SAMUEL HOPKINS ADAMS
WITH ILLUSTRATIONS BY W.D. STEVENS
Published October 1914
TO THE MEMORY OF MY FATHER MYRON ADAMS WHO LIVED AND DIED A SOLDIER OF IDEALS THIS BOOK IS REVERENTLY INSCRIBED
I. THE ITINERANT
II. OUR LEADING CITIZEN
IV. THE SHOP
V. THE SCION
VII. THE OWNER
VIII. A PARTNERSHIP
X. IN THE WAY OF TRADE
XI. THE INITIATE
XII. THE THIN EDGE
XIII. NEW BLOOD
XIV. THE ROOKERIES
XVI. THE STRATEGIST
XX. THE LESSER TEMPTING
XXI. THE POWER OF PRINT
XXIII. CREEPING FLAME
XXIV. A FAILURE IN TACTICS
XXV. STERN LOGIC
XXVI. THE PARTING
XXVII. THE GREATER TEMPTING
XXVIII. "WHOSE BREAD I EAT"
XXIX. CERTINA CHARLEY
XXXI. THE VOICE OF THE PROPHET
XXXII. THE WARNING
XXXIII. THE GOOD FIGHT
XXXIV. VOX POPULI
XXXV. TEMPERED METAL
XXXVI. THE VICTORY
XXXVII. MCGUIRE ELLIS WAKES UP
XXXVIII. THE CONVERT
"THEN IT'S ALL LIES! LIES AND MURDER!"
HELP AND CURE ARE AT THEIR BECK AND CALL
"KILL IT," SHE URGED SOFTLY
"DON'T GO NEAR HIM. DON'T LOOK"
Between two flames the man stood, overlooking the crowd. A soft breeze, playing about the torches, sent shadows billowing across the massed folk on the ground. Shrewdly set with an eye to theatrical effect, these phares of a night threw out from the darkness the square bulk of the man's figure, and, reflecting garishly upward from the naked hemlock of the platform, accentuated, as in bronze, the bosses of the face, and gleamed deeply in the dark, bold eyes. Half of Marysville buzzed and chattered in the park-space below, together with many representatives of the farming country near by, for the event had been advertised with skilled appeal: cf. the "Canoga County Palladium," April 15, 1897, page 4.
The occupant of the platform, having paused, after a self-introductory trumpeting of professional claims, was slowly and with an eye to oratorical effect moistening lips and throat from a goblet at his elbow. Now, ready to resume, he raised a slow hand in an indescribable gesture of mingled command and benevolence. The clamor subsided to a murmur, over which his voice flowed and spread like oil subduing vexed waters.
"Pain. Pain. Pain. The primal curse, the dominant tragedy of life. Who among you, dear friends, but has felt it? You men, slowly torn upon the rack of rheumatism; you women, with the hidden agony gnawing at your breast" (his roving regard was swift, like a hawk, to mark down the sudden, involuntary quiver of a faded slattern under one of the torches); "all you who have known burning nights and pallid mornings, I offer you r-r-r-release!"
On the final word his face lighted up as from an inner fire of inspiration, and he flung his arms wide in an embracing benediction. The crowd, heavy-eyed, sodden, wondering, bent to him as the torch-fires bent to the breath of summer. With the subtle sense of the man who wrings his livelihood from human emotions, he felt the moment of his mastery approaching. Was it fully come yet? Were his fish securely in the net? Betwixt hovering hands he studied his audience.
His eyes stopped with a sense of being checked by the steady regard of one who stood directly in front of him only a few feet away; a solid-built, crisply outlined man of forty, carrying himself with a practical erectness, upon whose face there was a rather disturbing half-smile. The stranger's hand was clasped in that of a little girl, wide-eyed, elfin, and lovely.
"Release," repeated the man of the torches. "Blessed release from your torments. Peace out of pain."
The voice was of wonderful quality, rich and unctuous, the labials dropping, honeyed, from the lips. It wooed the crowd, lured it, enmeshed it. But the magician had, a little, lost confidence in the power of his spell. His mind dwelt uneasily upon his well-garbed auditor. What was he doing there, with his keen face and worldly, confident carriage, amidst those clodhoppers? Was there peril in his presence? Your predatory creature hunts ever with fear in his heart.
"Guardy," the voice of the elfin child rang silvery in the silence, as she pressed close to her companion. "Guardy, is he preaching?"
"Yes, my dear little child." The orator saw his opportunity and swooped upon it, with a flash of dazzling teeth from under his pliant lips. "This sweet little girl asks if I am preaching. I thank her for the word. Preaching, indeed! Preaching a blessed gospel, for this world of pain and suffering; a gospel of hope and happiness and joy. I offer you, here, now, this moment of blessed opportunity, the priceless boon of health. It is within reach of the humblest and poorest as well as the millionaire. The blessing falls on all like the gentle rain from heaven."
His hands, outstretched, quivering as if to shed the promised balm, slowly descended below the level of the platform railing. Behind the tricolored cheesecloth which screened him from the waist down something stirred. The hands ascended again into the light. In each was a bottle. The speaker's words came now sharp, decisive, compelling.
"Here it is! Look at it, my friends. The wonder of the scientific world, the never-failing panacea, the despair of the doctors. All diseases yield to it. It revivifies the blood, reconstructs the nerves, drives out the poisons which corrupt the human frame. It banishes pain, sickness, weakness, and cheats death of his prey. Oh, grave, where is thy victory? Oh, death, where is thy power? Overcome by my marvelous discovery! Harmless as water! Sweet on the tongue as honey! Potent as a miracle! By the grace of Heaven, which has bestowed this secret upon me, I have saved five thousand men, women, and children from sure doom, in the last three years, through my swift and infallible remedy, Professor Certain's Vitalizing Mixture; as witness my undenied affidavit, sworn to before Almighty God and a notary public and published in every newspaper in the State."
Wonder and hope exhaled in a sigh from the assemblage. People began to stir, to shift from one foot to another, to glance about them nervously. Professor Certain had them. It needed but the first thrust of hand into pocket to set the avalanche of coin rolling toward the platform. From near the speaker a voice piped thinly:—
"Will it ease my cough?"
The orator bent over, and his voice was like a benign hand upon the brow of suffering.
"Ease it? You'll never know you had a cough after one bottle."
"Just a moment, my friend." The Professor was not yet ready. "Put your dollar back. There's enough to go around. Oh, Uncle Cal! Step up here, please."
An old negro, very pompous and upright, made his way to the steps and mounted.
"You all know old Uncle Cal Parks, my friends. You've seen him hobbling and hunching around for years, all twisted up with rheumatics. He came to me yesterday, begging for relief, and we began treatment with the Vitalizing Mixture right off. Look at him now. Show them what you can do, uncle."
Wild-eyed, the old fellow gazed about at the people. "Glory! Hallelujah!" Emotional explosives left over from the previous year's revival burst from his lips. He broke into a stiff, but prankish double-shuffle.
"I'd like to try some o' that on my old mare," remarked a facetious-minded rustic, below, and a titter followed.
"Good for man or beast," retorted the Professor with smiling amiability. "You've seen what the Vitalizing Mixture has done for this poor old colored man. It will do as much or more for any of you. And the price is Only One Dollar!" The voice double-capitalized the words. "Don't, for the sake of one hundred little cents, put off the day of cure. Don't waste your chance. Don't let a miserable little dollar stand between you and death. Come, now. Who's first?"
The victim of the "cough" was first, closely followed by the mare-owning wit. Then the whole mass seemed to be pressing forward, at once. Like those of a conjurer, the deft hands of the Professor pushed in and out of the light, snatching from below the bottles handed up to him, and taking in the clinking silver and fluttering greenbacks. And still they came, that line of grotesques, hobbling, limping, sprawling their way to the golden promise. Never did Pied Piper flute to creatures more bemused. Only once was there pause, when the dispenser of balm held aloft between thumb and finger a cart-wheel dollar.
"Phony!" he said curtly, and flipped it far into the darkness. "Don't any more of you try it on," he warned, as the thwarted profferer of the counterfeit sidled away, and there was, in his tone, a dominant ferocity.
Presently the line of purchasers thinned out. The Vitalizing Mixture had exhausted its market. But only part of the crowd had contributed to the levy. Mainly it was the men, whom the "spiel" had lured. Now for the women. The voice, the organ of a genuine artist, took on a new cadence, limpid and tender.
"And now, we come to the sufferings of those who bear pain with the fortitude of the angels. Our women-folk! How many here are hiding that dreadful malady, cancer? Hiding it, when help and cure are at their beck and call. Lady," he bent swiftly to the slattern under the torch and his accents were a healing effluence, "with my soothing, balmy oils, you can cure yourself in three weeks, or your money back."
"I do' know haow you knew," faltered the woman. "I ain't told no one yet. Kinder hoped it wa'n't thet, after all."
He brooded over her compassionately. "You've suffered needlessly. Soon it would have been too late. The Vitalizing Mixture will keep up your strength, while the soothing, balmy oils drive out the poison, and heal up the sore. Three and a half for the two. Thank you. And is there some suffering friend who you can lead to the light?"
The woman hesitated. She moved out to the edge of the crowd, and spoke earnestly to a younger woman, whose comely face was scarred with the chiseling of sleeplessness.
"Joe, he wouldn't let me," protested the younger woman. "He'd say 't was a waste."
"But ye'll be cured," cried the other in exaltation. "Think of it. Ye'll sleep again o' nights."
The woman's hand went to her breast, with a piteous gesture. "Oh, my God! D'yeh think it could be true?" she cried.
"Accourse it's true! Didn't yeh hear whut he sayed? Would he dast swear to it if it wasn't true?"
Tremulously the younger woman moved forward, clutching her shawl about her.
"Could yeh sell me half a bottle to try it, sir?" she asked.
The vender shook his head. "Impossible, my dear madam. Contrary to my fixed professional rule. But, I'll tell you what I will do. If, in three days you're not better, you can have your money back."
She began painfully to count out her coins. Reaching impatiently for his price, the Professor found himself looking straight into the eyes of the well-dressed stranger.
"Are you going to take that woman's money?"
The question was low-toned but quite clear. An uneasy twitching beset the corners of the professional brow. For just the fraction of a second, the outstretched hand was stayed. Then:—
"That's what I am. And all the others I can get. Can I sell you a bottle?"
Behind the suavity there was the impudence of the man who is a little alarmed, and a little angry because of the alarm.
"Why, yes," said the other coolly. "Some day I might like to know what's in the stuff."
"Hand up your cash then. And here you are—Doctor. It is 'Doctor,' ain't it?"
"You've guessed it," returned the stranger.
At once the platform peddler became the opportunist orator again.
"A fellow practitioner, in my audience, ladies and gentlemen; and doing me the honor of purchasing my cure. Sir," the splendid voice rose and soared as he addressed his newest client, "you follow the noblest of callings. My friends, I would rather heal a people's ills than determine their destinies."
Giving them a moment to absorb that noble sentiment, he passed on to his next source of revenue: Dyspepsia. He enlarged and expatiated upon its symptoms until his subjects could fairly feel the grilling at the pit of their collective stomach. One by one they came forward, the yellow-eyed, the pasty-faced feeders on fried breakfasts, snatchers of hasty noon-meals, sleepers on gorged stomachs. About them he wove the glamour of his words, the arch-seducer, until the dollars fidgeted in their pockets.
"Just one dollar the bottle, and pain is banished. Eat? You can eat a cord of hickory for breakfast, knots and all, and digest it in an hour. The Vitalizing Mixture does it."
Assorted ills came next. In earlier spring it would have been pneumonia and coughs. Now it was the ailments that we have always with us: backache, headache, indigestion and always the magnificent promise. So he picked up the final harvest, gleaning his field.
"Now,"—the rotund voice sunk into the confidential, sympathetic register, yet with a tone of saddened rebuke,—"there are topics that the lips shrink from when ladies are present. But I have a word for you young men. Young blood! Ah, young blood, and the fire of life! For that we pay a penalty. Yet we must not overpay the debt. To such as wish my private advice—private, I say, and sacredly confidential—" He broke off and leaned out over the railing. "Thousands have lived to bless the name of Professor Certain, and his friendship, at such a crisis; thousands, my friends. To such, I shall be available for consultation from nine to twelve to-morrow, at the Moscow Hotel. Remember the time and place. Men only. Nine to twelve. And all under the inviolable seal of my profession."
Some quality of unexpressed insistence in the stranger—or was it the speaker's own uneasiness of spirit?—brought back the roving, brilliant eyes to the square face below.
"A little blackmail on the side, eh?"
The words were spoken low, but with a peculiar, abrupt crispness. This, then, was direct challenge. Professor Certain tautened. Should he accept it, or was it safer to ignore this pestilent disturber? Craft and anger thrust opposing counsels upon him. But determination of the issue came from outside.
From the outskirts of the crowd a rawboned giant forced his way inward. He was gaunt and unkempt as a weed in winter.
"Here's trouble," remarked a man at the front. "Allus comes with a Hardscrabbler."
"What's a Hardscrabbler?" queried the well-dressed man.
"Feller from the Hardscrabble Settlement over on Corsica Lake. Tough lot, they are. Make their own laws, when they want any; run their place to suit themselves. Ain't much they ain't up to. Hoss-stealin', barn-burnin', boot-leggin', an' murder thrown in when—"
"Be you the doctor was to Corsica Village two years ago?" The newcomer's high, droning voice cut short the explanation.
"I was there, my friend. Testimonials and letters from some of your leading citizens attest the work—"
"You give my woman morpheean." There was a hideous edged intonation in the word, like the whine of some plaintive and dangerous animal.
"My friend!" The Professor's hand went forth in repressive deprecation. "We physicians give what seems to us best, in these cases."
"A reg'lar doctor from Burnham seen her," pursued the Hardscrabbler, in the same thin wail, moving nearer, but not again raising his eyes to the other's face. Instead, his gaze seemed fixed upon the man's shining expanse of waistcoat. "He said you doped her with the morpheean you give her."
"So your chickens come home to roost, Professor," said the stranger, in a half-voice.
"Impossible," declared the Professor, addressing the Hardscrabbler. "You misunderstood him."
"They took my woman away. They took her to the 'sylum."
Foreboding peril, the people nearest the uncouth visitor had drawn away. Only the stranger held his ground; more than held it, indeed, for he edged almost imperceptibly nearer. He had noticed a fleck of red on the matted beard, where the lip had been bitten into. Also he saw that the Professor, whose gaze had so timorously shifted from his, was intent, recognizing danger; intent, and unafraid before the threat.
"She used to cry fer it, my woman. Cry fer the morpheean like a baby." He sagged a step forward. "She don't haff to cry no more. She's dead."
Whence had the knife leapt, to gleam so viciously in his hand? Almost as swiftly as it was drawn, the healer had snatched one of the heavy torch-poles from its socket. Almost, not quite. The fury leapt and struck; struck for that shining waistcoat, upon which his regard had concentrated, with an upward lunge, the most surely deadly blow known to the knife-fighter. Two other movements coincided, to the instant. From the curtain of cheesecloth the slight form of a boy shot upward, with brandished arms; and the square-built man reached the Hardscrabbler's jaw with a powerful and accurate swing. There was a scream of pain, a roar from the crowd, and an answering bellow from the quack in midair, for he had launched his formidable bulk over the rail, to plunge, a crushing weight, upon the would-be murderer, who lay stunned on the grass. For a moment the avenger ground him, with knees and fists; then was up and back on the platform. Already the city man had gained the flooring, and was bending above the child. There was a sprinkle of blood on the bright, rough boards.
"Oh, my God! Boy-ee! Has he killed you?"
"No: he isn't killed," said the stranger curtly. "Keep the people back. Lift down that torch."
The Professor wavered on his legs, grasping at the rail for support.
"You are a doctor?" he gasped.
"Can you save him? Any money—"
"Set the torch here."
"Oh, Boyee, Boyee!" The great, dark man had dropped to his knees, his face a mask of agony.
"Oh, the devil!" said the physician disgustedly. "You're no help. Clear a way there, some of you, so that I can get him to the hotel." Then, to the other. "Keep quiet. There's no danger. Only a flesh wound, but he's fainted."
Carefully he swung the small form to his shoulder, and forced a way through the crowd, the little girl, who had followed him to the platform, composedly trotting along in his wake, while the Hardscrabbler, moaning from the pain of two broken ribs, was led away by a constable. Some distance behind, the itinerant wallowed like a drunken man, muttering brilliant bargain offers of good conduct to Almighty God, if "Boyee" were saved to him.
Once in the little hotel room, the physician went about his business with swift decisiveness, aided by the mite of a girl, who seemed to know by instinct where to be and what to do in the way of handling towels, wash-basin, and the other simple paraphernalia required. Professor Certain was unceremoniously packed off to the drug store for bandages. When he returned the patient had recovered consciousness.
"Where's Dad?" he asked eagerly. "Did he hurt Dad?"
"No, Boyee." The big man was at the bedside in two long, velvety-footed steps. Struck by the extenuation of the final "y" in the term, the physician for the first time noted a very faint foreign accent, the merest echo of some alien tongue. "Are you in pain, Boyee?"
"Not very much. It doesn't matter. Why did he want to kill you?"
"Never mind that, now," interrupted the physician. "We'll get that scratch bound up, and then, young man, you'll go to sleep."
Pallid as a ghost, the itinerant held the little hand during the process of binding the wound. "Boyee" essayed to smile, at the end, and closed his eyes.
"Now we can leave him," said the physician. "Poppet, curl up in that chair and keep watch on our patient while this gentleman and I have a little talk in the outer room."
With a brisk nod of obedience and comprehension, the elfin girl took her place, while the two men went out.
"What do I owe you?" asked Professor Certain, as soon as the door had closed.
"Oh, that won't do."
"It will have to do."
"Courtesy of the profession? But—"
The other laughed grimly, cutting him short. "So you call yourself an M.D., do you?"
"Call myself? I am. Regular degree from the Dayton Medical College." He sleeked down his heavy hair with a complacent hand.
The physician snorted. "A diploma-mill. What did you pay for your M.D.?"
"One hundred dollars, and it's as good as your four-year P. and S. course or any other, for my purposes," retorted the other, with hardihood. "What's more, I'm a member of the American Academy of Surgeons, with a special diploma from St. Luke's Hospital of Niles, Michigan, and a certificate of fellowship in the National Medical Scientific Fraternity. Pleased to meet a brother practitioner." The sneer was as palpable as it was cynical.
"You've got all the fake trimmings, haven't you? Do those things pay?"
"Do they! Better than your game, I'll bet. Name your own fee, now, and don't be afraid to make it strong."
"I'm not in regular practice. I'm a naval surgeon on leave. Give your money to those poor devils you swindled to-night. I don't like the smell of it."
"Oh, you can't rile me," returned the quack. "I don't blame you regulars for getting sore when you see us fellows culling out coin from under your very noses, that you can't touch."
"Cull it, and welcome. But don't try to pass it on to me."
"Well, I'd like to do something for you in return for what you did for my son."
"Would you? Pay me in words, then, if you will and dare. What is your Vitalizing Mixture?"
"That's my secret."
"And the rest syrup and coloring matter, I suppose. A fine vitalizer!"
"It gets the money," retorted the other.
"And your soothing, balmy oils for cancer? Arsenious acid, I suppose, to eat it out?"
"What if it is? As well that as anything else—for cancer."
"Humph! I happened to see a patient you'd treated, two years ago, by that mild method. It wasn't cancer at all; only a benign tumor. Your soothing oils burned her breast off, like so much fire. She's dead now."
"Oh, we all make mistakes."
"But we don't all commit murder."
"Rub it in, if you like to. You can't make me mad. Just the same, if it wasn't for what you've done for Boyee—"
"Well, what about 'Boyee'?" broke in his persecutor quite undisturbed. "He seems a perfectly decent sort of human integer."
The bold eyes shifted and softened abruptly. "He's the big thing in my life."
"Bringing him up to the trade, eh?"
"No, damn you!"
"Damn me, if you like. But don't damn him. He seems to be a bit too good for this sort of thing."
"To tell you the truth," said the other gloomily, "I was going to quit at the end of this year, anyway. But I guess this ends it now. Accidents like this hurt business. I guess this closes my tour."
"Is the game playing out?"
"Not exactly! Do you know what I took out of this town last night? One hundred and ten good dollars. And to-morrow's consultation is good for fifty more. That 'spiel' of mine is the best high-pitch in the business."
"High-pitching," explained the quack, "is our term for the talk, the patter. You can sell sugar pills to raise the dead with a good-enough high-pitch. I've done it myself—pretty near. With a voice like mine, it's a shame to drop it. But I'm getting tired. And Boyee ought to have schooling. So, I'll settle down and try a regular proprietary trade with the Mixture and some other stuff I've got. I guess I can make printer's ink do the work. And there's millions in it if you once get a start. More than you can say of regular practice. I tried that, too, before I took up itinerating." He grinned. "A midge couldn't have lived on my receipts. By the way," he added, becoming grave, "what was your game in cutting in on my 'spiel'?"
"You ain't a government agent or a medical society investigator?"
The physician pulled out a card and handed it over. It read, "Mark Elliot, Surgeon, U.S.N."
"Don't lose any sleep over me," he advised, then went to open the outer door, in response to a knock.
A spectacled young man appeared. "They told me Professor Certain was here," he said.
"What is it?" asked the quack.
"About that stabbing. I'm the editor of the weekly 'Palladium.'"
"Glad to see you, Mr. Editor. Always glad to see the Press. Of course you won't print anything about this affair?"
The visitor blinked. "You wouldn't hardly expect me to kill the story."
"Not? Does anybody else but me give you page ads.?"
"Well, of course, we try to favor our advertisers," said the spectacled one nervously.
"That's business! I'll be coming around again next year, if this thing is handled right, and I think my increased business might warrant a double page, then."
"But the paper will have to carry something about it. Too many folks saw it happen."
"Just say that a crazy man tried to interrupt the lecture of Professor Andrew Leon Certain, the distinguished medical savant, and was locked up by the authorities."
"But the knifing. How is the boy?"
"Somebody's been giving you the wrong tip. There wasn't any knife," replied the Professor with a wink. "You may send me two hundred and fifty copies of the paper. And, by the way, do what you can to get that poor lunatic off easy, and I'll square the bills—with commission."
"I'll see the Justice first thing in the morning," said the editor with enthusiasm. "Much obliged, Professor Certain. And the article will be all right. I'll show you a proof. It mightn't be a bad notion for you to drop in at the jail with me, and see Neal, the man that stab—that interrupted the meeting, before he gets talking with any one else."
"So it mightn't. But what about my leaving, now?" Professor Certain asked of the physician.
"Go ahead. I'll keep watch."
Shortly after the itinerant had gone out with the exponent of free and untrammeled journalism, the boy awoke and looked about with fevered anxiety for his father. The little nurse was beside him at once.
"You mustn't wiggle around," she commanded. "Do you want a drink?"
Gratefully he drank the water which she held to his lips.
"Where's my Dad?" he asked.
"He's gone out. He'll come back pretty soon. Lie down."
He sank back, fixing his eyes upon her. "Will you stay with me till he comes?"
She nodded. "Does it hurt you much?" Her cool and tiny fingers touched his forehead, soothingly. "You're very hot. I think you've got a little fever."
"Don't take your hand away." His eyes closed, but presently opened again. "I think you're very pretty," he said shyly.
"Do you? I like to have people think I'm pretty. Uncle Guardy scolds me for it. Not really, you know, but just pretending. He says I'm vain."
"Is that your uncle, the gentleman that fixed my arm?"
"Yes. I call him Uncle Guardy because he's my guardian, too."
"I like him. He looks good. But I like you better. I like you a lot."
"Everybody does," replied the girl with dimpling complacency. "They can't help it. It's because I'm me!"
For a moment he brooded. "Am I going to die?" he asked quite suddenly.
"Die? Of course not."
"Would you be sorry if I did?"
"Yes. If you died you couldn't like me any more. And I want everybody to like me and think me pretty."
"I'm glad I'm not. It would be tough on Dad."
"My Uncle Guardy thinks your father is a bad man," said the fairy, not without a spice of malice.
Up rose the patient from his pillow. "Then I hate him. He's a liar. My Dad is the best man in the world." A brighter hue than fever burnt in his cheeks, and his hand went to his shoulder. "I won't have his bandages on me," he cried.
But she had thrown herself upon his arm, and pushed him back. "Oh, don't! Please don't," she besought. "Uncle Guardy told me to keep you perfectly quiet. And I've made you sit up—"
"What's all this commotion?" demanded Dr. Elliot brusquely, from the door.
"You said my father was a bad man," cried the outraged patient.
"Lie back, youngster." The physician's hand was gentle, but very firm. "I don't recall saying any such thing. Where did you get it?"
"I said you thought he was a bad man," declared the midget girl. "I know you do. You wouldn't have spoken back to him down in the square if you hadn't."
Her uncle turned upon her a slow, cool, silent regard. "Esme, you talk too much," he said finally. "I'm a little ashamed of you, as a nurse. Take your place there by the bedside. And you, young man, shut your ears and eyes and go to sleep."
Hardly had the door closed behind the autocrat of the sick-room, when his patient turned softly.
"You're crying," he accused.
"I'm not!" The denial was the merest gasp. The long lashes quivered with tears.
"Yes, you are. He was mean to you."
"He's never mean to me." The words came in a sobbing rush. "But he—he—stopped loving me just for that minute. And when anybody I love stops loving me I want to die!"
The boy's brown hands crept timidly to her arm. "I like you awfully," he said. "And I'll never stop, not even for a minute!"
"Won't you?" Again she was the child coquette. "But we're going away to-night. Perhaps you won't see me any more."
"Oh, yes, I shall. I'll look for you until I find you."
"I'll hide," she teased.
"That won't matter, little girl." He repeated the form softly and drowsily. "Little girl; little girl; I'd do anything in the world for you, little girl, if ever you asked me. Only don't go away while I'm asleep."
Back of them the door had opened quietly and Professor Certain, who, with Dr. Elliot, had been a silent spectator of the little drama, now closed it again, withdrawing, on the further side, with his companion.
"He'll sleep now," said the physician. "That's all he needs. Hello! What's this?"
In a corner of the sofa was a tiny huddle, outlined vaguely as human, under a faded shawl. Drawing aside the folds, the quack disclosed a wild little face, framed in a mass of glowing red hair.
"That Hardscrabbler's young 'un," he said. "She was crying quietly to herself, in the darkness outside the jail, poor little tyke. So I picked her up, and" (with a sort of tender awkwardness) "she was glad to come with me. Seemed to kind of take to me. Kiddies generally do."
"Do they? That's curious."
"I suppose you think so," replied the quack, without rancor.
"What are you going to do with her?"
"I'll see, later. At present I'm going to keep her here with us. She's only seven, and her mother's dead. Are you staying here to-night?"
"Got to. Missed my connection."
"Then at least you'll let me pay your hotel bill, if you won't take my money."
"Why, yes: I suppose so," said the other grudgingly. "I'll look at the boy in the morning. But he'll be all right. Only, don't take up your itinerating again for a few days."
"I'm through, I tell you. Give me a growing city to settle in and I'll go in for the regular proprietary manufacturing game. Know anything about Worthington?"
"Pretty good, live town?"
"First-class, and not too critical, I suppose, to accept your business," said Dr. Elliot dryly. "I'm on my way there now for a visit. Well, I must get my little girl."
The itinerant opened the door, looked, and beckoned. The boy lay on his pillow, the girl was curled in her chair, both fast asleep. Their hands were lightly clasped.
Dr. Elliot lifted his ward and carried her away. The itinerant, returning to the Hardscrabbler girl, took her out to arrange the night's accommodation for her. So, there slept that night under one roof and at the charge of Professor Andrew L. Certain, five human beings who, long years after, were destined to meet and mingle their fates, intricate, intimate strands in the pattern of human weal and woe.
OUR LEADING CITIZEN
The year of grace, 1913, commended itself to Dr. L. Andre Surtaine as an excellent time in which to be alive, rich, and sixty years old. Thoroughly, keenly, ebulliently alive he was. Thoroughly rich, also; and if the truth be told, rather ebulliently conscious of his wealth. You could see at a glance that he had paid no usurious interest to Fate on his success; that his vigor and zest in life remained to him undiminished. Vitality and a high satisfaction with his environment and with himself as well placed in it, radiated from his bulky and handsome person; but it was the vitality that impressed you first: impressed and warmed you; perhaps warned you, too, on shrewder observation. A gleaming personality, this. But behind the radiance one surmised fire. Occasion given, Dr. Surtaine might well be formidable.
The world had been his oyster to open. He had cleaved it wide. Ill-natured persons hinted, in reference to his business, that he had used poison rather than the knife wherewith to loosen the stubborn hinges of the bivalve. Money gives back small echo to the cries of calumny, however. And Dr. Surtaine's Certina, that infallible and guaranteed blood-cure, eradicator of all known human ills, "famous across the map of the world," to use one of its advertising phrases, under the catchword of "Professor Certain's Certina, the Sure-Cure" (for he preserved the old name as a trade-mark), had made a vast deal of money for its proprietor. Worthington estimated his fortune at fifteen millions, growing at the rate of a million yearly, and was not preposterously far afield. In a city of two hundred thousand inhabitants, claimed (one hundred and seventy-five thousand allowed by a niggling and suspicious census), this is all that the most needy of millionaires needs. It was all that Dr. Surtaine needed. He enjoyed his high satisfaction as a hard-earned increment.
Something more than satisfaction beamed from his face this blustery March noon as he awaited the Worthington train at a small station an hour up the line. He fidgeted like an eager boy when the whistle sounded, and before the cars had fairly come to a stop he was up the steps of the sleeper and inside the door. There rose to meet him a tall, carefully dressed and pressed youth, whose exclamation was evenly apportioned between welcome and surprise.
To the amusement of the other passengers, the two seized each other in a bear-hug.
"Oof!" panted the big man, releasing his son. "That's the best thing that's happened to me this year. George" (to the porter), "get me a seat. Get us two seats together. Aren't any? Perhaps this gentleman," turning to the chair back of him, "wouldn't mind moving across the aisle until we get to Worthington."
"Certainly not. Glad to oblige," said the stranger, smiling. People usually were "glad to oblige" Dr. Surtaine whether they knew him or not. The man inspired good will in others.
"It's nearly a year since I've set eyes on my son," he added in a voice which took the whole car into his friendly confidence; "and it seems like ten. How are you feeling, Hal? You look chirp as a cricket."
"Couldn't possibly feel better, sir. Where did you get on?"
"Here at State Crossing. Thought I'd come up and meet you. The office got on my nerves this morning. Work didn't hold me worth a cent. I kept figuring you coming nearer and nearer until I couldn't stand it, so I banged down my desk, told my secretary that I was going to California on the night boat and mightn't be back till evening, hung the scrap-basket on the stenographer's ear when she tried to hold me up to sign some letters, jumped out of the fifth-story window, and here I am. I hope you're as tickled to see me as I am to see you."
The young man's hand went out, fell with a swift movement, to touch his father's, and was as swiftly withdrawn again.
"Worthington's just waiting for you," the Doctor rattled on. "You're put up at all the clubs. People you've never heard of are laying out dinners and dances for you. You're a distinguished stranger; that's what you are. Welcome to our city and all that sort of thing. I'd like to have a brass band at the station to meet you, only I thought it might jar your quiet European tastes. Eh? At that, I had to put the boys under bonds to keep 'em from decorating the factory for you."
"You don't seem to have lost any of your spirit, Dad," said the junior, smiling.
"Noticed that already, have you? Well, I'm holding my own, Boyee. Up to date, old age hasn't scratched me with his claws to any noticeable extent—is that the way it goes?—see 'Familiar Quotations.' I'm getting to be a regular book-worm, Hal. Shakespeare, R.L.S., Kipling, Arnold Bennett, Hall Caine—all the high-brows. And I get 'em, too. Soak 'em right in. I love it! Tell me, who's this Balzac? An agent was in yesterday trying to make me believe that he invented culture. What about him? I'm pretty hot on the culture trail. Look out, or I'll overhaul you."
"You won't have to go very far or fast. I've got only smatterings." But the boy spoke with a subdued complacency not wholly lost upon the shrewd father.
"Not so much that you'll think Worthington dull and provincial?"
"Oh, I dare say I shall find it a very decent little place."
But here Hal touched another pride and loyalty, quite as genuine as that which Dr. Surtaine felt for his son.
"Little place!" he cried. "Two hundred thousand of the livest people on God's earth. A gen-u-wine American city if there ever was one."
"Evidently it suits you, sir."
"Couldn't suit better if I'd had it made to order," chuckled the Doctor. "And I did pretty near make it over to order. It was a dead-and-alive town when we opened up here. Didn't care much about my business, either. Now we're the biggest thing in town. Why Certina is the cross-mark that shows where Worthington is on the map. The business is sim-plee BOOMING." The word exploded in rapture. "Nothing like it ever known in the proprietary trade. Wait till you see the shop."
"That will be soon, won't it, sir? I think I've loafed quite long enough."
"You're only twenty-five," his father defended him. "It isn't as if you'd been idling. Your four years abroad have been just so much capital. Educational capital, I mean. I've got plenty of the other kind, for both of us. You don't need to go into the business unless you want to."
"Being an American, I suppose I've got to go to work at something."
"You don't want me to live on you all my life, though, I suppose."
"Well, I don't want you to want me to want you to," returned the other, laughing. "But there's no hurry."
"To tell the truth, I'm rather bored with doing nothing. And if I can be of any use to you in the business—"
"You're ready to resume the partnership," his father concluded the sentence for him. "That was the foundation of it all; the old days when I did the 'spieling' and you took in the dollars. How quick your little hands were! Can you remember it? The smelly smoke of the torches, and the shadows chasing each other across the crowds below. And to think what has grown out of it. God, Boyee! It's a miracle," he exulted.
"It isn't very clear in my memory. I used to get pretty sleepy, I remember," said the son, smiling.
"Poor Boyee! Sometimes I hated the life, for you. But there was nobody to leave you with; and you were all I had. Anyway, it's turned out well, hasn't it?"
"That remains to be seen for me, doesn't it? I'm rather at the start of things."
"Most youngsters would be content with an unlimited allowance, and the world for a playground."
"One gets tired of playing. And of globe-trotting."
"Good! Do you think you can make Worthington feel like home?"
"How can I tell, sir? I haven't spent two weeks altogether in the place since I entered college eight years ago."
"Did it ever strike you that I'd carefully planned to keep you away from here, and that our periods of companionship have all been abroad or at summer places?"
"You've never spoken of it."
"Good boy! Now I'll tell you why. I wanted to be absolutely established before I brought you back here. Not in business, alone. That came long ago. There have been obstacles, in other ways. They're all overcome. To-day we come pretty near to being king-pins in this town, you and I, Hal. Do you feel like a prince entering into his realm?"
"Rather more like a freshman entering college," said the other, laughing. "It isn't the town, it's the business that I have misgivings about."
"Misgivings? How's that?" asked the father quickly.
"What I can do in it."
"Oh, that. My doubts are whether it's the best thing for you."
"Don't you want me to go into it, Dad?"
"Of course I want you with me, Boyee. But—well, frank and flat, I don't know whether it's genteel enough for you."
"Genteel?" The younger Surtaine repeated the distasteful adjective with surprise.
"Some folks make fun of it, you know. It's the advertising that makes it a fair mark. 'Certina,' they say. 'That's where he made his money. Patent-medicine millions.' I don't mind it. But for you it's different."
"If the money is good enough for me to spend, it's good enough for me to earn," said Hal Surtaine a little grandiloquently.
"Humph! Well, the business is a big success, and I want you to be a big success. But that doesn't mean that I want to combine the two. Isn't there anything else you've ever thought of turning to?"
"I've got something of a leaning toward your profession, Dad."
"My prof—oh, you mean medicine."
"Nothing in it. Doctors are a lot of prejudiced pedants and hypocrites. Not one in a thousand is more than an inch wide. What started you on that?"
"I hardly know. It was just a notion. I think the scientific and sociological side is what appeals to me. But my interest is only theoretical."
"That's very well for a hobby. Not as a profession. Here we are, half an hour late, as usual."
The sudden and violent bite of the brakes, a characteristic operation of that mummy among railroads, the Mid-State and Great Muddy River, commonly known as the "Mid-and-Mud," flung forward in an involuntary plunge the incautious who had arisen to look after their things. Hal Surtaine found himself supporting the weight of a fortuitous citizen who had just made his way up the aisle.
"Thank you," said the stranger in a dry voice. "You're the prodigal son of whom we've heard such glowing forecast, I presume."
"Well met, Mr. Pierce," called Dr. Surtaine's jovial voice. "Yes, that's my son, Harrington, you're hanging to. Hal, this is Mr. Elias M. Pierce, one of the men who run Worthington."
Releasing his burden Hal acknowledged the introduction. Elias M. Pierce, receding a yard or so into perspective, revealed himself as a spare, middle-aged man who looked as if he had been hewn out of a block, square, and glued into a permanent black suit. Under his palely sardonic eye Hal felt that he was being appraised, and in none too amiable a spirit.
"A favorite pleasantry of your father's, Mr. Surtaine," said Pierce. "What became of Douglas? Oh, here he is."
A clean-shaven, rather floridly dressed man came forward, was introduced to Hal, and inquired courteously whether he was going to settle down in Worthington.
"Probably depends on how well he likes it," cut in the dry Mr. Pierce. "You might help him decide. I'm sure William would be glad to have you lunch with him one day this week at the Huron Club, Mr. Surtaine."
Somewhat surprised and a little annoyed at this curiously vicarious suggestion of hospitality, the newcomer hesitated, although Douglas promptly supported the offer. Before he had decided what to reply, his father eagerly broke in.
"Yes, yes. You must go, Hal," he said, apparently oblivious of the fact that he had not been included in the invitation.
"I'll try to be there, myself," continued Pierce, in a flat tone of condescension. "Douglas represents me, however, not only legally but in other matters that I'm too busy to attend to."
"Mr. Pierce is president of the Huron Club," explained Dr. Surtaine. "It's our leading social organization. You'll meet our best business men there." And Hal had no alternative but to accept.
Here William Douglas turned to speak to Dr. Surtaine. "The Reverend Norman Hale has been looking for you. It is some minor hitch about that Mission matter, I believe. Just a little diplomacy wanted. He said he'd call to see you day after to-morrow."
"Meaning more money, I suppose," said Dr. Surtaine. Then, more loudly: "Well, the business can stand it. All right. Send him along."
With Hal close on his heels he stepped from the car. But Douglas, having the cue from his patron, took the younger man by the arm and drew him aside.
"Come over and meet some of our fair citizens," he said. "Nothing like starting right."
The Pierce motor car, very large, very quietly complete and elegant, was waiting near at hand, and in it a prematurely elderly, subdued nondescript of a woman, and a pretty, sensitive, sensuous type of brunette, almost too well dressed. To Mrs. Pierce and Miss Kathleen Pierce, Hal was duly presented, and by them graciously received. As he stood there, bareheaded, gracefully at ease, smiling up into the interested faces of the two ladies, Dr. Surtaine, passing to his own car to await him, looked back and was warmed with pride and gratitude for this further honorarium to his capital stock of happiness, for he saw already in his son the assurance of social success, and, on the hour's reckoning, summed him up. And since we are to see much of Harrington Surtaine, in evil chance and good, and see him at times through the eyes of that shrewd observer and capitalizer of men, his father, the summing-up is worth our present heed, for all that it is to be considerably modified in the mind of its proponent, as events develop. This, then, is Dr. Surtaine's estimate of his beloved "Boyee," after a year of separation.
"A little bit of a prig. A little bit of a cub. Just a little mite of a snob, too, maybe. But the right, solid, clean stuff underneath. And my son, thank God! My son all through."
Hal saw her first, vivid against the lifeless gray of the cement wall, as he turned away from the Pierce car. A little apart from the human current she stood, still and expectant. As if to point her out as the chosen of gods and men, the questing sun, bursting in triumph through a cloud-rift, sent a long shaft of gold to encompass and irradiate her. To the end, whether with aching heart or glad, Hal was to see her thus, in flashing, recurrent visions; a slight, poised figure, all gracious curves and tender consonances, with a cluster of the trailing arbutus, that first-love of the springtide, clinging at her breast. The breeze bore to him the faint, wild, appealing fragrance which is the very breath and soul of the blossom's fairy-pink.
Half-turning, she had leaned a little, as a flower leans, to the warmth of the sunlight, uplifting her face for its kiss. She was not beautiful in any sense of regularity of outline or perfection of feature, so much as lovely, with the lustrous loveliness which defiantly overrides the lapse of line and proportion, and imperiously demands the homage of every man born of woman. Chill analysis might have judged the mouth, with its delicate, humorous quirk at the corners, too large; the chin too broad, for all its adorable baby dimple; the line of the nose too abrupt, the wider contours lacking something of classic exactitude. But the chillest analysis must have warmed to enthusiasm at the eyes; wide-set, level, and of a tawny hazel, with strange, wine-brown lights in their depths, to match the brownish-golden sheen of the hair, where the sun glinted from it. As it were a higher power of her physical splendor, there emanated from the girl an intensity and radiance of joy in being alive and lovely.
Involuntarily Hal Surtaine paused as he approached her. Her glance fell upon him, not with the impersonal regard bestowed upon a casual passer-by, but with an intent and brightening interest,—the thrill of the chase, had he but known it,—and passed beyond him again. But in that brief moment, the conviction was borne in upon him that sometime, somewhere, he had looked into those eyes before. Puzzled and eager he still stared, until, with a slight flush, she moved forward and passed him. At the head of the stairs he saw her greet a strongly built, grizzled man; and then became aware of his father beckoning to him from the automobile.
"Bewitched, Hal?" said Dr. Surtaine as his son came to him.
"Was I staring very outrageously, sir?"
"Why, you certainly looked interested," returned the older man, laughing. "But I don't think you need apologize to the young lady. She's used to attention. Rather lives on it, I guess."
The tone jarred on Hal. "I had a queer, momentary feeling that I'd seen her before," he said.
"Don't you recall where?"
"No," said Hal, startled. "Do I know her?"
"Apparently not," taunted the other good-humoredly. "You should know. Hers is generally considered a face not difficult to remember."
"Impossible to forget!"
"In that case it must be that you haven't seen her before. But you will again. And, then look out, Boy-ee. Danger ahead!"
"How's that, sir?"
"You'll see for yourself when you meet her. Half of the boys in town are crazy over her. She eats 'em alive. Can't you tell the man-killer type when you see it?"
"Oh, that's all in the game, isn't it?" returned Hal lightly. "So long as she plays fair. And she looks like a girl of breeding and standards."
"All of that. Esme Elliot is a lady, so far as that goes. But—well, I'm not going to prejudice you. Here she comes now."
"Who is it with her?"
"Her uncle, Dr. Elliot. He doesn't altogether approve of us—me, I mean."
Uncle and niece were coming directly toward them now, and Hal watched her approach with a thrill of delight in her motion. It was a study in harmonies. She moved like a cloud before the wind; like a ship upon the high seas; like the swirl of swift waters above hidden depths. As the pair passed to their car, which stood next to Dr. Surtaine's, the girl glanced up and nodded, with a brilliant smile, to the doctor, who returned to the salutation an extra-gallant bow.
"You seem to be friends," commented Hal, somewhat amused.
"That was more for you than for me. But the fair Esme can always spare one of those smiles for anything that wears trousers."
Hal moved uneasily. He felt a sense of discord. As he cast about for a topic to shift to, the Elliot car rolled ahead slowly, and once more he caught the woodsy perfume of the pink bloom. Strangely and satisfyingly to his quickened perceptions, it seemed to express the quality of the wearer. Despite her bearing of worldly self-assurance, despite the atmosphere of modishness about her, there was in her charm something wild and vivid, vernal and remote, like the arbutus which, alone among flowers, keeps its life-secret virgin and inviolate, resisting all endeavors to make it bloom except in its own way and in its own chosen places.
Certina had found its first modest home in Worthington on a side street. As the business grew, the staid tenement which housed it expanded and drew to itself neighboring buildings, until it eventually gave way to the largest, finest, and most up-to-date office edifice in the city. None too large, fine, or modern was this last word in architecture for the triumphant nostrum and the minor medical enterprises allied to it. For though Certina alone bore the name and spread the fame and features of its inventor abroad in the land, many lesser experiments had bloomed into success under the fertilizing genius of the master-quack.
Inanimate machinery, when it runs sweetly, gives forth a definite tone, the bee-song of work happily consummated. So this great human mechanism seemed, to Harrington Surtaine as he entered the realm of its activities, moving to music personal to itself. Through its wide halls he wandered, past humming workrooms, up spacious stairways, resonant to the tread of brisk feet, until he reached the fifth floor where cluster the main offices. Here through a succession of open doors he caught a glimpse of the engineer who controlled all these lively processes, leaning easily back from his desk, fresh, suavely groomed, smiling, an embodiment of perfect satisfaction. Before Dr. Surtaine lay many sheaves of paper, in rigid order. A stenographer sat in a far corner, making notes. From beyond a side door came the precise, faint clicking of a typewriter. The room possessed an atmosphere of calm and poise; but not of restfulness. At once and emphatically it impressed the visitor with a sense that it was a place where things were done, and done efficiently.
Upon his son's greeting, Dr. Surtaine whirled in his chair.
"Come down to see the old slave at work, eh?" he said.
"Yes, sir." Hal's hand fell on the other's shoulder, and the Doctor's fingers went up to it for a quick pressure. "I thought I'd like to see the wheels go 'round."
"You've come to the right spot. This is the good old cash-factory, and yours truly is the man behind the engine. The State, I'm It, as Napoleon said to Louis the Quince. Where McBeth sits is the head of the table."
"In other words, a one-man business."
"That's the secret. There's nothing in this shop that I can't do, and don't do, every now and then, just to keep my hand in. I can put more pull into an ad. to-day than the next best man in the business. Modesty isn't my besetting sin, you see, Hal."
"Why should it be? Every brick in this building would give the lie to it."
"Say every frame on these four walls," suggested Dr. Surtaine with an expansive gesture.
Following this indication, Hal examined the decorations. On every side were ordinary newspaper advertisements, handsomely mounted, most of them bearing dates on brass plates. Here and there appeared a circular, or a typed letter, similarly designated.
Above Dr. Surtaine's desk was a triple setting, a small advertisement, a larger one, and a huge full-newspaper-page size, each embodying the same figure, that of a man half-bent over, with his hand to his back and a lamentable expression on his face.
Certain strongly typed words fairly thrust themselves out of the surrounding print: "Pain—Back—Take Care—Means Something—Your Kidneys." And then in dominant presentment—
"What do you think of Old Lame-Boy?" asked Dr. Surtaine.
"From an aesthetic point of view?"
"Never mind the aesthetics of it. 'Handsome is as handsome does.'"
"What has that faded beauty done, then?"
"Carried many a thousand of our money to bank for us, Boyee. That's the ad. that made the business."
"Did you design it?"
"Every word and every line, except that I got a cheap artist to touch up the drawing a little. Then I plunged. When that copy went out, we had just fifty thousand dollars in the world, you and I. Before it had been running three months, I'd spent one hundred thousand dollars more than we owned, in the newspapers, and had to borrow money right and left to keep the manufacturing and bottling plant up to the orders. It was a year before we could see clear sailing, and by that time we were pretty near quarter of a million to the good. Talk about ads. that pull! It pulled like a mule-team and a traction engine and a fifty-cent painless dentist all in one. I'm still using that copy, in the kidney season."
"Do kidneys have seasons?"
"Kidney troubles do."
"I'd have thought such diseases wouldn't depend on the time of year."
"Maybe they don't, actually," admitted the other. "Maybe they're just crowded out of the public mind by the pressure of other sickness in season, like rheumatism in the early winter, and pneumonia in the late. But there's no doubt that the kidney season comes in with the changes of the spring. That's one of my discoveries, too. I tell you, Boyee, I've built my success on things like that. It's psychology: that's what it is. That's what you've got to learn, if you're going into the concern."
"I'm ready, Dad. It sounds interesting. More so than I'd have thought."
"Interesting! It's the very heart and core of the trade." Dr. Surtaine leaned forward, to tap with an earnest finger on his son's knee, a picture of expository enthusiasm. "Here's the theory. You see, along about March or April people begin to get slack-nerved and out-of-sortsy. They don't know what ails 'em, but they think there's something. Well, one look at that ad. sets 'em wondering if it isn't their kidneys. After wonder comes worry. He's the best little worrier in the trade, Old Lame-Boy is. He just pesters folks into taking proper care of themselves. They get Certina, and we get their dollars. And they get their money's worth, too," he added as an afterthought for Hal's benefit, "for it's a mighty good thing to have your kidneys tonicked up at this time of year."
"But, Dad," queried Hal, with an effort of puzzled reminiscence, "in the old days Certina wasn't a kidney remedy, was it?"
"Not specially. It's always been good for the kidneys. Good for everything, for that matter. Besides, the formula's been changed."
"Changed? But the formula's the vital thing, isn't it?"
"Yes, yes. Of course. Certainly it's the vital thing: certainly. But, you see,—well,—new discoveries in medicine and that sort of thing."
"You've put new drugs in?"
"Yes: I've done that. Buchu, for instance. That's supposed to be good for the kidneys. Dropped some things out, too. Morphine got sort of a bad name. The muckrakers did that with their magazine articles."
"Of course I don't pretend to know about such things, Dad. But morphine seems a pretty dangerous thing for people to take indiscriminately."
"Well, it's out. There ain't a grain of it in Certina to-day."
"I'm glad of it."
"Oh, I don't know. It's useful in its place. For instance, you can't run a soothing-syrup without it. But when the Pure Food Law compelled us to print the amount of morphine on the label, I just made up my mind that I'd have no government interference in the Certina business, so I dropped the drug."
"Did the law hurt our trade much?"
"Not so far as Certina goes. I'm not even sure it didn't help. You see, now we can print 'Guaranteed under the U.S. Food and Drugs Act' on every bottle. In fact we're required to."
"What does the guaranty mean?"
"That whatever statement may be on the label is accurate. That's all. But the public takes it to mean that the Government officially guarantees Certina to do everything we claim for it," chuckled Dr. Surtaine. "It's a great card. We've done more business under the new formula than we ever did under the old."
"What is the formula now?"
"Prying into the secrets of the trade?" chuckled the elder man.
"But if I'm coming into the shop, to learn—"
"Right you are, Boyee," interrupted his father buoyantly. "There's the formula for making profits." He swept his hand about in a spacious circle, grandly indicating the advertisement-bedecked walls. "There's where the brains count. Come along," he added, jumping up; "let's take a turn around the joint."
Every day, Dr. Surtaine explained to his son, he made it a practice to go through the entire plant.
"It's the only way to keep a business up to mark. Besides, I like to know my people."
Evidently he did know his people and his people knew and strongly liked him. So much Hal gathered from the offhand and cheerily friendly greetings which were exchanged between the head of the vast concern and such employees, important or humble, as they chanced to meet in their wanderings. First they went to the printing-plant, the Certina Company doing all its own printing; then to what Dr. Surtaine called "the literary bureau."
"Three men get out all our circulars and advertising copy," he explained in an aside. "One of 'em gets five thousand a year; but even so I have to go over all his stuff. If I could teach him to write ads. like I do it myself, I'd pay him ten thousand—yes, twenty thousand. I'd have to, to keep him. The circulars they do better; but I edit those, too. What about that name for the new laxative pills, Con? Hal, I want you to meet Mr. Conover, our chief ad.-man."
Conover, a dapper young man with heavy eye-glasses, greeted Hal with some interest, and then turned to the business in hand.
"What'd you think of 'Anti-Pellets'?" he asked. "Anti, opposed to, you know. In the sub-line, tell what they're opposed to: indigestion, appendicitis, and so on."
"Don't like it," returned Dr. Surtaine abruptly. "Anti-Ralgia's played that to death. Lemme think, for a moment."
Down he plumped into Conover's chair, seized a pencil and made tentative jabs at a sheet of paper. "Pellets, pellets," he muttered. Then, in a kind of subdued roar, "I've got it! I've got it, Con! 'Pro-Pellets.' Tell people what they're for, not what they're against. Besides, the name has got the idea of pro-pulsion. See? Pro-Pellets, pro-pel!" His big fist shot forward like a piston-rod. "Just the idea for a laxative. Eh?"
"Fine!" agreed Conover, a little ruefully, but with genuine appreciation of the fitness of the name. "I wish I'd thought of it."
"You did—pretty near. Anyway, you made me think of it. Anti-Pellets, Pro-Pellets: it's just one step. Like as not you'd have seen it yourself if I hadn't butted in. Now, go to it, and figure out your series on that."
With kindly hands he pushed Conover back into his chair, gave him a hearty pat on the shoulder, and passed on. Hal began to have an inkling of the reasons for his father's popularity.
"Have we got other medicines besides Certina?" he asked.
"Bless you, yes! This little laxative pills business I took over from a concern that didn't have the capital to advertise it. Across the hall there is the Sure Soother department. That's a teething syrup: does wonders for restless babies. On the floor below is the Cranicure Mixture for headaches, Rub-it-in Balm for rheumatism and bruises, and a couple of small side issues that we're not trying to push much. We're handling Stomachine and Relief Pills from here, but the pills are made in Cincinnati, and we market 'em under another trade name."
"Stomachine is for stomach troubles, I assume," said Hal. "What are the Relief Pills?"
"Oh, a female remedy," replied his father carelessly. "Quite a booming little trade, too. Take a look at the Certina collection of testimonials."
In a room like a bank vault were great masses of testimonial letters, all listed and double-catalogued by name and by disease.
"Genuine. Provably genuine, every one. There's romance in some of 'em. And gratitude; good Lord! Sometimes when I look 'em over, I wonder I don't run for President of the United States on a Certina platform."
From the testimonial room they went to the art department where Dr. Surtaine had some suggestions to make as to bill-board designs.
"You'll never get another puller like Old Lame-Boy," Hal heard the head designer say with a chuckle, and his father reply: "If I could I'd start another proprietary as big as Certina."
"Where does that lead to?" inquired Hal, as they approached a side passage sloping slightly down, and barred by a steel door.
"The old building. The manufacturing department is over there."
"Compounding the medicine, you mean?"
"Yes. Bottling and shipping, too."
"Aren't we going through?"
"Why, yes: if you like. You won't find much to interest you, though."
Nor, to Hal's surprise, did Dr. Surtaine himself seem much concerned with this phase of the business. Apparently his hand was not so close in control here as in the other building. The men seemed to know him less well.
"All this pretty well runs itself," he explained negligently.
"Don't you have to keep a check on the mixing, to make sure it's right?"
"Oh, they follow the formula. No chance for error."
They walked amidst chinking trucks, some filled with empty, some with filled and labeled bottles, until they reached the carton room where scores of girls were busily inserting the bottles, together with folded circulars and advertising cards, into pasteboard boxes. At the far end of this room a pungent, high-spiced scent, as of a pickle-kitchen with a fortified odor underlying it, greeted the unaccustomed nose of the neophyte.
"Good!" he sniffed. "How clean and appetizing it smells!"
Enthusiasm warmed the big man's voice once more.
"Just what it is, too!" he exclaimed. "Now you've hit on the second big point in Certina's success. It's easy to take. What's the worst thing about doctors' doses? They're nasty. The very thought of 'em would gag a cat. Tell people that here's a remedy better than the old medicine and pleasant to the taste, and they'll take to it like ducks to water. Certina is the first proprietary that ever tasted good. Next to Old Lame-Boy, it's my biggest idea."
"Are we going into the mixing-room?" asked his son.
"If you like. But you'll see less than you smell."
So it proved. A heavy, wet, rich vapor shrouded the space about a huge cauldron, from which came a sound of steady plashing. Presently an attendant gnome, stripped to the waist, appeared, nodded to Dr. Surtaine, called to some one back in the mist, and shortly brought Hal a small glass brimming with a pale-brown liquid.
"Just fresh," he said. "Try it."
"My kidneys are all right," protested Hal. "I don't need any medicine."
"Take it for a bracer. It won't hurt you," urged the gnome.
Hal looked at his father, and, at his nod, put his lips to the glass.
"Why, it tastes like spiced whiskey!" he cried.
"Not so far out of the way. Columbian spirits, caramel, cinnamon and cardamom, and a touch of the buchu. Good for the blues. Finish it."
Hal did so and was aware of an almost instantaneous glow.
"Strong stuff, sir," he said to his father as they emerged into a clearer atmosphere.
"They like it strong," replied the other curtly. "I give 'em what they like."
The attendant gnome followed. "Mr. Dixon was looking for you, Dr. Surtaine. Here he comes, now."
"Dixon's our chief chemist," explained Dr. Surtaine as a shabby, anxious-looking man ambled forward.
"We're having trouble with that last lot of cascara, sir," said he lugubriously.
"In the Number Four?"
"Yes, sir. It don't seem to have any strength."
"Substitute senna." So offhand was the tone that it sounded like a suggestion rather than an order.
As the latter, however, the chemist contentedly took it.
"It'll cost less," he observed; "and I guess it'll do the work just as well."
To Hal it seemed a somewhat cavalier method of altering a medical formula. But his mind, accustomed to easy acceptance of the business which so luxuriously supplied his wants, passed the matter over lightly.
"First-rate man, Dixon," remarked Dr. Surtaine as they passed along. "College-bred, and all that. Boozes, though. I only pay him twenty-five a week, and he's mighty glad to get it."
On the way back to the offices, they traversed the checking and accounting rooms, the agency department, the great rows of desks whereat the shipping and mailing were looked after, and at length stopped before the door of a small office occupied by a dozen women. One of these, a full-bosomed, slender, warm-skinned girl with a wealth of deep-hued, rippling red hair crowning her small, well-poised head, rose and came to speak to Dr. Surtaine.
"Did you get the message I sent you about Letter Number Seven?" she asked.
"Hello, Milly," greeted the presiding genius, pleasantly. "Just what was that about Number Seven?"
"It isn't getting results."
"No? Let's see it." Dr. Surtaine was as interested in this as he had been casual about the drug alteration.
"I don't think it's personal enough," pursued the girl, handing him a sheet of imitation typewriter print.
"Oh, you don't," said her employer, amused. "Maybe you could better it."
"I have," said the girl calmly. "You always tell us to make suggestions. Mine are on the back of the paper."
"Good for you! Hal, here's the prettiest girl in the shop, and about the smartest. Milly, this is my boy."
The girl looked up at Hal with a smile and brightened color. He was suddenly interested and appreciative to see to what a vivid prettiness her face was lighted by the raised glance of her swift, gray-green eyes.
"Are you coming into the business, Mr. Surtaine?" she asked composedly, and with almost as proprietary an air as if she had said "our business."
"I don't know. Is it the sort of business you would advise a rather lazy person to embark in, Miss—"
"Neal," she supplied; adding, with an illustrative glance around, upon her busy roomful, all sorting and marking correspondence, "You see, I only give advice by letter."
She turned away to answer one of the subordinates, and, at the same time, Dr. Surtaine was called aside by a man with a shipping-bill. Looking down the line of workers, Hal saw that each one was simply opening, reading, and marking with a single stroke, the letters from a distributing groove. To her questioner Milly Neal was saying, briskly:
"That's Three and Seven. Can't you see, she says she has spots before her eyes. That's stomach. And the lameness in the side is kidneys. Mark it 'Three pass to Seven.' There's a combination form for that."
"What branch of the work is this?" asked Hal, as she lifted her eyes to his again.
"Symptom correspondence. This is the sorting-room."
"Please explain. I'm a perfect greenhorn, you know."
"You've seen the ads. of course. Nobody could help seeing them. They all say, 'Write to Professor Certain'—the trade name, you know. It's the regular stock line, but it does bring in the queries. Here's the afternoon mail, now."
Hundreds upon hundreds of letters came tumbling from a bag upon the receiving-table. All were addressed to "Prof." or "Dr." Certain.
"How can my father hope to answer all those?" cried Hal.
The girl surveyed him with a quaint and delicious derision. "He? You don't suppose he ever sees them! What are we here for?"
"You do the answering?"
"Practically all of it, by form-letters turned out in the printing department. For instance, Letter One is coughs and colds; Two, headaches; Three, stomach; and so on. As soon as a symp-letter is read the girl marks it with the form-letter number, underscores the address, and it goes across to the letter room where the right answer is mailed, advising the prospect to take Certina. Orders with cash go direct to the shipping department. If the symp-writer wants personal advice that the form-letters don't give, I send the inquiry upstairs to Dr. De Vito. He's a regular graduate physician who puts in half his time as our Medical Adviser. We can clear up three thousand letters a day, here."
"I can readily see that my father couldn't attend to them personally," said Hal, smiling.
"And it's just as good this way. Certina is what the prospects want and need. It makes no difference who prescribes it. This is the Chief's own device for handling the correspondence."
"Your father. We all call him that, all the old hands."
Hal's glance skimmed over the fresh young face, and the brilliant eyes. "You wouldn't call yourself a very old hand, Miss Neal."
"Seven years I've worked for the Chief, and I never want to work in a better place. He's been more than good to me."
"Because you've deserved it, young woman," came the Doctor's voice from behind Hal. "That's the one and only reason. I'm a flint-livered old divvle to folks that don't earn every cent of their wages."
"Don't you believe him, Mr. Surtaine," controverted the girl, earnestly. "When one of my girls came down last year with tuber—"
"Whoof! Whoof! Whoof!" interrupted the big man, waving his hands in the air. "Stop it! This is no experience meeting. Milly, you're right about this letter. It's the confidential note that's lacking. It'll work up all right along the line of your suggestion. I'll have to send Hal to you for lessons in the business."
"Miss Neal would have to be very patient with my stupidity."
"I don't think it would be hard to be patient with you," she said softly; and though her look was steady he saw the full color rise in her cheeks, and, startled, felt an answering throb in his pulses.
"But you mustn't flirt with her, Hal," warned the old quack, with a joviality that jarred.
Uncomfortably conscious of himself and of the girl's altered expression, Hal spoke a hasty word or two of farewell, and followed his father out into the hallway. But the blithe and vivid femininity of the young expert plucked at his mind. At the bend of the hall, he turned with half a hope and saw her standing at the door. Her look was upon him, and it seemed to him to be both troubled and wistful.
To Harrington Surtaine, life had been a game with easy rules. Certain things one must not do. Decent people didn't do them. That's all there was to that. In matters of morals and conduct, he was guided by a natural temperance and an innate sense of responsibility to himself. Difficult questions had not come up in his life. Consequently he had not found the exercise of judgment troublesome. His tendency, as regarded his own affairs, was to a definite promptness of decision, and there was an end of the matter. Others he seldom felt called upon to judge, but if the instance were ineluctable, he was prone to an amiable generosity. Ease of living does not breed in the mind a strongly defined philosophy. All that young Mr. Surtaine required of his fellow beings was that they should behave themselves with a due and respectable regard to the rights of all in general and of himself in particular—and he would do the same by them. Rather a pallid attenuation of the Golden Rule; but he had thus far found it sufficient to his existence.
Into this peaceful world-scheme intruded, now, a disorganizing factor. He had brought it home with him from his visit to the "shop." An undefined but pervasive distaste for the vast, bustling, profitable Certina business formed the nucleus of it. As he thought it over that night, amidst the heavily ornate elegance of the great bedroom, which, with its dressing-room and bath, his father had set aside for his use in the Surtaine mansion, he felt in the whole scheme of the thing a vague offense. The air which he had breathed in those spacious halls of trade had left a faintly malodorous reminiscence in his nostrils.
One feature of his visit returned insistently to his mind: the contrast between the semi-contemptuous carelessness exhibited by his father toward the processes of compounding the cure and the minute and insistent attention given to the methods of expounding it. Was the advertising really of so much more import than the medicine itself? If so, wasn't the whole affair a matter of selling shadow rather than substance?
But it is not in human nature to view with too stern a scrutiny a business which furnishes one's easeful self with all the requisites of luxury, and that by processes of almost magic simplicity. Hal reflected that all big businesses doubtless had their discomforting phases. He had once heard a lecturing philosopher express a doubt as to whether it were possible to defend, ethically, that prevalent modern phenomenon, the millionaire, in any of his manifestations. By the counsel of perfection this might well be true. But who was he to judge his father by such rigorous standards? Of the medical aspect of the question he could form no clear judgment. To him the patent medicine trade was simply a part of the world's business, like railroading, banking, or any other form of merchandising. His own precocious commercial experience, when, as a boy, he had played his little part in the barter and trade, had blinded him on that side. Nevertheless, his mind was not impregnably fortified. Old Lame-Boy, bearer of dollars to the bank, loomed up, a disturbing figure.
Then, from a recess in his memory, there popped out the word "genteel." His father had characterized the Certina business as being, possibly, not sufficiently "genteel" for him. He caught at the saving suggestion. Doubtless that was the trouble. It was the blatancy of the business, not any evil quality inherent in it, which had offended him. Kindest and gentlest of men and best of fathers as Dr. Surtaine was, he was not a paragon of good taste; and his business naturally reflected his personality. Even this was further than Hal had ever gone before in critical judgment. But he seized upon the theory as a defense against further thought, and, having satisfied his self-questionings with this sop, he let his mind revert to his trip through the factory. It paused on the correspondence room and its attractive forewoman.
"She seemed a practical little thing," he reflected. "I'll talk to her again and get her point of view." And then he wondered, rather amusedly, how much of this self-suggestion arose from a desire for information, and how much was inspired by a memory of her haunting, hungry eyes.
On the following morning he kept away from the factory, lunched at the Huron Club with William Douglas, Elias M. Pierce, who had found time to be present, and several prominent citizens whom he thought quite dully similar to each other; and afterward walked to the Certina Building to keep an appointment with its official head.
"Been feeding with our representative citizens, eh?" his father greeted him. "Good! Meantime the Old Man grubbed along on a bowl of milk and a piece of apple pie, at a hurry-up lunch-joint. Good working diet, for young or old. Besides, it saves time."
"Are you as busy as all that, Dad?"
"Pretty busy this morning, because I've had to save an hour for you out of this afternoon. We'll take it right now if you're ready."
"Quite ready, sir."
"Hal, where's Europe?"
"Europe? In the usual place on the map, I suppose."
"You didn't bring it back with you, then?"
"Not a great deal of it. They mightn't have let it through the customs."
Dr. Surtaine snapped a rubber band from a packet of papers lying on his desk. "Considering that you seem to have bought it outright," he said, twinkling, "I thought you might tell me what you intend doing with it. There are the bills."
"Have I gone too heavy, sir?" asked Hal. "You've never limited me, and I supposed that the business—"
"The business," interrupted his father arrogantly, "could pay those bills three times over in any month. That isn't the point. The point is that you've spent something more than forty-eight thousand dollars this last year."
Hal whistled ruefully. "Call it an even fifty," he said. "I've made a little, myself."
"No! Have you? How's that?"
"While I was in London I did a bit of writing; sketches of queer places and people and that sort of thing, and had pretty good luck selling 'em. One fellow I know there even offered me a job paragraphing. That's like our editorial writing, you know."
"Fine! That makes me feel easier. I was afraid you might be going soft, with so much money to spend."
"How I ever spent that much—"
"Never mind that. It's gone. However, we'll try another basis. I'd thought of an allowance, but I don't quite like the notion. Hal, I'm going to give you your own money."
"My own money? I didn't know that I had any."
"Well, you have."
"Where did I get it?"
"From our partnership. From the old days on the road."
"Rather an intangible fortune, isn't it?"
"That old itinerant business was the nucleus of the Certina of to-day. You had a profit-sharing right in that. You've still got it—in this. Hal, I'm turning over to you to-day half a million dollars."
"That's a lot of money, Dad," said the younger man soberly.
"The interest doesn't come to fifty thousand dollars a year, though."
"More than half; and that's more than plenty."
"Well, I don't know. We'll try it. At any rate, it's your own. Plenty more where it comes from, if you need extra."
"I shan't. It's more than generous of you—"
"Not a bit of it. No more than just, Boyee. So let the thanks go."
"All right, sir. But—you know how I feel about it."
"I guess I know just about how you and I feel toward each other on anything that comes up between us, Boyee." There was a grave gentleness in Dr. Surtaine's tone. "Well, there are the papers," he added, more briskly. "I haven't put all your eggs in one basket, you see."
Going over the certificates Hal found himself possessed of fifty thousand dollars in the stock of the Mid-State and Great Muddy Railroad: an equal sum in the Security Power Products Company; twenty-five thousand each in the stock of the Worthington Trust Company and the Remsen Savings Bank; one hundred thousand in the Certina Company, and fifty thousand in three of its subsidiary enterprises. Besides this, he found five check-books in the large envelope which contained his riches.
"What are these, Dad?" he asked.
"Cash on deposit in local and New York banks. You might want to do some investing of your own. Or possibly you might see some business proposition you wanted to buy into."
"I see some Security Power Products Company certificates. What is that?"
"The local light, heat, and power corporation. It pays ten per cent. Certina never pays less than twenty. The rest is all good for six, at least and the Mid-and-Mud averages eight. You've got upwards of thirty-seven thousand income there, not counting your deposits. While you're looking about, deciding what you're going to do, it'll be your own money and nobody else's that you're spending."
"Do you think many fathers would do this sort of thing, Dad?" said Hal warmly.
"Any sensible one would. I don't want to own you, Boyee. I want you to own yourself. And to make yourself," he added slowly.
"If I can make myself like you, Dad—"
"Oh, I'm a good-enough piece of work, for my day and time," laughed the father. "But I want a fine finish on you. While you're looking around for your life-work, how about doing a little unpaid job for me?"
"Anything," cried Hal. "Just try me."
"Do you know what an Old Home Week is?"
"Only what I read in to-day's paper announcing the preliminary committee."
"That gave you enough idea. We make a big thing of Old Home Week in Worthington. This year it will be particularly big because it's the hundredth anniversary of the city. The President of the United States will be here. I'm to be chairman of the general committee, and I want you for my secretary."
"Nothing I'd like better, sir."
"Good! All the moneyed men in town will be on the committee. The work will put you in touch with the people who count. Well, that settles our business. Good luck to you in your independence, Boyee." He touched a bell. "Any one waiting to see me, Jim?" he asked the attendant.
"Yes, sir. The Reverend Norman Hale."
"Send him in."
"Shall I go, Dad?" asked Hal.
"Oh, you might take a little ramble around the shop. Go anywhere. Ask any questions of anybody. They all know you."
At the door, Hal passed a tall, sinewy young man with heavy brows and rebellious hair. A slight, humorous uptilt to his mouth relieved the face of impassivity and saved it from a too formal clericalism. The visitor was too deeply concerned with some consideration of his inner self to more than glance at Hal, who heard Dr. Surtaine's hearty greeting through the closing door.
"Glad to see you, Mr. Hale. Take a chair."
The visitor bowed gravely and sat down.
"You've come to see me about—?"
"Your subscription to the East End Church Club Fund."
"I am heartily in sympathy with the splendid work your church is doing in the—er—less salubrious parts of our city," said Dr. Surtaine.
"Doubtless," returned the young clergyman dryly.
"Seems to be saving his wind," thought Dr. Surtaine, a little uneasily. "I suppose it's a question," he continued, aloud, "of the disposition of the sum—"
"No: it is not."
If this bald statement required elucidation or expansion, its proponent didn't seem to realize the fact. He contemplated with minute scrutiny a fly which at that moment was alighting (in about the proportion of the great American eagle) upon the pained countenance of Old Lame-Boy.
"Well?" queried the other, adding to himself, "What the devil ails the man!"
The scrutinized fly rose, after the manner of its kind, and (now reduced to normal scale) touched lightly in its exploratory tour upon Dr. Surtaine's domed forehead. Following it thus far, the visitor's gaze rested. Dr. Surtaine brushed off the insect. He could not brush off the regard. Under it and his caller's continued silence he grew fidgety.
"While I'm very glad," he suggested, "to give you what time you need—"
"I've come here because I wanted to have this thing out with you face to face."
"Well, have it out," returned the other, smiling but wary.
The young clergyman drew from his pocket a folded newspaper page to which was pinned an oblong of paper. This he detached and extended to the other.
"What's that?" asked the doctor, making no motion to receive it, for he instantly recognized it.
"You're returning it?"
"You mean to turn down two thousand dollars!" demanded the other in slow incredulity.
"Is that question asked in good faith?"
"Then you haven't seen the letter written by the superintendent of our Sunday School to the Certina Company."
"What kind of a letter?"
"A testimonial letter—for which your two thousand dollars is payment, I suppose."
"Two thousand for a church testimonial!" Dr. Surtaine chuckled at his caller's innocence. "Why, I wouldn't pay that for a United States Senator. Besides," he added virtuously, "Certina doesn't buy its testimonials."
"Then it's an unfortunate coincidence that your check should have come right on top of Mr. Smithson's very ill-advised letter."
By a regular follow-up mechanism devised by himself, every donation by Dr. Surtaine was made the basis of a shrewd attempt to extract from the beneficiary an indorsement of Certina's virtues, or, if not that, of the personal character and professional probity of its proprietor. This is what had happened in the instance of the check to Mr. Hale's church, Smithson being the medium through whom the attempt was made.
The quack saw no occasion to explain this to his inquisitor. So he merely said: "I never saw any such letter," which was, in a literal sense, true.
"Nor will you know anything about it, I suppose, until the name of the church is spread broadcast through your newspaper advertising."
Now, it is a rule of the patent medicine trade never to advertise an unwilling testimonial because that kind always has a kick-back. Hence:—
"Oh, if you feel that way about it," said Dr. Surtaine disdainfully, "I'll keep it out of print."
"And return it to me," continued the other, in a tone of calm sequentiality, which might represent either appeal, suggestion, or demand.
"Don't see the point," said the quack shortly.
"Since you do not intend to use it in your business, it can't be of any value to you," countered the other.
"What's its value to you?"
"In plain words, the honor of my church is involved. The check is a bribe. The letter is the graft."
"Nothing of the sort. You come here, a minister of the gospel," Dr. Surtaine reproached him sorrowfully, "and use hard words about a transaction that is perfectly straight business and happens every day."
"Not in my church."
"It isn't your letter, anyhow. You didn't write it."
"It is written on the official paper of the church. Smithson told me so. He didn't understand what use would be made of it when he wrote it. Take your check back, Dr. Surtaine, and give me the letter."
"Persistency, thy name is a jewel," said Dr. Surtaine with an air of scholarliness. "You win. The letter will be returned to-morrow. You'll take my word, I suppose?"
"Certainly; and thank you."
"And now, suppose I offered to leave the check in your hands?" asked the Doctor curiously.
"I couldn't take it," came the decisive reply.
"Do you mind telling me why?"
The visitor spread out upon the table the newspaper page which he had taken from his pocket. "This morning's 'Clarion,'" he said.
"So that's the trouble! You've been reading that blackmailing sheet. Why, what's the 'Clarion,' anyway? A scandal-mongering, yellow blatherskite, on its last legs financially. It's for sale to any bidder who'd be fool enough to put up money. The 'Clarion' went after me because it couldn't get our business. It ain't any straighter than a corkscrew's shadow."
"Do I understand you to say that this attack is due to your refusal to advertise in the 'Clarion'?"
"That's it, to a T. And now, you see, Mr. Hale," continued Dr. Surtaine in a tone of long-suffering and dignified injury, "how believing all you see in print lures you into chasing after strange dogs."