“I shall send the sheriff and a posse,” he said with a troubled look.
“Pardon me, but I think it will make a bad matter worse,” I answered.
“We must not forget that the patroons are our clients,” he remarked.
I yielded and went on with my work. In the next week or so I satisfied myself of the rectitude of my opinions. Then came the most critical point in my history—a conflict with Thrift and Fear on one side and Conscience on the other.
The judge raised my salary. I wanted the money, but every day I would have to lend my help, directly or indirectly, to the prosecution of claims which I could not believe to be just. My heart went out of my work. I began to fear myself. For weeks I had not the courage to take issue with the learned judge.
One evening I went to his home determined to put an end to my unhappiness. After a little talk I told him frankly that I thought the patroons should seek a friendly settlement with their tenants.
“Why?” he asked.
“Because their position is unjust, un-American and untenable,” was my answer.
He rose and gave me his hand and a smile of forbearance in consideration of my youth, as I took it.
I left much irritated and spent a sleepless night in the course of which I decided to cling to the ideals of David Hoffman and Silas Wright.
In the morning I resigned my place and asked to be relieved as soon as the convenience of the judge would allow it. He tried to keep me with gentle persuasion and higher pay, but I was firm. Then I wrote a long letter to my friend the Senator.
Again I had chosen my way and with due regard to the compass.
THE MAN WITH THE SCYTHE
It was late in June before I was able to disengage myself from the work of the judge’s office. Meanwhile there had been blood shed back in the hills. One of the sheriff’s posse had been severely wounded by a bullet and had failed to serve the writs. The judge had appealed to the governor. People were talking of “the rent war.”
Purvis had returned to St. Lawrence County and hired to my uncle for the haying. He had sent me a letter which contained the welcome information that the day he left the stage at Canton, he had seen Miss Dunkelberg on the street.
“She was lookin’ top-notch—stop’t and spoke to me,” he went on. “You cood a nocked me down with a fether I was that scairt. She ast me how you was an’ I lookt her plum in the eye an’ I says: all grissul from his head to his heels, mam, an’ able to lick Lew Latour, which I seen him do in quick time an’ tolable severe. He can fight like a bob-tailed cat when he gits a-goin’, I says.”
What a recommendation to the sweet, unsullied spirit of Sally! Without knowledge of my provocation what would she think of me? He had endowed me with all the frightfulness of his own cherished ideal, and what was I to do about it? Well, I was going home and would try to see her.