“I can’t help that!” was the savage response. “It’s a battle to the death, and the smoke of it has got into my blood. If I believed in God, as I used to once, I’d be down on my knees to Him this minute, asking Him to let me live long enough to see these two hypocritical thieves,—thugs,—sandbaggers,—hit the bottom!”
He turned away, walked to the north end of the veranda, where the flare of the rekindled furnace was redly visible over the knolls, and presently came back.
“I said you should know after a little: you may as well know now. I planned this thing; I set out to break them; and, as it happened, I wasn’t a moment too soon. In another week you and Major Dabney would have had a chance to sell out for little or nothing, or lose it all. Farley had it fixed to be swallowed by the trust, and this is how it was to be done. Farley stipulated that the stock transaction should figure as a forced sale at next to nothing, in which all the stock-holders should participate, and that the remainder of the purchase price, which would have been a fair figure for all the stock, should be paid to him and his son individually as a bonus!”
The old iron-master groaned. In spite of the hard teaching of all the years, he would have clung to some poor shadow of belief in Duxbury Farley if he could have done so.
“That’s all,” Tom went on stridently: “all but the turning of the trick that put them in the hole they were digging for you and the Major. Vint Farley had no notion of letting Ardea bring her money into the family of her own free will: he planned to rob her first and marry her afterward. Now, by God, I’m going down to tell them both what they’re up against! Don’t sit up for me.”
He had taken a dozen strides down the graveled path when he saw some one coming hurriedly across the lawns from Deer Trace, and heard a voice—the voice of the woman he loved—calling to him softly in the stillness:
“Tom! O Tom!” it said, “please wait—just one minute!”
But there are lusts mightier, momentarily, than love, and the lust of vengeance is one. He made as if he did not see or hear; and lest she should overtake him, left the path to lose himself among the trees and to vault the low boundary wall into the pike at a point safely out of sight from the gate.
A SOUL IN SHACKLES
The blue autumn night haze had almost the consistency of a cloud when Gordon leaped the wall and set his face toward the iron-works. Or rather it was like the depths of a translucent sea in which the distant electric lights of Mountain View Avenue shone as blurs of phosphorescent life on one hand, and the great dark bulk of Lebanon loomed as the massive foundations of a shadowy island on the other.
Farther on, the recurring flare from the tall vent of the blast-furnace lighted the haze depths weirdly, turning the mysterious sea bottom into fathomless abysses of dull-red incandescence for the few seconds of its duration—a slow lightning flash submerged and half extinguished.