The Man That Corrupted Hadleyburg eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 53 pages of information about The Man That Corrupted Hadleyburg.

“I beg you not to threaten me,” said the stranger calmly.  “I know my legal rights, and am not accustomed to being frightened at bluster.” [Applause.] He sat down.  “Dr.”  Harkness saw an opportunity here.  He was one of the two very rich men of the place, and Pinkerton was the other.  Harkness was proprietor of a mint; that is to say, a popular patent medicine.  He was running for the Legislature on one ticket, and Pinkerton on the other.  It was a close race and a hot one, and getting hotter every day.  Both had strong appetites for money; each had bought a great tract of land, with a purpose; there was going to be a new railway, and each wanted to be in the Legislature and help locate the route to his own advantage; a single vote might make the decision, and with it two or three fortunes.  The stake was large, and Harkness was a daring speculator.  He was sitting close to the stranger.  He leaned over while one or another of the other Symbols was entertaining the house with protests and appeals, and asked, in a whisper,

“What is your price for the sack?”

“Forty thousand dollars.”

“I’ll give you twenty.”

“No.”

“Twenty-five.”

“No.”

“Say thirty.”

“The price is forty thousand dollars; not a penny less.”

“All right, I’ll give it.  I will come to the hotel at ten in the morning.  I don’t want it known; will see you privately.”

“Very good.”  Then the stranger got up and said to the house: 

“I find it late.  The speeches of these gentlemen are not without merit, not without interest, not without grace; yet if I may he excused I will take my leave.  I thank you for the great favour which you have shown me in granting my petition.  I ask the Chair to keep the sack for me until to-morrow, and to hand these three five-hundred-dollar notes to Mr. Richards.”  They were passed up to the Chair.

“At nine I will call for the sack, and at eleven will deliver the rest of the ten thousand to Mr. Richards in person at his home.  Good-night.”

Then he slipped out, and left the audience making a vast noise, which was composed of a mixture of cheers, the “Mikado” song, dog-disapproval, and the chant, “You are f-a-r from being a b-a-a-d man—­a-a-a a-men!”

IV.

At home the Richardses had to endure congratulations and compliments until midnight.  Then they were left to themselves.  They looked a little sad, and they sat silent and thinking.  Finally Mary sighed and said: 

“Do you think we are to blame, Edward—­much to blame?” and her eyes wandered to the accusing triplet of big bank-notes lying on the table, where the congratulators had been gloating over them and reverently fingering them.  Edward did not answer at once; then he brought out a sigh and said, hesitatingly: 

“We—­we couldn’t help it, Mary.  It—­well it was ordered. All things are.”

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The Man That Corrupted Hadleyburg from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.