Young Strong of “the Clarion”

by Milicent Washburn Shinn

If you had asked any resident of Green’s Ferry some eight years ago—say, in ’76—who were the leading men of his town, he would doubtless have begun:

“Well, there’s Judge Garvey, of course. Then there’s Uncle Billy Green, who built the first shanty there in ’49, and young Strong of ‘The Clarion’—”

However he might continue his enumeration, it would certainly have been as above for the first three names. One you would have recognized, if you had been following State politics closely for some years; for Judge Garvey was very regularly chosen State senator in his district, and had held the barren honor of presidential elector the last time his party carried the State. In ’76, some of the papers were urging his nomination for Congress, and politicians thought his chance of such a nomination increasing. It has not turned out so; his name has quite dropped out of the papers, and it is said he does not certainly control his own county now; but at that time he was the most potent political influence in three counties. What he influenced them to, I never clearly understood, for I cannot recall that I ever heard his name mentioned in connection with any measure or opinion.

A file of “The Clarion” during the four years that young Strong was editor would doubtless throw light on the matter. “The Clarion” was at this time a sort of voice crying in the wilderness about Reform, which was a very new idea, indeed, to its readers. Garvey did not like the paper, and young Strong disliked Garvey very much; but the two men had kept on fairly good terms—not so rigid good terms, of course, as to forbid their expressing to third parties the frankest contempt for each other. The Judge had here the advantage, for Strong despised him indignantly, as a knave, while he despised Strong—or said he did—pityingly, as a fool. He must, however, have at bottom honored the young fellow with some serious antipathy; for it was after all no laughing matter that a boy of twenty-five should come into “his Gaul, which he had conquered by arms,” and filch away his home paper from under his very eyes. Moreover, though people read the editorials, laughed, and voted with the Judge just the same—they still did read them. However, Judge Garvey certainly was more civil to Strong than Strong was to him.

As for Uncle Billy Green, his rank was due not only to his connection with the “first shanty” (a house of entertainment at the point where a trail turned from the river toward the mines), but to his having remained steadily on the spot ever since, putting up a larger building at intervals as the settlement gathered around him, until now he was proprietor of the American Eagle Hotel, a house of goodly dimensions and generous equipment—billiard-room, bowling alley, shooting-gallery. Nor did Uncle Billy Green own and conduct this house in a purely business spirit; a more modest one would have been more profitable; he liked to “do that much for the town.” A man by the name of Gulliver had established the old rope-ferry, before the day of bridges, but it was naturally called Green’s Ferry, being a ferry at Green’s place. He had been of an undoubted valor in the Indian fights of early days, was full of reminiscences, had no personal objections to anybody or anything, and had long given over to Judge Garvey the trouble of forming his opinions.

Judge Garvey and young Strong were pretty sure to be put upon such boards or committees as the local affairs of the small town demanded; and in local matters they proved to pull together fairly well, however at odds they were politically. But in the end it was not over politics, but over the district school, that they fell out squarely. They were both trustees, and as Green was the third, the board seemed in little danger from any too radical reforming tendencies young Strong might be guilty of, and the Judge had no thought of danger as he walked down to “The Clarion” office, a breathless September afternoon, a couple of days before the school should open.

He found young Strong in his editorial room. This was a corner of the printing-office, fenced off by a great screen pasted over with old exchanges. Behind this, Strong sat at his table, correcting proof energetically. It was evident that he took the editing of this little four-page weekly rather seriously—but, then, a man must needs be business-like to produce even four pages weekly with one assistant, and Strong had to economize time enough from strictly editorial functions to do a goodly share of type-setting and the rest of the mechanics of the office.

“I beg your pardon for interrupting you, Mr. Strong,” said the Judge. “I perceive you are arduously occupied. But it becomes necessary to confer with you with regard to the school-teacher.”

The Judge was a tall and vigorously built man—a little red-faced, but good-looking, if one did not insist on too fine a definiteness of outline. He spoke habitually with a certain inflation of manner, and tried to form himself upon a Southern type that was pretty abundant in our politics some years earlier. He was, however, a native of rural New York, early transplanted to California.

Strong turned in his chair, and sitting sidewise, rested his elbow on the proof-sheets, holding the pencil still in his fingers.

“Well?” he said. “I thought everything was settled.”

“Assuredly.” Judge Garvey rested his folded arms upon the pile of books stacked at the rear of the table, and leaned over them in a friendly way. “Mr. Coakley is to arrive Sunday evening, and will begin the term on Monday morning, to the great satisfaction, I can guarantee, of all concerned. A slight and merely temporary embarrassment has arisen, with respect to which a few words will make it all right. In point of fact, the young woman with whom we previously held correspondence—who, you will remember, broke her engagement with us to take a more advantageous position—is here.”

The Judge stopped for question or comment, but as Strong waited for explanation, he went on:

“She has, it appears, failed after all to secure that, and come here expecting to fall back upon our school, not having heard that it was engaged.”

“Well, that’s unfortunate for her,” said Strong, “but you can’t ship Coakley now.”

“Your views coincide exactly with my own, my dear sir.” The Judge straightened up with some relief. “I have only to ask, then, for a note to the lady to that effect, that my own explanation already given may be corroborated.”

Strong began to look alert and suspicious at this.

“Views coincide?” he said. “What two views could there be? What does she say brought her here?”

“She’s got an idea that she’s got first claim on the place,” said the Judge, plumping suddenly into colloquial diction. He had a trick of doing so when he got down to business. It would have had something the effect of candid confession, produced by a maiden’s plain-hair days alternated with her waved-hair days, had not the grandiloquence of tone and manner become so far second nature that it ran through both his dialects, and lessened the contrast. “You can’t always make a woman see sense.”

Strong looked suspiciously at him a few seconds. “Well, I’ll go see her this evening,” he said. “Where’s she staying?”

“That is a totally superfluous tax on your time, my dear Strong,” said the Judge, leaning persuasively across the books again. “I have here a mere formal line, stating that Coakley is the regularly engaged teacher of the school, and will begin next Monday; your signature to it—Green’s and mine are already there—will be all that is necessary.” He pushed pen and ink toward Strong with his exaggerated air of courtesy.

“Oh, I’m not going to sign things that way, you know. I’ll go see her.” He turned and drew his proof-sheets to him with an air of dismissal.

The Judge stood up very straight, expanded his chest, and folded his arms according to his conception of the Virginian manner. “Am I to understand, sir, that you question my veracity?”

“I don’t question anything,” said the young man, impatiently. “I’ll know what I’m talking about when I’ve seen her.”

“Permit me to suggest, sir”—the Judge was approaching his platform manner—“permit me to suggest, sir, that Mr. Green and myself constitute a majority of the board, and Mr. Green, sir—Uncle Billy Green—has confidence in my honor, and will sustain my action, whatever line you may be persuaded to adopt.”

“Oh, as to that,” said Strong, exaggerating his crispness of manner in protest against the Judge’s staginess, “I’m clerk of the board, and you can’t hold a legal meeting nor pay a salary without me. What’s the reason you don’t want me to see her?”

Judge Garvey unfolded his arms, fell back a step, and dropped easily into the sonorous declamation that made the stalwart Judge no inconspicuous figure on the floor of the Legislature. The newspapers, of course, were responsible for his language—as for the rest of his education; but such as it was, he used it fluently, and the declamatory manner was, to his constituency, quite an essential of eloquence—the prime difference, in fact, between oratory and plain talking.

“You cast aspersions upon my honor, sir. Through me you insult the people of Green’s Ferry—of this county—of this district—the enlightened and honorable constituency who it is my proud honor to represent. I sco-r-n to answer your insinuations, sir. They will be hurled back upon yourself by the united voice and righteous indignation of my justly aroused fellow-townsmen, by the voters of this noble district—I may say, by the whole State of California—to which I am not unknown, sir.”

Half-a-dozen of the justly aroused fellow-townsmen were straggling in from the street, for in Green’s Ferry a sprinkling of the citizens spend the warm afternoons sitting in absolute tranquillity on boxes and barrels here and there, under the awnings of the several business blocks; and the knowledge that a row was at last on between Judge Garvey and young Strong reached them at the first peal. The Judge, alive to the increase of his audience, raised his voice a shade, and went on with a curious mixture of complacency and genuine wrath.

“Is it lack of confidence that has sent me to represent my honorable constituency in the legislative halls of California, Mr. Strong? Have I received that proud token of esteem only to be insulted by one whose obscurity is his only shield; who, with unknown record, with no recommendation save his own overwhelming self-esteem, comes among us to sow dissent in peaceful counsels, and draw scorn and contempt upon his own head by impotent and futile attacks upon those whom he is powerless to harm?”

This rounded the climax well, so the Judge only added: “The call you propose, sir, I shall regard as a direct insult to myself,” and strode dramatically from the room.

The papered screen went crashing to the floor behind him. The justly aroused fellow-townsmen looked after him, laughing but admiring.

“Laid you out, didn’t he, Strong?”

“That’s the way he does it at Sacramento. Oh, the Judge is a real orator—there’s no doubt of that.”

He don’t have to make his speech up before-hand. No, sir, right where he is, any time of day, he just turns the faucet, and there it comes.”

“What was the row, anyway, Strong?”

“I don’t know myself; something about a teacher—he began to bluster all of a sudden.” Strong walked over to the screen, picked it up, set it straight along a crack with intense precision, and went back to his seat. “Drunk, isn’t he? I haven’t heard him take the stump that way since election. He’s always made rather a point of not quarrelling with me, too.”

“Oh, he’s no drunker’n usual,” answered with candor a fellow-townsman. “The Judge ain’t really himself until he’s a little off. He didn’t blow so without some reason; don’t you fool yourself—not if I know the man.”

“Well, if he’s got any game he must have come to his last chance in it, to try bullying on me,” said Strong; and then another of the group asked:

“What row could there be about a teacher, Strong? Thought you’d given him his man.”

The pencil rolled from the edge of the table across the floor at Strong’s movement of attention. “Coakley?—what of him?”

The man began to laugh, and one or two others joined in. One of them said a little offensively: “Pretty good on you, youngster! You took too big a contract for your age when you undertook to keep up with Judge Garvey. He’ll give you odds and take you in, every time.”

Strong reddened a little, but waited to be answered with very fair composure.

“Didn’t you really know, Strong? The Judge scored one on you that time, then. Why, he’s been Garvey’s man in Sierra Township one or two elections now. Used to be a Millerite preacher, before your day, but he broke down at that. Good hand in county politics, but he’s always completely out of business between times. Why you remember him, Strong—he was round with the Judge election times—cross-eyed fellow, with black siders.”

That fellow? Why, he can’t spell straight! The way of it was, Judge Garvey told us only Tuesday that the teacher we’d got—first-rate certificates—had backed out; and we couldn’t put off beginning school any longer, nor hear of any teacher to be had; so when he produced this man, we had really no choice. I suppose I needn’t ask where he got his certificates.”

“No—Garvey’s solid with this county board and superintendent.”

“Disgraceful!” said Strong; whereat all laughed, except one who had lost a ranch a few years before during business dealings with the Judge.

“Oh, he’s a scamp—I wouldn’t trust him out of sight with his baby’s silver mug,” said this man, with feeling. The rest laughed again. In Green’s Ferry a certain easy-going good-heartedness is required by the public conscience, rather than decalogue virtues. Garvey liked sharp practice—all right; if you were yourself hurt, you would naturally begin to vote against him; otherwise, it was none of your business, except as successful rascality had a claim on your admiration. Young Strong liked to write furious reform editorials—all right; if you were the one hit, you would swear at Strong and stop your subscription until a hit on some one else made you renew it; otherwise, it was none of your business and lively reading. They leaned against the wall and desk, and began with perfect good-nature to tell stories of the Judge. “R’member the time he got that Mexican ranch? Fellow thought it was a bill of sale for thirty acres he was signing, and it was three hundred.”

“Best thing was when he made old man Meeker believe he was dying, and deed over a good fifty thousand dollars in stock to his daughter—and married the girl, sir, before the old fellow found he was good for twenty years more. He made the air smell of brimstone the rest of his life if you mentioned Garvey to him! Drowned in a ford a winter or two later, after all. Used to live in a little shanty up Indian Crick and raise potatoes—and Garvey sent him a cow—cheekiest thing!”

Strong turned sharply away from the laugh that followed, and went on with his work, while they slowly dispersed. He worked on savagely with brows drawn together. “It isn’t so much the existence of scoundrels like Garvey that gets me,” he was saying to himself, “as the way the whole crowd of them take him.” He stopped to read over the words he was correcting—they were editorial:

“Was ever folly greater than this of our community, in dropping everything else to run after money. For what do you expect to do with it when you get it? Better eating, and drinking, and the privilege of being toadied to by those who want to make something out of you—what more can you get out of money, if you have never made anything of yourself? Just as a pig, if he might take his choice whether he would be turned into a man or would be moved into a cosier sty, with more unbounded swill, would doubtless choose the sty!”

“My broom against the ocean,” he said; but he went on correcting doggedly.

And, not to conceal from you what was in reality the most significant fact about Will Strong—the key to about everything he thought and did—he was mentally submitting this editorial, as he had submitted every other he had written, to the test of the probable opinion of a young woman he had not seen nor heard from for two years, but who nevertheless constituted to his mind the chief motive for existence—if not the chief and sufficient explanation of the human race’s having been created at all. You must realize, before trying to understand his story, that Will Strong was really a very romantic young man indeed, though he pretended to Green’s Ferry that he was not.

Outside the screen, the strips of sun through the western window and open door lengthened across the meagre collection of dusty fonts of type, the small press, the piles of papers. The black-fingered, red-haired boy setting type among them reflected that it must be nearly dinner-time, and turned to see how far in the hot strips had crept—turned, and stood staring; for he met squarely the inquiring look of a pair of clear eyes, and became aware of a lady in the door-way.

It is probable that Jim had never dreamed in his life of any other social distinction than that between rich and poor, notorious and obscure, nor was he a lad of perceptions; yet he knew at once that this was a very unusual sort of lady for Green’s Ferry. If he had been a man of the social world he would have known that she was a gentlewoman of notably high-bred appearance. She glanced, not without dismay, about the shabby work-room, as if she felt herself where she had no business to be. Nevertheless, she came forward frankly, and asked in the friendly way of one whose station needs no asserting:

“Mr. Strong?—one of the school-board?—Is he here?”

“Yes’m.” The boy made no motion, but stood blankly staring.

“May I see him, please?”

“Lady to see you, Mr. Strong,” shouted Jim, standing still.

In the few seconds before Strong emerged, the lady stood her ground in the middle of the floor, with some appearance of anxiety. She was certainly a very noticeable person, and came nearer to warranting that strong word “beautiful” than falls often to the lot of woman. It was a matter of outline more than color, however, for she had not much of that about her—brown hair, blue-gray eyes, skin of a warm paleness. All this low coloring, however, was so perfect of its sort, that it gave something the effect of a fine etching—a rich distinctness attained by shades, not colors. Instead of being outshone by more brilliant-hued women, Miss Northrop had always had the effect of making them look chromo-like. So, too, a certain nobility and self-forgetfulness of manner made the more elaborate manners of others seem the crude device of inferiority. It was a good deal due to her eyes; she had most wonderful eyes, and I doubt if any man or many women ever met them in a full look without feeling a little stir of pulse—whether it was in the lashes, or in the sweet straightforwardness of look, utterly devoid of coquetry, or in the depth of the gray, or in what; certain it is that no one ever saw Miss Northrop without talking of her beautiful eyes.

“A lady to see him?” The word in Green’s Ferry defined only the sex. Some one with a notice of a flock of sheep for sale, which she wanted to get in as a local; or with an ill-spelled poem; or—by George, yes—that school-mistress. Lucky she had not met Garvey there—poor girl! Strong laid his pencil down, and came out from behind the screen good-naturedly enough—and stopped short. What a thing to happen to a man, that he should live and move and have his being for a dozen years in the thought of one woman, should count a world worth living in because she was somewhere on it, and a pitiful human race worth working for because they were her fellow-creatures—and should come out from behind his screen, and see her before his eyes—on his dingy work-room floor—out of her four thousand miles’ distance!

They had been four years schoolmates in a New England High School. Will was a farmer’s lad, from an outlying, rocky village, who worked for his board while he went to school. He came of an unschooled, hard-working, God-fearing yeoman race. Winifred could look up every line of her descent, through vista of governors, college-presidents, and ministers, back to Colonial aristocracy and gentry beyond sea. Her great-grandfathers had carried swords in Revolutionary battles, where Will’s had followed with muskets. Winifred herself was one of those flowers into which excellent family trees break occasionally—flowers so lovely that no excellence of the tree seems enough to account for them. If she had any core of aristocratic coldness, it was so overlaid by a sweet humaneness, a frank generosity of impulse, that no one would have known it. If she had been a man, to have a valet, she would have been a hero to him.

Even in the democracy of school, Will Strong knew well enough the difference between his shy awkwardness and her pleasant frankness; and knew that though he could meet school requirements about as well as she, yet his mental range was crude and narrow beside hers; and any one could see that in the town where he was an unknown boy she was an important young lady. These things would not have counted for much had not some mediæval follower of some exiled king dropped down into the boy’s temperament that passion of self-abasing loyalty that is rather an anachronism in our democratic days. They had been on terms of friendliness rather than friendship in school, but that was due more to his shyness than anything else. She had really given to him more opportunities than to most of her schoolmates; she liked his integrity and earnestness.

He had looked to college as the natural door between his world and hers; after four years at New Haven he might seek her acquaintance without audacity. To that end he had laboriously accumulated money, and had even passed his matriculation, when his father’s death made him indispensable on the poor little farm. Since then he had doggedly plodded alone through the college curriculum, but without finding in it the mysterious pass-word that he had expected into the intellectual aristocracy. Some two years before, his mother’s death and the growing up of younger brothers had left him free to seek his fortune in California. At twenty-seven he had lost his fresh look and boyish shyness; he looked older than he was, but he was really very youthful, and believed in all sorts of abstractions beginning with capitals. His mental furniture, being obtained from books, not people, was not quite in the style of the present decade, and he read Carlyle and Emerson more than Herbert Spencer. His creed had, therefore, quite transcendentalism enough to accommodate without incongruity his little private deification.

Once in every year or two, as opportunity took him near her home, he had called on her, and had multiplied each call mightily by thinking of it before and after. He had also kept up a stupid correspondence with a schoolmate who had lived in the same town with her, for the chance of her name being mentioned. Within a couple of years, however, she had lost her father and gone to relatives in New York, so he had lost exact knowledge even of her whereabouts.

She spoke before he had found his voice—without an instant’s hesitation, indeed. “Oh, Will Strong!” she cried, stepping quickly toward him and holding out her hand. “I hoped it was you!”

He took the offered hand, and said to himself that his own was consecrated by the touch to clean deeds forever. He would not have known how to address her, but he followed her leading.

“It is Winifred Northrop!” he said. “What is it? Can I do something for you?”

“You are school-committee man, are you not?” Anxiety, relief, and trust mingled in her voice.

“Trustee—yes. Why,” he cried, “it isn’t possible that you are the lady!”

She laughed. “I suppose the lady must be I.”

He did not smile. He even lost color with wrath. “Garvey has dared to play you some trick!—I did not dream—” he went on, eagerly, “Garvey kept the letters in his hands, and bungled over the name, so I did not once fairly catch it.”

He turned back to his corner, and put the remaining bit of proof into his pocket. New heavens and new earth had come into existence since the last pencil mark on it.

“Jim,” he said, “I’m called off on school-business. You get as much of that set up as you can before dinner, and then lock up; and I’ll come down and make the corrections in the editorials before I go to bed. Now—Winifred—if I may walk home with you, we’ll get to the bottom of Garvey’s tricks. Villain!”

The epithet was so fervent, and so entirely without humorous intent, that Miss Northrop laughed again as they walked out into the dull, hot September afternoon sun. The board sidewalk was uneven and full of projecting nails and splinters, and she held her thin, blue-gray dress prettily aside from them; Will noted the gesture with admiration as intense as unreasonable. It seemed to him peculiarly admirable that she should draw her hat a little forward to shade her eyes, and should take just the length of step that she did; the absolutely right step for a lady was thenceforth settled; since then, he has insisted unreasonably upon a certain shade as the only right thing in gray, as if he held in his own mind some positive standard beyond the realm of variable taste.

The two or three business blocks—rows of slight frame-buildings, more of them saloons than would seem possible—were very quiet; Green’s Ferry is the shipping point of a wide stock-raising district, and all its activity centres about the railroad station at stated times daily. The justly aroused fellow-townsmen were all back under the awnings—leaning against the wall by the post-office, sitting on boxes by the grocery; some indolently telling stories and chaffing; some looking sleepily before them in absolute repose; some in various stages of inert drunkenness. All stared curiously at young Strong and the strange lady, and prepared to talk them over afterward, but no one addressed him.

They turned aside soon into a broad cross street with no sidewalk, where the coarse dust was in places ankle deep. Behind them, beyond the main street, a few groups of yellowing cottonwoods on bare banks of reddish clay marked the course of the Sacramento; before them the street faded into a limitless expanse of gravel, thinly dotted in the distance with dull green oaks, and bounded by long knolls, like wrinkles in the plain, dark with oaks against the smoky sky of September—a sky dull blue above, dull gray near the horizon.

Along either side of the street the flimsy wooden houses were set back, each in its yard, and surrounded by oleanders; sometimes there would be a few parched roses, a trellis of Madeira-vine, a patch of carefully nursed grass, often a row of China trees, whose fallen black seeds stippled the dust—but always the great rosy clumps of oleanders, glorying in the heat and drought. Every evening after dinner the owners come out, and stand watering these gardens with hose and sprinkler, till all along the street there is a murmur like rain and a smell of damp earth, and here and there through the warm twilight a glimpse of the white sprays of water; while the families sit on the porches and doorstep, and gossip and laugh. At this hour, however, the little gardens and splendid oleanders lay hot and deserted in the dusty afternoon.

“I haven’t till now had time to spare from being anxious to be interested,” Miss Northrop said. “I was rather panic-stricken this morning, and things were awful, instead of interesting, in proportion to their newness.”

This bit of pathos stiffened Will’s manner with the awkwardness of over-feeling, as he asked: “Now, what can I do for you—Winifred?”

The awkwardness made him more like the school-boy Will; and then, a familiar face four thousand miles from home seems more familiar than it really is. Miss Northrop answered confidingly: “I will tell you all about it, and then you will know what to do. I wrote to Judge Garvey—some one referred me to him at Sacramento—and asked if I might teach the school. He wrote back that I might, fixed the day, and directed me to a boarding-place that he had engaged for me. So I came by yesterday evening’s train, and sent word that I was here. This morning he called and told me—with most oppressive civility—that as I had not answered his last letter, the place had been given to some one else. He said ‘professional etiquette’ here demands an answer in such a case, and failure to answer is equivalent to a withdrawal of the application.”

“He lied,” said Will, parenthetically, walking along with his eyes on the ground; she, on the contrary, looked at him often, with frank directness.

“He did not impress me,” she said, “as the soul of candor. I said as little as possible to him, but when he was gone I asked about the rest of the committee, and as soon as I heard your name I hoped it was you; I knew you were somewhere in California. This afternoon I received his letter written to prevent my coming. It had followed me up here by the same train that I came on.” She held the letter in her hand, and Will quietly took it and kept it. “I would not raise any controversy about such a thing,” she went on, “if I had any idea in the world where else to go or what to do.” Her voice sharpened a little again, with a note of pathos.

Will did not know how to answer without seeming to question or comment, so there came a pause; then he said:

“This Coakley was an electioneering agent of Garvey’s, and doesn’t know enough to teach babies. He seems to have turned up suddenly wanting help, and the Judge is willing enough to keep him on hand and under obligations until next election.”

Miss Northrop stopped short and looked at him with brows a little raised, and her bearing became impalpably more distant.

“But I cannot enter into contest with—these men for permission to teach school here,” she said.

She was right, in her quick feeling that Will Strong’s training could not have made work and discomfort and contact with vulgarity seem outside the sphere of women. If it had been one of his own sisters he would have said: “Oh, well, we have to take the world as we find it. Brace up, little girl; I’ll put you safe through, and you’ll find it’s not so bad, after all.”

But what he said to Winifred Northrop was: “It is outrageous! Such brutes as Garvey have no business to look at a lady! If you really prefer not to take the school,” he went on, with some embarrassment, “I hope you will call on me to help you in any other way; but if you want the school you shall have it, and no annoyance with it that I can help.”

Miss Northrop repented that she had repented her confidence. “I remembered that you were kind of old, Will”—and her manner was irresistibly winning when she said such a thing—“but you are so very kind now that you make me ashamed. I only meant to ask you what I must do. Yes, I must take this position if I can, for I have no alternative.”

“There is nothing for you to do,” he said. “It is my place, as an officer of the school, to see that its rightful teacher is not defrauded.”

“So it is,” she said, relieved. “But I am none the less grateful.”

“It is a pleasure to me to be able to do anything for you,” he said, gravely, somewhat stiffly—from his tone you would not have suspected much more truth than usual in the formula.

She only said: “You are very kind,” and then he lifted his hat, and left her at Mrs. Stutt’s gate.

He deliberately and literally believed, as he walked down the street—directly to Green’s—that he was the happiest man in the world. For that matter, it is not impossible that he was. He was absolutely innocent of conscious hyperbole in saying, “It would be worth a life-time of trouble only to have seen her; and I know her and am able to do her a service!”

He scored one advantage in having seen Miss Northrop early; he saw Green before Garvey had talked with him. The report of the quarrel had by no means failed to reach “The American Eagle,” and when Strong came in Uncle Billy Green was just expressing himself with regard to Coakley:

“Of course the Judge’ll provide for his man when he gets a chance. That’s where he’s sharp. And if Coakley is smart enough to suit Judge Garvey, he’s smart enough to teach my children—that’s what I say.”

A private audience with him would have been merely postponing the hour of general discussion, so Strong made a brief exposition of his case—gently enough, but with considerable force—then and there, displaying the letter he carried by way of proof. He hardly expected to elicit anything but the usual laugh and comment on the Judge’s smartness. But there was a marked seriousness of tone in the remarks when he ended.

“Well, that is pretty rough.”

“Yes, sir, that’s going too far. The Judge ought to know where to stop. I don’t stand by no man when it comes to a shabby trick on an unprotected school-marm.”

“A real lady, too—I could see that when she went by with you, Strong.”

Even Green said, uneasily, “No, I shouldn’t think the Judge ought to do that, quite.”

It was evident that Green’s Ferry drew its lines as much as any other town. The moral support it offered Strong was mainly negative, however, and Green, after several alternate conversations with his two fellow trustees during this Saturday evening, went off early Sunday morning to visit his married daughter at the old Meeker place, leaving word that they must fix it between them. Judge Garvey closed the somewhat stormy conference of Saturday evening with a promise to break down Miss Northrop’s school in a week, and Strong’s paper in a month. “Do you flatter yourself I should not have had your contemptible sheet in powder under my feet, sir, before this, if I had thought it worth the attention?” Nevertheless, as there was nothing on which the Judge prided himself more than on his invariable civility to ladies (“the courtly Judge” was his favorite phrase in writing up a local notice of any affair at which he had been present), Strong, having possession of the school-house key, was able to put Miss Northrop into possession on Monday morning without opposition. The Judge even visited her during the day and addressed the school with extreme suavity.

He was, however, very seriously affronted, and had not passed his Sunday without diligent preparation among parents and children to make Miss Northrop’s position untenable. It would have been no difficult task, either, but for an altogether unprecedented obstacle—a factor that he had not dreamed of in his calculations, and that Strong himself had underestimated. The children, who had gone to school Monday morning primed for mutiny, surrendered their hearts in a body to Miss Northrop by night; three days later, Uncle Billy Green’s niece, who taught the primary school, gave in adoring allegiance; by the end of the week everybody who had seen her was her advocate. It was certainly an unprecedented thing that Judge Garvey’s best exertions should come to naught, because of a woman’s way of smiling and speaking; but Miss Northrop’s tenure of the school was secure. It was not entirely speech and smile, however. Miss Northrop was interested in everything, and consequently had common ground with everybody; and she met each one on that ground, not so much ignoring as temporarily forgetting differences.

The year wore on from gray to gray; the parching north wind poured down the plain and darkened the air with gritty dust; the sky, though cloudless, grew murkier every day. Then the wind shifted to the south, and the sky grew darker yet with surging heaps of clouds, and at last down came the late November rain; and next morning Miss Northrop could see, like a miraculous creation of the night, up and down every east-and-west street, a range of azure mountains along either horizon, snow-crowned, clear-cut, against an exquisite blue sky. Every two or three weeks the surge of clouds would come rolling up with the south wind, and the rain would come down in torrents for days, till the Sacramento, yellow with mud, roared level with its banks; and then the storm would break away, and there would be a week or two of blue sky and brilliant air and green earth.

One Sunday in March, between the early and the latter rains, Miss Northrop and Will Strong walked out together several miles over the plain. The gravel had long disappeared under green burclover and filaria, thickly dotted with the little yellow clover blossoms, the lilac ones of the filaria, and with small blue gilias. The flocks and herds had been driven down from the mountains where they spend their summers and autumns, and the air was full of the bleating of lambs. Up and down either horizon, converging toward the north, were the long ranks of the Sierras and Coast Range, deep blue, ruggedly tipped with white peaks of all shapes—the Lassen Buttes, the Yallo Balleys, and many a lesser one. Northward, in the interval between the ranges, miles and miles away, the solitary peak of Shasta rose above the dark oak-knolls, sharp-white from base to tip, against a stainless sky. They sat down on the warm clover, beside a noisy yellow stream that ran full to its banks on its way to the Sacramento. Winifred pushed back her hat, dropped her hands in her lap, and let her senses be played upon by the delicious air, the blue and white of mountains and sky and clouds, the luminous green, the rushing of water close by, and the bleating of flocks in the distance. It gave Will a good chance to watch her face—the sweetness of the mouth; the nobility of the level brows; the frankness of the eyes; the soft wave of her hair. There was a marked sadness in her face in repose; to wonder why, was to transgress the code of loyal humility that Will set himself; he had not even considered it due chivalry to speculate, much less ask, as to the reason of so amazing a phenomenon as her presence in California at all, and the incongruity of her school-teaching. Her pose was perfect, and yet nothing could be more unconscious. Was that marvellous spontaneity, that simple dignity, the regular thing among the men and women Winifred belonged with? It made him feel left very far out to think so. How incapable of effort for admiration she was, yet how invariably admirable!

She caught him looking at her, in time. “What is it?” she said, simply.

He colored with some confusion, but confessed a piece of his thought. “I was wondering if you really do not care at all for admiration. Most people would think they got the good of their living in being praised a fraction as much as you’ve been. If that’s impertinent I beg your pardon; you asked me.”

The portion of aristocrat’s pride that was in Winifred was largely concentrated in an objection to talking of herself or letting other people do it; so she looked a little annoyed. She began with some constraint:

“Yes—I care—at first—when it is the right one that praises. But there is always a reaction of self-distrust. It seems humiliating,” she went on more frankly, “to have been praised for having done some common thing—solved a problem, or written a poem, or handled a piano—a little more or less cleverly, when one comes to think what education and art are. And personal admiration—that always seems a contemptible sort of folly, if you think of what great things there are to do and be in the world, and the lives the great lonely souls have lived.”

“Your achievement seems little to you,” said Will, with some gloom, “because, I suppose, more always opens to you. To me, who have made none—”

“Why, Will,” she cried, with the most genuine dissent. “You have done more than almost any one I know. Do you call it nothing to do a college curriculum alone and under all sorts of hindrances? And I know that it was done well and thoroughly.”

“Oh, yes,” he said, indifferently, tossing bits of clover into the stream, “I could have passed an A. B. fast enough. But you know better than I do, Winifred, that that’s the least of a college course. I’ve seen fellows that had to work their way through and had no spare time or energy, and they always lacked a great deal of the college flavor; the education didn’t permeate ’em. Then there are other things—music, art, social opportunities, capacity of expression—that are no slight things to miss; they make up more of first-class living than Greek optatives or the equation of a surface. It isn’t really possible for a man, not backed by circumstances, to get himself into a position that some are born to.” He let the clover be and looked up. “Oh, I’m not growling, Winifred,” he said, hastily, smiling, as he saw her about to speak eagerly. “I’m only making philosophical observations, and using myself as an illustration. Why in the world should I growl to find myself stranded half way up, when there is a townful of people behind us clear down at the bottom, and no more their fault than mine? Why should I mind that I am left out from the best chances, any more than that a thousand other fellows are? ‘What Act of Legislature was there that’ I should be cultured?”

She was leaning forward with her irresistible eyes full on his, and face and voice vivified with that sympathetic expressiveness that makes speech count for far more than the words.

“Will, that is true,” she cried, “but it is only part of the truth. ‘Close thy’ Carlyle; ‘open thy’ Emerson. It’s true, you have missed some things that you deserved to have and that many of your inferiors have for nothing. But your life is only begun, and your ability and pluck can do so much that you needn’t waste regret on anything they may fail to do. Even if circumstances be unconquerable that stand between you and some good things, are the things you have gained instead of less value?—your courage and patience, your self-reliance and trustworthiness and helpfulness? Why, Will, character is worth more than knowledge of art, or familiarity with good society; just to live bravely is worth more than all the rest. Do you suppose I would exchange your companionship for that of a dozen ‘cultured’ people who could talk to me about ‘sincere furniture‘”—this was in the last decade, remember—“and Rauss’s heads, as you can’t, and who never showed me one spark of genuine feeling about the great things of life, as you can?”

Will was overwhelmed. Winifred had talked of his affairs much, following them with unvarying interest, but of himself or herself, never; and it was actually a new idea to the young fellow that she could have any very high opinion of him. Moreover, it was the first time he had heard her speak with unveiled and ardent feeling.

“You do not mean”—and he formed his words with difficulty—“that I could meet on equal ground people that—such people as your associates.”

“No; you would meet most of them on higher ground. If they didn’t know it, that would be their discredit. I should think you could see that,” she added, in a quick, parenthetic averse way, “from their associate. If you want to get a higher opinion of the value of your life, compare it with an ordinary, foolish, useless one—like mine.” She gave him no chance to answer that, but was the next moment on her feet, suggesting that they walk on, and wishing they were not to stop short of the Lassen Buttes, whose apparent nearness, scores of miles distant as they were, was still a perpetual surprise to her eastern eyes.

When everything has been made ready for it, a few sentences may easily make or mark an era in life; and it is probable that if Miss Northrop had not in effect told young Strong he was quite good enough for her, he might have remained her contented vassal for years. Six months of being her nearest friend worked their result, to be sure; but the humility they were gnawing at was of mediævally tough fibre, and of twice six years’ growth. His depreciation of himself, however, had only meant sense of distance from her; therefore, his sense of the significance of her speech was enormous. He felt his relation to her changed; he was shaken from all his moorings, and thrown into a mighty agitation that possessed him night and day, and only grew with time. For this was what it all came to: Was the distance between Winifred and himself greater than the distance between her and any other man? And when he had once thought that, the gate was open, and the besieging host marched in and took possession of every corner of him with longing and desire and a madness of tenderness.

He thought of nothing else. He wrote his editorials and set type under an unceasing sense of it, as people have done brain-work and finger-work to an accompaniment of unceasing physical pain. For there was nothing joyous about it to him; it was all a bitter pain of mad desire to be something to her—to secure her, somehow, before this great, dark future swept her away from him. And yet the latter rains came and went, the green faded from the ground, the mountains grew dimmer and duller, and at last disappeared in the summer murk, before he took in his own mind the next step—from lover to suitor, as before from vassal to lover.

He did so simply because he could not stand it any longer. It stood to reason that there must be a way out of such active torments. And, after all, why not he as well as any other man? It was absurd to suppose that Winifred could ever be in love with any man, as a man would be with her. It occurred to Will that the thing to do was natural enough, after all—not to ask Winifred’s love, but to offer her his. And he walked down to Mrs. Stutt’s to do it, one August evening, a little before school opened after vacation. He was in good spirits, too; to come to action and to speech, after so long repression, was an inestimable relief. And she had been doubly friendly to him all this time.

Mrs. Stutt was in her little strip of grass and oleanders. “That you, Mr. Strong?” she called out cheerily as he lifted the gate-latch. “Well, Miss Northrop’s in the sitting-room, I s’pose. You go right in, and I’ll come in when I’ve done my watering.”

“Thank you,” said Will, absently, and walked on into the house. Winifred was not in the dark little sitting-room. He walked to the open window and stood there, expecting her to come in presently. There were veils of Madeira vine over the window, just opening their whitish tassels of bloom, and the air was full of the smell of them. Mrs. Stutt began to water the grass outside, and the shower of water from her hose glimmered through the Madeira vine; the noise of the water came to him, and the crying of crickets, and the smell of the freshly wet earth. Then he heard a step on the porch, and saw Winifred go down the short path to the gate. He could see by her white dress that she stood still there; so he went out, too, to join her. Mrs. Stutt was watering at the other side of the house now, and the two were alone.

Will stopped a moment in the darkness and faint odor of a great oleander, a few feet from the motionless girl at the gate, to realize well the grace of her dim white figure, and her unconscious attitude. She stood in a weary way, with her head a little fallen back, and her hands hanging loosely clasped before her. There was so much and so incomprehensible emotion in the attitude, that Will felt vaguely thrust out into another world from that where her interests lay. She had not heard him approach, for the train from the south was just coming to a stand at the station, not a stone’s throw off, and there was a great noise of jarring cars, and shouting men, and escaping steam, and ringing bell. He waited till the noise should be quite over. Some one came walking rapidly from the station; Will, glancing at the dark figure, thought it had, even in this dimness, an unfamiliar look. It paused close by the gate.

“Winifred!”

Will did not know the voice; the tone turned him blind and dizzy.

Winifred started violently, and turned; she clasped her hands tightly, and lifted them to her breast in a frightened way, as she fell back a step.

“Oh, my God!” she cried, under her breath. There was a rattle of the gate-latch, a sharp flying open of the gate, and the stranger held her in his arms.

“My darling, my darling!” he said, with an infinite tenderness. “Did you think you could hide anywhere in all this wide world where I should not find you?”

For just an instant she yielded to his clasp—then she drew back. “You must not,” she said, softly, with unmistakable pain in her voice. “You know that. I thought if I was utterly out of sight or hearing, you would forget me, and I might—forget myself.”

He broke in before she had fairly spoken. “You were mistaken, Winifred; there was no one between us. O my foolish little hot-head! if you had not been so headlong in your self-sacrifice—if you had only waited till I came back—I could have showed you in ten minutes that there was no place for it. Mollie is married to John Gates and is very happy. And you and I—my little girl, how nearly our two lives have been spoiled! Sweetheart,” he said, laughing with a shaky voice, “I think I shall never dare let go of you again”—and he drew her back to him.

She hesitated—surrendered—clung to him with a long sobbing breath. “Oh, I have wanted you so, I have wanted you so!” she cried. “Oh, don’t be a dream and melt away this time!”

Will Strong, standing close in the darkness of the oleander, acquiring a life-long association with smell of Madeira vine and oleander and wet earth, cry of crickets and noise of sprinkling water, gathered himself together enough to creep away. He was going to realize it pretty soon, he thought; he did not yet; it seemed likely to be beyond endurance when he did. As he passed the door some one opened it, and the lamp-light streamed about him; Winifred looked around and saw his face for an instant, and then he had slipped away through a side gate.

He walked out from town across miles of dark plain, until he came to the empty channel of the stream by which they had sat in March. Underfoot not a blade of grass or green thing; no stranger would have believed that living thing had ever grown there. The flocks and herds had long since gone to the mountain pastures. The dry channel between shelvy banks of gravel showed white in the unclouded yet dull starlight. The air was lifeless, and faintly tainted with smoke from forest fires in the mountains.

Will threw himself down on his face, clutching with his fingers at the gritty dirt. He knew as surely then, looking forward to his life, as he will know at the end looking back, that this would never be an out-lived romance. Nor could he creep back into that temple of dreams from which Winifred’s own hand had lured him—it had crumbled to dust behind him. Nor was he like one who, losing a woman, loses only his best pleasure and best ambition; she was the vital condition to every pleasure, every ambition; losing her, he lost all. The realization clutched him by this time like a tiger. There was not a living creature within miles; a man might go down to primal depths, might drop even the restraint of the human in outcries and struggles as free as a tortured beast’s. It may be that solitude sees more such scenes than a decently decorous world would like to think.

Yet there was a sense upon him of some moral demand, some decision to be made; and in time he began to try to collect himself for it. It would seem as if there could hardly be a position that left less for him to decide. There was no question of renouncing—he had never had anything to renounce. Nevertheless, his instinct was correct in urging him to a moral conflict and a momentous decision. The question was simply whether he could pick up his life again, could find faith that anything was worth living for; or whether life was to be a hollow going through the forms—frustrated, purposeless, full of brooding regret and jealousy, shame, and sense of wrong. But he could not drag his bruised mind up to the question; he could not even think what it was. He lifted himself up, stepped down into the dry channel, and knelt on the white stones, obeying old association with the attitude; laid his arms and head on a shelf of the bank, and let the stunned and nerveless will lie passive, while the accumulated forces of years—of generations—passion and pain and despair and love, shame and bitterness and loyalty—trampled back and forth over him, fighting out for him his battle.

It was deathly, aggressively still; not an insect to chirp, not a tree to rustle; only bare earth and sodden air. After a long time Will raised his head and threw it back, looking up at the dull stars, while his outstretched hands lay clasped before him; he began to breathe more deeply. Not many minutes later he rose and walked homeward across the dim, wide waste.

It was afternoon of the next day when he stood at Mrs. Stutt’s door again. Mrs. Stutt looked at him with the embarrassment of conscious pity as she admitted him. People had been looking at him all day, on the street and in the office, with the same embarrassment and pity. Miss Northrop was packing, the good woman said; and, in an answer to her call, Winifred came out from her room into the little sitting-room. She, too, was evidently under agitation and embarrassment. Will had no doubt, from his first sight of her face, that she had seen and understood his haggard flight the evening before. He was himself entirely calm, as he held out his hand with a grave smile in silence.

Winifred tried to speak naturally.

“I had just sent a note to you, Will,” she said, as they sat down.

“About the school, I suppose,” he answered, quietly. “You are going away at once?”

“Yes.” There she stopped, with her eyes downcast. She looked up to his face and caught her breath to speak, stopped, and began again.

“You have been very good to me all this year—” there she hesitated. Her difficulty was to choose her words so as to ignore his secret, and yet not part from him in a cold or inadequate way.

He rose, and crossed over to her.

“Winifred,” he said gently, “you are distressed on my account; and so it is better that I should speak of what otherwise it would be better to ignore. I want you to know that you have not harmed me.”

She rose quickly at that, and they stood near together, with their eyes fixed on each other’s; the fulness of expression in her face seemed to take the place of answer. He went on steadily, speaking low:

“I have thought it all over, and I find these two things stronger than any pain that may have come to me. Winifred, I cannot do you this wrong, to make you the instrument of evil to me. That is one of the two things. And the other is that there is nothing to reproach any one with; no one has done wrong; there is no cause for shame, or resentment, or bitterness—only for clean pain. Pain is no great evil, Winifred, when it is clean, no matter how sharp.”

He smiled at her tranquilly enough as he spoke. In truth, he was not unhappy at the moment. It is not during but after the parting interview that the pinch comes. She answered him only with her deeply attentive look, and he went on:

“I did not come to those convictions; they came to me; or rather, they were in me, and bore down all the other feelings. All the noisy passions dropped away before them, and left just those clear voices in my soul. They made all my love and loyalty work together, instead of tearing me in opposite directions. For, see, Winifred, hasn’t it been our moral faith for years that to do spiritual harm to another is the greatest evil that can befall one, and to do him spiritual benefit, the greatest good? All these years since we were in school together, I have been proud to think that it could be only a good to you to have me think of you as I have thought, because it was only a good to me. And I will not be so disloyal now as to let my life be spoiled because of you.”

Winifred looked at him aghast. “All these years!” It was a revelation intolerable at first shock to a woman that was no coquette.

“I think it was all the time dimly in my mind what your last year had been; at last I went out of my life and into yours. I want you to understand that I do not think of it with bitterness, because I entered so little into it; I realize, Winifred”—his voice broke from its steadiness—“that you have been good, good in it all. If you had not been—if you had trifled with me—I think I should be at the bottom of the river to-day. But since no one has wronged me,” he went on more quietly, “since nothing monstrous or unnatural has befallen me, everything I believed in has the same claim on me as ever.

“And I want you to know that you need not mind my love, Winifred.” She dropped her eyes and stood mute. “It is something you may be willing and glad to have without troubling yourself because you cannot return it. For any pain that has happened, do not trouble yourself about that either—if I don’t mind it, you needn’t,” he said, smiling a little, with a certain manly sweetness quite new to him. “I find one gains something in having no longer to struggle with pain and try to keep her at arm’s length.”

She looked up then, and cried out passionately. “O Will, Will, if only there was anything in all this world I could do to make it up to you!”

“There is nothing to make up,” he said. “I would rather have pain from you than pleasure from any one else. But there is something that you can do; this: not to feel my love a burden laid upon you, an annoyance or trespass, an anxiety or self-reproach—or anything that will make you want to get rid of it,” he finished, smiling again; “and to let me give you all I wish, on the condition that I ask no return. And if, in a few years, I should ask to come and live near you, and be good friends—may I? It would be hard,” he urged, less quietly, “that I should have to lose your friendship, when I ask nothing more. Would you take away the crumbs from me, just because I have lost the loaf?”

“Is that best, Will?” she began, anxious and hesitating. “Oh, I mean for you. It isn’t possible that you can always—think of me—so. There is no reason. If you do not see me—somebody else—”

“Have I been seeing you these dozen years?” he said, very gently. “You may trust me to know what is best for me. Why think—think a moment, dear friend, and you will understand. You, of all people, can understand the plane I want you to take me on.”

Winifred’s eyes kindled and her face flushed. “I see. I do understand. I can meet you on your own plane, and I can trust your friendship and you. I am not afraid to have you come—after a year or two.”

“Thank you,” he said, shaken as he had not been.

“It is because you are very noble that any good can come out of this harm,” she went on, with an eloquent tremor in her voice. “I can see that before very long I shall be, as you said, willing—glad—for so great a gift—only always sorry for your sake. I am very grateful now—I cannot tell you how great a thing I think it is—from such a man as you.”

They had both become embarrassed and shy now, and both stood silent to recover their ease. “You leave by this evening’s train?” he asked in a minute.

“Yes.”

“Then this is good-by.”

“For a while.”

They moved together to the door. As they reached it, Will turned and held out his hand, with an attempt at a smile. They stood a few moments with hands clasped. Winifred’s downcast eyes were filling.

“Good-by, Winifred,” he said.

“Good-by,” she answered, faintly. A minute later she had thrown herself sobbing on her bed, and he was walking down the street.

He met Winifred’s lover, coming from the ticket-office—a gentleman high-bred and handsome in every line, a scholar by his appearance, a good man by his eyes, a good companion by his smile. There were all those differences between him and Will that the young man had talked of and Winifred in all sincerity had called nothing; and, moreover, she would never in the world have loved him if there had not been. The girl was an aristocrat after all, when it came to a question not of friendship but love. And Will knew it; love is penetrating enough to divine that much from scanty data. He looked at the stranger with a sort of transferred reverence—what a king of men must he be whom Winifred could crown! And if he did not look at him without a blinding pang, it was, nevertheless, a test of the thoroughness of the night’s work that there was neither bitterness nor aversion in it. Something, that sense of having disarmed pain—not dodged nor outwitted it, but disarmed it forever—must have been in Winkelried’s consciousness as the spears pressed in.

But, after all, it is taking the second place that costs—not being there after it has been once sincerely and thoroughly accepted. Bunyan knew long ago that it was easy walking in the Valley of Humiliation, once you had come safely down.

On the street an acquaintance met Strong and turned to walk beside him. It was the man who would not trust Judge Garvey out of sight with his baby’s silver mug.

“I was just going to your office,” he said. “It’s something very important.” He spoke with a marked friendliness, and a transparently covert sympathy. “You see,” he went on, confidentially, “we fellows that have been against Garvey begin to think our minority’s about over. The whole affair of Miss Northrop has hurt him. He was shabby when first she came, about that Coakley business, and he’s been ugly about her ever since in a sneaking sort of way. Such a lady, too! And there’s a thing come out to-day—if you’ll excuse my speaking of it.” He showed a certain embarrassment. “Uncle Billy Green gave it away first—he knew, being postmaster—but Garvey’s been boasting of it himself, too, in the bar-room. You know you used to write to a fellow in the States, and haven’t written to him so much lately.”

“Yes, I know,” said Strong. The man caught a hint of what he did not say in what he did.

“Uncle Billy gives away any interesting point he gets in the post-office,” he said, apologetically. “You knew that before, Strong. Well, Garvey got out of him, too, that Miss Northrop didn’t have nor write any letters; and he got it into his head she was hiding. Anybody could see she wasn’t used to working for a living—”

“Look here—”

“Bless you, Strong, I sha’n’t say a word disrespectful to her. This is something you’d ought to know. He just did up a ‘Clarion’ with some notice about the school in it, and her name marked, and sent it to that fellow you used to write to; and he wrote on the margin: ‘Please forward to Miss N.’s friends.’ He said in the bar-room, to-day, that he didn’t know just what would come of it, but it stood to reason if she was on the hide, it would damage her or you, somehow.”

“It hasn’t, however,” said Strong. “But if I stayed round the bar-room—”

“Oh, we choked him off. I tell you, Strong, everybody thinks it was a pretty dirty trick. The people don’t care so much about his big tricks, but they won’t stand any such small ones. No money in it, either—only spite! Well, the long and the short is—it’s only a few weeks till convention; and if you’ll take hold now while they’re mad, you can name your own man for Senate, and we’ll send you to Assembly.”

“I don’t want to go to Assembly,” said Will, standing on his office-step. “I’ll gladly do my best to defeat Garvey for Senate.”

“Well, you just decide on your man, and bring him out in your next paper and we’ll elect him. The people are strong for you just now. And I should think you would look on going to Assembly as a sort of duty—purify politics, you know.”

“Well—I’ll think about it.” And young Strong walked into his shabby office, stopped to give Jim directions, then went in behind his screen, and sat down to write a proper editorial for beginning the reform campaign.