I conquered, p.1

I Conquered, page 1

 



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  Produced by Andrew Sly, Al Haines and the Online DistributedProofreading Team at https://www.pgdp.net

  [Frontispiece: _The Captain tore at the shoulders and neck of the grayhorse with his gleaming teeth_. Page 96]

  "I Conquered"

  By HAROLD TITUS

  With Frontispiece in Colors

  By CHARLES M. RUSSELL

  A. L. BURT COMPANY

  Publishers New York

  Published by Arrangements with Rand, McNally & Company

  _Copyright, 1916,_

  By Rand McNally & Company

  THE CONTENTS

  CHAPTER

  I. Denunciation II. A Young Man Goes West III. "I've Done My Pickin'" IV. The Trouble Hunter V. Jed Philosophizes VI. Ambition Is Born VII. With Hoof and Tooth VIII. A Head of Yellow Hair IX. Pursuit X. Capture XI. A Letter and a Narrative XII. Woman Wants XIII. VB Fights XIV. The Schoolhouse Dance XV. Murder XVI. The Candle Burns XVII. Great Moments XVIII. The Lie XIX. Through the Night XX. The Last Stand XXI. Guns Crash XXII. Tables Turn; and Turn Again XXIII. Life, the Trophy XXIV. Victory XXV. "The Light!" XXVI. To the Victor

  "__I CONQUERED"

  CHAPTER I

  Denunciation

  Danny Lenox wanted a drink. The desire came to him suddenly as he stoodlooking down at the river, burnished by bright young day. It broke inon his lazy contemplation, wiped out the indulgent smile, and made theyoung face serious, purposeful, as though mighty consequence dependedon satisfying the urge that had just come up within him.

  He was the sort of chap to whom nothing much had ever mattered, whoseface generally bore that kindly, contented smile. His graveconsideration had been aroused by only a scant variety of happeningsfrom the time of a pampered childhood up through the gamut of bubblingboyhood, prep school, university, polo, clubs, and a growing popularitywith a numerous clan until he had approached a state of established andwidely recognized worthlessness.

  Economics did not bother him. It mattered not how lavishly he spent;there had always been more forthcoming, because Lenox senior had aworld of the stuff. The driver of his taxicab--just now whirlingaway--seemed surprised when Danny waved back change, but the boy didnot bother himself with thought of the bill he had handed over.

  Nor did habits which overrode established procedure for men cause himto class himself apart from the mass. He remarked that the cars zippingpast between him and the high river embankment were stragglers in themorning flight businessward; but he recognized no difference betweenhimself and those who scooted toward town, intent on the furtherance ofserious ends.

  What might be said or thought about his obvious deviation from beaten,respected paths was only an added impulse to keep smiling with carelessamiability. It might be commented on behind fans in drawing rooms orthrough mouths full of food in servants' halls, he knew. But it did notmatter.

  However--something mattered. He wanted a drink.

  And it was this thought that drove away the smile and set the lines ofhis face into seriousness, that sent him up the broad walk withswinging, decisive stride, his eyes glittering, his lips takingmoisture from a quick-moving tongue. He needed a drink!

  Danny entered the Lenox home up there on the sightly knoll, fashionedfrom chill-white stone, staring composedly down on the drive from itsmany black-rimmed windows. The heavy front door shut behind him with amuffled sound like a sigh, as though it had been waiting his coming allthrough the night, just as it had through so many nights, and letsuppressed breath slip out in relief at another return.

  A quick step carried him across the vestibule within sight of thedining-room doorway. He flung his soft hat in the general direction ofa cathedral bench, loosed the carelessly arranged bow tie, and with animpatient jerk unbuttoned the soft shirt at his full throat. Of allthings, from conventions to collars, Danny detested those which bound.And just now his throat seemed to be swelling quickly, to be pulsing;and already the glands of his mouth responded to the thought of thatwhich was on the buffet in a glass decanter--amber--and clear--and--

  At the end of the hallway a door stood open, and Danny's glance,passing into the room it disclosed, lighted on the figure of a manstooping over a great expanse of table, fumbling with papers--fumblinga bit slowly, as with age, the boy remarked even in the flash of asecond his mind required to register a recognition of his father.

  Danny stopped. The yearning of his throat, the call of his tighteningnerves, lost potency for the moment; the glitter of desire in his darkeyes softened quickly. He threw back his handsome head with a gestureof affection that was almost girlish, in spite of its muscularstrength, and the smile came back, softer, more indulgent.

  His brow clouded a scant instant when he turned to look into the diningroom as he walked down the long, dark, high-ceilinged hall, and hisstep hesitated. But he put the impulse off, going on, with shouldersthrown back, rubbing his palms together as though wholesomely happy.

  So he passed into the library.

  "Well, father, it's a good morning to you!"

  At the spontaneous salutation the older man merely ceased moving aninstant. He remained bent over the table, one hand arrested in the actof reaching for a document. It was as though he held his breath tolisten--or to calculate quickly.

  The son walked across to him, approaching from behind, and dropped ahand on the stooping, black-clothed shoulder.

  "How go--"

  Danny broke his query abruptly, for the other straightened with ahalf-spoken word that was, at the least, utmost impatience; possibly aword which, fully uttered, would have expressed disgust, perhaps--evenloathing! And on Danny was turned such a mask as he had never seenbefore. The cleanly shaven face was dark. The cold blue eyes flashed achill fire and the grim slit of a tightly closed mouth twitched, as didthe fingers at the skirts of the immaculate coat.

  Lenox senior backed away, putting out a hand to the table, edging alonguntil a corner of it was between himself and his heir. Then the hand,fingers stiffly extended, pressed against the table top. It trembled.

  The boy flushed, then smiled, then sobered. On the thought of whatseemed to him the certain answer to the strangeness of this reception,his voice broke the stillness, filled with solicitude.

  "Did I startle you?" he asked, and a smile broke through his concern."You jumped as though--"

  Again he broke short. His father's right hand, palm outward, was raisedtoward him and moved quickly from side to side. That gesture meantsilence! Danny had seen it used twice before--once when a man ofpolitical power had let his angered talk rise in the Lenox house untilit became disquieting; once when a man came there to plead. And thegesture on those occasions had carried the same quiet, ominousconviction that it now impressed on Danny.

  The voice of the old man was cold and hard, almost brittle for lack offeeling.

  "How much will you take to go?" he asked, and breathed twice loudly, asthough struggling to hold back a bursting emotion.

  Danny leaned slightly forward from his hips and wrinkled his face inhis inability to understand.

  "What?" He drawled out the word. "Once more, please?"

  "How much will you take to go?"

  Again the crackling, colorless query, by its chill strength narrowingeven the thought which must transpire in the presence of the speaker.

  "How much will I take to go?" repeated Danny. "How much what? To gowhere?"

  Lenox senior blinked, and his face darkened. His voice lost some of itsedge, became a trifle muffled, as though the emotion he had breathedhard to suppress had come up into his throat and adhered gummily to thewords.

  "How much money--how much money will you take to go away from here?Away from me? Away from New York? Out of my
sight--out of my way?"

  Once more the fingers pressed the table top and the fighting jaw of thegray-haired man protruded slowly as the younger drew nearer a falteringstep, two--three, until he found support against the table.

  There across the corner of the heavy piece of furniture they peered ateach other; one in silent, mighty rage; the other with eyes widening,quick, confusing lights playing across their depths as he strove torefuse the understanding.

  "How much money--to go away from New York--from you? Out of your _way_?"

  Young Danny's voice rose in pitch at each word as with addedrealization the strain on his emotions increased. His body saggedforward and the hands on the table bore much of its weight; so muchthat the elbows threatened to give, as had his knees.

  "To go away--why? Why--is this?"

  In his query was something of the terror of a frightened child; in hiseyes something of the look of a wounded beast.

  "You ask me why!"

  Lenox senior straightened with a jerk and followed the exclamation withsomething that had been a laugh until, driven through the rage withinhim, it became only a rattling rasp in his throat.

  "You ask me why!" he repeated. "You ask me why!"

  His voice dropped to a thin whisper; then, anger carrying it above itsnormal tone:

  "You stand here in this room, your face like suet from months and yearsof debauchery, your mind unable to catch my idea because of the poisonyou have forced on it, because of the stultifying thoughts you have letoccupy it, because of the ruthless manner in which you have wasted itspowers of preception, of judgment, and ask me why!"

  In quick gesture he leveled a vibrating finger at the face of his sonand with pauses between the words declared: "_You_--are--why!"

  Danny's elbows bent still more under the weight on them, and his lipsworked as he tried to force a dry throat through the motions ofswallowing. On his face was reflected just one emotion--surprise. Itwas not rage, not resentment, not shame, not fear--just surprise.

  He was utterly confused by the abruptness of his father's attack; hewas unable to plumb the depths of its significance, although aninherent knowledge of the other's moods told him that he faced disaster.

  Then the older man was saying:

  "You have stripped yourself of everything that God and man could giveyou. You have thrown the gems of your opportunity before your swinishdesires. You have degenerated from the son your mother bore to aworthless, ambitionless, idealless, thoughtless--drunkard!"

  Danny took a half-step closer to the table, his eyes held on thoseothers with mechanical fixity.

  "Father--but, dad--" he tried to protest.

  Again the upraised, commanding palm.

  "I have stood it as long as I can. I have suggested from time to timethat you give serious consideration to things about you and to yourfuture; suggested, when a normal young man would have gone ahead of hisown volition to meet the exigencies every individual must face sooneror later.

  "But you would have none of it! From your boyhood you have been awaster. I hoped once that all the trouble you gave us was evidence of aspirit that would later be directed toward a good end. But I was neverjustified in that.

  "You wasted your university career. Why, you weren't even a goodathlete! You managed to graduate, but only to befog what little hopethen remained to me.

  "You have had everything you could want; you had money, friends, andyour family name. What have you done? Wasted them! You had your polostring and the ability to play a great game, but what came of it? You'drather sit in the clubhouse and saturate yourself with drink and withthe idle, parasitic thoughts of the crowd there!

  "You have dropped low and lower until, everything else gone, you arenow wasting the last thing that belongs to you, the fundamental thingin life--your vitality!

  "Oh, don't try to protest! Those sacks under your eyes! Your shouldersaren't as straight as they were a year ago; you don't think as quicklyas you did when making a pretense of playing polo; your hand isn'tsteady for a man of twenty-five. You're going; you're on the tobogganslide.

  "You have wasted yourself, flung yourself away, and not one act orthought of your experience has been worth the candle! Now--what willyou take to get out?"

  The boy before him moved a slow step backward, and a flush came up overhis drawn face.

  "You--" he began. Then he stopped and drew a hand across his eyes,beginning the movement slowly and ending with a savage jerk. "You neversaid a word before! You never intimated you thought this! Younever--you--"

  He floundered heavily under the stinging conviction that of such washis only defense!

  "No!" snapped his father, after waiting for more to come. "I never saidanything before--not like this. You smiled away whatever I suggested.Nothing mattered--nothing except debauchery. Now you've passed thelimit You're a common drunk!"

  His voice rose high and higher; he commenced to gesticulate.

  "You live only to wreck yourself. Yours is the fault--and the blame!

  "It is natural for me to be concerned. I've hung on now too long,hoping that you would right yourself and justify the hopes people havehad in you. I planned, years ago, to have you take up my work where Imust soon leave off--to go on in my place, to finish my life for me asI began yours for you! I've had faith that you would do this, but youwon't--you can't!

  "That isn't all. You're holding _me_ back. I must push on now harderthan ever, but with the stench of your misdeeds always in my nostrilsit is almost an impossibility."

  Danny raised his hands in a half-gesture of pleading, but the old manmotioned him back.

  "Don't be sorry; don't try to explain. This had to come. It's anaccumulation of years. I have no more faith in you. If I thought youcould ever rally I'd give up everything and help you, but not once inyour life have you shown me that you possessed one impulse to be ofuse."

  His voice dropped with each word, and its return to the cold normalsent a stiffness into the boy's spine. His head went up, his chin out;his hands closed slowly.

  "How much money will you take to get out?"

  The old man moved from behind the table corner and approached Danny,walking slowly, with his hands behind him. He came to a stop before theboy, slowly unbuttoned his coat, reached to an inner pocket, and drewout a checkbook.

  "How much?"

  Danny's gesture, carried out, surely would have resulted in a blowstrong enough to send the book spinning across the room; but he stoppedit halfway.

  His eyes were puffed and bloodshot; his pulse hammered loudly under hisears, and the rush of blood made his head roar. Before him floated amist, fogging thought as it did his vision.

  The boy's voice was scarcely recognizable as he spoke. It was hard andcold--somewhat like the one which had so scourged him.

  "Keep your money," he said, looking squarely at his father at the costof a peculiar, unreal effort. "I'll get out--and without your help.Some day I'll--I'll show you what a puny thing this faith of yours is!"

  The elder Lenox, buttoning his coat with brisk motions, merely said,"Very well." He left the room.

  Danny heard his footsteps cross the hall, heard the big front door sighwhen it closed as though it rejoiced at the completion of a distastefultask.

  Then he shut his eyes and struck his thighs twice with stiff forearms.He was boiling, blood and brain! At first he thought it anger; perhapsanger had been there, but it was not the chief factor of that tumult.

  It was humiliation. The horrid, unanswerable truth had seared Danny'svery body--witness the anguished wrinkles on his brow--and his moltenconsciousness could find no argument to justify himself, even to act asa balm!

  "He never _said_ it before," the boy moaned, and in that spoken thoughtwas the nearest thing to comfort that he could conjure.

  He stood in the library a long time, gradually cooling, graduallynursing the bitterness that grew up in the midst of conflictingimpulses. The look in his eyes changed from bewilderment to a glassycynicism, and he began to walk back and f
orth unsteadily.

  He paced the long length of the room a dozen times. Then, with aquickened stride, he passed into the hall, crossed it, and entered thedining room, the tip of his tongue caressing his lips.

  On the buffet stood a decanter, a heavy affair of finely executedglassworker's art. The dark stuff in it extended halfway up the neck,and as he reached for it Danny's lips parted. He lifted the receptacleand clutched at a whisky glass that stood on the same tray. He pickedit up, looked calculatingly at it, set it down, and picked up a_tumbler_.

  The glass stopper of the bottle thudded on the mahogany; his nervoushand held the tumbler under its gurgling mouth. Half full, two-thirds,three-quarters, to within a finger's breadth of the top he filled it.

  Then, setting the decanter down, he lifted the glass to look throughthe amber at the morning light; his breath quick, his eyes glittering,Danny Lenox poised. A smile played about his eager lips--a smile thatbrightened, and lingered, and faded--and died.

  The hand holding the glass trembled, then was still; trembled again, soseverely that it spilled some of the liquor; came gradually down fromits upraised position, down below his mouth, below his shoulder, andwaveringly sought the buffet.

  As the glass settled to the firm wood Danny's shoulders slacked forwardand his head drooped. He turned slowly from the buffet, the aroma ofwhisky strong in his dilated nostrils. After the first faltering stephe faced about, gazed at his reflection in the mirror, and said aloud:

  "And it's not been worth--the candle!"

  Savagery was in his step as he entered the hall, snatched up his hat,and strode to the door.

  As the heavy portal swung shut behind the hurrying boy it sighed again,as though hopelessly. The future seemed hopeless for Danny. He had goneout to face a powerful foe.

 
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