MR. CREWE'S CAREER
By WINSTON CHURCHILL
THE HONOURABLE HILARY VANE SITS FOR HIS PORTRAIT
I may as well begin this story with Mr. Hilary Vane, more frequently
addressed as the Honourable Hilary Vane, although it was the gentleman's
proud boast that he had never held an office in his life. He belonged to
the Vanes of Camden Street,—a beautiful village in the hills near
Ripton,—and was, in common with some other great men who had made a
noise in New York and the nation, a graduate of Camden Wentworth Academy.
But Mr. Vane, when he was at home, lived on a wide, maple-shaded street
in the city of Ripton, cared for by an elderly housekeeper who had more
edges than a new-fangled mowing machine. The house was a porticoed one
which had belonged to the Austens for a hundred years or more, for Hilary
Vane had married, towards middle age, Miss Sarah Austen. In two years he
was a widower, and he never tried it again; he had the Austens' house,
and that many-edged woman, Euphrasia Cotton, the Austens' housekeeper.
The house was of wood, and was painted white as regularly as leap year.
From the street front to the vegetable garden in the extreme rear it was
exceedingly long, and perhaps for propriety's sake—Hilary Vane lived at
one end of it and Euphrasia at the other. Hilary was sixty-five,
Euphrasia seventy, which is not old for frugal people, though it is just
as well to add that there had never been a breath of scandal about either
of them, in Ripton or elsewhere. For the Honourable Hilary's modest needs
one room sufficed, and the front parlour had not been used since poor
Sarah Austen's demise, thirty years before this story opens.
In those thirty years, by a sane and steady growth, Hilary Vane had
achieved his present eminent position in the State. He was trustee for I
know not how many people and institutions, a deacon in the first church,
a lawyer of such ability that he sometimes was accorded the
courtesy-title of "Judge." His only vice—if it could be called such—was
in occasionally placing a piece, the size of a pea, of a particular kind
of plug tobacco under his tongue,—and this was not known to many people.
Euphrasia could not be called a wasteful person, and Hilary had
accumulated no small portion of this world's goods, and placed them as
propriety demanded, where they were not visible to the naked eye: and be
it added in his favour that he gave as secretly, to institutions and
hospitals the finances and methods of which were known to him.
As concrete evidence of the Honourable Hilary Vane's importance, when he
travelled he had only to withdraw from his hip-pocket a book in which
many coloured cards were neatly inserted, an open-sesame which permitted
him to sit without payment even in those wheeled palaces of luxury known
as Pullman cars. Within the limits of the State he did not even have to
open the book, but merely say, with a twinkle of his eyes to the
conductor, "Good morning, John," and John would reply with a bow and a
genial and usually witty remark, and point him out to a nobody who sat in
the back of the car. So far had Mr. Hilary Vane's talents carried him.
The beginning of this eminence dated back to the days before the Empire,
when there were many little principalities of railroads fighting among
themselves. For we are come to a changed America. There was a time, in
the days of the sixth Edward of England, when the great landowners found
it more profitable to consolidate the farms, seize the common lands, and
acquire riches hitherto undreamed of. Hence the rising of tailor Ket and
others, and the leveling of fences and barriers, and the eating of many
sheep. It may have been that Mr. Vane had come across this passage in
English history, but he drew no parallels. His first position of trust
had been as counsel for that principality known in the old days as the
Central Railroad, of which a certain Mr. Duncan had been president, and
Hilary Vane had fought the Central's battles with such telling effect
that when it was merged into the one Imperial Railroad, its stockholders
—to the admiration of financiers—were guaranteed ten per cent. It was,
indeed, rumoured that Hilary drew the Act of Consolidation itself. At any
rate, he was too valuable an opponent to neglect, and after a certain
interval of time Mr. Vane became chief counsel in the State for the
Imperial Railroad, on which dizzy height we now behold him. And he found,
by degrees, that he had no longer time for private practice.
It is perhaps gratuitous to add that the Honourable Hilary Vane was a man
of convictions. In politics he would have told you—with some vehemence,
if you seemed to doubt—that he was a Republican. Treason to party he
regarded with a deep-seated abhorrence, as an act for which a man should
be justly outlawed. If he were in a mellow mood, with the right quantity
of Honey Dew tobacco under his tongue, he would perhaps tell you why he
was a Republican, if he thought you worthy of his confidence. He believed
in the gold standard, for one thing; in the tariff (left unimpaired in
its glory) for another, and with a wave of his hand would indicate the
prosperity of the nation which surrounded him,—a prosperity too sacred
to tamper with.
One article of his belief, and in reality the chief article, Mr. Vane
would not mention to you. It was perhaps because he had never formulated
the article for himself. It might be called a faith in the divine right
of Imperial Railroads to rule, but it was left out of the verbal creed.
This is far from implying hypocrisy to Mr. Vane. It was his
foundation-rock and too sacred for light conversation. When he allowed
himself to be bitter against various "young men with missions" who had
sprung up in various States of the Union, so-called purifiers of
politics, he would call them the unsuccessful with a grievance, and
recommend to them the practice of charity, forbearance, and other
Christian virtues. Thank God, his State was not troubled with such.
In person Mr. Hilary Vane was tall, with a slight stoop to his shoulders,
and he wore the conventional double-breasted black coat, which reached to
his knees, and square-toed congress boots. He had a Puritan beard, the
hawk-like Vane nose, and a twinkling eye that spoke of a sense of humour
and a knowledge of the world. In short, he was no man's fool, and on
occasions had been more than a match for certain New York lawyers with
It is rare, in this world of trouble, that such an apparently ideal and
happy state of existence is without a canker. And I have left the
revelation of the canker to the last. Ripton knew it was there, Camden
Street knew it, and Mr. Vane's acquaintances throughout the State; but
nobody ever spoke of it. Euphrasia shed over it the only tears she had
known since Sarah Austen died, and some of these blotted the only letters
she wrote. Hilary Vane did not shed tears, but his friends suspected that
his heart-strings were torn, and pitied him. Hilary Vane fiercely
resented pity, and that was why they did not speak of it. This trouble of
his was the common point on which he and Euphrasia touched, and they
touched only to quarrel. Let us out with it—Hilary Vane had a wild son,
whose name was Austen.
Euphrasia knew that in his secret soul Mr. Vane attributed this wildness,
and what he was pleased to designate as profligacy, to the Austen blood.
And Euphrasia resented it bitterly. Sarah Austen had been a young, elfish
thing when he married her,—a dryad, the elderly and learned Mrs. Tredway
had called her. Mr Vane had understood her about as well as he would have
understood Mary, Queen of Scots, if he had been married to that lady.
Sarah Austen had a wild, shy beauty, startled, alert eyes like an animal,
and rebellious black hair that curled about her ears and gave her a
faun-like appearance. With a pipe and the costume of Rosalind she would
have been perfect. She had had a habit of running off for the day into
the hills with her son, and the conventions of Ripton had been to her as
so many defunct blue laws. During her brief married life there had been
periods of defiance from her lasting a week, when she would not speak to
Hilary or look at him, and these periods would be followed by violent
spells of weeping in Euphrasia's arms, when the house was no place for
Hilary. He possessed by matrimony and intricate mechanism of which his
really admirable brain could not grasp the first principles; he felt for
her a real if uncomfortable affection, but when she died he heaved a sigh
of relief, at which he was immediately horrified.
Austen he understood little better, but his affection for the child may
be likened to the force of a great river rushing through a narrow gorge,
and he vied with Euphrasia in spoiling him. Neither knew what they were
doing, and the spoiling process was interspersed with occasional and (to
Austen) unmeaning intervals of severe discipline. The boy loved the
streets and the woods and his fellow-beings; his punishments were a
series of afternoons in the house, during one of which he wrecked the
bedroom where he was confined, and was soundly whaled with an old slipper
that broke under the process. Euphrasia kept the slipper, and once showed
it to Hilary during a quarrel they had when the boy was grown up and gone
and the house was silent, and Hilary had turned away, choking, and left
the room. Such was his cross.
To make it worse, the boy had love his father. Nay, still loved him. As a
little fellow, after a scolding for some wayward prank, he would throw
himself into Hilary's arms and cling to him, and would never know how
near he came to unmanning him. As Austen grew up, they saw the world in
different colours: blue to Hilary was red to Austen, and white, black;
essentials to one were non-essentials to the other; boys and girls, men
and women, abhorred by one were boon companions to the other.
Austen made fun of the minister, and was compelled to go church twice on
Sundays and to prayer-meeting on Wednesdays. Then he went to Camden
Street, to live with his grandparents in the old Vane house and attend
Camden Wentworth Academy. His letters, such as they were, were inimitable
if crude, but contained not the kind of humour Hilary Vane knew. Camden
Wentworth, principal and teachers, was painted to the life; and the lad
could hardly wait for vacation time to see his father, only to begin
quarreling with him again.
I pass over escapades in Ripton that shocked one half of the population
and convulsed the other half. Austen went to the college which his father
had attended,—a college of splendid American traditions,—and his career
there might well have puzzled a father of far greater tolerance and
catholicity. Hilary Vane was a trustee, and journeyed more than once to
talk the matter over with the president, who had been his classmate
"I love that boy, Hilary," the president had said at length, when pressed
for a frank opinion,—"there isn't a soul in the place, I believe, that
doesn't,—undergraduates and faculty,—but he has given me more anxious
thought than any scholar I have ever had."
"Trouble," corrected Mr. Vane, sententiously.
"Well, yes, trouble," answered the president, smiling, "but upon my soul,
I think it is all animal spirits."
"A euphemism for the devil," said Hilary, grimly; "he is the animal part
of us, I have been brought up to believe."
The president was a wise man, and took another tack.
"He has a really remarkable mind, when he chooses to use it. Every once
in a while he takes your breath away—but he has to become interested. A
few weeks ago Hays came to me direct from his lecture room to tell me
about a discussion of Austen's in constitutional law. Hays, you know, is
not easily enthused, but he declares your son has as fine a legal brain
as he has come across in his experience. But since then, I am bound to
admit," added the president, sadly, "Austen seems not to have looked at a
"'Unstable as water, thou shalt not excel,'" replied Hilary.
"He'll sober down," said the president, stretching his conviction a
little, "he has two great handicaps: he learns too easily, and he is too
popular." The president looked out of his study window across the common,
surrounded by the great elms which had been planted when Indian lads
played among the stumps and the red flag of England had flown from the
tall pine staff. The green was covered now with students of a conquering
race, skylarking to and fro as they looked on at a desultory baseball
game. "I verily believe," said the president, "at a word from your son,
most of them would put on their coats and follow him on any mad
expedition that came into his mind."
Hilary Vane groaned more than once in the train back to Ripton. It meant
nothing to him to be the father of the most popular man in college.
"The mad expedition" came at length in the shape of a fight with the
townspeople, in which Austen, of course, was the ringleader. If he had
inherited his mother's eccentricities, he had height and physique from
the Vanes, and one result was a week in bed for the son of the local
plumber and a damage suit against the Honourable Hilary. Another result
was that Austen and a Tom Gaylord came back to Ripton on a long
suspension, which, rumour said, would have been expulsion if Hilary were
not a trustee. Tom Gaylord was proud of suspension in such company. More
of him later. He was the son of old Tom Gaylord, who owned more lumber
than any man in the State, and whom Hilary Vane believed to be the
receptacle of all the vices.
Eventually Austen went back and graduated—not summa cum laude, honesty
compels me to add. Then came the inevitable discussion, and to please his
father he went to the Harvard Law School for two years. At the end of
that time, instead of returning to Ripton, a letter had come from him
with the postmark of a Western State, where he had fled with a classmate
who owned ranch. Evidently the worldly consideration to be derived from
conformity counted little with Austen Vane. Money was a medium only—not
an end. He was in the saddle all day, with nothing but the horizon to
limit him; he loved his father, and did not doubt his father's love for
him, and he loved Euphrasia. He could support himself, but he must see
life. The succeeding years brought letters and quaint, useless presents
to both the occupants of the lonely house,—Navajo blankets and Indian
jeweler and basket-work,—and Austen little knew how carefully these were
packed away and surreptitiously gazed at from time to time. But to Hilary
the Western career was a disgrace, and such meagre reports of it as came
from other sources than Austen tended only to confirm him in this
It was commonly said of Mr. Paul Pardriff that not a newspaper fell from
the press that he did not have a knowledge of its contents. Certain it
was that Mr. Pardriff made a specialty of many kinds of knowledge,
political and otherwise, and, the information he could give—if he chose
—about State and national affairs was of a recondite and cynical nature
that made one wish to forget about the American flag. Mr. Pardriff was
under forty, and with these gifts many innocent citizens of Ripton
naturally wondered why the columns of his newspaper, the Ripton Record,
did not more closely resemble the spiciness of his talk in the office of
Gales' Hotel. The columns contained, instead, such efforts as essays on a
national flower and the abnormal size of the hats of certain great men,
notably Andrew Jackson; yes, and the gold standard; and in times of
political stress they were devoted to a somewhat fulsome praise of
regular and orthodox Republican candidates,—and praise of any one was
not in character with the editor. Ill-natured people said that the matter
in his paper might possibly be accounted for by the gratitude of the
candidates, and the fact that Mr. Pardriff and his wife and his
maid-servant and his hired man travelled on pink mileage books, which
could only be had for love—not money. On the other hand, reputable
witnesses had had it often from Mr. Pardriff that he was a reformer, and
not at all in sympathy with certain practices which undoubtedly existed.
Some years before—to be exact, the year Austen Vane left the law school
—Mr. Pardriff had proposed to exchange the Ripton Record with the editor
of the Pepper County Plainsman in afar Western State. The exchange was
effected, and Mr. Pardriff glanced over the Plainsman regularly once a
week, though I doubt whether the Western editor ever read the Record
after the first copy. One day in June Mr. Pardriff was seated in his
sanctum above Merrill's drug store when his keen green eyes fell upon the
following:—"The Plainsman considers it safe to say that the sympathy of
the people of Pepper County at large is with Mr. Austen Vane, whose
personal difficulty with Jim Blodgett resulted so disastrously for Mr.
Blodgett. The latter gentleman has long made himself obnoxious to local
ranch owners by his persistent disregard of property lines and property,
and it will be recalled that he is at present in hot water with the
energetic Secretary of the Interior for fencing government lands. Vane,
who was recently made manager of Ready Money Ranch, is one of the most
popular young men in the county. He was unwillingly assisted over the
State line by his friends. Although he has never been a citizen of the
State, the Plainsman trusts that he may soon be back and become one of
us. At last report Mr. Blodgett was resting easily."
This article obtained circulation in Ripton, although it was not copied
into the Record out of deference to the feelings of the Honourable Hilary
Vane. In addition to the personal regard Mr. Pardriff professed to have
for the Honourable Hilary, it maybe well to remember that Austen's father
was, among other, things, chairman of the State Committee. Mr. Tredway
(largest railroad stockholder in Ripton) pursed his lips that were
already pursed. Tom Gaylord roared with laughter. Two or three days later
the Honourable Hilary, still in blissful ignorance, received a letter
that agitated him sorely.
"DEAR FATHER: I hope you don't object to receiving a little visit from a
prodigal, wayward son. To tell the truth, I have found it convenient to
leave the Ready Money Ranch for a while, although Bob Tyner is good
enough to say I may have the place when I come back. You know I often
think of you and Phrasie back in Ripton, and I long to see the dear old
town again. Expect me when you see me.
"Your aff. son,
ON THE TREATMENT OF PRODIGALS
While Euphrasia, in a frenzy of anticipation, garnished and swept the
room which held for her so many memories of Austen's boyhood, even
beating the carpet with her own hands, Hilary Vane went about his
business with no apparent lack of diligence. But he was meditating. He
had many times listened to the Reverend Mr. Weightman read the parable
from the pulpit, but he had never reflected how it would be to be the
father of a real prodigal. What was to be done about the calf? Was there
to be a calf, or was there not? To tell the truth, Hilary wanted a calf,
and yet to have one (in spite of Holy Writ) would seem to set a premium
on disobedience and riotous living.
Again, Austen had reached thirty, an age when it was not likely he would
settle down and live an orderly and godly life among civilized beings,
and therefore a fatted calf was likely to be the first of many follies
which he (Hilary) would live to regret. No, he would deal with justice.
How he dealt will be seen presently, but when he finally reached this
conclusion, the clipping from the Pepper County Plainsman had not yet
come before his eyes.
It is worth relating how the clipping did come before his eyes, for no
one in Ripton had the temerity to speak of it. Primarily, it was because
Miss Victoria Flint had lost a terrier, and secondarily, because she was
a person of strong likes and dislikes. In pursuit of the terrier she
drove madly through Leith, which, as everybody knows, is a famous colony
of rich summer residents. Victoria probably stopped at every house in
Leith, and searched them with characteristic vigour and lack of ceremony,
sometimes entering by the side door, and sometimes by the front, and
caring very little whether the owners were at home or not. Mr. Humphrey
Crewe discovered her in a boa-stall at Wedderburn,—as his place was
called,—for it made little difference to Victoria that Mr. Crewe was a
bachelor of marriageable age and millions. Full, as ever, of practical
suggestions, Mr. Crewe proposed to telephone to Ripton and put an
advertisement in the Record, which—as he happened to know—went to press
the next day. Victoria would not trust to the telephone, whereupon Mr.
Crewe offered to drive down with her.
"You'd bore me, Humphrey," said she, as she climbed into her runabout
with the father and grandfather of the absentee. Mr. Crewe laughed as she
drove away. He had a chemical quality of turning invidious remarks into
compliments, and he took this one as Victoria's manner of saying that she
did not wish to disturb so important a man.
Arriving in the hot main street of Ripton, her sharp eyes descried the
Record sign over the drug store, and in an astonishingly short time she
was in the empty office. Mr. Pardriff was at dinner. She sat down in the
editorial chair and read a great deal of uninteresting matter, but at
last found something on the floor (where the wind had blown it) which
made her laugh. It was the account of Austen Vane's difficulty with Mr.
Blodgett. Victoria did not know Austen, but she knew that the Honourable
Hilary had a son of that name who had gone West, and this was what
tickled her. She thrust the clipping in the pocket of her linen coat just
as Mr. Pardriff came in.
Her conversation with the editor of the Record proved so entertaining
that she forgot all about the clipping until she had reached Fairview,
and had satisfied a somewhat imperious appetite by a combination of lunch
and afternoon tea. Fairview was the "summer place" of Mr. Augustus P.
Flint, her father, on a shelf of the hills in the town of Tunbridge,
equidistant from Leith and Ripton: and Mr. Flint was the president of the
Imperial Railroad, no less.
Yes, he had once been plain Gus Flint, many years ago, when he used to
fetch the pocket-handkerchiefs of Mr. Isaac D. Worthington of Brampton,
and he was still "Gus" to his friends. Mr. Flint's had been the brain
which had largely conceived and executed the consolidation of
principalities of which the Imperial Railroad was the result and, as
surely as tough metal prevails, Mr. Flint, after many other trials and
errors of weaker stuff, had been elected to the place for which he was so
supremely fitted. We are so used in America to these tremendous rises
that a paragraph will suffice to place Mr. Flint in his Aladdin's palace.
To do him justice, he cared not a fig for the palace, and he would have
been content with the farmhouse under the hill where his gardener lived.
You could not fool Mr. Flint on a horse or a farm, and he knew to a dot
what a railroad was worth by travelling over it. Like his
governor-general and dependent, Mr. Hilary Vane, he had married a wife
who had upset all his calculations. The lady discovered Mr. Flint's
balance in the bank, and had proceeded to use it for her own
glorification, and the irony of it all was that he could defend it from
everybody else. Mrs. Flint spent, and Mr. Flint paid the bills; for the
first ten years protestingly, and after that he gave it up and let her go
her own gait.
She had come from the town of Sharon, in another State, through which Mr.
Flint's railroad also ran, and she had been known as the Rose of that
place. She had begun to rise immediately, with the kite-like adaptability
of the American woman for high altitudes, and the leaden weight of the
husband at the end of the tail was as nothing to her. She had begun it
all by the study of people in hotels while Mr. Flint was closeted with
officials and directors. By dint of minute observation and reasoning
powers and unflagging determination she passed rapidly through several
strata, and had made a country place out of her husband's farm in
Tunbridge, so happily and conveniently situated near Leith. In winter
they lived on Fifth Avenue.
One daughter alone had halted, for a minute period, this progress, and
this daughter was Victoria—named by her mother. Victoria was now
twenty-one, and was not only of another generation, but might almost have
been judged of another race than her parents. The things for which her
mother had striven she took for granted, and thought of them not at all,
and she had by nature that simplicity and astonishing frankness of manner
and speech which was once believed to be an exclusive privilege of
To return to Fairview. Victoria, after sharing her five o'clock luncheon
with her dogs, went to seek her father, for the purpose (if it must be
told) of asking him for a cheque. Mr. Flint was at Fairview on the
average of two days out of the week during the summer, and then he was
nearly always closeted with a secretary and two stenographers and a
long-distance telephone in two plain little rooms at the back of the
house. And Mr. Hilary Vane was often in consultation with him, as he was
on the present occasion when Victoria flung open the door. At sight of
Mr. Vane she halted suddenly on the threshold, and a gleam of mischief
came into her eye as she thrust her hand into her coat pocket. The two
regarded her with the detached air of men whose thread of thought has
"Well, Victoria," said her father, kindly if resignedly, "what is it
"Money," replied Victoria, promptly; "I went to Avalon this morning and
bought that horse you said I might have."
"What horse?" asked Mr. Flint, vaguely. "But never mind. Tell Mr. Freeman
to make out the cheque."
Mr. Vane glanced at Mr. Flint, and his eyes twinkled. Victoria, who had
long ago discovered the secret of the Honey Dew, knew that he was rolling
it under his tongue and thinking her father a fool for his indulgence.
"How do you do, Mr. Vane?" she said; "Austen's coming home, isn't he?"
She had got this by feminine arts out of Mr. Paul Pardriff, to whom she
had not confided the fact of her possession of the clipping.
The Honourable Hilary gave a grunt, as he always did when he was
surprised and displeased, as though some one had prodded him with a stick
in a sensitive spot.
"Your son? Why, Vane, you never told me that," said Mr. Flint. "I didn't
know that you knew him, Victoria."
"I don't," answered Victoria, "but I'd like to. What did he do to Mr.
Blodgett?" she demanded of Hilary.
"Mr. Blodgett!" exclaimed that gentleman. "I never heard of him. What's
happened to him?"
"He will probably recover," she assured him.
The Honourable Hilary, trying in vain to suppress his agitation, rose to
"I don't know what you're talking about, Victoria," he said, but his
glance was fixed on the clipping in her hand.
"Haven't you seen it?" she asked, giving it to him.
He read it in silence, groaned, and handed it to Mr. Flint, who had been
drumming on the table and glancing at Victoria with vague disapproval.
Mr. Flint read it and gave it back to the Honourable Hilary, who groaned
again and looked out of the window.
"Why do you feel badly about it?" asked Victoria. "I'd be proud of him,
if I were you."
"Proud of him" echoed Mr. Vane, grimly. "Proud of him!"
"Victoria, what do you mean?" said Mr. Flint.
"Why not?" said Victoria. "He's done nothing to make you ashamed.
According to that clipping, he's punished a man who richly deserved to be
punished, and he has the sympathy of an entire county."
Hilary Vane was not a man to discuss his domestic affliction with
anybody, so he merely grunted and gazed persistently out of the window,
and was not aware of the fact that Victoria made a little face at him as
she left the room. The young are not always impartial judges of the old,
and Victoria had never forgiven him for carrying to her father the news
of an escapade of hers in Ripton.
As he drove through the silent forest roads on his way homeward that
afternoon, the Honourable Hilary revolved the new and intensely
disagreeable fact in his mind as to how he should treat a prodigal who
had attempted manslaughter and was a fugitive from justice. In the
meantime a tall and spare young man of a red-bronze colour alighted from
the five o'clock express at Ripton and grinned delightedly at the
gentlemen who made the station their headquarters about train time. They
were privately disappointed that the gray felt hat, although
broad-brimmed, was not a sombrero, and the respectable, loose-fitting
suit of clothes was not of buckskin with tassels on the trousers; and
likewise that he came without the cartridge belt and holster which they
had pictured in anticipatory sessions on the baggage-trucks. There could
be no doubt of the warmth of their greeting as they sidled up and seized
a hand somewhat larger than theirs, but the welcome had in it an
ingredient of awe that puzzled the newcomer, who did not hesitate to
inquire:—"What's the matter, Ed? Why so ceremonious, Perley?"
But his eagerness did not permit him to wait for explanations. Grasping
his bag, the only baggage he possessed, he started off at a swinging
stride for Hanover Street, pausing only to shake the hands of the few who
recognized him, unconscious of the wild-fire at his back. Hanover Street
was empty that drowsy summer afternoon, and he stopped under the
well-remembered maples before the house and gazed at it long and
tenderly; even at the windows of that room—open now for the first time
in years—where he had served so many sentences of imprisonment. Then he
went cautiously around by the side and looked in at the kitchen door. To
other eyes than his Euphrasia might not have seemed a safe person to
embrace, but in a moment he had her locked in his arms and weeping. She
knew nothing as yet of Mr. Blodgett's misfortunes, but if Austen Vane had
depopulated a county it would have made no difference in her affection.
"My, but you're a man," exclaimed Euphrasia, backing away at last and
staring at him with the only complete approval she had ever accorded to
any human being save one.
"What did you expect, Phrasie?"
"Come, and I'll show you your room," she said, in a gutter she could not
hide; "it's got all the same pictures in, your mother's pictures, and the
chair you broke that time when Hilary locked you in. It's mended."
"Hold on, Phrasie," said Austen, seizing her by the apron-strings, "how
about the Judge?" It was by this title he usually designated his father.
"What about him?" demanded Euphrasia, sharply.
"Well, it's his house, for one thing," answered Austen, "and he may
prefer to have that room—empty."
"Empty! Turn you out? I'd like to see him," cried Euphrasia. "It wouldn't
take me long to leave him high and dry."
She paused at the sound of wheels, and there was the Honourable Hilary,
across the garden patch, in the act of slipping out of his buggy at the
stable door. In the absence of Luke, the hired man, the chief counsel for
the railroad was wont to put up the horse himself, and he already had the
reins festooned from the bit rings when he felt a heavy, hand on his
shoulder and heard a voice say:—"How are you, Judge?"
If the truth be told, that voice and that touch threw the Honourable
Hilary's heart out of beat. Many days he had been schooling himself for
this occasion: this very afternoon he had determined his course of
action, which emphatically did not include a fatted calf. And now surged
up a dryad-like memory which had troubled him many a wakeful night, of
startled, appealing eyes that sought his in vain, and of the son she had
left him flinging himself into his arms in the face of chastisement. For
the moment Hilary Vane, under this traitorous influence, was unable to
speak. But he let the hand rest on his shoulder, and at length was able
to pronounce, in a shamefully shaky voice, the name of his son. Whereupon
Austen seized him by the other shoulder and turned him round and looked
into his face.
"The same old Judge," he said.
But Hilary was startled, even as Euphrasia had been. Was this strange,
bronzed, quietly humorous young man his son? Hilary even had to raise his
eyes a little; he had forgotten how tall Austen was. Strange emotions,
unbidden and unwelcome, ran riot in his breast; and Hilary Vane, who made
no slips before legislative committees or supreme courts, actually found
himself saying:—"Euphrasia's got your room ready."
"It's good of you to take me in, Judge," said Austen, patting his
shoulder. And then he began, quite naturally to unbuckle the breechings
and loose the traces, which he did with such deftness and celerity that
he had the horse unharnessed and in the stall in a twinkling, and had
hauled the buggy through the stable door, the Honourable Hilary watching
him the while. He was troubled, but for the life of him could find no
adequate words, who usually had the dictionary at his disposal.
"Didn't write me why you came home," said the Honourable Hilary, as his
son washed his hands at the spigot.
"Didn't I? Well, the truth was I wanted to see you again, Judge."
His father grunted, not with absolute displeasure, but suspiciously.
"How about Blodgett?" he asked.
"Blodgett? Have you heard about that? Who told you?"
"Never mind. You didn't. Nothing in your letter about it."
"It wasn't worth mentioning," replied Austen. "Tyner and the boys liked
it pretty well, but I didn't think you'd be interested. It was a local
"Not interested! Not worth mentioning!" exclaimed the Honourable Hilary,
outraged to discover that his son was modestly deprecating an achievement
instead of defending a crime. "Godfrey! murder ain't worth mentioning, I
"Not when it isn't successful," said Austen. "If Blodgett had succeeded,
I guess you'd have heard of it before you did."
"Do you mean to say this Blodgett tried to kill you?" demanded the
"Yes," said his son, "and I've never understood why he didn't. He's a
good deal better shot than I am."
The Honourable Hilary grunted, and sat down on a bucket and carefully
prepared a piece of Honey Dew. He was surprised and agitated.
"Then why are you a fugitive from justice if you were acting in
self-defence?" he inquired.
"Well, you see there were no witnesses, except a Mexican of Blodgett's,
and Blodgett runs the Pepper County machine for the railroad out there.
I'd been wanting to come East and have a look at you for some time, and I
thought I might as well come now."
"How did this—this affair start?" asked Mr. Vane.
"Blodgett was driving in some of Tyner's calves, and I caught him. I told
him what I thought of him, and he shot at me through his pocket. That was
"All! You shot him, didn't you?"
"I was lucky enough to hit him first," said Austen.
Extraordinary as it may seem, the Honourable Hilary experienced a sense
"Where did you hit him?" he asked.
It was Euphrasia who took matters in her own hands and killed the fatted
calf, and the meal to which they presently sat down was very different
from the frugal suppers Mr. Vane usually had. But he made no comment. It
is perhaps not too much to say that he would have been distinctly
disappointed had it been otherwise. There was Austen's favourite pie, and
Austen's favourite cake, all inherited from the Austens, who had thought
more of the fleshpots than people should. And the prodigal did full
justice to the occasion.
CONCERNING THE PRACTICE OF LAW
So instinctively do we hark back to the primeval man that there was a
tendency to lionize the prodigal in Ripton, which proves the finished
civilization of the East not to be so far removed from that land of
outlaws, Pepper County. Mr. Paul Pardriff, who had a guilty conscience
about the clipping, and vividly bearing in mind Mr. Blodgett's mishap,
alone avoided young Mr. Vane; and escaped through the type-setting room
and down an outside stairway in the rear when that gentleman called. It
gave an ironical turn to the incident that Mr. Pardriff was at the moment
engaged in a "Welcome Home" paragraph meant to be propitiatory.
Austen cared very little for lionizing. He spent most of his time with
young Tom Gaylord, now his father's right-hand man in a tremendous lumber
business. And Tom, albeit he had become so important, habitually fell
once more under the domination of the hero of his youthful days. Together
these two visited haunts of their boyhood, camping and fishing and
scaling mountains, Tom with an eye to lumbering prospects the while.
After a matter of two or three months bad passed away in this pleasant
though unprofitable manner, the Honourable Hilary requested the presence
of his son one morning at his office. This office was in what had once
been a large residence, and from its ample windows you could look out
through the elms on to the square. Old-fashioned bookcases lined with
musty books filled the walls, except where a steel engraving of a legal
light or a railroad map of the State was hung, and the Honourable Hilary
sat in a Windsor chair at a mahogany table in the middle.
The anteroom next door, where the clerks sat, was also a waiting-room for
various individuals from the different parts of the State who continually
sought the counsel's presence.
"Haven't seen much of you since you've be'n home, Austen," his father
remarked as an opening.
"Your—legal business compels you to travel a great deal," answered
Austen, turning from the window and smiling.
"Somewhat," said the Honourable Hilary, on whom this pleasantry was not
lost. "You've be'n travelling on the lumber business, I take it."
"I know more about it than I did," his son admitted.
The Honourable Hilary grunted.
"Caught a good many fish, haven't you?"
Austen crossed the room and sat on the edge of the desk beside his
"See here, Judge," he said, "what are you driving at? Out with it."
"When are you—going back West?" asked Mr. Vane.
Austen did not answer at once, but looked down into his father's
"Do you want to get rid of me?" he said.
"Sowed enough wild oats, haven't you?" inquired the father.
"I've sowed a good many," Austen admitted.
"Why not settle down?"
"I haven't yet met the lady, Judge," replied his son.
"Couldn't support her if you had," said Mr. Vane.
"Then it's fortunate," said Austen, resolved not to be the necessary
second in a quarrel. He knew his father, and perceived that these
preliminary and caustic openings of his were really olive branches.
"Sometimes I think you might as well be in that outlandish country, for
all I see of you," said the Honourable Hilary.
"You ought to retire from business and try fishing," his son suggested.
The Honourable Hilary sometimes smiled.
"You've got a good brain, Austen, and what's the use of wasting it
chasing cattle and practising with a pistol on your fellow-beings? You
won't have much trouble in getting admitted to the bar. Come into the
Austen did not answer at once. He suspected that it had cost his father
not a little to make these advances.
"Do you believe you and I could get along, Judge? How long do you think
it would last?"
"I've considered that some," answered the Honourable Hilary, "but I won't
last a great while longer myself."
"You're as sound as a bronco," declared Austen, patting him.
"I never was what you might call dissipated," agreed Mr. Vane, "but men
don't go on forever. I've worked hard all my life, and got where I am,
and I've always thought I'd like to hand it on to you. It's a position of
honour and trust, Austen, and one of which any lawyer might be proud."
"My ambition hasn't run in exactly that channel," said his son.
"Didn't know as you had any precise ambition," responded the Honourable
Hilary, "but I never heard of a man refusing to be chief counsel for a
great railroad. I don't say you can be, mind, but I say with work and
brains it's as easy for the son of Hilary Vane as for anybody else."
"I don't know much about the duties of such a position," said Austen,
laughing, "but at all events I shall have time to make up my mind how to
answer Mr. Flint when he comes to me with the proposal. To speak frankly,
Judge, I hadn't thought of spending the whole of what might otherwise
prove a brilliant life in Ripton."
The Honourable Hilary smiled again, and then he grunted.
"I tell you what I'll do," he said; "you come in with me and agree to
stay five years. If you've done well for yourself, and want to go to New
York or some large place at the end of that time, I won't hinder you. But
I feel it my duty to say, if you don't accept my offer, no son of mine
shall inherit what I've laid up by hard labour. It's against American
doctrine, and it's against my principles. You can go back to Pepper
County and get put in jail, but you can't say I haven't warned you
"You ought to leave your fortune to the railroad, Judge," said Austen.
"Generations to come would bless your name if you put up a new station in
Ripton and built bridges over Bunker Hill grade crossing and the other
one on Heath Street where Nic Adams was killed last month. I shouldn't
begrudge a cent of the money."
"I suppose I was a fool to talk to you," said the Honourable Hilary,
But his son pushed him down again into the Windsor chair.
"Hold on, Judge," he said, "that was just my way of saying if I accepted
your offer, it wouldn't be because I yearned after the money. Thinking of
it has never kept me awake nights. Now if you'll allow me to take a few
days once in a while to let off steam, I'll make a counter proposal, in
the nature of a compromise."
"What's that?" the Honourable Hilary demanded suspiciously.
"Provided I get admitted to the bar I will take a room in another part of
this building and pick up what crumbs of practice I can by myself. Of
course, sir, I realize that these, if they come at all, will be owing to
the lustre of your name. But I should, before I become Mr. Flint's
right-hand man, like to learn to walk with my own legs."
The speech pleased the Honourable Hilary, and he put out his hand.
"It's a bargain, Austen," he said.
"I don't mind telling you now, Judge, that when I left the West I left it
for good, provided you and I could live within a decent proximity. And I
ought to add that I always intended going into the law after I'd had a
fling. It isn't fair to leave you with the impression that this is a
sudden determination. Prodigals don't become good as quick as all that."
Ripton caught its breath a second time the day Austen hired a law office,
nor did the surprise wholly cease when, in one season, he was admitted to
the bar, for the proceeding was not in keeping with the habits and
customs of prodigals. Needless to say, the practice did not immediately
begin to pour in, but the little office rarely lacked a visitor, and
sometimes had as many as five or six. There was an irresistible
attraction about that room, and apparently very little law read there,
though sometimes its occupant arose and pushed the visitors into the hall
and locked the door, and opened the window at the top to let the smoke
out. Many of the Honourable Hilary's callers preferred the little room in
the far corridor to the great man's own office.
These visitors of the elder Mr. Vane's, as has been before hinted, were
not all clients. Without burdening the reader too early with a treatise
on the fabric of a system, suffice it to say that something was
continually going on that was not law; and gentlemen came and went—fat
and thin, sharp-eyed and red-faced—who were neither clients nor lawyers.
These were really secretive gentlemen, though most of them had a
hail-fellow-well-met manner and a hearty greeting, but when they talked
to the Honourable Hilary it was with doors shut, and even then they sat
very close to his ear. Many of them preferred now to wait in Austen's
office instead of the anteroom, and some of them were not so cautious
with the son of Hilary Vane that they did not let drop certain
observations to set him thinking. He had a fanciful if somewhat facetious
way of calling them by feudal titles which made them grin.
"How is the Duke of Putnam this morning?" he would ask of the gentleman
of whom the Ripton Record would frequently make the following
announcement: "Among the prominent residents of Putnam County in town
this week was the Honourable Brush Bascom."
The Honourable Brush and many of his associates, barons and earls, albeit
the shrewdest of men, did not know exactly how to take the son of Hilary
Vane. This was true also of the Honourable Hilary himself, who did not
wholly appreciate the humour in Austen's parallel of the feudal system.
Although Austen had set up for himself, there were many ways—not legal
—in which the son might have been helpful to the father, but the
Honourable Hilary hesitated, for some unformulated reason, to make use of
him; and the consequence was that Mr. Hamilton Tooting and other young
men of a hustling nature in the Honourable Hilary's office found that
Austen's advent did not tend greatly to lighten a certain class of their
labours. In fact, father and son were not much nearer in spirit than when
ode had been in Pepper County and the other in Ripton. Caution and an
instinct which senses obstacles are characteristics of gentlemen in Mr.
So two years passed,—years liberally interspersed with expeditions into
the mountains and elsewhere, and nights spent in the company of Tom
Gaylord and others. During this period Austen was more than once assailed
by the temptation to return to the free life of Pepper County, Mr.
Blodgett having completely recovered now, and only desiring vengeance of
a corporal nature. But a bargain was a bargain, and Austen Vane stuck to
his end of it, although he had now begun to realize many aspects of a
situation which he had not before suspected. He had long foreseen,
however, that the time was coming when a serious disagreement with his
father was inevitable. In addition to the difference in temperament,
Hilary Vane belonged to one generation and Austen to another.
It happened, as do so many incidents which tend to shape a life, by a
seeming chance. It was a Tune evening, and there had been a church
sociable and basket picnic during the day in a grove in the town of
Mercer, some ten miles south of Ripton. The grove was bounded on one side
by the railroad track, and merged into a thick clump of second growth and
alders where there was a diagonal grade crossing. The picnic was over and
the people preparing to go home when they were startled by a crash,
followed by the screaming of brakes as a big engine flew past the grove
and brought a heavy train to a halt some distance down the grade. The
women shrieked and dropped the dishes they were washing, and the men left
their horses standing and ran to the crossing and then stood for the
moment helpless, in horror at the scene which met their eyes. The wagon
of one—of their own congregation was in splinters, a man (a farmer of
the neighbourhood) lying among the alders with what seemed a mortal
injury. Amid the lamentations and cries for some one to go to Mercer
Village for the doctor a young man drove up rapidly and sprang out of a
buggy, trusting to some one to catch his horse, pushed, through the ring
of people, and bent over the wounded farmer. In an instant he had whipped
out a knife, cut a stick from one of the alders, knotted his handkerchief
around the man's leg, ran the stick through the knot, and twisted the
handkerchief until the blood ceased to flow. They watched him, paralyzed,
as the helpless in this world watch the capable, and before he had
finished his task the train crew and some passengers began to arrive.
"Have you a doctor aboard, Charley?" the young man asked.
"No," answered the conductor, who had been addressed; "my God, not one,
"Back up your train," said Austen, "and stop your baggage car here. And
go to the grove," he added to one of the picnickers, "and bring four or
five carriage cushions. And you hold this."
The man beside him took the tourniquet, as he was bid. Austen Vane drew a
note-book from his pocket.
"I want this man's name and address," he said, "and the names and
addresses of every person here, quickly."
He did not lift his voice, but the man who had taken charge of such a
situation was not to be denied. They obeyed him, some eagerly, some
reluctantly, and by that time the train had backed down and the cushions
had arrived. They laid these on the floor of the baggage car and lifted
the man on to them. His name was Zeb Meader, and he was still insensible.
Austen Vane, with a peculiar set look upon his face, sat beside him all
the way into Ripton. He spoke only once, and that was to tell the
conductor to telegraph from Avalon to have the ambulance from St. Mary's
Hospital meet the train at Ripton.
The next day Hilary Vane, returning from one of his periodical trips to
the northern part of the State, invaded his son's office.
"What's this they tell me about your saving a man's life?" he asked,
sinking into one of the vacant chairs and regarding Austen with his
"I don't know what they tell you," Austen answered. "I didn't do anything
but get a tourniquet on his leg and have him put on the train."
The Honourable Hilary grunted, and continued to regard his son. Then he
cut a piece of Honey Dew.
"Looks bad, does it?" he said.
"Well," replied Austen, "it might have been done better. It was bungled.
In a death-trap as cleverly conceived as that crossing, with a down grade
approaching it, they ought to have got the horse too."
The Honourable Hilary grunted again, and inserted the Honey Dew. He
resolved to ignore the palpable challenge in this remark, which was in
keeping with this new and serious mien in Austen.
"Get the names of witnesses?" was his next question.
"I took particular pains to do so."
"Hand 'em over to Tooting. What kind of man is this Meagre?"
"He is rather meagre now," said Austen, smiling a little. "His name's
"Is he likely to make a fuss?"
"I think he is," said Austen.
"Well," said the Honourable Hilary, "we must have Ham Tooting hurry
'round and fix it up with him as soon as he can talk, before one of these
cormorant lawyers gets his claw in him."
Austen said nothing, and after some desultory conversation, in which he
knew how to indulge when he wished to conceal the fact that he was
baffled, the Honourable Hilary departed. That student of human nature,
Mr. Hamilton Tooting, a young man of a sporting appearance and a free
vocabulary, made the next attempt. It is a characteristic of Mr.
Tooting's kind that, in their efforts to be genial, they often use an
awkward diminutive of their friends' names.
"Hello, Aust," said Mr. Tooting, "I dropped in to get those witnesses in
that Meagre accident, before I forget it."
"I think I'll keep 'em," said Austen, making a note out of the Revised
"Oh, all right, all right," said Mr. Tooting, biting off a piece of his
cigar. "Going to handle the case yourself, are you?"
"I'm just as glad to have some of 'em off my hands, and this looks to me
like a nasty one. I don't like those Mercer people. The last farmer they
ran over there raised hell."
"I shouldn't blame this one if he did, if he ever gets well enough," said
Austen. Young Mr. Tooting paused with a lighted match halfway to his
cigar and looked at Austen shrewdly, and then sat down on the desk very
close to him.
"Say, Aust, it sometimes sickens a man to have to buy these fellows off.
What? Poor devils, they don't get anything like what they ought to get,
do they? Wait till you see how the Railroad Commission'll whitewash that
case. It makes a man want to be independent. What?"
"This sounds like virtue, Ham."
"I've often thought, too," said Mr. Tooting, "that a man could make more
money if he didn't wear the collar."
"But not sleep as well, perhaps," said Austen.
"Say, Aust, you're not on the level with me."
"I hope to reach that exalted plane some day, Ham."
"What's got into you?" demanded the usually clear-headed Mr. Tooting, now
a little bewildered.
"Nothing, yet," said Austen, "but I'm thinking seriously of having a
sandwich and a piece of apple pie. Will you come along?"
They crossed the square together, Mr. Tooting racking a normally fertile
brain for some excuse to reopen the subject. Despairing of that, he
decided that any subject would do.
"That Humphrey Crewe up at Leith is smart—smart as paint," he remarked.
"Do you know him?"
"I've seen him," said Austen. "He's a young man, isn't he?"
"And natty. He knows a thing or two for a millionaire that don't have to
work, and he runs that place of his right up to the handle. You ought to
hear him talk about the tariff, and national politics. I was passing
there the other day, and he was walking around among the flowerbeds.
'Ain't your name Tooting?' he hollered. I almost fell out of the buggy."
"What did he want?" asked Austen, curiously. Mr. Tooting winked.
"Say, those millionaires are queer, and no mistake. You'd think a fellow
that only had to cut coupons wouldn't be lookin' for another job,
wouldn't you? He made me hitch my horse, and had me into his study, as he
called it, and gave me a big glass of whiskey and soda. A fellow with
buttons and a striped vest brought it on tiptoe. Then this Crewe gave me
a long yellow cigar with a band on it and told me what the State needed,
—macadam roads, farmers' institutes, forests, and God knows what. I told
him all he had to do was to get permission from old man Flint, and he
could have 'em."
"What did he say to that?"
"He said Flint was an intimate friend of his. Then he asked me a whole
raft of questions about fellows in the neighbourhood I didn't know he'd
ever heard of. Say, he wants to go from Leith to the Legislature."
"He can go for all I care," said Austen, as he pushed open the door of
For a few days Mr. Meader hung between life and death. But he came of a
stock which had for generations thrust its roots into the crevices of
granite, and was not easily killed by steam-engines. Austen Vane called
twice, and then made an arrangement with young Dr. Tredway (one of the
numerous Ripton Tredways whose money had founded the hospital) that he
was to see Mr. Meader as soon as he was able to sustain a conversation.
Dr. Tredway, by the way, was a bachelor, and had been Austen's companion
on many a boisterous expedition.
When Austen, in response to the doctor's telephone message, stood over
the iron bed in the spick-and-span men's ward of St. Mary's, a wave of
that intense feeling he had experienced at the accident swept over him.
The farmer's beard was overgrown, and the eyes looked up at him as from
caverns of suffering below the bandage. They were shrewd eyes, however,
and proved that Mr. Meader had possession of the five senses—nay, of the
six. Austen sat down beside the bed.
"Dr. Tredway tells me you are getting along finely," he said.
"No thanks to the railrud," answered Mr. Meader; "they done their best."
"Did you hear any whistle or any bell?" Austen asked.
"Not a sound," said Mr. Meader; "they even shut off their steam on that
Austen Vane, like most men who are really capable of a deep sympathy, was
not an adept at expressing it verbally. Moreover, he knew enough of his
fellow-men to realize that a Puritan farmer would be suspicious of
sympathy. The man had been near to death himself, was compelled to spend
part of the summer, his bread-earning season, in a hospital, and yet no
appeal or word of complaint had crossed his lips.
"Mr. Meader," said Austen, "I came over here to tell you that in my
opinion you are entitled to heavy damages from the railroad, and to
advise you not to accept a compromise. They will send some one to you and
offer you a sum far below that which you ought in justice to receive, You
ought to fight this case."
"How am I going to pay a lawyer, with a mortgage on my farm?" demanded
"I'm a lawyer," said Austen, "and if you'll take me, I'll defend you
"Ain't you the son of Hilary Vane?"
"I've heard of him a good many times," said Mr. Meader, as if to ask what
man had not. "You're railroad, ain't ye?"
Mr. Meader gazed long and thoughtfully into the young man's face, and the
suspicion gradually faded from the farmer's blue eyes.
"I like your looks," he said at last. "I guess you saved my life. I'm
—I'm much obliged to you."
When Mr. Tooting arrived later in the day, he found Mr. Meader willing to
listen, but otherwise strangely non-committal. With native shrewdness,
the farmer asked him what office he came from, but did not confide in Mr.
Tooting the fact that Mr. Vane's son had volunteered to wring more money
from Mr. Vane's client than Mr. Tooting offered him. Considerably
bewildered, that gentleman left the hospital to report the affair to the
Honourable Hilary, who, at intervals during the afternoon, found himself
relapsing into speculation.
Inside of a somewhat unpromising shell, Mr. Zeb Meader was a human being,
and no mean judge of men and motives. As his convalescence progressed,
Austen Vane fell into the habit of dropping in from time to time to chat
with him, and gradually was rewarded by many vivid character sketches of
Mr. Meader's neighbours in Mercer and its vicinity. One afternoon, when
Austen came into the ward, he found at Mr. Meader's bedside a basket of
fruit which looked too expensive and tempting to have come from any
dealer's in Ripton.
"A lady came with that," Mr. Meader explained. "I never was popular
before I was run over by the cars. She's be'n here twice. When she
fetched it to-day, I kind of thought she was up to some, game, and I
didn't want to take it."
"Up to some game?" repeated Austen.
"Well, I don't know," continued Mr. Meader, thoughtfully, "the woman here
tells me she comes regular in the summer time to see sick folks, but from
the way she made up to me I had an idea that she wanted something. But I
don't know. Thought I'd ask you. You see, she's railrud."
"She's Flint's daughter."
"I shouldn't worry about that," he said. "If Mr. Flint sent his daughter
with fruit to everybody his railroad injures, she wouldn't have time to
do anything else. I doubt if Mr. Flint ever heard of your case."
Mr. Meader considered this, and calculated there was something in it.
"She was a nice, common young lady, and cussed if she didn't make me
laugh, she has such a funny way of talkin'. She wanted to know all about
"What did she want to know?" Austen exclaimed, not unnaturally.
"Well, she wanted to know about the accident, and I told her how you druv
up and screwed that thing around my leg and backed the train down. She
was a good deal took with that."
"I think you are inclined to make too much of it," said Austen.
Three days later, as he was about to enter the ward, Mr. Meader being now
the only invalid there, he heard a sound which made him pause in the
doorway. The sound was feminine laughter of a musical quality that struck
pleasantly on Austen's ear. Miss Victoria Flint was sated beside Mr.
Meader's bed, and qualified friendship had evidently been replaced by
intimacy since Austen's last visit, for Mr. Meader was laughing, too.
"And now I'm quite sure you have missed your vocation, Mr. Meader," said
Victoria. "You would have made a fortune on the stage."
"Me a play-actor!" exclaimed the invalid. "How much wages do they git?"
"Untold sums," she declared, "if they can talk like you."
"He kind of thought that story funny—same as you," Mr. Meader ruminated,
and glanced up. "Drat me," he remarked, "if he ain't a-comin' now! I
callated he'd run acrost you sometime."
Victoria raised her eyes, sparkling with humour, and they met Austen's.
"We was just talkin' about you," cried Mr. Meader, cordially; "come right
in." He turned to Victoria. "I want to make you acquainted," he said,
"with Austen Vane."
"And won't you tell him who I am, Mr. Meader?" said Victoria.
"Well," said Mr. Meader, apologetically, "that was stupid of me—wahn't
it? But I callated he'd know. She's the daughter of the railrud
president—the 'one that was askin' about you."
There was an instant's pause, and the colour stole into Victoria's
cheeks. Then she glanced at Austen and bit her lip-and laughed. Her
laughter was contagious.
"I suppose I shall have to confess that you have inspired my curiosity,
Mr. Vane," she said.
Austen's face was sunburned, but it flushed a more vivid red under the
tan. It is needless to pretend that a man of his appearance and qualities
had reached the age of thirty-two without having listened to feminine
comments of which he was the exclusive subject. In this remark of
Victoria's, or rather in the manner in which she made it, he recognized a
"It is a tribute, then, to the histrionic talents of Mr. Meader, of which
you were speaking," he replied laughingly.
Victoria glanced at him with interest as he looked down at Mr. Meader.
"And how is it to-day, Zeb?" he said.
"It ain't so bad as it might be—with sech folks as her and you araound,"
admitted Mr. Meader. "I'd almost agree to get run over again. She was
askin' about you, and that's a fact, and I didn't slander you, neither.
But I never callated to comprehend wimmen-folks."
"Now, Mr. Meader," said Victoria, reprovingly, but there were little
creases about her eyes, "don't be a fraud."
"It's true as gospel," declared the invalid; "they always got the better
of me. I had one of 'em after me once, when I was young and prosperin'
"And yet you have survived triumphant," she exclaimed.
"There wahn't none of 'em like you," said Mr. Meader, "or it might have
Again her eyes irresistibly sought Austen's,—as though to share with him
the humour of this remark,—and they laughed together. Her colour, so
sensitive, rose again, but less perceptibly this time. Then she got up.
"That's unfair, Mr. Meader!" she protested.
"I'll leave it to Austen," said Mr. Meader, "if it ain't probable. He'd
ought to know."
In spite of a somewhat natural embarrassment, Austen could not but
acknowledge to himself that Mr. Meader was right. With a womanly movement
which he thought infinitely graceful, Victoria leaned over the bed.
"Mr. Meader," she said, "I'm beginning to think it's dangerous for me to
come here twice a week to see you, if you talk this way. And I'm not a
bit surprised that that woman didn't get the better of you."
"You hain't a-goin'!" he exclaimed. "Why, I callated—"
"Good-by," she said quickly; "I'm glad to see that you are doing so
well." She raised her head and looked at Austen in a curious, inscrutable
way. "Good-by, Mr. Vane," she said; "I—I hope Mr. Blodgett has
Before he could reply she had vanished, and he was staring at the empty
doorway. The reference to the unfortunate Mr. Blodgett, after taking his
breath away, aroused in him an intense curiosity betraying, as it did, a
certain knowledge of past events in his life in the hitherto unknown
daughter of Augustus interest could she have in him? Such a Flint. What
question, from similar sources, has heightened the pulse of young men
from time immemorial.
The proverbial little birds that carry news and prophecies through the
air were evidently responsible for an official-looking letter which
Austen received a few mornings later. On the letter-head was printed "The
United Northeastern Railroads," and Mr. Austen Vane was informed that, by
direction of the president, the enclosed was sent to him in an entirely
complimentary sense. "The enclosed" was a ticket of red cardboard, and
its face informed him that he might travel free for the rest of the year.
Thoughtfully turning it over, he read on the back the following
inscription:—"It is understood that this pass is accepted by its
recipient as a retainer."
Austen stared at it and whistled. Then he pushed back his chair, with the
pass in his hand, and hesitated. He seized a pen and wrote a few lines:
"Dear sir, I beg to return the annual pass over the Northeastern
Railroads with which you have so kindly honoured me"—when he suddenly
changed his mind again, rose, and made his way through the corridors to
his father's office. The Honourable Hilary was absorbed in his daily
perusal of the Guardian.
"Judge," he asked, "is Mr. Flint up at his place this week?"
The Honourable Hilary coughed.
"He arrived yesterday on the three. Er—why?"
"I wanted to go up and thank him for this," his son answered, holding up
the red piece of cardboard. "Mr. Flint is a very thoughtful man."
The Honourable Hilary tried to look unconcerned, and succeeded.
"Sent you an annual, has he? Er—I don't know as I'd bother him
personally, Austen. Just a pleasant note of acknowledgment."
"I don't flatter myself that my achievements in the law can be
responsible for it," said Austen. "The favour must be due to my
relationship with his eminent chief counsel."
Hilary Vane's keen eyes rested on his son for an instant. Austen was more
than ever an enigma to him.
"I guess relationship hasn't got much to do with business," he replied.
"You have be'n doing—er—better than I expected."
"Thank you, Judge," said Austen, quietly. "I don't mind saying that I
would rather have your approbation than—this more substantial
recognition of merit."
The Honourable Hilary's business was to deal with men, and by reason of
his ability in so doing he had made a success in life. He could judge
motives more than passably well, and play upon weaknesses. But he left
Austen's presence that morning vaguely uneasy, with a sense of having
received from his own son an initial defeat at a game of which he was a
master. Under the excuse of looking up some precedents, he locked his
doors to all comers for two hours, and paced his room. At one moment he
reproached himself for not having been frank; for not having told Austen
roundly that this squeamishness about a pass was unworthy of a strong man
of affairs; yes, for not having revealed to him the mysteries of railroad
practice from the beginning. But frankness was not an ingredient of the
Honourable Hilary's nature, and Austen was not the kind of man who would
accept a hint and a wink. Hilary Vane had formless forebodings, and found
himself for once in his life powerless to act.
The cost of living in Ripton was not so high that Austen Vane could not
afford to keep a horse and buggy. The horse, which he tended himself, was
appropriately called Pepper; Austen had found him in the hills, and he
was easily the finest animal in Ripton: so good, in fact, that Mr.
Humphrey Crewe (who believed he had an eye for horses) had peremptorily
hailed Austen from a motorcar and demanded the price, as was Mr. Crewe's
wont when he saw a thing he desired. He had been somewhat surprised and
not inconsiderably offended by the brevity and force of the answer which
he had received.
On the afternoon of the summer's day in which Austen had the conversation
with his father just related, Pepper was trotting at a round clip through
the soft and shady wood roads toward the town of Tunbridge; the word
"town" being used in the New England sense, as a piece of territory about
six miles by six. The fact that automobiles full of laughing people from
Leith hummed by occasionally made no apparent difference to Pepper, who
knew only the master hand on the reins; the reality that the wood roads
were climbing great hills the horse did not seem to feel. Pepper knew
every lane and by-path within twenty miles of Ripton, and exhibited such
surprise as a well-bred horse may when he was slowed down at length and
turned into a hard, blue-stone driveway under a strange granite arch with
the word "Fairview" cut in Gothic letters above it, and two great lamps
in wrought-iron brackets at the sides. It was Austen who made a note of
the gratings over the drains, and of the acres of orderly forest in a
mysterious and seemingly enchanted realm. Intimacy with domains was new
to him, and he began to experience an involuntary feeling of restraint
which was new to him likewise, and made him chafe in spite of himself.
The estate seemed to be the visible semblance of a power which troubled
Shortly after passing an avenue neatly labelled "Trade's Drive" the road
wound upwards through a ravine the sides of which were covered with a
dense shrubbery which had the air of having always been there, and yet
somehow looked expensive. At the top of the ravine was a sharp curve; and
Austen, drawing breath, found himself swung, as it were, into space,
looking off across miles of forest-covered lowlands to an ultramarine
mountain in the hazy south,—Sawanec. As if in obedience to a telepathic
command of his master, Pepper stopped.
Drinking his fill of this scene, Austen forgot an errand which was not
only disagreeable, but required some fortitude for its accomplishment.
The son had this in common with the Honourable Hilary—he hated heroics;
and the fact that the thing smacked of heroics was Austen's only
deterrent. And then there was a woman in this paradise! These gradual
insinuations into his revery at length made him turn. A straight avenue
of pear-shaped, fifteen-year-old maples led to the house, a massive
colonial structure of wood that stretched across the shelf; and he had
tightened the reins and started courageously up the avenue when he
perceived that it ended in a circle on which there was no sign of a
hitching-post. And, worse than this, on the balconied, uncovered porch
which he would have to traverse to reach the doorway he saw the sheen and
glimmer of women's gowns grouped about wicker tables, and became aware
that his approach was the sole object of the scrutiny of an afternoon tea
As he reached the circle it was a slight relief to learn that Pepper was
the attraction. No horse knew better than Pepper when he was being
admired, and he arched his neck and lifted his feet and danced in the
sheer exhilaration of it. A smooth-faced, red-cheeked gentleman in gray
flannels leaned over the balustrade and made audible comments in a
penetrating voice which betrayed the fact that he was Mr. Humphrey Crewe.
"Saw him on the street in Ripton last year. Good hock action, hasn't
he?—that's rare in trotters around here. Tried to buy him. Feller
wouldn't sell. His name's Vane—he's drivin' him now."
A lady of a somewhat commanding presence was beside him. She was perhaps
five and forty, her iron-gray hair was dressed to perfection, her figure
all that Parisian art could make it, and she was regarding Austen with
extreme deliberation through the glasses which she had raised to a
"Politics is certainly your career, Humphrey," she remarked, "you have
such a wonderful memory for faces. I don't see how he does it, do you,
Alice?" she demanded of a tall girl beside her, who was evidently her
daughter, but lacked her personality.
"I don't know," said Alice.
"It's because I've been here longer than anybody else, Mrs. Pomfret,"
answered Mr. Crewe, not very graciously, "that's all. Hello." This last
"Hello," said Austen.
"Who do you want to see?" inquired Mr. Crewe, with the admirable tact for
which he was noted.
Austen looked at him for the first time.
"Anybody who will hold my horse," he answered quietly.
By this time the conversation had drawn the attention of the others at
the tables, and one or two smiled at Austen's answer. Mrs. Flint, with a
"Who is it?" arose to repel a social intrusion. She was an overdressed
lady, inclining to embonpoint, but traces of the Rose of Sharon were
"Why don't you drive 'round to the stables?" suggested Mr. Crewe, unaware
of a smile.
Austen did not answer. He was, in fact, looking towards the doorway, and
the group on the porch were surprised to see a gleam of mirthful
understanding start in his eyes. An answering gleam was in Victoria's,
who had at that moment, by a singular coincidence, come out of the house.
She came directly down the steps and out on the gravel, and held her hand
to him in the buggy, and he flushed with pleasure as he grasped it.
"How do you do, Mr. Vane?" she said. "I am so glad you have called.
Humphrey, just push the stable button, will you?"
Mr. Crewe obeyed with no very good grace, while the tea-party went back
to their seats. Mrs. Flint supposed he had come to sell Victoria the
horse; while Mrs. Pomfret, who had taken him in from crown to boots,
remarked that he looked very much like a gentleman.
"I came to see your father for a few moments—on business," Austen
She lifted her face to his with a second searching look.
"I'll take you to him," she said.
By this time a nimble groom had appeared from out o a shrubbery path and
seized Pepper's head. Austen alighted and followed Victoria into a great,
cool hallway, and through two darkened rooms, bewilderingly furnished and
laden with the scent of flowers, into a narrow passage beyond. She led
the way simply, not speaking, and her silence seemed to betoken the
completeness of an understanding between them, as of a long acquaintance.
In a plain white-washed room, behind a plain oaken desk, sat Mr. Flint—a
plain man. Austen thought he would have known him had he seen him on the
street. The other things in the room were letter-files, a safe, a
long-distance telephone, and a thin private secretary with a bend in his
back. Mr. Flint looked up from his desk, and his face, previously bereft
of illumination, lighted when he saw his daughter. Austen liked that in
"Well, Vic, what is it now?" he asked.
"Mr. Austen Vane to see you," said Victoria, and with a quick glance at
Austen she left him standing on the threshold. Mr. Flint rose. His eyes
were deep-set in a square, hard head, and he appeared to be taking Austen
in without directly looking at him; likewise, one felt that Mr. Flint's
handshake was not an absolute gift of his soul.
"How do you do, Mr. Vane? I don't remember ever to have had the pleasure
of seeing you, although your father and I have been intimately connected
for many years."
So the president's manner was hearty, but not the substance. It came,
Austen thought, from a rarity of meeting with men on a disinterested
footing; and he could not but wonder how Mr. Flint would treat the angels
in heaven if he ever got there, where there were no franchises to be had.
Would he suspect them of designs upon his hard won harp and halo? Austen
did not dislike Mr. Flint; the man's rise, his achievements, his
affection for his daughter, he remembered. But he was also well aware
that Mr. Flint had thrown upon him the onus of the first move in a game
which the railroad president was used to playing every day. The dragon
was on his home ground and had the choice of weapons.
"I do not wish to bother you long," said Austen.
"No bother," answered Mr. Flint, "no bother to make the acquaintance of
the son of my old friend, Hilary Vane. Sit down—sit down. And while I
don't believe any man should depend upon his father to launch him in the
world, yet it must be a great satisfaction to you, Mr. Vane, to have such
a father. Hilary Vane and I have been intimately associated for many
years, and my admiration for him has increased with every year. It is to
men of his type that the prosperity, the greatness, of this nation is
largely due,—conservative, upright, able, content to confine himself to
the difficult work for which he is so eminently fitted, without
spectacular meddling in things in which he can have no concern. Therefore
I welcome the opportunity to know you, sir, for I understand that you
have settled down to follow in his footsteps and that you will make a
name for yourself. I know the independence of young men—I was young once
myself. But after all, Mr. Vane, experience is the great teacher, and
perhaps there is some little advice which an old man can give you that
may be of service. As your father's son, it is always at your disposal.
Have a cigar."
The thin secretary continued to flit about the room, between the
letter-files and the desk. Austen had found it infinitely easier to shoot
Mr. Blodgett than to engage in a duel with the president of the United
"I smoke a pipe," he said.
"Too many young men smoke cigars—and those disgusting cigarettes," said
Mr. Flint, with conviction. "There are a lot of worthless young men in
these days, anyhow. They come to my house and loaf and drink and smoke,
and talk a lot of nonsense about games and automobiles and clubs, and
cumber the earth generally. There's a young man named Crewe over at
Leith, for instance—you may have seen him. Not that he's dissipated
—but he don't do anything but talk about railroads and the stock market
to make you sick, and don't know any more about 'em than my farmer."
During this diatribe Austen saw his opening growing smaller and smaller.
If he did not make a dash for it, it would soon be closed entirely.
"I received a letter this morning, Mr. Flint, enclosing me an annual
"Did Upjohn send you one?" Mr. Flint cut in; "he ought to have done so
long ago. It was probably an oversight that he did not, Mr. Vane. We try
to extend the courtesies of the road to persons who are looked up to in
their communities. The son of Hilary Vane is at all times welcome to
Mr. Flint paused to light his cigar, and Austen summoned his resolution.
Second by second it was becoming more and more difficult and seemingly
more ungracious to return a gift so graciously given, a gift of no
inconsiderable intrinsic value. Moreover, Mr. Flint had ingeniously
contrived almost to make the act, in Austen's eyes, that of a picayune
upstart. Who was he to fling back an annual pass in the face of the
president of the Northeastern Railroads?
"I had first thought of writing you a letter, Mr. Flint," he said, "but
it seemed to me that, considering your relations with my father, the
proper thing to do was to come to you and tell you why I cannot take the
The thin secretary paused in his filing, and remained motionless with his
body bent over the drawer.
"Why you cannot take it, Mr. Vane?" said the railroad president. "I'm
afraid I don't understand."
"I appreciate the—the kindness," said Austen, "and I will try to
explain." He drew the red cardboard from his pocket and turned it over.
"On the back of this is printed, in small letters, 'It is understood that
this pass is accepted by the recipient as a retainer.'"
"Well," Mr. Flint interrupted, smiling somewhat blandly, "how much money
do you think that pass would save an active young lawyer in a year? Is
three hundred dollars too much? Three hundred dollars is not an
insignificant sum to a young man on the threshold of his practice, is
Austen looked at Mr. Flint.
"Any sum is insignificant when it restricts a lawyer from the acceptance
of just causes, Mr. Flint. As I understand the matter, it is the custom
of your railroad to send these passes to the young lawyers of the State
the moment they begin to give signs of ability. This past would prevent
me from serving clients who might have righteous claims against your
railroads, and—permit me to speak frankly—in my opinion the practice
tends to make it difficult for poor people who have been injured to get
"Your own father is retained by the railroad," said Mr. Flint.
"As their counsel," answered Austen. "I have a pride in my profession,
Mr. Flint, as no doubt you have in yours. If I should ever acquire
sufficient eminence to be sought as counsel for a railroad, I should make
my own terms with it. I should not allow its management alone to decide
upon the value of my retainer, and my services in its behalf would be
confined strictly to professional ones."
Mr. Flint drummed on the table.
"What do you mean by that?" he demanded.
"I mean that I would not engage, for a fee or a pass, to fight the
political battles of a railroad, or undertake any political manipulation
in its behalf whatever."
Mr. Flint leaned forward aggressively.
"How long do you think a railroad would pay dividends if it did not adopt
some means of defending itself from the blackmail politician of the State
legislatures, Mr. Vane? The railroads of which I have the honour to be
president pay a heavy tag in this and other States. We would pay a much
heavier one if we didn't take precautions to protect ourselves. But I do
not intend to quarrel with you, Mr. Vane," he continued quickly,
perceiving that Austen was about to answer him, "nor do I wish to leave
you with the impression that the Northeastern Railroads meddle unduly in
Austen knew not how to answer. He had not gone there to discuss this last
and really great question with Mr. Flint, but he wondered whether the
president actually thought him the fledgling he proclaimed. Austen laid
his pass on Mr. Flint's desk, and rose.
"I assure you, Mr. Flint, that the spirit which prompted my visit was not
a contentious one. I cannot accept the pass, simply because I do not wish
to be retained."
Mr. Flint eyed him. There was a mark of dignity, of silent power, on this
tall scapegrace of a son of Hilary Vane that the railroad president had
missed at first—probably because he had looked only for the scapegrace.
Mr. Flint ardently desired to treat the matter in the trifling aspect in
which he believed he saw it, to carry it off genially. But an instinct
not yet formulated told the president that he was face to face with an
enemy whose potential powers were not to be despised, and he bristled in
spite of himself.
"There is no statute I know of by which a lawyer can be compelled to
accept a retainer against his will, Mr. Vane," he replied, and overcame
himself with an effort. "But I hope that you will permit me," he added in
another tone, "as an old friend of your father's and as a man of some
little experience in the world, to remark that intolerance is a
characteristic of youth. I had it in the days of Mr. Isaac D.
Worthington, whom you do not remember. I am not addicted to flattery, but
I hope and believe you have a career before you. Talk to your father.
Study the question on both sides,—from the point of view of men who are
honestly trying, in the face of tremendous difficulties, to protect
innocent stockholders as well as to conduct a corporation in the
interests of the people at large, and for their general prosperity. Be
charitable, young man, and judge not hastily."
Years before, when poor Sarah Austen had adorned the end of his table,
Hilary Vane had raised his head after the pronouncement of grace to
surprise a look in his wife's eyes which strangely threw him into a white
heat of anger. That look (and he at intervals had beheld it afterwards)
was the true presentment of the soul of the woman whose body was his. It
was not—as Hilary Vane thought it—a contempt for the practice of
thanking one's Maker for daily bread, but a contempt for cant of one who
sees the humour in cant. A masculine version of that look Mr. Flint now
beheld in the eyes of Austen Vane, and the enraging effect on the
president of the United Railroads was much the same as it had been on his
chief counsel. Who was this young man of three and thirty to agitate him
so? He trembled, though not visibly, yet took Austen's hand mechanically.
"Good day, Mr. Vane," he said; "Mr. Freeman will help you to find your
The thin secretary bowed, and before he reached the door into the passage
Mr. Flint had opened another at the back of the room and stepped out on a
close-cropped lawn flooded with afternoon sunlight. In the passage Austen
perceived a chair, and in the chair was seated patiently none other than
Mr. Brush Bascom—political Duke of Putnam. Mr. Bascom's little agate
eyes glittered in the dim light.
"Hello, Austen," he said, "since when have you took to comin' here?"
"It's a longer trip from Putnam than from Ripton, Brush," said Austen,
and passed on, leaving Mr. Bascom with a puzzled mind. Something very
like a smile passed over Mr. Freeman's face as he led the way silently
out of a side entrance and around the house. The circle of the drive was
empty, the tea-party had gone—and Victoria. Austen assured himself that
her disappearance relieved him: having virtually quarrelled with her
father, conversation would have been awkward; and yet he looked for her.
They found the buggy and Pepper in the paved courtyard of the stables. As
Austen took the reins the secretary looked up at him, his mild blue eyes
burning with an unsuspected fire. He held out his hand.
"I want to congratulate you," he said.
"What for?" asked Austen, taking the hand in some embarrassment.
"For speaking like a man," said the secretary, and he turned on his heel
and left him.
This strange action, capping, as it did, a stranger experience, gave
Austen food for thought as he let Pepper take his own pace down the
trade's road. Presently he got back into the main drive where it clung to
a steep, forest-covered side hill, when his attention was distracted by
the sight of a straight figure in white descending amidst the foliage
ahead. His instinctive action was to pull Pepper down to a walk, scarcely
analyzing his motives; then he had time, before reaching the spot where
their paths would cross, to consider and characteristically to enjoy the
unpropitious elements arrayed against a friendship with Victoria Flint.
She halted on a flagstone of the descending path some six feet above the
roadway, and stood expectant. The Rose of Sharon, five and twenty years
before, would have been coy—would have made believe to have done it by
accident. But the Rose of Sharon, with all her beauty, would have had no
attraction for Austen Vane. Victoria had much of her mother's good looks,
the figure of a Diana, and her clothes were of a severity and correctness
in keeping with her style; they merely added to the sum total of the
effect upon Austen. Of course he stopped the buggy immediately beneath
her, and her first question left him without any breath. No woman he had
ever known seized the essentials as she did.
"What have you been doing to my father?" she asked.
"Why?" exclaimed Austen.
"Because he's in such a bad temper," said Victoria. "You must have put
him in it. It can't be possible that you came all the way up here to
quarrel with him. Nobody ever dares to quarrel with him."
"I didn't come up to quarrel with him," said Austen.
"What's the trouble?" asked Victoria.
The humour of this question was too much for him, and he laughed.
Victoria's eyes laughed a little, but there was a pucker in her forehead.
"Won't you tell me?" she demanded, "or must I get it out of him?"
"I am afraid," said Austen, slowly, "that you must get it out of him—if
he hasn't forgotten it."
"Forgotten it, dear old soul!" cried Victoria. "I met him just now and
tried to make him look at the new Guernseys, and he must have been
disturbed quite a good deal when he's cross as a bear to me. He really
oughtn't to be upset like that, Mr. Vane, when he comes up here to rest.
I am afraid that you are rather a terrible person, although you look so
nice. Won't you tell me what you did to him?"
Austen was non-plussed.
"Nothing intentional," he answered earnestly, "but it wouldn't be fair to
your father if I gave you my version of a business conversation that
passed between us, would it?"
"Perhaps not," said Victoria. She sat down on the flagstone with her
elbow on her knee and her chin in her hand, and looked at him
thoughtfully. He knew well enough that a wise general would have
retreated—horse, foot, and baggage; but Pepper did not stir.
"Do you know," said Victoria, "I have an idea you came up here about Zeb
"Yes. I told my father about him,—how you rescued him, and how you went
to see him in the hospital, and what a good man he is, and how poor."
"Oh, did you!" exclaimed Austen.
"Yes. And I told him the accident wasn't Zeb's fault, that the train
didn't whistle or ring, and that the crossing was a blind one."
"And what did he say?" asked Austen, curiously.
"He said that on a railroad as big as his something of the kind must
happen occasionally. And he told me if Zeb didn't make a fuss and act
foolishly, he would have no cause to regret it."
"And did you tell Zeb?" asked Austen.
"Yes," Victoria admitted, "but I'm sorry I did, now."
"What did Zeb say?"
Victoria laughed in spite of herself, and gave a more or less exact
though kindly imitation of Mr. Meader's manner.
"He said that wimmen-folks had better stick to the needle and the duster,
and not go pokin' about law business that didn't concern 'em. But the
worst of it was," added Victoria, with some distress, "he won't accept
any more fruit. Isn't he silly? He won't get it into his head that I give
him the fruit, and not my father. I suspect that he actually believes my
father sent me down there to tell him that."
Austen was silent, for the true significance of this apparently obscure
damage case to the Northeastern Railroads was beginning to dawn on him.
The public was not in the best of humours towards railroads: there was
trouble about grade crossings, and Mr. Meader's mishap and the manner of
his rescue by the son of the corporation counsel had given the accident a
deplorable publicity. Moreover, if it had dawned on Augustus Flint that
the son of Hilary Vane might prosecute the suit, it was worth while
taking a little pains with Mr. Meader and Mr. Austen Vane. Certain small
fires have been known to light world-wide conflagrations.
"What are you thinking about?" asked Victoria. "It isn't at all polite to
forget the person you are talking to."
"I haven't forgotten you," said Austen, with a smile. How could he
—sitting under her in this manner?
"Besides," said Victoria, mollified, "you haven't an answered my
She scrutinized him thoughtfully, and with feminine art made the kind of
an attack that rarely fails.
"Why are you such an enigma, Mr. Vane?" she demanded. "Is it because
you're a lawyer, or because you've been out West and seen so much of life
and shot so many people?"
Austen laughed, yet he had tingling symptoms because she showed enough
interest in him to pronounce him a riddle. But he instantly became
serious as the purport of the last charge came home to him.
"I suppose I am looked upon as a sort of Jesse James," he said. "As it
happens, I have never shot but one man, and I didn't care very much for
Victoria got up and came down a step and gave him her hand. He took it,
nor was he the first to relinquish the hold; and a colour rose delicately
in her face as she drew her fingers away.
"I didn't mean to offend you," she said.
"You didn't offend me," he replied quickly. "I merely wished you to know
that I wasn't a brigand."
"I really didn't think so—you are much too solemn. I have to go now,
and—you haven't told me anything."
She crossed the road and began to descend the path on the other side.
Twice he glanced back, after he had started, and once surprised her
poised lightly among the leaves, looking over her shoulder.
THE PARTING OF THE WAYS
The next time Austen visited the hospital Mr. Meader had a surprise in
store for him. After passing the time of day, as was his custom, the
patient freely discussed the motives which had led him to refuse any more
of Victoria's fruit.
"I hain't got nothing against her," he declared; "I tried to make that
plain. She's as nice and common a young lady as I ever see, and I don't
believe she had a thing to do with it. But I suspicioned they was up to
somethin' when she brought them baskets. And when she give me the message
from old Flint, I was sure of it."
"Miss Flint was entirely innocent, I'm sure," said Austen, emphatically.
"If I could see old Flint, I'd tell him what I thought of him usin'
wimmen-folks to save 'em money," said Mr. Meader. "I knowed she wahn't
that kind. And then that other thing come right on top of it."
"What other thing?"
"Say," demanded Mr. Meader, "don't you know?"
"I know nothing," said Austen.
"Didn't know Hilary Vane's be'n here?"
"My father!" Austen ejaculated.
"Gittin' after me pretty warm, so they be. Want to know what my price is
now. But say, I didn't suppose your fayther'd come here without lettin'
Austen was silent. The truth was that for a few moments he could not
command himself sufficiently to speak.
"He is the chief counsel for the road," he said at length; "I am not
connected with it."
"I guess you're on the right track. He's a pretty smooth talker, your
fayther. Just dropped in to see how I be, since his son was interested.
Talked a sight of law gibberish I didn't understand. Told me I didn't
have much of a case; said the policy of the railrud was to be liberal,
and wanted to know what I thought I ought to have."
"Well?" said Austen, shortly.
"Well," said Mr. Mender, "he didn't git a mite of satisfaction out of me.
I've seen enough of his kind of folks to know how to deal with 'em, and I
told him so. I asked him what they meant by sending that slick Mr.
Tooting 'raound to offer me five hundred dollars. I said I was willin' to
trust my case on that crossin' to a jury."
Austen smiled, in spite of his mingled emotions.
"What else did Mr. Vane say?" he asked.
Not a great sight more. Said a good many folks were foolish enough to
spend money and go to law when they'd done better to trust to the
liberality of the railrud. Liberality! Adams' widow done well to trust
their liberality, didn't she? He wanted to know one more thing, but I
didn't give him any satisfaction."
"What was that?"
"I couldn't tell you how he got 'raound to it. Guess he never did, quite.
He wanted to know what lawyer was to have my case. Wahn't none of his
affair, and I callated if you'd wanted him to know just yet, you'd have
Austen laid his hand on the farmer's, as he rose to go.
"Zeb," he said, "I never expect to have a more exemplary client."
Mr. Mender shot a glance at him.
"Mebbe I spoke a mite too free about your fayther, Austen," he said; "you
and him seem kind of different."
"The Judge and I understand each other," answered Austen.
He had got as far as the door, when he stopped, swung on his heel, and
came back to the bedside.
"It's my duty to tell you, Zeb, that in order to hush this thing up they
may offer you more than you can get from a jury. In that case I should
have to advise you to accept."
He was aware that, while he made this statement, Zeb Meader's eyes were
riveted on him, and he knew that the farmer was weighing him in the
"Sell out?" exclaimed Mr. Meader. "You advise me to sell out?"
Austen did not get angry. He understood this man and the people from
which he sprang.
"The question is for you to decide—whether you can get more money by a
"Money!" cried Zeb Meader, "I have found it pretty hard to git, but
there's some things I won't do for it. There's a reason why they want
this case hushed up, the way they've be'n actin'. I ain't lived in Mercer
and Putnam County all my life for nothin'. Hain't I seen 'em run their
dirty politics there under Brush Bascom for the last twenty-five years?
There's no man has an office or a pass in that county but what Bascom
gives it to him, and Bascom's the railrud tool." Suddenly Zeb raised
himself in bed. "Hev' they be'n tamperin' with you?" he demanded.
"Yes," answered Austen, dispassionately. He had hardly heard what Zeb had
said; his mind had been going onward. "Yes. They sent me an annual pass,
and I took it back."
Zeb Meader did not speak for a few moments.
"I guess I was a little hasty, Austen," he said at length.
"I might have known you wouldn't sell out. If you're' willin' to take the
risk, you tell 'em ten thousand dollars wouldn't tempt me."
"All right, Zeb," said Austen.
He left the hospital and struck out across the country towards the slopes
of Sawanec, climbed them, and stood bareheaded in the evening light,
gazing over the still, wide valley northward to the wooded ridges where
Leith and Fairview lay hidden. He had come to the parting of the ways of
life, and while he did not hesitate to choose his path, a Vane
inheritance, though not dominant, could not fail at such a juncture to
point out the pleasantness of conformity. Austen's affection for Hilary
Vane was real; the loneliness of the elder man appealed to the son, who
knew that his father loved him in his own way. He dreaded the wrench
And nature, persuasive in that quarter, was not to be stilled in a field
more completely her own. The memory and suppliance of a minute will
scarce suffice one of Austen's temperament for a lifetime; and his eyes,
flying with the eagle high across the valley, searched the velvet folds
of the ridges, as they lay in infinite shades of green in the level
light, for the place where the enchanted realm might be. Just what the
state of his feelings were at this time towards Victoria Flint is too
vague—accurately to be painted, but he was certainly not ready to give
way to the attraction he felt for her. His sense of humour intervened if
he allowed himself to dream; there was a certain folly in pursuing the
acquaintance, all the greater now that he was choosing the path of
opposition to the dragon. A young woman, surrounded as she was, could be
expected to know little of the subtleties of business and political
morality: let him take Zeb Meader's case, and her loyalty would naturally
be with her father,—if she thought of Austen Vane at all.
And yet the very contradiction of her name, Victoria joined with Flint,
seemed to proclaim that she did not belong to her father or to the Rose
of Sharon. Austen permitted himself to dwell, as he descended the
mountain in the gathering darkness, upon the fancy of the springing of a
generation of ideals from a generation of commerce which boded well for
the Republic. And Austen Vane, in common with that younger and travelled
generation, thought largely in terms of the Republic. Pepper County and
Putnam County were all one to him—pieces of his native land. And as
It was long past the supper hour when he reached the house in Hanover
Street; but Euphrasia, who many a time in days gone by had fared forth
into the woods to find Sarah Austen, had his supper hot for him.
Afterwards he lighted his pipe and went out into the darkness, and
presently perceived a black figure seated meditatively on the granite
"Is that you, Judge?" said Austen.
The Honourable Hilary grunted in response.
"Be'n on another wild expedition, I suppose."
"I went up Sawanec to stretch my legs a little," Austen answered, sitting
down beside his father.
"Funny," remarked the Honourable Hilary, "I never had this mania for
stretchin' my legs after I was grown."
"Well," said Austen, "I like to go into the woods and climb the hills and
get aired out once in a while."
"I heard of your gettin' aired out yesterday, up Tunbridge way," said the
"I supposed you would hear of it," answered Austen.
"I was up there to-day. Gave Mr. Flint your pass did you?"
"Didn't see fit to mention it to me first—did you? Said you were going
up to thank him for it."
Austen considered this.
"You have put me in the wrong, Judge," he replied after a little. "I made
that remark ironically. I I am afraid we cannot agree on the motive which
"Your conscience a little finer than your father's—is it?"
"No," said Austen, "I don't honestly think it is. I've thought a good
deal in the last few years about the difference in our ways of looking at
things. I believe that two men who try to be honest may conscientiously
differ. But I also believe that certain customs have gradually grown up
in railroad practice which are more or less to be deplored from the point
of view of the honour of the profession. I think they are not perhaps
—realized even by the eminent men in the law."
"Humph!" said the Honourable Hilary. But he did not press his son for the
enumeration of these customs. After all the years he had disapproved of
Austen's deeds it seemed strange indeed to be called to account by the
prodigal for his own. Could it be that this boy whom he had so often
chastised took a clearer view of practical morality than himself? It was
preposterous. But why the uneasiness of the past few years? Why had he
more than once during that period, for the first time in his life,
questioned a hitherto absolute satisfaction in his position of chief
counsel for the Northeastern Railroads? Why had he hesitated to initiate
his son into many of the so-called duties of a railroad lawyer? Austen
had never verbally arraigned those duties until to-night.
Contradictory as it may seem, irritating as it was to the Honourable
Hilary Vane, he experienced again the certain faint tingling of pride as
when Austen had given him the dispassionate account of the shooting of
Mr. Blodgett; and this tingling only served to stiffen Hilary Vane more
than ever. A lifelong habit of admitting nothing and a lifelong pride
made the acknowledgment of possible professional lapses for the benefit
of his employer not to be thought of. He therefore assumed the same
attitude as had Mr. Flint, and forced the burden of explanation upon
Austen, relying surely on the disinclination of his son to be specific.
And Austen, considering his relationship, could not be expected to fathom
these mental processes.
"See here, Judge," he said, greatly embarrassed by the real affection he
felt, "I don't want to seem like a prig and appear to be sitting in
judgment upon a man of your experience and position especially since I
have the honour to be your son, and have made a good deal of trouble by a
not irreproachable existence. Since we have begun on the subject,
however, I think I ought to tell you that I have taken the case of Zeb
Meader against the Northeastern Railroads."
"Wahn't much need of telling me, was there?" remarked the Honourable
Hilary, dryly. "I'd have found it out as soon as anybody else."
"There was this need of telling you," answered Austen, steadily,
"although I am not in partnership with you, I bear your name. And
in-as-much as I am to have a suit against your client, it has occurred to
me that you would like me to move—elsewhere."
The Honourable Hilary was silent for a long time.
"Want to move—do YOU? Is that it?"
"Only because my presence may embarrass you."
"That wahn't in the contract," said the Honourable Hilary; "you've got a
right to take any fool cases you've a mind to. Folks know pretty well I'm
not mixed up in 'em."
Austen did not smile; he could well understand his father's animus in
this matter. As he looked up at the gable of his old home against the
stars, he did not find the next sentence any easier.
"And then," he continued, "in taking, a course so obviously against your
wishes and judgment it occurred to me—well, that I was eating at your
table and sleeping in your house."
To his son's astonishment, Hilary Vane turned on him almost truculently.
"I thought the time'd come when you'd want to go off again,—gypsying,"
"I'd stay right here in Ripton, Judge. I believe my work is in this
The Honour could see through a millstone with a hole in it. The effect of
Austen's assertion on him was a declaration that the mission of the one
was to tear down what the other had so laboriously built up. And yet a
growing dread of Hilary Vane's had been the loneliness of declining years
in that house should Austen leave it again, never to return.
"I knew you had this Meader business in mind," he said. "I knew you had
fanciful notions about—some things. Never told you I didn't want you
here, did I?"
"No," said Austen, "but—"
Would have told you if I hadn't wanted you—wouldn't I?"
"I hope so, Judge," said Austen, who understood something of the feeling
which underlay this brusqueness. That knowledge made matters all the
harder for him.
"It was your mother's house—you're entitled to that, anyway," said the
Honourable Hilary, "but what I want to know is, why you didn't advise
that eternal fool of a Meader to accept what we offered him. You'll never
get a county jury to give as much."
"I did advise him to accept it," answered Austen.
"What's the matter with him?" the Honourable Hilary demanded.
"Well, judge, if you really want my opinion, an honest farmer like Meader
is suspicious of any corporation which has such zealous and loyal
retainers as Ham Tooting and Brush Bascom." And Austen thought with a
return of the pang which had haunted him at intervals throughout the
afternoon, that he might almost have added to these names that of Hilary
Vane. Certainly Zeb Meader had not spared his father.
"Life," observed the Honourable Hilary, unconsciously using a phrase from
the 'Book of Arguments,' "is a survival of the fittest."
"How do you define 'the fittest?'" asked Austen. "Are they the men who
have the not unusual and certainly not exalted gift of getting money from
their fellow creatures by the use of any and all weapons that may be at
hand? who believe the acquisition of wealth to be exempt from the
practice of morality? Is Mr. Flint your example of the fittest type to
exist and survive, or Gladstone or Wilberforce or Emerson or Lincoln?"
"Emerson!" cried the Honourable Hilary, the name standing out in red
letters before his eyes. He had never read a line of the philosopher's
writings, not even the charge to "hitch your wagon to a star" (not in the
"Book of Arguments"). Sarah Austen had read Emerson in the woods, and her
son's question sounded so like the unintelligible but unanswerable
flashes with which the wife had on rare occasions opposed the husband's
authority that Hilary Vane found his temper getting the best of him—The
name of Emerson was immutably fixed in his mind as the synonym for
incomprehensible, foolish habits and beliefs. "Don't talk Emerson to me,"
he exclaimed. "And as for Brush Bascom, I've known him for thirty years,
and he's done as much for the Republican party as any man in this State."
This vindication of Mr. Bascom naturally brought to a close a
conversation which had already continued too long. The Honourable Hilary
retired to rest; but—if Austen had known it—not to sleep until the
small hours of the morning.
It was not until the ensuing spring that the case of Mr. Zebulun Meader
against the United Northeastern Railroads came up for trial in Bradford,
the county-seat of Putnam County, and we do not wish to appear to give it
too great a weight in the annals of the State. For one thing, the weekly
newspapers did not mention it; and Mr. Paul Pardriff, when urged to give
an account of the proceedings in the Ripton Record, said it was a matter
of no importance, and spent the afternoon writing an editorial about the
domestic habits of the Aztecs. Mr. Pardriff, however, had thought the
matter of sufficient interest personally to attend the trial, and for the
journey he made use of a piece of green cardboard which he habitually
carried in his pocket. The editor of the Bradford Champion did not have
to use his yellow cardboard, yet his columns may be searched in vain for
Not that it was such a great event, one of hundreds of railroad accidents
that come to court. The son of Hilary Vane was the plaintiff's counsel;
and Mr. Meader, although he had not been able to work since his release
from the hospital, had been able to talk, and the interest taken in the
case by the average neglected citizen in Putnam proved that the weekly
newspaper is not the only disseminator of news.
The railroad's side of the case was presented by that genial and able
practitioner of Putnam County, Mr. Nathaniel Billings, who travelled from
his home in Williamstown by the exhibition of a red ticket. Austen Vane
had to pay his own way from Ripton, but as he handed back the mileage
book, the conductor leaned over and whispered something in his ear that
made him smile, and Austen thought he would rather have that little drop
of encouragement than a pass. And as he left the car at Bradford, two
grizzled and hard-handed individuals arose and wished him good luck.
He needed encouragement,—what young lawyer does not on his first
important case? And he did not like to think of the future if he lost
this. But in this matter he possessed a certain self-confidence which
arose from a just and righteous anger against the forces opposing him and
a knowledge of their tactics. To his mind his client was not Zeb Meader
alone, but the host of victims who had been maimed and bought off because
it was cheaper than to give the public a proper protection.
The court room was crowded. Mr. Zeb Meader, pale but determined, was
surrounded by a knot of Mercer neighbours, many of whom were witnesses.
The agate eyes of Mr. Brush Bascom flashed from the audience, and Mr. Nat
Billings bustled forward to shake Austen's hand. Nat was one of those who
called not infrequently upon the Honourable Hilary in Ripton, and had sat
on Austen's little table.
"Glad to see you, Austen," he cried, so that the people might hear; and
added, in a confidentially lower tone, "We lawyers understand that these
little things make no difference, eh?"
"I'm willing to agree to that if you are, Nat," Austen answered. He
looked at the lawyer's fleshy face, blue-black where it was shaven, and
at Mr. Billings' shifty eyes and mouth, which its muscles could not quite
keep in place. Mr. Billings also had nicked teeth. But he did his best to
hide these obvious disadvantages by a Falstaffian bonhomie,—for Mr.
Billings was growing stout.
"I tried it once or twice, my friend, when I was younger. It's noble, but
it don't pay," said Mr. Billings, still confidential. "Brush is
sour—look at him. But I understand how you feel. I'm the kind of feller
that speaks out, and what I can't understand is, why the old man let you
get into it."
"He knew you were going to be on the other side, Nat, and wanted to teach
me a lesson. I suppose it is folly to contest a case where the Railroad
Commission has completely exonerated your client," Austen added
Mr. Billings' answer was to wink, very slowly, with one eye; and shortly
after these pleasantries were over, the case was called. A fragrant wind
blew in at the open windows, and Nature outside was beginning to array
herself in myriad hues of green. Austen studied the jury, and wondered
how many points of his argument he could remember, but when he had got to
his feet the words came to him. If we should seek an emblem for King
David's smooth, round stone which he flung at Goliath, we should call it
the truth—for the truth never fails to reach the mark. Austen's opening
was not long, his words simple and not dramatic, but he seemed to charge
them with something of the same magnetic force that compelled people to
read and believe "Uncle Ton's Cabin" and the "Song of the Shirt."
Spectators and jury listened intently.
Some twenty witnesses appeared for the plaintiff, all of whom declared
that they had heard neither bell nor whistle. Most of these witnesses had
been in the grove, two or three in the train; two, residents of the
vicinity, testified that they had complained to the Railroad Commission
about that crossing, and had received evasive answers to the effect that
it was the duty of citizens to look out for themselves. On
cross-examination they declared they had no objection to grade crossings
which were properly safeguarded; this crossing was a death-trap.
(Stricken out.) Mr. Billings made the mistake of trying to prove that one
of these farmers—a clear-eyed, full-chested man with a deep voice—had
an animus against the railroad dating from a controversy concerning the
shipping of milk.
"I have an animus, your Honour," said the witness, quietly. "When the
railrud is represented by the kind of politicians we have in Putnam, it's
natural I should hain't it?"
This answer, although stricken out, was gleefully received.
In marked contrast to the earnestness of young Mr. Vane, who then rested,
Mr. Billings treated the affair from the standpoint of a man of large
practice who usually has more weighty matters to attend to. This was so
comparatively trivial as not to be dignified by a serious mien. He quoted
freely from the "Book of Arguments," reminding the jury of the debt of
gratitude the State owed to the Northeastern Railroads for doing so much
for its people; and if they were to eliminate all grade crossings, there
would be no dividends for the stockholders. Besides, the law was that the
State should pay half when a crossing was eliminated, and the State could
not afford it. Austen had suggested, in his opening, that it was cheaper
for the railroad as well as the State to kill citizens. He asked
permission to inquire of the learned counsel for the defence by what
authority he declared that the State could not afford to enter into a
policy by which grade crossings would gradually be eliminated.
"Why," said Mr. Billings, "the fact that all bills introduced to this end
never get out of committee."
"May I ask," said Austen, innocently, "who has been chairman of that
particular committee in the lower House for the last five sessions?"
Mr. Billings was saved the embarrassment of answering this question by a
loud voice in the rear calling out:—"Brush Bascom!"
A roar of laughter shook the court room, and all eyes were turned on
Brush, who continued to sit unconcernedly with his legs crossed and his
arm over the back of the seat. The offender was put out, order was
restored, and Mr. Billings declared, with an injured air, that he failed
to see why the counsel for the plaintiff saw fit to impugn Mr. Bascom.
"I merely asked a question," said Austere; "far be it from me to impugn
any man who has held offices in the gift of the people for the last
Another gale of laughter followed this, during which Mr. Billings
wriggled his mouth and gave a strong impression that such tactics and
such levity were to be deplored.
For the defence, the engineer and fireman both swore that the bell had
been rung before the crossing was reached. Austen merely inquired whether
this was not when they had left the station at North Mercer, two miles
away. No, it was nearer. Pressed to name the exact spot, they could only
conjecture, but near enough to be heard on the crossing. Other
witnesses—among them several picnickers in the grove—swore that they
had heard the bell. One of these Austen asked if he was not the member
from Mercer in the last Legislature, and Mr. Billings, no longer genial,
sprang to his feet with an objection.
"I merely wish to show, your Honour," said Austen, "that this witness
accepted a pass from the Northeastern Railroads when he went to the
Legislature, and that he has had several trip passes for himself and his
The objection was not sustained, and Mr. Billings noted an exception.
Another witness, upon whose appearance the audience tittered audibly, was
Dave Skinner, boss of Mercer. He had lived, he said, in the town of
Mercer all his life, and maintained that he was within a hundred yards of
the track when the accident occurred, and heard the bell ring.
"Is it not a fact," said Austen to this witness, "that Mr. Brush Bascom
has a mortgage on your farm?"
"I can show, your Honour," Austen continued, when Mr. Billings had
finished his protest, "that this man was on his way to Riverside to pay
his quarterly instalment."
Mr. Bascom was not present at the afternoon session. Mr. Billings'
summing up was somewhat impassioned, and contained more quotations from
the "Book of Arguments." He regretted, he said, the obvious appeals to
prejudice against a railroad corporation that was honestly trying to do
its duty-yes, and more than its duty.
Misjudged, misused, even though friendless, it would continue to serve
the people. So noble, indeed, was the picture which Mr. Billings'
eloquence raised up that his voice shook with emotion as he finished.
In the opinion of many of the spectators Austen Vane had yet to learn the
art of oratory. He might with propriety have portrayed the suffering and
loss of the poor farmer who was his client; he merely quoted from the
doctor's testimony to the effect that Mr. Meader would never again be
able to do physical labour of the sort by which he had supported himself,
and ended up by calling the attention of the jury to the photographs and
plans of the crossing he had obtained two days after the accident,
requesting them to note the facts that the public highway, approaching
through a dense forest and underbrush at an angle of thirty-three
degrees, climbed the railroad embankment at that point, and a train could
not be seen until the horse was actually on the track.
The jury was out five minutes after the judge's charge, and gave Mr.
Zebulun Meader a verdict of six thousand dollars and costs,—a popular
verdict, from the evident approval with which it was received in the
court room. Quiet being restored, Mr. Billings requested, somewhat
vehemently, that the case be transferred on the exceptions to the Supreme
Court, that the stenographer write out the evidence, and that he might
have three weeks in which to prepare a draft. This was granted.
Zeb Meader, true to his nature, was self-contained throughout the
congratulations he received, but his joy was nevertheless intense.
"You shook 'em up good, Austen," he said, making his way to where his
counsel stood. "I suspicioned you'd do it. But how about this here
"Billings is merely trying to save the face of his railroad," Austen
answered, smiling. "He hasn't the least notion of allowing this case to
come up again—take my word for it."
"I guess your word's good," said Zeb. "And I want to tell you one thing,
as an old man. I've been talkin' to Putnam County folks some, and you
hain't lost nothin' by this."
"How am I to get along without the friendship of Brush Bascom?" asked
Mr. Meader, who had become used to this mild sort of humour, relaxed
sufficiently to laugh.
"Brush did seem a mite disgruntled," he remarked.
Somewhat to Austen's embarrassment, Mr. Mender's friends were pushing
forward. One grizzled veteran took him by the hand and looked
thoughtfully into his face.
"I've lived a good many years," he said, "but I never heerd 'em talked up
to like that. You're my candidate for governor."
ENTER THE LION
It is a fact, as Shakespeare has so tersely hinted, that fame sometimes
comes in the line of duty. To be sure, if Austen Vane had been Timothy
Smith, the Mender case might not have made quite so many ripples in the
pond with which this story is concerned. Austen did what he thought was
right. In the opinion of many of his father's friends whom he met from
time to time he had made a good-sized stride towards ruin, and they did
not hesitate to tell him so—Mr. Chipman, president of the Ripton
National Bank; Mr. Greene, secretary and treasurer of the Hawkeye Paper
Company, who suggested with all kindness that, however noble it may be,
it doesn't pay to tilt at windmills.
"Not unless you wreck the windmill," answered Austen. A new and very
revolutionary point of view to Mr. Greene, who repeated it to Professor
Brewer, urging that gentleman to take Austen in hand. But the professor
burst out laughing, and put the saying into circulation.
Mr. Silas Tredway, whose list of directorships is too long to print, also
undertook to remonstrate with the son of his old friend, Hilary Vane. The
young lawyer heard him respectfully. The cashiers of some of these
gentlemen, who were younger men, ventured to say—when out of hearing
—that they admired the championship of Mr. Mender, but it would never
do. To these, likewise, Austen listened good-naturedly enough, and did
not attempt to contradict them. Changing the angle of the sun-dial does
not affect the time of day.
It was not surprising that young Tom Gaylord, when he came back from New
York and heard of Austen's victory, should have rushed to his office and
congratulated him in a rough but hearty fashion. Even though Austen had
won a suit against the Gaylord Lumber Company, young Tom would have
congratulated him. Old Tom was a different matter. Old Tom, hobbling
along under the maples, squinted at Austen and held up his stick.
"Damn you, you're a lawyer, ain't you?" cried the old man.
Austen, well used to this kind of greeting from Mr. Gaylord, replied that
he didn't think himself much of one.
"Damn it, I say you are. Some day I may have use for you," said old Tom,
and walked on.
"No," said young Tom, afterwards, in explanation of this extraordinary
attitude of his father, "it isn't principle. He's had a row with the
Northeastern about lumber rates, and swears he'll live till he gets even
If Professor Brewer (Ripton's most clear-sighted citizen) had made the
statement that Hilary Vane—away down in the bottom of his heart—was
secretly proud of his son, the professor would probably have lost his
place on the school board, the water board, and the library committee.
The way the worldly-wise professor discovered the secret was this: he had
gone to Bradford to hear the case, for he had been a dear friend of Sarah
Austen. Two days later Hilary Vane saw the professor on his little porch,
and lingered. Mr. Brewer suspected why, led carefully up to the subject,
and not being discouraged—except by numerous grunts—gave the father an
account of the proceedings by no means unfavourable to the son. Some
people like paregoric; the Honourable Hilary took his without undue
squirming, with no visible effects to Austen.
Life in the office continued, with one or two exceptions, the even tenor
of its way. Apparently, so far as the Honourable Hilary was concerned,
his son had never been to Bradford. But the Honourable Brush Bascom, when
he came on mysterious business to call on the chief counsel, no longer
sat on Austen's table; this was true of other feudal lords and retainers:
of Mr. Nat Billings, who, by the way, did not file his draft after all.
Not that Mr. Billings wasn't polite, but he indulged no longer in slow
winks at the expense of the honourable Railroad Commission.
Perhaps the most curious result of the Meader case to be remarked in
passing, was upon Mr. Hamilton Tooting. Austen, except when he fled to
the hills, was usually the last to leave the office, Mr. Tooting often
the first. But one evening Mr. Tooting waited until the force had gone,
and entered Austen's room with his hand outstretched.
"Put her there, Aust," he said.
Austen put her there.
"I've been exercisin' my thinker some the last few months," observed Mr.
Tooting, seating himself on the desk.
"Aren't you afraid of nervous prostration, Ham?"
"Say," exclaimed Mr. Tooting, with a vexed laugh, "why are you always
jollying me? You ain't any older than I am."
"I'm not as old, Ham. I don't begin to have your knowledge of the world."
"Come off," said Mr. Tooting, who didn't know exactly how to take this
compliment. "I came in here to have a serious talk. I've been thinking it
over, and I don't know but what you did right."
"Well, Ham, if you don't know, I don't know how I am to convince you."
"Hold on. Don't go twistin' around that way—you make me dizzy." He
lowered his voice confidentially, although there was no one within five
walls of them. "I know the difference between a gold brick and a
government bond, anyhow. I believe bucking the railroad's going to pay in
a year or so. I got on to it as soon as you did, I guess, but when a
feller's worn the collar as long as I have and has to live, it ain't easy
to cut loose—you understand."
"I understand," answered Austen, gravely.
"I thought I'd let you know I didn't take any too much trouble with
Meader last summer to get the old bird to accept a compromise."
"That was good of you, Ham."
"I knew what you was up to," said Mr. Tooting, giving Austen a friendly
poke with his cigar.
"You showed your usual acumen, Mr. Tooting," said Austen, as he rose to
put on his coat. Mr. Tooting regarded him uneasily.
"You're a deep one, Aust," he declared; "some day you and, me must get
Mr. Billings' desire for ultimate justice not being any stronger than
Austen suspected, in due time Mr. Meader got his money. His counsel would
have none of it,—a decision not at all practical, and on the whole
disappointing. There was, to be sure, an influx into Austen's office of
people who had been run over in the past, and it was Austen's unhappy
duty to point out to these that they had signed (at the request of
various Mr. Tootings) little slips of paper which are technically known
as releases. But the first hint of a really material advantage to be
derived from his case against the railroad came from a wholly unexpected
source, in the shape of a letter in the mail one August morning.
"DEAR SIR: Having remarked with some interest the verdict for a
client of yours against the United Northeastern Railroads, I wish
you would call and see me at your earliest convenience.
Although his curiosity was aroused, Austen was of two minds whether to
answer this summons, the truth being that Mr. Crewe had not made, on the
occasions on which they had had intercourse, the most favourable of
impressions. However, it is not for the struggling lawyer to scorn any
honourable brief, especially from a gentleman of stocks and bonds and
varied interests like Mr. Crewe, with whom contentions of magnitude are
inevitably associated. As he spun along behind Pepper on the Leith road
that climbed Willow Brook on the afternoon he had made the appointment,
Austen smiled to himself over his anticipations, and yet—-being
human-let his fancy play.
The broad acres of Wedderburn stretched across many highways, but the
manor-house (as it had been called) stood on an eminence whence one could
look for miles down the Yale of the Blue. It had once been a farmhouse,
but gradually the tail had begun to wag the dog, and the farmhouse
became, like the original stone out of which the Irishman made the soup,
difficult to find. Once the edifice had been on the road, but the road
had long ago been removed to a respectful distance, and Austen entered
between two massive pillars built of granite blocks on a musical gravel
Humphrey Crewe was on the porch, his hands in his pockets, as Austen
"Hello," he said, in a voice probably meant to be hospitable, but which
had a peremptory ring, "don't stand on ceremony. Hitch your beast and
come along in."
Having, as it were, superintended the securing of Pepper, Mr. Crewe led
the way through the house to the study, pausing once or twice to point
out to Austen a carved ivory elephant procured at great expense in China,
and a piece of tapestry equally difficult of purchase. The study itself
was no mere lounging place of a man of pleasure, but sober and formidable
books were scattered through the cases: "Turner's Evolution of the
Railroad," "Graham's Practical Forestry," "Eldridge's Finance"; while
whole shelves of modern husbandry proclaimed that Mr. Humphrey Crewe was
no amateur farmer. There was likewise a shelf devoted to road building,
several to knotty-looking pamphlets, and half a wall of neatly labelled
pigeonholes. For decoration, there was an oar garnished with a ribbon,
and several groups of college undergraduates, mostly either in puffed
ties or scanty attire, and always prominent in these groups, and always
unmistakable, was Mr. Humphrey Crewe himself.
Mr. Crewe was silent awhile, that this formidable array of things might
make the proper impression upon his visitor.
"It was lucky you came to-day, Vane," he said at length. "I am due in New
York to-morrow for a directors' meeting, and I have a conference in
Chicago with a board of trustees of which I am a member on the third.
Looking at my array of pamphlets, eh? I've been years in collecting
them,—ever since I left college. Those on railroads ought especially to
interest you—I'm somewhat of a railroad man myself."
"I didn't know that," said Austen.
"Had two or three blocks of stock in subsidiary lines that had to be
looked after. It was a nuisance at first," said Mr. Crewe, "but I didn't
shirk it. I made up my mind I'd get to the bottom of the railroad
problem, and I did. It's no use doing a thing at all unless you do it
well." Mr. Crewe, his hands still in his pockets, faced Austen smilingly.
"Now I'll bet you didn't know I was a railroad man until you came in
here. To tell the truth, it was about a railroad matter that I sent for
Mr. Crewe lit a cigar, but he did not offer one to Austen, as he had to
Mr. Tooting. "I wanted to see what you were like," he continued, with
refreshing frankness. "Of course, I'd seen you on the road. But you can
get more of an idea of a man by talkin' to him, you know."
"You can if he'll talk," said Austen, who was beginning to enjoy his
Mr. Crewe glanced at him keenly. Few men are fools at all points of the
compass, and Mr. Crewe was far from this.
"You did well in that little case you had against the Northeastern. I
heard about it."
"I did my best," answered Austen, and he smiled again.
"As some great man has remarked," observed Mr. Crewe, "it isn't what we
do, it's how we do it. Take pains over the smaller cases, and the larger
cases will come of themselves, eh?"
"I live in hope," said Austen, wondering how soon this larger case was
going to unfold itself.
"Let me see," said Mr. Crewe, "isn't your father the chief attorney in
this State for the Northeastern? How do you happen to be on the other
"By the happy accident of obtaining a client," said Austen.
Mr. Crewe glanced at him again. In spite of himself, respect was growing
in him. He had expected to find a certain amount of eagerness and
subserviency—though veiled; here was a man of different calibre than he
looked for in Ripton.
"The fact is," he declared, "I have a grievance against the Northeastern
Railroads, and I have made up my mind that you are the man for me."
"You may have reason to regret your choice," Austen suggested.
"I think not," replied Mr. Crewe, promptly; "I believe I know a man when
I see one, and you inspire me with confidence. This matter will have a
double interest for you, as I understand you are fond of horses."
"Yes," Mr. Crewe continued, gaining a little heat at the word, "I bought
the finest-lookin' pair you ever saw in New York this spring,—all-around
action, manners, conformation, everything; I'll show 'em to you. One of
'em's all right now; this confounded railroad injured the other gettin'
him up here. I've put in a claim. They say they didn't, my man says they
did. He tells me the horse was thrown violently against the sides of the
car several times. He's internally injured. I told 'em I'd sue 'em, and
I've decided that you are the man to take the case—on conditions."
Austen's sense of humour saved him,—and Mr. Humphrey Crewe had begun to
interest him. He rose and walked to the window and looked out for a few
moments over the flower garden before he replied:—"On what conditions?"
"Well," said Mr. Crewe, "frankly, I don't want to pay more than the horse
is worth, and it's business to settle on the fee in case you win. I
"You thought," said Austen, "that I might not charge as much as the next
"Well," said Mr. Crewe, "I knew that if you took the case, you'd fight it
through, and I want to get even with 'em. Their claim agent had the
impudence to suggest that the horse had been doctored by the dealer in
New York. To tell me that I, who have been buying horses all my life, was
fooled. The veterinary swears the animal is ruptured. I'm a citizen of
Avalon County, though many people call me a summer resident; I've done
business here and helped improve the neighbourhood for years. It will be
my policy to employ home talent Avalon County lawyers, for instance. I
may say, without indiscretion, that I intend from now on to take even a
greater interest in public affairs. The trouble is in this country that
men in my position do not feel their responsibilities."
"Public spirit is a rare virtue," Austen remarked, seeing that he was
expected to say something. "Avalon County appreciates the compliment,
—if I may be permitted to answer for it."
"I want to do the right thing," said Mr. Crewe. "In fact, I have almost
made up my mind to go to the Legislature this year. I know it would be a
sacrifice of time, in a sense, and all that, but—" He paused, and looked
"The Legislature needs leavening."
"Precisely," exclaimed Mr. Crewe, "and when I look around me and see the
things crying to be done in this State, and no lawmaker with sense and
foresight enough to propose them, it makes me sick. Now, for instance,"
he continued, and rose with an evident attempt to assault the forestry
shelves. But Austen rose too.
"I'd like to go over that with you, Mr. Crewe," said he, "but I have to
be back in Ripton."
"How about my case?" his host demanded, with a return to his former
"What about it?" asked Austen.
"Are you going to take it?"
"Struggling lawyers don't refuse business."
"Well," said Mr. Crewe, "that's sensible. But what are you going to
"Now," said Austen, with entire good humour, "when you get on that
ground, you are dealing no longer with one voracious unit, but with a
whole profession,—a profession, you will allow me to add, which in
dignity is second to none. In accordance with the practice of the best
men in that profession, I will charge you what I believe is fair—not
what I think you are able and willing to pay. Should you dispute the
bill, I will not stoop to quarrel with you, but, try to live on bread and
butter a while longer."
Mr. Crewe was silent for a moment. It would not be exact to say
uncomfortable, for it is to be doubted whether he ever got so. But he
felt dimly that the relations of patron and patronized were becoming
"All right," said he, "I guess we can let it go at that. Hello! What the
deuce are those women doing here again?"
This irrelevant exclamation was caused by the sight through the open
French window—of three ladies in the flower garden, two of whom were
bending over the beds. The third, upon whose figure Austen's eyes were
riveted, was seated on a stone bench set in a recess of pines, and
looking off into the Yale of the Blue. With no great eagerness, but
without apology to Austen, Mr. Crewe stepped out of the window and
approached them; and as this was as good a way as any to his horse and
buggy, Austen followed. One of the ladies straightened at their
appearance, scrutinized them through the glasses she held in her hand,
and Austen immediately recognized her as the irreproachable Mrs. Pomfret.
"We didn't mean to disturb you, Humphrey," she said. "We knew you would
be engaged in business, but I told Alice as we drove by I could not
resist stopping for one more look at your Canterbury bells. I knew you
wouldn't mind, but you mustn't leave your—affairs,—not for an instant."
The word "affairs" was accompanied by a brief inspection of Austen Vane.
"That's all right," answered Mr. Crewe; "it doesn't cost anything to look
at flowers, that's what they're for. Cost something to put 'em in. I got
that little feller Ridley to lay 'em out—I believe I told you. He's just
beginning. Hello, Alice."
"I think he did it very well, Humphrey," said Miss Pomfret.
"Passably," said Mr. Crewe. "I told him what I wanted and drew a rough
sketch of the garden and the colour scheme."
"Then you did it, and not Mr. Ridley. I rather suspected it," said Mrs.
Pomfret; "you have such clear and practical ideas about things,
"It's simple enough," said Mr. Crewe, deprecatingly, "after you've seen a
few hundred gardens and get the general underlying principle."
"It's very clever," Alice murmured.
"Not at all. A little application will do wonders. A certain definite
colour massed here, another definite colour there, and so forth."
Mr. Crewe spoke as though Alice's praise irritated him slightly. He waved
his hand to indicate the scheme in general, and glanced at Victoria on
the stone bench. From her (Austen thought) seemed to emanate a silent but
mirthful criticism, although she continued to gaze persistently down the
valley, apparently unaware of their voices. Mr. Crewe looked as if he
would have liked to reach her, but the two ladies filled the narrow path,
and Mrs. Pomfret put her fingers on his sleeve.
"Humphrey, you must explain it to us. I am so interested in gardens I'm
going to have one if Electrics increase their dividend."
Mr. Crewe began, with no great ardour, to descant on the theory of
planting, and Austen resolved to remain pocketed and ignored no longer.
He retraced his steps and made his way rapidly by another path towards
Victoria, who turned her head at his approach, and rose. He acknowledged
an inward agitation with the vision in his eye of the tall, white figure
against the pines, clad with the art which, in mysterious simplicity,
"I was wondering," she said, as she gave him her hand, "how long it would
be before you spoke to me."
"You gave me no chance," said Austen, quickly.
"Do you deserve one?" she asked.
Before he could answer, Mr. Crewe's explanation of his theories had come
lamely to a halt. Austen was aware of the renewed scrutiny of Mrs.
Pomfret, and then Mr. Crewe, whom no social manacles could shackle, had
broken past her and made his way to them. He continued to treat the
ground on which Austen was standing as unoccupied.
"Hello, Victoria," he said, "you don't know anything about gardens, do
"I don't believe you do either," was Victoria's surprising reply.
Mr. Crewe laughed at this pleasantry.
"How are you going to prove it?" he demanded.
"By comparing what you've done with Freddie Ridley's original plan," said
Mr. Crewe was nettled.
"Ridley has a lot to learn," he retorted. "He had no conception of what
was appropriate here."
"Freddie was weak," said Victoria, but he needed the money. Don't you
know Mr. Vane?"
"Yes," said Mr. Crewe, shortly, "I've been talking to him—on business."
"Oh," said Victoria, "I had no means of knowing. Mrs. Pomfret, I want to
introduce Mr. Vane, and Miss Pomfret, Mr. Vane."
Mrs. Pomfret, who had been hovering on the outskirts of this duel,
inclined her head the fraction of an inch, but Alice put out her hand
with her sweetest manner.
"When did you arrive?" she asked.
"Well, the fact is, I haven't arrived yet," said Austen.
"Not arrived" exclaimed Alice, with a puzzled glance into Victoria's
"Perhaps Humphrey will help you along," Victoria suggested, turning to
him. "He might be induced to give you his celebrated grievance about his
"I have given it to him," said Mr. Crewe, briefly.
"Cheer up, Mr. Vane, your fortune is made," said Victoria.
"Victoria," said Mrs. Pomfret, in her most imperial voice, "we ought to
be going instantly, or we shan't have time to drop you at the Hammonds'."
"I'll take you over in the new motor car," said Mr. Crewe, with his air
of conferring a special train.
"How much is gasoline by the gallon?" inquired Victoria.
"I did a favour once for the local manager, and get a special price,"
said Mr. Crewe.
"Humphrey," said Mrs. Pomfret, taking his hand, "don't forget you are
coming to dinner to-night. Four people gave out at the last minute, and
there will be just Alice and myself. I've asked old Mr. Fitzhugh."
"All right," said Mr. Crewe, "I'll have the motor car brought around."
The latter part of this remark was, needless to say, addressed to
"It's awfully good of you, Humphrey," she answered, "but the Hammonds are
on the road to Ripton, and I am going to ask Mr. Vane to drive me down
there behind that adorable horse of his."
This announcement produced a varied effect upon those who heard it,
although all experienced surprise. Mrs. Pomfret, in addition to an anger
which she controlled only as the result of long practice, was horrified,
and once more levelled her glasses at Austen.
"I think, Victoria, you had better come with us," she said. "We shall
have plenty of time, if we hurry."
By this time Austen had recovered his breath.
"I'll be ready in an instant," he said, and made brief but polite adieus
to the three others.
"Good-by," said Alice, vaguely.
"Let me know when anything develops," said Mr. Crewe, with his back to
Austen found Victoria, her colour heightened a little, waiting for him by
the driveway. The Pomfrets had just driven off, and Mr. Crewe was nowhere
to be seen.
"I do not know what you will think of me for taking this for granted, Mr.
Vane," she said as he took his seat beside her, "but I couldn't resist
the chance of driving behind your horse."
"I realized," he answered smilingly, "that Pepper was the attraction, and
I have more reason than ever to be grateful to him."
She glanced covertly at the Vane profile, at the sure, restraining hands
on the reins which governed with so nice a touch the mettle of the horse.
His silence gave her time to analyze again her interest in this man,
which renewed itself at every meeting. In the garden she had been struck
by the superiority of a nature which set at naught what had been, to some
smaller spirits, a difficult situation. She recognized this quality as
inborn, but, not knowing of Sarah Austen, she wondered where he got it.
Now it was the fact that he refrained from comment that pleased her most.
"Did Humphrey actually send for you to take up the injured horse case?"
"I'm afraid he did. You seem to know all about it," he added.
"Know all about it Every one within twenty miles of Leith knows about it.
I'm sure the horse was doctored when he bought him."
"Take care, you may be called as a witness."
"What I want to know is, why you accepted such a silly case," said
Austen looked quizzically into her upturned face, and she dropped her
"That's exactly what I should have asked myself,—after a while," he
She laughed with a delicious understanding of "after a while."
"I suppose you think me frightfully forward," she said, in a lowered
voice, "inviting myself to drive and asking you such a question when I
scarcely know you. But I just couldn't go on with Mrs. Pomfret,—she
irritated me so,—and my front teeth are too valuable to drive with
Austen smiled, and secretly agreed with her.
"I should have offered, if I had dared," he said.
"Dared! I didn't know that was your failing. I don't believe you even
thought of it."
"Nevertheless, the idea occurred to me, and terrified me," said Austen.
"Why?" she asked, turning upon him suddenly. "Why did it terrify you?"
"I should have been presuming upon an accidental acquaintance, which I
had no means of knowing you wished to continue," he replied, staring at
his horse's head.
"And I?" Victoria asked. "Presumption multiplies tenfold in a woman,
"A woman confers," said Austen.
She smiled, but with a light in her eyes. This simple sentence seemed to
reveal yet more of an inner man different from some of those with whom
her life had been cast. It was an American point of view—this choosing
to believe that the woman conferred. After offering herself as his
passenger Victoria, too, had had a moment of terror: the action had been
the result of an impulse which she did not care to attempt to define. She
changed the subject.
"You have been winning laurels since I saw you last summer," she said. "I
hear incidentally you have made our friend Zeb Meader a rich man."
"As riches go, in the town of Mercer," Austen laughed. "As for my
laurels, they have not yet begun to chafe."
Here was a topic he would have avoided, and yet he was curious to
discover what her attitude would be. He had antagonized her father, and
the fact that he was the son of Hilary Vane had given his antagonism
"I am glad you did it for Zeb."
"I should have done it for anybody—much as I like Zeb," he replied
She glanced at him.
"It was—courageous of you," she said.
"I have never looked upon it in that light," he answered. "May I ask you
how you heard of it?"
She coloured, but faced the question.
"I heard it from my father, at first, and I took an interest—on Zeb
Meader's account," she added hastily.
Austen was silent.
"Of course," she continued, "I felt a little like boasting of an
'accidental acquaintance' with the man who saved Zeb Meader's life."
Austen laughed. Then he drew Pepper down to a walk, and turned to her.
"The power of making it more than an accidental acquaintance lies with
you," he said quietly.
"I have always had an idea that aggression was a man's prerogative,"
Victoria answered lightly. "And seeing that you have not appeared at
Fairview for something over a year, I can only conclude that you do not
choose to exercise it in this case."
Austen was in a cruel quandary.
"I did wish to come," he answered simply, "but—the fact that I have had
a disagreement with your father has—made it difficult." "Nonsense"
exclaimed Victoria; "just because you have won a suit against his
railroad. You don't know my father, Mr. Vane. He isn't the kind of man
with whom that would make any difference. You ought to talk it over with
him. He thinks you were foolish to take Zeb Meader's side."
"And you?" Austen demanded quickly.
"You see, I'm a woman," said Victoria, "and I'm prejudiced—for Zeb
Meader. Women are always prejudiced,—that's our trouble. It seemed to me
that Zeb was old, and unfortunate, and ought to be compensated, since he
is unable to work. But of course I suppose I can't be expected to
It was true that she could not be expected to understand. He might not
tell her that his difference with Mr. Flint was not a mere matter of
taking a small damage suit against his railroad, but a fundamental one.
And Austen recognized that the justification of his attitude meant an
arraignment of Victoria's father.
"I wish you might know my father better, Mr. Vane," she went on, "I wish
you might know him as I know him, if it were possible. You see, I have
been his constant companion all my life, and I think very few people
understand him as I do, and realize his fine qualities. He makes no
attempt to show his best side to the world. His life has been spent in
fighting, and I am afraid he is apt to meet the world on that footing. He
is a man of such devotion to his duty that he rarely has a day to
himself, and I have known him to sit up until the small hours of the
morning to settle some little matter of justice. I do not think I am
betraying his confidence when I say that he is impressed with your
ability, and that he liked your manner the only time he ever talked to
you. He believes that you have got, in some way, a wrong idea of what he
is trying to do. Why don't you come up and talk to him again?"
"I am afraid your kindness leads you to overrate my importance," Austen
replied, with mingled feelings. Victoria's confidence in her father made
the situation all the more hopeless.
"I'm sure I don't," she answered quickly; "ever since—ever since I first
laid eyes upon you I have had a kind of belief in you."
"Belief?" he echoed.
"Yes," she said, "belief that—that you had a future. I can't describe
it," she continued, the colour coming into her face again; "one feels
that way about some people without being able to put the feeling into
words. And have a feeling, too, that I should like you to be friends with
Neither of them, perhaps, realized the rapidity with which "accidental
acquaintance" had melted into intimacy. Austen's blood ran faster, but it
was characteristic of him that he tried to steady himself, for he was a
Vane. He had thought of her many times during the past year, but
gradually the intensity of the impression had faded until it had been so
unexpectedly and vividly renewed to-day. He was not a man to lose his
head, and the difficulties of the situation made him pause and choose his
words, while he dared not so much as glance at her as she sat in the
sunlight beside him.
"I should like to be friends with your father," he answered gravely,—the
statement being so literally true as to have its pathetically humorous
"I'll tell him so, Mr. Vane," she said.
Austen turned, with a seriousness that dismayed her.
"I must ask you as a favour not to do that," he said.
"Why?" she asked.
"In the first place," he answered quietly, "I cannot afford to have Mr.
Flint misunderstand my motives. And I ought not to mislead you," he went
on. "In periods of public controversy, such as we are passing through at
present, sometimes men's views differ so sharply as to make intercourse
impossible. Your father and I might not agree—politically, let us say.
For instance," he added, with evident hesitation, "my father and I
Victoria was silent. And presently they came to a wire fence overgrown
with Virginia creeper, which divided the shaded road from a wide lawn.
"Here we are at the Hammonds', and—thank you," she said.
Any reply he might have made was forestalled. The insistent and
intolerant horn of an automobile, followed now by the scream of the
gears, broke the stillness of the country-side, and a familiar voice
cried out—"Do you want the whole road?"
Austen turned into the Hammonds' drive as the bulldog nose of a motor
forged ahead, and Mr. Crewe swung in the driver's seat.
"Hello, Victoria," he shouted, "you people ought to have ear-trumpets."
The car swerved, narrowly missed a watering fountain where the word
"Peace" was inscribed, and shot down the hill.
"That manner," said Victoria, as she jumped out of the buggy, "is a
valuable political asset."
"Does he really intend to go into politics?" Austen asked curiously.
"'Intend' is a mild word applied to Humphrey," she answered;
"'determined' would suit him better. According to him, there is no game
that cannot be won by dynamics. 'Get out of the way' is his motto. Mrs.
Pomfret will tell you how he means to cover the State with good roads
next year, and take a house in Washington the year after." She held out
her hand. "Good-by,—and I am ever so much obliged to you for bringing
He drove away towards Ripton with many things to think about, with a last
picture of her in his mind as she paused for an instant in the flickering
shadows, stroking Pepper's forehead.
THE LEOPARD AND HIS SPOTS
It is difficult to overestimate the importance of Mr. Humphrey Crewe, of
his value to the town of Leith, and to the State at large, and in these
pages only a poor attempt at an appreciation of him may be expected. Mr.
Crewe by no means underestimated this claim upon the community, and he
had of late been declaring that he was no summer resident. Wedderburn was
his home, and there he paid his taxes. Undoubtedly, they were less than
Although a young man, Mr. Crewe was in all respects a model citizen, and
a person of many activities. He had built a farmers' club, to which the
farmers, in gross ingratitude, had never gone. Now it was a summer
residence and distinctly rentable. He had a standing offer to erect a
library in the village of Leith provided the town would furnish the
ground, the books, and permit the name of Crewe to be carved in stone
over the doorway. The indifference of the town pained him, and he was
naturally not a little grieved at the lack of proper feeling of the
country people of America towards those who would better their
conditions. He had put a large memorial window in the chapel to his
Mr. Crewe had another standing offer to be one of five men to start a
farming experiment station—which might pay dividends. He, was a church
warden; president of a society for turning over crops (which he had
organized); a member of the State Grange; president of the embryo State
Economic League (whatever that was); and chairman of the Local
Improvement Board—also a creation of his own. By these tokens, and
others too numerous to mention, it would seem that the inhabitants of
Leith would have jumped at the chance to make such a man one of the five
hundred in their State Legislature.
To Whitman is attributed the remark that genius is almost one hundred per
cent directness, but whether or not this applied to Mr. Humphrey Crewe
remains to be seen. "Dynamics" more surely expressed him. It would not
seem to be a very difficult feat, to be sure, to get elected to a State
Legislature of five hundred which met once a year: once in ten years,
indeed, might have been more appropriate for the five hundred. The town
of Leith with its thousand inhabitants had one representative, and Mr.
Crewe had made up his mind he was to be that representative.
There was, needless to say, great excitement in Leith over Mr. Crewe's
proposed venture into the unknown seas of politics. I mean, of course,
that portion of Leith which recognized in Mr. Crewe an eligible bachelor
and a person of social importance, for these qualities were not
particularly appealing to the three hundred odd farmers whose votes were
expected to send him rejoicing to the State capital.
"It is so rare with us for a gentleman to go into politics, that we ought
to do everything we can to elect him," Mrs. Pomfret went about declaring.
"Women do so much in England, I wonder they don't do more here. I was
staying at Aylestone Court last year when the Honourable Billy Aylestone
was contesting the family seat with a horrid Radical, and I assure you,
my dear, I got quite excited. We did nothing from morning till night but
electioneer for the Honourable Billy, and kissed all the babies in the
borough. The mothers were so grateful. Now, Edith, do tell Jack instead
of playing tennis and canoeing all day he ought to help. It's the duty of
all young men to help. Noblesse oblige, you know. I can't understand
Victoria. She really has influence with these country people, but she
says it's all nonsense. Sometimes I think Victoria has a common streak in
her—and no wonder. The other day she actually drove to the Hammonds' in
a buggy with an unknown lawyer from Ripton. But I told you about it. Tell
your gardener and the people that do your haying, dear, and your chicken
woman. My chicken woman is most apathetic, but do you wonder, with the
life they lead?"
Mr. Humphrey Crewe might have had, with King Charles, the watchword
"Thorough." He sent to the town clerk for a check-list, and proceeded to
honour each of the two hundred Republican voters with a personal visit.
This is a fair example of what took place in the majority of cases.
Out of a cloud of dust emerges an automobile, which halts, with
protesting brakes, in front of a neat farmhouse, guarded by great maples.
Persistent knocking by a chauffeur at last brings a woman to the door.
Mrs. Jenney has a pleasant face and an ample figure.
"Mr. Jenney live here?" cries Mr. Crewe from the driver's seat.
"Yes," says Mrs. Jenney, smiling.
"Tell him I want to see him."
"Guess you'll find him in the apple orchard."
The chauffeur takes down the bars, Mr. Jenney pricks up his ears, and
presently—to his amazement—perceives a Leviathan approaching him,
careening over the ruts of his wood road. Not being an emotional person,
he continues to pick apples until he is summarily hailed. Then he goes
leisurely towards the Leviathan.
"Are you Mr. Jenney?"
"Callate to be," says Mr. Jenney, pleasantly.
"I'm Humphrey Crewe."
"How be you?" says Mr. Jenney, his eyes wandering over the Leviathan.
"How are the apples this year?" asks Mr. Crewe, graciously.
"Fair to middlin'," says Mr. Jenney.
"Have you ever tasted my Pippins?" says Mr. Crewe. "A little science in
cultivation helps along. I'm going to send you a United States government
pamphlet on the fruit we can raise here."
Mr. Jenney makes an awkward pause by keeping silent on the subject of the
pamphlet until he shall see it.
"Do you take much interest in politics?"
"Not a great deal," answers Mr. Jenney.
"That's the trouble with Americans," Mr. Crewe declares, "they don't care
who represents 'em, or whether their government's good or bad."
"Guess that's so," replies Mr. Jenney, politely.
"That sort of thing's got to stop," declares Mr. Crewe; "I'm a candidate
for the Republican nomination for representative."
"I want to know!" ejaculates Mr. Jenney, pulling his beard. One would
never suspect that this has been one of Mr. Jenney's chief topics of
"I'll see that the interests of this town are cared for."
"Let's see," says Mr. Jenney, "there's five hundred in the House, ain't
"It's a ridiculous number," says Mr. Crewe, with truth.
"Gives everybody a chance to go," says Mr. Jenney. "I was thar in '78,
and enjoyed it some."
"Who are you for?" demanded Mr. Crewe, combating the tendency of the
conversation to slip into a pocket.
"Little early yet, hain't it? Hain't made up my mind. Who's the
candidates?" asks Mr. Jenney, continuing to stroke his beard.
"I don't know," says Mr. Crewe, "but I do know I've done something for
this town, and I hope you'll take it into consideration. Come and see me
when you go to the village. I'll give you a good cigar, and that
pamphlet, and we'll talk matters over."
"Never would have thought to see one of them things in my orchard," says
Mr. Jenney. "How much do they cost? Much as a locomotive, don't they?"
It would not be exact to say that, after some weeks of this sort of
campaigning, Mr. Crewe was discouraged, for such writhe vitality with
which nature had charged him that he did not know the meaning of the
word. He was merely puzzled, as a June-bug is puzzled when it bumps up
against a wire window-screen. He had pledged to him his own gardener,
Mrs. Pomfret's, the hired men of three of his neighbours, a few modest
souls who habitually took off their hats to him, and Mr. Ball, of the
village, who sold groceries to Wedderburn and was a general handy man for
the summer people. Mr. Ball was an agitator by temperament and a promoter
by preference. If you were a summer resident of importance and needed
anything from a sewing-machine to a Holstein heifer, Mr. Ball, the
grocer, would accommodate you. When Mrs. Pomfret's cook became inebriate
and refractory, Mr. Ball was sent for, and enticed her to the station and
on board of a train; when the Chillinghams' tank overflowed, Mr. Ball
found the proper valve and saved the house from being washed away. And it
was he who, after Mrs. Pomfret, took the keenest interest in Mr. Crewe's
campaign. At length came one day when Mr. Crewe pulled up in front of the
grocery store and called, as his custom was, loudly for Mr. Ball. The
fact that Mr. Ball was waiting on customers made no difference, and
presently that gentleman appeared, rubbing his hands together.
"How do you do, Mr. Crewe?" he said, "automobile going all right?"
"What's the matter with these fellers?" said Mr. Crewe. "Haven't I done
enough for the town? Didn't I get 'em rural free delivery? Didn't I
subscribe to the meeting-house and library, and don't I pay more taxes
than anybody else?"
"Certain," assented Mr. Ball, eagerly, "certain you do." It did not seem
to occur to him that it was unfair to make him responsible for the scurvy
ingratitude of his townsmen. He stepped gingerly down into the dust and
climbed up on the tool box.
"Look out," said Mr. Crewe, "don't scratch the varnish. What is it?"
Mr. Ball shifted obediently to the rubber-covered step, and bent his face
to his patron's ear.
"It's railrud," he said.
"Railroad!" shouted Mr. Crewe, in a voice that made the grocer clutch his
arm in terror. "Don't pinch me like that. Railroad! This town ain't
within ten miles of the railroad."
"For the love of David," said Mr. Ball, "don't talk so loud, Mr. Crewe."
"What's the railroad got to do with it?" Mr. Crewe demanded.
Mr. Ball glanced around him, to make sure that no one was within shouting
"What's the railrud got to do with anything in this State?" inquired Mr.
"That's different," said Mr. Crewe, shortly, "I'm a corporation man
myself. They've got to defend 'emselves."
"Certain. I ain't got anything again' 'em," Mr. Ball agreed quickly. "I
guess they know what they're about. By the bye, Mr. Crewe," he added,
coming dangerously near the varnish again, and drawing back, "you hain't
happened to have seen Job Braden, have you?"
"Job Braden!" exclaimed Mr. Crewe, "Job Braden! What's all this mystery
about Job Braden? Somebody whispers that name in my ear every day. If you
mean that smooth-faced cuss that stutters and lives on Braden's Hill, I
called on him, but he was out. If you see him, tell him to come up to
Wedderburn, and I'll talk with him."
Mr. Ball made a gesture to indicate a feeling divided between respect for
Mr. Crewe and despair at the hardihood of such a proposition.
"Lord bless you, sir, Job wouldn't go."
"He never pays visits,—folks go to him."
"He'd come to see me, wouldn't he?"
"I—I'm afraid riot, Mr. Crewe. Job holds his comb rather high."
"Do you mean to say this two-for-a-cent town has a boss?"
"Silas Grantley was born here," said Mr. Ball—for even the worm will
turn. "This town's got a noble history."
"I don't care anything about Silas Grantley. What I want to know is, how
this rascal manages to make anything out of the political pickings of a
town like Leith."
"Well, Job ain't exactly a rascal, Mr. Crewe. He's got a good many of
them hill farmers in a position of—of gratitude. Enough to control the
"Do you mean he buys their votes?" demanded Mr. Crewe.
"It's like this," explained Mr. Ball, "if one of 'em falls behind in his
grocery bill, for example, he can always get money from Job. Job takes a
mortgage, but he don't often close down on 'm. And Job has been
collectin' credentials in Avalon County for upward of forty years."
"Yes. Gets a man nominated to State and county conventions that can't go,
and goes himself with a bunch of credentials. He's in a position to
negotiate. He was in all them railrud fights with Jethro Bass, and now he
does business with Hilary Vane or Brush Bascom when anything especial's
goin' on. You'd ought to see him, Mr. Crewe."
"I guess I won't waste my time with any picayune boss if the United
Northeastern Railroads has any hand in this matter," declared Mr. Crewe.
"Wind her up."
This latter remark was addressed to a long-suffering chauffeur who looked
like a Sicilian brigand.
"I didn't exactly like to suggest it," said Mr. Ball, rubbing his hands
and raising his voice above the whir of the machine, "but of course I
knew Mr. Flint was an intimate friend. A word to him from you—"
But by this Mr. Crewe had got in his second speed and was sweeping around
a corner lined with farmers' teams, whose animals were behaving like
circus horses. On his own driveway, where he arrived in incredibly brief
time, he met his stenographer, farm superintendent, secretary,
housekeeper, and general utility man, Mr. Raikes. Mr. Raikes was elderly,
and showed signs of needing a vacation.
"Telephone Mr. Flint, Raikes, and tell him I would like an appointment at
his earliest convenience, on important business."
Mr. Raikes, who was going for his daily stroll beside the river, wheeled
and made for the telephone, and brought back the news that Mr. Flint
would be happy to see Mr. Crewe the next afternoon at four o'clock.
This interview, about which there has been so much controversy in the
newspapers, and denials and counter-denials from the press bureaus of
both gentlemen,—this now historic interview began at four o'clock
precisely the next day. At that hour Mr. Crewe was ushered into that
little room in which Mr. Flint worked when at Fairview. Like Frederick
the Great and other famous captains, Mr. Flint believed in an iron
bedstead regime. The magnate was, as usual, fortified behind his oak
desk; the secretary with a bend in his back was in modest evidence; and
an elderly man of comfortable proportions, with a large gold watch-charm
portraying the rising sun, and who gave, somehow, the polished impression
of a marble, sat near the window smoking a cigar. Mr. Crewe approached
the desk with that genial and brisk manner for which he was noted and
held out his hand to the railroad president.
"We are both business men, and both punctual, Mr. Flint," he said, and
sat down in the empty chair beside his host, eyeing without particular
favour him of the watch-charm, whose cigar was not a very good one. "I
wanted to have a little private conversation with you which might be of
considerable interest to us both." And Mr. Crewe laid down on the desk a
somewhat formidable roll of papers.
"I trust the presence of Senator Whitredge will not deter you," answered
Mr. Flint. "He is an old friend of mine."
Mr. Crewe was on his feet again with surprising alacrity, and beside the
"How are you, Senator?" he said, "I have never had the pleasure of
meeting you, but I know you by reputation."
The senator got to his feet. They shook hands, and exchanged cordial
greetings; and during the exchange Mr. Crewe looked out of the window,
and the senator's eyes were fixed on the telephone receiver on Mr.
Flint's desk. As neither gentleman took hold of the other's fingers very
hard, they fell apart quickly.
"I am very happy to meet you, Mr. Crewe," said the senator. Mr. Crewe sat
down again, and not being hampered by those shrinking qualities so fatal
to success he went on immediately:—"There is nothing which I have to
say that the senator cannot hear. I made the appointment with you, Mr.
Flint, to talk over a matter which may be of considerable importance to
us both. I have made up my mind to go to the Legislature."
Mr. Crewe naturally expected to find visible effects of astonishment and
joy on the faces of his hearers at such not inconsiderable news. Mr.
Flint, however, looked serious enough, though the senator smiled as he
blew his smoke out of the window.
"Have you seen Job Braden, Mr. Crewe?" he asked, with genial jocoseness.
"They tell me that Job is still alive and kicking over in your parts."
"Thank you, Senator," said Mr. Crewe, "that brings me to the very point I
wish to emphasize. Everywhere in Leith I am met with the remark, 'Have
you seen Job Braden?' And I always answer, 'No, I haven't seen Mr.
Braden, and I don't intend to see him."'
Mr. Whitredge laughed, and blew out a ring of smoke. Mr. Flint's face
"Now, Mr. Flint," Mr. Crewe went on, "you and I understand each other,
and we're on the same side of the fence. I have inherited some interests
in corporations myself, and I have acquired an interest in others. I am a
director in several. I believe that it is the duty of property to protect
itself, and the duty of all good men in politics,—such as the senator
here,"—(bow from Mr. Whitredge) to protect property. I am a practical
man, and I think I can convince you, if you don't see it already, that my
determination to go to the Legislature is an advantageous thing for your
"The advent of a reputable citizen into politics is always a good thing
for the railroad, Mr. Crewe," said Mr. Flint.
"Exactly," Mr. Crewe agreed, ignoring the non-committal quality of this
remark, "and if you get a citizen who is a not inconsiderable property
holder, a gentleman, and a college graduate,—a man who, by study and
predilection, is qualified to bring about improved conditions in the
State, so much the better."
"So much the better," said Mr. Flint.
"I thought you would see it that way," Mr. Crewe continued. "Now a man of
your calibre must have studied to some extent the needs of the State, and
it must have struck you that certain improvements go hand in hand with
the prosperity of your railroad."
"Have a cigar, Mr. Crewe. Have another, Senator?" said Mr. Flint. "I
think that is safe as a general proposition, Mr. Crewe."
"To specify," said Mr. Crewe, laying his hand on the roll of papers he
had brought, "I have here bills which I have carefully drawn up and which
I will leave for your consideration. One is to issue bonds for ten
millions to build State roads."
"Ten millions!" said Mr. Flint, and the senator whistled mildly.
"Think about it," said Mr. Crewe, "the perfection of the highways through
the State, instead of decreasing your earnings, would increase them
tremendously. Visitors by the tens of thousands would come in
automobiles, and remain and buy summer places. The State would have its
money back in taxes and business in no time at all. I wonder somebody
hasn't seen it before—the stupidity of the country legislator is
colossal. And we want forestry laws, and laws for improving the condition
of the farmers—all practical things. They are all there," Mr. Crewe
declared, slapping the bundle; "read them, Mr. Flint. If you have any
suggestions to make, kindly note them on the margin, and I shall be glad
to go over them with you."
By this time the senator was in a rare posture for him—he was seated
"As you know, I am a very busy man, Mr. Crewe," said the railroad
"No one appreciates that more fully than I do, Mr. Flint," said Mr.
Crewe; "I haven't many idle hours myself. I think you will find the bills
and my comments on them well worth your consideration from the point of
view of advantage to your railroad. They are typewritten, and in concrete
form. In fact, the Northeastern Railroads and myself must work together
to our mutual advantage—that has become quite clear to me. I shall have
need of your help in passing the measures."
"I'm afraid I don't quite understand you, Mr. Crewe," said Mr. Flint,
putting down the papers.
"That is," said Mr. Crewe, "if you approve of the bills, and I am
confident that I shall be able to convince you."
"What do you want me to do?" asked the railroad president.
"Well, in the first place," said Mr. Crewe, unabashed, "send word to your
man Braden that you've seen me and it's all right."
"I assure you," answered Mr. Flint, giving evidence for the first time of
a loss of patience, "that neither the Northeastern Railroads nor myself,
have any more to do with this Braden than you have."
Mr. Crewe, being a man of the world, looked incredulous.
"Senator," Mr. Flint continued, turning to Mr. Whitredge, "you know as
much about politics in this State as any man of my acquaintance, have you
ever heard of any connection between this Braden and the Northeastern
The senator had a laugh that was particularly disarming.
"Bless your soul, no," he replied. "You will pardon me, Mr. Crewe, but
you must have been listening to some farmer's tale. The railroad is the
bugaboo in all these country romances. I've seen old Job Braden at
conventions ever since I was a lad. He's a back number, one of the few
remaining disciples and imitators of Jethro Bass: talks like him and acts
like him. In the old days when there were a lot of little railroads, he
and Bijah Bixby and a few others used to make something out of them, but
since the consolidation, and Mr. Flint's presidency, Job stays at home.
They tell me he runs Leith yet. You'd better go over and fix it up with
A somewhat sarcastic smile of satisfaction was playing over Mr. Flint's
face as he listened to the senator's words. As a matter of fact, they
were very nearly true as regarded Job Braden, but Mr. Crewe may be
pardoned for thinking that Mr. Flint was not showing him quite the
confidence due from one business and corporation man to another. He was
by no means abashed,—Mr. Crewe had too much spirit for that. He merely
became—as a man whose watchword is "thorough" will—a little more
"Well, read the bills anyway, Mr. Flint, and I'll come and go over them
with you. You can't fail to see my arguments, and all I ask is that you
throw the weight of your organization at the State capital for them when
they come up."
Mr. Flint drummed on the table.
"The men who have held office in this State," he said, "have always been
willing to listen to any suggestion I may have thought proper to make to
them. This is undoubtedly because I am at the head of the property which
pays the largest taxes. Needless to say I am chary of making suggestions.
But I am surprised that you should have jumped at a conclusion which is
the result of a popular and unfortunately prevalent opinion that the
Northeastern Railroads meddled in any way with the government or politics
of this State. I am glad of this opportunity of assuring you that we do
not," he continued, leaning forward and holding up his hand to ward off
interruption, "and I know that Senator Whitredge will bear me out in this
The senator nodded gravely. Mr. Crewe, who was anything but a fool, and
just as assertive as Mr. Flint, cut in.
"Look here, Mr. Flint," he said, "I know what a lobby is. I haven't been
a director in railroads myself for nothing. I have no objection to a
lobby. You employ counsel before the Legislature, don't you—"
"We do," said Mr. Flint, interrupting, "the best and most honourable
counsel we can find in the State. When necessary, they appear before the
legislative committees. As a property holder in the State, and an admirer
of its beauties, and as its well-wisher, it will give me great pleasure
to look over your bills, and use whatever personal influence I may have
as a citizen to forward them, should they meet my approval. And I am
especially glad to do this as a neighbour, Mr. Crewe. As a neighbour," he
The president of the Northeastern Railroads rose as he spoke these words,
and held out his hand to Mr. Crewe. It was perhaps a coincidence that the
senator rose also.
"All right," said Mr. Crewe, "I'll call around again in about two weeks.
Come and see me sometime, Senator." "Thank you," said the senator, "I
shall be happy. And if you are ever in your automobile near the town of
Ramsey, stop at my little farm, Mr. Crewe. I trust to be able soon to
congratulate you on a step which I am sure will be but the beginning of
a long and brilliant political career."
"Thanks," said Mr. Crewe; "by the bye, if you could see your way to drop
a hint to that feller Braden, I should be much obliged."
The senator shook his head and laughed.
"Job is an independent cuss," he said, "I'm afraid he'd regard that as an
unwarranted trespass on his preserves."
Mr. Crewe was ushered out by the stooping secretary, Mr. Freeman; who,
instead of seizing Mr. Crewe's hand as he had Austen Vane's, said not a
word. But Mr. Crewe would have been interested if he could have heard Mr.
Flint's first remark to the senator after the door was closed on his
back. It did not relate to Mr. Crewe, but to the subject under discussion
which he had interrupted; namely, the Republican candidates for the
twenty senatorial districts of the State.
On its way back to Leith the red motor paused in front of Mr. Ball's
store, and that gentleman was summoned in the usual manner.
"Do you see this Braden once in a while?" Mr. Crewe demanded.
Mr. Ball looked knowing.
"Tell him I want to have a talk with him," said Mr. Crewe. "I've been to
see Mr. Flint, and I think matters can be arranged. And mind you, no word
about this, Ball."
"I guess I understand a thing or two," said Mr. Ball. "Trust me to handle
Two days later, as Mr. Crewe was seated in his study, his man entered and
stood respectfully waiting for the time when he should look up from his
"Well, what is it now, Waters?"
"If you please, sir," said the man, "a strange message has come over the
telephone just now that you were to be in room number twelve of the
Ripton House to-morrow at ten o'clock. They wouldn't give any name, sir,"
added the dignified Waters, who, to tell the truth, was somewhat
outraged, nor tell where they telephoned from. But it was a man's voice,
"All right," said Mr. Crewe.
He spent much of the afternoon and evening debating whether or not his
dignity would permit him to go. But he ordered the motor at half-past
nine, and at ten o'clock precisely the clerk at the Ripton House was
bowing to him and handing him, deferentially, a dripping pen.
"Where's room number twelve?" said the direct Mr. Crewe.
"Oh," said the clerk, and possessing a full share of the worldly wisdom
of his calling, he smiled broadly. "I guess you'll find him up there, Mr.
Crewe. Front, show the gentleman to number twelve."
The hall boy knocked on the door of number twelve.
"C—come in," said a voice. "Come in."
Mr. Crewe entered, the hall boy closed the door, and he found himself
face to face with a comfortable, smooth-faced man seated with great
placidity on a rocking-chair in the centre of the room, between the bed
and the marble-topped table: a man to whom, evidently, a rich abundance
of thought was sufficient company, for he had neither newspaper nor book.
He rose in a leisurely fashion, and seemed the very essence of the benign
as he stretched forth his hand.
"I'm Mr. Crewe," the owner of that name proclaimed, accepting the hand
with no exaggeration of cordiality. The situation jarred on him a trifle.
"I know. Seed you on the road once or twice. How be you?"
Mr. Crewe sat down.
"I suppose you are Mr. Braden," he said.
Mr. Braden sank into the rocker and fingered a waistcoat pocket full of
cigars that looked like a section of a cartridge-belt.
"T—try one of mine," he said.
"I only smoke once after breakfast," said Mr. Crewe.
"Abstemious, be you? Never could find that it did me any hurt."
This led to an awkward pause, Mr. Crewe not being a man who found profit
in idle discussion. He glanced at Mr. Braden's philanthropic and beaming
countenance, which would have made the fortune of a bishop. It was not
usual for Mr. Crewe to find it difficult to begin a conversation, or to
have a companion as self-sufficient as himself. This man Braden had all
the fun, apparently, in sitting in a chair and looking into space that
Stonewall Jackson had, or an ordinary man in watching a performance of "A
Trip to Chinatown." Let it not be inferred, again, that Mr. Crewe was
abashed; but he was puzzled.
"I had an engagement in Ripton this morning," he said, "to see about some
business matters. And after I received your telephone I thought I'd drop
"Didn't telephone," said Mr. Braden, placidly.
"What!" said Mr. Crewe, "I certainly got a telephone message."
"N—never telephone," said Mr. Braden.
"I certainly got a message from you," Mr. Crewe protested.
"Didn't say it was from me—didn't say so—did they—"
"No," said Mr. Crewe, "but—"
"Told Ball you wanted to have me see you, didn't you?"
Mr. Crewe, when he had unravelled this sentence, did not fancy the way it
"I told Ball I was seeing everybody in Leith," he answered, "and that I
had called on you, and you weren't at home. Ball inferred that you had a
somewhat singular way of seeing people."
"You don't understand," was Mr. Braden's somewhat enigmatic reply.
"I understand pretty well," said Mr. Crewe. "I'm a candidate for the
Republican nomination for representative from Leith, and I want your vote
and influence. You probably know what I have done for the town, and that
I'm the biggest taxpayer, and an all-the-year-round resident."
"S—some in Noo York—hain't you?"
"Well, you can't expect a man in my position and with my interests to
stay at home all the time. I feel that I have a right to ask the town for
this nomination. I have some bills here which I'll request you to read
over, and you will see that I have ideas which are of real value to the
State. The State needs waking up-progressive measures. You're a farmer,
"Well, I have be'n."
"I can improve the condition of the farmer one hundred per cent, and if
my road system is followed, he can get his goods to market for about a
tenth of what it costs him now. We have infinitely valuable forests in
the State which are being wasted by lumbermen, which ought to be
preserved. You read those bills, and what I have written about them."
"You don't understand," said Mr. Braden, drawing a little closer and
waving aside the manuscript with his cigar.
"Don't understand what?"
"Don't seem to understand," repeated Mr. Braden, confidingly laying his
hand on Mr. Crewe's knee. "Candidate for representative, be you?"
"Yes," replied Mr. Crewe, who was beginning to resent the manner in which
he deemed he was being played with, "I told you I was."
"M—made all them bills out before you was chose?" said Mr. Braden.
Mr. Crewe grew red in the face.
"I am interested in these questions," he said stiffly.
"Little mite hasty, wahn't it?" Mr. Braden remarked equably, "but you've
got plenty of time and money to fool with such things, if you've a mind
to. Them don't amount to a hill of beans in politics. Nobody pays any
attention to that sort of fireworks down to the capital, and if they was
to get into committee them Northeastern Railroads fellers'd bury 'em
deeper than the bottom of Salem pond. They don't want no such things as
them to pass."
"Pardon me," said Mr. Crewe, "but you haven't read 'em."
"I know what they be," said Mr. Braden, "I've be'n in politics more years
than you've be'n livin', I guess. I don't want to read 'em," he
announced, his benign manner unchanged.
"I think you have made a mistake so far as the railroad is concerned, Mr.
Braden," said Mr. Crewe, "I'm a practical man myself, and I don't indulge
in moonshine. I am a director in one or two railroads. I have talked this
matter over with Mr. Flint, and incidentally with Senator Whitredge."
"Knowed Whitredge afore you had any teeth," said Mr. Braden, who did not
seem to be greatly impressed, "know him intimate. What'd you go to Flint
"We have interests in common," said Mr. Crewe, "and I am rather a close
friend of his. My going to the Legislature will be, I think, to our
"O—ought to have come right to me," said Mr. Braden, leaning over until
his face was in close proximity to Mr. Crewe's. "Whitredge told you to
come to me, didn't he?"
Mr. Crewe was a little taken aback.
"The senator mentioned your name," he admitted.
"He knows. Said I was the man to see if you was a candidate, didn't he?
Told you to talk to Job Braden, didn't he?"
Now Mr. Crewe had no means of knowing whether Senator Whitredge had been
in conference with Mr. Braden or not.
"The senator mentioned your name casually, in some connection," said Mr.
"He knows," Mr. Braden repeated, with a finality that spoke volumes for
the senator's judgment; and he bent over into Mr. Crewe's ear, with the
air of conveying a mild but well-merited reproof, "You'd ought to come
right to me in the first place. I could have saved you all that
unnecessary trouble of seein' folks. There hasn't be'n a representative
left the town of Leith for thirty years that I hain't agreed to.
Whitredge knows that. If I say you kin go, you kin go. You understand,"
said Mr. Braden, with his fingers on Mr. Crewe's knee once more.
Five minutes later Mr. Crewe emerged into the dazzling sun of the Ripton
square, climbed into his automobile, and turned its head towards Leith,
strangely forgetting the main engagement which he said had brought him to
THE TRIALS OF AN HONOURABLE
It was about this time that Mr. Humphrey Crewe was transformed, by one of
those subtle and inexplicable changes which occur in American politics,
into the Honourable Humphrey Crewe. And, as interesting bits of news
about important people are bound to leak out, it became known in Leith
that he had subscribed to what is known as a Clipping Bureau. Two weeks
after the day he left Mr. Braden's presence in the Ripton House the
principal newspapers of the country contained the startling announcement
that the well-known summer colony of Leith was to be represented in the
State Legislature by a millionaire. The Republican nomination, which Mr.
Crewe had secured, was equivalent to an election.
For a little time after that Mr. Crewe, although naturally an important
and busy man, scarcely had time to nod to his friends on the road.
"Poor dear Humphrey," said Mrs. Pomfret, "who was so used to dropping in
to dinner, hasn't had a moment to write me a line to thank me for the
statesman's diary I bought for him in London this spring. They're in that
new red leather, and Aylestone says he finds his so useful. I dropped in
at Wedderburn to-day to see if I could be of any help, and the poor man
was buttonholed by two reporters who had come all the way from New York
to see him. I hope he won't overdo it."
It was true. Mr. Crewe was to appear in the Sunday supplements. "Are our
Millionaires entering Politics?" Mr. Crewe, with his usual gracious
hospitality, showed the reporters over the place, and gave them
suggestions as to the best vantage-points in which to plant their
cameras. He himself was at length prevailed upon to be taken in a rough
homespun suit, and with a walking-stick in his hand, appraising with a
knowing eye a flock of his own sheep. Pressed a little, he consented to
relate something of the systematic manner in which he had gone about to
secure this nomination: how he had visited in person the homes of his
fellow-townsmen. "I knew them all, anyway," he is quoted as saying; "we
have had the pleasantest of relationships during the many years I have
been a resident of Leith."
"Beloved of his townspeople," this part of the article was headed. No,
these were not Mr. Crewe's words—he was too modest for that. When urged
to give the name of one of his townsmen who might deal with this and
other embarrassing topics, Mr. Ball was mentioned. "Beloved of his
townspeople" was Mr. Ball's phrase. "Although a multi-millionaire, no man
is more considerate of the feelings and the rights of his more humble
neighbours. Send him to the Legislature! We'd send him to the United
States Senate if we could. He'll land there, anyway." Such was a random
estimate (Mr. Ball's) the reporters gathered on their way to Ripton. Mr.
Crewe did not hesitate to say that the prosperity of the farmers had
risen as a result of his labours at Wedderburn where the most improved
machinery and methods were adopted. His efforts to raise the
agricultural, as well as the moral and intellectual, tone of the
community had been unceasing.
Then followed an intelligent abstract of the bills he was to introduce
—the results of a progressive and statesmanlike brain. There was an
account of him as a methodical and painstaking business man whose
suggestions to the boards of directors of which he was a member had been
invaluable. The article ended with a list of the clubs to which he
belonged, of the societies which he had organized and of those of which
he was a member,—and it might have been remarked by a discerning reader
that most of these societies were State affairs. Finally there was a pen
portrait of an Apollo Belvidere who wore the rough garb of a farmer (on
the days when the press was present).
Mr. Crewe's incessant trials, which would have taxed a less rugged
nature, did not end here. About five o'clock one afternoon a
pleasant-appearing gentleman with a mellifluous voice turned up who
introduced himself as ex (State) Senator Grady. The senator was from
Newcastle, that city out of the mysterious depths of which so many
political stars have arisen. Mr. Crewe cancelled a long-deferred
engagement with Mrs. Pomfret, and invited the senator to stay to dinner;
the senator hesitated, explained that he was just passing through Ripton,
and, as it was a pleasant afternoon, had called to "pay his respects";
but Mr. Crewe's well-known hospitality would accept no excuses. Mr. Crewe
opened a box of cigars which he had bought especially for the taste of
State senators and a particular grade of Scotch whiskey.
They talked politics for four hours. Who would be governor? The senator
thought Asa Gray would. The railroad was behind him, Mr. Crewe observed
knowingly. The senator remarked that Mr. Crewe was no gosling. Mr. Crewe,
as political-geniuses will, asked as many questions as the emperor of
Germany—pertinent questions about State politics. Senator Grady was
tremendously impressed with his host's programme of bills, and went over
them so painstakingly that Mr. Crewe became more and more struck with
Senator Grady's intelligence. The senator told Mr. Crewe that just such a
man as he was needed to pull the State out of the rut into which she had
fallen. Mr. Crewe said that he hoped to find such enlightened men in the
Legislature as the senator. The senator let it be known that he had read
the newspaper articles, and had remarked that Mr. Crewe was close to the
president of the Northeastern Railroads.
"Such a man as you," said the senator, looking at the remainder of the
Scotch whiskey, "will have the railroad behind you, sure."
"One more drink," said Mr. Crewe.
"I must go," said Mr. Grady, pouring it out, but that reminds me. It
comes over me sudden-like, as I sit here, that you certainly ought to be
in the new encyclopeedie of the prominent men of the State. But sure you
have received an application."
"It is probable that my secretary has one," said Mr. Crewe, "but he
hasn't called it to my attention."
"You must get in that book, Mr. Crewe," said the senator, with an intense
earnestness which gave the impression of alarm; "after what you've told
me to-night I'll see to it myself that you get in. It may be that I've
got some of the sample pages here, if I haven't left them at home," said
Mr. Grady, fumbling in an ample inside pocket, and drawing forth a
bundle. "Sure, here they are. Ain't that luck for you? Listen! 'Asa P.
Gray was born on the third of August, eighteen forty-seven, the seventh
son of a farmer. See, there's a space in the end they left to fill up
when he's elicted governor! Here's another. The Honourable Hilary Vane
comes from one of the oldest Puritan families in the State, the Vanes of
Camden Street—' Here's another. 'The Honourable Brush Bascom of Putnam
County is the son of poor but honourable parents—' Look at the picture
of him. Ain't that a handsome steel-engravin' of the gentleman?"
Mr. Crewe gazed contemplatively at the proof, but was too busy with his
own thoughts to reflect that there was evidently not much poor or
honourable about Mr. Bascom now.
"Who's publishing this?" he asked.
"Fogarty and Company; sure they're the best publishers in the State, as
you know, Mr. Crewe. They have the State printing. Wasn't it fortunate I
had the proofs with me? Tim Fogarty slipped them into me pocket when I
was leavin' Newcastle. 'The book is goin' to press the day after
eliction,' says he, 'John,' says he, 'you know I always rely on your
judgment, and if you happen to think of anybody between now and then who
ought to go in, you'll notify me,' says he. When I read the bills
to-night, and saw the scope of your work, it came over me in a flash that
Humphrey Crewe was the man they left out. You'll get a good man to write
your life, and what you done for the town and State, and all them
societies and bills, won't you? 'Twould be a thousand pities not to have
"How much does it cost?" Mr. Crewe inquired.
"Sure I forgot to ask Tim Fogarty. Mebbe he has it here. I signed one
myself, but I couldn't afford the steelengravin'. Yes, he slipped one in.
Two hundred dollars for a two-page biography, and, three hundred for the
steelengravin'. Five hundred dollars. I didn't know it was so cheap as
that," exclaimed the senator, "and everybody in the State havin' to own
one in self-protection. You don't happen to have a pen about you?"
Mr. Crewe waved the senator towards his own desk, and Mr. Grady filled
out the blank.
"It's lucky we are that I didn't drop in after eliction, and the book in
press," he remarked; "and I hope you'll give him a good photograph.
This's for you, I'll take this to Tim myself," and he handed the pen for
Mr. Crewe to sign with.
Mr. Crewe read over the agreement carefully, as a business man should,
before putting his signature to it. And then the senator, with renewed
invitations for Mr. Crewe to call on him when he came to Newcastle, took
his departure. Afterwards Mr. Crewe remained so long in reflection that
his man Waters became alarmed, and sought him out and interrupted his
The next morning Mrs. Pomfret, who was merely "driving by" with her
daughter Alice and Beatrice Chillingham, spied Mr. Crewe walking about
among the young trees he was growing near the road, and occasionally
tapping them with his stout stick. She poked her coachman in the back and
cried:—"Humphrey, you're such an important man now that I despair of
ever seeing you again. What was the matter last night?"
"A politician from Newcastle," answered Mr. Crewe, continuing to tap the
trees, and without so much as a glance at Alice.
"Well, if you're as important as this before you're elected, I can't
think what it will be afterwards," Mrs. Pomfret lamented. "Poor dear
Humphrey is so conscientious. When can you come, Humphrey?"
"Don't know," said Mr. Crewe; "I'll try to come tonight, but I may be
stopped again. Here's Waters now."
The three people in Mrs. Pomfret's victoria were considerably impressed
to see the dignified Waters hurrying down the slope from the house
towards them. Mr. Crewe continued to tap the trees, but drew a little
nearer the carriage.
"If you please, sir," said Waters, "there's a telephone call for you from
Newcastle. It's urgent, sir."
"Who is it?"
"They won't give their names, sir."
"All right," said Mr. Crewe, and with a grin which spoke volumes for the
manner in which he was harassed he started towards the house—in no great
hurry, however. Reaching the instrument, and saying "Hello" in his
usually gracious manner, he was greeted by a voice with a decided
"Am I talkin' to Mr. Crewe?"
"Mr. Humphrey Crewe?"
"Yes—yes, of course you are. Who are you?"
"I'm the president of the Paradise Benevolent and Military Association,
Mr. Crewe. Boys that work in the mills, you know," continued the voice,
caressingly. "Sure you've heard of us. We're five hundred strong, and all
of us good Republicans as the president. We're to have our annual fall
outing the first of October in Finney Grove, and we'd like to have you
"The first of October?" said Mr. Crewe. "I'll consult my engagement
"We'd like to have a good picture of you in our programme, Mr. Crewe. We
hope you'll oblige us. You're such an important figure in State politics
now you'd ought to have a full page."
There was a short silence.
"What does it cost?" Mr. Crewe demanded.
"Sure," said the caressing voice of the president, "whatever you like."
"I'll send you a check for five dollars, and a picture," said Mr. Crewe.
The answer to this was a hearty laugh, which the telephone reproduced
admirably. The voice now lost a little of its caressing note and partook
of a harder quality.
"You're a splendid humorist, Mr. Crewe. Five dollars wouldn't pay for the
plate and the paper. A gentleman like you could give us twenty-five, and
never know it was gone. You won't be wanting to stop in the Legislature,
Mr. Crewe, and we remember our friends in Newcastle."
"Very well, I'll see what I can do. Good-by, I've got an engagement,"
said Mr. Crewe, and slammed down the telephone. He seated himself in his
chair, and the pensive mood so characteristic (we are told) of statesmen
came over him once more.
While these and other conferences and duties too numerous to mention were
absorbing Mr. Crewe, he was not too busy to bear in mind the pleasure of
those around him who had not received such an abundance of the world's
blessings as he. The townspeople of Leith were about to bestow on him
their greatest gift. What could he do to show his appreciation? Wrestling
with this knotty problem, a brilliant idea occurred to him,—he would
have a garden-party: invite everybody in town, and admit them to the
sanctities of Wedderburn; yes, even of Wedderburn house, that they might
behold with their own eyes the carved ivory elephants and other contents
of glass cabinets which reeked of the Sunday afternoons of youth. Being a
man of action, Mr. Pardriff was summoned at once from Leith and asked for
his lowest price on eight hundred and fifty invitations and a notice of
the party in the Ripton Record.
"Goin' to invite Democrats, too?" demanded Mr. Pardriff, glancing at the
"Everybody," said Mr. Crewe, with unparalleled generosity. "I won't draw
any distinction between friends and enemies. They're all neighbours."
"And some of 'em might, by accident, vote the Republican ticket," Mr.
Pardriff retorted, narrowing his eyes a little.
Mr. Crewe evidently thought this a negligible suggestion, for he did not
reply to it, but presently asked for the political news in Ripton.
"Well," said Mr. Pardriff, "you know they tried to get Austen Vane to run
for State senator, don't you?"
"Vane Why, he ain't a full-fledged lawyer yet. I've hired him in an
unimportant case. Who asked him to run?"
"Young Tom Gaylord and a delegation."
"He couldn't have got it," said Mr. Crewe.
"I don't know," said Mr. Pardriff, "he might have given Billings a hustle
for the nomination."
"You supported Billings, I noticed," said Mr. Crewe.
Mr. Pardriff winked an eye.
"I'm not ready to walk the ties when I go to Newcastle," he remarked,
"and Nat ain't quite bankrupt yet. The Gaylords," continued Mr. Pardriff,
who always took the cynical view of a man of the world, "have had some
row with the Northeastern over lumber shipments. I understand they're
goin' to buck 'em for a franchise in the next Legislature, just to make
it lively. The Gaylords ain't exactly poverty-stricken, but they might as
well try to move Sawanec Mountain as the Northeastern."
It was a fact that young Tom Gaylord had approached Austen Vane with a
"delegation" to request him to be a candidate for the Republican
nomination for the State senate in his district against the railroad
candidate and Austen's late opponent, the Honourable Nat Billings. It was
a fact also that Austen had invited the delegation to sit down, although
there were only two chairs, and that a wrestling match had ensued with
young Tom, in the progress of which one chair had been broken. Young Tom
thought it was time to fight the railroad, and perceived in Austen the
elements of a rebel leader. Austen had undertaken to throw young Tom out
of a front window, which was a large, old-fashioned one,—and after
Herculean efforts had actually got him on the ledge, when something in
the street caught his eye and made him desist abruptly. The something was
the vision of a young woman in a brown linen suit seated in a runabout
and driving a horse almost as handsome as Pepper.
When the delegation, after exhausting their mental and physical powers of
persuasion, had at length taken their departure in disgust, Austen opened
mechanically a letter which had very much the appearance of an
advertisement, and bearing a one-cent stamp. It announced that a
garden-party would take place at Wedderburn, the home of the Honourable
Humphrey Crewe, at a not very distant date, and the honour of the
bearer's presence was requested. Refreshments would be served, and the
Ripton Band would dispense music. Below, in small print, were minute
directions where to enter, where to hitch your team, and where to go out.
Austen was at a loss to know what fairy godmother had prompted Mr. Crewe
to send him an invitation, the case of the injured horse not having
advanced with noticeable rapidity. Nevertheless, the prospect of the
garden-party dawned radiantly for him above what had hitherto been a
rather gloomy horizon. Since the afternoon he had driven Victoria to the
Hammonds' he had had daily debates with an imaginary man in his own
likeness who, to the detriment of his reading of law, sat across his
table and argued with him. The imaginary man was unprincipled, and had no
dignity, but he had such influence over Austen Vane that he had induced
him to drive twice within sight of Fairview gate, when Austen Vane had
turned round again. The imaginary man was for going to call on her and
letting subsequent events take care of themselves; Austen Vane, had an
uncomfortable quality of reducing a matter first of all to its simplest
terms. He knew that Mr. Flint's views were as fixed, ineradicable, and
unchangeable as an epitaph cut in a granite monument; he felt (as Mr.
Flint had) that their first conversation had been but a forerunner of, a
strife to come between them; and add to this the facts that Mr. Flint was
very rich and Austen Vane poor, that Victoria's friends were not his
friends, and that he had grave doubts that the interest she had evinced
in him sprang from any other incentive than a desire to have
communication with various types of humanity, his hesitation as to
entering Mr. Flint's house was natural enough.
It was of a piece with Mr. Crewe's good fortune of getting what he wanted
that the day of the garden-party was the best that September could do in
that country, which is to say that it was very beautiful. A pregnant
stillness enwrapped the hills, a haze shot with gold dust, like the
filmiest of veils, softened the distant purple and the blue-black shadows
under the pines. Austen awoke from his dream in this enchanted borderland
to find himself in a long line of wagons filled with people in their
Sunday clothes,—the men in black, and the young women in white, with gay
streamers, wending their way through the rear-entrance drive of
Wedderburn, where one of Mr. Crewe's sprucest employees was taking up the
invitation cards like tickets,—a precaution to prevent the rowdy element
from Ripton coming and eating up the refreshments. Austen obediently tied
Pepper in a field, as he was directed, and made his way by a path through
the woods towards the house, where the Ripton Band could be heard playing
the second air in the programme, "Don't you wish you'd Waited?"
For a really able account of that memorable entertainment see the Ripton
Record of that week, for we cannot hope to vie with Mr. Pardriff when his
heart is really in his work. How describe the noble figure of Mr. Crewe
as it burst upon Austen when he rounded the corner of the house? Clad in
a rough-and-ready manner, with a Gladstone collar to indicate the newly
acquired statesmanship, and fairly radiating geniality, Mr. Crewe stood
at the foot of the steps while the guests made the circuit of the
driveway; and they carefully avoided, in obedience to a warning sign, the
grass circle in the centre. As man and wife confronted him, Mr. Crewe
greeted them in hospitable but stentorian tones that rose above the
strains of "Don't you wish you'd Waited?" It was Mr. Ball who introduced
his townspeople to the great man who was to represent them.
"How are you?" said Mr. Crewe, with his eyes on the geraniums. "Mr. and
Mrs. Perley Wright, eh? Make yourselves at home. Everything's free
—you'll find the refreshments on the back porch—just have an eye to the
signs posted round, that's all." And Mr. and Mrs. Perley Wright,
overwhelmed by such a welcome, would pass on into a back eddy of
neighbours, where they would stick, staring at a sign requesting them
please not to pick the flowers.
"Can't somebody stir 'em up?" Mr. Crewe shouted in an interval when the
band had stopped to gather strength for a new effort. "Can't somebody
move 'em round to see the cows and what's in the house and the automobile
and the horses? Move around the driveway, please. It's so hot here you
can't breathe. Some of you wanted to see what was in the house. Now's
This graceful appeal had some temporary effect, but the congestion soon
returned, when a man of the hour appeared, a man whose genius scattered
the groups and who did more to make the party a success than any single
individual,—Mr. Hamilton Tooting, in a glorious white silk necktie with
"I'll handle 'em, Mr. Crewe," he said; "a little brains'll start 'em
goin'. Come along here, Mr. Wright, and I'll show you the best cows this
side of the Hudson Riverall pedigreed prize winners. Hello, Aust, you
take hold and get the wimmen-folks interested in the cabinets. You know
where they are."
"There's a person with some sense," remarked Mrs. Pomfret, who had been
at a little distance among a group of summer-resident ladies and watching
the affair with shining eyes. "I'll help. Come, Edith; come, Victoria
where's Victoria?—and dear Mrs. Chillingham. We American women are so
deplorably lacking in this kind of experience. Alice, take some of the
women into the garden. I'm going to interest that dear, benevolent man
who looks so helpless, and doing his best to have a good time."
The dear, benevolent man chanced to be Mr. Job Braden, who was standing
somewhat apart with his hands in his pockets. He did not move as Mrs.
Pomfret approached him, holding her glasses to her eyes.
"How are you?" exclaimed that lady, extending a white-gloved hand with a
cordiality that astonished her friends. "It is so pleasant to see you
"How be you?" said Mr. Braden, taking her fingers in the gingerly manner
he would have handled one of Mr. Crewe's priceless curios. The giraffe
Mr. Barnum had once brought to Ripton was not half as interesting as this
immaculate and mysterious production of foreign dressmakers and French
maids, but he refrained from betraying it. His eye rested on the
"Near-sighted, be you?" he inquired,—a remark so unexpected that for the
moment Mrs. Pomfret was deprived of speech.
"I manage to see better with—with these," she gasped, "when we get old
"You hain't old," said Mr. Braden, gallantly. "If you be," he added, his
eye travelling up and down the Parisian curves, I wouldn't have suspected
it—not a mite."
"I'm afraid you are given to flattery, Mr.—Mr.—" she replied hurriedly.
"Whom have I the pleasure of speaking to?"
"Job Braden's my name," he answered, "but you have the advantage of me."
"How?" demanded the thoroughly bewildered Mrs. Pomfret.
"I hain't heard your name," he said.
"Oh, I'm Mrs. Pomfret—a very old friend of Mr. Crewe's. Whenever he has
his friends with him, like this, I come over and help him. It is so
difficult for a bachelor to entertain, Mr. Braden."
"Well," said Mr. Braden, bending alarmingly near her ear, "there's one
way out of it."
"What's that?" said Mrs. Pomfret.
"Git married," declared Mr. Braden.
"How very clever you are, Mr. Braden! I wish poor dear Mr. Crewe would
get married—a wife could take so many burdens off his shoulders. You
don't know Mr. Crewe very well, do you?"
"Callate to—so so," said Mr. Braden.
Mrs. Pomfret was at sea again.
"I mean, do you see him often?"
"Seen him once," said Mr. Braden. "G-guess that's enough."
"You're a shrewd judge of human nature, Mr. Braden," she replied, tapping
him on the shoulder with the lorgnette, "but you can have no idea how
good he is—how unceasingly he works for others. He is not a man who
gives much expression to his feelings, as no doubt you have discovered,
but if you knew him as I do, you would realize how much affection he has
for his country neighbours and how much he has their welfare at heart."
"Loves 'em—does he—loves 'em?"
"He is like an English gentleman in his sense of responsibility," said
Mrs. Pomfret; "over there, you know, it is a part of a country
gentleman's duty to improve the condition of his—his neighbours. And
then Mr. Crewe is so fond of his townspeople that he couldn't resist
doing this for them," and she indicated with a sweep of her eyeglasses
the beatitude with which they were surrounded.
"Wahn't no occasion to," said Mr. Braden.
"What!" cried Mrs. Pomfret, who had been walking on ice for some time.
"This hain't England—is it? Hain't England?"
"No," she admitted, "but—"
"Hain't England," said Mr. Braden, and leaned forward until he was within
a very few inches of her pearl ear-ring. "He'll be chose all
right—d-don't fret—he'll be chose."
"My dear Mr. Braden, I've no doubt of it—Mr. Crewe's so popular," she
cried, removing her ear-ring abruptly from the danger zone. "Do make
yourself at home," she added, and retired from Mr. Braden's company a
trifle disconcerted,—a new experience for Mrs. Pomfret. She wondered
whether all country people were like Mr. Braden, but decided, after
another experiment or two, that he was an original. More than once during
the afternoon she caught sight of him, beaming upon the festivities
around him. But she did not renew the conversation.
To Austen Vane, wandering about the grounds, Mr. Crewe's party presented
a sociological problem of no small interest. Mr. Crewe himself interested
him, and he found himself speculating how far a man would go who charged
the fastnesses of the politicians with a determination not to be denied
and a bank account to be reckoned with. Austen talked to many of the
Leith farmers whom he had known from boyhood, thanks to his custom of
roaming the hills; they were for the most part honest men whose
occupation in life was the first thought, and they were content to leave
politics to Mr. Braden—that being his profession. To the most
intelligent of these Mr. Crewe's garden-party was merely the wanton whim
of a millionaire. It was an open secret to them that Job Braden for
reasons of his own had chosen Mr. Crewe to represent them, and they were
mildly amused at the efforts of Mrs. Pomfret and her assistants to secure
votes which were as certain as the sun's rising on the morrow.
It was some time before Austen came upon the object of his search—though
scarce admitting to himself that it had an object. In greeting him, after
inquiring about his railroad case, Mr. Crewe had indicated with a wave of
his hand the general direction of the refreshments; but it was not until
Austen had tried in all other quarters that he made his way towards the
porch where the lemonade and cake and sandwiches were. It was, after all,
the most popular place, though to his mind the refreshments had little to
do with its popularity. From the outskirts of the crowd he perceived
Victoria presiding over the punchbowl that held the lemonade. He liked to
think of her as Victoria; the name had no familiarity for him, but seemed
rather to enhance the unattainable quality of her.
Surrounding Victoria were several clean-looking, freckled, and tanned
young men of undergraduate age wearing straw hats with coloured ribbons,
who showed every eagerness to obey and even anticipate the orders she did
not hesitate to give them. Her eye seemed continually on the alert for
those of Mr. Crewe's guests who were too bashful to come forward, and
discerning them she would send one of her lieutenants forward with
supplies. Sometimes she would go herself to the older people; and once,
perceiving a tired woman holding a baby (so many brought babies, being
unable to leave them), Victoria impulsively left her post and seized the
woman by the arm.
"Do come and sit down," she cried; "there's a chair beside me. And oh,
what a nice baby! Won't you let me hold him?"
"Why, yes, ma'am," said the woman, looking up at Victoria with grateful,
patient eyes, and then with awe at what seemed to her the priceless
embroidery on Victoria's waist, "won't he spoil your dress?"
"Bless him, no," said Victoria, poking her finger into a dimple—for he
was smiling at her. "What if he does?" and forthwith she seized him in
her arms and bore him to the porch, amidst the laughter of those who
beheld her, and sat him down on her knee in front of the lemonade bowl,
the tired mother beside her. "Will a little lemonade hurt him? Just a
very, very little, you know?"
"Why, no, ma'am," said the mother.
"And just a teeny bit of cake," begged Victoria, daintily breaking off a
piece, while the baby gurgled and snatched for it. "Do tell me how old he
is, and how many more you have."
"He's eleven months on the twenty-seventh," said the mother, "and I've
got four more." She sighed, her eyes wandering back to the embroidery.
"What between them and the housework and the butter makin', it hain't
easy. Be you married?"
"No," said Victoria, laughing and blushing a little.
"You'll make a good wife for somebody," said the woman. "I hope you'll
get a good man."
"I hope so, too," said Victoria, blushing still deeper amidst the
laughter, "but there doesn't seem to be much chance of it, and good men
are very scarce."
"I guess you're right," said the mother, soberly. "Not but what my man's
good enough, but he don't seem to get along, somehow. The farm's wore
out, and the mortgage comes around so regular."
"Where do you live?" asked Victoria, suddenly growing serious.
"Fitch's place. 'Tain't very far from the Four Corners, on the Avalon
"And you are Mrs. Fitch?"
"Callate to be," said the mother. "If it ain't askin' too much, I'd like
to know your name."
"I'm Victoria Flint. I live not very far from the Four Corners—that is,
about eight miles. May I come over and see you sometime?"
Although Victoria said this very simply, the mother's eyes widened until
one might almost have said they expressed a kind of terror.
"Land sakes alive, be you Mr. Flint's daughter? I might have knowed it
from the lace—that dress must have cost a fortune. But I didn't think to
find you so common."
Victoria did not smile. She had heard the word "common" so used before,
and knew that it was meant for a compliment, and she turned to the woman
with a very expressive light in her eyes.
"I will come to see you—this very week," she said. And just then her
glance, seemingly drawn in a certain direction, met that of a tall young
man which had been fixed upon her during the whole of this scene. She
coloured again, abruptly handed the baby back to his mother, and rose.
"I'm neglecting all these people," she said, "but do sit there and rest
yourself and—have some more lemonade."
She bowed to Austen, and smiled a little as she filled the glasses, but
she did not beckon him. She gave no further sign of her knowledge of his
presence until he stood beside her—and then she looked up at him.
"I have been looking for you, Miss Flint," he said.
"I suppose a man would never think of trying the obvious places first,"
she replied. "Hastings, don't you see that poor old woman over there? She
looks so thirsty—give her this."
The boy addressed, with a glance at Austen, did as he was bid, and she
sent off a second on another errand.
"Let me help," said Austen, seizing the cake; and being seized at the
same time, by an unusual and inexplicable tremor of shyness, thrust it at
"Oh, he can't have anymore; do you want to kill him?" cried Victoria,
seizing the plate, and adding mischievously, "I don't believe you're of
very much use—after all!"
"Then it's time I learned," said Austen. "Here's Mr. Jenney. I'm sure
he'll have a piece."
"Well," said Mr. Jenney, the same Mr. Jenney of the apple orchard, but
holding out a horny hand with unmistakable warmth, "how be you, Austen?"
Looking about him, Mr. Jenney put his hand to his mouth, and added,
"Didn't expect to see you trailin' on to this here kite." He took a piece
of cake between his thumb and forefinger and glanced bashfully at
"Have some lemonade, Mr. Jenney? Do," she urged.
"Well, I don't care if I do," he said, "just a little mite." He did not
attempt to stop her as she filled the glass to the brim, but continued to
regard her with a mixture of curiosity and admiration. "Seen you nursin'
the baby and makin' folks at home. Guess you have the knack of it
better'n some I could mention."
This was such a palpable stroke at their host that Victoria laughed, and
made haste to turn the subject from herself.
"Mr. Vane seems to be an old friend of yours," she said.
"Why," said Mr. Jenney, laying his hand on Austen's shoulder, "I callate
he is. Austen's broke in more'n one of my colts afore he went West and
shot that feller. He's as good a judge of horse-flesh as any man in this
part of the State. Hear Tom Gaylord and the boys wanted him to be State
"Why didn't you accept, Mr. Vane?"
"Because I don't think the boys could have elected me," answered Austen,
"He's as popular a man as there is in the county," declared Mr. Jenney.
He was a mite wild as a boy, but sence he's sobered down and won that
case against the railrud, he could get any office he'd a mind to. He's
always adoin' little things for folks, Austen is."
"Did—did that case against the railroad make him so popular?" asked
Victoria, glancing at Austen's broad back—for he had made his escape
with the cake.
"I guess it helped considerable," Mr. Jenney admitted.
"Why?" asked Victoria.
"Well, it was a fearless thing to do—plumb against his own interests
with old Hilary Vane. Austen's a bright lawyer, and I have heard it said
he was in line for his father's place as counsel."
"Do—do people dislike the railroad?"
Mr. Jenney rubbed his beard thoughtfully. He began to wonder who this
young woman was, and a racial caution seized him.
"Well," he said, "folks has an idea the railrud runs this State to suit
themselves. I guess they hain't far wrong. I've be'n to the Legislature
and seen some signs of it. Why, Hilary Vane himself has charge of the
most considerable part of the politics. Who be you?" Mr. Jenney demanded
"I'm Victoria Flint," said Victoria.
"Godfrey!" exclaimed Mr. Jenney, "you don't say so! I might have known
it—seen you on the rud more than once. But I don't know all you rich
folks apart. Wouldn't have spoke so frank if I'd knowed who you was."
"I'm glad you did, Mr. Jenney," she answered. "I wanted to know what
"Well, it's almighty complicated," said Mr. Jenney, shaking his head. "I
don't know by rights what to think. As long as I've said what I have,
I'll say this: that the politicians is all for the railrud, and I hain't
got a mite of use for the politicians. I'll vote for a feller like Austen
Vane every time, if he'll run, and I know other folks that will."
After Mr. Jenney had left her, Victoria stood motionless, gazing off into
the haze, until she was startled by the voice of Hastings Weare beside
"Say, Victoria, who is that man?" he asked.
Hastings nodded towards Austen, who, with a cake basket in his hand,
stood chatting with a group of country people on the edge of the porch.
"Oh, that man!" said Victoria. "His name's Austen Vane, and he's a lawyer
"All I can say is," replied Hastings, with a light in his face, "he's one
I'd like to tie to. I'll bet he could whip any four men you could pick
Considering that Hastings had himself proposed—although in a very mild
form—more than once to Victoria, this was generous.
"I daresay he could," she agreed absently.
"It isn't only the way he's built," persisted Hastings, "he looks as if
he were going to be somebody some day. Introduce me to him, will you?"
"Certainly," said Victoria. "Mr. Vane," she called, "I want to introduce
an admirer, Mr. Hastings Weare."
"I just wanted to know you," said Hastings, reddening, "and Victoria—I
mean Miss Flint—said she'd introduce me."
"I'm much obliged to her," said Austen, smiling.
"Are you in politics?" asked Hastings.
"I'm afraid not," answered Austen, with a glance at Victoria.
"You're not helping Humphrey Crewe, are you?"
"No," said Austen, and added with an illuminating smile, "Mr. Crewe
doesn't need any help."
"I'm glad you're not," exclaimed the downright Hastings, with palpable
relief in his voice that an idol had not been shattered. "I think
Humphrey's a fakir, and all this sort of thing tommyrot. He wouldn't get
my vote by giving me lemonade and cake and letting me look at his cows.
If you ever run for office, I'd like to cast it for you. My father is
only a summer resident, but since he has gone out of business he stays
here till Christmas, and I'll be twenty-one in a year."
Austen had ceased to smile; he was looking into the boy's eyes with that
serious expression which men and women found irresistible.
"Thank you, Mr. Weare," he said simply.
Hastings was suddenly overcome with the shyness of youth. He held out his
hand, and said, "I'm awfully glad to have met you," and fled.
Victoria, who had looked on with a curious mixture of feelings, turned to
"That was a real tribute," she said. "Is this the way you affect
everybody whom you meet?"
They were standing almost alone. The sun was nearing the western hills
beyond the river, and people had for some time been wending their way
towards the field where the horses were tied. He did not answer her
question, but asked one instead.
"Will you let me drive you home?"
"Do you think you deserve to, after the shameful manner in which you have
"I'm quite sure that I don't deserve to," he answered, still looking down
"If you did deserve to, being a woman, I probably shouldn't let you,"
said Victoria, flashing a look upwards; "as it is, you may."
His face lighted, but she halted in the grass, with her hands behind her,
and stared at him with a puzzled expression.
"I'm sure you're a dangerous man," she declared. "First you take in poor
little Hastings, and now you're trying to take me in."
"Then I wish I were still more dangerous," he laughed, "for apparently I
"I want to talk to you seriously," said Victoria; "that is the only
reason I'm permitting you to drive me home."
"I am devoutly thankful for the reason then," he said,—"my horse is tied
in the field."
"And aren't you going to say good-by to your host and hostess?"
"Hostess?" he repeated, puzzled.
"Hostesses," she corrected herself, "Mrs. Pomfret and Alice. I thought
you had eyes in your head," she added, with a fleeting glance at them.
"Is Crewe engaged to Miss Pomfret?" he asked.
"Are all men simpletons?" said Victoria. "He doesn't know it yet, but he
"I think I'd know it, if I were," said Austen, with an emphasis that made
"Sometimes fish don't know they're in a net until—until the morning
after," said Victoria. "That has a horribly dissipated sound—hasn't it?
I know to a moral certainty that Mr. Crewe will eventually lead Miss
Pomfret away from the altar. At present," she could not refrain from
adding, "he thinks he's in love with some one else."
"It doesn't matter," she replied. "Humphrey's perfectly happy, because he
believes most women are in love with him, and he's making up his mind in
that magnificent, thorough way of his whether she is worthy to be endowed
with his heart and hand, his cows, and all his stocks and bonds. He
doesn't know he's going to marry Alice. It almost makes one a Calvinist,
doesn't it. He's predestined, but perfectly happy."
"Who is he in love with?" demanded Austen, ungrammatically.
"I'm going to say good-by to him. I'll meet you in the field, if you
don't care to come. It's only manners, after all, although the lemonade's
all gone and I haven't had a drop."
"I'll go along too," he said.
"Aren't you afraid of Mrs. Pomfret?"
"Not a bit!"
"I am," said Victoria, "but I think you'd better come just the same."
Around the corner of the house they found them,—Mr. Crewe urging the
departing guests to remain, and not to be bashful in the future about
"We don't always have lemonade and cake," he was saying, "but you can be
sure of a welcome, just the same. Good-by, Vane, glad you came. Did they
show you through the stables? Did you see the mate to the horse I lost?
Beauty, isn't he? Stir 'em up and get the money. I guess we won't see
much of each other politically. You're anti-railroad. I don't believe
that tack'll work—we can't get along without corporations, you know. You
ought to talk to Flint. I'll give you a letter of introduction to him. I
don't know what I'd have done without that man Tooting in your father's
office. He's a wasted genius in Ripton. What? Good-by, you'll find your
wagon, I guess. Well, Victoria, where have you been keeping yourself?
I've been so busy I haven't had time to look for you. You're going to
stay to dinner, and Hastings, and all the people who have helped."
"No, I'm not," answered Victoria, with a glance at Austen, before whom
this announcement was so delicately made, "I'm going home."
"But when am I to see you?" cried Mr. Crewe, as near genuine alarm as he
ever got. You never let me see you. I was going to drive you home in the
motor by moonlight."
"We all know that you're the most original person, Victoria," said Mrs.
Pomfret, "full of whims and strange fancies," she added, with the only
brief look at Austen she had deigned to bestow on him. "It never pays to
count on you for twenty-four hours. I suppose you're off on another wild
"I think I've earned the right to it," said Victoria;—I've poured
lemonade for Humphrey's constituents the whole afternoon. And besides, I
never said I'd stay for dinner. I'm going home. Father's leaving for
California in the morning."
"He'd better stay at home and look after her," Mrs. Pomfret remarked,
when Victoria was out of hearing.
Since Mrs. Harry Haynes ran off, one can never tell what a woman will do.
It wouldn't surprise me a bit if Victoria eloped with a handsome nobody
like that. Of course he's after her money, but he wouldn't get it, not if
I know Augustus Flint."
"Is he handsome?" said Mr. Crewe, as though the idea were a new one.
"Great Scott, I don't believe she gives him a thought. She's only going
as far as the field with him. She insisted on leaving her horse there
instead of putting him in the stable."
"Catch Alice going as far as the field with him," said Mrs. Pomfret, "but
I've done my duty. It's none of my affair."
In the meantime Austen and Victoria had walked on some distance in
"I have an idea with whom Mr. Crewe is in love," he said at length.
"So have I," replied Victoria, promptly. "Humphrey's in love with
himself. All he desires in a wife—if he desires one—is an inanimate and
accommodating looking-glass, in whom he may see what he conceives to be
his own image daily. James, you may take the mare home. I'm going to
drive with Mr. Vane."
She stroked Pepper's nose while Austen undid the hitch-rope from around
"You and I are getting to be friends, aren't we, Pepper?" she asked, as
the horse, with quivering nostrils, thrust his head into her hand. Then
she sprang lightly into the buggy by Austen's side. The manner of these
acts and the generous courage with which she defied opinion appealed to
him so strongly that his heart was beating faster than Pepper's
hoof-beats on the turf of the pasture.
"You are very good to come with me," he said gravely, when they had
reached the road; "perhaps I ought not to have asked you."
"Why?" she asked, with one of her direct looks.
"It was undoubtedly selfish," he said, and added, more lightly, "I don't
wish to put you into Mrs. Pomfret's bad graces."
"She thought it her duty to tell father the time you drove me to the
Hammonds'. She said I asked you to do it."
"What did he say?" Austen inquired, looking straight ahead of him.
"He didn't say much," she answered. "Father never does. I think he knows
that I am to be trusted."
"Even with me?" he asked quizzically, but with a deeper significance.
"I don't think he realizes how dangerous you are," she replied, avoiding
the issue. "The last time I saw you, you were actually trying to throw a
fat man out of your window. What a violent life you lead, Mr. Vane. I
hope you haven't shot any more people—"
"I saw you," he said.
"Is that the way you spend your time in office hours,—throwing people
out of the windows?"
"It was only Tom Gaylord."
"He's the man Mr. Jenney said wanted you to be a senator, isn't he?" she
"You have a good memory," he answered her. "Yes. That's the reason I
tried to throw him out of the window."
"Why didn't you be a senator?" she asked abruptly. "I always think of you
in public life. Why waste your opportunities?"
"I'm not at all sure that was an opportunity. It was only some of Tom's
nonsense. I should have had all the politicians in the district against
"But you aren't the kind of man who would care about the politicians,
surely. If Humphrey Crewe can get elected by the people, I should think
"I can't afford to give garden-parties and buy lemonade," said Austen,
and they both laughed. He did not think it worth while mentioning Mr.
"Sometimes I think you haven't a particle of ambition," she said. "I like
men with ambition."
"I shall try to cultivate it," said Austen.
"You seem to be popular enough."
"Most worthless people are popular, because they don't tread on anybody's
"Worthless people don't take up poor people's suits, and win them," she
said. "I saw Zeb Meader the other day, and he said you could be President
of the United States."
"Zeb meant that I was eligible—having been born in this country," said
Austen. "But where did you see him?"
"I—I went to see him."
"All the way to Mercer?"
"It isn't so far in an automobile," she replied, as though in excuse, and
added, still more lamely, "Zeb and I became great friends, you know, in
He did not answer, but wondered the more at the simplicity and kindness
in one brought up as she had been which prompted her to take the trouble
to see the humblest of her friends: nay, to take the trouble to have
The road wound along a ridge, and at intervals was spread before them the
full glory of the September sunset,—the mountains of the west in
blue-black silhouette against the saffron sky, the myriad dappled clouds,
the crimson fading from the still reaches of the river, and the
wine-colour from the eastern hills. Both were silent under the spell, but
a yearning arose within him when he glanced at the sunset glow on her
face: would sunsets hereafter bring sadness?
His thoughts ran riot as the light faded in the west. Hers were not
revealed. And the silence between them seemed gradually to grow into a
pact, to become a subtler and more intimate element than speech. A faint
tang of autumn smoke was in the air, a white mist crept along the running
waters, a silver moon like a new-stamped coin rode triumphant in the sky,
impatient to proclaim her glory; and the shadows under the ghost-like
sentinel trees in the pastures grew blacker. At last Victoria looked at
"You are the only man I know who doesn't insist on talking," she said.
There are times when—"
"When there is nothing to say," he suggested.
She laughed softly. He tried to remember the sound of it afterwards, when
he rehearsed this phase of the conversation, but couldn't.
"It's because you like the hills, isn't it?" she asked. "You seem such an
out-of-door person, and Mr. Jenney said you were always wandering about
"Mr. Jenney also made other reflections about my youth," said Austen.
She laughed again, acquiescing in his humour, secretly thankful not to
find him sentimental.
"Mr. Jenney said something else that—that I wanted to ask you about,"
she went on, breathing more deeply. "It was about the railroad."
"I am afraid you have not come to an authority," he replied.
"You said the politicians would be against you if you tried to become a
State senator. Do you believe that the politicians are owned by the
"Has Jenney been putting such things into your head?"
"Not only Mr. Jenney, but—I have heard other people say that. And
Humphrey Crewe said that you hadn't a chance politically, because you had
opposed the railroad and had gone against your own interests."
Austen was amazed at this new exhibition of courage on her part, though
he was sorely pressed.
"Humphrey Crewe isn't much of an authority, either," he said briefly.
"Then you won't tell me?" said Victoria. "Oh, Mr. Vane," she cried, with
sudden vehemence, "if such things are going on here, I'm sure my father
doesn't know about them. This is only one State, and the railroad runs
through so many. He can't know everything, and I have heard him say that
he wasn't responsible for what the politicians did in his name. If they
are bad, why don't you go to him and tell him so? I'm sure he'd listen to
"I'm sure he'd think me a presumptuous idiot," said Austen. "Politicians
are not idealists anywhere—the very word has become a term of reproach.
Undoubtedly your father desires to set things right as much as any one
else—probably more than any one."
"Oh, I know he does," exclaimed Victoria.
"If politics are not all that they should be," he went on, somewhat
grimly, with an unpleasant feeling of hypocrisy, "we must remember that
they are nobody's fault in particular, and can't be set right in an
instant by any one man, no matter how powerful."
She turned her face to him gratefully, but he did not meet her look. They
were on the driveway of Fairview.
"I suppose you think me very silly for asking such questions," she said.
"No," he answered gravely, "but politics are so intricate a subject that
they are often not understood by those who are in the midst of them. I
admire—I think it is very fine in you to want to know."
"You are not one of the men who would not wish a woman to know, are you?"
"No," he said, "no, I'm not."
The note of pain in his voice surprised and troubled her. They were
almost in sight of the house.
"I asked you to come to Fairview," she said, assuming a lightness of
tone, "and you never appeared. I thought it was horrid of you to forget,
after we'd been such friends."
"I didn't forget," replied Austen.
"Then you didn't want to come."
He looked into her eyes, and she dropped them.
"You will have to be the best judge of that," he said.
"But what am I to think?" she persisted.
"Think the best of me you can," he answered, as they drew up on the
gravel before the open door of Fairview house. A man was standing in the
moonlight on the porch.
"Is that you, Victoria?"
"I was getting worried," said Mr. Flint, coming down on the driveway.
"I'm all right," she said, leaping out of the buggy, "Mr. Vane brought me
"How are you, Hilary?" said Mr. Flint.
"I'm Austen Vane, Mr. Flint," said Austen.
"How are you?" said Mr. Flint, as curtly as the barest politeness
allowed. "What was the matter with your own horse, Victoria?"
"Nothing," she replied, after an instant's pause. Austen wondered many
times whether her lips had trembled. "Mr. Vane asked me to drive with
him, and I came. Won't—won't you come in, Mr. Vane?"
"No, thanks," said Austen, "I'm afraid I have to go back to Ripton."
"Good-by, and thank you," she said, and gave him her hand. As he pressed
it, he thought he felt the slightest pressure in return, and then she
fled up the steps. As he drove away, he turned once to look at the great
house, with its shades closely drawn, as it stood amidst its setting of
shrubbery silent under the moon.
An hour later he sat in Hanover Street before the supper Euphrasia had
saved for him. But though he tried nobly, his heart was not in the
relation, for her benefit, of Mr. Crewe's garden-party.
Mr. CREWE ASSAULTS THE CAPITAL
Those portions of the biographies of great men which deal with the small
beginnings of careers are always eagerly devoured, and for this reason
the humble entry of Mr. Crewe into politics may be of interest. Great
revolutions have had their origins in back cellars; great builders of
railroads have begun life with packs on their shoulders, trudging over
the wilderness which they were to traverse in after years in private
cars. The history of Napoleon Bonaparte has not a Sunday-school moral,
but we can trace therein the results of industry after the future emperor
got started. Industry, and the motto "nil desperandum" lived up to, and
the watchword "thorough," and a torch of unsuspected genius, and
"l'audace, toujours l'audace," and a man may go far in life.
Mr. Humphrey Crewe possessed, as may have been surmised, a dash of all
these gifts. For a summary of his character one would not have used the
phrase (as a contemporary of his remarked) of "a shrinking violet." The
phrase, after all, would have fitted very few great men; genius is sure
of itself, and seeks its peers.
The State capital is an old and beautiful and somewhat conservative town.
Life there has its joys and sorrows and passions, its ambitions, and
heart-burnings, to be sure; a most absorbing novel could be written about
it, and the author need not go beyond the city limits or approach the
state-house or the Pelican Hotel. The casual visitor in that capital
leaves it with a sense of peace, the echo of church bells in his ear, and
(if in winter) the impression of dazzling snow. Comedies do not
necessarily require a wide stage, nor tragedies an amphitheatre for their
No casual visitor, for instance, would have suspected from the faces or
remarks of the inhabitants whom he chanced to meet that there was
excitement in the capital over the prospective arrival of Mr. Humphrey
Crewe for the legislative session that winter. Legislative sessions, be
it known, no longer took place in the summer, a great relief to Mr. Crewe
and to farmers in general, who wished to be at home in haying time.
The capital abounded in comfortable homes and boasted not a dwellings of
larger pretensions. Chief among these was the Duncan house—still so
called, although Mr. Duncan, who built it, had been dead these fifteen
years, and his daughter and heiress, Janet, had married an Italian
Marquis and lived in a Roman palace, rehabilitated by the Duncan money.
Mr. Duncan, it may be recalled by some readers of "Coniston," had been a
notable man in his day, who had married the heiress of the State, and was
president of the Central Railroad, now absorbed in the United
Northeastern. The house was a great square of brick, with a wide cornice,
surrounded by a shaded lawn; solidly built, in the fashion of the days
when rich people stayed at home, with a conservatory and a library that
had once been Mr. Duncan's pride. The Marchesa cared very little about
the library, or about the house, for that matter; a great aunt and uncle,
spinster and bachelor, were living in it that winter, and they vacated
for Mr. Crewe. He travelled to the capital on the legislative pass the
Northeastern Railroads had so kindly given him, and brought down his
horses and his secretary and servants from Leith a few days before the
first of January, when the session was to open, and laid out his bills
for the betterment of the State on that library table where Mr. Duncan
had lovingly thumbed his folios. Mr. Crewe, with characteristic
promptitude, set his secretary to work to make a list of the persons of
influence in the town, preparatory to a series of dinner-parties; he
dropped into the office of Mr. Ridout, the counsel of the Northeastern
and of the Winona Corporation in the capital, to pay his respects as a
man of affairs, and incidentally to leave copies of his bills for the
improvement of the State. Mr. Ridout was politely interested, and
promised to read the bills, and agreed that they ought to pass.
Mr. Crewe also examined the Pelican Hotel, so soon to be a hive, and
stood between the snow-banks in the capital park contemplating the statue
of the great statesman there, and repeating to himself the quotation
inscribed beneath. "The People's Government, made for the People, made by
the People, and answerable to the People." And he wondered, idly,—for
the day was not cold,—how he would look upon a pedestal with the
Gladstone collar and the rough woollen coat that would lend themselves so
readily to reproduction in marble. Stranger things had happened, and
grateful States had been known to reward benefactors.
At length comes the gala night of nights,—the last of the old year,—and
the assembling of the five hundred legislators and of the army that is
wont to attend them. The afternoon trains, steaming hot, are crowded to
the doors, the station a scene of animation, and Main Street, dazzling in
snow, is alive with a stream of men, with eddies here and there at the
curbs and in the entries. What handshaking, and looking over of new
faces, and walking round and round! What sightseeing by the country
members and their wives who have come to attend the inauguration of the
new governor, the Honourable Asa P. Gray! There he is, with the whiskers
and the tall hat and the comfortable face, which wears already a look of
gubernatorial dignity and power. He stands for a moment in the lobby of
the Pelican Hotel,—thronged now to suffocation,—to shake hands genially
with new friends, who are led up by old friends with two fingers on the
elbow. The old friends crack jokes and whisper in the ear of the
governor-to-be, who presently goes upstairs, accompanied by the
Honourable Hilary Vane, to the bridal suite, which is reserved for him,
and which has fire-proof carpet on the floor. The Honourable Hilary has a
room next door, connecting with the new governor's by folding doors, but
this fact is not generally known to country members. Only old timers,
like Bijah Bixby and Job Braden, know that the Honourable Hilary's room
corresponds to one which in the old Pelican was called the Throne Room,
Number Seven, where Jethro Bass sat in the old days and watched
unceasingly the groups in the street from the window.
But Jethro Bass has been dead these twenty years, and his lieutenants
shorn of power. An empire has arisen out of the ashes of the ancient
kingdoms. Bijah and Job are old, all-powerful still in Clovelly and
Leith—influential still in their own estimations; still kicking up their
heels behind, still stuttering and whispering into ears, still "going
along by when they are talking sly." But there are no guerrillas now, no
condottieri who can be hired: the empire has a paid and standing army, as
an empire should. The North Country chiefs, so powerful in the clan
warfare of bygone days, are generals now,—chiefs of staff. The
captain-general, with a minute piece of Honey Dew under his tongue, sits
in Number Seven. A new Number Seven,—with electric lights and a bathroom
and a brass bed. Tempora mutantur. There is an empire and a feudal
system, did one but know it. The clans are part of the empire, and each
chief is responsible for his clan—did one but know it. One doesn't know
The Honourable Brush Bascom, Duke of Putnam, member of the House, has
arrived unostentatiously—as is his custom—and is seated in his own
headquarters, number ten (with a bathroom). Number nine belongs from year
to year to Mr. Manning, division superintendent of that part of the
Northeastern which was the old Central,—a thin gentleman with
side-whiskers. He loves life in the capital so much that he takes his
vacations there in the winter,—during the sessions of the Legislature,
—presumably because it is gay. There are other rooms, higher up, of
important men, to be sure, but to enter which it is not so much of an
honour. The Honourable Bill Fleming, postmaster of Brampton in Truro
(Ephraim Prescott being long since dead and Brampton a large place now),
has his vacation during the session in room thirty-six (no bathroom); and
the Honourable Elisha Jane, Earl of Haines County in the North Country,
and United States consul somewhere, is home on his annual vacation in
room fifty-nine (no bath). Senator Whitredge has a room, and Senator
Green, and Congressmen Eldridge and Fairplay (no baths, and only
The five hundred who during the next three months are to register the
laws find quarters as best they can. Not all of them are as luxurious as
Mr. Crewe in the Duncan house, or the Honourable Brush Bascom in number
ten of the Pelican, the rent of either of which would swallow the
legislative salary in no time. The Honourable Nat Billings, senator from
the Putnam County district, is comfortably installed, to be sure. By
gradual and unexplained degrees, the constitution of the State has been
changed until there are only twenty senators. Noble five hundred!
A careful perusal of the biographies of great men of the dynamic type
leads one to the conclusion that much of their success is due to an
assiduous improvement of every opportunity,—and Mr. Humphrey Crewe
certainly possessed this quality, also. He is in the Pelican Hotel this
evening, meeting the men that count. Mr. Job Braden, who had come down
with the idea that he might be of use in introducing the new member from
Leith to the notables, was met by this remark:—"You can't introduce me
to any of 'em—they all know who I am. Just point any of 'em out you
think I ought to know, and I'll go up and talk to 'em. What? Come up to
my house after a while and smoke a cigar. The Duncan house, you know—the
big one with the conservatory."
Mr. Crewe was right—they all knew him. The Leith millionaire, the summer
resident, was a new factor in politics, and the rumours of the size of
his fortune had reached a high-water mark in the Pelican Hotel that
evening. Pushing through the crowd in the corridor outside the bridal
suite waiting to shake hands with the new governor, Mr. Crewe gained an
entrance in no time, and did not hesitate to interrupt the somewhat
protracted felicitations of an Irish member of the Newcastle delegation.
"How are you, Governor?" he said, with the bonhomie of a man of the
world. "I'm Humphrey Crewe, from Leith. You got a letter from me, didn't
you, congratulating you upon your election? We didn't do badly for you up
"How do you do, Mr. Crewe?" said Mr. Gray, with dignified hospitality,
while their fingers slid over each other's; "I'm glad to welcome you
here. I've noticed the interest you've taken in the State, and the number
of ahem—very useful societies to which you belong."
"Good," said Mr. Crewe, "I do what I can. I just dropped in to shake your
hand, and to say that I hope we'll pull together."
The governor lifted his eyebrows a little.
"Why, I hope so, I'm sere, Mr. Crewe," said he.
"I've looked over the policy of the State for the last twenty years in
regard to public improvements and the introduction of modern methods as
concerns husbandry, and I find it deplorable. You and I, Governor, live
in a progressive age, and we can't afford not to see something done.
What? It is my desire to do what I can to help make your administration a
notable advance upon those of your predecessors."
"Why—I greatly appreciate it, Mr. Crewe," said Mr. Gray.
"I'm sure you do. I've looked over your record, and I find you've had
experience in State affairs, and that you are a successful and
conservative business man. That is the type we want—eh? Business men.
You've read over the bills I sent you by registered mail?"
"Ahem," said Mr. Gray, "I've been a good deal occupied since election
day, Mr. Crewe."
"Read 'em," said Mr. Crewe, "and I'll call in on you at the state-house
day after to-morrow at five o'clock promptly. We'll discuss 'em,
Governor, and if, by the light of your legislative experience, you have
any suggestions to make, I shall be glad to hear 'em. Before putting the
bills in their final shape I've taken the trouble to go over them with my
friend, Mr. Flint—our mutual friend, let us say."
"I've had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Flint," said Mr. Gray. "I—ahem
—can't say that I know him intimately."
Mr. Crewe looked at Mr. Gray in a manner which plainly indicated that he
was not an infant.
"My relations with Mr. Flint and the Northeastern have been very
pleasant," said Mr. Crewe. "I may say that I am somewhat of a practical
railroad and business man myself."
"We need such men," said Mr. Gray. "Why, how do you do, Cary? How are the
boys up in Wheeler?"
"Well, good-by, Governor. See you day after to-morrow at five precisely,"
said Mr. Crewe.
The next official call of Mr. Crewe was on the Speaker-to-be, Mr. Doby of
Hale (for such matters are cut and dried), but any amount of pounding on
Mr. Doby's door (number seventy-five) brought no response. Other rural
members besides Mr. Crewe came and pounded on that door, and went away
again; but Mr. Job Braden suddenly appeared from another part of the
corridor, smiling benignly, and apparently not resenting the refusal of
his previous offers of help.
"W—want the Speaker?" he inquired.
Mr. Crewe acknowledged that he did.
"Ed only sleeps there," said Mr. Braden. "Guess you'll find him in the
"Hilary Vane's, Number Seven." Mr. Braden took hold of the lapel of his
fellow-townsman's coat. "Callated you didn't know it all," he said;
"that's the reason I come down—so's to help you some."
Mr. Crewe, although he was not wont to take a second place, followed Mr.
Braden down the stairs to the door next to the governor's, where he
pushed ahead of his guide, through the group about the doorway,—none of
whom, however, were attempting to enter. They stared in some surprise at
Mr. Crewe as he flung open the door without knocking, and slammed it
behind him in Mr. Braden's face. But the bewilderment caused by this act
of those without was as nothing to the astonishment of those within—had
Mr. Crewe but known it. An oil painting of the prominent men gathered
about the marble-topped table in the centre of the room, with an outline
key beneath it, would have been an appropriate work of art to hang in the
state-house, as emblematic of the statesmanship of the past twenty years.
The Honourable Hilary Vane sat at one end in a padded chair; Mr. Manning,
the division superintendent, startled out of a meditation, was upright on
the end of the bed; Mr. Ridout, the Northeastern's capital lawyer, was
figuring at the other end of the table; the Honourable Brush Bascom was
bending over a wide, sad-faced gentleman of some two hundred and fifty
pounds who sat at the centre in his shirt-sleeves, poring over numerous
sheets in front of him which were covered with names of the five hundred.
This gentleman was the Honourable Edward Doby of Hale, who, with the kind
assistance of the other gentlemen above-named, was in this secluded spot
making up a list of his committees, undisturbed by eager country members.
At Mr. Crewe's entrance Mr. Bascom, with great presence of mind, laid
down his hat over the principal list, while Mr. Ridout, taking the hint,
put the Revised Statutes on the other. There was a short silence; and the
Speaker-to-be, whose pencil had been knocked out of his hand; recovered
himself sufficiently to relight an extremely frayed cigar.
Not that Mr. Crewe was in the least abashed. He chose this opportunity to
make a survey of the situation, nodded to Mr. Ridout, and walked up to
the padded armchair.
"How are you, Mr. Vane?" he said. "I thought I'd drop in to shake hands
with you, especially as I have business with the Speaker, and heard he
was here. But I'm glad to have met you for many reasons. I want you to be
one of the vice-presidents of the State Economic League—it won't cost
you anything. Ridout has agreed to let his name go on."
The Honourable Hilary, not being an emotional man, merely grunted as he
started to rise to his feet. What he was about to say was interrupted by
a timid knock, and there followed another brief period of silence.
"It ain't anybody," said Mr. Bascom, and crossing the room, turned the
key in the lock. The timid knock was repeated.
"I suppose you're constantly interrupted here by unimportant people," Mr.
"Well," said Mr. Vane, slowly, boring into Mr. Crewe with his eye, "that
statement isn't far out of the way."
"I don't believe you've ever met me, Mr. Vane. I'm Humphrey Crewe. We
have a good friend in common in Mr. Flint."
The Honourable Hilary's hand passed over Mr. Crewe's lightly.
"Glad to meet you, Mr. Crewe," he said, and a faint twinkle appeared in
his eye. "Job has told everybody you were coming down. Glad to welcome a
man of your ahem—stamp into politics."
"I'm a plain business man," answered Mr. Crewe, modestly; "and although I
have considerable occupation, I believe that one in my position has
duties to perform. I've certain bills—"
"Yes, yes," agreed the Honourable Hilary; "do you know Mr. Brush Bascom
and Mr. Manning? Allow me to introduce you,—and General Doby."
"How are you, General?" said Mr. Crewe to the Speaker-to-be, "I'm always
glad to shake the hand of a veteran. Indeed, I have thought that a
"I earned my title," said General Doby, somewhat sheepishly, "fighting on
Governor Brown's staff. There were twenty of us, and we were resistless,
weren't we, Brush?"
"Twenty on a staff!" exclaimed Mr. Crewe.
"Oh, we furnished our own uniforms and paid our own way—except those of
us who had passes," declared the General, as though the memory of his
military career did not give him unalloyed pleasure. "What's the use of
State sovereignty if you can't have a glittering army to follow the
Mr. Crewe had never considered this question, and he was not the man to
waste time in speculation.
"Doubtless you got a letter from me, General Doby," he said. "We did what
we could up our way to put you in the Speaker's chair."
General Doby creased a little in the middle, to signify that he was
"I trust it will be in my power to reciprocate, Mr. Crewe," he replied.
"We want to treat Mr. Crewe right," Mr. Bascom put in.
"You have probably made a note of my requests," Mr. Crewe continued. "I
should like to be on the Judiciary Committee, for one thing. Although I
am not a lawyer, I know something of the principles of law, and I
understand that this and the Appropriations Committee are the most
important. I may say with truth that I should be a useful member of that,
as I am accustomed to sitting on financial boards. As my bills are of
some considerable importance and deal with practical progressive
measures, I have no hesitation in asking for the chairmanship of Public
Improvements,—and of course a membership in the Agricultural is
essential, as I have bills for them. Gentlemen," he added to the room at
large, "I have typewritten manifolds of those bills which I shall be
happy to leave here—at headquarters." And suiting the action to the
word, he put down a packet on the table.
The Honourable Brush Bascom, accompanied by Mr. Ridout, walked to the
window and stood staring at the glitter of the electric light on the
snow. The Honourable Hilary gazed steadily at the table, while General
Doby blew his nose with painful violence.
"I'll do what I can for you, certainly, Mr. Crewe," he said. "But—what
is to become of the other four hundred and ninety-nine? The ways of a
Speaker are hard, Mr. Crewe, and I have to do justice to all."
"Well," answered Mr. Crewe, of course I don't want to be unreasonable,
and I realize the pressure that's put upon you. But when you consider the
importance of the work I came down here to do—"
"I do consider it," said the Speaker, politely. "It's a little early to
talk about the make-up of committees. I hope to be able to get at them by
Sunday. You may be sure I'll do my best for you."
"We'd better make a note of it," said Mr. Crewe; "give me some paper,"
and he was reaching around behind General Doby for one of the precious
sheets under Mr. Bascom's hat, when the general, with great presence of
mind, sat on it. We have it, from a malicious and untrustworthy source,
that the Northeastern Railroads paid for a new one.
"Here, here," cried the Speaker, "make the memorandum here."
At this critical juncture a fortunate diversion occurred. A rap—three
times—of no uncertain quality was heard at the door, and Mr. Brush
Bascom hastened to open it. A voice cried out:—"Is Manning here? The
boys are hollering for those passes," and a wiry, sallow gentleman burst
in, none other than the Honourable Elisha Jane, who was taking his
consular vacation. When his eyes fell upon Mr. Crewe he halted abruptly,
looked a little foolish, and gave a questioning glance at the Honourable
"Mountain passes, Lish? Sit down. Did I ever tell you that story about
the slide in Rickets Gulch?" asked the Honourable Brush Bascom. But
first let me make you acquainted with Mr. Humphrey Crewe of Leith. Mr.
Crewe has come down here with the finest lot of bills you ever saw, and
we're all going to take hold and put 'em through. Here, Lish, I'll give
you a set."
"Read 'em, Mr. Jane," urged Mr. Crewe. "I don't claim much for 'em, but
perhaps they will help to set a few little matters right—I hope so."
Mr. Jane opened the bills with deliberation, and cast his eyes over the
"I'll read 'em this very night, Mr. Crewe," he said solemnly; "this
meeting you is a particular pleasure, and I have heard in many quarters
of these measures."
"Well," admitted Mr. Crewe, "they may help some. I have a few other
matters to attend to this evening, so I must say good-night, gentlemen.
Don't let me interfere with those I mountain passes, Mr. Manning."
With this parting remark, which proved him to be not merely an idealist
in politics, but a practical man, Mr. Crewe took his leave. And he was
too much occupied with his own thoughts to pay any attention to the click
of the key as it turned in the lock, or to hear United States Senator
Whitredge rap (three times) on the door after he had turned the corner,
or to know that presently the sliding doors into the governor's bridal
suite—were to open a trifle, large enough for the admission of the body
of the Honourable Asa P. Gray.
Number Seven still keeps up its reputation as the seat of benevolence,
and great public benefactors still meet there to discuss the welfare of
their fellow-men: the hallowed council chamber now of an empire, seat of
the Governor-general of the State, the Honourable Hilary Vane, and his
advisers. For years a benighted people, with a fond belief in their
participation of Republican institutions, had elected the noble five
hundred of the House and the stanch twenty of the Senate. Noble five
hundreds (biggest Legislature in the world) have come and gone; debated,
applauded, fought and on occasions denounced, kicked over the traces, and
even wept—to no avail. Behold that political institution of man,
representative government There it is on the stage, curtain up, a sublime
spectacle for all men to see, and thrill over speeches about the Rights
of Man, and the Forefathers in the Revolution; about Constituents who do
not constitute. The High Heavens allow it and smile, and it is well for
the atoms that they think themselves free American representatives, that
they do not feel the string of predestination around their ankles. The
senatorial twenty, from their high carved seats, see the strings and
smile, too; yes, and see their own strings, and smile. Wisdom does not
wish for flight. "The people" having changed the constitution, the
blackbirds are reduced from four and forty to a score. This is
cheaper—for the people.
Democracy on the front of the stage before an applauding audience;
performers absorbed in their parts, forgetting that the landlord has to
be paid in money yet to be earned. Behind the stage, the real play, the
absorbing interest, the high stakes—occasional discreet laughter through
the peep-hole when an actor makes an impassioned appeal to the gods.
Democracy in front, the Feudal System, the Dukes and Earls behind—but in
plain clothes; Democracy in stars and spangles and trappings and
insignia. Or, a better figure, the Fates weaving the web in that mystic
chamber, Number Seven, pausing now and again to smile as a new thread is
put in. Proclamations, constitutions, and creeds crumble before
conditions; the Law of Dividends is the high law, and the Forum an open
vent through which the white steam may rise heavenward and be resolved
again into water.
Mr. Crewe took his seat in the popular assemblage next day, although most
of the five hundred gave up theirs to the ladies who had come to hear his
Excellency deliver his inaugural. The Honourable Asa made a splendid
figure, all agreed, and read his speech in a firm and manly voice. A
large part of it was about the people; some of it about the sacred
government they had inherited from their forefathers; still another
concerned the high character and achievements of the inhabitants within
the State lines; the name of Abraham Lincoln was mentioned, and, with
even greater reverence and fervour, the Republican party which had
ennobled and enriched the people—and incidentally elected the governor.
There was a noble financial policy, a curtailment of expense. The forests
should be protected, roads should be built, and, above all, corporations
should be held to a strict accounting.
Needless to say, the speech gave great satisfaction to all, and many old
friends left the hall exclaiming that they didn't believe Asa had it in
him. As a matter of fact (known only to the initiated), Asa didn't have
it in him until last night, before he squeezed through the crack in the
folding doors from room number six to room Number Seven. The inspiration
came to him then, when he was ennobled by the Governor-general, who
represents the Empire. Perpetual Governor-general, who quickens into life
puppet governors of his own choosing Asa has agreed, for the honour of
the title of governor of his State, to act the part, open the fairs, lend
his magnificent voice to those phrases which it rounds so well. It is
fortunate, when we smoke a fine cigar from Havana, that we cannot look
into the factory. The sight would disturb us. It was well for the
applauding, deep-breathing audience in the state-house that first of
January that they did not have a glimpse in room Number Seven the night
before, under the sheets that contained the list of the Speaker's
committees; it was well that they could not go back to Ripton into the
offices on the square, earlier in December, where Mr. Hamilton Tooting
was writing the noble part of that inaugural from memoranda given him by
the Honourable Hilary Vane. Yes, the versatile Mr. Tooting, and none
other, doomed forever to hide the light of his genius under a bushel! The
financial part was written by the Governor-general himself—the
Honourable Hilary Vane. And when it was all finished and revised, it was
put into a long envelope which bore this printed address: Augustus P.
Flint, Pres't United Northeastern Railroads, New York. And came back with
certain annotations on the margin, which were duly incorporated into it.
This is the private history (which must never be told) of the document
which on January first became, as far as fame and posterity is concerned,
the Honourable Asa P. Gray's—forever and forever.
Mr. Crewe liked the inaugural, and was one of the first to tell Mr. Gray
so, and to express his pleasure and appreciation of the fact that his
request (mailed in November) had been complied with, that the substance
of his bills had been recommended in the governor's programme.
He did not pause to reflect on the maxim, that platforms are made to get
in by and inaugurals to get started by.
Although annual efforts have been made by various public-spirited
citizens to build a new state-house, economy—with assistance from room
Number Seven has triumphed. It is the same state-house from the gallery
of which poor William Wetherell witnessed the drama of the Woodchuck
Session, although there are more members now, for the population of the
State has increased to five hundred thousand. It is well for General
Doby, with his two hundred and fifty pounds, that he is in the Speaker's
chair; five hundred seats are a good many for that hall, and painful in a
long session. The Honourable Brush Bascom can stretch his legs, because
he is fortunate enough to have a front seat. Upon inquiry, it turns out
that Mr. Bascom has had a front seat for the last twenty years—he has
been uniformly lucky in drawing. The Honourable Jacob Botcher (ten years'
service) is equally fortunate; the Honourable Jake is a man of large
presence, and a voice that sounds as if it came, oracularly, from the
caverns of the earth. He is easily heard by the members on the back
seats, while Mr. Bascom is not. Mr. Ridout, the capital lawyer, is in the
House this year, and singularly enough has a front seat likewise. It was
Mr. Crewe's misfortune to draw number 415, in the extreme corner of the
room, and next the steam radiator. But he was not of the metal to accept
tamely such a ticketing from the hat of destiny (via the Clerk of the
House). He complained, as any man of spirit would, and Mr. Utter, the
polite clerk, is profoundly sorry,—and says it maybe managed. Curiously
enough, the Honourable Brush Bascom and the Honourable Jacob Botcher join
Mr. Crewe in his complaint, and reiterate that it is an outrage that a
man of such ability and deserving prominence should be among the
submerged four hundred and seventy. It is managed in a mysterious manner
we don't pretend to fathom, and behold Mr. Crewe in the front of the
Forum, in the seats of the mighty, where he can easily be pointed out
from the gallery at the head of the five hundred, between those shining
leaders and parliamentarians, the Honourables Brush Bascom and Jake
For Mr. Crewe has not come to the Legislature, like the country members
in the rear, to acquire a smattering of parliamentary procedure by the
day the Speaker is presented with a gold watch, at the end of the
session. Not he! Not the practical business man, the member of boards,
the chairman and president of societies. He has studied the Rules of the
House and parliamentary law, you may be sure. Genius does not come
unprepared, and is rarely caught napping. After the Legislature
adjourned that week the following telegram was sent over the wires:—
Augustus P. Flint, New York.
Kindly use your influence with Doby to secure my committee
appointments. Important as per my conversation with you.
Nor was Mr. Crewe idle from Saturday to Monday night, when the committees
were to be announced. He sent to the State Tribune office for fifty
copies of that valuable paper, which contained a two-column-and-a-half
article on Mr. Crewe as a legislator and financier and citizen, with a
summary of his bills and an argument as to how the State would benefit by
their adoption; an accurate list of Mr. Crewe's societies was inserted,
and an account of his life's history, and of those ancestors of his who
had been born or lived within the State. Indeed, the accuracy of this
article as a whole did great credit to the editor of the State Tribune,
who must have spent a tremendous amount of painstaking research upon it;
and the article was so good that Mr. Crewe regretted (undoubtedly for the
editor's sake) that a request could not be appended to it such as is used
upon marriage and funeral notices: "New York, Boston, and Philadelphia
papers please copy."
Mr. Crewe thought it his duty to remedy as much as possible the
unfortunate limited circulation of the article, and he spent as much as a
whole day making out a list of friends and acquaintances whom he thought
worthy to receive a copy of the Tribune—marked personal. Victoria Flint
got one, and read it to her father at the breakfast table. (Mr. Flint did
not open his.) Austen Vane wondered why any man in his obscure and
helpless position should have been honoured, but honoured he was. He sent
his to Victoria, too, and was surprised to find that she knew his
handwriting and wrote him a letter to thank him for it: a letter which
provoked on his part much laughter, and elements of other sensations
which, according to Charles Reade, should form the ingredients of a good
novel. But of this matter later.
Mrs. Pomfret and Alice each got one, and each wrote Mr. Crewe appropriate
congratulations. (Alice's answer supervised.) Mrs. Chillingham got one;
the Honourable Hilary Vane got one—marked in red ink, lest he should
have skipped it in his daily perusal of the paper. Mr. Brush, Bascom got
one likewise. But the list of Mr. Crewe's acquaintances is too long and
too broad to dwell upon further in these pages.
The Monday-night session came at last, that sensational hour when the
Speaker makes those decisions to which he is supposed to have given birth
over Sunday in the seclusion of his country home at Hale. Monday-night
sessions are, as a rule, confined in attendance to the Honourable Brush
Bascom and Mr. Ridout and a few other conscientious members who do not
believe in cheating the State, but to-night all is bustle and confusion,
and at least four hundred members are pushing down the aisles and
squeezing past each other into the narrow seats, and reading the State
Tribune or the ringing words of the governor's inaugural which they find
in the racks on the back of the seats before them. Speaker Doby, who has
been apparently deep in conference with the most important members (among
them Mr. Crewe, to whom he has whispered that a violent snow-storm is
raging in Hale), raps for order; and after a few preliminaries hands to
Mr. Utter, the clerk, amidst a breathless silence, the paper on which the
parliamentary career of so many ambitious statesmen depends.
It is not a pleasure to record the perfidy of man, nor the lack of
judgment which prevents him, in his circumscribed lights, from
recognizing undoubted geniuses when he sees them. Perhaps it was jealousy
on General Doby's part, and a selfish desire to occupy the centre of the
stage himself, but at any rate we will pass hastily over the disagreeable
portions of this narrative. Mr. Crewe settled himself with his feet
extended, and with a complacency which he had rightly earned by leaving
no stone unturned, to listen. He sat up a little when the Appropriations
Committee, headed by the Honourable Jake Botcher, did not contain his
name—but it might have been an oversight of Mr. Utters; when the
Judiciary (Mr. Ridout's committee) was read it began to look like malice;
committee after committee was revealed, and the name of Humphrey Crewe
might not have been contained in the five hundred except as the twelfth
member of forestry, until it appeared at the top of National Affairs.
Here was a broad enough field, certainly,—the Trusts, the Tariff, the
Gold Standard, the Foreign Possessions,—and Mr. Crewe's mind began to
soar in spite of himself. Public Improvements was reached, and he
straightened. Mr. Beck, a railroad lawyer from Belfast, led it. Mr. Crewe
arose, as any man of spirit would, and walked with dignity up the aisle
and out of the house. This deliberate attempt to crush genius would
inevitably react on itself. The Honourable Hilary Vane and Mr. Flint
should be informed of it at once.
"FOR BILLS MAY COME, AND BILLS MAY GO"
A man with a sense of humour once went to the capital as a member of the
five hundred from his town, and he never went back again. One reason for
this was that he died the following year, literally, the doctors said,
from laughing too much. I know that this statement will be received
incredulously, and disputed by those who claim that laughter is a good
thing; the honourable gentleman died from too much of a good thing. He
was overpowered by having too much to laugh at, and the undiscerning
thought him a fool, and the Empire had no need of a court jester. But
many of his sayings have lived, nevertheless. He wrote a poem, said to be
a plagiarism, which contains the quotation at the beginning of this
chapter: "For bills may come, and bills may go, but I go on forever." The
first person singular is supposed to relate to the United Northeastern
Railroads. It was a poor joke at best.
It is needless to say that the gentleman referred to had a back seat
among the submerged four hundred and seventy,—and that he kept it. No
discerning and powerful well-wishers came forward and said to him,
"Friend, go up higher." He sat, doubled up, in number, and the gods gave
him compensation in laughter; he disturbed the Solons around him, who
were interested in what was going on in front, and trying to do their
duty to their constituents by learning parliamentary procedure before the
Speaker got his gold watch and shed tears over it.
The gentleman who laughed and died is forgotten, as he deserves to be,
and it never occurred to anybody that he might have been a philosopher,
after all. There is something irresistibly funny about predestination;
about men who are striving and learning and soberly voting upon measures
with which they have as little to do as guinea-pigs. There were certain
wise and cynical atheists who did not attend the sessions at all except
when they received mysterious hints to do so. These were chiefly from
Newcastle. And there were others who played poker in the state-house
cellar waiting for the Word to come to them, when they went up and voted
(prudently counting their chips before they did so), and descended again.
The man with a sense of humour laughed at these, too, and at the twenty
blackbirds in the Senate,—but not so heartily. He laughed at their
gravity, for no gravity can equal that of gentlemen who play with stacked
The risible gentleman laughed at the proposed legislation, about which he
made the song, and he likened it to a stream that rises hopefully in the
mountains, and takes its way singing at the prospect of reaching the
ocean, but presently flows into a hole in the ground to fill the
forgotten caverns of the earth, and is lost to the knowledge and sight of
man. The caverns he labelled respectively Appropriations, Railroad,
Judiciary, and their guardians were unmistakably the Honourables Messrs.
Bascom, Botcher, and Ridout. The greatest cavern of all he called "The
If you listen, you can hear the music of the stream of bills as it is
rising hopefully and flowing now: "Mr. Crewe of Leith gives notice that
on to-morrow or some subsequent day he will introduce a bill entitled,
'An act for the Improvement of the State Highways.' Mr. Crewe of Leith
gives notice, etc. 'An act for the Improvement of the Practice of
Agriculture.' 'An act relating to the State Indebtedness.' 'An act to
increase the State Forest Area.' 'An act to incorporate the State
Economic League.' 'An act to incorporate the State Children's Charities
Association.' 'An act in relation to Abandoned Farms.'" These were some
of the most important, and they were duly introduced on the morrow, and
gravely referred by the Speaker to various committees. As might be
expected, a man whose watchword is, "thorough" immediately got a list of
those committees, and lost no time in hunting up the chairmen and the
various available members thereof.
As a man of spirit, also, Mr. Crewe wrote to Mr. Flint, protesting as to
the manner in which he had been treated concerning committees. In the
course of a week he received a kind but necessarily brief letter from the
Northeastern's president to remind him that he persisted in a fallacy; as
a neighbour, Mr. Flint would help him to the extent of his power, but the
Northeastern Railroads could not interfere in legislative or political
matters. Mr. Crewe was naturally pained by the lack of confidence of his
friend; it seems useless to reiterate that he was far from being a fool,
and no man could be in the capital a day during the session without being
told of the existence of Number Seven, no matter how little the informant
might know of what might be going on there. Mr. Crewe had been fortunate
enough to see the inside of that mysterious room, and, being a
sufficiently clever man to realize the importance and necessity of
government by corporations, had been shocked at nothing he had seen or
heard. However, had he had a glimpse of the Speaker's lists under the
hopelessly crushed hat of Mr. Bascom, perhaps he might have been shocked,
It was about this time that a touching friendship began which ought, in
justice, to be briefly chronicled. It was impossible for the Honourable
Brush Bascom and the Honourable Jacob Botcher to have Mr. Crewe sitting
between them and not conceive a strong affection for him. The Honourable
Brush, though not given to expressing his feelings, betrayed some
surprise at the volumes Mr. Crewe had contributed to the stream of bills;
and Mr. Botcher, in a Delphic whisper, invited Mr. Crewe to visit him in
room forty-eight of the Pelican that evening. To tell the truth, Mr.
Crewe returned the feeling of his companions warmly, and he had even
entertained the idea of asking them both to dine with him that evening.
Number forty-eight (the Honourable Jake's) was a free-and-easy democratic
resort. No three knocks and a password before you turn the key here.
Almost before your knuckles hit the panel you heard Mr. Botcher's hearty
voice shouting "Come in," in spite of the closed transom. The Honourable
Jake, being a tee-totaller, had no bathroom, and none but his intimate
friends ever looked in the third from the top bureau drawer.
The proprietor of the Pelican, who in common with the rest of humanity
had fallen a victim to the rough and honest charms and hearty good
fellowship of the Honourable Jake, always placed a large padded arm-chair
in number forty-eight before the sessions, knowing that the Honourable
Jake's constituency would be uniformly kind to him. There Mr. Botcher was
wont to sit (when he was not depressing one of the tiles in the rotunda),
surrounded by his friends and their tobacco smoke, discussing in his
frank and manly fashion the public questions of the day.
Mr. Crewe thought it a little strange that, whenever he entered a room in
the Pelican, a silence should succeed the buzz of talk which he had heard
through the closed transom; but he very naturally attributed this to the
constraint which ordinary men would be likely to feel in his presence. In
the mouth of one presumptuous member the word "railroad" was cut in two
by an agate glance from the Honourable Brush, and Mr. Crewe noted with
some surprise that the Democratic leader of the House, Mr. Painter, was
seated on Mr. Botcher's mattress, with an expression that was in singular
contrast to the look of bold defiance which he had swept over the House
that afternoon in announcing his opposition policy. The vulgar political
suggestion might have crept into a more trivial mind than Mr. Crewe's
that Mr. Painter was being, "put to bed," the bed being very similar to
that of Procrustes. Mr. Botcher extracted himself from the nooks and
crannies of his armchair.
"How are you, Crewe?" he said hospitably; "we're all friends here—eh,
Painter? We don't carry our quarrels outside the swinging doors. You know
Mr. Crewe—by sight, of course. Do you know these other gentlemen, Crewe?
I didn't expect you so early."
The "other gentlemen" said that they were happy to make the acquaintance
of their fellow-member from Leith, and seemingly with one consent began
to edge towards the door.
"Don't go, boys," Mr. Bascom protested. "Let me finish that story."
Some of "the boys" seemed to regard this statement as humorous,—more
humorous, indeed, than the story itself. And when it was finished they
took their departure, a trifle awkwardly, led by Mr. Painter.
"They're a little mite bashful," said Mr. Botcher, apologetically.
"How many more of those bills have you got?" demanded Mr. Bascom, from
the steam radiator, with characteristic directness.
"I put 'em all in this morning," said Mr. Crewe, "but I have thought
since of two or three other conditions which might be benefited by
"Well," said Mr. Bascom, kindly, "if you have any more I was going to
suggest that you distribute 'em round among the boys. That's the way I
do, and most folks don't guess they're your bills. See?"
"What harm is there in that?" demanded Mr. Crewe. "I'm not ashamed of
"Brush was only lookin' at it from the point of view of gettin' 'em
through," honest Mr. Botcher put in, in stentorian tones. "It doesn't do
for a new member to be thought a hog about legislation."
Now the Honourable Jacob only meant this in the kindest manner, as we
know, and to give inexperience a hint from well-intentioned experience.
On the other hand, Mr. Crewe had a dignity and a position to uphold. He
was a personality. People who went too far with him were apt to be
rebuked by a certain glassy quality in his eye, and this now caused the
Honourable Jake to draw back perceptibly.
"I see no reason why a public-spirited man should be open to such an
imputation," said Mr. Crewe.
"Certainly not, certainly not," said Mr. Botcher, in stentorian tones of
apology, "I was only trying to give you a little friendly advice, but I
may have put it too strong. Brush and I—I may as well be plain about it,
Mr. Crewe—have taken a liking to you. Couldn't help it, sir, sitting
next to you as we do. We take an interest in your career, and we don't
want you to make any mistakes. Ain't that about it, Brush?"
"That's about it," said Mr. Bascom.
Mr. Crewe was to big a man not to perceive and appreciate the sterling
philanthropy which lay beneath the exteriors of his new friends, who
scorned to flatter him.
"I understand the spirit in which your advice is given, gentlemen," he
replied magnanimously, "and I appreciate it. We are all working for the
same things, and we all believe that they must be brought about in the
same practical way. For instance, we know as practical men that the
railroad pays a large tax in this State, and that property must take a
hand—a very considerable hand—in legislation. You gentlemen, as
important factors in the Republican organization, are loyal to—er—that
property, and perhaps for wholly desirable reasons cannot bring forward
too many bills under your own names. Whereas I—"
At this point in Mr. Crewe's remarks the Honourable Jacob Botcher was
seized by an appalling coughing fit which threatened to break his
arm-chair, probably owing to the fact that he had swallowed something
which he had in his mouth the wrong way. Mr. Bascom, assisted by Mr.
Crewe, pounded him relentlessly on the back.
"I read that article in the 'Tribune' about you with great interest,"
said Mr. Bascom, when Mr. Botcher's coughing had subsided. "I had no idea
you were so—ahem—well equipped for a political career. But what we
wanted to speak to you about was this," he continued, as Mr. Crewe showed
signs of breaking in, "those committee appointments you desired."
"Yes," said Mr. Crewe, with some pardonable heat, "the Speaker doesn't
seem to know which side his bread's buttered on."
"What I was going to say," proceeded Mr. Bascom, "was that General Doby
is a pretty good fellow. Personally, I happen to know that the general
feels very badly that he couldn't give you what you wanted. He took a
shine to you that night you saw him."
"Yes," Mr. Botcher agreed, for he had quite recovered, the general felt
bad—feels bad, I should say. He perceived that you were a man of
"And that was just the reason," said the Honourable Brush, "that he
couldn't make you more useful just now."
"There's a good deal of jealousy, my dear sir, against young members of
ability," said Mr. Botcher, in his most oracular and impressive tones.
"The competition amongst those—er—who have served the party is very
keen for the positions you desired. I personally happen to know that the
general had you on the Judiciary and Appropriations, and that some of
your—er—well-wishers persuaded him to take you off for your own good."
"It wouldn't do for the party leaders to make you too prominent all at
once," said Mr. Bascom. "You are bound to take an active part in what
passes here. The general said, 'At all events I will give Mr. Crewe one
chairmanship by which he can make a name for himself suited to his
talents,' and he insisted on giving you, in spite of some remonstrances
from your friends, National Affairs. The general urged, rightly, that
with your broad view and knowledge of national policy, it was his duty to
put you in that place whatever people might say."
Mr. Crewe listened to these explanations in some surprise; and being a
rational man, had to confess that they were—more or less reasonable.
"Scarcely any bills come before that committee," he objected.
"Ah," replied Mr. Bascom, "that is true. But the chairman of that
committee is generally supposed to be in line for—er—national honours.
It has not always happened in the past, because the men have not proved
worthy. But the opportunity is always given to that chairman to make a
speech upon national affairs which is listened to with the deepest
"Is that so?" said Mr. Crewe. He wanted to be of service, as we know. He
was a man of ideas, and the opening sentences of the speech were already
occurring to him.
"Let's go upstairs and see the general now," suggested Mr. Botcher,
smiling that such a happy thought should have occurred to him.
"Why, I guess we couldn't do any better," Mr. Bascom agreed.
"Well," said Mr. Crewe, "I'm willing to hear what he's got to say,
Taking advantage of this generous concession, Mr. Botcher hastily locked
the door, and led the way up the stairway to number seventy-five. After a
knock or two here, the door opened a crack, disclosing, instead of
General Doby's cherubic countenance, a sallow face with an exceedingly
pointed nose. The owner of these features, having only Mr. Botcher in his
line of vision, made what was perhaps an unguarded remark.
"Hello, Jake, the general's in number nine—Manning sent for him about
half an hour ago."
It was Mr. Botcher himself who almost closed the door on the gentleman's
sharp nose, and took Mr. Crewe's arm confidingly.
"We'll go up to the desk and see Doby in the morning,—he's busy," said
the Honourable Jake.
"What's the matter with seeing him now?" Mr. Crewe demanded. "I know
Manning. He's the division superintendent, isn't he?"
Mr. Botcher and Mr. Bascom exchanged glances.
"Why, yes—" said Mr. Bascom, "yes, he is. He's a great friend of General
Doby's, and their wives are great friends."
"Intimate friends, sir," said the Honourable Jake
"Well," said Mr. Crewe, "we won't bother 'em but a moment."
It was he who led the way now, briskly, the Honourable Brush and the
Honourable Jake pressing closely after him. It was Mr. Crewe who, without
pausing to knock, pushed open the door of number nine, which was not
quite closed; and it was Mr. Crewe who made the important discovery that
the lugubrious division superintendent had a sense of humour. Mr. Manning
was seated at a marble-topped table writing on a salmon-coloured card, in
the act of pronouncing these words:—"For Mr. Speaker and Mrs. Speaker
and all the little Speakers, to New York and return."
Mr. Speaker Doby, standing before the marble-topped table with his hands
in his pockets, heard the noise behind him and turned, and a mournful
expression spread over his countenance.
"Don't mind me," said Mr. Crewe, waving a hand in the direction of the
salmon-coloured tickets; "I hope you have a good time, General. When do
"Why," exclaimed the Speaker, "how are you, Mr. Crewe, how are you? It's
only one of Manning's little jokes."
"That's all right, General," said Mr. Crewe, "I haven't been a director
in railroads for nothing. I'm not as green as he thinks. Am I, Mr.
"It never struck me that green was your colour, Mr. Crewe," answered the
division superintendent, smiling a little as he tore the tickets into
bits and put them in the waste-basket.
"Well," said Mr. Crewe, "you needn't have torn 'em up on my account. I
travel on the pass which the Northeastern gives me as a legislator, and
I'm thinking seriously of getting Mr. Flint to send me an annual, now
that I'm in politics and have to cover the State."
"We thought you were a reformer, Mr. Crewe," the Honourable Brush Bascom
"I am a practical man," said Mr. Crewe; "a railroad man, a business mark
and as such I try to see things as they are."
"Well," said General Doby, who by this time had regained his usual genial
air of composure, I'm glad you said that, Mr. Crewe. As these gentlemen
will tell you, if I'd had my wish I'd have had you on every important
committee in the House."
"Chairman of every important committee, General," corrected the
Honourable Jacob Botcher.
"Yes, chairman of 'em," assented the general, after a glance at Mr.
Crewe's countenance to see how this statement fared. "But the fact is,
the boys are all jealous of you—on the quiet. I suppose you suspected
something of the kind."
"I should have imagined there might be some little feeling," Mr. Crewe
"Exactly," cried the general, "and I had to combat that feeling when I
insisted upon putting you at the head of National Affairs. It does not do
for a new member, whatever his prominence in the financial world, to be
pushed forward too quickly. And unless I am mighty mistaken, Mr. Crewe,"
he added, with his hand on the new member's shoulder, "you will make
yourself felt without any boosting from me."
"I did not come here to remain idle, General," answered Mr. Crewe,
"Certainly not," said the general, "and I say to some of those men, 'Keep
your eye on the gentleman who is Chairman of National Affairs.'"
After a little more of this desultory and pleasant talk, during which
recourse was, had to the bathroom for several tall and thin glasses
ranged on the shelf there, Mr. Crewe took his departure in a most equable
frame of mind. And when the door was closed and locked behind him, Mr.
Manning dipped his pen in the ink, once more produced from a drawer in
the table the salmon-coloured tickets, and glanced again at the general
with a smile.
"For Mr. Speaker and Mrs. Speaker and all the little Speakers, to New
York and return."