Chapter XLII
 

It was unfortunate for everybody that Morrell should have chosen that particular afternoon to pay one of his periodical calls. Morrell had been tactful and judicious in his demands. Keith was not particularly afraid of his story or the effect of it if told, but he disliked intensely the fuss and bother of explanations and readjustments. It had seemed easier to let things drift along. The transactions were skilfully veiled, notes were always given, Morrell was shrewd enough to take care that it did not cost too much. There existed not the slightest cordiality between the men, but a tacit assumption of civil relations.

But this afternoon the sight of Morrell, seated with what seemed to Keith a smug, superior, supercilious confidence in the best of the office chairs, was more than Keith could stand. He was bursting with anger at the world in general.

"You here?" he barked at Morrell, without waiting for a greeting. "Well, I'm sick of you! Get out!"

Morrell stared at him dumbfounded.

"I don't believe I understand," he objected.

"Get out! Get out! Get out! Is that plain enough?" shouted Keith.

Morrell arose with cold dignity.

"I cannot permit--" he began.

Keith turned on him abruptly.

"Look here, don't try to come that rot. I said, get out--and I mean it!"

So menacing was his aspect that Morrell drew back toward the door.

"I suppose you know what this means?" he threatened, an ugly note in his quiet voice.

"I don't give a damn what it means," rejoined Keith with deadly earnestness, "and if you don't get out of here I'll throw you out!"

Morrell went hastily.

Keith slammed his papers into a drawer, locked it and his office door, and went directly to the office of the Bulletin. There, seated in all the chairs, perched on the tables and window ledges, he found a representative group. He recognized most of them, including James King of William, Coleman, Hossfros, Isaac Bluxome, Talbot Ward, and others. A dead silence greeted his appearance. He stopped by the door.

"You have, of course, heard the news," he said. "I have come here to state unequivocally, and for publication, that the Cora trial will be pushed as rapidly and as strongly as is in the power of the District Attorney's office. And if legal evidence of corruption can be obtained, proceedings will at once be inaugurated to indict the bribe givers."

A short silence followed this speech. Several men looked toward one another. The tension appeared to relax a trifle.

"I am glad to hear this, sir, from your own lips," at last said Coleman formally, "and I wish you every success."

Another short and rather embarrassed silence fell.

"I should like to state privately to you gentlemen, and not for publication"--Keith, paused and glanced toward King, who nodded reassuringly--"that I have evidence, but unfortunately not legal, that James McDougall has been guilty, either personally or through agents, of bribery and corruption; and it is my intention to undertake his disbarment if I can possibly get proper evidence."

"Whether he bribed or didn't bribe, he knew perfectly well that Cora was guilty," stated King positively. "And he had no right to take the case."

But at that period this was an extreme view, as it still is in the legal mind.

"I suppose every man has a moral right to a defence," said Coleman doubtfully. "If every lawyer should refuse to take Cora's case, as you say McDougall should have refused, why the man would have gone undefended!"

"That's all right," returned King, undaunted, "He ought to have a lawyer-- appointed by the court--to see merely that he gets a fair trial; not a lawyer--hired, prostituted, at a great price--to try by every technical means to get him off."

"A lawyer must, by the ethics of his profession, take every case brought him, I suppose," some one enunciated the ancient doctrine.

"Well, if that is the case," rejoined King hotly, "the law warps the thinking and the morals of any man who professes it. And if I had a son to place in life, I most certainly should not put him in a calling that deliberately trains his mind to see things that way!"

"I am sorry you have so low an opinion," spoke up Keith from the doorway. "I am afraid I must hold the contrary as to the nobility of my chosen profession. It can be disgraced, I admit. That it has been disgraced, I agree. That it can be redeemed, I am going to prove."

He bowed and left the office.