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The Auction Block   By: (1877-1949)

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THE AUCTION BLOCK

By REX BEACH

Author of "THE SILVER HORDE" "THE SPOILERS" "THE IRON TRAIL" Etc.

Illustrated

THE AUCTION BLOCK

CHAPTER I

Peter Knight flung himself into the decrepit arm chair beside the center table and growled:

"Isn't that just my luck? And me a Democrat for twenty years. There's nothing in politics, Jimmy."

His son James smiled crookedly, with a languid tolerance bespeaking amusement and contempt. James prided himself upon his forbearance, and it was rarely indeed that he betrayed more than a hint of the superiority which he felt toward his parent.

"Politics is all right, provided you're a good picker," he said, with all the assurance of twenty two, "but you fell off the wrong side of the fence, and you're sore."

"Of course I am. Wouldn't anybody be sore?"

"These country towns always go in for the reform stuff, every so often. If you'd listen to me and "

His father interrupted harshly: "Now, cut that out. I don't want to go to New York, and I won't." Peter Knight tried to look forceful, but the expression did not fit his weak, complacent features. He was a plump man with red cheeks rounded by habitual good humor; his chin was short, and beneath it were other chins, distended and sagging as if from the weight of chuckles within. When he had succeeded in fixing a look of determination upon his countenance the result was an artificial scowl and a palpably false pout. Wearing such a front, he continued: "When I say 'no' I mean it, and the subject is closed. I like Vale, I know everybody here, and everybody knows me."

"That's why it's time to move," said Jim, with another unpleasant curl of his lip. "As long as they didn't know you you got past. But you'll never hold another office."

"Indeed! My record's open to inspection. I made the best sheriff in "

"Two years. Don't kid yourself, pa. Your foot slipped when the trolley line went through."

"What do you know about the trolley line?" angrily demanded Mr. Knight.

"Well, I know as much as the county knows. And I know something about the big dam, too. You got into the mud, pa, but you didn't go deep enough to find the frogs. Fogarty got his, didn't he?"

Mr. Knight breathed deep with indignation.

"Senator Fogarty is my good friend. I won't let you question his honor, although you do presume to question mine."

"Of course he's your friend; that's why he's fixed you for this New York job. He's not like these Reubs; he remembers a good turn and blows back with another. He's a real politician."

"'Department of Water Supply, Gas, and Electricity,'" sneered Peter. "It sounds good, but the salary is fifteen hundred a year. A clerk at my age!"

"Say, d'you suppose Tammany men live on their salaries?" Jimmy inquired. "Wake up! This is your chance to horn into the real herd. In New York politics is a vocation; up here it's a vacation everybody tries it once, like music lessons. If you'd been hooked up with Tammany instead of the state machine you'd have been taken care of."

"I tell you I don't like cities. It's no place to raise kids."

At this James betrayed some irritation. "I'm of age, and Lorelei's a grown woman. If we don't get out of Vale I'll still be a brakeman on a soda fountain when I'm your age."

"If you'd worked hard you'd have had an interest in the drug store now."

"Rats!"

At this juncture Mrs. Knight, having finished the supper dishes and set her bread to rise, entered the shoddy parlor. Jim turned to her, shrugging his shoulders with an air of washing his hands of a disagreeable subject. "Pa's weakened again," he explained. "He won't go."

"Me, a clerk at my age!" mumbled Peter.

"I've been trying to tell him that he'd get a half Nelson on Tammany inside of a year. He squeezed the sheriff's office till it squealed, and if he can pinch a dollar out of this burg he can "

"You shut up! I don't like your way of saying things," snarled Mr... Continue reading book >>




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