Mr. Crewe's Career
ENTER THE LION
It is a fact, as Shakespeare has so tersely hinted, that fame sometimes comes
in the line of duty. To be sure, if Austen Vane had been Timothy Smith, the
Mender case might not have made quite so many ripples in the pond with which
this story is concerned. Austen did what he thought was right. In the opinion of
many of his father's friends whom he met from time to time he had made a
good-sized stride towards ruin, and they did not hesitate to tell him so—Mr.
Chipman, president of the Ripton National Bank; Mr. Greene, secretary and
treasurer of the Hawkeye Paper Company, who suggested with all kindness that,
however noble it may be, it doesn't pay to tilt at windmills.
"Not unless you wreck the windmill," answered Austen. A new and very
revolutionary point of view to Mr. Greene, who repeated it to Professor Brewer,
urging that gentleman to take Austen in hand. But the professor burst out
laughing, and put the saying into circulation.
Mr. Silas Tredway, whose list of directorships is too long to print, also
undertook to remonstrate with the son of his old friend, Hilary Vane. The young
lawyer heard him respectfully. The cashiers of some of these gentlemen, who were
younger men, ventured to say—when out of hearing—that they admired the
championship of Mr. Mender, but it would never do. To these, likewise, Austen
listened good-naturedly enough, and did not attempt to contradict them. Changing
the angle of the sun-dial does not affect the time of day.
It was not surprising that young Tom Gaylord, when he came back from New York
and heard of Austen's victory, should have rushed to his office and
congratulated him in a rough but hearty fashion. Even though Austen had won a
suit against the Gaylord Lumber Company, young Tom would have congratulated him.
Old Tom was a different matter. Old Tom, hobbling along under the maples,
squinted at Austen and held up his stick.
"Damn you, you're a lawyer, ain't you?" cried the old man.
Austen, well used to this kind of greeting from Mr. Gaylord, replied that he
didn't think himself much of one.
"Damn it, I say you are. Some day I may have use for you," said old Tom, and
"No," said young Tom, afterwards, in explanation of this extraordinary
attitude of his father, "it isn't principle. He's had a row with the
Northeastern about lumber rates, and swears he'll live till he gets even with
If Professor Brewer (Ripton's most clear-sighted citizen) had made the
statement that Hilary Vane—away down in the bottom of his heart—was secretly
proud of his son, the professor would probably have lost his place on the school
board, the water board, and the library committee. The way the worldly-wise
professor discovered the secret was this: he had gone to Bradford to hear the
case, for he had been a dear friend of Sarah Austen. Two days later Hilary Vane
saw the professor on his little porch, and lingered. Mr. Brewer suspected why,
led carefully up to the subject, and not being discouraged—except by numerous
grunts—gave the father an account of the proceedings by no means unfavourable to
the son. Some people like paregoric; the Honourable Hilary took his without
undue squirming, with no visible effects to Austen.
Life in the office continued, with one or two exceptions, the even tenor of
its way. Apparently, so far as the Honourable Hilary was concerned, his son had
never been to Bradford. But the Honourable Brush Bascom, when he came on
mysterious business to call on the chief counsel, no longer sat on Austen's
table; this was true of other feudal lords and retainers: of Mr. Nat Billings,
who, by the way, did not file his draft after all. Not that Mr. Billings wasn't
polite, but he indulged no longer in slow winks at the expense of the honourable
Perhaps the most curious result of the Meader case to be remarked in passing,
was upon Mr. Hamilton Tooting. Austen, except when he fled to the hills, was
usually the last to leave the office, Mr. Tooting often the first. But one
evening Mr. Tooting waited until the force had gone, and entered Austen's room
with his hand outstretched.
"Put her there, Aust," he said.
Austen put her there.
"I've been exercisin' my thinker some the last few months," observed Mr.
Tooting, seating himself on the desk.
"Aren't you afraid of nervous prostration, Ham?"
"Say," exclaimed Mr. Tooting, with a vexed laugh, "why are you always
jollying me? You ain't any older than I am."
"I'm not as old, Ham. I don't begin to have your knowledge of the world."
"Come off," said Mr. Tooting, who didn't know exactly how to take this
compliment. "I came in here to have a serious talk. I've been thinking it over,
and I don't know but what you did right."
"Well, Ham, if you don't know, I don't know how I am to convince you."
"Hold on. Don't go twistin' around that way—you make me dizzy." He lowered
his voice confidentially, although there was no one within five walls of them.
"I know the difference between a gold brick and a government bond, anyhow. I
believe bucking the railroad's going to pay in a year or so. I got on to it as
soon as you did, I guess, but when a feller's worn the collar as long as I have
and has to live, it ain't easy to cut loose—you understand."
"I understand," answered Austen, gravely.
"I thought I'd let you know I didn't take any too much trouble with Meader
last summer to get the old bird to accept a compromise."
"That was good of you, Ham."
"I knew what you was up to," said Mr. Tooting, giving Austen a friendly poke
with his cigar.
"You showed your usual acumen, Mr. Tooting," said Austen, as he rose to put
on his coat. Mr. Tooting regarded him uneasily.
"You're a deep one, Aust," he declared; "some day you and, me must get
Mr. Billings' desire for ultimate justice not being any stronger than Austen
suspected, in due time Mr. Meader got his money. His counsel would have none of
it,—a decision not at all practical, and on the whole disappointing. There was,
to be sure, an influx into Austen's office of people who had been run over in
the past, and it was Austen's unhappy duty to point out to these that they had
signed (at the request of various Mr. Tootings) little slips of paper which are
technically known as releases. But the first hint of a really material advantage
to be derived from his case against the railroad came from a wholly unexpected
source, in the shape of a letter in the mail one August morning.
"DEAR SIR: Having remarked with some interest the verdict for a
client of yours against the United Northeastern Railroads, I wish
you would call and see me at your earliest convenience.
Although his curiosity was aroused, Austen was of two minds whether to answer
this summons, the truth being that Mr. Crewe had not made, on the occasions on
which they had had intercourse, the most favourable of impressions. However, it
is not for the struggling lawyer to scorn any honourable brief, especially from
a gentleman of stocks and bonds and varied interests like Mr. Crewe, with whom
contentions of magnitude are inevitably associated. As he spun along behind
Pepper on the Leith road that climbed Willow Brook on the afternoon he had made
the appointment, Austen smiled to himself over his anticipations, and yet—-being
human-let his fancy play.
The broad acres of Wedderburn stretched across many highways, but the
manor-house (as it had been called) stood on an eminence whence one could look
for miles down the Yale of the Blue. It had once been a farmhouse, but gradually
the tail had begun to wag the dog, and the farmhouse became, like the original
stone out of which the Irishman made the soup, difficult to find. Once the
edifice had been on the road, but the road had long ago been removed to a
respectful distance, and Austen entered between two massive pillars built of
granite blocks on a musical gravel drive.
Humphrey Crewe was on the porch, his hands in his pockets, as Austen drove
"Hello," he said, in a voice probably meant to be hospitable, but which had a
peremptory ring, "don't stand on ceremony. Hitch your beast and come along in."
Having, as it were, superintended the securing of Pepper, Mr. Crewe led the
way through the house to the study, pausing once or twice to point out to Austen
a carved ivory elephant procured at great expense in China, and a piece of
tapestry equally difficult of purchase. The study itself was no mere lounging
place of a man of pleasure, but sober and formidable books were scattered
through the cases: "Turner's Evolution of the Railroad," "Graham's Practical
Forestry," "Eldridge's Finance"; while whole shelves of modern husbandry
proclaimed that Mr. Humphrey Crewe was no amateur farmer. There was likewise a
shelf devoted to road building, several to knotty-looking pamphlets, and half a
wall of neatly labelled pigeonholes. For decoration, there was an oar garnished
with a ribbon, and several groups of college undergraduates, mostly either in
puffed ties or scanty attire, and always prominent in these groups, and always
unmistakable, was Mr. Humphrey Crewe himself.
Mr. Crewe was silent awhile, that this formidable array of things might make
the proper impression upon his visitor.
"It was lucky you came to-day, Vane," he said at length. "I am due in New
York to-morrow for a directors' meeting, and I have a conference in Chicago with
a board of trustees of which I am a member on the third. Looking at my array of
pamphlets, eh? I've been years in collecting them,—ever since I left college.
Those on railroads ought especially to interest you—I'm somewhat of a railroad
"I didn't know that," said Austen.
"Had two or three blocks of stock in subsidiary lines that had to be looked
after. It was a nuisance at first," said Mr. Crewe, "but I didn't shirk it. I
made up my mind I'd get to the bottom of the railroad problem, and I did. It's
no use doing a thing at all unless you do it well." Mr. Crewe, his hands still
in his pockets, faced Austen smilingly. "Now I'll bet you didn't know I was a
railroad man until you came in here. To tell the truth, it was about a railroad
matter that I sent for you."
Mr. Crewe lit a cigar, but he did not offer one to Austen, as he had to Mr.
Tooting. "I wanted to see what you were like," he continued, with refreshing
frankness. "Of course, I'd seen you on the road. But you can get more of an idea
of a man by talkin' to him, you know."
"You can if he'll talk," said Austen, who was beginning to enjoy his visit.
Mr. Crewe glanced at him keenly. Few men are fools at all points of the
compass, and Mr. Crewe was far from this.
"You did well in that little case you had against the Northeastern. I heard
"I did my best," answered Austen, and he smiled again.
"As some great man has remarked," observed Mr. Crewe, "it isn't what we do,
it's how we do it. Take pains over the smaller cases, and the larger cases will
come of themselves, eh?"
"I live in hope," said Austen, wondering how soon this larger case was going
to unfold itself.
"Let me see," said Mr. Crewe, "isn't your father the chief attorney in this
State for the Northeastern? How do you happen to be on the other side?"
"By the happy accident of obtaining a client," said Austen.
Mr. Crewe glanced at him again. In spite of himself, respect was growing in
him. He had expected to find a certain amount of eagerness and
subserviency—though veiled; here was a man of different calibre than he looked
for in Ripton.
"The fact is," he declared, "I have a grievance against the Northeastern
Railroads, and I have made up my mind that you are the man for me."
"You may have reason to regret your choice," Austen suggested.
"I think not," replied Mr. Crewe, promptly; "I believe I know a man when I
see one, and you inspire me with confidence. This matter will have a double
interest for you, as I understand you are fond of horses."
"Yes," Mr. Crewe continued, gaining a little heat at the word, "I bought the
finest-lookin' pair you ever saw in New York this spring,—all-around action,
manners, conformation, everything; I'll show 'em to you. One of 'em's all right
now; this confounded railroad injured the other gettin' him up here. I've put in
a claim. They say they didn't, my man says they did. He tells me the horse was
thrown violently against the sides of the car several times. He's internally
injured. I told 'em I'd sue 'em, and I've decided that you are the man to take
the case—on conditions."
Austen's sense of humour saved him,—and Mr. Humphrey Crewe had begun to
interest him. He rose and walked to the window and looked out for a few moments
over the flower garden before he replied:—"On what conditions?"
"Well," said Mr. Crewe, "frankly, I don't want to pay more than the horse is
worth, and it's business to settle on the fee in case you win. I thought—"
"You thought," said Austen, "that I might not charge as much as the next
"Well," said Mr. Crewe, "I knew that if you took the case, you'd fight it
through, and I want to get even with 'em. Their claim agent had the impudence to
suggest that the horse had been doctored by the dealer in New York. To tell me
that I, who have been buying horses all my life, was fooled. The veterinary
swears the animal is ruptured. I'm a citizen of Avalon County, though many
people call me a summer resident; I've done business here and helped improve the
neighbourhood for years. It will be my policy to employ home talent Avalon
County lawyers, for instance. I may say, without indiscretion, that I intend
from now on to take even a greater interest in public affairs. The trouble is in
this country that men in my position do not feel their responsibilities."
"Public spirit is a rare virtue," Austen remarked, seeing that he was
expected to say something. "Avalon County appreciates the compliment,—if I may
be permitted to answer for it."
"I want to do the right thing," said Mr. Crewe. "In fact, I have almost made
up my mind to go to the Legislature this year. I know it would be a sacrifice of
time, in a sense, and all that, but—" He paused, and looked at Austen.
"The Legislature needs leavening."
"Precisely," exclaimed Mr. Crewe, "and when I look around me and see the
things crying to be done in this State, and no lawmaker with sense and foresight
enough to propose them, it makes me sick. Now, for instance," he continued, and
rose with an evident attempt to assault the forestry shelves. But Austen rose
"I'd like to go over that with you, Mr. Crewe," said he, "but I have to be
back in Ripton."
"How about my case?" his host demanded, with a return to his former
"What about it?" asked Austen.
"Are you going to take it?"
"Struggling lawyers don't refuse business."
"Well," said Mr. Crewe, "that's sensible. But what are you going to charge?"
"Now," said Austen, with entire good humour, "when you get on that ground,
you are dealing no longer with one voracious unit, but with a whole
profession,—a profession, you will allow me to add, which in dignity is second
to none. In accordance with the practice of the best men in that profession, I
will charge you what I believe is fair—not what I think you are able and willing
to pay. Should you dispute the bill, I will not stoop to quarrel with you, but,
try to live on bread and butter a while longer."
Mr. Crewe was silent for a moment. It would not be exact to say
uncomfortable, for it is to be doubted whether he ever got so. But he felt dimly
that the relations of patron and patronized were becoming somewhat jumbled.
"All right," said he, "I guess we can let it go at that. Hello! What the
deuce are those women doing here again?"
This irrelevant exclamation was caused by the sight through the open French
window—of three ladies in the flower garden, two of whom were bending over the
beds. The third, upon whose figure Austen's eyes were riveted, was seated on a
stone bench set in a recess of pines, and looking off into the Yale of the Blue.
With no great eagerness, but without apology to Austen, Mr. Crewe stepped out of
the window and approached them; and as this was as good a way as any to his
horse and buggy, Austen followed. One of the ladies straightened at their
appearance, scrutinized them through the glasses she held in her hand, and
Austen immediately recognized her as the irreproachable Mrs. Pomfret.
"We didn't mean to disturb you, Humphrey," she said. "We knew you would be
engaged in business, but I told Alice as we drove by I could not resist stopping
for one more look at your Canterbury bells. I knew you wouldn't mind, but you
mustn't leave your—affairs,—not for an instant."
The word "affairs" was accompanied by a brief inspection of Austen Vane.
"That's all right," answered Mr. Crewe; "it doesn't cost anything to look at
flowers, that's what they're for. Cost something to put 'em in. I got that
little feller Ridley to lay 'em out—I believe I told you. He's just beginning.
"I think he did it very well, Humphrey," said Miss Pomfret.
"Passably," said Mr. Crewe. "I told him what I wanted and drew a rough sketch
of the garden and the colour scheme."
"Then you did it, and not Mr. Ridley. I rather suspected it," said Mrs.
Pomfret; "you have such clear and practical ideas about things, Humphrey."
"It's simple enough," said Mr. Crewe, deprecatingly, "after you've seen a few
hundred gardens and get the general underlying principle."
"It's very clever," Alice murmured.
"Not at all. A little application will do wonders. A certain definite colour
massed here, another definite colour there, and so forth."
Mr. Crewe spoke as though Alice's praise irritated him slightly. He waved his
hand to indicate the scheme in general, and glanced at Victoria on the stone
bench. From her (Austen thought) seemed to emanate a silent but mirthful
criticism, although she continued to gaze persistently down the valley,
apparently unaware of their voices. Mr. Crewe looked as if he would have liked
to reach her, but the two ladies filled the narrow path, and Mrs. Pomfret put
her fingers on his sleeve.
"Humphrey, you must explain it to us. I am so interested in gardens I'm going
to have one if Electrics increase their dividend."
Mr. Crewe began, with no great ardour, to descant on the theory of planting,
and Austen resolved to remain pocketed and ignored no longer. He retraced his
steps and made his way rapidly by another path towards Victoria, who turned her
head at his approach, and rose. He acknowledged an inward agitation with the
vision in his eye of the tall, white figure against the pines, clad with the art
which, in mysterious simplicity, effaces itself.
"I was wondering," she said, as she gave him her hand, "how long it would be
before you spoke to me."
"You gave me no chance," said Austen, quickly.
"Do you deserve one?" she asked.
Before he could answer, Mr. Crewe's explanation of his theories had come
lamely to a halt. Austen was aware of the renewed scrutiny of Mrs. Pomfret, and
then Mr. Crewe, whom no social manacles could shackle, had broken past her and
made his way to them. He continued to treat the ground on which Austen was
standing as unoccupied.
"Hello, Victoria," he said, "you don't know anything about gardens, do you?"
"I don't believe you do either," was Victoria's surprising reply.
Mr. Crewe laughed at this pleasantry.
"How are you going to prove it?" he demanded.
"By comparing what you've done with Freddie Ridley's original plan," said
Mr. Crewe was nettled.
"Ridley has a lot to learn," he retorted. "He had no conception of what was
"Freddie was weak," said Victoria, "but he needed the money. Don't you know
"Yes," said Mr. Crewe, shortly, "I've been talking to him—on business."
"Oh," said Victoria, "I had no means of knowing. Mrs. Pomfret, I want to
introduce Mr. Vane, and Miss Pomfret, Mr. Vane."
Mrs. Pomfret, who had been hovering on the outskirts of this duel, inclined
her head the fraction of an inch, but Alice put out her hand with her sweetest
"When did you arrive?" she asked.
"Well, the fact is, I haven't arrived yet," said Austen.
"Not arrived" exclaimed Alice, with a puzzled glance into Victoria's laughing
"Perhaps Humphrey will help you along," Victoria suggested, turning to him.
"He might be induced to give you his celebrated grievance about his horses."
"I have given it to him," said Mr. Crewe, briefly.
"Cheer up, Mr. Vane, your fortune is made," said Victoria.
"Victoria," said Mrs. Pomfret, in her most imperial voice, "we ought to be
going instantly, or we shan't have time to drop you at the Hammonds'."
"I'll take you over in the new motor car," said Mr. Crewe, with his air of
conferring a special train.
"How much is gasoline by the gallon?" inquired Victoria.
"I did a favour once for the local manager, and get a special price," said
"Humphrey," said Mrs. Pomfret, taking his hand, "don't forget you are coming
to dinner to-night. Four people gave out at the last minute, and there will be
just Alice and myself. I've asked old Mr. Fitzhugh."
"All right," said Mr. Crewe, "I'll have the motor car brought around."
The latter part of this remark was, needless to say, addressed to Victoria.
"It's awfully good of you, Humphrey," she answered, "but the Hammonds are on
the road to Ripton, and I am going to ask Mr. Vane to drive me down there behind
that adorable horse of his."
This announcement produced a varied effect upon those who heard it, although
all experienced surprise. Mrs. Pomfret, in addition to an anger which she
controlled only as the result of long practice, was horrified, and once more
levelled her glasses at Austen.
"I think, Victoria, you had better come with us," she said. "We shall have
plenty of time, if we hurry."
By this time Austen had recovered his breath.
"I'll be ready in an instant," he said, and made brief but polite adieus to
the three others.
"Good-by," said Alice, vaguely.
"Let me know when anything develops," said Mr. Crewe, with his back to his
Austen found Victoria, her colour heightened a little, waiting for him by the
driveway. The Pomfrets had just driven off, and Mr. Crewe was nowhere to be
"I do not know what you will think of me for taking this for granted, Mr.
Vane," she said as he took his seat beside her, "but I couldn't resist the
chance of driving behind your horse."
"I realized," he answered smilingly, "that Pepper was the attraction, and I
have more reason than ever to be grateful to him."
She glanced covertly at the Vane profile, at the sure, restraining hands on
the reins which governed with so nice a touch the mettle of the horse. His
silence gave her time to analyze again her interest in this man, which renewed
itself at every meeting. In the garden she had been struck by the superiority of
a nature which set at naught what had been, to some smaller spirits, a difficult
situation. She recognized this quality as inborn, but, not knowing of Sarah
Austen, she wondered where he got it. Now it was the fact that he refrained from
comment that pleased her most.
"Did Humphrey actually send for you to take up the injured horse case?" she
"I'm afraid he did. You seem to know all about it," he added.
"Know all about it Every one within twenty miles of Leith knows about it. I'm
sure the horse was doctored when he bought him."
"Take care, you may be called as a witness."
"What I want to know is, why you accepted such a silly case," said Victoria.
Austen looked quizzically into her upturned face, and she dropped her eyes.
"That's exactly what I should have asked myself,—after a while," he said.
She laughed with a delicious understanding of "after a while."
"I suppose you think me frightfully forward," she said, in a lowered voice,
"inviting myself to drive and asking you such a question when I scarcely know
you. But I just couldn't go on with Mrs. Pomfret,—she irritated me so,—and my
front teeth are too valuable to drive with Humphrey Crewe."
Austen smiled, and secretly agreed with her.
"I should have offered, if I had dared," he said.
"Dared! I didn't know that was your failing. I don't believe you even thought
"Nevertheless, the idea occurred to me, and terrified me," said Austen.
"Why?" she asked, turning upon him suddenly. "Why did it terrify you?"
"I should have been presuming upon an accidental acquaintance, which I had no
means of knowing you wished to continue," he replied, staring at his horse's
"And I?" Victoria asked. "Presumption multiplies tenfold in a woman, doesn't
"A woman confers," said Austen.
She smiled, but with a light in her eyes. This simple sentence seemed to
reveal yet more of an inner man different from some of those with whom her life
had been cast. It was an American point of view—this choosing to believe that
the woman conferred. After offering herself as his passenger Victoria, too, had
had a moment of terror: the action had been the result of an impulse which she
did not care to attempt to define. She changed the subject.
"You have been winning laurels since I saw you last summer," she said. "I
hear incidentally you have made our friend Zeb Meader a rich man."
"As riches go, in the town of Mercer," Austen laughed. "As for my laurels,
they have not yet begun to chafe."
Here was a topic he would have avoided, and yet he was curious to discover
what her attitude would be. He had antagonized her father, and the fact that he
was the son of Hilary Vane had given his antagonism prominence.
"I am glad you did it for Zeb."
"I should have done it for anybody—much as I like Zeb," he replied briefly.
She glanced at him.
"It was—courageous of you," she said.
"I have never looked upon it in that light," he answered. "May I ask you how
you heard of it?"
She coloured, but faced the question.
"I heard it from my father, at first, and I took an interest—on Zeb Meader's
account," she added hastily.
Austen was silent.
"Of course," she continued, "I felt a little like boasting of an 'accidental
acquaintance' with the man who saved Zeb Meader's life."
Austen laughed. Then he drew Pepper down to a walk, and turned to her.
"The power of making it more than an accidental acquaintance lies with you,"
he said quietly.
"I have always had an idea that aggression was a man's prerogative," Victoria
answered lightly. "And seeing that you have not appeared at Fairview for
something over a year, I can only conclude that you do not choose to exercise it
in this case."
Austen was in a cruel quandary.
"I did wish to come," he answered simply, "but—the fact that I have had a
disagreement with your father has—made it difficult." "Nonsense" exclaimed
Victoria; "just because you have won a suit against his railroad. You don't know
my father, Mr. Vane. He isn't the kind of man with whom that would make any
difference. You ought to talk it over with him. He thinks you were foolish to
take Zeb Meader's side."
"And you?" Austen demanded quickly.
"You see, I'm a woman," said Victoria, "and I'm prejudiced—for Zeb Meader.
Women are always prejudiced,—that's our trouble. It seemed to me that Zeb was
old, and unfortunate, and ought to be compensated, since he is unable to work.
But of course I suppose I can't be expected to understand."
It was true that she could not be expected to understand. He might not tell
her that his difference with Mr. Flint was not a mere matter of taking a small
damage suit against his railroad, but a fundamental one. And Austen recognized
that the justification of his attitude meant an arraignment of Victoria's
"I wish you might know my father better, Mr. Vane," she went on, "I wish you
might know him as I know him, if it were possible. You see, I have been his
constant companion all my life, and I think very few people understand him as I
do, and realize his fine qualities. He makes no attempt to show his best side to
the world. His life has been spent in fighting, and I am afraid he is apt to
meet the world on that footing. He is a man of such devotion to his duty that he
rarely has a day to himself, and I have known him to sit up until the small
hours of the morning to settle some little matter of justice. I do not think I
am betraying his confidence when I say that he is impressed with your ability,
and that he liked your manner the only time he ever talked to you. He believes
that you have got, in some way, a wrong idea of what he is trying to do. Why
don't you come up and talk to him again?"
"I am afraid your kindness leads you to overrate my importance," Austen
replied, with mingled feelings. Victoria's confidence in her father made the
situation all the more hopeless.
"I'm sure I don't," she answered quickly; "ever since—ever since I first laid
eyes upon you I have had a kind of belief in you."
"Belief?" he echoed.
"Yes," she said, "belief that—that you had a future. I can't describe it,"
she continued, the colour coming into her face again; "one feels that way about
some people without being able to put the feeling into words. And have a
feeling, too, that I should like you to be friends with my father."
Neither of them, perhaps, realized the rapidity with which "accidental
acquaintance" had melted into intimacy. Austen's blood ran faster, but it was
characteristic of him that he tried to steady himself, for he was a Vane. He had
thought of her many times during the past year, but gradually the intensity of
the impression had faded until it had been so unexpectedly and vividly renewed
to-day. He was not a man to lose his head, and the difficulties of the situation
made him pause and choose his words, while he dared not so much as glance at her
as she sat in the sunlight beside him.
"I should like to be friends with your father," he answered gravely,—the
statement being so literally true as to have its pathetically humorous aspect.
"I'll tell him so, Mr. Vane," she said.
Austen turned, with a seriousness that dismayed her.
"I must ask you as a favour not to do that," he said.
"Why?" she asked.
"In the first place," he answered quietly, "I cannot afford to have Mr. Flint
misunderstand my motives. And I ought not to mislead you," he went on. "In
periods of public controversy, such as we are passing through at present,
sometimes men's views differ so sharply as to make intercourse impossible. Your
father and I might not agree—politically, let us say. For instance," he added,
with evident hesitation, "my father and I disagree."
Victoria was silent. And presently they came to a wire fence overgrown with
Virginia creeper, which divided the shaded road from a wide lawn.
"Here we are at the Hammonds', and—thank you," she said.
Any reply he might have made was forestalled. The insistent and intolerant
horn of an automobile, followed now by the scream of the gears, broke the
stillness of the country-side, and a familiar voice cried out—"Do you want the
Austen turned into the Hammonds' drive as the bulldog nose of a motor forged
ahead, and Mr. Crewe swung in the driver's seat.
"Hello, Victoria," he shouted, "you people ought to have ear-trumpets."
The car swerved, narrowly missed a watering fountain where the word "Peace"
was inscribed, and shot down the hill.
"That manner," said Victoria, as she jumped out of the buggy, "is a valuable
"Does he really intend to go into politics?" Austen asked curiously.
"'Intend' is a mild word applied to Humphrey," she answered; "'determined'
would suit him better. According to him, there is no game that cannot be won by
dynamics. 'Get out of the way' is his motto. Mrs. Pomfret will tell you how he
means to cover the State with good roads next year, and take a house in
Washington the year after." She held out her hand. "Good-by,—and I am ever so
much obliged to you for bringing me here."
He drove away towards Ripton with many things to think about, with a last
picture of her in his mind as she paused for an instant in the flickering
shadows, stroking Pepper's forehead.