Tom lurched into the room and threw himself feebly on the promoter, and Vincent made as if he would come between. But there was no need for intervention. Duxbury Farley had only to step aside, and Tom fell heavily, clutching the air as he went down.
The dusty office which had once been his mother’s sitting-room was cleared of all save his father when Tom recovered consciousness and sat up, with Caleb’s arm to help.
“There, now, Buddy; you ortn’t to tried to get up and come down here,” said the father soothingly. But Tom’s blood was on fire.
“Tell me!” he raved: “have they got the foundry away from you?”
Caleb nodded gravely. “But don’t you mind none about that, son. What I’m sweatin’ about now is the fix you’re in. My God! ain’t Fred ever goin’ to get back with Doc Williams!”
Tom struggled to his feet, tottering.
“I don’t need any doctor, pappy; you couldn’t kill me with a bullet—not till I’ve cut the heart out of these devils that have robbed you. Give me the pistol from that drawer, and drive me down to the station before their train comes. I’ll do it, and by God, I’ll do it now!”
But when old Longfellow, jigging vertically between the buggy shafts, picked his way out of the furnace yard, he was permitted to turn of his own accord in the homeward direction; and an hour later the sick man was back in bed, mingling horrible curses with his insistent calls for Ardea. And this time Miss Dabney did not come.
THE WINE-PRESS OF WRATH
There was more to that crazy outburst of Tom’s about the cutting out of hearts, and the like, than would appear on the surface of things, to you who dwell in a land shadowed with wings, where law abides and a man sues his neighbor for defamation of character, if he is called a liar, I mean.
In the land unshadowed, where Polaris makes a somewhat sharper angle with the horizon, there is law, also, but much of it is unwritten. And one of the unwritten statutes is that which maintains the inherent right of a man to avenge his own quarrel with his own hand.
So, when the younger Gordon was up and about again, and was able to keep his seat soldierly on the back of the big bay, folk who knew the Gordon blood and temper looked for trouble, not of the plaintiff-and-defendant sort; and when it did not come, there were a few to lament the degeneracy of the times, and to say that old Caleb, for example, would never have so slept on his father’s wrongs.
But Tom was not degenerate, even in the sense of those who thought he should have called out and shot the younger of the Farleys. It was in him to kill or be killed, quite in the traditional way: that grim gift is in the blood as the wine is in the grape—to stay unless you shall water it to extinction with many base inbreedings. Nor was the spur lacking. When the sweeping extent of the business coup de grace was measured, Woodlawn was left, and there were a few thousands in bank; these and the three hundred and fifty shares of the reorganization stock which the Farleys might render worthless at will.