As Tom trudged home his mind was full of dreary thoughts and wild plans; but at last he said to himself, wearily:
“There is but the one way out. I must follow her plan. But with a variation—I will not ask for the money and ruin myself; I will ROB the old skinflint.”
CHAPTER 19 — The Prophesy Realized
Few things are harder
to put up with than the annoyance of
a good example. —Pudd’nhead Wilson’s Calendar
It were not best
that we should all think alike; it is
difference of opinion that makes horse races. —Pudd’nhead
Dawson’s Landing was comfortably finishing its season of dull repose and waiting patiently for the duel. Count Luigi was waiting, too; but not patiently, rumor said. Sunday came, and Luigi insisted on having his challenge conveyed. Wilson carried it. Judge Driscoll declined to fight with an assassin—“that is,” he added significantly, “in the field of honor.”
Elsewhere, of course, he would be ready. Wilson tried to convince him that if he had been present himself when Angelo told him about the homicide committed by Luigi, he would not have considered the act discreditable to Luigi; but the obstinate old man was not to be moved.
Wilson went back to his principal and reported the failure of his mission. Luigi was incensed, and asked how it could be that the old gentleman, who was by no means dull-witted, held his trifling nephew’s evidence in inferences to be of more value than Wilson’s. But Wilson laughed, and said:
“That is quite simple; that is easily explicable. I am not his doll—his baby—his infatuation: his nature is. The judge and his late wife never had any children. The judge and his wife were past middle age when this treasure fell into their lap. One must make allowances for a parental instinct that has been starving for twenty-five or thirty years. It is famished, it is crazed with hunger by that time, and will be entirely satisfied with anything that comes handy; its taste is atrophied, it can’t tell mud cat from shad. A devil born to a young couple is measurably recognizable by them as a devil before long, but a devil adopted by an old couple is an angel to them, and remains so, through thick and thin. Tom is this old man’s angel; he is infatuated with him. Tom can persuade him into things which other people can’t—not all things; I don’t mean that, but a good many—particularly one class of things: the things that create or abolish personal partialities or prejudices in the old man’s mind. The old man liked both of you. Tom conceived a hatred for you. That was enough; it turned the old man around at once. The oldest and strongest friendship must go to the ground when one of these late-adopted darlings throws a brick at it.”
“It’s a curious philosophy,” said Luigi.