Part 2 out of 8
"You knew!" cried Jack.
"Knew! How could any one make a mistake? Fine head. About fifty I
should say. No question about his firmness or his kindness. Yes--
fine head--and a gentleman, that is best of all. When you come to
marry always hunt up the grandfather--saves such a lot of trouble
in after life," and one of Peter's infectious laughs filled the
"Do you think he looks anything like Uncle Arthur? You have seen
him, I think you said."
Peter scanned the portrait. "Not a trace. That may also be a
question of grandfathers--" and another laugh rippled out. "But
just be thankful you bear his name. It isn't always necessary to
have a long line of gentlemen behind you, and if you haven't any,
or can't trace them, a man, if he has pluck and grit, can get
along without them; but it's very comforting to know they once
existed. Now let me sit down and listen to you," added Peter,
whose random talk had been inspired by the look of boyish
embarrassment on Jack's face. He had purposely struck many notes
in order to see which one would echo in the lad's heart, so that
his host might find himself, just as he had done when Jack with
generous impulse had sprang from his chair to carry Minott the
The two seated themselves--Peter in the easy chair and Jack
opposite. The boy's eyes roamed from the portrait, with its round,
grave face, to Peter's head resting on the cushioned back,
illumined by the light of the lamp, throwing into relief the
clear-cut lips, little gray side-whiskers and the tightly drawn
skin covering his scalp, smooth as polished ivory.
"Am I like him?" asked Peter. He had caught the boy's glances and
had read his thoughts.
"No--and yes. I can't see it in the portrait, but I do in the way
you move your hands and in the way you bow. I keep thinking of him
when I am with you. It may, as you say, be a good thing to have a
gentleman for a father, sir, but it is a dreadful thing, all the
same, to lose him just as you need him most. I wouldn't hate so
many of the things about me if I had him to go to now and then."
"Tell me about him and your early life," cried Peter, crossing one
leg over the other. He knew the key had been struck; the boy might
now play on as he chose.
"There is very little to tell. I lived in the old home with an
aunt after my father's death. And went to school and then to
college at Hagerstown--quite a small college--where uncle looked
after me--he paid the expenses really--and then I was clerk in a
law office for a while, and at my aunt's death about a year ago
the old place was sold and I had no home, and Uncle Arthur sent
for me to come here."
"Very decent in him, and you should never forget him for it," and
again Peter's eyes roamed around the perfectly appointed room.
"I know it, sir, and at first the very newness and strangeness of
everything delighted me. Then I began to meet the people. They
were so different from those in my part of the country, especially
the young fellows--Garry is not so bad, because he really loves
his work and is bound to succeed--everybody says he has a genius
for architecture--but the others--and the way they treat the young
girls, and what is more unaccountable to me is the way the young
girls put up with it."
Peter had settled himself deeper in his chair, his eyes shaded
with one hand and looked intently at the boy.
"Uncle Arthur is kind to me, but the life smothers me. I can't
breathe sometimes. Nothing my father taught me is considered worth
while here. People care for other things."
"What, for instance?" Peter's hand never moved, nor did his body.
"Why stocks and bonds and money, for instance," laughed Jack,
beginning to be annoyed at his own tirade--half ashamed of it in
fact. "Stocks are good enough in their way, but you don't want to
live with them from ten o'clock in the morning till four o'clock
in the afternoon, and then hear nothing else talked about until
you go to bed. That's why that dinner last night made such an
impression on me. Nobody said money once."
"But every one of those men had his own hobby--"
"Yes, but in my uncle's world they all ride one and the same
horse. I don't want to be a pessimist, Mr. Grayson, and I want you
to set me straight if I am wrong, but Mr. Morris and every one of
those men about him were the first men I've seen in New York who
appear to me to be doing the things that will live after them.
What are we doing down-town? Gambling the most of us."
"But your life here isn't confined to your uncle and his stock-
gambling friends. Surely these lovely young girls--two of them
came in with me--" and Peter smiled, "must make your life
Jack's eyes sought the floor, then he answered slowly:
"I hope you won't think me a cad, but--No, I'm not going to say a
word about them, only I can't get accustomed to them and there's
no use of my saying that I can. I couldn't treat any girl the way
they are treated here. And I tell you another thing--none of the
young girls whom I know at home would treat me as these girls
treat the men they know. I'm queer, I guess, but I might as well
make a clean breast of it all. I am an ingrate, perhaps, but I
can't help thinking that the old life at home was the best. We
loved our friends, and they were welcome at our table any hour,
day or night. We had plenty of time for everything; we lived out
of doors or in doors, just as we pleased, and we dressed to suit
ourselves, and nobody criticised. Why, if I drop into the Magnolia
on my way up-town and forget to wear a derby hat with a sack coat,
or a black tie with a dinner-jacket, everybody winks and nudges
his neighbor. Did you ever hear of such nonsense in your life?"
The boy paused as if the memory of some incident in which he was
ridiculed was alive in his mind. Peter's eyes were still fixed on
"Go on--I'm listening; and what else hurts you? Pour it all out.
That's what I came for. You said last night nobody would listen--I
"Well, then, I hate the sham of it all; the silly social
distinctions; the fits and starts of hospitality; the dinners
given for show. Nothing else going on between times; even the
music is hired. I want to hear music that bubbles out--old Hannah
singing in the kitchen, and Tom, my father's old butler, whistling
to himself--and the dogs barking, and the birds singing outside.
I'm ashamed of myself making comparisons, but that was the kind of
life I loved, because there was sincerity in it."
"No work?" There was a note of sly merriment in the inquiry, but
Jack never caught it.
"Not much. My father was Judge and spent part of the time holding
court, and his work never lasted but a few hours a day, and when I
wanted to go fishing or shooting, or riding with the girls, Mr.
Larkin always let me off. And I had plenty of time to read--and
for that matter I do here, if I lock myself up in this room. That
low library over there is full of my father's books."
Again Peter's voice had a tinge of merriment in it.
"And who supported the family?" he asked in a lower voice.
"And who supported him?"
The question brought Jack to a full stop. He had been running on,
pouring out his heart for the first time since his sojourn in New
York, and to a listener whom he knew he could trust.
"Why--his salary, of course," answered Jack in astonishment, after
"And who worked that?"
"My father's negroes--some of them his former slaves."
"And have you any money of your own--anything your father left
"Only enough to pay taxes on some wild lands up in Cumberland
County, and which I'm going to hold on to for his sake."
Peter dropped his shading fingers, lifted his body from the depths
of the easy chair and leaned forward so that the light fell full
on his face. He had all the information he wanted now.
"And now let me tell you my story, my lad. It is a very short one.
I had the same sort of a home, but no father--none that I
remember--and no mother, they both died before my sister Felicia
and I were grown up. At twelve I left school; at fifteen I worked
in a country store--up at daylight and to bed at midnight, often.
From twenty to twenty-five I was entry clerk in a hardware store;
then book-keeper; then cashier in a wagon factory; then clerk in a
village bank--then book-keeper again in my present bank, and there
I have been ever since. My only advantages were a good
constitution and the fact that I came of gentle people. Here we
are both alike--you at twenty--how old?--twenty two? ... Well,
make it twenty-two. ... You at twenty-two and I at twenty-two
seem to have started out in life with the same natural advantages,
so far as years and money go, but with this difference--Shall I
tell you what it is?"
"That I worked and loved it, and love it still, and that you are
lazy and love your ease. Don't be offended--" Here Peter laid his
hand on the boy's knee. He waited an instant, and not getting any
reply, kept on: "What you want to do is to go to work. It wouldn't
have been honorable in you to let your father support you after
you were old enough to earn your own living, and it isn't
honorable in you, with your present opinions, to live on your
uncle's bounty, and to be discontented and rebellious at that, for
that's about what it all amounts to. You certainly couldn't pay
for these comforts outside of this house on what Breen & Co. can
afford to pay you. Half of your mental unrest, my lad, is due to
the fact that you do not know the joy and comfort to be got out of
plain, common, unadulterated work."
"I'll do anything that is not menial."
"What do you mean by 'menial'?"
"Well, working like a day-laborer."
"Most men who have succeeded have first worked with their hands."
"Not my uncle."
"No, not your uncle--he's an exception--one among a million, and
then again he isn't through."
"But he's worth two million, they say."
"Yes, but he never earned it, and he never worked for it, and he
doesn't now. Do you want to follow in his footsteps?"
"No--not with all his money." This came in a decided tone. "But
surely you wouldn't want me to work with my hands, would you?"
"I certainly should, if necessary."
Jack looked at him, and a shade of disappointment crossed his
"But I COULDN'T do anything menial."
"There isn't anything menial in any kind of work from cleaning a
stable up! The menial things are the evasions of work--tricks by
which men are cheated out of their just dues."
"Yes--sometimes, when the truth is withheld."
"That's what I think; that's what I meant last night when I told
you about the faro-bank. I laughed over it, and yet I can't see
much difference, although I have never seen one."
"So I understood, but you were wrong about it. Your uncle bears a
very good name in the Street. He is not as much to blame as the
system. Perhaps some day the firm will become real bankers, than
which there is no more honorable calling."
"But is it wrong to want to fish and shoot and have time to read."
"No, it is wrong not to do it when you have the time and the
money. I like that side of your nature. My own theory is that
every man should in the twenty-four hours of the day devote eight
to work, eight to sleep and eight to play. But this can only be
done when the money to support the whole twenty-four hours is in
sight, either in wages, or salary, or invested securities. More
money than this--that is the surplusage that men lock up in their
tin boxes, is a curse. But with that you have nothing to do--not
yet, anyhow. Now, if I catch your meaning, your idea is to go back
to your life at home. In other words you want to live the last end
of your life first--and without earning the right to it. And
because you cannot do this you give yourself up to criticising
everything about you. Getting only at the faults and missing all
the finer things in life. If you would permit me to advise you--"
he still had his hand on the lad's knee, searching the soft brown
eyes--"I would give up finding fault and first try to better
things, and I would begin right here where you are. Some of the
great banking houses which keep the pendulum of the world swinging
true have grown to importance through just such young men as
yourself, who were honest and had high ideals and who so impressed
their own personalities upon everybody about them--customers and
employers--that the tone of the concern was raised at once and
with it came a world-wide success. I have been thirty years on the
Street and have watched the rise of half the firms about me, and
in every single instance some one of the younger men--boys, many
of them--has pulled the concern up and out of a quagmire and stood
it on its feet. And the reverse is true: half the downfalls have
come from those same juniors, who thought they knew some short
road to success, which half the time was across disreputable back
lots. Why not give up complaining and see what better things you
can do? I'm not quite satisfied about your having stayed upstairs
even to receive me. Your aunt loves society and the daughter--what
did you say her name was--Corinne? Yes, Miss Corinne being young,
loves to have a good time. Listen! do you hear?--there goes
another waltz. Now, as long as you do live here, why not join in
it too and help out the best you can?--and if you have anything of
your own to offer in the way of good cheer, or thoughtfulness, or
kindness, or whatever you do have which they lack--or rather what
you think they lack--wouldn't it be wiser--wouldn't it--if you
will permit me, my lad--be a little BETTER BRED to contribute
something of your own excellence to the festivity?"
It was now Jack's turn to lean back in his chair and cover his
face, but with two ashamed hands. Not since his father's death had
any one talked to him like this--never with so much tenderness and
truth and with every word meant for his good. All his
selfrighteousness, his silly conceit and vainglory stood out
before him. What an ass he had been. What a coxcomb. What a boor,
"What would you have me do?" he asked, a tone of complete
surrender in his voice. The portrait and Peter were one and the
same! His father had come to life.
"I don't know yet. We'll think about that another time, but we
won't do it now. I ought to be ashamed of myself for having
spoiled your evening by such serious talk (he wasn't ashamed--he
had come for that very purpose). Now show me some of your books
and tell me what you read, and what you love best."
He was out of the chair before he ceased speaking, his heels
striking the floor, bustling about in his prompt, exact manner,
examining the few curios and keepsakes on the mantel and tables,
running his eyes over the rows of bindings lining the small
bookcase; his hand on Jack's shoulder whenever the boy opened some
favorite author to hunt for a passage to read aloud to Peter,
listening with delight, whether the quotation was old or new to
Jack, suddenly remembering that his guest was standing, tried to
lead him back to his seat by the fire, but Peter would have none
"No--too late. Why, bless me, it's after eleven o'clock! Hear the
music--they are still at it. Now I'm going to insist that you go
down and have a turn around the room yourself; there were such a
lot of pretty girls when I came in."
"Too late for that, too," laughed Jack, merry once more. "Corinne
wouldn't speak to me if I showed my face now, and then there will
be plenty more dances which I can go to, and so make it all up
with her. I'm not yet as sorry as I ought to be about this dance.
Your being here has been such a delight. May I--may--I come and
see you some time?"
"That's just what you will do, and right away. Just as soon as my
dear sister Felicia comes down, and she'll be here very soon. I'll
send for you, never fear. Yes, the right sleeve first, and now my
hat and umbrella. Ah, here they are. Now, good night, my boy, and
thank you for letting me come."
"You know I dare not go down with you," explained Jack with a
"Oh, yes--I know--I know. Good night--" and the sharp, quick tread
of the old man grew fainter and fainter as he descended the
Jack waited, craning his head, until he caught a glimpse of the
glistening head as it passed once more under the lantern, then he
went into his room and shut the door.
Had he followed behind his guest he would have witnessed a little
comedy which would have gone far in wiping clean all trace of his
uncle's disparaging remarks of the morning. He would have enjoyed,
too, Parkins's amazement. As the Receiving Teller of the Exeter
Bank reached the hall floor the President of the Clearing House--
the most distinguished man in the Street and one to whom Breen
kotowed with genuflections equalling those of Parkins--accompanied
by his daughter and followed by the senior partner of Breen & Co.,
were making their way to the front door. The second man in the
chocolate livery with the potato-bug waistcoat had brought the
Magnate's coat and hat, and Parkins stood with his hand on the
door-knob. Then, to the consternation of both master and servant,
the great man darted forward and seized Peter's hand.
"Why, my dear Mr. Grayson! This is indeed a pleasure. I didn't see
you--were you inside?"
"No--I've been upstairs with young Mr. Breen," replied Peter, with
a comprehensive bow to Host, Magnate and Magnate's daughter. Then,
with the grace and dignity of an ambassador quitting a salon, he
passed out into the night.
Breen found his breath first: "And you know him?"
"Know him!" cried the Magnate--"of course I know him! One of the
most delightful men in New York; and I'm glad that you do--you're
luckier than I--try as I may I can hardly ever get him inside my
I was sitting up for the old fellow when he entered his cosey red
room and dropped into a chair before the fire. I had seen the
impression the young man had made upon him at the dinner and was
anxious to learn the result of his visit. I had studied the boy
somewhat myself, noting his bright smile, clear, open face without
a trace of guile, and the enthusiasm that took possession of him
when his friend won the prize That he was outside the class of
young men about him I could see from a certain timidity of glance
and gesture--as if he wanted to be kept in the background. Would
the old fellow, I wondered, burden his soul with still another
Peter was laughing when he entered; he had laughed all the way
down-town, he told me. What particularly delighted him--and here
he related the Portman incident--was the change in Breen's face
when old Portman grasped his hand so cordially.
"Made of pinchbeck, my dear Major, both of them, and yet how
genuine it looks on the surface, and what a lot of it is in
circulation. Quite as good as the real thing if you don't know the
difference," and again he laughed heartily.
"And the boy," I asked, "was he disappointing?"
"Young Breen?--not a bit of it. He's like all the young fellows
who come up here from the South--especially the country
districts--and he's from western Maryland, he says. Got queer
ideas about work and what a gentleman should do to earn his
living--same old talk. Hot-house plants most of them--never amount
to anything, really, until they are pruned and set out in the
"Got any sense?" I ventured.
"No, not much--not yet--but he's got temperament and refinement
and a ten commandments' code of morals."
"Rather rare, isn't it?" I asked.
"And I suppose you are going to take him up and do for him, like
Peter picked up the poker and made a jab at the fire; then he
"Well, Major, I can't tell yet--not positively. But he's certainly
With the closing of the front door upon the finest Old Gentleman
in the World, a marked change took place in the mental mechanism
of several of our most important characters. The head of the firm
of Breen & Co. was so taken aback that for the moment that
shrewdest of financiers was undecided as to whether he or Parkins
should rush out into the night after the departing visitor and
bring him back, and open the best in the cellar. "Send a man out
of my house," he said to himself, "whom Portman couldn't get to
his table except at rare intervals! Well, that's one on me!"
The lid that covered the upper half of Parkins's intelligence also
received a jolt; it was a coal-hole lid that covered emptiness,
but now and then admitted the light.
"Might 'ave known from the clothes 'e wore 'e was no common PUR-
son," he said to himself. "To tell you the truth--" this to the
second man in the potato-bug waistcoat, when they were dividing
between them the bottle of "Extra Dry" three-quarters full, that
Parkins had smuggled into the pantry with the empty bottles ("Dead
Men," Breen called them)--" to tell you the truth, Frederick, when
I took 'is 'at and coat hupstairs 'e give me a real start 'e
looked that respectable"
As to Jack, not only his mind but his heart were in a whirl.
Half the night he lay awake wondering what he could do to follow
Peter's advice while preserving his own ideals. He had quite
forgotten that part of the older man's counsel which referred to
the dignity of work, even of that work which might be considered
as menial. If the truth must be told, it was his vanity alone
which had been touched by the suggestion that in him might lay the
possibility of reforming certain conditions around him. He was
willing, even anxious, to begin on Breen & Co., subjecting his
uncle, if need be, to a vigorous overhauling. Nothing he felt
could daunt him in his present militant state, upheld, as he felt
that he was, by the approval of Peter. Not a very rational state
of mind, the Scribe must confess, and only to be accounted for by
the fact that Peter's talk, instead of clearing Jack's mind of old
doubts, had really clouded it the more--quite as a bottle of
mixture when shaken sends its insoluble particles whirling
throughout the whole.
It was not until the following morning, indeed, that the sediment
began to settle, and some of the sanity of Peter's wholesome
prescription to produce a clarifying effect. As long as he, Jack,
lived upon his uncle's bounty--and that was really what it
amounted it--he must at least try to contribute his own quota of
good cheer and courtesy. This was what Peter had done him the
honor to advise, and he must begin at once if he wanted to show
his appreciation of the courtesy.
His uncle opened the way:
"Why, I didn't know until I saw him go out that he was a friend of
Mr. Portman's," he said as he sipped his coffee.
"Neither did I. But does it make any difference?" answered Jack,
flipping off the top of his egg.
"Well I should think so--about ninety-nine and nine-tenths
percent," replied the older man emphatically. "Let's invite him to
dinner, Jack. Maybe he'll come to one I'm giving next week and--"
"I'll ask him--that is ... perhaps, though, you might write him a
note, uncle, and--"
"Of course," interrupted Breen, ignoring the suggestion, "when I
wanted you to take him to the club I didn't know who he was."
"Of course you did not," echoed Jack, suppressing a smile.
"The club! No, not by a damned sight!" exclaimed the head of the
house of Breen. As this latter observation was addressed to the
circumambient air, and not immediately to Jack, it elicited no
response. Although slightly profane, Jack was clever enough to
read in its tones not only ample apology for previous criticisms
but a sort of prospective reparation, whereupon our generous young
gentleman forgave his uncle at once, and thought that from this on
he might like him the better.
Even Parkins came in for a share of Jack's most gracious
intentions, and though he was as silent as an automaton playing a
game of chess, a slight crack was visible in the veneer of his
face when Jack thanked him for having brought Mr. Grayson--same
reverential pronunciation--upstairs himself instead of allowing
Frederick or one of the maid-servants to perform that service.
As for his apologies to Corinne and his aunt for having remained
in his room after Mr. Grayson's departure, instead of taking part
in the last hours of the dance--one o'clock was the exact hour--
these were reserved until those ladies should appear at dinner,
when they were made with so penitential a ring in his voice that
his aunt at once jumped to the conclusion that he must have been
bored to death by the old fellow, while Corinne hugged herself in
the belief that perhaps after all Jack was renewing his interest
in her; a delusion which took such possession of her small head
that she finally determined to send Garry a note begging him to
come to her at once, on business of the UTMOST IMPORTANCE; two
strings being better than one, especially when they were to be
played each against the other.
As to the uplifting of the house of Breen & Co., and the
possibility of so small a tail as himself being able to wag so
large a dog as his uncle and his partners, that seemed now to be
so chimerical an undertaking that he laughed when he thought of
This urbanity of mood was still with him when some days later he
dropped into the Magnolia Club on his way home, his purpose being
to find Garry and to hear about the supper which his club friends
had given him to celebrate his winning of the Morris ring.
Little Biffton was keeping watch when Jack swung in with that free
stride of his that showed more than anything else his muscular
body and the way he had taken care of and improved it. No dumb-
bells or clubs for fifteen minutes in the morning--but astride a
horse, his thighs gripping a bare-back, roaming the hills day
after day--the kind of outdoor experience that hardens a man all
over without specializing his biceps or his running gear. Little
Biff never had any swing to his gait--none that his fellows ever
noticed. Biff went in for repose--sometimes hours at a time. Given
a club chair, a package of cigarettes and some one to talk to him
and Biff could be happy a whole afternoon.
"Ah, Breen, old man! Come to anchor." Here he moved back a chair
an inch or two with his foot, and pushed his silver cigarette-case
toward the newcomer.
"Thank you," replied Jack. "I've just dropped in to look for Garry
Minott. Has he been in?"
Biff was the bulletin-board of the Magnolia club. As he roomed
upstairs, he could be found here at any hour of the day or night.
Biff did not reply at once; there was no use in hurrying--not
about anything. Besides, the connection between Biff's ears and
his brain was never very good. One had to ring him up several
times before he answered.
Jack waited for an instant, and finding that the message was
delayed in transmission, helped himself to one of Biff's
"Specials"--bearing in gold letters his name "Brent Biffton" in
full on the rice paper--dropped into the proffered chair and
repeated the question:
"Have you seen Garry?"
"Yes--upstairs. Got a deck in the little room. Been there all
afternoon. Might go up and butt in. Touch that bell before you go
and say what."
"No--I won't drink anything, if you don't mind. You heard about
Garry's winning the prize?"
"No." Biffton hadn't moved since he had elongated his foot in
search of Jack's chair.
"Why Garry got first prize in his office. I went with him to the
supper; he's with Holker Morris, you know."
"Yes. Rather nice. Yes, I did hear. The fellows blew him off
upstairs. Kept it up till the steward shut 'em out. Awfully clever
fellow, Minott. My Governor wanted me to do something in
architecture, but it takes such a lot of time ... Funny how a
fellow will dress himself." Biffton's sleepy eyes were sweeping
the Avenue. "Pendergast just passed wearing white spats--A month
too late for spats--ought to know better. Touch the bell, Breen,
and say what."
Again Jack thanked him, and again Biffton relapsed into silence.
Rather a damper on a man of his calibre, when a fellow wouldn't
touch a bell and say what.
Jack having a certain timidity about "butting in"--outsiders
didn't do such things where he came from--settled himself into
the depths of the comfortable leather-covered arm-chair and waited
for Garry to finish his game. From where he sat he could not only
overlook the small tables holding a choice collection of little
tear-bottles, bowls of crushed ice and high-pressure siphons, but
his eye also took in the stretch beyond, the club windows
commanding the view up and down and quite across the Avenue, as
well as the vista to the left.
This outlook was the most valuable asset the Magnolia possessed.
If the parasol was held flat, with its back to the club-house, and
no glimpse of the pretty face possible, it was, of course,
unquestionable evidence to the member looking over the top of his
cocktail that neither the hour or the place was propitious. If,
however, it swayed to the right or left, or better still, was
folded tight, then it was equally conclusive that not only was the
coast clear, but that any number of things might happen, either at
Tiffany's, or the Academy, or wherever else one of those
here" kind of meetings take place--meetings so delightful in
themselves because so unexpected.
These outlooks, too, were useful in solving many of the social
problems that afflicted the young men about town; the identity,
for instance, of the occupant of the hansom who had just driven
past, heavily veiled, together with her destination and her reason
for being out at all; why the four-in-hand went up empty and came
back with a pretty woman beside the "Tooler," and then turned up a
side street toward the Park, instead of taking the Avenue into its
confidence; what the young wife of the old doctor meant when she
waved her hand to the occupant of a third-story window, and who
lived there, and why--None of their business, of course--never
could be--but each and every escapade, incident and adventure
being so much thrice-blessed manna to souls stranded in the desert
waste of club conversation.
None of these things interested our hero, and he soon found
himself listening to the talk at an adjoining table. Topping, a
young lawyer, Whitman Bunce, a man of leisure--unlimited leisure--
and one or two others, were rewarming some of the day's gossip.
"Had the gall to tell Bob's man he couldn't sleep in linen sheets;
had his own violet silk ones in his trunk, to match his pajamas.
The goat had 'em out and half on the bed when Bob came in and
stopped him. Awful row, I heard, when Mrs. Bob got on to it. He'll
never go there again."
"And I heard," broke in Bunce, "that she ordered the trap and sent
him back to the station."
Other bits drifted Jack's way:
"Why he was waiting at the stage-door and she slipped out
somewhere in front. Billy was with her, so I heard. ... When they
got to Delmonico's there came near being a scrap. ... No. ...
Never had a dollar on Daisy Belle, or any other horse. ..."
Loud laughter was now heard at the end of the hall. A party of
young men had reached the foot of the stairs and were approaching
Biffton and Jack. Garry's merry voice led the others.
"Still hard at work, are you, Biffy? Why, hello, Jack!--how long
have you been here? Morlon, you know Mr. Breen, don't you?--Yes,
of course you do--new member--just elected. Get a move on that
carcass of yours, Biffy, and let somebody else get up to that
table. Charles, take the orders."
Jack had shaken everybody's hand by this time, Biffton having
moved back a foot or two, and the circle had widened so that the
poker party could reach their cocktails. Garry extended his arm
till his hand rested on Jack's shoulder.
"Nothing sets me up like a game of poker, old man. Been on the
building all day. You ought to come up with me some time--I'll
show you the greatest piece of steel construction you ever saw.
Mr. Morris was all over it to-day. Oh, by the way! Did that old
chunk of sandstone come up to see you last night? What did you say
his name was?"
Jack repeated Peter's cognomen--this time without rolling the
syllables under his tongue--said that Mr. Grayson had kept his
promise; that the evening had been delightful, and immediately
changed the subject. There was no use trying to convert Garry.
"And now tell me about the supper," asked Jack.
"Oh, that was all right. We whooped it up till they closed the bar
and then went home with the milk. Had an awful head on me next
morning; nearly fell off the scaffold, I was so sleepy. How's Miss
Corinne? I'm going to stop in on my way uptown this afternoon and
apologize to her. I have her note, but I haven't had a minute to
let her know why I didn't come. I'll show her the ring; then
she'll know why. Saw it, didn't you?"
Jack hadn't seen it. He had been too excited to look. Now he
examined it. With the flash of the gems Biffy sat up straight, and
the others craned their heads. Garry slipped it off his finger for
the hundredth time for similar inspections, and Jack utilized the
pause in the conversation to say that Corinne had received the
note and that in reply she had vented most of her disappointment
on himself, a disclosure which sent a cloud across Garry's face.
The cocktail hour had now arrived--one hour before dinner, an hour
which was fixed by that distinguished compounder of herbs and
spirits, Mr. Biffton--and the room began filling up. Most of the
members were young fellows but a few years out of college, men who
renewed their Society and club life within its walls; some were
from out of town--students in the various professions. Here and
there was a man of forty--one even of fifty-five--who preferred
the gayer and fresher life of the younger generation to the more
solemn conclaves of the more exclusive clubs further up and
further down town. As is usual in such combinations, the units
forming the whole sought out their own congenial units and were
thereafter amalgamated into groups, a classification to be found
in all clubs the world over. While Biffy and his chums could
always be found together, there were other less-fortunate young
fellows, not only without coupon shears, but sometimes without the
means of paying their dues--who formed a little coterie of their
own, and who valued and used the club for what it brought them,
their election carrying with it a certain social recognition: it
also widened one's circle of acquaintances and, perhaps, of
The sound of loud talking now struck upon Jack's ear. Something
more important than the angle of a parasol or the wearing of out-
of-date spats was engrossing the attention of a group of young men
who had just entered. Jack caught such expressions as--"Might as
well have picked his pocket. ..." "He's flat broke, anyhow. ..."
"Got to sell his house, I hear. ..."
Then came a voice louder than the others.
"There's Breen talking to Minott and Biffy. He's in the Street;
he'll know. ... Say, Breen!"
Jack rose to his feet and met the speaker half way.
"What do you know, Breen, about that scoop in gold stock? Heard
anything about it? Who engineered it? Charley Gilbert's cleaned
out, I hear."
"I don't know anything," said Jack. "I left the office at noon and
came up town. Who did you say was cleaned out?"
"Why, Charley Gilbert. You must know him."
"Yes, I know him. What's happened to him?"
"Flat broke--that's what happened to him. Got caught in that gold
swindle. The stock dropped out of sight this afternoon, I hear--
went down forty points."
Garry crowded his way into the group: "Which Mr. Gilbert?--not
Charley M., the--"
"Yes; Sam's just left him. What did he tell you, Sam?"
"Just what you've said--I hear, too, that he has got to stop on
his house out in Jersey. Can't finish it and can't pay for what's
Garry gave a low whistle and looked at Jack.
"That's rough. Mr. Morris drew the plan of Gilbert's house
himself. I worked on the details."
"Rough!" burst out the first speaker. "I should say it was--might
as well have burglared his safe. They have been working up this
game for months, so Charley told me. Then they gave out that the
lode had petered out and they threw it overboard and everybody
with it. They said they tried to find Charley to post him, but he
was out of town."
"Who tried?" asked Jack, with renewed interest, edging his way
close to the group. It was just as well to know the sheep from the
goats, if he was to spend the remainder of his life in the Street.
"That's what we want to know. Thought you might have heard."
Jack shook his head and resumed his seat beside Biffy, who had not
moved or shown the slightest interest in the affair. Nobody could
sell Biff any gold stock--nor any other kind of stock. His came on
the first of every month in a check from the Trust Company.
For some moments Jack did not speak. He knew young Gilbert, and he
knew his young and very charming wife. He had once sat next to her
at dinner, when her whole conversation had been about this new
home and the keen interest that Morris, a friend of her father's,
had taken in it. "Mr. Breen, you and Miss Corinne must be among
our earliest guests," she had said, at which Corinne, who was next
to Garry, had ducked her little head in acceptance. This was the
young fellow, then, who had been caught in one of the eddies
whirling over the sunken rocks of the Street. Not very creditable
to his intelligence, perhaps, thought Jack; but, then, again, who
had placed them there, a menace to navigation?--and why? Certainly
Peter could not have known everything that was going on around
him, if he thought the effort of so insignificant an individual as
himself could be of use in clearing out obstructions like these.
Garry noticed the thoughtful expression settling over Jack's face,
and mistaking the cause called Charles to take the additional
"Cheer up--try a high-ball, Jack. It's none of your funeral. You
didn't scoop Gilbert; we are the worst sufferers. Can't finish his
house now, and Mr. Morris is just wild over the design. It's on a
ledge of rock overlooking the lake, and the whole thing goes
together. We've got the roof on, and from across the lake it looks
as if it had grown there. Mr. Morris repeated the rock forms
everywhere. Stunning, I tell you!"
Jack didn't want any high-ball, and said so. (Biffy didn't care if
he did.) The boy's mind was still on the scoop, particularly on
the way in which every one of his fellow-members had spoken of the
"Horrid business, all of it. Don't you think so, Garry?" Jack said
after a pause.
"No, not if you keep your eyes peeled," answered Garry, emptying
his glass. "Never saw Gilbert but once, and then he looked to me
like a softy from Pillowville. Couldn't fool me, I tell you, on a
deal like that. I'd have had a 'stop order' somewhere. Served
Gilbert right; no business to be monkeying with a buzz-saw unless
he knew how to throw off the belt."
Jack straightened his shoulders and his brows knit. The lines of
the portrait were in the lad's face now.
"Well, maybe it's all right, Garry. My own opinion is that it's no
better than swindling. Anyway, I'm mighty glad Uncle Arthur isn't
mixed up in it. You heard what Sam and the other fellows thought,
didn't you? How would you like to have that said of you?"
Garry tossed back his head and laughed.
"Biffy, are you listening to his Reverence, the Bishop of
Cumberland? Here endeth the first lesson."
Biff nodded over his high-ball. He wasn't listening--discussions
of any kind bored him.
"But what do you care, Jack, what they say--what anybody says?"
continued Garry. "Keep right on. You are in the Street to make
money, aren't you? Everybody else is there for the same purpose.
What goes up must come down. If you don't want to get your head
smashed, stand from under. The game is to jump in, grab what you
can, and jump out, dodging the bricks as they come. Let's go up-
town, old man."
Neither of the young men was expressing his own views. Both were
too young and too inexperienced to have any fixed ideas on so
vital a subject.
It was the old fellow in the snuff-colored coat, black stock and
dog-eared collar that was behind Jack. If he were alive to-day
Jack's view would have been his view, and that was the reason why
it was Jack's view. The boy could no more explain it than he could
prove why his eyes were brown and his hair a dark chestnut, or why
he always walked with his toes very much turned out, or made
gestures with his hands when he talked. Had any of the jury been
alive--and some of them were--or the prosecuting-attorney, or
even any one of the old settlers who attended court, they could
have told in a minute which one of the two young men was Judge
Breen's son. Not that Jack looked like his father. No young man of
twenty-two looks like an old fellow of sixty, but he certainly
moved and talked like him--and had the same way of looking at
things. "The written law may uphold you, sir, and the jury may so
consider, but I shall instruct them to disregard your plea. There
is a higher law, sir, than justice--a law of mercy--That I myself
shall exercise." The old Judge had sat straight up on his bench
when he said it, his face cast-iron, his eyes burning. The jury
brought in an acquittal without leaving their seats. There was an
outbreak, of course, but the man went free. This young offshoot
was from the same old stock, that was all; same sap in his veins,
same twist to his branch; same bud, same blossom and--same fruit.
Not many years have elapsed since I watched him running in and out
of his father's spacious drawing-rooms on Fourteenth Street--the
court end of town in those days. In the days, I mean, when his
father was Collector of the Port, and his father's house with its
high ceilings, mahogany doors and wide hall, and the great dining-
room overlooking a garden with a stable in the rear. It had not
been many years, I say, since the Hon. Creighton Minott had thrown
wide its doors to whoever came--that is, whoever came properly
accredited. It didn't last long, of course. Politics changed; the
"ins" became the "outs." And with the change came the bridging-
over period--the kind of cantilever which hope thrusts out from
one side of the bank of the swift-flowing stream of adversity in
the belief that somebody on the other side of the chasm will build
the other half, and the two form a highway leading to a change of
scene and renewed prosperity.
The hospitable Collector continued to be hospitable. He had always
taken chances--he would again. The catch-terms of Garry's day,
such as "couldn't fool him," "keep your eye peeled," "a buzz-saw,"
etc., etc., were not current in the father's day, but their
synonyms were. He knew what he was about. As soon as a particular
member of the Board got back from the other side the Honorable
Collector would have the position of Treasurer, and then it was
only a question of time when he would be President of the new
corporation. I can see now the smile that lighted up his rather
handsome face when he told me. He was "monkeying with a buzz-saw"
all the same if he did but know it, and yet he always professed to
follow the metaphor that he could "throw off the belt" that drove
the pulley at his own good pleasure and so stop the connecting
machinery before the teeth of the whirling blade could reach his
fingers. Should it get beyond his control--of which there was not
the remotest possibility--he would, of course, rent his house,
sell his books and curtail. "In the meantime, my dear fellow,
there is some of the old Madeira left and a game of whist will
only help to drive dull care away."
Garry never whimpered when the crash came. The dear mother died--
how patient and uncomplaining she was in all their ups and downs--
and Garry was all that was left. What he had gained since in life
he had worked for; first as office boy, then as draughtsman and
then in charge of special work, earning his Chief's approval, as
the Scribe has duly set forth. He got his inheritance, of course.
Don't we all get ours? Sometimes it skips a generation--some times
two--but generally we are wearing the old gentleman's suit of
clothes cut down to fit our small bodies, making believe all the
time that they are our very own, unconscious of the discerning
eyes who recognize their cut and origin.
Nothing tangible, it is safe to say, came with Garry's share of
the estate--and he got it all. That is, nothing he could exchange
for value received--no houses or lots, or stocks or bonds. It was
the INTANGIBLE that proved his richest possession, viz.:--a
certain buoyancy of spirits; a cheery, optimistic view of life; a
winning personality and the power of both making and holding
friends. With this came another asset--the willingness to take
chances, and still a third--an absolute belief in his luck. Down
at the bottom of the box littered with old papers, unpaid tax
bills and protested notes--all valueless--was a fourth which his
father used to fish out when every other asset failed--a certain
confidence in the turn of a card.
But the virtues and the peccadilloes of their ancestors, we may be
sure, were not interesting, our two young men as they swung up the
Avenue arm in arm, this particular afternoon, the sidewalks
crowded with the fashion of the day, the roadway blocked with
carriages. Nor did any passing objects occupy their attention.
Garry's mind was on Corinne, and what he would tell her, and how
she would look as she listened, the pretty head tucked on one
side, her sparkling eyes drinking in every word of his story,
although he knew she wouldn't believe one-half of it. Elusive and
irritating as she sometimes was, there was really nobody exactly
like Miss Corinne.
Jack's mind had resumed its normal tone. Garry's merry laugh and
good-natured ridicule had helped, so had the discovery that none
of his friends had had anything to do with Gilbert's fall. After
all, he said to himself, as he strode up the street beside his
friend, it was "none of his funeral," none of his business,
really. Such things went on every day and in every part of the
world. Neither was it his Uncle Arthur's. That was the most
comforting part of all.
Corinne's voice calling over the banisters: "Is that you, Jack?"
met the two young men as they handed their hats to the noiseless
Frederick. Both craned their necks and caught sight of the Wren's
head framed by the hand-rail and in silhouette against the oval
sky-light in the roof above.
"Yes, and Garry's here, too. Come down."
The patter of little feet grew louder, then the swish of silken
skirts, and with a spring she was beside them.
"No, don't you say a word, Garry. I'm not going to listen and I
won't forgive you no matter what you say." She had both of his
"Ah, but you don't know, Miss Corinne. Has Jack told you?"
"Yes, told me everything; that you had a big supper and everybody
stamped around the room; that Mr. Morris gave you a ring, or
something" (Garry held up his finger, but she wasn't ready to
examine it yet), "and that some of the men wanted to celebrate it,
and that you went to the club and stayed there goodness knows how
long--all night, so Mollie Crane told me. Paul, her brother, was
there--and you never thought a word about your promise to me"
(this came with a little pout, her chin uplifted, her lips quite
near his face), "and we didn't have half men enough and our
cotillion was all spoiled. I don't care--we had a lovely time,
even if you two men did behave disgracefully. No--I don't want to
listen to a thing. I didn't come down to see either of you. (She
had watched them both from her window as they crossed the street.)
"What I want to know, Jack, is, who is Miss Felicia Grayson?"
"Why, Mr. Grayson's sister," burst out Jack--"the old gentleman
who came to see me."
"That old fellow!"
"Yes, that old fellow--the most charming--"
"Not that remnant!" interrupted Garry.
"No, Garry--not that kind of a man at all, but a most delightful
old gentleman by the name of Mr. Grayson," and Jack's eyes
flashed. "He told me his sister was coming to town. What do you
know about her, Corinne?" He was all excitement: Peter was to send
for him when his sister arrived.
"Nothing--that's why I ask you. I've just got a note from her. She
says she knew mamma when she lied in Washington, and that her
brother has fallen in love with you, and that she won't have
another happy moment--or something like that--if you and I don't
come to a tea she is giving to a Miss Ruth MacFarlane; and that I
am to give her love to mamma, and bring anybody I please with me."
"When?" asked Jack. He could hardly restrain his joy.
"I think next Saturday--yes, next Saturday," consulting the letter
in her hand.
"Where? At Mr. Grayson's rooms?" cried Jack.
"Yes, at her brother's, she says. Here, Jack--you read it. Some
number in East Fifteenth Street--queer place for people to live,
isn't it, Garry?--people who want anybody to come to their teas.
I've got a dressmaker lives over there somewhere; she's in
Fifteenth Street, anyhow, for I always drive there."
Jack devoured the letter. This was what he had been hoping for. He
knew the old gentleman would keep his word!
"Well, of course you'll go, Corinne?" he cried eagerly.
"Of course I'll do nothing of the kind. I think it's a great piece
of impudence. I've never heard of her. Because you had her brother
upstairs, that's no reason why--But that's just like these people.
You give them an inch and--"
Jack's cheeks flushed: "But, Corinne! She's offered you a
courtesy--asked you to her house, and--"
"I don't care; I'm not going! Would you, Garry?"
The son of the Collector hesitated for a moment. He had his own
ideas of getting on in the world. They were not Jack's--his, he
knew, would never succeed. And they were not exactly Corinne's--
she was too particular. The fence was evidently the best place for
"Would be rather a bore, wouldn't it?" he replied. evasively, with
a laugh. "Lives up under the roof, I guess, wears a dyed wig, got
Cousin Mary Ann's daguerreotype on the mantle, and tells you how
The door opened and Jack's aunt swept in. She never walked, or
ambled, or stepped jauntily, or firmly, or as if she wanted to get
anywhere in particular; she SWEPT in, her skirts following meekly
behind--half a yard behind, sometimes.
Corinne launched the inquiry at her mother, even before she could
return Garry's handshake. "Who's Miss Grayson, mamma?"
"I don't know. Why, my child?"
"Well, she says she knows you. Met you in Washington."
"The only Miss Grayson I ever met in Washington, my dear, was an
old maid, the niece of the Secretary of State. She kept house for
him after his wife died. She held herself very high, let me tell
you. A very grand lady, indeed. But she must be an old woman now,
if she is still living. What did you say her first name was?"
Corinne took the open letter from Jack's hand. "Felicia ... Yes,
"And what does she want?--money for some charity?" Almost
everybody she knew, and some she didn't, wanted money for some
charity. She was loosening her cloak as she spoke, Frederick
standing by to relieve my lady of her wraps.
"No; she's going to give a tea and wants us all to come. She's the
sister of that old man who came to see Jack the other night, and--
"Going to give a tea!--and the sister of--Well, then, she
certainly isn't the Miss Grayson I know. Don't you answer her,
Corinne, until I find out who she is."
"I'll tell you who she is," burst out Jack. His face was aflame
now. Never had he listened to such discourtesy. He could hardly
believe his ears.
"It wouldn't help me in the least, my dear Jack; so don't you
begin. I am the best judge of who shall come to my house. She may
be all right, and she may not, you can never tell in a city like
New York, and you can't be too particular. People really do such
curious pushing things now-a-days." This to Garry. "Now serve tea,
Parkins. Come in all of you."
Jack was on the point of blazing out in indignation over the false
position in which his friend had been placed when Peter's warning
voice rang in his ears. The vulgarity of the whole proceeding
appalled him, yet he kept control of himself.
"None for me, please, aunty," he said quietly. "I will join you
later, Garry," and he mounted the stairs to his room.
Peter was up and dressed when Miss Felicia arrived, despite the
early hour. Indeed that gay cavalier was the first to help the
dear lady off with her travelling cloak and bonnet, Mrs. McGuffey
folding her veil, smoothing out her gloves and laying them all
upon the bed in the adjoining room--the one she kept in prime
order for Miss Grayson's use.
The old fellow was facing the coffee-urn when he told her Jack's
story and what he himself had said in reply, and how fine the boy
was in his beliefs, and how well-nigh impossible it was for him
to help him, considering his environment.
The dear lady had listened with her eyes fixed on Peter. It was
but another of his benevolent finds; it had been the son of an old
music teacher the winter before, and a boy struggling through
college last spring;--always somebody who wanted to get ahead in
one direction or another, no matter how impracticable his
ambitions might be. This young man, however, seemed different;
certain remarks had a true ring. Perhaps, after all, her foolish
old brother--foolish when his heart misled him--might have found
somebody at last who would pay for the time he spent upon him. The
name, too, had a familiar sound. She was quite sure the aunt must
be the same rather over-dressed persistent young widow who had
flitted in and out of Washington society the last year of her own
stay in the capital. She had finally married a rich New York man
of the same name. So she had heard.
The tea to which Jack and Corinne were invited was the result of
this conversation. Trust Miss Felicia for doing the right thing
and in the right way, whatever her underlying purpose might be;
and then again she must look this new protege over.
Peter at once joined in the project. Nothing pleased him so much
as a function of any kind in which his dear sister was the centre
of attraction, and this was always the case. Was not Mrs. McGuffey
put to it, at these same teas, to know what to do with the hats
and coats, and the long and short cloaks and overshoes, and lots
of other things beside--umbrellas and the like--whenever Miss
Felicia came to town? And did not the good woman have many of the
cards of the former function hidden in her bureau drawer to show
her curious friends just how grand a lady Miss Felicia was?
General Waterbury, U.S.A., commanding the Department of the East,
with headquarters at Governors Island, was one of them. And so
were Colonel Edgerton, Judge Lambert and Mrs. Lambert; and His
Excellency the French Ambassador, whom she had known as an attache
and who was passing through the city and had been overjoyed to
leave a card; as well as Sir Anthony Broadstairs, who expected to
spend a week with her in her quaint home in Geneseo, but who had
made it convenient to pay his respects in Fifteenth Street
instead: to say nothing of the Coleridges, Thomases, Bordeauxs and
Worthing tons, besides any number of people from Washington
Square, with plenty more from Murray Hill and be yond.
Peter in his enthusiasm had made a mental picture of a repetition
of all this and had already voiced it in the suggestion of these
and various other prominent names, "when Miss Felicia stopped him
"No, Peter--No. It's not to be a museum of fossils, but a garden
full of rosebuds; nobody with a strand of gray hair will be
invited. As for the lame, the halt and the blind, they can come
next week. I've just been looking you over, Peter; you are getting
old and wrinkled and pretty soon you'll be as cranky as the rest
of them, and there will be no living with you. The Major, who is
half your age"--I had come early, as was my custom, to pay my
respects to the dear woman--"is no better. You are both of you
getting into a rut. What you want is some young blood pumped into
your shrivelled veins. I am going to hunt up every girl I know and
all the boys, including that young Breen you are so wild over, and
then I'll send for dear Ruth MacFarlane, who has just come North
with her father to live, and who doesn't know a soul, and nobody
over twenty-five is to be admitted. So if you and the Major want
to come to Ruth's tea--Ruth's, remember; not yours or the
Major's, or mine--you will either have to pass the cake or take
the gentlemen's hats. Do you hear?"
We heard, and we heard her laugh as she spoke, raising her gold
lorgnon to her eyes and gazing at us with that half-quizzical look
which so often comes over her face.
She was older than Peter--must have been: I never knew exactly. It
would not have been wise to ask her, and nobody else knew but
Peter, and he never told. And yet there was no mark of real old
age upon her. She and Peter were alike in this. Her hair, worn
Pompadour, was gray--an honest black-and-white gray; her eyes were
bright as needle points; the skin slightly wrinkled, but fresh and
rosy--a spare, straight, well-groomed old lady of--perhaps sixty
--perhaps sixty-five, depending on her dress, or undress, for her
shoulders were still full and well rounded. "The most beautiful
neck and throat, sir, in all Washington in her day," old General
Waterbury once told me, and the General was an authority. "You
should have seen her in her prime, sir. What the devil the men
were thinking of I don't know, but they let her go back to
Geneseo, and there she has lived ever since. Why, sir, at a ball
at the German Embassy she made such a sensation that--" but then
the General always tells such stories of most of the women he
There was but little left of that kind of beauty. She had kept her
figure, it is true--a graceful, easy moving figure, with the waist
of a girl; well-proportioned arms and small, dainty hands. She had
kept, too, her charm of manner and keen sense of humor--she
wouldn't have been Peter's sister otherwise--as well as her
interest in her friend's affairs, especially the love affairs of
all the young people about her.
Her knowledge of men and women had broadened. She read them more
easily now than when she was a girl--had suffered, perhaps, by
trusting them too much. This had sharpened the tip end of her
tongue to so fine a point that when it became active--and once in
a while it did--it could rip a sham reputation up the back as
easily as a keen blade loosens the seams of a bodice.
Peter fell in at once with her plan for a "Rosebud Tea," in spite
of her raillery and the threatened possibility of our exclusion,
promising not only to assist her with the invitations, but to be
more than careful at the Bank in avoiding serious mistakes in his
balances--so as to be on hand promptly at four. Moreover, if Jack
had a sweetheart--and there was no question of it, or ought not to
be--and Corinne had another, what would be better than bringing
them all down together, so that Miss Felicia could look them over,
and Miss Ruth and the Major could get better acquainted,
especially Jack and Miss Felicia; and more especially Jack and
Miss Felicia's proposal having therefore been duly carried out,
with a number of others not thought of when the tea was first
discussed--including some pots of geraniums in the window, red, of
course, to match the color of Peter's room--and the freshening up
of certain swiss curtains which so offended Miss Felicia's ever-
watchful eyes that she burst out with: "It is positively
disgraceful, Peter, to see how careless you are getting--" At
which Mrs. McGuffey blushed to the roots of her hair, and washed
them herself that very night before she closed her eyes. The great
day having arrived, I say the tea-table was set with Peter's best,
including "the dearest of silver teapots" that Miss Felicia had
given him for special occasions; the table covered with a damask
cloth and all made ready for the arrival of her guests. This done,
the lady returned to her own room, from which she emerged an hour
later in a soft gray silk relieved by a film of old lace at her
throat, blending into the tones of her gray hair brushed straight
up from her forehead and worn high over a cushion, the whole
topped by a tiny jewel which caught the light like a drop of dew.
And a veritable grand dame she looked, and was, as she took her
seat and awaited the arrival of her guests--in bearing, in the way
she moved her head; in the way she opened her fan--in the
selection of the fan itself, for that matter. You felt it in the
color and length of her gloves; the size of her pearl ear rings
(not too large, and yet not too small), in the choice of the few
rings that encircled her slender and now somewhat shrunken fingers
(one hoop of gold had a history that the old French Ambassador
could have told if he wanted to, so Peter once hinted to me)--
everything she did in fact betrayed a wide acquaintance with the
great world and its requirements and exactions.
Other women of her age might of their choice drop into charities,
or cats, or nephews and nieces, railing against the present and
living only in the past; holding on like grim death to everything
that made it respect able, so that they looked for all the world
like so many old daguerreotypes pulled from the frames. Not so
Miss Felicia Grayson of Geneseo, New York. Her past was a
flexible, india-rubber kind of a past that she stretched out after
her. She might still wear her hair as she did when the old General
raved over her, although the frost of many winters had touched it;
but she would never hold on to the sleeves of those days or the
skirts or the mantles: Out or in they must go, be puffed, cut
bias, or made plain, just as the fashion of the day insisted. Oh!
a most level-headed, common-sense, old aristocrat was Dame
With the arrival of the first carriage old Isaac Cohen moved his
seat from the back to the front of his shop, so he could see
everybody who got out and went in, as well as everybody who walked
past and gazed up at the shabby old house and its shabbier steps
and railings. Not that the shabby surroundings ever made any
difference whether the guests were "carriage company" or not, to
quote good Mrs. McGuffey. Peter would not be Peter if he lived
anywhere else, and Miss Felicia wouldn't be half so quaint and
charming if she had received her guests behind a marble or
brownstone front with an awning stretched to the curbstone and a
red velvet carpet laid across the sidewalk, the whole patrolled by
a bluecoat and two hired men.
The little tailor had watched many such functions before. So had
the neighbors, who were craning their heads from the windows. They
all knew by the carriages when Miss Felicia came to town and when
she left, and by the same token for that matter. The only
difference between this reception and former receptions, or teas,
or whatever the great people upstairs called them, was in the ages
of the guests; not any gray whiskers and white heads under high
silk hats, this time; nor any demure or pompous, or gentle, or,
perhaps, faded old ladies puffing up Peter's stairs--and they did
puff before they reached his door, where they handed their wraps
to Mrs. McGuffey in her brave white cap and braver white apron.
Only bright eyes and rosy faces today framed in tiny bon nets, and
well-groomed young fellows in white scarfs and black coats.
But if anybody had thought of the shabby surroundings they forgot
all about it when they mounted the third flight of stairs and
looked in the door. Not only was Peter's bedroom full of outer
garments, and Miss Felicia's, too, for that matter--but the
banisters looked like a clothes-shop undergoing a spring cleaning,
so thickly were the coats slung over its hand rail. So, too, were
the hall, and the hall chairs, and the gas bracket, and even the
hooks where Peter hung his clothes to be brushed in the morning--
every conceivable place, in fact, wherever an outer wrap of any
kind could be suspended, poked, or laid flat. That Mrs. McGuffey
was at her wits' end--only a short walk--was evident from the way
she grabbed my hat and coat and disappeared through a door which
led to her own apartments, returning a moment later out of breath
and, I fancied, a little out of temper.
And that was nothing to the way in which the owners of all these
several habiliments were wedged inside. First came the dome of
Peter's bald head surmounting his merry face, then the top of Miss
Felicia's pompadour, with its tiny diamond spark bobbing about as
she laughed and moved her head in saluting her guests and then
mobs and mobs of young people packed tight, looking for all the
world like a matinee crowd leaving a theatre (that is when you
crane your neck to see over their heads), except that the guests
were without their wraps and were talking sixteen to the dozen,
and as merry as they could be.
"They are all here, Major," Peter cried, dragging me inside. It
was wonderful how young and happy he looked. "Miss Corinne, and
that loud Hullaballoo, Garry Minott, we saw prancing around at the
supper--you remember--Holker gave him the ring."
"And Miss MacFarlane?" I asked.
"Ruth! Turn your head, my boy, and take a look at her. Isn't she a
picture? Did you ever see a prettier girl in all your life, and
one more charmingly dressed? Ruth, this is the Major ... nothing
else ... just the Major. He is perfectly docile, kind and safe,
"--And drives equally well in single or double harness, I
suppose," laughed the girl, extending her hand and giving me the
slightest dip of her head and bend of her back in recognition, no
doubt, of my advancing years and dignified bearing--in apology,
too, perhaps, for her metaphor.
"In SINGLE--not double," rejoined Peter. "He's the sourest,
crabbedest old bachelor in the world--except myself."
Again her laugh bubbled out--a catching, spontaneous kind of
laugh, as if there were plenty more packed away behind her lips
ready to break loose whenever they found an opening.
"Then, Major, you shall have two lumps to sweeten you up," and
down went the sugar-tongs into the silver bowl.
Here young Breen leaned forward and lifted the bowl nearer to her
hand, while I waited for my cup. He had not left her side since
Miss Felicia had presented him, so Peter told me afterward. I had
evidently interrupted a conversation, for his eyes were still
fastened upon hers, drinking in her every word and movement.
"And is sugar your cure for disagreeable people, Miss MacFarlane?"
I heard him ask under his breath as I stood sipping my tea.
"That depends on how disagreeable they are," she answered. This
came with a look from beneath her eyelids.
"I must be all right, then, for you only gave me one lump--" still
under his breath.
"Only one! I made a mistake--" Eyes looking straight into Jack's,
with a merry twinkle gathering around their corners.
"Perhaps I don't need any at all."
"Yes, I'm sure you do. Here--hold your cup, sir; I'll fill it
"No, I'm going to wait and see what effect one lump has. I'm
beginning to get pleasant already--and I was cross as two sticks
And then she insisted he should have at least three more to make
him at all bearable, and he said there would be no living with him
he would be so charming and agreeable, and so the talk ran on, the
battledoor and shuttlecock kind of talk--the same prattle that we
have all listened to dozens of times, or should have listened to,
to have kept our hearts young. And yet not a talk at all; a play,
rather, in which words count for little and the action is
everything: Listening to the toss of a curl or the lowering of an
eyelid; answering with a lift of the hand--such a strong brown
hand, that could pull an oar, perhaps, or help her over dangerous
places! Then her white teeth, and the way the head bent; and then
his ears and how close they lay to his head; and the short, glossy
hair with the faintest bit of a curl in it. And then the sudden
awakening: Oh, yes--it was the sugar Mr. Breen wanted, of course.
What was I thinking of?
And so the game went on, neither of them caring where the ball
went so that it could be hit again when it came their way.
When it was about to stay its flight I ventured in with the remark
that she must not forget to give my kindest and best to her good
father. I think she had forgotten I was standing so near.
"And you know daddy!" she cried--the real girl was shining in her
eyes now--all the coquetry had vanished from her face.
"Yes--we worked together on the piers of the big bridge over the
Delaware; oh, long ago."
"Isn't he the very dearest? He promised to come here today, but I
know he won't. Poor daddy, he gets home so tired sometimes. He has
just started on the big tunnel and there is so much to do. I have
been helping him with his papers every night. But when Aunt
Felicia's note came--she isn't my real aunt, you know, but I have
called her so ever since I was a little girl--daddy insisted on my
coming, and so I have left him for just a few days. He will be so
glad when I tell him I have met one of his old friends." There was
no question of her beauty, or poise, or her naturalness.
"Been a lady all her life, my dear Major, and her mother before
her," Miss Felicia said when I joined her afterward, and Miss
Felicia knew. "She is not like any of the young girls about, as
you can see for yourself. Look at her now," she whispered, with an
approving nod of her head.
Again my eyes sought the girl. The figure was willowy and
graceful; the shoulders sloping, the arms tapering to the wrists.
The hair was jet black--"Some Spanish blood somewhere," I
suggested, but the dear lady answered sharply, "Not a drop; French
Huguenot, my dear Major, and I am surprised you should have made
such a mistake." This black hair parted in the middle, lay close
to her head--such a wealth and torrent of it; even with tucking it
behind her ears and gathering it in a coil in her neck it seemed
just ready to fall. The face was oval, the nose perfect, the mouth
never still for an instant, so full was it of curves and twinkles
and little quivers; the eyes big, absorbing, restful, with lazy
lids that lifted slowly and lay motionless as the wings of a
resting butterfly, the eyebrows full and exquisitely arched. Had
you met her in mantilla and high-heeled shoes, her fan half
shading her face, you would have declared, despite Miss Felicia's
protest, that only the click of the castanets was needed to send
her whirling to their rhythm. Had she tied that same mantilla
close under her lovely chin, and passed you with upturned eyes and
trembling lips, you would have sworn that the Madonna from the
neighboring church had strayed from its frame in search of the
helpless and the unhappy; and had none of these disguises been
hers, and she had flashed by you in the open some bright morning
mounted on her own black mare, face aglow, eyes like stars, her
wonderful hair waving in the wind, you would have stood stock-
still in admiration, fear gripping your throat, a prayer in your
heart for the safe home-coming of one so fearless and so
There was, too, about her a certain gentleness, a certain
disposition to be kind, even when her inherent coquetry--natural
in the Southern girl--led her into deep waters; a certain
tenderness that made friends of even unhappy suitors (and I heard
that she could not count them on her fingers) who had asked for
more than she could give--a tenderness which healed the wound and
made lovers of them all for life.
And then her Southern speech, indescribable and impossible in cold
type. The softening of the consonants, the slipping away of the
terminals, the slurring of vowels, and all in that low, musical
voice born out side of the roar and crash of city streets and
crowded drawing-rooms with each tongue fighting for mastery.
All this Jack had taken in, besides a thousand other charms
visible only to the young enthusiast, before he had been two
minutes in her presence. As to her voice, he knew she was one of
his own people when she had finished pronouncing his name.
Somebody worthwhile had crossed his path at last!
And with this there had followed, even as he talked to her, the
usual comparisons made by all young fellows when the girl they
don't like is placed side by side with the girl they do. Miss
MacFarlane was tall and Corinne was short; Miss MacFarlane was
dark, and he adored dark, handsome people--and Corinne was light;
Miss MacFarlane's voice was low and soft, her movements slow and
graceful, her speech gentle--as if she were afraid she might hurt
someone inadvertently; her hair and dress were simple to severity.
While Corinne--well, in every one of these details Corinne
represented the exact opposite. It was the blood! Yes, that was
it--it was her blood! Who was she, and where did she come from?
Would Corinne like her? What impression would this high bred
Southern beauty make upon the pert Miss Wren, whose little nose
had gone down a point or two when her mother had discovered, much
to her joy, the week before, that it was the REAL Miss Grayson and
not an imitation Miss Grayson who had been good enough to invite
her daughter and any of her daughter's friends to tea; and it had
fallen another point when she learned that Miss Felicia had left
her card the next day, expressing to the potato-bug how sorry she
was to hear that the ladies were out, but that she hoped it would
only be a matter of a few days before "she would welcome them" to
her own apartments, or words to that effect, Frederick's memory
being slightly defective.
It was in answer to this request that Mrs. Breen, after consulting
her husband, had written three acceptances before she was willing
that Frederick should leave it with his own hands in Fifteenth
Street--one beginning, "It certainly is a pleasure after all these
years"--which was discarded as being too familiar; another, "So
good of you, dear Miss Grayson," which had a similar fate; and the
third, which ran, "My daughter will be most happy, dear Miss
Grayson, to be with you," etc., which was finally sealed with the
Breen crest--a four-legged beastie of some kind on its hind legs,
with a motto explanatory of the promptness of his ancestors in
times of danger. Even then Corinne had hesitated about accepting
until Garry said: "Well, let's take it in, anyhow--we can skip out
if they bore us stiff."
Knowing these things, therefore, and fearing that after all
something would happen to mar the pleasant relations he had
established with Peter, and with the honor of his uncle's family
in his keeping, so to speak, Jack had awaited the arrival of
Corinne and Garry with considerable trepidation. What if, after
all, they should stay away, ignoring the great courtesy which this
most charming of old ladies--never had he seen one so lovable or
distinguished--had extended to them; and she a stranger, too, and
all because her brother Peter had asked her to be kind to a boy
The entrance of Corinne and Garry, therefore, into the crowded
room half an hour after his own had brought a relief to Jack's
mind (he had been watching the door, so as to be ready to present
them), which Miss Felicia's gracious salutation only intensified.
"I remember your dear mother perfectly," he heard the old lady say
as she advanced to Corinne and took both her hands. "And she was
quite lovely. And this I am very sure is Mr. Breen's friend, Mr.
Minott, who has carried off all the honors. I am delighted to see
you both. Peter, do you take these dear young people and present
them to Ruth."
The two had thereupon squeezed through to Ruth's side; Peter in
his formal introduction awarding to Garry all the honors to which
he was entitled, and then Ruth, remembering her duties, said how
glad she was to know them; and would they have lemon or sugar?--
and Corinne, with a comprehensive glance of her rival, declined
both, her excuse being that she was nearly dead now with the heat
and that a cup of tea would finish her. Jack had winced when his
ears caught the flippant answer, but it was nothing to the way in
which he shrivelled up when Garry, after shaking Miss MacFarlane's
hand as if it had been a pump-handle instead of a thing so dainty
that no boy had a right to touch it except with reverence in his
heart, had burst out with: "Glad to see you. From the South, I
hear--" as if she was a kangaroo or a Fiji Islander. He had seen
Miss MacFarlane give a little start at Garry's familiar way of
speaking, and had noticed how Ruth shrank behind the urn as if she
were afraid he would touch her again, although she had laughed
quite good-naturedly as she answered:
"Not very far South; only from Maryland," and had then turned to
Jack and continued her talk with the air of one not wishing to be
The Scribe does not dare to relate what would have become of one
so sensitive as our hero could he have heard the discussion going
on later between the two young people when they were backed into
one of Peter's bookcases and stood surveying the room. "Miss
MacFarlane isn't at all my kind of a girl," Corinne had declared
to Garry. "Really, I can't see why the men rave over her. Pretty?
--yes, sort of so-so; but no style, and SUCH clothes! Fancy wearing
a pink lawn and a sash tied around her waist like a girl at a
college commencement--and as to her hair--why no one has ever
THOUGHT of dressing her hair that way for AGES and AGES."
Her mind thus relieved, my Lady Wren had made a survey of the
rooms, wondering what they wanted with so many funny old
portraits, and whether the old gentleman or his sister read the
dusty books, Garry remarking that there were a lot of "swells"
among the young fellows, many of whom he had heard of but had
never met before. This done, the two wedged their way out, without
ever troubling Peter or Miss Felicia with their good-bys, Garry
telling Corinne that the old lady wouldn't know they were gone,
and Corinne adding under her breath that it didn't make any
difference to her if she did.
But Jack stayed on.
This was the atmosphere he had longed for. This, too, was where
Peter lived. Here were the chairs he sat in, the books he read,
the pictures he enjoyed. And the well-dressed, well-bred people,
the hum of low voices, the clusters of roses, the shaded candles,
their soft rosy light falling on the egg-shell cups and saucers
and silver service, and the lovely girl dispensing all this
hospitality and cheer! Yes, here he could live, breathe, enjoy
life. Everything was worth while and just as he had expected to
When the throng grew thick about her table he left Ruth's side,
taking the opportunity to speak to Peter or Miss Felicia (he knew
few others), but he was back again whenever the chance offered.
"Don't send me away again," he pleaded when he came back for the
twentieth time, and with so much meaning in his voice that she
looked at him with wide-open eyes. It was not what he said--she
had been brought up on that kind of talk--it was the way he said
it, and the inflection in his voice.
"I have been literally starving for somebody like you to talk to,"
he continued, drawing up a stool and settling himself determinedly
"For me! Why, Mr. Breen, I'm not a piece of bread--" she laughed.
"I'm just girl." He had begun to interest her--this brown-eyed
young fellow who wore his heart on his sleeve, spoke her dialect
and treated her as if she were a duchess.
"You are life-giving bread to me, Miss MacFarlane," answered Jack
with a smile. "I have only been here six months; I am from the
South, too." And then the boy poured out his heart, telling her,
as he had told Peter, how lonely he got sometimes for some of his
own kind; and how the young girl in the lace hat and feathers, who
had come in with Garry, was his aunt's daughter; and how he
himself was in the Street, signing checks all day--at which she
laughed, saying in reply that nothing would give her greater
pleasure than a big book with plenty of blank checks--she had
never had enough, and her dear father had never had enough,
either. But he omitted all mention of the faro bank and of the
gamblers--such things not being proper for her ears, especially
such little pink shells of ears, nestling and half hidden in her
There was no knowing how long this absorbing conversation might
have continued (it had already attracted the attention of Miss
Felicia) had not a great stir taken place at the door of the
outside hall. Somebody was coming upstairs; or had come upstairs;
somebody that Peter was laughing with--great, hearty laughs, which
showed his delight; somebody that made Miss Felicia raise her head
and listen, a light breaking over her face. Then Peter's head was
thrust in the door:
"Here he is, Felicia. Come along, Holker--I have been wondering--"
"Been wondering what, Peter? That I'd stay away a minute longer
than I could help after this dear lady had arrived? ... Ah, Miss
Felicia! Just as magnificent and as young as ever. Still got that
Marie Antoinette look about you--you ought really--"
"Stop that nonsense, Holker, right away," she cried, advancing a
step to greet him.
"But it's all true, and--"
"Stop, I tell you; none of your sugar-coated lies. I am seventy if
I am a day, and look it, and if it were not for these furbelows I
would look eighty. Now tell me about yourself and Kitty and the
boys, and whether the Queen has sent you the Gold Medal yet, and
if the big Library is finished and--"
"Whew! what a cross examination. Wait--I'll draw up a set of
specifications and hand them in with a new plan of my life."
"You will do nothing of the kind! You will draw up a chair--here,
right alongside of me, and tell me about Kitty and--No, Peter, he
is not going to be taken over and introduced to Ruth for at least
five minutes. Peter has fallen in love with her, Holker, and I do
not blame him. One of these young fellows--there he is still
talking to her--hasn't left her side since he put his eyes on her.
Now begin--The Medal?--
"Expected by next steamer."
"The Corn Exchange?"
"All finished but the inside work."
"All finished but the outside work."
Miss Felicia looked up. "Your wife, I mean, you stupid fellow."
"Yes, I know. She would have come with me but her dress didn't
arrive in time."
Miss Felicia laughed: "And the boys?"
"Still in Paris--buying bric-a-brac and making believe they're
studying architecture and--But I'm not going to answer another
question. Attention! Miss Felicia Grayson at the bar!"
The dear lady straightened her back, her face crinkling with
"Present!" she replied, drawing down the corners Of her mouth.
"When did you leave home? How long will you stay? Can you come to
dinner--you and Methusaleh--on Wednesday night?"
"I refuse to answer by advice of counsel. As to coming to dinner,
I am not going anywhere for a week--then I am coming to you and
Kitty, whether it is Wednesday or any other night. Now, Peter,
take him away. He's so puffed up with his Gold Medal he's
All this time Jack had been standing beside Ruth. He had heard the
stir at the door and had seen Holker join Miss Felicia, and while
the talk between the two lasted he had interspersed his talk to
Ruth with accounts of the supper, and Garry's getting the ring, to
which was added the boy's enthusiastic tribute to the architect
himself. "The greatest man I have met yet," he said in his quick,
impulsive way. "We don't have any of them down our way. I never
saw one--nobody ever did. Here he comes with Mr. Grayson. I hope
you will like him."
Ruth made a movement as if to start to her feet. To sit still and
look her best and attend to her cups and hot water and tiny wafers
was all right for men like Jack, but not with distinguished men
like Mr. Morris.
Morris had his hand on her chair before she could move it back.
"No, my dear young lady--you'll please keep your seat. I've been
watching you from across the room sand you make too pretty a
picture as you are. Tea?--Not a drop."
"Oh, but it is so delicious--and I will give you the very biggest
piece of lemon that is left."
"No--not a drop; and as to lemon--that's rank poison to me. You
should have seen me hobbling around with gout only last week, and
all because somebody at a reception, or tea, or some such plaguey
affair, made me drink a glass of lemonade. Give it to this aged
old gentleman--it will keep him awake. Here, Peter!"
Up to this moment no word had been addressed to Jack, who stood
outside the half circle waiting for some sign of recognition from
the great man; and a little disappointed when none came. He did
not know that one of the great man's failings was his forgetting
the names even of those of his intimate friends--such breaks as
"Glad to see you--I remember you very well, and very pleasantly,
and now please tell me your name," being a common occurrence with
the great architect--a failing that everybody pardoned.
Peter noticed the boy's embarrassment and touched Morris' arm.
"You remember Mr. Breen, don't you, Holker? He was at your supper
that night--and sat next to me."
Morris whirled quickly and held out his hand, all his graciousness
in his manner.
"Yes, certainly. You took the ring to Minott, of course. Very glad
to meet you again--and what did you say his name was, Peter?" This
in the same tone of voice--quite as if Jack were miles away.
"Breen--John Breen," answered Peter, putting his arm on Jack's
shoulder, to accentuate more clearly his friendship for the boy.
"All the better, Mr. John Breen--doubly glad to see you, now that
I know your name. I'll try not to forget it next time. Breen!
Breen! Peter, where have I heard that name before? Breen--where
the devil have I--Oh, yes--I've got it now. Quite a common name,
Jack assured him with a laugh that it was; there were more than a
hundred in the city directory. He wasn't offended at Morris
forgetting his name, and wanted him to see it.
"Glad to know it; wouldn't like to think you were mixed up in the
swindle. You ought to thank your stars, my dear fellow, that you
got into architecture instead of into Wall--"
"But I am in--"
"Yes, I know--you're with Hunt--" (another instance of a defective
memory) "and you couldn't be with a better man--the best in the
profession, really. I'm talking of some scoundrels of your name--
Breen & Co., the firm is--who, I hear, have cheated one of my
clients--young Gilbert--fine fellow--just married--persuaded him
to buy some gold stock--Mukton Lode, I think they called it--and
robbed him of all he has. He must stop on his house I hear. And
now, my dear Miss--" here he turned to the young girl--"I really
"Ruth," she answered with a smile. She had taken Morris's measure
and had already begun to like him as much as Jack did.
"Yes--Miss Ruth--Now, please, my dear girl, keep on being young
and very beautiful and very wholesome, for you are every one of
these things, and I know you'll forgive me for saying so when I
tell you that I have two strapping young fellows for sons who are
almost old enough to make love to you. Come, Peter, show me that
copy of Tacitus you wrote me about. Is it in good condition?" They
were out of Jack's hearing now, Morris adding, "Fine type of
Southern beauty, Peter. Big design, with broad lines everywhere.
Good, too--good as gold. Something about her forehead that reminds
me of the Italian school. Looks as if Bellini might have loved
her. Hello, Major! What are you doing here all by yourself?"
Jack stood transfixed!
Horror, anger, humiliation over the exposure (it was unheard, if
he had but known it, by anyone in the room except Peter and
himself) rushed over him in hot concurrent waves. It was his
uncle, then, who had robbed young Gilbert! The Mukton Lode! He had
handled dozens of the certificates, just as he had handled dozens
of others, hardly glancing at the names. He remembered overhearing
some talk one day in which his uncle had taken part. Only a few
days before he had sent a bundle of Mukton certificates to the
transfer office of the company.
Then a chill struck him full in the chest and he shivered to his
finger-tips. Had Ruth heard?--and if she had heard, would she
understand? In his talk he had given her his true self--his
standards of honor--his beliefs in what was true and worth having.
When she knew all--and she must know--would she look upon him as a
fraud? That his uncle had been accused of a shrewd scoop in the
Street did not make his clerk a thief, but would she see the
All these thoughts surged through his mind as he stood looking
into her eyes, her hand in his while he made his adieux. He had
determined, before Morris fired the bomb which shattered his
hopes, to ask if he might see her again, and where, and if there
could be found no place fitting and proper, she being motherless
and Miss Felicia but a chaperon, to write her a note inviting her
to walk up through the Park with him, and so on into the open
where she really belonged. All this was given up now. The best
thing for him was to take his leave as quietly as possible,
without committing her to anything--anything which he felt sure
she would repudiate as soon as she learned--if she did not know
already--how undesirable an acquaintance John Breen, of Breen &
Co., was, etc.
As to his uncle's share in the miserable transaction, there was
but one thing to do--to find out, and from his own lips, if
possible, if the story were true, and if so to tell him exactly
what he thought of Breen & Co. and the business in which they were
engaged. Peter's advice was good, and he wished he could follow
it, but here was a matter in which his honor was concerned. When
this side of the matter was presented to Mr. Grayson he would
commend him for his course of action. To think that his own uncle
should be accused of a transaction of this kind--his own uncle and
a Breen! Could anything be more horrible!
So sudden was his departure from the room--just "I must go now;
I'm so grateful to you all for asking me, and I've had such a
good--Good-by--" that Miss Felicia looked after him in
astonishment, turning to Peter with:
"Why, what's the matter with the boy? I wanted him to dine with
us. Did you say anything to him, Peter, to hurt his feelings?"
Peter shook his head. Morris, he knew, was the unconscious
culprit, but this was not for his sister's or Ruth's ears--not, at
least, until he could get at the exact facts for himself.
"He is as sensitive as a plant," continued Peter; "he closes all
up at times. But he is genuine, and he is sincere--that's better
than poise, sometimes."
"Well, then, maybe Ruth has offended him," suggested Miss Felicia.
"No--she couldn't. Ruth, what have you done to young Mr. Breen?"
The girl threw back her head and laughed.
"Well, he went off as if he had been shot from a gun. That is not
like him at all, I should say, from what I have seen of him.
Perhaps I should have looked after him a little more. I tried
once, but I could not get him away from you. His manner is really
charming when he talks, and he is so natural and so well bred; not
at all like his friend, of whom he seems to think so much. How did
you like him, dear Ruth?"
"Oh, I don't know." She knew, but she didn't intend to tell
anybody. "He's very shy and--"
"--And very young."
"And very much of a gentleman," broke in Peter in a decided tone.
None should misunderstand the boy if he could help it.
Again Ruth laughed. Neither of them had touched the button which
had rung up her sympathy and admiration.
"Of course he is a gentleman. He couldn't be anything else. He is
from Maryland, you know."
Reference has been made in these pages to a dinner to be given in
the house of Breen to various important people, and to which Mr.
Peter Grayson, the honored friend of the distinguished President
of the Clearing House, was to be invited. The Scribe is unable to
say whether the distinguished Mr. Grayson received an invitation
or not. Breen may have thought better of it, or Jack may have
discouraged it after closer acquaintance with the man who had
delighted his soul as no other man except his father had ever
done--but certain it is that he was not present, and equally
certain is it that the distinguished Mr. Portman was, and so were
many of the directors of the Mukton Lode, not to mention various
others--capitalists whose presence would lend dignity to the
occasion and whose names and influence would be of inestimable
value to the future of the corporation.
As fate would have it the day for assuaging the appetites of these
financial magnates was the same that Miss Felicia had selected for
her tea to Ruth, and the time at which they were to draw up their
chairs but two hours subsequent to that in which Jack, crushed sad
humiliated by his uncle's knavery, had crept downstairs and into
In this frame of mind the poor boy had stopped at the Magnolia in
the hope of finding Garry, who must, he thought, have left Corinne
at home, and then retraced his steps to the club. He must explode
somewhere and with someone, and the young architect was the very
man he wanted. Garry had ridiculed his old-fashioned ideas and had
advised him to let himself go. Was the wiping out of Gilbert's
fortune part of the System? he asked himself.
As he hunted through the rooms, almost deserted at this hour, his
eyes searching for his friend, a new thought popped into his head,
and with such force that it bowled him over into a chair, where he
sat staring straight in front of him. Tonight, he suddenly
remembered, was the night of the dinner his uncle was to give to
some business friends--"A Gold-Mine Dinner," his aunt had called
it. His cheeks flamed again when he thought that these very men
had helped in the Mukton swindle. To interrupt them, though, at
their feast--or even to mention the subject to his uncle while the
dinner was in progress--was, of course, out of the question. He
would stay where he was; dine alone, unless Garry came in, and
then when the last man had left his uncle's house he would have it
out with him.
Biffton was the only man who disturbed his solitude. Biffy was in
full evening dress--an enormous white carnation in his button-hole
and a crush hat under his arm. He was booked for a "Stag," he said
with a yawn, or he would stay and keep him company. Jack didn't
want any company--certainly not Biffy--most assuredly not any of
the young fellows who had asked him about Gilbert's failure. What
he wanted was to be left alone until eleven o'clock, during which
time he would get something to eat.
Dinner over, he buried himself in a chair in the library and let
his mind roam. Angry as he was, Ruth's image still haunted him.
How pretty she was--how gracefully she moved her arm as she
lifted the cups; and the way the hair waved about her temples; and
the tones of her voice--and dear Peter, so kind and thoughtful of