Counsel for the defense, p.27
Counsel for the Defense, p.27Leroy Scott
THE END OF THE BEGINNING
It was the following night, and the hour was nine. Old Hosie stood inthe sheriff's office in Galloway County jail, while Jim Nicholsscrutinized a formal looking document his visitor had just deliveredinto his hands.
"It's all right, isn't it?" said the old lawyer.
"Yep." The sheriff thrust the paper into a drawer. "I'll fetch himright down."
"Remember, don't give him a hint!" Old Hosie warned again. "You'resure," he added anxiously, "he hasn't got on to anything?"
"How many more times have I got to tell you," returned the sheriff, alittle irritated, "that I ain't said a word to him--just as you toldme! He heard some of the racket last night, sure. But he thought itwas just part of the regular campaign row."
"All right! All right! Hurry him along then!"
Left alone, Old Hosie walked excitedly up and down the dingy room,whose sole pretension in an aesthetic way was the breeze-blown"yachting girl" of a soap company's calendar, sailing her boundingcraft above the office cuspidor.
The old man grinned widely, rubbed his bony hands together, and aconcatenation of low chuckles issued from his lean throat. But whenSheriff Nichols reappeared, ushering in Arnold Bruce, all theseoutward manifestations of satisfaction abruptly terminated, and hismanner became his usual dry and sarcastic one with his nephew.
"Hello, Arn!" he said. "H'are you?"
"Hello!" Bruce returned, rather gruffly, shaking the hand his uncleheld out. "What's this the sheriff has just told me about a newtrial?"
"It's all right," returned Old Hosie. "We've fought on till we've made'em give it to us."
"What's the use of it?" Bruce growled. "The cards will be stacked thesame as at the other trial."
"Well, whatever happens, you're free till then. I've got you out onbail, and I'm here to take you home with me. So come along with you."
Old Hosie pushed him out and down the jail steps and into a closedcarriage that was waiting at the curb. Bruce was in a glowering,embittered mood, as was but natural in a man who keenly feels that hehas suffered without justice and has lost all for which he fought.
"You know I appreciate your working for the new trial," he remarkeddully, as the carriage rattled slowly on. "How did you manage it?"
"It's too long a story for now. I'll tell you when we get home."
Bruce was gloomily silent for a moment.
"Of course the Blake crowd swept everything at the election to-day?"
"Well, on the whole, their majority wasn't as big as they'd countedon," returned Old Hosie.
They rode on, Bruce sunk in his bitter, rebellious dejection. Thecarriage turned into the street that ran behind the Court House, thenafter rattling over the brick pavement for a few moments came to apause. Hosie opened the door and stepped out.
"Hello! what are we stopping here for?" demanded Bruce. "This is theCourt House. I thought you said we were going home?"
"So we are, so we are," Old Hosie rapidly returned, an agitation inhis manner that he could not wholly repress. "But first we've got togo into the Court House. Judge Kellog is waiting for us; there's alittle formality or two about your release we've got to settle withhim. Come along." And taking his arm Old Hosie hurried him into theCourt House yard, allowing no time for questioning the plausibility ofthis explanation.
But suddenly Bruce stopped short.
"Look at that, won't you!" he cried in amazement. "See how the frontof the yard is lighted up, and see how it's jammed with people! Andthere goes the band! What the dickens----"
At that moment some one on the outskirts of the crowd sighted thepair. "There's Bruce!" he shouted.
Immediately there was an uproar. "Hurrah for Bruce! Hurrah for Bruce!"yelled the crowd, and began to rush to the rear of the yard, cheeringas they ran.
Bruce gripped Old Hosie's arm.
"What's this mean?"
"It means we've got to run for it!" And so saying the old man, with asurprising burst of speed left over from his younger years, draggedhis nephew up the walk and through the rear door of the Court House,which he quickly locked upon their clamorous pursuers.
Bruce stared at his uncle in bewilderment.
"Hosie--Hosie--what's this mean?"
The old man's leathery face was twitching in a manner remarkable tobehold.
"Drat it," he grumbled, with a quaver in his voice, "why don't youread the _Express_ and keep up with the news!"
"What's this mean?" demanded Bruce.
"Well, here's a copy of your old rag. Read it and see for yourself."
Bruce seized the _Express_ the old man held out to him. Up in onecorner were the words "_Election Extra_," and across the top of thepage ran the great headline:
"BRUCE TICKET SWEEPS CITY"
Bruce looked slowly up, stupefied, and steadied himself with a handagainst the door.
"Is--is that true?"
"For my part," declared Old Hosie, the quaver in his voice growingmore prominent, "I don't believe more'n half I see in that dirtysheet!"
"Don't you hear them wild Indians yelling for Mayor Bruce?"
Bruce was too dazed to speak for a moment.
"Tell me--how did it happen?"
"Oh, read your old rag and see!"
"For God's sake, Hosie, don't fool with me!" he cried. "How did ithappen? Somebody has been at work. Who did it?"
"Eh! You really want to know that?"
"Yes, yes! Who did it?"
"It was done," said Old Hosie, looking at him very straight andblinking his eyes, "by a party that I understand you thought couldn'tdo much of anything."
"But who? Who?"
"If you really want to know, the party's name is Miss Katherine West."
Bruce's stupefaction outdid itself.
"Katherine West!" he repeated.
Old Hosie could maintain his role no longer.
"Yes, Katherine West!" he burst out in triumphant joy, his wordstumbling over one another. "She did it all--every bit of it! And thatmob out in front is there to celebrate your election. We knew howthings were going to turn out, so we were safe in getting this thingready in advance. And I don't mind telling you, young fellow, thatthis celebration is just as much for her as it is for you. The townhas simply gone crazy about her and is looking for a chance to kissher feet. She said she wouldn't come to-night, but we all insisted. Ipromised to bring her, and I've got to be off. So good-by!"
Bruce caught his arm.
"Wait, Hosie! Tell me what she did! Tell me the rest!"
"Read that paper I gave you! And here, I brought this for you, too."He took from his inside pocket a copy of the extra Katherine and BillyHarper had got out the night before. "Those two papers will tell youall there is to tell. And now," he continued, opening a door andpushing Bruce through it, "you just wait in there so I'll know whereto find you when I want you. I've got to hustle for a while, for I'mmaster of ceremonies of this show. How's that for your old uncle? It'sthe first time I've ever been connected with a popular movement in mylife except to throw bricks at it, and I ain't so sure I can standpopularity for one whole night."
With that he was gone. Bruce recognized the room into which he hadbeen thrust as the court room in which he had been tried andsentenced, in which Katherine had pleaded her father's case. Over thejudge's desk, as though in expectation of his coming, a green-shadeddrop lamp shed its cone of light. Bruce stumbled forward to the desk,sank into the judge's chair, and began feverishly to devour the twocopies of his paper.
Billy Harper, penitently sober and sworn to sobriety for all his days,had outdone himself on that day's issue. He told how the voterscrowded to the polls in their eagerness to vote for Bruce, and he gavewith a tremendous exultation an estimate of Bruce's majority, whichwas so great as to be an almost unanimous election. Also he told howBlind Charlie Peck had prudently caught last night's eleven o'clockexpress and was now believed to be repairing his health down at HotSprings, Ark
The election extra finished, Bruce spread open the extra of the nightbefore, the paper that had transferred him from a prison cell to themayor's office, and read the mass of Katherine's evidence that Billyhad so stirringly set forth. Then the head of the editor of the_Express_, of the mayor of Westville, sank forward into his foldedarms and he sat bowed, motionless, upon the judge's desk.
A great outburst of cheering from the crowd, though louder far thanthose that had preceded it, did not disturb him; and he did not lookup until he heard the door of the court room open. Then he saw thatOld Hosie had entered, and with him Katherine.
"I'll just leave you two for a minute," Old Hosie said rapidly, "whileI go out and start things going by introducing the Honourable HiramCogshell."
With that the old man took the arm of Katherine's father, who had beenstanding just behind, slipped through the door and was gone. A momentlater, from in front, there arose a succession of cheers for DoctorWest.
Bruce came slowly down from behind the railing of Judge Kellog's deskand paused before Katherine. She was very white, her breath came witha tremulous irregularity, and she looked at him with wide, wondering,half-fearful eyes.
At first Bruce could not get out a word, such a choking was there inhis throat, such a throbbing and whirling through all his being. Hedizzily supported himself with a hand upon the back of a bench, andstood and gazed at her.
It was she that broke the silence.
"Mr. Hollingsworth did not tell me--you were here. I'd better go." Andshe started for the door.
"No--no--don't!" he said. He drew a step nearer her. "I've justread"--holding up the two papers--"what you have done."
"Mr. Harper has--has exaggerated it very much," she returned. Hervoice seemed to come with as great a difficulty as his own.
"And I have read," he continued, "how much I owe you."
"It's--it's----" She did not finish in words, but a gesture disclaimedall credit.
"It has made me. And I want to thank you, and I do thank you. And I dothank you," he repeated lamely.
She acknowledged his gratitude with an inclination of her head.Motions came easier than words.
"And since I owe it all to you, since I owe nothing to any politicalparty, I want to tell you that I am going to try to make the very bestmayor that I can!"
"I am sure of that," she said.
"I realize that it's not going to be easy," he went on. "The peopleseem to be with me now, thanks to you--but as soon as I try to carryout my ideas, I know that both parties will rise up and unite againstme. The big fight is still ahead. But since--since you have done itall--I want you to know that I am going to fight straight ahead forthe people, no matter what happens to me."
"I know," she said.
"My eyes have been opened to many things about politics," he added.
She did not speak.
Silence fell between them; the room was infiltered by a multitudinoushum from without. Presently the thought, and with it the fear, thathad been rising up stronger and stronger in Bruce for the last halfhour, forced itself through his lips.
"I suppose that now--you'll be going back to New York?"
"No. I have had several cases offered me to-day. I am going to stay inWestville."
"Oh!" he said--and was conscious of a dizzy relief. Then, "I wish yousuccess."
Again there was a brief silence, both standing and looking inconstraint at one another.
"This celebration is very trying, isn't it?" she said. "I suppose wemight sit down while we wait."
They each took the end of a different bench, and rather stiffly satgazing into the shadowy severity of the big room. Sounding from thefront of the Court House they heard rather vaguely the deep-chested,sonorous rhetoric of the Honourable Hiram.
But they heard it for but an instant. Suddenly the court room doorflew open and Old Hosie marched straight up before them.
"You're the dad-blastedest pair of idiots I ever saw!" he burst out,with an exasperation that was not an entire success, for it wasbetrayed by a little quaver.
They stood up.
"What's the matter?" stammered Bruce.
"Matter?" cried Old Hosie. "What d'you suppose I left you two peoplehere together for?"
"You said you had to start----"
"Well, couldn't I have another and a bigger reason? I've beenlistening outside the door here, and the way you people have acted!See here, you two know you love one another, and yet you act towardeach other like a pair of tame icebergs that have just beenintroduced!"
He turned in a fury upon his nephew, blinking to keep the moisturefrom his eyes.
"Don't you love her?" he demanded, pointing to Katherine, who hadsuddenly grown yet more pale.
"Then why in the name of God don't you tell her so?"
"I'm--I'm afraid she won't care to hear it," stammered Bruce, notdaring to look at Katherine.
"Tell her so, and see what she says," shouted Old Hosie. "How else areyou going to find out? Tell her what a fool you've been. Tell hershe's proved to you you're all wrong about what you thought she oughtto do. Tell her unless you get some one of sense to help run you,you're going to make an all-fired mess of this mayor's job. Tellher"--there was a choking in his voice--"oh, boy, just tell her whatyou feel!
"And now," he added quickly, and again sharply, "that mob outsidewon't listen to the Honourable Hiram much longer. They want you folks.I give you just two minutes to fix things up. Two minutes--no more!"
And pulling his high hat down upon his forehead, Old Hosie turnedabruptly and again left the room.
Bruce looked slowly about upon Katherine. His rugged, powerful facewas working with emotion.
"What Uncle Hosie has said is all true," he stammered fearfully. "Youknow I love you, Katherine. And there isn't anything you'll want to dothat I'll not be glad to have you do. Won't you forget, Katherine, andwon't you--won't you----"
He stretched out his arms to her. "Oh, Katherine!" he cried. "I loveyou! I want you! I need you!"
While he spoke her face had grown radiant. "And I--and I"--shechoked, then her voice went on with an uprush of happiness--"andI--oh, Arnold, I need you!"
* * * * *
When Old Hosie reentered a minute later and saw what there was to beseen, he let out a little cry of joy and swooped down upon them.
"Look out, Katherine," he warned, quaveringly, "for I'm going to kissyou!" But despite this warning the old man succeeded in hisenterprise. "This is great!--great!" he cried, shaking a hand of each."But we'll have to cut this hallelujah business short till that littlepicnic outside is over. I just pulled the Honourable Hiram down--and,say, just listen to that roar!"
A roar it was indeed. Of a bursting brass band, of thousands of eagerpeople.
"And who do you suppose they're shouting for?" inquired the joyousHosie.
Katherine smiled a tear-bright smile at Bruce.
"For the new mayor," she said.
"No, no! All for you!" said he.
"Well, come on and we'll see who it's for!" cried Old Hosie.
And taking an arm of each he led them out to face the cheeringmultitude.
THE COUNTRY LIFE PRESS GARDEN CITY. N. Y.
Minor changes have been made to correct typesetters' errors;otherwise, every effort has been made to remain true to theauthor's words and intent.
Counsel for the Defense by Leroy Scott / Romance & Love have rating 3.2 out of 5 / Based on19 votes