The Vision Spendid
by William MacLeod Raine
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Farnum explained that he was interested in the political situation and that he was prepared to take an active part in the campaign about to open. The big man listened, watching him out of half shut attentive eyes. He had never yet seen a kid glove politician that was worth the powder to blow him up. Moreover, he had special reasons for disliking this one. His cousin was editor of the World, and that paper was becoming a thorn in his side.

O'Brien took the cigar from his mouth. "Did youse go to the primary last night?" he asked.

James did not even know there had been one. He had in point of fact been at a Country Club dance.

"Can youse tell me what the vote of your precinct was at the last city election?"

The budding statesman could not.

"What precinct do youse live in?"

Farnum was not quite sure. He explained that he had moved recently.

Big Tim grunted scornfully. He was pleased to have a chance to take down the cheek of any Farnum.

"What do youse think you can do?"

"I can make speeches. I'm the best orator that ever came out of Verden University."

"Tommyrot! How do youse stand in your precinct? Can youse get the vote out to go down the line for us? That's what counts. Oratory be damned!"

James was pale with rage. The manner of the boss was nothing less than insulting.

"Then you decline to give me a chance, Mr. O'Brien?"

"I do not. In politics a man makes his own chance. He gets along by being so useful we can't get along without him. See? He learns the game. You don't know the A B C of it. It's my opinion youse never will."

O'Brien's hard cold eye triumphed over him as a principal does over a delinquent schoolboy.

His vanity stung, the lawyer sprang to his feet. "Very well, Mr. O'Brien. I'll show you a thing or two about what I can and can't do."

For just an instant a notion flitted across Big Tim's mind that he might be making a mistake. He was indulging an ugly temper, and he knew it. This was a luxury he rarely permitted himself. Now he decided to "go the whole hog," as he phrased it to himself later. His lips set to an ugly snarl.

"It's like the nerve of ye to come to me. Want to begin at the top instid of at the bottom. Go to Billie Gray if youse want to have some wan learn youse the game. If you're any good he'll find it out."

James got himself out of the office with all the dignity of which he was capable. Go to Billie Gray, the notorious ballot box stuffer! Take orders from the little rascal who had shaved the penitentiary only because of his pull! James saw himself doing it. He was sore in every outraged nerve of him. Never before in his life had anybody sat and sneered at him openly before his eyes. He would show the big boss that he had been a fool to treat him so. And he would show P. C. Frome and Ned Merrill that he was a very valuable man.

How? Why, by fighting the corporations! Wasn't that the way that all the big men got their start nowadays as lawyers? As soon as they discovered his value Frome and his friends would be after his services fast enough. James was no radical, but he believed Jeff knew what he was talking about when he predicted an impending political change, one that would carry power back from the machine bosses to the people. The young lawyer decided to ride that wave as far as it would take him. He would be a tribune of the people, and they in turn would make of him their hero. With the promised backing of the World he would go a long way. He knew that Jeff would fling him at once into the limelight. And he would make good. He would be the big speaker for the reform movement. Nobody in the state could sway a crowd as he could. James had not the least doubt about that. It was glory and applause he wanted, not the drudgery of dirty ward politics.

Part 3

Under Jeff's management the World had at once taken the leadership in the fight for political reform in the state. He made it the policy of the paper to tell the truth as to corruption both in and out of his own party. Nor would he allow the business office, as influenced by the advertisers, to dictate the policy of the paper. The result was that at the end of the first year he went to the owner with a report of a deficit of one hundred and twenty-five thousand dollars for the twelve months just ended.

Captain Chunn only laughed. "Keep it up, son. I've had lots of fun out of it. You've given this town one grand good shaking up. The whole state is getting its fighting clothes on. We've got Merrill and Frome scared stiff about their supreme court judges. Looks to me as if we were going to lick them."

The political campaign was already in progress. Hitherto the public utility corporations of Verden had controlled and practically owned the machinery of both parties. The World had revolted, rallied the better sentiment in the party to which it belonged, and forced the convention to declare for a reform platform and to nominate a clean ticket composed of men of character.

Jeff agreed. "I think we're going to win. The people are with us. The World is booming." It's the advertising troubles me. Frome and Merrill have got at the big stores and they won't come in with any space worth mentioning."

"Damn the big advertisers," exploded Chunn. "I've got two million cold and I'm going to see this thing out, son. That's what I told Frome last week when he had the nerve to have me nominated to the Verden Club. Wanted to muzzle me. Be a good fellow and quit agitating. That was the idea. I sent back word I'd stuck by Lee to Appomattox and I reckoned I was too old a dog to learn the new trick of deserting my flag."

"If you're satisfied I ought to be," Jeff laughed. "As for the advertising, the stores will come back soon. The managers all want to take space, but they are afraid of spoiling their credit at the banks while conditions are so unsettled."

"Oh, well. We'll stick to our guns. You fire'em and I'll supply the ammunition." The little man put his hand on Jeff's shoulder with a chuckle. "We're both rebels—both irreconcilables, son. I reckon we're going to be well hated before we get through with this fight."

"Yes. They're going about making people believe we're cranks and agitators who are hurting business for our own selfish ends."

"I reckon we can stand it, David." Chunn had no children of his own and he always called Jeff son or David. "By the way, how's that good looking cousin of yours coming out? I see you're giving his speeches lots of space."

A light leaped to the eyes of the younger man. "He's doing fine. James is a born orator. Wherever he goes he gets a big ovation."

Chunn grunted. "Humph! That'll please him. He's as selfish as the devil, always looking out for James Farnum."

"He wins the people, Captain."

"You talk every evening yourself, but I don't see reports of any of your speeches."

"I don't talk like James. There's not a man in the state to equal him, young as he is."


Captain Chunn grumbled a good deal about the way Jeff was always pushing his cousin forward and keeping in the background himself. In his opinion "David" was worth a hundred of the other.


"Spirits of old that bore me, And set me, meek of mind, Between great deeds before me, And deeds as great behind,

Knowing Humanity my star As forth of old I ride, O help me wear with every scar Honor at eventide."


Part 1

The fight for the control of the state developed unprecedented bitterness. The big financial interests back of the political machines poured out money like water to elect a ticket that would be friendly to capital. An eight-hour-day bill to apply to miners and underground workers had been passed by the last legislature and a supreme court must be elected to declare this law unconstitutional. Moreover, a United States senator was to be chosen, so that the personnel of the assembly was a matter of great importance.

Through the subsidized columns of the Advocate and the Herald all the venom of outraged public plunder was emptied on the heads of Jeff Farnum and Captain Chunn. They were rebels, blackmailers, and anarchists. Jeff's life was held up to public scorn as dissolute and licentious. He had been expelled from college and consorted only with companions of the lowest sort. A free thinker and an atheist, he wanted to tear down the pillars which upheld society. Unless Verden and the state repudiated him and his gang of trouble breeders the poison of their opinions would infect the healthy fabric of the community.

There was about Jeff a humility, a sort of careless generosity, that could take with a laugh a hit at himself. But in the days that followed he was often made to wince when good men drew away from him as from a moral pervert. Twice he was hissed from the stage when he attempted to talk, or would have been, if he had not quietly waited until the indignant protesters were exhausted. It amused him to see that his old college acquaintance "Sissie" Thomas and Billy Gray, the ballot box stuffer of the Second Ward, were among the most vehement of those who thus scorned him. So do the extremes of virtue and vice find common ground when the blasphemer raises his voice against intrenched capital.

The personal calumny of the enemy showed how hard hit the big bosses were, how beneath their feet they felt the ground of public opinion shift. It had been only a year since Big Tim O'Brien, boss of the city by permission of the public utility corporations, had read Jeff's first editorial against ballot box stuffing. In it the editor of the World had pledged that paper never to give up the fight for the people until such crookedness was stamped out. Big Tim had laughed until his paunch shook at the confidence of this young upstart and in impudent defiance had sent him a check for fifty dollars for the Honest Election League.

Neither Big Tim nor the respectable buccaneers back of him were laughing now. They were fighting with every ounce in them to sweep back the wave of civic indignation the World had gathered into a compact aggressive organization.

Young Ned Merrill, who represented the interests of the allied corporations, had Big Tim on the carpet. The young man had not been out of Harvard more than three years, but he did not let any nonsense about fair play stand in his way. In spite of the clean-cut look of him—he was broadshouldered and tall, with an effect of decision in the square cleft chin that would some day degenerate into fatness—Ned Merrill played the game of business without any compunctions.

"You're making a bad fight of it, O'Brien. Old style methods won't win for us. These crank reformers have got the people stirred up. Keep your ward workers busy, but don't expect them to win." He leaned forward and brought his fist down heavily on the desk. "We've got to smash Farnum—discredit him with the bunch of sheep who are following him."

"What more do youse want? We're callin' him ivery black name under Hiven."

Merrill shook his head decisively. "Not enough. Prove something. Catch him with the goods."

"If youse'll show me how?"

"I don't care how, You've got detectives, haven't you? Find out all about him, where he comes from, who his people were. Rake his life with a fine tooth comb from the day he was born. He's a bad egg. We all know that. Dig up facts to prove it."

Within the hour detectives were set to work. One of them left next day for Shelby. Another covered the neighborhoods where Jeff had lived in Verden. Henceforth wherever he went he was shadowed.

It was about this time that Samuel Miller lost his place in the city library on account of his political opinions. For more than a year he and Jeff had roomed together at a private boarding house kept by a Mrs. Anderson. Within twenty-four hours of his dismissal Miller was on the road, sent out by the campaign committee of his party to make speeches throughout the state.

Jeff himself was speaking nearly every night now that the day of election was drawing near. This, together with the work of editing the paper and the strain of the battle, told heavily on a vitality never too much above par. He would come back to his rooms fagged out, often dejected because some friend had deserted to the enemy.

One cold rainy evening he met Nellie Anderson in the hall. She had been saying good-bye to some friends who had been in to call on her.

"You're wet, Mr. Farnum," the young woman said.

"A little."

She stood hesitating in the doorway leading to the apartment of herself and her mother, then yielded shyly to a kindly impulse.

"We've been making chocolate. Won't you come in and have some? You look cold."

Jeff glimpsed beyond her the warm grate fire in the room. He, too, yielded to an impulse. "Since you're so good as to ask me, Miss Nellie."

She took charge of his hat and overcoat, making him sit down in a big armchair before the fire. He watched her curiously as she moved lightly about waiting on him. Nellie was a soft round little person with constant intimations of a childhood not long outgrown. Jeff judged she must be nineteen or twenty, but she had moments of being charmingly unsure of herself. The warm color came and went in her clear cheeks at the least provocation.

"Mother's gone to bed. She always goes early. You don't mind," she asked naively.

Jeff smiled. She was, he thought, about as worldly wise as a fluffy kitten. "No, I don't mind at all," he assured her.

Nor did he in the least. His weariness was of the spirit rather than the body, and he found her grace, her shy sweetness, grateful to the jaded senses. It counted in her favor that she was not clever or ultra-modern. The dimpling smiles, the quick sympathy of this innocent, sensuous young creature, drew him out of his depression. When he left the pleasant warmth of the room half an hour later it was with a little glow at the heart. He had found comfort and refreshment.

How it came to pass Jeff never quite understood, but it soon was almost a custom for him to drop into the living room to get a cup of chocolate when he came home. He found himself looking forward to that half hour alone with Nellie Anderson. Whoever else criticized him, she did not. The manner in which she made herself necessary to his material comfort was masterly. She would be waiting, eager to help him off with his overcoat, hot chocolate and sandwiches ready for him in the cozy living-room. To him, who for years had lived a hand-to-mouth boarding house existence, her shy wholesome laughter made that room sing of home, one which her personality fitted to a dot. She was always in good humor, always trim and neat, always alluring to the eye. And she had the pretty little domestic ways that go to the head of a bachelor when he eats alone with an attractive girl.

Their intimacy was not exactly a secret. Mrs. Anderson, who was rather deaf and admitted to being a heavy sleeper, knew that Jeff dropped in occasionally. He suspected she did not know how regularly, but she was one of that large class of American mothers who let their daughters arrange their own love affairs and would not have interfered had she known.

Once or twice it flashed upon Jeff that this ought not to go on. Since he had no intention of marrying Nell he must not let their relationship reach the emotional climax toward which he guessed it was racing. But his experience in such matters was limited. He did not know how to break off their friendship without hurting her, and he was eager to minimize the possibility of danger. His modesty made this last easy. Out of her kindness she was good to him, but it was not to be expected that so pretty a girl would fall in love with a man like him.

The most potent argument for letting things drift was his own craving for her. She was becoming necessary to him. Whenever he thought of her it was with a tender glow. Her soft long-lashed eyes would come between him and the editorial he was writing. A dozen times a day he could see a picture of the tilted little coaxing mouth. The gurgle of her laughter called to him for hours before he left the office.

He got into the habit of talking to her about the things that were troubling him—the tactics of the enemy, the desertion of friends, the dubious issue of the campaign. Curled up in a big chair, her whole attention absorbed in what he was saying Nellie made a good listener. If she did not show a full understanding of the situation, he could always sense her ready sympathy. Her naive, indignant loyalty was touching.

"I read what the Advocate said about you today," she told him one night, a tide of color in her cheeks. "It was horrid. As if anybody would believe it."

"I'm afraid a good many people do," he said gravely.

"Nobody who knows you," she protested stoutly.

"Yes, some who know me."

He let his eyes dwell on her. It was easy to see how undisciplined of life she was, save where its material aspects had come into impact with her on the economic side.

"None of your real friends."

"How many real friends has a man—friends who will stand by him no matter how unpopular he is?"

"I don't know. I should think you'd have lots of them."

He shook his head, a hint of a smile in his eyes. "Not many. They keep their chocolate and sandwiches for folks whose trolley do'esn't fly the wire."

"What wire?" she asked, her forehead knitted to a question.

"Oh, the wire that's over the tracks of respectability and vested interests and special privilege."

She had been looking at him, but now her gaze went to the fire with that slow tilt of the chin he liked. Another color wave swept the oval of the soft cheeks.

"You've got more friends than you think," she said in a low voice.

"I've got one little friend I wouldn't like to lose."

She did not speak and his hand moved forward to cover hers. Instantly a wild and insurgent emotion tingled through him. He felt himself trembling and could not steady his nerves.

Without a word Nellie looked up and their eyes met. Something electric flashed from one to another. Her shy fear of him was adorable.

"Oh, don't, don't!" she murmured. "What will you think of me now?"

He had leaned forward and kissed her on the lips.

Jeff sprang to his feet, the muscles in his lean cheeks standing out. Some bell of warning was ringing in him. He was a man, young and desirous, subject to all the frailties of his sex, holding experiences in his past that had left him far from a puritan. And she was a woman, of unschooled impulses, with unsuspected banked passions, an innocent creature in whom primeval physical life rioted.

He moved toward the door, his left fist beating into the palm of his right hand. He must protect her, against himself—and against her innocent affection for him.

She fluttered past him, barring the way. Her cheeks were flaming with shame.

"You despise me. Why did I let you?" A sob swelled up into her soft round throat.

"You blessed lamb," he groaned.

"You're going to leave me. You—you don't want me for a friend any longer."

Her lips trembled—the red little lips that always reminded him of a baby's with its Cupid's bow. She was on the verge of breaking down. Jeff could not stand that. He held out his hands, intending to take hers and explain that he was not angry or disappointed at her. But somehow he found her in his arms instead, supple and warm, vital youth flowing in the soft cheeks' rich coloring and in the eyes quick and passionate with the tender abandon of her sex.

He set his teeth against the rush of desire that flooded him as her soft body clung to his. The emotional climax he had vaguely feared had leaped upon them like an uncaged tiger. He fought to stamp down the fires that blazed up in him. Time to think—he must have time to think.

"You don't despise me then," she cried softly, a little catch in her breath.

"No," he protested, and again "No."

"But you think I've done wrong."

"No. I've been to blame. You're a dear girl—and I've abused your kindness. I must go away—now."

"Then you—you do hate me," she accused with a quivering lip.

"No... no. I'm very fond of you."

"But you're going to leave me. It's because I've done wrong."

"Don't blame yourself, dear. It has been all my fault. I ought to have known."

Her hands fell from him. The life seemed to die out of her whole figure. "You do despise me."

Desire of her throbbed through him, but he spoke very quietly. "Listen, dear. There is nobody I respect more... and none I like so much. I can't tell you how... fond of you I am. But I must go now. You don't understand."

She bit her lip to repress the sobs that would come and turned away to hide her shame. Jeff caught her in his arms, kissed her passionately on the lips, the eyes, the soft round throat.

"You do... like me," she purred happily.

Abruptly he pushed her from him. Where were they drifting? He must get his anchors down before it was too late.

Somehow he broke away, leaving her there hurt and bewildered at his apparent fickleness, at the stiffness with which he had beaten back the sweet delight inviting them.

Jeff went to his rooms, his mind in a blind chaotic surge. He sat before the table for hours, fighting grimly to persuade himself he need not put away this joy that had come to him. Surely friendship was a good thing... and love. A man ought not to turn his back on them.

It was long past midnight when he rose, took his father's sword from the wall where it hung, and unsheathed it. A vision of an open fireplace in a log house rose before him, his father in the foreground looking like a picture of Stonewall Jackson. The kind brave eyes that were the soul of honor gazed at him.

"You damned scoundrel! You damned scoundrel!" Jeff accused himself in a low voice.

He knew his little friend was good and innocent, but he knew too she had inherited a temperament that made her very innocence a anger to her. Every instinct of chivalry called upon him to protect her from the weakness she did not even guess. She had given him her kindness and her friendship, the dear child! It was up to him to be worthy of them. If he failed her he would be a creature forever lost to decency.

There was a sob in his throat as Jeff pushed the blade back into the worn scabbard and rehung the sword upon the wall. But the eyes in his lifted face were very bright. He too would keep his sword unstained and the flag of honor flying.

All through the next day and the next his resolution held. He took pains not to see her alone, though there was not an hour of the day when he could get away from the thought of her. The uneasy consciousness was with him that the issue was after all only postponed, that decisions of this kind must be made again and again so long as opportunity and desire go together. And there were moments of reaction when his will was like a rope of sand, when the longing for her swept over him like a great wave.

As Jeff slipped quietly into the hall the door of her room opened. Their eyes met, and presently hers fell. She was troubled and ashamed at what she had done, but plainly eager in her innocence to be forgiven.

Jeff spoke gently. "Nellie."

Her eyes suddenly filled with tears. "Aren't we ever going to be friends again?"

Through the open door he could see the fire glowing in the grate and the chocolate set on the little table. He knew she had prepared for his coming and how greatly she would be hurt if he rejected her advances.

"Of course we're friends."

"Then you'll come in, just for a few minutes."

He hesitated.

"Please," she whispered. "Or I'll know you don't like me any more."

Jeff followed her into the room and closed the door behind him.

Part 2

Two days before the election Big Tim's detective wired from Shelby, Tennessee, the outline of a story that got two front page columns in both the Advocate and the Herald. Jefferson Davis Farnum was the son of a thief, of a rebel soldier who had spent seven years in the penitentiary for looting the bank of which he was cashier. In addition to featuring the news story both papers handled the subject at length in their editorial columns. They wanted to know whether the people of this beautiful state were willing to hand over the Commonwealth to be plundered by the reckless gang of which this son of a criminal was the head.

The paper reached Jeff at his rooms in the morning. He had lately taken the apartments formerly occupied by his cousin, James moving to Mrs. Anderson's until after the election. The exchange had been made at the suggestion of the editor, who gave as a reason that he wanted to be close to his work until the winter was past. It happened that James was just now very glad to get a cheaper place. He was very short of funds and until after the election had no time for social functions. All he needed with a room was to sleep in it.

Jeff was still reading the story from Shelby when his cousin came in hurriedly. James was excited and very white.

"My God, Jeff! It's come at last. I knew it would ruin me some day," the lawyer cried, after he had carefully closed the door of the bedroom.

"It won't ruin you, James. Your name isn't mentioned yet. Perhaps it may not be. It can't hurt you, even if it is."

"I tell you it will ruin me both socially and politically. Once it gets out nobody will trust me. I'll be the son of a thief," James insisted wildly.

"You're the son of a man who made a slip and has paid for it," answered Jeff steadily. "Don't let your ideas get warped. This town is full of men who have done wrong and haven't paid for it."

"That's one of your fool socialist theories." James spoke sharply and irritably. "No man's guilty till the law says so. They haven't been in the penitentiary. He has. That's what damns me if it gets out."

Jeff laid a hand affectionately on his cousin's shoulder. "Don't you believe it for a moment. There's no moral distinction between the man who has paid and the man who hasn't paid for his sins toward society. There is good and there is bad in all of us, closely intertwined, knit together into the very warp and woof of our lives. We're all good and we're all bad."

It was with James a purely personal equation. He could not forget its relation to himself.

"My name is to be voted on at the University Club next month. I'll be blackballed to a dead certainty," he said miserably.

"Probably, if the story gets out. It's tough, I know." Jeff's eyes gleamed angrily. "And why should they? You're just as good a man to-day as you were yesterday. But there's nothing so fettering, so despicable as good form. It blights. Let a man bow down to the dead hand of custom and he can never again be true to what he thinks and knows. His judgment gets warped. Soon Madame Grundy does his thinking for him, along well-grooved lines."

"Oh, well! That's just talk. What am I to do?" James broke out nervously.

"I know what I would do in your case."


"Come out with a short statement telling the exact facts. I'd make no apologies or long explanation. Just the plain story as simply as you can."

"Well, I'll not," the lawyer broke out. "Easy enough for you to say what I ought to do. Look at who my friends are—the Fromes and the Merrills and the Gilmans. Best set in town. I strained a point when I broke loose from them to take up this progressive fight. They'd cut me dead if a story like this came out."

"I daresay. Communities are loaded to the guards with respectable cowards. But if you stand on your own feet like a man they'll think more of you for it. Most of them will be glad to know you again inside of five years. For you're going to be successful, and people like the Merrills and the Gilmans bow down to success."

The lawyer shook his head doggedly. "I'm not going to tell a thing I don't have to tell. That's settled." He hesitated a moment before he went on. "I've got a reason why I want to stand well with the Fromes, Jeff. I'm not in a position to risk anything."

Jeff waited. He thought he knew that reason.

"I'm going to marry Alice Frome if I can."

"You've asked her." Jeff's voice sounded to himself as if it belonged to another man.

"No. Not yet. Ned Merrill's in the running. Strong, too. He's being backed by his father and old P. C. Frome. The idea is to consolidate interests by this marriage. But I've got a fighting chance. She likes me. Since I went into this political fight against her father she's taken pains to show me how friendly she feels. But if this story gets out—I'm smashed. That's all."

"Go to her. Tell her the truth. She'll stand by you," his cousin urged.

"You don't understand these people, Jeff. I do. Even if she wanted to stand by me she couldn't. They wouldn't let her. Right now I'm carrying all the handicap I can."

Jeff walked to the window and stood looking out with his hands in his pockets. The hum of the busy street rose to his ears, but he did not hear it. Nor did he see the motor cars whizzing past, the drays lumbering along, the thronged sidewalks of Powers Avenue. A door that had for years been ajar in his heart had swung to with a crash. The incredible folly of his dream was laid bare to him. Despised, distrusted and disgraced, there was no chance that he might be even a friend to her. She moved in another world, one he could not reach if he would and would not if he could. All that he believed in she had been brought up to disregard. Much that was dear to her he must hammer down so long as there was life in him.

But James—he had fought his way up to her. Why shouldn't he have his chance? Better—far better James than Ned Merrill. He had heard the echoes of a disgraceful story about that young man in his college days, the story of how he had trampled down a working girl for his pleasure. James was clean and honorable... and she loved him. Jeff's mind fastened on that last as a thing assured. Had he not seen her with starry eyes fixed on her hero, held fast as a limed bird? She too was entitled to her chance, and there was a way he could give it to her.

He turned back to James, who was sitting despondently at the managing editor's desk, jabbing at the blotting sheet with a pencil.

Jeff touched the Advocate he still held in his hand. "Did you read this story carefully?"

"No. I just ran my eye down it. Why?"

"Whoever dug it up has made a mistake. He has jumped to the conclusion that I'm Uncle Robert's son. Why not let it go at that?"

His cousin looked up with a flash of eager hope. "You mean—"

"I might as well be hanged for a sheep as a lamb. Let it go the way they have it."

The lawyer's heart leaped, but he could not let this go without a protest. "No, I—I couldn't do that. It's awfully good of you, Jeff."

The managing editor smiled in his whimsical way. "My reputation has long been in tatters. A little more can't hurt it."

James conceded a reflective assent with a manner of impartiality. "Of course your friends wouldn't think any the less of you. They're not so—so—"

"respectable as yours," Jeff finished for him.

"I was going to say so hidebound."

"All the same, isn't it?"

"But it would be a sacrifice for you. I recognize that. And I'm not sure that I could accept it. I will have to think that over," the lawyer concluded magnanimously.

"You'll find it is best. But I think I would tell Miss Frome, even if I didn't tell anybody else. She has a right to know."

"You may depend upon me to do whatever is best about that."

James was hardly out of the office before Captain Chunn blew in like a small tornado. He was boiling with rage.

"What's this infernal lie about you being the son of a convict, David?" he demanded, waving a copy of the Herald.

"Sit down, Captain. I'll tell you the story because you're entitled to it. But I shall have to speak in confidence."

"Confidence! Dad burn it, what are you talking about? Are you trying to tell me that Phil Farnum was a thief and a convict?"

Jeff's steel-blue eyes looked straight into his. "Nothing so impossible as that, Captain. I'm going to tell you the story of his brother."

Jeff told it, but he and the owner of the World disagreed radically about the best way to answer the attack.

"Why must you always stand between that kid glove cousin of yours and trouble? Let him stand the gaff himself. It will do him good," Chunn stormed.

But Jeff had his way. The World made no denial of the facts charged. In a statement on the front page that covered less than three sticks he told the simple story of the defalcation of Robert Farnum. One thing only he added to the account given in the opposition papers. This was that during the past two years the shortage of the bank cashier had been paid in full to the Planters' First National at Shelby.

There were many forecasts as to what the effect of the Farnum story would be on the election returns. It is enough to say that the ticket supported by the World was chosen by a small majority. James was elected to the legislature by a plurality of fifteen hundred votes over his antagonist, a majority unheard of in the Eleventh District.


Is not this the trouble with our whole man-made world, that the game is played with loaded dice? Against the poor, the weak and the unfortunate have the cards been stacked. A tremendous percentage is in favor of the crook, the scoundrel, the smug robber of industry by whom the hands are dealt.

Wealth, created by the many, is more and more flowing into the vaults of the few. Legislatures, Congress, the courts, all the machinery of government, answer to the crack of the whip wielded by Big Business. The creed of the allied plunderers is that he should take who has the power and he should keep who can.

Until we mutiny against the timidity of our times Democracy and Prosperity will be dreams. The poor and the parasite we shall have always with us.

In that new world which is to be MEN and not THINGS will be supreme, property a means and not an end. The heart of the world will be born anew under an economic reconstruction that will give freedom for individual development. For our social and industrial life will be founded not on a denial of God but on an affirmation of Brotherhood.—From the Note Book of a Dreamer.


Part 1

Came James Farnum down Powers Avenue carrying with buoyant dignity the manner of greatness that sat so well on him. His smile was warm for a world that just now was treating him handsomely. There could be no doubt that for a first term he was making an extraordinary success of his work in the legislature. He had worked hard on committees and his speeches had made a tremendous hit. Jeff had played him up strong in the world too, so that he was becoming well known over the state. That he had risen to leadership of the progressives in the House during his first term showed his quality. His ambition vaulted. Now that his feet were on the first rungs of the ladder it would be his own fault if he did not reach the top.

His progress down the busy street was in the nature of an ovation. Everywhere he met answering smiles that told of the people's pride in their young champion. Already James had discovered that Americans are eager for hero worship. He meant to be the hero of his state, the favorite son it would delight to honor. This was what he loved: the cheers for the victor, not the clash of the battle.

"Good morning, Farnum. What are the prospects?" It was Clinton Rogers, of the big shipbuilding firm Harvey & Rogers, that stopped him now.

"Still anybody's fight, Mr. Rogers." The young lawyer's voice fell a note to take on a frankly confidential tone, an accent of friendliness that missed the fatal buttonholing familiarity of the professional politician. "If we can hold our fellows together we'll win. But the Transcontinental is bidding high for votes—and there's always a quitter somewhere."

"Does Frome stand any chance?"

"It will be Hardy or Frome. The least break in our ranks will be the signal for a stampede to P. C. The Republicans will support him when they get the signal. It's all a question of our fellows standing pat."

"From what I can learn it won't be your fault if Hardy isn't elected. I congratulate you on the best record ever made by a member in his first term."

"Oh, we all do our best," James answered lightly. "But I'm grateful for your good opinion. I hope I deserve it."

James could afford to be modest about his achievements so long as Jeff was shouting his praises through the columns of the World to a hundred thousand readers of that paper. What the shipbuilder had said pleased him mightily. For Clinton Rogers was one of the few substantial moneyed men of Verden who had joined the reform movement. Not a single member of the Verden Club, with the exception of Rogers, was lined up with those making the fight for direct legislation. Even those who had no financial interest in the Transcontinental or the public utility corporations supported that side from principle.

James himself had thought a long time before casting in his lot with the insurgents led by his cousin. He had made tentative approaches both to Frome and to Edward B. Merrill. Both of these gentlemen had been friendly enough, but James had made up his mind they undervalued his worth. The way to convince them of this was to take the field against them.

He smiled now as he swung along the avenue. Both Frome and Merrill—yes, and Big Tim too, for that matter!—knew by this time whether they had made a mistake in sizing him up as a raw college boy with his eye teeth not cut.

A passing electric containing two young women brought his gloved hand to his hat. The long slant eyes of the lady on the farther side swept him indolently. In answer to her murmured suggestion the girl who was driving brought the machine round in a half circle which ended at the edge of the curb in front of Farnum.

The lawyer's hat came off again with easy grace. The slim young driver leaned back against the cushions and merely smiled a greeting, tacitly yielding command of the situation to her cousin, an opulent young widow adorned demurely with that artistic touch of mourning that suggests a grief not inconsolable.

"Good morning, Miss Frome—Mrs. Van Tyle," James distributed impartially before turning to the latter lady. "Isn't this a day to be alive in? Who says it always rains in Verden?"

"I do—or nearly always. At least it finds no difficulty in giving a good imitation," returned the young woman addressed.

"A libel—I vow a libel," Farnum retorted gaily. "I was just going to hope you might be tempted to forget New York and Vienna and Paris to pay us a long visit. We're all hoping it. I'm merely the spokesman." He waved a hand to indicate the busy street black with humanity.

A hint of pleasant adventure quickened the eyes of the young widow who surveyed lazily his well-groomed good looks. She judged him a twentieth century American emerging from straightened circumstances and eager to trample even the memory of it under foot.

"Did the Chamber of Commerce appoint you a committee to hope that I would impose on my relatives longer? Or was it resoluted at a mass meeting?" she asked with her Mona Lisa smile.

He laughed. "Well, no! I'm a self-appointed committee voicing a personal desire that has universal application. But if it would have more weight with you I'll have the Chamber take it up and get myself an accredited representative."

"So kind of you. But do you think the committee could do itself justice on the street curb?"

She had among other sensuous charms a voice attuned to convey slightest shades of meaning. James caught her half-shuttered smoldering glance and divined her a woman subtle and complex, capable of playing the world-old game of the sexes with unusual dexterity. The hint of challenging mystery in the tawny depths of the mocking eyes fired his imagination. She was to him a new find in women, one altogether different from those he had known. He had a curiosity to meet at close range this cosmopolitan heiress of such cultivation as Joe Powers' millions could purchase.

What Verden said of her he knew: that she was too free, too scornful, too independent of conventions. All the tabby cats whispered it to each other with lifted eyebrows that suggested volumes, the while they courted her eager and unashamed. But he had a feeling that perhaps Verden was not competent to judge. The standards of this town and of New York were probably vastly different. James welcomed the chance to enlarge his social experience. Promptly he accepted the lead offered.

"I'm sure it can't. To present the evidence cogently will take at least two hours. May I make the argument this evening, if it please the court, during a call?"

"But I understood you were too busy saving the state—from my father and my uncle by the way—to have time for a mere woman," she parried.

The good humor of her irony flattered him because it implied that she offered him a chance to cultivate her—he was not at all sure how much or how little that might mean—regardless of his political affiliations. Not many women were logical enough to accept so impersonally his opposition to the candidacy of an uncle and the plans of a father. "I AM busy," he admitted, "but I need a few hours' relaxation. It will help me to work more effectively to-morrow—against your father and your uncle," he came back with a smile that included them both.

Alice Frome took up the challenge gaily. "We're going to beat you. Father will be elected."

"Then I'll be the first to congratulate him," he promised. Turning to Mrs. Van Tyle, "Shall we say this evening?" he added.

"You're not afraid to venture yourself into the hands of the enemy," drawled that young woman, her indolent eyes daring him.

Again he studiously included them both in his answer. "I'm afraid all right, but I'm not going to let you know it. Did I hear you set a time?"

"If you are really willing to take the risk we shall be glad to see you this afternoon."

James observed that Alice Frome did not second her cousin's invitation. He temporized.

"Oh, this afternoon! I have an engagement, but I am tempted to forget it in remembering a subsequent one."

His smiling gaze passed to Alice and gave her another chance. Still she did not speak.

"The way to treat a temptation is to yield to it," the older cousin sparkled.

"In order to be done with it, I suppose. Very well. I yield to mine. This afternoon I will have the pleasure of calling at The Brakes."

Alice nodded a curt good-bye, but her cousin offered him a beautifully gloved hand to shake. A delightful tingle of triumph warmed him. The daughter of Big Joe Powers, the grim gray pirate who worked the levers of the great Transcontinental Railroad system, had taken pains to be nice to him. The only fly in the ointment of his self-satisfaction had been Alice Frome's reticence.

Why had she not shown any desire to have him call? He could guess at one reason. The campaign for the legislature and the subsequent battle for the senatorship had been bitter. Charges of corruption had been flung broadcast. A dozen detectives had been hired to get evidence on one side or the other. If he were seen going to The Brakes just now fifty rumors might be flying inside of the hour.

His guess was a good one. Alice drove the car forward several blocks without speaking, Valencia Van Tyle watching with good-humored contempt the little frown that rested on her cousin's candid face.

"I perceive that my uncompromising cousin is moved to protest," she suggested placidly.

"You ought not to have asked him, Val. It isn't fair to him or to father," answered Alice promptly. "People will talk. They will say father is trying to influence him unfairly. I wish you hadn't asked him till this fight is over."

"My dear Nora, does it matter in the least what people say?" yawned Valencia behind her hand.

"Not to you because you consider yourself above criticism. But it matters to me that two honest men should be brought into unjust obloquy without cause."

"My dear Hothead, they are big enough to look out for themselves."

"Nobody is big enough to kill slander."

"Nonsense, child. You make a mountain out of a mole hill. People WILL gossip. It really isn't of the least importance what they gabble about."

"Especially when you want to amuse yourself by making a fool of Mr. Farnum," retorted the downright Alice with a touch of asperity.

Valencia already half regretted having asked him. The chances were that he would prove a bore. But she did not choose to say so. "If I'm treading on your preserves, dear," she ventured sweetly.

"That's ridiculous," flushed Alice. "I only suggested that you wait till after the election before chaining him to your chariot wheels."

"You're certainly an enfant terrible, my dear," murmured the widow, with the little rippling laugh of cynicism her cousin found so annoying. "But that young man does need a lesson. He's eaten up with conceit of himself. Somebody ought to take him in hand."

"So you're going to sacrifice yourself to duty," scoffed Alice as she brought the electric to a stop under the porte-cochere of the Frome residence.

Mrs. Van Tyle folded her hands demurely. "It's sweet of you to see it that way, Alice."

Part 2

James turned in at the Century Building. In the elevator he met his cousin. Both of them were bound for the office of the candidate being supported by the progressives for the Senate.

"Anything new?" Jeff asked.

"A rumor that Killen has fallen by the wayside. Big Tim was with him for an hour last night at the Pacific."

"I've not been sure of Killen for quite a while. He's a weak sister."

"He'd better not go wrong if he expects to keep on living in this state," James imparted, a hard light in his eyes.

At the third floor they left the elevator and turned to the right under an arch bearing the sign Hardy, Elliott & Carson. Without knocking they passed into Hardy's private office.

Of the three men they found there it was plain that one was being pushed doggedly to bay. He was small and insignificant, with weak blinking eyes. Standing with his back to the wall, he moistened his lips with the tip of his tongue.

"Who says it?" he whined shrilly. "Who says I sold out?"

An apoplectic, bull-necked ruffian stood directly in front of him and sawed the air violently with a fat forefinger.

"I ain't sayin' it, Killen—I'm askin' if you have. What I say is that you'd better make your will before you vote for Frome. Make 'em pay fat, for by thunder! you'll be political junk, Mr. Sam Killen."

Killen, sweating agony, turned appealingly to Jeff. "I haven't said I was going to vote for Frome. Mr. Rawson's got no right to bulldoze me and I'm not going to stand it."

"The hell you ain't," roared Rawson, shaking his fist at the unhappy legislator. "I guess you'll stand the gaff till you explain."

"Just a moment, Bob," interrupted Jeff. "Let's get at the facts. Don't convict the prisoner till the evidence is in."

Rawson hobbled his wrath for the moment. "That's all right, Jeff. You ask Hardy. I'm giving you straight goods."

The keen-eyed, smooth-shaven man in a gray business suit who had been listening silently to the gathering storm contributed information briefly and impartially.

"Mr. Killen spent an hour last night with Big Tim at the Pacific Hotel."

"Sneaked in by the side entrance and took the elevator to the seventh floor. The deal was arranged in Room 743," added Rawson.

"You spied on me," burst from Killen's lips.

"Sure thing. And we caught you with the goods," sneered the red-faced politician.

"I'll not stand it. I'll not support a man that won't trust me."

"You won't, eh?" Rawson was across the floor in two jumps, worrying his victim as a terrier does a rat. "Forget it. You were elected to support R. K. Hardy, sewed up with a pledge tight and fast. We're not in the primer class, Killen. Don't get a notion you're going to do as you damn please. You'll—vote—for—R.—K.—Hardy. Get that?"

"I refuse to be moved by threats, and I decline to discuss the matter further," retorted Killen with a pitiable attempt at dignity.

Rawson laughed with insulting menace. "That's a good one. I've sold out, but it's none of your business what I got. That what you mean?"

"You surely must recognize our right to an explanation, Killen," Jeff said gently.

"No, sir, I don't," flushed the little man with sullen bravado. "I ain't got a thing against you, but Rawson goes too far."

"I think he does," Jeff agreed. "Killen is all right. Gentlemen, suppose you let him and me talk it over alone. We can reach an agreement that is satisfactory."

Hardy's face cleared. This was not the first waverer Jeff had brought back into line, not the first by several. There was something compelling in his friendly smile and affectionate manner.

"I'm sure Mr. Killen intends only what is right. I'm content to leave the matter entirely with you and him," Hardy said.

Jeff turned to Rawson. "And you, old warhorse?"

"Have it your own way, but don't forget there's a nigger in the woodpile."

Jeff and Killen walked to the office of the latter, which was on the next floor of the Century Building, the legislator stiffening his will to resist the assaults he felt would be made upon it. But as soon as the door was shut Jeff surprised him by laying a hand on his shoulder.

"Tell me all about it, Sam."

Killen gasped. He got an impossible vision of young Farnum as his brother in trouble. "About what? I didn't say—"

"I've known for a week something was wrong. I couldn't very well ask you, but since I've blundered in you'd better let me help you if I can."

Killen was touched. His lip trembled. "It don't do any good to talk about things. I guess a fellow has to carry his own griefs. Nobody else is hunting for a chance to invest in them."

"What's a friend for?" Jeff wanted to know gently.

The little man gulped. "I guess I've got no friends. Anyhow they don't count when a fellow's in hard luck. It's every man for himself."

The younger man's smile was warm as summer sunshine. "Wrong guess, Sam. We're in this little old world to help each other when we can."

The wretched man drew the back of a trembling hand across his moist eyes. He inhaled a long sobbing breath and broke into apology for his weakness. "Haven't slept for a week except from trional. The back of my head pricks day and night. Can't think of anything but my troubles."

"Unload them on me," Jeff said lightly.

"It's that mortgage on my mill," Killen blurted out. "It falls due this month and I can't meet it. Things haven't been going well with me."

"Can't you get it renewed?"

"Through a dummy Big Tim has bought it up. He won't renew, unless—" Killen broke off, to continue in a moment: "And that ain't all. My little girl needs an operation awful badly. The doctor says she had ought to go to Chicago. I just can't raise the price."

"How much is the mortgage?"

"Three thousand," replied the man; and he added with a gust of weak despair, "My God, man! That mill's all I've got to keep bread in the mouths of my motherless children."

"I reckon Big Tim has offered to cancel the mortgage notes and give you about a thousand to go on," Jeff suggested casually.

Killen nodded. "It would put me on my feet again and give the kiddie her chance." The answer had slipped out naturally, but now the fear chilled him that he had been lured into making a confession. "I didn't say I was going to take it," he added hastily.

"You're quite safe with me, Killen," Jeff told him. He was wondering whether he could not get Captain Chunn to take over the mortgage.

"I'm not so much struck on Hardy myself," grumbled the legislator. "He's a rich man, just as Frome is. Six of one and half a dozen of the other, looks like to me."

"No, Killen. Frome represents the Transcontinental and the utility corporations. Hardy stands for the people. And you're pledged to support Hardy. You mustn't forget that."

"I ain't likely to forget that mortgage either," Killen came back drearily.

"I think I can arrange about having the mortgage renewed. Will that do?"

"Yes. We're going to have a good year in the lumber business. Probably in twelve months I could clear it off."

"Good! And about the little girl—she'll have her chance. I promise you that."

The mill man wrung his hand, tears in his eyes. "You're a white man, Jeff, and a dashed good friend. I tell you I'd hate like poison to go back on Hardy. A fellow can't afford to do a thing like that. But what else could I do? A fellow's got to stand by the children he brings into the world, ain't he?"

Farnum evaded with a smile this discussion of moral issues. "Well, you can stand by them and us, too, if I can fix up this mortgage proposition for you."

"When will you let me know?" asked Killen anxiously.

"Will to-morrow morning do? In James' office, say."

"I'll have to know before noon," Killen reminded him, flushing with embarrassment.

"If I can arrange to get the money—and I think I can—I'll let you know at eleven. Don't worry, Sam. It will be all right."

The legislator shook hands again. "I ain't going to forget what you're doing for me. No, sir!"

Jeff laughed his thanks easily. "That's all right. I reckon you would have done as much for me. Sam Killen isn't the man to throw his friends down."

"That's right," returned the other with a sudden valiant infusion of courage. "I stand pat. I'm not going to lie down before the Transcontinental. Not on your life, I ain't."

They were walking toward the outer door as Killen's speech overflowed. "The Transcontinental doesn't own this state yet. No, sir! Nor Frome and Merrill either. We'll show 'em—"

The valor of the big voice collapsed like a rent balloon. For the office door had opened to let in Big Tim O'Brien. His shrewd eyes passed with whimsical disgust over Killen and rested on Farnum.

The situation made for amusement, since Jeff knew that Big Tim had heard over the transom enough to show that Killen's vote had been recaptured for Hardy.

"You've stumbled on a red hot Hardy ratification meeting. Did you come to get into the bandwagon while there is time, Tim?" Jeff asked with twinkling eyes.

"No sinking ship for mine. I guess I wouldn't ratify yet a while if I were youse, Farnum."

He stood aside to let the editor of the World pass. Jeff laughed. "Go to it, Tim."

"I haven't got anything to say to you, Mr. O'Brien," the mill man announced with heightened color.

"Maybe I've got something to say to youse, Mr. Killen."

Jeff passed out smiling. "Well, I'll not interrupt you. See you to-morrow, Sam."

Big Tim sat down heavily in a chair and pulled from his vest pocket a fat black cigar.

"Smoke, Killen?"

"No, thanks." The legislator spoke with stiff dignity.

Big Tim looked at the other man and his paunch shook with the merriment that appeared to convulse him.

"What's the matter?" snapped the mill man.

"I'm laughin' at the things I see, Killen. Man, but you're an easy mar-rk."


"Can't you see they're stringin' youse for a sucker?"

"No, I can't see it. I've made up my mind. I'm going to stand by Hardy."

"Fine! Now I'll tell youse one thing. We're goin' to elect Frome to-morrow." O'Brien rose as one who has no time for unprofitable talk. "Your friends have sold youse out. I'm going to call on one of thim right now."

"I don't believe it."

"Of course you don't." Tim's projecting balcony shook with the humor of it. "But you'll be convinced when they take your mill from youse, me boy. It's a frame-up—and you're the goat."

With which shot he took his departure, too shrewd to attempt any argument. He had left behind him a doubt. That was all he could do just now.

Before Tim was out of the building Killen was gumshoeing after him. He meant to find out whether O'Brien had been lying when he said he was going to call on one of his friends. Fifty yards behind him Killen followed, along Powers Avenue, down Pacific Street, to the Equitable Building. From the pilot of one of the elevators he learned that the big boss had got off at the seventh floor and gone straight into James Farnum's office.

His mind was instantly alive with suspicions tumbling over each other in chaotic incoherency. There was a deal of some kind on foot. Jeff's cousin was in it. Then Jeff must be playing him for a sucker. His teeth set with a snap.

Meanwhile Big Tim was having a heart to heart talk with James K. Farnum.

The young lawyer had risen in surprise at the entrance of O'Brien. The big fellow, laughing easily, had helped himself to a chair.

"Make yourself at home, Tim," he said jauntily.

"Anything I can do for you, Mr. O'Brien?" James asked with stiff dignity.

"Sure. Or I wouldn't be here. Sit down. I'll not bite ye."

The lawyer continued to stand.

"I've come to tell you that I'm a dammed fool, Mr. Farnum," the boss grinned.

James bowed slightly. He did not know what was coming, but he had no intention of committing himself to anything as yet.

"In ever lettin' youse get away from me. I mistook yez for a kid glove."

Big Tim gazed with palpable admiration at the cleancut figure, at the square cleft chin in the strong handsome face. It was his opinion this young man would go far, and that every step of the way would be in the interests of James K. Farnum. Shrewdly he guessed that the way to pierce that impassive front was through an appeal to vanity and to selfinterest.

James waited, alert and expressionless, but O'Brien, having made his apology, puffed in silence.

"I think you suggested some business that brought you," James reminded him.

"You've got in you the makings of a big man. Nothing on the coast to touch youse, Mr. Farnum. And I didn't see it. I was sore on your name. That was what was bitin' me. It's sure on Big Tim this time."

None of the triumph that flooded Farnum reached the surface.

"I think I don't quite understand," he said quietly.

"I'm eatin' humble pie because youse slipped wan over on me. You're the best campaign speaker in the state, bar none, boy as you are."

James could not keep his gratified smile down. "This heart-felt testimonial comes free, I take it," he pretended to mock.

"Come off with youse," O'Brien flung back good humoredly. "I'm not here to hand you booquets, but to talk business. Here's the nub of it, me boy. You need me, and I need you."

"I don't quite see how I need you, Mr. O'Brien."

"That's because you're young yet and don't know the game. Let me tell you this." The boss leaned forward, his hard eyes focused on Farnum. "You'll never get anywhere so long as youse trail with that reform bunch. It's all hot air and tomfool theory. Populism and socialism! Take my wor-rd for it, there's nothin' to 'em."

"I'm neither a populist nor a socialist, Mr. O'Brien."

"Coorse you're not. I can see that with wan eye shut. That's why I hate to see youse ruin yourself with them that are. I've no need to tell you that this country's run by business men and not cranks. Me, I'm a business man, and I run the city. P. C. Frome's a business man; so's Merrill. That's why they're on top. Old Joe Powers is a business man from first to last. You'll never get anywhere, me boy, until youse look at things from a business point of view."

If James was impressed he gave no sign of it. "Which means you want me to support P. C. for the Senate. Is that it?"

"I don't care whether you do or don't. We've got this fight won. But this is only the beginning. I can see that. Agitators and trouble breeders are busy iverywhere. Line up right and you've got a big future before you. Joe Powers himself has noticed your speeches. P. C. told me that last night."

For a moment the lawyer felt an exultant paeon of victory beat in his blood. His imagination saw the primrose path of the future stretch before him in a golden glow. The surge of triumph passed and he was himself again, cool and wary. His eyes met Big Tim's full and straight. "I was elected to support Hardy. I expect to stay with him."

The political boss waved aside this declaration. "Sure. Of course you've got to VOTE for him. I've got too much horse sense to try to buy YOU. But after this election? Your whole future's not tied up with fool reformers, is it? Say, what's the matter with you havin' a talk with P. C.?"

"Oh, I'll talk with him. P. C. and I are good friends."

"When can you see him? Why not to-night?"

"No hurry, is there?" James paused an instant before he added: "I'm going to The Brakes this afternoon on a social call. If Frome happens to be at home we might talk then. So far as making a direct appointment with him, I wouldn't care to do that until the senatorial election is decided. You understand that I pledge myself to nothing."

"That's right," agreed Big Tim. "It don't do any harm to hear both sides of a proposition. I guess that cousin o' yours kind of hypnotized you. He's got more fool schemes for redeemin' this state. Far as I can see it don't need any redeemin'. It's loaded to the rails with prosperity and clippin' off its sixty miles an hour. I say, let well enough alone. Where youse keep your matches, Mr. Farnum? Thanks! Well, talk it over with P. C. I reckon you can get together. So long, me boy."

Not until he was safe in the street did the big boss of Verden allow his satisfaction expression.

"We've got him! We've got the boob hooked!" he told himself exultantly.

A little man standing behind a showcase was watching him tensely.


"Man is for woman made, And woman made for man As the spur is for the jade, As the scabbard for the blade, As for liquor is the can, So man's for woman made, And woman made for man."


Since James was not courting observation he took as inconspicuous a way as possible to The Brakes. He was irritably conscious of the incongruity of his elaborate afternoon dress with the habits of democratic Verden, which had been too busy "boosting" itself into a great city, or at least one in the making, to have found time to establish as yet a leisure class.

Leaving the car at the entrance to Lakeview Park, he cut across it by sinuous byways where madronas and alders isolated him from the twilit green of the open lawn. Though it was still early the soft winter dusk of the Pacific Northwest was beginning to render objects indistinct. This perhaps may have been the reason he failed to notice the skulking figure among the trees that dogged him to his destination.

James laughed at himself for the exaggerated precaution he took to cover a perfectly defensible action. Why shouldn't he visit at the house of P. C. Frome? Entirely clear as to his right, he yet preferred his call not to become a matter of public gossip. For he did not need to be told that there would be ugly rumors if it should get out that Big Tim had called at his office for a conference and he had subsequently been seen going to The Brakes. Dunderheads not broad enough to separate social from political intercourse would be quick to talk unpleasantly about it.

Deflecting from the path into a carriage driveway, he came through a woody hollow to the rear of The Brakes. The grounds were spacious, rolling toward the road beyond in a falling sweep of well-kept lawn. He skirted the green till he came to a "raveled walk" that zig-zagged up through the grass, leaving to the left the rough fern-clad bluff that gave the place its name.

The man who let him in had apparently received his instructions, for he led Farnum to a rather small room in the rear of the big house. Its single occupant was reclining luxuriantly among a number of pillows on a lounge. From her lips a tiny spiral of smoke rose like incense to the ceiling. James was conscious of a little ripple of surprise as he looked down upon the copper crown of splendid hair above which rested the thin nimbus of smoke. He had expected a less intimate reception.

But the astonishment had been sponged from his face before Valencia Van Tyle rose and came forward, cigarette in hand.

"You did find time."

"Was it likely I wouldn't?"

"How should I know?" her little shrug seemed to say with an indifference that bordered on insolence.

James was piqued. After all then she had not opened to him the door to her friendship. She was merely amusing herself with him as a provincial pis aller.

Perhaps she saw his disappointment, for she added with a touch of warmth: "I'm glad you came. Truth is, I'm bored to death of myself."

"Then I ought to be welcome, for if I don't exorcise the devils of ennui you can now blame me."

"I shall. Try that big chair, and one of these Egyptians."

He helped himself to a cigarette and lit up as casually as if he had been in the habit of smoking in the lounging rooms of the ladies he knew. She watched him sink lazily into the chair and let his glance go wandering over the room. In his face she read the indolent sense of pleasure he found in sharing so intimately this sanctum of her more personal life.

The room was a bit barbaric in its warmth of color, as barbaric as was the young woman herself in spite of her super-civilization. The walls, done in an old rose, were gilded and festooned to meet a ceiling almost Venetian in its scheme of decoration. Pink predominated in the brocaded tapestries and in the rugs, and the furniture was a luxurious modern compromise with the Louis Quinze. There were flowers in profusion—his gaze fell upon the American Beauties he had sent an hour or two ago—and a disorder of popular magazines and French novels. Farnum did not need to be told that the room was as much an exotic as its mistress.

"You think?" her amused voice demanded when his eyes came back to her. "that the room seems made especially for you."

She volunteered information. "My uncle gave me a free hand to arrange and decorate it."

As he looked at her, smoking daintily in the fling of the fire glow, every inch the pampered heiress of the ages, his blood quickened to an appreciation of the sensuous charm of sex she breathed forth so indifferently. The clinging crepe-de-chine—except in public she did not pretend even to a conventional mourning for the scamp whose name she bore lent accent to her soft, rounded curves, and the slow, regular rise and fall of her breathing beneath the filmy lace promised a perfect fullness of bust and throat. He was keenly responsive to the physical allure of sex, and Valencia Van Tyle was endowed with more than her share of magnetic aura.

"You have expressed yourself. It's like you," he said with finality.

Her tawny eyes met his confident appraisal ironically. "Indeed! You know then what I am like?"

"One uses his eyes, and such brains as heaven has granted him," he ventured lightly.

"And what am I like?" she asked indolently.

"I'm hoping to know that better soon—I merely guess now."

"They say all women are egoists—and some men." She breathed her soft inscrutable ripple of laughter. "Let me hasten to confess, and crave a picture of myself."

"But the subject deserves an artist," he parried.

"He's afraid," she murmured to the fire. "He makes and unmakes senators—this Warwick; but he's afraid of a girl."

James lit a fresh cigarette in smiling silence.

"He has met me once—twice—no, three times," she meditated aloud. "But he knows what I'm like. He boasts of his divination and when one puts him to the test he repudiates."

"All I should have claimed is that I know I don't know what you are like."

"Which is something," she conceded.

"It's a good deal," he claimed for himself. "It shows a beginning of understanding. And—given the opportunity—I hope to know more." He questioned of her eyes how far he might go. "It's the incomprehensible that lures. It piques interest and lends magic. Behind those eyelids a little weary all the subtle hidden meaning of the ages shadows. The gods forbid that I should claim to hold the answer to the eternal mystery of woman."

"Dear me! I ask for a photograph and he gives me a poem," she mocked, touching an electric button.

"I try merely to interpret the poem."

She looked at him under lowered lids with a growing interest. Her experience had not warranted her in hoping that he would prove worth while. It would be clear gain if he were to disappoint her agreeably.

"I think I have read somewhere that the function of present-day criticism is to befog the mind and blur the object criticised."

He considered an answer, but gave it up when a maid appeared with a tray, and after a minute of deft arrangement disappeared to return with the added paraphernalia that goes to the making and consuming of afternoon tea.

James watched in a pleasant content the easy grace with which the flashing hands of his hostess manipulated the brew. Presently she flung open a wing of the elaborate cellaret that stood near and disclosed a gleaming array of cut-glass decanters. Her fingers hovered over them.


"Think I'll take my tea straight just as you make it."

"Most Western men don't care for afternoon tea. You should hear my father on the subject."

"I can imagine him." He smiled. "But if he has tried it with you I should think he'd be converted."

She laughed at him in the slow tantalizing way that might mean anything or nothing. "I absolve you of the necessity of saying pretty things. Instead, you may continue that portrait you were drawing when the maid interrupted."

"It's a subject I can't do justice."

She laughed disdainfully. "I thought it was time for the flattery. As if I couldn't extort that from any man. It's the A B C of our education. But the truth about one's self—the unpalatable, bitter truth—there's a sting of unexpected pleasure in hearing that judicially."

"And do you get that pleasure often?"

"Not often. Men are dreadful cowards, you know. My father is about the only man who dares tell it to me."

Farnum put down his cup and studied her. She was leaning back with her fingers laced behind her head. He wondered whether she knew with what effectiveness the posture set off her ripe charms—the fine modeling of the full white throat, the perfect curves of the dainty arms bare to the elbows, the daring set of the tawny, tilted head. A spark glowed in his eyes.

"Far be it from me to deny you an accessible pleasure, though I sacrifice myself to give it. But my sketch must be merely subjective. I draw the picture as I see it."

She sipped her tea with an air of considering the matter. "You promise at least a family likeness, with not an ugly wrinkle of character smoothed away."

"I don't even promise that. For how am I to know what meaning lurks behind that subtle, shadowy smile? There's irony in it—and scorn—and sensuous charm—but back of them all is the great enigma."

"He's off," she derided slangily.

"And that enigma is the complex YOU I want to learn. Of course you're a specialized type, a product of artistic hothouse propagation. You're so exquisite in your fastidiousness that to be near you is a luxury. Simplicity and you have not a bowing acquaintance. One looks to see your most casual act freighted with intentions not obvious."

"The poor man thinks I invited him here to propose to him," she told the fire gravely, stretching out her little slippered feet toward it.

He laughed. "I'm not so presumptuous. You wouldn't aim at such small game. You would be quite capable of it if you wanted to, but you don't. But I'm devoured with curiosity to know why you asked me, though of course I shan't find out."

Her narrowed eyes swept him with amusement. "If I knew myself! Alice says it was to make a fool of you. I don't think she is right. But if she is I'm in to score a failure. You're too coolheaded and—" She stopped, her eyes sparkling with the daring of her unvoiced suggestion.

"Say it," he nodded.

"—and selfish to be anybody's fool. Perhaps I asked you just in the hope you might prove interesting."

He got up and stood with his arm on the mantel. From his superior height he looked down on her dainty insolent perfection, answering not too seriously the challenge of her eyes. No matter what she meant—how much or how little she was wonderfully attractive. The provocation of the mocking little face lured mightily.

"I am going to prove interested at any rate. Let's hope it may be a preliminary to being interesting."

"But it never does. Symptoms of too great interest bore one. I enjoy more the men who are impervious to me. Now there's my father. He comes nearer understanding me than anybody else, but he's quite adamantine to my wiles."

"I shall order a suit of chain armor at once."

"An unnecessary expense. Your emotions are quite under control," she told him saucily.

"I wish I were as sure."

"I thought you promised to be interesting," she complained.

"Now you're afraid I'm going to make love to you. Let me relieve your mind. I'm not."

"I knew you wouldn't be so stupid," she assured him.

"No objection to my admiring your artistic effect at a distance, as a spectator in a gallery?"

"I shall expect that," she rippled.

"Just as one does a picture too expensive to own."

"I suppose I AM expensive."

"Not a doubt of it. But if you don't mind I'll come occasionally to the gallery to study the masterpiece."

"I'll mind if you don't."

Voices were heard approaching along the hall. The portieres parted. The immediate effect on Farnum of the great figure that filled the doorway was one of masterful authority. A massive head crested a figure of extraordinary power. Gray as a mediaeval castle, age had not yet touched his gnarled strength. The keen steady eyes, the close straight lips, the shaggy eyebrows heavy and overhanging, gave accent to the rugged force of this grim freebooter who had reversed the law of nature which decrees that railroads shall follow civilization. Scorning the established rule of progress, he had spiked his rails through untrodden forests and unexplored canons to watch the pioneer come after by the road he had blazed. Chief among the makers of the Northwest, he yearly conceived and executed with amazing audacity enterprises that would have marked as monumental the life work of lesser men.

Farnum, rising from his seat unconsciously as a tribute of respect, acknowledged thus tacitly the presence of greatness in the person of Joe Powers.

The straight lips of the empire builder tightened as his eyes gleamed over the soft luxury of his daughter's boudoir. James would have been hard put to it to conceive any contrast greater than the one between this modern berserk and the pampered daughter of his wealth. A Hun or a Vandal gazing down with barbaric scorn on some decadent paramour of captured Rome was the most analogous simile Farnum's brain could summon. What freak of nature, he wondered, had been responsible for so alien an offspring to this ruthless builder? And what under heaven had the two in common except the blood that ran in both their veins?

Peter C. Frome, who had followed his brother-in-law into the room, introduced the young man to the railroad king.

The great man's grip drove the blood from Farnum's hand.

"I've heard about you, young man. What do you mean by getting in my way?"

The young man's veins glowed. He had made Joe Powers notice him. Not for worlds would he have winked an eyelash, though the bones of his hand felt as if they were being ground to powder.

"Do I get in your way, sir?" he asked innocently.

"Do you?" boomed the deep bass of the railroader. "You and that mad brother of yours."

"He's my cousin," James explained.

"Brother or cousin, he's got to get off the track or be run over. And you, too, with that smooth tongue of yours."

Farnum laughed. "Jeff's pretty solid. He may ditch the train, sir."

"No!" roared Powers. "He'll be flung into the ditch." He turned abruptly to Frome. "Peter, take me to a room where I can talk to this young man. I need him."

"'Come into my little parlor,' said the spider to the fly."

They wheeled as at a common rein to the sound of the young mocking voice. Alice Frome had come in unnoticed and was standing in the doorway smiling at them. The effect she produced was demurely daring. The long lines of her slender sylph-like body, the girlishness of her golden charm, were vigorously contradicted in their suggestion of shyness by the square tilted chin and the challenge in the dancing eyes.

"Alice," admonished her father with a deprecatory apology in his voice to his brother-in-law.

Powers knit his shaggy brows in a frown not at all grim. The young woman smiled back confidently. She could go farther with him than anybody else in the world could, and she knew it. For he recognized in her vigorous strength of fiber a kinship of the spirit closer than that between him and his own daughter. An autocrat to the marrow, it pleased him to recognize her an exception to his rule. Valencia was also an exception, but in a different way.

"Have you any remarks to make, Miss Frome?" he asked.

"Oh, I've made it," returned the girl unabashed. She turned to James and shook hands with him. "How do you do, Mr. Farnum? I see you are going to be tied to Uncle Joe's kite, too."

Was there in her voice just a hint of scorn? James did not know. He laughed a little uneasily.

"Shall I be swallowed up alive, Miss Frome?"

"You think you won't, but you will. He always gets what he wants."

For all the warmth and energy of youth in her there was a vivid spiritual quality that had always made a deep appeal to James. He sensed the something fine and exquisite she breathed forth and did reverence to it.

"And what does he want now?" the young man parried.

"He wants YOU."

"Unless you would like him yourself, Alice," her uncle countered.

The color washed into her cheeks. "Not just now, thank you. I was merely giving him a friendly warning."

"I'm awfully obliged to you. I'll be on my guard," laughed James.

He stepped across to the lounge to make his farewell to Mrs. Van Tyle.

"You'll come again," she said in a low voice.

"Whenever the gallery is open—if I am sent a ticket of admission."

"Wouldn't it be better to apply for a ticket and not wait for it to be sent?"

"I think it would—and to apply for one often."

"I am waiting, Mr. Farnum," interrupted Powers impatiently.

To the young man the suggestion sounded like a command. He bowed to Alice and followed the great man out of the room.


Many business men of every community are respectable cowards. The sense of property fills them with a cramping timidity.—From the Note Book of a Dreamer.


Part 1

When James reached his office next morning he found Killen waiting for him. One glance at the weak defiant face told him that the legislator was again in revolt. The lawyer felt a surge of disgust sweep over him. All through the session he had cajoled and argued the weak-kneed back into line. Why didn't Hardy do his own dirty work instead of leaving it to him to soil his hands with these cheap grafters?

No longer ago than yesterday it had been a keen pleasure to feel himself so important a factor in the struggle, to know that his power and his personality were of increasing value to his side.

But to-day—somehow the salt had gone out of it. The value of the issue had dwindled, his enthusiasm gone stale. After all, what did it matter who was elected? Why should not the corporate wealth that was developing the country see that men were chosen to office who would safeguard vested interests? It was all very well for Jeff to talk about democracy and the rights of the people. But Jeff was an impracticable idealist. He, James, stood for success. Within the past twenty-four hours there had been something of a shift of standards for him.

His visit to The Brakes had done that for him. He craved luxury just as he did power, and the house on the hill had said the final word of both to him in the personalities of Joe Powers and his daughter. It had come home to him that the only way to satisfy his ambition was by making money and a lot of it. This morning, with the sharpness of his hunger rendering him irritable, he was in no mood to conciliate disaffectants to the cause of which he was himself beginning to weary.

"Well?" he demanded sharply of Killen.

"I've been looking for your cousin, but I can't find him. He was to have met me here later."

"Then I presume he'll be here when he said he would." The eyes of the lawyer were cold and hard as jade.

"You can tell him it won't be necessary for me to see him. I've made other arrangements," Killen said uneasily.

"You mean that you repudiate your agreement with him. Is that it?" Farnum's voice was like a whiplash.

"I've decided to support Frome. Fact is—"

"Oh, damn the facts! You made an agreement. You're going to sell out. That's all there is to it."

The young man's face was dark with furious disgust.

Killen flared up. "You better be careful how you talk to me, Mr. Farnum. I might want to know what Big Tim was doing in your office yesterday. I might want to know what business took you up to The Brakes by a mighty roundabout way."

James strode forward in a rage. "Get out of here before I throw you out, you little spying blackguard."

"You bet I'll get out," screamed the mill man. "Get clear out and have nothing more to do with your outfit. But I want to tell you that folks will talk a lot when they know how you and Big Tim fixed up a deal—" Killen, backing toward the door as he spoke, broke off to hasten his exit before the lawyer's threatening advance.

James slammed the door shut on him and paced up and down in an impotent fury of passion. "The dirty little blackleg! He'd like to bracket me in the same class as himself. He'd like to imply that I—By Heaven, if he opens his lying mouth to a hint of such a thing I'll horsewhip the little cad."

But running uneasily through his mind was an undercurrent of disgust—with himself, with Jeff, with the whole situation. Why had he ever let himself get mixed up with such an outfit? Government by the people! The thing was idiotic, mere demagogic cant. Power was to the strong. He had always known it. But yesterday that old giant at The Brakes had hammered it home to him. He did not like to admit even to himself that his folly had betrayed Hardy's cause, but at bottom he knew he should not have gone to The Brakes until after the election and that he ought never to have let Killen out of the office without an explanation. Yesterday he would have won back the man somehow by an appeal to his loyalty and his self-interest.

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