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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesA Spoil Of Office: A Story Of The Modern West - Chapter 12. The Judge Advises Bradley
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A Spoil Of Office: A Story Of The Modern West - Chapter 12. The Judge Advises Bradley Post by :jorgemv Category :Long Stories Author :Hamlin Garland Date :May 2012 Read :3716

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A Spoil Of Office: A Story Of The Modern West - Chapter 12. The Judge Advises Bradley

CHAPTER XII. THE JUDGE ADVISES BRADLEY

It was at the Judge's advice that he decided to take a year at the law-school at Iowa City. He had been in the office over a year and a half, and though he had not been converted to Democracy, the Judge was still hopeful.

"Oh, you'll have to come into the Democratic camp," he often said. "You see, it's like this: the Republicans are so damn proud of their record, they're going to ossify, with their faces turned backward. They have a past, but no future. Now the Democratic party has no past that it cares particularly to look back at, and so it's got to look into the future. You progressive young fellows can't afford to stand in a party where everything is all done, because that leaves nothing for you to do but to admire some dead man. You'll be forced into the party of ideas, sure. I aint disposed to hurry you, you'll come out all right when the time comes."

Bradley never argued with him. He had simply shut his lips and his mind to it all. Democracy had lost some of its evil associations in his mind, however, and Free Trade and Secession no longer meant practically the same thing, as it used to do.

"Now people are damn fools--excepting you an' me, of course," yawned the Judge, one day in midsummer. "What you want to do is to take a couple of years at Iowa City and then come back here and jump right into the political arena and toot your horn. They'll elect you twice as quick if you come back here with a high collar and a plug-hat, even these grangers. They distrust a man in 'hodden gray'--no sort of doubt of it. Now you take my advice. People like to be pollygoggled by a sleek suit of clothes. And then, there is nothing that impresses people with a man's immense accumulation of learning and dignity like a judicious spell of absence."

It was very warm, and they both sat with coats and vests laid aside. The fat old bull-dog was panting convulsively from the exertion of having just climbed the stairs. The Judge went on, after looking affectionately at the dog:

"Ah, we're a gittin' old together, Bull an' me. We like the shady side of the street. Now you could make a good run in the county to-day, as you are, but your election would be doubtful, and we can't afford to take any chances. There are a lot o' fellers who'd say you hadn't had experience enough--too young, an' all that kind o' thing. We'll suppose you could be elected auditor. It wouldn't pay. It would only stand in the way of bigger things. Now you take my advice."

"I'd like to, but I can't afford it, Judge."

"How much you got on hand?"

"Oh, couple of hundred dollars or so."

The Judge ruminated a bit, scratching his chin. "Well, now, I'll tell yeh, Mrs. Brown and I had a little talk about the matter last night, and she thinks I ought to lend you the money, and--she thinks you ought to take it. So pack up y'r duds in September and start in."

Bradley's first impulse, of course, was to refuse, because he felt he had no claim upon the Judge's charity. It took hold of his imagination, however, and he talked it all over thoroughly during the intervening weeks, and the Judge put it this way:

"Now, there's no charity about this thing--I simply expect to get three hundred per cent. on my money, so you go right along and when you come back we'll have a new shingle painted--'Brown & Talcott.' We aint anxious to lose yeh. As a matter of fact, Mrs. Brown and I'll be pretty lonesome for the first few weeks after you go away--and what I'll do about that cussed cow and kindling-wood I really don't know. Mrs. Brown suggested we'd better take in another homeless boy, and I guess that's what we'll do."

A couple of nights later, while Bradley was sitting before his trunk, which he had begun to pack like the inexperienced traveller he was, several days in advance, Mrs. Brown came to the stairway to tell him Nettie was below and wanted to see him.

The poor girl had just heard that he was going away and she met him with a white, scared face. He sat down without speaking, for he had no defence, except silence, for things of that nature. The girl's fury of grief appalled him. She came over and flung herself sobbing upon his lap, her arms about his neck.

"Oh, Brad! Is it true? Are you going away?"

"I expect to," he replied coldly.

"You mustn't! You sha'n't! I won't let you!" she cried, tightening her arms about him, as if that would detain him. From that on, there was nothing but sobs on her side, and explanations on his--explanations to which her love, direct and selfish, would not listen for a moment. The unreserve and unreason of her passion at last disgusted him. His tone grew sharper.

"I can't stay here," he said. "You've no business to ask me to. I can't always be a lawyer's hack. I want to study and go higher. I've got to leave this town, if I ever amount to anything in the world."

"Then take me with you!" she cried.

"I can't do that! I can't any more'n make a livin' for myself. Besides, I've got to study."

"I'll make father give you some money," she said.

He closed his lips sternly, and said nothing further. Her agony wore itself out after a time, and she was content to sit up and look at him and listen to him at last while he explained. And her suppressed sobs and the tears that stood in her big childish eyes moved him more than her unrestrained sorrow. It was thus she conquered him.

He promised her he would come home often, and he promised to write every day, and by implication, though not in words, he promised to marry her--that is to say, he acquiesced in her plans for housekeeping when he returned and was established in the office. He ended it all by walking home with her and promising to see her every day before he went, and as he kissed her good-night at the gate, she was smiling again and quite happy, although a little catching of the breath (even in her laughter) showed that she was not yet out of the ground-swell of her emotion.

Mrs. Brown was waiting for him when he returned, and as he sat down in the sitting-room, where she was busy at her sewing, she looked at him in her slow way, and at last arose and came over near his chair.

"Have you promised her anything, Bradley?" she asked, laying her thimbled hand upon his shoulder, as his own mother might have done. Bradley lifted his gloomy eyes and colored a little.

"I don't know what I've said," he answered, from the depth of his swift reaction. "More'n I had any business to say, probably."

"I thought likely. You can't afford to marry a girl out of pity for her, Bradley--it won't do. I've seen how things stood for some time, but I thought I wouldn't say anything." She paused and considered a moment, standing there by his side. "It's a good thing for both of you that you're going away. You hadn't ought to have let it go on so long."

"I couldn't help it," he replied with more sharpness in his voice than he had ever used in speaking to her.

Her hand dropped from his shoulder. "No, I don't s'pose you could. It aint natural for young people to stop an' think about these things. I don't suppose you knew y'rself just where it was all leading to. Well, now, don't worry, and don't let it interfere with your plans. She'll outgrow it. Girls often go through two or three such attacks. Just go on with your studies, and when you come back, if you find her unmarried, why, then decide what to do."

Her touch of cynicism was accounted for, perhaps, by the fact that she had never had a daughter.

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