It is a very old saying, and therefore of course indisputably true, that some have greatness thrust upon them. True of men, it is, in one instance at least, true of places—Needley, from an unheard of, modest, innocuous and unassuming little hamlet, leaped in a flash into the focus of the world's eyes. In huge headlines the papers in every city of every State carried it on their front pages. And while the first astounding despatch from the metropolitan newspaper man was being copied by leading dailies everywhere, there came on top of it, clinching its veracity beyond possibility of doubt, the news that Robert Thornton, the well known Chicago multi-millionaire, had given fifty thousand dollars to the cause. A man, much less a multi-millionaire, does not give fifty thousand dollars for a bubble, so the managing editors of the leading dailies rushed for their star reporters—and the star reporters rushed for Needley—and the red-haired, sorrowful-faced man in the Needley station grew haggard, tottered on the verge of collapse, and, between the sheafs of flimsy that the reporters fought for the opportunity of pushing at him, wired desperately for a relief.

Needley awoke and came to life—as from the dead. There was bustle, activity, and suppressed and unsuppressed excitement on every hand—the Waldorf Hotel once more opened its doors—the Congress Hotel was already full.

The reporters interviewed everybody with but one exception—the Patriarch.

They interviewed Madison—and Madison talked to them gravely, quietly, a little self-deprecatingly, a little abashed at the thought of personal exploitage.

"I wouldn't be interviewed at all," he told them, "if it were not that mankind at large is entitled to every bit of evidence that can be obtained. Yes; I gave what I could afford, but it was Holmes, a poor man, who gave most of all—have you seen him? Myself? What does that matter? I am unknown, my personality, unlike Mr. Thornton's, can carry no weight. I am, I suppose, what you might call a rolling stone, a world wanderer. My parents left me a moderate fortune, and I have travelled pretty well and pretty constantly all over the world during the last twelve or fifteen years. How did I come to Needley? Well, you can call it luck, or something more than that, whichever way it appeals to you. I was feeling seedy, a little off-color, and I started down for a rest and lay-off in Maine. I happened to ask a man in Portland if he knew of a quiet place. He meant to be humorous, I imagine. He said Needley was the quietest place he knew of. I took him at his word."

"But how do you account for these miraculous cures?" they asked.

"You have seen them—the results," Madison replied. "You know the cures to be living, vital, irrefutable facts—don't you?"

"Yes," they agreed.

"Then," said Madison, "there can be but one answer—faith. There is no other—faith. Are we not, in view of what has happened, of what exists before our very eyes, forced to the belief that faith is the greatest thing, the most potential factor in the world?"

"And do you believe then that all who come here will be cured?"

Madison shook his head.

"Ah, no," he said; "far from it. Many will come with but the semblance of faith, and for those there can be no cure—that is evident on the face of it, is it not?"

They interviewed Thornton—and Thornton, too, talked to them, but the very presence of Mrs. Thornton was weightier far than words.

They interviewed the Holmes, and they interviewed Needley individually and collectively; and they interviewed Helena—but they did not interview the Patriarch. Here Helena barred their way—they were free to enter the cottage, to copy the names, the record of gifts inscribed in the book, already a long list for Needley had required no other incentive to give than the example that had been set—but that was all. Quietly, with demure simplicity, Helena, prompted by Madison, like a priestess who guards some holy, inner shrine, told them that sensational notoriety had no place there—and the notoriety for that very cause became the greater! Not that they were denied a sight of the Patriarch's venerable and saintly form—they were permitted to catch glimpses of him on the beach, on the lawn, walking with bowed head in meditation, a figure whose simple majesty inspired words and columns of glowing tribute—but from personal contact, Helena and the Flopper, always in attendance, warded them off; retreating always to the privacy of the cottage, to the inner rooms.

All this had taken four days; and now, on the fourth day, there came to Needley the vanguard of those who sought this new healing power—just a few of them, two or three, like far, outflung skirmishers evidencing the presence of the army corps to follow. With the reporters, as far as Madison was concerned, it was simple enough; he had but to let them go their way, to let them revel in the stories that were on every tongue, to let them view with their own eyes facts, while he, modestly and diffidently, full of quiet earnestness, effaced himself, never thrusting himself forward, talking to them only when they pressed him—but the handling of the sufferers who would flock to Needley in response to a newspaper publicity and endorsement that had been beyond his wildest dreams, was quite another matter. Madison viewed the first arrivals—brought in from the station on cot beds to the Waldorf Hotel—and retired to his room in the Congress Hotel to wrestle with the niceties and minutiæ of the problem.

"You see," said Madison to the tip of his cigar, as he tilted back his chair and extended his legs full length with his heels comfortably up on the table edge, "you see, I believe in faith all right—and that's no josh. But the trouble with faith is that it's about the scarcest article on earth—and I haven't got any more Floppers to lead the way." Madison adroitly sent the cigar ash through the window with a tap of his forefinger on the body of the cigar—he frowned, and for a long time sat musingly silent. Then he spoke again; this time addressing the toes of his boots: "With the house sold out for the season, the box-office doing itself proud and the audience crazy over the first two acts, how about Act Three—h'm?—how about Act Three? Kind of a delicate proposition, the staging of Act Three—and it's time for the curtain to go up. I can hear 'em stamping out front now. I can't pull off any more orgies like last Monday afternoon, even if I wanted to—but everybody's got to have a run for their money. Say, how about Act Three?"

Madison burned up quite a little tobacco in the interval before supper, and quite a little more afterward before the setting for his perplexing "Third Act" appeared to unfold itself satisfactorily before his mind—indeed, it was close onto half past ten when, by a roundabout way, he very cautiously and silently approached the Patriarch's cottage.

In the front of the cottage, the Shrine-room, as he christened it, and the Patriarch's sleeping room were both dark. Madison passed around to the beach side—here, Helena's room was dark too, but in the Flopper's window, the end room next to the kitchen and woodshed, there was a light. The night was warm, and, though the shade was drawn, the window was open. Madison whistled softly, and the Flopper stuck out his head.

"Hello, Flopper," said Madison; "come out here—I want to have a talk with you. Helena in bed?"

"No; she's out," replied the Flopper.

"Well, hurry up!" said Madison. "Come around in front by the trellis where we can see the other fellow first if anybody happens to be strolling about."

Madison withdrew from the window and walked around to the front of the cottage. Here, a few yards from the porch, by the trellis, already beginning to be leafy green, was a rustic bench on which he seated himself. The moon was not full, but there was light enough to enable him to see across the lawn through the interposing row of maples, and, hidden by the shadows himself, the seat strategetically met his requirements.

Presently, the Flopper came out of the front door and joined him.

"Say, Doc," announced the Flopper abruptly, "de Patriarch's been askin' fer youse yesterday an' to-day."

"Asking?" repeated Madison.

"Sure," said the Flopper. "He can scrawl if he is blind, can't he? He scrawls yer name on de slate. We can't tell him nothin', an' he's kinder got de fidgets like he t'inks youse had flown de coop."

"That's so," said Madison. "It is rather difficult to communicate with him, isn't it? I guess we'll have to get him some raised letters."

"What's them?" inquired the Flopper.

"I don't know exactly," Madison answered. "I never saw any, but I believe they have such things. Been asking for me, has he? Well, I'll fix it to see him to-morrow. Where did you say Helena had gone?"

"I said she was out," said the Flopper. "If you ask me where, I'd say de same place as last night an' de night before—down to dat private car wid his nibs. Say, dere's some class to dat guy all right, an' I guess Helena ain't got her eyes shut."

"Hey!" ejaculated Madison. "What do you mean?"

"Well, he's got de rocks, ain't he?" declared the Flopper. "Why shouldn't she be after him? Dat's wot we're here fer, ain't it, de whole bunch of us?—an' she ain't t'rowin' us, is she, if she sees a chanst to pick up somet'ing on her own?"

Madison turned quickly on the Flopper.

"You mean," he said sharply, "that there's something going on between Helena and Thornton—already?"

"Aw, stop kiddin'!" said the Flopper. "Already! Wot's 'already' got to do wid it? We ain't none of us church members, are we? Say, where'd you pick up Helena yerself—and how long did it take youse? I don't know whether dere's anyt'ing goin' on or not—mabbe she's only gettin' lonely—youse ain't hung around her much lately, Doc."

Madison laughed suddenly.

"You're talking through your hat, Flopper," he said shortly. "You don't know Helena."

"It's a wise guy dat knows skirts," said the Flopper profoundly; then, with something approaching a sigh: "Say, Doc, dere's a lalapazoozoo, a peach down here."

"Hullo!" exclaimed Madison, shooting a hurried and critical glance at the Flopper in the moonlight. "What's this, Flopper—what's this? What have you been up to? You're supposed to be attending strictly to business."

"An' you needn't t'ink I ain't," asserted the Flopper. "But I can't stop de town fallin' over itself to bring de whole farmyard, an' eggs, an' butter, an' flour, an' everyt'ing else out here every mornin', can I? She's blown in twice wid cream fer de Patriarch."

"What's her name?" inquired Madison quizzically.

"Mamie Rodgers," said the Flopper. "She says her old man keeps a store in de village."

"I know her," nodded Madison. "Pretty girl and all right, Flopper. But mind what you're doing, that's all. I don't want any complications to queer things around here—understand? But let's get down to the business that I came out about—the lay from now on. You can put Helena wise."

"Sure," said the Flopper earnestly.

"Well then, listen," said Madison. "The patients have begun to arrive—there were three of them in to-day. There's no more circus parades—everything's under the tent after this. I want you to wean the Patriarch entirely from that front room—that's to be free for anybody to enter so's they can drink in atmosphere—and see the contribution box. But they don't see the Patriarch. Get his armchair into his own room, make him comfortable there—get the idea? Now, there's no consultation hours—the Patriarch can't be seen just by asking for him—the only chance they get at the Patriarch is by an exercise of patience that'll work their faith up to a pitch that'll do them some good. The harder it is to get a thing, the more it's worth and the more you want it—that's the principle. See?"

"Sure," said the Flopper, licking his lips.

"Sometimes," Madison went on, "you're to keep the Patriarch under cover for two or three days, while they hang around working themselves into a frenzy. And when they do see him they have to scramble for it. You don't lead him out to them—ever. Make them waylay him when you take him for a walk—make them crawl and hop and show they've got faith, make them believe they've got faith themselves—we'll get some more cures, or near-cures anyway, that way, and we won't get them any other way, and we've got to have some sort of cures coming along fairly regularly. Do you get me, Flopper? If there's a party on a cot a hundred yards away and he begs you to bring the Patriarch to him, say him nay. Everybody has got to get into the reserved paddock by themselves—tell them that no man can be cured who has not got the faith to reach the Patriarch by himself—tell them to get up and walk to him—tell them what you did."

"Swipe me!" said the Flopper. "Say, Doc, youse are de one an' only. I gotcher—put it up to dem everytime."

"Exactly," said Madison. "It's their move every minute—make them feel that if they don't get what they're after it's their own fault—that it's their own lack of faith that's to blame. And the longer they have to wait to see the Patriarch, the more they become impressed that faith is necessary, and—oh, well, psychology is the greatest jollier of them all."

"Eh?" inquired the Flopper. "I ain't on dere, Doc."

"It's very simple," smiled Madison, "They'll want to convince themselves that they have got faith, that it's all bottled up and ready to have the cork drawn when called for, and they'll prove it to themselves by laying an offering upon the shrine as evidence of faith before the goods are delivered."

"I gotcher!" said the Flopper enthusiastically. "Why say, Doc, dat's de way I'd do meself—swipe me, if I wouldn't!"

"That's the way nearly everybody would do," said Madison, laughing. "There's at least a few similar kinks common to our noble race—we're busy most of the time trying to fool ourselves one way or another. Well, that's about all. I can't lay out a programme for every minute of the day—you and Helena have got to use your heads and work along that general idea. You play up your gratitude strong. And, oh yes—keep the altar box well baited. Let Helena put some of her near-diamond rings and joujabs in until we collect some genuine ones—and then keep the genuine ones going—change every day for variety, you know. And take the silver money out every time you see any in—not that we scorn it in the great aggregate, far from it—it's just psychology again, Flopper. I went to church once and sat beside a duck with a white waistcoat and chop whiskers, who wore the dollar sign sticking out so thick all over him that you couldn't see anything else; and when it came time for collection he peeled a bill off a roll the size of a house, and waited for the collection plate to come along. But he got his eye on the plate a couple of pews ahead and it was full of coppers and chicken feed, and he did the palming act with the bill slicker than a faro dealer—and whispered to me to change a quarter for him."

"And did you?" asked the Flopper anxiously.

"Oh, wake up, Flopper!" grinned Madison; then, suddenly: "Hullo! Who's that?"

Across the lawn, coming through the row of maples from the direction of the wagon track, appeared two figures.

"Dat's who," said the Flopper, after gazing an instant. "It's Helena an' Thornton."

"So it is," agreed Madison. "Get behind the trellis here then—it wouldn't do for him to see me out here at this time of night."

They rose noiselessly from the bench, and slipped quickly behind the trellis. Toward them, walking slowly came the two figures, Helena leaning on Thornton's arm. Thornton was talking, but in too low a tone to be overheard. Then a silence appeared to fall between the two, and it was not until they reached the porch, close to Madison and the Flopper, that either spoke again.

Then Thornton held out his hand.

"Good-night, Miss Vail—and good-by temporarily," he said. "I suppose I shall be gone four or five days; I'm going up on the morning train, you know. I wish you'd go as often as you can to see Naida in the car while I'm away—will you? Her condition worries me, though she insists that she is completely cured, and she will not listen to any advice. I have an idea that she has overtaxed herself—apart from her hip disease, her heart was in a very critical state. You'll go to her, won't you?"

"Yes," said Helena, "of course, I will."

Their voices dropped lower, and for a moment only a murmur reached Madison; and then, with another "Good-night, Miss Vail," Thornton started back across the lawn.

Madison could hear Helena fumbling with the door latch, and by the time she had succeeded in opening the door the retreating figure of Thornton was a safe distance away. Madison called in a whisper:

"Here, Helena! Wait a minute!"

There was a quick, startled little exclamation from the doorway, and Helena came out hurriedly from the porch.

"Who's there?" she cried in a low voice. "Oh"—as they stepped into view—"you, Doc, and the Flopper! What were you doing behind that trellis?"

"Keeping out of Thornton's road," said Madison. "So he's going away, eh? What for?"

"Business," replied Helena. "Has to go to some meeting in Chicago—he's leaving his wife and the private car here. What did you come at this hour for?"

"Lines for the next act," said Madison; "but the Flopper's got it all, and he'll put you on." He stepped toward Helena and slipped his arm around her waist. "Come on, it's early yet, let's go for a little walk. The Flopper'll excuse us, and I—"

"I thought you said," Helena interrupted, disengaging herself quietly, "that we had to play the game to the limit and take no chances."

"Well, so I did," admitted Madison, and his arm crept around her again; "but I guess we've earned a little holiday and—"

"'Nix on that,' I think was what you said," said Helena with a queer little laugh, drawing away again. "And I really think you were right, Doc—we ought to play the game without breaking the rules, and so—good-night"—and she turned and ran from him into the cottage.

Madison stared after her in a sort of helpless state of chagrin.

"Mabbe," said the Flopper, "mabbe she's lonely."

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