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- Wild Youth, Volume 1. - 6/13 -
and successful lawyer.
Being something of a philosopher, the Young Doctor looked upon Burlingame chiefly as one of those inevitable vintages from a vineyard which, according to the favour or disfavour of Heaven, yields from the same soil both good and bad. He had none of that Puritanism which would ruthlessly root out the vines yielding the bad wine. To his mind that could only be done by the axe, the rope or the bullet. It seemed of little use, and very unfair, to drive the wolf out of your own garden into that of your neighbour. Therefore Burlingame must be endured.
The day after the Young Doctor had paid his professional visit to Tralee, and Orlando Guise had first seen the girl-wife of, the behemoth, the Young Doctor visited Burlingame's office. Burlingame had only recently returned from England, whither he had gone on important legal business, which he had agreeably balanced by unguarded adventures in forbidden paths. He was in an animated mood. Three things had just happened which had given him great pleasure.
In the morning he had gained a verdict of acquittal in the case of one of the McMahon Gang for manslaughter connected with jumping a claim; and this meant increased reputation.
He had also got a letter from Orlando Guise, and a cheque for six thousand dollars, with instructions to pay the amount in cash to Joel Mazarine; and this meant a chance of meeting Mazarine and perhaps getting a new client.
Likewise he had received a letter of instructions from a client in Montreal, a kinsman and legatee of old Michael Turley, the late owner of Tralee, in connection with a legacy. This would involve some legal proceedings with considerable costs, and also contact with Joel Mazarine, whom he had not yet seen; for Mazarine had come while he was away in England.
His interest in Mazarine, however, was really an interest in Mrs. Mazarine, concerning whom he had heard things which stimulated his imagination. To him a woman was the supreme interest of existence, apart from making a necessary living. He was the primitive and pernicious hunter. He had been discreet enough not to question people too closely where Mazarine's wife was concerned, but there was, however, one gossip whom Burlingame questioned with some freedom. This was Patsy Kernaghan.
Before the Young Doctor arrived at his office this particular morning, Patsy, who had followed him from the Court-house, was put under a light and skillful cross-examination. He had been of service to Burlingame more than once; and he was regarded as a useful man to do odd jobs for his office, as for other offices in Askatoon.
"Aw, him--that murderin' moloch at Tralee !" exclaimed Patsy when the button was pressed. "That Methodys' fella with the face of a pirate! If there wasn't a better Protistan' than him in the world, the Meeting Houses'd be used for kindlin'-wood. Joel, they call him--a dacint prophet's name misused!
"I h'ard him praying once, as I stood outside the Meetin' House windys. To hear that holy hyena lift up his voice to the skies! Shure, I've never been the same man since, for the voice of him says wan thing, and the look of him another. Sez I to meself, Mr. Burlingame, y'r anner, the minute I first saw him, sez I, 'Askatoon's no safe place for me.' Whin wan like that gits a footin' in a place, the locks can't be too manny to shut ye in whin ye want to sleep at night. That fella's got no pedigree, and if it wouldn't hurt some dacent woman, maybe, I'd say he was misbegotten. But still, I'll tell ye: out there at Tralee there's what'd have saved Sodom and Gomorrah-aye, that'd have saved Jerusalem, and there wouldn't ha' been a single moan from Jeremiah. Out at Tralee there's as beautiful a little lady as you'd want to see. Just a girl she is, not more than nineteen or twenty years of age. She's got a face that'd make ye want to lift the chorals an' the antiphones to her every marnin'. She's got the figure of one that was never to grow up, an' there she is the wedded wife of that crocodile great-grandfather.
"Aw, I know all about it, Mr. Burlingame, y'r anner. How do I know? Didn't Michael Turley tell me before he died what sort o' man his cousin was? Didn't he tell me Joel Mazarine married first whin he was eighteen years of age; an' his daughter was married whin she was seventeen; an' her son was married whin he was eighteen--an' Joel's a great-grandfather now. An' see him out there with her that looks as if the kindergarten was the place for her."
"Do you go to Tralee often?" asked Burlingame. "Aw yis. There's a job now and then to do. I'm ridin' an old moke on errands for him whin his hired folks is busy. A man must live, and there's that purty lass with the Irish eyes! Man alive, but it goes to me heart to luk at her."
"Well, I think I must have a 'luk' at her then," was Burlingame's half satirical remark.
Not long after Patsy Kernaghan had left Burlingame's office, the Young Doctor came. His business was brief, and he was about to leave when Burlingame said:
"The Mazarines out at Tralee-you know them? They came while I was away. Queer old goat, isn't he?"
"His exact place in natural history I'm not able to select," answered the Young Doctor dryly, "but I know him."
"And his wife--you know her?" asked Burlingame casually.
The other nodded. "Yes-in a professional way."
"Has she been sick?"
"She is ill now."
"What's the matter?"
"What's the truth about that McMahon claim-jumper who was acquitted this morning?" asked the Young Doctor with a quizzical eye and an acid note to his voice. "You've got your verdict, but you know the real truth, and you mustn't and won't tell it. Well?"
Burlingame saw. "Well, I'll have to ask the old goat myself," he said. "He's coming here to-day." He took up Orlando Guise's letter from the table, glanced at it smilingly, and threw it down again. "He must be a queer specimen," Burlingame continued. "He wouldn't take Orlando Guise's cheque yesterday. He says he'll only be paid in hard cash. He's coming here this afternoon to get it. He's a crank, whatever else he is. They tell me he doesn't keep a bank account. If he gets a cheque, he has it changed into cash. If he wants to send a cheque away, he buys one for cash from somebody. He pays for everything in cash, if he can. Actually, he hasn't a banking account in the place. Cash--nothing but cash! What do you think of that?"
The Young Doctor nodded: "Cash as a habit is useful. Every man must have his hobby, I suppose. Considering the crimes tried at the court in this town, Mazarine's got unusual faith in human nature; or else he feels himself pretty safe at Tralee."
"Thieves?" asked Burlingame satirically.
"Yes, I believe that's still the name, though judging from some of your talk in the Court-house, it's a word that gives opportunity to take cover. I hope your successful client of to-day, and his brothers, are not familiar with the ways of Mr. Mazarine. I hope they don't know about this six thousand dollars in cold cash."
A sneering, sour smile came to Burlingame's lips. The medical man's dry allusions touched him on the raw all too often.
"Oh, of course, I told them all about that six thousand dollars! Of course! A lot of people suspect those McMahons of being crooked. Well, it has never been proved. Until it's proved, they're entitled--" Burlingame paused.
"To the benefit of the doubt, eh?"
"Why not? I've heard you hold the balance pretty fair 'twixt your patients and the undertaker."
Quite unmoved, the Young Doctor coolly replied: "In your own happy phrase--of course! I get a commission from the undertaker when the patient's a poor man; when he's a rich man, I keep him alive! It pays. The difference between your friends the criminals and me is that probably nobody will ever be able to catch me out. But the McMahons, we'll get them yet,"--a stern, determined look came into his honest eye,--"yes, we'll get them yet. They're a nasty fringe on the skirts of Askatoon.
"But there it is as it is," he continued. "You take their dirty money, and I don't refuse pay when I'm called in to attend the worst man in the West, whoever he may be. Why, Burlingame, as your family physician, I shouldn't hesitate even to present my account against your estate if, in a tussle with the devil, he got you out of my hands."
Now a large and friendly smile covered his face. He liked hard hitting, but he also liked to take human nature as it was, and not to quarrel. Burlingame, on his part, had no desire for strife with the Young Doctor. He would make a very dangerous enemy. His return smile was a great effort, however. Ruefulness and exasperation were behind it.
The Young Doctor had only been gone a few minutes when Joel Mazarine entered Burlingame's office. "I've come about that six thousand dollars Mr. Guise of Slow Down Ranch owes me," the old man said without any formal salutation. He was evidently not good-humoured.
At sight of Mazarine, Burlingame at once accepted the general verdict concerning him. That, however, would not prejudice him greatly. Burlingame had no moral sense. Mazarine's face might revolt him, but not his character.
"I've got the cash here for you, and I'll have in a witness and hand the money over at once," he said: "The receipt is ready. I assume you are Joel Mazarine," he added, in a weak attempt at being humorous.
"Get on with the business, Mister," said the old man surlily.
In a few moments he had the six thousand dollars in good government notes in two inner pockets of his shirt. It made him feel very warm and comfortable. His face almost relaxed into a smile when he bade Burlingame good-day.
Burlingame had said nothing about the letter from the late Michael Turley's kinsman in Montreal and the question of the legacy. This was deliberate on his part. He wanted an excuse to visit Tralee and see its mistress with his own eyes. He had attempted to pluck many flowers in his day, and had not been unsuccessful. Out at Tralee was evidently a rare orchid carefully shielded by the gardener.
As Mazarine left the lawyer's office, he met in the doorway that member
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