A TALK BEFORE BREAKFAST
Looking at my watch, I found it was a little after three, which meant six in Washington: allowing for transmission, a telegram would reach there in time to be on hand with the opening of the Departments. I therefore wired at once to the following effect:—
“Postmaster-General, Washington, D.C. A peremptory mandamus has been issued by Territorial judge to compel me to deliver to addressee the three registered letters which by your directions, issued October sixteenth, I was to hold pending arrival of special agent Jackson. Service of writ will be made at three forty-five to-day unless prevented. Telegraph me instructions how to act.”
That done I had a good tub, took a brisk walk down the track, and felt so freshened up as to be none the worse for my sleepless night. I returned to the station a little after six, and, to my surprise, found Miss Cullen walking up and down the platform.
“You are up early!” we both said together.
“Yes,” she sighed. “I couldn’t sleep last night.”
“You’re not unwell, I hope?”
I looked a question, and she went on: “I have some worries, and then last night I saw you were all keeping some bad news from me, and so I couldn’t sleep.”
“Then we did wrong to make a mystery of it, Miss Cullen,” I said, “for it really isn’t anything to trouble about. Mr. Camp is simply taking legal steps to try to force me to deliver those letters to him.”
“And can he succeed?”
“How will you stop him?”
“I don’t know yet just what we shall do, but if worse comes to worse I will allow myself to be committed for contempt of court.”
“What would they do with you?”
“Give me free board for a time.”
“Not send you to prison?”
“Oh!” she cried, “that mustn’t be. You must not make such a sacrifice for us.”
“I’d do more than that for you,” I said, and I couldn’t help putting a little emphasis on the last word, though I knew I had no right to do it.
She understood me, and blushed rosily, even while she protested, “It is too much—”
“There’s really no likelihood,” I interrupted, “of my being able to assume a martyr’s crown, Miss Cullen; so don’t begin to pity me till I’m behind the bars.”
“But I can’t bear to think—”
“Don’t,” I interrupted again, rejoicing all the time at her evident anxiety, and blessing my stars for the luck they had brought me. “Why, Miss Cullen,” I went on, “I’ve become so interested in your success and the licking of those fellows that I really think I’d stand about anything rather than that they should win. Yesterday, when Mr. Camp threatened to—” Then I stopped, as it suddenly occurred to me that it was best not to tell Madge that I might lose my position, for it would look like a kind of bid for her favor, and, besides, would only add to her worries.