In his desire to give other people pleasure, Mr. Crewe took the trouble to notify a great many of his friends and acquaintances as to the day of his speech, in case they might wish to travel to the State capital and hear him deliver it. Having unexpectedly received in the mail a cheque from Austen Vane in settlement of the case of the injured horse, Austen was likewise invited.
Austen smiled when he opened the letter, and with its businesslike contents there seemed to be wafted from it the perfume and suppliance of a September day in the Vale of the Blue. From the window of his back office, looking across the railroad tracks, he could see Sawanec, pale in her winter garb against a pale winter sky, and there arose in him the old restless desire for the woods and fields which at times was almost irresistible. His thoughts at length descending from the azure above Sawanec, his eyes fell again on Mr. Crewe's typewritten words: "It may be of interest to you that I am to deliver, on the 15th instant, and as the Chairman of the House Committee on National Affairs, a speech upon national policies which is the result of much thought, and which touches upon such material needs of our State as can be supplied by the Federal Government."
Austen had a brief fancy, whimsical as it was, of going to hear him. Mr. Crewe, as a type absolutely new to him, interested him. He had followed the unusual and somewhat surprising career of the gentleman from Leith with some care, even to the extent of reading of Mr. Crewe's activities in the State Tribunes which had been sent him. Were such qualifications as Mr. Crewe possessed, he wondered, of a kind to sweep their possessor into high office? Were industry, persistency, and a capacity for taking advantage of a fair wind sufficient?
Since his return from Pepper County, Austen Vane had never been to the State capital during a session, although it was common for young lawyers to have cases before the Legislature. It would have been difficult to say why he did not take these cases, aside from the fact that they were not very remunerative. On occasions gentlemen from different parts of the State, and some from outside of it who had certain favours to ask at the hands of the lawmaking body, had visited his back office and closed the door after them, and in the course of the conversation had referred to the relationship of the young lawyer to Hilary Vane. At such times Austen would freely acknowledge the debt of gratitude he owed his father for being in the world--and refer them politely to Mr. Hilary Vane himself. In most cases they had followed his advice, wondering not a little at this isolated example of quixotism.
During the sessions, except for a day or two at week ends which were often occupied with conferences, the Honourable Hilary's office was deserted; or rather, as we have seen, his headquarters were removed to room Number Seven in the Pelican Hotel at the capital. Austen got many of the lay clients who came to see his father at such times; and--without giving an exaggerated idea of his income--it might be said that he was beginning to have what may be called a snug practice for a lawyer of his experience. In other words, according to Mr. Tooting, who took an intense interest in the matter, "not wearing the collar" had been more of a financial success for Austen than that gentleman had imagined. There proved to be many clients to whom the fact that young Mr. Vane did not carry a "retainer pass" actually appealed. These clients paid their bills, but they were neither large nor influential, as a rule, with the notable exception of the Gaylord Lumber Company, where the matters for trial were not large. If young Tom Gaylord had had his way, Austen would have been the chief counsel for the corporation.
To tell the truth, Austen Vane had a secret aversion to going to the capital during a session, a feeling that such a visit would cause him unhappiness. In spite of his efforts, and indeed in spite of Hilary's, Austen and his father had grown steadily apart. They met in the office hallway, in the house in Hanover Street when Hilary came home to sleep, and the elder Mr. Vane was not a man to thrive on small talk. His world was the battlefield from which he directed the forces of the great corporation which he served, and the cherished vision of a son in whom he could confide his plans, upon whose aid and counsel he could lean, was gone forever. Hilary Vane had troublesome half-hours, but on the whole he had reached the conclusion that this son, like Sarah Austen, was one of those inexplicable products in which an extravagant and inscrutable nature sometimes indulged. On the rare evenings when the two were at home together, the Honourable Hilary sat under one side of the lamp with a pile of documents and newspapers, and Austen under the other with a book from the circulating library. No public questions could be broached upon which they were not as far apart as the poles, and the Honourable Hilary put literature in the same category as embroidery. Euphrasia, when she paused in her bodily activity to darn their stockings, used to glance at them covertly from time to time, and many a silent tear of which they knew nothing fell on her needle.
On the subject of his protracted weekly absences at the State capital, the Honourable Hilary was as uncommunicative as he would have been had he retired for those periods to a bar-room. He often grunted and cleared his throat and glanced at his son when their talk bordered upon these absences; and he was even conscious of an extreme irritation against himself as well as Austen because of the instinct that bade him keep silent. He told himself fiercely that he had nothing to be ashamed of, nor would he have acknowledged that it was a kind of shame that bade him refrain even from circumstantial accounts of what went on in room Number Seven of the Pelican. He had an idea that Austen knew and silently condemned; and how extremely maddening was this feeling to the Honourable Hilary may well be imagined. All his life long he had deemed himself morally invulnerable, and now to be judged and ethically found wanting by the son of Sarah Austen was, at times, almost insupportable. Were the standards of a long life to be suddenly reversed by a prodigal son?
To get back to Austen. On St. Valentine's Day of that year when, to tell the truth, he was seated in his office scribbling certain descriptions of nature suggested by the valentines in Mr. Hayman's stationery store, the postman brought in a letter from young Tom Gaylord. Austen laughed as he read it. "The Honourable Galusha Hammer is well named," young Tom wrote, "but the conviction has been gaining ground with me that a hammer is about as much use as a shovel would be at the present time. It is not the proper instrument. But the "old man" (it was thus young Tom was wont to designate his parent) "is pig-headed when he gets to fighting, and won't listen to reason. If he believes he can lick the Northeastern with a Hammer, he is durned badly mistaken, and I told him so. I have been giving him sage advice in little drops--after meals. I tell him there is only one man in the State who has sense enough even to shake the Northeastern, and that's you. He thinks this a pretty good joke. Of course I realize where your old man is planted, and that you might have some natural delicacy and wish to refrain from giving him a jar. But come down for an hour and let me talk to you, anyway. The new statesman from Leith is cutting a wide swath. Not a day passes but his voice is heard roaring in the Forum; he has visited all the State institutions, dined and wined the governor and his staff and all the ex-governors he can lay his hands on, and he has that hard-headed and caustic journalist, Mr. Peter Pardriff, of the State Tribune, hypnotized. He has some swells up at his house to hear his speech on national affairs, among them old Flint's daughter, who is a ripper to look at, although I never got nearer to her than across the street. As you may guess, it is something of a card for Crewe to have Flint's daughter here."