Harwood’s face had gone white, but he smiled and knit his fingers together behind his head with an air of nonchalance that he did not feel. He knew that Thatcher meant to drive Bassett out of politics, but he had little faith in Thatcher’s ability to do so. He discredited wholly the story Allen had so glibly recited. By Allen’s own admission the tale was deficient in what Harwood’s lawyer’s instinct told him were essentials. The idea that Bassett could ever have been so stupid as to leave traces of any imaginable iniquities plain enough for Thatcher to find them after many years was preposterous. The spectacle of the pot calling the kettle black, never edifying, aroused Dan’s ire against Thatcher. And Bassett was not that sort; his old liking for the man stirred to life again. Even the Rose Farrell incident did not support this wretched tissue of fabrication. He had hated Bassett for that; but it was not for the peccable Thatcher to point a mocking finger at Achilles’s heel.
“Well,” said Allen impatiently.
“Well,” Dan blurted contemptuously, “I think your father’s stooped pretty low, that’s all. You can tell him for me that if he’s digging in the muck-pile for that sort of thing, I’m done with him; I’m not only done with him, but if he attempts to use any such stuff as that, I’ll fight him; I will raise a war on him that won’t be forgotten in this state through all eternity. You tell him that; tell him you told me your story and that’s what I said about it.”
“But, Dan, old man—” began Allen pleadingly.
Harwood shook his head until his cowlick bobbed and danced.
“You’d better get out of here, Allen. If you think you can marry Morton Bassett’s daughter with that kind of a scandal in your pocket, I tell you you’re mad—you’ve plumb gone insane! Great God, boy, you don’t know the meaning of the words you use. You handle that thing like a child with a loaded pistol. Don’t you see what that would mean—to Marian, to Blackford, to Mrs. Bassett—to Aunt Sally! Now, you want my advice, or you said you did, and I’m going to give you some. You go right down to that bank over there on the corner and buy a steamer ticket and a long letter of credit. Then take the first train for New York and go back to your mother and stay there till I send for you to come home. I mean that—every word of it. If you don’t skip I’m damned if I don’t go to Bassett and tell him this whole rotten story.”
Allen, the tears glistening in his frightened eyes, turned toward the door.
“Good-bye, Dan, old man; I’m sorry it had to end this way. I’m disappointed, that’s all.”
He paused after opening the door, hoping to be called back, but Harwood had walked to the window and stood with his hands in his pockets staring into the street.
A SONG AND A FALLING STAR
This was on Friday, and Harwood took the afternoon train for Waupegan. He had found that when he was tired or lonely or troubled he craved the sight of Sylvia. Sylvia alone could restore his equanimity; Sylvia who worked hard but never complained of weariness; Sylvia who saw life steadily and saw it whole, where he caught only fitful, distorted glimpses. Yes; he must see Sylvia. Not only must he see her but there were things he meant to say to her.