Great events, like young Mr. Worthington's visit to Brampton, are all very
well for a while, but they do not always develop with sufficient rapidity to
satisfy the audiences of the drama. Seven days were an interlude quite long
enough in which to discuss every phase and bearing of this opening scene, and
after that the play in all justice ought to move on. But there it halted—for a
while—and the curtain obstinately refused to come up. If the inhabitants of
Brampton had only known that the drama, when it came, would be well worth
waiting for, they might have been less restless.
It is unnecessary to enrich the pages of this folio with all the footnotes
and remarks of, the sages of Brampton. These can be condensed into a paragraph
of two—and we can ring up the curtain when we like on the next scene, for which
Brampton had to wait considerably over a month. There is to be no villain in
this drama with the face of an Abbe Maury like the seven cardinal sins.
Comfortable looking Mr. Dodd of the prudential committee, with his chin-tuft of
yellow beard, is cast for the part of the villain, but will play it badly; he
would have been better suited to a comedy part.
Young Mr. Worthington left Brampton on the five o'clock train, and at six Mr.
Dodd met his fellow-member of the committee, Judge Graves.
"Called a meetin'?" asked Mr. Dodd, pulling the yellow tuft.
"What for?" said the judge, sharply.
"What be you a-goin' to do about it?" said Mr. Dodd.
"Do about what?" demanded the judge, looking at the hardware dealer from
under his eyebrows.
Mr. Dodd knew well enough that this was not ignorance on the part of Mr.
Graves, whose position in the matter dad been very well defined in the two
sentences he had spoken. Mr. Dodd perceived that the judge was trying to get him
to commit himself, and would then proceed to annihilate him. He, Levi Dodd, had
no intention of walking into such a trap.
"Well," said he, with a final tug at the tuft, "if that's the way you feel
"Feel about what?" said the judge, fiercely.
"Callate you know best," said Mr. Dodd, and passed on up the street. But he
felt the judge's gimlet eyes boring holes in his back. The judge's position was
very fine, no doubt for the judge. All of which tends to show that Levi Dodd had
swept his mind, and that it was ready now for the reception of an opinion.
Six weeks or more, as has been said, passed before the curtain rose again,
but the snarling trumpets of the orchestra played a fitting prelude. Cynthia's
feelings and Cynthia's life need not be gone into during this interval knowing
her character, they may well be imagined. They were trying enough, but Brampton
had no means of guessing them. During the weeks she came and went between the
little house and the little school, putting all the strength that was in her
into her duties. The Prudential Committee, which sometimes sat on the platform,
could find no fault with the performance of these duties, or with the capability
of the teacher, and it is not going too far to state that the children grew to
love her better than Miss Goddard had been loved. It may be declared that
children are the fittest citizens of a republic, because they are apt to make up
their own minds on any subject without regard to public opinion. It was so with
the scholars of Brampton village lower school: they grew to love the new
teacher, careless of what the attitude of their elders might be, and some of
them could have been seen almost any day walking home with her down the street.
As for the attitude of the elders—there was none. Before assuming one they
had thought it best, with characteristic caution, to await the next act in the
drama. There were ladies in Brampton whose hearts prompted them, when they
called on the new teacher, to speak a kindly word of warning and advice; but
somehow, when they were seated before her in the little sitting room of the John
Billings house, their courage failed them. There was something about this
daughter of the Coniston storekeeper and ward of Jethro Bass that made them
pause. So much for the ladies of Brampton. What they said among themselves would
fill a chapter, and more.
There was, at this time, a singular falling-off in the attendance of the
Brampton Club. Ephraim sat alone most of the day in his Windsor chair by the
stove, pretending to read newspapers. But he did not mention this fact to
Cynthia. He was more lonesome than ever on the Saturdays and Sundays which she
spent with Jethro Bass.
Jethro Bass! It is he who might be made the theme of the music of the
snarling trumpets. What was he about during those six weeks? That is what the
state at large was beginning to wonder, and the state at large was looking on at
a drama, too. A rumor reached the capital and radiated thence to every city and
town and hamlet, and was followed by other rumors like confirmations. Jethro
Bass, for the first time in a long life of activity, was inactive: inactive,
too, at this most critical period of his career, the climax of it, with a war to
be waged which for bitterness and ferocity would have no precedent; with the
town meetings at hand, where the frontier fighting was to be done, and no
quarter given. Lieutenants had gone to Coniston for further orders and
instructions, and had come back without either. Achilles was sulking in the
tannery house—some said a broken Achilles. Not a word could be got out of him,
or the sign of an intention. Jake Wheeler moped through the days in Rias
Richardson's store, too sore at heart to speak to any man, and could have wept
if tears had been a relief to him. No more blithe errands over the mountain to
Clovelly and elsewhere, though Jake knew the issue now and itched for the
battle, and the vassals of the hill-Rajah under a jubilant Bijah Bixby were
arming cap-a-pie. Lieutenant-General-and-Senator Peleg Hartington of Brampton,
in his office over the livery stable, shook his head like a mournful stork when
questioned by brother officers from afar. Operations were at a standstill, and
the sinews of war relaxed. Rural givers of mortgages, who had not had the
opportunity of selling them or had feared to do so, began (mirabile dictu) to
express opinions. Most ominous sign of all—the proprietor of the Pelican Hotel
had confessed that the Throne Room had not been engaged for the coming session.
Was it possible that Jethro Bass lay crushed under the weight of the
accusations which had been printed, and were still being printed, in the
Newcastle Guardian? He did not answer them, or retaliate in other newspapers,
but Jethro Bass had never made use of newspapers in this way. Still, nothing
ever printed about him could be compared with those articles. Had remorse
suddenly overtaken him in his old age? Such were the questions people we're
asking all over the state—people, at least, who were interested in politics, or
in those operations which went by the name of politics: yes, and many private
citizens—who had participated in politics only to the extent of voting for such
candidates as Jethro in his wisdom had seen fit to give them, read the articles
and began to say that boss domination was at an end. A new era was at hand,
which they fondly (and very properly) believed was to be a golden era. It was,
indeed, to be a golden era—until things got working; and then the gold would
cease. The Newcastle Guardian, with unconscious irony, proclaimed the golden
era; and declared that its columns, even in other days and under other
ownership, had upheld the wisdom of Jethro Bass. And he was still a wise man,
said the Guardian, for he had had sense enough to give up the fight.
Had he given up the fight? Cynthia fervently hoped and prayed that he had,
but she hoped and prayed in silence. Well she knew, if the event in the tannery
shed had not made him abandon his affairs, no appeal could do so. Her happiest
days in this period were the Saturdays and Sundays spent with him in Coniston,
and as the weeks went by she began to believe that the change, miraculous as it
seemed, had indeed taken place. He had given up his power. It was a pleasure
that made the weeks bearable for her. What did it matter—whether he had made the
sacrifice for the sake of his love for her? He had made it.
On these Saturdays and Sundays they went on long drives together over the
hills, while she talked to him of her life in Brampton or the books she was
reading, and of those she had chosen for him to read. Sometimes they did not
turn homeward until the delicate tracery of the branches on the snow warned them
of the rising moon. Jethro was often silent for hours at a time, but it seemed
to Cynthia that it was the silence of peace—of a peace he had never known
before. There came no newspapers to the tannery house now: during the mid-week
he read the books of which she had spoken William Wetherell's books; or sat in
thought, counting, perhaps; the days until she should come again. And the boy of
those days for him was more pathetic than much that is known to the world as
And what did Coniston think? Coniston, indeed, knew not what to think, when,
little by little, the great men ceased to drive up to the door of the tannery
house, and presently came no more. Coniston sank then from its proud position as
the real capital of the state to a lonely hamlet among the hills. Coniston, too,
was watching the drama, and had had a better view of the stage than Brampton,
and saw some reason presently for the change in Jethro Bass. Not that Mr.
Satterlee told, but such evidence was bound, in the end, to speak for itself.
The Newcastle Guardian had been read and debated at the store—debated with some
heat by Chester Perkins and other mortgagors; discussed, nevertheless, in a
political rather than a moral light. Then Cynthia had returned home; her face
had awed them by its sorrow, and she had begun to earn her own living. Then the
politicians had ceased to come. The credit belongs to Rias Richardson for hawing
been the first to piece these three facts together, causing him to burn his hand
so severely on the stove that he had to carry it bandaged in soda for a week.
Cynthia Wetherell had reformed Jethro.
Though the village loved and revered Cynthia, Coniston as a whole did not
rejoice in that reform. The town had fallen from its mighty estate, and there
were certain envious ones who whispered that it had remained for a young girl
who had learned city ways to twist Jethro around her finger; that she had made
him abandon his fight with Isaac D. Worthington because Mr. Worthington had a
son—but there is no use writing such scandal. Stripped of his power—even though
he stripped himself—Jethro began to lose their respect, a trait tending to prove
that the human race may have had wolves for ancestors as well as apes. People
had small opportunity, however, of showing a lack of respect to his person, for
in these days he noticed no one and spoke to none.
When the lion is crippled, the jackals begin to range. A jackal reconnoitered
the lair to see how badly the lion was crippled, and conceived with astounding
insolence the plan of capturing the lion's quarry. This jackal, who was an old
one, well knew how to round up a quarry, and fled back over the hills to consult
with a bigger jackal, his master. As a result, two days before March
town-meeting day, Mr. Bijah Bixby paid a visit to the Harwich bank and went
among certain Coniston farmers looking over the sheep, his clothes bulging out
in places when he began, and seemingly normal enough when he had finished.
History repeats itself, even among lions and jackals. Thirty-six years before
there had been a town-meeting in Coniston and a surprise. Established Church,
decent and orderly selectmen and proceedings had been toppled over that day,
every outlying farm sending its representative through the sleet to do it. And
now retribution was at hand. This March-meeting day was mild, the grass showing
a green color on the south slopes where the snow had melted, and the outlying
farmers drove through mud-holes up to the axles. Drove, albeit, in procession
along the roads, grimly enough, and the sheds Jock Hallowell had built around
the meeting-house could not hold the horses; they lined the fences and usurped
the hitching posts of the village street, and still they came. Their owners
trooped with muddy boots into the meeting-house, and when the moderator rapped
for order the Chairman of the Board of Selectmen, Jethro Bass, was not in his
place; never, indeed, would be there again. Six and thirty years he had been
supreme in that town—long enough for any man. The beams and king posts would
know him no more. Mr. Amos Cuthbert was elected Chairman, not without a gallant
and desperate but unsupported fight of a minority led by Mr. Jake Wheeler, whose
loyalty must be taken as a tribute to his species. Farmer Cuthbert was elected,
and his mortgage was not foreclosed! Had it been, there was more money in the
There was no telegraph to Coniston in these days, and so Mr. Sam Price, with
his horse in a lather, might have been seen driving with unseemly haste toward
Brampton, where in due time he arrived. Half an hour later there was excitement
at Newcastle, sixty-five miles away, in the office of the Guardian, and the next
morning the excitement had spread over the whole state.
Jethro Bass was dethroned in Coniston—discredited in his own town!
And where was Jethro? Did his heart ache, did he bow his head as he thought
of that supremacy, so hardly won, so superbly held, gone forever? Many were the
curious eyes on the tannery house that day, and for days after, but its owner
gave no signs of concern. He read and thought and chopped wood in the tannery
shed as usual. Never, I believe, did man, shorn of power, accept his lot more
quietly. His struggle was over, his battle was fought, a greater peace than he
had ever thought to hope for was won. For the opinion and regard of the world he
had never cared. A greater reward awaited him, greater than any knew—the opinion
and regard and the praise of one whom he loved beyond all the world. On Friday
she came to him, on Friday at sunset, for the days were growing longer, and that
was the happiest sunset of his life. She said nothing as she raised her face to
his and kissed him and clung to him in the little parlor, but he knew, and he
had his reward. So much for earthly power Cynthia brought the little rawhide
trunk this time, and came to Coniston for the March vacation—a happy two weeks
that was soon gone. Happy by comparison, that is, with what they both had
suffered, and a haven of rest after the struggle and despair of the wilderness.
The bond between them had, in truth, never been stronger, for both the young
girl and the old man had denied themselves the thing they held most dear. Jethro
had taken refuge and found comfort in his love. But Cynthia! Her greatest love
had now been bestowed elsewhere.
If there were letters for the tannery house, Milly Skinner, who made it a
point to meet the stage, brought them. And there were letters during Cynthia's
sojourn,—many of them, bearing the Cambridge postmark. One evening it was Jethro
who laid the letter on the table beside her as she sat under the lamp. He did
not look at her or speak, but she felt that he knew her secret—felt that he
deserved to have from her own lips what he had been too proud—yes—and too humble
to ask. Whose sympathy could she be sure of, if not of his? Still she had longed
to keep this treasure to herself. She took the letter in her hand.
"I do not answer them, Uncle Jethro, but—I cannot prevent his writing them,"
she faltered. She did not confess that she kept them, every one, and read them
over and over again; that she had grown, indeed, to look forward to them as to a
sustenance. "I—I do love him, but I will not marry him."
Yes, she could be sure of Jethro's sympathy, though he could not express it
in words. Yet she had not told him for this. She had told him, much as the
telling had hurt her, because she feared to cut him more deeply by her silence.
It was a terrible moment for Jethro, and never had he desired the gift of
speech as now. Had it not been for him; Cynthia might have been Robert
Worthington's wife. He sat down beside her and put his hand over hers that lay
on the letter in her lap. It was the only answer he could make, but perhaps it
was the best, after all. Of what use were words at such a time!
Four days afterward, on a Monday morning, she went back to Brampton to begin
the new term.
That same Monday a circumstance of no small importance took place in
Brampton—nothing less than the return, after a prolonged absence in the West and
elsewhere, of its first citizen. Isaac D. Worthington was again in residence. No
bells were rung, indeed, and no delegation of citizens as such, headed by the
selectmen, met him at the station; and other feudal expressions of fealty were
lacking. No staff flew Mr. Worthington's arms; nevertheless the lord of Brampton
was in his castle again, and Brampton felt that he was there. He arrived alone,
wearing the silk hat which had become habitual with him now, and stepping into
his barouche at the station had been driven up Brampton Street behind his grays,
looking neither to the right nor left. His reddish chop whiskers seemed to cling
a little more closely to his face than formerly, and long years of compression
made his mouth look sterner than ever. A hawk-like man, Isaac Worthington, to be
reckoned with and feared, whether in a frock coat or in breastplate and mail.
His seneschal, Mr. Flint, was awaiting him in the library. Mr. Flint was
large and very ugly, big-boned, smooth-shaven, with coarse features all askew,
and a large nose with many excrescences, and thick lips. He was forty-two. From
a foreman of the mills he had risen, step by step, to his present position,
which no one seemed able to define. He was, indeed, a seneschal. He managed the
mills in his lord's absence, and—if the truth be told—in his presence; knotty
questions of the Truro Railroad were brought to Mr. Flint and submitted to Mr.
Worthington, who decided them, with Mr. Flint's advice; and, within the last
three months, Mr. Flint had invaded the realm of politics, quietly, as such a
man would, under the cover of his patron's name and glory. Mr. Flint it was who
had bought the Newcastle Guardian, who went occasionally to Newcastle and spoke
a few effective words now and then to the editor; and, if the truth will out,
Mr. Flint had largely conceived that scheme about the railroads which was to set
Mr. Worthington on the throne of the state, although the scheme was not now
being carried out according to Mr. Flint's wishes. Mr. Flint was, in a sense, a
Bismarck, but he was not as yet all powerful. Sometimes his august master or one
of his fellow petty sovereigns would sweep Mr. Flint's plans into the waste
basket, and then Mr. Flint would be content to wait. To complete the character
sketch, Mr. Flint was not above hanging up his master's hat and coat, Which he
did upon the present occasion, and went up to Mr. Worthington's bedroom to fetch
a pocket handkerchief out of the second drawer. He even knew where the
handkerchiefs were kept. Lucky petty sovereigns sometimes possess Mr. Flints to
make them emperors.
The august personage seated himself briskly at his desk.
"So that scoundrel Bass is actually discredited at last," he said, blowing
his nose in the pocket handkerchief Mr. Flint had brought him. "I lose patience
when I think how long we've stood the rascal in this state. I knew the people
would rise in their indignation when they learned the truth about him."
Mr. Flint did not answer this. He might have had other views.
"I wonder we did not think of it before," Mr. Worthington continued. "A very
simple remedy, and only requiring a little courage and—and—" (Mr. Worthington
was going to say money, but thought better of it) "and the chimera disappears. I
congratulate you, Flint."
"Congratulate yourself," said Mr. Flint; "that would not have been my way."
"Very well, I congratulate myself," said the august personage, who was in too
good a humor to be put out by the rejection of a compliment. "You remember what
I said: the time was ripe, just publish a few biographical articles telling
people what he was, and Jethro Bass would snuff out like a candle. Mr. Duncan
tells me the town-meeting results are very good all over the state. Even if we
hadn't knocked out Jethro Bass, we'd have a fair majority for our bill in the
"You know Bass's saying," answered Mr. Flint, "You can hitch that kind of a
hoss, but they won't always stay hitched."
"I know, I know," said Mr. Worthington; "don't croak, Flint. We can buy more
hitch ropes, if necessary. Well, what's the outlay up to the present? Large, I
suppose. Well, whatever it is, it's small compared to what we'll get for it." He
laughed a little and rubbed his hands, and then he remembered that capacity in
which he stood before the world. Yes, and he stood before himself in the same
capacity. Isaac Worthington may have deceived himself, but he may or may not
have been a hero to his seneschal. "We have to fight fire with fire," he added,
in a pained voice. "Let me see the account."
"I have tabulated the expense in the different cities and towns," answered
Mr. Flint; "I will show you the account in a little while. The expenses in
Coniston were somewhat greater than the size of the town justified, perhaps. But
"Yes, yes," interrupted Mr. Worthington, "if it had cost as much to carry
Coniston as Newcastle, it would have been worth it—for the moral effect alone."
Moral effect! Mr. Flint thought of Mr. Bixby with his bulging pockets going
about the hills, and smiled at the manner in which moral effects are sometimes
"Any news, Flint?"
No news yet, Mr. Flint might have answered. In a few minutes there might be
news, and plenty of it, for it lay ready to be hatched under Mr. Worthington's
eye. A letter in the bold and upright hand of his son was on the top of the
pile, placed there by Mr. Flint himself, who had examined Mr. Worthington's face
closely when he came in to see how much he might know of its contents. He had
decided that Mr. Worthington was in too good a humor to know anything of them.
Mr. Flint had not steamed the letter open, and read the news; but he could guess
at them pretty shrewdly, and so could have the biggest fool in Brampton. That
letter contained the opening scene of the next act in the drama.
Mr. Worthington cut the envelope and began to read, and while he did so Mr.
Flint, who was not afraid of man or beast, looked at him. It was a manly and
straight forward letter, and Mr. Worthington, no matter what his opinions on the
subject were, should have been proud of it. Bob announced, first of all, that he
was going to marry Cynthia Wetherell; then he proceeded with praiseworthy
self-control (for a lover) to describe Cynthia's character and attainments:
after which he stated that Cynthia had refused him—twice, because she believed
that Mr. Worthington would oppose the marriage, and had declared that she would
never be the cause of a breach between father and son. Bob asked for his
father's consent, and hoped to have it, but he thought it only right to add that
he had given his word and his love, and did not mean to retract either. He spoke
of his visit to Brampton, and explained that Cynthia was teaching school there,
and urged his father to see her before he made a decision. Mr. Worthington read
it through to the end, his lips closing tighter and tighter until his mouth was
but a line across his face. There was pain in the face, too, the kind of pain
which anger sends, and which comes with the tottering of a pride that is false.
Of what gratification now was the overthrow of Jethro Bass?
He stared at the letter for a moment after he had finished it, and his face
grew a dark red. Then he seized the paper and tore it slowly, deliberately, into
Dudley Worthington was not thinking then—not he!—of the young man in the
white beaver who had called at the Social Library many years before to see a
young woman whose name, too, had been Cynthia.—He was thinking, in fact, for he
was a man to think in anger, whether it were not possible to remove this Cynthia
from the face of the earth—at least to a place beyond his horizon and that of
his son. Had he worn the chain mail instead of the frock coat he would have had
her hung outside the town walls.
"Good God!" he exclaimed. And the words sounded profane indeed as he fixed
his eyes upon Mr. Flint. "You knew that Robert had been to Brampton."
"Yes," said Flint, "the whole village knew it."
"Good God!" cried Mr. Worthington again, "why was I not informed of this? Why
was I not warned of this? Have I no friends? Do you pretend to look after my
interests and not take the trouble to write me on such a subject."
"Do you think I could have prevented it?" asked Mr. Flint, very calmly.
"You allow this—this woman to come here to Brampton and teach school in a
place where she can further her designs? What were you about?"
"When the prudential committee appointed her, nothing of this was known, Mr.
"Yes, but now—now! What are you doing, what are they doing to allow her to
remain? Who are on that committee?"
Mr. Flint named the men. They had been reelected, as usual, at the recent
town-meeting. Mr. Errol, who had also been reelected, had returned but had not
yet issued the certificate or conducted the examination.
"Send for them, have them here at once," commanded Mr. Worthington, without
listening to this.
"If you take my advice, you will do nothing of the kind," said Mr. Flint,
who, as usual, had the whole situation at his fingers' ends. He had taken the
trouble to inform himself about the girl, and he had discovered, shrewdly
enough, that she was the kind which might be led, but not driven. If Mr. Flint's
advice had been listened to, this story might have had quite a different ending.
But Mr. Flint had not reached the stage where his advice was always listened to,
and he had a maddened man to deal with now. At that moment, as if fate had
determined to intervene, the housemaid came into the room.
"Mr. Dodd to see you, sir," she said.
"Show him in," shouted Mr. Worthington; "show him in!"
Mr. Dodd was not a man who could wait for a summons which he had felt in his
bones was coming. He was ordinarily, as we have seen, officious. But now he was
thoroughly frightened. He had seen the great man in the barouche as he drove
past the hardware store, and he had made up his mind to go up at once, and have
it over with. His opinions were formed now, He put a smile on his face when he
was a foot outside of the library door.
"This is a great pleasure, Mr. Worthington, a great pleasure, to see you
back," he said, coming forward. "I callated—"
But the great man sat in his chair, and made no attempt to return the
"Mr. Dodd, I thought you were my friend," he said.
Mr. Dodd went all to pieces at this reception.
"So I be, Mr. Worthington—so I be," he cried. "That's why I'm here now. I've
b'en a friend of yours ever since I can remember—never fluctuated. I'd rather
have chopped my hand off than had this happen—so I would. If I could have
foreseen what she was, she'd never have had the place, as sure as my name's Levi
If Mr. Dodd had taken the trouble to look at the seneschal's face, he would
have seen a well-defined sneer there.
"And now that you know what she is," cried Mr. Worthington, rising and
smiting the pile of letters on his desk, "why do you keep her there an instant?"
Mr. Dodd stopped to pick up the letters, which had flown over the floor. But
the great man was now in the full tide of his anger.
"Never mind the letters," he shouted; "tell me why you keep her there."
"We callated we'd wait and see what steps you'd like taken," said the
"Steps! Steps! Good God! What kind of man are you to serve in such a place
when you allow the professed ward of Jethro Bass—of Jethro Bass, the most
notoriously depraved man in this state, to teach the children of this town.
Steps! How soon can you call your committee together?"
"Right away," answered Mr. Dodd, breathlessly. He would have gone on to
exculpate himself, but Mr. Worthington's inexorable finger was pointing at the
"If you are a friend of mine," said that gentleman, "and if you have any
regard for the fair name of this town, you will do so at once."
Mr. Dodd departed precipitately, and Mr. Worthington began to pace the room,
clasping his hands now in front of him, now behind him, in his agony: repeating
now and again various appellations which need not be printed here, which he
applied in turn to the prudential committee, to his son, and to Cynthia
"I'll run her out of Brampton," he said at last.
"If you do," said Mr. Flint, who had been watching him apparently unmoved,
"you may have Jethro Bass on your back."
"Jethro Bass?" shouted Mr. Worthington, with a laugh that was not pleasant to
hear, "Jethro Bass is as dead as Julius Caesar."
It was one thing for Mr. Dodd to promise so readily a meeting of the
committee, and quite another to decide how he was going to get through the
affair without any more burns and scratches than were absolutely necessary. He
had reversed the usual order, and had been in the fire—now he was going to the
frying-pan. He stood in the street for some time, pulling at his tuft, and then
made his way to Mr. Jonathan Hill's feed store. Mr. Hill was reading "Sartor
Resartus" in his little office, the temperature of which must have been 95, and
Mr. Dodd was perspiring when he got there.
"It's come," said Mr. Dodd, sententiously.
"What's come?" inquired Mr. Hill, mildly.
"Isaac D.'s come, that's what," said Mr. Dodd. "I hain't b'en sleepin' well
of nights, lately. I can't think what we was about, Jonathan, puttin' that girl
in the school. We'd ought to've knowed she wahn't fit."
"What's the matter with her?" inquired Mr. Hill.
"Matter with her!" exclaimed his fellow-committeeman, "she lives with Jethro
Bass—she's his ward."
"Well, what of it?" said Mr. Hill, who never bothered himself about gossip or
newspapers, or indeed about anything not between the covers of a book, except
when he couldn't help it.
"Good God!" exclaimed Mr. Dodd, "he's the most notorious, depraved man in the
state. Hain't we got to look out for the fair name of Brampton?"
Mr. Hill sighed and closed his book.
"Well," he said; "I'd hoped we were through with that. Let's go up and see
what Judge Graves says about it."
"Hold on," said Mr. Dodd, seizing the feed dealer by the coat, "we've got to
get it fixed in our minds what we're goin' to do, first. We can't allow no
notorious people in our schools. We've got to stand up to the jedge, and tell
him so. We app'inted her on his recommendation, you know."
"I like the girl," replied Mr. Hill. "I don't think we ever had a better
teacher. She's quiet, and nice appearin', and attends to her business."
Mr. Dodd pulled his tuft, and cocked his head.
"Mr. Worthington holds a note of yours, don't he, Jonathan?"
Mr. Hill reflected. He said he thought perhaps Mr. Worthington did.
"Well," said Mr. Dodd, "I guess we might as well go along up to the jedge now
as any time."
But when they got there Mr. Dodd's knock was so timid that he had to repeat
it before the judge came to the door and peered at them over his spectacles.
"Well, gentlemen, what can I do for you?" he asked, severely, though he knew
well enough. He had not been taken by surprise many times during the last forty
years. Mr. Dodd explained that they wished a little meeting of the committee.
The judge ushered them into his bedroom, the parlor being too good for such an
"Now, gentlemen," said he, "let us get down to business. Mr. Worthington
arrived here to-day, he has seen Mr. Dodd, and Mr. Dodd has seen Mr. Hill. Mr.
Worthington is a political opponent of Jethro Bass, and wishes Miss Wetherell
dismissed. Mr. Dodd and Mr. Hill have agreed, for various reasons which I will
spare you, that Miss Wetherell should be dismissed. Have I stated the case,
gentlemen, or have I not?"
Mr. Graves took off his spectacles and wiped them, looking from one to the
other of his very uncomfortable fellow-members. Mr. Hill did not attempt to
speak; but Mr. Dodd, who was not sure now that this was not the fire and the
other the frying-pan, pulled at his tuft until words came to him.
"Jedge," he said finally, "I must say I'm a mite surprised. I must say your
language is unwarranted."
"The truth is never unwarranted," said the judge.
"For the sake of the fair name of Brampton," began Mr. Dodd, "we cannot
"Mr. Dodd," interrupted the judge, "I would rather have Mr. Worthington's
arguments from Mr. Worthington himself, if I wanted them at all. There is no
need of prolonging this meeting. If I were to waste my breath until six o'clock,
it would be no use. I was about to say that your opinions were formed, but I
will alter that, and say that your minds are fixed. You are determined to
dismiss Miss Wetherell. Is it not so?"
"I wish you'd hear me, Jedge," said Mr. Dodd, desperately.
"Will you kindly answer me yes or no to that question," said the judge; "my
time is valuable."
"Well, if you put it that way, I guess we are agreed that she hadn't ought to
stay. Not that I've anything against her personally—"
"All right," said the judge, with a calmness that made them tremble. They had
never bearded him before. "All right, you are two to one and no certificate has
been issued. But I tell you this, gentlemen, that you will live to see the day
when you will bitterly regret this injustice to an innocent and a noble woman,
and Isaac D. Worthington will live to regret it. You may tell him I said so.
Good day, gentlemen."
"Jedge," began Mr. Dodd again, "I don't think you've been quite fair with
"Fair!" repeated the judge, with unutterable scorn. "Good day, gentlemen."
And he slammed the door behind them.
They walked down the street some distance before either of them spoke.
"Goliah," said Mr. Dodd, at last, "did you ever hear such talk? He's got the
drattedest temper of any man I ever knew, and he never callates to make a
mistake. It's a little mite hard to do your duty when a man talks that way."
"I'm not sure we've done it," answered Mr. Hill.
"Not sure!" ejaculated the hardware dealer, for he was now far enough away
from the judge's house to speak in his normal tone, "and she connected with that
"Hold on," said Mr. Hill, with an astonishing amount of spirit for him, "I've
heard that before."
Mr. Dodd looked at him, swallowed the wrong way and began to choke.
"You hain't wavered, Jonathan?" he said, when he got his breath.
"No, I haven't," said Mr. Hill, sadly; "but I wish to hell I had."
Mr. Dodd looked at him again, and began to choke again. It was the first time
he had known Jonathan Hill to swear.
"You're a-goin' to stick by what you agreed—by your principles?"
"I'm going to stick by my bread and butter," said Mr. Hill, "not by my
principles. I wish to hell I wasn't."
And so saying that gentleman departed, cutting diagonally across the street
through the snow, leaving Mr. Dodd still choking and pulling at his tuft. This
third and totally-unexpected shaking-up had caused him to feel somewhat deranged
internally, though it had not altered the opinions now so firmly planted in his
head. After a few moments, however, he had collected himself sufficiently to
move on once more, when he discovered that he was repeating to himself, quite
unconsciously, Mr. Hill's profanity "I wish to hell I wasn't." The iron mastiffs
glaring at him angrily out of the snow banks reminded him that he was in front
of Mr. Worthington's door, and he thought he might as well go in at once and
receive the great man's gratitude. He certainly deserved it. But as he put his
hand on the bell Mr. Worthington himself came out of the house, and would
actually have gone by without noticing Mr. Dodd if he had not spoken.
"I've got that little matter fixed, Mr. Worthington," he said, "called the
committee, and we voted to discharge the—the young woman." No, he did not
deliver Judge Graves's message.
"Very well, Mr. Dodd," answered the great man, passing on so that Mr. Dodd
was obliged to follow him in order to hear, "I'm glad you've come to your senses
at last. Kindly step into the library and tell Miss Bruce from me that she may
fill the place to-morrow."
"Certain," said Mr. Dodd, with his hand to his chin. He watched the great man
turn in at his bank in the new block, and then he did as he was bid.
By the time school was out that day the news had leaped across Brampton
Street and spread up and down both sides of it that the new teacher had been
dismissed. The story ran fairly straight—there were enough clews, certainly. The
great man's return, the visit of Mr. Dodd, the call on Judge Graves, all had
been marked. The fiat of the first citizen had gone forth that the ward of
Jethro Bass must be got rid of; the designing young woman who had sought to
entrap his son must be punished for her amazing effrontery.
Cynthia came out of school happily unaware that her name was on the lips of
Brampton: unaware, too, that the lord of the place had come into residence that
day. She had looked forward to living in the same town with Bob's father as an
evil which was necessary to be borne, as one of the things which are more or
less inevitable in the lives of those who have to make their own ways in the
world. The children trooped around her, and the little girls held her hand, and
she talked and laughed with them as she came up the street in the eyes of
Brampton,—came up the street to the block of new buildings where the bank was.
Stepping out of the bank, with that businesslike alertness which characterized
him, was the first citizen—none other. He found himself entangled among the
romping children and—horror of horrors he bumped into the schoolmistress
herself! Worse than this, he had taken off his hat and begged her pardon before
he looked at her and realized the enormity of his mistake. And the
schoolmistress had actually paid no attention to him, but with merely heightened
color had drawn the children out of his way and passed on without a word. The
first citizen, raging inwardly, but trying to appear unconcerned, walked rapidly
back to his house. On the street of his own town, before the eyes of men, he had
been snubbed by a school-teacher. And such a schoolteacher!
Mr. Worthington, as he paced his library burning with the shame of this
occurrence, remembered that he had had to glance at her twice before it came
over him who she was. His first sensation had been astonishment. And now, in
spite of his bitter anger, he had to acknowledge that the face had made an
impression on him—a fact that only served to increase his rage. A conviction
grew upon him that it was a face which his son, or any other man, would not be
likely to forget. He himself could not forget it.
In the meantime Cynthia had reached her home, her cheeks still smarting,
conscious that people had stared at her. This much, of course, she knew—that
Brampton believed Bob Worthington to be in love with her: and the knowledge at
such times made her so miserable that the thought of Jethro's isolation alone
deterred her from asking Miss Lucretia Penniman for a position in Boston. For
she wrote to Miss Lucretia about her life and her reading, as that lady had made
her promise to do. She sat down now at the cherry chest of drawers that was also
a desk, to write: not to pour out her troubles, for she never had done that,—but
to calm her mind by drawing little character sketches of her pupils. But she had
only written the words, "My dear Miss Lucretia," when she looked out of the
window and saw Judge Graves coming up the path, and ran to open the door for
"How do you do, Judge?" she said, for she recognized Mr. Graves as one of her
few friends in Brampton. "I have sent to Boston for the new reader, but it has
The judge took her hand and pressed it and led her into the little sitting
room. His face was very stern, but his eyes, which had flung fire at Mr. Dodd,
looked at her with a vast compassion. Her heart misgave her.
"My dear," he said,—it was long since the judge had called any woman "my
dear,"—"I have bad news for you. The committee have decided that you cannot
teach any longer in the Brampton school."
"Oh, Judge," she answered, trying to force back the tears which would come,
"I have tried so hard. I had begun to believe that I could fill the place."
"Fill the place!" cried the judge, startling her with his sudden anger. "No
woman in the state can fill it better than you."
"Then why am I dismissed?" she asked breathlessly.
The judge looked at her in silence, his blue lips quivering. Sometimes even
he found it hard to tell the truth. And yet he had come to tell it, that she
might suffer less. He remembered the time when Isaac D. Worthington had done him
a great wrong.
"You are dismissed," he said, "because Mr. Worthington has come home, and
because the two other members of the committee are dogs and cowards." Mr. Graves
never minced matters when he began, and his voice shook with passion. "If Mr.
Errol had examined you, and you had your certificate, it might have been
different. Errol is not a sycophant. Worthington does not hold his mortgage."
"Mortgage!" exclaimed Cynthia. The word always struck terror to her soul.
"Mr. Worthington holds Mr. Hill's mortgage," said Mr. Graves, more than ever
beside himself at the sight of her suffering. "That man's tyranny is not to be
borne. We will not give up, Cynthia. I will fight him in this matter if it takes
my last ounce of strength, so help me God!"
Mortgage! Cynthia sank down in the chair by the desk. In spite of the misery
the news had brought, the thought that his father, too, who was fighting Jethro
Bass as a righteous man, dealt in mortgages and coerced men to do his will, was
overwhelming. So she sat for a while staring at the landscape on the old wall
"I will go to Coniston to-night," she said at last.
"No," cried the judge, seizing her shoulder in his excitement, "no. Do you
think that I have been your friend—that I am your friend?"
"Oh, Judge Graves—"
"Then stay here, where you are. I ask it as a favor to me. You need not go to
the school to-morrow—indeed, you cannot. But stay here for a day or two at
least, and if there is any justice left in a free country, we shall have it.
Will you stay, as a favor to me?"
"I will stay, since you ask it," said Cynthia. "I will do what you think
Her voice was firmer than he expected—much firmer. He glanced at her quickly,
with something very like admiration in his eye.
"You are a good woman, and a brave woman," he said, and with this somewhat
surprising tribute he took his departure instantly.
Cynthia was left to her thoughts, and these were harassing and sorrowful
enough. One idea, however, persisted through them all. Mr. Worthington, whose
power she had lived long enough in Brampton to know, was an unjust man and a
hypocrite. That thought was both sweet and bitter: sweet, as a retribution; and
bitter, because he was Bob's father. She realized, now, that Bob knew these
things, and she respected and loved him the more, if that were possible, because
he had refrained from speaking of them to her. And now another thought came, and
though she put it resolutely from her, persisted. Was she not justified now in
marrying him? The reasoning was false, so she told herself. She had no right to
separate Bob from his father, whatever his father might be. Did not she still
love Jethro Bass? Yes, but he had renounced his ways. Her heart swelled
gratefully as she spoke the words to herself, and she reflected that he, at
least, had never been a hypocrite.
Of one thing she was sure, now. In the matter of the school she had right on
her side, and she must allow Judge Graves to do whatever he thought proper to
maintain that right. If Isaac D. Worthington's character had been different,
this would not have been her decision. Now she would not leave Brampton in
disgrace, when she had done nothing to merit it. Not that she believed that the
judge would prevail against such mighty odds. So little did she think so that
she fell, presently, into a despondency which in all her troubles had not
overtaken her—the despondency which comes even to the pure and the strong when
they feel the unjust strength of the world against them. In this state her eyes
fell on the letter she had started to Miss Lucretia Penniman, and in desperation
she began to write.
It was a short letter, reserved enough, and quite in character. It was right
that she should defend herself, which she did with dignity, saying that she
believed the committee had no fault to find with her duties, but that Mr.
Worthington had seen fit to bring influence to bear upon them because of her
connection with Jethro Bass.
It was not the whole truth, but Cynthia could not bring herself to write of
that other reason. At the end she asked, very simply, if Miss Lucretia could
find her something to do in Boston in case her dismissal became certain. Then
she put on her coat, and walked to the postoffice to post the letter, for she
resolved that there could be no shame without reason for it. There was a little
more color in her cheeks, and she held her head high, preparing to be slighted.
But she was not slighted, and got more salutations, if anything, than usual. She
was, indeed, in the right not to hide her head, and policy alone would have
forbade it, had Cynthia thought of policy.