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A Hoosier Chronicle by Meredith Nicholson

This was seeing Fitch in a new aspect


"He's

different, at least; but I can't think him half as bad as they say he is."

"He isn't, probably," replied Fitch, whose eyes were contemplating the cornice of the building across the street. Then, as though just recalling Dan's presence: "May I ask you whether, aside from that 'Courier' article, you ever consciously served Bassett in any way--ever did anything that might have caused him to feel that he was under obligations?"

"Why, no, sir; nothing whatever."

"--Or--" a considerable interval in which Fitch's gaze reverted to the cornice--"that you might have some information that made it wise for him to keep his hand on you?"

"Absolutely nothing," answered Dan, the least bit uncomfortable under this questioning.

"You're not aware," the lawyer persisted deliberately, "that you ever had any dealings of any kind even remotely with Mr. Bassett."

"No; never, beyond what I've told you."

"Then, if I were in your place, and the man I think you are, I'd accept the offer, but don't bind yourself for a long period; keep your mouth shut and hang on to your ideals,--it's rather odd that you and I should be using that word; it doesn't get into a law office often. If you feel tempted to do things that you know are crooked, think of Billy Sumner, and act

accordingly. It's getting to be truer all the time that few of us are free men. What's Shakespeare's phrase?--'bound upon a wheel of fire';--that, Mr. Harwood, is all of us. We have valuable clients in this office that we'd lose if I got out and shouted my real political convictions. We're all cowards; but don't you be one. As soon as I'm sure I've provided for my family against the day of wrath I'm going to quit the law and blow the dust off of some of my own ideals; it's thick, I can tell you!"

This was seeing Fitch in a new aspect. Dan was immensely pleased by the lawyer's friendliness, and he felt that his counsel was sound.

Fitch broke in on the young man's thoughts to say:--

"By the way, you know where I live? Come up and dine with me to-morrow at seven if you're free. My folks are away and I'd like to swap views with you on politics, religion, baseball, and great subjects like that."

Dan wrote his acceptance of Bassett's offer that night.

CHAPTER X

IN THE BOORDMAN BUILDING

Harwood opened the office in the Boordman Building, and settled in it the law books Bassett sent from Fraserville. The lease was taken in Dan's name, and he paid for the furniture with his own check, Bassett having given him five hundred dollars for expenses. The Boordman was one of the older buildings in Washington Street, and as it antedated the era of elevators, only the first of its three stories was occupied by offices. Its higher altitudes had fallen to miscellaneous tenants including a few telegraph operators, printers, and other night workers who lodged there for convenience. Dan's immediate neighbors proved to be a shabby lawyer who concealed by a professional exterior his real vocation, which was chattel mortgages; a fire insurance agency conducted by several active young fellows of Dan's acquaintance; and the office of a Pittsburg firm of construction contractors, presided over by a girl who answered the telephone if haply it rang at moments when the heroes of the novels she devoured were not in too imminent peril of death.


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