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Produced by Charles Franks and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team.










THE NE'ER-DO-WELL

By REX BEACH

Author of "THE SILVER HORDE" "THE SPOILERS" "THE IRON TRAIL" Etc.

Illustrated




TO

MY WIFE




CONTENTS

I. VICTORY

II. THE TRAIL DIVIDES

III. A GAP

IV. NEW ACQUAINTANCES

V. A REMEDY IS PROPOSED

VI. IN WHICH KIRK ANTHONY IS GREATLY SURPRISED

VII. THE REWARD OF MERIT

VIII. EL COMANDANTE TAKES A HAND

IX. SPANISH LAW

X. A CHANGE OF PLAN

XI. THE TRUTH ABOUT MRS. CORTLANDT

XII. A NIGHT AT TABOGA

XIII. CHIQUITA

XIV. THE PATH THAT LED NOWHERE

XV. ALIAS JEFFERSON LOCKE

XVI. "8838"

XVII. GARAVEL THE BANKER

XVIII. THE SIEGE OF MARIA TORRES

XIX. "LA TOSCA"

XX. AN AWAKENING

XXI. THE REST OF THE FAMILY

XXII. A CHALLENGE AND A CONFESSION

XXIII. A PLOT AND A SACRIFICE

XXIV. A BUSINESS PROPOSITION

XXV. CHECKMATE!

XXVI. THE CRASH

XXVII. A QUESTION

XXVIII. THE ANSWER

XXIX. A LAST APPEAL

XXX. DARWIN K ANTHONY




THE NE'ER-DO-WELL




I

VICTORY


It was a crisp November night. The artificial brilliance of Broadway
was rivalled by a glorious moonlit sky. The first autumn frost was in
the air, and on the side-streets long rows of taxicabs were standing,
their motors blanketed, their chauffeurs threshing their arms to rout
the cold. A few well-bundled cabbies, perched upon old-style hansoms,
were barking at the stream of hurrying pedestrians. Against a
background of lesser lights myriad points of electric signs flashed
into everchanging shapes, winking like huge, distorted eyes; fanciful
designs of liquid fire ran up and down the walls or blazed forth in
lurid colors. From the city's canons came an incessant clanging roar,
as if a great river of brass and steel were grinding its way toward the
sea.

Crowds began to issue from the theatres, and the lines of waiting
vehicles broke up, filling the streets with the whir of machinery and
the clatter of hoofs. A horde of shrill-voiced urchins pierced the
confusion, waving their papers and screaming the football scores at the
tops of their lusty lungs, while above it all rose the hoarse tones of
carriage callers, the commands of traffic officers, and the din of
street-car gongs.

In the lobby of one of the playhouses a woman paused to adjust her
wraps, and, hearing the cries of the newsboys, petulantly exclaimed:

"I'm absolutely sick of football. That performance during the third act
was enough to disgust one."

Her escort smiled. "Oh, you take it too seriously," he said. "Those
boys don't mean anything. That was merely Youth - irrepressible Youth,
on a tear. You wouldn't spoil the fun?"

"It may have been Youth," returned his companion, "but it sounded more
like the end of the world. It was a little too much!"

A bevy of shop-girls came bustling forth from a gallery exit.

"Rah! rah! rah!" they mimicked, whereupon the cry was answered by a
hundred throats as the doors belched forth the football players and
their friends. Out they came, tumbling, pushing, jostling; greeting
scowls and smiles with grins of insolent good-humor. In their hands
were decorated walking-sticks and flags, ragged and tattered as if from
long use in a heavy gale. Dignified old gentlemen dived among them in
pursuit of top-hats; hysterical matrons hustled daughters into
carriages and slammed the doors.

"Wuxtry! Wuxtry!" shrilled the newsboys. "Full account of the big game!"

A youth with a ridiculous little hat and heliotrope socks dashed into
the street, where, facing the crowd, he led a battle song of his
university. Policemen set their shoulders to the mob, but, though they
met with no open resistance, they might as well have tried to dislodge
a thicket of saplings. To-night football was king.

Out through the crowd came a score of deep-chested young men moving
together as if to resist an attack, whereupon a mighty roar went up.
The cheer-leader increased his antics, and the barking yell changed to
a measured chant, to the time of which the army marched down the street
until the twenty athletes dodged in through the revolving doors of a
cafe, leaving Broadway rocking with the tumult.

All the city was football-mad, it seemed, for no sooner had the
new-comers entered the restaurant than the diners rose to wave napkins
or to cheer. Men stepped upon chairs and craned for a better sight of
them; women raised their voices in eager questioning. A gentleman in
evening dress pointed out the leader of the squad to his companions,
explaining:

"That is Anthony - the big chap. He's Darwin K. Anthony's son. You've
heard about the Anthony bill at Albany?"

"Yes, and I saw this fellow play football four years ago. Say! That was
a game."

"He's a worthless sort of chap, isn't he?" remarked one of the women,
when the squad had disappeared up the stairs.

"Just a rich man's son, that's all. But he certainly could play
football."

"Didn't I read that he had been sent to jail recently?"

"No doubt. He was given thirty days."

"What! in PRISON?" questioned another, in a shocked voice.

"Only for speeding. It was his third offence, and his father let him
take his medicine."

"How cruel!"

"Old man Anthony doesn't care for this sort of thing. He's right, too.
All this young fellow is good for is to spend money."

Up in the banquet-hall, however, it was evident that Kirk Anthony was
more highly esteemed by his mates than by the public at large. He was
their hero, in fact, and in a way he deserved it. For three years
before his graduation he had been the heart and sinew of the university
team, and for the four years following he had coached them, preferring
the life of an athletic trainer to the career his father had offered
him. And he had done his chosen work well.

Only three weeks prior to the hard gruel of the great game the eleven
had received a blow that had left its supporters dazed and despairing.
There had been a scandal, of which the public had heard little and the
students scarcely more, resulting in the expulsion of the five best
players of the team. The crisis might have daunted the most resourceful
of men, yet Anthony had proved equal to it. For twenty-one days he had
labored like a real general, spending his nights alone with diagrams
and little dummies on a miniature gridiron, his days in careful
coaching. He had taken a huge, ungainly Nova Scotian lad named Ringold
for centre; he had placed a square-jawed, tow-headed boy from Duluth in
the line; he had selected a high-strung, unseasoned chap, who for two
years had been eating his heart out on the side-lines, and made him
into a quarter-back.

Then he had driven them all with the cruelty of a Cossack captain; and
when at last the dusk of this November day had settled, new football
history had been made. The world had seen a strange team snatch victory
from defeat, and not one of all the thirty thousand onlookers but knew
to whom the credit belonged. It had been a tremendous spectacle, and
when the final whistle blew for the multitude to come roaring down
across the field, the cohorts had paid homage to Kirk Anthony, the
weary coach to whom they knew the honor belonged.

Of course this fervid enthusiasm and hero-worship was all very
immature, very foolish, as the general public acknowledged after it had
taken time to cool off. Yet there was something appealing about it,
after all. At any rate, the press deemed the public sufficiently
interested in the subject to warrant giving it considerable prominence,
and the name of Darwin K. Anthony's son was published far and wide.

Naturally, the newspapers gave the young man's story as well as a
history of the game. They told of his disagreement with his father; of
the Anthony anti-football bill which the old man in his rage had driven
through the legislature and up to the Governor himself. Some of them
even printed a rehash of the railroad man's famous magazine attack on
the modern college, in which he all but cited his own son as an example
of the havoc wrought by present-day university methods. The elder
Anthony's wealth and position made it good copy. The yellow journals
liked it immensely, and, strangely enough, notwithstanding the
positiveness with which the newspapers spoke, the facts agreed
essentially with their statements. Darwin K. Anthony and his son had
quarrelled, they were estranged; the young man did prefer idleness to
industry. Exactly as the published narratives related, he toiled not at
all, he spun nothing but excuses, he arrayed himself in sartorial
glory, and drove a yellow racing-car beyond the speed limit.

It was all true, only incomplete. Kirk Anthony's father had even better
reasons for his disapproval of the young man's behavior than appeared.
The fact was that Kirk's associates were of a sort to worry any
observant parent, and, moreover, he had acquired a renown in that part
of New York lying immediately west of Broadway and north of
Twenty-sixth Street which, in his father's opinion, added not at all to
the lustre of the family name. In particular, Anthony, Sr., was
prejudiced against a certain Higgins, who, of course, was his son's
boon companion, aid, and abettor. This young gentleman was a lean,
horse-faced senior, whose unbroken solemnity of manner had more than
once led strangers to mistake him for a divinity student, though closer
acquaintance proved him wholly unmoral and rattle-brained. Mr. Higgins
possessed a distorted sense of humor and a crooked outlook upon life;
while, so far as had been discovered, he owned but two ambitions: one
to whip a policeman, the other to write a musical comedy. Neither
seemed likely of realization. As for the first, he was narrow-chested
and gangling, while a brief, disastrous experience on the college paper
had furnished a sad commentary upon the second.

Not to exaggerate, Darwin K. Anthony, the father, saw in the person of
Adelbert Higgins a budding criminal of rare precocity, and a menace to
his son; while to the object of his solicitude the aforesaid criminal
was nothing more than an entertaining companion, whose bizarre
disregard of all established rules of right and wrong matched well with
his own careless temper. Higgins, moreover, was an ardent follower of
athletics, revolving like a satellite about the football stars, and
attaching himself especially to Kirk, who was too good-natured to find
fault with an honest admirer.

It was Higgins this evening who, after the "cripples" had deserted and
the supper party had dwindled to perhaps a dozen, proposed to make a
night of it. It was always Higgins who proposed to make a night of it,
and now, as usual, his words were greeted with enthusiasm.

Having obtained the floor, he gazed owlishly over the flushed faces
around the table and said:

"I wish to announce that, in our little journey to the underworld, we
will visit some places of rare interest and educational value. First we
will go to the House of Seven Turnings."

"No poetry, Hig!" some one cried. "What is it?"

"It is merely a rendezvous of pickpockets and thieves, accessible only
to a chosen few. I feel sure you will enjoy yourselves there, for the
bartender has the secret of a remarkable gin fizz, sweeter than a
maiden's smile, more intoxicating than a kiss."

"Piffle!"

"It is a place where the student of sociology can obtain a world of
valuable information."

"How do we get in?"

"Leave that to old Doctor Higgins," Anthony laughed. "To get out is the
difficulty."

"Oh, I guess we'll get out," said the bulky Ringold.

"After we have concluded our investigations at the House of Seven
Turnings," continued the ceremonious Higgins, "we will go to the Palace
of Ebony, where a full negro orchestra - "

"The police closed that a week ago."

"But it has reopened on a scale larger and grander than ever."

"Let's take in the Austrian Village," offered Ringold.

"Patiently! Patiently, Behemoth! We'll take 'em all in. However, I wish
to request one favor. If by any chance I should become embroiled with a
minion of the law, please, oh please, let me finish him."

"Remember the last time," cautioned Anthony. "You've never come home a
winner."

"Enough! Away with painful memories! All in favor - "

"AYE!" yelled the diners, whereupon a stampede ensued that caused the
waiters in the main dining-room below to cease piling chairs upon the
tables and hastily weight their napkins with salt-cellars.

But the crowd was not combative. They poured out upon the street in the
best possible humor, and even at the House of Seven Turnings, as
Higgins had dubbed the "hide-away" on Thirty-second Street, they made
no disturbance. On the contrary, it was altogether too quiet for most
of them, and they soon sought another scene. But there were deserters
en route to the Palace of Ebony, and when in turn the joys of a full
negro orchestra had palled and a course was set for the Austrian
Village, the number of investigators had dwindled to a choice
half-dozen.

These, however, were kindred spirits, veterans of many a midnight
escapade, composing a flying squadron of exactly the right proportions
for the utmost efficiency and mobility combined.

The hour was now past a respectable bedtime and the Tenderloin had
awakened. The roar of commerce had dwindled away, and the comparative
silence was broken only by the clang of an infrequent trolley. The
streets were empty of vehicles, except for a few cabs that followed the
little group persistently. As yet there was no need of them. The crowd
was made up, for the most part, of healthy, full-blooded boys, fresh
from weeks of training, strong of body, and with stomachs like
galvanized iron. They showed scant evidence of intoxication. As for the
weakest member of the party, it had long been known that one drink made
Higgins drunk, and all further libations merely served to maintain him
in status quo. Exhaustive experiments had proved that he was able to
retain consciousness and the power of locomotion until the first streak
of dawn appeared, after which he usually became a burden. For the
present he was amply able to take care of himself, and now, although
his speech was slightly thick, his demeanor was as didactic and severe
as ever, and, save for the vagrant workings of his mind, he might have
passed for a curate. As a whole, the crowd was in fine fettle.

The Austrian Village is a saloon, dance-hall, and all-night restaurant,
flourishing brazenly within a stone's throw of Broadway, and it is
counted one of the sights of the city. Upon entering, one may pass
through a saloon where white-aproned waiters load trays and wrangle
over checks, then into a ball-room filled with the flotsam and jetsam
of midnight Manhattan. Above and around this room runs a white-and-gold
balcony partitioned into boxes; beneath it are many tables separated
from the waxed floor by a railing. Inside the enclosure men in
street-clothes and smartly gowned girls with enormous hats revolve
nightly to the strains of an orchestra which nearly succeeds in
drowning their voices. From the tables come laughter and snatches of
song; waiters dash hither and yon. It is all very animated and gay on
the surface, and none but the closely observant would note the
weariness beneath the women's smiles, the laughter notes that
occasionally jar, or perceive that the tailored gowns are imitations,
the ermines mainly rabbit-skins.

But the eyes of youth are not analytical, and seen through a rosy haze
the sight was inspiriting. The college men selected a table, and,
shouldering the occupants aside without ceremony, seated themselves and
pounded for a waiter.

Padden, the proprietor, came toward them, and, after greeting Anthony
and Higgins by a shake of his left hand, ducked his round gray head in
acknowledgment of an introduction to the others.

"Excuse my right," said he, displaying a swollen hand criss-crossed
with surgeon's plaster. "A fellow got noisy last night."

"D'jou hit him?" queried Higgins, gazing with interest at the
proprietor's knuckles.

"Yes. I swung for his jaw and went high. Teeth - " Mr. Padden said,
vaguely. He turned a shrewd eye upon Anthony. "I heard about the game
to-day. That was all right."

Kirk grinned boyishly. "I didn't have much to do with it; these are the
fellows."

"Don't believe him," interrupted Ringold.

"Sure! he's too modest," Higgins chimed in. "Fine fellow an' all that,
understand, but he's got two faults - he's modest and he's lazy. He's
caused a lot of uneasiness to his father and me. Father's a fine man,
too." He nodded his long, narrow head solemnly.

"We know who did the trick for us," added Anderson, the straw-haired
half-back.

"Glad you dropped in," Mr. Padden assured them. "Anything you boys want
and can't get, let me know."

When he had gone Higgins averred: "There's a fine man - peaceful,
refined - got a lovely character, too. Let's be gentlemen while we're in
his place."

Ringold rose. "I'm going to dance, fellows," he announced, and his
companions followed him, with the exception of the cadaverous Higgins,
who maintained that dancing was a pastime for the frivolous and weak.

When they returned to their table they found a stranger was seated with
him, who rose as Higgins made him known.

"Boys, meet my old friend, Mr. Jefferson Locke, of St. Louis. He's all
right."

The college men treated this new recruit with a hilarious cordiality,
to which he responded with the air of one quite accustomed to such
reunions.

"I was at the game this afternoon," he explained, when the greetings
were over, "and recognized you chaps when you came in. I'm a football
fan myself."

"You look as if you might have played," said Anthony, sizing up the
broad frame of the Missourian with the critical eye of a coach.

"Yes. I used to play."

"Where?"

Mr. Locke avoided answer by calling loudly for a waiter, but when the
orders had been taken Kirk repeated:

"Where did you play, Mr. Locke?"

"Left tackle."

"What university?"

"Oh one of the Southern colleges. It was a freshwater school - you
wouldn't know the name." He changed the subject quickly by adding:

"I just got into town this morning and I'm sailing to-morrow. I
couldn't catch a boat to-day, so I'm having a little blow-out on my own
account. When I recognized you all, I just butted in. New York is a
lonesome place for a stranger. Hope you don't mind my joining you."

"Not at all!" he was assured.

When he came to pay the waiter he displayed a roll of yellow-backed
bills that caused Anthony to caution him:

"If I were you I'd put that in my shoe. I know this place."

Locke only laughed. "There's more where this came from. However, that's
one reason I'd like to stick around with you fellows. I have an idea
I've been followed, and I don't care to be tapped on the head. If you
will let me trail along I'll foot the bills. That's a fair proposition."

"It certainly sounds engaging," cried Higgins, joyously. "The sight of
that money awakens a feeling of loyalty in our breasts. I speak for all
when I say we will guard you like a lily as long as your money lasts,
Mr. Locke."

"As long as we last," Ringold amended.

"It's a bargain," Locke agreed. "Hereafter I foot the bills. You're my
guests for the evening, understand. If you'll agree to keep me company
until my ship sails I'll do the entertaining."

"Oh, come now," Anthony struck in. "The fellows are just fooling.
You're more than welcome to stay with us if you like, but we can't let
you put up for it."

"Why not? We'll make a night of it. I'll show you how we spend money in
St. Louis. I'm too nervous to go to bed."

Anthony protested, insisting that the other should regard himself as
the guest of the crowd; but as Locke proved obdurate the question was
allowed to drop until later, when Kirk found himself promoted by tacit
consent to the position of host for the whole company. This was a
little more than he had bargained for, but the sense of having
triumphed in a contest of good-fellowship consoled him. Meanwhile, the
stranger, despite his avowedly festive spirit, showed a certain reserve.

When the music again struck up he declined to dance, preferring to
remain with Higgins in their inconspicuous corner.

"There's a fine fellow," the latter remarked, following his best
friend's figure with his eyes, when he and Locke were once more alone.
"Sweet nature."

"Anthony? Yes, he looks it."

"He's got just two faults, I always say: he's too modest by far and
he's lazy - won't work."

"He doesn't have to work. His old man has plenty of coin, hasn't he?"

"Yes, and he'll keep it, too. Heartless old wretch. Mr. - What's your
name, again?"

"Locke."

"Mr. Locke." The speaker stared mournfully at his companion. "D'you
know what that unnatural parent did?"

"No."

"He let his only son and heir go to jail."

Mr. Jefferson Locke, of St. Louis, started; his wandering, watchful
eyes flew back to the speaker.

"What! Jail?"

"That's what I remarked. He allowed his own flesh and blood to languish
in a loathsome cell."

"What for? What did they get him for?" queried the other, quickly.

"Speeding."

"Oh!" Locke let himself back in his chair.

"Yes sir, he's a branded felon."

"Nonsense. That's nothing."

"But we love him just the same, criminal though he is" said Higgins,
showing a disposition to weep. "If he were not such a strong, patient
soul it might have ruined his whole life."

Mr. Locke grunted.

"S'true! You've no idea the disgrace it is to go to jail."

The Missourian stirred uneasily. "Say, it gets on my nerves to sit
still," said he. "Let's move around."

"Patiently! Patiently! Somebody's sure to start something before long."

"Well, I don't care to get mixed up in a row."

Higgins laid a long, white hand upon the speaker's arm. "Then stay with
us, Mr. - Locke. If you incline to peace, be one of us. We're a flock of
sucking doves."

The dancers came crowding up to the table at the moment, and Ringold
suggested loudly: "I'm hungry; let's eat again."

His proposal met with eager response.

"Where shall we go?" asked Anderson.

"I just fixed it with Padden for a private room upstairs," Anthony
said. "All the cafes are closed now, and this is the best place in town
for chicken creole, anyhow."

Accordingly he led the way, and the rest filed out after him; but as
they left the ball-room a medium-sized man who had recently entered
from the street caught a glimpse of them, craned his neck for a better
view, then idled along behind.




II

THE TRAIL DIVIDES


Inspired by his recent rivalry with Mr. Jefferson Locke, Anthony played
the part of host more lavishly than even the present occasion required.
He ordered elaborately, and it was not long before corks were popping
and dishes rattling quite as if the young men were really hungry. Mr.
Locke, however, insisted that his friends should partake of a kind of
drink previously unheard of, and with this in view had a confidential
chat with the waiter, to whom he unostentatiously handed a five-dollar
retainer. No one witnessed this unusual generosity except Higgins, who
commended it fondly; but his remarks went unheeded in the general
clamor.

The meal was at its noisiest when the man whom Locke had so generously
tipped spoke to him quietly. Whatever his words, they affected the
listener strongly. Locke's face whitened, then grew muddy and yellow,
his hands trembled, his lips went dry. He half arose from his chair,
then cast a swift look about the room. His companions were too well
occupied, however, to notice this by-play even when the waiter
continued, in a low tone:

"He slipped me a ten-spot, so I thought it must be something worth
while."

"He - he's alone, you say?"

"Seems to be. What shall I do, sir?"

Locke took something from his pocket and thrust it into the fellow's
hand, while the look in his eyes changed to one of desperation.

"Step outside and wait. Don't let him come up. I'll call you in a
minute."

Ringold was recounting his version of the first touchdown - how he had
been forced inch by inch across the goal line to the tune of thirty
thousand yelling throats and his companions were hanging upon his
words, when their new friend interrupted in such a tone that Anthony
inquired in surprise:

"What's wrong, old man? Are you sick?"

Locke shook his head. "I told you fellows I'd been followed this
evening. Remember? Well, there's a man down-stairs who has given the
waiter ten dollars to let him have his coat and apron so he can come in



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