With all his outward candor the Governor had, Archie found, reserves that wer_uite unaccountable. He let fall allusions to his past in the most natura_ashion, with an incidental air that added to their plausibility, without eve_earing aside the veil that concealed his origin or the manner of his fall, if, indeed, a man who so jubilantly boasted of his crimes and seemed to fin_n infinite satisfaction and delight in his turpitude, could be said to hav_allen. Having mentioned Brattleboro as the point at which they were t_oregather with Red Leary, the Governor did not refer to the matter again, bu_hose routes and made detours without explanation.
As a matter of fact they swung round Brattleboro and saw only the faint blu_f its smoke from the western side. It was on the second afternoon out o_ornford that the Governor suddenly bade Archie, whom he encouraged to driv_uch of the time, pause at a gate.
"We linger here, son. May I suggest that you take your cue from me? Bil_alker is an honest dairyman to all intents and purposes, but really an ol_rook who got tired of dodging sheriffs and bloodhounds and bought this farm.
A sober, industrious family man, you will find him, with a wife and on_aughter. This is one of the best stations of the underground railroad; saf_s a mother's arms, and you will never believe you're not the favored guest o_ week-end party. Walker's an old chum of Leary's. They used to cut up in th_ost reprehensible fashion out West in old times. You've probably wondere_hat becomes of old crooks. Walker is of course an unusual specimen, for h_new when the quitting was good, and having salted away a nice little fortun_ccumulated in express hold-ups, he dwells here in peace and passes the hat a_he meeting house every Sunday. You may be dead sure that only the aristocrac_f our profession have the entrée at Walker's. His herd on the hillside yonde_akes a pretty picture of tranquillity. The house is an old timer, but he'_ade a comfortable place of it, and the wife and daughter set a wonderfu_able. Here's the old boy now."
A gray-bearded man with a pronounced stoop, clad in faded blue overalls, wa_aiting for them at the barn.
"Just run the machine right in," he called.
The car disposed of, the Governor introduced Archie as one of his deares_riends, and the hand Archie clasped was undeniably roughened by toil. Walke_umbled a "glad-to-see-ye," and lazily looked him over.
"Always glad to meet any friend of Mr. Saulsbury's," he drawled with _ournful twang. "We've got plenty o' bread and milk for strangers. Somebody'_pread the idea we run a hotel here and we're pestered a good deal with folk_hat want to stop for a meal. We take care o' 'em mostly. The wife and littl_al sort o' like havin' folks stop; takes away the lonesomeness."
There was nothing in his speech or manner to suggest that he had ever been _oad agent. He assisted them in carrying their traps to the house, talkin_armer fashion of the weather, crops and the state of the roads. The house wa_onnected with the barn in the usual New England style. In the kitchen a gir_ang cheerily and hearing her the Governor paused and struck an attitude.
"O divinity! O Deity of the Green Hills! O Lovely Daughter of the Stars! _phigenia!"
The girl appeared at a window, rested her bare arms on the sill and smilingl_aluted them with a cheery "Hello there!"
"Look upon that picture!" exclaimed the Governor, seizing Archie's arm. "I_ld times upon Olympus she was cup-bearer to the gods, but here she is Sall_alker, and never so charming as when she sits enthroned upon the milkin_tool. Miss Walker, my old friend, Mr. Comly, or Achilles, as you will!"
A very pretty picture Miss Walker made in the kitchen window, a vivid portrai_hat immediately enhanced Archie's pleasurable sensations in finding a have_hat promised rest and security. Her black hair was swept back smoothly fro_er forehead and there was the glow of perfect health in her rounded cheeks.
Archie noted her dimples and the white even teeth that made somethin_oteworthy and memorable of her smile.
"Well, Mr. Saulsbury, I've read all those books you sent me, and the candy wa_he finest I ever tasted."
"She remembers! Amid all her domestic cares, she remembers! My dear lad, th_irl is one in a million!"
"You'd think Mr. Saulsbury was crazy about me!" she laughed. "But he makes th_ame speeches to every girl he sees, doesn't he, Mr. Comly?"
"Indeed not," protested Archie, rallying bravely to the Governor's support.
"He's been raving about you for days and my only surprise is that he s_ompletely failed to give me the faintest idea—idea—"
"Of your charm, your ineffable beauty!" the Governor supplied. "You see, Sally, my friend is shy with the shyness of youth and inexperience and he i_nable to utter the thoughts that do in him rise! I can see that he is you_aptive, your meekest slave. By the way, will there be cottage cheese prepare_y your own adorable hand for supper? Are golden waffles likely to confront u_n the breakfast table tomorrow at the hideous hour of five-thirty? Will ther_e maple syrup from yonder hillside grove?"
"You have said it!" Sally answered. "But you'd better chase yourselves int_he house now or pop'll be peeved at having to wait for you."
On the veranda a tall elderly man rose from a hammock in which he had bee_eading a newspaper and stretched himself. His tanned face was deeply line_ut he gave the impression of health and vigor.
"Leary," whispered the Governor in an aside and immediately introduced him.
"The road has been smooth and the sky is high," said the Governor in respons_o a quick anxious questioning of Leary's small restless eyes.
"Did you find peace in the churches by the way?" asked Leary.
"In one of the temples we found peace and plenty," answered the Governor a_hough reciting from a ritual.
Leary nodded and gave a hitch to his trousers.
"You found the waters of Champlain tranquil, and no hawks followed th_andward passage?"
"The robin and the bluebird sang over all the road," he answered; then with _lance at Archie: "You gave no warning of the second pilgrim."
"The brother is young and innocent, but I find him an apt pupil," the Governo_xplained.
"The brother will learn first the wisdom of silence," remarked Leary, and the_s though by an afterthought he shook Archie warmly by the hand.
They went into the house where Mrs. Walker, a stout middle-aged woman, greete_hem effusively.
"We've got to put you both in one room, if you don't mind," she explained,
"but there's two beds in it. I guess you can make out."
"Make out!" cried the Governor with a deprecatory wave of his hand. "We shoul_e proud to be permitted to sleep on the porch! You do us much honor, my dea_rs. Walker."
"Oh, you always cheer us up, Mr. Saulsbury. And Mr. Comly is just as welcome."
The second floor room to which Walker led them was plainly but neatl_urnished and the windows looked out upon rolling pastures. The Governo_bandoned his high-flown talk and asked blunt questions as to recent visitors, apparently referring to criminals who had lodged at the farm. They talke_uite openly while Archie unpacked his bag. The restless activity of the fol_f the underworld, their methods of communication and points of rendezvou_eemed part of a vast system and he was ashamed of his enormous interest i_ll he saw and heard. The Governor's cool fashion of talking of the world o_rime and its denizens almost legitimatized it, made it appear a recognize_art of the accepted scheme of things. Walker aroused the Governor's deepes_nterest by telling of the visit of Pete Barney, a diamond thief, who ha_ately made a big haul in Chicago, and had been passed along from one point o_efuge to another. The Governor asked particularly as to the man's experience_nd treatment on the road, and whether he had complained of the hospitalit_xtended by any of the agents of the underground.
"You needn't worry about him," said Walker, with a shrug. "He asks for what h_ants."
"Sorry if he made himself a nuisance. I'll give warning to chain the gate_oward the North. Is he carrying the sparks with him?"
"Lets 'em shine like a fool. I told 'im to clear out with 'em."
"You did right. The brothers in the West must be more careful about handin_ut tickets. Now trot Red up here and we'll transact a little business."
Leary appeared a moment later and Archie was about to leave the room, but th_overnor insisted stoutly that he remain.
"I'm anxious for you and Red to know that I trust both of you fully."
"What's the young brother,—a con?" asked Leary with a glance at Archie.
To be referred to as a confidence man by a gentleman of Leary's professiona_minence gave Archie a thrill. The Governor answered by drawing up his sleeve_nd going through the motions of washing his hands.
"Does the hawk follow fast?" Leary asked, as he proceeded to fill his pipe.
"The shadow hasn't fallen, but we watch the sky," returned the Governor.
The brushing of the hands together Archie interpreted as a code sig_ignifying murder and the subsequent interchange of words he took to b_nquiry and answer as to the danger of apprehension. He felt that Leary'_ttitude toward him became friendlier from that moment. There was somethin_hastly in the thought that as the slayer of a human being he attained _ertain dignity in the eyes of men like Leary. But he became interested in th_ransaction that was now taking place between the thief and the Governor. Th_overnor extracted the sixty one-thousand-dollar bills from his bag, and lai_hem out on the bed. He rapidly explained just how Leary's hidden booty ha_een recovered, and the manner in which the smaller denominations had bee_onverted into bills that could be passed without arousing suspicion.
"Too big for one bite, but old Dan Sheedy will change 'em all for you in Bea_enter. You know his place? You see him alone and ask him to chop some fee_or your cattle. He makes a good front and stands well at his bank."
Leary picked up ten of the bills and held them out to the Governor.
"If that ain't right we'll make it right," he said.
"Not a cent, Red! I haven't got to a point yet where I charge a fee for m_ervices. But our young brother here is entitled to anything he wants."
Archie grasped with difficulty the idea that he was invited to share in th_oot. His insistence that he couldn't think for a moment of accepting any o_he money puzzled Leary.
"It's all right about you, Governor, but the kid had better shake the tree. I_is hands are wet he's likely to need a towel."
"Don't be an ass, Comly," said the Governor. "Leary's ahead of the game te_housand good plunks and what he offers is a ridiculously modest honorarium.
Recovering such property and getting it into shape for the market is wort_omething handsome."
"Really," began Archie, and then as the "really" seemed an absurdly bana_eginning for a rejection of an offer of stolen money, he said with a curl o_he lip and a swagger, "Oh, hell! I'd feel pretty rotten to take money fro_ne of the good pals. And besides, I didn't do anything anyhow."
The Governor passed his hand over his face to conceal a smile, but Lear_eemed sincerely grieved by Archie's conduct and remarked dolefully that ther_ust be something wrong with the money. The Governor hastily vouched for it_mpeccable quality and excused Archie as a person hardly second to himself fo_ccentricity.
"No hard feeling; most certainly not! My young friend is only proud to serve _an of your standing in the profession. It is possible that later on you ma_e able to render us a service. You never can tell, you know, Red."
Leary philosophically stowed the bills in his clothing.
"You're done, are you?" asked the Governor; "out of the game?"
"I sure have quit the road," Leary answered. "The old girl has got a fe_housands tucked away and I'm goin' to pick her up and buy a motion pictur_oint or a candy and soda shop somewhere in the big lakes—one of those place_hat freeze up all winter, so I can have a chance to rest. The old girl has _lace in mind. The climate will be good for my asthma. She knows how to run _izz shop and I'll be the scenery and just set round."
"On the whole it doesn't sound exciting," the Governor commented, inspecting _lean shirt. "Did your admirable wife get rid of those pearls she pinched las_inter? They were a handsome string, as I remember, too handsome to marke_eadily. Mrs. Leary has a passion for precious baubles, Archie," the Governo_xplained. "A brilliant career in picking up such trifles; a star performer, Red, if you don't mind my bragging of your wife."
Leary seemed not at all disturbed by this revelation of his wife's larcenou_ffection for pearls. That a train robber's wife should be a thief seeme_erfectly natural; indeed it seemed quite fitting that thieves should mat_ith thieves. Archie further gathered that Mrs. Leary operated in Chicago, under the guise of a confectionery shop, one of the stations of th_nderground railroad, and assisted the brotherhood in disposing of their ill- gotten wares. A recent reform wave in Chicago had caused a shake-up in th_olice department, most disturbing to the preying powers.
"They're clean off me, I reckon," said Leary a little pathetically, th_eference being presumably to the pestiferous police. "That was a good idea o_ours for me to go up into Canada and work at a real job for a while. Must _orked hard enough to change my finger prints. Some bloke died in Kansa_while back and got all the credit for being the old original Red Leary."
This error of the press in recording Leary's death tickled the Governo_ightily, and Leary laughed until he was obliged to wipe the tears from hi_yes.
"I'm going to pull my freight after supper," he said. "Walker's goin' to tak_e into town and I'll slip out to Detroit where the old girl's waitin' fo_e."
The Governor mused upon this a moment, drew a small note-book from his pocke_nd verified his recollection of the address of one of the outposts of th_nderground which Leary mentioned.
"Avoid icy pavements!" he admonished. "There's danger in all those borde_owns."
Walker called them to supper and they went down to a meal that met all th_xpectations aroused by the Governor's boast of the Walker cuisine. Not onl_ere the fried chicken and hot biscuits excellent, but Archie found Mis_alker's society highly agreeable and stimulating. She wore a snowy whit_pron over a blue gingham dress, and rose from time to time to replenish th_latters. The Governor chaffed her familiarly, and Archie edged into the tal_ith an ease that surprised him. His speculative faculties, all but benumbe_y the violent exercise to which they had been subjected since he joined th_rmy of the hunted, found new employment in an attempt to determine just ho_uch this cheery, handsome girl knew of the history of the company that met a_er father's table. She was the daughter of a retired crook, and it had neve_ccurred to him that crooks had daughters, or if they were so blessed he ha_ssumed that they were defectives, turned over for rearing to disagreeabl_ublic institutions.
The Governor had said that they were to spend a day or two at Walker's bu_rchie was now hoping that he would prolong the visit. When next he saw Isabe_e would relate, quite calmly and incidentally, his meteoric nights throug_he underworld, and Sally, the incomparable dairy maid, should dance merril_n his narrative. In a pleasant drawing-room somewhere or other he would mee_sabel and rehabilitate himself in her eyes by the very modesty with which h_ould relate his amazing tale. It pleased him to reflect that if she could se_im at the Walker table with Red Leary and the Governor, that mos_ccomplished of villains, eating hot biscuits which had been speciall_orbidden by his physician, she would undoubtedly decide that he had made _retty literal interpretation of her injunction to throw a challenge in th_eeth of fate.
Walker ate greedily, shoveling his food into his mouth with his knife; an_rchie had never before sat at meat with a man who used this means of urgin_ood into his vitals. The Governor magnanimously ignored his friend's socia_rrors, praising the chicken and delivering so beautiful an oration on th_ome-made pickled peaches that Sally must needs dart into the pantry and brin_ack a fresh jar which she placed with a spoon by the Governor's plate.
At the end of the meal Walker left for town to put Leary on a train fo_oston. The veteran train robber shook hands all round and waved a las_arewell from the gate. Archie was sorry to lose him, for Leary was a_ppealing old fellow, and he had hoped for a chance to coax from him som_eminiscences of his experiences.
Leary vanished into the starlit dusk as placidly as though he hadn't tucke_way in his clothing sixty thousand dollars to which he had no lawful right o_itle. There was something ludicrous in the whole proceeding. While Archie ha_n income of fifty thousand dollars a year from investments, he had alway_xperienced a pleasurable thrill at receiving the statement of his dividend_rom his personal clerk in the broker's office, where he drew an additiona_en thousand as a silent partner. Leary's method of dipping into the world'_apital seemed quite as honorable as his own. Neither really did any work fo_he money. This he reflected was both morally and economically unsound, an_et Archie found himself envying Leary the callousness that made it possibl_or him to pocket sixty thousand stolen dollars without the quiver of a_yelash.