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Trailin’ tells the story of Anthony Bard, a young aristocrat from the east with a hunger for adventure, who sees his father murdered in the yard of their home. This starts young Anthony on a trail of vengeance that leads him to the far west. Here, Anthony, a tenderfoot with a knack for survival must track down a legendary outlaw who waits for him, not with a gun, but with a story. Along the way he braves the elements, resists a band of cold-blooded killers and finds love. A classic western revenge plot…..with a twist.Frederick Schiller Faust (1892-1944) was an American fiction author known primarily for his thoughtful and literary Westerns. Faust wrote mostly under pen names, and today he is primarily known by one, Max Brand. Others include George Owen Baxter, Martin Dexter, Evin Evans, David Manning, Peter Dawson, John Frederick, and Pete Morland. Faust was born in Seattle. He grew up in central California and later worked as a cowhand on one of the many ranches of the San Joaquin Valley. Faust attended the University of California, Berkeley, where he began to write frequently. During the 1910s, Faust started to sell stories to the many emerging pulp magazines of the era. In the 1920s, Faust wrote furiously in many genres, achieving success and fame, first in the pulps and later in the upscale "slick" magazines. His love for mythology was, however, a constant source of inspiration for his fiction and his classical and literary inclinations. The classical influences are particularly noticeable in his first novel The Untamed (1919), which was also made into a motion picture starring Tom Mix in 1920.
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CHAPTER I: “LA-A-A-DIES AN’ GEN’L’MUN”
CHAPTER II: SPORTING CHANCE
CHAPTER III: SOCIAL SUICIDE
CHAPTER IV: A SESSION OF CHAT
CHAPTER V: ANTHONY IS LEFT IN THE DARK
CHAPTER VI: JOHN BARD
CHAPTER VII: BLUEBEARD’S ROOM
CHAPTER VIII: MARTY WILKES
CHAPTER IX: “THIS PLACE FOR REST”
CHAPTER X: A BIT OF STALKING
CHAPTER XI: THE QUEST BEGINS
CHAPTER XII: THE FIRST DAY
CHAPTER XIII: A TOUCH OF CRIMSON
CHAPTER XIV: LEMONADE
CHAPTER XV: THE DARKNESS IN ELDARA
CHAPTER XVI: BLUFF
CHAPTER XVII: BUTCH RETURNS
CHAPTER XVIII: FOOLISH HABITS
CHAPTER XIX: THE CANDLE
CHAPTER XX: JOAN
CHAPTER XXI: THE SWIMMING OF THE SAVERACK
CHAPTER XXII: DREW SMILES
CHAPTER XXIII: THE COMEDY SETTING
CHAPTER XXIV: “SAM’L HALL”
CHAPTER XXV: HAIR LIKE THE SUNSHINE
CHAPTER XXVI: “THE CRITIQUE OF PURE REASON”
CHAPTER XXVII: THE STAGE
CHAPTER XXVIII: SALLY BREAKS A MIRROR
CHAPTER XXIX: THE SHOW
CHAPTER XXX: THE LAMP
CHAPTER XXXI: NASH STARTS THE FINISH
CHAPTER XXXII: TO “APPREHEND” A MAN
CHAPTER XXXIII: NOTHING NEW
CHAPTER XXXIV: CRITICISM
CHAPTER XXXV: ABANDON
CHAPTER XXXVI: JERRY WOOD
CHAPTER XXXVII: “TODO ES PERDO”
CHAPTER XXXVIII: BACON
CHAPTER XXXIX: LEGAL MURDER
CHAPTER XL: PARTNERS
CHAPTER XLI: SALLY WEEPS
ALL THROUGH THE EXHIBITION the two sat unmoved; yet on the whole it was the best Wild West show that ever stirred sawdust in Madison Square Garden and it brought thunders of applause from the crowded house. Even if the performance could not stir these two, at least the throng of spectators should have drawn them, for all New York was there, from the richest to the poorest; neither the combined audiences of a seven-day race, a prize-fight, or a community singing festival would make such a cosmopolitan assembly.
All Manhattan came to look at the men who had lived and fought and conquered under the limitless skies of the Far West, free men, wild men—one of their shrill whoops banished distance and brought the mountain desert into the very heart of the unromantic East. Nevertheless from all these thrills these two men remained immune.
To be sure the smaller tilted his head back when the horses first swept in, and the larger leaned to watch when Diaz, the wizard with the lariat, commenced to whirl his rope; but in both cases their interest held no longer than if they had been old vaudevillians watching a series of familiar acts dressed up with new names.
The smaller, brown as if a thousand fierce suns and winds had tanned and withered him, looked up at last to his burly companion with a faint smile.
“They’re bringing on the cream now, Drew, but I’m going to spoil the dessert.”
The other was a great, grey man whom age apparently had not weakened but rather settled and hardened into an ironlike durability; the winds of time or misfortune would have to break that stanch oak before it would bend.
He said: “We’ve half an hour before our train leaves. Can you play your hand in that time?”
“Easy. Look at ‘em now—the greatest gang of liars that never threw a diamond hitch! Ride? I’ve got a ten-year kid home that would laugh at ‘em all. But I’ll show ‘em up. Want to know my little stunt?”
“I’ll wait and enjoy the surprise.”
The wild riders who provoked the scorn of the smaller man were now gathering in the central space; a formidable crew, long of hair and brilliant as to bandannas, while the announcer thundered through his megaphone:
“La-a-a-dies and gen’l’mun! You see before you the greatest band of subduers and breakers of wild horses that ever rode the cattle ranges. Death defying, reckless, and laughing at peril, they have never failed; they have never pulled leather. I present ‘Happy’ Morgan!”
Happy Morgan, yelling like one possessed of ten shrill-tongued demons, burst on the gallop away from the others, and spurring his horse cruelly, forced the animal to race, bucking and plunging, half way around the arena and back to the group. This, then, was a type of the dare-devil horse breaker of the Wild West? The cheers travelled in waves around and around the house and rocked back and forth like water pitched from side to side in a monstrous bowl.
When the noise abated somewhat, “And this, la-a-a-dies and gen’l’mun, is the peerless, cowpuncher, ‘Bud Reeves.’”
Bud at once imitated the example of Happy Morgan, and one after another the five remaining riders followed suit. In the meantime a number of prancing, kicking, savage-eyed horses were brought into the arena and to these the master of ceremonies now turned his attention.
“From the wildest regions of the range we have brought mustangs that never have borne the weight of man. They fight for pleasure; they buck by instinct. If you doubt it, step down and try ‘em. One hundred dollars to the man who sticks on the back of one of ‘em—but we won’t pay the hospital bill!”
He lowered his megaphone to enjoy the laughter, and the small man took this opportunity to say: “Never borne the weight of a man! That chap in the dress-suit, he tells one lie for pleasure and ten more from instinct. Yep, he has his hosses beat. Never borne the weight of man! Why, Drew, I can see the saddle-marks clear from here; I got a mind to slip down there and pick up the easiest hundred bones that ever rolled my way.”
He rose to make good his threat, but Drew cut in with: “Don’t be a damn fool, Werther. You aren’t part of this show.”
“Well, I will be soon. Watch me! There goes Ananias on his second wind.”
The announcer was bellowing: “These man-killing mustangs will be ridden, broken, beaten into submission in fair fight by the greatest set of horse-breakers that ever wore spurs. They can ride anything that walks on four feet and wears a skin; they can—”
Werther sprang to his feet, made a funnel of his hand, and shouted:
If he had set off a great quantity of red fire he could not more effectively have drawn all eyes upon him. The weird, shrill yell cut the ringmaster short, and a pleased murmur ran through the crowd. Of course, this must be part of the show, but it was a pleasing variation.
“Partner,” continued Werther, brushing away the big hand of Drew which would have pulled him down into his seat; “I’ve seen you bluff for two nights hand running. There ain’t no man can bluff all the world three times straight.”
The ringmaster retorted in his great voice: “That sounds like good poker. What’s your game?”
“Five hundred dollars on one card!” cried Werther, and he waved a fluttering handful of greenbacks. “Five hundred dollars to any man of your lot—or to any man in this house that can ride a real wild horse.”
“Where’s your horse?”
“Around the corner in a Twenty-sixth Street stable. I’ll have him here in five minutes.”
“Lead him on,” cried the ringmaster, but his voice was not quite so loud.
Werther muttered to Drew:
“Here’s where I hand him the lemon that’ll curdle his cream,” and ran out of the box and straight around the edge of the arena. New York, murmuring and chuckling through the vast galleries of the Garden, applauded the little man’s flying coat-tails.
He had not underestimated the time; in a little less than his five minutes the doors at the end of the arena were thrown wide and Werther reappeared. Behind him came two stalwarts leading between them a rangy monster. Before the blast of lights and the murmurs of the throng the big stallion reared and flung himself back, and the two who lead him bore down with all their weight on the halter ropes. He literally walked down the planks into the arena, a strange, half-comical, half-terrible spectacle. New York burst into applause. It was a trained horse, of course, but a horse capable of such training was worth applause.
At that roar of sound, vague as the beat of waves along the shore, the stallion lurched down on all fours and leaped ahead, but the two on the halter ropes drove all their weight backward and checked the first plunge. A bright-coloured scarf waved from a nearby box, and the monster swerved away. So, twisting, plunging, rearing, he was worked down the arena. As he came opposite a box in which sat a tall young man in evening clothes the latter rose and shouted: “Bravo!”
The fury of the stallion, searching on all sides for a vent but distracted from one torment to another, centred suddenly on this slender figure. He swerved and rushed for the barrier with ears flat back and bloodshot eyes. There he reared and struck at the wood with his great front hoofs; the boards splintered and shivered under the blows.
As for the youth in the box, he remained quietly erect before this brute rage. A fleck of red foam fell on the white front of his shirt. He drew his handkerchief and wiped it calmly away, but a red stain remained. At the same time the two who led the stallion pulled him back from the barrier and he stood with head high, searching for a more convenient victim.
Deep silence spread over the arena; more hushed and more hushed it grew, as if invisible blankets of soundlessness were dropping down over the stirring masses; men glanced at each other with a vague surmise, knowing that this was no part of the performance. The whole audience drew forward to the edge of the seats and stared, first at the monstrous horse, and next at the group of men who could “ride anything that walks on four feet and wears a skin.”
Some of the women were already turning away their heads, for this was to be a battle, not a game; but the vast majority of New York merely watched and waited and smiled a slow, stiff-lipped smile. All the surroundings were changed, the flaring electric lights, the vast roof, the clothes of the multitude, but the throng of white faces was the same as that pale host which looked down from the sides of the Coliseum when the lions were loosed upon their victims.
As for the wild riders from the cattle ranges, they drew into a close group with the ringmaster between them and the gaunt stallion, almost as if the fearless ones were seeking for protection. But the announcer himself lost his almost invincible sang-froid; in all his matchless vocabulary there were no sounding phrases ready for this occasion, and little Werther strutted in the centre of the great arena, rising to his opportunity.
He imitated the ringmaster’s phraseology. “La-a-a-dies and gen’l’mun, the price has gone up. The ‘death-defyin’, dare-devils that laugh at danger’ ain’t none too ready to ride my hoss. Maybe the price is too low for ‘em. It’s raised. One thousand dollars—cash—for any man in hearin’ of me that’ll ride my pet.”
There was a stir among the cattlemen, but still none of them moved forward toward the great horse; and as if he sensed his victory he raised and shook his ugly head and neighed. A mighty laugh answered that challenge; this was a sort of “horse-humour” that great New York could not overlook, and in that mirth even the big grey man, Drew, joined. The laughter stopped with an amazing suddenness making the following silence impressive as when a storm that has roared and howled about a house falls mute, then all the dwellers in the house look to one another and wait for the voice of the thunder. So all of New York that sat in the long galleries of the Garden hushed its laughter and looked askance at one another and waited. The big grey man rose and cursed softly.
For the slender young fellow in evening dress at whom the stallion had rushed a moment before was stripping off his coat, his vest, and rolling up the stiff cuffs of his sleeves. Then he dropped a hand on the edge of the box, vaulted lightly into the arena, and walked straight toward the horse.
IT MIGHT EASILY HAVE been made melodramatic by any hesitation as he approached, but, with a businesslike directness, he went right up to the men who held the fighting horse.
He said: “Put a saddle on him, boys, and I’ll try my hand.”
They could not answer at once, for Werther’s “pet,” as if he recognized the newcomer, made a sudden lunge and was brought to a stop only after he had dragged his sweating handlers around and around in a small circle. Here Werther himself came running up, puffing with surprise.
“Son,” he said eagerly, “I’m not aiming to do you no harm. I was only calling the bluff of those four-flushers.”
The slender youth finished rolling up his left sleeve and smiled down at the other.
“Put on the saddle,” he said.
Werther looked at him anxiously; then his eyes brightened with a solution. He stepped closer and laid a hand on the other’s arm.
“Son, if you’re broke and want to get the price of a few squares just say the word and I’ll fix you. I been busted myself in my own day, but don’t try your hand with my hoss. He ain’t just a buckin’ hoss; he’s a man-killer, lad. I’m tellin’ you straight. And this floor ain’t so soft as the sawdust makes it look,” he ended with a grin.
The younger man considered the animal seriously.
“I’m not broke; I’ve simply taken a fancy to your horse. If you don’t mind, I’d like to try him out. Seems too bad, in a way, for a brute like that to put it over on ten thousand people without getting a run for his money—a sporting chance, eh?”
And he laughed with great good nature.
“What’s your name?” asked Werther, his small eyes growing round and wide.
They shook hands.
“Didn’t know they came in this style east of the Rockies, Woodbury. I hope I lose my thousand, but if there was any betting I’d stake ten to one against you.”
In the meantime, some of the range-riders had thrown a coat over the head of the stallion, and while he stood quivering with helpless rage they flung a saddle on and drew the cinches taut.
Anthony Woodbury was saying with a smile: “Just for the sake of the game, I’ll take you on for a few hundred, Mr. Werther, if you wish, but I can’t accept odds.”
Werther ran a finger under his collar apparently to facilitate breathing. His eyes, roving wildly, wandered over the white, silent mass of faces, and his glance picked out and lingered for a moment on the big-shouldered figure of Drew, erect in his box. At last his glance came back with an intent frown to Woodbury. Something in the keen eyes of the lad raised a responsive flicker in his own.
“Well, I’ll be damned! Just a game, eh? Lad, no matter on what side of the Rockies you were born, I know your breed and I won’t lay a penny against your money. There’s the hoss saddled and there’s the floor you’ll land on. Go to it—and God help you!”
The other shook his shoulders back and stepped toward the horse with a peculiarly unpleasant smile, like a pugilist coming out of his corner toward an opponent of unknown prowess.
He said: “Take off the halter.”
One of the men snapped viciously over his shoulder: “Climb on while the climbing’s good. Cut out the bluff, partner.”
The smile went out on the lips of Woodbury. He repeated: “Take off the halter.”
They stared at him, but quickly began to fumble under the coat, unfastening the buckle. It required a moment to work off the heavy halter without giving the blinded animal a glimpse of the light; then Woodbury caught the bridle reins firmly just beneath the chin of the horse. With the other hand he took the stirrup strap and raised his foot, but he seemed to change his mind about this matter.
“Take off the blinder,” he ordered.
It was Werther who interposed this time with: “Look here, lad, I know this hoss. The minute the blinder’s off he’ll up on his hind legs and bash you into the floor with his forefeet.”
“Let him go,” growled one of the cowboys. “He’s goin’ to hell making a gallery play.”
But taking the matter into his own hands Woodbury snatched the coat from the head of the stallion, which snorted and reared up, mouth agape ears flattened back. There was a shout from the man, not a cry of dismay, but a ringing battle yell like some ancient berserker seeing the first flash of swords in the mêlée. He leaped forward, jerking down on the bridle reins with all the force of his weight and his spring. The horse, caught in mid-air, as it were, came floundering down on all fours again. Before he could make another move, Woodbury caught the high horn of the saddle and vaulted up to his seat. It was gallantly done and in response came a great rustling from the multitude; there was not a spoken word, but every man was on his feet.
Perhaps what followed took their breaths and kept them speechless. The first touch of his rider’s weight sent the stallion mad, not blind with fear as most horses go, but raging with a devilish cunning like that of an insane man, a thing that made the blood run cold to watch. He stood a moment shuddering, as if the strange truth were slowly dawning on his brute mind; then he bolted straight for the barriers. Woodbury braced himself and lunged back on the reins, but he might as well have tugged at the mooring cable of a great ship; the bit was in the monster’s teeth.
Then a whisper reached the rider, a universal hushing of drawn breath, for the thousands were tasting the first thrill and terror of the combat. They saw a picture of horse and man crushed against the barrier. But there was no such stupid rage in the mind of the stallion.
At the last moment he swerved and raced close beside the fence; some projecting edge caught the trousers of Woodbury and ripped away the stout cloth from hip to heel. He swung far to the other side and wrenched back the reins. With stiff-braced legs the stallion slid to a halt that flung his unbalanced rider forward along his neck. Before he could straighten himself in the saddle, the horse roared and came down on rigid forelegs, yet by a miracle Woodbury clung, sprawled down the side of the monster, to be sure, but was not quite dismounted.
Another pitch of the same nature would have freed the stallion from his rider beyond doubt, but he elected to gallop full speed ahead the length of the arena, and during that time, Woodbury, stunned though he was, managed to drag himself back into the saddle. The end of the race was a leap into the air that would have cleared a five-bar fence, and down pitched the fighting horse on braced legs again. Woodbury’s chin snapped down against his breast as though he had been struck behind the head with a heavy bar, but though his brain was stunned, the fighting instinct remained strong in him and when the stallion reared and toppled back the rider slipped from the saddle in the nick of time.
Fourteen hundred pounds of raging horseflesh crashed into the sawdust; he rolled like a cat to his feet, but at the same instant a flying weight leaped through the air and landed in the saddle. The audience awoke to sound—to a dull roar of noise; a thin trickle of blood ran from Woodbury’s mouth and it seemed that the mob knew it and was yelling for a death.
There followed a bewildering exhibition of such bucking that the disgruntled cowboys forgot their shame and shouted with joy. Upon his hind legs and then down on his forefeet with a sickening heartbreaking jar the stallion rocked; now he bucked from side to side; now rose and whirled about like a dancer; now toppled to the ground and twisted again to his feet.
Still the rider clung. His head rocked with the ceaseless jars; the red-stained lips writhed back and showed the locked teeth. Yet, as if he scorned the struggles of the stallion, he brought into play the heavy quirt which had been handed him as he mounted. Over neck and shoulders and tender flanks he whirled the lash; it was not intelligence fighting brute strength, but one animal conquering another and rejoicing in the battle.
The horse responded, furiously he responded, but still the lash fell, and the bucking grew more cunning, perhaps, but less violent. Yet to the wildly cheering audience the fight seemed more dubious than ever. Then, in the very centre of the arena, the stallion stopped in the midst of a twisting course of bucking and stood with widely braced legs and fallen head. Strength was left in him, but the cunning, savage mind knew defeat.
Once more the quirt whirled in the air and fell with a resounding crack, but the stallion merely switched his tail and started forward at a clumsy stumbling trot. The thunder of the host was too hoarse for applause; they saw a victory and a defeat but what they had wanted was blood, and a death. They had had a promise and a taste; now they hungered for the reality.
Woodbury slipped from the saddle and gave the reins to Werther. Already a crowd was growing about them of the curious who had sprung over the barriers and swarmed across the arena to see the conqueror, for had he not vindicated unanswerably the strength of the East as compared with that of the West? Boys shouted shrilly; men shouldered each other to slap him on the back; but Werther merely held forth the handful of greenbacks. The conqueror braced himself against the saddle with a trembling hand and shook his head.
“Not for me,” he said, “I ought to pay you—ten times that much for the sport—compared to this polo is nothing.”
“Ah,” muttered those who overheard, “polo! That explains it!”
“Then take the horse,” said Werther, “because no one else could ride him.”
“And now any one can ride him, so I don’t want him,” answered Woodbury.
And Werther grinned. “You’re right, boy. I’ll give him to the iceman.”
The big grey man, William Drew, loomed over the heads of the little crowd, and they gave way before him as water divides under the prow of a ship; it was as if he cast a shadow which they feared before him.
“Help me through this mob,” said Woodbury to Werther, “and back to my box. Devil take it, my overcoat won’t cover that leg.”
Then on him also fell, as it seemed, the approaching shadow of the grey man and he looked up with something of a start into the keen eyes of Drew.
“Son,” said the big man, “you look sort of familiar to me. I’m asking your pardon, but who was your mother?”
The eyes of young Woodbury narrowed and the two stood considering each other gravely for a long moment.
“I never saw her,” he said at last, and then turned with a frown to work his way through the crowd and back to his box.
The tall man hesitated a moment and then started in pursuit, but the mob intervened. He turned back to Werther.
“Did you get his name?” he asked.
“Fine bit of riding he showed, eh?” cried the little man, “and turned down my thousand as cool as you please. I tell you, Drew, there’s some flint in the Easterners after all!”
“Damn the Easterners. What’s his name?”
“Woodbury. Anthony Woodbury.”
“What’s wrong with that name?”
“Nothing. Only I’m a bit surprised.”
And he frowned with a puzzled, wistful expression, staring straight ahead like a man striving to solve a great riddle.
AT HIS BOX, WOODBURY stopped only to huddle into his coat and overcoat and pull his hat down over his eyes. Then he hurried on toward an exit, but even this slight delay brought the reporters up with him. They had scented news as the eagle sights prey far below, and then swooped down on him. He continued his flight shaking off their harrying questions, but they kept up the running fight and at the door one of them reached his side with: “It’s Mr. Woodbury of the Westfall Polo Club, son of Mr. John Woodbury of Anson Place?”
Anthony Woodbury groaned with dismay and clutched the grinning reporter by the arm.
“Come with me!”
Prospects of a scoop of a sizable nature brightened the eyes of the reporter. He followed in all haste, and the other news-gatherers, in obedience to the exacting, unspoken laws of their craft, stood back and followed the flight with grumbling envy.
On Twenty-Sixth Street, a little from the corner of Madison Avenue, stood a big touring car with the chauffeur waiting in the front seat. There were still some followers from the Garden.
Woodbury jumped into the back seat, drew the reporter after him, and called: “Start ahead, Maclaren—drive anywhere, but get moving.”
“Now, sir,” turning to the reporter as the engine commenced to hum, “what’s your name?”
“Bantry? Glad to know you.”
He shook hands.
“You know me?”
“Certainly. I cover sports all the way from polo to golf. Anthony
Woodbury—Westfall Polo Club—then golf, tennis, trap shooting—”
“Enough!” groaned the victim. “Now look here, Bantry, you have me dead to rights—got me with the goods, so to speak, haven’t you?”
“It was a great bit of work; ought to make a first-page story.”
And the other groaned again. “I know—son of millionaire rides unbroken horse in Wild West show—and all that sort of thing. But, good Lord, man, think what it will mean to me?”
“Nothing to be ashamed of, is it? Your father’ll be proud of you.”
Woodbury looked at him sharply.
“How do you know that?”
“Any man would be.”
“But the notoriety, man! It would kill me with a lot of people as thoroughly as if I’d put the muzzle of a gun in my mouth and pulled the trigger.”
“H-m!” muttered the reporter, “sort of social suicide, all right. But it’s news, Mr. Woodbury, and the editor—”
“Expects you to write as much as the rest of the papers print—and none of the other reporters know me.”
“One or two of them might have.”
“But my dear fellow—won’t you take a chance?”
Bantry made a wry face.
“Madison Square Garden,” went on Woodbury bitterly. “Ten thousand people looking on—gad, man, it’s awful.”
“Why’d you do it, then?”
“Couldn’t help it, Bantry. By Jove, when that wicked devil of a horse came at my box and I caught a glimpse of the red demon in his eyes—why, man, I simply had to get down and try my luck. Ever play football?”
“Yes, quite a while ago.”
“Then you know how it is when you’re in the bleachers and the whistle blows for the game to begin. That’s the way it was with me. I wanted to climb down into the field—and I did. Once started, I couldn’t stop until I’d made a complete ass of myself in the most spectacular style. Now, Bantry, I appeal to you for the sake of your old football days, don’t show me up—keep my name quiet.”
“I’d like to—damned if I wouldn’t—but—a scoop—”
Anthony Woodbury considered his companion with a strange yearning. It might have been to take him by the throat; it might have been some gentler motive, but his hand stole at last toward an inner coat pocket.
He said: “I know times are a bit lean now and then in your game, Bantry. I wonder if you could use a bit of the long green? Just now I’m very flush, and—”
He produced a thickly stuffed bill-fold, but Bantry smiled and touched
“Couldn’t possibly, you know.”
He considered a moment and then, with a smile: “It’s a bit awkward for both of us, isn’t it? Suppose I keep your name under my hat and you give me a few little inside tips now and then on polo news, and that sort of thing?”
“Here’s my hand on it. You’ve no idea what a load you take off my mind.”
“We’ve circled about and are pretty close to the Garden again. Could you let me out here?”
The car rolled to an easy stop and the reporter stepped out.
“I’ll forget everything you wish, Mr. Woodbury.”
“It’s an honour to have met you, sir. Use me whenever you can.
To the chauffeur he said: “Home, and make it fast.”
They passed up Lexington with Maclaren “making it fast,” so that the big car was continually nosing its way around the machines in front with much honking of the horn. At Fifty-Ninth Street they turned across to the bridge and hummed softly across the black, shimmering waters of the East River; by the time they reached Brooklyn a fine mist was beginning to fall, blurring the wind-shield, and Maclaren slowed up perceptibly, so that before they passed the heart of the city, Woodbury leaned forward and said: “What’s the matter, Maclaren?”
“Wet streets—no chains—this wind-shield is pretty hard to see through.”
“Stop her, then. I’ll take the wheel the rest of the way. Want to travel a bit to-night.”
The chauffeur, as if this exchange were something he had been expecting, made no demur, and a moment later, with Woodbury at the wheel, the motor began to hum again in a gradually increasing crescendo. Two or three motor-police glanced after the car as it snapped about corners with an ominous skid and straightened out, whining, on the new street; but in each case, having made a comfortable number of arrests that day, they had little heart for the pursuit of the grey monster through that chill mist.
Past Brooklyn, with a country road before them, Woodbury cut out the muffler and the car sprang forward with a roar. A gust of increasing wind whipped back to Maclaren, for the wind-shield had been opened so that the driver need not look through the dripping glass and mingling with the wet gale were snatches of singing.
The chauffeur, partly in understanding and partly from anxiety, apparently, caught the side of the seat in a firm grip and leaned forward to break the jar when they struck rough places. Around an elbow turn they went with one warning scream of the Klaxon, skidded horribly at the sharp angle of the curve, and missed by inches a car from the opposite direction.
They swept on with the startled yell of the other party ringing after them, drowned at once by the crackling of the exhaust. Maclaren raised a furtive hand to wipe from his forehead a moisture which was not altogether rain, but immediately grasped the side of the seat again. Straight ahead the road swung up to meet a bridge and dropped sharply away from it on the further side. Maclaren groaned but the sound was lost in the increasing roar of the exhaust.
They barely touched that bridge and shot off into space on the other side like a hurdler clearing an obstacle. With a creak and a thud the big car landed, reeled drunkenly, and straightened out in earnest, Maclaren craned his head to see the speedometer, but had not the heart to look; he began to curse softly, steadily.
When the muffler went on again and the motor was reduced to a loud, angry humming, Woodbury caught a few phrases of those solemn imprecations. He grinned into the black heart of the night, streaked with lines of grey where therein entered the halo of the headlights, and then swung the car through an open, iron gate. The motor fell to a drowsily contented murmur that blended with the cool swishing of the tires on wet gravel.
“Maclaren,” said the other, as he stopped in front of the garage, “if everyone was as good a passenger as you I’d enjoy motoring; but after all, a car can’t act up like a horse.” He concluded gloomily: “There’s no fight in it.”
And he started toward the house, but Maclaren, staring after the departing figure, muttered: “There’s only one sort that’s worse than a damn fool, and that’s a young one.”
It was through a door opening off the veranda that Anthony entered the house, stealthily as a burglar, and with the same nervous apprehension. Before him stretched a wide hall, dimly illumined by a single light which splashed on the Italian table and went glimmering across the floor. Across the hall was his destination—the broad balustraded staircase, which swept grandly up to the second floor. Toward this he tiptoed steadying himself with one hand against the wall. Almost to his goal, he heard a muffled footfall and shrank against the wall with a catlike agility, but, though the shadow fell steep and gloomy there, luck was against him.
A middle-aged servant of solemn port, serene with the twofold dignity of double chin and bald head, paused at the table in his progress across the room, and swept the apartment with the judicial eye of one who knows that everything is as it should be but will not trust even the silence of night. So that bland blue eye struck first on the faintly shining top hat of Anthony, ran down his overcoat, and lingered in gloomy dismay on the telltale streak of white where the trouser leg should have been.
What he thought not even another Oedipus could have conjectured. The young master very obviously did not wish to be observed, and in such times Peters at could be blinder than the bat noon-day and more secret than the River Styx. He turned away, unhurried, the fold of that double chin a little more pronounced over the severe correctness of his collar.
A very sibilant whisper pursued him. He stopped again, still without haste, and turned not directly toward Anthony, but at a discreet angle, with his eyes fixed firmly upon the ceiling.
The whisper grew distinct in words.
“Peters, you old numskull, come here!”
The approach of Peters was something like the sidewise waddle of a very aged crab. He looked to the north, but his feet carried him to the east. That he was much moved was attested by the colour which had mounted even to the gleaming expanse of that nobly bald head.
“Yes, Master Anthony—I mean Mr. Anthony?”
He set his teeth at the faux pas.
“Peters, look at me. Confound it, I haven’t murdered any one. Are you busy?”
It required whole seconds for the eyes to wheel round upon Anthony, and they were immediately debased from the telltale white of that leg to the floor.
“Then come up with me and help me change. Quick!”
He turned and fled noiselessly up the great stairs, with Peters panting behind. Anthony’s overcoat was off before he had fairly entered his room and his coat and vest flopped through the air as Peters shut the door. Whatever the old servant lacked in agility he made up in certain knowledge; as he laid out a fresh tuxedo, Anthony changed with the speed of one pursued. The conversation was spasmodic to a degree.
“Where’s father? Waiting in the library?”
“Yes. Reading, sir.”
“Had a mix-up—bully time, though—damn this collar! Peters, I wish you’d been there—where’s those trousers? Rub some of the crease out of ‘em—they must look a little worn.”
He stood at last completely dressed while Peters looked on with a shining eye and a smile which in a younger man would have suggested many things.
“How is it? Will I pass father this way?”
“I hope so, sir.”
“But you don’t think so?”
“It’s hard to deceive him.”
“Confound it! Don’t I know? Well, here’s for a try. Soft-foot it down stairs. I’ll go after you and bang the door. Then you say good-evening in a loud voice and I’ll go into the library. How’s that?”
“Very good—your coat over your arm—so! Just ruffle your hair a bit, sir—now you should do very nicely.”
At the door: “Go first, Peters—first, man, and hurry, but watch those big feet of yours. If you make a noise on the stairs I’m done with you.”
The noiselessness of the descending feet was safe enough, but not so safe was the chuckling of Peters for, though he fought against the threatening explosion, it rumbled like the roll of approaching thunder. In the hall below, Anthony opened and slammed the door.
“Good-evening, Mr. Anthony,” said Peters loudly, too loudly.
“Evening, Peters. Where’s father?”
“In the library, sir. Shall I take your coat?”
“I’ll carry it up to my room when I go. That’s all.”
He opened the door to the library and entered with a hope that his father would not be facing him, but he found that John Woodbury was not even reading. He sat by the big fire-place smoking a pipe which he now removed slowly from his teeth.
He rose to shake hands with his son: they might have been friends meeting after a separation so long that they were compelled to be formal, and as Anthony turned to lay down his hat and coat he knew that the keen grey eyes studied him carefully from head to foot.
“Take this chair.”
“Why, sir, wouldn’t dream of disturbing you.”
“Not a bit. I want you to try it; just a trifle too narrow for me.”
John Woodbury rose and gestured his son to the chair he had been occupying. Anthony hesitated, but then, like one who obeys first and thinks afterward, seated himself as directed.
“Mighty comfortable, sir.”
The big man stood with his hands clasped behind him, peering down under shaggy, iron-grey brows.
“I thought it would be. I designed it myself for you and I had a pretty bad time getting it made.”
He stepped to one side.
“Hits you pretty well under the knees, doesn’t it? Yes, it’s deeper than most.”
“A perfect fit, father, and mighty thoughtful of you.”
“H-m,” rumbled John Woodbury, and looked about like one who has forgotten something. “What about a glass of Scotch?”
“Nothing, thank you—I—in fact I’m not very strong for the stuff.”
The rough brows rose a trifle and fell.
“No? But isn’t it usual? Better have a go.”
Once more there was that slight touch of hesitancy, as if the son were not quite sure of the father and wished to make every concession.
“Certainly, if it’ll make you easier.”
There was an instant softening of the hard lines of the elder Woodbury’s face, as though some favour of import had been done him. He touched a bell-cord and lowered himself with a little grunt of relaxation into a chair. The chair was stoutly built, but it groaned a little under the weight of the mighty frame it received. He leaned back and in his face was a light which came not altogether from the comfortable glow of the fire.
And when the servant appeared the big man ordered: “Scotch and seltzer and one glass with a pitcher of ice.”
“Aren’t you taking anything, sir?” asked Anthony.
“Who, me? Yes, yes, of course. Why, let me see—bring me a pitcher of beer.” He added as the servant disappeared: “Never could get a taste for Scotch, and rye doesn’t seem to be—er—good form. Eh, Anthony?”
“Nonsense,” frowned the son, “haven’t you a right to be comfortable in your own house?”
“Come, come!” rumbled John Woodbury. “A young fellow in your position can’t have a boor for a father, eh?”
It was apparently an old argument between them, for Anthony stared gloomily at the fire, making no attempt to reply; and he glanced up in relief when the servant entered with the liquor. John Woodbury, however, returned to the charge as soon as they were left alone again, saying: “As a matter of fact, I’m about to set you up in an establishment of your own in New York.” He made a vastly inclusive gesture. “Everything done up brown—old house—high-class interior decorator, to get you started with a splash.”
“Are you tired of Long Island?”
“I’m not going to the city, but you will.”
“And my work?”
“A gentleman of the class you’ll be in can’t callous his hands with work. I spent my life making money; you can use your life throwing it away—like a gentleman. But"—he reached out at this point and smashed a burly fist into a palm hardly less hard—"but I’ll be damned, Anthony, if I’ll let you stay here in Long Island wasting your time riding the wildest horses you can get and practising with an infernal revolver. What the devil do you mean by it?”
“I don’t know,” said the other, musing. “Of course the days of revolvers are past, but I love the feel of the butt against my palm—I love the kick of the barrel tossing up—I love the balance; and when I have a six-shooter in my hand, sir, I feel as if I had six lives. Odd, isn’t it?” He grew excited as he talked, his eyes gleaming with dancing points of fire. “And I’ll tell you this, sir: I’d rather be out in the country where men still wear guns, where the sky isn’t stained with filthy coal smoke, where there’s an horizon wide enough to breathe in, where there’s man-talk instead of this damned chatter over tea-cups—”
“Stop!” cried John Woodbury, and leaned forward, “no matter what fool ideas you get into your head—you’re going to be a gentleman!”
The swaying forward of that mighty body, the outward thrust of the jaws, the ring of the voice, was like the crashing of an ax when armoured men meet in battle. The flicker in the eyes of Anthony was the rapier which swerves from the ax and then leaps at the heart. For a critical second their glances crossed and then the habit of obedience conquered.
“I suppose you know, sir.”
The father stared gloomily at the floor.
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