Chapter XII - Jerry The Teller
At midnight a small brougham stopped at the gates of the city hospital in Rouen. A short distance ahead, the lamps of a cab, drawn up at the curbing, made two dull orange sparks under the electric light swinging over the street. A cigarette described a brief parabola as it was tossed from the brougham, and a short young man jumped out and entered the gates, then paused and spoke to the driver of the cab.
"Did you bring Mr. Barrett here?"
"Yes, sir," answered the driver; "him and two other gentlemen."
Lighting another cigarette, from which he drew but two inspirations before he threw it away, the young man proceeded quickly up the walk. As he ascended the short flight of steps which led to the main doors, he panted a little, in a way which suggested that (although his white waistcoat outlined an ellipse still respectable) a crescendo of portliness was playing diminuendo with his youth. And, though his walk was brisk, it was not lively. The expression of his very red face indicated that his briskness was spurred by anxiety, and a fattish groan he emitted on the top step added the impression that his comfortable body protested against the mental spur. In the hall he removed his narrow-brimmed straw hat and presented a rotund and amiable head, from the top of which his auburn hair seemed to retire with a sense of defeat; it fell back, however, not in confusion, but in perfect order, and the sparse pink mist left upon his crown gave, by a supreme effort, an effect of arrangement, so that an imaginative observer would have declared that there was a part down the middle. The gentleman's plump face bore a grave and troubled expression, and gravity and trouble were patent in all the lines of his figure and in every gesture; in the way he turned his head; in the uneasy shifting of his hat from one hand to the other and in his fanning himself with it in a nervous fashion; and in his small, blue eyes, which did not twinkle behind his rimless glasses and looked unused to not twinkling. His gravity clothed him like an ill-fitting coat; or, possibly, he might have reminded the imaginative observer, just now conjured up, of a music-box set to turning its cylinder backwards.
He spoke to an attendant, and was directed to an office, which he entered without delay. There were five men in the room, three of them engaged in conversation near the door; another, a young surgeon, was writing at a desk; the fifth drowsily nodding on a sofa. The newcomer bowed as he entered.
"Mr. Barrett?" he said inquiringly.
One of the men near the door turned about. "Yes, sir," he answered, with a stem disfavor of the applicant; a disfavor possibly a perquisite of his office. "What's wanted?"
"I think I have met you," returned the other. "My name is Meredith."
Mr. Barrett probably did not locate the meeting, but the name proved an open sesame to his geniality, for he melted at once, and saying: "Of course, of course, Mr. Meredith; did you want a talk with me?" clasped the young man's hand confidentially in his, and, with an appearance of assuring him that whatever the atrocity which had occurred in the Meredith household it should be discreetly handled and hushed up, indicated a disposition to conduct him toward a more appropriate apartment for the rehearsal of scandal. The young man accepted the hand-clasp with some resignation, but rejected the suggestion of privacy.
"A telegram from Plattville reached me half an hour ago," he said. "I should have had it sooner, but I have been in the country all day."
The two men who had been talking with the superintendent turned quickly, and stared at the speaker. He went on: "Mr. Harkless was an old--and--" He broke off, with a sudden, sharp choking, and for a moment was unable to control an emotion that seemed, for some reason, as surprising and unbefitting, in a person of his rubicund presence, as was his gravity. An astonished tear glittered in the corner of his eye. The grief of the gayer sorts of stout people appears, sometimes, to dumfound even themselves. The young man took off his glasses and wiped them slowly. "--An old and very dear friend of mine." He replaced the glasses insecurely upon his nose. "I telephoned to your headquarters, and they said you had come here."
"Yes, sir; yes, sir," the superintendent of police responded, cheerfully. "These two gentlemen are from Plattville; Mr. Smith just got in. They mighty near had big trouble down there to-day, but I guess we'll settle things for 'em up here. Let me make you acquainted with my friend, Mr. Smith, and my friend, Mr. Homer. Gentlemen, my friend, Mr. Meredith, one of our well-known citizens."
"You hear it from the police, gentlemen," added Mr. Meredith, perking up a little. "I know Dr. Gay." He nodded to the surgeon.
"I suppose you have heard some of the circumstances--those that we've given out," said Barrett.
"I read the account in the evening paper. I had heard of Harkless, of Carlow, before; but it never occurred to me that it was my friend--I had heard he was abroad--until I got this telegram from a relative of mine who happened to be down there."
"Well," said the superintendent, "your friend made a mighty good fight before he gave up. The Teller, that's the man we've got out here, he's so hacked up and shot and battered his mother wouldn't know him, if she wanted to; at least, that's what Gay, here, says. We haven't seen him, because the doctors have been at him ever since he was found, and they expect to do some more tonight, when we've had our interview with him, if he lives long enough. One of my sergeants found him in, the freight-yards about four-o'clock and sent him here in the ambulance; knew it was Teller, because he was stowed away in one of the empty cars that came from Plattville last night, and Slattery--that's his running mate, the one we caught with the coat and hat--gave in that they beat their way on that freight. I guess Slattery let this one do most of the fighting; he ain't scratched; but Mr. Harkless certainly made it hot for the Teller."
"My relative believes that Mr. Harkless is still alive," said Meredith.
Mr. Barrett permitted himself an indulgent smile. He had the air of having long ago discovered everything which anybody might wish to know, and of knowing a great deal which he held in reserve because it was necessary to suppress many facts for a purpose far beyond his auditor's comprehension, though a very simple matter to himself.
"Well, hardly, I expect," he replied, easily. "No; he's hardly alive."
"Oh, don't say that," said Meredith.
"I'm afraid Mr. Barrett has to say it," broke in Warren Smith. "We're up here to see this fellow before he dies, to try and get him to tell what disposal they made of the----"
"Ah!" Meredith shivered. "I believe I'd rather he said the other than to hear you say that."
Mr. Horner felt the need of defending a fellow-townsman, and came to the rescue, flushing painfully. "It's mighty bad, I know," said the sheriff of Carlow, the shadows of his honest, rough face falling in a solemn pattern; "I reckon we hate to say it as much as you hate to hear it; and Warren really didn't get the word out. It's stuck in our throats all day; and I don't recollect as I heard a single man say it before I left our city this morning. Our folks thought a great deal of him, Mr. Meredith; I don't believe there's any thinks more. But it's come to that now; you can't hardly see no chance left. We be'n sweating this other man, Slattery, but we can't break him down. Jest tells us to go to"--the sheriff paused, evidently deterred by the thought that swear-words were unbefitting a hospital--"to the other place, and shets his jaw up tight. The one up here is called the Teller, as Mr. Barrett says; his name's Jerry the Teller. Well, we told Slattery that Jerry had died and left a confession; tried to make him think there wasn't no hope fer him, and he might as well up and tell his share; might git off easier; warned him to look out for a mob if he didn't, maybe, and so on, but it never bothered him at all. He's nervy, all right. Told us to go--that is, he said it again--and swore the Teller was on his way to Chicago, swore he seen him git on the train. Wouldn't say another word tell he got a lawyer. So, 'soon as it was any use, we come up here--they reckon he'll come to before he dies. We'll be glad to have you go in with us," Horner said kindly. "I reckon it's all the same to Mr. Barrett."
"He will die, will he, Gay?" Meredith asked, turning to the surgeon.
"Oh, not necessarily," the young man replied, yawning slightly behind his hand, and too long accustomed to straightforward questions to be shocked at an evident wish for a direct reply. "His chances are better, because they'll hang him if he gets well. They took the ball and a good deal of shot out of his side, and there's a lot more for afterwhile, if he lasts. He's been off the table an hour, and he's still going."
"That's in his favor, isn't it?" said Meredith. "And extraordinary, too?" If young Dr. Gay perceived a slur in these interrogations he betrayed no exterior appreciation of it.
"Shot!" exclaimed Homer. "Shot! I knowed there'd be'n a pistol used, though where they got it beats me--we stripped 'em--and it wasn't Mr. Harkless's; he never carried one. But a shot-gun!"
An attendant entered and spoke to the surgeon, and Gay rose wearily, touched the drowsy young man on the shoulder, and led the way to the door. "You can come now," he said to the others; "though I doubt its being any good to you. He's delirious."
They went down a long hall and up a narrow corridor, then stepped softly into a small, quiet ward.
There was a pungent smell of chemicals in the room; the light was low, and the dimness was imbued with a thick, confused murmur, incoherent whisperings that came from a cot in the corner. It was the only cot in use in the ward, and Meredith was conscious of a terror that made him dread, to look at it, to go near it. Beside it a nurse sat silent, and upon it feebly tossed the racked body of him whom Barrett had called Jerry the Teller.
The head was a shapeless bundle, so swathed it was with bandages and cloths, and what part of the face was visible was discolored and pigmented with drugs. Stretched under the white sheet the man looked immensely tall --as Horner saw with vague misgiving--and he lay in an odd, inhuman fashion, as though he had been all broken to pieces. His attempts to move were constantly soothed by the nurse, and he as constantly renewed such attempts; and one hand, though torn and bandaged, was not to be restrained from a wandering, restless movement which Meredith felt to be pathetic. He had entered the room with a flare of hate for the thug whom he had come to see die, and who had struck down the old friend whose nearness he had never known until it was too late. But at first sight of the broken figure he felt all animosity fall away from him; only awe remained, and a growing, traitorous pity as he watched the long, white fingers of the Teller "pick at the coverlet." The man was muttering rapid fragments of words, and syllables.
"Somehow I feel a sense of wrong," Meredith whispered to Gay. "I feel as if I had done the fellow to death myself, as if it were all out of gear. I know, now, how Henry felt over the great Guisard. My God, how tall he looks! That doesn't seem to me like a thug's hand."
The surgeon nodded. "Of course, if there's a mistake to be made, you can count on Barrett and his sergeants to make it. I doubt if this is their man. When they found him what clothes he wore were torn and stained; but they had been good once, especially the linen."
Barrett bent over the recumbent figure. "See here. Jerry," he said, "I want to talk to you a little. Rouse up, will you? I want to talk to you as a friend."
The incoherent muttering continued.
"See here, Jerry!" repeated Barrett, more sharply. "Jerry! rouse up, will you? We don't want any fooling; understand that, Jerry!" He dropped his hand on the man's shoulder and shook him slightly. The Teller uttered a short, gasping cry.
"Let me," said Gay, and swiftly interposed. Bending over the cot, he said in a pleasant, soft voice: "It's all right, old man; it's all right. Slattery wants to know what you did with that man down at Plattville, when you got through with him. He can't remember, and he thinks there was money left on him. Slattery's head was hurt--he can't remember. He'll go shares with you, when he gets it. Slattery's going to stand by you, if he can get the money."
The Teller only tried to move his free hand to the shoulder Barrett had shaken.
"Slattery wants to know," repeated the surgeon, gently moving the hand back upon the sheet. "He'll divvy up, when he gets it. He'll stand by you, old man."
"Would you please not mind," whispered the Teller faintly, "would you please not mind if you took care not to brush against my shoulder again?"
The surgeon drew back with an exclamation; but the Teller's whisper gathered strength, and they heard him murmuring oddly to himself. Meredith moved forward.
"What's that?" he asked, with a startled gesture.
"Seems to be trying to sing, or something," said Barrett, bending over to listen. The Teller swung his arm heavily over the side of the cot, the fingers never ceasing their painful twitching, and Gay leaned down and gently moved the cloths so that the white, scarred lips were free. They moved steadily; they seemed to be framing the semblance of an old ballad that Meredith knew; the whisper grew more distinct, and it became a rich but broken voice, and they heard it singing, like the sound of some far, halting minstrelsy:
"Wave willows--murmur waters--golden sunbeams smile, Earthly music--cannot waken--lovely--Annie Lisle."
"My God!" cried Tom Meredith.
The bandaged hand waved jauntily over the Teller's head. "Ah, men," he said, almost clearly, and tried to lift himself on his arm, "I tell you it's a grand eleven we have this year! There will be little left of anything that stands against them. Did you see Jim Romley ride over his man this afternoon?"
As the voice grew clearer the sheriff stepped forward, but Tom Meredith, with a loud exclamation of grief, threw himself on his knees beside the cot and seized the wandering fingers in his own. "John!" he cried. "John! Is it you?"
The voice went on rapidly, not heeding him: "Ah, you needn't howl; I'd have been as much use at right as that Sophomore. Well, laugh away, you Indians! If it hadn't been for this ankle--but it seems to be my chest that's hurt--and side--not that it matters, you know; the Sophomore's just as good, or better. It's only my egotism. Yes, it must be the side--and chest--and head--all over, I believe. Not that it matters--I'll try again next year--next year I'll make it a daily, Helen said, not that I should call you Helen--I mean Miss--Miss--Fisbee--no, Sherwood--but I've always thought Helen was the prettiest name in the world--you'll forgive me?--And please tell Parker there's no more copy, and won't be--I wouldn't grind out another stick to save his immortal--yes, yes, a daily--she said-ah, I never made a good trade--no--they can't come seven miles--but I'll finish you, Skillett, first; I know you! I know nearly all of you! Now let's sing 'Annie Lisle.'" He lifted his hand as if to beat the time for a chorus.
"Oh, John, John!" cried Tom Meredith, and sobbed outright. "My boy--my boy--old friend----" The cry of the classmate was like that of a mother, for it was his old idol and hero who lay helpless and broken before him.
The brougham lamps and the apathetic sparks of the cab gleamed in front of the hospital till daylight. Two other pairs of lamps joined them in the earliest of the small hours, these subjoined to two deep-hooded phaetons, from each of which quickly descended a gentleman with a beard, an air of eminence, and a small, ominous black box. The air of eminence was justified by the haste with which Meredith had sent for them, and by their wide repute. They arrived almost simultaneously, and hastily shook hands as they made their way to the ward down the long hall and up the narrow corridor. They had a short conversation with Gay and a word with the nurse, then turned the others out of the room by a practiced innuendo of manner. They stayed a long time in the room without opening the door. Meredith paced the hall alone, sometimes stopping to speak to Warren Smith; but the two officials of peace sat together in dumb consternation and astonishment. The sleepy young man relaxed himself resignedly upon a bench in the hall had returned to the dormance from which he had been roused. The big hospital was very still. Now and then a nurse went through the hall, carrying something, and sometimes a neat young physician passed cheerfully along, looking as if he had many patients who were well enough to testify to his skill, but sick enough to pay for it. Outside, through the open front doors, the crickets chirped.
Meredith went out on the steps, and breathed the cool night air. A slender taint of drugs hung everywhere about the building, and the almost imperceptible permeation sickened him; it was deadly, he thought, and imbued with a hideous portent of suffering. That John Harkless, of all men, should lie stifled with ether, and bandaged and splintered, and smeared with horrible unguents, while they stabbed and slashed and tortured him, and made an outrage and a sin of that grand, big, dexterous body of his! Meredith shuddered. The lights in the little ward were turned up, and they seemed to shine from a chamber of horrors, while he waited, as a brother might have waited outside the Inquisition--if, indeed, a brother would have been allowed to wait outside the Inquisition.
Alas, he had found John Harkless! He had "lost track" of him as men sometimes do lose track of their best beloved, but it had always been a comfort to know that Harkless was--somewhere, a comfort without which he could hardly have got along. Like others he had been waiting for John to turn up--on top, of course; for people would always believe in him so, that he would be shoved ahead, no matter how much he hung back himself-- but Meredith had not expected him to turn up in Indiana. He had heard vaguely that Harkless was abroad, and he had a general expectation that people would hear of him over there some day, with papers like the "Times" beseeching him to go on missions. And he found him here, in his own home, a stranger, alone and dying, receiving what ministrations were reserved for Jerry the Teller. But it was Helen Sherwood who had found him. He wondered how much those two had seen of each other, down there in Plattville. If they had liked each other, and Harkless could have lived, he thought it might have simplified some things for Helen. "Poor Helen!" he exclaimed aloud. Her telegram had a ring, even in the barren four sentences. He wondered how much they had liked each other. Perhaps she would wish to come at once. When those fellows came out of the room he would send her a word by telegraph.
When they came out--ah! he did not want them to come out; he was afraid. They were an eternity--why didn't they come? No; he hoped they would not come, just now. In a little time, in a few minutes, even, he would not dread a few words so much; but now he couldn't quite bear to be told he had found his friend only to lose him, the man he had always most needed, wanted, loved. Everybody had always cared for Harkless, wherever he went. That he had always cared for everybody was part of the reason, maybe. Meredith remembered, now, hearing a man who had spent a day in Plattville on business speak of him: "They've got a young fellow down there who'll be Governor in a few years. He's a sort of dictator; and runs the party all over that part of the State to suit his own sweet will, just by sheer personality. And there isn't a man in that district who wouldn't cheerfully lie down in the mud to let him pass over dry. It's that young Harkless, you know; owns the 'Herald,' the paper that downed McCune and smashed those imitation 'White-Caps' in Carlow County." Meredith had been momentarily struck by the coincidence of the name, but his notion of Harkless was so inseparably connected with what was (to his mind) a handsome and more spacious--certainly more illuminated--field of action, that the idea that this might be his friend never entered his head. Helen had said something once--he could not remember what--that made him think she had half suspected it, and he had laughed. He thought of the whimsical fate that had taken her to Plattville, of the reason for her going, and the old thought came to him that the world is, after all, so very small. He looked up at the twinkling stars; they were reassuring and kind. Under their benignancy no loss could befall, no fate miscarry--for in his last thought he felt his vision opened, for the moment, to perceive a fine tracery of fate.
"Ah, that would be too beautiful!" he said.
And then he shivered; for his name was spoken from within.
It was soon plain to him that he need not have feared a few words, for he did not in the least understand those with which the eminent surgeons favored him; and they at once took their departure. He did understand, however, what Horner told him. Mr. Barrett, Warren Smith, and the sleepy young man had reentered the ward; and Horner was following, but waited for Meredith. Somehow, the look of the sheriff's Sunday coat, wrinkling forlornly from his broad, bent shoulders, was both touching and solemn. He said simply: "He's conscious and not out of his head. They're gone in to take his ante-mortem statement," and they went into the room.
Harkless's eyes were bandaged. The lawyer was speaking to him, and as Horner went awkwardly toward the cot. Warren said something indicative of the sheriff's presence, and the hand on the sheet made a formless motion which Horner understood, for he took the pale fingers in his own, very gently, and then set them back. Smith turned toward Meredith, but the latter made a gesture which forbade the attorney to speak of him, and went to a corner and sat down with his head in his hands.
The sleepy young man opened a notebook and shook a stylographic pen so that the ink might flow freely. The lawyer, briefly and with unlegal agitation, administered an oath, to which Harkless responded feebly, and then there was silence.
"Now, Mr. Harkless, if you please," said Barrett, insinuatingly; "if you feel like telling us as much as you can about it?"
He answered in a low, rather indistinct voice, very deliberately, pausing before almost every word. It was easy work for the sleepy stenographer.
"I understand. I don't want to go off my head again before I finish. Of course I know why you want this. If it were only for myself I should tell you nothing, because, if I am to leave, I should like it better if no one were punished. But that's a bad community over there; they are everlastingly worrying our people; they have always been a bother to us, and it's time it was stopped for good. I don't believe very much in punishment, but you can't do a great deal of reforming with the CrossRoaders unless you catch them young--very young, before they're weaned-- they wean them on whiskey, I think. I realize you needn't have sworn me for me to tell you this."
Homer and Smith had started at the mention of the Cross-Roads, but they subdued their ejaculations, while Mr. Barrett looked as if he had known it, of course. The room was still, save for the dim voice and the soft transcribings of the stylographic pen.
"I left Judge Briscoe's, and went west on the pike to a big tree. It rained, and I stepped under the tree for shelter. There was a man on the other side of the fence. It was Bob Skillett. He was carrying his gown and hood--I suppose it was that--on his arm. Then I saw two others a little farther east, in the middle of the road; and I think they had followed me from the Briscoes', or near there. They had their foolish regalia on, as all the rest had,--there was plenty of lightning to see. The two in the road were simply standing there in the rain, looking at me through the eye-holes in their hoods. I knew there were others--plenty--but I thought they were coming from behind me--the west.
"I wanted to get home--the court-house yard was good enough for me--so I started east, toward town. I passed the two gentlemen; and one fell down as I went by him, but the other fired a shot as a signal, and I got his hood off his face for it--I stopped long enough--and it was Force Johnson. I know him well. Then I ran, and they followed. A little ahead of me I saw six or eight of them spread across the road. I knew I'd have a time getting through, so I jumped the fence to cut across the fields, and I lit in a swarm of them--it had rained them just where I jumped. I set my back to the fence, but one of the fellows in the road leaned over and smashed my head in, rather--with the butt of a gun, I believe. I came out from the fence and they made a little circle around me. No one said anything. I saw they had ropes and saplings, and I didn't want that, exactly, so I went into them. I got a good many hoods off before it was over, and I can swear to quite a number besides those I told you."
He named the men, slowly and carefully. Then he went on: "I think they gave up the notion of whipping. We all got into a bunch, and they couldn't clear to shoot without hitting some of their own: and there was a lot of gouging and kicking--one fellow nearly got my left eye, and I tried to tear him apart and he screamed so that I think he was hurt. Once or twice I thought I might get away, but somebody hammered me over the head and face again, and I got dizzy; and then they all jumped away from me suddenly, and Bob Skillett stepped up--and--shot me. He waited for a good flurry of lightning, and I was slow tumbling down. Some one else fired a shot-gun, I think--I can't be sure--about the same time, from the side. I tried to get up, but I couldn't, and then they got together, for a consultation. The man I had hurt--I didn't recognize him--came and looked at me. He was nursing himself all over; and groaned; and I laughed, I--at any rate, my arm was lying stretched out on the grass, and he stamped his heel into my hand, and after a little of that I quit feeling.
"I'm not quite clear about what happened afterwards. They went away, not far, I think. There's an old shed, a cattle-shelter, near there, and I think the storm drove them under it to wait for a slack. It seemed a long time. Sometimes I was conscious, sometimes I wasn't. I thought I might be drowned, but I suppose the rain was good for me. Then I remember being in motion, being dragged and carried a long way. They took me up a steep, short slope, and set me down near the top. I knew that was the railroad embankment, and I thought they meant to lay me across the track, but it didn't occur to them, I suppose--they are not familiar with melodrama--and a long time after that I felt and heard a great banging and rattling under me and all about me, and it came to me that they had disposed of me by hoisting me into an empty freight-car. The odd part of it was that the car wasn't empty, for there were two men already in it, and I knew them by what they said to me.
"They were the two shell-men who cheated Hartley Bowlder, and they weren't vindictive; they even seemed to be trying to help me a little, though perhaps they were only stealing my clothes, and maybe they thought for them to do anything unpleasant would be superfluous; I could see that they thought I was done for, and that they had been hiding in the car when I was put there. I asked them to try to call the train men for me, but they wouldn't listen, or else I couldn't make myself understood. That's all. The rest is a blur. I haven't known anything more until those surgeons were here. Please tell me how long ago it happened. I shall not die, I think; there are a good many things I want to know about." He moved restlessly and the nurse soothed him.
Meredith rose and left the room with a noiseless step. He went out to the stars again, and looked to them to check the storm of rage and sorrow that buffeted his bosom. He understood lynching, now the thing was home to him, and his feeling was no inspiration of a fear lest the law miscarry; it was the itch to get his own hand on the rope. Horner came out presently, and whispered a long, broad, profound curse upon the men of the Cross-Roads, and Meredith's gratitude to him was keen. Barrett went away, soon after, leaving the cab for the gentlemen from Plattville. Meredith had a strange, unreasonable desire to kick Barrett, possibly for his sergeant's sake. Warren Smith sat in the ward with the nurse and Gay, and the room was very quiet. It was a long vigil.
They were only waiting.
At five o'clock he was still alive--just that, Smith came out to say. Meredith sent his driver with a telegram to Helen which would give Plattville the news that Harkless was found and was not yet gone from them. Homer took the cab and left for the station; there was a train, and there were things for him to do in Carlow. At noon Meredith sent a second telegram to Helen, as barren of detail as the first: he was alive--was a little improved. This telegram did not reach her, for she was on the way to Rouen, and half of the population of Carlow--at least, so it appeared to the unhappy conductor of the accommodation--was with her.
They seemed to feel that they could camp in the hospital halls and corridors, and they were an incalculable worry to the authorities. More came on every train, and nearly all brought flowers, and jelly, and chickens for preparing broth, and they insisted that the two latter delicacies be fed to the patient at once. Meredith was possessed by an unaccountable responsibility for them all, and invited a great many to stay at his own house. They were still in ignorance of the truth about the Cross-Roads, and some of them spent the day (it was Sunday) in planning an assault upon the Rouen jail for the purpose of lynching Slattery in case Harkless's condition did not improve at once. Those who had heard his statement kept close mouths until the story appeared in full in the Rouen papers on Monday morning; but by that time every member of the Cross-Roads White-Caps was lodged in the Rouen jail with Slattery. Homer and a heavily armed posse rode over to the muddy corners on Sunday night, and the sheriff discovered that he might have taken the Skilletts and Johnsons single-handed and unarmed. Their nerve was gone; they were shaken and afraid; and, to employ a figure somewhat inappropriate to their sullen, glad surrender, they fell upon his neck in their relief at finding the law touching them. They had no wish to hear "John Brown's Body" again. They wanted to get inside of a strong jail, and to throw themselves on the mercy of the court as soon as possible. And those whom Harkless had not recognized delayed not to give themselves up; they did not desire to remain in Six-Cross-Roads. Bob Skillett, Force Johnson, and one or two others needed the care of a physician badly, and one man was suffering from a severely wrenched back. Homer had a train stopped at a crossing, so that his prisoners need not be taken through Plattville, and he brought them all safely to Rouen. Had there chanced any one to ride through the deserted Cross-Roads the next morning, passing the trampled fields and the charred ruins of the two shanties to the east, and listening to the lamentations of the women and children, he would have declared that at last the old score had been paid, and that Six-Cross-Roads was wiped out.
The Carlow folks were deeply impressed with the two eminent surgeons, of whom some of them had heard, and on Tuesday, the bulletins marking considerable encouragement, most of them decided to temporarily risk the editor of the "Herald" to such capable hands, and they returned quietly to their homes; only a few were delayed in reaching Carlow by travelling to the first station in the opposite direction before they succeeded in planting themselves on the proper train.
Meanwhile, the object of their solicitude tossed and burned on his bed of pain. He was delirious most of the time, and, in the intervals of halfconsciousness, found that his desire to live, very strong at first, had disappeared; he did not care much about anything except rest--he wanted peace. In his wanderings he was almost always back in his college days, beholding them in an unhappy, distorted fashion. He would lie asprawl on the sward with the others, listening to the Seniors singing on the steps, and, all at once, the old, kindly faces would expand enormously and press over him with hideous mouthings, and an ugly Senior in cap and gown would stamp him and grind a spiked heel into his hand; then they would toss him high into air that was all flames, and he would fall and fall through the raging heat, seeing the cool earth far beneath him, but never able to get down to it again. And then he was driven miles and miles by dusky figures, through a rain of boiling water; and at other times the whole universe was a vast, hot brass bell, and it gave off a huge, continuous roar and hum, while he was a mere point of consciousness floating in the exact centre of the heat and sound waves, and he listened, listened for years, to the awful, brazen hum from which there could be no escape; at the same time it seemed to him that he was only a Freshman on the slippery roof of the tower, trying to steal the clapper of the chapel bell.
Finally he came to what he would have considered a lucid interval, had it not appeared that Helen Sherwood was whispering to Tom Meredith at the foot of his bed. This he knew to be a fictitious presentation of his fever, for was she not by this time away and away for foreign lands? And, also, Tom Meredith was a slim young thing, and not the middle-aged youth with an undeniable stomach and a baldish head, who, by the grotesque necromancy of his hallucinations, assumed a preposterous likeness to his old friend. He waved his hand to the figures and they vanished like figments of a dream; but all the same the vision had been realistic enough for the lady to look exquisitely pretty. No one could help wishing to stay in a world which contained as charming a picture as that.
And then, too quickly, the moment of clearness passed; and he was troubled about the "Herald," beseeching those near him to put copies of the paper in his hands, threatening angrily to believe they were deceiving him, that his paper had suspended, if the three issues of the week were not instantly produced. What did they mean by keeping the truth from him? He knew the "Herald" had not come out. Who was there to get it out in his absence? He raised himself on his elbow and struggled to be up; and they had hard work to quiet him.
But the next night Meredith waited near his bedside, haggard and dishevelled. Harkless had been lying in a long stupor; suddenly he spoke, quite loudly, and the young surgeon, Gay, who leaned over him, remembered the words and the tone all his life.
"Away and away--across the waters," said John Harkless. "She was here-- once--in June."
"What is it, John?" whispered Meredith, huskily. "You're easier, aren't you?"
And John smiled a little, as if, for an instant, his swathed eyes penetrated the bandages, and saw and knew his old friend again.
That same night a friend of Rodney McCune's sent a telegram from Rouen: "He is dying. His paper is dead. Your name goes before convention in September."