Dudley took the cigar from his mouth and threw the match over the railing into the grass. “Oh, I’ll do my best,” he answered readily, “and I’ll see that the statements are delivered to the newspapers at once. I am as much interested in it as you are. It was a dirty piece of work.” And leaving Galt, he quickened his pace as he crossed the street.
Diggs was at his hotel and somewhat relieved at the sudden turn of affairs. “Honestly, I hated it,” he frankly admitted. “It’s the kind of job I’d like to wash my hands of. But Major Rann took oath on the truth of the story, and he convinced me that I owed it to the community to expose Burr’s character. I don’t know why I believed it, except that it never occurs to one to doubt evil. However, I’m glad you called. I assure you I’ll take more pleasure in retracting the statements than I did in making them.”
He wrote the notes and gave them into Dudley’s hands. “If they don’t get in to-morrow’s issue, they must wait over till election day. It’s a pity this is Saturday—but you’ll have them in, I dare say.”
“Yes; I’ll take them down,” said Dudley. He descended in the elevator, walking rapidly when he reached the pavement. Diggs’s parting words came back to him and he repeated them as he went. Tomorrow’s was the last paper before election day. If the speech were reported in the morning issue and Burr’s friends made no denial, there would be, as far as the country voters were concerned, a silence of two days. The contest was not yet decided, this he knew—it would be a close one, and a straw’s weight might turn the scales of public favour. Rann realised this too, for he did not fling slime at men for nothing—there was a serious purpose underneath the last act of his play. He was doing it for the sake of those Democrats whose constituents were divided against themselves, and he was trusting to himself to hold the votes that came his way when the cloud should have passed from Burr again. It was all so evident that Dudley held his breath for one brief instant. The whole scheme lay bare before him—he had but to drop these letters into the nearest box, and Rann’s purpose would be fulfilled. In the howl of reprobation that followed the hounding of Burr his own hour would come. And granted that the governor was cleared before the meeting of the caucus—well, men are easier to keep than to win—and he might not be cleared after all.
A clock near at hand struck the hour. He raised his head and saw the “Standard” office across the street—and the temptation passed as swiftly as it had come. The instinct of generations was stronger than the appeal of the moment—he might sin a great sin, but he could never commit a meanness.
With sudden energy he crossed the street and ran up the stairs.
Again he was returning to Kingsborough. The familiar landscape rushed by him on either side—green meadow and russet woodland, gray swamp and dwarfed brown hill, unploughed common and sun-ripened field of corn. It was like the remembered features of a friend, when the change that startles the unaccustomed eye seems to exist less in the well-known face than in the image we have carried in our thoughts.