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THE GOLD BRICK ***





THE GOLD BRICK




THE GOLD BRICK

_By_

BRAND WHITLOCK

_Author of_

THE THIRTEENTH DISTRICT
HER INFINITE VARIETY THE HAPPY AVERAGE
THE TURN OF THE BALANCE

INDIANAPOLIS
THE BOBBS-MERRILL COMPANY
PUBLISHERS




COPYRIGHT 1910

THE BOBBS-MERRILL COMPANY

PRESS OF
BRAUNWORTH & CO.
BOOKBINDERS AND PRINTERS
BROOKLYN, N. Y.




CONTENTS


PAGE

I THE GOLD BRICK 1

II THE HAS-BEEN 35

III WHAT WILL BECOME OF ANNIE? 65

IV THE VINDICATION OF HENDERSON OF GREENE 89

V SENATE BILL 578 119

VI MACOCHEE’S FIRST CAMPAIGN FUND 139

VII A SECRET OF STATE 165

VIII THE COLONEL’S LAST CAMPAIGN 201

IX REFORM IN THE FIRST 232

X MALACHI NOLAN 262

XI THE PARDON OF THOMAS WHALEN 302

XII THAT BOY 333




The stories in this book were originally published in _The Saturday
Evening Post_, _The American Magazine_ and _Ainslee’s Magazine_, and to
these publications acknowledgments are due for their courtesy in giving
permission for republication.




THE GOLD BRICK




THE GOLD BRICK


Ten thousand dollars a year! Neil Kittrell left the office of the
_Morning Telegraph_ in a daze. He was insensible of the raw February
air, heedless of sloppy pavements; the gray day had suddenly turned
gold. He could not realize it all at once; ten thousand a year - for him
and Edith! His heart swelled with love of Edith; she had sacrificed so
much to become the wife of a man who had tried to make an artist of
himself, and of whom fate, or economic determinism, or something, had
made a cartoonist. What a surprise for her! He must hurry home.

In this swelling of his heart he felt a love not only of Edith but of
the whole world. The people he met seemed dear to him; he felt friendly
with every one, and beamed on perfect strangers with broad, cheerful
smiles. He stopped to buy some flowers for Edith - daffodils, or
tulips, which promised spring, and he took the daffodils, because the
girl said:

“I think yellow is such a spirituelle color, don’t you?” and inclined
her head in a most artistic manner.

But daffodils, after all, which would have been much the day before,
seemed insufficient in the light of new prosperity, and Kittrell bought
a large azalea, beautiful in its graceful spread of pink blooms.

“Where shall I send it?” asked the girl, whose cheeks were as pink as
azaleas themselves.

“I think I’ll call a cab and take it to her myself,” said Kittrell.

And she sighed over the romance of this rich young gentleman and the
girl of the azalea, who, no doubt, was as beautiful as the young woman
who was playing _Lottie, the Poor Saleslady_ at the Lyceum that very
week.

Kittrell and the azalea bowled along Claybourne Avenue; he leaned back
on the cushions, and adopted the expression of ennui appropriate to
that thoroughfare. Would Edith now prefer Claybourne Avenue? With ten
thousand a year they could, perhaps - and yet, at first it would be best
not to put on airs, but to go right on as they were, in the flat. Then
the thought came to him that now, as the cartoonist on the _Telegraph_,
his name would become as well known in Claybourne Avenue as it had been
in the homes of the poor and humble during his years on the _Post_. And
his thoughts flew to those homes where tired men at evening looked for
his cartoons and children laughed at his funny pictures. It gave him a
pang; he had felt a subtle bond between himself and all those thousands
who read the _Post_. It was hard to leave them. The _Post_ might be
yellow, but, as the girl had said, yellow was a spiritual color, and
the _Post_ brought something into their lives - lives that were scorned
by the _Telegraph_ and by these people on the avenue. Could he make new
friends here, where the cartoons he drew and the _Post_ that printed
them had been contemned, if not despised? His mind flew back to the
dingy office of the _Post_; to the boys there, the whole good-natured,
happy-go-lucky gang; and to Hardy - ah, Hardy! - who had been so good to
him, and given him his big chance, had taken such pains and interest,
helping him with ideas and suggestions, criticism and sympathy. To
tell Hardy that he was going to leave him, here on the eve of the
campaign - and Clayton, the mayor, he would have to tell him, too - oh,
the devil! Why must he think of these things now?

After all, when he had reached home, and had run up-stairs with the
news and the azalea, Edith did not seem delighted.

“But, dearie, business is business,” he argued, “and we need the money!”

“Yes, I know; doubtless you’re right. Only please don’t say ‘business
is business;’ it isn’t like you, and - ”

“But think what it will mean - ten thousand a year!”

“Oh, Neil, I’ve lived on ten thousand a year before, and I never had
half the fun that I had when we were getting along on twelve hundred.”

“Yes, but then we were always dreaming of the day when I’d make a lot;
we lived on that hope, didn’t we?”

Edith laughed. “You used to say we lived on love.”

“You’re not serious.” He turned to gaze moodily out of the window. And
then she left the azalea, and perched on the flat arm of his chair.

“Dearest,” she said, “I am serious. I know all this means to you. We’re
human, and we don’t like to ‘chip at crusts like Hindus,’ even for the
sake of youth and art. I never had illusions about love in a cottage
and all that. Only, dear, I have been happy, so very happy, with you,
because - well, because I was living in an atmosphere of honest purpose,
honest ambition, and honest desire to do some good thing in the world.
I had never known such an atmosphere before. At home, you know, father
and Uncle James and the boys - well, it was all money, money, money with
them, and they couldn’t understand why I - ”

“Could marry a poor newspaper artist! That’s just the point.”

She put her hand to his lips.

“Now, dear! If they couldn’t understand, so much the worse for them. If
they thought it meant sacrifice to me, they were mistaken. I have been
happy in this little flat; only - ” she leaned back and inclined her
head with her eyes asquint - “only the paper in this room is atrocious;
it’s a typical landlord’s selection - McGaw picked it out. You see what
it means to be merely rich.”

She was so pretty thus that he kissed her, and then she went on:

“And so, dear, if I didn’t seem to be as impressed and delighted as you
hoped to find me, it is because I was thinking of Mr. Hardy and the
poor, dear, common little _Post_, and then - of Mr. Clayton. Did you
think of him?”

“Yes.”

“You’ll have to - to cartoon him?”

“I suppose so.”

The fact he had not allowed himself to face was close to both of them,
and the subject was dropped until, just as he was going down-town - this
time to break the news to Hardy - he went into the room he sarcastically
said he might begin to call his studio, now that he was getting ten
thousand a year, to look for a sketch he had promised Nolan for the
sporting page. And there on his drawing-board was an unfinished
cartoon, a drawing of the strong face of John Clayton. He had begun it
a few days before to use on the occasion of Clayton’s renomination.
It had been a labor of love, and Kittrell suddenly realized how good
it was. He had put into it all of his belief in Clayton, all of his
devotion to the cause for which Clayton toiled and sacrificed, and
in the simple lines he experienced the artist’s ineffable felicity;
he had shown how good, how noble, how true a man Clayton was. All at
once he realized the sensation the cartoon would produce, how it would
delight and hearten Clayton’s followers, how it would please Hardy,
and how it would touch Clayton. It would be a tribute to the man and
the friendship, but now a tribute broken, unfinished. Kittrell gazed a
moment longer, and in that moment Edith came.

“The dear, beautiful soul!” she exclaimed softly. “Neil, it is
wonderful. It is not a cartoon; it is a portrait. It shows what you
might do with a brush.”

Kittrell could not speak, and he turned the drawing-board to the wall.

When he had gone, Edith sat and thought - of Neil, of the new position,
of Clayton. He had loved Neil, and been so proud of his work; he had
shown a frank, naïve pleasure in the cartoons Neil had made of him.
That last time he was there, thought Edith, he had said that without
Neil the “good old cause,” as he called it, using Whitman’s phrase,
could never have triumphed in that town. And now, would he come again?
Would he ever stand in that room and, with his big, hearty laugh,
clasp an arm around Neil’s shoulder, or speak of her in his good,
friendly way as “the little woman?” Would he come now, in the terrible
days of the approaching campaign, for rest and sympathy - come as he
used to come in other campaigns, worn and weary from all the brutal
opposition, the vilification and abuse and mud-slinging? She closed her
eyes. She could not think that far.

Kittrell found the task of telling Hardy just as difficult as he
expected it to be, but by some mercy it did not last long. Explanation
had not been necessary; he had only to make the first hesitating
approaches, and Hardy understood. Hardy was, in a way, hurt; Kittrell
saw that, and rushed to his own defense:

“I hate to go, old man. I don’t like it a little bit - but, you know,
business is business, and we need the money.”

He even tried to laugh as he advanced this last conclusive reason, and
Hardy, for all he showed in voice or phrase, may have agreed with him.

“It’s all right, Kit,” he said. “I’m sorry; I wish we could pay you
more, but - well, good luck.”

That was all. Kittrell gathered up the few articles he had at the
office, gave Nolan his sketch, bade the boys good-by - bade them good-by
as if he were going on a long journey, never to see them more - and then
he went.

After he had made the break it did not seem so bad as he had
anticipated. At first things went on smoothly enough. The campaign
had not opened, and he was free to exercise his talents outside the
political field. He drew cartoons dealing with banal subjects, touching
with the gentle satire of his humorous pencil foibles which all the
world agreed about, and let vital questions alone. And he and Edith
enjoyed themselves: indulged oftener in things they loved; went more
frequently to the theater; appeared at recitals; dined now and then
down-town. They began to realize certain luxuries they had not known
for a long time - some he himself had never known, some that Edith had
not known since she left her father’s home to become his bride. In
more subtle ways, too, Kittrell felt the change: there was a sense
of larger leisure; the future beamed with a broader and brighter
light; he formed plans, among which the old dream of going ere long
to Paris for serious study took its dignified place. And then there
was the sensation his change had created in the newspaper world; that
the cartoons signed “Kit,” which formerly appeared in the _Post_,
should now adorn the broad page of the _Telegraph_ was a thing to talk
about at the press club; the fact of his large salary got abroad in
that little world as well, and, after the way of that world, managed
to exaggerate itself, as most facts did. He began to be sensible of
attentions from men of prominence - small things, mere nods in the
street, perhaps, or smiles in the theater foyer, but enough to show
that they recognized him. What those children of the people, those
working-men and women who used to be his unknown and admiring friends
in the old days on the _Post_, thought of him - whether they missed him,
whether they deplored his change as an apostasy or applauded it as a
promotion - he did not know. He did not like to think about it.

But March came, and the politicians began to bluster like the season.
Late one afternoon he was on his way to the office with a cartoon, the
first in which he had seriously to attack Clayton. Benson, the managing
editor of the _Telegraph_, had conceived it, and Kittrell had worked
on it that day in sickness of heart. Every lying line of this new
presentation of Clayton had cut him like some biting acid; but he had
worked on, trying to reassure himself with the argument that he was a
mere agent, devoid of personal responsibility. But it had been hard,
and when Edith, after her custom, had asked to see it, he had said:

“Oh, you don’t want to see it; it’s no good.”

“Is it of - him?” she had asked.

And when he nodded she had gone away without another word. Now, as he
hurried through the crowded streets, he was conscious that it was no
good, indeed; and he was divided between the artist’s regret and the
friend’s joy in the fact. But it made him tremble. Was his hand to
forget its cunning? And then, suddenly, he heard a familiar voice, and
there beside him, with his hand on his shoulder, stood the mayor.

“Why, Neil, my boy, how are you?” he said, and he took Kittrell’s
hand as warmly as ever. For a moment Kittrell was relieved, and then
his heart sank; for he had a quick realization that it was the coward
within him that felt the relief, and the man the sickness. If Clayton
had reproached him, or cut him, it would have made it easier; but
Clayton did none of these things, and Kittrell was irresistibly drawn
to the subject himself.

“You heard of my - new job?” he asked.

“Yes,” said Clayton, “I heard.”

“Well - ” Kittrell began.

“I’m sorry,” Clayton said.

“So was I,” Kittrell hastened to say. “But I felt it - well, a duty,
some way - to Edith. You know - we - need the money.” And he gave the
cynical laugh that went with the argument.

“What does _she_ think? Does she feel that way about it?”

Kittrell laughed, not cynically now, but uneasily and with
embarrassment, for Clayton’s blue eyes were on him, those eyes that
could look into men and understand them so.

“Of course you know,” Kittrell went on nervously, “there is nothing
personal in this. We newspaper fellows simply do what we are told;
we obey orders like soldiers, you know. With the policy of the
paper we have nothing to do. Just like Dick Jennings, who was a
red-hot free-trader and used to write free-trade editorials for the
_Times_ - he went over to the _Telegraph_, you remember, and writes all
those protection arguments.”

The mayor did not seem to be interested in Dick Jennings, or in the
ethics of his profession.

“Of course, you know I’m for you, Mr. Clayton, just exactly as I’ve
always been. I’m going to vote for you.”

This did not seem to interest the mayor, either.

“And, maybe, you know - I thought, perhaps,” he snatched at this bright
new idea that had come to him just in the nick of time, “that I might
help you by my cartoons in the _Telegraph_; that is, I might keep them
from being as bad as they might - ”

“But that wouldn’t be dealing fairly with your new employers, Neil,”
the mayor said.

Kittrell was making more and more a mess of this whole miserable
business, and he was basely glad when they reached the corner.

“Well, good-by, my boy,” said the mayor, as they parted. “Remember me
to the little woman.”

Kittrell watched him as he went on down the avenue, swinging along in
his free way, the broad felt hat he wore riding above all the other
hats in the throng that filled the sidewalk; and Kittrell sighed in
deep depression.

When he turned in his cartoon, Benson scanned it a moment, cocked his
head this side and that, puffed his brier pipe, and finally said:

“I’m afraid this is hardly up to you. This figure of Clayton, here - it
hasn’t got the stuff in it. You want to show him as he _is_. We want
the people to know what a four-flushing, hypocritical, demagogical
blatherskite he is - with all his rot about the people and their damned
rights!”

Benson was all unconscious of the inconsistency of having concern for
a people he so despised, and Kittrell did not observe it, either. He
was on the point of defending Clayton, but he restrained himself and
listened to Benson’s suggestions. He remained at the office for two
hours, trying to change the cartoon to Benson’s satisfaction, with a
growing hatred of the work and a disgust with himself that now and
then almost drove him to mad destruction. He felt like splashing the
piece with India ink, or ripping it with his knife. But he worked on,
and submitted it again. He had failed, of course; failed to express in
it that hatred of a class which Benson unconsciously disguised as a
hatred of Clayton, a hatred which Kittrell could not express because he
did not feel it; and he failed because art deserts her devotees when
they are false to truth.

“Well, it’ll have to do,” said Benson, as he looked it over; “but let’s
have a little more to the next one. Damn it! I wish I could draw. I’d
cartoon the crook!”

In default of which ability, Benson set himself to write one of those
savage editorials in which he poured out on Clayton that venom of which
he seemed to have such an inexhaustible supply.

But on one point Benson was right: Kittrell was not up to himself. As
the campaign opened, as the city was swept with the excitement of it,
with meetings at noon-day and at night, office-seekers flying about
in automobiles, walls covered with pictures of candidates, hand-bills
scattered in the streets to swirl in the wild March winds, and men
quarreling over whether Clayton or Ellsworth should be mayor, Kittrell
had to draw a political cartoon each day; and as he struggled with his
work, less and less the old joy came to cheer and spur him on. To read
the ridicule, the abuse, which the _Telegraph_ heaped on Clayton, the
distortion of facts concerning his candidature, the unfair reports
of his meetings, sickened him, and more than all, he was filled with
disgust as he tried to match in caricature these libels of the man he
so loved and honored. It was bad enough to have to flatter Clayton’s
opponent, to picture him as a noble, disinterested character, ready to
sacrifice himself for the public weal. Into his pictures of this man,
attired in the long black coat of conventional respectability, with the
smug face of pharisaism, he could get nothing but cant and hypocrisy;
but in his caricatures of Clayton there was that which pained him
worse - disloyalty, untruth, and now and then, to the discerning few
who knew the tragedy of Kittrell’s soul, there was pity. And thus his
work declined in value; lacking all sincerity, all faith in itself or
its purpose, it became false, uncertain, full of jarring notes, and,
in short, never once rang true. As for Edith, she never discussed his
work now; she spoke of the campaign little, and yet he knew she was
deeply concerned, and she grew hot with resentment at the methods of
the _Telegraph_. Her only consolation was derived from the Post, which,
of course, supported Clayton; and the final drop of bitterness in
Kittrell’s cup came one evening when he realized that she was following
with sympathetic interest the cartoons in that paper.

For the _Post_ had a new cartoonist, Banks, a boy whom Hardy had
picked up somewhere and was training to the work Kittrell had laid
down. To Kittrell there was a cruel fascination in the progress Banks
was making; he watched it with a critical, professional eye, at first
with amusement, then with surprise, and now at last, in the discovery
of Edith’s interest, with a keen jealousy of which he was ashamed.
The boy was crude and untrained; his work was not to be compared with
Kittrell’s, master of line that he was, but Kittrell saw that it had
the thing his work now lacked, the vital, primal thing - sincerity,
belief, love. The spark was there, and Kittrell knew how Hardy would
nurse that spark and fan it, and keep it alive and burning until
it should eventually blaze up in a fine white flame. And Kittrell
realized, as the days went by, that Banks’ work was telling, and that
his own was failing. He had, from the first, missed the atmosphere of
the _Post_, missed the _camaraderie_ of the congenial spirits there,
animated by a common purpose, inspired and led by Hardy, whom they
all loved - loved as he himself once loved him, loved as he loved him
still - and dare not look him in the face when they met!

He found the atmosphere of the _Telegraph_ alien and distasteful.
There all was different; the men had little joy in their work, little
interest in it, save perhaps the newspaper man’s inborn love of a good
story or a beat. They were all cynical, without loyalty or faith; they
secretly made fun of the _Telegraph_, of its editors and owners; they
had no belief in its cause; and its pretensions to respectability,
its parade of virtue, excited only their derision. And slowly it
began to dawn on Kittrell that the great moral law worked always and
everywhere, even on newspapers, and that there was reflected inevitably
and logically in the work of the men on that staff the hatred, the lack
of principle, the bigotry and intolerance of its proprietors; and this
same lack of principle tainted and made meretricious his own work,
and enervated the editorials so that the _Telegraph_, no matter how
carefully edited or how dignified in typographical appearance, was,
nevertheless, without real influence in the community.

Meanwhile Clayton was gaining ground. It was less than two weeks
before election. The campaign waxed more and more bitter, and as the
forces opposed to him foresaw defeat, they became ugly in spirit, and
desperate. The _Telegraph_ took on a tone more menacing and brutal,
and Kittrell knew that the crisis had come. The might of the powers
massed against Clayton appalled Kittrell; they thundered at him through
many brazen mouths, but Clayton held on his high way unperturbed. He
was speaking by day and night to thousands. Such meetings he had never
had before. Kittrell had visions of him before those immense audiences
in halls, in tents, in the raw open air of that rude March weather,
making his appeals to the heart of the great mass. A fine, splendid,
romantic figure he was, striking to the imagination, this champion of
the people’s cause, and Kittrell longed for the lost chance. Oh, for
one day on the _Post_ now!

One morning at breakfast, as Edith read the _Telegraph_, Kittrell saw
the tears well slowly in her brown eyes.

“Oh,” she said, “it is shameful!” She clenched her little fists. “Oh,
if I were only a man I’d - ” She could not in her impotent feminine rage
say what she would do; she could only grind her teeth. Kittrell bent
his head over his plate; his coffee choked him.

“Dearest,” she said presently, in another tone, “tell me, how is he? Do
you - ever see him? Will he win?”

“No, I never see him. But he’ll win; I wouldn’t worry.”

“He used to come here,” she went on, “to rest a moment, to escape from
all this hateful confusion and strife. He is killing himself! And
they aren’t worth it - those ignorant people - they aren’t worth such
sacrifices.”

He got up from the table and turned away, and then, realizing quickly,
she flew to his side and put her arms about his neck and said:

“Forgive me, dearest, I didn’t mean - only - ”

“Oh, Edith,” he said, “this is killing me. I feel like a dog.”

“Don’t dear; he is big enough, and good enough; he will understand.”

“Yes; that only makes it harder, only makes it hurt the more.”

That afternoon, in the car, he heard no talk but of the election; and
down-town, in a cigar store where he stopped for cigarettes, he heard
some men talking mysteriously, in the hollow voice of rumor, of some
sensation, some scandal. It alarmed him, and as he went into the office
he met Manning, the _Telegraph’s_ political man.

“Tell me, Manning,” Kittrell said, “how does it look?”

“Damn bad for us.”

“For us?”

“Well, for our mob of burglars and second story workers here - the gang
we represent.” He took a cigarette from the box Kittrell was opening.

“And will he win?”


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