“He’s my friend,” said the ‘Bishop’ stoutly.
“My son,” said the old man solemnly, “died six years ago, and he can never, never,” the second word rang grimly out, “be raised from the dead. That man there,” his voice faltered for the first time, “is another son whom I do not know—whom I do not want to know—let him ask himself if he is fit to return with me to England, to live with those gentlewomen, his sisters, to inherit the duties and responsibilities that even such wealth as mine bring in their train. He knows that he is not fit. Is he fit to take my hand?”
He stretched forth his lean white hand, the hand that had signed so many cheques. Dick did not try to touch it. The ‘Bishop’ wiped his eyes. The poor fellow looked the picture of misery.
“If there be the possibility of atonement for such as he,” continued the speaker—“and God forbid that I should dare to say there is not—let that atonement be made here where he has sinned. It seems that the stoppage of his allowance tempted him to commit suicide. I did not know my son was a coward. Now, to close for ever that shameful avenue down which he might slink from the battle, I pledge myself to pay again that five pounds a month during my life, and to secure the same to Richard Cartwright after my death, so long as he shall live. That, I think, is all.”
He passed with dignity out of the room and into the street, where the buggy awaited him. Dick remained standing, but the ‘Bishop’ followed the father, noting how, as soon as he had crossed the threshold, his back became bowed and his steps faltered. He touched the old man lightly on the shoulder.
“May I take your hand?” he asked. “I am not fit, no fitter than Dick, but——”
Mr. Carteret held out his hand, and the ‘Bishop’ pressed it gently.
“I believe,” said Mr. Carteret after a pause, “that you, sir, may live to be an honest man.”
“I’ll look after Dick,” blubbered the ‘Bishop,’ sorely affected. “Dick will pan out all right—in the end.”
But Dick’s father shuddered.
“It’s very chilly,” he said, with a nervous cough. “Good-night, Mr. Crisp. Good-night, and God bless you.”
A RAGAMUFFIN OF THE FOOTHILLS
Jeff looked ruefully at the hot dusty road which curled upward and in front of him like a great white snake. At the top of the grade, where some pines stood out against the blue sky, hung a small reek of dust concealing the figure of his late companion. As Jeff gazed, the reek melted away. The young man told himself that he was alone in the brush foothills, with a lame horse, and a body (his own) so bruised and battered that it seemed to belong to somebody else.
“Hello!” said a voice.
Jeff stared into the chaparral. Wild lilac and big sage bushes, flowering lupins and gilias, bordered the road, for spring was abroad in San Lorenzo county. A boy slipped through the lilacs.