Mr. Crewe's Career


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 walked on.

"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 'em."

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 Railroad Commission.

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 together."

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.

"Yours truly,


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 up.

"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 man myself."

"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 about it."

"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 man."

"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 too.

"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 abruptness.

"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. Hello, Alice."

"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 Victoria.

Mr. Crewe was nettled.

"Ridley has a lot to learn," he retorted. "He had no conception of what was appropriate here."

"Freddie was weak," said Victoria, "but he needed the money. Don't you know Mr. Vane?"

"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 manner.

"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 eyes.

"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 Mr. Crewe.

"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 attorney.

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 seen.

"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 asked.

Austen flushed.

"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 of it."

"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 head.

"And I?" Victoria asked. "Presumption multiplies tenfold in a woman, doesn't it?"

"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 father.

"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 whole road?"

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 political asset."

"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.

Back | Next | Contents