MARTIN PIKE KEEPS AN ENGAGEMENT
An hour later, Martin Pike, looking forth from the Mansion, saw a man open the gate, and, passing between the unemotional deer, rapidly approach the house. He was a thin young fellow, very well dressed in dark gray, his hair prematurely somewhat silvered, his face prematurely somewhat lined, and his hat covered a scar such as might have been caused by a blow from a blunt instrument in the nature of a poker.
He did not reach the door, nor was there necessity for him to ring, for, before he had set foot on the lowest step, the Judge had hastened to meet him. Not, however, with any fulsomely hospitable intent; his hand and arm were raised to execute one of his Olympian gestures, of the kind which had obliterated the young man upon a certain by-gone morning.
Louden looked up calmly at the big figure towering above him.
“It won’t do, Judge,” he said; that was all, but there was a significance in his manner and a certainty in his voice which caused the uplifted hand to drop limply; while the look of apprehension which of late had grown more and more to be Martin Pike’s habitual expression deepened into something close upon mortal anxiety.
“Have you any business to set foot upon my property?” he demanded.
“Yes,” answered Joe. “That’s why I came.”
“What business have you got with me?”
“Enough to satisfy you, I think. But there’s one thing I don’t want to do”—Joe glanced at the open door—“and that is to talk about it here—for your own sake and because I think Miss Tabor should be present. I called to ask you to come to her house at eight o’clock to-night.”
“You did!” Martin Pike spoke angrily, but not in the bull-bass of yore; and he kept his voice down, glancing about him nervously as though he feared that his wife or Mamie might hear. “My accounts with her estate are closed,” he said, harshly. “If she wants anything, let her come here.”
Joe shook his head. “No. You must be there at eight o’clock.”
The Judge’s choler got the better of his uneasiness. “You’re a pretty one to come ordering me around!” he broke out. “You slanderer, do you suppose I haven’t heard how you’re going about traducing me, undermining my character in this community, spreading scandals that I am the real owner of Beaver Beach—”
“It can easily be proved, Judge,” Joe interrupted, quietly, “though you’re wrong: I haven’t been telling people. I haven’t needed to—even if I’d wished. Once a thing like that gets out you can’t stop it—ever! That isn’t all: to my knowledge you own other property worse than the Beach; I know that you own half of the worst dens in the town: profitable investments, too. You bought them very gradually and craftily, only showing the deeds to those in charge—as you did to Mike Sheehan, and not recording them. Sheehan’s betrayal of you gave me the key; I know most of the poor creatures who are your tenants, too, you see, and that gave me an advantage because they have some confidence in me. My investigations have been almost as quiet and careful as your purchases.”