklin, and
he went on quietly with the knowledge of life and the adaptability gained
by long experience: "But anyway, I'm glad you agree with me, for Miss
Conklin may take your advice after rejectin' mine."
Bancroft saw the trap, but could not restrain himself. With a contemptuous
smile he said:
"I'm sure no advice of mine is needed; Miss Conklin has already made up
her mind to gratify you. She likes to show the country to strangers," he
The girl flushed at the sarcasm, but her spirit was not subdued.
"Wall, Mr. Barkman," she retorted, with a smiling glance at the lawyer, "I
guess I must give in; if Mr. Bancroft thinks I ought ter, there's no more
to be said. I'm willin'."
An evening or two later, Barkman having gone into Wichita, Bancroft asked
Loo to go out with him upon the stoop. For several minutes he stood in
silence admiring the moonlit landscape; then he spoke as if to himself:
"Not a cloud in the purple depths, no breath of air, no sound nor stir of
life—peace absolute that mocks at man's cares and restlessness.
Look, Loo, how the ivory light bathes the prairie and shimmers on the sea
of corn, and makes of the little creek a ribband of silver....
"Yet you seem to prefer a great diamond gleaming in a white shirt-front,
and a coarse, common face, and vulgar talk.
"You," and he turned to her, "whose beauty is like the beauty of nature
itself, perfect and ineffable. When I think of you and that coarse brute
together, I shall always remember this moonlight and the hateful
zig-zagging snake-fence there that disfigures and defiles its beauty."
The girl looked up at him, only half understanding his rhapsody, but
glowing with the hope called to life by his extravagant praise of her.
"Why, George," she said shyly, because wholly won, "I don't think no more
of Lawyer Barkman than the moon thinks of the fence—an' I guess
that's not much," she added, with a little laugh of complete content.
The common phrases of uneducated speech and the vulgar accent of what he
thought her attempt at smart rejoinder offended him. Misunderstanding her
literalness of mind, he moved away, and shortly afterwards re-entered the
Of course Loo was dissatisfied with such incidents as these. When she saw
Bancroft trying to draw Barkman out and throw contempt upon him, she never
dreamed of objecting. But when he attacked her, she flew to her weapons.
What had she done, what was she doing, to deserve his sneers? She only
wished him to love her, and she felt indignantly that every time she
teased him by going with Barkman, he was merciless, and whenever she
abandoned herself to him, he drew back. She couldn't bear that; it was
cruel of him. She loved him, yes; no one, she knew, would ever make him so
good a wife as she would. No one ever could. Why, there was nothin' she
wouldn't do for him willingly. She'd see after his comforts an'
everythin'. She'd tidy all his papers an' fix up his things. And if he
ever got ill, she'd jest wait on him day and night—so she would.
She'd be the best wife to him that ever was.
Oh, why couldn't he be good to her always? That was all she wanted, to
feel he loved her; then she'd show him how she loved him. He'd be happy,
as happy as the day was long. How foolish men were! they saw nothin' that
was under their noses.
"P'r'aps he does love me," she said to herself; "he talked the other
evenin' beautiful; I guess he don't talk like that to every one, and yet
he won't give in to me an' jest be content—once for all. It's their
pride makes 'em like that; their silly, stupid pride. Nothin' else. Men
air foolish things. I've no pride at all when I think of him, except I
know that no one else could make him as happy as I could. Oh my!" and she
sighed with a sense of the mysterious unnecessary suffering in life.
"An' he goes on bein' mad with Lawyer Barkman. Fancy, that fat old man. He
warn't jealous of Seth Stevens or the officer, no; but of him. Why, it's
silly. Barkman don't count anyway. He talks well, yes, an' he's always
pleasant, always; but he's jest not in it. Men air foolish anyway." She
was beginning to acknowledge that all her efforts to gain her end might
Barkman, with his varied experience and the cooler blood of forty, saw
more of the game than either Bancroft or Loo. He had learnt that
compliments and attention count for much with women, and having studied
Miss Conklin he was sure that persistent flattery would go a long way
towards winning her. "I've gained harder cases by studying the jury," he
thought, "and I'll get her because I know her. That schoolmaster irritates
her; I won't. He says unpleasant things to her; I'll say pleasant things
and she'll turn to me. She likes to be admired; I guess that means dresses
and diamonds. Well, she shall have them, have all she wants.... The mother
ain't a factor, that's plain, and the father's sittin' on the fence; he'll
just do anythin' for the girl, and if he ain't well off—what does
that matter? I don't want money;" and his chest expanded with a proud
sense of disinterestedness.
"Why does the schoolmaster run after her? what would he do with such a
woman? He couldn't even keep her properly if he got her. It's a duty to
save the girl from throwin' herself away on a young, untried man like
that." He felt again that his virtue ought to help him to succeed.
"What a handsome figure she has! Her arms are perfect, firm as marble; and
her neck—round, too, and not a line on it, and how she walks! She's
the woman I want—so lovely I'll always be proud of her. What a wife
she'll make! My first wife was pretty, but not to be compared to her.
Who'd ever have dreamt of finding such a beauty in this place? How lucky I
am after all. Yes, lucky because I know just what I want, and go for it
right from the start. That's all. That's what luck means.
"Women are won little by little," he concluded. "Whoever knows them and
humours them right along, flattering their weak points, is sure to succeed
some time or other. And I can wait."
He got his opportunity by waiting. As Loo took her seat in the buggy one
afternoon he saw that she was nervous and irritable. "The schoolmaster's
been goin' for her—the derned fool," he said to himself, and at once
began to soothe her. The task was not an easy one. She was cold to him at
first and even spiteful; she laughed at what he said and promised, and
made fun of his pretensions. His kindly temper stood him in good stead. He
was quietly persistent; with the emollient of good-nature he wooed her in
his own fashion, and before they reached the first settler's house he had
half won her to kindliness. Here he made his victory complete. At every
question he appealed to her deferentially for counsel and decision; he
reckoned Miss Conklin would know, he relied on her for the facts, and when
she spoke he guessed that just settled the matter; her opinion was good
enough for him, and so forth.
Wounded to the soul by Bancroft's persistent, undeserved contempt, the
girl felt that now at last she had met some one who appreciated her, and
she gave herself up to the charm of dexterous flattery.
From her expression and manner while they drove homewards, Barkman
believed that the game was his own. He went on talking to her with the
reverence which he had already found to be so effective. There was no one
like her. What a lawyer she'd have made! How she got round the wife and
induced the husband to sign the petition—'twas wonderful! He had
never imagined a woman could be so tactful and winning. He had never met a
man who was her equal in persuading people.
The girl drank in the praise as a dry land drinks the rain. He meant it
all; that was clear. He had shown it in his words and acts—there,
before the Croftons. She had always believed she could do such things; she
didn't care much about books, and couldn't talk fine about moonlight, but
the men an' women she knew, she understood. She was sure of that. But
still, 'twas pleasant to hear it. He must love her or he never could
appreciate her as he did. She reckoned he was very clever; the best lawyer
in the State. Every one knew that. And he had said no man was equal to
her. Oh, if only the other, if only George had told her so; but he was too
much wrapped up in himself, and after all what was he anyway? Yet, if he
At this point of her musings the lawyer, seeing the flushed cheeks and
softened glance, believed his moment had come, and resolved to use it. His
passion made him forget that it was possible to go too fast.
"Miss Conklin," he began seriously, "if you'd join with me there's nothin'
we two couldn't do, nothin'! They call me the first lawyer in the State,
and I guess I'll get to Washington soon; but with you to help me I'd be
there before this year's out. As the wife of a Member of Congress, you
would show them all the way. I'm rich already; that is, I can do whatever
you want, and it's a shame for such genius as yours, and such talent, to
be hidden here among people who don't know how to value you properly. In
New York or in Washington you'd shine; become a social power," and as the
words "New York" caused the girl to look at him with eager attention, he
added, overcome by the foretaste of approaching triumph: "Miss Loo, I love
you; you've seen that, for you notice everythin'. I know I'm not young,
but I can be kinder and more faithful than any young man, and," here he
slipped his arm round her waist, "I guess all women want to be loved,
don't they? Will you let me love you, Loo, as my wife?"
The girl shrank away from him nervously. Perhaps the fact of being in a
buggy recalled her rides with George; or the caress brought home to her
the difference between the two men. However that may be, when she
answered, it was with full self-possession:
"I guess what you say's about right, and I like you. But I don't want to
marry—anyway not yet. Of course I'd like to help you, and I'd like
to live in New York; but—I can't make up my mind all at once. You
must wait. If you really care for me, that can't be hard."
"Yes, it's hard," Barkman replied, "very hard to feel uncertain of winning
the only woman I can ever love. But I don't want to press you," he added,
after a pause, "I rely on you; you know best, and I'll do just what you
"Well, then," she resumed, mollified by his humility, "you'll go back to
Wichita this evenin', as you said you would, and when you return, the day
after to-morrow, I'll tell you Yes or No. Will that do?" and she smiled up
in his face.
"Yes, that's more than I had a right to expect," he acknowledged. "Hope
from you is better than certainty from any other woman." In this mood they
reached the homestead. Loo alighted at the gate; she wouldn't allow
Barkman even to get down; he was to go right off at once, but when he
returned she'd meet him. With a grave respectful bow he lifted his hat,
and drove away. On the whole, he had reason to be proud of his diplomacy;
reason, too, for saying to himself that at last he had got on "the inside
track." Still, all the factors in the problem were not seen even by his
The next morning, Loo began to reflect upon what she should do. It did not
occur to her that she had somewhat compromised herself with the lawyer by
giving him leave, and, in fact, encouragement to expect a favourable
answer. She was so used to looking at all affairs from the point of view
of her own self-interest and satisfaction, that such an idea did not even
enter her head. She simply wanted to decide on what was best for herself.
She considered the matter as it seemed to her, from all sides, without
arriving at any decision. Barkman was kind, and good to her; but she
didn't care for him, and she loved George still. Oh, why wasn't he like
the other, always sympathetic and admiring? She sat and thought. In the
depths of her nature she felt that she couldn't give George up, couldn't
make up her mind to lose him; and why should she, since they loved each
other? What could she do?
Of a sudden she paused. She remembered how, more than a year before, she
had been invited to Eureka for a ball. She had stayed with her friend Miss
Jennie Blood; by whose advice and with whose help she had worn for the
first time a low-necked dress. She had been uncomfortable in it at first,
very uncomfortable, but the men liked it, all of them. She had seen their
admiration in their eyes; as Jennie had said, it fetched them. If only
George could see her in a low-necked dress—she flushed as she
thought of it—perhaps he'd admire her, and then she'd be quite
happy. But there were never any balls or parties in this dead-and-alive
township! How could she manage it?
The solution came to her with a shock of half-frightened excitement. It
was warm still, very warm, in the middle of the day; why shouldn't she
dress as for a dance, somethin' like it anyway, and go into George's room
to put it straight just before he came home from school? Her heart beat
quickly as she reflected. After all, what harm was there in it? She
recollected hearing that in the South all the girls wore low dresses in
summer, and she loved George, and she was sure he loved her. Any one would
do it, and no one would know. She resolved to try on the dress, just to
see how it suited her. There was no harm in that. She took off her thin
cotton gown quickly, and put on the ball-dress. But when she had dragged
the chest of drawers before the window and had propped up the little glass
on it to have a good look at herself, she grew hot. She couldn't wear
that, not in daylight; it looked, oh, it looked—and she blushed
crimson. Besides, the tulle was all frayed and faded. No, she couldn't
wear it! Oh!—and her eyes filled with tears of envy and vexation. If
only she were rich, like lots of other girls, she could have all sorts of
dresses. 'Twas unfair, so it was. She became desperate with
disappointment, and set her wits to work again. She had plenty of time
still. George wouldn't be back before twelve. She must choose a dress he
had never seen; then he wouldn't know but what she often wore it so.
Nervously, hurriedly, she selected a cotton frock, and before the tiny
glass pinned and arranged it over her shoulders and bust, higher than the
ball-dress, but still, lower than she had ever worn in the daytime. She
fashioned the garment with an instinctive sense of form that a Parisian couturière
might have envied, and went to work. Her nimble fingers soon cut and sewed
it to the style she had intended, and then she tried it on. As she looked
at herself in the mirror the vision of her loveliness surprised and
charmed her. She had drawn a blue ribband that she happened to possess,
round the arms of the dress and round the bodice of it, and when she saw
how this little thread of colour set off the full outlines of her bust and
the white roundness of her arms, she could have kissed her image in the
glass. She was lovely, prettier than any girl in the section. George would
see that; he loved beautiful things. Hadn't he talked of the scenery for
half an hour? He'd be pleased.
She thought again seriously whether her looks could not be improved. After
rummaging a little while in vain, she went downstairs and borrowed a light
woollen shawl from her mother on the pretext that she liked the feel of
it. Hastening up to her own room, she put it over her shoulders, and
practised a long time before the dim glass just to see how best she could
throw it back or draw it round her at will.
At last, with a sigh of content, she felt herself fully equipped for the
struggle; she was looking her best. If George didn't care for her so—and
she viewed herself again approvingly from all sides—why, she
couldn't help it. She had done all she could, but if he did, and he must—why,
then, he'd tell her, and they'd be happy. At the bottom of her heart she
felt afraid. George was strange; not a bit like other men. He might be
cold, and at the thought she felt inclined to cry out. Pride, however,
came to her aid. If he didn't like her, it would be his fault. She had
just done her best, and that she reckoned, with a flush of pardonable
conceit, was good enough for any man.
An hour later Bancroft went up to his room. As he opened the door Loo
turned towards him from the centre-table with a low cry of surprise,
drawing at the same time the ends of the fleecy woollen wrap tight across
"Oh, George, how you scared me! I was jest fixin' up your things." And the
girl crimsoned, while her eyes sought to read his face.
"Thank you," he rejoined carelessly, and then, held by something of
expectation in her manner, he looked at her intently, and added: "Why,
Loo, how well you look! I like that dress; it suits you." And he stepped
She held out both hands as if to meet his, but by the gesture the woollen
scarf was thrown back, and her form unveiled. Once again her mere beauty
stung the young man to desire, but something of a conscious look in her
face gave him thought, and, scrutinizing her coldly, he said:
"I suppose that dress was put on for Mr. Barkman's benefit."
"Oh, George!" she cried, in utter dismay, "he hain't been here to-day."
And then, as the hard expression did not leave his face, she added
hurriedly: "I put it on for you, George. Do believe me."
Still his face did not alter. Suddenly she understood that she had
betrayed her secret. She burst into bitter tears.
He took her in his arms and spoke perfunctory words of consolation; her
body yielded to his touch, and in a few moments he was soothing her in
earnest. Her grief was uncontrollable. "I've jest done everythin',
everythin' and it's all no use," she sobbed aloud. When he found that he
could not check the tears, he grew irritated; he divined her little
stratagem, and his lip curled. How unmaidenly! In a flash, she stood
before him, her shallow, childish vanity unmasked. The pity of it did not
strike him; he was too young for that; he felt only contempt for her, and
at once drew his arms away. With a long, choking sob she moved to the door
and disappeared. She went blindly along the passage to her room, and,
flinging herself on the bed, cried as if her heart would break. Then
followed a period of utter abject misery. She had lost everythin'; George
didn't care for her; she'd have to live all her life without him, and
again slow, scalding tears fell.
The thought of going downstairs to supper and meeting him was intolerable.
The sense of what she had confessed to him swept over her in a hot flood
of shame. No, she couldn't go down; she couldn't face his eyes again.
She'd sit right there, and her mother'd come up, and she'd tell her she
had a headache. To meet him was impossible; she just hated him. He was
hard and cruel; she'd never see him again; he had degraded her. The whole
place became unbearable as she relived the past; she must get away from
him, from it all, at any cost, as soon as she could. They'd be sorry when
she was gone. And she cried again a little, but these tears relieved her,
did her good.
She tried to look at the whole position steadily. Barkman would take her
away to New York. Marry him?—she didn't want to, but she wouldn't
make up her mind now; she'd go away with him if he'd be a real friend to
her. Only he mustn't put his arm round her again; she didn't like him to
do that. If he wished to be a friend to her, she'd let him; if not, she'd
go by herself. He must understand that. Once in New York, she'd meet kind
people, live as she wanted to live, and never think of this horrid time.
She was all alone; no one in the world to talk to about her trouble—no
one. No one cared for her. Her mother loved Jake best; and besides, if she
told her anythin', she'd only set down an' cry. She'd write and say she
was comfortable; and her father?—he'd get over it. He was kind
always, but he never felt much anyway—leastwise, he never showed
anythin'. When they got her letter 'twould be all right. That was what
she'd do—and so, with her little hands clenched and feverish face,
she sat and thought, letting her imagination work.
A few mornings later Bancroft came down early. He had slept badly, had
been nervous and disturbed by jealous forebodings, and had not won easily
to self-control. He had only been in the sitting-room a minute or two when
the Elder entered, and stopping in front of him asked sharply:
"Hev you seen Loo yet?"
"No. Is she down?"
"I reckoned you'd know ef she had made out anythin' partikler to do
"No," he repeated seriously, the Elder's manner impressing him. "No! she
told me nothing, but perhaps she hasn't got up yet."
"She ain't in her room."
"What do you mean?"
"You didn't hear buggy-wheels last night—along towards two o'clock?"
"No, but—you don't mean to say? Lawyer Barkman!" And Bancroft
started up with horror in his look.
The Elder stared at him, with rigid face and wild eyes, but as he
gradually took in the sincerity of the young man's excitement, he turned,
and left the room.
To his bedroom he went, and there, after closing the door, fell on his
knees. For a long time no word came; with clasped hands and bowed head the
old man knelt in silence. Sobs shook his frame, but no tears fell. At
length broken sentences dropped heavily from his half-conscious lips:
"Lord, Lord! 'Tain't right to punish her. She knowed nothin'. She's so
young. I did wrong, but I kain't bear her to be punished.
"P'r'aps You've laid this on me jes' to show I'm foolish and weak. That's
so, O Lord! I'm in the hollow of Your hand. But You'll save her, O Lord!
for Jesus' sake.
"I'm all broke up. I kain't pray. I'm skeered. Lord Christ, help her;
stan' by her; be with her. O Lord, forgive!"
JUNE AND JULY, 1891.
THE SHERIFF AND HIS PARTNER.
One afternoon in July, 1869, I was seated at my desk in Locock's
law-office in the town of Kiota, Kansas. I had landed in New York from
Liverpool nearly a year before, and had drifted westwards seeking in vain
for some steady employment. Lawyer Locock, however, had promised to let me
study law with him, and to give me a few dollars a month besides, for my
services as a clerk. I was fairly satisfied with the prospect, and the
little town interested me. An outpost of civilization, it was situated on
the border of the great plains, which were still looked upon as the
natural possession of the nomadic Indian tribes. It owed its importance to
the fact that it lay on the cattle-trail which led from the prairies of
Texas through this no man's land to the railway system, and that it was
the first place where the cowboys coming north could find a bed to sleep
in, a bar to drink at, and a table to gamble on. For some years they had
made of Kiota a hell upon earth. But gradually the land in the
neighbourhood was taken up by farmers, emigrants chiefly from New England,
who were determined to put an end to the reign of violence. A man named
Johnson was their leader in establishing order and tranquillity. Elected,
almost as soon as he came to the town, to the dangerous post of City
Marshal, he organized a vigilance committee of the younger and more daring
settlers, backed by whom he resolutely suppressed the drunken rioting of
the cowboys. After the ruffians had been taught to behave themselves,
Johnson was made Sheriff of the County, a post which gave him a house and
permanent position. Though married now, and apparently "settled down," the
Sheriff was a sort of hero in Kiota. I had listened to many tales about
him, showing desperate determination veined with a sense of humour, and I
often regretted that I had reached the place too late to see him in
action. I had little or nothing to do in the office. The tedium of the
long days was almost unbroken, and Stephen's "Commentaries" had become as
monotonous and unattractive as the bare uncarpeted floor. The heat was
tropical, and I was dozing when a knock startled me. A negro boy slouched
in with a bundle of newspapers:
"This yer is Jedge Locock's, I guess?"
"I guess so," was my answer as I lazily opened the third or fourth number
of the "Kiota Weekly Tribune." Glancing over the sheet my eye caught the
"HIGHWAY ROBBERY WITH VIOLENCE.
"JUDGE SHANNON STOPPED.
"THE OUTLAW ESCAPES.
"HE KNOWS SHERIFF JOHNSON.
"Information has just reached us of an outrage perpetrated on the person
of one of our most respected fellow-citizens. The crime was committed in
daylight, on the public highway within four miles of this city; a crime,
therefore, without parallel in this vicinity for the last two years.
Fortunately our County and State authorities can be fully trusted, and we
have no sort of doubt that they can command, if necessary, the succour and
aid of each and every citizen of this locality in order to bring the
offending miscreant to justice.
"We now place the plain recital of this outrage before our readers.
"Yesterday afternoon, as Ex-Judge Shannon was riding from his law-office
in Kiota towards his home on Sumach Bluff, he was stopped about four miles
from this town by a man who drew a revolver on him, telling him at the
same time to pull up. The Judge, being completely unarmed and unprepared,
obeyed, and was told to get down from the buckboard, which he did. He was
then ordered to put his watch and whatever money he had, in the road, and
to retreat three paces.
"The robber pocketed the watch and money, and told him he might tell
Sheriff Johnson that Tom Williams had 'gone through him,' and that he
(Williams) could be found at the saloon in Osawotamie at any time. The
Judge now hoped for release, but Tom Williams (if that be the robber's
real name) seemed to get an afterthought, which he at once proceeded to
carry into effect. Drawing a knife he cut the traces, and took out of the
shafts the Judge's famous trotting mare, Lizzie D., which he mounted with
"'Sheriff Johnson, I reckon, would come after the money anyway, but the
hoss'll fetch him——sure pop.'
"These words have just been given to us by Judge Shannon himself, who
tells us also that the outrage took place on the North Section Line,
bounding Bray's farm.
"After this speech the highway robber Williams rode towards the township
of Osawotamie, while Judge Shannon, after drawing the buckboard to the
edge of the track, was compelled to proceed homewards on foot.
"The outrage, as we have said, took place late last evening, and Judge
Shannon, we understand, did not trouble to inform the County authorities
of the circumstance till to-day at noon, after leaving our office. What
the motive of the crime may have been we do not worry ourselves to
inquire; a crime, an outrage upon justice and order, has been committed;
that is all we care to know. If anything fresh happens in this connection
we propose to issue a second edition of this paper. Our fellow-citizens
may rely upon our energy and watchfulness to keep them posted.
"Just before going to press we learn that Sheriff Johnson was out of town
attending to business when Judge Shannon called; but Sub-Sheriff Jarvis
informs us that he expects the Sheriff back shortly. It is necessary to
add, by way of explanation, that Mr. Jarvis cannot leave the jail
unguarded, even for a few hours."
As may be imagined this item of news awakened my keenest interest. It
fitted in with some things that I knew already, and I was curious to learn
more. I felt that this was the first act in a drama. Vaguely I remembered
some one telling in disconnected phrases why the Sheriff had left
Missouri, and come to Kansas:
"'Twas after a quor'll with a pardner of his, named Williams, who kicked
Bit by bit the story, to which I had not given much attention when I heard
it, so casually, carelessly was it told, recurred to my memory.
"They say as how Williams cut up rough with Johnson, and drawed a knife on
him, which Johnson gripped with his left while he pulled trigger.—Williams,
I heerd, was in the wrong; I hain't perhaps got the right end of it;
anyhow, you might hev noticed the Sheriff hes lost the little finger off
his left hand.—Johnson, they say, got right up and lit out from
Pleasant Hill. Perhaps the folk in Mizzoori kinder liked Williams the best
of the two; I don't know. Anyway, Sheriff Johnson's a square man; his
record here proves it. An' real grit, you bet your life."
The narrative had made but a slight impression on me at the time; I didn't
know the persons concerned, and had no reason to interest myself in their
fortunes. In those early days, moreover, I was often homesick, and gave
myself up readily to dreaming of English scenes and faces. Now the words
and drawling intonation came back to me distinctly, and with them the
question: Was the robber of Judge Shannon the same Williams who had once
been the Sheriff's partner? My first impulse was to hurry into the street
and try to find out; but it was the chief part of my duty to stay in the
office till six o'clock; besides, the Sheriff was "out of town," and
perhaps would not be back that day. The hours dragged to an end at last;
my supper was soon finished, and, as night drew down, I hastened along the
wooden side-walk of Washington Street towards the Carvell House. This
hotel was much too large for the needs of the little town; it contained
some fifty bedrooms, of which perhaps half-a-dozen were permanently
occupied by "high-toned" citizens, and a billiard-room of gigantic size,
in which stood nine tables, as well as the famous bar. The space between
the bar, which ran across one end of the room, and the billiard-tables,
was the favourite nightly resort of the prominent politicians and
gamblers. There, if anywhere, my questions would be answered.
On entering the billiard-room I was struck by the number of men who had
come together. Usually only some twenty or thirty were present, half of
whom sat smoking and chewing about the bar, while the rest watched a game
of billiards or took a "life" in pool. This evening, however, the
billiard-tables were covered with their slate-coloured "wraps," while at
least a hundred and fifty men were gathered about the open space of
glaring light near the bar. I hurried up the room, but as I approached the
crowd my steps grew slower, and I became half ashamed of my eager,
obtrusive curiosity and excitement. There was a kind of reproof in the
lazy, cool glance which one man after another cast upon me, as I went by.
Assuming an air of indecision I threaded my way through the chairs
uptilted against the sides of the billiard-tables. I had drained a glass
of Bourbon whisky before I realized that these apparently careless men
were stirred by some emotion which made them more cautious, more silent,
more warily on their guard than usual. The gamblers and loafers, too, had
taken "back seats" this evening, whilst hard-working men of the farmer
class who did not frequent the expensive bar of the Carvell House were to
be seen in front. It dawned upon me that the matter was serious, and was
being taken seriously.
The silence was broken from time to time by some casual remark of no
interest, drawled out in a monotone; every now and then a man invited the
"crowd" to drink with him, and that was all. Yet the moral atmosphere was
oppressive, and a vague feeling of discomfort grew upon me. These men
Presently the door on my left opened—Sheriff Johnson came into the
"Good evenin'," he said; and a dozen voices, one after another, answered
with "Good evenin'! good evenin', Sheriff!" A big frontiersman, however, a
horse-dealer called Martin, who, I knew, had been on the old vigilance
committee, walked from the centre of the group in front of the bar to the
Sheriff, and held out his hand with:
"Shake, old man, and name the drink." The
Sheriff took the proffered hand as if mechanically, and turned to the bar
with "Whisky—straight." Sheriff Johnson was a man of medium height,
sturdily built. A broad forehead, and clear, grey-blue eyes that met
everything fairly, testified in his favour. The nose, however, was fleshy
and snub. The mouth was not to be seen, nor its shape guessed at, so
thickly did the brown moustache and beard grow; but the short beard seemed
rather to exaggerate than conceal an extravagant outjutting of the lower
jaw, that gave a peculiar expression of energy and determination to the
face. His manner was unobtrusively quiet and deliberate.
It was an unusual occurrence for Johnson to come at night to the
bar-lounge, which was beginning to fall into disrepute among the
puritanical or middle-class section of the community. No one, however,
seemed to pay any further attention to him or to remark the unusual
cordiality of Martin's greeting. A quarter of an hour elapsed before
anything of note occurred. Then, an elderly man whom I did not know, a
farmer, by his dress, drew a copy of the "Kiota Tribune" from his pocket,
and, stretching it towards Johnson, asked with a very marked Yankee twang:
"Sheriff, hev yeou read this 'Tribune'?"
Wheeling half round towards his questioner, the Sheriff replied:
"Yes, sir, I hev." A pause ensued, which was made significant to me by the
fact that the bar-keeper suspended his hand and did not pour out the
whisky he had just been asked to supply—a pause during which the two
faced each other; it was broken by the farmer saying:
"Ez yeou wer out of town to-day, I allowed yeou might hev missed seein'
it. I reckoned yeou'd come straight hyar before yeou went to hum."
"No, Crosskey," rejoined the Sheriff, with slow emphasis; "I went home
first and came on hyar to see the boys."
"Wall," said Mr. Crosskey, as it seemed to me, half apologetically,
"knowin' yeou I guessed yeou ought to hear the facks," then, with some
suddenness, stretching out his hand, he added, "I hev some way to go, an'
my old woman 'ull be waitin' up fer me. Good night, Sheriff." The hands
met while the Sheriff nodded: "Good night, Jim."
After a few greetings to right and left Mr. Crosskey left the bar. The
crowd went on smoking, chewing, and drinking, but the sense of expectancy
was still in the air, and the seriousness seemed, if anything, to have
increased. Five or ten minutes may have passed when a man named Reid, who
had run for the post of Sub-Sheriff the year before, and had failed to
beat Johnson's nominee Jarvis, rose from his chair and asked abruptly:
"Sheriff, do you reckon to take any of us uns with you to-morrow?"
With an indefinable ring of sarcasm in his negligent tone, the Sheriff
"I guess not, Mr. Reid."
Quickly Reid replied: "Then I reckon there's no use in us stayin';" and
turning to a small knot of men among whom he had been sitting, he added,
"Let's go, boys!"
The men got up and filed out after their leader without greeting the
Sheriff in any way. With the departure of this group the shadow lifted.
Those who still remained showed in manner a marked relief, and a moment or
two later a man named Morris, whom I knew to be a gambler by profession,
called out lightly:
"The crowd and you'll drink with me, Sheriff, I hope? I want another
glass, and then we won't keep you up any longer, for you ought to have a
night's rest with to-morrow's work before you."
The Sheriff smiled assent. Every one moved towards the bar, and
conversation became general. Morris was the centre of the company, and he
directed the talk jokingly to the account in the "Tribune," making fun, as
it seemed to me, though I did not understand all his allusions, of the
editor's timidity and pretentiousness. Morris interested and amused me
even more than he amused the others; he talked like a man of some
intelligence and reading, and listening to him I grew light-hearted and
careless, perhaps more careless than usual, for my spirits had been
ice-bound in the earlier gloom of the evening.
"Fortunately our County and State authorities can be fully trusted," some
"Mark that 'fortunately,' Sheriff," laughed Morris. "The editor was afraid
to mention you alone, so he hitched the State on with you to lighten the
"Ay!" chimed in another of the gamblers, "and the 'aid and succour of each
and every citizen,' eh, Sheriff, as if you'd take the whole town with you.
I guess two or three'll be enough fer Williams."
This annoyed me. It appeared to me that Williams had addressed a personal
challenge to the Sheriff, and I thought that Johnson should so consider
it. Without waiting for the Sheriff to answer, whether in protest or
acquiescence, I broke in:
"Two or three would be cowardly. One should go, and one only." At once I
felt rather than saw the Sheriff free himself from the group of men; the
next moment he stood opposite to me.
"What was that?" he asked sharply, holding me with keen eye and out-thrust
chin—repressed passion in voice and look.
The antagonism of his bearing excited and angered me not a little. I
"I think it would be cowardly to take two or three against a single man. I
said one should go, and I say so still."
"Do you?" he sneered. "I guess you'd go alone, wouldn't you? to bring
"If I were paid for it I should," was my heedless retort. As I spoke his
face grew white with such passion that I instinctively put up my hands to
defend myself, thinking he was about to attack me. The involuntary
movement may have seemed boyish to him, for thought came into his eyes,
and his face relaxed; moving away he said quietly:
"I'll set up drinks, boys."
They grouped themselves about him and drank, leaving me isolated. But
this, now my blood was up, only added to the exasperation I felt at his
contemptuous treatment, and accordingly I walked to the bar, and as the
only unoccupied place was by Johnson's side I went there and said,
speaking as coolly as I could:
"Though no one asks me to drink I guess I'll take some whisky, bar-keeper,
if you please." Johnson was standing with his back to me, but when I spoke
he looked round, and I saw, or thought I saw, a sort of curiosity in his
gaze. I met his eye defiantly. He turned to the others and said, in his
ordinary, slow way:
"Wall, good night, boys; I've got to go. It's gittin' late, an' I've had
about as much as I want."
Whether he alluded to the drink or to my impertinence I was unable to
divine. Without adding a word he left the room amid a chorus of "Good
night, Sheriff!" With him went Martin and half-a-dozen more.
I thought I had come out of the matter fairly well until I spoke to some
of the men standing near. They answered me, it is true, but in
monosyllables, and evidently with unwillingness. In silence I finished my
whisky, feeling that every one was against me for some inexplicable cause.
I resented this and stayed on. In a quarter of an hour the rest of the
crowd had departed, with the exception of Morris and a few of the same
When I noticed that these gamblers, outlaws by public opinion, held away
from me, I became indignant. Addressing myself to Morris, I asked:
"Can you tell me, sir, for you seem to be an educated man, what I have
said or done to make you all shun me?"
"I guess so," he answered indifferently. "You took a hand in a game where
you weren't wanted. And you tried to come in without ever having paid the
ante, which is not allowed in any game—at least not in any
game played about here."
The allusion seemed plain; I was not only a stranger, but a foreigner;
that must be my offence. With a "Good night, sir; good night, bar-keeper!"
I left the room.
The next morning I went as usual to the office. I may have been seated
there about an hour—it was almost eight o'clock—when I heard a
knock at the door.
"Come in," I said, swinging round in the American chair, to find myself
face to face with Sheriff Johnson.
"Why, Sheriff, come in!" I exclaimed cheerfully, for I was relieved at
seeing him, and so realized more clearly than ever that the unpleasantness
of the previous evening had left in me a certain uneasiness. I was eager
to show that the incident had no importance:
"Won't you take a seat? and you'll have a cigar?—these are not bad."
"No, thank you," he answered. "No, I guess I won't sit nor smoke jest
now." After a pause, he added, "I see you're studyin'; p'r'aps you're busy
to-day; I won't disturb you."
"You don't disturb me, Sheriff," I rejoined. "As for studying, there's not
much in it. I seem to prefer dreaming."
"Wall," he said, letting his eyes range round the walls furnished with Law
Reports bound in yellow calf, "I don't know, I guess there's a big lot of
readin' to do before a man gets through with all those."
"Oh," I laughed, "the more I read the more clearly I see that law is only
a sermon on various texts supplied by common sense."
"Wall," he went on slowly, coming a pace or two nearer and speaking with
increased seriousness, "I reckon you've got all Locock's business to see
after: his clients to talk to; letters to answer, and all that; and when
he's on the drunk I guess he don't do much. I won't worry you any more."
"You don't worry me," I replied. "I've not had a letter to answer in three
days, and not a soul comes here to talk about business or anything else. I
sit and dream, and wish I had something to do out there in the sunshine.
Your work is better than reading words, words—nothing but words."
"You ain't busy; hain't got anything to do here that might keep you?
"Not a thing. I'm sick of Blackstone and all Commentaries."
Suddenly I felt his hand on my shoulder (moving half round in the chair, I
had for the moment turned sideways to him), and his voice was surprisingly
hard and quick:
"Then I swear you in as a Deputy-Sheriff of the United States, and of this
State of Kansas; and I charge you to bring in and deliver at the Sheriff's
house, in this county of Elwood, Tom Williams, alive or dead, and—there's
your fee, five dollars and twenty-five cents!" and he laid the money on
Before the singular speech was half ended I had swung round facing him,
with a fairly accurate understanding of what he meant. But the moment for
decision had come with such sharp abruptness, that I still did not realize
my position, though I replied defiantly as if accepting the charge:
"I've not got a weapon."
"The boys allowed you mightn't hev, and so I brought some along. You ken
suit your hand." While speaking he produced two or three revolvers of
different sizes, and laid them before me.
Dazed by the rapid progress of the plot, indignant, too, at the trick
played upon me, I took up the nearest revolver and looked at it almost
without seeing it. The Sheriff seemed to take my gaze for that of an
"It shoots true," he said meditatively, "plumb true; but it's too small to
drop a man. I guess it wouldn't stop any one with grit in him."
My anger would not allow me to consider his advice; I thrust the weapon in
"I haven't got a buggy. How am I to get to Osawotamie?"
"Mine's hitched up outside. You ken hev it."
Rising to my feet I said: "Then we can go."
We had nearly reached the door of the office, when the Sheriff stopped,
turned his back upon the door, and looking straight into my eyes said:
"Don't play foolish. You've no call to go. Ef you're busy, ef you've got
letters to write, anythin' to do—I'll tell the boys you sed so, and
that'll be all; that'll let you out."
Half-humorously, as it seemed to me, he added: "You're young and a
tenderfoot. You'd better stick to what you've begun upon. That's the way
to do somethin'.—I often think it's the work chooses us, and we've
just got to get down and do it."
"I've told you I had nothing to do," I retorted angrily; "that's the
truth. Perhaps" (sarcastically) "this work chooses me."
The Sheriff moved away from the door.
On reaching the street I stopped for a moment in utter wonder. At that
hour in the morning Washington Street was usually deserted, but now it
seemed as if half the men in the town had taken up places round the
entrance to Locock's office stairs. Some sat on barrels or boxes tipped up
against the shop-front (the next store was kept by a German, who sold
fruit and eatables); others stood about in groups or singly; a few were
seated on the edge of the side-walk, with their feet in the dust of the
street. Right before me and most conspicuous was the gigantic figure of
Martin. He was sitting on a small barrel in front of the Sheriff's buggy.
"Good morning," I said in the air, but no one answered me. Mastering my
irritation, I went forward to undo the hitching-strap, but Martin,
divining my intention, rose and loosened the buckle. As I reached him, he
spoke in a low whisper, keeping his back turned to me:
"Shoot off a joke quick. The boys'll let up on you then. It'll be all
right. Say somethin', for God's sake!"
The rough sympathy did me good, relaxed the tightness round my heart; the
resentment natural to one entrapped left me, and some of my
"I never felt less like joking in my life, Martin, and humour can't be
produced to order."
He fastened up the hitching-strap, while I gathered the reins together and
got into the buggy. When I was fairly seated he stepped to the side of the
open vehicle, and, holding out his hand, said, "Good day," adding, as our
hands clasped, "Wade in, young un; wade in."
"Good day, Martin. Good day, Sheriff. Good day, boys!"
To my surprise there came a chorus of answering "Good days!" as I drove up
A few hundred yards I went, and then wheeled to the right past the post
office, and so on for a quarter of a mile, till I reached the descent from
the higher ground, on which the town was built, to the river. There, on my
left, on the verge of the slope, stood the Sheriff's house in a lot by
itself, with the long, low jail attached to it. Down the hill I went, and
across the bridge and out into the open country. I drove rapidly for about
five miles—more than halfway to Osawotamie—and then I pulled
up, in order to think quietly and make up my mind.
I grasped the situation now in all its details. Courage was the one virtue
which these men understood, the only one upon which they prided
themselves. I, a stranger, a "tenderfoot," had questioned the courage of
the boldest among them, and this mission was their answer to my insolence.
The "boys" had planned the plot; Johnson was not to blame; clearly he
wanted to let me out of it; he would have been satisfied there in the
office if I had said that I was busy; he did not like to put his work on
any one else. And yet he must profit by my going. Were I killed, the whole
country would rise against Williams; whereas if I shot Williams, the
Sheriff would be relieved of the task. I wondered whether the fact of his
having married made any difference to the Sheriff. Possibly—and yet
it was not the Sheriff; it was the "boys" who had insisted on giving me
the lesson. Public opinion was dead against me. "I had come into a game
where I was not wanted, and I had never even paid the ante"—that
was Morris's phrase. Of course it was all clear now. I had never given any
proof of courage, as most likely all the rest had at some time or other.
That was the ante Morris meant....
My wilfulness had got me into the scrape; I had only myself to thank. Not
alone the Sheriff but Martin would have saved me had I profited by the
door of escape which he had tried to open for me. Neither of them wished
to push the malice to the point of making me assume the Sheriff's risk,
and Martin at least, and probably the Sheriff also, had taken my quick,
half-unconscious words and acts as evidence of reckless determination. If
I intended to live in the West I must go through with the matter.
But what nonsense it all was! Why should I chuck away my life in the
attempt to bring a desperate ruffian to justice? And who could say that
Williams was a ruffian? It was plain that his quarrel with the Sheriff was
one of old date and purely personal. He had "stopped" Judge Shannon in
order to bring about a duel with the Sheriff. Why should I fight the
Sheriff's duels? Justice, indeed! justice had nothing to do with this
affair; I did not even know which man was in the right. Reason led
directly to the conclusion that I had better turn the horse's head
northwards, drive as fast and as far as I could, and take the train as
soon as possible out of the country. But while I recognized that this was
the only sensible decision, I felt that I could not carry it into action.
To run away was impossible; my cheeks burned with shame at the thought.
Was I to give my life for a stupid practical joke? "Yes!"—a voice
within me answered sharply. "It would be well if a man could always choose
the cause for which he risks his life, but it may happen that he ought to
throw it away for a reason that seems inadequate."
"What ought I to do?" I questioned.
"Go on to Osawotamie, arrest Williams, and bring him into Kiota," replied
my other self.
"And if he won't come?"
"Shoot him—you are charged to deliver him 'alive or dead' at the
Sheriff's house. No more thinking, drive straight ahead and act as if you
were a representative of the law and Williams a criminal. It has to be
The resolution excited me, I picked up the reins and proceeded. At the
next section-line I turned to the right, and ten or fifteen minutes later
saw Osawotamie in the distance.
I drew up, laid the reins on the dashboard, and examined the revolver. It
was a small four-shooter, with a large bore. To make sure of its
efficiency I took out a cartridge; it was quite new. While weighing it in
my hand, the Sheriff's words recurred to me, "It wouldn't stop any one
with grit in him." What did he mean? I didn't want to think, so I put the
cartridge in again, cocked and replaced the pistol in my right-side jacket
pocket, and drove on. Osawotamie consisted of a single street of
straggling frame-buildings. After passing half-a-dozen of them I saw, on
the right, one which looked to me like a saloon. It was evidently a
stopping-place. There were several hitching-posts, and the house boasted
instead of a door two green Venetian blinds put upon rollers—the
usual sign of a drinking-saloon in the West.
I got out of the buggy slowly and carefully, so as not to shift the
position of the revolver, and after hitching up the horse, entered the
saloon. Coming out of the glare of the sunshine I could hardly see in the
darkened room. In a moment or two my eyes grew accustomed to the dim
light, and I went over to the bar, which was on my left. The bar-keeper
was sitting down; his head and shoulders alone were visible; I asked him
for a lemon squash.
"Anythin' in it?" he replied, without lifting his eyes.
"No; I'm thirsty and hot."
"I guessed that was about the figger," he remarked, getting up leisurely
and beginning to mix the drink with his back to me.
I used the opportunity to look round the room. Three steps from me stood a
tall man, lazily leaning with his right arm on the bar, his fingers
touching a half-filled glass. He seemed to be gazing past me into the
void, and thus allowed me to take note of his appearance. In
shirt-sleeves, like the bar-keeper, he had a belt on in which were two
large revolvers with white ivory handles. His face was prepossessing, with
large but not irregular features, bronzed fair skin, hazel eyes, and long
brown moustache. He looked strong and was lithe of form, as if he had not
done much hard bodily work. There was no one else in the room except a man
who appeared to be sleeping at a table in the far corner with his head
pillowed on his arms.
As I completed this hasty scrutiny of the room and its inmates, the
bar-keeper gave me my squash, and I drank eagerly. The excitement had made
me thirsty, for I knew that the crisis must be at hand, but I experienced
no other sensation save that my heart was thumping and my throat was dry.
Yawning as a sign of indifference (I had resolved to be as deliberate as
the Sheriff) I put my hand in my pocket on the revolver. I felt that I
could draw it out at once.
I addressed the bar-keeper:
"Say, do you know the folk here in Osawotamie?"
After a pause he replied:
"Most on 'em, I guess."
Another pause and a second question:
"Do you know Tom Williams?"
The eyes looked at me with a faint light of surprise in them; they looked
away again, and came back with short, half suspicious, half curious
"Maybe you're a friend of his'n?"
"I don't know him, but I'd like to meet him."
"Would you, though?" Turning half round, the bar-keeper took down a bottle
and glass, and poured out some whisky, seemingly for his own consumption.
Then: "I guess he's not hard to meet, isn't Williams, ef you and me mean
the same man."
"I guess we do," I replied; "Tom Williams is the name."
"That's me," said the tall man who was leaning on the bar near me, "that's
"Are you the Williams that stopped Judge Shannon yesterday?"
"I don't know his name," came the careless reply, "but I stopped a man in
Plucking out my revolver, and pointing it low down on his breast, I said:
"I'm sent to arrest you; you must come with me to Kiota."
Without changing his easy posture, or a muscle of his face, he asked in
the same quiet voice:
"What does this mean, anyway? Who sent you to arrest me?"
"Sheriff Johnson," I answered.
The man started upright, and said, as if amazed, in a quick, loud voice:
"Sheriff Johnson sent you to arrest me?"
"Yes," I retorted, "Sheriff Samuel Johnson swore me in this morning as his
deputy, and charged me to bring you into Kiota."
In a tone of utter astonishment he repeated my words, "Sheriff Samuel
"Yes," I replied, "Samuel Johnson, Sheriff of Elwood County."
"See here," he asked suddenly, fixing me with a look of angry suspicion,
"what sort of a man is he? What does he figger like?"
"He's a little shorter than I am," I replied curtly, "with a brown beard
and bluish eyes—a square-built sort of man."
"Hell!" There was savage rage and menace in the exclamation.
"You kin put that up!" he added, absorbed once more in thought. I paid no
attention to this; I was not going to put the revolver away at his
bidding. Presently he asked in his ordinary voice:
"What age man might this Johnson be?"
"About forty or forty-five, I should think."
"And right off Sam Johnson swore you in and sent you to bring me into
Kiota—an' him Sheriff?"
"Yes," I replied impatiently, "that's so."
"Great God!" he exclaimed, bringing his clenched right hand heavily down
on the bar. "Here, Zeke!" turning to the man asleep in the corner, and
again he shouted "Zeke!" Then, with a rapid change of manner, and speaking
irritably, he said to me:
"Put that thing up, I say."
The bar-keeper now spoke too: "I guess when Tom sez you kin put it up, you
kin. You hain't got no use fur it."
The changes of Williams' tone from wonder to wrath and then to quick
resolution showed me that the doubt in him had been laid, and that I had
but little to do with the decision at which he had arrived, whatever that
decision might be. I understood, too, enough of the Western spirit to know
that he would take no unfair advantage of me. I therefore uncocked the
revolver and put it back into my pocket. In the meantime Zeke had got up
from his resting-place in the corner and had made his way sleepily to the
bar. He had taken more to drink than was good for him, though he was not
now really drunk.
"Give me and Zeke a glass, Joe," said Williams; "and this gentleman, too,
if he'll drink with me, and take one yourself with us."
"No," replied the bar-keeper sullenly, "I'll not drink to any damned
foolishness. An' Zeke won't neither."
"Oh, yes, he will," Williams returned persuasively, "and so'll you, Joe.
You aren't goin' back on me."
"No, I'll be just damned if I am," said the barkeeper, half-conquered.
"What'll you take, sir?" Williams asked me.
"The bar-keeper knows my figger," I answered, half-jestingly, not yet
understanding the situation, but convinced that it was turning out better
than I had expected.
"And you, Zeke?" he went on.
"The old pizen," Zeke replied.
"And now, Joe, whisky for you and me—the square bottle," he
continued, with brisk cheerfulness.
In silence the bar-keeper placed the drinks before us. As soon as the
glasses were empty Williams spoke again, putting out his hand to Zeke at
the same time:
"Good-bye, old man, so long, but saddle up in two hours. Ef I don't come
then, you kin clear; but I guess I'll be with you."
"Good-bye, Tom," replied the bar-keeper, taking the proffered hand, still
half-unwillingly, "if you're stuck on it; but the game is to wait for 'em
here—anyway that's how I'd play it."
A laugh and shake of the head and Williams addressed me:
"Now, sir, I'm ready if you are." We were walking towards the door, when
Zeke broke in:
"Say, Tom, ain't I to come along?"
"No, Zeke, I'll play this hand alone," replied Williams, and two minutes
later he and I were seated in the buggy, driving towards Kiota.
We had gone more than a mile before he spoke again. He began very quietly,
as if confiding his thoughts to me:
"I don't want to make no mistake about this business—it ain't worth
while. I'm sure you're right, and Sheriff Samuel Johnson sent you, but,
maybe, ef you was to think you could kinder bring him before me. There
might be two of the name, the age, the looks—though it ain't
likely." Then, as if a sudden inspiration moved him:
"Where did he come from, this Sam Johnson, do you know?"
"I believe he came from Pleasant Hill, Missouri. I've heard that he left
after a row with his partner, and it seems to me that his partner's name
was Williams. But that you ought to know better than I do. By-the-bye,
there is one sign by which Sheriff Johnson can always be recognized; he
has lost the little finger of his left hand. They say he caught Williams'
bowie with that hand and shot him with the right. But why he had to leave
Missouri I don't know, if Williams drew first."
"I'm satisfied now," said my companion, "but I guess you hain't got that
story correct; maybe you don't know the cause of it nor how it began;
maybe Williams didn't draw fust; maybe he was in the right all the way
through; maybe—but thar!—the first hand don't decide
everythin'. Your Sheriff's the man—that's enough for me."
After this no word was spoken for miles. As we drew near the bridge
leading into the town of Kiota I remarked half-a-dozen men standing about.
Generally the place was deserted, so the fact astonished me a little. But
I said nothing. We had scarcely passed over half the length of the bridge,
however, when I saw that there were quite twenty men lounging around the
Kiota end of it. Before I had time to explain the matter to myself,
Williams spoke: "I guess he's got out all the vigilantes;" and then
bitterly: "The boys in old Mizzouri wouldn't believe this ef I told it on
him, the doggoned mean cuss."
We crossed the bridge at a walk (it was forbidden to drive faster over the
rickety structure), and toiled up the hill through the bystanders, who did
not seem to see us, though I knew several of them. When we turned to the
right to reach the gate of the Sheriff's house, there were groups of men
on both sides. No one moved from his place; here and there, indeed, one of
them went on whittling. I drew up at the sidewalk, threw down the reins,
and jumped out of the buggy to hitch up the horse. My task was done.
I had the hitching-rein loose in my hand, when I became conscious of
something unusual behind me. I looked round—it was the stillness
that foreruns the storm.
Williams was standing on the side-walk facing the low wooden fence, a
revolver in each hand, but both pointing negligently to the ground; the
Sheriff had just come down the steps of his house; in his hands also were
revolvers; his deputy, Jarvis, was behind him on the stoop.
Williams spoke first:
"Sam Johnson, you sent for me, and I've come."
The Sheriff answered firmly, "I did!"
Their hands went up, and crack! crack! crack! in quick succession, three
or four or five reports—I don't know how many. At the first shots
the Sheriff fell forward on his face. Williams started to run along the
side-walk; the groups of men at the corner, through whom he must pass,
closed together; then came another report, and at the same moment he
stopped, turned slowly half round, and sank down in a heap like an empty
I hurried to him; he had fallen almost as a tailor sits, but his head was
between his knees. I lifted it gently; blood was oozing from a hole in the
forehead. The men were about me; I heard them say:
"A derned good shot! Took him in the back of the head. Jarvis kin shoot!"
I rose to my feet. Jarvis was standing inside the fence supported by some
one; blood was welling from his bared left shoulder.
"I ain't much hurt," he said, "but I guess the Sheriff's got it bad."
The men moved on, drawing me with them, through the gate to where the
Sheriff lay. Martin turned him over on his back. They opened his shirt,
and there on the broad chest were two little blue marks, each in the
centre of a small mound of pink flesh.
4TH APRIL, 1891.
A MODERN IDYLL.
"I call it real good of you, Mr. Letgood, to come and see me. Won't you be
"Thank you. It's very warm to-day; and as I didn't feel like reading or
writing, I thought I'd come round."
"You're just too kind for anythin'! To come an' pay me a visit when you
must be tired out with yesterday's preachin'. An' what a sermon you gave
us in the mornin'—it was too sweet. I had to wink my eyes pretty
hard, an' pull the tears down the back way, or I should have cried right
out—and Mrs. Jones watchin' me all the time under that dreadful
Mrs. Hooper had begun with a shade of nervousness in the hurried words;
but the emotion disappeared as she took up a comfortable pose in the
corner of the small sofa.
The Rev. John Letgood, having seated himself in an armchair, looked at her
intently before replying. She was well worth looking at, this Mrs. Hooper,
as she leaned back on the cushions in her cool white dress, which was so
thin and soft and well-fitting that her form could be seen through it
almost as clearly as through water. She appeared to be about eighteen
years old, and in reality was not yet twenty. At first sight one would
have said of her, "a pretty girl;" but an observant eye on the second
glance would have noticed those contradictions in face and in form which
bear witness to a certain complexity of nature. Her features were small,
regular, and firmly cut; the long, brown eyes looked out confidently under
straight, well-defined brows; but the forehead was low, and the sinuous
lips a vivid red. So, too, the slender figure and narrow hips formed a
contrast with the throat, which pouted in soft, white fulness.
"I am glad you liked the sermon," said the minister, breaking the silence,
"for it is not probable that you will hear many more from me." There was
just a shade of sadness in the lower tone with which he ended the phrase.
He let the sad note drift in unconsciously—by dint of practice he
had become an artist in the management of his voice.
"You don't say!" exclaimed Mrs. Hooper, sitting up straight in her
excitement. "You ain't goin' to leave us, I hope?"
"Why do you pretend, Belle, to misunderstand me? You know I said three
months ago that if you didn't care for me I should have to leave this
place. And yesterday I told you that you must make up your mind at once,
as I was daily expecting a call to Chicago. Now I have come for your
answer, and you treat me as if I were a stranger, and you knew nothing of
what I feel for you."
"Oh!" she sighed, languorously nestling back into the corner. "Is that
all? I thought for a moment the 'call' had come."
"No, it has not yet; but I am resolved to get an answer from you to-day,
or I shall go away, call or no call."
"What would Nettie Williams say if she heard you?" laughed Mrs. Hooper,
with mischievous delight in her eyes.
"Now, Belle," he said in tender remonstrance, leaning forward and taking
the small cool hand in his, "what is my answer to be? Do you love me? Or
am I to leave Kansas City, and try somewhere else to get again into the
spirit of my work? God forgive me, but I want you to tell me to stay. Will
"Of course I will," she returned, while slowly withdrawing her hand.
"There ain't any one wants you to go, and why should you?"
"Why? Because my passion for you prevents me from doing my work. You tease
and torture me with doubt, and when I should be thinking of my duties I am
wondering whether or not you care for me. Do you love me? I must have a
"Love you?" she repeated pensively. "I hardly know, but—"
"But what?" he asked impatiently.
"But—I must just see after the pies; this 'help' of ours is Irish,
an' doesn't know enough to turn them in the oven. And Mr. Hooper don't
like burnt pies."
She spoke with coquettish gravity, and got up to go out of the room. But
when Mr. Letgood also rose, she stopped and smiled—waiting perhaps
for him to take his leave. As he did not speak she shook out her frock and
then pulled down her bodice at the waist and drew herself up, thus
throwing into relief the willowy outlines of her girlish form. The
provocative grace, unconscious or intentional, of the attitude was not
lost on her admirer. For an instant he stood irresolute, but when she
stepped forward to pass him, he seemed to lose his self-control, and,
putting his arms round her, tried to kiss her. With serpent speed and
litheness she bowed her head against his chest, and slipped out of the
embrace. On reaching the door she paused to say, over her shoulder: "If
you'll wait, I'll be back right soon;" then, as if a new thought had
occurred to her, she added turning to him: "The Deacon told me he was
coming home early to-day, and he'd be real sorry to miss you."
As she disappeared, he took up his hat, and left the house.
It was about four o'clock on a day in mid-June. The sun was pouring down
rays of liquid flame; the road, covered inches deep in fine white dust,
and the wooden side-walks glowed with the heat, but up and down the steep
hills went the minister unconscious of physical discomfort.
"Does she care for me, or not? Why can't she tell me plainly? The teasing
creature! Did she give me the hint to go because she was afraid her
husband would come in? Or did she want to get rid of me in order not to
answer?... She wasn't angry with me for putting my arms round her, and yet
she wouldn't let me kiss her. Why not? She doesn't love him. She married
him because she was poor, and he was rich and a deacon. She can't love
him. He must be fifty-five if he's a day. Perhaps she doesn't love me
either—the little flirt! But how seductive she is, and what a body,
so round and firm and supple—not thin at all. I have the feel of it
on my hands now—I can't stand this."
Shaking himself vigorously, he abandoned his meditation, which, like many
similar ones provoked by Mrs. Hooper, had begun in vexation and ended in
passionate desire. Becoming aware of the heat and dust, he stood still,
took off his hat, and wiped his forehead.
The Rev. John Letgood was an ideal of manhood to many women. He was
largely built, but not ungainly—the coarseness of the hands being
the chief indication of his peasant ancestry. His head was rather round,
and strongly set on broad shoulders; the nose was straight and well
formed; the dark eyes, however, were somewhat small, and the lower part of
the face too massive, though both chin and jaw were clearly marked. A
long, thick, brown moustache partly concealed the mouth; the lower lip
could just be seen, a little heavy, and sensual; the upper one was
certainly flexile and suasive. A good-looking man of thirty, who must have
been handsome when he was twenty, though even then, probably, too much
drawn by the pleasures of the senses to have had that distinction of
person which seems to be reserved for those who give themselves to thought
or high emotions. On entering his comfortable house, he was met by his
negro "help," who handed him his "mail":
"I done brot these, Massa; they's all."
"Thanks, Pete," he replied abstractedly, going into his cool study. He
flung himself into an armchair before the writing-table, and began to read
the letters. Two were tossed aside carelessly, but on opening the third he
sat up with a quick exclamation. Here at last was the "call" he had been
expecting, a "call" from the deacons of the Second Baptist Church in
Chicago, asking him to come and minister to their spiritual wants, and
offering him ten thousand dollars a year for his services.
For a moment exultation overcame every other feeling in the man. A light
flashed in his eyes as he exclaimed aloud: "It was that sermon did it!
What a good thing it was that I knew their senior deacon was in the church
on purpose to hear me! How well I brought in the apostrophe on the
cultivation of character that won me the prize at college! Ah, I have
never done anything finer than that, never! and perhaps never shall now. I
had been reading Channing then for months, was steeped in him; but
Channing has nothing as good as that in all his works. It has more weight
and dignity—dignity is the word—than anything he wrote. And to
think of its bringing me this! Ten thousand dollars a year and the second
church in Chicago, while here they think me well paid with five. Chicago!
I must accept it at once. Who knows, perhaps I shall get to New York yet,
and move as many thousands as here I move hundreds. No! not I. I do not
move them. I am weak and sinful. It is the Holy Spirit, and the power of
His grace. O Lord, I am thankful to Thee who hast been good to me
unworthy!" A pang of fear shot through him: "Perhaps He sends this to win
me away from Belle." His fancy called her up before him as she had lain on
the sofa. Again he saw the bright malicious glances and the red lips, the
full white throat, and the slim roundness of her figure. He bowed his head
upon his hands and groaned. "O Lord, help me! I know not what to do. Help
me, O Lord!"
As if prompted by a sudden inspiration, he started to his feet. "Now she
must answer! Now what will she say? Here is the call. Ten thousand dollars
a year! What will she say to that?"
He spoke aloud in his excitement, all that was masculine in him glowing
with the sense of hard-won mastery over the tantalizing evasiveness of the
On leaving his house he folded up the letter, thrust it into the
breast-pocket of his frock-coat, and strode rapidly up the hill towards
Mrs. Hooper's. At first he did not even think of her last words, but when
he had gone up and down the first hill and was beginning to climb the
second they suddenly came back to him. He did not want to meet her husband—least
of all now. He paused. What should he do? Should he wait till to-morrow?
No, that was out of the question; he couldn't wait. He must know what
answer to send to the call. If Deacon Hooper happened to be at home he
would talk to him about the door of the vestry, which would not shut
properly. If the Deacon was not there, he would see her and force a
confession from her....
While the shuttle of his thought flew thus to and fro, he did not at all
realize that he was taking for granted what he had refused to believe half
an hour before. He felt certain now that Deacon Hooper would not be in,
and that Mrs. Hooper had got rid of him on purpose to avoid his
importunate love-making. When he reached the house and rang the bell his
first question was:
"Is the Deacon at home?"
"Is Mrs. Hooper in?"
"Please tell her I should like to see her for a moment. I will not keep
her long. Say it's very important."
"Yes, Massa, I bring her shuah," said the negress with a good-natured
grin, opening the door of the drawing-room.
In a minute or two Mrs. Hooper came into the room looking as cool and
fresh as if "pies" were baked in ice.
"Good day, again, Mr. Letgood. Won't you take a chair?"
He seemed to feel the implied reproach, for without noticing her
invitation to sit down he came to the point at once. Plunging his hand
into his pocket, he handed her the letter from Chicago.
She took it with the quick interest of curiosity, but as she read, the
colour deepened in her cheeks, and before she had finished it she broke
out, "Ten thousand dollars a year!"
As she gave the letter back she did not raise her eyes, but said musingly:
"That is a call indeed...." Staring straight before her she added: "How
strange it should come to-day! Of course you'll accept it."
A moment, and she darted the question at him:
"Does she know? Have you told Miss Williams yet? But there, I suppose you
have!" After another pause, she went on:
"What a shame to take you away just when we had all got to know and like
you! I suppose we shall have some old fogey now who will preach against
dancin' an' spellin'-bees an' surprise-parties. And, of course, he won't
like me, or come here an' call as often as you do—makin' the other
girls jealous. I shall hate the change!" And in her innocent excitement
she slowly lifted her brown eyes to his.
"You know you're talking nonsense, Belle," he replied, with grave
earnestness. "I've come for your answer. If you wish me to stay, if you
really care for me, I shall refuse this offer."
"You don't tell!" she exclaimed. "Refuse ten thousand dollars a year and a
church in Chicago to stay here in Kansas City! I know I shouldn't! Why,"
and she fixed her eyes on his as she spoke, "you must be real good even to
think of such a thing. But then, you won't refuse," she added, pouting.
"No one would," she concluded, with profound conviction.
"Oh, yes," answered the minister, moving to her and quietly putting both
hands on her waist, while his voice seemed to envelope and enfold her with
"Oh, yes, I shall refuse it, Belle, if you wish me to; refuse it as
I should ten times as great a prize, as I think I should refuse—God
forgive me!—heaven itself, if you were not there to make it
While speaking he drew her to him gently; her body yielded to his touch,
and her gaze, as if fascinated, was drawn into his. But when the flow of
words ceased, and he bent to kiss her, the spell seemed to lose its power
over her. In an instant she wound herself out of his arms, and with
startled eyes aslant whispered:
"Hush! he's coming! Don't you hear his step?" As Mr. Letgood went again
towards her with a tenderly reproachful and incredulous "Now, Belle," she
stamped impatiently on the floor while exclaiming in a low, but angry
voice, "Do take care! That's the Deacon's step."
At the same moment her companion heard it too. The sounds were distinct on
the wooden side-walk, and when they ceased at the little gate four or five
yards from the house he knew that she was right. He pulled himself
together, and with a man's untimely persistence spoke hurriedly:
"I shall wait for your answer till Sunday morning next. Before then you
must have assured me of your love, or I shall go to Chicago—"
Mrs. Hooper's only reply was a contemptuous, flashing look that succeeded
in reducing the importunate clergyman to silence—just in time—for
as the word "Chicago" passed his lips the handle of the door turned, and
Deacon Hooper entered the room.
"Why, how do you do, Mr. Letgood?" said the Deacon cordially. "I'm glad to
see you, sir, as you are too, I'm sartin," he added, turning to his wife
and putting his arms round her waist and his lips to her cheek in an
affectionate caress. "Take a seat, won't you? It's too hot to stand." As
Mrs. Hooper sank down beside him on the sofa and their visitor drew over a
chair, he went on, taking up again the broken thread of his thought. "No
one thinks more of you than Isabelle. She said only last Sunday there
warn't such a preacher as you west of the Mississippi River. How's that
for high, eh?"—And then, still seeking back like a dog on a lost
scent, he added, looking from his wife to the clergyman, as if recalled to
a sense of the actualities of the situation by a certain constraint in
their manner, "But what's that I heard about Chicago? There ain't nothin'
"Oh," replied Mrs. Hooper, with a look of remonstrance thrown sideways at
her admirer, while with a woman's quick decision she at once cut the knot,
"I guess there is something fresh. Mr. Letgood, just think of it, has had
a 'call' from the Second Baptist Church in Chicago, and it's ten thousand
dollars a year. Now who's right about his preachin'? And he ain't goin' to
accept it. He's goin' to stay right here. At least," she added coyly, "he
said he'd refuse it—didn't you?"
The Deacon stared from one to the other as Mr. Letgood, with a forced
half-laugh which came from a dry throat, answered: "That would be going
perhaps a little too far. I said," he went on, catching a coldness in the
glance of the brown eyes, "I wished to refuse it. But of course I shall
have to consider the matter thoroughly—and seek for guidance."
"Wall," said the Deacon in amazement, "ef that don't beat everythin'. I
guess nobody would refuse an offer like that. Ten thousand dollars a
year! Ten thousand. Why, that's twice what you're gettin' here. You
can't refuse that. I know you wouldn't ef you war' a son of mine—as
you might be. Ten thousand. No, sir. An' the Second Baptist Church in
Chicago is the first; it's the best, the richest, the largest. There ain't
no sort of comparison between it and the First. No, sir! There ain't none.
Why, James P. Willis, him as was here and heard you—that's how it
came about, that's how!—he's the senior Deacon of it, an' I guess he
can count dollars with any man this side of New York. Yes, sir, with any
man west of the Alleghany Mountains." The breathless excitement of the
good Deacon changed gradually as he realized that his hearers were not in
sympathy with him, and his speech became almost solemn in its
impressiveness as he continued. "See here! This ain't a thing to waste.
Ten thousand dollars a year to start with, an' the best church in Chicago,
you can't expect to do better than that. Though you're young still, when
the chance comes, it should be gripped."
"Oh, pshaw!" broke in Mrs. Hooper irritably, twining her fingers and
tapping the carpet with her foot, "Mr. Letgood doesn't want to leave
Kansas City. Don't you understand? Perhaps he likes the folk here just as
well as any in Chicago." No words could describe the glance which
accompanied this. It was appealing, and coquettish, and triumphant, and
the whole battery was directed full on Mr. Letgood, who had by this time
recovered his self-possession.
"Of course," he said, turning to the Deacon and overlooking Mrs. Hooper's
appeal, "I know all that, and I don't deny that the 'call' at first seemed
to draw me." Here his voice dropped as if he were speaking to himself: "It
offers a wider and a higher sphere of work, but there's work, too, to be
done here, and I don't know that the extra salary ought to tempt me. Take
neither scrip nor money in your purse," and he smiled, "you know."
"Yes," said the Deacon, his eyes narrowing as if amazement were giving
place to a new emotion; "yes, but that ain't meant quite literally, I
reckon. Still, it's fer you to judge. But ef you refuse ten thousand
dollars a year, why, there are mighty few who would, and that's all I've
got to say—mighty few," he added emphatically, and stood up as if to
shake off the burden of a new and, therefore, unwelcome thought.
When the minister also rose, the physical contrast between the two men
became significant. Mr. Letgood's heavy frame, due to self-indulgence or
to laziness, might have been taken as a characteristic product of the
rich, western prairies, while Deacon Hooper was of the pure Yankee type.
His figure was so lank and spare that, though not quite so tall as his
visitor, he appeared to be taller. His face was long and angular; the
round, clear, blue eyes, the finest feature of it, the narrowness of the
forehead the worst. The mouth-corners were drawn down, and the lips
hardened to a line by constant compression. No trace of sensuality. How
came this man, grey with age, to marry a girl whose appeal to the senses
was already so obvious? The eyes and prominent temples of the idealist
supplied the answer. Deacon Hooper was a New Englander, trained in the
bitterest competition for wealth, and yet the Yankee in him masked a fund
of simple, kindly optimism, which showed itself chiefly in his devoted
affection for his wife. He had not thought of his age when he married, but
of her and her poverty. And possibly he was justified. The snow-garment of
winter protects the tender spring wheat.
"It's late," Mr. Letgood began slowly, "I must be going home now. I
thought you might like to hear the news, as you are my senior Deacon. Your
advice seems excellent; I shall weigh the 'call' carefully; but"—with
a glance at Mrs. Hooper—"I am disposed to refuse it." No answering
look came to him. He went on firmly and with emphasis, "I wish to
refuse it.—Good day, Mrs. Hooper, till next Sunday. Good day,
"Good day, Mr. Letgood," she spoke with a little air of precise courtesy.
"Good day, sir," replied the Deacon, cordially shaking the proffered hand,
while he accompanied his pastor to the street door.
The sun was sinking, and some of the glory of the sunset colouring seemed
to be reflected in Deacon Hooper's face, as he returned to the
drawing-room and said with profound conviction:—
"Isabelle, that man's jest about as good as they make them. He's what I
call a real Christian—one that thinks of duty first and himself
last. Ef that ain't a Christian, I'd like to know what is."
"Yes," she rejoined meditatively, as she busied herself arranging the
chairs and tidying the sofa into its usual stiff primness; "I guess he's a
good man." And her cheek flushed softly.
"Wall," he went on warmly, "I reckon we ought to do somethin' in this.
There ain't no question but he fills the church. Ef we raised the
pew-rents we could offer him an increase of salary to stay—I guess
that could be done."
"Oh! don't do anything," exclaimed the wife, as if awaking to the
significance of this proposal, "anyway not until he has decided. It would
look—mean, don't you think? to offer him somethin' more to stay."
"I don't know but you're right, Isabelle; I don't know but you're right,"
repeated her husband thoughtfully. "It'll look better if he decides before
hearin' from us. There ain't no harm, though, in thinkin' the thing over
and speakin' to the other Deacons about it. I'll kinder find out what they
"Yes," she replied mechanically, almost as if she had not heard. "Yes,
that's all right." And she slowly straightened the cloth on the
centre-table, given over again to her reflections.
Mr. Letgood walked home, ate his supper, went to bed and slept that night
as only a man does whose nervous system has been exhausted by various and
intense emotions. He even said his prayers by rote. And like a child he
slept with tightly-clenched fists, for in him, as in the child, the body's
claims were predominant.
When he awoke next morning, the sun was shining in at his bedroom window,
and at once his thoughts went back to the scenes and emotions of the day
before. An unusual liveliness of memory enabled him to review the very
words which Mrs. Hooper had used. He found nothing to regret. He had
certainly gained ground by telling her of the call. The torpor which had
come upon him the previous evening formed a complete contrast to the
blithesome vigour he now enjoyed. He seemed to himself to be a different
man, recreated, as it were, and endowed with fresh springs of life. While
he lay in the delightful relaxation and warmth of the bed, and looked at
the stream of sunshine which flowed across the room, he became confident
that all would go right.
"Yes," he decided, "she cares for me, or she would never have wished me to
stay. Even the Deacon helped me—" The irony of the fact shocked him.
He would not think of it. He might get a letter from her by two o'clock.
With pleasure thrilling through every nerve, he imagined how she would
word her confession. For she had yielded to him; he had felt her body move
towards him and had seen the surrender in her eyes. While musing thus,
passion began to stir in him, and with passion impatience.
"Only half-past six o'clock," he said to himself, pushing his watch again
under the pillow; "eight hours to wait till mail time. Eight endless
hours. What a plague!"
His own irritation annoyed him, and he willingly took up again the thread
of his amorous reverie: "What a radiant face she has, what fine
nervefulness in the slim fingers, what softness in the full throat!"
Certain incidents in his youth before he had studied for the ministry came
back to him, bringing the blood to his cheeks and making his temples
throb. As the recollections grew vivid they became a torment. To regain
quiet pulses he forced his mind to dwell upon the details of his
"conversion"—his sudden resolve to live a new life and to give
himself up to the service of the divine Master. The yoke was not easy; the
burden was not light. On the contrary. He remembered innumerable contests
with his rebellious flesh, contests in which he was never completely
victorious for more than a few days together, but in which, especially
during the first heat of the new enthusiasm, he had struggled desperately.
Had his efforts been fruitless?...
He thought with pride of his student days—mornings given to books
and to dreams of the future, and evenings marked by passionate emotions,
new companions reinspiring him continually with fresh ardour. The time
spent at college was the best of his life. He had really striven, then, as
few strive, to deserve the prize of his high calling. During those years,
it seemed to him, he had been all that an earnest Christian should be. He
recalled, with satisfaction, the honours he had won in Biblical knowledge
and in history, and the more easily gained rewards for rhetoric. It was
only natural that he should have been immediately successful as a
preacher. How often he had moved his flock to tears! No wonder he had got
Those first successes, and the pleasures which they brought with them of
gratified vanity, had resulted in turning him from a Christian into an
orator. He understood this dimly, but he thrust back the unwelcome truth
with the reflection that his triumphs in the pulpit dated from the time
when he began consciously to treat preaching as an art. After all, was he
not there to win souls to Christ, and had not Christ himself praised the
wisdom of the serpent? Then came the change from obscurity and narrow
living in the country to Kansas City and luxury. He had been wise in
avoiding that girl at Pleasant Hill. He smiled complacently as he thought
of her dress, manners, and speech. Yet she was pretty, very pretty, and
she had loved him with the exclusiveness of womanhood, but still he had
done right. He congratulated himself upon his intuitive knowledge that
there were finer girls in the world to be won. He had not fettered himself
foolishly through pity or weakness.
During his ten years of life as a student and minister he had been chaste.
He had not once fallen into flagrant sin. His fervour of unquestioning
faith had saved him at the outset, and, later, habit and prudence. He
lingered over his first meeting with Mrs. Hooper. He had not thought much
of her then, he remembered, although she had appeared to him to be pretty
and perfectly dressed. She had come before him as an embodiment of
delicacy and refinement, and her charm had increased, as he began, in
spite of himself, to notice her peculiar seductiveness. Recollecting how
insensibly the fascination which she exercised over him had grown, and the
sudden madness of desire that had forced him to declare his passion, he
moaned with vexation. If only she had not been married. What a fatality!
How helpless man was, tossed hither and thither by the waves of trivial
She had certainly encouraged him; it was her alternate moods of yielding
and reserve which had awakened his senses. She had been flattered by his
admiration, and had sought to call it forth. But, in the beginning, at
least, he had struggled against the temptation. He had prayed for help in
the sore combat—how often and how earnestly!—but no help had
come. Heaven had been deaf to his entreaties. And he had soon realized
that struggling in this instance was of no avail. He loved her; he desired
her with every nerve of his body.
There was hardly any use in trying to fight against such a craving as
that, he thought. But yet, in his heart of hearts, he was conscious that
his religious enthusiasm, the aspiration towards the ideal life and the
reverence for Christ's example, would bring about at least one supreme
conflict in which his passion might possibly be overcome. He dreaded the
crisis, the outcome of which he foresaw would be decisive for his whole
life. He wanted to let himself slide quietly down the slope; but all the
while he felt that something in him would never consent thus to endanger
his hopes of Heaven.
And Hell! He hated the thought! He strove to put it away from him, but it
would not be denied. His early habits of self-analysis reasserted
themselves. What if his impatience of the idea were the result of obdurate
sinfulness—sinfulness which might never be forgiven? He compelled
himself, therefore, to think of Hell, tried to picture it to himself, and
the soft, self-indulgent nature of the man shuddered as he realized the
meaning of the word. At length the torture grew too acute. He would not
think any longer; he could not; he would strive to do the right. "O Lord!"
he exclaimed, as he slipped out of bed on to his knees, "O Christ! help
Thy servant! Pity me, and aid!" Yet, while the words broke from his lips
in terrified appeal, he knew that he did not wish to be helped. He rose to
his feet in sullen dissatisfaction.
The happy alertness which he had enjoyed at his waking had disappeared;
the self-torment of the last few minutes had tired him; disturbed and
vexed in mind, he began to dress. While moving about in the sunlight his
thoughts gradually became more cheerful, and by the time he left his room
he had regained his good spirits.
After a short stroll he went into his study and read the daily paper. He
then took up a book till dinner-time. He dined, and afterwards forgot
himself in a story of African travels. It was only the discomfort of the
intense heat which at length reminded him that, though it was now past two
o'clock, he had received no letter from Mrs. Hooper. But he was resolved
not to think about her, for thoughts of her, he knew, would lead to fears
concerning the future, which would in turn force him to decide upon a
course of action. If he determined to commit the sin, his guilt would
thereby be increased, and he would not pledge himself to refrain from it.
"She couldn't write last night with the Deacon at her elbow all the time,"
he decided, and began to read again. Darkness had fallen before he
remembered that he owed an immediate answer to the letter from Chicago.
After a little consideration, he sat down and wrote as follows:
"DEAR BROTHERS IN CHRIST,
"Your letter has just reached me. Needless to say it has touched me
deeply. You call me to a wider ministry and more arduous duties. The very
munificence of the remuneration which you offer leads me to doubt my own
fitness for so high a post. You must bear with me a little, and grant me a
few days for reflection. The 'call,' as you know, must be answered from
within, from the depths of my soul, before I can be certain that it comes
from Above, and this Divine assurance has not yet been vouchsafed to me.
"I was born and brought up here in Missouri, where I am now labouring, not
without—to Jesus be the praise!—some small measure of success.
I have many ties here, and many dear friends and fellow-workers in
Christ's vineyard from whom I could not part without great pain. But I
will prayerfully consider your request. I shall seek for guidance where
alone it is to be found, at the foot of the Great White Throne, and within
a week or so at most I hope to be able to answer you with the full and
joyous certitude of the Divine blessing.
"In the meantime, believe that I thank you deeply, dear Brethren, for your
goodness to me, and that I shall pray in Jesus' Name that the blessing of
the Holy Ghost may be with you abundantly now and for evermore.
"Your loving Servant in Christ,
"JOHN P. LETGOOD."
He liked this letter so much that he read it over a great many times. It
committed him to nothing; it was dignified and yet sufficiently grateful,
and the large-hearted piety which appeared to inform it pleased him even
more than the alliteration of the words "born and brought up." He had at
first written "born and reared;" but in spite of the fear lest "brought
up" should strike the simple Deacons of the Second Baptist Church in
Chicago as unfamiliar and far-fetched, he could not resist the assonance.
After directing the letter he went upstairs to bed, and his prayers that
night were more earnest than they had been of late—perhaps because
he avoided the dangerous topic. The exercise of his talent as a
letter-writer having put him on good terms with himself, he slept soundly.
When he awoke in the morning his mood had changed. The day was cloudy; a
thunderstorm was brewing, and had somehow affected his temper. As soon as
he opened his eyes he was aware of the fact that Mrs. Hooper had not
written to him, even on Tuesday morning, when she must have been free, for
the Deacon always went early to his dry-goods store. The consciousness of
this neglect irritated him beyond measure. He tried, therefore, to think
of Chicago and the persons who frequented the Second Baptist Church.
Perhaps, he argued, they were as much ahead of the people in Kansas City
as Mrs. Hooper was superior to any woman he had previously known. But on
this way of thought he could not go far. The houses in Chicago were no
doubt much finer, the furniture more elegant; the living, too, was perhaps
better, though he could not imagine how that could be; there might even be
cleverer and handsomer women there than Mrs. Hooper; but certainly no one
lived in Chicago or anywhere else in the world who could tempt and bewitch
him as she did. She was formed to his taste, made to his desire. As he
recalled her, now laughing at him; now admiring him; to-day teasing him
with coldness, to-morrow encouraging him, he realized with exasperation
that her contradictions constituted her charm. He acknowledged reluctantly
that her odd turns of speech tickled his intellect just as her lithe grace
of movement excited his senses. But the number and strength of the ties
that bound him to her made his anger keener. Where could she hope to find
such love as his? She ought to write to him. Why didn't she? How could he
come to a decision before he knew whether she loved him or not? In any
case he would show her that he was a man. He would not try to see her
until she had written—not under any circumstances.
After dinner and mail time his thoughts ran in another channel. In reality
she was not anything so wonderful. Most men, he knew, did not think her
more than pretty; "pretty Mrs. Hooper" was what she was usually called—nothing
more. No one ever dreamed of saying she was beautiful or fascinating. No;
she was pretty, and that was all. He was the only person in Kansas City or
perhaps in the world to whom she was altogether and perfectly desirable.
She had no reason to be so conceited or to presume on her power over him.
If she were the wonder she thought herself she would surely have married
some one better than old Hooper, with his lank figure, grey hairs, and
Yankee twang. He took a pleasure in thus depreciating the woman he loved—it
gave his anger vent, and seemed to make her acquisition more probable.
When the uselessness of the procedure became manifest to him, he found
that his doubts of her affection had crystallized.
This was the dilemma; she had not written either out of coquetry or
because she did not really care for him. If the former were the true
reason, she was cruel; if the latter, she ought to tell him so at once,
and he would try to master himself. On no hypothesis was she justified in
leaving him without a word. Tortured alternately by fear, hope, and anger,
he paced up and down his study all the day long. Now, he said to himself,
he would go and see her, and forthwith he grew calm—that was what
his nature desired. But the man in him refused to be so servile. He had
told her that she must write; to that he would hold, whatever it cost him.
Again, he broke out in bitter blame of her.
At length he made up his mind to strive to forget her. But what if she
really cared for him, loved him as he loved her? In that case if he went
away she would be miserable, as wretched as he would be. How unkind it was
of her to leave him without a decided answer, when he could not help
thinking of her happiness! No; she did not love him. He had read enough
about women and seen enough of them to imagine that they never torture the
man they really love. He would give her up and throw himself again into
his work. He could surely do that. Then he remembered that she was
married, and must, of course, see that she would risk her position—everything—by
declaring her love. Perhaps prudence kept her silent. Once more he was
plunged in doubt.
He was glad when supper was ready, for that brought, at least for half an
hour, freedom from thought. After the meal was finished he realized that
he was weary of it all—heart-sick of the suspense. The storm broke,
and the flashing of the lightning and the falling sheets of rain brought
him relief. The air became lighter and purer. He went to bed and slept
On the Thursday morning he awoke refreshed, and at once determined not to
think about Mrs. Hooper. It only needed resolution, he said to himself, in
order to forget her entirely. Her indifference, shown in not writing to
him, should be answered in that way. He took up his pocket Bible, and
opened it at the Gospels. The beautiful story soon exercised its charm
upon his impressionable nature, and after a couple of hours' reading he
closed the book comforted, and restored to his better self. He fell on his
knees and thanked God for this crowning mercy. From his heart went forth a
hymn of praise for the first time in long weeks. The words of the Man of
Sorrows had lifted him above the slough. The marvel of it! How could he
ever thank Him enough? His whole life should now be devoted to setting
forth the wonders of His grace. When he arose he felt at peace with
himself and full of goodwill to every one. He could even think of Mrs.
Hooper calmly—with pity and grave kindliness.
After his midday dinner and a brisk walk—he paid no attention to the
mail time—he prepared to write the sermon which he intended to
preach as his farewell to his congregation on the following Sunday. He was
determined now to leave Kansas City and go to Chicago. But as soon as he
began to consider what he should say, he became aware of a difficulty. He
could talk and write of accepting the "call" because it gave him "a wider
ministry," and so forth, but the ugly fact would obtrude itself that he
was relinquishing five thousand dollars a year to accept ten, and he was
painfully conscious that this knowledge would be uppermost in the minds of
his hearers. Most men in his position would have easily put the objection
out of their minds. But he could not put it aside carelessly, and it was
characteristic of him to exaggerate its importance. He dearly loved to
play what the French call le beau rôle, even at the cost of his
self-interest. Of a sensitive, artistic temperament, he had for years
nourished his intellect with good books. He had always striven, too, to
set before his hearers high ideals of life and conduct. His nature was now
subdued to the stuff he had worked in. As an artist, an orator, it was all
but impossible for him to justify what must seem like sordid selfishness.
He moved about in his chair uneasily, and strove to look at the subject
from a new point of view. In vain; ten thousand dollars a year instead of
five—that was to be his theme.
The first solution of the problem which suggested itself to him was to
express his very real disdain of such base material considerations, but no
sooner did the thought occur to him than he was fain to reject it. He knew
well that his hearers in Kansas City would refuse to accept that
explanation even as "high-falutin' bunkum!" He then tried to select a text
in order to ease for a time the strain upon his reflective faculties.
"Feed my sheep" was his first choice—"the largest flock possible, of
course." But no, that was merely the old cant in new words.
He came reluctantly to the conclusion that there was no noble way out of
the difficulty. He felt this the more painfully because, before sitting
down to think of his sermon, he had immersed himself, to use his own
words, in the fountain-head of self-sacrificing enthusiasm. And now he
could not show his flock that there was any trace of self-denial in his
conduct. It was apparent that his acceptance of the call made a great
sermon an utter impossibility. He must say as little about the main point
as possible, glide quickly, in fact, over the thin ice. But his
disappointment was none the less keen; there was no splendid peroration to
write; there would be no eyes gazing up at him through a mist of tears.
His sensations were those of an actor with an altogether uncongenial and
After some futile efforts he abandoned the attempt to sketch out a sermon.
Some words would come to him at the time, and they would have to do. In
the evening a new idea presented itself to his over-excited brain. Might
not his dislike of that sermon be a snare set by the Devil to induce him
to reject the call and stay in Kansas City? No. A fine sermon would do
good—the Evil One could not desire that—perhaps even more good
than his sin would do harm? Puzzled and incapable of the effort required
to solve this fresh problem he went to bed, after praying humbly for
guidance and enlightenment.
On the Friday morning he rose from his knees with a burden of sorrow. No
kindly light had illumined the darkness of his doubtings. Yet he was
conscious of a perfect sincerity in his desires and in his prayers.
Suddenly he remembered that, when in a pure frame of mind, he had only
considered the acceptance of the call. But in order to be guided aright,
he must abandon himself entirely to God's directing. In all honesty of
purpose, he began to think of the sermon he could deliver if he resolved
to reject the call. Ah! that sermon needed but little meditation. With
such a decision to announce, he felt that he could carry his hearers with
him to heights of which they knew nothing. Their very vulgarity and
sordidness of nature would help instead of hindering him. No one in Kansas
City would doubt for a moment the sincerity of the self-sacrifice involved
in rejecting ten thousand dollars a year for five. That sermon could be
preached with effect from any text. "Feed my sheep" even would do. He
thrilled in anticipation, as a great actor thrills when reading a part
which will allow him to discover all his powers, and in which he is
certain to "bring down the house." Completely carried away by his
emotions, he began to turn the sermon over in his head. First of all he
sought for a text; not this one, nor that one, but a few words breathing
the very spirit of Christ's self-abnegation. He soon found what he wanted:
"For whosoever will save his life, shall lose it; and whosoever will lose
his life for My sake, shall find it." The unearthly beauty of the thought
and the divine simplicity of its expression took the orator captive. As he
imagined that Godlike Figure in Galilee, and seemed to hear the words drop
like pearls from His lips, so he saw himself in the pulpit, and had a
foretaste of the effect of his own eloquence. Ravished by the vision, he
proceeded to write and rewrite the peroration. Every other part he could
trust to his own powers, and to the inspiration of the theme, but the
peroration he meant to make finer even than his apostrophe on the
cultivation of character, which hitherto had been the high-water mark of
At length he finished his task, but not before sunset, and he felt weary
and hungry. He ate and rested. In the complete relaxation of mental
strain, he understood all at once what he had done. He had decided to
remain in Kansas City. But to remain meant to meet Mrs. Hooper day after
day, to be thrown together with her even by her foolishly confiding
husband; it meant perpetual temptation, and at last—a fall! And yet
God had guided him to choose that sermon rather than the other. He had
abandoned himself passively to His guidance—could that lead
to the brink of the pit?... He cried out suddenly like one in bodily
anguish. He had found the explanation. God cared for no half-victories.
Flight to Chicago must seem to Him the veriest cowardice. God intended him
to stay in Kansas City and conquer the awful temptation face to face. When
he realized this, he fell on his knees and prayed as he had never prayed
in all his life before. If entreated humbly, God would surely temper the
wind to the shorn lamb; He knew His servant's weakness. "Lead us not
into temptation," he cried again and again, for the first time in his
life comprehending what now seemed to him the awful significance of the
words. "Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil"—thus
he begged and wept. But even when, exhausted in body and in mind, he rose
from his knees, he had found no comfort. Like a child, with streaming eyes
and quivering features, he stumbled upstairs to bed and fell asleep,
repeating over and over again mechanically the prayer that the cup might
pass from him.
On the Saturday morning he awoke as from a hideous nightmare. Before there
was time for thought he was aware of what oppressed and frightened him.
The knowledge of his terrible position weighed him down. He was worn out
and feverishly ill; incapable of reflection or resolution, conscious
chiefly of pain and weariness, and a deep dumb revolt against his
impending condemnation. After lying thus for some time, drinking the cup
of bitterness to the very dregs, he got up, and went downstairs. Yielding
to habit he opened the Bible. But the Book had no message for him. His
tired brain refused, for minutes together, to take in the sense of the
printed words. The servant found him utterly miserable and helpless when
she went to tell him that "the dinner was a-gittin' cold."
The food seemed to restore him, and during the first two hours of
digestion he was comparatively peaceful in being able to live without
thinking; but when the body had recovered its vigour, the mind grew
active, and the self-torture recommenced. For some hours—he never
knew how many—he suffered in this way; then a strange calm fell upon
him. Was it the Divine help which had come at last, or despair, or the
fatigue of an overwrought spirit? He knelt down and prayed once more, but
this time his prayer consisted simply in placing before his Heavenly
Father the exact state of the case. He was powerless; God should do with
him according to His purpose, only he felt unable to resist if the
temptation came up against him. Jesus, of course, could remove the
temptation or strengthen him if He so willed. His servant was in His
After continuing in this strain for some time he got up slowly, calm but
hopeless. There was no way of escape for him. He took up the Bible and
attempted again to read it; but of a sudden he put it down, and throwing
his outspread arms on the table and bowing his head upon them he cried:
"My God, forgive me! I cannot hear Thy voice, nor feel Thy presence. I can
only see her face and feel her body."
And then hardened as by the consciousness of unforgivable blaspheming, he
rose with set face, lit his candle, and went to bed.
The week had passed much as usual with Mrs. Hooper and her husband. On the
Tuesday he had seen most of his brother Deacons and found that they
thought as he did. All were agreed that something should be done to
testify to their gratitude, if indeed their pastor refused the "call." In
the evening, after supper, Mr. Hooper narrated to his wife all that he had
done and all that the others had said. When he asked for her opinion she
approved of his efforts. A little while later she turned to him: "I wonder
why Mr. Letgood doesn't marry?" As she spoke she laid down her work. With
a tender smile the Deacon drew her on to his knees in the armchair, and
pushing up his spectacles (he had been reading a dissertation on the
meaning of the Greek verb [Greek: baptizo]) said with infinite, playful
tenderness in his voice:
"'Tain't every one can find a wife like you, my dear." He was rewarded for
the flattering phrase with a little slap on the cheek. He continued
thoughtfully: "'Taint every one either that wants to take care of a wife.
Some folks hain't got much affection in 'em, I guess; perhaps Mr. Letgood
hain't." To the which Mrs. Hooper answered not in words, but her lips
curved into what might be called a smile, a contented smile as from the
heights of superior knowledge.
Mr. Letgood's state of mind on the Sunday morning was too complex for
complete analysis: he did not attempt the task. He preferred to believe
that he had told God the whole truth without any attempt at reservation.
He had thereby placed himself in His hands, and was no longer chiefly
responsible. He would not even think of what he was about to do, further
than that he intended to refuse the call and to preach the sermon the
peroration of which he had so carefully prepared. After dressing he sat
down in his study and committed this passage to memory. He pictured to
himself with pleasure the effect it would surely produce upon his hearers.
When Pete came to tell him the buggy was ready to take him to church, he
got up almost cheerfully, and went out.
The weather was delightful, as it is in June in that part of the Western
States. From midday until about four o'clock the temperature is that of
midsummer, but the air is exceedingly dry and light, and one breathes it
in the morning with a sense of exhilaration. While driving to church Mr.
Letgood's spirits rose. He chatted with his servant Pete, and even took
the reins once for a few hundred yards. But when they neared the church
his gaiety forsook him. He stopped talking, and appeared to be a little
preoccupied. From time to time he courteously greeted one of his flock on
the side-walk: but that was all. As he reached the church, the Partons
drove up, and of course he had to speak to them. After the usual
conventional remarks and shaking of hands, the minister turned up the
sidewalk which led to the vestry. He had not taken more than four or five
steps in this direction before he paused and looked up the street. He
shrugged his shoulders, however, immediately at his own folly, and walked
on: "Of course she couldn't send a messenger with a note. On Sundays the
Deacon was with her."
As he opened the vestry door, and stepped into the little room, he stopped
short. Mrs. Hooper was there, coming towards him with outstretched hand
and radiant smile:
"Good mornin', Mr. Letgood, all the Deacons are here to meet you, and they
let me come; because I was the first you told the news to, and because I'm
sure you're not goin' to leave us. Besides, I wanted to come."
He could not help looking at her for a second as he took her hand and
"Thank you, Mrs. Hooper." Not trusting himself further, he began to shake
hands with the assembled elders. In answer to one who expressed the hope
that they would keep him, he said slowly and gravely:
"I always trust something to the inspiration of the moment, but I confess
I am greatly moved to refuse this call."
"That's what I said," broke in Mr. Hooper triumphantly, "and I said, too,
there were mighty few like you, and I meant it. But we don't want you to
act against yourself, though we'd be mighty glad to hev you stay."
A chorus of "Yes, sir! Yes, indeed! That's so" went round the room in warm
approval, and then, as the minister did not answer save with an
abstracted, wintry smile, the Deacons began to file into the church.
Curiously enough Mrs. Hooper having moved away from the door during this
scene was now, necessarily it seemed, the last to leave the room. While
she was passing him, Mr. Letgood bent towards her and in an eager tone
"And my answer?"
Mrs. Hooper paused, as if surprised.
"Oh! ain't you men stupid," she murmured and with a smile tossed the
question over her shoulder: "What did I come here for?"
That sermon of Mr. Letgood's is still remembered in Kansas City. It is not
too much to say that the majority of his hearers believed him to be
inspired. And, in truth, as an artistic performance his discourse was
admirable. After standing for some moments with his hand upon the desk,
apparently lost in thought, he began in the quietest tone to read the
letter from the Deacons of the Second Baptist Church in Chicago. He then
read his reply, begging them to give him time to consider their request.
He had considered it—prayerfully. He would read the passage of Holy
Scripture which had suggested the answer he was about to send to the call.
He paused again. The rustling of frocks and the occasional coughings
ceased—the audience straining to catch the decision—while in a
higher key he recited the verse, "For whosoever will save his life, shall
lose it; and whosoever will lose his life for My sake, shall find it."
As the violinist knows when his instrument is perfectly attuned, so Mr.
Letgood knew when he repeated the text that his hearers had surrendered
themselves to him to be played upon. It would be useless here to reproduce
the sermon, which lasted for nearly an hour, and altogether impossible to
give any account of the preacher's gestures or dramatic pauses, or of the
modulations and inflections of his voice, which now seemed to be freighted
with passionate earnestness, now quivered in pathetic appeal, and now grew
musical in the dying fall of some poetic phrase. The effect was
astonishing. While he was speaking simply of the text as embodying the
very spirit of the Glad Tidings which Christ first delivered to the world,
not a few women were quietly weeping. It was impossible, they felt, to
listen unmoved to that voice.
But when he went on to show the necessity of renunciation as the first
step towards the perfecting of character, even the hard, keen faces of the
men before him began to relax and change expression. He dwelt, in turn,
upon the startling novelty of Christ's teaching and its singular success.
He spoke of the shortness of human life, the vanity of human effort, and
the ultimate reward of those who sacrifice themselves for others, as Jesus
did, and out of the same divine spirit of love. He thus came to the
peroration. He began it in the manner of serious conversation.
All over the United States the besetting sin of the people was the desire
of wealth. He traced the effects of the ignoble struggle for gain in the
degradation of character, in the debased tone of public and private life.
The main current of existence being defiled, his duty was clear. Even more
than other men he was pledged to resist the evil tendency of the time. In
some ways, no doubt, he was as frail and faulty as the weakest of his
hearers, but to fail in this respect would be, he thought, to prove
himself unworthy of his position. That a servant of Christ in the
nineteenth century should seek wealth, or allow it in any way to influence
his conduct, appeared to him to be much the same unpardonable sin as
cowardice in a soldier or dishonesty in a man of business. He could do but
little to show what the words of his text meant to him, but one thing he
could do and would do joyously. He would write to the good Deacons in
Chicago to tell them that he intended to stay in Kansas City, and to
labour on among the people whom he knew and loved, and some of whom, he
believed, knew and loved him. He would not be tempted by the greater
position offered to him or by the larger salary. "For whosoever will
save his life shall lose it; and whosoever will lose his life for My sake,
shall find it."
As his voice broke over the last words, there was scarcely a dry eye in
the church. Many of the women were sobbing audibly, and Mrs. Hooper had
long ago given up the attempt "to pull her tears down the back way." She
expressed the general sentiment of her sex when she said afterwards, "It
was just too lovely for anythin'." And the men were scarcely less
affected, though they were better able to control their emotion. The
joyous renunciation of five thousand dollars a year struck these hard men
of business as something almost uncanny. They would have considered it the
acme of folly in an ordinary man, but in a preacher they felt vaguely that
it was admirable.
When Deacon Hooper met his brother Deacons before the platform where the
collection-plates were kept, he whispered, "The meetin' is at my house at
three o'clock. Be on time." His tone was decided, as were also the nods
which accepted the invitation.
After the service Mr. Letgood withdrew quietly without going, as usual,
amongst his congregation. This pleased even Mrs. Parton, whose husband was
a judge of the Supreme Court. She said: "It was elegant of him."
Mr. Hooper received the twelve Deacons in his drawing-room, and when the
latest comer was seated, began:
"There ain't no need for me to tell you, brethren, why I asked you all to
come round here this afternoon. After that sermon this mornin' I guess
we're all sot upon showin' our minister that we appreciate him. There are
mighty few men with five thousand dollars a year who'd give up ten
thousand. It seems to me a pretty good proof that a man's a Christian ef
he'll do that. 'Tain't being merely a Christian: it's Christ-like. We must
keep Mr. Letgood right here: he's the sort o' man we want. If they come
from Chicago after him now, they'll be comin' from New York next, an' he
oughtn't to be exposed to sich great temptation.
"I allow that we'll be able to raise the pew-rents from the first of
January next, to bring in another two thousand five hundred dollars a
year, and I propose that we Deacons should jest put our hands deep down in
our pockets and give Mr. Letgood that much anyway for this year, and
promise the same for the future. I'm willin', as senior Deacon, though not
the richest, to start the list with three hundred dollars."
In five minutes the money was subscribed, and it was agreed that each man
should pay in his contribution to the name of Mr. Hooper at the First
National Bank next day; Mr. Hooper could then draw his cheque for the sum.
"Wall," said the Deacon, again getting up, "that's settled, but I've drawn
that cheque already. Mrs. Hooper and me talked the thing over," he added
half apologetically, and as if to explain his unbusinesslike rashness;
"an' she thinks we oughter go right now to Mr. Letgood as a sort of
surprise party an' tell him what we hev decided—that is, ef you're
They were, although one or two objected to a "surprise party" being held
on Sunday. But Deacon Hooper overruled the objection by saying that he
could find no better word, though of course 'twas really not a
"surprise party." After this explanation, some one proposed that Deacon
Hooper should make the presentation, and that Mrs. Hooper should be asked
to accompany them. When Mr. Hooper went into the dining-room to find his
wife she was already dressed to go out, and when he expressed surprise and
delivered himself of his mission, she said simply:
"Why, I only dressed to go and see Mrs. Jones, who's ill, but I guess I'll
go along with you first."
The same afternoon Mr. Letgood was seated in his study considering a
sermon for the evening—it would have to be very different from that
of the morning, he felt, or else it would fall flat.
He still avoided thinking of his position. The die was cast now, and
having struggled hard against the temptation he tried to believe that he
was not chiefly responsible. In the back of his mind was the knowledge
that his responsibility would become clear to him some time or other, but
he confined it in the furthest chamber of his brain with repentance as the
He had just decided that his evening address must be doctrinal and
argumentative, when he became aware of steps in the drawing-room. Opening
the door he found himself face to face with his Deacons. Before he could
speak, Deacon Hooper began:
"Mr. Letgood! We, the Deacons of your church, hev come to see you. We want
to tell you how we appreciate your decision this mornin'. It was
Christ-like! And we're all proud of you, an' glad you're goin' to stay
with us. But we allow that it ain't fair or to be expected that you should
refuse ten thousand dollars a year with only five. So we've made a purse
for this year among ourselves of two thousand five hundred dollars extry,
which we hope you'll accept. Next year the pew-rents can be raised to
bring in the same sum; anyway, it shall be made up.
"There ain't no use in talkin'; but you, sir, hev jest sot us an example
of how one who loves the Lord Jesus, and Him only, should act, and we
ain't goin' to remain far behind. No, sir, we ain't. Thar's the cheque."
As he finished speaking, tears stood in the kind, honest, blue eyes.
Mr. Letgood took the cheque mechanically, and mechanically accepted at the
same time the Deacon's outstretched hand; but his eyes sought Mrs.
Hooper's, who stood behind the knot of men with her handkerchief to her
face. In a moment or two, recalled to himself by the fact that one after
the other all the Deacons wanted to shake his hand, he tried to sustain
his part in the ceremony. He said:
"My dear brothers, I thank you each and all, and accept your gift, in the
spirit in which you offer it. I need not say that I knew nothing of your
intention when I preached this morning. It is not the money that I'm
thinking of now, but your kindness. I thank you again."
After a few minutes' casual conversation, consisting chiefly of praise of
the "wonderful discourse" of the morning, Mr. Letgood proposed that they
should all have iced coffee with him; there was nothing so refreshing; he
wanted them to try it; and though he was a bachelor, if Mrs. Hooper would
kindly give her assistance and help him with his cook, he was sure they
would enjoy a glass. With a smile she consented. Stepping into the passage
after her and closing the door, he said hurriedly, with anger and
suspicion in his voice:
"You didn't get this up as my answer? You didn't think I'd take money
instead, did you?"
Demurely, Mrs. Hooper turned her head round as he spoke, and leaning
against him while he put his arms round her waist, answered with arch
"You are just too silly for anythin'."
Then, with something like the movement of a cat loath to lose the contact
of the caressing hand, she turned completely towards him and slowly lifted
her eyes. Their lips met.
21 APRIL, 1891.
The evening on which Charley Muirhead made his first appearance at
Doolan's was a memorable one; the camp was in wonderful spirits. Whitman
was said to have struck it rich. Garotte, therefore, might yet become
popular in the larger world, and its evil reputation be removed. Besides,
what Whitman had done any one might do, for by common consent he was a
"derned fool." Good-humour accordingly reigned at Doolan's, and the saloon
was filled with an excited, hopeful crowd. Bill Bent, however, was
anything but pleased; he generally was in a bad temper, and this evening,
as Crocker remarked carelessly, he was "more ornery than ever." The rest
seemed to pay no attention to the lanky, dark man with the narrow head,
round, black eyes, and rasping voice. But Bent would croak: "Whitman's
struck nothin'; thar ain't no gold in Garotte; it's all work and no dust."
In this strain he went on, offending local sentiment and making every one
Muirhead's first appearance created a certain sensation. He was a fine
upstanding fellow of six feet or over, well made, and good-looking. But
Garotte had too much experience of life to be won by a stranger's handsome
looks. Muirhead's fair moustache and large blue eyes counted for little
there. Crocker and others, masters in the art of judging men, noticed that
his eyes were unsteady, and his manner, though genial, seemed hasty.
Reggitt summed up their opinion in the phrase, "looks as if he'd bite off
more'n he could chaw." Unconscious of the criticism, Muirhead talked,
offered drinks, and made himself agreeable.
At length in answer to Bent's continued grumbling, Muirhead said
pleasantly: "'Tain't so bad as that in Garotte, is it? This bar don't look
like poverty, and if I set up drinks for the crowd, it's because I'm glad
to be in this camp."
"P'r'aps you found the last place you was in jes' a leetle too warm, eh?"
was Bent's retort.
Muirhead's face flushed, and for a second he stood as if he had been
struck. Then, while the crowd moved aside, he sprang towards Bent,
exclaiming, "Take that back—right off! Take it back!"
"What?" asked Bent coolly, as if surprised; at the same time, however,
retreating a pace or two, he slipped his right hand behind him.
Instantly Muirhead threw himself upon him, rushed him with what seemed
demoniac strength to the open door and flung him away out on his back into
the muddy ditch that served as a street. For a moment there was a hush of
expectation, then Bent was seen to gather himself up painfully and move
out of the square of light into the darkness. But Muirhead did not wait
for this; hastily, with hot face and hands still working with excitement,
he returned to the bar with:
"That's how I act. No one can jump me. No one, by God!" and he glared
round the room defiantly. Reggitt, Harrison, and some of the others looked
at him as if on the point of retorting, but the cheerfulness was general,
and Bent's grumbling before a stranger had irritated them almost as much
as his unexpected cowardice. Muirhead's challenge was not taken up,
therefore, though Harrison did remark, half sarcastically:
"That may be so. You jump them, I guess."
"Well, boys, let's have the drink," Charley Muirhead went on, his manner
suddenly changing to that of friendly greeting, just as if he had not
heard Harrison's words.
The men moved up to the bar and drank, and before the liquor was consumed,
Charley's geniality, acting on the universal good-humour, seemed to have
done away with the discontent which his violence and Bent's cowardice had
created. This was the greater tribute to his personal charm, as the
refugees of Garotte usually hung together, and were inclined to resent
promptly any insult offered to one of their number by a stranger. But in
the present case harmony seemed to be completely reestablished, and it
would have taken a keener observer than Muirhead to have understood his
own position and the general opinion. It was felt that the stranger had
bluffed for all he was worth, and that Garotte had come out "at the little
end of the horn."
A day or two later Charley Muirhead, walking about the camp, came upon
Dave Crocker's claim, and offered to buy half of it and work as a partner,
but the other would not sell; "the claim was worth nothin'; not good
enough for two, anyhow;" and there the matter would have ended, had not
the young man proposed to work for a spell just to keep his hand in. By
noon Crocker was won; nobody could resist Charley's hard work and laughing
high spirits. Shortly afterwards the older man proposed to knock off; a
day's work, he reckoned, had been done, and evidently considering it
impossible to accept a stranger's labour without acknowledgment, he
pressed Charley to come up to his shanty and eat. The simple meal was soon
despatched, and Crocker, feeling the obvious deficiencies of his larder,
produced a bottle of Bourbon, and the two began to drink. Glass succeeded
glass, and at length Crocker's reserve seemed to thaw; his manner became
almost easy, and he spoke half frankly.
"I guess you're strong," he remarked. "You threw Bent out of the saloon
the other night like as if he was nothin'; strength's good, but 'tain't
everythin'. I mean," he added, in answer to the other's questioning look,
"Samson wouldn't have a show with a man quick on the draw who meant
bizness. Bent didn't pan out worth a cent, and the boys didn't like him,
but—them things don't happen often." So in his own way he tried to
warn the man to whom he had taken a liking.
Charley felt that a warning was intended, for he replied decisively: "It
don't matter. I guess he wanted to jump me, and I won't be jumped, not if
Samson wanted to, and all the revolvers in Garotte were on me."
"Wall," Crocker went on quietly, but with a certain curiosity in his eyes,
"that's all right, but I reckon you were mistaken. Bent didn't want to
rush ye; 'twas only his cussed way, and he'd had mighty bad luck. You
might hev waited to see if he meant anythin', mightn't ye?" And he looked
his listener in the face as he spoke.
"That's it," Charley replied, after a long pause, "that's just it. I
couldn't wait, d'ye see!" and then continued hurriedly, as if driven to
relieve himself by a full confession: "Maybe you don't sabe. It's
plain enough, though I'd have to begin far back to make you understand.
But I don't mind if you want to hear. I was raised in the East, in Rhode
Island, and I guess I was liked by everybody. I never had trouble with any
one, and I was a sort of favourite.... I fell in love with a girl, and as
I hadn't much money, I came West to make some, as quick as I knew how. The
first place I struck was Laramie—you don't know it? 'Twas a hard
place; cowboys, liquor saloons, cursin' and swearin', poker and shootin'
nearly every night. At the beginning I seemed to get along all right, and
I liked the boys, and thought they liked me. One night a little Irishman
was rough on me; first of all I didn't notice, thought he meant nothin',
and then, all at once, I saw he meant it—and more.
"Well, I got a kind of scare—I don't know why—and I took what
he said and did nothin'. Next day the boys sort of held off from me,
didn't talk; thought me no account, I guess, and that little Irishman just
rode me round the place with spurs on. I never kicked once. I thought I'd
get the money—I had done well with the stock I had bought—and
go back East and marry, and no one would be any the wiser. But the
Irishman kept right on, and first one and then another of the boys went
for me, and I took it all. I just," and here his voice rose, and his
manner became feverishly excited, "I just ate crow right along for months—and
tried to look as if 'twas quail.
"One day I got a letter from home. She wanted me to hurry up and come
back. She thought a lot of me, I could see; more than ever, because I had
got along—I had written and told her my best news. And then, what
had been hard grew impossible right off. I made up my mind to sell the
stock and strike for new diggings. I couldn't stand it any longer—not
after her letter. I sold out and cleared.... I ought to hev stayed in
Laramie, p'r'aps, and gone for the Irishman, but I just couldn't. Every
one there was against me."
"I guess you oughter hev stayed.... Besides, if you had wiped up the floor
with that Irishman the boys would hev let up on you."
"P'r'aps so," Charley resumed, "but I was sick of the whole crowd. I sold
off, and lit out. When I got on the new stage-coach, fifty miles from
Laramie, and didn't know the driver or any one, I made up my mind to start
fresh. Then and there I resolved that I had eaten all the crow I was going
to eat; the others should eat crow now, and if there was any jumpin' to be
done, I'd do it, whatever it cost. And so I went for Bent right off. I
didn't want to wait. 'Here's more crow,' I thought, 'but I won't eat it;
he shall, if I die for it,' and I just threw him out quick."
"I see," said Crocker, with a certain sympathy in his voice, "but you
oughter hev waited. You oughter make up to wait from this on, Charley.
'Tain't hard. You don't need to take anythin' and set under it. I'm not
advisin' that, but it's stronger to wait before you go fer any one. The
boys," he added significantly, "don't like a man to bounce, and what they
don't like is pretty hard to do."
"Damn the boys," exclaimed Charley vehemently, "they're all alike out
here. I can't act different. If I waited, I might wait too long—too
long, d'you sabe? I just can't trust myself," he added in a subdued
"No," replied Crocker meditatively. "No, p'r'aps not. But see here,
Charley, I kinder like you, and so I tell you, no one can bounce the crowd
here in Garotte. They're the worst crowd you ever struck in your life.
Garotte's known for hard cases. Why," he went on earnestly, as if he had
suddenly become conscious of the fact, "the other night Reggitt and a lot
came mighty near goin' fer you—and Harrison, Harrison took up what
you said. You didn't notice, I guess; and p'r'aps 'twas well you didn't;
but you hadn't much to spare. You won by the odd card.
"No one can bounce this camp. They've come from everywhere, and can only
jes' get a livin' here—no more. And when luck's bad they're"—and
he paused as if no adjective were strong enough. "If a man was steel, and
the best and quickest on the draw ever seen, I guess they'd bury him if he
played your way."
"Then they may bury me," retorted Charley bitterly, "but I've eaten my
share of crow. I ain't goin' to eat any more. Can't go East now with the
taste of it in my mouth. I'd rather they buried me."
And they did bury him—about a fortnight after.
THE BEST MAN IN GAROTTE.
Lawyer Rablay had come from nobody knew where. He was a small man, almost
as round as a billiard ball. His body was round, his head was round; his
blue eyes and even his mouth and chin were round; his nose was a perky
snub; he was florid and prematurely bald—a picture of good-humour.
And yet he was a power in Garotte. When he came to the camp, a row was the
only form of recreation known to the miners. A "fuss" took men out of
themselves, and was accordingly hailed as an amusement; besides, it
afforded a subject of conversation. But after Lawyer Rablay's arrival
fights became comparatively infrequent. Would-be students of human nature
declared at first that his flow of spirits was merely animal, and that his
wit was thin; but even these envious ones had to admit later that his wit
told, and that his good-humour was catching.
Crocker and Harrison had nearly got to loggerheads one night for no reason
apparently, save that each had a high reputation for courage, and neither
could find a worthier antagonist. In the nick of time Rablay appeared; he
seemed to understand the situation at a glance, and broke in:
"See here, boys. I'll settle this. They're disputin'—I know they
are. Want to decide with bullets whether 'Frisco or Denver's the finest
city. 'Frisco's bigger and older, says Crocker; Harrison maintains
Denver's better laid out. Crocker replies in his quiet way that 'Frisco
ain't dead yet." Good temper being now re-established, Rablay went on:
"I'll decide this matter right off. Crocker and Harrison shall set up
drinks for the crowd till we're all laid out. And I'll tell a story," and
he began a tale which cannot be retold here, but which delighted the boys
as much by its salaciousness as by its vivacity.
Lawyer Rablay was to Garotte what novels, theatres, churches, concerts are
to more favoured cities; in fact, for some six months, he and his stories
constituted the chief humanizing influence in the camp. Deputations were
often despatched from Doolan's to bring Rablay to the bar. The miners got
up "cases" in order to give him work. More than once both parties in a
dispute, real or imaginary, engaged him, despite his protestations, as
attorney, and afterwards the boys insisted that, being advocate for both
sides, he was well fitted to decide the issue as judge. He had not been a
month in Garotte before he was christened Judge, and every question,
whether of claim-boundaries, the suitability of a nickname, or the value
of "dust," was submitted for his decision. It cannot be asserted that his
enviable position was due either to perfect impartiality or to infallible
wisdom. But every one knew that his judgments would be informed by shrewd
sense and good-humour, and would be followed by a story, and woe betide
the disputant whose perversity deferred that pleasure. So Garotte became a
sort of theocracy, with Judge Rablay as ruler. And yet he was, perhaps,
the only man in the community whose courage had never been tested or even
One afternoon a man came to Garotte, who had a widespread reputation. His
name was Bill Hitchcock. A marvellous shot, a first-rate poker-player, a
good rider—these virtues were outweighed by his desperate temper.
Though not more than five-and-twenty years of age his courage and ferocity
had made him a marked man. He was said to have killed half-a-dozen men;
and it was known that he had generally provoked his victims. No one could
imagine why he had come to Garotte, but he had not been half an hour in
the place before he was recognized. It was difficult to forget him, once
seen. He was tall and broad-shouldered; his face long, with well-cut
features; a brown moustache drooped negligently over his mouth; his heavy
eyelids were usually half-closed, but when in moments of excitement they
were suddenly updrawn, one was startled by a naked hardness of grey-green
Hitchcock spent the whole afternoon in Doolan's, scarcely speaking a word.
As night drew down, the throng of miners increased. Luck had been bad for
weeks; the camp was in a state of savage ill-humour. Not a few came to the
saloon that night intending to show, if an opportunity offered, that
neither Hitchcock nor any one else on earth could scare them. As minute
after minute passed the tension increased. Yet Hitchcock stood in the
midst of them, drinking and smoking in silence, seemingly unconcerned.
Presently the Judge came in with a smile on his round face and shot off a
merry remark. But the quip didn't take as it should have done. He was
received with quiet nods and not with smiles and loud greetings as usual.
Nothing daunted, he made his way to the bar, and, standing next to
Hitchcock, called for a drink.
"Come, Doolan, a Bourbon; our only monarch!"
Beyond a smile from Doolan the remark elicited no applause. Astonished,
the Judge looked about him; never in his experience had the camp been in
that temper. But still he had conquered too often to doubt his powers now.
Again and again he tried to break the spell—in vain. As a last
resort he resolved to use his infallible receipt against ill-temper.
"Boys! I've just come in to tell you one little story; then I'll have to
From force of habit the crowd drew towards him, and faces relaxed. Cheered
by this he picked up his glass from the bar and turned towards his
audience. Unluckily, as he moved, his right arm brushed against Hitchcock,
who was looking at him with half-opened eyes. The next moment Hitchcock
had picked up his glass and dashed it in the Judge's face. Startled,
confounded by the unexpected suddenness of the attack, Rablay backed two
or three paces, and, blinded by the rush of blood from his forehead, drew
out his handkerchief. No one stirred. It was part of the unwritten law in
Garotte to let every man in such circumstances play his game as he
pleased. For a moment or two the Judge mopped his face, and then he
started towards his assailant with his round face puckered up and
out-thrust hands. He had scarcely moved, however, when Hitchcock levelled
a long Navy Colt against his breast:
"Git back, you —— "
The Judge stopped. He was unarmed but not cowed. All of a sudden those
wary, long eyes of Hitchcock took in the fact that a score of revolvers
With lazy deliberation Dave Crocker moved out of the throng towards the
combatants, and standing between them, with his revolver pointing to the
ground, said sympathetically:
"Jedge, we're sorry you've been jumped, here in Garotte. Now, what would
"A fair fight," replied Rablay, beginning again to use his handkerchief.
"Wall," Crocker went on, after a pause for thought. "A square fight's good
but hard to get. This man," and his head made a motion towards Hitchcock
as he spoke, "is one of the best shots there is, and I reckon you're not
as good at shootin' as at—other things." Again he paused to think,
and then continued with the same deliberate air of careful reflection, "We
all cotton to you, Jedge; you know that. Suppose you pick a man who kin
shoot, and leave it to him. That'd be fair, an' you kin jes' choose any of
us, or one after the other. We're all willin'."
"No," replied the Judge, taking away the handkerchief, and showing a
jagged, red line on his forehead. "No! he struck me. I don't want
any one to help me, or take my place."
"That's right," said Crocker, approvingly; "that's right, Jedge, we all
like that, but 'tain't square, and this camp means to hev it square. You
bet!" And, in the difficult circumstances, he looked round for the
approval which was manifest on every one of the serious faces. Again he
began: "I guess, Jedge, you'd better take my plan, 'twould be surer. No!
Wall, suppose I take two six-shooters, one loaded, the other empty, and
put them under a capote on the table in the next room. You could
both go in and draw for weapons; that'd be square, I reckon?" and he
waited for the Judge's reply.
"Yes," replied Rablay, "that'd be fair. I agree to that."
"Hell!" exclaimed Hitchcock, "I don't. If he wants to fight, I'm here; but
I ain't goin' to take a hand in no sich derned game—with the cards
stocked agen me."
"Ain't you?" retorted Crocker, facing him, and beginning slowly. "I reckon
you'll play any game we say. See! any damned game we
like. D'ye understand?"
As no response was forthcoming to this defiance, he went into the other
room to arrange the preliminaries of the duel. A few moments passed in
silence, and then he came back through the lane of men to the two
"Jedge," he began, "the six-shooters are there, all ready. Would you like
to hev first draw, or throw for it with him?" contemptuously indicating
Hitchcock with a movement of his head as he concluded.
"Let us throw," replied Rablay, quietly.
In silence the three dice and the box were placed by Doolan on the bar. In
response to Crocker's gesture the Judge took up the box and rolled out two
fives and a three—thirteen. Every one felt that he had lost the
draw, but his face did not change any more than that of his adversary. In
silence Hitchcock replaced the dice in the box and threw a three, a four,
and a two—nine; he put down the box emphatically.
"Wall," Crocker decided impassively, "I guess that gives you the draw,
Jedge; we throw fer high in Garotte—sometimes," he went on, turning
as if to explain to Hitchcock, but with insult in his voice, and then,
"After you, Jedge!"
Rablay passed through the crowd into the next room. There, on a table, was
a small heap covered with a cloak. Silently the men pressed round, leaving
Crocker between the two adversaries in the full light of the swinging
"Now, Jedge," said Crocker, with a motion towards the table.
"No!" returned the Judge, with white, fixed face, "he won; let him draw
first. I only want a square deal."
A low hum of surprise went round the room. Garotte was more than satisfied
with its champion. Crocker looked at Hitchcock, and said:
"It's your draw, then." The words were careless, but the tone and face
spoke clearly enough.
A quick glance round the room and Hitchcock saw that he was trapped. These
men would show him no mercy. At once the wild beast in him appeared. He
stepped to the table, put his hand under the cloak, drew out a revolver,
dropped it, pointing towards Rablay's face, and pulled the trigger. A
sharp click. That revolver, at any rate, was unloaded. Quick as thought
Crocker stepped between Hitchcock and the table. Then he said:
"It's your turn now, Jedge!"
As he spoke a sound, half of relief and half of content came from the
throats of the onlookers. The Judge did not move. He had not quivered when
the revolver was levelled within a foot of his head; he did not appear to
have seen it. With set eyes and pale face, and the jagged wound on his
forehead whence the blood still trickled, he had waited, and now he did
not seem to hear. Again Crocker spoke:
"Come, Jedge, it's your turn."
The sharp, loud words seemed to break the spell which had paralyzed the
man. He moved to the table, and slowly drew the revolver from under the
cloak. His hesitation was too much for the crowd.
"Throw it through him, Jedge! Now's your chance. Wade in, Jedge!"
The desperate ferocity of the curt phrases seemed to move him. He raised
the revolver. Then came in tones of triumph:
"I'll bet high on the Jedge!"
He dropped the revolver on the floor, and fled from the room.
The first feeling of the crowd of men was utter astonishment, but in a
moment or two this gave place to half-contemptuous sympathy. What
expression this sentiment would have found it is impossible to say, for
just then Bill Hitchcock observed with a sneer:
"As he's run, I may as well walk;" and he stepped towards the bar-room.
Instantly Crocker threw himself in front of him with his face on fire.
"Walk—will ye?" he burst out, the long-repressed rage flaming up—"walk!
when you've jumped the best man in Garotte—walk! No, by God, you'll
crawl, d'ye hear? crawl—right out of this camp, right now!" and he
dropped his revolver on Hitchcock's breast.
Then came a wild chorus of shouts.
"That's right! That's the talk! Crawl, will ye! Down on yer hands and
knees. Crawl, damn ye! Crawl!" and a score of revolvers covered the
For a moment he stood defiant, looking his assailants in the eyes. His
face seemed to have grown thinner, and his moustache twitched with the
snarling movement of a brute at bay. Then he was tripped up and thrown
forwards amid a storm of, "Crawl, damn ye—crawl!" And so Hitchcock
crawled, on hands and knees, out of Doolan's.
Lawyer Rablay, too, was never afterwards seen in Garotte. Men said his
nerves had "give out."
GULMORE, THE BOSS
The habits of the Gulmore household were in some respects primitive.
Though it was not yet seven o'clock two negro girls were clearing away the
breakfast things under the minute supervision of their mistress, an
angular, sharp-faced woman with a reedy voice, and nervously abrupt
movements. Near the table sat a girl of nineteen absorbed in a book. In an
easy-chair by the open bay-window a man with a cigar in his mouth was
reading a newspaper. Jonathan Byrne Gulmore, as he always signed himself,
was about fifty years of age; his heavy frame was muscular, and the coarse
dark hair and swarthy skin showed vigorous health. There was both
obstinacy and combativeness in his face with its cocked nose, low
irregular forehead, thick eyebrows, and square jaw, but the deep-set grey
eyes gleamed at times with humorous comprehension, and the usual
expression of the countenance was far from ill-natured. As he laid the
paper on his knees and looked up, he drew the eye. His size and strength
seemed to be the physical equivalents of an extraordinary power of
character and will. When Mrs. Gulmore followed the servants out of the
room the girl rose from her chair and went towards the door. She was
stopped by her father's voice:
"Ida, I want a talk with you. You'll be able to go to your books
afterwards; I won't keep you long." She sat down again and laid her book
on the table, while Mr. Gulmore continued:
"The election's next Monday week, and I've no time to lose." A moment's
silence, and he let his question fall casually:
"You know this—Professor Roberts—don't you? He was at the
University when you were there—eh?" The girl flushed slightly as she
"They say he's smart, an' he ken talk. I heard him the other night; but
I'd like to know what you think. Your judgment's generally worth havin'."
Forced to reply without time for reflection, Miss Gulmore said as little
as possible with a great show of frankness:
"Oh, yes; he's smart, and knows Greek and Latin and German, and a great
many things. The senior students used to say he knew more than all the
other professors put together, and he—he thinks so too, I imagine,"
and she laughed intentionally, for, on hearing her own strained laughter,
she blushed, and then stood up out of a nervous desire to conceal her
embarrassment. But her father was looking away from her at the glowing end
of his cigar; and, as she resumed her seat, he went on:
"I'm glad you seem to take no stock in him, Ida, for he's makin' himself
unpleasant. I'll have to give him a lesson, I reckon, not in Greek or
Latin or them things—I never had nothin' taught me beyond the
'Fourth Reader,' in old Vermont, and I've forgotten some of what I learned
then—but in election work an' business I guess I ken give Professor
Roberts points, fifty in a hundred, every time. Did you know he's always
around with Lawyer Hutchin's?"
"Is he? That's because of May—May Hutchings. Oh, she deserves him;"
the girl spoke with sarcastic bitterness, "she gave herself trouble enough
to get him. It was just sickening the way she acted, blushing every time
he spoke to her, and looking up at him as if he were everything. Some
people have no pride in them."
Her father listened impassively, and, after a pause, began his
"Wall, Ida, anyway he means to help Hutchin's in this city election.
'Tain't the first time Hutchin's has run for mayor on the Democratic
ticket and come out at the little end of the horn, and I propose to whip
him again. But this Professor's runnin' him on a new track, and I want
some points about him. It's like this. At the Democratic meetin'
the other night, the Professor spoke, and spoke well. What he said was
popcorn; but it took with the Mugwumps—them that think themselves
too highfalutin' to work with either party, jest as if organization was no
good, an' a mob was as strong as an army. Wall, he talked for an hour
about purity an' patriotism, and when he had warmed 'em up he went
bald-headed for me. He told 'em—you ken read it all in the 'Tribune'—that
this town was run by a ring, an' not run honestly; contracts were given
only to members of the Republican party; all appointments were made by the
ring, and never accordin' to ability—as if sich a ring could last
ten years. He ended up by saying, though he was a Republican, as his
father is, he intended to vote Democratic—he's domiciled here—as
a protest against the impure and corrupt Boss-system which was disgracin'
American political life. 'Twas baby talk. But it's like this. The buildin'
of the branch line South has brought a lot of Irish here—they're all
Democrats—and there's quite a number of Mugwumps, an' if this
Professor goes about workin' them all up—what with the
flannel-mouths and the rest—it might be a close finish. I'm sure to
win, but if I could get some information about him, it would help me. His
father's all right. We've got him down to a fine point. Prentiss, the man
I made editor of the 'Herald,' knows him well; ken tell us why he left
Kaintucky to come West. But I want to know somethin' about the Professor,
jest to teach him to mind his own business, and leave other folk to attend
to theirs. Ken you help me? Is he popular with the students and
She thought intently, while the colour rose in her cheeks; she was eager
"With the students, yes. There's nothing to be done there. The professors—I
don't think they like him much; he is too clever. When he came into the
class-room and talked Latin to Johnson, the Professor of Latin, and
Johnson could only stammer out a word or two, I guess he didn't make a
friend;" and the girl laughed at the recollection.
"I don't know anything else that could be brought against him. They say he
is an Atheist. Would that be any use? He gave a lecture on 'Culture as a
Creed' about three months ago which made some folk mad. The other
professors are Christians, and, of course, all the preachers took it up.
He compared Buddha with Christ, and said—oh, I remember!—that
Shakespeare was the Old Testament of the English-speaking peoples. That
caused some talk; they all believe in the Bible. He said, too, that
'Shakespeare was inspired in a far higher sense than St. Paul, who was
thin and hard, a logic-loving bigot.' And President Campbell—he's a
Presbyterian—preached the Sunday afterwards upon St. Paul as the
great missionary of Protestantism. I don't think the professors like him,
but I don't know that they can do anything, for all the students, the
senior ones, at least, are with him," and the girl paused, and tried to
find out from her father's face whether what she had said was likely to be
"Wall! I don't go much on them things myself, but I guess somethin' ken be
done. I'll see Prentiss about it: send him to interview this President
Campbell, and wake him up to a sense of his duty. This is a Christian
country, I reckon," the grey eyes twinkled, "and those who teach the young
should teach them Christian principles, or else—get out. I guess it
ken be worked. The University's a State institution. You don't mind if
he's fired out, do you?" And the searching eyes probed her with a glance.
"Oh! I don't mind," she said quickly, in a would-be careless tone, rising
and going towards him, "it has nothing to do with me. He belongs to May
Hutchings—let her help him, if she can. I think you're quite right
to give him a lesson—he needs one badly. What right has he to come
and attack you?" She had passed to her father's side, and was leaning
against his shoulder. Those grey eyes saw more than she cared to reveal;
they made her uncomfortable.
"Then I understand it's like this. You want him to get a real lesson? Is
that it? You ken talk straight to me, Ida. I'm with you every time. You
The feminine instinct of concealment worked in her, but she knew this
father of hers would have plain speech, and some hidden feeling forced her
violent temper to an outburst of curiously mingled hatred of the Professor
and exultation in her power of injuring him.
"Why, father, it's all the same to me. I've no interest in it, except to
help you. You know I never said a word against him till you asked me. But
he has no business to come down and attack you," and the voice grew
shrill. "It's shameful of him. If he were a man he'd never do it. Yes—give
him a real lesson; teach him that those he despises are stronger
than he is. Let him lose his place and be thrown out of work, then we'll
see if May Hutchings," and she laughed, "will go and help him. We'll see
Her father interrupted her in the middle of a tirade which would have been
complete self-revelation; but it is not to be presumed that he did this
out of a delicate regard for his daughter's feelings. He had got the
information he required.
"That's all right, Ida. I guess he'll get the lesson. You ken count on me.
You've put me on the right track, I believe. I knew if any one could help
me, you'd be able to. Nobody knows what's in you better'n I do. You're
smarter'n any one I know, and I know a few who think they're real smart—"
In this vein he continued soothing his daughter's pride, and yet speaking
in an even, impersonal tone, as if merely stating facts.
"Now I've got to go. Prentiss'll be waiting for me at the office."
While driving to the office, Mr. Gulmore's thoughts, at first, were with
his daughter. "I don't know why, but I suspicioned that. That's why she
left the University before graduatin', an' talked of goin' East, and
makin' a name for herself on the stage. That Professor's foolish. Ida's
smart and pretty, and she'll have a heap of money some day. The ring has a
few contracts on hand still—he's a fool. How she talked: she
remembered all that lecture—every word; but she's young yet. She'd
have given herself away if I hadn't stopped her. I don't like any one to
do that; it's weak. But she means business every time, just as I do; she
means him to be fired right out, and then she'd probably go and cry over
him, and want me to put him back again. But no. I guess not. That's not
the way I work. I'd be willin' for him to stay away, and leave me alone,
but as she wants him punished, he shall be, and she mustn't interfere at
the end. It'll do her good to find out that things can't both be done and
undone, if she's that sort. But p'r'aps she won't want to undo them. When
their pride's hurt women are mighty hard—harder than men by far....
I wonder how long it'll take to get this Campbell to move. I must start
right in; I hain't got much time."
As soon as her father left her, Miss Ida hurried to her own room, in order
to recover from her agitation, and to remove all traces of it. She was an
only child, and had accordingly a sense of her own importance, which
happened to be uncorrected by physical deficiencies. Not that she was
astonishingly beautiful, but she was tall and just good-looking enough to
allow her to consider herself a beauty. Her chief attraction was her form,
which, if somewhat flat-chested, had a feline flexibility rarer and more
seductive than she imagined. She was content to believe that nature had
fashioned her to play the part in life which, she knew, was hers of right.
Her name, even, was most appropriate—dignified. Ida should be
queen-like, stately; the oval of her face should be long, and not round,
and her complexion should be pallid; colour in the cheeks made one look
common. Her dark hair, too, pleased her; everything, in fact, save her
eyes; they were of a nameless, agate-like hue, and she would have
preferred them to be violet. That would have given her face the charm of
unexpectedness, which she acknowledged was in itself a distinction. And
Miss Ida loved everything that conduced to distinction, everything that
flattered her pride with a sense of her own superiority. It seemed as if
her mother's narrowness of nature had confined and shot, so to speak, all
the passions and powers of the father into this one characteristic of the
daughter. That her father had risen to influence and riches by his own
ability did not satisfy her. She had always felt that the Hutchingses and
the society to which they belonged, persons who had been well educated for
generations, and who had always been more or less well off, formed a
higher class. It was the longing to become one of them that had impelled
her to study with might and main. Even in her school-days she had
recognized that this was the road to social eminence. The struggle had
been arduous. In the Puritan surroundings of middle-class life her want of
religious training and belief had almost made a pariah of the proud,
high-tempered girl, and when as a clever student of the University and a
daughter of one of the richest and most powerful men in the State, she
came into a circle that cared as little about Christian dogmas as she did,
she attributed the comparative coolness with which her companions treated
her, to her father's want of education, rather than to the true cause, her
own domineering temper. As she had hated her childish playmates, who,
instructed by their mothers, held aloof from the infidel, so she had grown
to detest the associates of her girlhood, whose parents seemed, by virtue
of manners and education, superior to hers. The aversion was acrid with
envy, and had fastened from the beginning on her competitor as a student
and her rival in beauty, Miss May Hutchings. Her animosity was intensified
by the fact that, when they entered the Sophomore class together, Miss May
had made her acquaintance, had tried to become friends with her, and then,
for some inscrutable reason, had drawn coldly away. By dint of working
twice as hard as May, Ida had managed to outstrip her, and to begin the
Junior year as the first of the class; but all the while she was conscious
that her success was due to labour, and not to a larger intelligence. And
with the coming of the new professor of Greek, this superiority, her one
consolation, was called in question.
Professor Roberts had brought about a revolution in the University. He was
young and passionately devoted to his work; had won his Doctor's degree at
Berlin summa cum laude, and his pupils soon felt that he
represented a standard of knowledge higher than they had hitherto imagined
as attainable, and yet one which, he insisted, was common in the older
civilization of Europe. It was this nettling comparison, enforced by his
mastery of difficulties, which first aroused the ardour of his scholars.
In less than a year they passed from the level of youths in a high school
to that of University students. On the best heads his influence was
magical. His learning and enthusiasm quickened their reverence for
scholarship, but it was his critical faculty which opened to them the
world of art, and nerved them to emulation.
"Until one realizes the shortcomings of a master," he said in a lecture,
"it is impossible to understand him or to take the beauty of his works to
heart. When Sophocles repeats himself—the Electra is but a feeble
study for the Antigone, or possibly a feeble copy of it—we get near
the man; the limitations of his outlook are characteristic: when he
deforms his Ajax with a tag of political partisanship, his servitude to
surroundings defines his conscience as an artist; and when painting by
contrasts he poses the weak Ismene and Chrysothemis as foils to their
heroic sisters, we see that his dramatic power in the essential was
rudimentary. Yet Mr. Matthew Arnold, a living English poet, writes that
Sophocles 'saw life steadily and saw it whole.' This is true of no man,
not of Shakespeare nor of Goethe, much less of Sophocles or Racine. The
phrase itself is as offensively out of date as the First Commandment." The
bold, incisive criticism had a singular fascination for his hearers, who
were too young to remark in it the crudeness that usually attaches to
Miss Hutchings was the first of the senior students to yield herself to
the new influence. In the beginning Miss Gulmore was not attracted by
Professor Roberts; she thought him insignificant physically; he was neat
of dress too, and ingenuously eager in manner—all of which
conflicted with her ideal of manhood. It was but slowly that she awoke to
a consciousness of his merits, and her awakening was due perhaps as much
to jealousy of May Hutchings as to the conviction that with Professor
Roberts for a husband she would realize her social ambitions. Suddenly she
became aware that May was passing her in knowledge of Greek, and was thus
winning the notice of the man she had begun to look upon as worthy of her
own choice. Ida at once addressed herself to the struggle with all the
energy of her nature, but at first without success. It was evident that
May was working as she had never worked before, for as the weeks flew by
she seemed to increase her advantage. During this period Ida Gulmore's
pride suffered tortures; day by day she understood more clearly that the
prize of her life was slipping out of reach. In mind and soul now she
realized Roberts' daring and charm. With the intensified perceptions of a
jealous woman, she sometimes feared that he sympathized with her rival.
But he had not spoken yet; of that she was sure, and her conceit enabled
her to hope desperately. A moment arrived when her hatred of May was
sweetened by contempt. For some reason or other May was neglecting her
work; when spoken to by the Professor her colour came and went, and a
shyness, visible to all, wrapped her in confusion. Ida felt that there was
no time to be lost, and increased her exertions. As she thought of her
position she determined first to surpass her competitor, and then in some
way or other to bring the Professor to speech. But, alas! for her plans.
One morning she demonstrated her superiority with cruel clearness, only to
find that Roberts, self-absorbed, did not notice her. He seemed to have
lost the vivid interest in the work which aforetime had characterized him,
and the happiness of the man was only less tell-tale than the pretty
contentment and demure approval of all he said which May scarcely tried to
conceal. Wild with fear, blinded by temper, Ida resolved to know the
One morning when the others left the room she waited, busying herself
apparently with some notes, till the Professor returned, as she knew he
would, in time to receive the next class. While gathering up her books,
she asked abruptly:
"I suppose I should congratulate you, Professor?"
"I don't think I understand you."
"Yes, you do. Why lie? You are engaged to May Hutchings," and the girl
looked at him with flaming eyes.
"I don't know why you should ask me, or why I should answer, but we have
no motive for concealment—yes, I am."
His words were decisive; his reverence for May and her affection had been
wounded by the insolent challenge, but before he finished speaking his
manner became considerate. He was quick to feel the pain of others and
shrank from adding to it—these, indeed, were the two chief articles
of the unformulated creed which directed his actions. His optimism was of
youth and superficial, but the sense of the brotherhood of human suffering
touched his heart in a way that made compassion and tenderness appear to
him to be the highest and simplest of duties. It was Ida's temper that
answered his avowal. Still staring at him she burst into loud laughter,
and as he turned away her tuneless mirth grew shriller and shriller till
it became hysterical. A frightened effort to regain her self-control, and
her voice broke in something like a sob, while tears trembled on her
lashes. The Professor's head was bent over his desk and he saw nothing.
Ida dashed the tears from her eyes ostentatiously, and walked with shaking
limbs out of the room. She would have liked to laugh again scornfully
before closing the door, but she dared not trust her nerves. From that
moment she tried to hate Professor Roberts as she hated May Hutchings, for
her disappointment had been very sore, and the hurt to her pride smarted
like a burn. On returning home, she told her father that she had taken her
name off the books of the University; she meant to be an actress, and a
degree could be of no use to her in her new career. Her father did not
oppose her openly; he was content to postpone any decisive step, and in a
few days she seemed to have abandoned her project. But time brought no
mitigation of her spite. She was tenacious by nature, and her jealous rage
came back upon her in wild fits. To be outdone by May Hutchings was
intolerable. Besides, the rivalry and triumphs of the class-room had been
as the salt of life to her; now she had nothing to do, nothing to occupy
her affections or give object to her feverish ambition. And the void of
her life she laid to the charge of Roberts. So when the time came and the
temptation, she struck as those strike who are tortured by pain.
Alone in her room, she justified to herself what she had done. She thought
with pleasure of Professor Roberts' approaching defeat and punishment. "He
deserves it, and more! He knows why I left the University; drew myself
away from him for ever. What does he care for my suffering? He can't leave
me in peace. I wasn't good enough for him, and my father isn't honest
enough. Oh, that I were a man! I'd teach him that it was dangerous to
insult the wretched.
"How I was mistaken in him! He has no delicacy, no true manliness of
character. I'm glad he has thrown down the challenge. Father may not be
well-educated nor refined, but he's strong. Professor Roberts shall find
out what it means to attack us. I hope he'll be turned out of the
University; I hope he will. Let me think. I have a copy of that lecture of
his; perhaps there's something in it worse than I remembered. At any rate,
the report will be proof."
She searched hurriedly, and soon found the newspaper account she wanted.
Glancing down the column with feverish eagerness, she burst out: "Here it
is; this will do. I knew there was something more."
"... Thus the great ones contribute, each his part, towards the
humanization of man. Christ and Buddha are our teachers, but so also, and
in no lower degree, are Plato, Dante, Goethe, and Shakespeare....
"But strange to say, the Divina Commedia seems to us moderns more
remote than the speculations of Plato. For the modern world is founded
upon science, and may be said to begin with the experimental philosophy of
Bacon. The thoughts of Plato, the 'fair humanities' of Greek religion, are
nearer to the scientific spirit than the untutored imaginings of Christ.
The world to-day seeks its rule of life in exact knowledge of man and his
surroundings; its teachers, high-priests in the temple of Truth, are the
Darwins, the Bunsens, the Pasteurs. In the place of God we see Law, and
the old concept of rewards and punishments has been re-stated as 'the
survival of the fittest.' If, on the other hand, you need emotions, and
the inspiration of concrete teaching, you must go to Balzac, to Turgenief,
and to Ibsen...."
"I think that'll do," said the girl half-aloud as she marked the above
passages, and then sent the paper by a servant to her father's office.
"The worst of it is, he'll find another place easily; but, at any rate,
he'll have to leave this State.... How well I remember that lecture. I
thought no one had ever talked like that before. But the people disliked
it, and even those who stayed to the end said they wouldn't have come had
they known that a professor could speak against Christianity. How mad they
made me then! I wouldn't listen to them, and now—now he's with May
Hutchings, perhaps laughing at me with her. Or, if he's not so base as
that, he's accusing my father of dishonesty, and I mean to defend him. But
if, ah, if—" and the girl rose to her feet suddenly, with paling
The house of Lawyer Hutchings was commodious and comfortable. It was only
two storeys high, and its breadth made it appear squat; it was solidly
built of rough, brown stone, and a large wooden verandah gave shade and a
lounging-place in front. It stood in its own grounds on the outskirts of
the town, not far from Mr. Gulmore's, but it lacked the towers and
greenhouse, the brick stables, and black iron gates, which made Mr.
Gulmore's residence an object of public admiration. It had, indeed, a
careless, homelike air, as of a building that disdains show, standing
sturdily upon a consciousness of utility and worth. The study of the
master lay at the back. It was a room of medium size, with two French
windows, which gave upon an orchard of peach and apple-trees where lush
grass hid the fallen fruit. The furniture was plain and serviceable. A few
prints on the wall and a wainscoting of books showed the owner's tastes.
In this room one morning Lawyer Hutchings and Professor Roberts sat
talking. The lawyer was sparely built and tall, of sympathetic appearance.
The features of the face were refined and fairly regular, the blue eyes
pleasing, the high forehead intelligent-looking. Yet—whether it was
the querulous horizontal lines above the brows, or the frequent, graceful
gestures of the hands—Mr. Hutchings left on one an impression of
weakness, and, somehow or other, his precise way of speaking suggested
intellectual narrowness. It was understood, however, that he had passed
through Harvard with honours, and had done well in the law-course. It is,
therefore, not to be wondered at that when he went West, he went with the
idea that that was the shortest way to Washington. Yet he had had but a
moderate degree of success; he was too thoroughly grounded in his work not
to get a good practice, but he was not the first in his profession. He had
been outdone by men who fought their cases, and his popularity was due to
affable manners, and not to admiration of his power or talents. His
obvious good nature had got with years a tinge of discontent; life had
been to him a series of disappointments.
One glance at Professor Roberts showed him to be a different sort of a
man, though perhaps harder to read. Square shoulders and attenuated figure—a
mixture of energy and nervous force without muscular strength; a tyrannous
forehead overshadowing lambent hazel eyes; a cordial frankness of manner
with a thinker's tricks of gesture, his nervous fingers emphasizing his
Their talk was of an article assailing the Professor that had appeared
that morning in "The Republican Herald."
"I don't like it," Mr. Hutchings was saying. "It's inspired by Gulmore,
and he always means what he says—and something more."
"Except the suggestion that my father had certain good, or rather bad,
reasons for leaving Kentucky, it seems to me merely spiteful. It's very
"He only begins with your father. Then he wonders what the real motives
are which induce you to change your political creed. But the affectation
of fairness is the danger signal. One can't imagine Gulmore hesitating to
assert what he has heard, that you have no religious principles. Coming
from him, that means a declaration of war; he'll attack you without
scruple—persistently. It's well known that he cares nothing for
religion—even his wife's a Unitarian. What he's aiming at, I don't
know, but he's sure to do you harm. He has done me harm, and yet he never
gave me such a warning. He only went for me when I ran for office. As soon
as the elections were over, he left me in peace. He's eminently practical,
and rather good-natured. There's no small vicious malice or hate in him;
but he's overbearing and loves a fight. Is it worth your while to make an
enemy of him? We're sure to be beaten."
"Of course it isn't worth my while in that sense, but it's my duty, I
think, as you think it yours. Remark, too, that I've never attacked Mr.
Gulmore—never even mentioned him. I've criticised the system, and
"He won't take it in that way. He is the system; when you criticise it,
you criticise him. Every one will so understand it. He makes all the
appointments, from mayor down to the boy who sweeps out an office; every
contract is given to him or his appointees; that's how he has made his
fortune. Why, he beat me the second time I ran for District Court Judge,
by getting an Irishman, the Chairman of my Committee, to desert me at the
last moment. He afterwards got Patrick Byrne elected a Justice of the
Peace, a man who knows no law and can scarcely sign his own name."
"How disgraceful! And you would have me sit down quietly under the
despotism of Mr. Gulmore? And such a despotism! It cost the city half a
million dollars to pave the streets, and I can prove that the work could
have been done as well for half the sum. Our democratic system of
government is the worst in the world, if a tenth part of what I hear is
true; and before I admit that, I'll see whether its abuses are corrigible.
But why do you say we're sure to be beaten? I thought you said—"
"Yes," Mr. Hutchings interrupted, "I said that this railway extension
gives us a chance. All the workmen are Irishmen, Democrats to a man,
who'll vote and vote straight, and that has been our weak point. You can't
get one-half the better classes to go to the polls. The negroes all vote,
too, and vote Republican—that has been Gulmore's strength. Now I've
got the Irishmen against his negroes I may win. But what I feel is that
even if I do get to be Mayor, you'll suffer for it more than I shall gain
by your help. Do you see? And, now that I'm employed by the Union Pacific
I don't care much for city politics. I'd almost prefer to give up the
candidature. May'll suffer, too. I think you ought to consider the matter
before going any further."
"This is not the time for consideration. Like you I am trying to put an
end to a corrupt tyranny. I work and shall vote against a venal and
degrading system. May and I will bear what we must. She wouldn't have me
run away from such adversaries. Fancy being governed by the most ignorant,
led on by the most dishonest! It's incomprehensible to me how such a
paradoxical infamy can exist."
"I think it'll become comprehensible to you before this election's over.
I've done my best for years to alter it, and so far I've not been very
successful. You don't seem to understand that where parties are almost
equal in strength, a man who'll spend money is sure to win. It has paid
Gulmore to organize the Republican party in this city; he has made it pay
him and all those who hold office by and through him. 'To the victors, the
spoils.' Those who have done the spoiling are able to pay more than the
"Yes, but in this case the spoilers are a handful, while the spoiled are
the vast majority. Why should it be impossible to convince the majority
that they're being robbed?"
"Because ideas can't get into the heads of negroes, nor yet into the heads
of illiterate Irishmen. You'll find, too, that five Americans out of every
ten take no interest in ordinary politics, and the five who do are of the
lowest class—a Boss is their natural master. Our party politics, my
friend, resembles a game of faro—the card that happens to be in the
box against the same card outside—and the banker holding the box
usually manages to win. Let me once get power and Gulmore'll find his
labour unremunerative. If it hadn't been for him I'd have been in Congress
long ago. But now I'll have to leave you. Talk it over with May and—you
see that Gulmore challenges you to prove the corruption or else withdraw
the imputation? What do you mean to do?"
"I'll prove it, of course. Long before I spoke I had gone into that paving
contract; it was clearly a fraud."
"Well, I'd think, if I were you, before I acted, though you're a great
help to me; your last speech was very powerful."
"Unfortunately I'm no speaker, but I'll do as well as I can, and you may
rely on me to go on to the end. The rich at least must be forced to
refrain from robbing the poor.... That malicious sneer at my father hurts
me. It can only mean that he owed money in Kentucky. He was always
careless in money matters, too careless, but he's very generous at heart.
I owe him everything. I'll find out about it at once, and if it is as I
fear, the debt shall be paid. That'll be one good result of Mr. Gulmore's
malice. As for me, let him do his worst. At any rate I'm forewarned."
"A poor satisfaction in case—but here's May, and I must go. I've
stayed too long already. You should look through our ticket; it's strong,
the men are all good, I think—anyway, they're the best we can get.
Teach him to be careful, May; he's too bold."
"I will, father," replied a clear, girlish voice; "it's mother who spoils
him," and then, as the door shut, she moved to her lover, and holding out
both her hands, with a little air of dignity, added, "He tries to spoil me.
But, dear, what's the matter? You seem annoyed."
"It's nothing. An article in that paper strikes at my father, and hurts
me; but it can be made right, and to look at you is a cure for pain."
"Let me read it—no, please! I want to help you, and how can I do
that if I don't know what pains you?" The girl took the "Herald" and sat
down to read it.
May Hutchings was more than good-looking, were it only by reason of a
complexion such as is seldom given even to blondes. The inside of a
sea-shell has the same lustre and delicacy, but it does not pale and flush
as did May's cheeks in quick response to her emotions. Waves of
maize-coloured hair with a sheen of its own went with the fairness of the
skin, and the pretty features were redeemed from a suspicion of insipidity
by large violet eyes. She was of good height and lissom, with small feet
and hands, but the outlines of her figure were Southern in grace and
After reading the article, she put down the paper without saying a word.
"Why, May, you seem to take it as seriously as your father does. It's
nothing so very terrible, is it?"
"What did father say?"
"That it was inspired by Gulmore, and that he was a dangerous man; but I
don't see much in it. If my father owed money in Kentucky it shall be
repaid, and there the matter ends."
"'Tisn't that I'm troubling about; it's that lecture of yours. Oh, it was
wonderful! but I sat trembling all the time. You don't know the people. If
they had understood it better, they'd have made a big fuss about it. I'm
"But what fuss can they make? I've surely a right to my own opinions, and
I didn't criticise any creed offensively."
"That's it—that's what saved you. Oh, I wish you'd see it as I do!
You spoke so enthusiastically about Jesus, that you confused them. A lot
of them thought, and think still, that you're a Christian. But if it's
brought up again and made clear to them—Won't you understand? If
it's made quite clear that Jesus to you was only a man, and not superior
even to all other men, and that you believe Christianity has served its
purpose, and is now doing harm rather than good in the world, why, they'd
not want to have you in the University. Don't you know that?"
"Perhaps you're right," returned the Professor thoughtfully. "You see I
wasn't brought up in any creed, and I've lived in so completely different
an atmosphere for years past, that it's hard to understand such intolerant
bigotry. I remember enough, though, to see that you are right. But, after
all, what does it matter? I can't play hypocrite because they're blind
"No, but you needn't have gone quite so far—been quite
so frank; and even now you might easily—" She stopped, catching a
look of surprise in her lover's face, and sought confusedly to blot out
the effect of her last words. "I mean—but of course you know best. I
want you to keep your place; you love the work, and no one could do it so
well as you. No one, and—"
"It doesn't matter, May. I'm sure you were thinking of what would be best
for both of us, but I've nothing to alter or extenuate. They must do as
they think fit, these Christians, if they have the power. After all, it
can make no difference to us; I can always get work enough to keep us,
even if it isn't such congenial work. But do you think Gulmore's at the
bottom of it? Has he so much influence?"
"Yes, I think so," and the girl nodded her head, but she did not give the
reasons for her opinion. She knew that Ida Gulmore had been in love with
him, so she shrank instinctively from mentioning her name, partly because
it might make him pity her, and partly because the love of another woman
for him seemed to diminish her pride of exclusive possession. She
therefore kept silence while seeking for a way to warn her lover without
revealing the truth, which might set him thinking of Ida Gulmore and her
fascinating because unrequited passion. At length she said:
"Mr. Gulmore has injured father. He knows him: you'd better take his
"Your father advises me to have nothing more to do with the election." He
didn't say it to try her; he trusted her completely. The girl's answer was
"Oh, that's what you should do; I'm frightened for you. Why need you make
enemies? The election isn't worth that, indeed it isn't. If father wants
to run for Mayor, let him; he knows what he's about. But you, you should
do great things, write a great book; and make every one as proud of you as
I am." Her face flushed with enthusiasm. She felt relieved, too; somehow
she had got into the spirit of her part once more. But her lover took the
hot face and eager speech as signs of affection, and he drew her to him
while his face lit up with joy.
"You darling, darling! You overrate me, dear, but that does me good: makes
me work harder. What a pity it is, May, that one can't add a cubit to his
stature. I'd be a giant then.... But never fear; it'll be all right. You
wouldn't wish me, I'm sure, to run away from a conflict I have provoked;
but now I must see my father about those debts, and then we'll have a
drive, or perhaps you'd go with me to him. You could wait in the buggy for
me. You know I have to speak again this evening."
The girl consented at once, but she was not satisfied with the decision
her lover had come to. "It's too plain," she thought in her clear,
common-sense way, "that he's getting into a 'fuss' when he might just as
well, or better, keep out of it."
May was eminently practical, and not at all as emotional as one might have
inferred from the sensitive, quick-changing colour that at one moment
flushed her cheeks and at another ebbed, leaving her pallid, as with
passion. Not that she was hardhearted or selfish. Far from it. But her
surroundings had moulded her as they do women. Her mother had been one of
the belles of Baltimore, a Southerner, too, by temperament. May had a
brother and a sister older than herself (both were now married), and a
younger brother who had taken care that she should not be spoiled for want
of direct personal criticism. It was this younger brother, Joe, who first
called her "Towhead," and even now he often made disparaging remarks about
"girls who didn't weigh 130"—in Joe's eyes, a Venus of Rubens would
have seemed perfect. May was not vain of her looks; indeed, she had only
come to take pleasure in them of recent years. As a young girl, comparing
herself with her mother, she feared that she would always be "quite
homely." Her glass and the attentions of men had gradually shown her the
pleasant truth. She did not, however, even now, overrate her beauty
greatly. But her character had been modified to advantage in those
schoolgirl days, when, with bitter tears, she admitted to herself that she
was not pretty. Her teacher's praise of her quickness and memory had
taught her to set her pride on learning. And indeed she had been an
intelligent child, gifted with a sponge-like faculty of assimilating all
kinds of knowledge—the result, perhaps, of generations of educated
forbears. The admiration paid to her looks did not cause her to relax her
intellectual efforts. But when at the University she found herself
outgrowing the ordinary standards of opinion, conceit at first took
possession of her. It seemed to her manifest that she had always
underrated herself. She was astonished by her own excessive modesty, and
keenly interested in it. She had thought herself ugly and she was
beautiful, and now it was evident that she was a genius as well. With soul
mightily uplifted by dreams of all she would do and the high part she
would play in life, always nobly serious, yet with condescension of
exquisite charming kindliness, taking herself gravely for a perfect
product of the race and time, she proceeded to write the book which should
discover to mankind all her qualities—the delicacy, nobility, and
sweetness of an ideal nature.
During this period she even tried to treat Joe with sweet courtesy, but
Joe told her not to make herself "more of a doggoned fool" than she was.
And soon the dream began to lose its brightness. The book would not
advance, and what she wrote did not seem to her wonderful—not
inspired and fascinating as it ought to have been. Her reading had given
her some slight critical insight. She then showed parts of it to her
admirers, hoping thus to justify vanity, but they used the occasion to pay
irrelevant compliments, and so disappointed her—all, save Will
Thornton, who admitted critically that "it was poetic" and guessed "she
ought to write poetry." Accordingly she wrote some lyrics, and one on
"Vanished Hopes" really pleased her. Forthwith she read it to Will, who
decided "'twas fine, mighty fine. Tennyson had written more, of course,
but nothing better—nothing easier to understand." That last phrase
killed her trust in him. She sank into despondence. Even when Ida Gulmore,
whom she had learned to dislike, began to outshine her in the class, she
made no effort. To graduate first of her year appeared a contemptible
ambition in comparison with the dreams she had foregone. About this period
she took a new interest in her dress; she grew coquettish even, and became
a greater favourite than ever. Then Professor Roberts came to the
University, and with his coming life opened itself to her anew, vitalized
with hopes and fears. She was drawn to him from the first, as spirit is
sometimes drawn to spirit, by an attraction so imperious that it
frightened her, and she tried to hold herself away from him. But in her
heart she knew that she studied and read only to win his praise. His
talents revealed to her the futility of her ambition. Here was one who
stood upon the heights beyond her power of climbing, and yet, to her
astonishment, he was very doubtful of his ability to gain enduring
reputation. Not only was there a plane of knowledge and feeling above the
conventional—that she had found out by herself—but there were
also table-lands where teachers of repute in the valley were held to be
blind guides. Her quick receptivity absorbed the new ideas with eagerness;
but she no longer deluded herself. Her practical good sense came to her
aid. What seemed difficult or doubtful to the Professor must, she knew, be
for ever impossible to her. And already love was upon her, making her
humility as sweet as was her admiration. At last he spoke, and life became
altogether beautiful to her. As she learned to know him intimately she
began to understand his unworldliness, his scholar-like idealism, and
ignorance of men and motives, and thus she came to self-possession again,
and found her true mission. She realized with joy, and a delightful sense
of an assured purpose in life, that her faculty of observation and
practical insight, though insufficient as "bases for Eternity," would be
of value to her lover. And if she now and then fell back into the part of
a nineteenth-century Antigone, it was but a momentary relapse into what
had been for a year or so a dear familiar habit. The heart of the girl
grew and expanded in the belief that her new rôle of counsellor and
worldly guide to her husband was the highest to which any woman could
A few days later Mr. Hutchings had another confidential talk with
Professor Roberts, and, as before, the subject was suggested by an article
in "The Republican Herald." This paper, indeed, devoted a column or so
every day to personal criticism of the Professor, and each attack
surpassed its forerunner in virulence of invective. All the young man's
qualities of character came out under this storm of unmerited abuse. He
read everything that his opponents put forth, replied to nothing, in spite
of the continual solicitation of the editor of "The Democrat," and seemed
very soon to regard "The Herald's" calumnies merely from the humorous
side. Meanwhile his own speeches grew in knowledge and vigour. With a
scholar's precision he put before his hearers the inner history and
significance of job after job. His powers of study helped him to "get up
his cases" with crushing completeness. He quickly realized the value of
catch-words, but his epigrams not being hardened in the fire of life
refused to stick. He did better when he published the balance-sheet of the
"ring" in pamphlet form, and showed that each householder paid about one
hundred and fifty dollars a year, or twice as much as all his legal taxes,
in order to support a party organization the sole object of which was to
enrich a few at the expense of the many. One job, in especial, the
contract for paving the streets, he stigmatized as a swindle, and asserted
that the District Attorney, had he done his duty, would long ago have
brought the Mayor and Town Council before a criminal court as parties to a
notorious fraud. His ability, steadfastness, and self-restraint had had a
very real effect; his meetings were always crowded, and his hearers were
not all Democrats. His courage and fighting power were beginning to win
him general admiration. The public took a lively though impartial interest
in the contest. To critical outsiders it seemed not unlikely that the
Professor (a word of good-humoured contempt) might "whip" even "old man
Gulmore." Bets were made on the result and short odds accepted. Even Mr.
Hutchings allowed himself to hope for a favourable issue.
"You've done wonderfully well," was the burden of his conversations with
Roberts; "I should feel certain of success against any one but Gulmore.
And he seems to be losing his head—his perpetual abuse excites
sympathy with you. If we win I shall owe it mainly to you."
But on this particular morning Lawyer Hutchings had something to say to
his friend and helper which he did not like to put into plain words. He
"You've seen the 'Herald'?"
"Yes; there's nothing in it of interest, is there?"
"No; but 'twas foolish of your father to write that letter saying you had
paid his Kentucky debts."
"I was sorry when I saw it. I know they'll say I got him to write the
letter. But it's only another incident."
"It's true, then? You did pay the money?"
"Yes; I was glad to."
"But it was folly. What had you to do with your father's debts? Every
house to-day should stand on its own foundation."
"I don't agree with you; but in this case there was no question of that
sort. My father very generously impoverished himself to send me to Europe
and keep me there for six years. I owed him the five thousand dollars, and
was only too glad to be able to repay him. You'd have done the same."
"Would I, indeed! Five thousand dollars! I'm not so sure of that." The
father's irritation conquered certain grateful memories of his younger
days, and the admiration which, in his heart, he felt for the Professor's
action, only increased his annoyance. "It must have nearly cleaned you
"Well, of course it's your affair, not mine; but I think you foolish. You
paid them in full, I suppose? Whew!
"Do you see that the 'Herald' calls upon the University authorities to
take action upon your lecture? 'The teaching of Christian youth by an
Atheist must be stopped,' and so forth."
"Yes; but they can do nothing. I'm not responsible to them for my
"You're mistaken. A vote of the Faculty can discharge you."
"Impossible! On what grounds?"
"On the ground of immorality. They've got the power in that case. It's a
loose word, but effective."
"I'd have a cause of action against them."
"Which you'd be sure to lose. Eleven out of every twelve jurymen in this
state would mulct an Agnostic rather than give him damages."
"Ah! that's the meaning, then, I suppose, of this notice I've just got
from the secretary to attend a special Faculty meeting on Monday
"Let me see it. Why, here it is! The object of the meeting is 'To consider
the anti-Christian utterances of Professor Roberts, and to take action
thereon.' That's the challenge. Didn't you read it?"
"No; as soon as I opened it and saw the printed form, I took it for the
usual notification, and put it aside to think of this election work. But
it would seem as if the Faculty intended to out-herald the 'Herald.'"
"They are simply allowed to act first in order that the 'Herald,' a day
later, may applaud them. It's all worked by Gulmore, and I tell you again,
"He may be; but I won't change for abuse, nor yet to keep my post. Let him
do his worst. I've not attacked him hitherto for certain reasons of my
own, nor do I mean to now. But he can't frighten me; he'll find that out."
"Well, we'll see. But, at any rate, it was my duty to warn you. It would
be different if I were rich, but, as it is, I can only give May a little,
"My dear Hutchings, don't let us talk of that. In giving me May, you give
me all I want." The young man's tone was so conclusive that it closed the
Mr. Gulmore had not been trained for a political career. He had begun life
as a clerk in a hardware store in his native town. But in his early
manhood the Abolition agitation had moved him deeply—the colour of
his skin, he felt, would never have made him accept slavery—and he
became known as a man of extreme views. Before he was thirty he had
managed to save some thousands of dollars. He married and emigrated to
Columbus, Ohio, where he set up a business. It was there, in the stirring
years before the war, that he first threw himself into politics; he
laboured indefatigably as an Abolitionist without hope or desire of
personal gain. But the work came to have a fascination for him, and he saw
possibilities in it of pecuniary emolument such as the hardware business
did not afford. When the war was over, and he found himself scarcely
richer than he had been before it began, he sold his store and emigrated
again—this time to Tecumseh, Nebraska, intending to make political
organization the business of his life. He wanted "to grow up" with a town
and become its master from the beginning. As the negroes constituted the
most ignorant and most despised class, a little solicitation made him
their leader. In the first election it was found that "Gulmore's negroes"
voted to a man, and that he thereby controlled the Republican party. In
the second year of his residence in Tecumseh he got the contract for
lighting the town with gas. The contract was to run for twenty years, and
was excessively liberal, for Mr. Gulmore had practically no competitor, no
one who understood gas manufacture, and who had the money and pluck to
embark in the enterprise. He quickly formed a syndicate, and fulfilled the
conditions of the contract. The capital was fixed at two hundred thousand
dollars, and the syndicate earned a profit of nearly forty per cent, in
the first year. Ten years later a one hundred dollar share was worth a
thousand. This first success was the foundation of Mr. Gulmore's fortune.
The income derived from the gas-works enabled him to spend money on the
organization of his party. The first manager of the works was rewarded
with the position of Town Clerk—an appointment which ran for five
years, but which under Mr. Gulmore's rule was practically permanent. His
foremen became the most energetic of ward-chairmen. He was known to pay
well, and to be a kind if strenuous master. What he had gained in ten
years by the various contracts allotted to him or his nominees no one
could guess; he was certainly very rich. From year to year, too, his
control of the city government had grown more complete. There was now no
place in the civil or judicial establishment of the city or county which
did not depend on his will, and his influence throughout the State was
A municipal election, or, indeed, any election, afforded Mr. Gulmore many
opportunities of quiet but intense self-satisfaction. He loved the
struggle and the consciousness that from his office-chair he had so
directed his forces that victory was assured. He always allowed a broad
margin in order to cover the unforeseen. Chance, and even ill-luck, formed
a part of his strategy; the sore throat of an eloquent speaker; the
illness of a popular candidate; a storm on polling-day—all were to
him factors in the problem. He reckoned as if his opponents might have all
the luck upon their side; but, while considering the utmost malice of
fortune, it was his delight to base his calculations upon the probable,
and to find them year by year approaching more nearly to absolute
exactitude. As soon as his ward-organization had been completed, he could
estimate the votes of his party within a dozen or so. His plan was to
treat every contest seriously, to bring all his forces to the poll on
every occasion—nothing kept men together, he used to say, like
victory. It was the number of his opponent's minority which chiefly
interested him; but by studying the various elections carefully, he came
to know better than any one the value as a popular candidate of every
politician in the capital, or, indeed, in the State. The talent of the man
for organization lay in his knowledge of men, his fairness and liberality,
and, perhaps, to a certain extent, in the power he possessed of inspiring
others with confidence in himself and his measures. He was never satisfied
till the fittest man in each ward was the Chairman of the ward; and if
money would not buy that particular man's services, as sometimes though
rarely happened, he never rested until he found the gratification which
bound his energy to the cause. Besides—and this was no small element
in his successes—his temper disdained the applause of the crowd. He
had never "run" for any office himself, and was not nearly so well known
to the mass of the electorate as many of his creatures. The senator, like
the mayor or office-messenger of his choice, got all the glory: Mr.
Gulmore was satisfied with winning the victory, and reaping the fruits of
it. He therefore excited, comparatively speaking, no jealousy; and this,
together with the strength of his position, accounts for the fact that he
had never been seriously opposed before Professor Roberts came upon the
Better far than Lawyer Hutchings, or any one else, Mr. Gulmore knew that
the relative strength of the two parties had altered vastly within the
year. Reckoning up his forces at the beginning of the campaign, he felt
certain that he could win—could carry his whole ticket, including a
rather unpopular Mayor; but the majority in his favour would be small, and
the prospect did not please him, for the Professor's speeches had aroused
envy. He understood that if his majority were not overwhelming he would be
assailed again next year more violently, and must in the long run
inevitably lose his power. Besides, "fat" contracts required
unquestionable supremacy. He began, therefore, by instituting such a
newspaper-attack upon the Professor as he hoped would force him to abandon
the struggle. When this failed, and Mr. Gulmore saw that it had done worse
than fail, that it had increased his opponent's energy and added to his
popularity, he went to work again to consider the whole situation. He must
win and win "big," that was clear; win too, if possible, in a way that
would show his "smartness" and demonstrate his adversary's ignorance of
the world. His anger had at length been aroused; personal rivalry was a
thing he could not tolerate at any time, and Roberts had injured his
position in the town. He was resolved to give the young man such a lesson
that others would be slow to follow his example.
The difficulty of the problem was one of its attractions. Again and again
he turned the question over in his mind—How was he to make his
triumph and the Professor's defeat sensational? All the factors were
present to him and he dwelt upon them with intentness. He was a man of
strong intellect; his mind was both large and quick, but its activity,
owing to want of education and to greedy physical desires, had been
limited to the ordinary facts and forces of life. What books are to most
persons gifted with an extraordinary intelligence, his fellow-men were to
Mr. Gulmore—a study at once stimulating and difficult, of an
incomparable variety and complexity. His lack of learning was of advantage
to him in judging most men. Their stock of ideas, sentiments and desires
had been his for years, and if he now viewed the patchwork quilt of their
morality with indulgent contempt, at least he was familiar with all the
constituent shades of it. But he could not make the Professor out—and
this added to his dislike of him; he recognized that Roberts was not, as
he had at first believed, a mere mouthpiece of Hutchings, but he could not
fathom his motives; besides, as he said to himself, he had no need to;
Roberts was plainly a "crank," book-mad, and the species did not interest
him. But Hutchings he knew well; knew that like himself Hutchings, while
despising ordinary prejudices, was ruled by ordinary greeds and ambitions.
In intellect they were both above the average, but not in morals. So, by
putting himself in the lawyer's place, a possible solution of the problem
occurred to him.
A couple of days before the election, Mr. Hutchings, who had been hard at
work till the evening among his chief subordinates, was making his way
homeward when Mr. Prentiss accosted him, with the request that he would
accompany him to his rooms for a few minutes on a matter of the utmost
importance. Having no good reason for refusing, Mr. Hutchings followed the
editor of the "Herald" up a flight of stairs into a large and comfortable
room. As he entered and looked about him Mr. Gulmore came forward:
"I wanted a talk with you, Lawyer, where we wouldn't be disturbed, and
Prentiss thought it would be best to have it here, and I guess he was
about right. It's quiet and comfortable. Won't you be seated?"
"Mr. Gulmore!" exclaimed the surprised lawyer stopping short. "I don't
think there's anything to be discussed between us, and as I'm in a hurry
to get home to dinner, I think I'll—"
"Don't you make any mistake," interrupted Mr. Gulmore; "I mean business—business
that'll pay both you and me, and I guess 'twon't do you any damage to take
a seat and listen to me for a few minutes."
As Lawyer Hutchings, overborne by the authority of the voice and manner,
sat down, he noticed that Mr. Prentiss had disappeared. Interpreting
rightly the other's glance, Mr. Gulmore began:
"We're alone, Hutchin's. This matter shall be played fair and square. I
guess you know that my word can be taken at its face-value." Then,
settling himself in his chair, he went on:
"You and I hev been runnin' on opposite tickets for a good many years, and
I've won right along. It has paid me to win and it has not paid you to
lose. Now, it's like this. You reckon that those Irishmen on the line give
you a better show. They do; but not enough to whip me. You appear to think
that that'll have to be tried the day after tomorrow, but you ought to
know by now that when I say a thing is so, it's so—every time. If
you had a chance, I'd tell you: I'm playin' square. I ken carry my ticket
from one end to the other; I ken carry Robinson as Mayor against you by at
least two hundred and fifty of a majority, and the rest of your ticket has
just no show at all—you know that. But, even if you could get in
this year or next what good would it do you to be Mayor? You're not
runnin' for the five thousand dollars a year salary, I reckon, and that's
about all you'd get—unless you worked with me. I want a good Mayor,
a man like you, of position and education, a fine speaker that knows
everybody and is well thought of—popular. Robinson's not good enough
for me; he hain't got the manners nor the knowledge, nor the popularity.
I'd have liked to have had you on my side right along. It would have been
better for both of us, but you were a Democrat, an' there wasn't any
necessity. Now there is. I want to win this election by a large majority,
an' you ken make that sartin. You see I speak square. Will you join me?"
The question was thrown out abruptly. Mr. Gulmore had caught a gleam in
the other's eye as he spoke of a good Mayor and his qualifications. "He
bites, I guess," was his inference, and accordingly he put the question at
Mr. Hutchings, brought to himself by the sudden interrogation, hesitated,
and decided to temporize. He could always refuse to join forces, and
Gulmore might "give himself away." He answered:
"I don't quite see what you mean. How are we to join?"
"By both of us givin' somethin'."
"What am I to give?"
"Withdraw your candidature for Mayor as a Democrat."
"I can't do that."
"Jest hear me out. The city has advertised for tenders for a new Court
House and a new Town Hall. The one building should cover both, and be near
the middle of the business part. That's so—ain't it? Well, land's
hard to get anywhere there, and I've the best lots in the town. I guess"
(carelessly) "the contract will run to a million dollars; that should mean
two hundred thousand dollars to some one. It's like this, Hutchin's: Would
you rather come in with me and make a joint tender, or run for Mayor and
Mr. Hutchings started. Ten years before the proposal would have won him.
But now his children were provided for——all except Joe, and
his position as Counsel to the Union Pacific Railroad lifted him above
pecuniary anxieties. Then the thought of the Professor and May came to him—No!
he wouldn't sell himself. But in some strange way the proposition excited
him; he felt elated. His quickened pulse-beats prevented him from
realizing the enormity of the proposed transaction, but he knew that he
ought to be indignant. What a pity it was that Gulmore had made no
proposal which he might have accepted—and then disclosed!
"If I understand you, you propose that I should take up this contract, and
make money out of it. If that was your business with me, you've made a
mistake, and Professor Roberts is right."
"Hev I?" asked Mr. Gulmore slowly, coldly, in sharp contrast to the
lawyer's apparent excitement and quick speech. Contemptuously he thought
that Hutchings was "foolisher" than he had imagined—or was he
sincere? He would have weighed this last possibility before speaking, if
the mention of Roberts had not angered him. His combativeness made him
"If you don't want to come in with me, all you've got to do is to say so.
You've no call to get up on your hind legs about it; it's easy to do
settin'. But don't talk poppycock like that Professor; he's silly. He
talks about the contract for street pavin', and it ken be proved—'twas
proved in the 'Herald'—that our streets cost less per foot than the
streets of any town in this State. He knows nothin'. He don't even know
that an able man can make half a million out of a big contract, an' do the
work better than an ordinary man could do it who'd lose money by it. At a
million our Court House'll be cheap; and if the Professor had the contract
with the plans accordin' to requirement to-morrow, he'd make nothin' out
of it—not a red cent. No, sir. If I ken, that's my business—and
yours, ain't it? Or, are we to work for nothin' because he's a fool?"
While Mr. Gulmore was speaking, Mr. Hutchings gave himself to thought.
After all, why was he running for Mayor? The place, as Gulmore said, would
be of no use to him. He was weary of fighting which only ended in defeat,
and could only end in a victory that would be worthless. Mayor, indeed! If
he had a chance of becoming a Member of Congress, that would be different.
And across his brain flitted the picture so often evoked by imagination in
earlier years. Why not? Gulmore could make it certain. Would he?
"What you say seems plausible enough, but I don't see my way. I don't feel
inclined to go into business at my time of life."
"You don't need to go into the business. I'll see to that."
"No. I don't need money now particularly."
"Next year, Hutchin's, I'll have a better man than Robinson against you.
Lawyer Nevilson's as good as ken be found, I reckon, and he wouldn't
refuse to join me if I gave him the chance." But while he was speaking,
Mr. Gulmore kept his opponent's answer in view. He considered it
thoughtfully; "I don't need money now particularly." What did the man
need? Congress? As a Republican? That would do as well. When Mr. Hutchings
shook his head, careless of the menace, Mr. Gulmore made up his mind. His
obstinacy came out; he would win at any price. He began:
"It's what I said at first, Hutchin's; we've each got to give what the
other wants. I've told you what I want; tell me squarely what you want,
an' p'r'aps the thing ken be settled."
As Mr. Hutchings did not answer at once, the Boss went on:
"You're in politics for somethin'. What is it? If you're goin' to buck
agen me, you might as well draw out; you'll do no good. You know that. See
here! Is it the State Legislature you're after, or—Congress?"
The mere words excited Mr. Hutchings; he wanted to be back again in the
East as a victor; he longed for the cultivated amenities and the social
life of Washington. He could not help exclaiming:
"Ah! if it hadn't been for you I'd have been in Congress long ago."
"As a Democrat? Not from this State, I guess."
"What does it matter? Democrat or Republican, the difference now is only
in the name."
"The price is high, Hutchin's. I ask you to give up runnin' for Mayor, and
you ask me for a seat in Congress instead. But—I'll pay it, if you
do as I say. You've no chance in this State as a Democrat; you know that
yourself. To run for Mayor as a Democrat hurts you; that must stop right
now—in your own interest. But what I want from you is that you don't
announce your withdrawal till the day after to-morrow, an' meantime you
say nothin' to the Professor or any one else. Are you agreed?"
Mr. Hutchings paused. The path of his desire lay open before him; the
opportunity was not to be missed; he grew eager. But still there was
something disagreeable in an action which demanded secrecy. He must think
coolly. What was the proposal? What was he giving? Nothing. He didn't wish
to be Mayor with Gulmore and all the City Council against him. Nothing—except
the withdrawal on the very morning of the election. That would look bad,
but he could pretend illness, and he had told the Professor he didn't care
to be Mayor; he had advised him not to mix in the struggle; besides,
Roberts would not suspect anything, and if he did there'd be no shadow of
proof for a long time to come. In the other scale of the balance he had
Gulmore's promise: it was trustworthy, he knew, but—:
"Do you mean that you'll run me for the next term and get me elected?"
"I'll do all I know, and I guess you'll succeed."
"I have nothing but your word."
Again Mr. Hutchings paused. To accept definitively would be dangerous if
the conversation had had listeners. It was characteristic of the place and
time that he could suspect a man of laying such a trap, upon whose word he
was prepared to rely. Mr. Gulmore saw and understood his hesitation:
"I said we were alone, Hutchin's, and I meant it. Jest as I say now, if
you withdraw and tell no one and be guided by me in becoming a Republican,
I'll do what I ken to get you into Congress," and as he spoke he stood up.
Mr. Hutchings rose, too, and said, as if in excuse: "I wanted to think it
over, but I'm agreed. I'll do as you say," and with a hurried "Good
night!" he left the room.
Mr. Gulmore returned to his chair and lit a cigar. He was fairly satisfied
with the result of his efforts. His triumph over the Professor would not
be as flagrant, perhaps, as if Hutchin's' name had been linked with his in
a city contract; but, he thought with amusement, every one would suspect
that he had bought the lawyer for cash. What a fool the man was! What did
he want to get into Congress for? Weak vanity! He'd have no weight there.
To prefer a seat in Congress to wealth—silly. Besides, Hutchin's
would be a bad candidate. Of course the party name would cover anythin'.
But what a mean skunk! Here Mr. Gulmore's thoughts reverted to himself.
Ought he to keep his word and put such a man into Congress? He hated to
break a promise. But why should he help the Professor's father-in-law to
power? Wall, there was no hurry. He'd make up his mind later. Anyway, the
Professor'd have a nice row to hoe on the mornin' of the election, and
Boss Gulmore'd win and win big, an' that was the point. The laugh would be
on the Professor—
On the morning of the election Professor Roberts was early afoot. He felt
hopeful, light-hearted, and would not confess even to himself that his
good spirits were due chiefly to the certainty that in another twelve
hours his electioneering would be at an end. The work of canvassing and
public speaking had become very disagreeable to him. The mere memory of
the speeches he had listened to, had left, as it were, an unpleasant
aftertaste. How the crowds had cheered the hackneyed platitudes, the
blatant patriotic appeals, the malevolent caricature of opponents!
Something unspeakably trivial, vulgar, and evil in it all reminded him of
tired children when the romping begins to grow ill-natured.
And if the intellectual side of the struggle had been offensive, the moral
atmosphere of the Committee Rooms, infected as it was by the candidates,
had seemed to him to be even worse—mephitic, poisonous. He had
shrunk from realizing the sensations which had been forced upon him there—a
recoil of his nature as from unappeasable wild-beast greeds, with their
attendant envy, suspicion, and hatred seething like lava under the thin
crust of a forced affability, of a good-humour assumed to make deception
easy. He did not want to think of it; it was horrible. And perhaps, after
all, he was mistaken; perhaps his dislike of the work had got upon his
nerves, and showed him everything in the darkest colours. It could
scarcely be as bad as he thought, or human society would be impossible.
But argument could not blunt the poignancy of his feelings; he preferred,
therefore, to leave them inarticulate, striving to forget. In any case,
the ordeal would soon be over; it had to be endured for a few hours more,
and then he would plunge into his books again, and enjoy good company, he
and May together.
He was still lingering over this prospect when the servant came to tell
him that some gentlemen were waiting for him, and he found in the
sitting-room half-a-dozen of his favourite students. One of the Seniors,
named Cartrell, a young man of strong figure, and keen, bold face,
remarked, as he shook hands, that they had come to accompany him—"Elections
are sometimes rough, and we know the ropes." Roberts thanked them warmly,
and they set off.
The Committee Rooms of the Democratic party were situated near the Court
House, in what had been once the centre, but was now the edge of the town.
The little troop had to pass through the negro quarter—small
frame-houses, peppered over grassless, bare lots, the broken-down fences
protesting against unsociable isolation. The Rooms, from the outside,
reminded one of a hive of angry bees. In and out of the door men were
hurrying, and a crowd swarmed on the side-walk talking in a loud, excited
hum. As soon as the Professor was recognized, a silence of astonishment
fell upon the throng. With stares of curiosity they drew aside to let him
enter. Slightly surprised by the reception, the Professor passed into the
chief room. At a table in the middle a man was speaking in a harsh, loud
voice—one Simpson, a popular orator, who had held aloof from the
meetings of the party. He was saying:
"It's a put-up game between them, but the question is, who's to go on the
As Simpson's eyes met those of Roberts he stopped speaking.
"Good morning, gentlemen. Please continue, Mr. Simpson; I hope I'm not
The Professor did not like Mr. Simpson. The atrabilious face, the bitter,
thin lips, and grey eyes veined with yellow, reminded him indefinably of a
wild beast. Mr. Simpson seemed to take the courteous words as a challenge.
Drawing his wiry figure up he said, with insult in voice and manner:
"Perhaps you've come to nominate a Mayor; we'd all like to know your
"I don't understand you."
The Professor's tone was frank, his sincerity evident, but Simpson went
"Don't ye? Perhaps Hutchin's has sent you to say, as he's sick it'd be
well to run Robinson on both tickets—eh?"
"I don't know what you mean. I expected to meet Mr. Hutchings here. Is he
"He'll get well soon, I reckon; but after taking a perscription from
Gulmore, he's mighty bad and can't leave the house."
"What do you mean?"
"I mean that Hutchings has withdrawn his candidature as Mayor. I mean that
the 'Herald' has the announcin' of it. I mean it's a put-up job between
him and Gulmore to ruin the Democratic party in this town. I mean—"
As the Professor drew back in amazement, young Cartrell stepped in front
of him and addressed Simpson:
"What proof have you of what you say?"
"Proof! Proof enough. Does an honest man resign a candidature on the
morning of an election, and give the other side the news before his own
The interruption had given Roberts time for reflection. He felt that
Simpson's facts must be right. It was characteristic of him that his first
thought was, Had Hutchings withdrawn in order to save him from further
attacks? No. If he had he'd have told him before the event. A sort of
nausea overpowered him as he remembered that Hutchings had related how
Gulmore had bought Patrick Byrne—and now he, too, had sold himself.
As in a flash Hutchings' weakness of fibre was laid bare to him. "That's
the reason I couldn't find him yesterday." His heart sank within him. "How
could Hutchings have been so—?" With the belief in the lawyer's
guilt came the understanding that he too was concerned, suspected even.
Disgust of traitorism, conscious innocence impelled him to clear himself—but
how? To his surprise he found that companionship with these men had given
him some insight into their character. He put the question to Simpson:
"Can anything be done now?"
The steadiness of the tone, the resolve in his face, excited a certain
curiosity. Shrugging his shoulders, Simpson replied:
"We've not got a candidate. It's too late to get the party together. New
tickets'd have to be printed. I—"
"Will you accept the candidature?" Reading the man at once, Roberts turned
to the others: "Gentlemen, I hope some one will second me; I nominate Mr.
Simpson as Mayor, and propose that his name should be substituted for that
of Mr. Hutchings. To show that I'm in earnest I'll contribute five hundred
dollars towards the expense of printing the tickets."
The Professor's offer of money seemed to exercise a magical influence upon
the crowd; the loud tones, the provocative rudeness of speech and bearing,
disappeared at once; the men began to show him the respect of attention,
and Mr. Simpson was even quicker than the rest in changing his attitude—perhaps
because he hoped to gain more than they did.
"I had no idee," he began, "but if the Committee thinks I oughter run I've
no objection. I hain't ever cared for office, but I'm a party-man, an'
what the party wants me to do I'll do every time. I'm a Democrat right
through. I guess Lawyer Hutchin's has gone back on us, but that's not your
fault, Professor, and five hundred dollars—an' your work will do a
pile. The folk all like you an'—respect you an'—"
Roberts looked at the man; his offer had been a movement of indignant
contempt, and yet it had succeeded. He could have laughed; the key to the
enigma was in his hands; these men answered to the motive of self-interest
as a ship answers to the helm, and yet—how revolting it all was! The
next moment he again banished reflection.
"I'll go and get the money, and return as soon as possible. In the
meantime, perhaps you, Mr. Simpson, will see that the printing is begun
without delay. Then if you'll tell us what polling-stations need
superintendence, my friends and I will do our best."
The appeal found an immediate response—in a few minutes order and
energetic work had taken the place of the former angry excitement and
To Professor Roberts the remainder of the day was one whirl of restless
labour; he hastened from one polling-station to another, and when the
round was completed drove to the Central Rooms, where questions had to be
answered, and new arrangements made without time for thought. Then he was
off again on his hurried round as canvasser. One incident, however, made a
definite impression upon him. Returning for the second or third time to
the Central Rooms he found himself in a crowd of Irish labourers who had
come in deference to priestly bidding to record their votes. Mr.
Hutchings' retirement had excited their native suspiciousness; they felt
that they had been betrayed, and yet the peremptory orders they had
received must be followed. The satisfaction of revolt being denied to
them, their anger became dangerous. Professor Roberts faced them quietly;
he soon saw that they were sincere, or were playing the part of sincerity;
he therefore spoke for the cause, for the party to which they belonged;
surely they wouldn't abandon the struggle because a leader had deserted
them! His words and manner; his appeal to their combativeness; his
earnestness and good temper were successful. The storm of invective
gradually subsided, and although one or two, for the sake of a row, sought
to insult him, they did not go to extremes in face of the resolute
disapprobation of the American party-leaders. Loyalty to their shibboleth
was beginning to draw them, still grumbling and making use of expressive
imprecations, on the way to the nearest polling-station, when one of their
leaders drew Professor Roberts aside, and asked him:
"Are the bhoys to have nothin' for their throuble? Half a day they'll
lose, so they will—a dollar each now would be no more than fair—"
The Professor shook his head; he was not rich, he said, and had already
spent more money in the contest than he could afford.
"Be gob, it's poor worruk this talkin' an' votin' for us that gets nothin'
by it"—the phrase stuck in his memory as illustrating the paltry
baseness of the whole affair. It was with a sense of relief that he threw
himself again into the turmoil that served to deaden thought. As the day
wore towards evening he became conscious of fatigue, a weariness that was
not of the body alone, but of the head and heart. After the closing of the
polls he returned to the Central Rooms. They were filled with an
enthusiastic crowd, most of whom professed to believe that the Democratic
party had won all along the line. Roberts found it hard to bear their
self-gratulation and the exuberance of their triumph, but when Simpson
began to take the liberties of comradeship with him, the cup ran over. He
cut the man short with a formally polite phrase, and betook himself to his
house. He would not think even of May; her image brought him face to face
with her father; and he wanted rest.
In the morning the Professor awoke with a feeling of utter depression.
Before he opened the paper he was sure that his hopelessness had been
justified. He was right—Gulmore had carried his whole ticket, and
Simpson had been beaten by a majority of more than a thousand. The
Democratic organ did not scruple to ascribe the defeat to the fact that
Lawyer Hutchings had sold his party. The simulated indignation of the
journalist found expression in phrases which caricatured the simplicity of
sincere condemnation. "Never did shameless corruption...." Roberts could
not read the stuff. Yet the feigned passion and tawdry rhetoric in some
way stirred up his bile; he would see Hutchings and—but if he
unpacked his heart's bitterness upon her father, he would hurt May. He
must restrain himself; Hutchings would understand from his manner, and May
would be sympathetic—as she always was.
Another thought exasperated him afresh. His idealism had made him
ridiculous in the eyes of the townsfolk. He had spent money he could ill
spare in a hopeless cause, which was not even a worthy one. And now
everybody was laughing at him or sneering—he grew hot with shame.
That his motives were honourable only heightened the ludicrousness of his
action: it seemed as if he had made a fool of himself. He almost wished
that he had left the Democrats to their own devices. But no! he had done
the right, and that was the main point. The sense of failure, however,
robbed him of confidence in regard to the future. How should he act? Since
high motives were ineffectual, Quixotic, ought he to discard them and come
down to the ordinary level? 'Twould be better not to live at all. The
half-life of a student, a teacher, dwelling apart from the world, would be
preferable to such degradation; but——
The situation appeared to him to be so difficult that as soon as he had
taken his breakfast he went out for a walk away from the town in order to
avoid importunate visits, and to decide upon a course of conduct. The air
and exercise invigorated him; the peace and solitude of the prairie, the
beauty of earth and sky, the unconsciousness of nature consoled him,
reduced his troubles to relative unimportance, and allowed him to regain
Even his ideas in regard to Hutchings underwent a change. After all it was
not his part to condemn; his indignation owed its heat to baffled egotism
and paltry vanity. When the personal element was abstracted from the
causes of his vexation, what remained? Were Hutchings a figure in history,
would he judge him with the same intolerance? No; weakness, corruptibility
even, would then excite no harsher feeling than a sort of amused contempt.
The reflection mitigated his anger. He began to take an intellectual
pleasure in the good-humoured acceptance of the wrong inflicted upon him.
Plato was right, it was well to suffer injustice without desiring to
retaliate. He had yet to learn that just as oil only smoothes the surface
of waves, so reason has merely a superficial effect upon character.
Early in the afternoon he made his way to May's home. According to his
habit he passed by the servant-girl and entered the study—to find
himself face to face with the lawyer.
The shock of disappointment and a certain latent antagonism caused him to
speak with a directness which was in itself discourteous.
"Is Miss May in? I wished to see her." After a momentary pause he added,
with a tinge of sarcasm, "Your illness wasn't serious, I see."
Mr. Hutchings was not taken by surprise; he had prepared for this meeting,
and had resolved to defend himself. The task, he believed, would be easy.
He had almost persuaded himself that he had acted in the Professor's
interest. Roberts was singularly unworldly; he might accept the
explanation, and if he didn't—what did it matter? His own brighter
prospects filled him with a sense of triumph; in the last three days his
long-repressed vanity had shot up to self-satisfaction, making him callous
to what Roberts or any one else might think. But the sneer in his
visitor's words stung him, induced him to throw off the mask of illness
which he had intended to assume. He replied with an indifference that was
"No; I wasn't well yesterday, but I'm better now, though I shall keep
indoors for a day or two. A chill, I suppose."
Receiving no answer, he found relief in complete boldness.
"You see my prediction as to the result of the election has been
"You might even say pars magna fui."
The retort slipped out. The impudent challenge had to be met. The
Professor did not realize how contemptuously he spoke.
The womanish weakness in Hutchings sprang to hurried attack.
"At any rate you've no cause for reproach. I resigned chiefly to shield
you. I told you long ago that I didn't want particularly to be Mayor, and
the assault upon your position in the University decided me. There was no
way to save your place except by giving Gulmore the victory he wanted.
You're engaged to May, and May is fond of you: I'm not rich, and a post of
three thousand dollars a year is not often to be found by a young man.
What would you do if you were dismissed? I had to—sacrifice myself.
Not that it matters much, but I've got myself into a fuss with the party,
injured myself all round on your account, and then you talk as if you had
some reason to be offended. That's hardly right, Professor." The lawyer
was satisfied with his case; his concluding phrase built a bridge for a
"You wish me to believe that you resigned at the last moment without
telling me of your intention in order to further my interests?" Mr.
Hutchings was disagreeably shocked by the disdainful, incredulous
question; Roberts was harder to blind than he had supposed; his
indignation became more than half sincere.
"I didn't make up my mind till the last minute—I couldn't. It wasn't
easy for me to leave the party I've fought with for ten years. And the
consequences don't seem likely to be pleasant to me. But that doesn't
signify. This discussion is useless. If you'll take my advice you'll think
of answering the charge that will be brought against you in the Faculty
meeting, instead of trying to get up a groundless accusation against me."
The menace in the words was not due solely to excitement and ill-temper.
Mr. Hutchings had been at pains to consider all his relations with the
Professor. He had hoped to deceive him, at least for the moment, and gain
time—postpone a painful decision. He had begun to wish that the
engagement between Roberts and May might be broken off. In six months or a
year he would have to declare himself on Gulmore's side; the fact would
establish his complicity, and he had feared what he now knew, that Roberts
would be the severest of critics—an impossible son-in-law. Besides,
in the East, as the daughter of a Member of Congress, May might command a
high position—with her looks she could marry any one—while
Roberts would be dismissed or compelled to resign his post. A young man
without a career who would play censor upon him in his own house was not
to be thought of. The engagement must be terminated. May could be brought
The Professor did not at once grasp the situation in so far as he himself
was concerned. But he divined the cause of the lawyer's irritability, and
refrained from pushing the argument further. The discussion could, indeed,
serve no purpose, save to embitter the quarrel. He therefore answered
"I didn't come here to dispute with you. I came to see May. Is she in?"
"No, I think not. I believe she went out some time ago."
"In that case I'll go home. Perhaps you'll tell her I called. Good day."
As the Professor left the house his depression of the morning returned
upon him. He was dissatisfied with himself. He had intended to show no
anger, no resentment, and, nevertheless, his temper had run away with him.
He recognized that he had made a grave mistake, for he was beginning to
foresee the consequences of it. Trained to severe thinking, but
unaccustomed to analyze motives, the full comprehension of Hutchings'
attitude and its probable effects upon his happiness only came to him
gradually, but it came at length so completely that he could remember the
very words of the foregoing conversation, and recall the tones of the
voices. He could rebuild the puzzle; his understanding of it, therefore,
must be the true one. The irrationality of the defence was a final proof
that the lawyer had played him false. "Hutchings sold himself—most
likely for place. He didn't fear a quarrel with me—that was evident;
perhaps he wishes to get rid of me—evident, too. He believes that I
shall be dismissed, or else he wouldn't have laid stress upon the
importance of my keeping my position. When I spoke of May he was curt. And
the explanation? He has wronged me. The old French proverb holds true,
'The offender seldom forgives.' He'll probably go on to harm me further,
for I remind him of his vileness. This, then, is life, not as I imagined
it, but as it is, and such creatures as Hutchings are human beings. Well,
after all, it is better to know the truth than to cheat oneself with a
mirage. I shall appreciate large natures with noble and generous impulses
better, now that I know how rare they are."
In his room he found May awaiting him. Across his surprise and joy there
came an intense admiration of her, a heart-pang of passionate gratitude.
As she moved towards him her incommunicable grace of person and manner
completed the charm. The radiant gladness of the eyes; the outstretched
hands; the graceful form, outlined in silver-grey; the diadem of
honey-coloured hair; something delicate yet courageous, proud yet tender
in her womanhood remained with him ever afterwards.
"Ah, May!" The word seemed to bring joy and tingling life to his
half-numbed heart. He seized her hands and drew her to him, and kissed her
on the hair, and brows, and eyes with an abandonment of his whole nature,
such as she had never before known in him. All her shyness, her uneasiness
vanished in the happiness of finding that she had so pleased him, and
mingled with this joy was a new delightful sense of her own power. When
released from his embrace she questioned him by a look. His emotion
"My love," he said, kissing her hands, "how good of you to come to me, how
sweet and brave you are to wait for me here! I was growing weak with fear
lest I should lose you, too, in the general wreck. And you came and sat
here for me patiently—Darling!"
There was a mingling of self-surrender and ruffled pride in her smiling
"Lose me? What do you mean? I waited for you last night, sir, and all this
weary morning, till I could wait no longer; I had to find you. I would
have stayed at home till you came; I meant to, but father startled me: he
said he was afraid you'd lose your place as Professor in spite of all he
had done for you. 'Twas good of him, wasn't it, to give up running for
Mayor, so as not to embitter Gulmore against you? I was quite proud of
him. But you won't lose your post, will you? Has anything serious
He paused to think, but he could not see any way to avoid telling her the
truth. Disappointments had so huddled upon him, the insight he had won
into human nature was so desolating that his heart ached for sympathy and
affection. He loved her; she was to be his wife; how could he help winning
her to his side? Besides, her words voiced his own fears—her father
had already begun to try to part them. She must know all and judge. But
how? Should he give her "The Tribune" to read? No—it was vindictive.
"Come and sit down, May, and I'll tell you what happened yesterday. You
shall judge for yourself whether I was right or wrong."
He told her, point by point, what had occurred. May listened in silence
till he stopped.
"But why did he resign? What could he gain by that?"
While she was speaking a thought crimsoned her cheeks; she had found the
key to the enigma. Three nights before her father had talked of Washington
and the East with a sort of exultation. At the time she had not paid much
attention to this, though it had struck her as very different from his
habit. Now the peculiarity of it confirmed her suspicion. In some way or
other his action in resigning was connected with his inexplicable high
spirits. A wave of indignation swept over her. Not that she felt the
disgust which had sickened the Professor when he first heard of the
traitorism. He had condemned Mr. Hutchings on the grounds of public
morality; May's anger was aroused because her father had sought to deceive
her; had tried by lying suggestion to take credit to himself,
"I wouldn't have believed it," she murmured, with the passionate revolt of
youth against mean deceit. "I can never forgive him or trust him again."
"Don't let us talk of it any more, dear. I wouldn't have told you only I
was afraid that he would try to separate us. Now I know you are on my side
I wouldn't have you judge him harshly."
"On your side," she repeated, with a certain exaltation of manner. "On
your side always in spite of everything. I feel for you more intensely
than for myself." In a lower voice and with hesitating speech she added:
"Did he—did he tell you that he resigned on your account?"
"And you're not angry?"
"No." He smiled slightly. "I understand men better now than I did
yesterday. That's all."
"Oh, but you ought to be mad. I am. How can you—"
"Let us talk, dear, of what concerns us more. Have you heard anything?
From what your father said I half fear that the meeting to-morrow may go
against me. Has no one called?"
"Professor Krazinski. I saw his card on the table when I came in. You
think it's a bad sign that he's the only one?"
"I'm afraid so. It may be merely anxiety, but I'm growing suspicious of
every one now. I catch myself attributing low motives to men without
reason. That electioneering has infected me. I hate myself for it, but I
can't help it; I loathe the self-seeking and the vileness. I'd rather not
know men at all than see them as they've shown themselves lately. I want
to get away and rinse my mouth out and forget all about it—away
somewhere with you, my sweet love."
"But you mustn't let them condemn you without an effort." While speaking
she put her hand on his shoulder and moved close to him. "It might injure
us later. And you know you can persuade them if you like. No one can
listen to you without being won over. And I want you to keep your post;
you love teaching and you're the best teacher in the world, ah—"
He put his arms round her, and she bowed her head on his neck, that he
might not see the gathering tears.
"You're right, dear. I spoke hastily. I'll do my best. It won't be as bad
as we think. My colleagues are men of some education and position. They're
not like the crowd of ignorant voters and greedy place-hunters; they'll
listen to reason, and"—half bitterly—"they've no motive to do
me wrong. Besides, Krazinski has called, and I scarcely know him; perhaps
the others didn't think of coming. It was kind of him, wasn't it? I'm very
grateful to him. He must be a good fellow."
"What has he done so wonderful? Oh, my!"—and she turned her face up
to his with half-laughing deprecation—"I'm afraid I'm deteriorating
too. I can't hear you praise any one now without feeling horribly jealous.
Yes, he must be good. But don't be too grateful to him, or—I must be
going now, and, oh! what a long time it'll be until to-morrow! I shall
have grown old before—to-morrow."
"Sweetheart! You'll come here and wait for me in the afternoon, won't you?
I shall want to see you so much."
"Yes, if you like; but I intended to go up to the University—mayn't
I? It'll seem ages—aeons—waiting here by myself."
"The meeting will not last long, and I'll come to you as soon as it's
over. Darling, you don't know how much you have helped me. You have given
me courage and hope," and he folded her in his arms.
Mr. Gulmore liked to spend his evenings with his wife and daughter. It
amused him to hear what they had been doing during the day. Their gossip
had its value; sentimental or spiteful, it threw quaint sidelights upon
character. On the evening before the Faculty meeting Ida was bending over
a book, while Mr. Gulmore smoked, and watched her. His daughter was
somewhat of a puzzle to him still, and when occasion offered he studied
her. "Where does she get her bitterness from? I'm not bitter, an' I had
difficulties, was poor an' ignorant, had to succeed or go under, while she
has had everythin' she wanted. It's a pity she ain't kinder...."
Presently Mrs. Gulmore put away her work and left the room. Taking up the
thread of a conversation that had been broken off by his wife's presence,
Mr. Gulmore began:
"I don't say Roberts'll win, Ida. The bettin''s the other way; but I'm not
sure, for I don't know the crowd. He may come out on top, though I hev
noticed that young men who run into their first fight and get badly
whipped ain't likely to fight desperate the second time.—Grit's half
"I wish I could be there to see him beaten!" Ida had tried to turn
her wounded pride into dislike, and was succeeding. "I hate to feel he's
in the same town with us—the coward!"
At this moment Mrs. Gulmore re-entered the room.
"To think of it! Sal left the gas-stove flarin'. I made her get up and
come downstairs to put it out. That'll learn her! Of all the careless,
shiftless creatures, these coloured people are the worst. Come, Ida, it's
long after nine, and I'm tired. You can read in your bedroom if you want
After the usual "good night" and kisses, Ida went upstairs. While Mrs.
Gulmore busied herself putting "things straight," Mr. Gulmore sat
"She takes after her mother in everythin', but she has more pride. It's
that makes her bitter. She's jest like her—only prettier. The same
peaky nose, pointed chin, little thin ears set close to her head, fine
hair—the Yankee school-marm. First-rate managin' women; the best
wives in the world to keep a house an' help a man on. But they hain't got
sensuality enough to be properly affectionate."
On the following afternoon Roberts stopped before the door of his house
and looked back towards the University. There on the crest of the hill
stood the huge building of bluish-grey stone with the round tower of the
observatory in the middle—like a mallet with a stubby handle in the
While gazing thus a shrill voice reached him, the eager treble of a
"Great Scandal!" he heard—and then "Scandal in the University! Full
Report! Only five cents! Five cents for the 'Herald's' Special!"
He hastened to the gate and beckoned to the little figure in the distance.
His thoughts were whirling. What did it mean? Could the "Herald" have
issued a special edition with the report of the meeting? Impossible! there
wasn't time for that. Yet, he had walked leisurely with Krazinski, and
newspapers did wonders sometimes. Wonders! 'twould be a breach of
confidence. There was an honourable understanding that no one should
divulge what took place in a Faculty meeting. "Honourable" and Gulmore—the
two words wouldn't go together. Could it be?
A glance at the contents-bill brought a flush to his face. He gave a
quarter for the sheet, and as the boy fumbled for change he said, taking
hold of the bill:
"I want this too; you can keep the rest of the money," and hurried into
May met him at the door of the sitting-room, but did not speak, while he
opened out the paper, and in silence showed her the six columns,
containing a verbatim report of the meeting.
"What do you think of that?" he asked, and without waiting for an answer
he spread the contents-bill upon the table.
"This is better," he went on, bitterly. "Read this!" And she read:
RUCTIONS IN LEARNING'S HOME.
THE PRESIDENT'S FLANK ATTACK.
FOURS TO A PAIR.
THE PAGAN RETIRES AND THE POLE.
"Oh, the brutes! How could they?" May exclaimed. "But what does it mean?"
"You have it all there," he said, touching the bill; "all in two or three
lines of cheerful insult, as is our American fashion. In spite of the
opinion of every leading lawyer in the State, sixteen—fanatics, to
give them the benefit of the doubt, voted that a disbelief in Christian
dogma was the same thing as 'open immorality.' The Father of Lies made
"Did no one vote for you?"
"Two, Krazinski and some one else, I think 'twas little Black, and two
papers were blank. But fancy the President speaking against me, though he
has a casting-vote. All he could say was that the parents were the only
proper judges of what a student should be taught. Let us grant that; I may
have been mistaken, wrong, if you like; but my fault was not 'open
immorality,' as specified in the Statute. They lied against me, those
May sympathized too keenly with his indignation to think of trying to
allay it; she couldn't help asking, "What did you do after the voting?"
"What could I do? I had had enough of such opponents. I told them that if
they dismissed me I'd take the case into the courts, where at the worst
their reading of the words 'open immorality' would be put upon record, and
my character freed from stain. But, if they chose to rescind their vote I
said I was willing to resign."
"They accepted that?"
"Krazinski forced them to. He told them some home-truths. They dared not
face the law courts lest it should come out that the professorships were
the rewards of sectarian bigotry. He went right through the list, and
ended by resigning his position.
"Then Campbell got up and regretted his speech. It was uncalled-for and—you
know the sort of thing. My colleagues, he said, would have preferred to
retain my services if I had yielded to the opinion of the parents. Under
the circumstances there was no course open but to accept my resignation.
They would not enter the vote upon the minutes; they would even write me a
letter expressing regret at losing me, etc. So the matter ended.
"Coming down the hill I tried to persuade Krazinski not to resign on my
account. But the dear old fellow was obstinate; he had long intended to
retire. He was very kind. He thinks I shall find another place easily.
"Now, May, you have heard the whole tale, what is your opinion? Are you
disappointed with me? You might well be. I'm disappointed with myself.
Somehow or other I've not got hate enough in me to be a good fighter."
"Disappointed? How little you know me! It's my life now to be with you.
Whatever you say or do is right to me. I think it's all for the best; I
wouldn't have you stay here after what has passed."
May meant all she said, and more. At the bottom of her heart she was not
sorry that he was going to leave Tecumseh. If she thereby lost the
pleasure of appearing as his wife before the companions of her youth, on
the other hand, he would belong to her more completely, now that he was
cut off from all other sympathy and no longer likely to meet Miss Gulmore.
Moreover, her determination to follow him in single-hearted devotion
seemed to throw the limelight of romance upon her disagreement with her
father, which had been much more acute than she had given Roberts to
suppose. She had loved her father, and if he had appealed to her affection
he could have so moved her that she would have shown Roberts a hesitation
which, in his troubled and depressed condition, might have brought about a
coldness between them, if not a rupture of their relations. But Hutchings,
feeling that he was in the wrong, had contented himself with depreciating
Roberts by sneer and innuendo, and so had aroused her generous
partisanship. The proceedings of the Faculty naturally increased her
sympathy with her lover, and her enthusiastic support did much to revive
his confidence in himself. When they parted in the evening he had already
begun to think of the preparations to be made for his journey Eastwards.
A few weeks later a little knot of friends stood together one morning on
the down-platform of the Tecumseh station, waiting for the train to come
in. Professor Roberts was the centre of the group, and by his side stood
dainty May Hutchings, the violet eyes intense with courage that held the
sweet lips to a smile. Around them were some ten or a dozen students and
Krazinski, all in the highest spirits. They were talking about Roberts'
new appointment at Yale, which he attributed to Krazinski's influence.
Presently they became aware of an unwonted stir at the entrance-door
behind them. As they turned in wonder they saw that the negro hands had
formed a lane through which, heralded by the obsequious station-master,
Mr. Gulmore, with his daughter on his arm, was coming towards them.
Heedless of their astonishment, the Boss walked on till he stood in front
"Professor, we've heard of your good fortune, and are come to congratulate
you. Ida here always thought a pile of your knowledge an' teachin', an' I
guess she was right. Our little difference needn't count now. You
challenged me to a sort of wrastle an' you were thrown; but I bear no
malice, an' I'm glad to offer you my hand an' to wish you—success."
Roberts shook hands without hesitation. He was simply surprised, and had
no inkling of the reason which had led Gulmore to come to the station and
to bring Ida. Had he been told that this was the father's plan for
protecting his daughter against the possibility of indiscreet gossip he
would have been still more astonished. "Nor do I bear malice," he
rejoined, with a smile; "though the wrestling can hardly be considered
fair when twenty pull one man down."
"'Twas my crowd against yours," replied the Boss indifferently. "But I'm
kinder sorry that you're leavin' the town. I'd never have left a place
where I was beaten. No, sir; I'd have taken root right there an' waited.
Influence comes with time, an' you had youth on your side."
"That may be your philosophy, Mr. Gulmore," said Roberts lightly, as the
other paused, "but it's not mine. I'm satisfied with one or two falls;
they've taught me that the majority is with you."
Gulmore's seriousness relaxed still further; he saw his opponent's
ingenuousness, and took his statement as a tribute to his own power.
"My philosophy," he began, as if the word pleased him, "my philosophy—I
guess I ken give you that in a few words. When I was a boy in Vermont I
was reckoned smart at figgerin'. But one day an old farmer caught me. 'See
here, boy,' he said, 'I live seventeen miles out of town, and when in late
fall the roads are bad and I drive in with a cartload of potatoes, the
shakin' sends all the big potatoes to the top and all the little ones to
the bottom. That's good for me that wants to sell, but why is it? How does
"Well, I didn't know the reason then, an' I told him so. But I took the
fact right there for my philosophy. Ef the road was long enough and rough
enough I was sure to come to the top."
"I understand," said Roberts laughingly. "But I've heard farmers here say
that the biggest potatoes are not the best; they are generally hollow at
the—in the middle, I mean."
"That's weak," retorted Gulmore with renewed seriousness. "I shouldn't hev
thought you'd hev missed the point like that. When I was a boy I skipped
away from the meanin' out of conceit. I thought I'd climb high because I
was big, and meant gettin' up more'n a little un could. But before I was a
man I understood the reason. It isn't that the big potatoes want
partic'lar to come to the top; it is that the little potatoes are determined
to get to the bottom.
"You may now be havin' a boost up, Professor, I hope you are; but you've
gone underneath once, an' that looks bad."
"The analogy seems perfect," replied Roberts thoughtfully. "But, by your
own showing, the big men owe their position to the number of their
inferiors. And at the bottom lie the very smallest, helpless and bruised,
supporting their fortunate brethren. A sad state of things at the best,
Mr. Gulmore; but unbearable if the favoured ones forget their debt to
those beneath them."
"Sad or not," said the Boss, "it represents the facts, an' it's well to
take account of them; but I guess we must be goin', your time'll soon be
up. We wish you success, Professor."
SEPTEMBER, 1892 AND 1893.