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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe Conflict - Chapter 7
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The Conflict - Chapter 7 Post by :Jigger Category :Long Stories Author :David Graham Phillips Date :May 2012 Read :1428

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The Conflict - Chapter 7


Impulse was the dominant strain in Selma Gordon's character--impulse and frankness. But she was afraid of Victor Dorn as we all are afraid of those we deeply respect--those whose respect is the mainstay of our self-confidence. She was moving toward him to pour out the violence that was raging in her on the subject of this flirtation of Jane Hastings. The spectacle of a useless and insincere creature like that trifling with her deity, and being permitted to trifle, was more than she could endure. But Victor, dropping listlessly to his chair and reaching for his pencil, was somehow a check upon her impetuousness. She paused long enough to think the sobering second thought. To speak would be both an impertinence and a folly. She owed it to the cause and to her friend Victor to speak; but to speak at the wrong time and in the wrong way would be worse than silence.

Said he: "I was finishing this when she came. I'll be done in a minute. Please read what I've written and tell me what you think."

Selma took up the loose sheets of manuscript and stood reading his inaugural of the new New Day. As she read she forgot the petty matter that had so agitated her a moment before. This salutatory--this address to the working class--this plan of a campaign to take Remsen City out of the hands of its exploiters and despoilers and make it a city fit for civilized residence and worthy of its population of intelligent, progressive workingmen--this leading editorial for the first number was Victor Dorn at his greatest and best. The man of action with all the enthusiasm of a dreamer. The shrewd, practical politician with the outlook of a statesman. How honest and impassioned he was; yet how free from folly and cant. Several times as she read Selma lifted her eyes to look at him in generous, worshipful admiration. She would not have dared let him see; she would not have dared speak the phrases of adoration of his genius that crowded to her lips. How he would have laughed at her--he who thought about himself as a personality not at all, but only as an instrument.

"Here's the rest of it," said he, throwing himself back in his chair and relighting his pipe.

She finished a moment later, said as she laid the manuscript on the table: "That's the best you've ever done."

"I think so," agreed he. "It seems to me I've got a new grip on things. I needed a turn such as your friend Davy Hull gave me. Nothing like rivalry to spur a man on. The old crowd was so stupid--cunning, but stupid. But Hull injects a new element into the struggle. To beat him we've got to use our best brains."

"We've got to attack him," said Selma. "After all, he is the enemy. We can't let him disarm us by an act of justice."

"No, indeed," said Victor. "But we'll have to be careful. Here's what I'm going to carry on the first page."

He held up a sheet of paper on which he had written with a view to effective display the names of the four most offensive local corporations with their contribution--$25,000 each--to the campaign fund of the Citizens' Alliance. "Under it, in big type," proceeded he, "we'll carry a line asking, 'Is the Citizens' Alliance fooling these four corporations or is it fooling the people?' I think that will be more effective than columns of attack."

"We ought to get that out on wall-bills and dodgers," suggested Selma, "and deluge the town with it once or twice a week until election."

"Splendid!" exclaimed Victor. "I'll make a practical politician of you yet."

Colman and Harbinger and Jocelyn and several others of the League leaders came in one at a time, and the plan of campaign was developed in detail. But the force they chiefly relied upon was the influence of their twelve hundred men, their four or five thousand women and young men and girls, talking every day and evening, each man or woman or youth with those with whom he came into contact. This "army of education" was disciplined, was educated, knew just what arguments to use, had been cautioned against disputes, against arousing foolish antagonisms. The League had nothing to conceal, no object to gain but the government of Remsen City by and for its citizens--well paved, well lighted, clean streets, sanitary houses, good and clean street car service, honest gas, pure water, plenty of good schools--that first of all. The "reform crowd"--the Citizens' Alliance--like every reform party of the past, proposed to do practically the same things. But the League met this with: "Why should we elect an upper class government to do for us what we ought to do for ourselves? And how can they redeem their promises when they are tied up in a hundred ways to the very people who have been robbing and cheating us?"

There were to be issues of the New Day; there were to be posters and dodgers, public meetings in halls, in squares, on street corners. But the main reliance now as always was this educated "army of education"--these six thousand missionaries, each one of them in resolute earnest and bent upon converting his neighbors on either side, and across the street as well. A large part of the time the leaders could spare from making a living was spent in working at this army, in teaching it new arguments or better ways of presenting old arguments, in giving the enthusiasm, in talking with each individual soldier of it and raising his standard of efficiency. Nor could the employers of these soldiers of Victor Dorn's complain that they shirked their work for politics. It was a fact that could not be denied that the members of the Workingmen's League were far and away the best workers in Remsen City, got the best pay, and earned it, drank less, took fewer days off on account of sickness. One of the sneers of the Kelly-House gang was that "those Dorn cranks think they are aristocrats, a little better than us common, ordinary laboring men." And the sneer was not without effect. The truth was, Dorn and his associates had not picked out the best of the working class and drawn it into the League, but had made those who joined the League better workers, better family men, better citizens.

"We are saying that the working class ought to run things," Dorn said again and again in his talks, public and private. "Then, we've got to show the community that we're fit to run things. That is why the League expels any man who shirks or is a drunkard or a crook or a bad husband and father."

The great fight of the League--the fight that was keeping it from power--was with the trades unions, which were run by secret agents of the Kelly-House oligarchy. Kelly and the Republican party rather favored "open shop" or "scab" labor--the right of an American to let his labor to whom he pleased on what terms he pleased. The Kelly orators waxed almost tearful as they contemplated the outrage of any interference with the ancient liberty of the American citizen. Kelly disguised as House was a hot union man. He loathed the "scab." He jeered at the idea that a laborer ought to be at the mercy of the powerful employer who could dictate his own terms, which the laborers might not refuse under stress of hunger. Thus the larger part of the "free" labor in Remsen City voted with Kelly--was bought by him at so much a head. The only organization it had was under the Kelly district captains. Union labor was almost solidly Democratic--except in Presidential elections, when it usually divided on the tariff question.

Although almost all the Leaguers were members of the unions, Kelly and House saw to it that they had no influence in union councils. That is, until recently Kelly-House had been able to accomplish this. But they were seeing the approaching end of their domination. The "army of education" was proving too powerful for them. And they felt that at the coming election the decline of their power would be apparent--unless something drastic were done.

They had attempted it in the riot. The riot had been a fizzle--thanks to the interposition of the personal ambition of the until then despised "holy boy," David Hull. Kelly, the shrewd, at once saw the mark of the man of force. He resolved that Hull should be elected. He had intended simply to use him to elect Hugo Galland judge and to split up the rest of the tickets in such a way that some Leaguers and some reformers would get in, would be powerless, would bring discredit and ridicule upon their parties. But Hull was a man who could be useful; his cleverness in upsetting the plot against Dorn and turning all to his advantage demonstrated that. Therefore, Hull should be elected and passed up higher. It did not enter his calculations that Hull might prove refractory, might really be all that he professed; he had talked with Davy, and while he had underestimated his intelligence, he knew he had not misjudged his character. He knew that it was as easy to "deal" with the Hull stripe of honest, high minded men as it was difficult to "deal" with the Victor Dorn stripe. Hull he called a "sensible fellow"; Victor Dorn he called a crank. But--he respected Dorn, while Hull he held in much such esteem as he held his cigar-holder and pocket knife, or Tony Rivers and Joe House.

When Victor Dorn had first begun to educate and organize the people of Remsen City, the boss industry was in its early form. That is, Kelly and House were really rivals in the collecting of big campaign funds by various forms of blackmail, in struggling for offices for themselves and their followers, in levying upon vice and crime through the police. In these ways they made the money, the lion's share of which naturally fell to them as leaders, as organizers of plunder. But that stage had now passed in Remsen City as it had passed elsewhere, and the boss industry had taken a form far more difficult to combat. Kelly and House no longer especially cared whether Republican party or Democratic won. Their business--their source of revenue--had ceased to be through carrying elections, had become a matter of skill in keeping the people more or less evenly divided between the two "regular" parties, with an occasional fake third party to discourage and bring into contempt reform movers and to make the people say, "Well, bad as they are, at least the regulars aren't addle-headed, damn fools doing nothing except to make business bad." Both Kelly and House were supported and enriched by the corporations and by big public contracting companies and by real estate deals. Kelly still appropriated a large part of the "campaign fund." House, in addition, took a share of the money raised by the police from dives. But these sums were but a small part of their income, were merely pin money for their wives and children.

Yet--at heart and in all sincerity Kelly was an ardent Republican and House was a ferocious Democrat. If you had asked either what Republican and Democrat meant he would have been as vague and unsatisfactory in his reply as would have been any of his followers bearing torch and oilcloth cape in political processions, with no hope of gain--beyond the exquisite pleasure of making a shouting ass of himself in the most public manner. But for all that, Kelly was a Republican and House a Democrat. It is not a strange, though it is a profoundly mysterious, phenomenon, that of the priest who arranges the trick mechanism of the god, yet being a devout believer, ready to die for his "faith."

Difficult though the task was of showing the average Remsen City man that Republican and Democrat, Kelly and House, were one and the same thing, and that thing a blood-sucking, blood-heavy leech upon his veins--difficult though this task was, Victor Dorn knew that he had about accomplished it, when David Hull appeared. A new personality; a plausible personality, deceptive because self-deceiving--yet not so thoroughly self-deceived that it was in danger of hindering its own ambition. David Hull--just the kind of respectable, popular figurehead and cloak the desperate Kelly-House conspiracy needed.

How far had the "army of education" prepared the people for seeing through this clever new fraud upon them? Victor Dorn could not judge. He hoped for the best; he was prepared for the worst.

The better to think out the various problems of the new situation, complicated by his apparent debt of gratitude to Davy, Victor went forth into the woods very early the next morning. He wandered far, but ten o'clock found him walking in the path in the strip of woods near the high road along the upper side of the park. And when Jane Hastings appeared, he was standing looking in the direction from which she would have to come. It was significant of her state of mind that she had given small attention to her dress that morning. Nor was she looking her best in expression or in color. Her eyes and her skin suggested an almost sleepless night.

He did not advance. She came rapidly as if eager to get over that embarrassing space in which each could see the other, yet neither could speak without raising the voice. When she was near she said:

"You think you owe something to Davy Hull for what he did?"

"The people think so," said he. "And that's the important thing."

"Well--you owe him nothing," pursued she.

"Nothing that would interfere with the cause," replied he. "And that would be true, no matter what he had done."

"I mean he did nothing for you," she explained. "I forgot to tell you yesterday. The whole thing was simply a move to further his ambition. I happened to be there when he talked with father and enlisted him."

Victor laughed. "It was your father who put it through. I might have known!"

"At first I tried to interpose. Then--I stopped." She stood before him with eyes down. "It came to me that for my own sake it would be better that you should lose this fall. It seemed to me that if you won you would be farther out of my reach." She paused, went steadily on: "It was a bad feeling I had that you must not get anything except with my help. Do you understand?"

"Perfectly," said he cheerfully. "You are your father's own daughter."

"I love power," said she. "And so do you. Only, being a woman, I'd stoop to things to get it, that a man--at least your sort of man--would scorn. Do you despise me for that? You oughtn't to. And you will teach me better. You can make of me what you please, as I told you yesterday. I only half meant it then. Now--it's true, through and through."

Victor glanced round, saw near at hand the bench he was seeking. "Let's sit down here," said he. "I'm rather tired. I slept little and I've been walking all morning. And you look tired, also."

"After yesterday afternoon I couldn't sleep," said she.

When they were seated he looked at her with an expression that seemed to say: "I have thrown open the windows of my soul. Throw open yours; and let us look at each other as we are, and speak of things as they are." She suddenly flung herself against his breast and as he clasped her she said:

"No--no! Let's not reason coldly about things, Victor. Let's feel--let's LIVE!"

It was several minutes--and not until they had kissed many times--before he regained enough self-control to say: "This simply will not do, Jane. How can we discuss things calmly? You sit there"--he pushed her gently to one end of the bench--"and I'll sit at this end. Now!"

"I love you, Victor! With your arms round me I am happy--and SO strong!"

"With my arms round you I'm happy, I'll admit," said he. "But--oh, so weak! I have the sense that I am doing wrong--that we are both doing wrong."

"Why? Aren't you free?"

"No, I am not free. As I've told you, I belong to a cause--to a career."

"But I won't hinder you there. I'll help you."

"Why go over that again? You know better--I know better." Abruptly, "Your father--what time does he get home for dinner?"

"He didn't go down town to-day," replied Jane. "He's not well--not at all well."

Victor looked baffled. "I was about to propose that we go straight to him."

If he had been looking at Jane, he might have seen the fleeting flash of an expression that betrayed that she had suspected the object of his inquiry.

"You will not go with me to your father?"

"Not when he is ill," said she. "If we told him, it might kill him. He has ambitions--what he regards as ambitions--for me. He admires you, but--he doesn't admire your ideas."

"Then," said Victor, following his own train of thought, "we must fight this out between ourselves. I was hoping I'd have your father to help me. I'm sure, as soon as you faced him with me, you'd realize that your feeling about me is largely a delusion."

"And you?" said Jane softly. "Your feeling about me--the feeling that made you kiss me--was that delusion?"

"It was--just what you saw," replied he, "and nothing more. The idea of marrying you--of living my life with you doesn't attract me in the least. I can't see you as my wife." He looked at her impatiently. "Have you no imagination? Can't you see that you could not change, and become what you'd have to be if you lived with me?"

"You can make of me what you please," repeated she with loving obstinacy.

"That is not sincere!" cried he. "You may think it is, but it isn't. Look at me, Jane."

"I haven't been doing anything else since we met," laughed she.

"That's better," said he. "Let's not be solemn. Solemnity is pose, and when people are posing they get nowhere. You say I can make of you what I please. Do you mean that you are willing to become a woman of my class--to be that all your life--to bring up your children in that way--to give up your fashionable friends--and maid--and carriages--and Paris clothes--to be a woman who would not make my associates and their families uncomfortable and shy?"

She was silent. She tried to speak, but lifting her eyes before she began her glance encountered his and her words died upon her lips.

"You know you did not mean that," pursued he. "Now, I'll tell you what you did mean. You meant that after you and I were married--or engaged--perhaps you did not intend to go quite so far as marriage just yet."

The color crept into her averted face.

"Look at me!" he commanded laughingly.

With an effort she forced her eyes to meet his.

"Now--smile, Jane!"

His smile was contagious. The curve of her lips changed; her eyes gleamed.

"Am I not reading your thoughts?" said he.

"You are very clever, Victor," admitted she.

"Good. We are getting on. You believed that, once we were engaged, I would gradually begin to yield, to come round to your way of thinking. You had planned for me a career something like Davy Hull's--only freer and bolder. I would become a member of your class, but would pose as a representative of the class I had personally abandoned. Am I right?"

"Go on, Victor," she said.

"That's about all. Now, there are just two objections to your plan. The first is, it wouldn't work. My associates would be 'on to' me in a very short time. They are shrewd, practical, practically educated men--not at all the sort that follow Davy Hull or are wearing Kelly's and House's nose rings. In a few months I'd find myself a leader without a following--and what is more futile and ridiculous than that?"

"They worship you," said Jane. "They trust you implicitly. They know that whatever you did would be for their good."

He laughed heartily. "How little you know my friends," said he. "I am their leader only because I am working with them, doing what we all see must be done, doing it in the way in which we all see it must be done."

"But THAT is not power!" cried Jane.

"No," replied Victor. "But it is the career I wish--the only one I'd have. Power means that one's followers are weak or misled or ignorant. To be first among equals--that's worth while. The other thing is the poor tawdriness that kings and bosses crave and that shallow, snobbish people admire."

"I see that," said Jane. "At least, I begin to see it. How wonderful you are!"

Victor laughed. "Is it that I know so much, or is it that you know so little?"

"You don't like for me to tell you that I admire you?" said Jane, subtle and ostentatiously timid.

"I don't care much about it one way or the other," replied Victor, who had, when he chose, a rare ability to be blunt without being rude. "Years ago, for my own safety, I began to train myself to care little for any praise or blame but my own, and to make myself a very searching critic of myself. So, I am really flattered only when I win my own praise--and I don't often have that pleasure."

"Really, I don't see why you bother with me," said she with sly innocence--which was as far as she dared let her resentments go.

"For two reasons," replied he promptly. "It flatters me that you are interested in me. The second reason is that, when I lost control of myself yesterday, I involved myself in certain responsibilities to you. It has seemed to me that I owe it to myself and to you to make you see that there is neither present nor future in any relations between us."

She put out her hand, and before he knew what he was doing he had clasped it. With a gentle, triumphant smile she said: "THERE'S the answer to all your reasoning, Victor."

He released her hand. "AN answer," he said, "but not the correct answer." He eyed her thoughtfully. "You have done me a great service," he went on. "You have shown me an unsuspected, a dangerous weakness in myself. At another time--and coming in another way, I might have made a mess of my career--and of the things that have been entrusted to me." A long pause, then he added, to himself rather than to her, "I must look out for that. I must do something about it."

Jane turned toward him and settled herself in a resolute attitude and with a resolute expression. "Victor," she said, "I've listened to you very patiently. Now I want you to listen to me. What is the truth about us? Why, that we are as if we had been made for each other. I don't know as much as you do. I've led a much narrower life. I've been absurdly mis-educated. But as soon as I saw you I felt that I had found the man I was looking for. And I believe--I feel--I KNOW you were drawn to me in the same way. Isn't that so?"

"You--fascinated me," confessed he. "You--or your clothes--or your perfume."

"Explain it as you like," said she. "The fact remains that we were drawn together. Well--Victor, _I am not afraid to face the future, as fate maps it out for us. Are you?"

He did not answer.

"You--AFRAID," she went on. "No--you couldn't be afraid."

A long silence. Then he said abruptly: "IF we loved each other. But I know that we don't. I know that you would hate me when you realized that you couldn't move me. And I know that I should soon get over the infatuation for you. As soon as it became a question of sympathies--common tastes--congeniality--I'd find you hopelessly lacking."

She felt that he was contrasting her with some one else--with a certain some one. And she veiled her eyes to hide their blazing jealousy. A movement on his part made her raise them in sudden alarm. He had risen. His expression told her that the battle was lost--for the day. Never had she loved him as at that moment, and never had longing to possess him so dominated her willful, self-indulgent, spoiled nature. Yet she hated him, too; she longed to crush him, to make him suffer--to repay him with interest for the suffering he was inflicting upon her--the humiliation. But she dared not show her feelings. It would be idle to try upon this man any of the coquetries indicated for such cases--to dismiss him coldly, or to make an appeal through an exhibition of weakness or reckless passion.

"You will see the truth, for yourself, as you think things over," said he.

She rose, stood before him with downcast eyes, with mouth sad and sweet. "No," she said, "It's you who are hiding the truth from yourself. I hope--for both our sakes--that you'll see it before long. Good-by--dear." She stretched out her hand.

Hesitatingly he took it. As their hands met, her pulse beating against his, she lifted her eyes. And once more he was holding her close, was kissing her. And she was lying in his arms unresisting, with two large tears shining in the long lashes of her closed eyes.

"Oh, Jane--forgive me!" he cried, releasing her. "I must keep away from you. I will--I WILL!" And he was rushing down the steep slope--direct, swift, relentless. But she, looking after him with a tender, dreamy smile, murmured: "He loves me. He will come again. If not--I'll go and get him!"

To Jane Victor Dorn's analysis of his feeling toward her and of the reasons against yielding to it seemed of no importance whatever. Side by side with Selma's "One may not trifle with love" she would have put "In matters of love one does not reason," as equally axiomatic. Victor was simply talking; love would conquer him as it had conquered every man and every woman it had ever entered. Love--blind, unreasoning, irresistible--would have its will and its way.

And about most men she would have been right--about any man practically, of the preceding generation. But Victor represented a new type of human being--the type into whose life reason enters not merely as a theoretical force, to be consulted and disregarded, but as an authority, a powerful influence, dominant in all crucial matters. Only in our own time has science begun to make a notable impression upon the fog which formerly lay over the whole human mind, thicker here, thinner there, a mere haze yonder, but present everywhere. This fog made clear vision impossible, usually made seeing of any kind difficult; there was no such thing as finding a distinct line between truth and error as to any subject. And reason seemed almost as faulty a guide as feeling--was by many regarded as more faulty, not without justification.

But nowadays for some of us there are clear or almost clear horizons, and such fog banks as there are conceal from them nothing that is of importance in shaping a rational course of life. Victor Dorn was one of these emancipated few. All successful men form their lives upon a system of some kind. Even those who seem to live at haphazard, like the multitude, prove to have chart and compass and definite port in objective when their conduct is more attentively examined. Victor Dorn's system was as perfect as it was simple, and he held himself to it as rigidly as the father superior of a Trappist monastery holds his monks to their routine. Also, Victor had learned to know and to be on guard against those two arch-enemies of the man who wishes to "get somewhere"--self-excuse and optimism. He had got a good strong leash upon his vanity--and a muzzle, too. When things went wrong he instantly blamed HIMSELF, and did not rest until he had ferreted out the stupidity or folly of which HE had been guilty. He did not grieve over his failures; he held severely scientific post mortems upon them to discover the reason why--in order that there should not again be that particular kind of failure at least. Then, as to the other arch-enemy, optimism, he simply cut himself off from indulgence in it. He worked for success; he assumed failure. He taught himself to care nothing about success, but only about doing as intelligently and as thoroughly as he could the thing next at hand.

What has all this to do with his infatuation for Jane? It serves to show not only why the Workingmen's League was growing like a plague of gypsy moth, but also why Victor Dorn was not the man to be conquered by passion. Naturally, Jane, who had only the vaguest conception of the size and power of Victor Dorn's mind, could not comprehend wherein lay the difference between him and the men she read about in novels or met in her wanderings among the people of her own class in various parts of the earth. It is possible for even the humblest of us to understand genius, just as it is possible to view a mountain from all sides and get a clear idea of it bulk and its dominion. But the hasty traveler contents himself with a glance, a "How superb," and a quick passing on; and most of us are hasty travelers in the scenic land of intellectuality. Jane saw that he was a great man. But she was deceived by his frankness and his simplicity. She evoked in him only the emotional side of his nature, only one part of that.

Because it--the only phase of him she attentively examined--was so impressive, she assumed that it was the chief feature of the man.

Also, young and inexperienced women--and women not so young, and with opportunity to become less inexperienced but without the ability to learn by experience--always exaggerate the importance of passion. Almost without exception, it is by way of passion that a man and a woman approach each other. It is, of necessity, the exterior that first comes into view. Thus, all that youth and inexperience can know about love is its aspect of passion. Because Jane had again and again in her five grown-up years experienced men falling passionately in love with her, she fancied she was an expert in matters of love. In fact, she had still everything to learn.

On the way home she, assuming that the affair was as good as settled, that she and Victor Dorn were lovers, was busy with plans for the future. Victor Dorn had made a shrewd guess at the state of her mind. She had no intention of allowing him to pursue his present career. That was merely foundation. With the aid of her love and council, and of her father's money and influence, he--he and she--would mount to something really worth while--something more than the petty politics of a third rate city in the West. Washington was the proper arena for his talents; they would take the shortest route to Washington. No trouble about bringing him around; a man so able and so sensible as he would not refuse the opportunity to do good on a grand scale. Besides--he must be got away from his family, from these doubtless good and kind but certainly not very high class associates of his, and from Selma Gordon. The idea of his comparing HER with Selma Gordon! He had not done so aloud, but she knew what was in his mind. Yes, he must be taken far away from all these provincial and narrowing associations.

But all this was mere detail. The big problem was how to bring her father round. He couldn't realize what Victor Dorn would be after she had taken him in hand. He would see only Victor Dorn, the labor agitator of Remsen City, the nuisance who put mischievous motives into the heads of "the hands"--the man who made them think they had heads when they were intended by the Almighty to be simply hands. How reconcile him to the idea of accepting this nuisance, this poor, common member of the working class as a son-in-law, as the husband of the daughter he wished to see married to some one of the "best" families?

On the face of it, the thing was impossible. Why, then, did not Jane despair? For two reasons. In the first place, she was in love, and that made her an optimist. Somehow love would find the way. But the second reason--the one she hid from herself deep in the darkest sub-cellar of her mind, was the real reason. It is one matter to wish for a person's death. Only a villainous nature can harbor such a wish, can admit it except as a hastily and slyly in-crawling impulse, to be flung out the instant it is discovered. It is another matter to calculate--very secretly, very unconsciously--upon a death that seems inevitable anyhow. Jane had only to look at her father to feel that he would not be spared to her long. The mystery was how he had kept alive so long, how he continued to live from day to day. His stomach was gone; his whole digestive apparatus was in utter disorder. His body had shriveled until he weighed no more than a baby. His pulse was so feeble that even in the hot weather he complained of the cold and had to be wrapped in the heaviest winter garments. Yet he lived on, and his mind worked with undiminished vigor.

When Jane reached home, the old man was sitting on the veranda in the full sun. On his huge head was a fur cap pulled well down over his ears and intensifying the mortuary, skull-like appearance of his face. Over his ulster was an old-fashioned Scotch shawl such as men used to wear in the days before overcoats came into fashion. About his wasted legs was wrapped a carriage robe, and she knew that there was a hot-water bag under his feet. Beside him sat young Doctor Charlton, whom Jane had at last succeeded in inducing her father to try. Charlton did not look or smell like a doctor. He rather suggested a professional athlete, perhaps a better class prize fighter. The weazened old financier was gazing at him with a fascinated expression--admiring, envious, amused.

Charlton was saying:

"Yes, you do look like a dead one. But that's only another of your tricks for fooling people. You'll live a dozen years unless you commit suicide. A dozen years? Probably twenty."

"You ought to be ashamed to make sport of a poor old invalid," said Hastings with a grin.

"Any man who could stand a lunch of crackers and milk for ten years could outlive anything," retorted Charlton. "No, you belong to the old stock. You used to see 'em around when you were a boy. They usually coughed and wheezed, and every time they did it, the family used to get ready to send for the undertaker. But they lived on and on. When did your mother die?"

"Couple of years ago," said Hastings.

"And your father?"

"He was killed by a colt he was breaking at sixty-seven."

Charlton laughed uproariously. "If you took walks and rides instead of always sitting round, you never would die," said he. "But you're like lots of women I know. You'd rather die than take exercise. Still, I've got you to stop that eating that was keeping you on the verge all the time."

"You're trying to starve me to death," grumbled Hastings.

"Don't you feel better, now that you've got used to it and don't feel hungry?"

"But I'm not getting any nourishment."

"How would eating help you? You can't digest any more than what I'm allowing you. Do you think you were better off when you were full of rotting food? I guess not."

"Well--I'm doing as you say," said the old man resignedly.

"And if you keep it up for a year, I'll put you on a horse. If you don't keep it up, you'll find yourself in a hearse."

Jane stood silently by, listening with a feeling of depression which she could not have accounted for, if she would--and would not if she could. Not that she wished her father to die; simply that Charlton's confidence in his long life forced her to face the only alternative--bringing him round to accept Victor Dorn.

At her father's next remark she began to listen with a high beating heart. He said to Charlton:

"How about that there friend of yours--that young Dorn? You ain't talked about him to-day as much as usual."

"The last time we talked about him we quarreled," said Charlton. "It's irritating to see a man of your intelligence a slave to silly prejudices."

"I like Victor Dorn," replied Hastings in a most conciliatory tone. "I think he's a fine young man. Didn't I have him up here at my house not long ago? Jane'll tell you that I like him. She likes him, too. But the trouble with him--and with you, too--is that you're dreaming all the time. You don't recognize facts. And, so, you make a lot of trouble for us conservative men."

"Please don't use that word conservative," said Charlton. "It gags me to hear it. YOU'RE not a conservative. If you had been you'd still be a farm hand. You've been a radical all your life--changing things round and round, always according to your idea of what was to your advantage. The only difference between radicals like you robber financiers and radicals like Victor and me is that our ideas of what's to our advantage differ. To you life means money; to us it means health and comfort and happiness. You want the world changed--laws upset, liberty destroyed, wages lowered, and so on--so that you can get all the money. We want the world changed so that we can be healthy and comfortable and happy--securely so--which we can't be unless everybody is, or is in the way to being."

Jane was surprised to see that her father, instead of being offended, was amused and pleased. He liked his new doctor so well that he liked everything he said and did. Jane looked at Charlton in her friendliest way. Here might be an ally, and a valuable ally.

"Human nature doesn't change," said Hastings in the tone of a man who is stating that which cannot be disputed.

"The mischief it doesn't," said Charlton in prompt and vigorous dissent. "When conditions change, human nature has to change, has to adapt itself. What you mean is that human nature doesn't change itself. But conditions change it. They've been changing it very rapidly these last few years. Science--steam, electricity, a thousand inventions and discoveries, crowding one upon another--science has brought about entirely new and unprecedented conditions so rapidly that the changes in human nature now making and that must be made in the next few years are resulting in a series of convulsions. You old-fashioned fellows--and the political parties and the politicians--are in danger of being stranded. Leaders like Victor Dorn--movements like our Workingmen's League--they seem new and radical to-day. By to-morrow they'll be the commonplace thing, found everywhere--and administering the public affairs."

Jane was not surprised to see an expression of at least partial admission upon her father's face. Charlton's words were of the kind that set the imagination to work, that remind those who hear of a thousand and one familiar related facts bearing upon the same points. "Well," said Hastings, "I don't expect to see any radical changes in my time."

"Then you'll not live as long as I think," said Charlton. "We Americans advance very slowly because this is a big country and undeveloped, and because we shift about so much that no one stays in one place long enough to build up a citizenship and get an education in politics--which is nothing more or less than an education in the art of living. But slow though we are, we do advance. You'll soon see the last of Boss Kelly and Boss House--and of such gentle, amiable frauds as our friend Davy Hull."

Jane laughed merrily. "Why do you call him a fraud?" she asked.

"Because he is a fraud," said Charlton. "He is trying to confuse the issue. He says the whole trouble is petty dishonesty in public life. Bosh! The trouble is that the upper and middle classes are milking the lower class--both with and without the aid of the various governments, local, state and national. THAT'S the issue. And the reason it is being forced is because the lower class, the working class, is slowly awakening to the truth. When it completely awakens----" Charlton made a large gesture and laughed.

"What then?" said Hastings.

"The end of the upper and the middle classes. Everybody will have to work for a living."

"Who's going to be elected this fall?" asked Jane. "Your man?"

"Yes," said Doctor Charlton. "Victor Dorn thinks not. But he always takes the gloomy view. And he doesn't meet and talk with the fellows on the other side, as I do."

Hastings was looking out from under the vizor of his cap with a peculiar grin. It changed to a look of startled inquiry as Charlton went on to say:

"Yes, we'll win. But the Davy Hull gang will get the offices."

"Why do you think that?" asked old Hastings sharply.

Charlton eyed his patient with a mocking smile. "You didn't think any one knew but you and Kelly--did you?" laughed he.

"Knew what?" demanded Hastings, with a blank stare.

"No matter," said Charlton. "I know what you intend to do. Well, you'll get away with the goods. But you'll wish you hadn't. You old-fashioned fellows, as I've been telling you, don't realize that times have changed."

"Do you mean, Doctor, that the election is to be stolen away from you?" inquired Jane.

"Was that what I meant, Mr. Hastings?" said Charlton.

"The side that loses always shouts thief at the side that wins," said the old man indifferently. "I don't take any interest in politics."

"Why should you?" said the Doctor audaciously. "You own both sides. So, it's heads you win, tails I lose."

Hastings laughed heartily. "Them political fellows are a lot of blackmailers," said he.

"That's ungrateful," said Charlton. "Still, I don't blame you for liking the Davy Hull crowd better. From them you can get what you want just the same, only you don't have to pay for it."

He rose and stretched his big frame, with a disregard of conventional good manners so unconscious that it was inoffensive.

But Charlton had a code of manners of his own, and somehow it seemed to suit him where the conventional code would have made him seem cheap. "I didn't mean to look after your political welfare, too," said he. "But I'll make no charge for that."

"Oh, I like to hear you young fellows talk," said Martin. "You'll sing a different song when you're as old as I am and have found out what a lot of damn fools the human race is."

"As I told you before," said Charlton, "it's conditions that make the human animal whatever it is. It's in the harness of conditions--the treadmill of conditions--the straight jacket of conditions. Change the conditions and you change the animal."

When he was swinging his big powerful form across the lawns toward the fringe of woods, Jane and her father looking after him, Jane said:

"He's wonderfully clever, isn't he?"

"A dreamer--a crank," replied the old man.

"But what he says sounds reasonable," suggested the daughter.

"It SOUNDS sensible," admitted the old man peevishly. "But it ain't what _I was brought up to call sensible. Don't you get none of those fool ideas into your head. They're all very well for men that haven't got any property or any responsibilities--for flighty fellows like Charlton and that there Victor Dorn. But as soon as anybody gets property and has interests to look after, he drops that kind of talk."

"Do you mean that property makes a man too blind or too cowardly to speak the truth?" asked Jane with an air of great innocence.

The old man either did not hear or had no answer ready. He said:

"You heard him say that Davy Hull was going to win?"

"Why, he said Victor Dorn was going to win," said Jane, still simple and guileless.

Hastings frowned impatiently. "That was just loose talk. He admitted Davy was to be the next mayor. If he is--and I expect Charlton was about right--if Davy is elected, I shouldn't be surprised to see him nominated for governor next year. He's a sensible, knowing fellow. He'll make a good mayor, and he'll be elected governor on his record."

"And on what you and the other men who run things will do for him," suggested Jane slyly.

Her father grinned expressively. "I like to see a sensible, ambitious young fellow from my town get on," said he. "And I'd like to see my girl married to a fellow of that sort, and settled."

"I think more could be done with a man like Victor Dorn," said Jane. "It seems to me the Davy Hull sort of politics is--is about played out. Don't you think so?"

Jane felt that her remark was a piece of wild audacity. But she was desperate. To her amazement her father did not flare up but kept silent, wearing the look she knew meant profound reflection.

After a moment he said:

"Davy's a knowing boy. He showed that the other day when he jumped in and made himself a popular hero. He'd never 'a' been able to come anywheres near election but for that. Dorn'd 'a' won by a vote so big that Dick Kelly wouldn't 'a' dared even try to count him out.... Dorn's a better man than Davy. But Dorn's got a foolish streak in him. He believes the foolishness he talks, instead of simply talking it to gain his end. I've been looking him over and thinking him over. He won't do, Jinny."

Was her father discussing the matter abstractly, impersonally, as he seemed? Or, had he with that uncanny shrewdness of his somehow penetrated to her secret--or to a suspicion of it? Jane was so agitated that she sat silent and rigid, trying to look unconcerned.

"I had a strong notion to try to do something for him," continued the old man. "But it'd be no use. He'd not rise to a chance that was offered him. He's set on going his own way."

Jane trembled--dared. "I believe _I could do something with him," said she--and she was pleased with the coolness of her voice, the complete absence of agitation or of false note.

"Try if you like," said her father. "But I'm sure you'll find I'm right. Be careful not to commit yourself in any way. But I needn't warn you. You know how to take care of yourself. Still, maybe you don't realize how set up he'd be over being noticed by a girl in your position. And if you gave him the notion that there was a chance for him to marry you, he'd be after you hammer and tongs. The idea of getting hold of so much money'd set him crazy."

"I doubt if he cares very much--or at all--about money," said Jane, judicially.

Hastings grinned satirically. "There ain't nobody that don't care about money," said he, "any more than there's anybody that don't care about air to breathe. Put a pin right there, Jinny."

"I hate to think that," she said, reluctantly, "but I'm afraid--it's--so."

As she was taking her ride one morning she met David Hull also on horseback and out for his health. He turned and they rode together, for several miles, neither breaking the silence except with an occasional remark about weather or scenery. Finally Davy said:

"You seem to be down about something, too?"

"Not exactly down," replied Jane. "Simply--I've been doing a lot of thinking--and planning--or attempt at planning--lately."

"I, too," said Davy.

"Naturally. How's politics?"

"Of course I don't hear anything but that I'm going to be elected. If you want to become convinced that the whole world is on the graft, take part in a reform campaign. We've attracted every broken-down political crook in this region. It's hard to say which crowd is the more worthless, the college amateurs at politics or these rotten old in-goods who can't get employment with either Kelly or House and, so, have joined us. By Jove, I'd rather be in with the out and out grafters--the regulars that make no bones of being in politics for the spoils. There's slimy hypocrisy over our crowd that revolts me. Not a particle of sincerity or conviction. Nothing but high moral guff."

"Oh, but YOU'RE sincere, Davy," said Jane with twinkling eyes.

"Am I?" said Davy angrily. "I'm not so damn sure of it." Hastily, "I don't mean that. Of course, I'm sincere--as sincere as a man can be and get anywhere in this world. You've got to humbug the people, because they haven't sense enough to want the truth."

"I guess, Davy," said Jane shrewdly, "if you told them the whole truth about yourself and your party they'd have sense enough--to vote for Victor Dorn."

"He's a demagogue," said Davy with an angry jerk at his rein. "He knows the people aren't fit to rule."

"Who is?" said Jane. "I've yet to see any human creature who could run anything without making more or less of a mess of it. And--well, personally, I'd prefer incompetent honest servants to competent ones who were liars or thieves."

"Sometimes I think," said Davy, "that the only thing to do is to burn the world up and start another one."

"You don't talk like a man who expected to be elected," said Jane.

"Oh--I'm worrying about myself--not about the election," said Hull, lapsing into sullen silence. And certainly he had no reason to worry about the election. He had the Citizen's Alliance and the Democratic nominations. And, as a further aid to him, Dick Kelly had given the Republican nomination to Alfred Sawyer, about the most unpopular manufacturer in that region. Sawyer, a shrewd money maker, was an ass in other ways, was strongly seized of the itch for public office. Kelly, seeking the man who would be the weakest, combined business with good politics; he forced Sawyer to pay fifty thousand dollars into the "campaign fund" in a lump sum, and was counting confidently upon "milking" him for another fifty thousand in installments during the campaign. Thus, in the natural order of things, Davy could safely assume that he would be the next mayor of Remsen City by a gratifyingly large majority. The last vote of the Workingmen's League had been made fifteen hundred. Though it should quadruple its strength at the coming election--which was most improbable--it would still be a badly beaten second. Politically, Davy was at ease.

Jane waited ten minutes, then asked abruptly:

"What's become of Selma Gordon?"

"Did you see this week's New Day?"

"Is it out? I've seen no one, and haven't been down town."

"There was a lot of stuff in it against me. Most of it demagoguing, of course, but more or less hysterical campaigning. The only nasty article about me--a downright personal attack on my sincerity--was signed 'S.G.'"

"Oh--to be sure," said Jane, with smiling insincerity. "I had almost forgotten what you told me. Well, it's easy enough to bribe her to silence. Go offer yourself to her."

A long silence, then Davy said: "I don't believe she'd accept me."

"Try it," said Jane.

Again a long pause. David said sullenly: "I did."

Selma Gordon had refused David Hull! Half a dozen explanations of this astounding occurrence rapidly suggested themselves. Jane rejected each in turn at a glance. "You're sure she understood you?"

"I made myself as clear as I did when I proposed to you," replied Davy with a lack of tact which a woman of Jane's kind would never forget or forgive.

Jane winced, ignored. Said she: "You must have insisted on some conditions she hesitated to accept."

"On her own terms," said Davy.

Jane gave up trying to get the real reason from him, sought it in Selma's own words and actions. She inquired: "What did she say? What reason did she give?"

"That she owed it to the cause of her class not to marry a man of my class," answered Hull, believing that he was giving the exact and the only reason she assigned or had.

Jane gave a faint smile of disdain. "Women don't act from a sense of duty," she said.

"She's not the ordinary woman," said Hull. "You must remember she wasn't brought up as you and I were--hasn't our ideas of life. The things that appeal to us most strongly don't touch her. She knows nothing about them." He added, "And that's her great charm for me."

Jane nodded sympathetically. Her own case exactly. After a brief hesitation she suggested:

"Perhaps Selma's in love with--some one else." The pause before the vague "some one else" was almost unnoticeable.

"With Victor Dorn, you mean?" said Davy. "I asked her about that. No, she's not in love with him."

"As if she'd tell you!"

Davy looked at her a little scornfully. "Don't insinuate," he said. "You know she would. There's nothing of the ordinary tricky, evasive, faking woman about her. And although she's got plenty of excuse for being conceited, she isn't a bit so. She isn't always thinking about herself, like the girls of our class."

"I don't in the least wonder at your being in love with her, Davy," said Jane sweetly. "Didn't I tell you I admired your taste--and your courage?"

"You're sneering at me," said Davy. "All the same, it did take courage--for I'm a snob at bottom--like you--like all of us who've been brought up so foolishly--so rottenly. But I'm proud that I had the courage. I've had a better opinion of myself ever since. And if you have any unspoiled womanhood in you, you agree with me."

"I do agree with you," said Jane softly. She reached out and laid her hand on his arm for an instant. "That's honest, Davy."

He gave her a grateful look. "I know it," said he. "The reason I confide things to you is because I know you're a real woman at bottom, Jane--the only real person I've ever happened across in our class."

"It took more courage for you to do that sort of thing than it would for a woman," said Jane. "It's more natural, easier for a woman to stake everything in love. If she hasn't the man she wants she hasn't anything, while a man's wife can be a mere detail in his life. He can forget he's married, most of the time."

"That isn't the way I intend to be married," said Davy. "I want a wife who'll be half, full half, of the whole. And I'll get her."

"You mean you haven't given up?"

"Why should I? She doesn't love another man. So, there's hope. Don't you think so?"

Jane was silent. She hastily debated whether it would be wiser to say yes or to say no.

"Don't you think so?" repeated he.

"How can I tell?" replied Jane, diplomatically. "I'd have to see her with you--see how she feels toward you."

"I think she likes me," said Davy, "likes me a good deal."

Jane kept her smile from the surface. What a man always thought, no matter how plainly a woman showed that she detested him. "No doubt she does," said Jane. She had decided upon a course of action. "If I were you, Davy, I'd keep away from her for the present--give her time to think it over, to see all the advantages. If a man forces himself on a queer, wild sort of girl such as Selma is, he's likely to drive her further away."

Davy reflected. "Guess you're right," said he finally. "My instinct is always to act--to keep on acting until I get results. But it's dangerous to do that with Selma. At least, I think so. I don't know. I don't understand her. I've got nothing to offer her--nothing that she wants--as she frankly told me. Even if she loved me, I doubt if she'd marry me--on account of her sense of duty. What you said awhile ago--about women never doing things from a sense of duty--that shows how hard it is for a woman to understand what's perfectly simple to a man. Selma isn't the sheltered woman sort--the sort whose moral obligations are all looked after by the men of her family. The old-fashioned woman always belonged to some man--or else was an outcast. This new style of woman looks at life as a man does."

Jane listened with a somewhat cynical expression. No doubt, in theory, there was a new style of woman. But practically, the new style of woman merely TALKED differently; at least, she was still the old-fashioned woman, longing for dependence upon some man and indifferent to the obligations men made such a fuss about--probably not so sincerely as they fancied. But her expression changed when Davy went on to say:

"She'd look at a thing of that sort much as I--or Victor Dorn would."

Jane's heart suddenly sank. Because the unconscious blow had hurt she struck out, struck back with the first weapon she could lay hold of. "But you said a minute ago that Victor was a hypocritical demagogue."

Davy flushed with confusion. He was in a franker mood now, however. "I'd like to think that," he replied. "But I don't honestly believe it."

"You think that if Victor Dorn loved a woman of our class he'd put her out of his life?"

"That's hardly worth discussing," said Davy. "No woman of our class--no woman he'd be likely to look at--would encourage him to the point where he'd presume upon it."

"How narrow you are!" cried Jane, derisive but even more angry.

"It's different--entirely different--with a man, even in our class. But a woman of our class--she's a lady or she's nothing at all. And a lady couldn't be so lacking in refinement as to descend to a man socially beneath her."

"I can see how ANY woman might fall in love with Victor Dorn."

"You're just saying that to be argumentative," said Davy with conviction. "Take yourself, for example."

"I confess I don't see any such contrast between Victor and you--except where the comparison's altogether in his favor," said Jane pleasantly. "You don't know as much as he does. You haven't the independence of character--or the courage--or the sincerity. You couldn't be a real leader, as he is. You have to depend on influence, and on trickery."

A covert glance at the tall, solemn-looking young man riding silently beside her convinced her that he was as uncomfortable as she had hoped to make him.

"As for manners--and the things that go to make a gentleman," she went on, "I'm not sure but that there, too, the comparison is against you. You always suggest to me that if you hadn't the pattern set for men of our class and didn't follow it, you'd be absolutely lost, Davy, dear. While Victor--he's a fine, natural person, with the manners that grow as naturally out of his personality as oak leaves grow out of an oak."

Jane was astonished and delighted by this eloquence of hers about the man she loved--an eloquence far above her usual rather commonplace mode of speech and thought. Love was indeed an inspirer! What a person she would become when she had Victor always stimulating her. She went on:

"A woman would never grow tired of Victor. He doesn't talk stale stuff such as all of us get from the stale little professors and stale, dreary text-books at our colleges."

"Why don't you fall in love with him?" said Davy sourly.

"I do believe you're envious of Victor Dorn," retorted Jane.

"What a disagreeable mood you're in to-day," said Davy.

"So a man always thinks when a woman speaks well of another man in his presence."

"I didn't suspect you of being envious of Selma. Why should you suspect me of feeling ungenerously about Victor? Fall in love with him if you like. Heaven knows, I'd do nothing to stop it."

"Perhaps I shall," said Jane, with unruffled amiability. "You're setting a dangerous example of breaking down class lines."

"Now, Jane, you know perfectly well that while, if I married Selma she'd belong to my class, a woman of our class marrying Victor Dorn would sink to his class. Why quarrel about anything so obviously true?"

"Victor Dorn belongs to a class by himself," replied Jane. "You forget that men of genius are not regarded like you poor ordinary mortals."

Davy was relieved that they had reached the turning at which they had to separate. "I believe you are in love with him," said he as a parting shot.

Jane, riding into her lane, laughed gayly, mockingly. She arrived at home in fine humor. It pleased her that Davy, for all his love for Selma, could yet be jealous of Victor Dorn on her account. And more than ever, after this talk with him--the part of it that preceded the quarrel--she felt that she was doing a fine, brave, haughtily aristocratic thing in loving Victor Dorn. Only a woman with a royal soul would venture to be thus audacious.

Should she encourage or discourage the affair between Davy and Selma? There was much to be said for this way of removing Selma from her path; also, if a man of Davy Hull's position married beneath him, less would be thought of her doing the same thing. On the other hand, she felt that she had a certain property right in David Hull, and that Selma was taking what belonged to her. This, she admitted to herself, was mean and small, was unworthy of the woman who was trying to be worthy of Victor Dorn, of such love as she professed for him. Yes, mean and small. She must try to conquer it.

But--when she met Selma in the woods a few mornings later, her dominant emotions were anything but high-minded and generous. Selma was looking her most fascinating--wild and strange and unique. They caught sight of each other at the same instant. Jane came composedly on--Selma made a darting movement toward a by-path opening near her, hesitated, stood like some shy, lovely bird of the deep wilderness ready to fly away into hiding.

"Hello, Selma!" said Jane carelessly.

Selma looked at her with wide, serious eyes.

"Where have you been keeping yourself of late? Busy with the writing, I suppose?"

"I owe you an apology," said Selma, in a queer, suppressed voice. "I have been hating you, and trying to think of some way to keep you and Victor Dorn apart. I thought it was from my duty to the cause. I've found out that it was a low, mean personal reason."

Jane had stopped short, was regarding her with eyes that glowed in a pallid face. "Because you are in love with him?" she said.

Selma gave a quick, shamed nod. "Yes," she said--the sound was scarcely audible.

Selma's frank and generous--and confiding--self-sacrifice aroused no response in Jane Hastings. For the first time in her life she was knowing what it meant to hate.

"And I've got to warn you," Selma went on, "that I am going to do whatever I can to keep you from hindering him. Not because I love him, but because I owe it to the cause. He belongs to it, and I must help him be single-hearted for it. You could only be a bad influence in his life. I think you would like to be a sincere woman; but you can't. Your class is too strong for you. So--it would be wrong for Victor Dorn to love and to marry you. I think he realizes it and is struggling to be true to himself. I intend to help him, if I can."

Jane smiled cruelly. "What hypocrisy!" she said, and turned and walked away.

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The Conflict - Chapter 8 The Conflict - Chapter 8

The Conflict - Chapter 8
CHAPTER VIIIIn America we have been bringing up our women like men, and treating them like children. They have active minds with nothing to act upon. Thus they are driven to think chiefly about themselves. With Jane Hastings, self-centering took the form of self-analysis most of the time. She was intensely interested in what she regarded as the new development of her character. This definite and apparently final decision for the narrow and the ungenerous. In fact, it was no new development, but simply a revelation to herself of her own real character. She was

The Conflict - Chapter 6 The Conflict - Chapter 6

The Conflict - Chapter 6
CHAPTER VIAs Jane drove into the grounds of the house on the hilltop she saw her father and David Hull in an obviously intimate and agitated conversation on the front veranda. She made all haste to join them; nor was she deterred by the reception she got--the reception given to the unwelcome interrupter. Said she: "You are talking about those indictments, aren't you? Everyone else is. There's a group on every corner down town, and people are calling their views to each other from windows across the streets." Davy glanced triumphantly at her father. "I told