THE SHORT LINE WAR
I. JIM WEEKS II. MR. MCNALLY GOES TO TILLMAN CITY III. POLITICS AND OTHER THINGS IV. JIM WEEKS CLOSES IN V. TUESDAY EVENING VI. JUDGE BLACK VII. BETWEEN THE LINES VIII. JUDGE GREY IX. THE MATTER OF POSSESSION X. SOMEBODY LOSES THE BOOKS XI. A POLITICIAN XII. KATHERINE XIII. TRAIN NO. 14 XIV. A CAPTURE AT BRUSHINGHAM XV. DEUS EX MACHINA XVI. MCNALLY'S EXPEDIENT XVII. IN THE DARK XVIII. THE COMING OF DAWN XIX. KATHERINE DECIDES XX. HARVEY XXI. THE TILLMAN CITY STOCK XXII. THE WINNING OF THE ROAD XXIII. THE SURRENDER
James Weeks came of a fighting stock.
His great-grandfather, Ashbel Weeks, was born in Connecticut in 1748; he migrated to New York in '70, and settled among the Oneida Indians on the Upper Mohawk. It was the kind of life he was built for; he sniffed at danger like a young horse catching a breath off the meadows. He did not take the war fever until St. Leger came up the valley, when he fought beside Herkimer in the ambush on Oriskany Creek. He joined the army of the North, and remained with it through the long three years that ended at Yorktown; then he married, and returned to his home among the half-civilized Oneidas.
His oldest son, Jonathan, was born in '90. He grew like his father in physique and temperament, and his migrating disposition led him to Kentucky. The commercial instinct, which had never appeared in his father, was strong in him, so that he turned naturally to trading. He began in a small way, but he succeeded at it, and amassed what was then considered a large fortune.
In 1823 he moved to Louisville, and interested himself in promoting the steamboat traffic on the Ohio and Mississippi rivers. As the business developed, Jonathan Weeks's fortune grew with it. His only son, who was born in 1815, was sent to Harvard; he spent a very merry four years there, and a good deal of money. He fell in love in the meantime, and married immediately after his graduation. Not many months after his marriage he was killed by the accidental discharge of a rifle, and, shortly after this, his widow died in giving birth to a son.
The care of the child devolved entirely upon Jonathan, the grandfather. He assumed it gladly, even eagerly, and his whole existence soon centred about the boy, and James—for so they had named him—became more to him than his son had ever been. It grew evident that he would have the Weeks build, and, by the time he was fifteen, he was as lean, big-boned, awkward a hobbledehoy as the old man could wish. His grandfather's wealth did not spoil him in the least; he was the kind of a boy it would have been difficult to spoil.
He had no fondness for books, but it is to be doubted if that was much of a grief to his grandfather. He was good at mathematics,—he used to work out problems for fun,—and an excellent memory for certain kinds of details enabled him to master geography without difficulty. The great passion of his boyhood was for the big, roaring, pounding steamboats that went down to New Orleans. His ambition, like that of nearly every boy who lived in sight of those packets, was to be a river pilot, and he was nearing his majority before he outgrew it.
He was twenty-two years old when he fell in love with Ethel Harvey. She was nineteen when she came home from the Eastern school where she had spent the past five years, and she burst upon Jim in the first glory of her womanhood. When she had grown an old woman the young girls still envied her beauty, and wondered what it must have been in its first bloom. Small wonder that Jim fell in love with her; it was inevitable.
He first saw her, after her return, on a bright June morning as he was strolling down the path from his grandfather's house to the street. She was riding her big bay mare at a smart gallop, but she pulled up short at sight of him, and drawing off a riding gauntlet held out her hand. From that moment Jim loved her. The old man was coming down the path, but seeing them there together, he paused, for they made a striking picture. Her little silk hat sat daintily on her hair, which would be rebellious and fluffy; the dark green riding habit with its tight sleeves revealed the perfect lines of her lithe figure, which swayed gracefully as the mare pawed and backed and plunged, impatient for the morning gallop. She seemed quite indifferent to the protests of the big brute, and talked merrily to Jim, who stood looking up at her in bewildered admiration. At last she shook hands again and rode away, and Jonathan Weeks walked back into the house with a satisfied smile. "They'll do," he said.
It looked as though they would. Through the short happy weeks that followed, Ethel did not ride alone. Together they explored the country lanes or left them for a dash straight across the fields, taking anything that chanced to be in the way. In their impromptu races, which were frequent, Ethel almost always won; for racer though he was, Jim's sorrel found the two hundred and eight pounds he carried too much of a handicap. So the days went by, and though nothing was said about it, they talked to each other, and thought of each other, as lovers do.
But all the while there was growing in Ethel's mind an intuition that something was wrong. She had not an analytical mind, but she became convinced that though she might learn to understand Jim, he could never understand her. It was not only that she was the first woman who had come into his life, though that had much to do with it. But he was a man without much instinct or imagination; he took everything seriously and literally, he could not understand a whim. And when she saw how her pretty feminine inconsistencies puzzled him, and how he failed to understand the whimsical, butterfly fancies she confided to him, she would cry with vexation, and think she hated him; but then the knightly devotion of his big heart would win her back again, and her tears would cease to burn her cheeks, and she would tell herself how unworthy she was of the love of a man like that. But the trouble was still there; Ethel grew sad, and Jim, more than ever, failed to understand. The old man watched, but said nothing.
One evening Jim took her out on the river. It was the summer of '61, when the North was learning how bitter was the task it had to accomplish. Kentucky was disputed ground and feeling ran high there; little else was thought of. Jim had been talking to her for some time on this all-absorbing topic while she sat silent in the stern, her hand trailing in the water. Finally he asked why she was so quiet.
"I think this war is very stupid," she said. "Let's talk about"—here she paused and her eyes followed the big night boat which was churning its way down the river—"about paddle-wheels, or port lights, or something."
Jim said nothing; he had nothing to say. She went on:—
"Don't you think it is tiresome to always mean what you say? I hate to tell the truth. Anybody can do that."
"I thought," said Jim, "that you believed in sincerity."
"Oh, of course I do," she exclaimed impatiently, and again Jim was silent.
The next day he took her for a drive and it was then that the end came. They had been having a glorious time, for the rapid motion and the bright sunshine had driven away her mood of the night before and she was perfectly happy; Jim was happy in her happiness. The half-broken colts were fairly steady and he let her drive them and turned in his seat so that he could watch her. As he looked at her there, her head erect, her elbows squared, her bright eyes looking straight out ahead, Jim fell deeper than ever in love with her. The colts felt a new and unrestraining hand on the reins, and the pace increased rapidly. Jim noted it.
"You'd better pull up a little," he said. "They'll be getting away from you."
"I love to go this way," she replied, and over the reins she told the colts the same thing, in a language they understood. Suddenly one of them broke, and in a second both were running.
"Pull 'em in," said Jim, sharply. "Here—give me the reins."
"I can hold them," she protested wilfully.
Then, without hesitation and with perfectly unconscious brutality, Jim tore the reins out of her hands, and addressed himself to the task of quieting the horses.
It was not easy, but he was cool and strong, and the horses knew he was their master; nevertheless it was several minutes before he had them on their legs again. During that time neither had spoken; then Jim waited for her to break the silence. He was somewhat vexed, for he thought she had deliberately exposed herself to an unnecessary peril. But she said nothing and they finished their drive in silence.
At her door he sprang out to help her to alight, but she ignored his offered aid. Though she turned away he saw that there were tears in her eyes.
"Ethel," he said softly, but she faced him in a flash of anger.
"Don't speak to me. Oh—how I hate you!"
Jim seemed suddenly to grow bigger. "Will you please tell me if you mean that?" he said slowly.
"I mean just that," she answered. "I—I hate you." She stood still a moment; then she seemed to choke, and turning, fled into the house.
To Jim's mind that was the end of it. She had told him that she hated him. The fact that there had been a catch in her voice as she said it weighed not at all with him; that was an unknown language. So he took her literally and exactly and went away by himself to think it over.
He was late for dinner that night, and when he came in his grandfather was pacing the dining room. But Jim wasted no words in explanation.
"Grandfather," he said, "I think if you won't need me for a while I'll enlist to-morrow."
"I can get along all right," said the old man, "but I'm sorry you're going."
The older man was looking at the younger one narrowly. Suddenly and bluntly he asked:—
"Is anything the matter with you and Ethel Harvey?"
Jim nodded, and without further invitation or questioning he related the whole incident. "That's all there is to it," he concluded. "The team had bolted and she wouldn't give me the reins; so I took them away from her and pulled in the horses. There was nothing else to do."
"And then she said she hated you," added Jonathan, musingly. "I reckon she hasn't much sense."
"It ain't that," Jim answered quickly. "She's got sense enough. The trouble with her is she's too damned plucky."
A few days later he was a private in the Nineteenth Indiana Volunteers. He made a good soldier, for not only did he love danger as had his great-grandfather before him, but he had nerves which months of inaction could not set jangling, and a constitution which hardship and privation could not undermine.
The keenest delight he had ever known came with his first experience under fire. He felt his breath coming in long deep inhalations; he could think faster and more clearly than at other times, and he knew that his hands were steady and his aim was good. Somehow it seemed that years of life were crowded into those few minutes, and he retired reluctantly when the order came.
His regiment was in the Army of the Potomac, and the story of its waiting and blundering and magnificent fighting need not be told again in these pages. Jim was one of thousands of brave, intelligent fighters who did not rise to the command of a division or even of a regiment. He was a lieutenant in Company E when the Nineteenth marched down the Emmittsburg Pike, through Gettysburg and out to the ridge beyond, to hold it until reenforcements should come.
They fought there during four long hours, until the thin line of blue could hold no longer, and gray ranks under Ewell and Fender had enveloped both flanks. Then sullenly they came back through the town, still firing defiantly, and cursing the help that had not come. It was during this retreat that Jim was hit, but he did not drop. Somehow—though as in a dream—he kept with his regiment, and it was not until they were rallied in the cemetery on the other side of the town that he pitched forward and lay quite still.
Everybody knows how the Eleventh Corps held the cemetery through the two bloody days that followed. But Jim was unconscious of it all, for he lay on a cot in the Sanitary Commission tent, raving in delirium. And the surgeons and nurses looked at him gravely and wondered with every hour why he did not die.
But, as one of his comrades had said, "it took a lot of pounding to lick Jim Weeks," and in a surprisingly short time he was strong enough to be taken home.
When he first saw his grandfather he was dimly conscious of a change in him, and as he grew stronger and better able to observe closely he became surer of it. Jonathan had been a young old man when Jim went away; now he looked every one of his seventy-three years, and instead of the tireless energy of former times Jim noted a listlessness hard to understand.
One night after both had gone to bed Jim heard his grandfather groping his way down the stairs and out upon the veranda. He listened intently until he heard the creak of the rocking chair, which told him that the old man was visiting again with old friends and old fancies. The slow rhythm lulled Jim into a doze, and then into sleep. He awakened with a start; his pioneer blood made him a light sleeper, and he knew that the old man could not have got upstairs and past his door without waking him. "He must have gone to sleep down there," thought Jim, and rising he went down to the veranda. Jonathan had gone to sleep, but the black cob pipe was clenched between rigid jaws; his sightless eyes were open and seemed to be looking at the stars.
At first Jim felt that sails, helm, and compass had been swept clean away, but he was strong enough to recover his bearings quickly. His grandfather's death marked an end and a beginning, and just as a needle when a magnet is taken away swings unerringly into the line of force of the original magnet, the earth, so Jim's life swung to a new direction. There was no one whose life could direct or influence his, and alone he started on what business men of the next generation knew as his career.
The war had lessened but not destroyed Jonathan's fortune, and it went without reservation to Jim. The times offered golden opportunities to a man with ready money and good business training, and his success was almost inevitable. His life from this time was the logical working out of what he had in him.
He turned naturally to the railroad business, and those who know the history of Western railroads from '65 to '90 will understand what a field it was for a man who was at once fearless and level-headed. The craze for construction and then the equally mad competition did not confuse him, they simply gave him opportunities. When the reaction against the railroads set in, and the Granger movement wrecked nearly all the Western roads, Jim bowed to the inevitable, but he saved himself—no one knew just how—and when the State legislators were over their midsummer madness he was again in the field, and again succeeding.
With the details of these struggles we are not concerned. The "inside" history of many of them will never be known; in almost every case it differs materially from the story which appeared in the papers. Jim became famous and was libelled and flattered, respected and abused, by turns; but always he was feared. He was supposed to be dishonest, and it is true he did not scruple to use his enemies' weapons; but at directors' meetings it was the interest of the stockholders that he fought for.
Men wondered at his success, and over their cigars gravely discussed the reasons for it. Some said it was sheer good luck that turned what he touched to gold, some laid it to his start, and others to his cool, dispassionate strategy. To some extent it was all of these things; but more than anything else he had won as a bulldog does, by hanging on. Often he had beaten better strategists simply by keeping up the fight when by all the rules he was beaten. For as the comrade of long ago had said, "it took a lot of pounding to lick Jim Weeks."
MR. McNALLY GOES TO TILLMAN CITY
It was Monday morning, September 23d. The telephone bell on the big mahogany desk rang twice before Jim Weeks laid down the sheet of paper he was scrutinizing and picked up the receiver.
"Hello! Oh, that you, Fox? Yes—Yes. Hold on! Give me that name again. Frederick McNally. Dartmouth Building, did you say? Yes. Thank you. Good-by."
The bell tinkled again and Jim swung round in his chair.
There was another desk in the room, where sat a young man busy over a pile of letters. He was private secretary to a man who was president of one railroad and director in others, and his life was not easy. The letters he was working over were with one exception addressed to the Hon. James Weeks, Washington Building, Chicago. The exception was a pale blue note addressed to Mr. Harvey West, and the young man had put that at the bottom of the pile and was working down to it.
The elder man spoke. "West," he said, "Fox has just telephoned me that he's found out who's been buying M. & T. stock. It's Frederick McNally; he's in the Dartmouth Building. He isn't doing it on his own hook, but I don't know who he is doing it for. Somebody wants that stock mighty bad. There isn't a great deal of it lying around, though."
"Do you think that Thompson—" began the secretary.
"Thompson would be glad to see me out and himself in," said Jim Weeks, "and he leads Wing and Powers around by the nose, but he can't swing enough stock to hurt anything at next election. I don't believe it's he that's buying. Thompson hasn't got sand enough for that. He'll never fight."
There was a moment's pause. Jim walked over to the ticker and looked back along the ribbon of paper. "It's quoted at 68-1/2 this morning," he said, "but no sales to amount to anything."
"You might go over and talk to Wing," he went on. "You can find out anything he knows if you go at it right. I don't believe there's anything there. However, I'd like to know just what they are doing. You'd better do it now. Send Pease in when you go out, will you?"
Harvey slipped the blue envelope from the bottom of the pile of letters, called the stenographer, and started out. He read the note while he was waiting for the elevator.
The M. & T. is a local single-track road, about two hundred miles long, running between the cities of Manchester and Truesdale. The former is on the main line of the Northern, and the latter on the C. & S.C., both of which are trunk lines from Chicago to the West. The M. & T. was not a money-making affair; it had cost a lot of money, its stock was away down, and it trembled on the brink of insolvency until Jim Weeks took hold of it. He put money into it, straightened out its tangled affairs, and incidentally made some enemies in the board of directors. There were coal mines on the line near Sawyerville, which were operated in a desultory way, but they never amounted to much until some more of Jim Weeks's money went into them, and then they began to pay. This made the M. & T. important, especially to the C. & S.C. people, who immediately tried to make arrangements with Jim for the absorption of the M. & T. by their line. C. & S.C. had a bad name. There were many shady operations associated with its management, and Jim decided to have as little to do with it as possible, so the attempt apparently was abandoned.
The stock of the M. & T. was held largely by men who lived along the line of the road. Tillman City and St. Johns each held large blocks; they had got a special act of legislature to allow them to subscribe for it. These stockholders had great confidence in Jim, for under his management their investment was beginning to pay, and they, he felt sure, approved of his action in the C. & S.C. matter.
Everything was going well with the road, and the stock was climbing slowly but steadily. It was not liable to any great fluctuation, for most of its holders regarded it as a permanent investment and it did not change hands to any great extent. Comparatively little of it got into the hands of speculators.
But suddenly it began to jump. It was evident to every one who watched it that some important deal was afoot. Jim Weeks was as much in the dark as any one. He had watched its violent fluctuations for a week while he vainly sought to ferret out the motive that was causing them. And on this particular morning, though he sent his secretary, Harvey West, to talk to Wing, he had little idea that the young fellow would get hold of a clew.
When the elevator stopped at the main floor, Harvey thrust the half-read note back into his pocket. "No time for that sort of thing this morning," he thought. "I wonder how soon I'll be able to run down to see her." A moment later he was walking rapidly toward the Dartmouth.
The men he saw and nodded to glanced round at him enviously. "Case of luck," growled somebody. That was true. Harvey was lucky; lucky first and foremost in that Ethel Harvey was his mother. He got his mental agility as well as his indomitable cheeriness from her. He was a healthy, sane young fellow who found it easy to work hard, who could loaf most enjoyably when loafing was in order, and who had the knack of seeing the humorous side of a trying situation. He had always had plenty of money, but that was not the reason he got more fun out of his four years in college than any other man in his class. He "got down to business" very quickly after his graduation, and now at the end of another four years he was private secretary to Jim Weeks. That of course wasn't luck. The fact that Jim had fallen in love with Ethel Harvey thirty years before might account for his friendly interest in her son, but it would not explain Harvey's position of trust. He knew that he could not hold it a day except by continuing to be the most available man for the place.
It is probable that on this morning, the contents of the pale blue note contributed largely to his cheerfulness. It was evident that Miss Porter liked him, and Harvey liked to be liked.
Wing's office on the sixth floor of the Dartmouth was a beautifully furnished suite, presided over by a boy in cut-steel buttons. Wing himself was a dapper little man, a capitalist by necessity only, for his money had been left to him. His one ambition was to collect all the literature in all languages on the game of chess; a game by the way which he himself did not play. "Mr. Wing had gone out to lunch about an hour before," said the boy in buttons. "Would Mr. West wait?" Harvey, who knew Mr. Wing's luncheons of old, said no, but he would call again in the afternoon. As he walked back to the elevator his eye fell upon another office door which bore the freshly painted legend, "Frederick McNally, Attorney-at-law."
Harvey lunched at the Cafe Lyon, which is across the street from the main entrance to the Dartmouth. The day was warm for late September, and he selected a seat just inside the open door. From his table he could see people hurrying in and out of the big office building. He watched the crowd idly as he waited for his lunch, and finally his interest shifted to the big doors, which seemed to have something human about them, as they maliciously tried to catch the little messenger boys who rushed between them as they swung.
Suddenly his attention came back to the crowd, centring on a party of four men who turned into the great entrance. Three of them he knew, and the fact that they were together suggested startling possibilities. They were Wing, Thompson and William C. Porter of Chicago and Truesdale, First Vice-President of the C. & S.C. and, this was the way Harvey thought of him, father of the Miss Katherine Porter whose name was at the bottom of the note in the blue envelope. Thompson, a fat, flaccid man with a colorless beard, was laboriously holding the door open for Mr. Porter, then he preceded little Mr. Wing. The fourth man was a stranger to Harvey.
He was starting to follow them when the waiter came up with his order. That made him pause, and a moment's reflection convinced him that he had better wait. He decided that if the meeting of Porter with the two M. & T. directors were not accidental they would be likely to be in consultation for some time, and he would gain more by inquiring for Mr. Wing at the expiration of a half hour than by doing it now. So he lunched at leisure and then went back to the sixth floor of the Dartmouth.
He was met by a rebuff from Buttons. "No, Mr. Wing had not come back yet," and again "Would Mr. West wait?" Harvey could think of nothing better to do, so he sat down to think the matter out. He was puzzled, for the three men were in the building, he felt sure. Then it came to him. "Jove," he murmured, "McNally! McNally was that fourth man." He sat back in his chair and tried to decide what to do.
Meanwhile four men sat about the square polished table in Mr. McNally's new office and anxiously discussed ways and means. The scrappy memoranda and what appeared to be problems in addition and subtraction littered about, made it appear that some ground had been pretty thoroughly gone over. There was a momentary lull in the conversation, and the silence was broken only by the tapping of Mr. Wing's pencil as he balanced it between his fingers and let the point rebound on the top of the table. There really seemed to be nothing to say. The alliance between C. & S.C. and Thompson's faction of the M. & T. directors had been arranged some days before. They had met to-day to see how they stood. McNally told what he had done, and it was not so much as they had hoped he would be able to do. The combination was not yet strong enough to take the field. For the past twenty minutes Thompson had been leaning over the table making suggestions in his thick voice, and McNally had sat back and quietly annihilated them by demonstrating their impracticability, or by stating that they had been unsuccessfully tried.
Beyond asking one or two incisive questions of McNally, Porter had said nothing, but had stared straight out of the window. For the past ten minutes he had been waiting for Thompson to run down. It was he who broke the silence.
"We're stuck fast"—he was speaking very slowly—"unless we can get control of that Tillman City stock."
McNally shook his head doubtfully. "I'm afraid it's no good," he said. "Look what we've offered them already. They think the stock is going to go on booming clear up to the sky, and they won't sell. We couldn't get it at par."
Porter's chair shot back suddenly. He walked over to the empty fireplace, the other men watching him curiously. He spread his hands behind him mechanically as if to warm them. Then he said:—
"I think we could get it if we were to offer par."
"Offer par!" thundered Thompson. "We could get Jim Weeks's holdings by paying par."
Porter smiled indulgently. "I didn't say we'd pay par for anything. But I think if Mr. McNally were to sign a contract to pay par the day after the M. and T. election, that he could vote the stock on election day."
McNally's plump hand came down softly on the table. "Good!" he said under his breath.
But Mr. Thompson failed to understand. "But the contract?" he said.
"Such a contract would be a little less valuable than that waste paper," Porter replied politely, indicating the crumpled sheets on the table. Then he turned to McNally and asked, "How many men will it take to swing it?"
"Three, if we get the right ones. Yes, I know the men we want. I can get them all right," he added, in response to the unspoken question. "It will need a little—oil, though, for the wheels."
"I suppose so," said Porter, dryly. "I think you'd better get at it right away. It's two o'clock now. The two-thirty express will get you to Manchester so that you can reach Tillman about seven-thirty. It doesn't pay to waste any time when you're trying to get ahead of Jim Weeks. He moves quick. Have you got money enough?"
Thompson had come to the surface again. He was breathing thickly, and his high, bald forehead was damp with perspiration. "That's bribery," he said, "and it's—dangerous."
"I'm afraid that can't be helped, Mr. Thompson," said Porter. "It's neck or nothing. We've got to have that Tillman City stock."
There were but four people in the room when he began speaking. There were five when he finished, for Harvey West had grown tired of waiting. He bowed politely.
"Good afternoon, gentlemen. Ah! Mr. Porter. How do you do? I beg your pardon for intruding."
Porter recovered first. "No intrusion, Mr. West. We had just finished our business."
McNally took the cue quickly.
"Mr. West?" he said interrogatively.
"I will be at your service in a moment. Excuse me."
Wing and Thompson had already taken the hint, and were moving toward the door. Porter hung back, conversing in low tones with McNally. Then he bowed to West and followed the others. McNally gathered up the papers on the table, folded them, and put them in his pocket.
"Please sit down, Mr. West. What can I do for you? Wait a moment, though. Won't you smoke?" He held out his cigar case to Harvey, who took one gladly. Lighting it would give him a moment more to think, and thinking was necessary, for he didn't know what McNally could do for him. But McNally seemed to be doing his best to help him out.
"Don't you think it very warm here?" he said, as Harvey struck a match. "Something cool to drink would go pretty well. If you'll excuse me for a moment more I'll go down and see about getting it," and without waiting for a reply, McNally put on his silk hat and stepped out into the corridor.
"He certainly seems friendly," thought Harvey, as the footfalls diminished along the floor, and then he puzzled over what he should say when McNally came back. At last he smiled. "That's it," he said to himself, "I'll try to rent him that vacant suite in our office building."
When West had made up his mind that the party of four were not to meet in Wing's office, he had decided to see if they were in McNally's. He could not ask for Wing, of course, so he asked for McNally and trusted to the spur of the moment for a pretext for his call. Now that McNally's absence had enabled him to think of one he took a long breath of satisfaction. He had accomplished what he had set out to accomplish, and contrary to Jim Weeks's expressed expectation. There was no doubt that it was a combination of the C. & S.C. and Thompson's gang that was booming the M. & T. Moreover there was no doubt as to their next move. "But it won't work," he thought. "Jim owns about half of Tillman City, and anyway they'll never sell when our stock is jumping up the way it is."
And having settled this important matter he switched his train of thought off on another track. It reached Truesdale in a very short time, but it had nothing to do with M. & T., or with Mr. McNally. He took the note out of his pocket and read it through twice, and then smoked over it comfortably for some time before he began vaguely to wonder why Mr. McNally didn't come back. Five minutes later he glanced at his cigar ash. It was an inch and a half long. "That means twenty minutes," he said thoughtfully, and then it dawned on him that things had happened which were not down on the schedule.
He walked quickly to the telephone, and a moment later Pease was talking to him.
"No," said the stenographer; "Mr. Weeks went out to lunch about an hour ago. He said he wouldn't be back to the office this afternoon."
There had been no words wasted in the two minutes' conversation between Porter and McNally after Harvey's abrupt entrance, and as a result of it, while the young secretary waited and thought over the good stroke of work he had done for Jim Weeks and of another good stroke he might some day do for himself, Mr. Frederick McNally took the two-thirty express for Manchester and Tillman City.
POLITICS AND OTHER THINGS
Harvey West was a young man. Perhaps had he been older, had his wisdom been salted with experience, he would not have put two and two together without realizing that the sum was four; but then, it is the difference between twenty-six and fifty that makes railroads a possibility. He walked slowly to the elevator and descended to the street. At the corner he paused and looked about, turning over in his mind the singular disappearance of Mr. McNally. "He can't do anything with Tillman's stock," thought Harvey. "They're solid for us." But Harvey in his brief business life had not fathomed the devious ways of the chronic capitalist. He knew that commercial honor was honeycombed with corrupt financiering, but to him the corrupt side was more or less vague, and never having soiled his fingers he failed to realize the nearness of the mud. Harvey had yet to learn that in dealing with a municipality or with a legislature, the law of success has but two prime factors, money and speed.
He walked slowly over Madison Street and turned into State. Weeks was not in the office, and anyway he wished to clear his mind, if possible, before he talked with him; meanwhile sauntering up the east side of State Street with an eye for the shopping throng. People interested Harvey. He was fond of noting types, and of watching the sandwich-men, beggars, and shoe-string venders. Often at noon he would walk from Randolph Street to Harrison, observing the shifting character of Chicago's great thoroughfare. To Harvey it seemed like a river, starting clear but gradually roiled by the smaller streams that poured in, each a little muddier than the one next north, until it was clogged and stagnant with the scum of the city. But to-day he was going north. The sidewalk was crowded with eager girls and jaded women, keen on the scent of bargains. These amused Harvey, and he smiled as he crossed Washington Street. A moment later the smile brightened. Miss Porter stood on the corner.
"Surprised to see me?" she laughed. "Father came up unexpectedly on business, and I tagged along to do some shopping. Are you in a hurry? I suppose so. You men never lose a chance to awe us with the value of your time."
"No," Harvey replied, "I'm not at all in a hurry."
"Good, then you can help me. I am buying a gown."
They went into Field's, and for nearly an hour Harvey "helped." It did not take him long to realize that nowhere is a strong man more helpless than in a department store. He went through yards of samples, fingered dozens of fabrics; he discussed and suggested, all with a critical air that amused Miss Porter. She tried at first to take him seriously, but finally gave up, leaned against the counter and laughed.
"Suppose we go up to the waiting room," she said. "You can talk, anyway."
With a smile Harvey assented, and they seated themselves near the railing, where they could look down on the human kaleidoscope below.
"By the way," said Harvey, after they had chatted for some time, "this morning's Tribune has a good joke on one of your Truesdale neighbors. Did you see it?"
"No. Tell me about it."
"Why, it seems that he—it was Judge Black—is up at Waupaca. He went there in a hurry from Lake Geneva to get away from some cases that were following him and spoiling the vacation he's been trying to get since July. He moved so quickly that his trunk left him and went up to Minnesota or somewhere. Well, the Judge was asked to speak at an entertainment the first night at the hotel. An hour or so before the time set for the speech he fell into the lake and ruined his only suit of clothes. There wasn't a man there anywhere near his size, so he appeared before the guests of the Grand View Hotel in the 'bus man's overalls."
Katherine laughed heartily.
"Father will enjoy that," she said. "He loves to laugh at Judge Black." And she added, "I wonder where father is."
"Do you return to Truesdale to-day?" Harvey asked.
"No. Not until day after to-morrow. We go to the South Side to dinner, father and I. Father told me to meet him here at half-past three."
Harvey drew out his watch.
"It is after four now."
"Yes, I'm a little worried. Father is usually very prompt. He had to see some men about the railroad, but he said it wouldn't take him long. I'm afraid something has happened."
So was Harvey. The mention of Mr. Porter brought back to him certain peculiar facts, and for a moment he thought fast. Evidently something was happening. In case there was a chance of Tillman City wavering, Jim Weeks should know of Porter's activity and at once. Harvey rose abruptly.
"Excuse me. I find I have forgotten some work at the office."
"Must you go? I am sorry." She rose and extended her hand. "I shan't be at home either night or I'd ask you to come and see me. But you are coming down to Truesdale soon, remember."
"Yes," said Harvey. "Good-by."
He walked rapidly to the Washington Building. Jim had left no word, and Harvey called up the Ashland Avenue residence, but could learn nothing. The Northern Station master returned a similar report: Mr. Weeks had not been seen. Harvey sat down and rested his elbows on the desk. Already it might be too late. He called to mind Jim's business arrangements, in the hope of striking a clew by chance. He was interrupted by a few callers, whom he disposed of with a rush; and he was closing his desk with a vague idea of hunting Jim in person when he was called to the 'phone. It was the station master.
"I was mistaken, Mr. West," he said. "Fourteen has just got in from Manchester, and he says he took Mr. Weeks out at noon."
Harvey rang off and called up the M. & T. terminal station at Manchester.
"Hello. This is Chicago. Is Mr. Weeks there?"
"Well—say, hello! Hold on, central!—Will you call him to the 'phone, please?"
"Where? At the shops?"
"Sorry, but I guess you'll have to interrupt him. Important business."
"Can't help it if the whole road's blocked. Get him as quick as you can and call us up. Good-by."
Harvey waited ten minutes, twenty, thirty, thirty-five—then the bell rang.
"Wait a minute. You say he took the 4.30?"
"All right. Good-by."
Harvey turned back to his desk with a scowl. He passed the next hour clearing up what was left of the day's work; then he went out to dinner, and at 6.45 met Jim Weeks at the Northern Station.
"Hello," said the magnate, "what's up?"
"Porter is," replied Harvey. "I cornered him and McNally with Thompson and Wing, and I think McNally's gone after the Tillman stock."
"I guess not," Jim smiled indulgently. "They can't touch it. Tell me what you know."
Harvey related his experience, and as one detail followed another Jim's eyebrows came together. He took out his watch and looked at it, then his eye swept the broad row of trains in the gloomy, barnlike station. The hands on the three-sided clock pointed to seven, and the Northern Vestibule Limited began to roll out on its run to Manchester and the West. Suddenly Jim broke in:—
"I'm going to Tillman. Back to-morrow."
He ran down the platform and swung himself, puffing, upon the rear steps of the receding train. Harvey stared a moment, then slowly walked out to the elevated. He had not yet learned to follow the rapid working of Jim Weeks's mind.
In the meantime Mr. Porter was nervous. Being unsuccessful in his search for Weeks, and seeing the possibility of failure before him, he greeted the hour of five with a frown; but he realized that there was nothing to be done. McNally was on the field and must fight it out alone. It was a quarter after five when he stepped from the elevator at Field's, and confronted a very reproachful young woman.
"Sorry, dear, but I couldn't get away any sooner."
"What was it, dad? That old railroad?"
"You wouldn't understand it if I told you."
Katherine frowned prettily.
"That's what you always say. Tell me about it."
"Well, it was very important that I should see a man before he saw another one."
"Did you see him?"
"No, I couldn't find him."
"Does it mean a loss to you, dad?"
"I hope not, dear. But we must get started."
"I thought you never would come. It was lucky that I had company part of the time."
"That's good. Who was it?"
"Mr. West?—Not Weeks's man—not—"
Katherine nodded. Her father looked at her puzzled; then his brow slightly relaxed, and he smiled. "By Jove!" he said softly. Katherine was watching him in some surprise.
"Katherine, you are a brick. You shall have the new cart. Yes, sir. I'll order it to-morrow."
"What have I done?"
"You've saved the day, my dear." Suddenly he frowned again. "Hold on; when did you see him?"
"I met him about three. I guess he was here an hour or more."
"Couldn't be better! But he must be an awful fool."
Katherine bit her lip.
"Why?" she asked quietly.
"Don't you see? If he had seen Weeks early enough they might have upset me. He must be an awful fool."
Katherine followed him to the elevator with a peculiar expression. She wondered why her father's remark annoyed her.
Before leaving Manchester Mr. McNally wired to the Tillman City Finance Committee an invitation to dine at the Hotel Tremain at 7.45 P.M. During the journey he matured his plan of campaign.
This was not likely to be more than mildly exciting, for twenty years of political and financial juggling had fitted Mr. McNally for delicate work. In his connection with various corporations he had learned the art of subduing insubordinate legislatures without friction, if not without expense, and naturally the present task offered few difficulties. That was why, after an hour or so of thought, he straightened up in his seat, bought a paper, and read it with interest, from the foreign news to the foot-ball prospects. Mr. McNally's tastes were cosmopolitan, and now that his method was determined he dismissed M. & T. stock from his mind. He knew Tillman City, and more to the point, he knew Michael Blaney, Chairman of the Council Finance Committee. Finesse would not be needed, subtlety would be lost, with Blaney, and so Mr. McNally was prepared to talk bluntly. And on occasion Mr. McNally could be terseness itself.
On his arrival he took a cab for the hotel. The Committee were on hand to meet him, and Blaney made him acquainted with the others.
Michael Blaney was a man of the people. He was tall and angular, hands and face seamed and leathery from the work of earlier days, eyes small and keen, and a scraggy mustache, that petered out at the ends. He had risen by slow but sure stages from a struggling contractor with no pull, to be the absolute monarch of six wards; and as the other seven wards were divided between the pro- and anti-pavers, Blaney held the municipal reins. He still derived an income from city contracts, but his name did not appear on the bids.
After dinner Mr. McNally led the way to his room, and in a few words announced that he had come for the M. & T. stock. Blaney tipped back in his chair and shook his head.
"Can't do it, Mr. McNally. It ain't for sale."
"So I heard," said McNally, quietly, "but I want it."
"You see it's like this. When they were building the line, we took the stock on a special act—"
"I understand all that," McNally interrupted. "That can be fixed."
Williams, one of the other two, leaned over the table.
"We ain't fools enough to go up against Jim Weeks," he said.
"Don't worry about Weeks," replied McNally, "I can take care of him."
"Who are you buying for?" asked Blaney.
McNally looked thoughtfully at the three men, then said quietly:—
"I am buying for C. & S.C. Jim Weeks is all right, but he can't hold out against us."
"Well, I tell you, Mr. McNally, we can't sell."
"Outside of the original terms—and they sew us up—we never could get it through the Council."
McNally folded his hands on the table and looked at Blaney with twinkling eyes.
"That's all rot, Blaney."
"No, it ain't. The boys are right with Weeks."
"See here, Blaney. You just stop and ask yourself what Weeks has done for you. He's sunk a lot of your money and a lot of St. Johns's money, to say nothing of Chicago, in a road that never has paid and never will pay. Why, man, the stock would be at forty now if we hadn't pushed it up. I tell you Jim Weeks is licked. The only way for you to get your money back is to vote in men who can make it go. We've got the money, and we've got the men. It will be a good thing for Tillman City, and a good thing"—he paused, and looked meaningly at the three faces before him—"a mighty good thing for you boys."
"We couldn't put it through in time for the election anyhow."
"The eighth? That's two weeks."
"I know it, but we'd have to work the opposition."
"Talk business, Blaney. I'll make it worth your while."
"What'll you give?"
"For the stock?"
"Well—yes, for the stock."
"I'll give you par."
"That depends on you. However, if you really want time, you can have it. I suppose you boys vote the stock?"
All three nodded.
"Well, you vote for our men, and I'll sign an agreement to pay cash at par after the meeting."
"Why not now?"
"I wouldn't have any hold on you. Anyhow, I won't pay till I get the stock, and you seem to want time."
Blaney glanced at the other two. They were watching McNally closely, and Williams was fumbling his watch chain. Blaney's eyes met McNally's.
"What'll you do for us?" he asked. "It'll take careful work."
For answer McNally rose and went to the bed, where his bag lay open. He rummaged a moment, then returned with a pack of cards.
"Forgot my chips," he said, seating himself. "Close up, boys."
He dealt the cards with deft hands. Blaney started to take his up, then paused with his hand over them.
"What's the ante?" he asked.
"Oh, five hundred?" McNally replied.
Blaney pushed the cards back.
"No," he said, "not enough."
Williams seconded his chief with a shake of the head.
"Well, name it yourself."
McNally pursed his lips, then drew out a wallet, and counted out three thousand dollars in large bills, which he laid in the centre of the table.
"There's four playing," suggested Blaney.
"Don't be a hog, Blaney." He took up his hand, then laid it down and rose, adding,—
"Can't do anything with that hand."
The three Committeemen dropped their cards and each pocketed a third of the money. Mr. McNally fished a pad from his grip and wrote the contract binding himself to pay for the stock after the election on condition that it should be voted at his dictation. He signed it, and tossed it across the table.
"All right, Mr. McNally," said Blaney, holding out his hand. "I guess we can see you through. Good night."
"Good night, Blaney; good night, boys." McNally shook hands cordially with each. "We'll have a good road here yet."
When their footfalls died away in the hall, Mr. McNally turned to the table, gathered the cards, and replaced them in his bag. The room was close with cigar smoke, and he threw open the windows. With the sensation of removing something offensive, he washed his hands. He stood for a few moments looking out the window at the quiet city, then he sauntered downstairs and into the deserted parlor, seating himself at the piano. His plump hands wandered over the keys with surprisingly delicate touch. For a short time he improvised. Then as the night quiet stole into his thoughts, he drifted into Rubinstein's Melody in F, playing it dreamily.
JIM WEEKS CLOSES IN
It was midnight when Jim Weeks reached Tillman City. The next morning at breakfast he recognized Mr. McNally, and though he nodded pleasantly, his thoughts were not the most amicable. He knew that McNally meant mischief, and he also knew that McNally's mischief could be accomplished only through one man, Michael Blaney. Heretofore Blaney had not troubled Jim. Jim's power and his hold on Tillman City affairs had combined to inspire the lesser dictator with awe, and in order to obtain concessions it had been necessary only to ask for them. Jim never dealt direct with Blaney. The councilman to whom he intrusted his measures was Bridge, leader of the pro-pavers. Jim had won him by generosity in transportation of paving supplies. But when Jim left the hotel that morning he wasted no time on minority leaders. Bridge was useful to prepare and introduce ordinances, but was not of the caliber for big deals, so Jim ordered a carriage and drove direct to Blaney's house. Although the hour was early, the politician was not at home. His wife, a frail little woman, came to the door and extended a flexible speaking trumpet that hung about her shoulders.
"No," she said in reply to Jim's question, "he's down on the artesian road watching a job. He won't be back till noon."
The road in question leads from the city to the artesian well a few miles away. Jim turned his horses and went back through the town and out toward the country. He found Blaney just inside the city limits, sitting on a curb and overseeing two bosses and a gang of laborers, who were tearing up the macadam with the destructive enthusiasm of the hired sewer digger.
"How are you, Blaney?" called Jim, pulling up.
Blaney nodded sourly. He was a man of bullying rather than of tactful propensities and he could not conceal his distaste for an interview with Jim Weeks at this particular moment. To tell the truth, he had begun to fear the results of the agreement with McNally which rested in his coat pocket. Weeks was a hard man to fight, and wasted no words on disloyalty. However, Blaney knew that dissimulation would profit him nothing, for to keep the changed vote a secret would be impossible; so he squared himself for a row. Jim tied his horses to a sapling and sat beside him, remarking,—
"I want to have a talk with you."
"Haven't got much time," replied Blaney, making a show of looking at his watch.
Jim smiled meaningly.
"You've got all the time I need. I want to know what you're up to with our stock."
Blaney gazed at the laborers.
"Here!" he called to a lazy Irishman, "get back there where you belong!"
"Come now, Blaney, talk business."
"What do you want to know about that stock?"
"How are you going to vote it?"
"I guess I can vote it."
"Are you going to stick to me?"
"I don't know whether I am or not. I'll do what the Council directs."
Jim gave him a contemptuous glance.
"Don't be a fool, Blaney."
"See here," said Blaney, rising; "what are you trying to do?"
Jim rose too.
"You've answered my question," he replied. "You think you can throw me out."
"I ain't throwing anybody out," muttered Blaney. He walked away and stood looking at the trench in the street which the men had sunk shoulder deep. Jim followed.
"I'm not through yet, Blaney."
"I haven't got time to talk with you," blustered the contractor. Jim stood a moment looking him over. Blaney's eyes were fixed on the Irishman.
"How much did he give you?" asked Jim, quietly.
Blaney whirled around.
"Look out," he said. "I don't know what you're talking about, but a man can't say that to me." His fists were clenched. Jim spoke without emotion.
"Drop it," he said. "I'm not here for my health. I knew all that some hours ago. If I couldn't work it any better than you've done, I'd quit. Now what I want you to do, Blaney—"
"See here, you've said enough!" Blaney was excited. "You can't come around here and bulldoze me. We've bought that stock and we'll vote it as we like, damn it; and you can go to hell!"
Jim looked at him thoughtfully; then he went to his buggy and drove back to the hotel. He saw that Blaney was frightened, but he evidently was too thoroughly bought up to be easily shaken. With what some men called his "gameness" Jim dropped Blaney from his mind for the moment, and began to plan for a desperate counter move. Before he reached the hotel the move was decided upon, and Jim was placid.
The next man to see was Bridge. Jim paused at the hotel long enough to send a message to the station agent to have a special ready in fifteen minutes; then he went to the office of his lieutenant.
Bridge was an architect with a yearning for politics. For several years he had tried to keep both irons in the fire, and as a result was not over-successful in either. But he was a shrewd, silent man, and could be trusted. Jim found him designing a stable.
"Sit down, Mr. Weeks. What brings you to Tillman?"
"Bad business," responded Jim, shortly. "Blaney's sold out to the C. & S.C."
Mr. Bridge sat upon his table and said nothing. When taken by surprise Mr. Bridge usually said nothing; that is why he had risen to the leadership of a faction.
"I don't know just what's happened," Jim went on, "but there's trouble ahead."
"Does Blaney say he's going to vote against you?"
"No," said Jim, "but he gave himself away."
"Can you block him?"
Jim passed over the question.
"I wish you'd watch him, Bridge. There's a deal on, and Frederick McNally is the other party. He's for C. & S.C. of course. Do you know him?"
Bridge shook his head.
"Well, never mind. I'll watch him. But you worry Blaney. He's a little rattled now,—I reckon McNally's soaked him,—and if you're careful you ought to find out something. I want to know just how they've fixed it."
"I'll keep an eye on him."
"Well,"—Jim rose,—"I've got a train to catch. Good-by."
He drove rapidly to the station; the agent hurried toward him as he pulled up at the platform.
"I only got your message this minute, Mr. Weeks," he said; "there isn't a car in the yards."
"What's that?" Jim looked at his watch. "Got an engine?"
"Only the switch engine."
"I'll take that."
The agent hesitated.
"You wouldn't get through before next week," he said. "There's a couple of passenger engines in the roundhouse, but they ain't fired."
The telegraph operator leaned out of the window and broke into the conversation.
"Murphy's firing the big eleven for sixteen from Truesdale. You might take that."
"Got a good man to run it?" asked Jim.
"Jawn Donohue's on the switch engine," replied the operator. "He knows the road."
Jim dimly remembered the name Donohue. Somewhat more than a year before his manager had reduced a man of that name for crippling an engine on a flying switch.
"He's the best man you could get, Mr. Weeks," said the agent, and turning, he ran down the platform toward the freight house. Jim called after him:—
"He's got to connect at Manchester with the twelve o'clock for Chicago."
Jawn's dumpy little engine was blowing off on a siding. Jawn was oiling. He was a short man, filling out his wide overalls with an in-'em-to-stay appearance. His beard was brushy, his eyes were lost in a gray tangle of brows and lashes, and he chewed the stem of a cob pipe.
"Jawn," said the agent, excitedly, "get eleven up to the platform quick!"
Jawn turned around, lowered the oil-can, and looked at the nervous agent with impassive eyes.
"Why?" he said slowly.
"You've got to connect with Manchester at twelve o'clock."
Jawn replaced his pipe.
"Wait till I kick them empties in on the house track. Who's it for?"
"Don't stop for that! It's the President!"
Jawn grunted, and walked deliberately across the tracks and into the roundhouse, followed by his fireman. Murphy, the hostler, was hovering about the big throbbing locomotive, putting a final polish on the oil-cups and piston-rods. Jawn, without a word, climbed into the cab, and out over the tender, where he lifted the tank lid and peered down at the water.
"Never mind that," the agent called. "You can water up at Byron."
Jawn slowly clambered over the coal and leaned against the doorway, packing the tobacco firmly into his pipe with his fire-proof little finger.
"Young man," he said gruffly, "I run this engine for four years without taking water between here and Manchester, and I reckon I can do it agin." Then he pulled her slowly out of the roundhouse.
In the meantime, the operator had sent this message to the train despatcher at Manchester:—
Want right of way over everything. Pres. coming on light engine.
To which the despatcher replied:—
Run to Manchester extra regardless of all trains.
When the engine finally rolled into the station Jim was pacing up and down; he was as nearly impatient as Jim Weeks could be.
"You'll have to move faster than that," he said shortly, swinging himself up the steps.
Jawn glanced at him without reply, then looked at his watch. It was twenty minutes after ten. He laid his hand upon the throttle and pulled. There was a gasp of steam, a whirring and slipping of the drive wheels, and the engine plunged forward. Jawn fingered the lever with a lover's caress. He knew old "eleven," every foot of her, every tube, bolt, and strap. As they cleared the yards, he threw her wider and wider open until she was lunging and lurching madly. The cinders beat a tattoo upon the cab, and Jim Weeks crowded up into the corner. The fireman, a strapping young fellow, threw in great shovels of coal with the regularity of a machine, pausing only to wipe his forehead with the back of his hand as the heat grew intense. When he opened the furnace door, Jim could see the glowing bed lift and stir with the jolt of the engine.
Old Jawn, perched upon his high seat, never shifted his eyes from the track ahead. His face wore the usual scowl, but betrayed no emotion. Perhaps his teeth gripped the pipe-stem harder than usual, but then, it was a pregnant hour for Jawn. The feel of the old pet under his hand made his heart jump, and brought the hope that a successful run might lead him back to his own. Jawn knew that he deserved something better than a switch engine in the division yards, he knew that he was the best engineer on the road, but he had steeled himself against hope. As they whirled past the mile-posts his emotion grew. He felt that the President was watching him closely, and he coaxed the steel thing into terrific speed. The cab grew hotter and hotter. Jim loosened his grip on the seat long enough to unbutton his collar and to twist his handkerchief around his neck. The fireman was dripping, but Jawn sat immovable as marble. They whirled past little stations with a sudden roar. At Brushingham a passenger train lay on the siding. There was a mottled flash of yellow, then they were by, and for an instant Jawn smiled. He hadn't passed Jack Martin like that for years.
Then they struck the hills. Up with a snort, over with a groan, and down with a rumble and slide, they flew. Here Jawn's eyes shifted to the water gauge. Jim locked one arm around the window post, and sat with eyes fixed on his watch. The minute hand crept around to eleven, passed it, and on to five, ten, fifteen, twenty, twenty-five. At thirty-five clusters of cottages began to shoot by. Jawn's arm began to straighten—the roar diminished a trifle. Thirty-seven they passed rows of coal-laden flat cars; thirty-nine, they slackened through a tangle of tracks; forty-one, the big engine rolled under the train shed and stopped in a cloud of steam.
Jim stepped down and stretched himself. The fireman had staggered back into the tender, and lay in a heap, fanning himself with his cap. Jawn took a final glance at the water gauge, then he swung around and removed his cold pipe.
"Mr. Weeks," he said gruffly, "I brung ye a hundred and three mile in eighty-one minutes. There ain't another man on the line could 'a' done it. I reckon that's why there's nothing for me but a switch engine." Without waiting for a reply he seized an oil-can and swung out of the cab. Jim followed in silence, and hurried away with a grim smile.
At two-thirty Jim was in his Chicago office. For some time he was closeted with Myers, treasurer of the road, then he closed his desk and went out. He spent an hour with Spencer, a capitalist and an M. & T. director. From four to six he was locked in his office, going through his various collateral securities. At six he locked his office and went home with a feeling of relief. The battle was on, and Jim was ready. There would be a meeting at his house that evening between Spencer, Myers, and himself; not a long meeting, but one productive of results.
Harvey West liked to be comfortable. His rooms were in a quiet apartment house on the West Side, within easy reach of the Metropolitan Elevated, and not far from the big house where Jim Weeks held bachelor sway. Harvey was not a musician, but a good piano stood in his sitting room. He had accumulated a few etchings and two bronzes; and on the centre table were piled the latest books. Harvey read these about as he listened to Grand Opera—he recognized that a man should keep in touch with such things. In a vague way he enjoyed them, but he was too honest to cultivate the glib generalities that give so many men a rating as connoisseurs of art, music, and literature. Harvey liked action. Business appealed to him, anything with motion and excitement; then, after the fever of the day, he was drawn to a few friends and a good cigar. But back behind his straightforward democratic temperament there was a dash of good blood, the sifting down of generations of gentlemen and gentlewomen, that accounted for Harvey's inherent good taste. He could not criticise the technique of a picture, but he never selected a poor one. And the few books he really liked were the kind one can read once a year with profit.
Early on this Tuesday evening Harvey was trying to read, but his eyes would wander and his brow contract. At intervals he would turn in his chair and endeavor to bring his thoughts back to the book. Finally he shut it with a bang and, walking to the window, stood looking out over the city. It had been a hard day for Harvey. He had passed hours waiting to learn the result of Jim's efforts to head off McNally. The news that C. & S.C. would undoubtedly control the Tillman City stock at election had been closely followed by the discovery of unexpected strength in the opposition directors. People used to say of Jim that he was never so happy as when fighting in his last ditch, but Harvey derived no pleasure from such operations. On this occasion he was particularly troubled. He felt that his failure to tend to business the preceding afternoon had contributed largely to the loss of Tillman City; and, worst of all, what a fool Miss Porter must think him.
The boulevard below was hedged with two long rows of gas-lamps which converged far away to the south. Sounds of the street floated up to him—the clatter of hoofs on the asphalt, disjointed conversations from wheelmen, juvenile calls and whistles. Harvey looked down at the strolling crowds on the sidewalk, and felt lonely. He turned away from the window, and took a cigar from the hospitable box on the mantel. Near the box was a kodak picture of Miss Porter which he had taken some time before. He held the picture to the light, and gazed at it earnestly. "You had a fine laugh over me yesterday, didn't you, when your father told you all about it?"
Harvey's big sitting room was popular. His friends had the comfortable habit of dropping in at almost any hour of the day or night, sure of a hearty welcome. But to-night the thought of visitors caused him to replace the picture suddenly, seize his hat and stick, and start out for—somewhere. At first he entertained a dim notion of going to Lincoln Park, so he took the elevated down town, and started north on the Clark Street cable. But as the car jolted along, he remembered that the band did not play Tuesday evenings. He might take in the electric fountain, but in the crowd you couldn't go about and look at people without being in other people's way. Harvey was fond of the great public, but he liked to hold himself in the background. He rode past the Park under the long row of elms, gazing absently at the thronging walk where the middle strata of North Side humanity take their evening promenade. Passing the Park, he decided to go on to the Bismarck, where he could be among people and yet remain alone.
A few minutes before eight he walked between the brown dragons which guard the entrance, and crossed the raised pavilion between the street and the garden. At the head of the stairs he paused a moment, then he turned aside and seated himself at a table near by, where he could lean against the railing and overlook the crowd below.
It was still somewhat early, and the long rows of white tables stood vacant. By daylight the trees in a summer garden wear a homesick look, but to-night the festooned incandescent lamps spread a soft yellow light through the foliage, already thinned, though the night was warm, by the touch of September; while high up on their white poles the big arcs threw down a weird blue glare, casting a confusion of half-opaque shadows upon the gravelled earth. Far to the front was the stage with its half dome; the double-bass was tuning his instrument, a few others were sorting music or running over difficult passages.
By this time the crowd was pouring in and spreading among the tables. Harvey leaned back and watched the almost unbroken line that moved from the gate to the steps. There were a great many family groups, with here and there a chaperoned party from the suburbs. A sound of scraping and squealing and grunting from the stage announced the orchestral preliminaries. There was a scattering fusillade of applause as the tall conductor appeared. Looking through the trees, Harvey could see him rap his stand and raise both arms. The concert was on. Harvey's glance shifted back to the stairway, and he started. On the bottom step, looking about for a vacant table, was William C. Porter. Behind him, standing, with head thrown back, was Miss Katherine Porter. For a moment she looked at the shifting scene before her. Harvey noted with hungry eyes the poise of her figure. Then she turned deliberately, and bowed to Harvey with a bright smile.
A little later, as Harvey sat alone listening to the music, Mr. Porter appeared, picking his way toward the centre aisle. Harvey watched him idly. He finally reached the stairway, and came straight to Harvey's table.
"Good evening, Mr. West," he said, holding out his hand. "Won't you join us? We shall be here for an hour, anyway."
Harvey rose, and looked across the diagonal line of tables. Miss Porter was leaning forward with a smile. Harvey's mind had been made up, but he changed it and followed Mr. Porter.
Katherine received him brightly and immediately put him at ease. For the time he forgot that Mr. Porter and he were nominal enemies. Mr. Porter talked entertainingly of the people about them, a subject which Harvey could continue with intelligence; and he was gratified to note the interest in the daughter's eyes as he commented on the oddities of human character.
They were looking at a party of Germans, who sat listening to the music with the stolid interest of the race, when Mr. Porter rose and beckoned. Katherine nodded to some one behind Harvey. A moment later he was shaking hands with Mr. McNally.
"We've been watching for you for some time," said Mr. Porter, as McNally took the vacant chair.
"Have you?" McNally smiled easily. "I wish you had said that, Miss Porter."
"Oh, Mr. McNally, you know I was hoping for you."
Harvey's eyes betrayed him, for she added in a bantering tone,—
"We must say such things to Mr. McNally, Mr. West; if we don't, he gets simply unbearable."
McNally looked at her with an amused expression. Evidently they understood each other. As the banter continued, Harvey began to feel uncomfortable. He tried to listen to the orchestra, which was playing a lively march.
"Good, isn't it?" said Miss Porter to Harvey.
"Splendid," he replied.
"Do you think so?" observed Mr. McNally. "Seems to me Bunge's a little off to-night. Too much drum. Queer motions, hasn't he?"
Herr Bunge's motions were queer. He was very tall and spare, with an angular, smooth-shaven face, and with a luxuriant growth of hair that waved and flopped in the gentle breeze. His long arms were principally elbow, and they swayed and crooked and jerked as though he were pulling the music down out of the air. At times when he turned to the belated second violins, his gaunt profile would appear in silhouette against a glare of electric light.
"Do you know," said McNally, fingering his programme, "Bunge ought to stick to this kind of stuff. Last week I heard him play some of the Queen Mab music, and it was wilful slaughter. Poor old Berlioz would have sobbed aloud if he had heard it."
Harvey felt awkward. He could not follow McNally's comments, and it humiliated him. Miss Porter was quick to observe his silence, and endeavored to draw him into the conversation, while Mr. McNally seemed determined to hold the reins. There was some good-natured fencing, then Mr. Porter rose.
"You'll excuse us, Mr. West," he said pleasantly. "We have an engagement for the latter part of the evening."
"Yes," added his daughter, "we promised to go out to Edgewater—the Saddle and Cycle, you know."
Harvey bowed and stood immovable, as father, daughter, and Mr. McNally left the garden. She had given him a quick glance, and he wondered what it meant. He sat down and absently broke the straws in his glass. The orchestra had stopped, and a buzz of conversation floated into the foliage. White-clad waiters bustled about with trays piled high.
After another number he started for home, blue and angry. As he left the elevated and walked down Ashland Avenue, he saw that Jim's house was lighted up, and he crossed over. Jim and he were better friends than their relative positions indicated. Neither had family ties, and Jim's interest in the younger man was perhaps the nearest approach to sentiment he had felt for years. He seldom openly showed his regard, but Harvey was perfectly conscious of it, and he valued it highly.
Jim was sitting alone at the table in the library. He greeted Harvey by tipping back and waving toward a seat. The table was littered with papers.
"How are you?" said Jim. "We've stolen a march on you."
Harvey smiled, and threw himself wearily into a chair at the other end of the table.
"What is it?" he asked. "C. & S.C. again?"
Jim nodded, and drawing out his cigar case, he took one and tossed the case down to Harvey, then said:—
"Yes, and I think we've got 'em down. We've issued some more stock." He leaned on the table and spoke in a confidential tone. "And I reckon Porter'll be doing a hornpipe when he finds it out."
"Who took it?" asked Harvey.
"Spencer, Myers, and I. The books haven't been closed, you know."
Harvey blew out a thin cloud of smoke, and looked at it meditatively.
"Nine thousand shares," continued Jim, "If there's anything he can do now, he's welcome to try."
"Do you think he will try?"
"Oh, yes, he'll come at us with something or other. But he can't do a thing."
There was a long silence, then Harvey said,—
"You didn't pay cash for the stock?"
"Ten per cent," Jim replied.
Harvey fingered his cigar. Every new move of Jim's bewildered him. Jim's imperturbability, and his eagerness for a fight where some men would be discouraged, were qualities that Harvey was slow in acquiring. His admiration for Jim amounted almost to reverence. Perhaps had he realized the bitter fighting that was yet to come, if he could have foreseen the part that he was to play with zeal and judgment, he would have been even more bewildered, but Harvey was plucky enough; it needed only the right circumstances to develop him.
"If he does fight," said Jim, breaking the silence, "if he succeeds in landing on us, why, then, look out for war. I'll put my last cent into M. & T. before I'll give him a chance at it."
"Is he likely to grab the road?"
"Maybe he'll try. But I'll have five hundred men with guns in his way. I'll tell you, West, I'm not going to give in. I never have yet."
"No," said Harvey, thoughtfully, "I don't believe you have." And he added, "I saw Porter to-night."
"Up at the Bismarck. McNally was with him."
"Pretty girl, I hear."
"Yes,"—Harvey spoke slowly,—"she is. A very pretty girl. Her father seems to be a gentleman."
"Oh, Porter's all right. He's doing what 'most any man in his place would do. It's business. There's nothing personal in it."
"I suppose not," Harvey replied. "It's still a little odd to me. I'm afraid I'd want to break his head."
"You'll get over that. I reckon you haven't got anything against his daughter."
"Perhaps not," said Harvey; "but that's different."
"Oh, is it?"
Harvey sat for a moment without reply, then he tossed his half-smoked cigar into the ashtray and rose.
"Don't go, West. I shall be up for a long while."
"I'm tired," Harvey replied. "I need sleep. Good night."
Harvey walked home slowly. Once in his room, he did not light up; instead he drew an easy-chair to the window and stretched out where he could feel the breeze. It had been a strange evening. He went back over the conversation in the Bismarck. Katherine had seemed even prettier than usual; but before every picture of her rose the calm, smiling face of McNally—McNally with his pudgy hands and his cool blue eyes, his ease and his well-placed comment. Harvey rested an elbow on the sill and looked out the window. The crowds were gone now. No sound came save the rustle of the leaves and the occasional rumble of the elevated trains. The moon was clouded, but over the trees the stars were out, as clear and soft as on other evenings that had not seemed so dreary. He turned away and walked over to the mantel, where Katherine's picture leaned against the wall. He found it without striking a light, and brought it to the window. By the dim light from the street and the sky, he could see her face in faint outline.
"Well, Miss Katherine," he said, looking into the shadowy eyes, "I guess Jim Weeks isn't the only fighter here."
There are two kinds of business men: those who make their business at once work and play, a means of acquiring wealth and a most exciting game whose charms make all other games seem flat and unprofitable; and another class who, though they may enjoy work, turn for recreation to whist or philanthropy or golf. Porter belonged to the latter class. He went into the fight against Jim Weeks simply because he hoped it would make him richer, and it did not occur to him that he could enjoy the action. On Wednesday morning he sat in his office wondering if he could not get away to the Truesdale golf links for a match that afternoon.
He looked over the ground carefully, and could see no way by which Weeks could save himself from defeat, for the control of Tillman City gave C. & S.C. a majority of the stock. Weeks's allies were deserting him, so that he now had a bare majority in the Board of Directors. Anyway, McNally would be on the ground in case Jim should try to do anything.
"Well," thought Porter, "I'll go. I guess it's safe enough." He had closed his desk when the door opened and an office boy came in with a telegram. Porter tore it open listlessly, but his indolence vanished as he read the first line. The message was from Manchester, and it read as follows:—
M. & T. subscription book stubs show issue of nine thousand shares new stock to Weeks, Myers, and Spencer, ten per cent paid, dated yesterday.
When a man finds himself in an ambush, or when an utterly unexpected attack is made upon him, he shows what he is. It was characteristic of Porter that after the moment of dazed unrealization had passed he began almost mechanically to plan a break for cover; he wished that he had not gone into the fight, and berated his stupidity in not foreseeing the move; it had not occurred to him that the subscription for the stock had not closed long ago. After a few minutes of vain search for an avenue of retreat, he saw that it was too late to do anything but fight it out; Jim Weeks was not likely to let an antagonist off easily.
He called to his secretary: "Telephone Shields to come over here, will you, as soon as he can? And ask McNally to come too." While he was waiting for them he sat quite still in his big chair and thought hard, but he could see no way of countering the blow.
The two men he had sent for came into the office together. Porter did not rise. With a nod of greeting he handed the yellow envelope to McNally, who whistled softly as he caught its import, and passed it on to Shields, an attorney for the C. & S.C., an emotionless, noncommittal man.
"Hm—it looks as though that beat you," he said slowly.
Porter lost his nerve and his temper too for a moment. He rose quickly and took a step toward the lawyer.
"Hell, man!" he exclaimed angrily. "We can't be beat. We've got to get out of this some way. That's what you're here for." Then he recovered himself. "I beg your pardon, Shields. Sit down, and we'll talk this business over."
For nearly an hour the three men sat in earnest consultation; then the secretary was called in.
"Find out if Judge Black is in Truesdale," said Porter. "If he is, I want to talk to him." Then he turned to Shields.
"That's our move," he said. "We can allege fraud on the ground that the stock was issued secretly and with the purpose of influencing the election. Black's the man for that business."
"It isn't much of a case, mind you," said Shields. "I'm afraid that Weeks's action is not illegal, and that a court would sustain it, but it's possible to raise a question that it will take time to decide."
"That's all we need," said Porter, with a sigh of relief. "If we raise the question, Black will do the rest."
It was several minutes before the secretary came back from the telephone.
"Well, did you get him?" asked Porter.
"No," said the secretary; "he isn't in Truesdale."
"Where is he?"
"I couldn't find out. His stenographer wouldn't tell me."
"Wouldn't tell you, eh?" said Porter. "Just get Truesdale again; I'll talk with that young man myself."
When he began talking his voice was mild and persuasive, and Shields and McNally listened expectantly. As the minutes went by and he did not get the information he wanted, it became evident that the cocksure young man at the other end of the line was rasping through what was left of Porter's patience as an emery wheel does through soft iron. As might be expected, the process was accompanied with a shower of sparks. Porter's voice rose and swelled in volume until at last he shouted, "You don't care who I am? Why, you damned little fool—" and then he stopped, for a sharp click told him that he was cut off, even from the central office, and he was not angry enough to go on swearing at an unresponsive telephone.
For a moment he stood biting his lip in a nervous effort to control himself, then he joined feebly in the laughter the other two men had raised against him. A moment later he pulled out his watch, and turning to McNally said:—
"Keep your eye on Weeks, will you? I'm going to Truesdale on the eleven-thirty to find Black. Good-by."
Katherine was not surprised when twenty minutes later her father appeared and told her his plans. That was the train she had expected they would take.
"I'm going along too," she said. "You're going to play golf this afternoon, aren't you?"
"No," replied her father, shortly, "I'm not going to play golf. I'm going to play something else."
The five-hour ride to Truesdale was for the most part a silent one. Katherine knew that her father was worried about something, and when he was worried he never liked to talk, so she asked no questions and made no attempt to draw him away from what troubled him. Only when they reached Truesdale and her father was about to help her into the cart that stood waiting she stopped long enough to kiss him and say:—
"Don't bother too much about it, dad. And don't plan any business for this evening; I want you to take me out on the river." As she turned the cart around and started up the broad smooth street toward home she frowned, and thought, "I wish he would tell me more about things. I believe I could help."
Porter went straight to Judge Black's to continue his conversation with the stenographer, but it needed no more than a glance to convince him of the futility of trying to get any information from that source.
The new stenographer was a boyish-looking person who tried to convince one that he was much older than his appearance would indicate. He had big feet and a high voice; he used only the bottom notes for conversational purposes save when in unwary moments Nature would assert herself in a hoarse falsetto. He patronized Mr. Porter. He said that the Judge had left town the week before, and that he would probably be back in about ten days. He would send him no messages whatever, from anybody: those were Judge Black's orders.
The young man seemed willing to go on talking at great length, and he doubtless would have done so had not Porter suddenly left the room. The Vice-President had thought of a possible clew. He walked rapidly to the railroad ticket office and spoke to the agent.
"Did Judge Black leave town a few days ago?" he asked.
"Yes, sir," answered the agent. "I don't remember just what day, but he went up on twenty-two."
"Oh, he went east then. Do you remember where?"
"His ticket read to Chicago."
Porter walked away thoroughly disappointed. The chance had looked like a good one and there seemed to be no other. But he must in some way find the Judge; he could not wait for him. The first thing he did was to call up McNally by telephone and repeat to him what the agent had said. He told McNally to find out at what hotel the Judge had stayed, if at any, and to look for anything which might prove a clew to his whereabouts. "It's a wild-goose chase, I know," he concluded; "but then you may manage to turn up something." He knew that McNally would do everything that could be done in Chicago toward finding the missing Judge, so he went to work along other lines.
Judge Black was a member of two fishing clubs, one at Les Chenaux Islands, near Mackinac, and the other about forty miles north of Minneapolis, so Porter sent long and urgent telegrams to both these places. Then he began making long shots, working through a list of more or less likely places, which his knowledge of Black's tastes and habits enabled him to get together. Just before dinner a message came from McNally:—
Black at Sherman House Friday. Clerk says he took three-thirty train on Northwestern for Lake Geneva. Can run him down in morning.
Thursday morning the two little telegraph boys at Lake Geneva and the one at William's Bay had a busy time of it, for Porter and McNally between them kept the wires hot; but neither hide nor hair of Judge Alonzo Black could they discover. From ten o'clock on through an interminable day the messages kept coming back, 'not delivered.' At half-past four Porter telephoned his lieutenant to go to the lake and continue the search in person.
At seven Katherine and her father sat down to dinner. She had known all day that something was going wrong with her father's affairs, and she could read in his silent preoccupied manner that he had not yet been able to see a way out of the difficulty. She knew that she could not make him forget his troubles. Many vain attempts had taught her that, so she waited. The long dinner wore on Porter's nerves; once he rose suddenly and walked toward his library, but stopped short when he reached the door and came back to the table. Then he drummed on the arm of his chair.
"Two days more of this," he said, with a nervous laugh, "and that man Black will have my life to answer for."
"Judge Black?" asked Katherine. "What has he done?"
"Done? He's disappeared off the face of the earth just at this particular moment when I've got to have him here."
"Why," cried Katherine, "I know where he is. He's at the Grand View Hotel—"she paused and leaned forward, her elbows on the table and her hands clasped before her. "It's some place up in Wisconsin that sounds like alpaca. Waupaca—that's it. Grand View Hotel, Waupaca, Wisconsin."
"Are you sure that's right?" he asked. "How do you know?"
"Mr. West told me," she answered. "There was such a good joke on him in the paper. I meant to tell you about it."
But Porter was smiling over something else. After a moment he said:—
"We'd have been swamped long ago in this M. & T. business if it hadn't been for the kind services of that wise and valuable young man, West. I think I'll pay him a regular salary after this to keep him on the other side in all the fights I get into. Lord, what a fool he is!"
He left the room so abruptly that he did not see how Katherine's cheeks reddened, nor how her lips pressed together in vexation. If he had he would not have known the reason for it any more than Katherine did.
Rainbow Lake is pretty in the daytime, but it is beautiful under the moonlight when you can stretch out distances and imagine that the lights at Bagley's Landing are those of a city twenty miles away, and when the solid pine groves on Maple and Government islands loom up big and black. The Judge was enjoying his vacation the better for its lateness. He had bolted his supper early enough to secure his favorite chair in the best part of the piazza: a mandolin orchestra was playing a waltz from "The Serenade," and playing it well, the Judge thought. He threw away the match with which he had lighted his third cigar—to keep off the mosquitoes, he blandly told his conscience—and leaned back in the Morris chair, thinking how congruously comfortable it all was, now that he had his own clothes and the 'bus man could work without soiling his other suit.
A clerk came out of the office, peered about in the half light for a moment, and approached the Judge, touching him on the shoulder.
"Judge Black," he said, "Truesdale wants to talk to you on the 'phone."
Five minutes later the legal luminary came out of the telephone box. He was swearing earnestly, but softly, out of deference to the candy-and-cigar girl. He walked slowly across the office.
"There's a train for Chicago at 8.30, isn't there?" he asked.
"Yes," said the clerk. "Do you want to take it?"
There was another pianissimo interlude, at the end of which the clerk was given to understand that he should order the 'bus for that train. Then the Judge went back for his chair, but it was occupied by a little girl who was just too old to be asked to sit somewhere else.
As Jim Weeks had said, Thompson wouldn't fight, and Porter realized this quite as well as Jim. The recalcitrant Vice-President played no part in Porter's calculations except as a somewhat blundering and obstinate tool. But on Friday morning Thompson's office boy announced Mr. Porter. Porter stated his case clearly. It was his plan to remove Weeks and Myers by judicial order from the Board of Directors. That would leave the opposition a majority of the board. Then Thompson was to call a meeting and assume control of the books. That done, the battle would be decided, and the election a mere formality. Thompson was badly rattled, for he hadn't a grain of sand in his composition, but in the end he conquered his fears and agreed to play the part Porter assigned to him.
At half-past two a disjointed-looking train panted into the Harrison Street Station, and Judge Black climbed disconsolately out of the smoker. There was a coating of cinders on the top of his derby hat; there were drifts of cinders in the curl of the brim; there were streaks of cinders along the lines where his coat wrinkled; and there was one cinder in his left eye which gave him so leery and bibulous an aspect that an old lady who narrowly escaped colliding with him turned and looked after him in indignation, being half minded to go back and plead with him to lead a better life.
It was fifteen minutes later when the Judge reached Porter's office, but before three o'clock he had signed an order enjoining James Weeks and Johnson Myers from acting as directors of, or from interfering in any way with, the affairs of the corporation known as the Manchester & Truesdale Railroad Company, and from voting the nine thousand shares of stock in that company which had been issued September 25th.
BETWEEN THE LINES
On Friday afternoon Harvey closed his desk with a feeling of relief. There had been plenty of work for the past few days, and Harvey's thoughts had acquired such wandering habits that his work seemed harder than usual. He had not seen Katherine since Tuesday evening, but another note, dated Thursday evening, was in his coat pocket. He read it again:—
MY DEAR MR. WEST: As you have inferred from the postmark I am back at Truesdale; we returned Wednesday. I have about despaired of seeing you here, at least of your own free will, so I have decided to kidnap you. Will you come to a coaching party Saturday afternoon—or rather a brake party? We shall start from our house, weather permitting, at four o'clock, and drive out to Oakwood, returning by moonlight. Please don't let any stupid business interfere with your coming down and having a jolly time.
Harvey slowly folded the note and replaced it in his pocket. Then he spoke to Jim.
"Mr. Weeks, will you need me to-morrow?"
Jim looked up pleasantly. Since the recent issue of M. & T. stock, Jim's eyes had smiled almost continuously.
"Guess not," he replied. "Going away?"
"Just over Sunday."
"You aren't going anywhere near Truesdale, are you?"
Jim whirled around to his desk and rummaged through some pigeonholes.
"I want to get word to a man down there," he said,—"some fellow that Fox talks about, who has a good team to sell. I thought I had his card. Well, never mind, I'll call up Fox in the morning and get his name and address. Then if you have time"—Jim smiled—"you might talk with him and see what they are. Don't commit yourself; just size things up."
"I don't believe you need come around in the morning. I'll call you up or wire you. But don't lose any dinners on account of it."
The next morning Harvey went to Truesdale.
The Oakwood Club House stands on a knoll some eight miles up the river from Truesdale. Giant elms shade the wide veranda, while others droop over the white macadam drive that swings steeply down to the bridge and vanishes in a grove of oak, hickory, and birch. If you stand on the steps and look west, you can see, through the immediate foliage, the Maiden County hills, their blue tops contrasting with the nearer green of the valley. To the left, an obtruding wing checks the view; on the right, leading straight down to the river, is a well-worn path.
After dinner the party strolled up and down the veranda, gradually separating into couples. The twilight creeping down found Harvey and Miss Porter alone by the railing. She stood erect, looking out over the valley, her scarlet golf jacket thrown back, her hair disordered by the long ride and curling about her face. Harvey watched her in silence. He was glad that she was tall; he liked to meet her eyes without looking down. He had often tried to remember the color of those eyes. Presently she turned and looked at him.
"They're gray," he said, half to himself.
"No," she replied; "sometimes they are brown and sometimes green. They are not gray."
Harvey leaned forward.
"I'm sure they are."
For a moment they stood looking into each other's eyes, then she turned away with a little laugh and removed her sailor hat, swinging it from her hand.
"Look," she said, with an impulsive gesture toward the west. Harvey followed her gaze. The dark was settling into the valley. There were splotches of foliage and waves of meadow, with a few winding strips of silver where the river broke away from the trees. "And to think that we have only a few more such days."
"Yes,"—he spoke softly,—"we don't see things like that in Chicago."
"Why don't you come to Truesdale?"
"So long as Mr. Weeks stays in Chicago, I am likely to be there too."
"You are fond of Mr. Weeks?"
"Yes, I am."
"I never met him—I've heard a great deal about him." She sat upon the railing and leaned back against a pillar, her eyes turned to the foliage. "Father says he is a good business man."
"Mr. West," she threw her head back with a peremptory toss—"I want you to tell me something."
"Wait," he replied, "come to the river. Then I'll tell you anything."
She smiled, but acquiesced, and they went down the path. Harvey drew up a cedar boat and extended his hand, but she stepped lightly aboard without his aid. Harvey pushed away from the bank and began slowly to paddle against the current.
"Now," he said, "the Sister Confessor may proceed."
She looked up at him. He thought she was smiling, but she spoke earnestly.
"I want you to tell me about this M. & T. fight."
"I don't believe there is anything to tell."
"You think I am not interested."
"You men are all alike. You think a girl can't understand business." She seemed to be musing. "You like a girl who is helpless and fluttery, who can be patronized."
"No," said Harvey, "not that either."
"I wish you would tell me."
"How much do you know?"
Before replying she looked out over the water for several moments. Harvey rested his oars and waited. She turned to him, still musing.
"I'll be frank," she said. "I am not going to say how much I know, but I want you to tell me all about it."
Harvey began to row.
"Of course," she went on, "I have heard father's friends talking."
"You puzzle me," he remarked.
"Why should any one wish to get control of your road?"
"Because there is coal on the line."
"Is Mr. Weeks firmly in control?"