“Oh; is it you?” asked Judith busily. “Come and help us, dear, for we
must have the place in apple-pie order by four o’clock, and there’s a
lot to be done.”
“Dear me; what’s the excitement about?” asked Phoebe.
“I’ve just had a telegram from Cousin John, the Governor, and he’ll be
here at four o’clock,” answered Judith.
“Honest for true, Phoebe. Isn’t it fine?”
Phoebe sat down with a bewildered expression. All the Darings well
knew of Judith’s famous cousin, the governor of the state, whom they
always called the “Great Man” in discussing him; but until now none
of them had ever seen him. He was not their cousin, although he bore
that relation to Cousin Judith Eliot, whose mother had been the sister
of his mother. There was no doubt of his being a very great man, for
he had not only been twice elected governor of the state but people
declared he might some day become president of the United States, so
able and clean had been his administration of affairs. The very idea
of their entertaining so celebrated a personage made Phoebe gasp. She
looked at Cousin Judith with big eyes, trying to conceive the situation.
“I’ve often invited him to come and see us,” continued Judith, her
voice full of glad anticipation as she worked, “but he is such a busy
man he could never find time. At last, however, he has remembered me,
and his telegram says he has been North on state affairs and finds he
can spare me a few hours to-day on his return; so he’ll be here at four
o’clock, stay all night and take the morning train on to the capitol.”
“All night!” cried Phoebe.
“Yes; I’m so pleased, Phoebe. You’re sure to like Cousin John and I
know the other children will adore him. It’s his custom to dine at
night, you know; so we’ll just have a lunch this noon and our dinner at
suppertime, as they do up North. The youngsters won’t mind, for once,
although it may give them indigestion.”
Phoebe took off her hat and began to help Judith “rid up” the house.
The rooms were always so neatly kept that the girl could not see now
they might be improved, but Judith had the old-fashioned housekeeper’s
instinct in regard to cleanliness and knew just what touches the place
needed to render it sweet and fresh.
Awe fell upon the younger Darings when they came in from school and
heard the news. Don, who had been chattering noisily of the Riverdale
Cornet Band, which had been hired for Saturday, fell silent and grave,
for the governor’s coming was an event that overshadowed all else.
Becky, serious for just a moment, suddenly began laughing.
“The Great Man will scorn Riverdale, and especially the Darings,”
she predicted. “We’ll look like a set of gawks to him and I warn you
now, Little Mother, that if he pokes fun at me I’ll make faces. It’s
straight goods that a governor has no business here, and if he comes
he’ll have to shed his city airs and be human.”
Judith laughed at this.
“Don’t think of him as a governor, dear,” she said. “Just think of him
as my Cousin John, who used to be very nice to me when I was wee girl
and has never been any different since I grew up. I’m sure he is giving
us these few hours to rest his weary brain and bones, and hide from the
politicians. Not a soul in Riverdale will know the governor is here,
unless he is seen and recognized.”
“Is he ashamed of us, then?” inquired little Sue.
“Why should he be?”
“Because we’re not great, like he is.”
“But we _are_, Sue,” declared Phoebe. “The Darings are as great, in
their way, as the governor himself. We are honest and respectable, and
the votes of just such families as ours placed Judith’s cousin in the
governor’s chair and made him our leader and lawgiver.”
“But he’s got a head on him,” remarked Don emphatically.
“We all have heads,” answered Phoebe; “only our brains don’t lead us to
delve in politics or seek public offices.”
“Mine do,” asserted her brother. “I’m goin’ to be awful great, myself,
some day. If the Little Mother’s cousin can be governor, there’s no
reason I shouldn’t become a–a—-”
“A policeman,” said Becky, helping him finish the sentence. “But you’ll
have to grow up first, Don.”
This conversation did not seem to annoy Cousin Judith in the least. On
the contrary she was amused by the excitement the coming of the Great
Man caused in their little circle.
“I wonder if the Randolphs would lend us their automobile to bring him
from the station,” mused Phoebe, at luncheon.
“How absurd!” said Judith. “Cousin John has two feet, just like other
men, and he’ll be glad to use them.”
“Will the band turn out?” asked Don.
“No. You mustn’t tell anyone of this visit, for the Riverdale people
would rush to see their governor and that would spoil his quiet visit
with us. Keep very quiet about it until after he has gone–all of you.”
“What’ll we do about the Marching Club, Don?” asked Becky. “They were
to meet on our grounds after school, but now that the Great Man is
“You need not alter your plans at all,” said Judith. “I want you to do
just as you are accustomed to do. Be yourselves, my dears, and treat
Cousin John as if he were one of the family, which he really is. You
mustn’t let his coming disturb you in any way, for that would embarrass
and grieve him. He has no family of his own and it will delight him to
be received here as a relative and a friend, rather than as a great
It was hard work for the children to keep the secret to themselves when
at school that afternoon; but they did. It was only little Sue who
confided to a friend the fact that “the biggest man in the whole world,
’cept the kings an’ princes of fairy tales, was coming to visit them;”
but this indefinite information was received with stolid indifference
and quickly forgotten.
Phoebe went with Judith to the station to meet the four o’clock train,
at her cousin’s earnest request, and her heart beat wildly as the train
drew in. The girl had pictured to herself a big, stalwart gentleman,
stern-visaged and grim, wearing a Prince Albert coat and a tall silk
hat, the center of a crowd of admiring observers. She was looking for
this important personage among the passengers who alighted from the
cars when Judith’s voice said in her ear:
“Shake hands with Cousin John, Phoebe.”
She started and blushed and then glanced shyly into the kind and
humorous eyes that gleamed from beneath the brim of a soft felt hat.
The Great Man was not great in stature; on the contrary his eyes were
about on a level with Phoebe’s own and she saw that his form was thin
and somewhat stooping. His coat was dusty from travel, his tie somewhat
carelessly arranged and his shoes were sadly in need of shining.
Otherwise there was an air of easy goodfellowship about Cousin John
that made Phoebe forget in a moment that he was the governor of a great
state and the idol of his people.
“Bless me, what a big girl!” he cried, looking at Phoebe admiringly.
“I thought all your adopted children were infants, Judy, and fully
expected to find you wielding half a dozen nursing bottles.”
“No, indeed,” laughed the Little Mother; “the Darings are all
stalwarts, I assure you; an army of able-bodied boys and girls almost
ready to vote for you, Cousin John.”
“Oh-ho! Suffragettes, eh?” he retorted, looking at Phoebe mischievously.
“Not yet,” she said, returning his smile. “The women of Riverdale
haven’t organized the army militant, I’m glad to say; for I’ve an idea
I would never join it.”
“You’re wrong,” he said quickly. “The women of the world will dominate
politics, some day, and you mustn’t be too old-fashioned in your
notions to join the procession of progress. But I mustn’t talk shop
to-day. What’s that tree, Judith; a live oak or a hickory? What a
quaint old town, and how cosy and delightful it seems! Some day, little
Cousin, I’m going to disappear from the world and rusticate in just
such a happy, forgotten paradise as Riverdale.”
They were walking up the street, now, heading directly for the Daring
residence. The governor carried a small traveling bag and a light
overcoat. Those who saw him looked at him curiously, wondering what
guest was visiting the Darings; but not one of the gaping villagers
suspected that this was their governor.
Arriving at the house the Great Man tossed his bag and coat in the
hall and drew a hickory rocker to a shady spot on the lawn. Asking
permission to smoke a cigar–his one bad habit, he claimed–he braced
his feet against a tree, leaned back in his chair and began to gossip
comfortably with Judith, who sat beside him, of their childhood days
and all the queer things that had happened to them both since. When
Phoebe wanted to run away and leave the cousins together they made her
stay; so she got a bit of embroidery and sat on the grass sewing and
The children came home from school, awkwardly greeted the Great Man,
in whom they were distinctly disappointed because he did not look the
part, and then rushed away to follow their own devices. By and by
Cousin John glanced through the trees and was astonished to observe in
the distance an army of boys and girls engaged in drilling, their white
caps and sashes and their badges giving them an impressive appearance.
“What’s all that?” asked the Governor curiously.
“That,” replied Judith with a laugh, “is the Toby Clark Marching Club.”
“Toby Clark–Toby Clark,” he said musingly. “A local celebrity, Judith?”
“Yes; a lame boy who has been arrested for stealing. These children
resent the unjust accusation and have organized the Marching Club
to express their indignation and their unfaltering loyalty to their
“Good!” he cried; and then, after a moment, he added: “Unjust
“Absolutely unjust,” she replied.
He took down his feet and sat up straight in his chair.
“Tell me about it,” he said.
“Phoebe can do that better than I,” was the answer. “She is one of Toby
Clark’s staunchest defenders.”
“Now, then, Phoebe, fire away.”
She told the story, quietly and convincingly, beginning with Judge
Ferguson’s sudden death and relating Mrs. Ritchie’s demand for her box,
its disappearance and the finding of evidence on the premises of Toby
Clark, who had been promptly arrested and held for trial on the charge
of stealing. She told of Mr. Spaythe’s unaccountable defense of Toby,
employing a lawyer, furnishing his bail, and then giving him an asylum
in his own house, and concluded with the donation of fifty dollars
by an unknown person-through Spaythe’s bank–for the benefit of the
The governor listened without interruption or comment to the end,
but it was evident he was interested. When Phoebe had finished he
rose to his feet and walked over to where the boys and girls were
drilling, where he stood watching Don explain the maneuvers and direct
the exercises. The Great Man noted every child’s face and marked
its expression. Then he strode among them and facing the astonished
assemblage held up his hand.
“How many of you believe Toby Clark is innocent?” he asked.
The yell they gave was decidedly unanimous.
“How many of you would be willing to take his chance of going free?”
continued the governor in an earnest tone.
There was hesitation, this time.
“I would!” cried Don. Then he turned to the others. “All of you who
would be willing to take Toby Clark’s chance of going free, step over
here beside me.”
Allerton and Becky, inspired by loyalty to the cause, moved over at
once. The others stood silent.
“It is this way, sir,” said Doris, who had no idea who the strange man
was, but was impressed by his voice, nevertheless, for it was a voice
accustomed to command respectful attention: “We all know that Toby is
innocent, but we are not at all sure he will go free.”
“Because the law is so unjust, at times,” replied the little maid, “and
a very bad man who is a lawyer is trying to prove that Toby is guilty.”
“It looks like he was, the way they’ve figured it out,” added Becky;
“only of course he can’t be.”
“Sometimes,” said the governor, as if to himself, “the innocent is made
to suffer for the guilty. Now, it seems to me the question is this:
If Toby Clark is innocent, who, then, is guilty? Find the guilty one
and Toby goes free. Otherwise–the law may be perverted and justice
They looked very sober at this, and Don blurted out:
“We’re not detectives, sir, and we don’t know who is guilty. Hasn’t
the state any way of protecting its people? Isn’t there anyone whose
business it is to see that justice don’t miscarry? Our business is
just to stand by Toby Clark, ’cause we know he’s innocent, and we mean
to show ev’rybody in Riverdale that we believe Toby Clark couldn’t do
anything mean if he tried. He’s good stuff, all through, even if he is
a poor boy, and whatever happens we’ll stand by him to the last.”
The governor nodded his approval.
“That’s right,” he said. “Stand by your friends. There’s no better
motto than that. I wish you success.”
Then he turned and walked away.
“Where is Toby Clark now?” he asked when he had rejoined Phoebe and
“He is at Mr. Spaythe’s house. He doesn’t go out much, for this
dreadful charge against him makes him ashamed to face people,” replied
“I want to see him,” said the governor. “Will you take me to him after
“Gladly!” cried Phoebe, sudden hope springing up in her breast, for the
governor was a power in the land.
He said nothing more on the subject until after dinner. Phoebe almost
feared he had forgotten about Toby Clark, for during the afternoon he
chatted with Cousin Judith and during dinner he joked with Becky and
Don and even with Sue, the demure and big-eyed. Cousin John won the
entire family without effort, and even Aunt Hyacinth, hopping about
in the kitchen, told the tea-kettle that “dis yer guv’ner ain’t no
diff’rence f’m a plain, ever’day man. He jus’ natcherly takes to de
whole kit an’ caboodle, seein’ he’s cousin to Miss Judy an’ not stuck
up ner refrigerated a bit–no more ’n dem blessed child’ns is.”
But after dinner he walked into the hall and picked his hat from the
rack, which Phoebe decided was a signal that he was ready to go to
Toby Clark. So she threw on a jacket and joined him, for the evenings
were getting cool of late, and together they strolled through the back
streets, avoiding the business part of the town, and so reached Mr.