BY JAMES B. CONNOLLY
CHARLES SCRIBNER'S SONS NEW YORK :::::::::::::::::::::: 1913
COPYRIGHT, 1913, BY CHARLES SCRIBNER'S SONS
Published September, 1913
SONNIE-BOY'S PEOPLE 1
TIM RILEY'S TOUCH 51
IN THE ANCHOR WATCH 95
CROSS COURSES 123
LEARY OF THE "LIGONIER" 167
HOW THEY GOT THE "HATTIE RENNISH" 199
KILLORIN'S CARIBBEAN DAYS 231
THE BATTLE-CRUISE OF THE "SVEND FOYN" 261
THE LAST PASSENGER 285
"Look here, Sonnie-Boy. Here's a man says your papa is the greatest man ever was in his line" Frontispiece
"And of course your brother is laying great plans to assure his future?" 6
"That two-faced chairman of yours—he never tipped me off you could fight any way except with your hands." 90
The Orion proved to us that she was faster off the wind than we were by rounding Cape Cod before us. 156
It was Drislane she had, his head cuddled on her knees till the tug came and got us. 164
"Just then one came right under her forefoot and another under her counter. And I looks back to the gunboat." 226
The strangers out with revolvers, back my men into the fo'c's'le, and lock them in. 268
'Twas me she walked home with. 276
The man with the gold-headed cane had been headed for the cottage, but espying the boy at the water's edge, he changed his course. He crept to within a few paces of the lad before he hailed: "Halloo, little boy! I'll bet I know who your papa is."
The boy looked casually around. Seeing that it was a stranger, he faced about and stood respectfully erect.
"Mr. Welkie's little boy, aren't you?"
"Yes, sir. But I'm 'most six."
"Oh-h, I see—a big boy now. But what have you got there?"
The boy held up the toy steamer with which he had been playing.
"Oh-h, I see now. What are you going to do with it?"
The boy looked sidewise out to where in the bay a fleet of battle-ships were lying to anchor.
"Load it with sugar and pineapples, and ship 'em to the States, are you?"
"But it's a gun-ship. See—where the turrets 'n' the fighting-tops will be when papa makes them."
"Oh! and so you want to be a great merchant?"
"I want to be a fighter"—articulating slowly and distinctly—"on a big gun-ship."
"Well, if ever you do, little man, I'll bet you'll be a game one, too. Is your papa home?"
"No, sir, but Aunt Marie is."
"And is Aunt Marie busy, do you think?"
"I don't know, sir, but she's making a battle-flag for my gun-ship."
"That so? I think I will call on Aunt Marie, then."
Swinging his cane and advancing leisurely, the stranger headed for the screened veranda door.
Marie Welkie, because of having to keep an eye on her nephew from the veranda, could not avoid noticing the stranger. The clothing, the jewelry, the air of assurance, had disturbed and half amused her; but the kindly tone with the boy, the parting pat of his head, were more pleasing. She answered his knock herself.
"Good evening—Miss Welkie?" That Southern "good evening" in the middle of the afternoon likewise pleased her.
"Miss Welkie, yes."
"I'm Mr. Necker." From a gold-mounted case he drew out a card. "I'm looking for your brother."
"He won't be home for some time yet. But won't you step in, Mr. Necker, from out of the sun?"
"Thank you. It is warm, isn't it? Warmer than ordinary?"
"No, I shouldn't say so. It's usually hot here."
"Then it must be hot here when it is hot. It wasn't so bad out in the Gulf. I just got in—from Key West. Not many passengers come here, Miss Welkie?"
"Only somebody especially interested in the works—usually from Washington. Do you mind if I go ahead with this ensign for my nephew, Mr. Necker?" She held up a partly finished American ensign. Above the top of it the visitor could see part of the very white forehead and a front of dark straight hair. "I promised to have it ready for my nephew surely by morning, and after my brother gets home there probably won't be much spare time. But were you the only passenger for here, Mr. Necker?"
"There was one other. He got off at the new fortification landing. Twenty-nine or thirty perhaps he was—a well-made, easy-moving kind." His voice was casual, but his gaze was keen enough. It never left her face. "A tall man came running down to meet him," he resumed. "They seemed terribly glad to see each other."
"That must have been my brother to meet—Mr. Balfe, was it?—your fellow-passenger."
He hesitated a moment. "Mr. Balfe—yes, that was it. The captain—or was it the captain?—said that there was a Mr. Balfe who went on special missions for the government, but whether this was the Mr. Balfe or not he could not say."
She sewed serenely on. "I've heard that that steamer captain is developing into a great gossip. Our Mr. Balfe is my brother's dearest friend and godfather to my brother's boy—the boy you were speaking to on the beach—and if he ever found himself in this part of the world without calling on us, I don't know what my brother would think."
This time Miss Welkie looked up, and Necker smiled with her. Also he peered smilingly through the veranda vine. "So that is your brother's boy out there? Well, well! And a fine boy, too! A beautifully shaped head. Bright, I'll bet?"
"Naturally"—with a tender smile—"we think so."
"I'll bet he is. And of course your brother is laying great plans to assure his future?"
"I'm afraid you are not well acquainted with my brother, Mr. Necker."
"Not personally, Miss Welkie, but surely he won't neglect his own child's future?"
"I'm afraid that would not be his way of looking at it."
"And his way is a fine way, no doubt, Miss Welkie—if a man had only himself to think of. But can, or should, his family—" he paused.
"His family? Young Greg and I are his family, Mr. Necker, and I'm sure we're not worrying about the future." Her head bent lower to her sewing, but not too low for Necker to see the little smile, half of humor, half of something else, hovering on her lips.
"Because you're too young—and too unselfish."
This time her head came up and the smile developed into a soft laugh. "No, no, nothing quite so fine as that, nor quite so awfully young. At twenty-three——"
Necker tried to meet her eyes; but the eyes were not for him, nor for the boy on the beach this time, nor for the brave war-ships at anchor. Her eyes were for something farther away. Necker, twisting in his chair, could distinguish through the haze the fortification walls on the other side of the little bay.
There was another little smile hovering. Necker waited hopefully. She, catching his eye, flushed and returned to her sewing. "We're all very happy here," she added after a moment, and, still flushing, resumed her needle.
Presently he pointed his cane at the boy on the beach. "A great deal of your brother in him, isn't there?"
"Very much. Our older friends back home say that it is like Greg—that is, my brother—being born all over."
"A fine boy, yes, Miss Welkie, and ought to be a great man some day. But I'll be running along now, Miss Welkie."
"You won't wait for him? He will be glad to see you, I know."
"Thank you; but after a man's been out there under that sun all day is no time for a friend to bother him. And I am a friend of your brother's, believe me, Miss Welkie. It is because I am a friend and an admirer of his that I'm here."
"But you will return later?"
"I will, thank you—after he's had time to clean up and eat and smoke, and a chat with his friend, I'll drop in for a little talk, and in that little talk, Miss Welkie, I hope you won't be against me, for I mean it for his best. So until eight o'clock to-night, Miss Welkie—adios." Necker, swishing his gold-headed cane, strolled leisurely away.
"I wonder what he wants of Greg," murmured Marie Welkie. And until his pea-green suit was lost to sight she speculated on his probable errand.
By and by her eyes, now less speculative, detected the smudge against the concrete walls. She took down a pair of glasses from the wall. It was the towboat leaving the wharf. The glasses took the place of her sewing, and they were still to her eyes when a sharp "Auntie!" came to her ears. "Tention, auntie! Colors!" warned the voice. Lowering the glasses, Marie came obediently to attention.
The sun was cutting the edge of the sea. The last level light lay on the long, slow, swelling waters like a rolling, flaming carpet, and in that flaming path the gray war-ships bobbed to anchor; and on the quarter-deck of every ship a red-coated band was drawn up, and from the jack-staff of every ship an American ensign was slowly dropping down. The boy stood with his back to her, but Marie knew how his heart was thumping, and she knew the light that would be on his face.
"O say! can you see—" came the swelling notes over the gently heaving bay. Marie could feel that young Greg was ready to burst; but she could not detect a move, not a quiver, out of him until the last note of the last bugle had ceased to re-echo. Then he saluted reverently, executed an about-face, and called out excitedly: "Auntie, auntie, there's papa now! Look!"
Marie pretended to see for the first time the towboat which, a hundred yards or so down the beach, was making a landing. "Sure enough, Greg!"
"And somebody else!"
"No; is there?"
"Why, don't you see—godfather, auntie! O papa! Godfather!" He was off.
When he returned he was clinging on the one hand to a tall, brown, lean-cheeked, and rather slender man of thirty four or five, in dusty corduroy coat and trousers, mud-caked shoes and leggings, khaki shirt, and a hard-looking, low-blocked Panama hat; and on the other hand to a man also sun-tanned, but less tall and not so lean—a muscular, active man who may have lived the thirty years which Necker ascribed to him, but who surely did not look it now. At sight of Marie Welkie stepping down from the screened veranda he bounded like sixteen years across the beach. "Marie Welkie—at last!"
"Andie Balfe!" She took his hands within hers and drew them up in front of her bosom. The smile which Necker had so wanted to see again was there now, and now not to vanish in a moment. Balfe brushed her finger tips with his lips.
"How far this time, Andie?"
"From half the world around, Marie."
"And are you glad?"
"And I would come it twice again to see your dear eyes smile."
"Could eyes be made so dull as not to light to your poetic touch, Andie?" And then, in a low voice, "Wait for the sunset." She stood upon her toes for her brother's kiss. "Another hard, hot day, Greg?"
"No, no, a fine day, Marie. Pedro"—he motioned to the negro at their rear—"put Mr. Balfe's suit-case in the corner of the veranda there. That'll be all to-night, except to see that Mr. Balfe's trunks come up from the towboat."
He paused on the veranda steps to get a view of the bay. As he stood there in silence, the lively notes of a dozen buglers came sharply to them. He still held the boy's hand.
"Mess call, papa?"
"Getting so you know them all, aren't you, Sonnie-Boy? One minute from now ten thousand husky lads out there will be doing awful things to the commissary grub. But look there! Andie, did any of your kings or presidents ever offer you sights more gorgeous than that to view from their palace walls?"
It was the afterglow of the sunset, a red-and-orange glory fading into the blue-black velvet of a Caribbean twilight.
"It's by way of greeting to the far traveller. This may be the last place on earth here, Andie, but we warrant our sunsets to be the best on the market. But let's go inside and make ready to eat. What do you say, Sonnie-Boy?"
"But, papa, you said that when godfather came you would have the Little Men sing you a song for the steam-engine he sent me from Japan!"
"That's right, I did. But where is it?"
"Right here, papa." From the veranda corner he picked up a toy locomotive. "Look! Lightning, I've named it."
"A fine name for it, too. Well, let me see. How was it? Oh, yes! Lunch-time to-day it was, and your papa was smoking his cigar and looking out to sea all by himself. It was very quiet, with all the donkey-engines stopped and the men eating inside the walls. On the bluff beyond the fort I was sitting, with my feet hanging over the edge, and the mango-tree I've told you so often about was shading me from the sun. The wind was blowing just a wee mite, and every time the wind would blow and the tree would wave, a mango would drop into the bay. Plump! it would go into the ocean below, and every time a mango dropped down a Little Man in a green coat popped up."
"All wet, papa?"
"Shiny wet, Sonnie-Boy, and blowing their cheeks out like so many blub-blubs."
"What's blub-blubs, papa?"
"A blub-blub is a fat little fish who takes big long gulps deep down in the ocean and then comes to the top o' the water, and, when he sees anybody watching him, puffs out his cheeks and goes—blub-blub! like that."
"Like men sometimes, papa?"
"Just like. Well, by 'n' by there were twelve o' the Little Men in green coats, and they sat under the mango-tree all in a row and looked at me, and the one at the head o' the row puts up one finger, with his head to one side and his little round eye rolling out at me, and he says: 'Did Sonnie-Boy's godfather send him that steam-engine from Japan yet, what you told us about? 'Cause if he did, we have a fine pome about it.'
"'Yes, he did send him a fine steam-engine from Japan,' I said, 'and you go on and let me hear your pome, and if it's a good pome I'll give you all a fine ripe mango to eat.' And so they all puffs out their fat little cheeks and they begins:
"'Godfather bought him an engine, red and black, It wabbles slightly and the wheels don't track——'"
"But it don't, papa, 'n' the wheels do track."
"But that's what they said.
"'But Sonnie-Boy felt prouder than England's queen When it puffed real smoke and sure-enough steam.'"
"But it's a king in England, papa."
"I know, but that's the way the Little Green Men told me. Some things they don't know yet, they're so little.
"'He named it Lightning 'cause of its speed, And the 'casional spills he did not heed. All big roads had accidents, people knew— There was danger sure when the whistle blew.'"
"It's true, 'bout th' accidents, isn't it, papa?"
"Nothing truer. Now, let me see. What else? Oh, yes:
"'The Lightning Express is coming back, Clear the way there, people, off the track! Or Sonnie-Boy's engine, red and black, Will knock you down and hit you whack!'"
"That's great, papa. And did they have a band with them?"
"No. No band, but one little six-toed fellow—I 'most forgot him—was playing on a hook-a-zoo. That's a sausage-shaped thing, with things like rabbit's ears on it. The music comes out the ears."
"And what kind of music, papa?"
"Oh, like a jew's-harp something, only being bigger 'twas louder. Zoo-zoo, zoo-zoo-zoo it went."
"I like those Little Green Men, papa, but where was the Little Blue Men to-day, did they say?"
"Oh, they'd gone to a wedding, the hook-a-zoo player said."
"They know everything, don't they, papa?"
"And will the Little Men tell me things when I'm a big man, papa?"
"If they don't, I won't let 'em have any more mangoes."
"An' what the bugle men play 'n' what the flags say when they hoists them up in the air on the big gun-ships, papa?"
"If you're a good boy, they will. And now what d'y' say if we go in and you tell Diana your papa wants some hot water out of the kettle. And while you're doing that and auntie and godfather are talking things over to themselves, I'll be laying out my razor and my soap 'n' things all ready to shave. There you are, there's the boy!"
* * * * *
It was after dinner on Welkie's veranda. The two friends had been smoking for some time in silence. Young Greg had just left with his aunt to go to bed. Balfe was thinking what a pity it was the boy's mother had not lived to see him now. He turned in his chair. "What would you do without him, Greg?"
Welkie understood what his friend had in mind. "It would be like the days having no sunrise. I'd be groping in the dark, and almost no reason for me to keep on groping. Splashed in concrete and slaked in lime, from head to toe, steaming under that eternal sun, five hundred spiggities and not half enough foremen to keep 'em jumping, I find myself saying to myself, 'What in God's name is the use?' and then I'll see a picture of his shining face running to meet me on the beach, and, Andie, it's like the trade-wind setting in afresh. The men look around to see what I'm whistling about. But"—Welkie sniffed and stood up—"get it?"
Balfe caught a faint breath, the faintest tang borne upon the wings of the gentlest of breezes.
Welkie went inside. Presently he returned with bottles and glasses. "When a little breeze stirs, as it sometimes does of a hot night here, and there's beer in the ice-box and the ice not all melted, life's 'most worth living. Try some, Andie—from God's country. And one of these Porto Ric' cigars. Everybody'll be smoking 'em soon, and then we poor chaps'll have to be paying New York prices for 'em, which means we'll have to make a new discovery somewhere."
"Wait, Greg—I almost forgot." Balfe stepped to his suit-case, took out a box of cigars, and handed it to Welkie. "From Key West. Hernando Cabada. When I told him I was going to see you, he sat down and rolled out that boxful, which took him three hours, and gave them to me for you. 'For my friend, Mis-ter Wel-keey-ay,' he said."
"Good old Hernando!" Welkie opened the box. Balfe took one, Welkie took one; they lit up.
"Ah-h—" Welkie woofed a great gob of smoke toward the veranda roof. "Andie, you won't have to make any chemical analysis of the ashes of these cigars to prove they're good. There is an artist—Hernando—and more! I used to drop in to see him after a hot day. He would let me roll out a cigar for myself in one of his precious moulds, and we'd sit and talk of a heap of things. 'Some day, Hernando,' I'd say, 'along will come some people and offer you such a price for your name that I reckon you won't be able to resist.' 'No, no, my friend,' he would say. 'For my nam' there shall be only my cigar. I shall mak' the good, fine cigar—until I shall die. And for the sam'—one pr-r-ice.' How'd you come to run into him, Andie?"
"I'd heard about him and you. I suspected, too, that he could verify a few things about the Construction Company."
"And did he?"
"He did. And so they have been after you again?"
"And offering more money than ever?"
They smoked on. Again Balfe half turned in his chair. "I haven't seen you, Greg, since the President sent for you from Washington that time. How did you find him?"
"Fine. And I tell you, Andie, it heartened me to think that a man with all he's got to tend to would stop to spend an hour with an obscure engineer."
"You're not too obscure, Greg. What did he have to say?"
"Oh-h—said he wanted me to do a piece of special work, and he wanted me because several people, in whose judgment he had confidence, said I was the man for the job. You were one of 'em, Andie, he told me, and I'm thanking you for it."
"I'm not sure that you ought to thank me, Greg. With that big company you would be wealthy in a few years, but the trouble is, Greg, when I'm on the job I'm as bad as you, only in a different and more selfish way. I know only one road then, and once I set out I'd brush aside anything for the one thing, Greg."
"Of course, when it's for the flag."
"Could I do anything else?"
"The boy, too?"
"Where would he come into it, Andie?"
"You don't think that your feeling for the lad and your work could ever clash?"
"How could they ever clash, Andie?"
"I don't know, Greg. I hope not." He relit his neglected cigar. "But what else did the President have to say?"
"He said it was a bit of emergency work he wanted me for, that only the remnant of a small appropriation was available for it, and that if I took it I would be pitiably paid; but that he wished me to do it, because some day, and that not too far away, it might have to stand the test not of friends, but of enemies. Also he said—let me see——"
"That for foreign policy's sake it would have to be done quietly, without advertising, as a bit of departmental work?"
"And that you would get no great reputation out of it, that your very report would remain a supplementary paper buried in departmental files?"
"That was it."
"Did it strike you that the conditions were hard, Greg?"
"Not after he explained things. And so when the Construction people said to me later: 'You're crazy, man! Look the two propositions in the eye!' I said: 'I've looked one of 'em at least in the eye and I'm passing the other up—and the other is yours.'"
"Lord, Greg! whether you're the best or the worst concrete man in the world is a small matter—you're a great man. And if some day—" Balfe let his front chair-legs come down bang and bounded to his feet.
"Greg"—it was Marie who had returned—"I don't know how I ever forgot, but I never thought till a moment ago—there was a Mr. Necker here to see you this evening."
"Well, you don't often forget, Marie. Must be the sight of those battle-ships. Necker? I don't know any Necker. You know him, Andie?"
"I was trying to guess coming over on the boat. I was still guessing when he got off. I could guess, Greg, who he is, but it would be only a guess."
"He didn't leave any message, Marie?"
"None, except to say that he would call again at eight. He seemed to know something of you and to be friendly."
"He must be a friendly soul to come to this place to see anybody. Well, when he comes we'll know. How'd you leave Sonnie-Boy?"
"He's waiting for you to say good night."
"I'll go up to him." He went inside.
Marie picked up her ensign. Balfe placed a chair for her at the little work-table, and himself took the chair on the other side of the table.
"A great joy for you, also—young Greg, Marie?"
"If you could hold him and feel his little heart against yours when he's saying 'Good night, auntie,' after he's said his prayers! His prayers and the 'Star-Spangled Banner' are his great set pieces."
"And between you and Greg it's safe to say he's got both letter-perfect."
"And spirit-perfect, we're hoping. But I must get on with this ensign for him."
"Pretty good size, isn't it, for a toy ship?"
"But it's a battle-flag. He'll have none but battle-flags. There, I'm up to the stars."
"You're never far from them. Let me make a stretching-frame of my fingers and square this end."
"Do. Not quite so tight. And now—those new States come in so fast!—how many now?"
"M-m—four eights and two sevens?"
"Four eights and two sevens."
She sewed rapidly, and without looking up, until she had completed the first row. "There—there's one of the eights. Now you can breathe again, Andie."
Balfe sat back. "What did you make of Mr. Necker, Marie?"
She, too, sat back. "I wonder what I did make of him. He was very curious about you."
"Yes. He asked questions and I couldn't quite fib to him, and yet I couldn't see why he should expect me to tell him all about you. And so"—she paused and the little half-smile was hovering around again.
"And so I did not attempt to check his imagination." She repeated the conversation of the afternoon. "I meant to speak of it at dinner, Andie, to you and Greg, but I forgot."
"Here's a far traveller—" He paused. She looked up, and quickly looked down.
"—who gives thanks that you forgot, Marie, in that first glad hour, Mr. Necker and his—well, his possible mission."
"You know something of him, then, Andie?"
"I'm still guessing. But I'm wondering now if you said to yourself when he had gone: 'After all, what will Greg get out of this government work? Is it fair to himself to refuse those great offers and stick down here? And what will it mean to young Greg?'"
Marie Welkie let the ensign drop onto the table. "My very thoughts in words, Andie. And while we're speaking of it, will Greg ever get the recognition due him, Andie?"
"Dear me, that some day! After he is dead, I suppose. You men are the idealists! But being only a woman, Andie Balfe, I don't want to wait that long to see my brother rewarded."
"And being only a man, Marie Welkie, I also want to see my friend rewarded before he's laid away."
"But will he ever?"
"Who could answer that? But I stopped off in Washington on my way, Marie, and had a long talk with a man who is fine enough to appreciate the dreams of idealists and yet sufficiently human to allow for most human weaknesses. We discussed Greg and his work. The Construction people were mentioned. He asked me if I thought Greg would go with them. 'And if he does, Mr. President, can be he blamed?' was my answer."
"And how did he take it?"
"He leaned back in his chair and looked through his glasses with his eyebrows drawn together, in that way you'd think he was scowling if you didn't know him. After a moment he said: 'I should be sorry, but if he does, no professional or legal—no, nor moral—obligations can hold him.'"
"There! Greg does not even get credit for——"
"Wait. 'But will he?' he continued. I said that I did not think so. 'What makes you think he won't?' 'Because I know him, sir. But,' I went on, 'don't you think, Mr. President, that by this time he should have a word of encouragement or appreciation?' And that led to quite a talk."
"About Greg, Andie?"
"Greg and his work, Marie."
She leaned her elbows on the table and from between her palms smiled across at him. "When you use that tone, Andie, I know that all women should stay silent. But could—couldn't a little sister to the man in the case be given just a little hint?"
"To the little sister—Oh, much! To her I can say that I have reason to think that something is on its way to her brother which will be very pleasing to her and to him."
"For which, my lord, thy servant thanks thee."
Eight bells echoed from the fleet. "Eight o'clock, and somebody walking the beach! It couldn't be, Andie—it couldn't be that Mr. Necker——"
Balfe gravely shook his head.
"But, Andie," she whispered, "there was the most friendly expression in his eye!"
"If there's a living man, Marie"—he bent over also to whisper—"who could hold speech with you for ten seconds without a friendly gleam—" A knock on the veranda door interrupted.
It was Necker. "How do you do again, Miss Welkie?" To her his bow was appreciative, deferential. To Balfe he nodded in a not unfriendly fashion.
"I'm glad to see you again, Mr. Necker. Come in, please. I will call my brother." She pressed a button on the veranda wall. "That will bring him right down, Mr. Necker. And now I'm leaving you with Mr. Balfe. Diana, our cook's little boy has a fever——"
"Oh, don't worry, Andie, if you're thinking of danger. It's only malaria. And it's only a step or two, and you must stay with Mr. Necker."
Balfe held the door open for her. She paused in the doorway. "I'll be back in half an hour."
"Half an hour! Time is no bounding youth, Marie Welkie."
"Come for me, then—Oh, when you please," she whispered, and passed swiftly out.
* * * * *
Necker was examining the shelf of books above the work-table. "Keats? Keats? Oh-h, poetry! Montaigne. Montaigne? Oh, yes!" He took it down. "H-m, in French!" and put it back. One after the other he read the titles. "Elizabethan Verse. E-u-r-i-p-i-d-e-s. Dante. H-m."
Balfe by now had turned from the screen door. Necker pointed to the shelf. "Not a book for a practical man in the whole lot, and"—he held up the ensign—"this! Isn't that the dreamer through and through?"
"But you and I, not being dreamers, consider how thankful we should be."
Necker stared in surprise, and then he smiled. "Now, now, I'm meaning no harm to your friend. I guess you don't know what I'm after, though I'll bet I can guess what you're after."
Balfe, fairly meeting Necker's eye, had to smile; and when Necker saw Balfe smile he winked. "You don't s'pose you could come down here to this God-forsaken hole, do you, without somebody getting curious?"
"I suppose it was too much to expect. Have a smoke?"
"Thanks." Necker's tone was polite, but it was a most negligent glance that he gave the box of cigars. There was no name on the box. Balfe, with unsmiling mien, pointed out two small letters on the cover. "$1.$2. Mr. Necker."
"Hernando Cabada, Key West."
"O-ho! How'd you ever manage to get hold of a box of them?"
"How can he afford 'em? I offered old Cabada a dollar, a dollar and a half, and finally two dollars apiece for a thousand of 'em, coming through Key West the other day—and couldn't get 'em. Nor could all the pull I had in the place get 'em for me. He wasn't going to make any more that week, he said. He's a queer one. He's got all those Socialist chaps going the other way. For why should he work four, five, six hours a day, he said, when he could make all he wanted in one or two? Sells cigars to people he likes for fifteen dollars a hundred, but wouldn't sell to me at any price. I had to take my hat off to him—he stuck. Now, how do you dope a chap like that?"
"How do you?"
"Don't know the real values in life. Maybe a bit soft up top, besides." He lit up and drew several deep inhalations. "M-m—this is a smoke for a man!" He picked up the box gently. "If I thought Welkie'd take it, I'd offer more than a good price for the rest of that box. But"—suspicion was growing in his eyes—"how does it happen—d'y' s'pose somebody's been here ahead of me after all?"
"He's coming down-stairs now—ask him," smiled Balfe.
Welkie stepped into the veranda. "I was in my workroom when the buzzer told me you had come in, Mr. Necker, but on the way down I couldn't help looking in on young Greg. I'm glad to see you."
"I'm glad to meet you, Mr. Welkie. And to get right down to business, I'm the new president of the Gulf Construction Company, and I want to talk a few things over with you."
"Greg"—Balfe had opened the door—"how far up the beach to your cook's shack?"
"Oh, for Marie? A hundred yards that side."
"I'll look in there. Good night, Mr. Necker."
"Don't hurry away on my account, Mr. Balfe. I'd like you, or any friend of Mr. Welkie and his family, to hear what I have to say. It's a straight open-and-shut proposition I've got."
"Then we'll try to be back to hear some of it. Good-by for a while, then." The door closed behind him.
"Let's sit down, Mr. Necker."
"Thanks. And how did you leave that boy of yours?"
"In his little bed, with his pillow jammed up close to his window-screen, singing the 'Star-Spangled Banner' to himself and looking out on the lights of the fleet. He's afraid they'll steam away before he's seen his fill of them, and to-night he's not going to sleep till he hears taps, he says."
"It must be a great thing to have a boy like him, and to plan for his future and to look forward to what he'll be when he's grown up."
Welkie looked his interrogation.
"Surely, Welkie. A boy of brains he'll be. I don't have to look at a man or a boy twice. Brains and will power. You could make a great career for him, Welkie—a great engineer, say, if he was started right. But, of course, you'll be in a position by and by to see that he gets the start."
"Started right? What does he want when he has health and brains and a heart?"
"All fine, but he'll need more than that these days."
"Are these days so different?"
"Different, man! Why, the older a country is, the more civilized it is, the more education means, the more social position counts, the more money counts."
"How much more?"
"A heap more. Listen. Your father on twenty-five hundred a year, say, could put his children through college, couldn't he? On twenty-five hundred a year to-day a man with a family has to battle to keep out of the tenement districts. A dozen years from now, if you're getting no more money than you're getting now, you'll be wondering if you won't have to take that boy out of school and put him to work. Isn't that so?"
Welkie made no answer.
"All right. But before I go any farther, let me say that I want you, Mr. Welkie, for our new job."
"What's wrong with the man you've got?"
"He won't do. You're the one man we want, and if there's money enough in our strong box, we're going to get you. And now that I've got that off, let me show you where it is for your higher—I say your higher, not alone your moneyed—interests to come with us, Mr. Welkie. There's that boy of yours—you'd surely like to see him a great man?"
"I surely wouldn't dislike it."
"Good. Then give him a chance. Get rid first of the notion that a poor boy has as good a chance as another. He hasn't. I know that all our old school-books told us different—along with some other queer things. No wonder. Nine times out of ten they were got up by men born poor and intended for children born poor. It is a fine old myth in this country that only the poor boy ever gets anywhere. As a matter of fact, the poor boys outnumber the comfortably born boys ten to one, yet run behind in actual success. Even history'll tell you that. Alexander—son of a king. Caesar? Frederick the Great? Oh, loads of 'em! You don't seem to think much of that?"
"Not a great deal," smiled Welkie. "If you're going to call the long roll of history, it looks to me like it's a mistake to name only three, or twenty-three, or thirty-three men. You cast your eye along that little book-shelf there and——"
"Oh, I've been looking them over—Dante and Michael Angelo and Homer and Shakespeare and that knight-errant Spaniard and the rest of 'em. But I'm not talking of poets and philosophers and the like. I'm talking of the men who bossed the job when they were alive."
"But how about those who bossed it after they were dead?"
"But, damn it, Welkie, I'm talking of men of action."
"Men of action or—ditch-diggers?"
"That's what I call most of 'em, Necker—ditch-diggers. If your man of action hasn't himself thought out what he's doing, that's what he looks like to me—a ditch-digger, or at best a foreman of ditch-diggers. And a ditch-digger, a good ditch-digger, ought to be respected—until he thinks he's the whole works. Those kings of yours may have bossed the world, Necker, but, so long's we're arguing it, who bossed them?"
"You mean that the man who bosses the world for thirty or forty years isn't quite a man?"
"Surely he's quite a man; but the man who bosses men's minds a thousand years after he's dead—he's the real one. And that kind of a man, so far's I know things, Necker, never lived too comfortably on earth. He can't. I tell you, Necker, you can't be born into a fat life without being born into a fat soul, too."
"You're not stinting yourself in the expectation of running things after you're dead, Welkie?"
Welkie noted the half-ironical smile, but he answered simply, evenly: "It's not in me; but I'd live even a sparer life than I do, if I thought anybody after me had a chance."
"You're a hard man to argue with, Welkie, and I'm not going to argue with you—not on things dead and gone. You're too well posted for me. But suppose it was that way once, is it that way to-day? I'll bring it right home to you. Here's the overpowering figure in public life, Roosevelt, a man you think a lot of probably—was he born in poverty?"
"No, but I notice he cut away from his comfortable quarters about as soon as his upbringing'd let him."
"Wait. In finance who? Morgan? All right. Son of a millionaire financier, wasn't he?"
"But if you're going to bring in money——"
"I know. What of the Carnegies and the Rockefellers? you're going to say. There's where you think you've got me, but you haven't; for I've always said that being born in poverty fits a man to make money above all things, because he's brought up to value it out of all proportion to everything else. But where are they after they get it? America's full of millionaires who came up out of nothing, but who had to work so hard getting started that they'd nothing left in 'em or didn't know anything but money when they got to where they could stop to look around. If they had any genius to start with, it was dried out of 'em trying to get going. Hitch any two-mile trotter to an ice-wagon and where will he finish? You overweight your boy going off and he will be handicapped out of the race, too. But can I have another one of those cigars?"
"Thanks. I wish I had your pull with old Cabada. Now, Welkie, I'm only trying to show you where you ought to cast aside certain outworn traditions and face actual present-day truths. Now listen. You probably don't believe I'm a villain, Welkie, and you know I represent a powerful corporation—reputable even if powerful. Yes. Well, this work of ours is good, useful work—don't you think we can fairly claim that?"
"Good. Then wouldn't you like to see that work growing under your hand—ten thousand men driving night and day, and that concrete structure reaching out, as you've planned it, in long white stretches to the sea?"
"It's certainly a fine prospect."
"Then why not do it? What's the use, Welkie? You're the best man in the country for us and we're the best concern for you. We offer you the biggest job in sight. What d'y' say? You've been turning us down, but think it over now."
Welkie shook his head.
"Because—but they are coming back."
Necker could see the hands of Balfe and Miss Welkie unclasping in the half-darkness as they entered. He touched Welkie on the arm. "Why not tell Miss Welkie and Mr. Balfe what it is I'm after?"
"But I'm doing work here that I've got to finish, and they know that."
"I know you are, but consider this. What does the government pay you here, Welkie? I probably know, but no matter."
"Two hundred a month and this house."
"And I'm offering you two thousand! And—listen to this, please, Miss Welkie. In place of a mosquito-infested shoe-box of a shack in a God-forsaken hole, we'll give you and your brother a fine concrete house on a breezy hill in God's own country—a real home, Miss Welkie, with great halls and wide verandas and sun-lighted rooms through which the sea breezes will blow at night so you can sleep in peace. A mansion, Miss Welkie, with reception and music rooms, where you can receive your friends in the style a lady should, or a man of your brother's ability should. A place to be proud of, Miss Welkie—palm-studded, clean-clipped lawn rolling down to the sea. And a sea—I'll bet you know it, Mr. Balfe—a blue-and-green sea rolling down over to coral reefs as white as dogs' teeth, a shore-front that needs only building up to be as pretty as anything in your swell Mediterranean places. What d'y' say, Welkie? And here's the contract now, all ready for you, and pay begins to-day."
"It's alluring, it surely is. But I must finish here."
"But you'll soon be done here. A few weeks more, they told me in Washington. What are you going to do then?"
"I hadn't thought."
"Well, why not think of it now? Consider your boy, what it will mean to him some day. Why not ask Miss Welkie?"
Welkie turned gravely to his sister. "What do you say to that fine house with the grand dining-room, and the music-room, and a jasmine-twined pergola to sit out under of a night—and watch the moon roll up from the shining sea? I know the house—it's all that Mr. Necker says it is."
"And mahogany, and all kinds of beautiful linen for the table, Miss Welkie. Imagine that, with cut glass and silver and the electric candles gleaming over it of a night."
"I would dearly love to preside at the head of that table, Mr. Necker, but Mr. Balfe was speaking of something that perhaps my brother should hear about first."
"What's that, Andie?"
"Let it wait, Greg."
"Better now. What is it?"
"You may not like it."
"Maybe not, but we may as well have it now, Andie."
"I was to tell you that after this work is done there's another job waiting you on the west coast, just as important, just as needful of your supervision, and no more reward to it than this."
"Whee-eu!" whistled Necker. "The steamer captain had him right."
"Then I'm afraid"—Welkie turned to Necker—"it's off between us."
"Don't say that yet. Wait till you hear. What are you working for? Leaving the money end out of it, which I know you don't care for and never will care for, what are you getting? You want recognition? And prestige? Do you get them? Not a bit. Who really knows of this work? A few engineers who keep tabs on everything, yes. Who else? Nobody. The government, for good reasons of their own, don't want it mentioned in the press. Why, it's hardly mentioned in the engineering journals."
"Even so. It will go down in the records that I did it."
"Will it? Look here. I've been waiting for that." From his inside coat-pocket Necker drew out several typewritten sheets. "Mind you, I didn't want to produce this, but I'm forced to. My first interests are my company's. There is a copy of the last official report on this work. Read what that says. The credit is given, you see, to who? To you? No, no. Not a mention of you except as a civilian engineer who assisted."
"But how did you get hold of this?" Welkie held the papers, but without showing any inclination to read them.
"Does how I got hold of it matter?"
"That's right, it doesn't matter."
Welkie offered the papers to Balfe.
Balfe waved them back. "I saw the original of that report in Washington. What Mr. Necker says is so."
"There!" Necker brought his fist down on the table. "The man of all others to bear me out." He stepped close to Balfe. "I couldn't place you for a while. Thanks for that."
"Don't hurry your credit slip," snapped Balfe, with his eyes on Welkie.
Welkie silently passed the papers back to Necker.
"You believe me now, Mr. Welkie?"
"I don't know's I doubted you, Mr. Necker. It caught me just a mite below the belt, and I had to spar for wind."
"But it wasn't I who hit you below the belt, remember. Neither did I want to destroy your illusions, but I did want to show you the facts—the truth, not the glittering romance, of life. Now they're offering you another job. Will you, or somebody else, get the credit for that? You? No, sir! You'll get neither money nor reputation out of it. With us you'd get both."
"Probably that's so." Welkie spoke slowly. "But people in general will credit me with loyalty at least."
"Will they? Even where they know of your work, will they? When a man turns down an offer like ours, people in general will give him credit for little besides simple innocence. I'm telling you they'll be more likely to think you are controlled by some queer primitive instinct which will not allow you to properly value things. I'll leave it to your friend. What do you say to that, Mr. Balfe?"
"I think you're a good deal right."
"There! Your own friend agrees with me!" exclaimed Necker.
"You don't think that, Andie?" Welkie, puzzled, stared at Balfe.
"What I mean, Greg, and what Mr. Necker very well understands me to mean, is that surely there are hordes of people who never will believe that any man did anything without a selfish motive."
"That don't seem right, Andie."
"No, it doesn't, but it's so, Greg. But"—he set his jaw at Necker—"what if they do think so? Let them. Let them ride hogback through the mud if they will. Oceans of other people, oceans, will still be looking up to men like Greg Welkie here." He rested his hand on his friend's shoulder. "You stick to your aeroplaning in the high air, Greg."
"And chance a fall?" suggested Necker.
"And chance a fall!" snapped Balfe. "But there are no falls if the machine is built right and the aviator forgets the applause."
Marie Welkie's hand reached out and pressed one of Balfe's. He held it. "It's all right—he's a rock," he whispered.
"I must say, Welkie"—Necker fixed his eyes on the floor and spoke slowly—"that the government in this case seems to be represented by a man of picturesque speech, a man with imagination. I can only handle facts, and in a matter-of-fact way. I ask you to consider this: you have a boy, and there is Miss Welkie, a lovely, cultured woman, and"—he jerked his head suddenly up—"but what's the use? Here's a contract, needing only your signature, and here's a check, needing only my signature. I said two thousand a month. Suppose we make it three? Here's pen and ink, and remember your boy is looking out on the battle-ships from his little bed up-stairs."
"You're right, Necker, he is in his little bed up-stairs and I've got to think of him." He turned to Balfe. "The President, Andie, just naturally expects me to tackle this new job?"
"I think he does, Greg."
"Then there's only one answer left, Mr. Necker. No."
"Wait again. Welkie, you've a God-given genius for concrete work. I came here to get you and I—sign now and I'll make it four thousand."
"No? Why, look here! Here's a check. See—I'm signing it in blank. I'm leaving it to you to fill it in for what you please. For what you please for your first year for us, and the contract to run five years at the same rate. Remember you've been trimmed once and you're likely to be trimmed again."
"Let them trim me and keep on trimming me! The work is here and I did it. They know it and I know it. If nobody but myself and my God know, we know. And no official or unofficial crookedness can wipe it out."
"But that little fellow up-stairs with his face against the screen?"
"It's that little fellow I'm thinking of. He'll never have to explain why his father reneged on a job he was trusted to do."
"But you haven't promised anybody in writing?"
"And, as I make it out, you haven't even given your word?"
"Then what right has anybody to——"
"He don't need to have any right. He just thinks I'm the kind of a man he can count on, and, in a show down, that's the kind of a man I reckon I want him or any other man to think I am."
"Then it is finally no?"
"No. And let that be the end of the noes."
Necker smoked thoughtfully. Then, slowly gathering up his papers, he said: "I'm licked, Welkie; but I would like to know what licked me. It might save me from making the same mistake again."
"Why, I don't know's I know what you mean; but there is one thing, Necker: if it ever happens that a nation which don't like us comes steaming up here to get hold of this base, to batter it to pieces, say, she won't. No. And why? Because it's no haphazard mixture of water and sand. It's a good job, and if I'm no more than a lump of clay in my grave, I want to be able to roll over and say"—a flame seemed to shoot from his eyes—"'You sons o' guns, you can't get in, because what you've come to take was built right, and 'twas me built it, by God!'"
Necker studied him. "Well, if that isn't throwing a halo around your work, I don't know what is. I've met that before, too. But you've got more than that—what is it?"
"If I have, I don't know it." He paused.
"I know," whispered Marie in Balfe's ear—her eyes turned to the ensign on the table.
"But if there's anything else there, it must've been born in me, and so that's no credit. But if there is anything else there, I want my boy to have it, too."
Necker picked up his hat and cane. "He'll have it, never fear, Welkie, and the more surely because he won't know it either. I'm off. Do you mind if I take another of Cabada's cigars?"
"Surely. Help yourself. Fill your case."
"Thanks." He lit up. "These are a smoke. I wish he'd let me have some, but he's like you something—he's only to be got at from the inside, and I guess I'm not on the inside. Good-by, Welkie. I hope you get your reward some day, though I doubt it. Good-by, Mr. Balfe. You're the first of your kind I ever met. You fooled me, but I'll be ready for you next time. Good-by, Miss Welkie. I forgot to say"—he smiled slyly—"there was a sixty-horse-power French car and a fifty-foot motor-launch went with that house. Good-by."
The pebbly beach crunched under Necker's receding feet. "Dear me," sighed Marie, "don't you feel half sorry for him, Andie?"
"Just about half. I'll bet he plays a good game of poker. But, Greg—" Balfe drew a square white envelope from an inner coat-pocket—"I was given a letter the other day to give you—in case you were still on the job here."
"On the job? Where else could I be?" He had taken the envelope and was about to rip it carelessly open, when his eye caught the embossed blue lettering on the corner:
He held it up in bewilderment. "Not from the President, Andie?"
"Why not? Read it."
Slowly Welkie read it. He took it over to the light at the little table and read it again. He dropped it on the table and gazed through the screen at the lights of the fleet. After a time he said in a low tone: "I must tell Sonnie-Boy," and, turning, went inside the house.
"Is it very private, Andie?" whispered Marie.
"Then I'm going to read it."
She read it. "Why, Andie!" she gasped, and, crowding to the light, she also read it again. Her face was alight when she looked up at last. "Andie, Andie, isn't it splendid! If Mr. Necker could only hear this:
"'It is a fine thing in these days of materialism that a man of your genius can set aside the allurements of money and fame, and exile yourself to a region where certain hardship and probable disease await you; and this only that your country may be served.' And the rest of it! O Greg!"
Welkie was back with his boy in his arms. He took the letter from his sister. "Look here, Sonnie-Boy, what do you think? Here's a man says your papa is the greatest man ever was in his line. Years from now you'll look at that letter and perhaps you'll be proud of your papa. Your papa's boasting now, Sonnie-Boy, but only you and your auntie and godfather can hear him, and they'll never tell. So that's all right. 'Our papa was as good as anybody in his line'—a great man said so. What do you say, little five-and-a-half, you'll be a good man, too, in your line some day, won't you?"
"Can I be a fighter, papa, on a big gun-ship?"
"Well, if you're bound to go that way, I don't see who's to stop you, Sonnie-Boy. But if you are, whether it's a sword to your belt or a lanyard to your neck, here's hoping you'll never go over the side of your ship without"—he picked the ensign up—"you leave your colors flying over her. And now we'll go back to bed, Sonnie-Boy, and this time we'll go to sleep." In the doorway he stopped. "What do you reckon Necker would say to that letter, Andie?"
Balfe smiled. "He'd probably say, 'Welkie, you ought to publish that letter—capitalize it,' and think you were four kinds of a fool if you didn't."
"Well, I won't publish it or capitalize it. I'm going to frame it and hang it at the foot of your bed, Sonnie-Boy, where you'll see it mornings when you wake. Up we go, son."
Facing each other across the little work-table were Marie Welkie and Andie Balfe. She had said: "You surely have been my brother's friend, and, if you were not already so successful, I could wish a great reward for you."
He laid one hand of his gently down on hers. "Wish the reward, then, Marie. Do, dear, wish it, for I'm not successful. I played hard at my game, because playing it made me forget other things. Almost anybody playing a game long enough becomes half-expert at it. But successful? No, no, dear. So far I seem to have travelled only unending roads through bleak countries; and I'm dreading to go back to them alone."
Beyond the veranda screen the fireflies were flashing; farther out, the little green and red side-lights of the steaming launches, like other colored fireflies, were sliding by; to the mastheads of the battle-ships the red and white signal-lights were winking and glowing. The night was alive with colorful things. Closing her eyes, Marie could hear the lapping of little waves over pebbles, the challenging hail of a sailor on watch, the music of a far ship's band. She bent her head to hear it better—the sweetly faint cadence of that far-away band.
"And when was it you began to think of me, Andie?"
"Since those first days, Marie, when your brother and I bunked together in the old S.$1.$2.construction camp. He used to read me letters of yours from home. You were only a little girl then, and it was years before I saw you; but I knew what you looked like even before I stole your photograph——"
"I did. Greg dropped it one day. I found it and never gave it back. There it is—after nine years."
She laughed when she saw it. "Why, I can't make out to see what I looked like then, Andie!"
"I know what you looked like. I've kissed the face away, dear, but I know. In nine years, Marie, I never shifted from one coat to another without shifting your photograph, too. If anything had happened to me, they would have found your photograph on me, with your address on the back. 'Then,' I used to say to myself, 'she'll know. And Greg won't mind my stealing it.'" He laid it face up between them on the table. "The miles you've travelled with me, dear heart, and never knew! Back in the days of the construction camp they used to find sketches of a girl's head in my note-books, a beautiful head badly done—drawn from that photograph. But after I met you——"
"And after you met me, Andie?"
"Then I needed no photograph, though look and look at it I surely did. Steamers in western seas, battle-ships in eastern waters, balustrades of palaces—wherever it might be I was whirling with this old earth around, I've had your face to look at. And when I couldn't see for the darkness—rolled up in my rubber poncho, in no more romantic a place than the muck of a swamp, I've looked up through the swaying branches—or in the lee of a windy hill, it might be, with no more to hinder than the clear air, I've looked up and marked your face in the swirling clouds: your nose, your chin, the lips so shyly smiling. And if through the clouds a pair of stars would break, I'd mark them for your shining eyes, Marie."
"Poetry again, Andie!" She was laughing, but also she was melting under his eyes.
"If that's poetry, then I'm losing respect for it. It's a weak thing, Marie, and——"
"Sh-h—if somebody should be walking on the beach!"
"Let them, sweetheart. It's a fine night for a walk. What harm is truth?"
"But I don't want all the world to hear, Andie. For my poor heart was aching, too, Andie, and now it wants it all to itself, Andie mine."
* * * * *
It was taps on the battle-fleet. Over the mellowing, detaining waters of the bay the long-drawn bugles echoed. Good night, good ni-i-ght, g-o-o-d-n-i-g-h-t—they said, and gently, softly, whisperingly died away.
"He's asleep at last." Welkie was standing in the door. "And I don't know but we'd all better be getting to sleep, too. For to-morrow morning, you know, we—Wha-at!"
His friend was standing before him. "Shunt care for the morrow, Greg. Greater things than have happened are happening around you. The dream of years has come to pass. And we—we, Greg——"
He looked to her, and tremulous, vivid, she came, and with her at his side he was himself again. "Marie is to take me for Sonnie-Boy's uncle, and, Greg, we want your blessing."
TIM RILEY'S TOUCH
"A man outside—says his name's Riley," announced the youth who guarded the outer door. "A big husky!" he added when he saw the chairman did not look pleased.
The state chairman nodded round the table. "This is that new man the senator's been talking about." From a neat pile of letters the chairman picked out one.
"Here is what he sent in the other day. From it you can obtain an idea of the calibre of the man. Listen: 'As you ask me what I think about the crowd up here, I'll say that I think they've had their own way so long they've got to where they figure they don't have to make good. They seem to think that to be in politics is to be trying to fool everybody. They would rather—the most of them—get ten votes by faking than a hundred by straightforward work. They don't seem to see that nowadays people know more about the inside of things than they used to—that they're doing more thinking for themselves in political matters.'
"And"—the chairman reinserted the letter in the neat pile—"there's more drool of the same kind. I don't believe he ever wrote that letter. As I understand it, he's a coal-heaving sort who ought to have gone into the prize-ring and not politics; but, whether he wrote it or not, we will have to humor him because of the senator, who is of course the boss"—he shot a glance round the table—"the boss now. We'll give this fellow a little rope. A couple of the boys up where he comes from tipped me off about him—and we'll let the senator see him for what he is. I've seen these wonders before."
"And I guess you don't have to see too much of a man to be able to size him up either!" This from a faithful one on the chairman's right.
The chairman's lips kneaded shut. "Well, in political life—I don't say this in a boasting spirit, you understand, gentlemen—if a man in my position can't size a man up fairly well at a glance he might as well get out. His letter alone would tell me that he knows it all, and the word I get from the county chairman up his way is that he is one of the turbulent, fighting kind. However, we'll have him in here and look him over. Show him in, George."
And Riley stepped into the room. From the moment of his entrance not a soul there had a doubt of the chairman's prejudgment; but, that his less acute associates might judge for themselves, the chairman allowed the man by his own words to portray himself, which, after all, was the most convincing proof of all. It was the senior senator's own way of doing it.
The new man—an agile, powerful figure—had bowed with a conventional show of pleasure to each in turn as he was introduced; but, that over with, he had faced squarely toward the chairman, waiting. And the chairman began:
"I take it, Mr. Riley, that you are not the kind of man who would stand up on a platform and dodge an argument with the most excitable of opponents?"
"Dodge? What from?"
"Not from the hoots and the jeers, or vegetables—or even the half-bricks—eh?"
Riley waved a contemptuous arm. "I'd rather see half bricks coming my way than be looking down on staring empty benches, or benches emptying swiftly when a man's at the height of his speech." Riley paused by way of emphasis. "It is to try a man's soul—a frosty greeting; but, a warm-blooded opposition—that's only to stir a man up."
The state chairman waited for the new man to leap into the air, knock his heels together and yell:
"Hurroo!" The new man did not do that. He gazed steadily into the face of the chairman. However, every specimen could not be expected to meet every requirement. No doubt of it—here was the made-to-order creature for clever manipulation; and there followed then the suggestion to visit New Ireland, with artful words to whet a fighting man's appetite for that kind of job.
"And now for one last little touch before we send the poor boob to his political extinction," whispered the chairman to his next at hand. Aloud he said:
"Yes, sir—I believe in frankness, Mr. Riley. And I will tell you now that we didn't poll many votes in New Ireland last year. I don't just remember how many—I have mislaid the figures; but I wish to tell you frankly—frankly, I say—that we did not poll many. What they need there, I think, is a determined man like yourself to pile into them hammer and tongs. That would be the way, I think. And you show me, Mr. Riley, a fair Republican increase in New Ireland—fifty out of five hundred, say—and you can lay out your own itinerary for the rest of the campaign. Now isn't that fair?"
"Why, yes; that seems all right." As he said it, however, the new man, his eyes ever on the chairman's, had a feeling that it was not all right. And, as he was one of those intuitive ones with whom to feel was almost to prove, his attitude changed from the subjective to the objective. He had not liked this man a bit from the first, and he was liking him less and less; that finishing "Now isn't that fair?" was surely not meant for his benefit.
The new man left the committee-rooms with a disturbed soul, and on his way to the elevator he began to think things over. Among a dozen other things which flashed through his kindling brain he recalled the glint of what now he knew was mockery brightening the pale eyes of the chairman as the door closed behind him.
He pressed the button for the elevator; but before the upcoming car reached his floor he decided not to descend. He would have it out. He almost ran back to the committee-rooms and, brushing by the knowing but inefficient outer guard, made for the room where the leaders were. Already he could hear the laughter—yes, and the roaring at something or other; and as he placed his hand on the knob of the inner door he heard: "He's come here from the other end of the State, with a reputation for burning things up. Let him try to burn up New Ireland—and then go back to where he came from. Why, let his kind come butting in on us and soon we would all be out of jobs." The chairman's voice, that was.
Tim opened the door, and when they looked up and saw him it was as if they had all been clutched by the windpipes.
"Go to the devil—all of you!" exploded the new man. "Do you hear? Every mother's son of you!"
From out the silence some one at last said: "You mean, Mr. Riley, you are going to desert the party?"
Tim whirled on him.
"No; it doesn't mean I'm going to desert the party. Did ever you know a man who was any good to desert any party or anything, good or bad, under fire?"
"I'm glad to hear that." The chairman had come to life. "And not alone because we would lose you, eloquent though you are reported to be. So many of our people have maintained that no Irishman——"
"Cut that Irishman stuff! My chance to make a living, and my children's chance after me, I owe to this country."
"But, Mr. Riley, you are of Irish blood."
"Irish blood? You may be sure I am, and so proud of it that when I speak of it I slop over; but I'm an American citizen too. However, if you don't mind, we'll leave that for private discussion and not for political trading."
The chairman recovered.
"That's all very well; but when we ask your people to make sacrifices for the principles of our party——"
"Principles of the party—slush! Save that for your platform speeches. You're in the party because there's more in it for you. I'm in it because a man who gave me a square meal when I was starving asked me to join it. And, once in a fight, I stick. I stick because I don't know how to do anything else—and I'm going to stick now. And I'm going out now to New Ireland and talk to them."
The door behind Tim opened and a smooth, carefully trained voice said: "What's this about New Ireland?"
Tim knew the voice, even before he turned to greet him. It was the tall boss, the real boss, the senior senator, the man who ordered the State committee round even as they ordered the campaign speakers.
"New Ireland?" the senator repeated. "No, Mr. Riley. I can give you something better than that. That would be a waste of time. I'll change that right now. Here——"
"Excuse me, sir; but I'm going to New Ireland. I don't know what kind of a place it is or what kind they are there, except what the name tells me, and I don't care—I'm going there. No gang of men ever picked me for an omadhaun in the morning but found out they were mistaken before night. And I'll say further"—indignation in Tim always disposed him to classic periods—"if there are those who wave the green flag to tatters at every Irish meeting, and then betray her to those who hate her, there are also those who, though they have never made a sacrifice in their lives for this country, would prevent all but their own little kind from breathing the free air of it. As for me, I've come to this city to do something; and I'll stay here until I've done it. A while ago I agreed to go to New Ireland, and to New Ireland I'm going. Good day!" And the windows rattled with the banging of the door behind him.
"A proper bull-headed Irishman, that fellow," observed the chairman presently.
"Or is it he has convictions and is not afraid to voice them?" The senator had a habit of scratching his beard with his finger-nails, and again of drawing his chin in on his chest and looking over his gold-rimmed pince-nez. He drew in his chin now, and the chairman did not like it. He never did.
"A good fighter, I should say." The tall boss scratched his beard with his finger-nails. "An encouraging thing to meet a good fighter in these fat days; but let us see." He stepped over to where a blue-and-red-spotted map of the State was hanging and laid a finger on a blue spot: "New Ireland, which we can safely call the enemy's banner town for its size in the United States. If Riley can leave his mark on that place it will be proof to me that he can make breaches all along the line."
"More likely, I think, that the place will leave its mark on him. More likely they will crack his skull, I think. He may love a fight; but New Ireland is full of men who love fighting too—and they are not with us."
"That's true—they are not." The boss drew his chin in to his neck again. "Too bad they are not. Suppose we wait, however, and see how Riley makes out. His reputation is that of a most resourceful man. And if he does make an impression on New Ireland he can have anything I can give him in this State."
It is a good place—a moving train—for serious meditation. Tim Riley allowed the landscape to fly by, the while he considered matters. He knew the temper of the kind of people with whom he was to battle. They were so many more like himself. As for trying to bulldoze or browbeat them, or—if he was that kind—to bribe a single one, though they were the hard-working, unsophisticated kind—whisht!—like the wind they'd go the other way. And as for scaring the tough ones, he might be the strongest and toughest and scrappiest and quickest lad on his feet that ever was, but out there in that quarrying town would be a dozen or twenty or fifty just as strong and as quick and as scrappy as himself. And that kind—which was his kind—you might set them up in a row and knock them down one after another, and just as fast as one went down another would come bouncing up for the honor of the last word.
New Ireland! Tim viewed a town of two or three hundred small, square-planned wooden houses, with one green-painted house larger than most, labelled Kearney's Hotel; another, larger than that again, with a square cupola, which he knew would be the town hall; and yet one more, largest of all, white-painted, with a surmounting gold cross, which, of course, could only be the chapel. A mile or so beyond the town, on the scarred hillsides, stuck up the derricks of the quarries, which were the town's reason for being. Beyond the quarries were foot-hills, which gradually grew up into mountains. It was autumn, and in that high land the few trees were already bare; before the high wind the bare branches swayed.
It was not the most encouraging day of the year. Tim, with a warm fire and a hot meal in view, hurried on to the little hotel. Peter Kearney was the landlord, a companionable soul, who did not see the need of a register, and who, after a time, produced a lunch; and who, further, while Tim ate, smoked and gossiped of things a travelling man would naturally be interested in.
"And what kind have you here in New Ireland? Easy to get along with?" asked Tim, after the discovery of the quarries, the settling of the town, and the last explosion had been intelligently discussed.
"To get along with? The finest, easiest ever—of course if a man don't cross them."
"I wonder do you think I'll cross them?"
"And what would your business be that you'd be crossing 'em?" the landlord asked.
"I'm the Republican campaign speaker that's selected to address them to-night."
"Oh-h! Well, d'y'know, when I didn't see a sample case with you I had my suspicions; but when you said—or did you say your name was Riley?"
"I did. And it is. R-i-l-e-y—Riley, Timothy J. And there's any number of Republicans with names as good."
"I dare say, but not in New Ireland—nor likely to be while so many of your party put us down for a tribe of savages."
"Have patience, Mr. Kearney. There's a new order of things under way. Have patience. And tell me now how many Republicans should you estimate there are in New Ireland?"
"Estimate? Sure, and that's a large word for them. There's Grimmer, the cashier and chief clerk o' the savin's-bank. There's Handy, who keeps the real-estate office. And did ever ye notice, Mr. Riley, how, when a man has a soft-payin', easy-workin' job, 'tis ten to one he's a Republican?"
"I've spoken of it so often myself, Mr. Kearney, merely by way of humorous observation, that my party loyalty has been doubted. If you would never have your loyalty suspected, Mr. Kearney, you must never let on that you possess intelligence; but have patience and we'll have that changed some day—maybe. So those two are the leaders, are they?"
"Leaders, man! That's all of 'em."
"Two? Two out of nigh five hundred! Well, glory be, what kind are those two? The fighting kind?"
"Har-rdly the fightin' kind, Mr. Riley. They couldn't well be that in New Ireland, bein' Republican, and remain whole. Har-rdly! No, not if they were John L. Sullivans, the pair of 'em. Among five hundred quarrymen, d'y'see, Mr. Riley, and they mostly young men, there's always plenty of what a man might call loose energy lyin' round—specially after hours and Sundays and holidays; surely too much for any two, or two dozen, disputatious individuals to contend against. And yet, as I said, the easiest, quietest people living here——"
"Yes, yes; I'll bet a leprechaun's leap against a banshee's wail I know what peaceable kind they are. And I think I know now why I was—No matter about that though. Could you, Mr. Kearney, get somebody to pass the word to the quarries that the Republican speaker is here according to announcement, and that his name is Riley?"
"I'll send me boy. Dinnie!" called the landlord. No answer. "Dinnie!" No answer. The landlord opened his lungs and roared: "Dinnie!!" Then he looked out of the dining-room window. "H-m! I thought as much. Look at him peltin' it on his bi-sigh-cle for the quarries! He heard you say Republican and 'twas enough. No fear now—not a soul in New Ireland but will know it before dark. And—but excuse me one minute, Mr. Riley."
The landlord stood up to greet a forlorn-looking old woman, who, with a man's overcoat wrapped round her, had appeared at the dining-room door.
"How are you to-day, Mrs. Nolan? About as usual? Well, don't be worryin'. Yes, you'll find Delia in the kitchen. Go in."
Tim nodded after the old woman as she went in.
"And who is she, Mr. Kearney?"
"A poor old creature who comes here once or twice in the week to have a cup o' tea and maybe a little to go with it, with the cook. A poor old soul dependin' on charity, and yet she won't take it from every one."
"Poor woman! Will you give her that?—not now, but when she goes out, Mr. Kearney." He slipped a silver dollar into the landlord's hand. "No need to tell her where it came from. I'll be going along now, I think, to have a look at the town. I'll be back for supper."
"Good luck to you!"
Tim had not left the hotel a hundred yards behind him when he met a Catholic priest.
"Good afternoon, Father," said Tim, and raised his hat.
"Good afternoon, sir. And is it"—the cane was shifted from the right hand to the left, and the hand thus freed extended to Tim—"Mr. Riley—isn't it?"
"It is; but how did you know, Father?"
"Oh, if Peter Kearney's long-legged Dinnie hasn't told half the quarries before this of your name and business 'twill be because he's burst a tire or broke his neck rolling down the steep hills. And so you're to speak to us to-night?"
"God willing, I am."
"And you're not discouraged?"
"And why should I be discouraged?"
"Why? You must be a stranger to these parts."
"And no one told you of what happened to the last man your party sent here?"
"They did not. And what happened?"
"He was rode out of town on a rail."
"Well, well, Father. And what did he do, the poor man?"
"Oh, he only hinted at first that we were a lot of ignorant foreigners who were Democrats because we didn't know any better; but he warmed up as he went along. I don't know wherever they got him from. In the middle of it Buck Malone gave them what they call his high sign—his right forefinger raised so—and every man in the hall got up and walked out. A few of them came back later and took him off. They didn't hurt him—no bones broken or anything like that; but they do say he never waited for the train when they turned him loose, but legged the thirty miles back to the city without a single stop!"
"He did? Well, it's fine exercise, Father—running; though thirty miles in one bite, to be sure, is a bit too much for good digestion, I'd say. This Buck Malone—he's the boss here, Father?"
"He is. And a famous one for surprising folks."
"Thank you for the information, Father."
"It's no information. The very babies here know of the last man here. If you see the children in the street smiling slylike when you pass, that will be why."
Tim pulled his lower lip with thumb and forefinger.
"And yet they'd laugh all the louder if I was to go away without speaking, Father. What kind is Buck Malone to look at and where does he hang out?"
The priest poked the end of his cane at Tim's chest.
"Is it fighting you'd be at, Mr. Riley?"
"It is not. I'm not for fighting—unless, of course, I have to. Isn't it only natural to want to know what kind your opponent is?"
"So it is—so it is. Well, then, about this time o' day you'll find him in that cigar-store with the sign out—below there. He's a contractor himself, who furnishes labor for the quarries. A man about your height and breadth he'll be, but a trifle fuller in the waist. A stout, strong man, and not many able to look him down. An eye in his head, has Buck! I wouldn't want to see the pair of ye at it."
"Thank you, Father. And look—d'y'see that old woman coming out of the hotel? What's her story, Father?"
"The widow Nolan. A sad history, Mr. Riley, if you could get it out of her; but it's few she'll talk to."
"Poor woman! Would you give her this—a couple of dollars—Father, after I'm gone?"
"I will. And it's good of you. And you're bound to speak to-night?"
"I'll speak. And I'd like you to come, Father."
"Not I, Mr. Riley. Priests are better out of politics. Good day and God speed you!"
Tim strolled toward the cigar-store; and drawing near he picked out, standing near the glass case, a tall, powerfully built man, with intelligently heavy features and the unwavering eyes of a fighting man. As Tim entered this man was speaking. Before ten words had been said, Tim knew that his entrance had been forecasted and that this was Buck Malone.
"And he'll be up there on that platform all alone—not a soul with him, because these two dubs that ought to be standing by him, they've got cold feet already. And he'll be up there all alone, except for a pitcher of cold water and a glass, and a table and a chair; and he'll begin to spout. I dunno whether he c'n talk or not; but we'll let him run on for maybe ten minutes, and about the time he thinks he's making a hit I'll start up and I'll raise my forefinger like that—see? And that'll mean everybody get up and go out. No hurry, mind you—nor no hustlin'; but everybody just stand up and walk out and leave him talkin' to that picture o' that dago, or whoever he is, discoverin' the Mississippi on the back wall.
"And now you"—Malone turned leisurely to a stocky-looking young fellow in seedy clothes standing wistfully off to one side—"you go on and pass the word to 'em as they come out o' the quarries."
"All right," answered the stocky one in a hoarse voice, but without moving.
A meagre-looking man stood behind the cigar-case.
"Will you let me have," said Tim to him, "three good cigars?"
The man behind the cigar-case looked slyly at Malone.
"How good?" he asked.
"Oh, pretty fair—three for a dollar or so."
"Three for a—I got nothing like that here. Fifteen cents straight's the best I got."
"All right; they'll do."
The boss had not been smoking when Tim entered; but now he turned to look better at Tim, and he pulled a cigar from his vest-pocket, bit off the end, scratched a match, and leisurely lit it—all without taking his eyes off Tim.
Tim also leisurely bit the end off a cigar. The proprietor pushed three or four matches across the case. Tim, ignoring them, stepped close to the boss.
"Would you let me have a light?" he inquired politely.
"H-ff! h-ff!" The boss swallowed quite a little smoke, but recovered and passed over his cigar. Tim took his light from it, said "Thanks!" briefly, and—puff-puff—contemplated the boss's stout henchman in the rusty clothes, who was still standing irresolutely at one side.
"Smoke?" inquired Tim suddenly, and thrust a cigar at him.
"Wh-h—" stuttered the henchman, and then almost snatched it from Tim's hand.
"You gettin' hard o' hearin'? Thought I told you to get along!" snapped Malone.
"I am goin' along," returned the husky voice, "soon's I light up." In the curling of the smoke from the corner of his mouth, in the whoofing of it toward the ceiling, in the squaring of the thick shoulders as he passed out—there was a hint of rebellion.
"You may be the boss," thought Tim, "but your grip isn't too sure." And turning squarely on Malone he observed genially: "Fine day."
"H-p-p—" Malone stared fixedly at Tim. Tim stared back. Tim was rapidly developing a feeling of respect for the man. Tim knew the kind. A few years back he had been such an uncompromising one himself, who would have whipped off his coat, as no doubt Malone would now, and battled on the spot in preference to verbal argument.
"It is a fine day," responded Malone slowly; "but accordin' to my dope it ain't goin' to be half so fine a night."
From behind the cigar-case came a giggle, and from the boss himself came an after-chuckle and a pleased little smile.
"Why, it's not going to rain, is it?" asked Tim, and with an appropriately innocent manner he stepped to the door to look at the sky; and in looking he saw not the sky, but the widow Nolan, with some odds and ends of firewood, making her halting way against the wind.
"The poor creature!" murmured Tim; and while pitying her the plan came to him. "Gentlemen," he said over his shoulder, "I have to be off; but before going I cordially invite you and all your friends to the town hall to-night, to discuss the issues of the campaign. Good day, gentlemen."
And through the door, before it closed after him, he could hear the cackle of the man behind the cigar-case: "Is it going to rain! Say, Buck, you won't do a thing to him to-night, will yuh?"
With his greeting of "Good afternoon to you, Mrs. Nolan!" Tim stowed the widow's little bundle under his left arm.
"And good afternoon to you, sir; but you'll be sp'iling your fine clothes, sir!"
"And if I do it's small loss." He gripped her right elbow. "It's the hard walking it is, Mrs. Nolan—what with the wind and the steep hill and an old lady of your age."
"Oh, yeh, it is—coming on to seventy-five."
"Seventy-five? And you still hopping about active as a grasshopper! A great age that. 'Tis little, I'm afraid, many of us young ones will be thinking of climbing steep hillsides when we're coming on to seventy-five. 'Tis you was the active one in your young days, I'll wager."
"'Tis me that was, sir; but oh, I'm not that now."
"It's sad it must be to be looking back on the bright dancin' days o' youth, Mrs. Nolan."
"Sure and it is, sir; but why—the fine bouncin' lad ye are—why should you be sayin' it?"
"Ah, sure, youth has its trials and tribulations too, ma'am, sometimes. And is this your little place?"
"It is. An' will you come in, sir?"
"I will and thank ye kindly, ma'am. 'Tisn't every day a lady invites me into her place."
"Whisht! There are ladies enough to be pleasant to a fine strappin' lad like you, with nothing on earth to be botherin' you."
Tim laughed as he sat down.
"Nothing? Oh, ma'am——"
"And what is it can be worryin' you, sir?"
"What is it? Well, if you had my job, Mrs. Nolan, I'm thinkin' you'd be worrying, too; even if 'twas big and strong and a man you were, and but thirty years of age. I'm the Republican speaker, ma'am, that has been sent to ye here. And for why? To convert ye, ma'am."
"And so you're a Republican, sir? Well, well—but, savin' your presence, you don't look it or talk it. Sure, you're as Irish as myself!"
"I'm that Irish, ma'am, that if you were to take the Irish from out of me it's faded and limp as a mornin'-glory at two in the afternoon I'd be."
"And what's your name, may I ask?"
"Riley, ma'am. Timothy Joseph Riley, to be exact."
"Riley—Tim Riley! Well, you're the first Riley ever I knew was a Republican. That thin-necked one in the bank, and that other one, the fat-necked one in the real-estate place—sure, you don't favor them no more than—Yet there must be good men Republicans, too. Will you have a cuppeen o' tea? 'Tisn't much; but 'twill war-rm you, maybe, on the chill day."
"Thank you; and 'twill taste fine—a cup o' tea on a chill day like this. And like to be chiller, Mrs. Nolan."
"True for ye. And gen'rally I feels it; but not so to-day, sir. Mr. Kearney gave me a dollar, sayin' it was from a stranger and I wasn't to mention it—and I won't; but"—she shot a quick, warm glance at Tim—"God guard the kind heart of him, whoever he is. To-morrow I'll be orderin' some beautiful groceries with it. Tis a gran' sinsation to be goin' into a store and orderin' things."
She stooped for her little bundle of fagots, but Tim forestalled her. He undid them, arranged them craftily in the stove with rolls of old newspaper beneath, and touched a match to the fire.
"We'll have the little kittle b'ilin' in a minute now, sir."
"And what will you do against the cold winter comin', ma'am?"
"Oh, yeh! I'll do, no doubt, what I've done every winter since I come here—live through it."
"With the cold wind coming through the wide cracks and the snow piling high on the wintry mornings, it won't be the tightest place in the world, ma'am."
"Thanks be to God I have it—the same little cabin!"
"Thank God you have! Whisht, ma'am"—- Tim laid a restraining hand on hers as she spooned the tea out of the can—"you won't be leaving yourself any at all."
"Sure, there's enough for the breakfast. And if we could always be sure of our breakfast it's little we'd have to complain of. And now let me get out my cups and saucers. I have two of each, thank God!"
"Let me, Mrs. Nolan—I see them."
"Well, well—but 'tis the spry lad ye are! Sure, you're across the floor in one leap—like a stag just."
"Oh, sure; my legs are young. And one spoonful o' sugar is it, ma'am?"
"One—yes. And now sit down. And so it's a Republican ye are? And an Irishman, too? Well, well—they do be queer happenin's in the world!"
"Queer enough. And from what part of Ireland are ye, ma'am?"
"A fine place, ma'am. I know it."
"Do ye now? But you're not Galway?"
"I wouldn't lie to ye, ma'am, though I'm tempted—I'm not; but I had an uncle, as fine a man as ever lived, who died there. I went to see him there once, and a grand time I had with salmon-fishin' in the loch and fishin' with the Claddagh men in the bay—and on a Saturday night the little boys singin' the old Irish songs in the streets and before Mrs. Mack's hotel door. And was it in Galway the last of your people died?"
"It wasn't. And they didn't die—they were killed, God rest their souls!"
The sticks in the little stove crackled; the water in the little kettle spluttered; a gaunt black cat crowded his way through the poorly fastened door and rubbed himself against Tim's legs, whereat the widow threw a stick of wood at him.
"Out o' that, you with your mud on you from the quarry pools sp'ilin' the gentleman's fine clothes!"
"Small harm he'll do, ma'am."
"It's better manners he ought to be havin', though 'tis fine to see a man like yourself hasn't too much conceit of his clothes. But now have your tea, avic."
"I will. Ah-h! and the fine tea, it is, too. And isn't it a queer thing now, Mrs. Nolan, that I can go to the finest hotels in the land and not get the like o' this for tea? The finest of hotels—yes; and here in a little cabin, with the wind blowing through the cracks, I'm havin' tea that for its equal I'd have to go—well, to China itself, I'm thinking. But tell me, Mrs. Nolan—it's as a friend I ask—what misfortune was it brought you to be living in a little shebeen on this rocky hillside?"
The old woman made no response, except to add three or four little sticks of wood from her pile to freshen the fire. It was still chilly and outside it was windy, and Tim drew the man's worn coat about her shoulders and made her sit closer to the fire. And by and by she told him.
When she had done the twilight was on them and the fire long gone out. Through the one little window of the cabin they could see the increasing lights in the town below, and from the road they could hear the tramping of heavy-booted men.
"They'll be hurrying home from the quarries now. And 'tis not a lonesome home they will be finding."
And Tim sat there smoking the last of the three cigars he had bought that afternoon, and thinking—thinking—sometimes of the evening's work before him, but mostly of the old woman's story.
"Oh, yeh; if it was but a stone I had to put on their two graves in the cemetery below!" she said after a long silence.
"And why shouldn't you have the stone to put over them?" Tim jumped up and patted her white, straggling hair. "And you will have it, Nanna. Come with me to-night and I'll guarantee you'll have it."
"And where will I go?"
"With me and have a fine, hot supper at Kearney's—and then to the town hall to hear me speak."
"Indeed and I'd like that fine, Mr. Riley; but they don't be invitin' women—old women—to any rallies."
"Tis me is giving the rally, and I'll invite whom I please—I mean, if you're not afraid of the rioting when they don't like, maybe, what I'm going to say to them."
"Me afraid? Of what? Sure and they could be liftin' the roof itself from the town hall and a lone woman like myself would be safe among them. But why should you be wanting me there?"
"Why? I'll tell you, Nanna, and you must take it for the true reason until I can give you a better. And who knows it isn't the true reason? I'm that vain, Nanna, that I want some one soul there that isn't against me—some one that, before ever I begin, I know will hear me out. If you're there I know whose heart will be warm to me while I'm speaking. For 'tis terrible discouraging to see nothing but cold faces staring up from the benches and your heart bursting to tell them what's in it."
"Sure and it must be, avic. The cold heart—'tis an awful thing. A bony black cat itself is more company in the house than one of ourselves when the heart is ice. But whisper"—she leaned doubtfully toward him—"d'y' think there'd be hope of you turnin' Dimicrat?"
"I'm afraid I'm fixed where I am. I'm not easily turned, Nanna."
"Oh, yeh! Well, well—in one minute, Timmie avic, I'll be along with you."
And she dusted the hearth and gathered up her cups and saucers, which, as she washed, Tim dried. And presently he was guiding her halting steps down the hill.