SHORT STORIES

The Experience of the Grafter

J. Frank Davis November 1 1908
SHORT STORIES

The Experience of the Grafter

J. Frank Davis November 1 1908

The Experience of the Grafter

By J. Frank Davis in Ainslee’s.

GOVERNOR PRESTON sat at his

big, flat library-desk, studying the returns from the last ballot at the convention. Across the room Bosworth, his secretary, was scanning the latest editions of the afternoon papers. The September twilight was fading and the electric lights had been turned on.

A servant knocked and entered. “Mrs. Ellison has gone to her room with a headache, sir,” she said. “Miss Ruth is having her supper now. She wants to know if she cap come in to see you before she goes to bed—at eight o’clock.”

“Tell her yes, Mary,” said the governor, glancing up. “Things ought to be over by then—one way or the other,” he remarked to Bosworth.

“I should think so,” replied the secretary. “They’ve been at it since noontime. I don’t believe any convention in this State ever lasted so long.”

“Just" let me look at that last ballot again,” said the governor. “The one you received while I was at dinner.”

Bosworth brought him the slip.

“Evans said there was a good deal of confusion and lots of excitement, but it looked to him as though you might be nominated on the next ballot. He said Gregson’s men were likely to break for you at any minute. If they do you’ll have a good strong majority.”

Governor Preston studied the slip, analyzing the figures again.

“Yes,” he said. “And I’d get Williamson’s eighteen votes, too—or most of them —if Evans pulls off a stampede.”

The optimism of youth surged up in Bosworth. “You’re just the same as renominated already,” he said enthusiastically.

The older man nodded in half agreement. “Perhaps,” he said, “but I’ll be surer of it when the last ballot is taken. I know Tim Woolford. He knows all the tricks there are in politics—and works them, too. The one ambition of his life is to be governor of this State. He’s got a hundred and sixty-eight votes out of two hundred and

B

thirty-six for the nomination, and if hook or crook will get him the rest-”

The insistent ringing of the telephonebell interrupted the sentence. Bosworth seized the receiver.

“Hello,” he said. “Yes. This is Bosworth. What? Don’t talk so fast. I can’t understand. They’ve done—what? They wouldn’t dare—what ?”

Covering the transmitter with his hand he turned a suddenly flushed face to the governor.

“It’s Evans,” he said tensely. “He says there’s hell to pay. Somebody’s spread a story all over the convention hall that you personally engineered that deal in the Legislature, last spring, that gave the Metropolitan Railroad that big grab up State. They are saying you sold out the State. The Ledger has got out an extra and is calling you a grafter in big type on the first page.

“Yes, yes,” cried the secretary into the telephone, in response to the frantic “hellos” of Preston’s campaign manager, at the other end of the wire. He listened again, with occasional monosyllabic interruptions, while the governor, his square, clean-shaven jaw set into that rigidity that his enemies had learned to fear, stood silent, every brain-cell at work in the endeavor to meet and counteract this last move in a most desperate political fight.

“Evans thinks Woolford is at the bottom of it,” said Bosworth, in a moment, turning from the phone, “but he isn't sure yet. He says the country delegates are wabbling. Our fellows Succeeded in getting an adjournment for supper, but if we can’t do something to head off this story before they come back they’re likely to stampede to Woolford on the next ballot.”

“Give me the phone !” The governor was alert, sharp, incisive, stern. “Hello, Tom! This is Preston. What are you doing? Good! And have every countryman buttonholed within the next half-hour. Don’t let them get at him first, Deny it absolutely. Use my authority all you want

to. Where is Woolford? Find out. And watch all his lieutenants. I’ll keep in touch with things. If it’s necessary I’ll come onto the convention floor myself—precedents or no precedents. I was afraid of something like this. Because I know Woolford, that’s why.

Governor Preston sat at his desk for a moment in deepest thought. Then he turned to his secretary.

“Call up every place where you think he might be and find Jim Woolford,” he commanded. “Tell him I want to see him at once. No. Don’t telephone. Send a messenger, or go yourself. Have him brought here the minute he is found.”

The governor turned and began to search the drawers of his desk. Bosworth reached the door, then hesitated.

“Suppose he refuses to come?” he suggested.

It was a good point. The usual courtesy demanding that a State senator call at once upon the governor whenever requested might very well fail at such a time as this. The governor wrinkled his brows, thinking deeply.

“If he says he won’t come,” he finally said, “tell him he’d better come unless be wants the Ellington affair raked up again, both now and during the campaign. That’ll bring him—or I don’t know him.”

Left alone, Governor Preston continued to search the drawers of his desk In a moment he found a package of large envelopes, held by a rubber' band. Running over the inscriptions on each he took from the package an envelope marked “Metropolitan.” He spread its contents out upon the desk before him and went over the papers, one by one. Coming upon what he sought—a sheet of foolscap covered with writing—he read it carefully, then returned the other papers to their envelope and replaced the package in its drawer.

The sheet of foolscap, folded, he concealed beneath the big blotting-pad that covered his desk. Then he crossed the room and sank into his favorite Morris chair. There was nothing more, for the moment, that he could do personally. At the convention hall his lieutenants, he knew, were frantically working to save the day. And he had great confidence in Representative Tom Evans, his campaign manager.

At last it had come.

Somehow he had always known that some time, somewhere, he and Jim Woolford would come to a clinch. They had always known one another. They had gone to school together, played together, fought together, and always disliked one another. As they grew to manhood they had loved the same girl—Governor Preston’s face clouded—and she had married Woolford. That was why Preston was still a bachelor, living with his widowed sister. He had never asked any woman to marry him. He had had no desire to since the day when he came home from Cuba in a fever-ship, determined to tell his love to Ethel Severance as soon as he should be sufficiently recovered—and had found, in the first mail he was allowed to open at Montauk, the letter that announced her engagement, to Woolford. y.i; ; •

His mind wandered over the years that had passed since then—nearly ten. A feeling of age came over him—that feeling that comes, now and then, especially in moments of bitter struggle, to all men of forty as they look back over the hurrying years and the thought sinks into their heart that they have lived more than half their allptted days. AcMr

He had been successful in business ahd in politics. He had accumulated not great wealth, but a sufficiency of the world’s goods. Running for the House in the days right after peace had been made with Spain, when it was a political asset for a man to have belonged to a regiment that saw active service, his energy, brilliancy, honesty, and ability to make friends and keep them had smoothed for him a pathway through the State Senate to the governor’s chair. And now he was fighting for the nomination that should allow him to sit for another year in the executive chamber-^for a nomination by his party had always be§n equivalent to election. f

It had been a bitter fight. Those polijticians who believe in a spoils system raised to the nth. power frankly confessed that they had no use for Preston. The public-serviçe corporations didn’t like him—he was too prone to ask, “Where does the State come in?” when they suggested beneficial legislation. He had done his duty as he saw/It. Therefore there were powerful interests opposed to him. And Senator James Woplford, who had been second all day in the convention balloting and would win the

nomination if this last and most outrageous campaign lie had its desired effect, was the opposition incarnate.

Preston hardly doubted that he would be renominated, even now. He knew his weapons and he knew himself. And, withal, he was one of those men who never admit they are whipped. The configuration of his jaw showed that to any who cared to look. But as he sat this evening with his eyes half closed, waiting, it seemed to him that it was all not worth while. Successful in business and in politics—in everything but love, he thought regretfully, and love, after all, was the only thing that could count.

The door was pushed open softly and a curly black head was stuck cautiously through the opening. It was followed, an instant later, by a little body dressed in white. The child that owned the head and body shook her finger impressively at the doll she carried in her arms, to insure its perfect silence, and tiptoed elaborately into the room. In the middle of the floor she stopped, carefully laid the doll in a chair and said, with an effort at appearing “grown-up” :

“Ahem!”

•Governor Preston started from his reverie. When he saw who his visitor was his eyes-lighted up. “Why, chick,” he said, plavfully, “where did you come-”

The little girl, refusing to notice his outstretched hand, was going though a little pantomime very evidently pre-arranged in hecßiind.

Very gravely she attempted a deep and stately curtsy—a proceeding that resulted in her toppling over ignominiously, whereupon the governor smiled and she giggled hysterically. She recovered her gravity at once, however, began and this time completed'the elaborate bow, and proceeded to make this speech, composed quite evidently as the result of memories of state occasions :

“Miss Ruth Preston Hamilton presents her compliments to Mr. Uncle Harry Preston, governor of this great and ga-lo-rious State, and begs to remind him that he promised to tell her a perfectly be-yew-tiful fairy-story.”

The governor entered into the spirit of the thing. Perhaps it relieved the tension of his mind. Besides, it was common knowledge that he invariably spoiled this little orphaned niece.

He rose and bowed with as much ceremony as though he had been addressing the President of the United States. “Mr. Uncle Harry Preston presents his compliments to Miss Ruth Preston Hamilton,” he said, with a dignity that made the child’s eyes sparkle with mirth, “assures her that he distinctly remembers the promise, made quite recently at the dinner-table, but begs leave to state that he fears he cannot produce the said be-yew-tiful fairy-story at this time because of a great pressure of business—which business,” he added, with a sense of how absurd this scene would look to the fighters at the convention hall, “has to do with his hope that he may continue to remain governor of this great and ga-lo-rious State—and, therefore, he begs to be excused.”

The child did not understand all of this. She did grasp, however, that her request was refused. “Oh, Uncle Harry!” she cried, almost in tears. The grandiloquent manner was all gone. She was just a little girl again. He caught her up in his arms.

“I’m awfully sorry, chick,” he said.

“But I’m so lonesome,” she urged, with her head cuddled on his shoulder. “Aunt Evelyn’s gone to her room with a headache, and Mary is downstairs talking to the policeman—and I just ex-cep-tion-ally wanted to hear that story. Besides, you promised me a long time ago that on my birthday you would let me stay with you a long time in the evening.”

“Oh—it’s your birthday,” mused Preston seriously.

The child lifted her head from his shoulder and stared into his face with shocked surprise. “You—didn’t—forget it, did

you?” she demanded.

The governor lied valiantly. “Why, of course not,” he said.

“I’m seven years old now,” said Ruth complacently. “Pretty soon I’ll be all grown up.”

Governor Preston’s mind went back to the night, just-seven years ago, when the other Ruth, his favorite sister, had closed her eyes upon a tired world and left the new-born Ruth as a memorial. “As if I could ever need a reminder,” he thought. Ah, well ! Even though one must be a bachelor all his life—the thought was always a poignant one, even after ten years —it was fine to have such a sweet child to love. He pressed her closer to his shoulder.

“So you’ll tell me the story,” she said, interpreting the caress.

“Well, well.” He gave way, as he usually did. “If you’ve been a good girl today.”

Through a side door, opening through a hall into the grounds, came Bosworth, hurriedly.

“Woolford’s here !” he said.

The governor set the child down and sprang to his feet.

“Where is he?” he asked.

“In the side hall. I thought you might not want people to see him coming through the main entrance just now. Found him myself. First he said he wouldn’t come. Then I gave him that Ellington business pretty stiff and he changed his mind.”

“Good ! Bring him right in. Chick !” He turned to the child. “You’ve got to run along out of this. Take her to Mary, Boswrorth.”

Ruth’s lips began to quiver. “But you didn’t tell me the story, Uncle Harry.”

“That’s so, dear. Well, I’m afraid some other night will have to do.”

“And it was going to be a per-fectly beyew-tiful fairy-story. Please, Uncle Harry

She was on the verge of tears. The world is often harsh—at seven.

“There, there,” said the governor, kissing her. “I haven’t got a minute now, but come back by and by, just before you go to bed, and maybe—mind, I don’t say sure, but maybe—I’ll be able to get time for the story.”

Sunshine dissipated the threatened showers. “I’ll be back,” said the child, running for her doll. “And please tell it.”

As she left the room by one door Bosworth opened the other and ushered in Senator Woolford. The governor had resumed his seat at his desk and affected to be so busy with the papers before him as not to see the outstretched hand of his visitor.

“Good evening, governor,” said the senator, with smooth urbanity. “What can I do for you ?”

“How are ye, Woolford. Sit down, — Smoke?”

Woolford, at ease and apparently not a bit displeased with himself, took the proffered cigar and lit it. As he tossed away the match the governor came to the point

abruptly.

“Have you seen the Ledger?” he asked. Woolford was a little surprised at this sudden attack. “Why—er—yes,” he replied, with a little hesitation.

“What do you think of it?”

“Why-” The senator was a little

nonplused. “That’s a question I have-”

“Figure it’s going to nominate you on the next ballot, don’t you?”

“Oh, I’d hardly say that. Of course if

-” Woolford studied the ash of his

cigar attentively—“if you don’t happen to be in a position to disprove the story, the

natural tendency-”

“Do you believe it?”

This cross-examination was a little disconcerting. “Do I believe what?” asked Woolford, sparring for time.

“The Ledger story. That I was back of the Metropolitan steal. That I sold out to the railroad. That I’m a grafter.” U': “Why, no, of course not, governor.” Woolford’s every word reeked of insint cerity. - ... 1

“Have you told your friends you don’t believe it?” UU

“Now, governor!” The senator threw his hands out in a gesture of protests “That’s hardly to be exoected. We’ve got a fight on for that nomination. YóiUwaíi£ it—I want it. If this thing comes up at the eleventh hour to hurt your chances I’d be a fool to throw away any advantage.” “Would you win on a lie?”

The contempt in the governor’s £$id voice roused Woolford to defense. A:r;;

“There’s a difference between lawt\tennis and politics,” he said. “I play dbe game.” ■ :

“So do I,” retorted the governor, “buf ’I play it square.” Woolford shrugged his shoulders. “And it isn’t square, Woolford, to take this nomination at the cost of jnv reputation — my character — my gopd name.”

“You talk like the Y.M.C.A.”

The governor ignored the sneer. “What are vou going to do?” he demanded. “About what?”

“This story in the Ledger.”

“What can I' do?”

“Call off your dogs. Refuse to win by anv such contemntible trick.”

Woolford continued to smile—all but his eyes.

“Contemptible -is a harsh word, governor,” he said.

“It’s the word to fit this case. It’s a vicious, vile, contemptible trick. See here, Woolford. You’ve known me all my life. You know as well as you know anything that I’m not capable of sneaking through that Metropolitan steal. You know I’d have vetoed it in a minute if the governor of this State had the veto power. It was a dirty piece of thievery. The two words that sold the State, body and soul, to the Metropolitan Railroad, were put into that bill after it left the Senate, and the Committee on Engrossed Bills either didn’t or wouldn’t see them.”

“Ancient history, governor,” said Woolford. “We knew all that before.”

“And now you start this story to the effect that I had the words put in—this outrageous-”

Woolford interrupted him with a fineassumption of surprise. “I? Bless you no,” he said. “The Ledger dug up the facts.”

“And the Ledger is the principal organ back of your candidacy. Now you’re talking as if I were a political kindergartner.”

“Really, governor, I’m sorry you think I had anything to do with these charges.”

The governor leaned across his desk and looked Woolford full in the eye. “If you had known this story was going to be printed would you have done what you could to stop it?”

“Woolford met his gaze. “I should have at least given you the opportunity to disprove it”—he laughed a little—“if you can.”

“My character—my reputation—my political record—these things ought to disprove it.”

“Ought to—yes',” agreed the senator unconvincingly.

._“See here, Woolford !” snapped the governor. “You talk as if you questioned my innocence of this charge.”

Woolford affected a yawn. “Oh, of course your attitude is admirable,” he said, “and I hope you can clear yourself of the charge, and all that sort of thing.” He looked at his watch and his manner changed. “But I’m too old at the game to believe it,” he concluded.

Governor Preston swallowed hard. “You mean-•” he said slowly.

Woolford ceased to smile. He rose, and his eyes, steel-hard, narrowed at the governor. “I’m afraid you’ve come to the end

of your rope, governor,” he said, and snapped his watch-case together viciously. “The delegates will reconvene in forty minutes— and I’ve got things to do before then. Hadn’t you better retire from the contest before that time, and let it go at that? The evidence—your personal friendship for Wilde of the Metropolitan—the East Side real estate you bought right after the bill was passed—the other links in the chain— are too strong. Even your best friends must believe it. Naturally you have my sympathy, but even I-”

The governor came to his feet with every muscle tense. The men were facing each other across the desk. As he rose the governor placed his hand under the blottingpad and brought it out holding the paper he had placed there. All his repression vanished.

“You!” he cried. “You hypocrite! You liar ! Because I quietly pay out the rope you have the audacity to sit in saintly condemnation when I hold here in my hand ” —he thrust the paper before Woolford’s face—“the evidence that shows beyond a shadow of doubt who is the guilty man.”

“What is that?” demanded Woolford.

“The original memorandum sent to a member of the Committee on Engrossed Bills instructing him exactly where to insert the ‘joker’—the words ‘in perpetuity.’ ” Woolford reached out his hand as though to take the paper for examination. The governor drew it back and held it out of reach. “Not on your life, Woolford,” he said. “This paper is my salvation. It doesn’t leave mv hands until it goes to the people of this State.”

A red flush swept up over Woolford’s face. “That letter to Schuyler,” he cried, “is a forgery.”

“Did I say it was to Schuyler?” demanded the governor. “No. But I will. And I’ll say further that it is in a well-known handwriting—and that it bears, in leadpencil in one corner, the initials ‘W. E. J.’ —which are your initials, reversed—that you wrote it, Tim Woolford—that you are the grafter—the sneak—the disgrace to his party and his State. You thought it was burned, didn’t you? You didn’t realize, with all vour shrewdness, that a man who would sell himself to do your dirty work would sell out aerain to others. Don’t try that. Woolford,” sternly, as the senator made a movement as though he would

throw himself across the desk and take the paper by force. “I can lick you as well today as I did when We went to school together. Sit down !”

Woolford obeyed the command mechanically. There was silence for a moment, while he sat limply, readjusting his viewpoint. Then he spoke slowly.

“What—do you propose to do?” he asked.

“To send for the reporters and give them a copy of this memorandum.”

“Don’t do that, Preston. Remember— we’ve been friends since we were boys.” The governor threw him back his own sneer. “Politics isn’t lawn-tennis,” he said. “I’ll play the game—-your way.”

“It will mean ruin,” pleaded Woolford. “It will mean disgrace. My God ! Preston. What will my wife think?”

The governor turned on him sharply. “Let’s not bring her into it.”

“How can I help it? Don’t you see what it will mean to her? She believes me to be the soul of honor. She is certain I never did a dishonest thing or a mean thing in

my life. She is sure-•”

“Stop !” almost shouted the governor. “This is a good time to consider her, when you have never considered her before. When you first entered politics as the slave of the United Machinery did you consider what she would think if she ever found you out? When you killed Tom Stetson’s reputation and ruined his life, so he could be defeated by a man you could handle, did you think of her. When you bought poor Ellington of the House and he got caught and blew his brains out for the disgrace of it, did you think of her then? You’ve played with fire all these years, Jim Woolford, and now you’ve got to burn.”

“She doesn’t know any of these things. They never got into the papers. No one ever told her. She believes me to be everything that’s good, everything that’s-”

“Then it’s time she was undeceived.” “Let up on me, Preston. Don’t give that paper out. I’ll work for you. I’ll help you go to Washington, to the Senate.” Governor Preston shook his head impatiently, while Woolford continued: “I’ll reform.

I’ll go straight. Let’s think of some other way.”

“There is no other way,” said the governor. “I gave you your chance when you first came here to-night. I put myself in

your hands. I asked mercy from you. You gave your verdict against me—and you were judging yourself.”

“But my wife-” persisted Woolford.

The governor brought his fist down on his desk. “Your wife,” he exclaimed. “AI? ways your wife ! Man, don’t you suppose I’ve thought of your wife?”

For a moment Woolford looked into his eyes. Then he sprang from his chair and walked across the room and back.

“That’s it!” he cried. “I was a fool not to think of it before. You used to be in love with her yourself. You’re in love with her now.” He clenched his fists and the veins on his forçhead stood out with rage. “Damn you !” He shook his head at Preston, now also on his feet. “You’re not getting square with me for putting up that Ledger story. You’re taking a dirty, cowardly revenge on me for marrying the woman you wanted to marry yourself. Do you deny it?” : !

“That I wanted to marry her? No! I’m* proud of it. You know it now, just as yofi knew it ten years ago. I never told hér-—' you know why. When I went to Cuba with, my regiment I hoped to tell her when -1, came back—if I came back—and whenX did she was engaged to you. She never knew I loved her. She never will knowjt fromme.” ¡g

“And you’ve waited ten years, to get square with me.”

“No,” said the governor. “I never sought revenge. I hoped you would make her -g good husband. I wished her all the good fortune in the world—and you, too, because you were her husband. Why,” as Wool? ford continued to glower incredulously* “don’t you suppose I wanted to make this memorandum public when it first came into my possession, five months ago? Didn’t my duty and my inclination both point that way? Then why didn’t I? Because you were her husband. Even to-night I gave you your chance, for her sake. If you had shown mercy to me, when you thought you had me down and begging, I should have made terms with you. But now—it’s too late. This memorandum is going to the papers.”

Woolford covered his eyes with a hand. “She’ll leave me when she knows,” he almost

sobbed. “And then-” he turned on

Preston threateningly, his teeth showing like a wolf’s—“you expect to marry her

yourself. I suppose you’ve begun to make love to her already. Maybe she is willing you should.”

The governor struck him full in the face. “You rotten-minded dog!” he cried. Woolfood did not return the blow, but, dazed, began mechanically to pat with his fingers the place where it had fallen. The governor turned from him.

“What are you going to do?” asked Woolford, brokenly.

“I’m going to the convention hall,” replied the governor chokingly. “I’m going to read this memorandum to the delegates. I’m going to ruin you, do you hear—ruin you? I’ll follow it up. I’ll have you indicted, arrested, tried, convicted, sentenced, sent to prison, put in stripes. That’s what I’m going to do. I’ve got you between my finger and thumb, so ! And, by God ! I’m going to squeeze you until you break. Now get out !”

Woolford, stunned, retreated as the governor advanced on him menacingly, mechanically wiping with his handkerchief the brown spot that marked the governor’s blow. The door closed behind him.

The governor stood in the middle of the floor and pulled himself together. He had not so lost control of himself for years. He didn’t like the experience. The thought flitted through his mind that he now understood something of the feelings of a man who, in the heat of passion, kills his fellow. He relaxed his tense muscles, took a turn about the room, then securely placed the vital memorandum in an inside pocket and turned to get his hat and coat. He looked at his watch. There yet remained a half hour before the delegates would be called to order.

As he stepped toward the library door it opened and a woman came smilingly into the room.

“Ethel !” he breathed. And then, more formally: “Mrs. Woolford!”

It was no strange thing for Mrs. Woolford to call at his house. She was on terms of intimacy with his sister. Yet it seemed to the governor that he was looking at Mrs. Woolford for the first time in ten years.

Memories leaped upon him, confusing his brain. Her manner told him she had no inkling of the scene he had just passed through. Her first words verified this.

“I just dropped in to see Mrs. Ellison,” she said, “and find she has gone to her room

with neuralgia, so I stopped to say howdy to you, just for a minute. What’s the matter? Aren’t you going to shake hands?” Then he noticed that her hand was extended. He wondered vaguely if she had been holding it out ever since she came in. It was strange how those lights in her hair remained just the same as they were so many years ago. And not a year older in looks, he said to himself—at least not as much older looking as he. He was speaking, lamely enough, as these thoughts ran through his head.

“This is a surprise—it’s quite a while—I hardly know-”

She laughed merrily. “A surprise? Why ? Because to-day is the convention day and Jim and you are both trying for the nomination. Nonsense! Then her face became serious. “Of course I wanted Jim to get it,” she said, “but I’m sorry he’s running against you. We’re such old friends.” “Wanted him to get it?” The governor repeated her words parrotlike. “Don’t you want him to, now?”

“Why, I suppose so. I hardly know^ Harry”—there was no smile in either voice or soft blue eyes now—“I saw that awful story in the Ledger, and I have been hunting everywhere for Jim to tell him he must hurry out and deny it. I can’t find him, so I came here to tell you I know it can’t be true. I know Jim will be glad I came.” “Then you don’t believe the Ledger story?” said the governor.

“Believe it !” Mrs. Woolford was laughing again. “Absurd ! As if anybody could, that knew you. Why, I would as soon believe it of Jim himself.”

It was like a dash of cold water in the face. “Excuse me,” he said. “Won’t you sit down?” Then he continued, trying to speak lightly: “You don’t think either of

us would do a thing like that, eh?”

“Why, of course not.”

“Somebody did.”

“But isn’t it cruel that they should blame it upon you—of all men?”

“They say all is fair in love, war—and politics.”

Mrs. Woolford repelled the idea. “You wouldn’t do a thing like that in politics,” she said. “Jim wouldn’t. Of course you’ll tell them you had nothing to do with that horrid thing.”

He smiled faintly at her innocence in supposing a mere denial would right the

matter. "Suppose they shouldn’t believe me?” he asked.

She replied with true feminine logic. "They’ve got to,” she said. "Why, if they knew you as well as I do they’d know it was impossible.”

"They say they’ve got evidence.”

“I don’t care what they say. I know you didn’t do it."

"Suppose I can’t prove it?”

She caught her breath at this new view of things. "But don’t you know who did do it?” she asked. "You do!” she cried, as the governor merely smiled whimsically. "And aren’t you going to tell ?”

• “Should I?”

"Of course. At once.”

“There are reasons why I shouldn’t.” The woman’s voice expressed incredulity. "What reasons could there be for you to keep silence now?” she exclaimed.

The governor avoided her look and toyed with a paper-knife on his desk. "This would ruin him.”

i Her voice rose indignantly. "He deserves ruin.”

¡?: "He has been tempted by his ambitions.” “And he has fallen. Then he is weak—a coward.”

“He wanted money, too, for the one he loves.”

"A woman in the case ! Worse yet,” she said, scornfully.

“His wife,” explained the governor softly. "She thinks him honest.”.

“Harry Preston, you make me indignant ! Do you remember the nickname you had in school, when we called you Haroun al Raschid—the prince in ‘Arabian Nights’ who went about in disguise righting other people’s wrongs? Remember how you got it?” The governor smiled faintly, but did not reply. His mind was back in the long ago.

“I do,” she went on, "as well as if it were yesterday. Little Johnny Moore spilled ink on my spelling-book and you said you did it and took a whipping, when half the class knew better. I knew why you did it, to?— ’cause Johnny’s mother was sickly and it used to nearly break her heart when Johnny was punished. Do you remember those dnvs?”

"That was a long time ago,” mused the governor.

"It wasn’t right then for you to suffer for the wrong done by another. It isn’t right now.”

“After all,” said the governor, smiling, "perhaps my friends wouldn’t believe it.” "You must see to it,” she cried, "that your enemies don’t believe it.”

"But his wife?” insisted Preston.

"His wife again!” cried Mrs. Woolford. "Never mind his wife. She ought never to have married such a man.”

"She didn’t know he was that kind of a man,” said the governor.

"She ought to know it now. Never mind her, Harry! Think of yourself.” v-

The governor sat for a moment iff thought. "Suppose you stood in her place?” he said.

Mrs. Woolford laughed. "That is so silly, with my honest, good, big-hearted Jim. I can’t imagine it. But if I did”—• her voice became serious again—“if after all my years of happiness, all my joys, a wrong committed by my husband threatened to bring suffering and disgrace to an innocent man, I should say, let the consequences be what they might: ‘Jim has

sinned—let him pay.’ ” t

When the governor spoke again it was with some effort. "You and—Jim—have always been happy, haven’t you?” he said. ' "Ah, yes.” The woman’s eyes reflected her wifely love. “Jim is a busy man. He has many interests and I don’t understand politics well enough to enter into them as well as I wish I could. But he loves me and I love him. I honestly believe, Harry/; she ended impulsively, “that I am the hap*

piest woman in the world.” _____ i

* The door opened and Ruth appeared, clad in her night-dress, with which, as she became aware of Mrs. Woolford’s presence, she modestly endeavored to cover her feet, sidling behind a chair with a startled “Oh!” > { • I

"Come on,” called the governor. "Mrs.; Woolford will forgive your evening clothes.” ' i J

The child came to him. "Mary says/f she began, by way of introduction, "that it’s ab-so-lutely scan-dl’ous the hours I’m! keeping.” Then : “Is it most time for thafjj fairy-story?”

Mrs. Woolford rose. "I must go,” she’ said. "Tell her the story before the sand-i man comes. I’m glad I had the chance to see you and tell you how I abhor those, newspaper lies, and how sure I am it will come out all right. You will put the blame where it belongs and exonerate yourself. I

ask it. Jim would ask it, too, if he were here.”

When she had kissed Ruth and he had returned from seeing her to the door he sat at his desk, lost in confusing thoughts. If he let Woolford’s story stand he stood before a suspicious world a betrayer of his trust—a grafter. If he exposed his rival and won the nomination and a cleared name he broke the heart of the one woman in the world. How the lights glinted in her hair! What should he do? How young she looked—and how happy! What ought he to do ?

The child tugged at his coat. “I’m getting ex-treme-ly sleepy,” she reminded him.

“Oh, yes.” He roused himself. “There was a story, wasn’t there?”

^.“A fairy-story,” she said, climbing into his lap and settling herself comfortably. f'And it must be a new one and a perfectly be-yew-tiful one.”

r “I’m afraid I can’t tellit to-night,” he murmured. “There is so much on m}r mind r—so many big things-”

“They ain’t bigger’n me,” she protested. “I’m seven. And, besides, you promised.” |“Once upon a time,” he began, “there wasa little boy and a little girl, and they played together day after day. and they grew to be very fond of each other. Well, one day, when the little boy had grown to be a great big boy, he went away to the wars. And while he was away the little girl found a beautiful jewel. It was such à wonderful jewel that there was nothing like it in the whole world, and all the peo-

Île she showed it to marveled. And she sked what it was, and they told her it was laopiness-—a gem without price.”

The scenes of the past half hour seemed > be fading into the distance. The only #*ing now worth while seemed to be this little child’s opinion as to right and wrong. K*“Well, the little girl took the jewel Happiness home with her, and had it all for her own—her very own. It didn’t really belong to her, because she had found it by accident; but she thought it did—and she enjoyed having it very much. Now, this jewel had been put where the little girl found it by a beautiful fairy, who had meant it for the little boy and expected him to find it. Only you see she didn’t know he was away to the wars and wouldn’t be out to play that day.”

“Why not?”

“I don’t know, dear.” The governor’s voice trembled. “Fairies know a great deal, but I guess they make mistakes sometimes, just like people. And by and by the fairy discovered that the little girl had the beautiful jewel, and that the little boy—who had come home from the wars and had been searching and searching and searching—• couldn’t find it. Then the fairy was puzzled. She wanted to do just what was fair, and good, and right—beautiful fairies always do—arid it was right that the boy should have it because it really belonged to him. But the little girl had it, and she would certainly feel very badly if it were taken away from her.” He paused, then went on. “Now what do you suppose the fairy did?”

Ruth’s voice was drowsy. The sandman was coming fast. “Was he a very good little boy?” she asked.

“Er—er—why, yes—pretty good,” said the governor.

“And was she a very good little girl?” “The best in the whole world.”

Ruth nodded her head with grave decision. “Then the fairy let her keep it, of course,” she said positively. And added: “Little girls are always of more im-portance than little boys.”

The governor sat silent. The curly head swung lower and lower, until it rested on his shoulder. The child’s breathing grew regular and heavy. The sand-rnan had arrived.

The minutes lengthened. A clock in the hall struck the hour and still the governor sat, immovable, staring before him. After a time he rose, carrying the child carefully, “What did the fairy do. Uncle Harry?” The governor answered her softly:

“She let the little girl keep it, dear, just as you guessed.”

The clock had struck again. Without premonitory knock the door slammed open and Bosworth, when he had found a voice, blurted out his news.

“There never was such a thing!” he shouted. “Woolford got the floor and said you were all right and the Ledger all wrong. He proved it by withdrawing and moving your renomination by acclamation. It went with a whoop !” Bosworth paused. “But I don’t understand it,” he added.

He never understood, either, why the governor laid his head on his arms and sobbed like a child.