Infomotions, Inc.Peter: a novel of which he is not the hero / Smith, Francis Hopkinson, 1838-1915



Author: Smith, Francis Hopkinson, 1838-1915
Title: Peter: a novel of which he is not the hero
Publisher: Project Gutenberg
Tag(s): breen; jack; garry; felicia; ruth; miss felicia; peter; miss felicia's; uncle peter; arthur breen; uncle
Contributor(s): Ross, Robert, 1869-1918 [Editor]
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Rights: GNU General Public License
Size: 122,910 words (average) Grade range: 8-10 (high school) Readability score: 70 (easy)
Identifier: etext4516
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Title: Peter:  A Novel of Which He is Not the Hero

Author: F. Hopkinson Smith

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PETER

A Novel Of Which He Is Not the Hero

BY F. HOPKINSON SMITH





PETER





CHAPTER I




Peter was still poring over his ledger one dark afternoon in
December, his bald head glistening like a huge ostrich egg under
the flare of the overhead gas jets, when Patrick, the night
watchman, catching sight of my face peering through the outer
grating, opened the door of the Bank.

The sight so late in the day was an unusual one, for in all the
years that I have called at the Bank--ten, now--no, eleven since
we first knew each other--Peter had seldom failed to be ready for
our walk uptown when the old moon-faced clock high up on the wall
above the stove pointed at four.

"I thought there was something up!" I cried. "What is it, Peter--
balance wrong?"

He did not answer, only waved his hand in reply, his bushy gray
eyebrows moving slowly, like two shutters that opened and closed,
as he scanned the lines of figures up and down, his long pen
gripped tight between his thin, straight lips, as a dog carries a
bone.

I never interrupt him when his brain is nosing about like this; it
is better to keep still and let him ferret it out. So I sat down
outside the curved rail with its wooden slats backed by faded
green curtains, close to the big stove screened off at the end of
the long room, fixed one eye on the moon-face and the other on the
ostrich egg, and waited.

There are no such banks at the present time--were no others then,
and this story begins not so very many years' ago--A queer, out-
of-date, mouldy old barn of a bank, you would say, this Exeter--
for an institution wielding its influence. Not a coat of paint for
half a century; not a brushful of whitewash for goodness knows how
much longer. As for the floor, it still showed the gullies and
grooves, with here and there a sturdy knot sticking up like a nut
on a boiler, marking the track of countless impatient depositors
and countless anxious borrowers, it may be, who had lock-stepped
one behind the other for fifty years or more, in their journey
from the outer door to the windows where the Peters of the old
days, and the Peter of the present, presided over the funds
entrusted to their care.

Well enough in its day, you might have said, with a shrug, as you
looked over its forlorn interior. Well enough in its day! Why,
man, old John Astor, James Beekman, Rhinelander Stewart, Moses
Grinnell, and a lot of just such worthies--men whose word was as
good as their notes--and whose notes were often better than the
Government's, presided over its destinies. and helped to stuff the
old-fashioned vault with wads of gilt-edged securities--millions
in value if you did but know it--and making it what it is to-day.
If you don't believe the first part of my statement, you've only
to fumble among the heap of dusty ledgers piled on top of the
dusty shelves; and if you doubt the latter part, then try to buy
some of the stock and see what you have to pay for it. Although
the gas was turned off in the directors' room, I could still see
from where I sat the very mahogany table under which these same
ruffle-shirted, watch-fobbed, snuff-taking old fellows tucked
their legs when they decided on who should and who should not
share the bank's confidence.

And the side walls and surroundings were none the less shabby and
quite as dilapidated. Even the windows had long since given up the
fight to maintain a decent amount of light, and as for the grated
opening protected by iron shutters which would have had barely
room to swing themselves clear of the building next door, no
Patrick past or present had ever dared loosen their bolts for a
peep even an inch wide into the canyon below, so gruesome was the
collection of old shoes, tin cans, broken bottles and battered
hats which successive generations had hurried into the narrow un-
get-at-able space that lay between the two structures.

Indeed the only thing inside or out of this time-worn building
which the most fertile of imaginations could consider as being at
all up to date was the clock. Not its face--that was old-timey
enough with its sun, moon and stars in blue and gold, and the name
of the Liverpool maker engraved on its enamel; nor its hands,
fiddle-shaped and stiff, nor its case, which always reminded me of
a coffin set up on end awaiting burial--but its strike. Whatever
divergences the Exeter allowed itself in its youth, or whatever
latitude or longitude it had given its depositors, and that, we
may be sure, was precious little so long as that Board of
Directors was alive, there was no wabbling or wavering, no being
behind time, when the hour hand of the old clock reached three and
its note of warning rang out.

Peter obeyed the ominous sound and closed his Teller's window with
a gentle bang. Patrick took notice and swung to the iron grating
of the outer door. You might peer in and beg ever so hard--unless,
of course, you were a visitor like myself, and even then Peter
would have to give his consent--you might peer through, I say, or
tap on the glass, or you might plead that you were late and very
sorry, but the ostrich egg never turned in its nest nor did the
eyebrows vibrate. Three o'clock was three o'clock at the Exeter,
and everybody might go to the devil--financially, of course--
before the rule would be broken. Other banks in panicky times
might keep a side door open until four, five or six--that is, the
bronze-rail, marble-top, glass-front, certify-your-checks-as-
early-as-ten-in-the-morning-without-a-penny-on-deposit kind of
banks--but not the Exeter--that is, not with Peter's consent--and
Peter was the Exeter so far as his department was concerned--and
had been for nearly thirty years--twenty as bookkeeper, five as
paying teller and five as receiving teller.

And the regularity and persistency of this clock! Not only did it
announce the hours, but it sounded the halves and quarters,
clearing its throat with a whirr like an admonitory cough before
each utterance. I had samples of its entire repertoire as I sat
there: One ...two...three...four...five--then half an hour later a
whir-r and a single note. "Half-past five," I said to myself.
"Will Peter never find that mistake?" Once during the long wait
the night watchman shifted his leg--he was on the other side of
the stove--and once Peter reached up above his head for a pile of
papers, spreading them out before him under the white glare of the
overhead light, then silence again, broken only by the slow,
dogged tock-tick, tock-tick, or the sagging of a hot coal
adjusting itself for the night.

Suddenly a cheery voice rang out and Peter's hands shot up above
his head.

"Ah, Breen & Co.! One of those plaguey sevens for a nine. Here we
are! Oh, Peter Grayson, how often have I told you to be careful!
Ah, what a sorry block of wood you carry on your shoulders. I
won't be a minute now, Major." A gratuitous compliment on the part
of my friend, I being a poor devil of a contractor without
military aspirations of any kind. "Well, well, how could I have
been so stupid. Get ready to close up, Patrick. No, thank you,
Patrick, my coat's inside; I'll fetch it."

He was quite another man now, closing the great ledger with a
bang; shouldering it as Moses did the Tables of the Law, and
carrying it into the big vault behind him--big enough to back a
buggy into had the great door been wider--shooting the bolts,
whirring the combination into so hopeless and confused a state
that should even the most daring and expert of burglars have tried
his hand or his jimmy on its steel plating he would have given up
in despair (that is unless big Patrick fell asleep--an unheard-of
occurrence) and all with such spring and joyousness of movement
that had I not seen him like this many times before I would have
been deluded into the belief that the real Peter had been locked
up in the dismal vault with the musty books and that an entirely
different kind of Peter was skipping about outside.

But that was nothing to the air with which he swept his papers
into the drawer of his desk, brushed away the crumpled sheets upon
which he had figured his balance, and darted to the washstand
behind the narrow partition. Nor could it be compared to the way
in which he stripped off his black bombazine office-coat with its
baggy pockets--quite a disreputable-looking coat I must say--
taking it by the nape of the neck, as if it were some loathsome
object to be got rid of, and hanging it upon a hook behind him;
nor to the way in which he pulled up his shirt sleeves and plunged
his white, long-fingered, delicately modeled hands into the basin,
as if cleanliness were a thing to be welcomed as a part of his
life. These carefully dried, each finger by itself--not forgetting
the small seal ring on the little one--he gave an extra polish to
his glistening pate with the towel, patted his fresh, smooth-
shaven cheeks with an unrumpled handkerchief which he had taken
from his inside pocket, carefully adjusted his white neck-cloth,
refastening the diamond pin--a tiny one but clear as a baby's
tear--put on his frock-coat with its high collar and flaring
tails, took down his silk hat, gave it a flourish with his
handkerchief, unhooked his overcoat from a peg behind the door (a
gray surtout cut something like the first Napoleon's) and stepped
out to where I sat.

You would never have put him down as being sixty years of age had
you known him as well as I did--and it is a great pity you
didn't. Really, now that I come to think of it, I never did put
him down as being of any age at all. Peter Grayson and age never
seemed to have anything to do with each other. Sometimes when I
have looked in through the Receiving Teller's window and have
passed in my book--I kept my account at the Exeter--and he has
lifted his bushy shutters and gazed at me suddenly with his merry
Scotch-terrier eyes, I have caught, I must admit, a line of
anxiety, or rather of concentrated cautiousness on his face, which
for the moment made me think that perhaps he was looking a trifle
older than when I last saw him; but all this was scattered to the
winds when I met him an hour afterward swinging up Wall Street
with that cheery lift of the heels so peculiarly his own, a lift
that the occupants of every office window on both sides of the
street knew to be Peter's even when they failed to recognize the
surtout and straight-brimmed high hat. Had any doubting Thomas,
however, walked beside him on his way up Broadway to his rooms on
Fifteenth Street, and had the quick, almost boyish lift of Peter's
heels not entirely convinced the unbeliever of Peter's youth, all
questions would have been at once disposed of had the cheery bank
teller invited him into his apartment up three flights of stairs
over the tailor's shop--and he would have invited him had he been
his friend--and then and there forced him into an easy chair near
the open wood fire, with some such remark as: "Down, you rascal,
and sit close up where I can get my hands on you!" No--there was
no trace of old age about Peter.

He was ready now--hatted, coated and gloved--not a hint of the
ostrich egg or shaggy shutters visible, but a well-preserved
bachelor of forty or forty-five; strictly in the mode and of the
mode, looking more like some stray diplomat caught in the wiles of
the Street, or some retired magnate, than a modest bank clerk on
three thousand a year. The next instant he was tripping down the
granite steps between the rusty iron railings--on his toes most of
the way; the same cheery spring in his heels, slapping his thin,
shapely legs with his tightly rolled umbrella, adjusting his hat
at the proper angle so that the well-trimmed side whiskers--the
veriest little dabs of whiskers hardly an inch long--would show as
well as the fringes of his grey hair.

Not that he was anxious to conceal these slight indications of
advancing years, nor did he have a spark of cheap personal vanity
about him, but because it was his nature always to put his best
foot foremost and keep it there; because, too, it behooved him in
manner, dress and morals, to maintain the standards he had set for
himself, he being a Grayson, with the best blood of the State in
his veins, and with every table worth dining at open to him from
Fourteenth Street to Murray Hill, and beyond.

"Now, it's all behind me, my dear boy," he cried, as we reached
the sidewalk and turned our faces up Wall Street toward Broadway.
"Fifteen hours to live my own life! No care until ten o'clock to-
morrow. Lovely life, my dear Major, when you think of it. Ah, old
Micawber was right--income one pound, expense one pound ten
shillings; result, misery: income one pound ten, expense one
pound, outcome, happiness! What a curse this Street is to those
who abuse its power for good; half of them trying to keep out of
jail and the other half fighting to keep out of the poor-house!
And most of them get so little out of it. Just as I can detect a
counterfeit bill at sight, my boy, so can I put my ringer on these
money-getters when the poison of money-getting for money's sake
begins to work in their veins. I don't mean the laying up of money
for a rainy day, or the providing for one's family. Every man
should lay up a six-months' doctor's bill, just as every man
should lay up money enough to keep his body out of Potter's Field.
It's laying up the SURPLUS that hurts."

Peter had his arm firmly locked in mine now.

"Now that concern of Breen & Company, where I found my error, are
no better than the others. They are new to this whirlpool, but
they will soon get in over their heads. I think it is only the
third or fourth year since they started business, but they are
already floating all sorts of schemes, and some of them--if you
will permit me in confidence, strictly in confidence, my dear boy
--are rather shady, I think: at least I judge so from their
deposits."

"What are they, bankers?" I ventured. I had never heard of the
firm; not an extraordinary thing in my case when bankers were
concerned.

Peter laughed:

"Yes, BANKERS--all in capital letters--the imitation kind. Breen
came from some place out of town and made a lucky hit in his first
year--mines or something--I forget what. Oh, but you must know
that it takes very little now-a-days to make a full-fledged
banker. All you have to do is to hoist in a safe--through the
window, generally, with the crowd looking on; rail off half the
office; scatter some big ledgers over two or three newly varnished
desks; move in a dozen arm-chairs, get a ticker, a black-board and
a boy with a piece of chalk; be pleasant to every fellow you meet
with his own or somebody else's money in his pocket, and there you
are. But we won't talk of these things--it isn't kind, and,
really, I hardly know Breen, and I'm quite sure he wouldn't know
me if he saw me, and he's a very decent gentleman in many ways, I
hear. He never overdraws his account, any way--never tries--and
that's more than I can say for some of his neighbors."

The fog, which earlier in the afternoon had been but a blue haze,
softening the hard outlines of the street, had now settled down in
earnest, choking up the doorways, wiping out the tops of the
buildings, their facades starred here and there with gas-jets, and
making a smudged drawing of the columns of the Custom House
opposite.

"Superb, are they not?" said Peter, as he wheeled and stood
looking at the row of monoliths supporting the roof of the huge
granite pile, each column in relief against the dark shadows of
the portico. "And they are never so beautiful to me, my boy, as
when the ugly parts of the old building are lost in the fog.
Follow the lines of these watchmen of the temple! These grave,
dignified, majestic columns standing out in the gloom keeping
guard! But it is only a question of time--down they'll come! See
if they don't!"

"They will never dare move them," I protested. "It would be too
great a sacrilege." The best way to get Peter properly started is
never to agree with him.

"Not move them! They will break them up for dock-filling before
ten years are out. They're in the way, my boy; they shut out the
light; can't hang signs on them; can't plaster them over with
theatre bills; no earthly use. 'Wall Street isn't Rome or any
other excavated ruin; it's the centre of the universe'--that's
the way the fellows behind these glass windows talk." Here Peter
pointed to the offices of some prominent bankers, where other
belated clerks were still at work under shaded gas-jets. "These
fellows don't want anything classic; they want something that'll
earn four per cent."

We were now opposite the Sub-Treasury, its roof lost in the
settling fogs, the bronze figure of the Father of His Country
dominating the flight of marble steps and the adjacent streets.

Again Peter wheeled; this time he lifted his hat to the statue.

"Good evening, your Excellency," he said in a voice mellowed to
the same respectful tone with which he would have addressed the
original in the flesh.

Suddenly he loosened his arm from mine and squared himself so he
could look into my face.

"I notice that you seldom salute him, Major, and it grieves me,"
he said with a grim smile.

I broke into a laugh. "Do you think he would feel hurt if I
didn't."

"Of course he would, and so should you. He wasn't put there for
ornament, my boy, but to be kept in mind, and I want to tell you
that there's no place in the world where his example is so much
needed as right here in Wall Street. Want of reverence, my dear
boy"--here he adjusted his umbrella to the hollow of his arm--"is
our national sin. Nobody reveres anything now-a-days. Much as you
can do to keep people from running railroads through your family
vaults, and, as to one's character, all a man needs to get himself
battered black and blue, is to try to be of some service to his
country. Even our presidents have to be murdered before we stop
abusing them. By Jove! Major, you've GOT to salute him! You're too
fine a man to run to seed and lose your respect for things worth
while. I won't have it, I tell you! Off with your hat!"

I at once uncovered my head (the fog helped to conceal my own
identity, if it didn't Peter's) and stood for a brief instant in a
respectful attitude.

There was nothing new in the discussion. Sometimes I would laugh
at him; sometimes I would only touch my hat in unison; sometimes I
let him do the bowing alone, an act on his part which never
attracted attention--looking more as if he had accosted some
passing friend.

We had reached Broadway by this time and were crossing the street
opposite Trinity Churchyard.

"Come over here with me," he cried, "and let us look in through
the iron railings. The study of the dead is often more profitable
than knowledge of the living. Ah, the gate is open! It is not
often I am here at this time, and on a foggy afternoon. What a
noble charity, my boy, is a fog--it hides such a multitude of
sins--bad architecture for one," and he laughed softly.

I always let Peter run on--in fact I always encourage him to run
on. No one I know talks quite in the same way; many with a larger
experience of life are more profound, but none have the personal
note which characterizes the old fellow's discussions.

"And how do you suppose these by-gones feel about what is going on
around them?" he rattled on, tapping the wet slab of a tomb with
the end of his umbrella. "And not only these sturdy patriots who
lie here, but the queer old ghosts who live in the steeple?" he
added, waving his hand upward to the slender spire, its cross lost
in the fog. "Yes, ghosts and goblins, my boy. You don't believe
it?--I do--or I persuade myself I do, which is better. Sometimes I
can see them straddling the chimes when they ring out the hours,
or I catch them peeping out between the slats of the windows away
up near the cross. Very often in the hot afternoons when you are
stretching your lazy body under the tents of the mighty--" (Peter
referred to some friends of mine who owned a villa down on Long
Island, and were good enough to ask me down for a week in August)
"I come up here out of the rush and sit on these old tombstones
and talk to these old fellows--both kinds--the steeple boys and
the old cronies under the sod. You never come, I know. You will
when you're my age."

I had it in my mind to tell him that the inside of a dry tent had
some advantages over the outside of a damp tomb, so far as
entertaining one's friends, even in hot weather, was concerned,
but I was afraid it might stop the flow of his thoughts, and
checked myself.

"It is not so much the rest and quiet that delights me, as the
feeling that I am walled about for the moment and protected;
jerked out of the whirlpool, as it were, and given a breathing
spell. On these afternoons the old church becomes a church once
more--not a gate to bar out the rush of commercialism. See where
she stands--quite out to the very curb, her warning finger
pointing upward. 'Thus far shalt thou come, and no farther,' she
cries out to the Four Per Cents. 'Hug up close to me, you old
fellows asleep in your graves; get under my lea. Let us fight it
out together, the living and the dead!' And now hear these
abominable Four Per Cents behind their glass windows: 'No place
for a church,' they say. 'No place for the dead! Property too
valuable. Move it up town. Move it out in the country--move it any
where so you get it out of our way. We are the Great Amalgamated
Crunch Company. Into our maw goes respect for tradition, reverence
for the dead, decency, love of religion, sentiment, and beauty.
These are back numbers. In their place, we give you something real
and up-to-date from basement to flagstaff, with fifty applicants
on the waiting list. If you don't believe it read our
prospectus!'"

Peter had straightened and was standing with his hand lifted above
his head, as if he were about to pronounce a benediction. Then he
said slowly, and with a note of sadness in his voice:

"Do you wonder, now, my boy, why I touch my hat to His
Excellency?"





CHAPTER II




All the way up Broadway he kept up his good-natured tirade,
railing at the extravagance of the age, at the costly dinners,
equipages, dress of the women, until we reached the foot of the
dilapidated flight of brown-stone steps leading to the front door
of his home on Fifteenth Street. Here a flood of gas light from
inside a shop in the basement brought into view the figure of a
short, squat, spectacled little man bending over a cutting-table,
a pair of shears in his hand.

"Isaac is still at work," he cried. "If we were not so late we'd
go in and have a word with him. Now there's a man who has solved
the problem, my boy. Nobody will ever coax Isaac Cohen up to Fifth
Avenue and into a 'By appointment to His Majesty' kind of a tailor
shop. Just pegs away year after year--he was here long before I
came--supporting his family, storing his mind with all sorts of
rare knowledge. Do you know he's one of the most delightful men
you will meet in a day's journey?"

"No--never knew anything of the kind. Thought he was just plain
tailor."

"And an intimate friend of many of the English actors who come
over here?" continued Peter.

"I never heard a word about it" I answered meekly; Peter's
acquaintances being too varied and too numerous for me to keep
track of. That he should have a tailor among them as learned and
wise as Solomon, and with friends all over the globe, was quite to
be expected.

"Well, he is," answered Peter. "They always hunt him up the first
thing they do. He lived in London for years and made their
costumes. There's no one, I assure you, I am more glad to see when
he makes an excuse to rap at my door. You'll come up, of course,
until I read my letters."

"No, I'll keep on to my rooms and meet you later at the club."

"You'll do nothing of the kind, you restless mortal. You'll come
upstairs with me until I open my mail. It's really like touching
the spring of a Jack-in-the-box, this mail of mine--all sorts of
things pop out, generally the unexpected. Mighty interesting, I
tell you," and with a cheery wave of the hand to his friend Isaac,
whose eyes had been looking streetward at the precise moment,
Peter pushed me ahead of him up the worn marble steps flanked by
the rust-eaten iron railing which led to the hallway and stairs,
and so on up to his apartment.

It was just the sort of house Peter, of all men in the world,
would have picked out to live in--and he had been here for twenty
years or more. Not only did the estimable Isaac occupy the
basement, but Madame Montini, the dress-maker, had the first floor
back; a real-estate agent made free with the first floor front,
and a very worthy teacher of music, whose piano could be heard at
all hours of the day, and far into the night, was paying rent for
the second, both front and back. Peter's own apartments ran the
whole length of the third floor, immediately under the slanting,
low-ceiled garret, which was inhabited by the good Mrs. McGuffey,
the janitress, who, in addition to her regular duties, took
especial care of Peter's rooms. Adjoining these was a small
apartment consisting of two rooms, connecting with Peter's suite
by a door cut through for some former lodger. These were also
under Mrs. McGuffey's special care and very good care did she take
of them, especially when Peter's sister, Miss Felicia Grayson,
occupied them for certain weeks in the year.

These changes had all taken place in the time the old fellow had
mounted the quaint stairs with the thin mahogany banisters, and
yet Peter stayed on. "The gnarled pear tree in the back yard is so
charming," he would urge in excuse, "especially in the spring,
when the perfume of its blossoms fills the air," or, "the view
overlooking Union Square is so delightful," or, "the fireplace has
such a good draught." What mattered it who lived next door, or
below, or overhead, for that matter, so that he was not disturbed
--and he never was. The property, of course, had gone from bad to
worse since the owner had died; the neighborhood had run down, and
the better class of tenants down, up, and even across the street--
had moved away, but none of these things had troubled Peter.

And no wonder, when once you got inside the two rooms and looked
about!

There was a four-post bedstead with chintz curtains draped about
the posts, that Martha Washington might have slept in, and a
chintz petticoat which reached the floor and hid its toes of
rollers, which the dear lady could have made with her own hands;
there was a most ancient mahogany bureau to match, all brass
fittings. There were easy chairs with restful arms within reach of
tables holding lamps, ash receivers and the like; and rows and
rows of books on open shelves edged with leather; not to mention
engravings of distinguished men and old portraits in heavy gilt
frames: one of his grandfather who fought in the Revolution, and
another of his mother--this last by Rembrandt Peale--a dear old
lady with the face of a saint framed in a head of gray hair, the
whole surmounted by a cluster of silvery curls. There were quaint
brass candelabra with square marble bases on each end of the
mantel, holding candles showing burnt wicks in the day time and
cheery lights at night; and a red carpet covering both rooms and
red table covers and red damask curtains, and a lounge with a red
afghan thrown over it; and last, but by no means least--in fact it
was the most important thing in the sitting-room, so far as
comfort was concerned--there was a big open-hearth Franklin, full
of blazing red logs, with brass andirons and fender, and a draught
of such marvellous suction that stray scraps of paper, to say
nothing of uncommonly large sparks, had been known more than once
to have been picked up in a jiffy and whirled into its capacious
throat.

Just the very background for dear old Peter, I always said,
whenever I watched him moving about the cheery interior, pushing
up a chair, lighting a fresh candle, or replacing a book on the
shelf. What a half-length the great Sully would have made of him,
with his high collar, white shirt-front and wonderful neck-cloth
with its pleats and counterpleats, to say nothing of his rosy
cheeks and bald head, the high light glistening on one of his big
bumps of benevolence. And what a background of deep reds and warm
mahoganys with a glint of yellow brass for contrast!

Indeed, I have often thought that not only Peter's love of red,
but much of Peter's quaintness of dress, had been suggested by
some of the old portraits which lined the walls of his sitting-
room--his grandfather, by Sully, among them; and I firmly believe,
although I assure you I have never mentioned it to any human being
before, that had custom permitted (the directors of his bank,
perhaps), Peter would not only have indulged in the high coat-
collar and quaint neck-cloths of his fathers, but would also have
worn a dainty cue tied with a flowing black ribbon, always
supposing, of course, that his hair had held out, and, what is
more important, always supposing, that the wisp was long enough to
hold on.

The one article, however, which, more than any other one thing in
his apartment, revealed his tastes and habits, was a long, wide,
ample mahogany desk, once the property of an ancestor, which stood
under the window in the front room. In this, ready to his hand,
were drawers little and big, full of miscellaneous papers and
envelopes; pigeon-holes crammed full of answered and unanswered
notes, some with crests on them, some with plain wax clinging to
the flap of the broken envelopes; many held together with the gum
of the common world. Here, too, were bundles of old letters tied
with tape; piles of pamphlets, quaint trays holding pens and
pencils, and here too was always to be found, in summer or in
winter, a big vase full of roses or blossoms, or whatever was in
season--a luxury he never denied himself.

To this desk, then, Peter betook himself the moment he had hung
his gray surtout on its hook in the closet and disposed of his hat
and umbrella. This was his up-town office, really, and here his
letters awaited him.

First came a notice of the next meeting of the Numismatic Society
of which he was an honored member; then a bill for his semi-annual
dues at the Century Club; next a delicately scented sheet inviting
him to dine with the Van Wormleys of Washington Square, to meet an
English lord and his lady, followed by a pressing letter to spend
Sunday with friends in the country. Then came a long letter from
his sister, Miss Felicia Grayson, who lived in the Genesee Valley
and who came to New York every winter for what she was pleased to
call "The Season" (a very remarkable old lady, this Miss Felicia
Grayson, with a mind of her own, sections of which she did not
hesitate to ventilate when anybody crossed her or her path, and of
whom we shall hear more in these pages), together with the usual
assortment of bills and receipts, the whole an enlivening record
not only of Peter's daily life and range of taste, but of the
limitations of his purse as well.

One letter was reserved for the last. This he held in his hand
until he again ran his eye over the pile before him. It was from
Holker Morris the architect, a man who stood at the head of his
profession.

"Yes, Holker's handwriting," he said as he inserted the end of the
paper cutter. "I wonder what the dear fellow wants now?" Here he
ran his eye over the first page. "Listen, Major. What an
extraordinary man ... He's going to give a dinner, he says, to his
draughtsmen ... in his offices at the top of his new building, six
stories up. Does the rascal think I have nothing to do but crawl
up his stairs? Here, I'll read it to you."

"'You, dear Peter:' That's just like Holker! He begins that way
when he wants me to do something for him. 'No use saying you won't
come, for I shall be around for you at seven o'clock with a club--
'No, that's not it--he writes so badly--'with a cab.' Yes, that's
it--'with a cab.' I wonder if he can drive me up those six flights
of stairs? 'There'll be something to eat, and drink, and there
will be fifty or more of my draughtsmen and former employes. I'm
going to give them a dinner and a house-warming. Bring the Major
if you see him. I have sent a note to his room, but it may not
reach him. No dress suit, remember. Some of my men wouldn't know
one if they saw it."

As the letter dropped from Peter's hand a scraping of feet was
heard at the hall door, followed by a cheery word from Mrs.
McGuffey--she had her favorites among Peter's friends--and Holker
Morris burst into the room.

"Ah, caught you both!" he cried, all out of breath with his run
upstairs, his hat still on his head. No one blew in and blew out
of Peter's room (literally so) with the breeze and dash of the
distinguished architect. "Into your coats, you two--we haven't a
moment to spare. You got my letter, of course," he added, throwing
back the cape of his raincoat.

"Yes, Holker, just opened it!" cried Peter, holding out both hands
to his guest. "But I'm not going. I am too old for your young
fellows--take the Major and leave me behind."

The architect grabbed Peter by the arm. "When did that mighty idea
crack its way through that shell of yours, you tottering
Methusaleh! Old! You're spryer than a frolicking lamb in March.
You are coining, too, Major. Get into your coats and things!"

"But Isaac is pressing my swallow-tail."

"I don't mean your dress-coat, man--your OVERCOAT! Now I am sure
you didn't read my letter? Some of my young fellows haven't got
such a thing--too poor."

"But look at YOURS!"

"Yes, I had to slip into mine out of respect to the occasion; my
boys wouldn't like it if I didn't. Sort of uniform to them, but
they'd be mighty uncomfortable if you wore yours. Hurry up, we
haven't a minute to lose."

Peter had forced the architect into one of the big chairs by the
fire by this time, and stood bending over him, his hands resting
on Morris's broad shoulders.

"Take the Major with you, that's a good fellow, and let me drop in
about eleven o'clock," he pleaded, an expression on his face seen
only when two men understand and love each other. "There's a
letter from Felicia to attend to; she writes she is coming down
for a couple of weeks, and then I've really had a devil of a day
at the bank."

"No, you old fraud, you can't wheedle me that way. I want you
before everybody sits down, so my young chaps can look you over.
Why, Peter, you're better than a whole course of lectures, and you
mean something, you beggar! I tell you" (here he lifted himself
from the depths of the chair and scrambled to his feet) "you've
got to go if I have to tie your hands and feet and carry you
downstairs on my back! And you, too, Major--both of you. Here's
your overcoat--into it, you humbug! ... the other arm. Is this
your hat? Out you go!" and before I had stopped laughing--I had
refused to crowd the cab--Morris had buttoned the surtout over
Peter's breast, crammed the straight-brimmed hat over his eyes,
and the two were clattering downstairs.





CHAPTER III




Long before the two had reached the top floor of the building in
which the dinner was to be given, they had caught the hum of the
merrymakers, the sound bringing a smile of satisfaction to Peter's
face, but it was when he entered the richly colored room itself,
hazy with cigarette smoke, and began to look into the faces of the
guests grouped about him and down the long table illumined by
myriads of wax candles that all his doubts and misgivings faded
into thin air. Never since his school days, he told me afterwards,
had he seen so many boisterously happy young fellows grouped
together. And not only young fellows, with rosy cheeks and bright
eyes, but older men with thoughtful faces, who had relinquished
for a day the charge of some one of the important buildings
designed in the distinguished architect's office, and had spent
the night on the train that they might do honor to their Chief.

But it was when Morris, with his arm fast locked in his, began
introducing him right and left as the "Guest of Honor of the
Evening," the two shaking hands first with one and then another,
Morris breaking out into joyous salvos of welcome over some
arrival from a distant city, or greeting with marked kindness and
courtesy one of the younger men from his own office, that the old
fellow's enthusiasm became uncontrollable.

"Isn't it glorious, Holker!" he cried joyously, with uplifted
hands. "Oh, I'm so glad I came! I wouldn't have missed this for
anything in the world. Did you ever see anything like it? This is
classic, my boy--it has the tang and the spice of the ancients."

Morris's greeting to me was none the less hearty, although he had
left me but half an hour before.

"Late, as I expected, Major," he cried with out-stretched hand,
"and serves you right for not sitting in Peter's lap in the cab.
Somebody ought to sit on him once in a while. He's twenty years
younger already. Here, take this seat alongside of me where you
can keep him in order--they were at table when I entered. Waiter,
bring back that bottle--Just a light claret, Major--all we allow
ourselves."

As the evening wore away the charm of the room grew upon me.
Vistas hazy with tobacco smoke opened up; the ceiling lost in the
fog gave one the impression of out-of-doors--like a roof-garden at
night; a delusion made all the more real by the happy uproar. And
then the touches here and there by men whose life had been the
study of color and effects; the appointments of the table, the
massing of flowers relieving the white cloth; the placing of
shaded candles, so that only a rosy glow filtered through the
loom, softening the light on the happy faces--each scalp crowned
with chaplets of laurel tied with red ribbons: an enchantment of
color, form and light where but an hour before only the practical
and the commonplace had held sway.

No vestige of the business side of the offices remained. Peter
pointed out to me a big plaster model of the State House, which
filled one end of the room, and two great figures, original
plaster casts, heroic in size, that Harding, the sculptor, had
modelled for either side of the entrance of the building; but
everything that smacked of T-square or scale was hidden from
sight. In their place, lining the walls, stood a row of standards
of red and orange silk, stretched on rods and supported by poles;
the same patterns of banners which were carried before Imperial
Caesars when they took an airing; and now emblazoned with the
titles of the several structures conceived in the brain of Holker
Morris and executed by his staff: the Imperial Library in Tokio;
the great Corn Exchange covering a city block; the superb Art
Museum crowning the highest hill in the Park; the beautiful
chateau of the millionaire surrounded by thousands of acres of
virgin forest; the spacious warehouses on the water front, and
many others.

With the passing of the flagons an electric current of good
fellowship flashed around the circle. Stories that would have been
received with but a bare smile at the club were here greeted with
shouts of laughter. Bon-mots, skits, puns and squibs mouldy with
age or threadbare with use, were told with a new gusto and
welcomed with delight.

Suddenly, and without any apparent reason, these burst forth a
roar like that of a great orchestra with every instrument played
at its loudest--rounds of applause from kettle-drums, trombones
and big horns; screams of laughter from piccolos, clarionettes and
flutes, buzzings of subdued talk by groups of bass viols and the
lesser strings, the whole broken by the ringing notes of a song
that soared for an instant clear of the din, only to be overtaken
and drowned in the mighty shout of approval. This was followed by
a stampede from the table; the banners were caught up with a
mighty shout and carried around the room; Morris, boy for the
moment, springing to his feet and joining in the uproar.

The only guest who kept his chair, except Peter and myself, was a
young fellow two seats away, whose eyes, brilliant with
excitement, followed the merrymaking, but who seemed too much
abashed, or too ill at ease, to join in the fun. I had noticed how
quiet he was and wondered at the cause. Peter had also been
watching the boy and had said to me that he had a good face and
was evidently from out of town.

"Why don't you get up?" Peter called to him at last. "Up with you,
my lad. This is one of the times when every one of you young
fellows should be on your feet." He would have grabbed a banner
himself had any one given him the slightest encouragement.

"I would, sir, but I'm out of it," said the young man with a
deferential bow, moving to the empty seat next to Peter. He too
had been glancing at Peter from time to time.

"Aren't you with Mr. Morris?"

"No, I wish I were. I came with my friend, Garry Minott, that
young fellow carrying the banner with 'Corn Exchange' marked on
it."

"And may I ask, then, what you do?" continued Peter.

The young fellow looked into the older man's kindly eyes--
something in their expression implied a wish to draw him the
closer--and said quite simply: "I don't do anything that is of any
use, sir. Garry says that I might as well work in a faro bank."

Peter leaned forward. For the moment the hubbub was forgotten as
he scrutinized the young man, who seemed scarcely twenty-one, his
well-knit, well-dressed body, his soft brown hair curled about his
scalp, cleanly modelled ears, steady brown eyes, white teeth--
especially the mobile lips which seemed quivering from some
suppressed emotion--all telling of a boy delicately nurtured.

"And do you really work in a faro bank?" Peter's knowledge of
human nature had failed him for once.

"Oh, no sir, that is only one of Garry's jokes. I'm clerk in a
stock broker's office on Wall Street. Arthur Breen & Company. My
uncle is head of the firm."

"Oh, that's it, is it?" answered Peter in a relieved tone.

"And now will you tell me what your business is, sir?" asked the
young man. "You seem so different from the others."

"Me! Oh, I take care of the money your gamblers win," replied
Peter, at which they both laughed, a spark of sympathy being
kindled between them.

Then, seeing the puzzled expression on the boy's face, he added
with a smile: "I'm Receiving Teller in a bank, one of the oldest
in Wall Street."

A look of relief passed over the young fellow's face.

"I'm very glad, sir," he said, with a smile. "Do you know, sir,
you look something like my own father--what I can remember of
him--that is, he was--" The lad checked himself, fearing he might
be discourteous. "That is, he had lost his hair, sir, and he wore
his cravats like you, too. I have his portrait in my room."

Peter leaned still closer to the speaker. This time he laid his
hand on his arm. The tumult around him made conversation almost
impossible. "And now tell me your name?"

"My name is Breen, sir. John Breen. I live with my uncle."

The roar of the dinner now became so fast and furious that further
confidences were impossible. The banners had been replaced and
every one was reseated, talking or laughing. On one side raged a
discussion as to how far the decoration of a plain surface should
go--"Roughing it," some of them called it. At the end of the table
two men were wrangling as to whether the upper or the lower half
of a tall structure should have its vertical lines broken; and, if
so, by what. Further down high-keyed voices were crying out
against the abomination of the flat roof on the more costly
buildings; wondering whether some of their clients would wake up
to the necessity of breaking the sky-line with something less
ugly--even if it did cost a little more. Still a third group were
in shouts of laughter over a story told by one of the staff who
had just returned from an inspection trip west.

Young Breen looked down the length of the table, watched for a
moment a couple of draughtsmen who stood bowing and drinking to
each other in mock ceremony out of the quaint glasses filled from
the borrowed flagons, then glanced toward his friend Minott, just
then the centre of a cyclone that was stirring the group midway
the table.

"Come over here, Garry," he called, half rising to his feet to
attract his friend's attention.

Minott waved his hand in answer, waited until the point of the
story had been reached, and made his way toward Peter's end of the
table.

"Garry," he whispered, "I want to introduce you to Mr. Grayson--
the very dearest old gentleman you ever met in your whole life.
Sits right next to me."

"What, that old fellow that looks like a billiard ball in a high
collar?" muttered Minott with a twinkle in his eye. "We've been
wondering where Mr. Morris dug him up."

"Hush," said Breen--"he'll hear you."

"All right, but hurry up. I must say he doesn't look near so bad
when you get close to him."

"Mr. Grayson, I want you to know my friend Garry Minott."

Peter rose to his feet. "I DO know him," he said, holding out his
hand cordially. "I've been knowing him all the evening. He's made
most of the fun at his end of the table. You seem to have flaunted
your Corn Exchange banner on the smallest provocation, Mr.
Minott," and Peter's fingers gripped those of the young man.

"That's because I've been in charge of the inside work. Great
dinner, isn't it, Mr. Grayson. But it's Britton who has made the
dinner. He's more fun than a Harlem goat with a hoopskirt. See
him--that's Brit with a red head and blue neck-tie. He's been all
winter in Wisconsin looking after some iron work and has come back
jam full of stories." The dignity of Peter's personality had
evidently not impressed the young man, judging from the careless
tone with which he addressed him. "And how are you getting on,
Jack--glad you came, arn't you?" As he spoke he laid his hand
affectionately on the boy's shoulder. "Didn't I tell you it would
be a corker? Out of sight, isn't it? Everything is out of sight
around our office." This last remark was directed to Peter in the
same casual way.

"I should say that every stopper was certainly out," answered
Peter in graver tones. He detested slang and would never
understand it. Then again the bearing and air of Jack's friend
jarred on him. "You know, of course, the old couplet--'When the
wine flows the--'"

"No, I don't know it," interrupted Minott with an impatient
glance. "I'm not much on poetry--but you can bet your bottom
dollar it's flowing all right." Then seeing the shade of
disappointment on Breen's face at the flippant way in which he had
returned Peter's courtesies, but without understanding the cause,
he added, tightening his arm around his friend's neck, "Brace up,
Jack, old man, and let yourself go. That's what I'm always telling
Jack, Mr. Grayson. He's got to cut loose from a lot of old-
fashioned notions that he brought from home if he wants to get
anywhere around here. I had to."

"What do you want him to give up, Mr. Minott?" Peter had put on
his glasses now, and was inspecting Garry at closer range.

"Oh, I don't know--just get into the swing of things and let her
go."

"That is no trouble for you to do," rejoined Jack, looking into
his friend's face. "You're doing something that's worth while."

"Well, aren't you doing something that's worth while? Why you'll
be a millionaire if you keep on. First thing you know the
lightning will strike you just as it did your uncle."

Morris leaned forward at the moment and called Minott by name.
Instantly the young man's manner changed to one of respectful
attention as he stepped to his Chief's side.

"Yes, Mr. Morris."

"You tell the men up your way to get ready to come to order, or we
won't get through in time--it's getting late."

"All right, sir, I'll take care of 'em. Just as soon as you begin
to speak you won't hear a sound."

As Minott moved from Morris's seat another and louder shout arose
from the other end of the table:

"Garry, Garry, hurry up!" came the cry. It was evident the young
man was very popular.

Peter dropped his glasses from his nose, and turning toward Morris
said in a low voice:

"That's a very breezy young man, Holker, the one who has just left
us. Got something in him, has he, besides noise?"

"Yes, considerable. Wants toning down once in a while, but there's
no question of his ability or of his loyalty. He never shirks a
duty and never forgets a kindness. Queer combination when you
think of it, Peter. What he will make of himself is another
matter."

Peter drew his body back and sent his thoughts out on an
investigating tour. He was wondering what effect the influence of
a young man like Minott would have on a young man like Breen.

The waiters at this point brought in huge trays holding bowls of
tobacco and long white clay pipes, followed by even larger trays
bearing coffee in little cups. Morris waited a moment and then
rapped for order. Instantly a hush fell upon the noisy room;
plates and glasses were pushed back so as to give the men elbow
room; pipes were hurriedly lighted, and each guest turned his
chair so as to face the Chief, who was now on his feet.

As he stood erect, one hand behind his back, the other stretched
toward the table in his appeal for silence, I thought for the
hundredth time how kind his fifty years had been to him; how
tightly knit his figure; how well his clothes became him. A
handsome, well-groomed man at all times and in any costume--but
never so handsome or so well groomed as in evening dress.
Everything in his make-up helped: the broad, square shoulders,
arms held close to his side; flat waist; incurving back and narrow
hips. His well-modelled, aristocratic head, too, seemed to gain
increased distinction when it rose clear from a white shirt-front
which served as a kind of marble pedestal for his sculptured head.
There was, moreover, in his every move and look, that quality of
transparent sincerity which always won him friends at sight. "If
men's faces are clocks," Peter always said, "Holker's is fitted
with a glass dial. You can not only see what time it is, but you
can see the wheels that move his heart."

He was about to speak now, his eyes roaming the room waiting for
the last man to be still. No fumbling of glasses or rearranging of
napkin, but erect, with a certain fearless air that was as much a
part of his nature as was his genius. Beginning in a clear,
distinct voice which reached every ear in the room, he told them
first how welcome they were. How great an honor it was for him to
have them so close to him--so close that he could look into all
their faces with one glance; not only those who came from a
distance but those of his personal staff, to whom really the
success of the year's work had been due. As for himself, he was,
as they knew, only the lead horse in the team, going ahead to show
them the way, while they did the effective pulling that brought
the load to market! Here he slipped his hand in his pocket, took
from it a small box which he laid beside his plate, and continued:

"At these festivals, as you know, and if my memory serves me this
is our third, it has always been our custom to give some slight
token of our appreciation to the man who has done most during the
year to further the work of the office. This has always been a
difficult thing to decide, because every one of you, without a
single exception, has given the best that is in you in the general
result. Three years ago, you remember, it was awarded to the man
who by common consent had carried to completion, and without a
single error, the detailed drawings of the Museum which was
finished last year. I am looking at you, Mr. Downey, and again
congratulate you. Last year it was awarded to Mr. Buttrick for the
masterly way with which he put together the big arches of the
Government warehouses--a man whom it would have been my pleasure
to congratulate again to-night had it been possible for him to
reach us. To-night I think you will all agree with me that this
small token, not only of my own, but of your 'personal regard and
appreciation'" (here he opened the box and took from it a man's
ring set with three jewels), "should be given to the man who has
carried out in so thorough a way the part allotted to him in the
Corn Exchange, and who is none other than Mr. Garrison Minott, who
for--"

The rest of the sentence was lost in the uproar.

"Garry! Garry! Garry Minott!" came from all parts of the room.
"Bully for Garry! You deserve it, old man! Three cheers for Garry
Minott! Hip ... Hip ...!"

Morris's voice now dominated the room.

"Come this way, Mr. Minott."

The face of the young superintendent, which had been in a broad
laugh all the evening, grew white and red by turns. Out of pure
astonishment he could neither move nor speak.

"All right--stay where you are!" cried Morris laughing. "Pass it
up to him, please."

John Breen sprang from his chair with the alertness of a man who
had been accustomed to follow his impulse. In his joy over his
friend's good fortune he forgot his embarrassment, forgot that he
was a stranger; forgot that he alone, perhaps, was the only young
man in the room whose life and training had not fitted him for the
fullest enjoyment of what was passing around him; forgot
everything, in fact, but that his comrade, his friend, his chum,
had won the highest honors his Chief could bestow.

With cheeks aflame he darted to Morris's chair.

"Let me hand it to him, sir," he cried, all the love for his
friend in his eyes, seizing the ring and plunging toward Garry,
the shouts increasing as he neared his side and placed the prize
in his hand. Only then did Minott find his breath and his feet.

"Why, Mr. Morris!--Why, fellows!--Why, there's plenty of men in
the office who have done more than I have to--"

Then he sat down, the ring fast in his hand.

When the applause had subside--the young fellow's modesty had
caused a fresh outburst--Morris again rose in his chair and once
more the room grew still.

"Twelve o'clock, gentlemen," he said. "Mr. Downey, you are always
our stand-by in starting the old hymn."

The diners--host and guests alike--rose to their feet as one man.
Then to Peter's and my own intense surprise that most impressive
of all chants, the Doxology in long metre, surged out, gaining in
volume and strength as its strains were caught up by the different
voices.

With the ending of the grand old hymn--it had been sung with every
mark of respect by every man in the room--John Breen walked back
to his chair, leaned toward Peter, and with an apologetic tone in
his voice--he had evidently noticed the unfavorable impression
that Garry had made on his neighbor--said:

"Don't misjudge Garry, Mr. Grayson; he's the kindest hearted
fellow in the world when you know him. He's a little rough
sometimes, as you can see, but he doesn't mean it. He thinks his
way of talking and acting is what he calls 'up-to-date.'" Then he
added with a sigh: "I wish I had a ring like that--one that I had
earned. I tell you, Mr. Grayson, THAT'S something worth while."

Peter laid his hand on the young man's shoulder and looked him
straight in the face, the same look in his eyes that a proud
father would have given a son who had pleased him. He had heard
with delight the boy's defence of his friend and he had read the
boy's mind as he sang the words of the hymn, his face grave, his
whole attitude one of devotion. "You'd think he was in his
father's pew at home," Peter had whispered to me with a smile. It
was the latter outburst though--the one that came with a sigh--
that stirred him most.

"And you would really have liked a ring yourself, my lad?"

"Would I like it! Why, Mr. Grayson, I'd rather have had Mr. Morris
give me a thing like that and DESERVED IT, than have all the money
you could pile on this table."

One of those sudden smiles which his friends loved so well
irradiated Peter's face.

"Keep on the way you're going, my son," he said, seizing the boy's
hand, a slight tremble in his voice, "and you'll get a dozen of
them."

"How?" The boy's eyes were wide in wonderment.

"By being yourself. Don't let go of your ideals no matter what
Minott or anybody else says. Let him go his way and do you keep on
in yours. Don't ... but I can't talk here. Come and see me. I mean
it."

Breen's eyes glistened. "When?"

"To-morrow night, at my rooms. Here's my card. And you, too, Mr.
Minott--glad to see both of you." Garry has just joined them.

"Thanks awfully," answered Minott. "I'm very sorry, Mr. Grayson,
but I'm booked for a supper at the Magnolia. "Lot of the fellows
want to whoop up this--" and he held the finger bearing the ring
within an inch of Peter's nose. "And they want you, too, Jack."

"No, please let me have him," Peter urged. Minott, I could see, he
did not want; Breen he was determined to have.

"I would love to come, sir, and it's very kind of you to ask me.
There's to be a dance at my uncle's tomorrow night, though I
reckon I can be excused. Would you--would you come to see me
instead? I want you to see my father's portrait. It's not you, and
yet it's like you when you turn your head; and there are some
other things. I'd like--" Here the boy stopped.

Peter considered for a moment. Calling at the house of a man he
did not know, even to continue the acquaintance of so charming a
young fellow as his nephew, was not one of the things punctilious
Mr. Grayson--punctilious as to forms of etiquette--was accustomed
to do. The young man read his thoughts and added quickly:

"Of course I'll do just as you say, but if you only would come we
will be entirely alone and won't see anybody else in the house."

"But couldn't you possibly come to me?" Peter urged. The fact that
young Breen had a suite of rooms so sequestered as to be beyond
the reach even of a dance, altered the situation to some extent,
but he was still undecided. "I live all alone when my sister is
not with me, and I, too, have many things I am sure would interest
you. Say you'll come now--I shall expect you, shall I not?"

The boy hesitated. "You may not know exactly what I mean," he said
slowly. "Maybe you can't understand, for everybody about here
seems to love you, and you must have lots of friends. The fact is,
I feel out of everything. I get pretty lonely sometimes. Garry,
here, never stays five minutes when he comes to see me, so many
people are after him all the time. Please say you'll come!"

There was a note in the boy's voice that swept away all the older
man's scruples.

"Come, my son! Of course I'll come," burst out Peter. "I'll be
there at nine o'clock."

As Morris and the others passed between the table and the wall on
their way to the cloak-room, Minott, who had listened to the whole
conversation, waited until he thought Peter had gone ahead, and
then, with an impatient gesture, said:

"What the devil, Jack, do you want to waste your time over an old
fellow like that for?"

"Oh, Garry, don't--"

"Don't! A bald-headed old pill who ought to have--"

Then the two passed out of hearing.





CHAPTER IV




Breakfast--any meal for that matter--in the high-wainscoted, dark-
as-a-pocket dining-room of the successful Wall Street broker--the
senior member of the firm of A. Breen & Co., uncle, guardian and
employer of the fresh, rosy-cheeked lad who sat next to Peter on
the night of Morris's dinner, was never a joyous function.

The room itself, its light shut out by the adjoining extensions,
prevented it; so did the glimpse of hard asphalt covering the
scrap of a yard, its four melancholy posts hung about with wire
clothes-lines; and so did the clean-shaven, smug-faced butler, who
invariably conducted his master's guests to their chairs with the
movement of an undertaker, and who had never been known to crack a
smile of any kind, long or short, during his five years' sojourn
with the family of Breen.

Not that anybody wanted Parkins to crack one, that is, not his
master, and certainly not his mistress, and most assuredly not his
other mistress, Miss Corinne, the daughter of the lady whom the
successful Wall Street broker had made his first and only wife.

All this gloomy atmosphere might have been changed for the better
had there been a big, cheery open wood fire snapping and blazing
away, sputtering out its good morning as you entered--and there
would have been if any one of the real inmates had insisted upon
it--fought for it, if necessary; or if in summer one could have
seen through the curtained windows a stretch of green grass with
here and there a tree, or one or two twisted vines craning their
necks to find out what was going on inside; or if in any or all
seasons, a wholesome, happy-hearted, sunny wife looking like a
bunch of roses just out of a bath, had sat behind the smoking
coffee-urn, inquiring whether one or two lumps of sugar would be
enough; or a gladsome daughter who, in a sudden burst of
affection, had thrown her arms around her father's neck and kissed
him because she loved him, and because she wanted his day and her
day to begin that way:--if, I say, there had been all, or one-
half, or one-quarter of these things, the atmosphere of this
sepulchral interior might have been improved--but there wasn't.

There was a wife, of course, a woman two years older than Arthur
Breen--the relict of a Captain Barker, an army officer--who had
spent her early life in moving from one army post to another until
she had settled down in Washington, where Breen had married her,
and where the Scribe first met her. But this sharer of the
fortunes of Breen preferred her breakfast in bed, New York life
having proved even more wearing than military upheavals. And there
was also a daughter, Miss Corinne Barker, Captain and Mrs.
Barker's only offspring, who had known nothing of army posts,
except as a child, but who had known everything of Washington life
from the time she was twelve until she was fifteen, and she was
now twenty; but that young woman, I regret to say, also
breakfasted in bed, where her maid had special instructions not to
disturb her until my lady's jewelled fingers touched a button
within reach of her dainty hand; whereupon another instalment of
buttered rolls and coffee would be served with such accessories of
linen, porcelain and silver as befitted the appetite and station
of one so beautiful and so accomplished.

These conditions never ceased to depress Jack. Fresh from a life
out of doors, accustomed to an old-fashioned dining-room--the
living room, really, of the family who had cared for him since his
father's death, where not only the sun made free with the open
doors and windows, but the dogs and neighbors as well--the sober
formality of this early meal--all of his uncle's meals, for that
matter--sent shivers down his back that chilled him to the bone.

He had looked about him the first morning of his arrival, had
noted the heavy carved sideboard laden with the garish silver; had
examined the pictures lining the walls, separated from the dark
background of leather by heavy gold frames; had touched with his
fingers the dial of the solemn bronze clock, flanked by its
equally solemn candelabra; had peered between the steel andirons,
bright as carving knives, and into the freshly varnished, spacious
chimney up which no dancing blaze had ever whirled in madcap glee
since the mason's trowel had left it and never would to the end of
time,--not as long as the steam heat held out; had watched the
crane-like step of Parkins as he moved about the room--cold,
immaculate, impassive; had listened to his "Yes, sir--thank you,
sir, very good, sir," until he wanted to take him by the throat
and shake something spontaneous and human out of him, and as each
cheerless feature passed in review his spirits had sunk lower and
lower.

This, then, was what he could expect as long as he lived under his
uncle's roof--a period of time which seemed to him must stretch
out into dim futurity. No laughing halloos from passing neighbors
through wide-open windows; no Aunt Hannahs running in with a plate
of cakes fresh from the griddle which would cool too quickly if
she waited for that slow-coach of a Tom to bring them to her young
master. No sweep of leaf-covered hills seen through bending
branches laden with blossoms; no stretch of sky or slant of
sunshine; only a grim, funereal, artificial formality, as ungenial
and flattening to a boy of his tastes, education and earlier
environment as a State asylum's would have been to a red Indian
fresh from the prairie.

On the morning after Morris's dinner (within eight hours really of
the time when he had been so thrilled by the singing of the
Doxology), Jack was in his accustomed seat at the small,
adjustable accordion-built table--it could be stretched out to
accommodate twenty-four covers--when his uncle entered this room.
Parkins was genuflecting at the time with his--"Cream, sir,--yes,
sir. Devilled kidney, sir? Thank you, sir." (Parkins had been
second man with Lord Colchester, so he told Breen when he hired
him.) Jack had about made up his mind to order him out when a
peculiar tone in his uncle's "Good morning" made the boy scan that
gentleman's face and figure the closer.

His uncle was as well dressed as usual, looking as neat and as
smart in his dark cut-away coat with the invariable red carnation
in his buttonhole, but the boy's quick eye caught the marks of a
certain wear and tear in the face which neither his bath nor his
valet had been able to obliterate. The thin lips--thin for a man
so fat, and which showed, more than any other feature, something
of the desultory firmness of his character--drooped at the
corners. The eyes were half their size, the snap all out of them,
the whites lost under the swollen lids. His greeting, moreover,
had lost its customary heartiness.

"You were out late, I hear," he grumbled, dropping into his chair.
"I didn't get in myself until two o'clock and feel like a boiled
owl. May have caught a little cold, but I think it was that
champagne of Duckworth's; always gives me a headache. Don't put
any sugar and cream in that coffee, Parkins--want it straight."

"Yes, sir," replied the flunky, moving toward the sideboard.

"And now, Jack, what did you do?" he continued, picking up his
napkin. "You and Garry made a night of it, didn't you? Some kind
of an artist's bat, wasn't it?"

"No, sir; Mr. Morris gave a dinner to his clerks, and--"

"Who's Morris?"

"Why, the great architect."

"Oh, that fellow! Yes, I know him, that is, I know who he is. Say
the rest. Parkins! didn't I tell you I didn't want any sugar or
cream."

Parkins hadn't offered any. He had only forgotten to remove them
from the tray.

Jack kept straight on; these differences between the master and
Parkins were of daily occurrence.

"And, Uncle Arthur, I met the most wonderful gentleman I ever saw;
he looked just as if he had stepped out of an old frame, and yet
he is down in the Street every day and--"

"What firm?"

"No firm, he is--"

"Curbstone man, then?" Here Breen lifted the cup to his lips and
as quickly put it down. "Parkins!"

"Yes, sir," came the monotone.

"Why the devil can't I get my coffee hot?"

"Is it cold, sir?"--slight modulation, but still lifeless.

"IS IT COLD? Of course it's cold! Might have been standing in a
morgue. Take that down and have some fresh coffee sent up.
Servants running oer each other and yet I can't get a--Go on,
Jack! I didn't mean to interrupt, but I'll clean the whole lot of
'em out of here if I don't get better service."

"No, Uncle Arthur, he isn't a banker--isn't even a broker; he's
only a paying teller in a bank," continued Jack.

The older man turned his head and a look of surprise swept over
his round, fat face.

"Teller in a BANK?" he asked in an altered tone.

"Yes, the most charming, the most courteous old gentleman I have
ever met; I haven't seen anybody like him since I left home, and,
just think, he has promised to come and see me to-night."

The drooping lips straightened and a shrewd, searching glance shot
from Arthur Breen's eyes. There was a brain behind this sleepy
face--as many of his competitors knew. It was not always in
working order, but when it was the man became another personality.

"Jack--" The voice was now as thin as the drawn lips permitted,
with caution in every tone, "you stop short off. You mustn't
cotton to everybody you pick up in New York--it won't do. Get you
into trouble. Don't bring him here; your aunt won't like it. When
you get into a hole with a fellow and can't help yourself, take
him to the club. That's one of the things I got you into the
Magnolia for; but don't ever bring 'em here."

"But he's a personal friend of Mr. Morris, and a friend of another
friend of Mr. Morris's they called 'Major.'" It was not the first
time he had heard such inhospitable suggestions from his uncle.

"Oh, yes, I know; they've all got some old retainers hanging on
that they give a square meal to once a year, but don't you get
mixed up with 'em."

Parkins had returned by this time and was pouring a fresh cup of
coffee.

"Now, Parkins, that's something like--No, I don't want any
kidneys--I don't want any toast--I don't want anything, Parkins--
haven't I told you so?"

"Yes, sir; thank you sir."

"Black coffee is the only thing that'll settle this head. What you
want to do, Jack, is to send that old fossil word that you've got
another engagement, and . . .Parkins, is there anything going on
here to-night?"

"Yes, sir; Miss Cocinne is giving a small dance."

"There, Jack--that's it. That'll let you out with a whole skin."

"No, I can't, and I won't, Uncle Arthur," he answered in an
indignant tone. "If you knew him as I do, and had seen him last
night, you would--"

"No, I don't want to know him and I don't want to see him. You are
all balled up, I see, and can't work loose, but take him upstairs;
don't let your aunt come across him or she'll have a fit." Here he
glanced at the bronze clock. "What!--ten minutes past nine!
Parkins, see if my cab is at the door. . . . Jack, you ride down
with me. I walked when I was your age, and got up at daylight.
Some difference, Jack, isn't there, whether you've got a rich
uncle to look after you or not." This last came with a wink.

It was only one of his pleasantries. He knew he was not rich; not
in the accepted sense. He might be a small star in the myriads
forming the Milky-Way of Finance, but there were planets millions
of miles beyond him, whose brilliancy he was sure he could never
equal. The fact was that the money which he had accumulated had
been so much greater sum than he had ever hoped for when he was a
boy in a Western State--his father went to Iowa in '49--and the
changes in his finances had come with such lightning rapidity
(half a million made on a tip given him by a friend, followed by
other tips more or less profitable) that he loved to pat his
pride, so to speak, in speeches like this.

That he had been swept off his feet by the social and financial
rush about him was quite natural. His wife, whose early life had
been one long economy, had ambitions to which there was no limit
and her escape from her former thraldom had been as sudden and as
swift as the upward spring of a loosened balloon. Then again all
the money needed to make the ascension successful was at her
disposal. Hence jewels, laces, and clothes; hence elaborate
dinners, the talk of the town: hence teas, receptions, opera
parties, week-end parties at their hired country seat on Long
Island; dances for Corinne; dinners for Corinne; birthday parties
for Corinne; everything, in fact, for Corinne, from manicures to
pug dogs and hunters.

His two redeeming qualities were his affection for his wife and
his respect for his word. He had no child of his own, and Corinne,
though respectful never showed him any affection. He had sent Jack
to a Southern school and college, managing meanwhile the little
property his father had left him, which, with some wild lands in
the Cumberland Mountains, practically worthless, was the boy's
whole inheritance, and of late had treated him as if he had been
his own son.

As to his own affairs, close as he sailed to the wind in his money
transactions--so close sometimes that the Exchange had more than
once overhauled his dealings--it was generally admitted that when
Arthur Breen gave his WORD--a difficult thing often to get--he
never broke it. This was offset by another peculiarity with less
beneficial results: When he had once done a man a service only to
find him ungrateful, no amount of apologies or atonement
thereafter ever moved him to forgiveness. Narrow-gauge men are
sometimes built that way.

It was to be expected, therefore, considering the quality of
Duckworth's champagne and the impression made on Jack by his
uncle's outburst, that the ride down town in the cab was marked by
anything but cheerful conversation between Breen and his nephew,
each of whom sat absorbed in his own reflections. "I didn't mean
to be hard on the boy," ruminated Breen, "but if I had picked up
everybody who wanted to know me, as Jack has done, where would I
be now?" Then, his mind still clouded by the night at the club (he
had not confined himself entirely to champagne), he began, as was
his custom, to concentrate his attention upon the work of the day
--on the way the market would open; on the remittance a belated
customer had promised and about which he had some doubt; the
meeting of the board of directors in the new mining company--"The
Great Mukton Lode," in which he had an interest, and a large one--
etc.

Jack looked out of the windows, his eyes taking in the remnants of
the autumnal tints in the Park, now nearly gone, the crowd filling
the sidewalks; the lumbering stages and the swifter-moving horse-
cars crammed with eager men anxious to begin the struggle of the
day--not with their hands--that mob had swept past hours before--
but with their brains--wits against wits and the devil take the
man who slips and falls.

Nothing of it all interested him. His mind was on the talk at the
breakfast table, especially his uncle's ideas of hospitality, all
of which had appalled and disgusted him. With his father there had
always been a welcome for every one, no matter what the position
in life, the only standard being one of breeding and character--
and certainly Peter had both. His uncle had helped him, of course
--put him under obligations he could never repay. Yet after all, it
was proved now to him that he was but a guest in the house
enjoying only such rights as any other guest might possess, and
with no voice in the welcome--a condition which would never be
altered, until he became independent himself--a possibility which
at the moment was too remote to be considered. Then his mind
reverted to his conversation the night before with Mr. Grayson and
with this change of thought his father's portrait--the one that
hung in his room--loomed up. He had the night before turned on the
lights--to their fullest--and had scanned the picture closely,
eager to find some trace of Peter in the counterfeit presentment
of the man he loved best, and whose memory was still almost a
religion, but except that both Peter and his father were bald, and
that both wore high, old-fashioned collars and neck-cloths, he had
been compelled to admit with a sigh that there was nothing about
the portrait on which to base the slightest claim to resemblance.

"Yet he's like my father, he is, he is," he kept repeating to
himself as the cab sped on. "I'll find out what it is when I know
him better. To-night when Mr. Grayson comes I'll study it out,"
and a joyous smile flashed across his features as he thought of
the treat in store for him.

When at last the boy reached his office, where, behind the
mahogany partition with its pigeon-hole cut through the glass
front he sat every day, he swung back the doors of the safe, took
out his books and papers and made ready for work. He had charge of
the check book, and he alone signed the firm's name outside of the
partners. "Rather young," one of them protested, until he looked
into the boy's face, then he gave his consent; something better
than years of experience and discretion are wanted where a scratch
of a pen might mean financial ruin.

Breen had preceded him with but a nod to his clerks, and had
disappeared into his private office--another erection of ground
glass and mahogany. Here the senior member of the firm shut the
door carefully, and turning his back fished up a tiny key attached
to a chain leading to the rear pocket of his trousers. With this
he opened a small closet near his desk--a mere box of a closet--
took from it a squatty-shaped decanter labelled "Rye, 1840,"
poured out half a glass, emptied it into his person with one gulp,
and with the remark in a low voice to himself that he was now
"copper fastened inside and out"--removed all traces of the
incident and took up his morning's mail.

By this time the circle of chairs facing the huge blackboard in
the spacious outer office had begun to fill up. Some of the
customers, before taking their seats, hurried anxiously to the
ticker, chattering away in its glass case; others turned abruptly
and left the room without a word. Now and then a customer would
dive into Breen's private room, remain a moment and burst out
again, his face an index of the condition of his bank account.

When the chatter of the ticker had shifted from the London
quotations to the opening sales on the Exchange, a sallow-faced
clerk mounted a low step-ladder and swept a scurry of chalk marks
over the huge blackboard, its margin lettered with the initials of
the principal stocks. The appearance of this nimble-fingered young
man with his piece of chalk always impressed Jack as a sort of
vaudeville performance. On ordinary days, with the market
lifeless, but half of the orchestra seats would be occupied. In
whirl-times, with the ticker spelling ruin, not only were the
chairs full, but standing room only was available in the offices.

Their occupants came from all classes; clerks from up-town dry-
goods houses, who had run down during lunch time to see whether
U.P. or Erie, or St. Paul had moved up an eighth, or down a
quarter, since they had devoured the morning papers on their way
to town; old speculators who had spent their lives waiting
buzzard-like for some calamity, enabling them to swoop down and
make off with what fragments they could pick up; well-dressed,
well-fed club men, who had had a run of luck and who never carried
less than a thousand shares to keep their hands in; gray-haired
novices nervously rolling little wads of paper between their
fingers and thumbs--up every few minutes to listen to the talk of
the ticker, too anxious to wait until the sallow-faced young man
with the piece of chalk could make his record on the board. Some
of them had gathered together their last dollar. Two per cent. or
one percent, or even one-half of one per cent. rise or fall was
all that stood between them and ruin.

"Very sorry, sir, but you know we told you when you opened the
account that you must keep your margins up," Breen had said to an
old man. The old man knew; had known it all night as he lay awake,
afraid to tell his wife of the sword hanging above their heads.
Knew it, too, when without her knowledge he had taken the last
dollar of the little nest-egg to make good the deficit owed Breen
& Co. over and above his margins, together with some other things
"not negotiable"--not our kind of collateral but "stuff" that
could "lie in the safe until he could make some other
arrangement," the cashier had said with the firm's consent.

Queer safe, that of Breen & Co., and queer things went into it.
Most of them were still there. Jack thought some jeweller had sent
part of his stock down for safe-keeping when he first came across
a tiny drawer of which Breen alone kept the key. Each object could
tell a story: a pair of diamond ear-rings surely could, and so
could four pearls on a gold chain, and perhaps, too, a certain
small watch, the case set with jewels. One of these days they may
be redeemed, or they may not, depending upon whether the owners
can scrape money enough together to pay the balances owed in cash.
But the four pearls on the gold chain are likely to remain there--
that poor fellow went overboard one morning off Nantucket Light,
and his secret went with him.

During the six months Jack had stood at his desk new faces had
filled the chairs--the talk had varied; though he felt only the
weary monotony of it all. Sometimes there had been hours of tense
excitement, when even his uncle had stood by the ticker, and when
every bankable security in the box had been overhauled and sent
post-haste to the bank or trust company. Jack, followed by the
porter with a self-cocking revolver in his outside pocket, had
more than once carried the securities himself, returning to the
office on the run with a small scrap of paper good for half a
million or so tucked away in his inside pocket. Then the old
monotony had returned with its dull routine and so had the chatter
and talk. "Buy me a hundred." "Yes, let 'em go." "No, I don't want
to risk it." "What's my balance?" "Thought you'd get another
eighth for that stock." "Sold at that figure, anyhow," etc.

Under these conditions life to a boy of Jack's provincial training
and temperament seemed narrowed down to an arm-chair, a black-
board, a piece of chalk and a restless little devil sputtering
away in a glass case, whose fiat meant happiness or misery. Only
the tongue of the demon was in evidence. The brain behind it, with
its thousand slender nerves quivering with the energy of the
globe, Jack never saw, nor, for that matter, did nine-tenths of
the occupants of the chairs. To them its spoken word was the
dictum of fate. Success meant debts paid, a balance in the bank,
houses, horses, even yachts and estates--failure meant obscurity
and suffering. The turn of the roulette wheel or the roll of a
cube of ivory they well knew brought the same results, but these
turnings they also knew were attended with a certain loss of
prestige. Taking a flier in the Street was altogether different--
great financiers were behind the fluctuations of values told by
the tongue of the ticker, and behind them was the wealth of the
Republic and still in the far distance the power of the American
people. Few of them ever looked below the grease paint, nor did
the most discerning ever detect the laugh on the clown's face.

The boy half hidden by the glass screen, through which millions
were passed and repassed every month, caught now and then a
glimpse.

Once a faded, white-haired old man had handed Jack a check after
banking hours to make good an account--a man whose face had
haunted him for hours. His uncle told him the poor fellow had "run
up solid" against a short interest in a stock that some Croesus
was manipulating to get even with another Croesus who had
manipulated HIM, and that the two Croesuses had "buried the old
man alive." The name of the stock Jack had forgotten, but the
suffering in the victim's face had made an indelible impression.
In reply to Jack's further inquiry, his uncle had spoken as if the
poor fellow had been wandering about on some unknown highway when
the accident happened, failing to add that he himself had led him
through the gate and started him on the road; forgetting, too, to
say that he had collected the toll in margins, a sum which still
formed a considerable portion of Breen & Co.'s bank account. One
bit of information which Breen had vouchsafed, while it did not
relieve the gloom of the incident, added a note of courage to the
affair:

"He was game, however, all the same, Jack. Had to go down into his
wife's stocking, I hear. Hard hit, but he took it like a man."





CHAPTER V.




While all this was going on downtown under the direction of the
business end of the house of Breen, equally interesting events
were taking place uptown under the guidance of its social head.
Strict orders had been given by Mrs. Breen the night before that
certain dustings and arrangings of furniture should take place,
the spacious stairs swept, and the hectic hired palms in their
great china pots watered. I say "the night before," because
especial stress was laid upon the fact that on no account whatever
were either Mrs. Breen or her daughter Corinne to be disturbed
until noon--neither of them having retired until a late hour the
night before.

So strictly were these orders carried out that all that did reach
the younger woman's ear--and this was not until long after mid-
day--was a scrap of news which crept upstairs from the breakfast
table via Parkins wireless, was caught by Corinne's maid and
delivered in manifold with that young lady's coffee and buttered
rolls. This when deciphered meant that Jack was not to be at the
dance that evening--he having determined instead to spend his time
up stairs with a disreputable old fellow whom he had picked up
somewhere at a supper the preceding night.

Corinne thought over the announcement for a moment, gazed into the
egg-shell cup that Hortense was filling from the tiny silver
coffee-pot, and a troubled expression crossed her face. "What has
come over Jack?" she asked herself. "I never knew him to do
anything like this before. Is he angry, I wonder, because I danced
with Garry the other night? It WAS his dance, but I didn't think
he would care. He has always done everything to please me--until
now." Perhaps the boy was about to slip the slight collar he had
worn in her service--one buckled on by him willingly because--
though she had not known it--he was a guest in the house.
Heretofore she said to herself Jack had been her willing slave, a
feather in her cap--going everywhere with her; half the girls were
convinced he was in love with her--a theory which she had
encouraged. What would they say now? This prospect so disturbed
the young woman that she again touched the button, and again
Hortense glided in.

"Hortense, tell Parkins to let me know the moment Mr. John comes
in--and get me my blue tea-gown; I sha'n't go out to-day." This
done she sank back on her pillows.

She was a slight little body, this Corinne--blue-eyed, fair-
haired, with a saucy face and upturned nose. Jack thought when he
first saw her that she looked like a wren with its tiny bill in
the air--and Jack was not far out of the way. And yet she was a
very methodical, level-headed little wren, with several positive
convictions which dominated her life--one of them being that
everybody about her ought to do, not as they, but as she, pleased.
She had begun, and with pronounced success, on her mother as far
back as she could remember, and had then tried her hand on her
stepfather until it became evident that as her mother controlled
that gentleman it was a waste of time to experiment further. All
of which was a saving of stones without the loss of any birds.

Where she failed--and she certainly had failed, was with Jack, who
though punctiliously polite was elusive and--never quite subdued.
Yet the discovery made, she neither pouted nor lost her temper,
but merely bided her time. Sooner or later, she knew, of course,
this boy, who had seen nothing of city life and who was evidently
dazed with all the magificence of the stately home overlooking the
Park, would find his happiest resting-place beneath the soft
plumage of her little wing. And if by any chance he should fall in
love with her--and what more natural; did not everybody fall in
love with her?--would it not be wiser to let him think she
returned it, especially if she saw any disposition on the young
man's part to thwart her undisputed sway of the household?

For months she had played her little game, yet to her amazement
none of the things she had anticipated had happened. Jack had
treated her as he would any other young woman of his acquaintance
--always with courtesy--always doing everything to oblige her, but
never yielding to her sway. He would laugh sometimes at her
pretensions, just as he would have laughed at similar self-
assertiveness on the part of any one else with whom he must
necessarily be thrown, but never by thought, word or deed had he
ever given my Lady Wren the faintest suspicion that he considered
her more beautiful, better dressed, or more entertaining, either
in song, chirp, flight or plumage, than the flock of other birds
about her. Indeed, the Scribe knows it to be a fact that if Jack's
innate politeness had not forbidden, he would many times have told
her truths, some of them mighty unpleasant ones, to which her ears
had been strangers since her school-girl days.

This unstudied treatment, strange to say--the result really, of
the boy's indifference--had of late absorbed her. What she could
not have she generally longed for, and there was not the slightest
question up to the present moment that Jack was still afield.

Again the girl pressed the button of the cord within reach of her
hand, and for the third time Hortense entered.

"Have you told Parkins I want to know the very instant Mr. John
comes in?"

"Yes, miss."

"And, Hortense, did you understand that Mr. John was to go out to
meet the gentleman, or was the gentleman to come to his rooms?"

"To his rooms, I think, miss."

 She was wearing her blue tea-gown, stretched out on the cushions
of one of the big divans in the silent drawing-room, when she
heard Jack's night-key touch the lock. Springing to her feet she
ran toward him.

"Why, Jack, what's this I hear about your not coming to my dance?
It isn't true, is it?" She was close to him now, her little head
cocked on one side, her thin, silken draperies dripping about her
slender figure.

"Who told you?"

"Parkins told Hortense."

"Leaky Parkins?" laughed Jack, tossing his hat on the hall table.

"But you are coming, aren't you, Jack? Please do!"

"Not to-night; you don't need me, Corinne." His voice told her at
once that not only was the leash gone but that the collar was off
as well.

"Yes, but I do."

"Then please excuse me, for I have an old gentleman coming to pay
me a visit. The finest old gentleman, by the way, you ever saw! A
regular thoroughbred, Corinne--who looks like a magnificent
portrait!" he added in his effort to interest her.

"But let him come some other time," she coaxed, holding the lapel
of his coat, her eyes searching his.

"What, turn to the wall a magnificent old portrait!" This came
with a mock grimace, his body bent forward, his eyes brimming with
laughter.

"Be serious, Jack, and tell me if you think it very nice in you to
stay upstairs in your den when I am giving a dance? Everybody will
know you are at home, and we haven't enough men as it is. Garry
can't come, he writes me. He has to dine with some men at the
club."

"I really AM sorry, Corinne, but I can't this time." Jack had hold
of her hand now; for a brief moment he was sorry he had not
postponed Peter's visit until the next day; he hated to cause any
woman a disappointment. "If it was anybody else I might send him
word to call another night, but you don't know Mr. Grayson; he
isn't the kind of a man you can treat like that. He does me a
great honor to come, anyhow. Just think of his coming to see a boy
like me--and he so--"

"Well, bring him downstairs, then." Her eyes began to flash; she
had tried all the arts she knew--they were not many--but they had
won heretofore. "Mother will take care of him. A good many of the
girls' fathers come for them."

"Bring him downstairs to a dance!" Jack answered with a merry
laugh. "He isn't that kind of an old gentleman, either. Why,
Corinne, you ought to see him! You might as well ask old Bishop
Gooley to lead the german."

Jack's foot was now ready to mount the lower step of the stairs.
Corinne bit her lip.

"You never do anything to please me!" she snapped back. She knew
she was fibbing, but something must be done to check this new form
of independence--and then, now that Garry couldn't come, she
really needed him. "You don't want to come, that's it--" She
facing him now, her little nose high in the air, her cheeks
flaming with anger.

"You must not say that, Corinne," he answered in a slightly
indignant tone.

Corinne drew herself up to her full height--toes included; not
very high, but all she could do--and said in a voice pitched to a
high key, her finger within a few inches of his nose:

"It's true, and I will say it!"

The rustle of silk was heard overhead, and a plump, tightly laced
woman in voluminous furs, her head crowned by a picture hat piled
high with plumes, was making her way down the stairs. Jack looked
up and waved his hand to his aunt, and then stood at mock
attention, like a corporal on guard, one hand raised to salute her
as she passed. The boy, with the thought of Peter coming, was very
happy this afternoon.

"What are you two quarrelling about?" came the voice. Rather a
soft voice with a thread of laziness running through it.

"Jack's too mean for anything, mother. He knows we haven't men
enough without him for a cotillion, now that Garry has dropped
out, and he's been just stupid enough to invite some old man to
come and see him this evening."

The furs and picture hat swept down and on, Jack standing at
attention, hands clasping an imaginary musket his face drawn down
to its severest lines, his cheeks puffed out to make him look the
more solemn. When the wren got "real mad" he would often say she
was the funniest thing alive.

"I'm a pig, I know, aunty" (here Jack completed his salute with a
great flourish), "but Corinne does not really want me, and she
knows it. She only wants to have her own way. They don't dance
cotillions when they come here--at least they didn't last time,
and I don't believe they will to-night. They sit around with each
other in the corners and waltz with the fellows they've picked
out--and it's all arranged between them, and has been for a week--
ever since they heard Corinne was going to give a dance." The boy
spoke with earnestness and a certain tone of conviction in his
voice, although his face was still radiant.

"Well, can't you sit around, too, Jack?" remarked his aunt,
pausing in her onward movement for an instant. "I'm sure there
will be some lovely girls."

"Yes, but they don't want me. I've tried it too often, aunty--
they've all got their own set."

"It's because you don't want to be polite to any of them," snapped
Corinne with a twist of her body, so as to face him again.

"Now, Corinne, that isn't fair; I am never impolite to anybody in
this house, but I'm tired of--"

"Well, Garry isn't tired." This last shot was fired at random.

Again the aunt poured oil: "Come, children, come! Don't let's talk
any more about it. If Jack has made an engagement it can't be
helped, I suppose, but don't spoil your party, my dear. Find
Parkins, Jack, and send him to me. ... Ah, Parkins--if any one
calls say I'll be out until six o'clock."

"Yes, my Lady." Parkins knew on which side his bread was buttered.
She had reproved him at first, but his excuse was that she was so
like his former mistress, Lady Colchester, that he sometimes
forgot himself.

And again "my Lady" swept on, this time out of the door and into
her waiting carriage.





CHAPTER VI




Jack's impatience increased as the hour for Peter's visit
approached. Quarter of nine found him leaning over the banisters
outside his small suite of rooms, peering down between the hand-
rails watching the top of every head that crossed the spacious
hall three flights below--he dare not go down to welcome his
guest, fearing some of the girls, many of whom had already
arrived, would know he was in the house. Fifteen minutes later the
flash of a bald head, glistening in the glare of the lower hall
lantern, told him that the finest old gentleman in the world had
arrived, and on the very minute. Parkins's special instructions,
repeated for the third time, were to bring Mr. Peter Grayson--it
was wonderful what an impressive note was in the boy's voice when
he rolled out the syllables--up at once, surtout, straight-brimmed
hat, overshoes (if he wore any), umbrella and all, and the four
foot-falls--two cat-like and wabbly, as befitted the obsequious
flunky, and two firm and decided, as befitted a grenadier crossing
a bridge--could now be heard mounting the stairs.

"So here you are!" cried Peter, holding out both hands to the
overjoyed boy--"'way up near the sky. One flight less than my own.
Let me get my breath, my boy, before I say another word. No, don't
worry, only Anno Domini--you'll come to it some day. How
delightfully you are settled!"

They had entered the cosey sitting-room and Jack was helping with
his coat; Parkins, with his nose in the air (he had heard his
master's criticism), having already placed his hat on a side table
and the umbrella in the corner.

"Where will you sit--in the big chair by the fire or in this long
straw one?" cried the boy, Peter's coat still in his hand.

"Nowhere yet; let me look around a little." One of Peter's tests
of a man was the things he lived with. "Ah! books?" and he peered
at a row on the mantel. "Macaulay, I see, and here's Poe: Good,
very good--why, certainly it is--Where did you get this Morland?"
and again Peter's glasses went up. "Through that door is your
bedroom--yes, and the bath. Very charming, I must say. You ought
to live very happily here; few young fellows I know have half your
comforts."

Jack had interrupted him to say that the Morland print was one
that he had brought from his father's home, and that the books had
come from the same source, but Peter kept on in his tour around
the room. Suddenly he stopped and looked steadily at a portrait
over the mantel.

"Yes--your father--"

"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
room.

"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
ring.

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
delightful."

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
his face.

"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
will."

"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.

"My father."

"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
a pause.

"Anything else?"

"Yes--the farm."

"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
you?"

"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?"

"Yes."

"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
face.

"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."

"Stock gambling?"

"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,
really.

"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
him.

Jack, suddenly remembering that his guest was standing, tried to
lead him back to his seat by the fire, but Peter would have none
of it.

"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
smile.

"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
stairs.

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
house."

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
charge?

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
cold."

"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.

"Yes--perhaps so."

"And I suppose you are going to take him up and do for him, like
the others."

Peter picked up the poker and made a jab at the fire; then he
answered slowly:

"Well, Major, I can't tell yet--not positively. But he's certainly
worth saving."





CHAPTER VII




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
it.

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
altogether accidental--"Why-who-would-have-thought-of-seeing-you-
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
clients.

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
been done."

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
orders.

"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
incident.

"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.

And Garry!

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
hands now.

"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
him.

"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
Uncle Ephraim--"

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,
Felicia."

"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.





CHAPTER VIII




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
with:

"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
knows.

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
himself.

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
Felicia!

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--"

"--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
full."

"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
when I--"

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
beautiful.

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
like himself.

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
further interrupted.

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.





CHAPTER IX




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
find it.

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
beside her.

"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
beautiful hair.

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."

"Kitty?"

"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
merriment.

"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
positively unbearable."

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,
isn't it?"

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
forget--"

"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
difference?

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.

"Nothing."

"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."

"Yes, perhaps."

"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."





CHAPTER X




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
the street.

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
him, so careful that he should be introduced to this and that
person; and Miss Felicia! What a great lady she was; and yet he
was not a bit afraid of her. What would they all think of him when
the facts of his uncle's crime came to their ears, and they MUST
come sooner or later. What, too, would Peter think of him for
breaking out on his uncle, which he firmly intended to do as soon
as the hour hand reached eleven? Nor would he mince his words.
That an outrage of this kind could be committed on an unsuspecting
man was bad enough, but that it should have taken place in his own
uncle's office, bringing into disrepute his father's and his own
good name, was something he could not tolerate for a moment. This
he intended saying to his uncle in so many plain words; and so
leaving our hero with his soul on fire, his mind bent on
inflammables, explosives, high-pressures--anything in fact that
once inserted under the solid body of the senior Breen would blow
that gentleman into space--we will betake ourselves to his
palatial home. The dinner being an important one, no expense had
been spared.

All day long boys in white aprons had sprung from canvas-covered
wagons, dived in Arthur Breen's kitchen and dived out again after
depositing various eatables, drinkables and cookables--among them
six pair of redheads, two saddles of mutton, besides such uncanny
things as mushrooms, truffles and the like, all of which had been
turned over to the chef, who was expressly engaged for the
occasion, and whose white cap--to quote Parkins--"Gives a hair to
the scullery which reminded him more of 'ome than anything 'e 'ad
seen since 'e left 'is lordship's service."

Upstairs more wonderful things had been done. The table of the
sepulchral dining-room was trans formed into a bed of tulips, the
mantel a parterre of flowers, while the sideboard, its rear packed
with the family silver, was guarded by a row of bottles of various
sizes, shapes and colors; various degrees of cob webbed
shabbiness, too--containing the priceless vintages which the
senior member of the firm of Breen & Co. intended to set before
his friends.

Finally, as the dinner hour approached, all the gas jets were
ablaze; not only the side lights in the main hall, and the
overhead lantern which had shed its rays on Peter's bald head, but
the huge glass chandelier hung in the middle of the satin-
upholstered drawing room, as well as the candelabra on the mantel
with their imitation wax candles and brass wicks--every thing, in
fact, that could add to the brilliancy of the occasion.

All this, despite the orderly way in which the millionaire's house
was run, had developed a certain nervous anxiety in the host
himself, the effect of which had not yet worn off, although but a
few minutes would elapse before the arrival of the guests. This
was apparent in the rise and fall of Breen's heels, as he seesawed
back and forth on the hearth-rug in the satin-lined drawing-room,
with his coattails spread to the life less grate, and from the way
he glanced nervously at the mirror to see that his cravat was
properly tied and that his collar did not ride up in the back.

The only calm person in the house was the ex-widow. With the eyes
of a major-general sweeping the field on the eve of an important
battle, she had taken in the disposition of the furniture, the
hang of the curtains and the placing of the cushions and lesser
comforts. She had also arranged with her own hands the masses of
narcissus and jonquils on the mantels, and had selected the exact
shade of yellow tulips which centred the dining-room table. It was
to be a "Gold-Mine Dinner," so Arthur had told her, "and
everything must be in harmony."

Then seeing Parkins, who had entered unexpectedly and caught her
in the act (it is bad form for a hostess to arrange flowers in
some houses--the butler does that), she asked in an indifferent
tone: "And how many are we to have for dinner, Parkins?" She knew,
of course, having spent an hour over a diagram placing the guests.

"Fourteen, my lady."

"Fourteen!--really, quite a small affair." And with the air of one
accustomed all her life to banquets in palaces of state, she swept
out of the room.

The only time she betrayed herself was just before the arrival of
the guests, when her mind reverted to her daughter.

"The Portmans are giving a ball next week, Arthur, and I want
Corinne to go. Are you sure he is coming?"

"Don't worry, Kitty, Portman's coming; and so are the Colonel, and
Crossbin, and Hodges, and the two Chicago directors, and Mason,
and a lot more. Everybody's coming, I tell you. If Mukton Lode
doesn't sit up and take notice with a new lease of life after
tonight, I'm a Dutchman. Run, there's the bell."

The merciful Scribe will spare the reader the details incident
upon the arrival of the several guests. These dinners are all
alike: the announcements by the butler; the passing of the
cocktails on a wine tray; the standing around until the last man
has entered the drawing-room; the perfunctory talk--the men who
have met before hobnobbing instantly with each other, the host
bearing the brunt of the strangers; the saunter into the dining-
room, the reading of cards, and the "Here you are, Mr. Portman,
right alongside Mr. Hodges. And Crossbin, you are down there
somewhere"; the spreading of napkins and squaring of everybody's
elbow as each man drops into his seat.

Neither will the reader be told of the various dishes or their
garnishings. These pages have so far been filled with little else
beside eating and drinking, and with reason, too, for have not all
the great things in life been begun over some tea-table, carried
on at a luncheon, and completed between the soup and the cordials?
Kings, diplomats and statesmen have long since agreed that for
baiting a trap there is nothing like a soup, an entree and a
roast, the whole moistened by a flagon of honest wine. The bait
varies when the financier or promoter sets out to catch a
capitalist, just as it does when one sets out to catch a mouse,
and yet the two mammals are much alike--timid, one foot at a time,
nosing about to find out if any of his friends have had a nibble;
scared at the least disturbing echo--then the fat, toothsome
cheese looms up (Breen's Madeira this time), and in they go.

But if fuller description of this special bait be omitted, there
is no reason why that of the baiters and the baited should be left
out of the narrative.

Old Colonel Purviance, of the Chesapeake Club, for one--a big-
paunched man who always wore, summer and winter, a reasonably
white waistcoat and a sleazy necktie; swore in a loud voice and
dropped his g's when he talked. "Bit 'em off," his friends said,
as he did the end of his cigars. He had, in honor of the occasion
so contrived that his black coat and trousers matched this time,
while his shoestring tie had been replaced by a white cravat. But
the waistcoat was of the old pattern and the top button loose, as
usual. The Colonel earned his living--and a very comfortable one
it was--by promoting various enterprises--some of them rather
shady. He had also a gift for both starting and maintaining a
boom. Most of the Mukton stock owned by the Southern contingent
had been floated by him. Another of his accomplishments was his
ability to label correctly, with his eyes shut, any bottle of
Madeira from anybody's cellar, and to his credit, be it said, he
never lied about the quality, be it good, bad or abominable.

Next to him sat Mason, from Chicago--a Westerner who had made his
money in a sudden rise in real estate, and who had moved to New
York to spend it: an out-spoken, common-sense, plain man, with
yellow eyebrows, yellow head partly bald, and his red face blue
specked with powder marks due to a premature blast in his mining
days. Mason couldn't tell the best Tiernan Madeira from corner-
grocery sherry, and preferred whiskey at any and all hours--and
what was more, never assumed for one instant that he could.

Then came Hodges, the immaculately dressed epicure--a pale, clean-
shaven, eye-glassed, sterilized kind of a man with a long neck and
skinny fingers, who boasted of having twenty-one different clarets
stored away under his sidewalk which were served to ordinary
guests, and five special vintages which he kept under lock and
key, and which were only uncorked for the elect, and who
invariably munched an olive before sampling the next wine. Then
followed such lesser lights, as Nixon, Leslie and the other
guests.

A most exacting group of bons vivants, these. The host had
realized it and had brought out his best. Most of it, to be sure,
had come from Beaver Street, something "rather dry, with an
excellent bouquet," the crafty salesman with gimlet eyes had said;
but, then, most of the old Madeira does come from Beaver Street,
except Portman's, who has a fellow with a nose and a palate
hunting the auction rooms for that particular Sunset of 1834 which
had lain in old Mr. Grinnells cellar for twenty-two years; and
that other of 1839, once possessed by Colonel Purviance, a wine
which had so sharpened the Colonel's taste that he was always
uncomfortable when dining outside of his club or away from the
tables of one or two experts like himself.

These, then, were the palates to which Breen catered. Back of them
lay their good-will and good feeling; still back of them, again,
their bank accounts and--another scoop in Mukton! Most of the
guests had had a hand in the last deal and they were ready to
share in the next. Although this particular dinner was supposed to
be a celebration of the late victory, two others, equally
elaborate, had preceded it; both Crossbin and Hodges having
entertained nearly this same group of men at their own tables.
That Breen, with his reputation for old Madeira and his supposed
acquaintance with the intricacies of a Maryland kitchen, would
outclass them both, had been whispered a dozen times since the
receipt of his invitation, and he knew it. Hence the alert boy,
the chef in the white cap, and hence the seesawing on the hearth-
rug.

"Like it, Crossbin?" asked Breen.

Parkins had just passed down the table with a dust covered bottle
which he handled with the care of a collector fingering a
peachblow vase. The precious fluid had been poured into that
gentleman's glass and its contents were now within an inch of his
nose.

The moment was too grave for instant reply; Mr. Crossbin was
allowing the aroma to mount to the innermost recesses of his
nostrils. It had only been a few years since he had performed this
same trick with a gourd suspended from a nail in his father's back
kitchen, overlooking a field of growing corn; but that fact was
not public property--not here in New York.

"Yes--smooth, and with something of the hills in it. Chateau
Lamont, is it not, of '61?" It was Chateau of something-or-other,
and of some year, but Breen was too wise to correct him. He
supposed it was Chateau Lafitte--that is, he had instructed
Parkins to serve that particular wine and vintage.

"Either '61 or '63," replied Breen with the air of positive
certainty. (How that boy in the white apron, who had watched the
boss paste on the labels, would have laughed had he been under the
table.)

Further down the cloth Hodges, the epicure, was giving his views
as to the proper way of serving truffles. A dish had just passed,
with an underpinning of crust. Hodges's early life had qualified
him as an expert in cooking, as well as in wines: Ten years in a
country store swapping sugar for sausages and tea for butter and
eggs; five more clerk in a Broadway cloth house, with varied
boarding-house experiences (boiled mutton twice a week, with
pudding on Sundays); three years junior partner, with a room over
Delmonico's; then a rich wife and a directorship in a bank (his
father-in-law was the heaviest depositor); next, one year in
Europe and home, as vice-president, and at the present writing
president of one of the certify-as-early-as-ten-o' clock-in-the-
morning kind of banks, at which Peter would so often laugh. With
these experiences there came the usual blooming and expanding--all
the earlier life for gotten, really ignored. Soon the food of the
country became unbearable. Even the canvasbacks must feed on a
certain kind of wild celery; the oysters be dredged from a
particular cove, and the terrapin drawn from their beds with the
Hodges' coat of arms cut in their backs before they would be
allowed a place on the ex-clerk's table.

It is no wonder, then, that everybody listened when the
distinguished epicure launched out on the proper way to both
acquire and serve so rare and toothsome a morsel as a truffle.

"Mine come by every steamer," Hodges asserted in a positive tone--
not to anybody in particular, but with a sweep of the table to
attract enough listeners to make it worthwhile for him to proceed.
"My man is aboard before the gang-plank is secure--gets my package
from the chief steward and is at my house with the truffles within
an hour. Then I at once take proper care of them. That is why my
truffles have that peculiar flavor you spoke of, Mr. Portman, when
you last dined at my house. You remember, don't you?"

Portman nodded. He did not remember--not the truffles. He recalled
some white port--but that was because he had bought the balance of
the lot himself.

"Where do they come from?" inquired Mason, the man from Chicago.
He wanted to know and wasn't afraid to ask.

"All through France. Mine are rooted near a little village in the
Province of Perigord."

"What roots'em?"

"Hogs--trained hogs. You are familiar, of course, with the way
they are secured?"

Mason--plain man as he was--wasn't familiar with anything remotely
connected with the coralling of truffles, and said so. Hodges
talked on, his eye resting first on one and then another of the
guests, his voice increasing in volume whenever a fresh listener
craned his neck, as if the information was directed to him alone--
a trick of Hodges' when he wanted an audience.

"And now a word of caution," he continued; "some thing that most
of you may not know--always root on a rainy day--sunshine spoils
their flavor--makes them tough and leathery."

"Kind of hog got anything to do with the taste?" asked Mason in
all sincerity. He was learning New York ways--a new lesson each
day, and intended to keep on, but not by keeping his mouth shut.

"Nothing whatever," replied Hodges. "They must never be allowed to
bite them, of course. You can wound a truffle as you can
everything else."

Mason looked off into space and the Colonel bent his ear.
Purviance's diet had been largely drawn from his beloved
Chesapeake, and "dug-up dead things"--as he called the subject
under discussion--didn't interest him. He wanted to laugh--came
near it--then he suddenly remembered how important a man Hodges
might be and how necessary it was to give him air space in which
to float his pet balloons and so keep him well satisfied with
himself.

Mason, the Chicago man, had no such scruples. He had twice as much
money as Hodges, four times his digestion and ten times his
commonsense.

"Send that dish back here, Breen," Mason cried out in a clear
voice--so loud that Parkins, winged by the shot, retraced his
steps. "I want to see what Mr. Hodges is talking about. Never saw
a truffle that I know of." Here he turned the bits of raw rubber
over with his fork. "No. Take it away. Guess I'll pass. Hog saw it
first; he can have it."

Hodges's face flushed, then he joined in the laugh. The Chicago
man was too valuable a would-be subscriber to quarrel with. And,
then, how impossible to expect a person brought up as Mason had
been to understand the ordinary refinements of civilization.

"Rough diamond, Mason--Good fellow. Backbone of our country,"
Hodges whispered to the Colonel, who was sore from the strain of
repressed hilarity. "A little coarse now and then--but that comes
of his early life, no doubt."

Hodges waited his chance and again launched out; this time it was
upon the various kinds of wines his cellar contained--their cost--
who had approved of them--how impossible it was to duplicate some
of them, especially some Johannesburg of '74.

"Forty-two dollars a bottle--not pressed in the ordinary way--just
the weight of the grapes in the basket in which they are gathered
in the vineyard, and what naturally drips through is caught and
put aside," etc.

Breen winced. First his truffles were criticised, and now his pet
Johannesburg that Parkins was pouring into special glasses--cooled
to an exact temperature--part of a case, he explained to Nixon,
who sat on his right, that Count Mosenheim had sent to a friend
here. Something must be done to head Hodges off or there was no
telling what might happen. The Madeira was the thing. He knew that
was all right, for Purviance had found it in Baltimore--part of a
private cellar belonging some time in the past to either the Swan
or Thomas families--he could not remember which.

The redheads were now in order, with squares of fried hominy, and
for the moment Hodges held his peace. This was Nixon's
opportunity, and he made the most of it. He had been born on the
eastern shore of Maryland and was brought up on canvasbacks, soft-
shell crabs and terrapin--not to mention clams and sheepshead.
Nixon therefore launched out on the habits of the sacred bird--the
crimes committed by the swivel-gun in the hands of the marketmen,
the consequent scarcity of the game and the near approach of the
time when the only rare specimens would be found in the glass
cases of the museums, ending his talk with a graphic description
of the great wooden platters of boiling-hot terrapin which were
served to passengers crossing to Norfolk in the old days. The
servants would split off the hot shell--this was turned top side
down, used as a dish and filled with butter, pepper and salt, into
which toothsome bits of the reptile, torn out by the guests'
forks, were dipped before being eaten.

The talk now caromed from birds, reptiles and fish to guns and
tackles, and then to the sportsmen who used them, and then to the
millionaires who owned the largest shares in the ducking clubs,
and so on to the stock of the same, and finally to the one subject
of the evening--the one uppermost in everybody's thoughts which so
far had not been touched upon--the Mukton Lode. There was no
question about the proper mechanism of the traps--the directors
were attending to that; the quality of the bait, too, seemed all
that could be desired--that was Breen's part. How many mice were
nosing about was the question, and of the number how many would be
inside when the spring snapped?

The Colonel, after a nod of his head and a reassuring glance from
his host, took full charge of the field, soaring away with minute
accounts of the last inspection of the mine. He told how the
"tailings" at Mukton City had panned out 30 per cent, to the ton--
with two hundred thousand tons in the dump thrown away until the
new smelter was started and they could get rid of the sulphides;
of what Aetna Cobb's Crest had done and Beals Hollow and Morgan
Creek--all on the same ridge, and was about launching out on the
future value of Mukton Lode when Mason broke the silence by asking
if any one present had heard of a mine somewhere in Nevada which
an Englishman had bought and which had panned out $1,200 to the
ton the first week and not a cent to the square mile ever
afterward? The Chicago man was the most important mouse of the
lot, and the tone of his voice and his way of speaking seemed
fraught with a purpose.

Breen leaned forward in rapt attention, and even Hodges and
Portman (both of them were loaded to the scuppers with Mukton)
stopped talking.

"Slickest game I ever heard of," continued Mason. "Two men came
into town--two poor prospectors, remember--ran across the
Englishman at the hotel--told the story of their claim: "Take it
or leave it after you look it over," they said. Didn't want but
sixty thousand for it; that would give them thirty thousand
apiece, after which they'd quit and live on a ranch. No, they
wouldn't go with him to inspect the mine; there was the map. He
couldn't miss it; man at the hotel would drive him out there.
There was, of course, a foot of snow on the ground, which was
frozen hard, but they had provided for that and had cut a lot of
cord-wood, intending to stay till spring. The Englishman could
have the wood to thaw out the ground.

"The Englishman went and found everything as the two prospectors
had said; thawed out the soil in half a dozen places; scooped up
the dirt and every shovelful panned out about twelve hundred to
the ton. Then he came back and paid the money; that was the last
of it. Began to dig again in the spring--and not a trace of
anything."

"What was the matter?" asked Breen. So far his interest in mines
had been centred on the stock.

"Oh, the same old swindle," said Mason, looking around the table,
a grim smile on his face--"only in a different way."

"Was it salted?" called out a man from the lower end of the table.

"Yes," replied Mason; "not the mine, but the cord-wood. The two
poor prospectors had bored auger holes in each stick, stuffed 'em
full of gold dust and plugged the openings. It was the ashes that
panned out $1,200 to the ton."

Mason was roaring, as were one or two about him. Portman looked
grave, and so did Breen. Nothing of that kind had ever soiled
their hands; everything with them was open and above-board. They
might start a rumor that the Lode had petered out, throw an
avalanche of stock on the market, knock it down ten points,
freezing out the helpless (poor Gilbert had been one of them), buy
in what was offered and then declare an extra dividend, sending
the stock skyward, but anything so low as--"Oh, very
reprehensible--scandalous in fact."

Hodges was so moved by the incident that he asked Breen if he
would not bring back that Madeira (it had been served now in the
pipe-stem glasses which had been crossed in finger-bowls). This he
sipped slowly and thoughtfully, as if the enormity of the crime
had quite appalled him. Mason was no longer a "rough diamond," but
an example of what a "Western training will sometimes do for a
man," he whispered under his breath to Crossbin.

With the departure of the last guest--one or two of them were a
little unsteady; not Mason, we may be sure--Jack, who had come
home and was waiting upstairs in his room for the feast to be
over, squared his shoulders, threw up his chin and, like many
another crusader bent on straightening the affairs of the world,
started out to confront his uncle. His visor was down, his lance
in rest, his banner unfurled, the scarf of the blessed damosel
tied in double bow-knot around his trusty right arm. Both knight
and maid were unconscious of the scarf, and yet if the truth be
told it was Ruth's eyes that had swung him into battle. Now he was
ready to fight; to renounce the comforts of life and live on a
crust rather than be party to the crimes that were being daily
committed under his very eyes!

His uncle was in the library, having just bowed out his last
guest, when the boy strode in. About him were squatty little
tables holding the remnants of the aftermath of the feast--siphons
and decanters and the sample boxes of cigars--full to the lid when
Parkins first passed them (why fresh cigars out of a full box
should have a better flavor than the same cigars from a half-
empty one has always been a mystery to the Scribe).

That the dinner had been a success gastronomically, socially and
financially, was apparent from the beatific boozy smile that
pervaded Breen's face as he lay back in his easy-chair. To disturb
a reverie of this kind was as bad as riding rough-shod over some
good father digesting his first meal after Lent, but the boy's
purpose was too lofty to be blunted by any such considerations.
Into the arena went his glove and out rang his challenge.

"What I have got to say to you, Uncle Arthur, breaks my heart, but
you have got to listen to me! I have waited until they were all
gone to tell you."

Breen laid his glass on the table and straightened himself in his
chair. His brain was reeling from the wine he had taken and his
hand unsteady, but he still had control of his arms and legs.

"Well, out with it! What's it all about, Jack?"

"I heard this afternoon that my friend Gilbert was ruined in our
office. The presence of these men to-night makes me believe it to
be true. If it is true, I want to tell you that I'll never enter
the office again as long as I live!"

Breen's eyes flashed:

"You'll never enter! ... What the devil is the matter with you,
Jack!--are you drunk or crazy?"

"Neither! And I want to tell you, sir, too, that I won't be
pointed out as having anything to do with such a swindling concern
as the Mukton Lode Company. You've stopped the work on Gilbert's
house--Mr., Morris told me so--you've--"

The older man sprang from his seat and lunged toward the boy.

"Stop it!" he cried. "Now--quick!"

"Yes--and you've just given a dinner to the very men who helped
steal his money, and they sat here and laughed about it! I heard
them as I came in!" The boy's tears were choking him now.

"Didn't I tell you to stop, you idiot!" His fist was within an
inch of Jack's nose: "Do you want me to knock your head off? What
the hell is it your business who I invite to dinner--and what do
you know about Mukton Lode? Now you go to bed, and damn quick,
too! Parkins, put out the lights!"

And so ended the great crusade with our knight unhorsed and
floundering in the dust. Routed by the powers of darkness, like
many another gallant youth in the old chivalric days, his ideals
laughed at, his reforms flouted, his protests ignored--and this,
too, before he could fairly draw his sword or couch his lance.





CHAPTER XI




That Jack hardly closed his eyes that night, and that the first
thing he did after opening them the next morning was to fly to
Peter for comfort and advice, goes without saying. Even a
sensible, well-balanced young man--and our Jack, to the Scribe's
great regret, is none of these--would have done this with his skin
still smarting from an older man's verbal scorching--especially a
man like his uncle, provided, of course, he had a friend like
Peter within reach. How much more reasonable, therefore, to
conclude that a man so quixotic as our young hero would seek
similar relief.

As to the correctness of the details of this verbal scorching, so
minutely described in the preceding chapter, should the reader ask
how it is possible for the Scribe to set down in exact order the
goings-on around a dinner-table to which he was not invited, as
well as the particulars of a family row where only two persons
participated--neither of whom was himself--and this, too, in the
dead of night, with the outside doors locked and the shades and
curtains drawn--he must plead guilty without leaving the
prisoner's dock.

And yet he asks in all humility--is the play not enough?--or must
he lift the back-drop and bring into view the net-work of pulleys
and lines, the tanks of moonlight gas and fake properties of
papier-mache that produce the illusion? As a compromise would it
not be the better way after this for him to play the Harlequin,
popping in and out at the unexpected moment, helping the plot here
and there by a gesture, a whack, or a pirouette; hobnobbing with
Peter or Miss Felicia, and their friends; listening to Jack's and
Ruth's talk, or following them at a distance, whenever his
presence might embarrass either them or the comedy?

This being agreed upon, we will leave our hero this bright
morning--the one succeeding the row with his uncle--at the door of
Peter's bank, confident that Jack can take care of himself.

And the confidence is not misplaced. Only once did the boy's
glance waver, and that was when his eyes sought the window facing
Peter's desk. Some egg other than Peter's was nesting on the open
ledger spread out on the Receiving Teller's desk--not an ostrich
egg of a head at all, but an evenly parted, well-combed, well-
slicked brown wig, covering the careful pate of one of the other
clerks who, in the goodness of his heart, was filling Peter's
place for the day.

Everybody being busy--too busy to answer questions outside of
payments and deposits--Patrick, the porter, must necessarily
conduct the negotiations.

"No, sur; he's not down to-day--" was the ever-watchful Patrick's
answer to Jack's anxious inquiry. "His sister's come from the
country and he takes a day off now and thin when she's here.
You'll find him up at his place in Fifteenth Street, I'm thinkin."

Jack bit his lip. Here was another complication. Not to find Peter
at the Bank meant a visit to his rooms--on his holiday, too--and
when he doubtless wished to be alone with Miss Felicia. And yet
how could he wait a moment longer? He himself had sent word to the
office of Breen & Co. that he would not be there that day--a thing
he had never done before--nor did he intend to go on the morrow--
not until he knew where he stood. While his uncle had grossly
misunderstood him, and, for that matter, grossly insulted him, he
had neither admitted nor denied the outrage on Gilbert.

When he did--this question had only now begun to loom up--where
would he go and what would he do? There was but little money due
him at the office--and none would come--until the next month's
pay--hardly enough, in any event, to take him back to his
Maryland home, even if that refuge were still open to him. What
then would become of him? Peter was, in fact, his main and only
reliance. Peter he must see, and at once.

Not that he wavered or grew faint at heart when he thought of his
defeat the night before. He was only thinking of his exit and the
way to make it. "Always take your leave like a gentleman," was one
of his father's maxims. This he would try his best to accomplish.

Mrs. McGuffey, in white cap and snow-white apron, now that Miss
Felicia had arrived, was the medium of communication this time:

"Indeed, they are both in--this way, sir, and let me have your hat
and coat."

It was a delightful party that greeted the boy. Peter was standing
on the hearth-rug with his back to the fire, his coat-tails hooked
over his wrists. Miss Felicia sat by a small table pretending to
sew. Holker Morris was swallowed up in one of Peter's big easy-
chairs, only the top of his distinguished head visible, while a
little chub of a man, gray-haired, spectacled and plainly dressed,
was seated behind him, the two talking in an undertone.

"Why, Breen!--why, my dear boy!--And you have a holiday, too? How
did you know I was home?" cried Peter, extending both hands in the
joy of his greeting.

"I stopped at the Bank, sir."

"Did you?--and who told you?"

"The janitor, I suppose."

"Oh, the good Patrick! Well, well! Holker, you remember young
Breen."

Holker did remember, for a wonder, and extended one hand to prove
it, and Felicia--but the boy was already bending over her, all his
respect and admiration in his eyes. The little chub of a man was
now on his feet, standing in an attentive attitude, ready to take
his cue from Peter.

"And now, my boy, turn this way, and let me introduce you to my
very dear friend, Mr. Isaac Cohen."

A pudgy hand was thrust out and the spectacled little man, his
eyes on the boy, said he was glad to know any friend of Mr.
Grayson, and resuming his seat continued his conversation in still
lower tones with the great architect.

Jack stood irresolute for an instant, not knowing whether to make
some excuse for his evidently inopportune visit and return later,
or to keep his seat until the others had gone. Miss Felicia, who
had not taken her gaze from the lad since he entered the room,
called him to her side.

"Now, tell me what you are all doing at home, and how your dear
aunt is, and--Miss Corinne, isn't it? And that very bright young
fellow who came with you at Ruth's tea?"

It was the last subject that Jack wanted to discuss, but he
stumbled through it as best he could, and ended in hoping, in a
halting tone, that Miss MacFarlane was well.

"Ruth! Oh, she is a darling! Didn't you think so?"

Jack blushed to the roots of his hair, but Miss Felicia's all-
comprehensive glance never wavered. This was the young man whom
Ruth had been mysterious about. She intended to know how far the
affair had gone, and it would have been useless, she knew, for
Jack to try to deceive her.

"All our Southern girls are lovely," he answered in all sincerity.

"And you like them better than the New York belles?"

"I don't know any."

"Then that means that you do."

"Do what?"

"Do like them better."

The boy thought for a moment.

"Yes, and Miss MacFarlane best of all; she is so--so--" the boy
faltered--"so sincere, and just the kind of girl you would trust
with anything. Why, I told her all about myself before I'd known
her half an hour."

"Yes, she was greatly pleased." The match-making instinct was
always uppermost in Miss Felicia's moves, and then, again, this
young man had possibilities, his uncle being rich and he being his
only nephew.

"Oh, then she told you!" The boy's heart gave a great leap.
Perhaps, after all, Ruth had not heard--at all events she did not
despise him.

"No, I told her myself. The only thing that seemed to worry Ruth
was that you had not told her enough. If I remember right, she
said you were very shy."

"And she did not say anything about--" Jack stopped. He had not
intended to put the question quite in this way, although he was
still in doubt. Give this keen-eyed, white-haired old lady but an
inkling of what was uppermost in his mind and he knew she would
have its every detail.

"About what?" Here Miss Felicia's eyes were suddenly diverted, and
became fastened on the short figure of Mr. Isaac Cohen, who had
risen to his feet and stood talking in the most confidential way
with Morris--Peter listening intently. Such phrases as "Better
make the columns of marble," from Morris, and, "Well, I will talk
it over with the Rabbi," from the tailor, reached his ears.
Further relief came when Miss Felicia rose from her chair with her
hand extended to Morris, who was already taking leave of Peter and
all danger was passed when host and hostess conducted the tailor
and the architect to the door; Morris bending over Miss Felicia's
hand and kissing it with the air of a courtier suddenly aroused by
the appearance of royalty (he had been completely immersed in
Cohen's talk), and the tailor bowing to her on his way out without
even so much as touching the tips of her fingers.

"There, my dear Breen," said Peter, when he had adjusted his
cravat before the glass and brushed a few stray hairs over his
temples, "that's a man it would do you an immense amount of good
to know; the kind of a man you call worthwhile. Not only does he
speak three languages, Hebrew being one of them, but he can talk
on any subject from Greek temples to the raising of violets.
Morris thinks the world of him--So do I."

"Yes, I heard him say something about columns."

"Oh!--then you overheard! Yes, they are for the new synagogue that
Morris is building. Cohen is chairman of the committee."

"And he is the banker, too, I suppose?" rejoined Jack, in a tone
which showed his lack of interest in both man and subject. It was
Peter's ear he wanted, and at once.

The old man's eyes twinkled: "Banker!--not a bit of it. He's a
tailor, my dear boy--a most delightful gentleman tailor, who works
in the basement below us and who only yesterday pressed the coat I
have on." Here Peter surveyed himself with a comprehensive glance.
"All the respectable people in New York are not money mad." Then,
seeing Jack's look of astonishment over the announcement, he laid
his hand on the boy's shoulder and said with a twinkle of his eye
and a little laugh: "Only one tailor--not nine--my boy, was
required to make Mr. Cohen a man. And now about yourself. Why are
you not at work? Old fellows like me once in a while have a
holiday--but young fellows! Come!--What is it brings you here
during business hours? Anything I can help you in?--anything at
home?" and Peter's eyes bored holes in the boy's brain.

Jack glanced at Miss Felicia, who was arranging the roses Morris
had brought her, and then said in a half whisper: "I have had a
row with my uncle, sir. Maybe I had better come some other day,
when--"

"No--out with it! Row with your uncle, eh? Rows with one's uncles
are too commonplace to get mysterious over, and, then, we have no
secrets. Ten chances to one I shall tell Felicia every word you
say after you've gone, so she might as well hear it at first-
hand. Felicia, this young fellow is so thin-skinned he is afraid
you will laugh at him."

"Oh, he knows better. I have just been telling him how charming he
must be to have won Miss MacFarlane's good opinion," rejoined his
sister as she moved her work-basket nearer her elbow.

And then, with mind at rest, now that he was sure Ruth had not
heard, and with eyes again blazing as his thoughts dwelt upon the
outrage, he poured out his story, Miss Felicia listening intently,
a curious expression on her face, Peter grave and silent, his gaze
now on the boy, now on the hearth-rug on which he stood. Only once
did a flash illumine his countenance; that was when Jack reached
that part of his narrative which told of the denunciation he had
flung in his uncle's face concerning the methods by which poor
Gilbert had been ruined.

"And you dared tell your uncle that, you young firebrand?"

"Yes, Mr. Grayson, I had to; what else could I say? Don't you
think it cruel to cheat like that?"

"And what did he say?" asked Peter.

"He would not listen--he swore at me--told me--well, he ordered
me out of the room and had the lights put out."

"And it served you right, you young dog! Well, upon my word! Here
you are without a dollar in the world except what your uncle pays
you, and you fly off at a tangent and insult him in his own house
--and you his guest, remember. Well! Well! What are we coming to?
Felicia, did you ever hear of such a performance?"

Miss Felicia made no answer. She knew from her brother's tone that
there was not a drop of bitterness in any one of the words that
fell from his lips; she had heard him talk that way dozens of
times before, when he was casting about for some means of letting
the culprit down the easier. She even detected a slight wrinkling
of the corners of his mouth as the denunciation rolled out.

Not so Jack: To him the end of the world had come. Peter was his
last resort--that one so good and so clear-headed had not flared
up at once over the villainy was the severest blow of all. Perhaps
he WAS a firebrand; perhaps, after all, it was none of his
business; perhaps--perhaps--now that Ruth would not blame him,
knew nothing, in fact, of the disgraceful episode, it would have
been better for him to have ignored the whole matter and taken
Garry's advice.

"Then I have done wrong again, Mr. Grayson?" he said at last, in
so pleading a tone that even Miss Felicia's reserve was on the
point of giving away.

"Yes, in the manner in which you acted. Your father wouldn't have
lost his temper and called people names. Gentlemen, my dear boy,
don't do that sort of thing. They make up their minds about what
they want to do and then do it quietly, and, let me say, with a
certain amount of courtesy."

"Then, what must I do?" All the fight was out of the lad now.

"Why, go back to your desk in the office and your very delightful
suite of rooms at your uncle's. Tell him you are sorry you let
your feelings get the best of you; then, when you have entirely
quieted down, you and I will put our heads together and see what
can be done to improve matters. And that, let me tell you, my dear
boy, is going to be rather a difficult thing, for you see you are
rather particular as to what you should and should not do to earn
your living." Peter's wrinkles had now crept up his cheeks and
were playing hide and seek with the twinkles in his eyes. "Of
course any kind of healthy work--such, for instance, as hauling a
chain through a swamp, carrying a level, prospecting for oil, or
copper, or gold--all very respectable occupations for some men--
are quite impossible in your case. But we will think it out and
find something easier--something that won't soil your hands, and--"

"Please don't, Mr. Grayson," interrupted Jack. The boy had begun
to see through the raillery now. "I will do anything you want me
to do."

Peter burst into a laugh and grabbed him by both shoulders: "Of
course, my dear boy, you will do anything except what you believe
to be wrong. That's right--right as can be; nobody wants you to do
any different, and--"

The opening of a door leading into the hall caused Peter to stop
in his harangue and turn his head. Mrs. McGuffey was ushering in a
young woman whose radiant face was like a burst of sunshine. Peter
strained his eyes and then sprang forward:

"Why, Ruth!"

There was no doubt about it! That young woman, her cheeks like two
June peonies, her eyes dancing, the daintiest and prettiest hat in
the world on her head, was already half across the room and close
to Peter's rug before Jack could even realize that he and she were
breathing the same air.

"Oh! I just could not wait a minute longer!" she cried in a joyous
tone. "I had such a good time yesterday, dear aunt Felicia, and--
Why!--it is you, Mr. Breen, and have you come to tell aunty the
same thing? Wasn't it lovely?"

Then Jack said that it was lovely, and that he hadn't come for any
such purpose--then that he had--and then Peter patted her hand and
told her she was the prettiest thing he had ever seen in all his
life, and that he was going to throw overboard all his other
sweethearts at once and cleave to her alone; and Miss Felicia
vowed that she was the life of the party; and Jack devoured her
with his eyes, his heart thumping away at high pressure; and so
the moments fled until the blithesome young girl, saying she had
not a minute to spare, as she had to meet her father, who would
not wait, readjusted her wraps, kissed Miss Felicia on both
cheeks, sent another flying through the air toward Peter from the
tips of her fingers, and with Jack as escort--he also had to see a
friend who would not wait a minute--danced out of the room and so
on down to the street.

The Scribe will not follow them very far in their walk uptown.
Both were very happy, Jack because the scandal he had been
dreading, since he had last looked into her eyes, had escaped her
ears, and Ruth because of all the young men she had met in her
brief sojourn in New York this young Mr. Breen treated her with
most consideration.

While the two were making their way through the crowded streets,
Jack helping her over the crossings, picking out the drier spots
for her dainty feet to step upon, shielding her from the polluting
touch of the passing throng, Miss Felicia had resumed her sewing
--it was a bit of lace that needed a stitch here and there--and
Peter, dragging a chair before the fire, had thrown himself into
its depths, his long, thin white fingers open fan-like to its
blaze.

"You are just wasting your time, Peter, over that young man," Miss
Felicia said at last, snipping the end of a thread with her
scissors. "Better buy him a guitar with a broad blue ribbon and
start him off troubadouring, or, better still, put him into a suit
of tin armor and give him a lance. He doesn't belong to this
world. It's just as well Ruth did not hear that rigmarole.
Charming manners, I admit--lovely, sitting on a cushion looking up
into some young girl's eyes, but he will never make his way here
with those notions. Why he should want to anger his uncle, who is
certainly most kind to him, is past finding out. He's stupid,
that's what he is--just stupid!"--to break with your bread and
butter and to defy those who could be of service to you being an
unpardonable sin with Miss Felicia. No, he would not do at all for
Ruth.

Peter settled himself deeper in his chair and studied the cheery
blaze between his outspread fingers.

"That's the very thing will save him, Felicia."

"What--his manners?"

"No--his adorable stupidity. I grant you he's fighting windmills,
but, then, my dear, don't forget that he's FIGHTING--that's
something."

"But they are only windmills, and, more extraordinary still, this
one is grinding corn to keep him from starving," and she folded up
her sewing preparatory to leaving the room.

Peter's fingers closed tight: "I'm not so sure of that," he
answered gravely.

Miss Felicia had risen from her seat and was now bending over the
back of his chair, her spare sharp elbows resting on its edge, her
two hands clasping his cheeks.

"And are you really going to add this stupid boy to your string,
you goose of a Peter?" she asked in a bantering tone, as her
fingers caressed his temples. "Don't forget Mosenthal and little
Perkins, and the waiter you brought home and fed for a week, and
sent away in your best overcoat, which he pawned the next day; or
the two boys at college. Aren't you ever going to learn?" and she
leaned forward and kissed the top of his bald head.

Peter's only reply was to reach up and smooth her jewelled fingers
with his own. He remembered them all; there was an excuse, of
course, he reminded her, for his action in each and every case.
But for him Mosenthal--really a great violinist--would have
starved, little Perkins would have been sent to the reformatory,
and the waiter to the dogs. That none of them, except the two
college boys, had ever thanked him for his assistance--a fact well
known to Miss Felicia--never once crossed his mind--wouldn't have
made any difference if it had.

"But this young Breen is worth saving, Felicia," he answered at
last.

"From what--the penitentiary?" she laughed--this time with a
slight note of anger in her voice.

"No, you foolish thing--much worse."

"From what, then?"

"From himself."

Long after his sister had left the room Peter kept his seat by the
fire, his eyes gazing into the slumbering coals. His holiday had
been a happy one until Jack's entrance: Morris had come to an
early breakfast and had then run down and dragged up Cohen so that
he could talk with him in comfort and away from the smell of the
tailor's goose and the noise of the opening and shutting of the
shop door; Miss Felicia had summoned all her good humor and
patience (she did not always approve of Peter's acquaintances--the
little tailor being one), and had received Cohen as she would have
done a savant from another country--one whose personal appearance
belied his intellect but who on no account must be made aware of
that fact, and Peter himself had spent the hour before and after
breakfast--especially the hour after, when the Bank always claimed
him--in pulling out and putting back one book after another from
the shelves of his small library, reading a page here and a line
there, the lights and shadows that crossed his eager, absorbed
face, an index of his enjoyment.

All this had been spoiled by a wild, untamed colt of a boy whom he
could not help liking in spite of his peculiarities.

And yet, was his sister not right? Why bother himself any more
about a man so explosive and so tactless--and he WAS a man, so
far as years and stature went, who, no matter what he might
attempt for his advancement, would as surely topple it over as lie
would a house of cards. That the boy's ideals were high, and his
sincerity beyond question, was true, but what use would these
qualities be to him if he lacked the common-sense to put them
into practice?

All this he told to the fire--first to one little heap of coals--
then another--snuggling together--and then to the big back-log
scarred all over in its fight to keep everybody warm and happy.

Suddenly his round, glistening head ceased bobbing back and forth;
his lips, which had talked incessantly without a sound falling
from them, straightened; his gesticulating fingers tightened into
a hard knot and the old fellow rose from his easy-chair. He had
made up his mind.

Then began a search through his desk in and out of the pigeon-
holes, under a heap of letters--most of them unanswered; beneath a
package tied with tape, until his eyes fell upon an envelope
sealed with wax, in which was embedded the crest of the ancestors
of the young gentleman whose future had so absorbed his thoughts.
It was Mrs. Breen's acceptance of Miss Felicia's invitation to
Miss MacFarlane's tea.

"Ah, here it is! Now I'll find the number--yes, 864--I thought it
was a "4"--but I didn't want to make any mistake."

This done, and the note with the number and street of Jack's
uncle's house spread out before him, Peter squared his elbows,
took a sheet of paper from a drawer, covered it with half a dozen
lines beginning "My dear Breen--" enclosed it in an envelope and
addressed it to "Mr. John Breen, care of Arthur Breen, Esq.," etc.
This complete, he affixed the stamp in the upper left-hand corner,
and with the letter fast in his hand disappeared in his bedroom,
from which he emerged ten minutes later in full walking costume,
even to his buckskin gloves and shiny high hat, not to mention a
brand-new silk scarf held in place by his diamond tear-drop, the
two in high relief above the lapels of his tightly buttoned
surtout.

"No, Mrs. McGuffey," he said with a cheery smile as he passed out
of the door (she had caught sight of the letter and had stretched
out her hand)--"No--I am going for a walk, and I'll mail it
myself."





CHAPTER XII




Whatever the function--whether it was a cosey dinner for the
congenial few, a crowded reception for the uncongenial many, or a
coming-out party for some one of the eager-expectant buds just
bursting into bloom--most of whom he had known from babyhood--
Peter was always ready with his "Of course I'll come--" or
"Nothing would delight me more--" or the formal "Mr. Grayson
accepts with great pleasure," etc., unless the event should fall
upon a Saturday night; then there was certain to be a prompt
refusal.

Even Miss Felicia recognized this unbreakable engagement and made
her plans accordingly. So did good Mrs. McGuffey, who selected
this night for her own social outings; and so did most of his
intimate friends who were familiar with his habits.

On any other night you might, or you might not, find Peter at
home, dependent upon his various engagements, but if you really
wanted to get hold of his hand, or his ear, or the whole or any
other part of his delightful body, and if by any mischance you
happened to select a Saturday night for your purpose, you must
search for him at the Century. To spend this one evening at his
favorite club had been his custom for years--ever since he had
been elected to full membership--a date so far back in the dim
past that the oldest habitue had to search the records to make
sure of the year, and this custom he still regularly kept up.

That the quaint old club-house was but a stone's throw from his
own quarters in Fifteenth Street made no difference; he would
willingly have tramped to Murray Hill and beyond--even as far as
the big reservoir, had the younger and more progressive element
among the members picked the institution up bodily and moved it
that far--as later on they did.

Not that he favored any such innovation: "Move up-town! Why, my
dear sir!" he protested, when the subject was first mentioned, "is
there nothing in the polish of these old tables and chairs, rubbed
bright by the elbows of countless good fellows, that appeals to
you? Do you think any modern varnish can replace it? Here I have
sat for thirty years or more, and--please God!--here I want to
continue to sit."

He was at his own small table in the front room overlooking the
street when he spoke--his by right of long use, as it was also of
Morris, MacFarlane, Wright, old Partridge the painter, and Knight
the sculptor. For years this group of Centurions, after circling
the rooms on meeting nights, criticising the pictures and helping
themselves to the punch, had dropped into these same seats by the
side of Peter.

And these were not the only chairs tacitly recognized as carrying
special privileges by reason of long usage. Over in the corner
between the two rooms could be found Bayard Taylor's chair--his
for years, from which he dispensed wisdom, adventure and raillery
to a listening coterie--King, MacDonough and Collins among them,
while near the stairs, his great shaggy head glistening in the
overhead light, Parke Godwin held court, with Sterling, Martin and
Porter, to say nothing of still older habitues who in the years of
their membership were as much a part of the fittings of the club
as the smoke-begrimed portraits which lined its walls.

On this Saturday night he had stepped into the clubhouse with more
than his usual briskness. Sweeping a comprehensive glance around
as he entered, as if looking for some one in the hall, he slipped
off his overcoat and hat and handed both to the negro servant in
charge of the cloak-room.

"George."

"Yes, Mr. Grayson."

"If anybody inquires for me you will find me either on this floor
or in the library above. Don't forget, and don't make any mistake.

"No, suh--ain't goin' to be no mistake."

This done, the old gentleman moved to the mirror, and gave a
sidelong glance at his perfectly appointed person--he had been
dining at the Portmans', had left the table early, and was in full
evening dress.

The inspection proved that the points of his collar wanted
straightening the thousandth part of an inch, and that his sparse
gray locks needed combing a wee bit further toward his cheek
bones. These, with a certain rebellious fold in his necktie,
having been brought into place, the guardian of the Exeter entered
the crowded room, picked a magazine from the shelves and dropped
into his accustomed seat.

Holker Morris and Lagarge now strolled in and drawing up to a
small table adjoining Peter's touched a tiny bell. This answered,
and the order given, the two renewed a conversation which had
evidently been begun outside, and which was of so absorbing a
character that for a moment Peter's face, half hidden by his book,
was unnoticed.

"Oh!--that's you, Methusaleh, is it!" cried Morris at last. "Move
over--have something?"

Peter looked up smiling: "Not now, Holker. I will later."

Morris kept on talking. Lagarge, his companion--a thin,
cadaverous-looking man with a big head and the general air of
having been carved out of an old root--a great expert in
ceramics--listening intently, bobbing his head in toy-mandarin
fashion whenever one of Holker's iconoelasms cleared the air.

"Suppose they did pay thirty thousand dollars for it," Holker
insisted, slapping his knee with his outspread palm. "That makes
the picture no better and no worse. If it was mine, and I could
afford it, I would sell it to anybody who loved it for thirty
cents rather than sell it to a man who didn't, for thirty
millions. When Troyon painted it he put his soul into it, and you
can no more tack a price to that than you can stick an auction
card on a summer cloud, or appraise the perfume from a rose
garden. It has no money value, Legarge, and never will have. You
might as well list sunsets on the Stock Exchange."

"But Troyon had to live, Holker," chimed in Harrington, who, with
the freedom accorded every member of the club--one of its greatest
charms--had just joined the group and sat listening.

"Yes," rejoined Morris, a quizzjeal expression crossing his face--
"that was the curse of it. He was born a man and had a stomach
instead of being born a god without one. As to living--he didn't
really live--no great painter really lives until he is dead. And
that's the way it should be--they would never have become immortal
with a box full of bonds among their assets. They would have
stopped work. Now they can rest in their graves with the
consciousness that they have done their level best."

"There is one thing would lift him out of it, or ought to,"
remarked Harrington, with a glance around the circle. "I am, of
course, speaking of Troyon."

"What?" asked Morris.

"The news that Roberts paid thirty thousand dollors for a picture
for which the painter was glad to get three thousand francs," a
reply which brought a roar from the group, Morris joining in
heartily.

The circle had now widened to the filling of a dozen chairs,
Morris's way of putting things being one of the features of club
nights, he, as usual, dominating the talk, calling out "Period"--
his way of notifying some speaker to come to a full stop, whenever
he broke away from the facts and began soaring into hyperbolics--
Morgan, Harrington and the others laughing in unison at his
sallies.

The clouds of tobacco smoke grew thicker. The hum of conversation
louder; especially at an adjoining table where one lean old
Academician in a velvet skull cap was discussing the new
impressionistic craze which had just begun to show itself in the
work of the younger men. This had gone on for some minutes when
the old man turned upon them savagely and began ridiculing the new
departure as a cloak to hide poor drawing, an outspoken young
painter asserting in their defence, that any technique was helpful
if it would kill off the snuff-box school in which the man under
the skull cap held first place.

Morris had lent an ear to the discussion and again took up the
cudgels.

"You young fellows are right," he cried, twisting his body toward
their table. The realists have had their day; they work a picture
to death; all of them. If you did but know it, it really takes two
men to paint a great picture--one to do the work and the other to
kill him when he has done enough."

"Pity some of your murderers, Holker, didn't start before they
stretched their canvases," laughed Harrington.

And so the hours sped on.

All this time Peter had been listening with one ear wide open--the
one nearest the door--for any sound in that direction. French
masterpieces Impressionism and the rest of it did not interest him
to-night. Something else was stirring him--something he had been
hugging to his heart all day.

Only the big and little coals in his own fireplace in Fifteenth
Street, and perhaps the great back-log, beside himself, knew the
cause. He had not taken Miss Felicia into his confidence--that
would never have done--might, indeed, have spoilt everything. Even
when he had risen from Morris's coterie to greet Henry MacFarlane
--Ruth's father--his intimate friend for years, and who answered
his hand-shake with--"Well, you old rascal--what makes you look so
happy?--anybody left you a million?"--even then he gave no inkling
of the amount of bottled sunshine he was at the precise moment
carrying inside his well-groomed body, except to remark with all
his twinkles and wrinkles scampering loose:

"Seeing you, Henry--" an answer which, while it only excited
derision and a sly thrust of his thumb into Peter's ribs, was
nevertheless literally true if the distinguished engineer did but
know it.

It was only when the hours dragged on and his oft-consulted watch
marked ten o'clock that the merry wrinkles began to straighten and
the eyes to wander.

When an additional ten minutes had ticked themselves out, and then
a five and then a ten more, the old fellow became so nervous that
he began to make a tour of the club-house, even ascending the
stairs, searching the library and dining-room, scanning each group
and solitary individual he passed, until, thoroughly discouraged,
he regained his seat only to press a bell lying among some half-
empty glasses. The summoned waiter listened attentively, his head
bent low to catch the whispered order, and then disappeared
noiselessly in the direction of the front door, Peter's fingers
meanwhile beating an impatient staccato on the arm of his chair.

Nothing resulting from this experiment he at last gave up all hope
and again sought MacFarlane who was trying to pound into the head
of a brother engineer some new theory of spontaneous explosions.

Hardly had he drawn up a chair to listen--he was a better listener
to-night, somehow, than a talker, when a hand was laid on his
shoulder, and looking up, he saw Jack bending over him.

With a little cry of joy Peter sprang to his feet, both palms
outstretched: "Oh!--you're here at last! Didn't I say nine
o'clock, my dear boy, or am I wrong? Well, so you are here it's
all right." Then with face aglow he turned to MacFarlane: "Henry,
here's a young fellow you ought to know; his name's John Breen,
and he's from your State."

The engineer stopped short in his talk and absorbed Jack from his
neatly brushed hair, worn long at the back of his neck, to his
well-shod feet, and held out his hand.

"From Maryland? So am I; I was raised down in Prince George
County. Glad to know you. Are you any connection of the Breens of
Ann Arundle?"

"Yes, sir--all my people came from Ann Arundle. My father was
Judge Breen," answered Jack with embarrassment. He had not yet
become accustomed to the novelty of the scene around him.

"Now I know just where you belong. My father and yours were
friends. I have often heard him speak of Judge Breen. And did you
not meet my daughter at Miss Grayson's the other day? She told me
she had met a Mr. Breen from our part of the country."

Jack's eyes danced. Was this what Peter had invited him to the
club for? Now it was all clear. And then again he had not said a
word about his being in the Street, or connected with it in any
way. Was there ever such a good Peter?

"Oh, yes, sir!--and I hope she is very well."

The engineer said she was extremely well, never better in her
life, and that he was delighted to meet a son of his old friend--
then, turning to the others, immediately forgot Jack's existence,
and for the time being his daughter, in the discussion still going
on around him.

The young fellow settled himself in his seat and looked about him
--at the smoke-stained ceiling, the old portraits and quaint
fittings and furniture--more particularly at the men. He would
have liked to talk to Ruth's father a little longer, but he felt
dazed and ill at ease--out of his element, somehow--although he
remembered the same kind of people at his father's house, except
that they wore different clothes.

But Peter did not leave him long in meditation. There were other
surprises for him upstairs, in the small dining-room opening out
of the library, where a long table was spread with eatables and
drinkables--salads, baby sausages, escaloped oysters, devilled
crabs and other dishes dear to old and new members. Here men were
met standing in groups, their plates in their hands, or seated at
the smaller tables, when a siphon and a beer bottle, or a mug of
Bass would be added to their comfort.

It was there the Scribe met him for the second time, my first
being the Morris dinner, when he sat within speaking distance. I
had heard of him, of course, as Peter's new protege--indeed, the
old fellow had talked of nothing else, and so I was glad to renew
the acquaintance. I found him to be like all other young fellows
of his class--I had lived among his people, and knew--rather shy,
with a certain deferential air toward older people--but with the
composure belonging to unconscious youth--no fidgeting or fussing
--modest, unassertive--his big brown eyes under their heavy lashes
studying everything about him, his face brightening when you
addressed him. I discovered, too, a certain indefinable charm
which won me to him at once. Perhaps it was his youth; perhaps it
was a certain honest directness, together with a total lack of all
affectation that appealed to me, but certain it is that not many
minutes had passed before I saw why Peter liked him, and I saw,
too, why he liked Peter.

When I asked him--we had found three empty seats at a table--what
impressed him most in the club, it being his first visit, he
answered in his simple, direct way, that he thought it was the
note of good-fellowship everywhere apparent, the men greeting each
other as if they really meant it. Another feature was the dress
and faces of the members--especially the authors, to whom Peter
had introduced him, whose books he had read, and whose
personalities he had heard discussed, and who, to his astonishment,
had turned out to be shabby-looking old fellows who smoked and
drank, or played chess, like other ordinary mortals, and without
pretence of any kind so far as he could detect.

"Just like one big family, isn't it, Mr. Grayson?" the boy said.
"Don't you two gentlemen love to come here?"

"Yes."

"They don't look like very rich men."

"They're not. Now and then a camel crawls through but it is a
tight squeeze," remarked Peter arching his gray, bushy eyebrows, a
smile hovering about his lips.

The boy laughed: "Well, then, how did they get here?"

"Principally because they lead decent lives, are not puffed up
with conceit, have creative brains and put them to some honest
use," answered Peter.

The boy looked away for a moment and remarked quietly that about
everybody he knew would fail in one or more of these
qualifications. Then he added:

"And now tell me, Mr. Grayson, what most of them do--that
gentleman, for instance, who is talking to the old man in the
velvet cap."

"That is General Norton, one of our most distinguished engineers.
He is Consulting Engineer in the Croton Aqueduct Department, and
his opinion is sought all over the country. He started life as a
tow-boy on the Erie Canal, and when he was your age he was keeping
tally of dump-cars from a cut on the Pennsylvania Railroad."

Jack looked at the General in wonderment, but he was too much
interested in the other persons about him to pursue the inquiry
any further.

"And the man next to him--the one with his hand to his head?"

"I don't recall him, but the Major may."

"That is Professor Hastings of Yale," I replied--"perhaps the
most eminent chemist in this or any other country."

"And what did he do when he was a boy?" asked young Breen.

"Made pills, I expect, and washed out test tubes and retorts,"
interrupted Peter, with a look on his face as if the poor
professor were more to be pitied than commended.

"Did any of them dig?" asked the boy.

"What kind of digging?" inquired Peter.

"Well, the kind you spoke of the night you came to see me."

"Oh, with their hands?" cried Peter with a laugh. "Well, now, let
me see--" and his glance roved about the room. "There is Mr.
Schlessinger, the Egyptologist, but of course he was after
mummies, not dirt; and then there is--yes--that sun-burned young
fellow of forty, talking to Mr. Eastman Johnson; he has been at
work in Yucatan looking for Toltec ruins, because he told me his
experience only a few nights ago; but then, of course, that can
hardly be said to be--Oh!--now I have it. You see that tall man
with side-whiskers, looking like a young bank president--my kind--
my boy--well, he started life with a pick and shovel. The steel
point of the pick if I remember rightly, turned up a nugget of
gold that made him rich, but he DUG all the same, and he may again
some day--you can't tell."

It had all been a delightful experience for Jack and his face
showed it, but it was not until after I left that the story of why
he had come late was told. He had started several times to explain
but the constant interruption of members anxious to shake Peter's
hand, had always prevented.

"I haven't apologized for being late, sir," Jack had said at last.
"It was long after ten, I am afraid, but I could not help it."

"No; what was the matter?"

"I didn't get the letter until half an hour before I reached
here."

"Why, I sent it to your uncle's house, and mailed it myself, just
after you had gone out with Miss MacFarlane."

"Yes, sir; but I am not at my uncle's house any more. I am staying
with Garry Minott in his rooms; I have the sofa."

Peter gave a low whistle.

"And you have given up your desk at the office as well?"

"Yes, sir."

"Bless my soul, my boy! And what are you going to do now?"

"I don't know; but I will not go on as I have been doing. I can't,
Mr. Grayson, and you must not ask it. I would rather sweep the
streets. I have just seen poor Charley Gilbert and Mrs. Gilbert.
He has not a dollar in the world, and is going West, he tells me."

Peter reflected for a moment. It was all he could do to hide his
delight.

"And what do your people say?"

"My aunt says I am an idiot, and Corinne won't speak to me."

"And your uncle?"

"Nothing, to me. He told Garry that if I didn't come back in three
days I should never enter his house or his office again."

"But you are going back? Are you not?"

"No,--never. Not if I starve!"

Peter's eyes were twinkling when he related the conversation to me
the next day.

"I could have hugged him, Major," he said, when he finished, "and
I would if we had not been at the club."





CHAPTER XIII




The Scribe is quite positive that had you only heard about it as
he had, even with the details elaborated, not only by Peter, who
was conservatism itself in his every statement, but by Miss
Felicia as well--who certainly ought to have known--you would not
have believed it possible until you had seen it. Even then you
would have had to drop into one of Miss Felicia's cretonne-
upholstered chairs--big easy-chairs that fitted into every hollow
and bone in your back--looked the length of the uneven porch, run
your astonished eye down the damp, water-soaked wooden steps to
the moist brick pavement below, and so on to the beds of crocuses
blooming beneath the clustering palms and orange trees, before you
could realize (in spite of the drifting snow heaped up on the
door-steps of her house outside--some of it still on your shoes)
that you were in Miss Felicia's tropical garden, attached to Miss
Felicia's Geneseo house, and not in the back yard of some old home
in the far-off sunny South.

It was an old story, of course, to Peter, who had the easy-chair
beside me, and so it was to Morris, who had helped Miss Felicia
carry out so Utopian a scheme, but it had come to me as a complete
surprise, and I was still wide-eyed and incredulous.

"And what keeps out the cold?" I asked Morris, who was lying back
blowing rings into the summer night, the glow of an overhead
lantern lighting up his handsome face.

"Glass," he laughed.

"Where?"

"There, just above the vines, my dear Major," interrupted Miss
Felicia, pointing upward. "Come and let me show you my frog pond--
"and away we went along the brick paths, bordered with pots of
flowers, to a tiny lake covered with lily-pads and circled by
water-plants.

"I did not want a greenhouse--I wanted a back yard," she
continued, "and I just would have it. Holker sent his men up, and
on three sides we built a wall that looked a hundred years old--
but it is not five--and roofed it over with glass, and just where
you see the little flight of stairs is the heat. That old arbor in
the corner has been here ever since I was a child, and so have the
syringa bushes and the green box next the wall. I wanted them all
the year round--not just for three or four months in the year--
and that witch Holker said he could do it, and he has. Half the
weddings in town have been begun right on that bench, and when the
lanterns are lighted and the fountain turned on outside, no
gentleman ever escapes. You and Peter are immune, so I sha'n't
waste any of my precious ammunition on you. And now what will you
wear in your button-hole--a gardenia, or some violets? Ruth will
be down in a minute, and you must look your prettiest."

But if the frog pond, damp porch and old-fashioned garden had come
as a surprise, what shall I say of the rest of Miss Felicia's
house which I am now about to inspect under Peter's guidance.

"Here, come along," he cried, slipping his arm through mine. "You
have had enough of the garden, for between you and me, my dear
Major"--here he looked askance at Miss Felicia--"I think it an
admirable place in which to take cold, and that's why--" and he
passed his hand over his scalp--"I always insist on wearing my hat
when I walk here. Mere question of imagination, perhaps, but old
fellows like you and me should take no chances--" and he laughed
heartily.

"This room was my father's," continued Peter. "The bookcases have
still some of the volumes he loved; he liked the low ceiling and
the big fireplace, and always wrote here--it was his library,
really. There opens the old drawing-room and next to it is
Felicia's den, where she concocts most of her deviltry, and the
dining-room beyond--and that's all there is on this floor, except
the kitchen, which you'll hear from later."

And as Peter rattled on, telling me the history of this and that
piece of old furniture, or portrait, or queer clock, my eyes were
absorbing the air of cosey comfort that permeated every corner of
the several rooms. Everything had the air of being used. In the
library the chairs were of leather, stretched into saggy folds by
many tired backs; the wide, high fender fronting the hearth,
though polished so that you could see your face in it, showed the
marks of many a drying shoe, while on the bricks framing the
fireplace could still be seen the scratchings of countless
matches.

The drawing-room, too--although, as in all houses of its class and
period, a thing of gilt frames, high mirrors and stiff furniture--
was softened by heaps of cushions, low stools and soothing arm-
chairs, while Miss Felicia's own particular room was so veritable
a symphony in chintz, white paint and old mahogany, with cubby-
holes crammed with knickknacks, its walls hung with rare etchings;
pots of flowers everywhere and the shelves and mantels crowded
with photographs of princes, ambassadors, grand dukes, grand
ladies, flossy-headed children, chubby-cheeked babies (all
souvenirs of her varied and busy life), that it was some minutes
before I could throw myself into one of her heavenly arm-chairs,
there to be rested as I had never been before, and never expect to
be again.

It being Peter's winter holiday, he and Morris had stopped over on
their way down from Buffalo, where Holker had spoken at a public
dinner. The other present and expected guests were Ruth
MacFarlane, who was already upstairs; her father, Henry
MacFarlane, who was to arrive by the next train, and last and by
no means lest, his confidential clerk, Mr. John Breen, now two
years older and, it is to be hoped, with considerable more common-
sense than when he chucked himself neck and heels out into the
cold world. Whether the expected arrival of this young gentleman
had anything to do with the length of time it took Ruth to dress,
the Scribe knoweth not. There is no counting upon the whims and
vagaries of even the average young woman of the day, and as Ruth
was a long way above that medium grade, and with positive ideas of
her own as to whom she liked and whom she did not like, and was,
besides, a most discreet and close-mouthed young person, it will
be just as well for us to watch the game of battledoor and
shuttlecock still being played between Jack and herself, before we
arrive at any fixed conclusions.

Any known and admitted facts connected with either one of the
contestants are, however, in order, and so while we are waiting
for old Moggins, who drives the village 'bus, and who has been
charged by Miss Felicia on no account to omit bringing in his next
load a certain straight, bronzed-cheeked, well-set-up young man
with a springy step, accompanied by a middle-aged gentleman who
looked like a soldier, and deliver them both with their attendant
baggage at her snow-banked door, any data regarding this same
young man's movements since the night Peter wanted to hug him for
leaving his uncle's service, cannot fail to be of interest.

To begin then with the day on which Jack, with Frederick, the
second man's assistance, packed his belongings and accepted
Garry's invitation to make a bed of his lounge.

The kind-hearted Frederick knew what it was to lose a place, and
so his sympathies had been all the more keen. Parkins's nose, on
the contrary, had risen a full degree and stood at an angle of 45
degrees, for he had not only heard the ultimatum of his employer,
but was rather pleased with the result. As for the others, no one
ever believed the boy really meant it, and everybody--even the
maids and the high-priced chef--fully expected Jack would turn
prodigal as soon as his diet of husks had whetted his appetite for
dishes more nourishing and more toothsome. But no one of them took
account of the quality of the blood that ran in the young man's
veins.

It was scheming Peter who saved the day.

"Put that young fellow to work, Henry," he had said to MacFarlane
the morning after the three had met at the Century Club.

"What does he know, Peter?"

"Nothing, except to speak the truth."

And thus it had come to pass that within twenty-four hours
thereafter the boy had shaken the dust of New York from his feet--
even to resigning from the Magnolia, and a day later was found
bending over a pine desk knocked together by a hammer and some
ten-penny nails in a six-by-nine shanty, the whole situated at the
mouth of a tunnel half a mile from Corklesville, where he was at
work on the pay-roll of the preceding week.

Many things had helped in deciding him to take the proffered
place. First, Peter had wanted it; second, his uncle did not want
it, Corinne and his aunt being furious that he should go to work
like a common laborer, or--as Garry had put it--"a shovel-spanked
dago." Third, Ruth was within calling distance, and that in itself
meant Heaven. Once installed, however, he had risen steadily, both
in MacFarlane's estimation and in the estimation of his fellow-
workers; especially the young engineers who were helping his Chief
in the difficult task before him. Other important changes had also
taken place in the two years: his body had strengthened, his face
had grown graver, his views of life had broadened and, best of
all, his mind was at rest. Of one thing he was sure--no confiding
young Gilberts would be fleeced in his present occupation--not if
he knew anything about it.

Moreover, the outdoor life which he had so longed for was his
again. On Saturday afternoons and Sundays he tramped the hills, or
spent hours rowing on the river. His employer's villa was also
always open to him--a privilege not granted to the others in the
working force. The old tie of family was the sesame. Judge Breen's
son was, both by blood and training, the social equal of any man,
and although the distinguished engineer, being well born himself,
seldom set store on such things, he recognized his obligation in
Jack's case and sought the first opportunity to tell him so.

"You will find a great change in your surroundings, Mr. Breen," he
had said. "The little hotel where you will have to put up is
rather rough and uncomfortable, but you are always welcome at my
home, and this I mean, and I hope you will understand it that way
without my mentioning it again."

The boy's heart leaped to his throat as he listened, and a dozen
additional times that day his eyes had rested on the clump of
trees which shaded the roof sheltering Ruth.

That the exclusive Miss Grayson should now have invited him to
pass some days at her home had brought with it a thrill of greater
delight. Her opinion of the boy had changed somewhat. His
willingness to put up with the discomforts of the village inn--"a
truly dreadful place," to quote one of Miss Felicia's own letters
--and to continue to put up with them for more than two years,
while losing nothing of his good-humor and good manners, had
shaken her belief in the troubadour and tin-armor theory, although
nothing in Jack's surroundings or in his prospects for the future
fitted him, so far as she could see, to life companionship with so
dear a girl as her beloved Ruth--a view which, of course, she kept
strictly to herself.

But she still continued to criticise him, at which Peter would rub
his hands and break out with:

"Fine fellow!--square peg in a square hole this time. Fine fellow,
I tell you, Felicia!"

He receiving in reply some such answer as:

"Yes, quite lovely in fairy tales, Peter, and when you have taught
him--for you did it, remember--how to shovel and clean up
underbrush and split rocks--and that just's what Ruth told me he
was doing when she took a telegram to her father which had come to
the house--and he in a pair of overalls, like any common workman--
what, may I ask, will you have him doing next? Is he to be an
engineer or a clerk all his life? He might have had a share in his
uncle's business by this time if he had had any common-sense;"
Peter retorting often with but a broad smile and that little gulp
of satisfaction--something between a chuckle and a sigh--which
always escaped him when some one of his proteges were living up to
his pet theories.

And yet it was Miss Felicia herself who was the first to welcome
the reprobate, even going to the front door and standing in the
icy draught, with the snowflakes whirling about her pompadoured
head, until Jack had alighted from the tail-end of Moggins's 'bus
and, with his satchel in his hand, had cleared the sidewalk with a
bound and stood beside her.

"Oh, I'm so glad to be here," Jack had begun, "and it was so good
of you to want me," when a voice rang clear from the top of the
stairs:

"And where's daddy--isn't he coming?"

"Oh!--how do you do, Miss Ruth? No; I am sorry to say he could not
leave--that is, we could not persuade him to leave. He sent you
all manner of messages, and you, too, Miss--"

"He isn't coming? Oh, I am so disappointed! What is the matter, is
he ill?" She was half-way down the staircase now, her face showing
how keen was her disappointment.

"No--nothing's the matter--only we are arranging for an important
blast in a day or two, and he felt he couldn't be away. I can only
stay the night." Jack had his overcoat stripped from his broad
shoulders now and the two had reached each other's hands.

Miss Felicia watched them narrowly out of her sharp, kindly eyes.
This love-affair--if it were a love-affair--had been going on for
years now and she was still in the dark as to the outcome. There
was no question that the boy was head over heels in love with the
girl--she could see that from the way the color mounted to his
cheeks when Ruth's voice rang out, and the joy in his eyes when
they looked into hers. How Ruth felt toward her new guest was what
she wanted to know. This was, perhaps, the only reason why she had
invited him--another thing she kept strictly to herself.

But the two understood it--if Miss Felicia did not. There may be
shrewd old ladies who can read minds at a glance, and fussy old
men who can see through blind millstones, and who know it all, but
give me two lovers to fool them both to the top of their bent, be
they so minded.

"And now, dear, let Mr. Breen go to his room, for we dine in an
hour, and Holker will be cross as two sticks if we keep it waiting
a minute."

But Holker was not cross--not when dinner was served; nobody was
cross--certainly not Peter, who was in his gayest mood; and
certainly not Ruth or Jack, who babbled away next to each other.
Peter's heart swelled with pride and satisfaction as he saw the
change which two years of hard work had made in Jack--not only in
his bearing and in a certain fearless independence which had
become a part of his personality, but in the unmistakable note of
joyousness which flowed out of him, so marked in contrast to the
depression which used to haunt him like a spectre. Stories of his
life at his boarding-house--vaguely christened a hotel by its
landlady, Mrs. Hicks--bubbled out of the boy as well as accounts
of various escapades among the men he worked with--especially the
younger engineers and one of the foremen who had rooms next his
own--all told with a gusto and ring that kept the table in shouts
of merriment--Morris laughing loudest and longest, Peter
whispering behind his hand to Miss Felicia:

"Charming, isn't he?--and please note, my dear, that none of the
dirt from his shovel seems to have clogged his wit--" at which
there was another merry laugh--Peter's, this time, his being the
only voice in evidence.

"And she is such fun, Miss Felicia" (Mrs. Hicks was under
discussion), called out Jack, realizing that he had, perhaps--
although unconsciously--failed to include his hostess in his
coterie of listeners. "You should see her caps, and the
magnificent airs she puts on when we come down late to breakfast
on Sunday mornings."

"And tell them about the potatoes," interrupted Ruth.

"Oh, that was disgraceful, but it really could not be helped--we
had greasy fried potatoes until we could not stand them another
day, and Bolton found them in the kitchen late one night ready for
the skillet the next morning, and filled them with tooth powder,
and that ended it."

"I'd have set you fellows out on the sidewalk if I'd been Mrs.
Hicks," laughed Morris. "I know that old lady--I used to stop with
her myself when I was building the town hall--and she's good as
gold. And now tell me how MacFarlane is getting on--building a
railroad, isn't he? He told me about it, but I forget."

"No," replied Jack, his face growing suddenly serious as he turned
toward the speaker; "the company is building the road. We have
only got a fill of half a mile and then a tunnel of a mile more."

Miss Felicia beamed sententiously when Jack said "we," but she did
not interrupt the speaker.

"And what sort of cutting?" continued the architect in a tone that
showed his entire familiarity with work of the kind.

"Gneiss rock for eleven hundred feet and then some mica schist
that we have had to shore up every time we move our drills,"
answered Jack quietly.

"Any cave-ins?" Morris was leaning forward now, his eyes riveted
on the boy's. What information he wanted he felt sure he now could
get.

"Not yet, but plenty of water. We struck a spring last week" (this
time the "we" didn't seem so preposterous) "that came near
drowning us out, but we managed to keep it under with a six-inch
centrifugal; but it meant pumping night and day."

"And when is he going to get through?"

"That depends on what is ahead of us. Our borings show up all
right--most of it is tough gneiss--but if we strike gravel or
shale again it means more timbering, of course. Perhaps another
year--perhaps a few months. I am not giving you my own opinion,
for I've had very little experience, but that is what Bolton
thinks--he's second in command next to Mr. MacFarlane--and so do
the other fellows at our boarding house."

And then followed a discussion on "struts," roof timbers and tie-
rods, Jack describing in a modest, impersonal way the various
methods used by the members of the staff with which he was
connected, Morris, as usual, becoming so absorbed in the warding
off of "cave-ins" that for the moment he forgot the table, his
hostess and everybody about him, a situation which, while it
delighted Peter, who was bursting with pride over Jack, was
beginning to wear upon Miss Felicia, who was entirely indifferent
as to whether the top covering of MacFarlane's underground hole
fell in or not.

"There, now, Holker," she said with a smile as she laid her hand
on his coat sleeve--"not another word. Tunnels are things
everybody wants to get through with as quick as possible--and I'm
not going to spend all night in yours--awful damp places full of
smoke--No--not another word. Ruth, ask that young Roebling next
you to tell us another story--No, wait until we have our coffee
and you gentlemen have lighted your cigars. Perhaps, Ruth, you had
better take Mr. Breen into the smoking-room. Now, give me your
arm, Holker, and you come, too, Major, and bring Peter with you to
my boudoir. I want to show you the most delicious copy of Shelley
you ever saw. No, Mr. Breen, Ruth wants you; we will be with you
in a few minutes--" Then after the two had passed on ahead--"Look
at them, Major--aren't they a joy, just to watch?--and aren't you
ashamed of yourself that you have wasted your life? No arbor for
you! What would you give if a lovely girl like that wanted you all
to herself by the side of my frog pond?"

A shout ahead from Jack, and a rippling laugh from Ruth now
floated our way.

"Oh!--OH!--" and  "Yes--isn't it wonderful--come and see the
arbor--" and then a clatter of feet down the soggy steps and
fainter footfalls on the moist bricks, ending in silence.

"There!" laughed Miss Felicia, turning toward us and clapping her
hands--"they have reached the arbor and it's all over, and now we
will all go out on the porch for our coffee. I haven't any Shelley
that you have not seen a dozen times--I just intended that
surprise to come to the boy and in the way Ruth wanted it--she has
talked of nothing else since she knew he was coming. Mighty
dangerous, I can tell you, that old bench. Ruth can take care of
herself, but that poor fellow will be in a dreadful state if we
leave them alone too long. Sit here, Holker, and tell me about the
dinner and what you said. All that Peter could remember was that
you never did better, and that everybody cheered, and that the
squabs were so dry he couldn't eat them."

But the Scribe refuses to be interested in Holker's talk, however
brilliant, or in Miss Felicia's crisp repartee. His thoughts are
down among the palms, where the two figures are entering the
arbor, the soft glow of half a dozen lanterns falling upon the
joyous face of the beautiful girl, as, with hand in Jack's, she
leads him to a seat beside her on the bench.

"But it's like home," Jack gasped. "Why, you must remember your
own garden, and the porch that ran alongside of the kitchen, and
the brick walls--and just see how big it is and you never told me
a word about it! Why?"

"Oh, because it would have spoiled all the fun; I was so afraid
daddy would tell you that I made him promise not to say a word;
and nobody else had seen it except Mr. Morris, and he said torture
couldn't drag it out of him. That old Major that Uncle Peter
thinks so much of came near spoiling the surprise, but Aunt
Felicia said she would take care of him in the back of the house--
and she did; and I mounted guard at the top of the stairs before
anybody could get hold of you. Isn't it too lovely?--and, do you
know, there are real live frogs in that pond and you can hear them
croak? And now tell me about daddy, and how he gets on without
me."

But Jack was not ready yet to talk about daddy, or the work, or
anything that concerned Corklesville and its tunnel--the
transition had been too sudden and too startling. To be fired from
a gun loaded with care, hard work and anxiety--hurled through
hours of winter travel and landed at a dinner-table next some
charming young woman, was an experience which had occurred to him
more than once in the past two years. But to be thrust still
further into space until he reached an Elysium replete with
whispering fountains, flowering vines and the perfume of countless
blossoms--the whole tucked away in a cosey arbor containing a seat
for two--AND NO MORE--and this millions of miles away, so far as
he could see, from the listening ear or watchful eye of mortal man
or woman--and with Ruth, too--the tips of whose fingers were so
many little shrines for devout kisses--that was like having been
transported into Paradise.

"Oh, please let me look around a little," he begged at last. "And
this is why you love to come here?"

"Yes--wouldn't you?"

"I would not live anywhere else if I could--and it has just the
air of summer--and it feels like a summer's night, too--as if the
moon was coming up somewhere."

Ruth's delight equalled his own; she must show him the new tulips
just sprouting, taking down a lantern so that he could see the
better; and he must see how the jessamine was twisted in and out
the criss-cross slats of the trellis, so that the flowers bloomed
both outside and in; and the little gully in the flagging of the
pavement through which ran the overflow of the tiny pond--till the
circuit of the garden was made and they were again seated on the
dangerous bench, with a cushion tucked behind her beautiful
shoulders.

They talked of the tunnel and when it would be finished; and of
the village people and whom they liked and whom they didn't--and
why--and of Corinne, whose upturned little nose and superior,
dominating airs Ruth thought were too funny for words; and of her
recently announced engagement to Garry Minott, who had started for
himself in business and already had a commission to build a church
at Elm Crest--known to all New Jersey as Corklesville until the
real-estate agencies took possession of its uplands--Jack being
instrumental, with Mr. MacFarlane's help, in securing him the
order; and of the dinner to be given next week at Mrs. Brent
Foster's on Washington Square, to which they were both invited,
thanks to Miss Felicia for Ruth's invitation, and thanks to Peter
for that of Jack, who, at Peter's request, had accompanied him one
afternoon to one of Mrs. Foster's receptions, where he had made so
favorable an impression that he was at once added to Mrs. Foster's
list of eligible young men--the same being a scarce article. They
had discussed, I say, all these things and many more, in
sentences, the Scribe devoutly hopes, much shorter than the one he
has just written--when in a casual--oh, so casual a way--merely as
a matter of form--Ruth asked him if he really must go back to
Corklesville in the morning.

"Yes," answered Jack--"there is no one to take charge of the new
battery but myself, and we have ten holes already filled for
blasting."

"But isn't it only to put the two wires together? Daddy explained
it to me."

"Yes--but at just the right moment. Half a minute too early might
ruin weeks of work. We have some supports to blow out. Three
charges are at their bases--everything must go off together."

"But it is such a short visit."

Some note in her voice rang through Jack's ears and down into his
heart. In all their intercourse--and it had been a free and
untrammelled one so far as their meetings and being together were
concerned--there was invariably a barrier which he could never
pass, and one that he was always afraid to scale. This time her
face was toward him, the rosy light bathing her glorious hair and
the round of her dimpled cheek. For an instant a half-regretful
smile quivered on her lips, and then faded as if some indrawn sigh
had strangled it.

Jack's heart gave a bound.

"Are you really sorry to have me go, Miss Ruth?" he asked,
searching her eyes.

"Why should I not be? Is not this better than Mrs. Hicks's, and
Aunt Felicia would love to have you stay--she told me so at
dinner."

"But you, Miss Ruth?" He had moved a trifle closer--so close that
his eager fingers almost touched her own: "Do you want me to
stay?"

"Why, of course, we all want you to stay. Uncle Peter has talked
of nothing else for days."

"But do you want me to stay, Miss Ruth?"

She lifted her head and looked him fearlessly in the eyes:

"Yes, I do--now that you will have it that way. We are going to
have a sleigh-ride to-morrow, and I know you would love the open
country, it is so beautiful, and so is--"

"Ruth! Ruth! you dear child," came a voice--"are you two never
coming in?--the coffee is stone cold."

"Yes, Aunt Felicia, right away. Run, Mr. Breen--" and she flew up
the brick path.

For the second time Miss Felicia's keen, kindly eyes scanned the
young girl's face, but only a laugh, the best and surest of masks,
greeted her.

"He thinks it all lovely," Ruth rippled out. "Don't you, Mr.
Breen?"

"Lovely? Why, it is the most wonderful place I ever saw; I could
hardly believe my senses. I am quite sure old Aunt Hannah is
cooking behind that door--" here he pointed to the kitchen--"and
that poor old Tom will come hobbling along in a minute with 'dat
mis'ry' in his back. How in the world you ever did it, and what--"

"And did you hear my frogs?" interrupted his hostess.

"Of course he didn't, Felicia," broke in Peter. "What a question
to ask a man! Listen to the croakings of your miserable tadpoles
with the prettiest girl in seven counties--in seven States, for
that matter--sitting beside him! Oh!--you needn't look, you.
minx! If he heard a single croak he ought to be ducked in the
puddle--and then packed off home soaking wet."

"And that is what he is going to do himself," rejoined Ruth,
dropping into a chair which Peter had drawn up for her.

"Do what!" cried Peter.

"Pack himself off--going by the early train--nothing I can do or
say has made the slightest impression on him," she said with a
toss of her head.

Jack raised his hands in protest, but Peter wouldn't listen.

"Then you'll come back, sir, on Saturday and stay until Monday,
and then we'll all go down together and you'll take Ruth across
the ferry to her father's.

"Thank you, sir, but I am afraid I can't. You see, it all depends
on the work--" this last came with a certain tone of regret.

"But I'll send MacFarlane a note, and have you detailed as an
escort of one to bring his only daughter----"

"It would not do any good, Mr. Grayson."

"Stop your nonsense, Jack--" Peter called him so now--"You come
back for Sunday." These days with the boy were the pleasantest of
his life.

"Well, I would love to--" Here his eyes sought, Ruth--"but we have
an important blast to make, and we are doing our best to get
things into shape before the week is out."

"Well, but suppose it isn't ready?" demanded Peter.

"But it will be," answered Jack in a more positive tone; this part
of the work was in his hands.

"Well, anyhow, send me a telegram."

"I will send it, sir, but I am afraid it won't help matters. Miss
Ruth knows how delighted I would be to return here and see her
safe home."

"Whether she does or whether she doesn't," broke in Miss Felicia,
"hasn't got a single thing to do with it, Peter. You just go back
to your work, Mr. Breen, and look after your gunpowder plots, or
whatever you call them, and if some one of these gentlemen of
elegant leisure--not one of whom so far has offered his services--
cannot manage to escort you to your father's house, Ruth, I will
take you myself. Now come inside the drawing-room, every one of
you, or you will all blame me for undermining your precious
healths--you, too, Major, and bring your cigars with you. So you
don't drop your ashes into my tea-caddy, I don't care where you
throw them."

It was late in the afternoon of the second day when the telegram
arrived, a delay which caused no apparent suffering to any one
except, perhaps, Peter, who wandered about with a "Nothing from
Jack yet, eh?" A question which no one answered, it being
addressed to nobody in particular, unless it was to Ruth, who had
started at every ring of the door-bell. As to Miss Felicia--she
had already dismissed the young man from her mind.

When it did arrive there was a slight flutter of interest, but
nothing more; Miss Felicia laying down her book, Ruth asking in
indifferent tones--even before the despatch was opened--"Is he
coming?" and Morris, who was playing chess with Peter, holding his
pawn in mid-air until the interruption was over.

Not so Peter--who with a joyous "Didn't I tell you the boy would
keep his promise--" sprang from his chair, nearly upsetting the
chess-board in his eagerness to hear from Jack, an eagerness
shared by Ruth, whose voice again rang out, this time in an
anxious tone,

"Hurry up, Uncle Peter--is he coming?"

Peter made no answer; he was staring straight at the open slip,
his face deathly pale, his hand trembling.

"I'll tell you all about it in a minute, dear," he said at last
with a forced smile. Then he touched Morris's arm and the two left
the room.





CHAPTER XIV




The Scribe would willingly omit this chapter. Dying men, hurrying
doctors, improvised stretchers made of wrenched fence rails;
silent, slow-moving throngs following limp, bruised bodies,--are
not pleasant objects to write about and should be disposed of as
quickly as possible.

Exactly whose fault it was nobody knew; if any one did, no one
ever told. Every precaution had been taken each charge had been
properly placed and tamped; all the fulminates inspected and the
connections made with the greatest care. As to the battery--that
was known to be half a mile away in the pay shanty, lying on Jack
Breen's table.

Nor was the weather unfavorable. True, there had been rain the day
before, starting a general thaw, but none of the downpour had
soaked through the outer crust of the tunnel to the working force
inside and no extra labor had devolved on the pumps. This, of
course, upset all theories as to there having been a readjustment
of surface rock, dangerous sometimes, to magnetic connections.

Then again, no man understood tunnel construction better than
Henry MacFarlane, C.E., Member of the American Society of
Engineers, Fellow of the Institute of Sciences, etc., etc. Nor was
there ever an engineer more careful of his men. Indeed, it was his
boast that he had never lost a life by a premature discharge in
the twenty years of his experience. Nor did the men, those who
worked under him--those who escaped alive--come to any definite
conclusion as to the cause of the catastrophe: the night and day
gang, I mean,--those who breathed the foul air, who had felt the
chill of the clammy interior and who were therefore familiar with
the handling of explosives and the proper tamping of the charges
--a slip of the steel meaning instantaneous annihilation.

The Beast knew and could tell if he chose.

I say "The Beast," for that is what MacFarlane's tunnel was to me.
To the passer-by and to the expert, it was, of course, merely a
short cut through the steep hills flanking one end of the huge
"earth fill" which MacFarlane was constructing across the
Corklesville brook, and which, when completed would form a road-
bed for future trains; but to me it was always The Beast.

This illusion was helped by its low-browed, rocky head, crouching
close to the end of the "fill," its length concealed in the clefts
of the rocks--as if lying in wait for whatever crossed its path--
as well as its ragged, half-round, catfish gash of a mouth from
out of which poured at regular intervals a sickening breath--
yellow, blue, greenish often--and from which, too, often came
dulled explosions, followed by belchings of debris which
centipedes of cars dragged clear of its slimy lips.

So I reiterate, The Beast knew.

Every day the gang had bored and pounded and wrenched, piercing
his body with nervous, nagging drills; propping up his backbone,
cutting out tender bits of flesh, carving--bracing--only to carve
again. He had tried to wriggle and twist, but the mountain had
held him fast. Once he had straightened out, smashing the tiny
cars and the tugging locomotive; breaking a leg and an arm, and
once a head, but the devils had begun again, boring and digging
and the cruel wound was opened afresh. Another time, after a big
rain, with the help of some friendly rocks who had rushed down to
his help, he had snapped his jaws tight shut, penning the devils
up inside, but a hundred others had wrenched them open, breaking
his teeth, shoring up his lips with iron beams, tearing out what
was left of his tongue. He could only sulk now, breathing hard and
grunting when the pain was unbearable. One thought comforted him,
and one only: Far back in his bulk he knew of a thin place in his
hide,--so thin, owing to a dip in the contour of the hill,--that
but a few yards of overlying rock and earth lay between it and the
free air.

Here his tormentors had stopped; why, he could not tell until he
began to keep tally of what had passed his mouth: The long trains
of cars had ceased; so had the snorting locomotives; so had the
steam drills. Curious-looking boxes and kegs were being passed in,
none of which ever came back; men with rolls of paper on which
were zigzag markings stumbled inside, stayed an hour and stumbled
out again; these men wore no lamps in their hats and were better
dressed than the others. Then a huge wooden drum wrapped with wire
was left overnight outside his lips and unrolled the next morning,
every yard of it being stretched so far down his throat that he
lost all track of it.

On the following morning work of every kind ceased; not a man with
a lamp anywhere--and these The Beast hated most; that is, none
that he could see or feel. After an hour or more the head man
arrived and with two others went inside. The head man was tall and
fair, had gray side whiskers and wore a slouch hat; the second man
was straight and well built, with a boyish face tanned by the
weather. The third man was short and fat: this one carried a plan.
Behind the three walked five other men.

All were talking.

"The dip is to the eastward," the head man said. "The uplift ought
to clear things so we won't have to handle the stuff twice. Hard
to rig derricks on that slope. Let's have powder enough, anyhow,
Bolton."

The fat man nodded and consulted his plan with the help of his
eye-glasses. Then the three men and the five men passed in out of
hearing.

The Beast was sure now. The men were going to blow out the side of
the hill where his hide was thinnest so as to make room for an
air-shaft.

An hour later a gang in charge of a red-shirted foreman who were
shifting a section of toy track on the "fill" felt the earth shake
under them. Then came a dull roar followed by a cloud of yellow
smoke mounting skyward from an opening high up on the hillside.
Flashing through this cloud leaped tongues of flame intermingled
with rocks and splintered trees. From the tunnel's mouth streamed
a thin, steel-colored gas that licked its way along the upper
edges of the opening and was lost in the underbrush fringing its
upper lip.

"What's that?" muttered the red-shirted foreman--"that ain't no
blast--My God!--they're blowed up!"

He sprang on a car and waved his arms with all his might: "Drop
them shovels! Git to the tunnel, every man of ye: here,--this
way!" and he plunged on, the men scrambling after him.

The Beast was a magnet now, drawing everything to its mouth. Gangs
of men swarmed up the side of the hill; stumbling, falling;
picking themselves up only to stumble and fall again. Down the
railroad tracks swept a repair squad who had been straightening a
switch, their foreman in the lead. From out of the cabins
bareheaded women and children ran screaming.

The end of the "fill" nearest the tunnel was now black with
people; those nearest to the opening were shielding their faces
from the deadly gas. The roar of voices was incessant; some
shouted from sheer excitement; others broke into curses, shaking
their fists at The Beast; blaming the management. All about stood
shivering women with white faces, some chewing the corners of
their shawls in their agony.

Then a cry clearer than the others soared above the heads of the
terror-stricken mob as a rescue gang made ready to enter the
tunnel:

"Water! Water! Get a bucket, some of ye! Ye can't live in that
smoke yet! Tie your mouth up if you're going in! Wet it, damn ye!
--do ye want to be choked stiff!"

A shrill voice now cut the air.

"It's the boss and the clerk and Mr. Bolton that's catched!"

"Yes--and a gang from the big shanty; I seen 'em goin' in,"
shouted back the red-shirted foreman.

The volunteers--big, brawny men, who, warned by the foreman, had
been binding wet cloths over their mouths, now sprang forward,
peering into the gloom. Then the sound of footsteps was heard--
nearer--nearer. Groping through the blue haze stumbled a man, his
shirt sleeve shielding his mouth. On he came, staggering from side
to side, reached the edge of the mouth and pitched head-foremost
as the fresh air filled his lungs. A dozen hands dragged him
clear. It was Bolton.

His clothes were torn and scorched; his face blackened; his left
hand dripping blood. Two of the shanty gang were next hauled out
and laid on the back of an overturned dirt car. They had been near
the mouth when the explosion came, and throwing themselves flat
had crawled toward the opening.

Bolton was still unconscious, but the two shanty men gasped out
the terrible facts: "The boss and the clerk, was jes' starting out
when everything let go"; they choked; "ther' ain't nothing left of
the other men. We passed the boss and the clerk; they was blowed
agin a car; the boss was stove up, the clerk was crawlin' toward
him. They'll never git out alive: none on 'em. We fellers was jes'
givin' up when we see the daylight and heared you a-yellin'."

A hush now fell on the mass of people, broken by the piercing
shriek of a woman,--the wife of a shanty man. She would have
rushed in had not some one held her.

Bolton sat up, gazing stupidly about him. Part of the story of the
escaped men had reached his ears. He struggled to his feet and
staggerd toward the opening of the tunnel. The red-shirted foreman
caught him under the armpits and whirled him back.

"That ain't no place for you!" he cried--"I'll go!"

A muffled cry was heard. It came from a bystander lying flat on
his belly inside the mouth: he had crawled in as far as he could.

"Here they come!"

New footfalls grew distinct, whether one or more the listeners
could not make out. Under the shouts of the red-shirted foreman to
give them air, the throng fell back.

Out of the grimy smoke two figures slowly loomed up; one carried
the other on his back; whether shanty men or not, no one could
tell.

The crowd, no longer controlled by the foreman, surged about the
opening. Ready hands were held out, but the man carrying his
comrade waved them aside and staggered on, one hand steadying his
load, the other hanging loose. The big foreman started to rush in,
but stopped. Something in the burdened man's eye had checked him,
it was as if a team were straining up a steep hill, making any
halt fatal.

"It's the boss and the clerk!" shouted the foreman. "Fall back,
men,--fall back, damn ye!"

The man came straight on, reached the lips of the opening, lunged
heavily to the right, tried to steady his burden and fell
headlong.





CHAPTER XV




The street lamps were already lighted on the following afternoon--
when Ruth, with Peter and Miss Felicia, alighted at the small
station of Corklesville. All through the day she had gone over in
her mind the words of the despatch:

Explosion in tunnel. MacFarlane hurt--serious--will recover. Break
news gently to daughter.

Bolton Asst. Engineer

Other despatches had met the party on the way down; one saying,
"No change," signed by the trained nurse, and a second one from
Bolton in answer to one of Peter's: "Three men killed--others
escaped. MacFarlane's operation successful. Explosion premature."

Their anxiety only increased: Why hadn't Jack telegraphed? Why
leave it to Bolton? Why was there no word of him,--and yet how
could Bolton have known that Peter was with Ruth, except from
young Breen. In this mortal terror Peter had wired from Albany:
"Is Breen hurt?" but no answer had been received at Poughkeepsie.
There had not been time for it, perhaps, but still there was no
answer, nor had his name been mentioned in any of the other
telegrams. That in itself was ominous.

This same question Ruth had asked herself a dozen times. Jack was
to have had charge of the battery--he had told her so. Was he one
of the killed?--why didn't somebody tell her?--why hadn't Mr.
Bolton said something?--why--why--Then the picture of her father's
mangled body would rise before her and all thought of Jack pass
out of her mind.

As the train rolled into the grimy station she was the first to
spring from the car; she knew the way best, and the short cut from
the station to where her father lay. Her face was drawn; her eyes
bloodshot from restrained tears--all the color gone from her
cheeks.

"You bring Aunt Felicia, Uncle Peter,--and the bags;--I will go
ahead," she said, tying her veil so as to shield her face. "No, I
won't wait for anything."

News of Ruth's expected arrival had reached the village, and the
crowd at the station had increased. On its inner circle, close to
a gate leading from the platform, stood a young man in a slouch
hat, with his left wrist bandaged. The arm had hung in a sling
until the train rolled in, then the silk support had been slipped
and hidden in his pocket. Under the slouch hat, the white edge of
a bandage was visible which the wearer vainly tried to conceal by
pulling the hat further on his head,--this subterfuge also
concealed a dark scar on his temple. Whenever the young man
pressed closer to the gate, the crowd would fall back as if to
give him room. Now and then one would come up, grab his well hand
and pat his shoulder approvingly. He seemed to be as much an
object of interest as the daughter of the injured boss.

When Ruth gained the gate the wounded man laid his fingers on her
gloved wrist. The girl started back, peered into his face, and
uttered a cry of relief.

"Mr. Breen!" For one wild moment a spirit of overwhelming joy
welled up in her heart and shone out of her eyes. Thank God he was
not dead!

"Yes, Miss Ruth,--what is left of me. I wanted to see you as soon
as you reached here. You must not be alarmed about your father."
The voice did not sound like Jack's.

"Is he worse? Tell me quick!" she exclaimed, the old fear
confronting her.

"No. He is all right," he wheezed, "and is going to get well. His
left arm is broken and his head badly cut, but he is out of
danger. The doctor told me so an hour ago."

"And you?" she pleaded, clinging to his proffered hand.

"Oh! I am all right, too. The smoke got into my throat so I croak,
but that is nothing. Why, Mr. Grayson,--and Miss Felicia! I am so
glad, Miss Ruth, that you did not have to come alone! This way,
everybody."

Without other words they hurried into the carriage, driving like
mad for the cottage, a mile away; all the worn look gone from
Ruth's face.

"And you're not hurt, my boy?" asked Peter in a trembling voice--
Jack's well hand in his own.

"No, only a few scratches, sir; that's all. Bolton's hand's in a
bad way, though; lose two of his fingers, I'm afraid."

"And how did you escape?"

"I don't know. I got out the best way I could. First thing I knew
I was lying on the grass and some one was pouring water over my
head; then they got me home and put me to bed."

"And MacFarlane?"

"Oh, he came along with me. I had to help him some."

Peter heaved a sigh of relief, then he asked:

"How did it happen?"

"Nobody knows. One of the shanty men might have dropped a box of
fulminates. Poor fellow,--he never knew; they could find nothing
of him," Jack whispered behind his hand so Ruth would not hear.

"But when did you get out of bed?" continued Peter. He was less
anxious now.

Jack looked at Ruth and again lowered his voice; the sound of the
carriage preventing its hoarse notes from reaching her ears.

"About half an hour ago, sir; they don't know I have gone, but I
didn't want anybody to frighten Miss Ruth. I don't look so bad, do
I? I fixed myself up as well as I could. I have got on Bolton's
hat; I couldn't get mine over the bandages. My wrist is the worst
--sprained badly, the doctor says."

If Ruth heard she made no answer, nor did she speak during the
ride. Now and then she would gaze out of the window and once her
fingers tightened on Miss Felicia's arm as she passed in full view
of the "fill" with the gaping mouth of the tunnel beyond. Miss
Felicia was occupied in watching Jack. In fact, she had not taken
her eyes from him since they entered the carriage. She saw what
neither Peter nor Ruth had seen;--that the boy was suffering
intensely from hidden wounds and that the strain was so great he
was verging on a collapse. No telling what these foolish
Southerners will do, she said to herself, when a woman is to be
looked after,--but she said nothing of all this to Ruth.

When the carriage stopped and Ruth with a spring leaped from her
seat and bounded upstairs to her father's bedside, Miss Felicia
holding Jack's hand, her eyes reading the boy's face, turned and
said to Peter:

"Now you take him home where he belongs and put him to bed; and
don't you let him get up until I see him. No--" she continued in a
more decided tone, in answer to Jack's protest--"I won't have it.
You go to bed just as I tell you--you can hardly stand now."

"Perhaps I had better, Miss Felicia. I am a little shaky," replied
Jack, in a faint voice, and the carriage kept on its way to Mrs.
Hicks's leaving the good lady on MacFarlane's porch.

MacFarlane was asleep when Ruth, trembling with excitement,
reached the house. Outside the sick room, lighted by a single
taper, she met the nurse whose few hurried words, spoken with
authority, calmed her, as Jack had been unable to do, and
reassured her mind. "Compound fracture of the right arm, Miss,"
she whispered, "and badly bruised about the head, as they all
were. Poor Mr. Breen was the worst."

Ruth looked at her in astonishment. That was why he had not lifted
his hat, she thought to herself, as she tiptoed into the sick room
and sank to her knees beside her father's bed.

The injured man opened his eyes, and his free hand moved slowly
till it rested on his daughter's head.

"I got an awful crack, Ruth, but I am all right now. Too bad to
bring you home. Who came with you?"

"Aunt Felicia and Uncle Peter," she whispered as she stroked his
uninjured hand.

"Mighty good of them--just like old Peter. Send the old boy up--I
want to see him."

Ruth made no answer; her heart was too full. That her father was
alive was enough.

"I'm not pretty to look at, am I, child, but I'll pull out; I have
been hurt before--had a leg broken once in the Virginia mountains
when you were a baby. The smoke was the worst; I swallowed a lot
of it; and I am sore now all over my chest. Poor Bolton's badly
crippled, I hear--and Breen--they've told you about Breen, haven't
they, daughter?" His voice rose as he mentioned the boy's name.

Ruth shook her head.

"Well, I wouldn't be here but for him! He's a plucky boy. I will
never forget him for it; you mustn't either," he continued in a
more positive tone.

The nurse now moved to the bed.

"I would not talk any more, Mr. MacFarlane. Miss Ruth is going to
be at home now right along and she will hear the story."

"Well, I won't, nurse, if you don't want me to--but they won't be
able to tell her what a fix we were in--I remember everything up
to the time Breen dragged me from under the dirt car. I knew right
away what had happened and what we had to do; I've been there
before, but--"

"There,--that will do, Mr. MacFarlane," interrupted the nurse.
"Come, Miss Ruth, suppose you go to your room for a while."

The girl rose to her feet.

"You can come back as soon as I fix your father for the night."
She pointed significantly to the patient's head, whispering, "He
must not get excited."

"Yes, dear daddy--I will come back just as soon as I can get the
dust out of my hair and get brushed up a little," cried Ruth
bravely, in the effort to hide her anxiety, "and then Aunt Felicia
is downstairs."

Once outside she drew the nurse, who had followed her, to the
window so as to be out of hearing of the patient and then asked
breathlessly:

"What did Mr. Breen do?"

"I don't know exactly, but everybody is talking about him."

At this moment Miss Felicia arrived at the top of the stairs: she
had heard Ruth's question and had caught the dazed expression on
the girl's face.

"I will tell you, my dear, what he did, for I have heard every
word of it from the servants. The blast went off before he and
your father had reached the opening of the tunnel. They left your
father for dead, then John Breen crawled back on his hands and
knees through the dreadful smoke until he reached him, lifted him
up on his shoulders and carried him out alive. That's what he did;
and he is a big, fine, strong, noble fellow, and I am going to
tell him so the moment I get my eyes on him. And that is not all.
He got out of bed this afternoon, though he could hardly stand,
and covered up all his bruises and his broken wrist so you
couldn't see them, and then he limped down to the station so you
would get the truth about your father and not be frightened. And
now he is in a dead faint."

Ruth's eyes flamed and the color left her cheeks. She stretched
out both hands as if to keep from falling.

"Saved daddy!" she gasped--"Carried him out on--Oh! Aunt
Felicia!--and I have been so mean! To think he got up out of bed
and--and--" Everything swam before her eyes.

Miss Felicia sprang forward and caught her in her arms.

"Come!--none of this, Child. Pull yourself together right away.
Get her some water, nurse,--she has stood all she can. There now,
dearie--" Ruth's head was on her breast now. "There--there--Such a
poor darling, and so many things coming all at once. There,
darling, put your head on my shoulder and cry it all out."

The girl sobbed on, the wrinkled hand patting her cheek.

"Oh, but you don't know, aunty--" she crooned.

"Yes, but I do--you blessed child. I know it all."

"And won't somebody go and help him? He is all alone, he told me
so."

"Uncle Peter is with him, dearie.'"

"Yes,--but some one who can--" she straightened up--"I will go,
aunty--I will go now."

"You will do nothing of the kind, you little goose; you will stay
just where you are."

"Well, won't you go, then? Oh, please--please--aunty." Peter's
bald head now rose above the edge of the banisters. Miss Felicia
motioned him to go back, but Ruth heard his step and raised her
tear-drenched face half hidden in her dishevelled hair.

"Oh, Uncle Peter, is Jack--is Mr. Breen--"

Miss Felicia's warning face behind Ruth's own, for once reached
Peter in time.

"In his bed and covered up, and his landlady, Mrs. Hicks, sitting
beside him," responded Peter in his cheeriest tones.

"But he fainted from pain--and--"

"Yes, but that's all over now, my dear," broke in Miss Felicia.

"But you will go, anyhow--won't you, aunty?" pleaded Ruth.

"Certainly--just as soon as I put you to bed, and that is just
where you have got to go this very minute," and she led the
overwrought trembling girl into her room and shut the door.

Peter stood for an instant looking about him, his mind taking in
the situation. Ruth was being cared for now, and so was
MacFarlane--the white cap and apron of the noiseless nurse passing
in and out of the room in which he lay, assured him of that.
Bolton, too, in the room next to Jack's, was being looked after by
his sister who had just arrived. He, too, was fairly comfortable,
though a couple of his fingers had been shortened. But there was
nobody to look after Jack--no father, mother, sister--nobody. To
send for the boy's uncle, or Corinne, or his aunt, was out of the
question, none of them having had more than a word with him since
his departure. Yet Jack needed attention. The doctor had just
pulled him out of one fainting spell only to have him collapse
again when his coat was taken off, and the bandages were loosened.
He was suffering greatly and was by no means out of danger.

If for the next hour or two there was anything to be done at
MacFarlane's, Peter was ready to do it, but this accomplished, he
would shoulder his bag and camp out for the night beside the boy's
bed. He had come, indeed, to tell Felicia so, and he meant to
sleep there whatever her protests. He was preparing himself for
her objections, when she reentered the room.

"How is young Breen?" Miss Felicia asked in a whisper, closing the
door behind her. She had put Ruth to bed, where she had again
given way to an uncontrollable fit of weeping.

"Pretty weak. The doctor is with him now."

"What did the fool get up for?" She did not mean to surrender too
quickly about Jack despite his heroism--not to Peter, at any
rate. Then, again, she half suspected that Ruth's tears were
equally divided between the rescuer and the rescued.

"He couldn't help it, I suppose," answered Peter, with a gleam in
his eyes--"he was born that way."

"Born! What stuff, Peter--no man of any common-sense would have--"

"I quite agree with you, my dear--no man except a gentleman. There
is no telling what one of that kind might do under such
circumstances." And with a wave of his hand and a twinkle in his
merry scotch-terrier eyes, the old fellow disappeared below the
handrail.

Miss Felicia leaned over the banisters:

"Peter, PETER," she called after him, "where are you going?"

"To stay all night with Jack."

"Well, that's the most sensible thing I have heard of yet. Will
you take him a message from me?"

Peter looked up: "Yes, Felicia, what is it?"

"Give him my love."





CHAPTER XVI




Miss Felicia kept her promise to Ruth. Before that young woman,
indeed, tired out with anxiety, had opened her beautiful eyes the
next morning and pushed back her beautiful hair from her beautiful
face--and it was still beautiful, despite all the storms it had
met and weathered, the energetic, old lady had presented herself
at the front door of Mrs. Hicks's Boarding Hotel (it was but a
step from MacFarlane's) and had sent her name to the young man in
the third floor back.

A stout person, with a head of adjustable hair held in place by a
band of black velvet skewered by a gold pin, the whole surmounted
by a flaring mob-cap of various hues and dyes, looked Miss Felicia
all over and replied in a dubious tone:

"He's had a bad mash-up, and I don't think--"

"I am quite aware of it, my dear madam, or I would not be here.
Now, please show me the way to Mr. Breen's room--my brother was
here last night and--"

"Oh, the bald-headed gentleman?" exclaimed Mrs. Hicks. "Such a
dear, kind man; and it was as much as I could do to get him to bed
and he a--"

But Miss Felicia was already inside the sitting-room, her critical
eyes noting its bare, forbidding furnishing and appointment--she
had not yet let down her skirts, the floor not being inviting. As
each article passed in review--the unsteady rocking-chairs
upholstered in haircloth and protected by stringy tidies, the
disconsolate, almost bottomless lounge, fly-specked brass clock
and mantel ornaments, she could not but recall the palatial
entrance, drawing-room, and boudoir into which Parkins had ushered
her on that memorable afternoon when she had paid a visit to Mrs.
Arthur Breen--(her "last visit" the old lady would say with a sly
grimace at Holker, who had never forgiven "that pirate, Breen,"
for robbing Gilbert of his house).

"And this is what this idiot has got in exchange," she said to
herself as she peered into the dining-room beyond, with its
bespattered table-cloth flanked by cheap china plates and ivory
napkin rings--the castors mounting guard at either end.

The entrance of the lady with the transferable hair cut short her
revery.

"Mr. Breen says come up, ma'am," she said in a subdued voice. It
was astonishing how little time it took for Miss Felicia's
personality to have its effect.

Up the uncarpeted stairs marched the great lady, down an equally
bare hall lined on either side by bedroom doors, some marked by
unblacked shoes others by tin trays holding fragments of late or
early breakfasts, the flaring cap obsequiously pointing the way
until the two had reached a door at the end of the corridor.

"Now I won't bother you any more," said Miss Felicia. "Thank you
very much. Are you in here Mr. Breen?" she called in a cheery
voice as she pushed open the door, and advanced to his bedside:--
"Oh, you poor fellow! Oh, I AM so sorry!"

The boy lay on a cot-bed pushed close to the wall. His face was
like chalk; his eyes deep set in his head; his scalp one criss-
cross of bandages, and his right hand and wrist a misshapen lump
of cotton wadding and splints.

"No, don't move. Why, you did not look as bad as this yesterday,"
she added in sympathetic tones, patting his free hand with her
own, her glance wandering over the cramped little room with its
meagre appointments.

Jack smiled faintly and a light gleamed in his eyes. The memory of
yesterday evidently brought no regrets.

"I dared not look any other way," he answered faintly; "I was so
afraid of alarming Miss Ruth." Then after a pause in which the
smile and the gleam flickered over his pain-tortured face, he
added in a more determined voice: "I am glad I went, though the
doctor was furious. He says it was the worst thing I could have
done--and thought I ought to have had sense enough to--But don't
let's talk any more about it, Miss Felicia. It was so good of you
to come. Mr. Grayson has just left. You'd think he was a woman, he
is so gentle and tender. But I'll be around in a day or two, and
as soon as I can get on my feet and look less like a scarecrow
than I do, I am coming over to see you and Miss Ruth and--yes, and
UNCLE PETER--" Miss Felicia arched her eyebrows: "Oh, you needn't
look!--that's what I am going to call him after this; we settled
all that last night."

A smile overspread Miss Felicia's face. "Uncle Peter, is it? And I
suppose you will be calling me Aunt Felicia next?"

Jack turned his eyes: "That was just what I was trying to screw up
my courage to do. Please let me, won't you?" Again Miss Felicia
lifted her eyebrows, but she did not say she would.

"And Ruth--what do you intend to call that young lady? Of course,
without her permission, as that seems to be the fashion." And the
old lady's eyes danced in restrained merriment.

The sufferer's face became suddenly grave; for an instant he did
not answer, then he said slowly:

"But what can I call her except Miss Ruth?"

Miss Felicia laughed. Nothing was so delicious as a love affair
which she could see into. This boy's heart was an open book.
Besides, this kind of talk would take his mind from his miseries.

"Oh, but I am not so sure of that," she rejoined, in an
encouraging tone.

A light broke out in Jack's eyes: "You mean that she WOULD let me
call her--call her Ruth?"

"I don't mean anything of the kind, you foolish fellow. You have
got to ask her yourself; but there's no telling what she would not
do for you now, she's so grateful to you for saving her father's
life."

"But I did not," he exclaimed, an expression as of acute pain
crossing his brows. "I only helped him along. But she must not be
grateful. I don't like the word. Gratitude hasn't got anything to
do with--" he did not finish the sentence.

"But you DID save his life, and you know it, and I just love you
for it," she insisted, ignoring his criticism as she again
smoothed his hand. "You did a fine, noble act, and I am proud of
you and I came to tell you so." Then she added suddenly: "You
received my message last night, didn't you? Now, don't tell me
that that good-for-nothing Peter forgot it."

"No, he gave it to me, and it was so kind of you."

"Well, then I forgive him. And now," here she made a little salaam
with both her hands--"now you have Ruth's message."

"I have what?" he asked in astonishment.

"Ruth's message." She still kept her face straight although her
lips quivered with merriment.

Jack tried to lift his head: "What is her message?" he asked with
expectant eyes--perhaps she had sent him a letter!

Miss Felicia tapped her bosom with her forefinger.

"ME!" she cried, "I am her message. She was so worried last night
when she found out how ill you were that I promised her to come
and comfort you; that is why it is ME. And now, don't you think
you ought to get down on your knees and thank her? Why, you don't
seem a bit pleased!"

"And she sent you to me--because--because--she was GRATEFUL that I
saved her father's life?" he asked in a bewildered tone.

"Of course--why shouldn't she be; is there anything else you can
give her she would value as much as her father's life, you
conceited young Jackanapes?"

She had the pin through the butterfly now and was watching it
squirm; not maliciously--she was never malicious. He would get
over the prick, she knew. It might help him in the end, really.

"No, I suppose not," he replied simply, as he sank back on his
pillow and turned his bruised face toward the wall.

For some moments he lay in deep thought. The last half-hour in the
arbor under the palms came back to him; the tones of Ruth's voice;
the casual way in which she returned his devouring glance. She
didn't love him; never had loved him; wouldn't ever love him.
Anybody could carry another fellow out on his back; was done every
day by firemen and life-savers,--everybody, in fact, who happened
to be around when their services were most needed. Grateful! Of
course the rescued people and their friends were grateful until
they forgot all about it, as they were sure to do the next day, or
week, or month. Gratitude was not what he wanted. It was love.
That was the way he felt; that was the way he would always feel.
He who loved every hair on Ruth's beautiful head, loved her
wonderful hands, loved her darling feet, loved the very ground on
which she walked "Gratitude!" eh! That was the word his uncle had
used the day he slammed the door of his private office in his
face. "Common gratitude, damn you, Jack, ought to put more sense
in your head," as though one ought to have been "grateful" for a
seat at a gambling table and two rooms in a house supported by its
profits. Garry had said "gratitude," too, and so had Corinne, and
all the rest of them. Peter had never talked gratitude; dear
Peter, who had done more for him than anybody in the world except
his own father. Peter wanted his love if he wanted anything, and
that was what he was going to give him--big, broad, all-absorbing
LOVE. And he did love him. Even his wrinkled hands, so soft and
white, and his glistening head, and his dabs of gray whiskers, and
his sweet, firm, human mouth were precious to him. Peter--his
friend, his father, his comrade! Could he ever insult him by such
a mean, cowardly feeling as gratitude? And was the woman he loved
as he loved nothing else in life--was she--was Ruth going to
belittle their relations with the same substitute? It was a big
pin, that which Miss Felicia had impaled him on, and it is no
wonder the poor fluttering wings were nigh exhausted in the
struggle!

Relief came at last.

"And now what shall I tell her?" asked Miss Felicia. "She worries
more over you than she does over her father; she can get hold of
him any minute, but you won't be presentable for a week. Come,
what shall I tell her?"

Jack shifted his shoulders so that he could move the easier and
with less pain, and raised himself on his well elbow. There was no
use of his hoping any more; she had evidently sent Miss Felicia to
end the matter with one of her polite phrases,--a weapon which
she, of all women, knew so well how to use.

"Give Miss Ruth my kindest regards," he said in a low voice, still
husky from the effects of the smoke and the strain of the last
half-hour--"and say how thankful I am for her gratitude, and--No,
--don't tell her anything of the kind. I don't know what you are to
tell her." The words seemed to die in his throat.

"But she will ask me, and I have got to say something. Come,--out
with it." Her eyes were still on his face; not a beat of his wings
or a squirm of his body had she missed.

"Well just say how glad I am she is at home again and that her
father is getting on so well, and tell her I will be up and around
in a day or two, and that I am not a bit worse off for going to
the station yesterday."

"Anything else?"

"No,--unless you can think of something."

"And if I do shall I add it?"

"Yes."

"Oh,--then I know exactly what to do,--it will be something like
this: 'Please, Ruth, take care of your precious self, and don't be
worried about me or anything else, and remember that every minute
I am away from you is misery, for I love you to distraction and--
'"

"Oh, Miss Felicia!"

"No--none of your protests, sir!" she laughed. "That is just what
I am going to tell her. And now don't you dare to move till Peter
comes back," and with a toss of her aristocratic head the dear
lady left the room, closing the door behind her.

And so our poor butterfly was left flat against the wall--all his
flights ended. No more roaming over honeysuckles, drinking in the
honey of Ruth's talk; no more soaring up into the blue, the
sunshine of hope dazzling his wings. It made no difference what
Miss Felicia might say to Ruth. It was what she had said to HIM
which made him realize the absurdity of all his hopes. Everything
that he had longed for, worked for, dreamed about, was over now--
the long walks in the garden, her dear hand in his, even the song
of the choir boys, and the burst of joyous music as they passed
out of the church door only to enter their own for life. All this
was gone--never to return--never had existed, in fact, except in
his own wild imagination. And once more the disheartened boy
turned his tired pain-racked face toward the bare wall.

Miss Felicia tripped downstairs with an untroubled air, extended
two fingers to Mrs. Hicks, and without more ado passed out into
the morning air. No thought of the torment she had inflicted
affected the dear woman. What were pins made for except to curb
the ambitious wings of flighty young men who were soaring higher
than was good for them. She would let him know that Ruth was a
prize not to be too easily won, especially by penniless young
gentlemen, however brave and heroic they might be.

Hardly had she crossed the dreary village street encumbered with
piles of half-melted snow and mud, than she espied Peter picking
his way toward her, his silk hat brushed to a turn, his gray
surtout buttoned close, showing but the edge of his white silk
muffler, his carefully rolled umbrella serving as a divining rod
the better to detect the water holes. No one who met him and
looked into his fresh, rosy face, or caught the merry twinkle of
his eyes, would ever have supposed he had been pouring liniment
over broken arms and bandaged fingers until two o'clock in the
morning of the night before. It had only been when Bolton's sister
had discovered an empty "cell," as Jack called the bedroom next to
his, that he had abandoned his intention of camping out on Jack's
disheartened lounge, and had retired like a gentleman carrying
with him all his toilet articles, ready to be set out in the
morning.

Long before that time he had captured everybody in the place: from
Mrs. Hicks, who never dreamed that such a well of tenderness over
suffering could exist in an old fellow's heart, down to the
freckled-faced boy who came for his muddy shoes and who, after a
moment's talk with Peter as to how they should be polished,
retired later in the firm belief that they belonged to "a gent way
up in G," as he expressed it, he never having waited on "the likes
of him before." As to Bolton, he thought he was the "best ever,"
and as to his prim, patient sister who had closed her school to be
near her brother--she declared to Mrs. Hicks five minutes after
she had laid her eyes on him, that Mr. Breen's uncle was "just too
dear for anything,"--to which the lady with the movable hair and
mob-cap not only agreed, but added the remark of her own, "that
folks like him was a sight better than the kind she was a-gettin'."

All these happenings of the night and early hours of this bright,
beautiful morning--and it was bright and sunny overhead despite
the old fellow's precautionary umbrella--had helped turn out the
spick and span gentleman who was now making his way carefully over
the unpaved road which stood for Corklesville's principal street.

Miss Felicia saw him first.

"Oh! there you are!" she cried before he could raise his eyes.
"Did you ever see anything so disgraceful as this crossing--not a
plank--nothing. No--get out of my way, Peter; you will just upset
me, and I would rather help myself."

In reply Peter, promptly ignoring her protest, stepped in front of
her, poked into several fraudulent solidities covering
unfathomable depths, found one hard enough to bear the weight of
Miss Felicia's dainty shoe--it was about as long as a baby's
hand--and holding out his own said, in his most courtly manner:

"Be very careful now, my dear: put your foot on mine; so! now give
me your hand and jump. There--that's it." To see Peter help a
lady across a muddy street, Holker Morris always said, was a
lesson in all the finer virtues. Sir Walter was a bungler beside
him. But then Miss Felicia could also have passed muster as the
gay gallant's companion.

And just here the Scribe remarks, parenthetically, that there is
nothing that shows a woman's refinement more clearly than the way
she crosses a street.

Miss Felicia, for instance, would no more have soiled the toes of
her shoes in a puddle than a milk-white pussy would have dampened
its feet in the splash of an overturned bowl: a calm survey up and
down; a taking in of the dry and wet spots; a careful gathering up
of her skirts, and over skimmed the slender, willowy old lady with
a one--two--and three--followed by a stamp of her absurd feet and
the shaking out of ruffle and pleat. When a woman strides through
mud without a shiver because she has plenty of dry shoes and good
ones at home, there are other parts of her make-up, inside and
out, that may want a looking after.

Miss Felicia safely landed on the dry and comparatively clean
sidewalk, Peter put the question he had been framing in his mind
since he first caught sight of that lady picking her way among the
puddles.

"Well, how is he now?"

"His head, or his heart?" she asked with a knowing smile, dropping
her still spotless skirts. "Both are broken; the last into
smithereens. It is hopeless. He will never be any better. Oh,
Peter, what a mess you have made of things!"

"What have I done?" he laughed.

"Got these two people dead in love with each other,--both of them
--Ruth is just as bad--and no more chance of their ever being
married than you or I. Perfectly silly, Peter, and I have always
told you so--and now you will have to take the consequences."

"Beautiful--beautiful!" chuckled Peter; "everything is coming my
way. I was sure of Jack, for he told me so, but Ruth puzzled me.
Did she tell you she loved him?"

"No, stupid, of course she did not. But have I not a pair of eyes
in my head? What do you suppose I got up for this morning at such
an unearthly hour and went over to--Oh, such an awful place!--to
see that idiot? Just to tell him I was sorry? Not a bit of it! I
went to find out what was going on, and now I know; and what is to
become of it all nobody can tell. Here is her father with every
penny he has in the world in this work--so Holker tells me--and
here are a lot of damages for dead men and Heaven knows what else;
and there is Jack Breen with not a penny to his name except his
month's wages; and here is Ruth who can marry anybody she chooses,
bewitched by that boy--and I grant you she has every reason for
he is as brave as he can be, and what is better he is a gentleman.
And there lies Henry MacFarlane blind as a bat as to what is going
on! Oh!--really, Peter, there cannot be anything more absurd."

During the outbreak Peter stood leaning on his umbrella, a smile
playing over his smooth-shaven face, his eyes snapping as if at
some inwardly suppressed fun. These were the kind of outbursts
Peter loved. It was only when Felicia was about to come over to
your way of thinking that she talked like this. It was her way of
hearing the other side.

"Dreadful!--dreadful!" sighed Peter, looking the picture of woe.
"Love in a garret--everybody in rags,--one meal a day--awful
situation! Something's got to be done at once. I'll begin by
taking up a collection this very day. In the meantime, Felicia,
I'll just keep on to Jack's and see how his arm's getting on and
his head. As to his heart,--I'll talk to Ruth and see--"

"Are you crazy, Peter? You will do nothing of the kind. If you do,
I will--"

But Peter, his hat in the air, was now out of hearing. When he
reached the mud line he turned, drew his umbrella as if from an
imaginary scabbard, made a military salute, and, with a suppressed
gurgle in his throat, kept on to Jack's room.

Somehow the sunshine had crept into the old fellow's veins this
morning. None of Miss Felicia's pins for him!

Ruth, from her place by the sitting-room window, had seen the two
talking and had opened the front door, before Miss Felicia's hand
touched the bell. She had already subjected Peter to a running
fire of questions while he was taking his coffee and thus had the
latest intelligence down to the moment when Peter turned low
Jack's light and had tucked him in. He was asleep when Peter had
peered into his cramped room early this morning, and the bulletin
therefore could go no further.

"And how is he, aunty?" Ruth asked in a breathless tone before the
front door could be closed.

"Getting on splendidly, my dear. Slept pretty well. It is a
dreadful place for any one to be in, but I suppose he is
accustomed to it by this time."

"And is he no worse for coming to meet us, Aunt Felicia?" Ruth
asked, her voice betraying her anxiety. She had relieved the old
lady of her cloak now, and had passed one arm around her slender
waist.

"No, he doesn't seem to be, dearie. Tired, of course--and it may
keep him in bed a day or two longer, but it won't make any
difference in his getting well. He will be out in a week or so."

Ruth paused for a moment and then asked in a hesitating way, all
her sympathy in her eyes:

"And I don't suppose there is anybody to look after him, is
there?"

"Oh, yes, plenty: Mrs. Hicks seems a kind, motherly person, and
then Mr. Bolton's sister runs in and out." It was marvellous how
little interest the dear woman took in the condition of the
patient. Again the girl paused. She was sorry now she had not
braved everything and gone with her.

"And did he send me any message, aunty?" This came quite as a
matter of form--merely to learn all the details.

"Oh, yes,--I forgot: he told me to tell you how glad he was to
hear your father was getting well," replied Miss Felicia searching
the mantel for a book she had placed there.

Ruth bit her lips and a certain dull feeling crept about her
heart. Jack, with his broken arm and bruised head rose before her.
Then another figure supplanted it.

"And what sort of a girl is that Miss Bolton?" There was no
curiosity--merely for information. "Uncle Peter was so full of her
brother and how badly he had been hurt he hardly mentioned her
name"

"I did not see her very well; she was just coming out of her
brother's room, and the hall was dark. Oh, here's my book--I knew
I had left it here."

"Pretty?" continued Ruth, in a slightly anxious tone.

"No,--I should say not," replied the old lady, moving to the door.

"Then you don't think there is anything I can do?" Ruth called
after her.

"Not now."

Ruth picked up Miss Felicia's wrap from the chair where that lady
had thrown it, mounted the stairs, peered from between the pots of
geraniums screening a view of the street with the Hicks Hotel
dominating one corner, wondered which window along the desolate
front gave Jack light and air, and with whispered instructions to
the nurse to be sure and let her know when her father awoke, shut
herself in her room.

As for the horrible old ogre who had made all the trouble, nipping
off buds, skewering butterflies and otherwise disporting herself
after the manner of busybodies who are eternally and forever
poking their thin, pointed noses into what doesn't concern them,
no hot, scalding tears, the Scribe regrets to say, dimmed her
knowing eyes, nor did any unbidden sigh leap from her old heart.
Foolish young people ought to thank her really for what she had
done--what she would still try to do--and they would when they
were a year older.

Poor, meddling Miss Felicia! Have you forgotten that night thirty
years ago when you stood in a darkened room facing a straight,
soldierly looking man, and listened to the slow dropping of words
that scalded your heart like molten metal? Have you forgotten,
too, the look on his handsome face when he uttered his protest at
the persistent intermeddling of another, and the square of his
broad shoulders as he disappeared through the open door never to
return again?





CHAPTER XVII




Some of the sunshine that had helped dry the muddy road, making
possible the path between Jack's abode and MacFarlane's hired
villa--where there was only room for Miss Felicia, Peter still
occupying his cell at Mrs. Hicks's, but taking his meals with
Ruth, so that he could be within call of MacFarlane when needed--
some of this same sunshine, I say, may have been responsible for
the temporary drying up of Ruth's tears and the establishing of
various ways of communication between two hearts that had for some
days been floundering in the deeps. Or, perhaps, the rebound may
have been due to the fact that Peter had whispered something in
Jack's ear, or that Ruth had overheard Miss Felicia praising
Jack's heroism to her father--it was common talk everywhere--or it
may have been that the coming of spring which always brings hope
and cheer--making old into new, may have led to the general
lighting up of the gloom that had settled over the house of
MacFarlane and its dependents; but certain it is that such was the
case.

MacFarlane began by taking a sudden change for the better--so
decided a change that he was out of his room and dressed on the
fifth day (although half his coat hid his broken arm, tightly
bandaged to his side). He had even talked as far as the geraniums
in the window, through which he could not only see Jack's hotel,
but the big "earth fill" and mouth of The Beast beyond.

Then Bolton surprised everybody by appearing outdoors, his hand
alone in a sling. What was left of the poor shanty men, too, had
been buried, the dreadful newspaper articles had ceased, and work
was again in full blast.

Jack, to be sure, was still in his room, having swallowed more gas
and smoke than the others, badly scorching his insides, as he had
panted under the weight of MacFarlane's body. The crisis, however,
brought on by his imprudence in meeting Ruth at the station, had
passed, and even he was expected to be out in a few days.

As for Miss Felicia, although she had blown hot and blown cold on
Ruth's heart, until that delicate instrument stood at zero one day
and at fever heat the next, she had, on the whole, kept up an
equable temperature, and meant to do so until she shook the dust
of Corklesville from her dainty feet and went back to the clean,
moist bricks of her garden.

And as for Peter! Had he not been a continuous joy; cheering
everybody; telling MacFarlane funny stories until that harassed
invalid laughed himself, unconscious of the pain to his arm;
bringing roses for the prim, wizened-up Miss Bolton, that she
might have a glimpse of something fresh and alive while she sat by
her brother's bed. And last, and by no means least, had he not the
morning he had left for New York, his holiday being over, taken
Ruth in his arms and putting his lips close to her ear, whispered
something into its pink shell that had started northern lights
dancing all over her cheeks and away up to the roots of her hair;
and had she not given him a good hug and kissed him in return, a
thing she had never done in her whole life before? And had he not
stopped on his way to the station for a last hand-shake with Jack
and to congratulate him for the hundredth time for his plucky
rescue of MacFarlane--a subject he never ceased to talk about--
and had he not at the very last moment, told Jack every word of
what he and Ruth talked about, with all the details elaborated,
even to the hug, which was no sooner told than another set of
northern lights got into action at once, and another hug followed;
only this time it took the form of a hearty hand-shake and a pat
on Peter's back, followed by a big tear which the boy tried his
best to conceal? Peter had no theories detrimental to penniless
young gentlemen, pursued by intermeddling old ladies.

And yet with all this there was one corner deep down in Ruth's
heart so overgrown with "wonderings" and "whys," so thick with
tangled doubts and misgivings, that no cheering ray of certainty
had yet been able to pierce it. Nor had any one tried. Miss
Felicia, good as she was and loving as she had been, had done
nothing in the pruning way--that is, nothing which would let in
any sunshine radiating from Jack. She had talked about him, it is
true; not to her, we may be sure, but to her father, saying how
handsome he had grown and what a fine man he was making of
himself. She had, too, more than once commented--and this before
everybody--on his good manners and his breeding, especially on the
way he had received her the first morning she called, and to his
never apologizing for his miserable surroundings, meagre as they
were--just a theodolite, his father's portrait and half a dozen
books alone being visible, the white walls covered with working
plans. But when the poor girl had tried to draw from her some word
that was personal to himself, or one that might become personal--
and she did try even to the verge of betraying herself, which
would never have done--Miss Felicia had always turned the subject
at once or had pleaded forgetfulness. Not a word could she drag
out of this very perverse and determined old lady concerning the
state of the patient, nothing except that he was "better," or
"doing nicely," or that the bandage was being shortened, or some
other commonplace. Uncle Peter had been kinder. He understood--she
saw that in his eyes. Still even Uncle Peter had not told her all
that she wanted to know, and of course she could not ask him.

Soon a certain vague antagonism began to assert itself toward the
old lady who knew so much and yet who said so little! who was too
old really to understand--no old person, in fact, could
understand--that is, no old woman. This proved, too, that this
particular person could never have loved any other particular
person in her life. Not that she, Ruth, loved Jack--by no manner
of means--not in that way, at least. But she would have liked to
know what he said, and how he said it, and whether his eyes had
lost that terrible look which they wore when he turned away at the
station to go back to his sick bed in the dingy hotel. All these
things her Aunt Felicia knew about and yet she could not drag a
word out of her.

What she ought to have done was to go herself that first night,
bravely, honestly, fearlessly as any friend had a right to do; go
to him in his miserable little hotel and try to cheer him up as
Miss Felicia, and perhaps Miss Bolton, had done. Then she might
have found out all about it. Exactly what it was that she wanted
to find out all about--and this increased her perplexity--she
could not formulate, although she was convinced it would help her
to bear the anxiety she was suffering. Now it was too late; more
than a week had passed, and no excuse for going was possible.

It was not until the morning after Peter's departure,--she,
sitting alone, sad and silent in her chair at the head of her
father's breakfast table (Miss Felicia, as was her custom, had her
coffee in her room), that the first ray of light had crept into
her troubled brain. It had only shone a brief moment,--and had
then gone out in darkness, but it held a certain promise for
better days, and on this she had built her hopes.

"I am going to send for Breen to-morrow, Ruth," her father had
said as he kissed her good-night. "There are some things I want to
talk over with him, and then I want to thank him for what he did
for me. He's a man, every inch of him; I haven't told him so yet,
--not to his face,--but I will to-morrow. Fine fellow is Breen;
blood will always tell in the end, my daughter, and he's got the
best in the country in his veins. Looks more like his father every
day he lives."

She had hardly slept all night, thinking of the pleasure in store
for her. She had dressed herself, too, in her most becoming
breakfast gown--one she had worn when Jack first arrived at
Corklesville, and which he said reminded him of a picture he had
seen as a boy. There were pink rosebuds woven in its soft texture,
and the wide peach-blossom ribbon that bound her dainty waist
contrasted so delightfully, as he had timidly hinted, with the
tones of her hair and cheeks.

It was the puffy, bespectacled little doctor who shut out the
light.

"No, your father has still one degree of fever," he grumbled, with
a wise shake of his bushy head. "No--nobody, Miss MacFarlane,--do
you understand? He can see NOBODY--or I won't be responsible," and
with this the crabbed old fellow climbed into his gig and drove
away.

She looked after him for a moment and two hot tears dropped from
her eyes and dashed themselves to pieces on the peach-blossom
ribbon.

But the sky was clearing again--she didn't realize it,--but it
was. April skies always make alternate lights and darks. The old
curmudgeon had gone, but the garden gate was again a-swing.

Ruth heard the tread on the porch and drawing back the curtains
looked out. The most brilliant sunbeams were but dull rays
compared with what now flashed from her eyes. Nor did she wait for
any other hand than her own to turn the knob of the door.

"Why, Mr. Breen!"

"Yes, Miss Ruth," Jack answered, lifting his hat, an unrestrained
gladness at the sight of her beauty and freshness illumining his
face. "I have come to report for duty to your father."

"But you cannot see him. You must report to me," she laughed
gayly, her heart brimming over now that he was before her again.
"Father was going to send for you to-day, but the doctor would not
let him. Hush! he musn't hear us."

"He would not let me go out either, but as I am tired to death of
being cooped up in my room, I broke jail. Can't I see him?" he
continued in a lower key. He had his coat off and had hung it on
the rack, she following him into the sitting-room, absorbing every
inch of his strong, well-knit body from his short-cropped hair
where the bandages had been wound, down to the sprained wrist
which was still in splints. She noted, too, with a little choke in
her throat, the shadows under the cheek bones and the thinness of
the nose. She could see plainly how he had suffered.

"I am sorry you cannot see father." She was too moved to say
more." He still has one degree of fever."

"I have two degrees myself," Jack laughed softly,--"one records
how anxious I was to get out of my cell and the other how eager I
was to get here. And now I suppose I can't stay."

"Oh, yes, you can stay if you will keep as still as a mouse so
father can't hear you," she whispered, a note of joy woven in her
tones.

She was leading him to the sofa as she spoke. He placed a cushion
for her, and took his place beside her, resting his injured hand,
which was in a sling, on the arm. He was still weak and shaking.

"Daddy is still in his room," she rattled on nervously, "but he
may be out and prowling about the upstairs hall any minute. He has
a heap of things to talk over with you--he told me so last night--
and if he knew you were here nothing would stop him. Wait till I
shut the door. And now tell me about yourself," she continued in a
louder voice, regaining her seat. "You have had a dreadful time, I
hear--it was the wrist, wasn't it?" She felt she was beginning
badly; although conscious of her nervous joy and her desire to
conceal it, somehow it seemed hard for her to say the right thing.

"Oh, I reckon it was everything, Miss Ruth, but it's all over
now." He was not nervous. He was in an ecstasy. His eyes were
drinking in the round of her throat and the waves of glorious hair
that crowned her lovely head. He noticed, too, some tiny threads
that lay close to her ears: he had been so hungry for a glimpse of
them!

"Oh, I hope so, but you shouldn't have come to the station that
day," she struggled on. "We had Uncle Peter with us, and only a
hand-bag, each of us,--we came away so suddenly."

"I didn't want you to be frightened about your father. I didn't
know that Uncle Peter was with you; in fact, I didn't know much of
anything until it was all over. Bolton sent the telegram as soon
as he got his breath."

"That's what frightened us. Why didn't YOU send it?" she was
gaining control of herself now and something of her old poise had
returned.

"I hadn't got MY breath,--not all of it. I remember his coming
into my room where they were tying me up and bawling out something
about how to reach you by wire, and he says now that I gave him
Mr. Grayson's address. I cannot remember that part of it, except
that I--Well, never mind about that--" he hesitated turning away
his gaze--the memory seemed to bring with it a certain pain.

"Yes,--tell me," she pleaded. She was too happy. This was what she
had been waiting for. There was no detail he must omit.

"It was nothing, only I kept thinking it was you who were hurt,"
he stammered.

"Me!" she cried, her eyes dancing. The ray of light was breaking--
one with a promise in it for the future!

"Yes,--you, Miss Ruth! Funny, isn't it, how when you are half dead
you get things mixed up." Oh, the stupidity of these lovers! Not a
thing had he seen of the flash of expectation in her eyes or of
the hot color rising to her cheeks. "I thought somebody was trying
to tell your father that you were hurt, and I was fighting to keep
him from hearing it. But you must thank Bolton for letting you
know."

Ruth's face clouded and the sparkle died out in her eyes. What was
Mr. Bolton to her, and at a time like this?

"It was most kind of Mr. Bolton," she answered in a constrained
voice. "I only wish he had said something more; we had a terrible
day. Uncle Peter was nearly crazy about you; he telegraphed and
telegraphed, but we could get no answer. That's why it was such a
relief to find you at the station."

But the bat had not finished banging his head against the wall.
"Then I did do some good by going?" he asked earnestly.

"Oh, indeed you did." If he did not care whether she had been hurt
or not, even in his delirium, she was not going to betray herself.
"It was the first time anybody had seen Uncle Peter smile; he was
wretched all day. He loves you very dearly, Mr. Breen."

Jack's hand dropped so suddenly to his side that the pain made him
tighten his lips. For a moment he did not answer.

"Then it was only Uncle Peter who was anxious, was it? I am glad
he loves me. I love him, too," he said at last in a perfunctory
tone--"he's been everything to me."

"And you have been everything to him." She determined to change
the subject now. He told me only--well,--two days ago--that you
had made him ten years younger."

"Me?--Miss Ruth!" Still the same monotonous cadence.

"Yes."

"How?"

"Well,--maybe because he is old and you are young." As she spoke
her eyes measured the width of his shoulders and his broad chest--
she saw now to what her father owed his life--" and another thing;
he said that he would always thank you for getting out alive. And
I owe you a debt of gratitude, too, Mr. Breen;--you gave me back
my dear daddy," she added in a more assured tone. Here at last was
something she could talk unreservedly about. Something that she
had wanted to say ever since he came.

Jack straightened and threw back his shoulders: that word again!
Was that all that Ruth had to say?

"No, Miss Ruth, you don't." There was a slight ring of defiance
now. "You do not owe me anything, and please don't think so, and
please--please--do not say so!"

"I don't owe you anything! Not for saving my father's life?" This
came with genuine surprise.

"No! What would you have thought of me, what would I have thought
of myself had I left him to suffocate when I could just as well
have brought him out? Do you think I could ever have looked you in
the face again? You might not have ever known I could have saved
him--but I should have hated myself every hour of my life. Men are
not to be thanked for these things; they are to be despised if
they don't do them. Can't you see the difference?"

"But you might have been killed, too!" she exclaimed. Her own
voice was rising, irritation and disappointment swaying it.
"Everybody says it was a miracle you were not."

"Not a miracle at all. All I was afraid of was stumbling over
something in the dark--and it was nearly dark--only a few of the
rock lights burning--and not be able to get on my feet again. But
don't let us talk about it any more."

"Yes--but I will, I MUST. I must feel right about it all, and I
cannot unless you listen. I shall never forget you for it as long
as I live." There was a note of pathos in her voice. Why did he
make it so hard for her, she thought. Why would he not look in her
face and see? Why would he not let her thank him? "Nothing in the
world is so precious to me as daddy, and never will be," she went
on resolutely, driving back the feeling of injustice that surged
up in her heart at his attitude--"and it is you, Mr. Breen, who
have given him back to me. And daddy feels the same way about it;
and he is going to tell you so the minute he sees you," she
insisted. "He has sent you a lot of messages, he says, but they do
not count. Please, now. won't you let me thank you?"

Jack raised his head. He had been fingering a tassel on the end of
the sofa, missing all the play of feeling in her eyes, taking in
nothing but the changes that she rang on that one word
"gratitude." Gratitude!--when he loved the ground she stepped on.
But he must face the issue fairly now:

"No,--I don't want you to thank me," he answered simply.

"Well, what do you want, then?" She was at sea now,--compass and
rudder gone,--wind blowing from every quarter at once,--she trying
to reach the harbor of his heart while every tack was taking her
farther from port. If the Scribe had his way the whole coast of
love would be lighted and all rocks of doubt and misunderstanding
charted for just such hapless lovers as these two. How often a
twist of the tiller could send them into the haven of each other's
arms, and yet how often they go ashore and stay ashore and worse
still, stay ashore all their lives.

Jack looked into her eyes and a hopeless, tired expression crossed
his face.

"I don't know," he said in a barely audible voice:--"I just--
please, Miss Ruth, let us talk of something else; let me tell you
how lovely your gown is and how glad I am you wore it to-day. I
always liked it, and--"

"No,--never mind about my gown; I would rather you did not like
anything about me than misunderstand me!" The tears were just
under the lids;--one more thrust like the last and they would be
streaming down her cheeks.

"But I haven't misunderstood you." He saw the lips quiver, but it
was anger, he thought, that caused it.

"Yes, you have!"--a great lump had risen in her throat. "You have
done a brave, noble act,--everybody says so; you carried my dear
father out on your back when there was not but one chance in a
thousand you would ever get out alive; you lay in a faint for
hours and once they gave you up for dead; then you thought enough
of Uncle Peter and all of us to get that telegram sent so we
wouldn't be terrified to death and then at the risk of your life
you met us at the station and have been in bed ever since, and yet
I am to sit still and not say a word!" It was all she could do to
control herself. "I do feel grateful to you and I always shall
feel grateful to you as long as I live. And now will you take my
hand and tell me you are sorry, and let me say it all over again,
and with my whole heart? for that's the way I mean it."

She was facing him now, her hand held out, her head thrown back,
her dark eyes flashing, her bosom heaving. Slowly and reverently,
as a devotee would kiss the robe of a passing priest, Jack bent
his head and touched her fingers with his lips.

Then, raising his eyes to hers, he asked, "And is that all, Miss
Ruth? Isn't there something more?" Not once had she mentioned his
own safety--not once had she been glad over him--"Something more?"
he repeated, an ineffable tenderness in his tones--"something--it
isn't all, is it?"

"Why, how can I say anything more?" she murmured in a lowered
voice, withdrawing her hand as the sound of a step in the hall
reached her ear.

The door swung wide: "Well, what are you two young people
quarrelling about?" came a soft, purring voice.

"We weren't quarrelling, Aunty. Mr. Breen is so modest he doesn't
want anybody to thank him, and I just would."

Miss Felicia felt that she had entered just in time. Scarred and
penniless heroes fresh from battle-fields of glory and desirable
young women whose fathers have been carried bodily out of burning
death pits must never be left too long together.





CHAPTER XVIII




As the weeks rolled by, two questions constantly rose in Ruth's
mind: Why had he not wanted her to thank him?--and what had he
meant by--"And is that all?"

Her other admirers--and there had been many in her Maryland home--
had never behaved like this. Was it because they liked her better
than she liked them? The fact was--and she might as well admit it
once for all--that Jack did not like her at all, he really
DISliked her, and only his loyalty to her father and that inborn
courtesy which made him polite to every woman he met--young or
old--prevented his betraying himself. She tried to suggest
something like this to Miss Felicia, but that good woman had only
said: "Men are queer, my dear, and these Southerners are the
queerest of them all. They are so chivalrous that at times they
get tiresome. Breen is no better than the rest of them." This had
ended it with Miss Felicia. Nor would she ever mention his name to
her again. Jack was not tiresome; on the contrary, he was the soul
of honor and as brave as he could be--a conclusion quite as
illogical as that of her would-be adviser.

If she could only have seen Peter, the poor child thought,--Peter
understood--just as some women not as old as her aunt would have
understood. Dear Uncle Peter! He had told her once what Jack had
said about her--how beautiful he thought her and how he loved her
devotion to her father. Jack MUST have said it, for Uncle Peter
never spoke anything but the exact truth. Then why had Jack, and
everything else, changed so cruelly? she would say--talking to
herself, sometimes aloud. For the ring had gone from his voice and
the tenderness from his touch. Not that he ever was tender, not
that she wanted him to be, for that matter; and then she would
shut her door and throw herself on her bed in an agony of tears--
pleading a headache or fatigue that she might escape her father's
inquiry, and often his anxious glance.

The only ray of light that had pierced her troubled heart--and
this only flashed for a brief moment--was the glimpse she had had
of Jack's mind when he and her father first met. The boy had
called to inquire after his Chief's health and for any
instructions he might wish to give, when MacFarlane, hearing the
young hero's voice in the hall below, hurried down to greet him.
Ruth was leaning over the banister at the time and saw all that
passed. Once within reach MacFarlane strode up to Jack, and with
the look on his face of a man who had at last found the son he had
been hunting for all his life, laid his hand on the lad's
shoulder.

"I think we understand each other, Breen,--don't we?" he said
simply, his voice breaking.

"I think so, sir," answered Jack, his own eyes aglow, as their
hands met.

Nothing else had followed. There was no outburst. Both were men;
in the broadest and strongest sense each had weighed the other.
The eyes and the quivering lips and the lingering hand-clasp told
the rest. A sudden light broke in on Ruth. Her father's quiet
words, and his rescuer's direct answer came as a revelation. Jack,
then, did want to be thanked! Yes, but not by her! Why was it? Why
had he not understood? And why had he made her suffer, and what
had she done to deserve it?

If Jack suspected any of these heartaches and misgivings, no one
would have surmised it. He came and went as usual, passing an hour
in the morning and an hour at night with his Chief, until he had
entirely recovered his strength--bringing with him the records of
the work; the number of feet drilled in a day; cost of
maintenance; cubic contents of dump; extent and slope and angles
of "fill"--all the matters which since his promotion (Jack now had
Bolton's place) came under his immediate supervision. Nor had any
word passed between himself and Ruth, other than the merest
commonplace. He was cheery, buoyant, always ready to help,--always
at her service if she took the train for New York or stayed after
dark at a neighbor's house, when he would insist on bringing her
home, no matter how late he had been up the night before.

If the truth were known, he neither suspected nor could he be made
to believe that Ruth had any troubles. The facts were that he had
given her all his heart and had been ready to lay himself at her
feet, that being the accepted term in his mental vocabulary--and
she would have none of him. She had let him understand so--
rebuffed him--not once, but every time he had tried to broach the
subject of his devotion;--once in the Geneseo arbor, and again on
that morning when he had really crawled to her side because he
could no longer live without seeing her. The manly thing to do now
was to accept the situation: to do his work; look after his
employer's interests, read, study, run over whenever he could to
see Peter--and these were never-to-be-forgotten oases in the
desert of his despair--and above all never to forget that he owed
a duty to Miss Ruth in which no personal wish of his own could
ever find a place. She was alone and without an escort except her
father, who was often so absorbed in his work, or so tired at
night, as to be of little help to her. Moreover, his Chief had, in
a way, added his daughter's care to his other duties. "Can't you
take Ruth to-night--" or "I wish you'd meet her at the ferry," or
"if you are going to that dinner in New York, at so-and-so's,
would you mind calling for her--" etc., etc. Don't start, dear
reader. These two came of a breed where the night key and the
daughter go together and where a chaperon would be as useless as a
policeman locked inside a bank vault.

And so the boy struggled on, growing in bodily strength and mental
experience, still the hero among the men for his heroic rescue of
the "Boss"--a reputation which he never lost; making friends every
day both in the village and in New York and keeping them; absorbed
in his slender library, and living within his means, which small
as they were, now gave him two rooms at Mrs. Hicks's,--one of
which he had fitted up as a little sitting-room and in which Ruth
had poured the first cup of tea, her father and some of the
village people being guests.

His one secret--and it was his only one--he kept locked up in his
heart, even from Peter. Why worry the dear old fellow, he had said
to himself a dozen times, since nothing would ever come of it.

While all this had been going on in the house of MacFarlane, much
more astonishing things had been developing in the house of Breen.

The second Mukton Lode scoop,--the one so deftly handled the night
of Arthur Breen's dinner to the directors,--had somehow struck a
snag in the scooping with the result that most of the "scoopings"
had been spilled over the edge there to be gathered up by the
gamins of the Street, instead of being hived in the strong boxes
of the scoopers. Some of the habitues in the orchestra chairs in
Breen's office had cursed loud and deep when they saw their
margins melt away; and one or two of the directors had broken out
into open revolt, charging Breen with the fiasco, but most of the
others had held their peace. It was better to crawl away into the
tall grass there to nurse their wounds than to give the enemy a
list of the killed and wounded. Now and then an outsider--one who
had watched the battle from afar--saw more of the fight than the
contestants themselves. Among these was Garry Minott.

"You heard how Mason, the Chicago man, euchred the Mukton gang,
didn't you?" he had shouted to a friend one night at the Magnolia
--"Oh, listen! boys. They set up a job on him,--he's a countryman,
you know a poor little countryman--from a small village called
Chicago--he's got three millions, remember, all in hard cash.
Nice, quiet motherly old gentleman is Mr. Mason--butter wouldn't
melt in his mouth. Went into Mukton with every dollar he had--so
kind of Mr. Breen to let him in--yes, put him down for 2,000
shares more. Then Breen & Co. began to hoist her up--five points--
ten points--twenty points. At the end of the week they had,
without knowing it, bought every share of Mason's stock." Here
Garry roared, as did the others within hearing. "And they've got
it yet. Next day the bottom dropped out. Some of them heard Mason
laugh all the way to the bank. He's cleaned up half a million and
gone back home--'so afraid his mother would spank him for being
out late o' nights without his nurse,'" and again Garry's laugh
rang out with such force and earnestness that the glasses on
Biffy's table chinked in response.

This financial set-back, while it had injured, for the time,
Arthur Breen's reputation for being "up and dressed," had not, to
any appreciable extent, curtailed his expenditures or narrowed the
area of his social domain. Mrs. Breen's dinners and entertainments
had been as frequent and as exclusive, and Miss Corinne had
continued to run the gamut of the gayest and best patronized
functions without, the Scribe is pained to admit, bringing home
with her for good and all both her cotillion favors and the
gentleman who had bestowed them. Her little wren-like head had
moved from side to side, and she had sung her sweetest and
prettiest, but somehow, when the song was over and the crumbs all
eaten (and there were often two dinners a week and at least one
dance), off went the male birds to other and more captivating
roosts.

Mrs. Breen, of course, raved when Corinne at last opened the door
of her cage for Garry,--went to bed, in fact, for the day, to
accentuate her despair and mark her near approach to death because
of it--a piece of inconsistency she could well have spared
herself, knowing Corinne as she had, from the day of her birth,
and remembering as she must have done, her own escapade with the
almost penniless young army officer who afterward became Corinne's
father.

Breen did not rave; Breen rather liked it. Garry had no money, it
is true, except what he could earn,--neither had Corinne. Garry
seemed to do as he darned pleased,--so did Corinne;--Garry had no
mother,--neither had Corinne so far as yielding to any authority
was concerned. "Yes,--let 'em marry,--good thing--begin at the
bottom round and work up--" all of which meant that the honorable
banker was delighted over the prospect of considerable more
freedom for himself and considerable less expense in the
household.

And so the wedding had taken place with all the necessary
trimmings: awning over the carpeted sidewalk; four policemen on
the curb; detectives in the hall and up the staircase and in the
front bedroom where the jewels were exposed (all the directors of
the Mukton Lode were represented); crowds lining the sidewalk; mob
outside the church door--mob inside the church door and clear up
to the altar; flowers, palms, special choir, with little bank-
notes to the boys and a big bank-note to the leader; checks for
the ranking clergyman and the two assistant clergymen, not
forgetting crisp bills for the sexton and the janitor and the
policemen and the detectives and everybody else who could hold out
a hand and not be locked up in jail for highway robbery. Yes, a
most fashionable and a most distinguished and a most exclusive
wedding--there was no mistake about that.

No one had ever seen anything like it before; some hoped they
never would again, so great was the crush in the drawing-room. And
not only in the drawing-room, but over every square inch of the
house for that matter, from the front door where Parkins's
assistant (an extra man from Delmonico's) shouted out--"Third
floor back for the gentlemen and second floor front for the
ladies"--to the innermost recesses of the library made over into a
banquet hall, where that great functionary himself was pouring
champagne into batteries of tumblers as if it were so much water,
and distributing cuts of cold salmon and portions of terrapin with
the prodigality of a charity committee serving a picnic.

And then the heartaches over the cards that never came; and the
presents that were never sent, and the wrath of the relations who
got below the ribbon in the church and the airs of the strangers
who got above it; and the tears over the costly dresses that did
not arrive in time and the chagrin over those they had to wear or
stay at home--and the heat and the jam and tear and squeeze--and
the aftermath of wet glasses on inlaid tables and fine-spun table-
cloths burnt into holes with careless cigarettes; and the little
puddles of ice cream on the Turkish rugs and silk divans and the
broken glass and smashed china!--No--there never had been such a
wedding!

This over, Corinne and Garry had gone to housekeeping in a dear
little flat, to which we may be sure Jack was rarely ever invited
(he had only received "cards" to the church, an invitation which
he had religiously accepted, standing at the door so he could bow
to them both as they passed)--the two, I say, had gone to a dear
little flat--so dear, in fact, that before the year was out
Garry's finances were in such a deplorable condition that the
lease could not be renewed, and another and a cheaper nest had to
be sought for.

It was at this time that the new church to be built at
Corklesville needed an architect--a fact which Jack communicated
to Garry. Then it happened that with the aid of MacFarlane and
Holker Morris the commission was finally awarded to that "rising
young genius who had so justly distinguished himself in the
atelier of America's greatest architect--Holker Morris--" all of
which Garry wrote himself and had inserted in the county paper, he
having called upon the editor for that very purpose. This service
--and it came at a most critical time in the young man's affairs--
the Scribe is glad to say, Garry, with his old-time generous
spirit suddenly revived, graciously acknowledged thanking Jack
heartily and with meaning in his voice, as well as MacFarlane--not
forgetting Ruth, to whom he sent a mass of roses as big as a
bandbox.

The gaining of this church building--the largest and most
important given the young architect since he had left Morris's
protection and guidance--decided Garry to give up at once his
expensive quarters in New York and move to Corklesville. So far as
any help from the house of Breen was concerned, all hope had ended
with the expensive and much-advertised wedding (a shrewd financial
move, really, for a firm selling shady securities). Corinne had
cooed, wept, and then succumbed into an illness, but Breen had
only replied: "No, let 'em paddle their own canoe."

This is why the sign "To Let," on one of the new houses built by
the Elm Crest Land and Improvement Company--old Tom Corkle who
owned the market garden farms that gave the village of
Corklesville its name, would have laughed himself sore had he been
alive--was ripped off and various teams loaded with all sorts of
furniture, some very expensive and showy and some quite the
contrary--especially that belonging to the servants' rooms--were
backed up to the newly finished porch with its second coat of
paint still wet, and their contents duly distributed upstairs and
downstairs and in my lady Corinne's chamber.

"Got to put on the brakes, old man," Garry had said one day to
Jack. The boy had heard of the expected change in the architect's
finances before the villa was rented, and so Garry's confidential
communication was not news to him.

"Been up to look at one of those new houses. Regular bird cage,
but we can get along. Besides, this town is going to grow and I'm
going to help it along. They are all dead out here--embalmed, some
of them--but dead." Here he opened the pamphlet of the company--
"See this house--an hour from New York; high ground; view of the
harbor--(all a lie, Jack, but it goes all the same); sewers,
running water, gas (lot of the last,--most of it in the
prospectus) It's called Elm Crest--beautiful, isn't it,--and not a
stump within half a mile."

Jack always remembered the interview. That Garry should help along
anything that he took an interest in was quite in the line of his
ambition and ability. Minott was as "smart as a steel trap,"
Holker Morris had always said of him, "and a wonderful fellow
among the men. He can get anything out of them; he would really
make a good politician. His handling of the Corn Exchange showed
that."

And so it was not surprising,--not to Jack,--that when a new
village councilman was to be elected, Garry should have secured
votes enough to be included among their number. Nor was it at all
wonderful that after taking his seat he should have been placed in
charge of the village funds so far as the expenditures for
contract work went. The prestige of Morris's office settled all
doubts as to his fitness in construction; and the splendor of the
wedding--there could still be seen posted in the houses of the
workmen the newspaper cuts showing the bride and groom leaving the
church--silenced all opposition to "our fellow townsman's"
financial responsibility, even when that opposition was led by so
prominent a ward heeler as Mr. Patrick McGowan, who had planned to
get the position himself--and who became Garry's arch enemy
thereafter.

In these financial and political advancements Corinne helped but
little. None of the village people interested her, nor did she put
herself out in the least to be polite to them. Ruth had called and
had brought her hands full of roses--and so had her father. Garry
had continued to thank them both for their good word to the church
wardens--and he himself now and then spent an evening at
MacFarlane's house without Corinne, who generally pleaded illness;
but the little flame of friendship which had flashed after their
arrival in Corklesville had died down again.

This had gone on until the acquaintance had practically ended,
except when they met on the trains or in crossing the ferry. Then
again, Ruth and her father lived at one end of the village known
as Corklesville, and Garry and Corinne lived at the other end,
known as Elm Crest, the connecting link being the railroad, a fact
which Jack told Garry with a suggestive laugh, made them always
turn their backs on each other when they parted to go to their
respective homes, to which Garry would reply that it was an
outrage and that he was coming up that very night--all of which he
failed to do when the proposed visit was talked over with Corinne.

None of this affected Jack. He would greet Corinne as
affectionately and cordially as he had ever done. He had taken her
measure years before, but that made no difference to him, he never
forgetting that she was his uncle's nominal daughter; that they
had been sheltered by the same roof and that she therefore in a
way belonged to his people. Moreover, he realized, that like
himself, she had been compelled to give up many of the luxuries
and surroundings to which she had been accustomed and which she
loved,--worthless now to Jack in his freedom, but still precious
to her. This in itself was enough to bespeak his sympathy. Not
that she valued it;--she rather sniffed at it.

"I wish Jack wouldn't stand with his hat off until I get aboard
the train," she had told Garry one day shortly after their
arrival--"he makes me so conspicuous. And he wears such queer
clothes. He was in his slouch hat and rough flannel shirt and high
boots the other day and looked like a tramp."

"Better not laugh at Jack, Cory," Garry had replied; "you'll be
taking your own hat off to him one of these days; we all shall.
Arthur Breen missed it when he let him go. Jack's queer about some
things, but he's a thoroughbred and he's got brains!"

"He insulted Mr. Breen in his own house, that's why he let him
go," snapped Corinne. The idea of her ever taking off her hat,
even figuratively, to John Breen, was not to be brooked,--not for
an instant.

"Yes, that's one way of looking at it, Cory, but I tell you if
Arthur Breen had had Jack with him these last few months--ever
since he left him, in fact,--and had listened once in a while to
what Jack thought was fair and square, the firm of A. B. & Co.
would have a better hold on things than they've got now; and he
wouldn't have dropped that million either. The cards don't always
come up the right way, even when they're stacked."

"It just served my stepfather right for not giving us some of it,
and I'm glad he lost it," Corinne rejoined, her anger rising
again. "I have never forgiven him for not making me an allowance
after I married, and I never will. He could, at least, have
continued the one he always gave me."

Garry winked sententiously, and remarked in reply that he might be
making the distinguished money-bags an allowance himself one of
these fine days, and he could if some of the things he was
counting on came out top side up, but Corinne's opinions did not
change either toward Jack or her stepfather.





CHAPTER XIX




When the pain in Jack's heart over Ruth became unbearable, there
was always one refuge left--one balm which never failed to soothe,
and that was Peter.

For though he held himself in readiness for her call, being seldom
absent lest she might need his services, their constrained
intercourse brought with it more pain than pleasure. It was then
that he longed for the comfort which only his dear mentor could
give.

On these occasions Mrs. McGuffey would take the lace cover off
Miss Felicia's bureau, as a matter of precaution, provided that
lady was away and the room available, and roll in a big tub for
the young gentleman--"who do be washin' hisself all the time and
he that sloppy that I'm afeared everything will be spi'lt for the
mistress," and Jack would slip out of his working clothes (he
would often come away in his flannel shirt and loose tie,
especially when he was late in paying off) and shed his heavy
boots with the red clay of Jersey still clinging to their soles,
and get into his white linen and black clothes and dress shoes,
and then the two chums would lock arms and saunter up Fifth Avenue
to dine either at one of Peter's clubs or at some house where he
and that "handsome young ward of yours, Mr. Grayson--do bring him
again," were so welcome.

If Miss Felicia was in town and her room in use, there was never
any change in the programme, Mrs. McGuffey rising to the emergency
and discovering another and somewhat larger apartment in the next
house but two--"for one of the finest gintlemen ye ever saw and
that quiet," etc.--into which Jack would move and which the good
woman would insist on taking full charge of herself.

It was on one of these blessed and always welcome nights, after
the two had been dining at "a little crack in the wall," as Peter
called a near-by Italian restaurant, that he and Jack stopped to
speak to Isaac Cohen whom they found closing his shop for the
night. Cohen invited them in and Jack, after following the little
tailor through the deserted shop--all the work people had left--
found himself, to his great surprise, in a small room at the rear,
which Isaac opened with a key taken from his vest pocket, and
which even in the dim light of a single gas jet had more the
appearance of the den of a scholar, or the workshop of a
scientist, than the private office of a fashioner of clothes.

Peter only stayed a moment--long enough to borrow the second
volume of one of Isaac's books, but the quaint interior and what
it contained made a great impression on Jack,--so much so that
when the two had said good-night and mounted the stairs to Peter's
rooms, it was with increased interest that the boy listened to the
old fellow who stopped on every landing to tell him some incident
connected with the little tailor and his life: How after his
wife's death some years before, and his only daughter's marriage--
"and a great affair it was, my boy, I was there and know,"--Cohen
had moved down to his shop and fitted up the back room for a
little shelter of his own, where he had lived with his books and
his personal belongings and where he had met the queerest looking
people--with big heads and bushy beards--foreigners, some of them
--speaking all kinds of languages, as well as many highly educated
men in town.

Once inside his own cosey rooms Peter bustled about, poking the
fire into life, drawing the red curtains closer, moving a vase of
roses so he could catch their fragrance from where he sat,
wheeling two big, easy, all-embracing arm-chairs to the blaze,
rolling a small table laden with various burnables and pourables
within reach of their elbows, and otherwise disporting himself
after the manner of the most cheery and lovable of hosts. This
done, he again took up the thread of his discourse.

"Yes! He's a wonderful old fellow, this Isaac Cohen," he rattled
on when the two were seated. "You had only a glimpse of that den
of his, but you should see his books on costumes,--he's an
authority, you know,--and his miniatures,--Oh, a Cosway, which he
keeps in his safe, that is a wonder!--and his old manuscripts.
Those are locked up too. And he's a gentleman, too, Jack; not once
in all the years I have known him have I ever heard him mention
the word money in an objectionable way, and he has plenty of it
even if he does press off my coat with his own hands. Can you
recall anybody you know, my boy--even in the houses where you and
I have been lately, who doesn't let the word slip out in a dozen
different ways before the evening is over? And best of all, he's
sane,--one of the few men whom it is safe to let walk around
loose."

"And you like him?"

"Immensely."

"And you never remember he is a Jew?" This was one of the things
Jack had never understood.

"Never;--that's not his fault,--rather to his credit."

"Why?"

"Because the world is against both him and his race, and yet in
all the years I have known him, nothing has ever soured his
temper."

Jack struck a match, relit his cigar and settling himself more
comfortably in his chair, said in a positive tone:

"Sour or sweet,--I don't like Jews,--never did."

"You don't like him because you don't know him. That's your fault,
not his. But you would like him, let me tell you, if you could
hear him talk. And now I think of it, I am determined you shall
know him, and right away. Not that he cares--Cohen's friends are
among the best men in London, especially the better grade of
theatrical people, whose clothes he has made and whose purses he
has kept full--yes--and whom he sometimes had to bury to keep them
out of Potter's field; and those he knows here--his kind of
people, I mean, not yours."

"All in his line of business, Uncle Peter," Jack laughed. "How
much interest did they pay,--cent per cent?"

"I am ashamed of you, Jack. Not a penny. Don't let your mind get
clogged up, my boy, with such prejudices,--keep the slate of your
judgment sponged clean."

"But you believe everybody is clean, Uncle Peter."

"And so must you, until you prove them dirty. Now, will you do me
a very great kindness and yourself one as well? Please go
downstairs, rap three times at Mr. Cohen's shutters--hard, so that
he can hear you--that's my signal--present my compliments and ask
him to be kind enough to come up and have a cigar with us."

Jack leaned forward in his seat, his face showing his
astonishment.

"You don't mean it?"

"I do."

"All right."

The boy was out of his chair and clattering down-stairs before
Peter could add another word to his message. If he had asked him
to crawl out on the roof and drop himself into the third-story
window of the next house, he would have obeyed him with the same
alacrity.

Peter wheeled up another chair; added some small and large glasses
to the collection on the tray and awaited Jack's return. The
experience was not new. The stupid, illogical prejudice was not
confined to inexperienced lads.

He had had the same thing to contend with dozens of times before.
Even Holker had once said: "Peter, what the devil do you find in
that little shrimp of a Hebrew to interest you? Is he cold that
you warm him, or hungry that you feed him,--or lonely that--"

"Stop right there, Holker! You've said it,--lonely--that's it--
LONELY! That's what made me bring him up the first time he was
ever here. It seemed such a wicked thing to me to have him at one
end of the house--the bottom end, too--crooning over a fire, and I
at the top end crooning over another, when one blaze could warm us
both. So up he came, Holker, and now it is I who am lonely when a
week passes and Isaac does not tap at my door, or I tap at his."

The distinguished architect understood it all a week later when
the new uptown synagogue was being talked of and he was invited to
meet the board, and found to his astonishment that the wise little
man with the big gold spectacles, occupying the chair was none
other than Peter's tailor.

"Our mutual friend Mr. Grayson, of the Exeter Bank, spoke to me
about you, Mr. Morris," said the little man without a trace of
foreign accent and with all the composure of a great banker making
a government loan; rising at the same time, with great dignity
introducing Morris to his brother trustees and then placing him in
the empty seat next his own. After that, and on more than one
occasion, there were three chairs around Peter's blaze, with
Morris in one of them.

All these thoughts coursed through Peter's head as Jack and Cohen
were mounting the three flights of stairs.

"Ah, Isaac," he cried at first sight of his friend, "I just wanted
you to know my boy, Jack Breen, better, and as his legs are
younger than mine, I sent him down instead of going myself--you
don't mind, do you?"

"Mind!--of course I do not mind,--but I do know Mr. Breen. I first
met him many months ago--when your sister was here--and then I
see him going in and out all the time--and--"

"Stop your nonsense, Isaac;--that's not the way to know a man;
that's the way not to know him, but what's more to the point is, I
want Jack to know you. These young fellows have very peculiar
ideas about a good many things,--and this boy is like all the
rest--some of which ought to be knocked out of his head,--your
race, for one thing. He thinks that because you are a Jew that
you--"

Jack uttered a smothered, "Oh, Uncle Peter!" but the old fellow
who now had the tailor in one of his big chairs and was filling a
thin wineglass with a brown liquid (ten years in the wood)--Holker
sent it--kept straight on. "Jack's all right inside, or I wouldn't
love him, but there are a good many things he has got to learn,
and you happen to be one of them."

Cohen lay back in his chair and laughed heartily.

"Do not mind him, Mr. Breen,--do not mind a word he says. He
mortifies me that same way. And now--" here he turned his head to
Peter--"what does he think of my race?"

"Oh! He thinks you are a lot of money-getters and pawnbrokers,
gouging the poor and squeezing the rich."

Jack broke out into a cold perspiration: "Really, Uncle Peter!
Now, Mr. Cohen, won't you please believe that I never said one
word of it," exclaimed Jack in pleading tones, his face expressing
his embarrassment.

"I never said you did, Jack," rejoined Peter with mock solemnity
in his voice. "I said you THOUGHT so. And now here he is,--look at
him. Does he look like Scrooge or Shylock or some old skinflint
who--" here he faced Cohen, his eyes brimming with merriment--
"What are we going to do with this blasphemer, Isaac? Shall we
boil him in oil as they did that old sixteenth-century saint you
were telling me about the other night, or shall we--?"

The little tailor threw out his hands--each finger an exclamation
point--and laughed heartily, cutting short Peter's tirade.

"No--no--we do none of these dreadful things to Mr. Breen; he is
too good to be a saint," and he patted Jack's knees--"and then
again it is only the truth. Mr. Breen is quite right; we are a
race of money-getters, and we are also the world's pawnbrokers and
will always be. Sometimes we make a loan on a watch or a wedding
ring to keep some poor soul from starving; sometimes it is a
railroad to give a millionaire a yacht, or help buy his wife a
string of pearls. It is quite the same, only over one shop we hang
three gilt balls: on the other we nail a sign which reads:
'Financial Agents.' And it is the same Jew, remember, who stands
behind both counters. The first Jew is overhauled almost every day
by the police; the second Jew is regarded as our public-spirited
citizen. So you see, my young friend, that it is only a question
of the amount of money you have got whether you loan on rings or
railroads."

"And whether the Christian lifts his hat or his boot," laughed
Peter.

Cohen leaned his elbows on his plump knees and went on, the
slender glass still in his hand, from which now and then he took a
sip. Peter sat buried in his chair, his cigar between his fingers.
Jack held his peace; it was not for him to air his opinions in the
presence of the two older men, and then again the tailor had
suddenly become a savant.

"Of course, there are many things I wish were different," the
tailor continued in a more thoughtful tone. "Many of my people
forget their birthright and force themselves on the Christian,
trying to break down the fence which has always divided us, and
which is really our best protection. As long as we keep to
ourselves we are a power. Persecution,--and sometimes it amounts
to that--is better than amalgamation; it brings out our better
fighting qualities and makes us rely on ourselves. This is the
view of our best thinkers, and they are right. Just hear me run
on! Why talk about these things? They are for graybeards, not
young fellows with the world before them." Cohen straightened up--
laid his glass on the small table, waved his hand in denial to
Peter who started to refill it, and continued, turning to Jack:
"And now let me hear something about your own work, Mr. Breen," he
said in his kindest and most interested voice. "Mr. Grayson tells
me you are cutting a great tunnel. Under a mountain, is it not?
Ah!--that is something worth doing. And here is this old uncle of
yours with his fine clothes and his old wine, who does nothing but
pore over his musty bank-books, and here am I in the cellar below,
who can only sew on buttons, and yet we have the impudence to
criticise you. Really, I never heard of such conceit!"

"Oh!--but it isn't my tunnel," Jack eagerly protested, greatly
amused at the Jew's talk; "I am just an assistant, Mr. Cohen."
Somehow he had grown suddenly smaller since the little man had
been talking.

"Yes,--of course, we are all assistants; Mr. Grayson assists at
the bank, and I assist my man, Jacob, who makes such funny
mistakes in the cut of his trousers. Oh, yes, that is quite the
way life is made up. But about this tunnel? It is part of this new
branch, is it not? Some of my friends have told me about it. And
it is going straight through the mountain."

And then before Jack or Peter could reply the speaker branched out
into an account of the financing of the great Mt. Cenis tunnel,
and why the founder of the house of Rothschild, who had "assisted"
in its construction, got so many decorations from foreign
governments; the talk finally switching off to the enamelled and
jewelled snuff boxes of Baron James Rothschild, whose collection
had been the largest in Europe; and what had become of it; and
then by one of those illogical jumps--often indulged in by well-
informed men discussing any subject that absorbs them--brought up
at Voltaire and Taine and the earlier days of the Revolution in
which one of the little tailor's ancestors had suffered spoliation
and death.

Jack sat silent--he had long since found himself out of his depth
--drinking in every word of the talk, his wonderment increasing
every moment, not only over Cohen, but over Peter as well, whom he
had never before heard so eloquent or so learned, or so
entertaining. When at last the little man rose to go, the boy,
with one of those spontaneous impulses which was part of his
nature, sprang from his seat, found the tailor's hat himself, and
conducting him to the door, wished him good-night with all the
grace and well-meant courtesy he would show a prince of the blood,
should he ever be fortunate enough to meet one.

Peter was standing on the mat, his back to the fire, when the boy
returned.

"Jack, you delight me!" the old fellow cried. "Your father
couldn't have played host better. Really, I am beginning to
believe I won't have to lock you up in an asylum. You're getting
wonderfully sane, my boy,--real human. Jack, do you know that if
you keep on this way I shall really begin to love you!"

"But what an extraordinary man," exclaimed Jack, ignoring Peter's
compliment and badinage. "Is there anything he does not know?"

"Yes,--many things. Oh! a great many things. He doesn't know how
to be rude, or ill bred, or purse-proud. He doesn't know how to
snub people who are poorer than he is, or to push himself in where
he isn't wanted; or to talk behind people's backs after he has
accepted their hospitality. Just plain gentleman journeyman
tailor, Jack. And now, my boy, be honest. Isn't he a relief after
some of the people you and I meet every day?"

Jack settled again in his chair. His mind was not at all easy.

"Yes, he is, and that makes me afraid I was rude. I didn't mean to
be."

"No,--you acted just right. I wanted to draw him out so you could
hear, and you must say that he was charming. And the best of it is
that he could have talked equally well on a dozen other subjects."

For some time Jack did not answer. Despite Peter's good opinion of
him, he still felt that he had either said or done something he
should be ashamed of. He knew it was his snap judgment about Cohen
that had been the cause of the object lesson he had just received.
Peter had not said so in so many words--it was always with a jest
or a laugh that he corrected his faults, but he felt their truth
all the same.

For some minutes he leaned back in his chair, his eyes on the
ceiling; then he said in a tone of conviction:

"I WAS wrong about Mr. Cohen, Uncle Peter. I am always putting my
foot in it. He is an extraordinary man. He certainly is, to listen
to, whatever he is in his business."

"No, Jack, my boy--you were only honest," Peter rejoined, passing
over the covert allusion to the financial side of the tailor. "You
didn't like his race and you said so. Act first. Then you found
out you were wrong and you said so. Act second. Then you
discovered you owed him an ample apology and you bowed him out as
if he had been a duke. Act third. And now comes the epilogue--
Better be kind and human than be king! Eh, Jack?" and the old
gentleman threw back his head and laughed heartily.

Jack made no reply. He was through with Cohen;--something else
was on his mind of far more importance than the likes and dislikes
of all the Jews in Christendom. Something he had intended to lay
before Peter at the very moment the old fellow had sent him for
Isaac--something he had come all the way to New York to discuss
with him; something that had worried him for days. There was but
half an hour left; then he must get his bag and say good-night and
good-by for another week or more.

Peter noticed the boy's mood and laid his hand on his wrist.
Somehow this was not the same Jack.

"I haven't hurt you, my son, have I?" he asked with a note of
tenderness in his voice.

"Hurt me! You couldn't hurt me, Uncle Peter!" There was no
question of his sincerity as he spoke. It sprang straight from his
heart.

"Well, then, what's the matter?--out with it. No secrets from
blundering old Peter," he rejoined in a satisfied tone.

Jack laughed gently: "Well, sir, it's about the work." It wasn't;
but it might lead to it later on,

"Work!--what's the matter with the work! Anything wrong?" There
was a note of alarm now that made Jack reply hastily:

"No, it will be finished next month: we are lining up the arches
this week and the railroad people have already begun to dump their
cross ties along the road bed. It's about another job. Mr.
MacFarlane, I am afraid, hasn't made much money on the fill and
tunnel, but he has some other work offered him up in Western
Maryland, which he may take, and which, if he does, may pay
handsomely. He wants me to go with him. It means a shanty and a
negro cook, as near as I can figure it, but I shall get used to
that, I suppose. What do you think about it?"

"Well," chuckled Peter--it was not news; MacFarlane had told him
all about it the week before at the Century--"if you can keep the
shanty tight and the cook sober you may weather it. It must be
great fun living in a shanty. I never tried it, but I would like
to."

"Yes, perhaps it is,--but it has its drawbacks. I can't come to
see you for one thing, and then the home will be broken up. Miss
Ruth will go back to her grandmother's for a while, she says, and
later on she will visit the Fosters at Newport and perhaps spend a
month with Aunt Felicia." He called her so now.

Jack paused for some further expression of opinion from his always
ready adviser, but Peter's eyes were still fixed on the slow,
dying fire.

"It will be rather a rough job from what I saw of it," Jack went
on. "We are to run a horizontal shaft into some ore deposits. Mr.
MacFarlane and I have been studying the plans for some time; we
went over the ground together last month. That's why I didn't come
to you last week."

Peter twisted his head: "What's the name of the nearest town?"
MacFarlane had told him but he had forgotten.

"Morfordsburg. I was there once with my father when I was a boy.
He had some ore lands near where these are;--those he left me. The
Cumberland property we always called it. I told you about it once.
It will never amount to anything,--except by expensive boring.
That is also what hurts the value of this new property the
Maryland Mining Company owns. That's what they want Mr. MacFarlane
for. Now, what would you do if you were me?"

"What sort of a town is Morfordsburg?" inquired Peter, ignoring
Jack's question, his head still buried between his shoulders.

"Oh, like all other country villages, away from railroad
connection."

"Any good houses,--any to rent?"

"Yes,--I saw two."

"And you want my advice, do you, Jack?" he burst out, rising erect
in his seat.

"Yes."

"Well, I'd stick to MacFarlane and take Ruth with me."

Jack broke out into a forced laugh. Peter had arrived by a short
cut! Now he knew, he was a mind reader.

"She won't go," he answered in a voice that showed he was open to
conviction. Peter, perhaps, had something up his sleeve.

"Have you asked her?" The old fellow's eyes were upon him now.

"No,--not in so many words."

"Well, try it. She has always gone with her father; she loves the
outdoor life and it loves her. I never saw her look as pretty as
she is now, and she has her horse too. Try asking her yourself,
beg her to come along and keep house and make a home for the three
of you."

Jack leaned back in his seat, his face a tangle of hopes and
fears. What was Uncle Peter driving at, anyhow?

"I have tried other things, and she would not listen," he said in
a more positive tone. Again the two interviews he had had with
Ruth came into his mind; the last one as if it had been yesterday.

"Try until she DOES listen," continued Peter. "Tell her you will
be very lonely if she doesn't go, and that she is the one and only
thing in Corklesville that interests you outside of your work--and
be sure you mention the dear girl first and the work last--and
that you won't have another happy hour if she leaves you in the--"

"Oh!--Uncle Peter!"

"And why not? It's a fact, isn't it? You were honest about Isaac;
why not be honest with Ruth?"

"I am."

"No, you're not,--you only tell her half what's in your heart.
Tell her all of it! The poor child has been very much depressed of
late, so Felicia tells me, over something that troubles her, and I
wouldn't be at all surprised if you were at the bottom of it. Give
yourself an overhauling and find out what you have said or done to
hurt her. She will never forget you for pulling her father out of
that hole, nor will he."

Jack bristled up: "I don't want her to think of me in that way!"

"Oh, you don't! don't you? Oh, of course not! You want her to
think of you as a great and glorious young knight who goes
prancing about the world doing good from habit, and yet you are so
high and mighty that--Jack, you rascal, do you know you are the
stupidest thing that breathes? You're like a turkey, my boy,
trying to get over the top rail of a pen with its head in the air,
when all it has to do is to stoop a little and march out on its
toes."

Jack rose from his seat and walked toward the fire, where he stood
with one hand on the mantel. He knew Peter had a purpose in all
his raillery and yet he dared not voice the words that trembled on
his lips; he could tell the old fellow everything in his life
except his love for Ruth and her refusal to listen to him. This
was the bitterest of all his failures, and this he would not and
could not pour into Peter's ears. Neither did he want Ruth to have
Peter's help, nor Miss Felicia's; nor MacFarlane's; not anybody's
help where her heart was concerned. If Ruth loved him that was
enough, but he wouldn't have anybody persuade her to love him, or
advise with her about loving him. How much Peter knew he could not
say. Perhaps!--perhaps Ruth told him something!--something he was
keeping to himself!

As this last thought forced itself into his brain a great surge of
joy swept over him. For a brief moment he stood irresolute. One of
Peter's phrases now rang clear: "Stoop a little!" Stoop?--hadn't
he done everything a man could do to win a woman, and had he not
found the bars always facing him?

With this his heart sank again. No, there was no use of thinking
anything more about it, nor would he tell him. There were some
things that even Peter couldn't understand,--and no wonder, when
you think how many years had gone by since he loved any woman.

The chime of the little clock rang out.

Jack turned quickly: "Eleven o'clock, Uncle Peter, and I must go;
time's up. I hate to leave you."

"And what about the shanty and the cook?" said Peter, his eyes
searching Jack's.

"I'll go,--I intended to go all the time if you approved."

"And what about Ruth?"

"Don't ask me, Uncle Peter, not now." And he hurried off to pack
his bag.





CHAPTER XX




If Jack, after leaving Peter and racing for the ferry, had, under
Peter's advice, formulated in his mind any plan by which he could
break down Ruth's resolve to leave both her father and himself in
the lurch and go out in the gay world alone, there was one factor
which he must have left out of his calculations--and that was the
unexpected.

One expression of Peter's, however, haunted him all the way home:
--that Ruth was suffering and that he had been the cause of it. Had
he hurt her?--and if so, how and when? With this, the dear girl's
face, with the look of pain on it which Miss Felicia had noticed,
rose before him. Perhaps Peter was right. He had never thought of
Ruth's side of the matter--had never realized that she, too, might
have suffered. To-morrow he would go to her. If he could not win
her for himself he could, at least, find out the cause and help
relieve her pain.

This idea so possessed him that it was nearly dawn before he
dropped to sleep.

With the morning everything changed.

Such a rain had never been known to fall--not in the memory of the
oldest moss-back in the village--if any such ancient inhabitant
existed. Twelve hours of it had made rivers of the streets,
quagmires of the roads, and covered the crossings ankle-deep with
mud. It had begun in the night while Isaac was expounding his
views on snuff boxes, tunnels, and Voltaire to Peter and Jack, had
followed Jack across the river and had continued to soak into his
clothes until he opened Mrs. Hicks's front door with his private
key. It was still pelting away the next morning, when Jack,
alarmed at its fury, bolted his breakfast, and, donning his
oilskins and rubber boots, hurried to the brick office from whose
front windows he could get a view of the fill, the culvert, and
the angry stream, and from whose rear windows could be seen half a
mile up the raging torrent, the curve of the unfinished embankment
flanking one side of the new boulevard which McGowan was building
under a contract with the village.

Hardly had he slipped off his boots and tarpaulins when
MacFarlane, in mackintosh and long rubber boots, splashed in:

"Breen," said his Chief, loosening the top button of his storm
coat and threshing the water from his cap:

Jack was on his feet in an instant:

"Yes, sir."

"I wish you would take a look at the boulevard spillway. I know
McGowan's work and how he skins it sometimes, and I'm getting
worried. Coggins says the water is backing up, and that the slopes
are giving way. You can see yourself what a lot of water is coming
down--" here they both gazed through the open window. "I never saw
that stream look like that since I've been here; there must be a
frightful pressure now on McGowan's retaining walls. We should
have a close shave if anything gave way above us. Our own
culvert's working all right, but it's taxed now to its utmost."

Jack unhooked his water-proof from a nail behind the door--he had
began putting on his rubber boots again before MacFarlane finished
speaking.

"He will have to pay the bills, sir, if anything gives way--" Jack
replied in a determined voice. "Garry told me only last week that
McGowan had to take care of his own water; that was part of his
contract. It comes under Garry's supervision, you know."

"Yes, I know, and that may all be so, Breen," he replied with a
flickering smile, "but it won't do us any good,--or the road
either. They want to run cars next month."

The door again swung wide, and a man drenched to the skin, the
water glistening on his bushy gray beard stepped in.

"I heard you were here, sir, and had to see you. There's only four
feet lee-way in our culvert, sir, and the scour's eating into the
underpinning; I am just up from there. We are trying bags of
cement, but it doesn't do much good."

MacFarlane caught up his hat and the two hurried down stream to
the "fill," while Jack, buttoning his oilskin jacket over his
chest, and crowding his slouch hat close to his eyebrows and ears
strode out into the downpour, his steps bent in the opposite
direction.

The sight that met his eyes was even more alarming. The once quiet
little stream, with its stretch of meadowland reaching to the foot
of the steep hills, was now a swirl of angry reddish water
careering toward the big culvert under the "fill." There it struck
the two flanking walls of solid masonry, doubled in volume and
thus baffled, shot straight into and under the culvert and so on
over the broad fields below.

Up the stream toward the boulevard on the other side of its sky
line, groups of men were already engaged carrying shovels, or
lugging pieces of timber as they hurried along its edge, only to
disappear for an instant and reappear again empty-handed. Shouts
could be heard, as if some one were giving orders. Against the
storm-swept sky, McGowan's short, squat figure was visible, his
hands waving wildly to other gangs of men who were running at full
speed toward where he stood.

Soon a knife-edge of water glistened along the crest of the earth
embankment supporting the roadway of the boulevard, scattered into
a dozen sluiceways, gashing the sides of the slopes, and then,
before Jack could realize his own danger, the whole mass collapsed
only to be swallowed up in a mighty torrent which leaped straight
at him.

Jack wheeled suddenly, shouted to a man behind him to run for his
life, and raced on down stream toward the "fill" a mile below
where MacFarlane and his men, unconscious of their danger, were
strengthening the culvert and its approaches.

On swept the flood, tearing up trees, cabins, shanties, fences;
swirling along the tortuous bed only to leap and swirl again, its
solid front bristling with the debris it had wrenched loose in its
mad onslaught, Jack in his line of flight keeping abreast of its
mighty thrust, shouting as he ran, pressing into service every man
who could help in the rescue.

But MacFarlane had already been forewarned. The engineer of the
morning express, who had crossed close to the boulevard at the
moment the break occurred, had leaned far out of his cab as the
train thundered by at right angles to the "fill," and with cupped
hands to his mouth, had hurled this yell into the ravine:

"Water! Look out! Everything busted up above! Water! Water! Run,
for God's sake!"

The men stood irresolute, but MacFarlane sprang to instant action.
Grabbing the man next him,--an Italian who understood no English--
he dragged him along, shouting to the others, the crowd swarming
up, throwing away their shovels in their flight until the whole
posse reached a point of safety near the mouth of the tunnel.

There he turned and braced himself for the shock. He realized
fully what had happened: McGowan's ill-constructed culvert had
sagged and choked; a huge basin of water had formed behind it; the
retaining walls had been undermined and the whole mass was
sweeping down upon him. Would there be enough of it to overflow
the crest line of his own "fill" or not? If it could stand the
first on-thrust there was one chance in a hundred of its safety,
provided the wing-walls and the foundations of the culvert held up
its arch, thus affording gradual relief until the flood should
have spent its force.

It was but a question of minutes. He could already see the trees
sway as the mad flood struck them, the smaller ones rebounding,
the large ones toppling over. Then came a dull roar like that of a
tram through a covered bridge, and then a great wall of yellow
suds, boiling, curling, its surface covered with sticks, planks,
shingles, floating barrels, parts of buildings, dashed itself
against the smoothed earth slopes of his own "fill," surged a
third of its height, recoiled on itself, swirled furiously again,
and then inch by inch rose toward the top. Should it plunge over
the crest, the "fill" would melt away as a rising tide melts a
sand fort, the work of months be destroyed, and his financial ruin
be a certainty.

But the man who had crawled out on the shore end of the great
cantilever bridge over the Ohio, and who had with his own hands
practically set the last rebellious steel girder one hundred feet
above the water level, had still some resources left. Grabbing a
shovel from a railroad employe, he called to his men and began
digging a trench on the tunnel end of the "fill" to form a
temporary spillway should the top of the flood reach the crest of
the road bed.

Fifty or more men sprang to his assistance with pick and shovel
wherever one could stand and dig. The water had now reached within
five feet of the top: the rise was slower, showing that the volume
had lessened; the soakage, too, was helping, but the water still
gained. The bottom of the trench, cut transversely across the road
bed of the "fill," out of which the dirt was still flying from
scores of willing shovels, had reached the height of the flood
line. It was wide enough and deep enough to take care of the
slowly rising overflow and would relieve the pressure on the whole
structure; but the danger was not there. What was to be feared was
the scour on the down-stream--far side--slope of the "fill." This
also, was of loose earth: too great a gulch might mean total
collapse.

To lessen this scour MacFarlane had looted a carload of plank
switched on to a siding, and a gang of men in charge of Jack,--who
had now reached his Chief's side,--were dragging them along the
downstream slope to form sluices with which to break the force of
the scour.

The top of the flood now poured into the mouth of the newly dug
trench, biting huge mouthfuls of earth from its sides in its rush;
spreading the reddish water fan-like over the down-stream slope:
first into gullies; then a broad sluiceway that sunk out of sight
in the soft earth; then crumblings, slidings of tons of sand and
gravel, with here and there a bowlder washed clean; the men
working like beavers,--here to free a rock, there to drive home a
plank, the trench all the while deepening, widening--now a gulch
ten feet across and as deep, now a canon through which surged a
solid mass of frenzied water.

With the completion of the first row of planking MacFarlane took
up a position where he could overlook all parts of the work. Every
now and then his eyes would rest on a water-gauge which he had
improvised from the handle of a pick; the rise and fall of the wet
mark showing him both the danger and the safety lines. He seemed
the least interested man in the group. Once in a while he would
consult his watch, counting the seconds, only to return to the
gauge.

That thousands of dollars' damage had so far been done did not
seem to affect him in the least. Only when Jack would call out
that everything so far was solid on the main "fill" did his calm
face light up.

Tightening his wide slouch hat farther down on his head, he drew
up the tops of his high-water boots and strode through the slush
to the pick-handle. His wooden record showed that half an hour
before the water had been rising at the rate of an inch every
three minutes; that it had then taken six, and now required eight!
He glanced at the sky; it had stopped raining and a light was
breaking in the West.

Pocketing his watch he beckoned to Jack:

"The worst is over, Breen," he said in a voice of perfect
calmness--the tone of a doctor after feeling a patient's pulse.
"Our culvert is doing its work and relieving the pressure. This
water will be out of here by morning. Tell the foreman to keep
those planks moving wherever they do any good, but they won't
count much longer. You can see the difference already in the
overflow. And now go up to the house and tell Ruth. She may not
know we are all right and will be worrying."

Jack's heart gave a bound. No more delightful duty could devolve
on him.

"What shall I tell her about the damage if she asks me, sir?" he
demanded, hiding his pleasure in a perfunctory, businesslike tone,
"and she will."

"Tell her it means all summer here for me and no new bonnets for
her until next winter," replied MacFarlane with a grim smile.

"Yes, I suppose, but I referred to the money loss," Jack laughed
in reply. "There is no use worrying her if we are not to blame for
this." He didn't intend to worry her. He was only feeling about
for some topic which would prolong his visit and encourage
conversation.

"If we are, it means some thousands of dollars on the wrong side
of the ledger," answered MacFarlane after a pause, a graver tone
in his voice. "But don't tell Ruth that. Just give her my message
about the bonnet--she will understand."

"But not if McGowan is liable," argued Jack. If Ruth was to hear
bad news it could at least be qualified.

"That depends somewhat on the wording of his contract, Breen, and
a good deal on whether this village wants to hold him to it. I'm
not crossing any bridges of that kind, and don't you. What I'm
worrying about is the number of days and nights it's going to take
to patch this work so they can get trains through our tunnel--
And, Breen--"

"Yes, sir," answered Jack, as he stopped and looked over his
shoulder. There were wings on his feet now.

"Get into some dry clothes before you come back."

While all this had been going on Ruth had stood at the window in
the upper hall opposite the one banked with geraniums, too
horrified to move. She had watched with the aid of her opera-glass
the wild torrent rushing through the meadow, and she had heard the
shouts of the people in the streets and the prolonged roar when
the boulevard embankment gave way.

The hurried entrance and startled cry of the grocer's boy in the
kitchen below, and the loud talk that followed, made her move to
the head of the stairs. There she stood listening, her heart in
her mouth, her knees trembling. Such expressions as "drownded,"--
"more'n a hundred of 'em--" reached her ears. Then came the words
--"de boss's work busted; ain't nobody seen him alive, so dey say."

For an instant she clutched the hand rail to keep her from
falling, then with a cry of terror she caught up an old cloth
cape, bound a hat to her head with a loose veil, and was
downstairs and into the street before the boy had reached the
curb.

"Yes, mum," he stammered, breathlessly, his eyes bulging from his
head,--"Oh! it's awful, mum! Don't know how many's drownded!
Everybody's shovelin' on de railroad dump, but dere ain't nothin'
kin save it, dey say!"

She raced on--across the long street, avoiding the puddles as best
she could; past the Hicks Hotel--no sign of Jack anywhere--past
the factory fence, until she reached the railroad, where she
stopped, gathered her bedraggled skirts in her hand and then sped
on over the cross-ties like a swallow, her little feet scarce
touching the cinders.

Jack had caught sight of the flying girl as she gained the
railroad and awaited her approach; he supposed she was the half-
crazed wife or daughter of some workman, bringing news of fresh
disaster, until she approached near enough for him to note the
shape and size of her boots and the way the hat and veil framed
her face. But it was not until she uttered a cry of agony and ran
straight toward him, that he sprang forward to meet her and caught
her in his aims to keep her from falling.

"Oh, Jack!--where is daddy--where--" she gasped.

"Why, he is all right, Miss Ruth,--everybody's all right! Why did
you come here? Oh! I am so sorry you have had this fright! Don't
answer,--just lean on me until you get your breath."

"Yes--but are you sure he is safe? The grocer's boy said nobody
had seen him alive."

"Of course I am sure! Just look across--there he is; nobody could
ever mistake that old slouch hat of his. And look at the big
'fill.' It hasn't given an inch, Miss Ruth--think of it! What a
shame you have had such a fright," he continued as he led her to a
pile of lumber beside the track and moved out a dry plank where he
seated her as tenderly as if she had been a frightened child,
standing over her until she breathed easier.

"But then, if he is safe, why did you leave daddy? You are not
hurt yourself, are you?" she exclaimed suddenly, reaching up her
hand and catching the sleeve of his tarpaulin, a great lump in her
throat.

"Me, hurt!--not a bit of it,--not a scratch of any kind,--see!" As
an object-lesson he stretched out his arm and with one clenched
hand smote his chest gorilla fashion.

"But you are all wet--" she persisted, in a more reassured tone.
"You must not stand here in this wind; you will get chilled to the
bone. You must go home and get into dry clothes;--please say you
will go?"

Something warm and scintillating started from Jack's toes as the
words left her lips, surged along his spinal column, set his
finger tips tingling and his heart thumping like a trip hammer.
She had called him "Jack!" She had run a mile to rescue him and
her father, and she was anxious lest he should endanger his
precious life by catching cold. Cold!--had he been dragged through
the whirlpool of Niagara in the dead of winter with the
thermometer at zero and then cast on a stranded iceberg he would
now be sizzling hot.

Again she repeated her command,--this time in a more peremptory
tone, the same anxious note in her voice.

"Please come, if daddy doesn't want you any more you must go home
at once. I wouldn't have you take cold for--" she did not finish
the sentence; something in his face told her that her solicitude
might already have betrayed her.

"Of course, I will go just as soon as you are rested a little, but
you mustn't worry about me, Miss Ruth, I am as wet as a rat, I
know, but I am that way half the time when it rains. These
tarpaulins let in a lot of water--" here he lifted his arms so she
could see the openings herself--"and then I got in over my boots
trying to plug the holes in the sluiceway with some plank." He was
looking down into her eyes now. Never had he seen her so pretty.
The exercise had made roses of her cheeks, and the up-turned face
framed by the thatch of a bonnet bound with the veil, reminded him
of a Madonna.

"And is everything all right with daddy? And was there nobody in
the shanties?" she went on. "Perhaps I might better try to get
over where he is;--do you think I can? I would just like to tell
him how glad I am it is no worse."

"Yes, if you change boots with me," laughed Jack, determined to
divert her mind; "I was nearly swamped getting back here. That is
where most of this mud came from--" and Jack turned his long,
clay-encrusted boot so that Ruth could see how large a section of
the "fill" he had brought with him.

Ruth began to laugh. There was no ostensible reason why she should
laugh; there was nothing about Jack's make-up to cause it. Indeed,
she thought he had never looked so handsome, even if his hair were
plastered to his temples under his water-soaked hat and his
clothes daubed with mud.

And yet she did laugh:--At the way her veil got knotted under her
chin,--so tightly knotted that Jack had to take both hands to
loosen it, begging pardon for touching her throat, and hoping all
the while that his clumsy fingers had not hurt her;--at the way
her hat was crumpled, the flowers "never,--never, being of the
slightest use to anybody again"; at her bedraggled skirts--"such a
sight, and sopping wet."

And Jack laughed, too,--agreeing to everything she said, until she
reached that stage in the conversation, never omitted on occasions
of this kind, when she declared, arching her head, that she must
look like a perfect fright, which Jack at once refuted exclaiming
that he had never seen her look so--he was going to say "pretty,"
but checked himself and substituted "well," instead, adding, as he
wiped off her ridiculously small boots, despite her protests, with
his wet handkerchief,--that cloud-bursts were not such bad
things, after all, now that he was to have the pleasure of
escorting her home.

And so the two walked back to the village, the afternoon sun,
which had now shattered the lowering clouds, gilding and
glorifying their two faces, Jack stopping at Mrs. Hicks's to
change his clothes and Ruth keeping on to the house, where he was
to join her an hour later, when the two would have a cup of tea
and such other comforts as that young lady might prepare for her
water-soaked lover.





CHAPTER XXI




If ten minutes make half an hour, then it took Jack that long to
rush upstairs, two steps at a time, burst into his room, strip off
his boots, tear off his wet clothes, struggle into others jerked
from his wardrobe, tie a loose, red-silk scarf under the rolling
collar of his light-blue flannel shirt, slip into a grey pea-
jacket and unmentionables, give his hair a brush and a promise,
tilt a dry hat on one side of his head and skip down-stairs
again.

Old Mrs. Hicks had seen him coming and had tried to catch him as
he flew out the door, hoping to get some more definite news of the
calamity which had stirred the village, but he was gone before she
could reach the front hall.

He had not thought of his better clothes; there might still be
work to do, and his Chief might again need his services. Ruth
would understand, he said to himself--all of which was true.
Indeed, she liked him better in his high-water rubber boots, wide
slouch hat and tarpaulins than in the more conventional suit of
immaculate black with which he clothed his shapely body whenever
he took her to one of the big dinners at one of the great houses
on Washington Square.

And she liked this suit best of all. She had been peeping through
the curtains and her critical admiring eyes had missed no detail.
She saw that the cavalier boots were gone, but she recognized the
short pea-jacket and the loose rolling collar of the soft flannel
shirt circling the strong, bronzed throat, and the dash of red in
the silken scarf.

And so it is not surprising that when he got within sight of her
windows, his cheeks aflame with the crisp air, his eyes snapping
with the joy of once more hearing her voice, her heart should have
throbbed with an undefinable happiness and pride as she realized
that for a time, at least, he was to be all her own. And yet when
he had again taken her hand--the warmth of his last pressure still
lingered in her palm--and had looked into her eyes and had said
how he hoped he had not kept her waiting, all she could answer in
reply was the non-committal remark:

"Well, now you look something like"--at which Jack's heart gave a
great bound, any compliment, however slight, being so much manna
to his hungry soul; Ruth adding, as she led the way into the
sitting-room, "I lighted the wood fire because I was afraid you
might still be cold."

And ten minutes had been enough for Ruth.

It had been one of those lightning changes which a pretty girl can
always make when her lover is expected any instant and she does
not want to lose a moment of his time, but it had sufficed.
Something soft and clinging it was now; her lovely, rounded figure
moving in its folds as a mermaid moves in the surf; her hair
shaken cut and caught up again in all its delicious abandon; her
cheeks, lips, throat, rose-color in the joy of her expectancy.

He sat drinking it all in. Had a mass of outdoor roses been laid
by his side, their fragrance filling the air, the beauty of their
coloring entrancing his soul, he could not have been more
intoxicated by their beauty.

And yet, strange to say, only commonplaces rose to his lips. All
the volcano beneath, and only little spats of smoke and dying bits
of ashes in evidence! Even the message of his Chief about her not
getting a new bonnet all summer seemed a godsend under the
circumstances. Had there been any basis for her self-denial he
would not have told her, knowing how much anxiety she had suffered
an hour before. But there was no real good reason why she should
economize either in bonnets or in anything else she wanted.
McGowan, of course, would be held responsible; for whatever damage
had been done he would have to pay. He had been present when the
young architect's watchful and trained eye had discovered some
defects in the masonry of the wing walls of the McGowan culvert
bridging the stream, and had heard him tell the contractor, in so
many words that if the water got away and smashed anything below
him he would charge the loss to his account. McGowan had groveled
in dissent, but it had made no impression on Garry, whose duty it
was to see that the work was properly carried out and whose
signature loosened the village purse strings.

None of these details would interest Ruth; nor was it necessary
that they should. The bonnet, however, was another matter. Bonnets
were worn over pretty heads and framed lovely hair and faces and
eyes--one especially! And then again any pleasantry of her
father's would tend to relieve her mind after the anxiety of the
morning. Yes, the bonnet by all means!

"Oh, I never gave you your father's message," he began, laying
aside his cup, quite as if he had just remembered it. "I ought to
have done so before you hung up the hat you wore a while ago."

Ruth looked up, smiling: "Why?" There was a roguish expression
about her mouth as she spoke. She was very happy this afternoon.

"He says you won't get a new bonnet all summer," continued Jack,
toying with the end of the ribbon that floated from her waist.

Ruth put down her cup and half rose from her chair All the color
had faded from her cheeks.

"Did he tell you that?" she cried, her eyes staring into his, her
voice trembling as if from some sudden fright.

Jack gazed at her in wonderment:

"Yes--of course he did and--Why, Miss Ruth!--Why, what's the
matter! Have I said anything that--"

"Then something serious has happened," she interrupted in a
decided tone. "That is always his message to me when he is in
trouble. That is what he telegraphed me when he lost the coffer-
dam in the Susquehanna. Oh!--he did not really tell you that, did
he, Mr. Breen?" The old anxious note had returned--the one he had
heard at the "fill."

"Yes--but nothing serious HAS happened, Miss Ruth," Jack
persisted, his voice rising in the intensity of his conviction,
his earnest, truthful eyes fixed on hers--"nothing that will not
come out all right in the end. Please, don't be worried, I know
what I am talking about."

"Oh, yes, it is serious," she rejoined with equal positiveness.
"You do not know daddy. Nothing ever discourages him, and he meets
everything with a smile--but he cannot stand any more losses. The
explosion was bad enough, but if this 'fill' is to be rebuilt, I
don't know what will be the end of it. Tell me over again, please
--how did he look when he said it?--and give me just the very
words. Oh, dear, dear daddy! What will he do?" The anxious note
had now fallen to one of the deepest suffering.

Jack repeated the message word for word, all his tenderness in his
tones--patting her shoulder in his effort to comfort her--ending
with a minute explanation of what Garry had told him: but Ruth
would not be convinced.

"But you don't know daddy," she kept repeating "You don't know
him. Nobody does but me. He would not have sent that message had
he not meant it. Listen! There he is now!" she cried, springing to
her feet.

She had her arms around her father's neck, her head nestling on
his shoulder before he had fairly entered the door. "Daddy, dear,
is it very bad?" she murmured.

"Pretty bad, little girl," he answered, smoothing her cheek
tenderly with his chilled fingers as he moved with her toward the
fire, "but it might have been worse but for the way Breen handled
the men."

"And will it all have to be rebuilt?"

She was glad for Jack, but it was her father who now filled her
mind.

"That I can't tell, Puss"--one of his pet names for her,
particularly when she needed comforting--"but it's safe for the
night, anyway."

"And you have worked so hard--so hard!" Her beautiful arms, bare
from the elbow, were still around his neck, her cheek pressed
close--her lovely, clinging body in strong contrast to the
straight, gray, forceful man in the wet storm-coat, who stood with
arms about her while he caressed her head with his brown fingers.

"Well, Puss, we have one consolation--it wasn't our fault--the
'fill' is holding splendidly although it has had a lively shaking
up. The worst was over in ten minutes, but it was pretty rough
while it lasted. I don't think I ever saw water come so fast. I
saw you with Breen, but I couldn't reach you then. Look out for
your dress, daughter. I'm pretty wet."

He released her arms from his neck and walked toward the fire,
stripping off his gray mackintosh as he moved. There he stretched
his hands to the blaze sod went on: "As I say, the 'fill' is safe
and will stay so, for the water is going down rapidly; dropped ten
feet, Breen, since you left. My!--but this fire feels good! Got
into something dry--did you, Breen? That's right. But I am not
satisfied about the way the down-stream end of the culvert acts"--
this also was addressed to Jack--"I am afraid some part of the
arch has caved in. It will be bad if it has--we shall know in the
morning. You weren't frightened, Puss, were you?"

She did not answer. She had heard that cheery, optimistic note in
her father's voice before; she knew how much of it was meant for
her ears. None of his disasters were ever serious, to hear daddy
talk--"only the common lot of the contracting engineer, little
girl," he would say, kissing her good-night, while he again pored
over his plans, sometimes until daylight.

She crept up to him the closer and nestled her fingers inside his
collar--an old caress of hers when she was a child, then looking
up into his eyes she asked with almost a throb of suffering in her
voice, "Is it as bad as the coffer-dam, daddy?"

Jack looked on in silence. He dared not add a word of comfort of
his own while his Chief held first place in soothing her fears.

MacFarlane passed his hand over her forehead--"Don't ask me,
child! Why do you want to bother your dear head over such things,
Puss?" he asked, as he stroked her hair.

"Because I must and will know. Tell me the truth," she demanded,
lifting her head, a note of resolve in her voice. "I can help you
the better if I know it all." Some of the blood of one of her
great-great-grandmothers, who had helped defend a log-house in
Indian times, was asserting itself. She could weep, but she could
fight, too, if necessary.

"Well, then, I'm afraid it is worse than the coffer-dam," he
answered in all seriousness. "It may be a matter of twelve or
fifteen thousand dollars--maybe more, if we have to rebuild the
'fill.' I can't tell yet."

Ruth released her grasp, moved to the sofa and sank down, her chin
resting on her hand. Twelve or fifteen thousand dollars! This
meant ruin to everybody--to her father, to--a new terror now
flashed into her mind--to Jack--yes, Jack! Jack would have to go
away and find other work--and just at the time, too, when he was
getting to be the old Jack once more. With this came another
thought, followed by an instantaneous decision--what could she do
to help? Already she had determined on her course. She would work
--support herself--relieve her father just that much.

An uncomfortable silence followed. For some moments no one spoke.
Her father, stifling a sigh, turned slowly, pushed a chair to the
fire and settled into it, his rubber-encased knees wide apart, so
that the warmth of the blaze could reach most of his body. Jack
found a seat beside him, his mind on Ruth and her evident
suffering, his ears alert for any fresh word from his Chief.

"I forgot to tell you, Breen," MacFarlane said at last, "that I
came up the track just now as far as the round-house with the
General Manager of the Road. He has sent one of his engineers to
look after that Irishman's job before he can pull it to pieces to
hide his rotten work--that is, what is left of it. Of course it
means a lawsuit or a fight in the Village Council. That takes time
and money, and generally costs more than you get. I've been there
before, Breen, and know."

"Does he understand about McGowan's contract?" inquired Jack
mechanically, his eyes on Ruth. Her voice still rang in his ears--
its pathos and suffering stirred him to his very depths.

"Yes--I told him all about it," MacFarlane replied. "The Road will
stand behind us--so the General Manager says--but every day's
delay is ruinous to them. It will be night-and-day work for us
now, and no let-up. I have notified the men." He rose from his
seat and crossed to his daughter's side, and leaning over, drew
her toward him: "Brace up, little girl," there was infinite
tenderness in his cadences--"it's all in a lifetime. There are
only two of us, you know--just you and me, daughter--just you and
me--just two of us. Kiss me, Puss."

Regaining his full height he picked up his storm-coat from the
chair where he had flung it, and with the remark to Jack, that he
would change his clothes, moved toward the door. There he beckoned
to him, waited until he had reached his side, and whispering in
his ear: "Talk to her and cheer her up, Breen. Poor little girl--
she worries so when anything like this happens"--mounted the
stairs to his room.

"Don't worry, Miss Ruth," said Jack in comforting tones as he
returned to where she sat. "We will all pull out yet."

"It is good of you to say so," she replied, lifting her head and
leaning back so that she could look into his eyes the better, "but
I know you don't think so. Daddy was just getting over his losses
on the Susquehanna bridge. This work would have set him on his
feet. Those were his very words--and he was getting so easy in his
mind, too--and we had planned so many things!"

"But you can still go to Newport," Jack pleaded. "We will be here
some months yet, and--"

"Oh--but I won't go a step anywhere. I could not leave him now--
that is, not as long as I can help him."

"But aren't you going to the Fosters' and Aunt Felicia's?" She
might not be, but it was good all the same to hear her deny it.

"Not to anybody's!" she replied, with an emphasis that left no
doubt in his mind.

Jack's heart gave a bound.

"But you were going if we went to Morfordsburg," he persisted. He
was determined to get at the bottom of all his misgivings.
Perhaps, after all, Peter was right.

Ruth caught her breath. The name of the town had reopened a vista
which her anxiety over her father's affairs had for the moment
shut out.

"Well, but that is over now. I am going to stay here and help
daddy." Again the new fear tugged at her heart. "You are going to
stay, too, aren't you, Mr. Breen?" she added in quick alarm. "You
won't leave him, will you?--not if--" again the terrible money
loss rose before her. What if there should not be money enough to
pay Jack?

"Me! Why, Miss Ruth!"

"But suppose he was not able to--" she could not frame the rest of
the sentence.

"You can't suppose anything that would make me leave him, or the
work." This also came with an emphasis of positive certainty. "I
have never been so happy as I have been here. I never knew what it
was to be myself. I never knew," he added in softened tones, "what
it was to really live until I joined your father. Only last night
Uncle Peter and I were talking about it. 'Stick to Mac,' the dear
old fellow said." It was to Ruth, but he dared not express
himself, except in parables. "Then you HAD thought of going?" she
asked quickly, a shadow falling across her face.

"No--" he hesitated--"I had only thought of STAYING. It was you
who were going--I was all broken up about being left here alone,
and Uncle Peter wanted to know why I did not beg you to stay, and
I--"

Ruth turned her face toward him.

"Well, I am going to stay," she answered simply. She did not dare
to trust herself further.

"Yes!--and now I don't care what happens!" he exclaimed with a
thrill in his voice. "If you will only trust me, Miss Ruth, and
let me come in with you and your father. Let me help! Don't let
there be only two--let us be three! Don't you see what a
difference it would make? I will work and save every penny I can
for him and take every bit of the care from his shoulders; but
can't you understand how much easier it would be if you would only
let me help you too? I could hardly keep the tears back a moment
ago when I saw you sink down here. I can't see you unhappy like
this and not try to comfort you."

"You do help me," she murmured softly. Her eyes had now dropped to
the cushion at her side.

"Yes, but not--Oh, Ruth, don't you see how I love you! What
difference does this accident make--what difference does anything
make if we have each other?" He had his hand on hers now, and was
bending over, his eyes eager for some answer in her own. "I have
suffered so," he went on, "and I am so tired and so lonely without
you. When you wouldn't understand me that time when I came to you
after the tunnel blew up, I went about like one in a dream--and
then I determined to forget it all, and you, and everything--but
I couldn't, and I can't now. Maybe you won't listen--but please--"

Ruth withdrew her hand quickly and straightened her shoulders. The
mention of the tunnel and what followed had brought with it a rush
of memories that had caused her the bitterest tears of her life.
And then again what did he mean by "helping"?

"Jack," she said slowly, as if every word gave her pain, "listen
to me. When you saved my father's life and I wanted to tell you
how much I thanked you for it, you would not let me tell you. Is
not that true?"

"I did not want your gratitude, Ruth," he pleaded in excuse, his
lips quivering, "I wanted your love."

"And why, then, should I not say to you now that I do not want
your pity? Is it because you are--" her voice sank to a whisper,
every note told of her suffering--"you are--sorry for me, Jack,
that you tell me you love me?"

Jack sprang to his feet and stood looking down upon her. The
cruelty of her injustice smote his heart. Had a man's glove been
dashed in his face he could not have been more incensed. For a
brief moment there surged through him all he had suffered for her
sake; the sleepless nights, the days of doubts and
misunderstandings! And it had come to this! Again he was treated
with contempt--again his heart and all it held was trampled on. A
wild protest rose in his throat and trembled on his lips.

At that instant she raised her eyes and looked into his. A look so
pleading--so patient--so weary of the struggle--so ready to
receive the blow--that the hot words recoiled in his throat. He
bent his head to search her eyes the better. Down in their depths,
as one sees the bottom of a clear pool he read the truth, and with
it came a reaction that sent the hot blood rushing through his
veins.

"Sorry for you, my darling!" he burst out joyously--"I who love
you like my own soul! Oh, Ruth!--Ruth!--my beloved!"

He had her in his arms now, her cheek to his, her yielding body
held close.

Then their lips met.

The Scribe lays down his pen. This be holy ground on which we
tread. All she has she has given him: all the fantasies of her
childhood, all the dreams of her girlhood, all her trust, her
loyalty--her reverence--all to the very last pulsation of her
being.

And this girl he holds in his arms! So pliant, so yielding, so
pure and undefiled! And the silken sheen and intoxicating perfume
of her hair, and the trembling lashes shading the eager, longing,
soul-hungry eyes; and the way the little pink ears nestle; and the
fair, white, dovelike throat, with its ripple of lace. And then
the dear arms about his neck and the soft clinging fingers that
are intertwined with his own! And more wonderful still, the
perfect unison, the oneness, the sameness; no jar, no discordant
note; mind, soul, desire--a harmony.

The wise men say there are no parallels in nature; that no one
thing in the wide universe exactly mates and matches any other one
thing; that each cloud has differed from every other cloud-form in
every hour of the day and night, to-day, yesterday and so on back
through the forgotten centuries; that no two leaves in form,
color, or texture, lift the same faces to the sun on any of the
million trees; that no wave on any beach curves and falls as any
wave has curved and fallen before--not since the planet cooled.
And so it is with the drift of wandering winds; with the whirl and
crystals of driving snow, with the slant and splash of rain. And
so, too, with the flight of birds; the dash and tumble of restless
brooks; the roar of lawless thunder and the songs of birds.

The one exception is when we hold in our arms the woman we love,
and for the first time drink in her willing soul through her lips.
Then, and only then, does the note of perfect harmony ring true
through the spheres.

For a long time they sat perfectly still. Not many words had
passed, and these were only repetitions of those they had used
before. "Such dear hands," Jack would say, and kiss them both up
and down the fingers, and then press the warm, pink shell palm to
his lips and kiss it again, shutting his eyes, with the reverence
of a devotee at the feet of the Madonna.

"And, Jack dear," Ruth would murmur, as if some new thought had
welled up in her heart--and then nothing would follow, until Jack
would loosen his clasp a little--just enough to free the dear
cheek and say:

"Go on, my darling," and then would come--

"Oh, nothing, Jack--I--" and once more their lips would meet.

It was only when MacFarlane's firm step was heard on the stairs
outside that the two awoke to another world. Jack reached his feet
first.

"Shall we tell him?" he asked, looking down into her face.

"Of course, tell him," braved out Ruth, uptilting her head with
the movement of a fawn surprised in the forest.

"When?" asked Jack, his eager eyes on the opening door.

"Now, this very minute. I never keep anything from daddy."

MacFarlane came sauntering in, his strong, determined, finely cut
features illumined by a cheery smile. He had squared things with
himself while he had been dressing: "Hard lines, Henry, isn't it?"
he had asked of himself, a trick of his when he faced any disaster
like the present. "Better get Ruth off somewhere, Henry, don't you
think so? Yes, get her off to-morrow. The little girl can't stand
everything, plucky as she is." It was this last thought of his
daughter that had sent the cheery smile careering around his firm
lips. No glum face for Ruth!

They met him half-way down the room, the two standing together,
Jack's arm around her waist.

"Daddy!"

"Yes, dear." He had not yet noted the position of the two,
although he had caught the joyous tones in her voice.

"Jack and I want to tell you something. You won't be cross, will
you?"

"Cross, Puss!" He stopped and looked at her wonderingly. Had Jack
comforted her? Was she no longer worried over the disaster?

Jack released his arm and would have stepped forward, but she held
him back.

"No, Jack,--let me tell him. You said a while ago, daddy, that
there were only two of us--just you and I--and that it had always
been so and--"

"Well, isn't it true, little girl?" It's extraordinary how blind
and stupid a reasonably intelligent father can be on some
occasions, and this one was as blind as a cave-locked fish.

"Yes, it WAS true, daddy, when you went upstairs, but--but--it
isn't true any more! There are three of us now!" She was trembling
all over with uncontrollable joy, her voice quavering in her
excitement.

Again Jack tried to speak, but she laid her hand on his lips with--

"No, please don't, Jack--not yet--you will spoil everything."

MacFarlane still looked on in wonderment. She was much happier, he
could see, and he was convinced that Jack was in some way
responsible for the change, but it was all a mystery yet.

"Three of us!" MacFarlane repeated mechanically--"well, who is
the other, Puss?"

"Why, Jack, of course! Who else could it be but Jack? Oh! Daddy!--
Please--please--we love each other so!"

That night a telegram went singing down the wires leaving a trail
of light behind. A sleepy, tired girl behind an iron screen
recorded it on a slip of yellow paper, enclosed it in an envelope,
handed it to a half-awake boy, who strolled leisurely up to Union
Square, turned into Fifteenth Street, mounted Peter's front stoop
and so on up three flights of stairs to Peter's door. There he
awoke the echoes into life with his knuckles.

In answer, a charming and most courtly old gentleman in an
embroidered dressing-gown and slippers, a pair of gold spectacles
pushed high up on his round, white head, his index finger marking
the place in his book, opened the door.

"Telegram for Mr. Grayson," yawned the boy.

Ah! but there were high jinks inside the cosey red room with its
low reading lamp and easy chairs, when Peter tore that envelope
apart.

"Jack--Ruth--engaged!" he cried, throwing down his book.
"MacFarlane delighted--What!--WHAT? Oh, Jack, you rascal!--you did
take my advice, did you? Well I--well! I'll write them both--No,
I'll telegraph Felicia--No, I won't!--I'll--Well!--well!--WELL!
Did you ever hear anything like that?" and again his eyes devoured
the yellow slip.

Not a word of the freshet; of the frightful loss; of the change of
plans for the summer; of the weeks of delay and the uncertain
financial outlook! And alas, dear reader--not a syllable, as you
have perhaps noticed, of poor daddy tottering on the brink of
bankruptcy; nor the slightest reference to brave young women going
out alone in the cold, cold world to earn their bread! What were
floods, earthquakes, cyclones, poverty, debt--what was anything
that might, could, would or should happen, compared to the joy of
their plighted troth!





CHAPTER XXII




Summer has come: along the banks of the repentant stream the
willows are in full leaf; stretches of grass, braving the coal
smoke and dust hide the ugly red earth. The roads are dry again;
the slopes of the "fill" once more are true; all the arches in the
mouth of the tunnel are finished; the tracks have been laid and
the first train has crawled out on the newly tracked road where it
haggled, snorted and stopped, only to crawl back and be swallowed
by The Beast.

And with the first warm day came Miss Felicia. "When your
wretched, abominable roads, my dear, dry up so that a body can
walk without sinking up to their neck in mud--" ran Miss Felicia's
letter in answer to Ruth's invitation,--"I'll come down for the
night," and she did, bringing Ruth half of her laces, now that she
was determined to throw herself away on "that good-for nothing--
Yes, Jack, I mean you and nobody else, and you needn't stand there
laughing at me, for every word of it's true; for what in the world
you two babes in the wood are going to live on no mortal man
knows;" Ruth answering with her arm tight around the dear lady's
neck,--a liberty nobody,--not even Peter, ever dared take--and a
whisper in her ear that Jack was the blessedest ever, and that she
loved him so sometimes she was well-nigh distracted--a statement
which the old lady remarked was literally true.

And we may be sure that Peter came too--and we may be equally
positive that no impassable roads could have held him back.
Indeed, on the very afternoon of the very day following the
receipt of the joyful telegram, he had closed his books with a
bang, performed the Moses act until he had put them into the big
safe, slipped on his coat, given an extra brush to his hat and
started for the ferry. All that day his face had been in a broad
smile; even the old book-keeper noticed it and so did Patrick, the
night-watchman and sometimes porter; and so did the line of
depositors who inched along to his window and were greeted with a
flash-light play of humor on his face instead of the more sedate,
though equally kindly expression which always rested on his
features when at work. But that was nothing to the way he hugged
Jack and Ruth--separately--together--then Ruth, then Jack--and
then both together again, only stopping at MacFarlane, whose hand
he grabbed with a "Great day! hey? Great day! By Cricky, Henry,
these are the things that put new wine into old leather bottles
like you and me."

And this was not all that the spring and summer had brought. Fresh
sap had risen in Jack's veins. This girl by his side was his own--
something to work for--something to fight for. MacFarlane felt
the expansion and put him in full charge of the work, relieving
him often in the night shifts, when the boy would catch a few
hours' sleep, and when, you may be sure, he stopped long enough at
the house to get his arms around Ruth before he turned in for the
night or the morning, or whenever he did turn in.

As to the injury which McGowan's slipshod work had caused to the
"fill," the question of damages and responsibility for the same
still hung in the air. The "fill" did not require rebuilding--nor
did any part of the main work--a great relief. The loss had not,
therefore, been as great as MacFarlane had feared. Moreover, the
scour and slash of the down-stream slope, thanks to Jack's quick
work, required but few weeks to repair; the culvert, contrary to
everybody's expectation, standing the test, and the up-stream
slope showing only here and there marks of the onslaught. The wing
walls were the worst; these had to be completely rebuilt,
involving an expense of several thousands of dollars, the exact
amount being one point in the discussion.

Garry, to his credit, had put his official foot down with so
strong a pressure that McGowan, fearing that he would have to
reconstruct everything from the bed of the stream up, if he held
out any longer, agreed to arbitrate the matter, he selecting one
expert and MacFarlane the other; and the Council--that is, Garry--
the third. MacFarlane had chosen the engineer of the railroad who
had examined McGowan's masonry an hour after the embankment had
given way. McGowan picked out a brother contractor and Garry wrote
a personal letter to Holker Morris, following it up by a personal
visit to the office of the distinguished architect, who, when he
learned that not only Garry, MacFarlane, and Jack were concerned
in the outcome of the investigation, but also Ruth--whose marriage
might depend on the outcome,--broke his invariable rule of never
getting mixed up in anybody's quarrels, and accepted the position
without a murmur.

This done everybody interested sat down to await the result of the
independent investigations of each expert, Garry receiving the
reports in sealed envelopes and locking them in the official safe,
to be opened in full committee at its next monthly meeting, when a
final report, with recommendations as to liability and costs,
would be drawn up; the same, when adopted by a majority of the
Council the following week, to be binding.

It was during this suspense--it happened really on the morning
succeeding the one on which Garry had opened the official
envelopes--that an envelope of quite a different character was
laid on Jack's table by the lady with the adjustable hair, who
invariably made herself acquainted with as much of that young
gentleman's mail as could be gathered from square envelopes sealed
in violet wax, or bearing family crests in low relief, or stamped
with monograms in light blue giving out delicate perfumes, each
one of which that lady sniffed with great satisfaction; to say
nothing of business addresses and postal-cards,--the latter being
readable, and, therefore, her delight.

This envelope, however, was different from any she had ever
fumbled, sniffed at, or pondered over. It was not only of unusual
size, but it bore in the upper left-hand corner in bold black
letters the words:

ARTHUR BREEN & COMPANY, BANKERS.

It was this last word which set the good woman to thinking.
Epistles from banks were not common,--never found at all, in
fact, among the letters of her boarders.

Jack was even more astonished.

"Call at the office," the letter ran, "the first time you are in
New York,--the sooner the better. I have some information
regarding the ore properties that may interest you."

As the young fellow had not heard from his uncle in many moons,
the surprise was all the greater. Nor, if the truth be known, had
he laid eyes on that gentleman since he left the shelter of his
home, except at Corinne's wedding,--and then only across the
church, and again in the street, when his uncle stopped and shook
his hand in a rather perfunctory way, complimenting him on his
bravery in rescuing MacFarlane, an account of which he had seen in
the newspapers, and ending by hoping that his new life would "drop
some shekels into his clothes." Mrs. Breen, on the contrary, while
she had had no opportunity of expressing her mental attitude
toward the exile, never having seen him since he walked out of her
front door, was by no means oblivious to Jack's social and
business successes. "I hear Jack was at Mrs. Portman's last
night," she said to her husband the morning after one of the ex-
Clearing House Magnate's great receptions. "They say he goes
everywhere, and that Mr. Grayson has adopted him and is going to
leave him all his money," to which Breen had grunted back that
Jack was welcome to the Portmans and the Portmans to Jack, and
that if old Grayson had any money, which he very much doubted,
he'd better hoist it overboard than give it to that rattlebrain.
Mrs. Breen heaved a deep sigh. Neither she nor Breen had been
invited to the Portmans', nor had Corinne (the Scribe has often
wondered whether the second scoop in Mukton was the cause)--and
yet Ruth MacFarlane, and Jack and Miss Felicia Grayson, and a lot
more out-of-town people--so that insufferable Mrs. Bennett had
told her--had come long distances to be present, the insufferable
adding significantly that "Miss MacFarlane looked too lovely and
was by all odds the prettiest girl in the room, and as for young
Breen, really she could have fallen in love with him herself!"

Jack tucked his uncle's letter in his pocket, skipped over to read
it to Ruth and MacFarlane, in explanation of his enforced absence
for the day, and kept on his way to the station. The missive
referred to the Morfordsburg contract, of course, and was
evidently an attempt to gain information regarding the proposed
work, Arthur Breen & Co. being the financial agents of many
similar properties.

"I will take care of him, sir," Jack had said as he left his
Chief. "My uncle, no doubt, means all right, and it is just as
well to hear what he says--besides he has been good enough to
write to me, and of course I must go, but I shall not commit
myself one way or the other--" and with a whispered word in Ruth's
ear, a kiss and a laugh, he left the house.

As he turned down the short street leading to the station, he
caught sight of Garry forging ahead on his way to the train. That
rising young architect, chairman of the Building Committee of the
Council, trustee of church funds, politician and all-round man of
the world--most of which he carried in a sling--seemed in a
particularly happy frame of mind this morning judging from the
buoyancy with which he stepped. This had communicated itself to
the gayety of his attire, for he was dressed in a light-gray check
suit, and wore a straw hat (the first to see the light of summer)
with a green ribbon about the crown,--together with a white
waistcoat and white spats, the whole enriched by a red rose bud
which Corinne had with her own hands pinned in his buttonhole.

"Why, hello! Jack, old man! just the very fellow I'm looking for,"
cried the joyous traveller. "You going to New York?--So am I,--go
every day now,--got something on ice,--the biggest thing I've ever
struck. I'll show that uncle of yours that two can play at his
game. He hasn't lifted his hand to help us, and I don't want him
to,--Cory and I can get along; but you'd think he'd come out and
see us once in a while, wouldn't you, or ask after the baby; Mrs.
Breen comes, but not Breen. We live in the country and have tar on
our heels, he thinks. Here,--sit by the window! Now let's talk of
something else. How's Miss Ruth and the governor? He's a daisy;--
best engineer anywhere round here. Yes, Cory's all right. Baby
keeps her awake half the night; I've moved out and camp upstairs;
can't stand it. Oh, by the way, I see you are about finishing up
on the railroad work. I'll have something to say to you next week
on the damage question. Got all the reports in last night. I tell
you, my old chief, Mr. Morris, is a corker! What he doesn't know
about masonry isn't worth picking up;--can't fool him! That's
what's the matter with half of our younger men; they sharpen lead-
pencils, mix ink, and think they are drawing; or they walk down a
stone wall and don't know any more what's behind it and what holds
it up than a child. Mr. Morris can not only design a wall, but he
can teach some first-class mechanics how to lay it."

Jack looked out the window and watched the fences fly past. For
the moment he made no reply to Garry's long harangue--especially
the part referring to the report. Anxious as he was to learn the
result of the award, he did not want the facts from the chairman
of the committee in advance of the confirmation by the Council.

"What is it you have on ice, Garry?" he asked at last with a
laugh, yielding to an overpowering conviction that he must change
the subject--"a new Corn Exchange? Nobody can beat you in corn
exchanges."

"Not by a long shot, Jack,--got something better; I am five
thousand ahead now, and it's all velvet."

"Gold-mine, Garry?" queried Jack, turning his head. "Another
Mukton Lode? Don't forget poor Charlie Gilbert; he's been clerking
it ever since, I hear."

"No, a big warehouse company; I'll get the buildings later on.
That Mukton Lode deal was a clear skin game, Jack, if it is your
uncle, and A. B. & Co. got paid up for it--downtown and uptown.
You ought to hear the boys at the Magnolia talk about it. My
scheme is not that kind; I'm on the ground floor; got some of the
promoter's stock. When you are through with your railroad contract
and get your money, let me know. I can show you a thing or two;--
open your eyes! No Wall Street racket, remember,--just a plain
business deal."

"There won't be much money left over, Garry, from the 'fill' and
tunnel work, if we keep on. We ought to have a cyclone next to
finish up with; we've had about everything else."

"You're all through, Jack," replied Garry with emphasis.

"I'll believe that when I see it," said Jack with a smile.

"I tell you, Jack, YOU ARE ALL THROUGH. Do you understand? Don't
ask me any questions and I won't tell you any lies. The first
thing that strikes you will be a check, and don't you forget it!"

Jack's heart gave a bound. The information had come as a surprise
and without his aid, and yet it was none the less welcome. The
dreaded anxiety was over; he knew now what the verdict of the
Council would be. He had been right from the first in this matter,
and Garry had not failed despite the strong political pressure
which must have been brought against him. The new work now would
go on and he and Ruth could go to Morfordsburg together! He could
already see her trim, lovely figure in silhouette against the
morning light, her eyes dancing, her face aglow in the crisp air
of the hills.

Garry continued to talk on as they sped into the city, elaborating
the details of the warehouse venture in which he had invested his
present and some of his future commissions, but his words fell on
stony ground. The expected check was the only thing that filled
Jack's thoughts. There was no doubt in his mind now that the
decision would be in MacFarlane's favor, and that the sum, whether
large or small, would be paid without delay,--Garry being
treasurer and a large amount of money being still due McGowan on
the embankment and boulevard. It would be joyous news to Ruth, he
said to himself, with a thrill surging through his heart.

Jack left Garry on the Jersey side and crossed alone. The boy
loved the salt air in his face and the jewelled lights flashed
from the ever-restless sea. He loved, too, the dash and vim of it
all. Forcing his way through the crowds of passengers to the
forward part of the boat, he stood where he could get the full
sweep of the wonderful panorama:

The jagged purple line of the vast city stretching as far as the
eye could reach; with its flat-top, square-sided, boxlike
buildings, with here and there a structure taller than the others;
the flash of light from Trinity's spire, its cross aflame; the
awkward, crab-like movements of innumerable ferry-boats, their
gaping alligator mouths filled with human flies; the impudent,
nervous little tugs, spitting steam in every passing face; the
long strings of sausage-linked canalers kept together by grunting,
slow-moving tows; the great floating track-yards bearing ponderous
cars--eight days from the Pacific without break of bulk; the
skinny, far-reaching fingers of innumerable docks clutching prey
of barge, steamer, and ship; the stately ocean-liner moving to
sea, scattering water-bugs of boats, scows and barges as it glided
on its way:--all this stirred his imagination and filled him with
a strange resolve. He, too, would win a place among the masses--
Ruth's hand fast in his.





CHAPTER XXIII




When Jack, in reply to Breen's note, stepped into his uncle's
office, no one would have recognized in the quick, alert, bronze-
faced young fellow the retiring, almost timid, boy who once peered
out of the port-hole of the cashier's desk. Nor did Jack's eyes
fall on any human being he had ever seen before. New occupants
filled the chairs about the ticker. A few lucky ones--very few--
had pulled out and stayed out, and could now be found at their
country seats in various parts of the State, or on the Riviera, or
in Egypt; but by far the larger part had crawled out of the fight
to nurse their wounds within the privacy of their own homes where
the outward show had to be kept up no matter how stringent the
inside economies, or how severe the privations. Others, less
fortunate, had disappeared altogether from their accustomed haunts
and were to be found filling minor positions in some far Western
frontier town or camp, or menial berths on a railroad, while at
least one victim, too cowardly to leave the field, had haunted the
lunch counters, hotel lobbies, and race-tracks for months, preying
on friends and acquaintances alike until dire poverty forced him
into crime, and a stone cell and a steel grille had ended the
struggle.

Failing to find any face he recognized, Jack approached a group
around the ticker, and inquired for the head of the firm. The
answer came from a red-cheeked, clean-shaven, bullet-headed,
immaculately upholstered gentleman--(silk scarf, diamond horse-
shoe stick-pin, high collar, cut-away coat, speckled-trout
waistcoat--everything perfect)--who stood, paring his nails in
front of the plate-glass window overlooking the street, and who
conveyed news of the elder Breen's whereabouts by a bob of his
head and a jerk of his fat forefinger in the direction of the
familiar glass door.

Breen sat at his desk when Jack entered, but it was only when he
spoke that his uncle looked up;--so many men swung back that door
with favors to ask, that spontaneous affability was often bad
policy.

"I received your letter, Uncle Arthur," Jack began.

Breen raised his eyes, and a deep color suffused his face. In his
heart he had a sneaking admiration for the boy. He liked his
pluck. Strange, too, he liked him the better for having left him
and striking out for himself, and stranger still, he was a little
ashamed for having brought about the revolt.

"Why, Jack!" He was on his feet now, his hand extended, something
of his old-time cordiality in his manner. "You got my letter, did
you? Well, I wanted to talk to you about that ore property. You
own it still, don't you?" The habit of his life of going straight
at the business in hand, precluded every other topic. Then again
he wanted a chance to look the boy over under fire,--"size him
up," in his own vocabulary. He might need his help later on.

"Oh, we don't own a foot of it,--don't want to. If Mr. MacFarlane
decides to--"

"I'm not talking about MacFarlane's job; I'm talking about your
own property,--the Cumberland ore property,--the one your father
left you. You haven't sold it, have you?" This came in an anxious
tone.

"No," answered Jack simply, wondering what his father's legacy had
to do with his Chief's proposed work.

"Have you paid the taxes?" Arthur's eyes were now boring into his.

"Yes, every year; they were not much. Why do you ask?"

"I'll tell you that later on," answered his uncle with a more
satisfied air. "You were up there with MacFarlane, weren't you?--
when he went to look over the ground of the Maryland Mining
Company where he is to cut the horizontal shaft?" Jack nodded. "So
I heard. Well, it may interest you to learn that some of our
Mukton people own the property. It was I who sent MacFarlane up,
really, although he may not know it."

"That was very kind of you, sir," rejoined Jack, without a trace
of either gratitude or surprise.

"Well, I'm glad you think so. Some of our directors also own a
block of that new road MacFarlane is finishing. They wouldn't hire
anybody else after they had gone up to Corklesville and had seen
how he did his work, so I had the secretary of the company write
MacFarlane, and that's how it came about."

Jack nodded and waited; his uncle's drift was not yet apparent.

"Well, what I wanted to see you about, Jack, is this:" here he
settled his fat back into the chair. "All the ore in that section
of the county,--so our experts say, dips to the east. They've
located the vein and they think a horizontal shaft and gravity
will get the stuff to tide water much cheaper than a vertical
shaft and hoist. Now if the ore should peter out--and the devil
himself can't tell always about that--we've got to get some ore
somewhere round there to brace up and make good our prospectus,
even if it does cost a little more, and that's where your
Cumberland property might come in,--see? One of our lawyers looked
over a record of your deed in the town hall of Mulford--" here he
bent forward and consulted a paper on his desk--"No,--that's not
it,--Morfordsburg,--yes, that's it,--Morfordsburg,--looked up the
deed, I say, Jack, and from what he says I don't believe your
property is more than a quarter of a mile, as the crow flies, from
where they want MacFarlane to begin cutting. If the lawyer's right
there may be a few dollars in it for you--not much, but something;
and if there is,--of course, I don't want to commit myself, and I
don't want to encourage you too much--but if he's right I should
advise your bringing me what papers you've got and have our
attorney look them over, and if everything's O.K. in the title,
your property might be turned over to the new company and form
part of the deal. You can understand, of course, that we don't
want any other deposits in that section but our own."

Breen's meaning was clear now. So was the purpose of the letter.

Jack leaned back in his chair, an expression first of triumph and
then of disgust crossing his face. That his uncle should actually
want him back in his business in any capacity was as complimentary
as it was unexpected. That the basis of the copartnership--and it
was this that brought the curl to his lip--was such that neither a
quarter of a mile nor two miles would stand in the way of a
connecting vein of ore on paper, was to be expected by any one at
all familiar with his uncle's methods.

"Thank you, Uncle Arthur," he answered simply, "but there's
nothing decided yet about the Morfordsburg work. I heard a bit of
news coming down on the train this morning that may cause Mr.
MacFarlane to look upon the proposed work more favorably, but that
is for him to say. As to my own property, when I am there again,
if I do go,--I will look over the ground myself and have Mr.
MacFarlane go with me and then I can decide."

Breen knitted his brows. It was not the answer he had expected. In
fact, he was very much astonished both at the reply and the way in
which it was given. He began to be sorry he had raised the
question at all. He would gladly have helped Jack in getting a
good price for his property, provided it did not interfere with
his own plans, but to educate him up to the position of an
obstructionist, was quite another matter.

"Well, think it over," he replied in a tone that was meant to show
his entire indifference to the whole affair,--"and some time when
you are in town drop in again. And now tell me about Ruth, as we
must call her, I suppose. Your aunt just missed her at the
Cosgroves' the other day." Then came a short disquisition on Garry
and Corinne and their life at Elm Crest, followed by an
embarrassing pause, during which the head of the house of Breen
lowered the flow line on a black bottle which he took from a
closet behind his desk,--"his digestion being a little out that
morning," he explained. And so with renewed thanks for the
interest he had taken in his behalf, and with his whole mind now
concentrated on Peter and the unspeakable happiness in store for
him when he poured into the old gentleman's willing and astonished
ears the details of the interview, Mr. John Breen, Henry
MacFarlane's Chief Assistant in Charge of Outside Work, bowed
himself out.

He had not long to wait.

Indeed, that delightful old gentleman had but a short time before
called to a second old gentleman, a more or less delightful fossil
in black wig and spectacles, to take his place at the teller's
window, and the first delightful old gentleman was at the precise
moment standing on the top step of the Exeter, overlooking the
street, where he had caught sight of Jack wending his way toward
him.

"Jack! JACK!" Peter cried, waving his hand at the boy.

"Oh! that's you, Uncle Peter, is it?  Shall I--?"

"No, Jack, stay where you are until I come to you."

"And where are you going now?" burst out Jack, overjoyed at
reaching his side.

"To luncheon, my dear boy! We'll go to Favre's, and have a stuffed
pepper and a plate of spaghetti an inch deep, after my own
receipt. Botti cooks it deliciously;--and a bottle of red wine,
my boy,--WINE,--not logwood and vinegar. No standing up at a
trough, or sitting on a high stool, or wandering about with a
sandwich between your fingers,--ruining your table manners and
your digestion. And now tell me about dear Ruth, and what she says
about coming down to dinner next week?"

It was wonderful how young he looked, and how happy he was, and
how spry his step, as the two turned into William Street and so on
to the cheap little French restaurant with its sanded floor,
little tables for two and four, with their tiny pots of mustard
and flagons of oil and red vinegar,--this last, the "left-overs"
of countless bottles of Bordeaux,--to say nothing of the great
piles of French bread weighing down a shelf beside the
proprietor's desk, racked up like cordwood, and all of the same
color, length, and thickness.

Every foot of the way through the room toward his own table--his
for years, and which was placed in the far corner overlooking the
doleful little garden with its half-starved vine and hanging
baskets--Peter had been obliged to speak to everybody he passed
(some of the younger men rose to their feet to shake his hand)--
until he reached the proprietor and gave his order.

Auguste, plump and oily, his napkin over his arm, drew out his
chair (it was always tipped back in reserve until he arrived),
laid another plate and accessories for his guest, and then bent
his head in attention until Peter indicated the particular brand
of Bordeaux--the color of the wax sealing its top was the only
label--with which he proposed to entertain his friend.

All this time Jack had been on the point of bursting. Once he had
slipped his hand into his pocket for Breen's letter, in the belief
that the best way to get the most enjoyment out of the incident of
his visit and the result,--for it was still a joke to Jack,--would
be to lay the half sheet on Peter's plate and watch the old
fellow's face as he read it. Then he decided to lead gradually up
to it, concealing the best part of the story--the prospectus and
how it was to be braced--until the last.

But the boy could not wait; so, after he had told Peter about
Ruth,--and that took ten minutes, try as hard as he could to
shorten the telling,--during which the stuffed peppers were in
evidence,--and after Peter had replied with certain messages to
Ruth,--during which the spaghetti was served sizzling hot, with
entrancing frazzlings of brown cheese clinging to the edges of the
tin plate--the Chief Assistant squared his elbows and plunged
head-foremost into the subject.

"And now, I have got a surprise for you, Uncle Peter," cried Jack,
smothering his eagerness as best he could.

The old fellow held up his hand, reached for the shabby, dust-
begrimed bottle, that had been sound asleep under the sidewalk for
years; filled Jack's glass, then his own; settled himself in his
chair and said with a dry smile:

"If it's something startling, Jack, wait until we drink this," and
he lifted the slender rim to his lips. "If it's something
delightful, you can spring it now."

"It is both," answered Jack. "Listen and doubt your ears. I had a
letter from Uncle Arthur this morning asking me to come and see
him about my Cumberland ore property, and I have just spent an
hour with him."

Peter put down his glass:

"You had a letter from Arthur Breen--about--what do you mean,
Jack."

"Just what I say."

Peter moved close to the table, and looked at the boy in
wonderment.

"Well, what did he want?" He was all attention now. Arthur Breen
sending for Jack!--and after all that had happened! Well--well!

"Wants me to put the Cumberland ore property father left me into
one of his companies."

"That fox!" The explosion cleared the atmosphere for an instant.

"That fox!" answered Jack, in a confirmatory tone; and then
followed an account of the interview, the boy chuckling at the end
of every sentence in his delight over the situation.

"And what are YOU going to do?" asked Peter in an undecided tone.
He had heard nothing so comical as this for years.

"Going to do nothing,--that is, nothing with Uncle Arthur. In the
first place, the property is worthless, unless half a million of
money is spent upon it."

"Or is SAID to have been spent upon it," rejoined Peter with a
smile, remembering the Breen methods.

"Exactly so;--and in the second place, I would rather tear up the
deed than have it added to Uncle Arthur's stock of balloons."

Peter drummed on the table-cloth and looked out of the window. The
boy was right in principle, but then the property might not be a
balloon at all; might in fact be worth a great deal more than the
boy dreamed of. That Arthur Breen had gone out of his way to send
for Jack--knowing, as Peter did, how systematically both he and
his wife had abused and ridiculed him whenever his name was
mentioned--was positive evidence to Peter's mind not only that the
property had a value of some kind but that the discovery was of
recent origin.

"Would you know yourself, Jack, what the property was worth,--that
is, do you feel yourself competent to pass upon its value?" asked
Peter, lifting his glass to his lips. He was getting back to his
normal condition now.

"Yes, to a certain extent, and if I fail, Mr. MacFarlane will help
me out. He was superintendent of the Rockford Mines for five
years. He received his early training there,--but there is no use
talking about it, Uncle Peter. I only told you to let you see how
the same old thing is going on day after day at Uncle Arthur's. If
it isn't Mukton, it's Ginsing, or Black Royal, or some other gas
bag."

"What did you tell him?"

"Nothing,--not in all the hour I talked with him. He did the
talking; I did the listening."

"I hope you were courteous to him, my boy?"

"I was,--particularly so."

"He wants your property, does he?" ruminated Peter, rolling a
crumb of bread between his thumb and forefinger. "I wonder what's
up? He has made some bad breaks lately and there were ugly rumors
about the house for a time. He has withdrawn his account from the
Exeter and so I've lost sight of all of his transactions." Here a
new idea seemed to strike him: "Did he seem very anxious about
getting hold of the land?"

A queer smile played about Jack's lips:

"He seemed NOT to be, but he was"

"You're sure?"

"Very sure; and so would you be if you knew him as well as I do. I
have heard him talk that way to dozens of men and then brag how
he'd 'covered his tracks,' as he used to call it."

"Then, Jack," exclaimed Peter in a decided tone, "there is
something in it. What it is you will find out before many weeks,
but something. I will wager you he has not only had your title
searched but has had test holes driven all over your land. These
fellows stop at nothing. Let him alone for a while and keep him
guessing. When he writes to you again to come and see him, answer
that you are too busy, and if he adds a word about the ore beds
tell him you have withdrawn them from the market. In the meantime
I will have a talk with one of our directors who has an interest,
so he told me, in a new steel company up in the Cumberland
Mountains, somewhere near your property, I believe. He may know
something of what's going on, if anything is going on."

Jack's eyes blazed. Something going on! Suppose that after all he
and Ruth would not have to wait. Peter read his thoughts and laid
his hand on Jack's wrist:

"Keep your toes on the earth, my boy:--no balloon ascensions and
no bubbles,--none of your own blowing. They are bad things to have
burst in your hands--four hands now, remember, with Ruth's. If
there's any money in your Cumberland ore bank, it will come to
light without your help. Keep still and say nothing, and don't you
sign your name to a piece of paper as big as a postage stamp until
you let me see it."

Here Peter looked at his watch and rose from the table.

"Time's up, my boy. I never allow myself but an hour at luncheon,
and I am due at the bank in ten minutes. Thank you, Auguste,--and
Auguste! please tell Botti the spaghetti was delicious. Come,
Jack."

It was when he held Ruth in his arms that same afternoon--behind
the door, really,--she couldn't wait until they reached the room,
--that Jack whispered in her astonished and delighted ears the good
news of the expected check from Garry's committee.

"And daddy won't lose anything; and he can take the new work!" she
cried joyously. "And we can all go up to the mountains together!
Oh, Jack!--let me run and tell daddy!"

"No, my darling,--not a word, Garry had no business to tell me
what he did; and it might leak out and get him into trouble:--No,
don't say a word. It is only a few days off. We shall all know
next week."

He had led her to the sofa, their favorite seat.

"And now I am going to tell you something that would be a million
times better than Garry's check if it were only true,--but it
isn't."

"Tell me, Jack,--quick!" Her lips were close to his.

"Uncle Arthur wants to buy my ore lands."

"Buy your--And we are going to be--married right away! Oh, you
darling Jack!"

"Wait,--wait, my precious, until I tell you!" She did not wait,
and he did not want her to. Only when he could loosen her arms
from his neck did he find her ear again, then he poured into it
the rest of the story.

"But, oh, Jack!--wouldn't it be lovely if it were true,--and just
think of all the things we could do."

"Yes,--but it Isn't true."

"But just suppose it WAS, Jack! You would have a horse of your own
and we'd build the dearest little home and--"

"But it never can be true, blessed,--not out of the Cumberland
property--" protested Jack.

"But, Jack! Can't we SUPPOSE? Why, supposing is the best fun in
the world. I used to suppose all sorts of things when I was a
little girl. Some of them came true, and some of them didn't, but
I had just as much fun as if they HAD all come true."

"Did you ever suppose ME?" asked Jack. He knew she never had,--he
wasn't worth it;--but what difference did it make what they talked
about!

"Yes,--a thousand times. I always knew, my blessed, that there was
somebody like you in the world somewhere,--and when the girls
would break out and say ugly things of men,--all men,--I just knew
they were not true of everybody. I knew that you would come--and
that I should always look for you until I found you! And now tell
me! Did you suppose about me, too, you darling Jack?"

"No,--never. There couldn't be any supposing;--there isn't any
now. It's just you I love, Ruth,--you,--and I love the 'YOU' in
you--That's the best part of you."

And so they talked on, she close in his arms, their cheeks
together; building castles of rose marble and ivory, laying out
gardens with vistas ending in summer sunsets; dreaming dreams that
lovers only dream,





CHAPTER XXIV




The check "struck" MacFarlane just as the chairman had said it
would, wiping out his losses by the flood with something ahead for
his next undertaking.

That the verdict was a just one was apparent from the reports of
both McGowan's and the Railroad Company's experts. These showed
that the McGowan mortar held but little cement, and that not of
the best; that the backing of the masonry was composed of loose
rubble instead of split stone, and that the collapse of his
structure was not caused by the downpour, but by the caving in of
culverts and spillways, which were built of materials in direct
violation of the provisions of the contract. Even then there might
have been some doubt as to the outcome but for Holker Morris's
testimony. He not only sent in his report, but appeared himself,
he told the Council, so as to answer any questions Mr. McGowan or
his friends might ask. He had done this, as he said openly at the
meeting, to aid his personal friend, Mr. MacFarlane, and also that
he might raise his voice against the slipshod work that was being
done by men who either did not know their business or purposely
evaded their responsibilities. "This construction of McGowan's,"
he continued, "is especially to be condemned, as there is not the
slightest doubt that the contractor has intentionally slighted his
work--a neglect which, but for the thorough manner in which
MacFarlane had constructed the lower culvert, might have resulted
in the loss of many lives."

McGowan snarled and sputtered, denouncing Garry and his "swallow-
tails" in the bar rooms and at the board meetings, but the
decision was unanimous, two of his friends concurring, fearing, as
they explained afterward, that the "New York crowd" might claim
even a larger sum in a suit for damages.

The meeting over, Morris and Jack dined with MacFarlane and again
the distinguished architect won Ruth's heart by the charm of his
personality, she telling Jack the next day that he was the only
OLD MAN--fifty was old for Ruth--she had ever seen with whom she
could have fallen in love, and that she was not sure after all but
that Jack was too young for her, at which there was a great
scrimmage and a blind-man's-buff chase around the table, up the
front stairs and into the corner by the window, where she was
finally caught, smothered in kisses and made to correct her
arithmetic.

This ghost of damages having been laid--it was buried the week
after Jack had called on his uncle--the Chief, the First
Assistant, and Bangs, the head foreman, disappeared from
Corklesville and reappeared at Morfordsburg.

The Chief came to select a site for the entrance of the shaft; the
First Assistant came to compare certain maps and documents, which
he had taken from the trunk he had brought with him from his
Maryland home, with the archives resting in the queer old
courthouse; while Foreman Bangs was to help with the level and
target, should a survey be found necessary.

The faded-out old town clerk looked Jack all over when he asked to
see the duplicate of a certain deed, remarking, as he led the way
to the Hall of Records,--it was under a table in the back room,--
"Reckon there's somethin' goin' on jedgin' from the way you New
Yorkers is lookin' into ore lands up here. There come a lawyer
only last month from a man named Breen, huntin' up this same
property."

The comparisons over and found to be correct, "starting from a
certain stone marked 'B' one hundred and eighty-seven feet East by
South," etc., etc., the whole party, including a small boy to help
carry the level and target and a reliable citizen who said he
could find the property blindfold--and who finally collapsed with
a "Goll darn!--if I know where I'm at!"--the five jumped onto a
mud-encrusted vehicle and started for the site.

Up hill and down hill, across one stream and then another; through
the dense timber and into the open again. Here their work began,
Jack handling the level (his Chief had taught him), Bangs holding
the target, MacFarlane taking a squint now and then so as to be
sure,--and then the final result,--to wit:--First, that the
Maryland Company's property, Arthur Breen & Co., agents, lay under
a hill some two miles from Morfordsburg; that Jack's lay some
miles to the south of Breen's. Second, that outcroppings showed
the Maryland Mining Company's ore dipped, as the Senior Breen had
said, to the east, and third, that similar outcroppings showed
Jack's dipped to the west.

And so the airy bubble filled with his own and Ruth's iridescent
hopes,--a bubble which had floated before him as he tramped
through the cool woods, and out upon the hillside, vanished into
thin air.

For with Ruth's arms around him, her lips close to his, her
boundless enthusiasm filling his soul, the boy's emotions had for
the time overcome his judgment. So much so that all the way up in
the train he had been "supposing" and resupposing. Even the reply
of the town clerk had set his heart to thumping; his uncle had
sent some one then! Then came the thought,--Yes, to boom one of
his misleading prospectuses--and for a time the pounding had
ceased: by no possible combination now, either honest or
dishonest, could the two properties be considered one and the same
mine.

Again his thoughts went back to Ruth. He knew how keenly she would
be disappointed. She had made him promise to telegraph her at once
if his own and her father's inspection of the ore lands should
hold out any rose-colored prospects for the future. This he had
not now the heart to do. One thing, however, he must do, and at
once, and that was to write to Peter, or see him immediately on
his return. There was no use now of the old fellow talking the
matter over with the director; there was nothing to talk over,
except a bare hill three miles from anywhere, covering a possible
deposit of doubtful richness and which, whether good or bad, would
cost more to get to market than it was worth.

They were on the extreme edge of the forest when the final
decision was reached, MacFarlane leaning against a rock, the level
and tripod tilted against his arm, Jack sitting on a fallen tree,
the map spread out on his knees.

For some minutes Jack sat silent, his eyes roaming over the
landscape. Below him stretched an undulating mantle of velvet,
laid loosely over valley, ravine and hill, embroidered in tints of
corn-yellow, purplings of full-blossomed clover and the softer
greens of meadow and swamp. In and out, now straight, now in
curves and bows, was threaded a ribbon of silver, with here and
there a connecting mirror in which flashed the sun. Bordering its
furthermost edge a chain of mountains lost themselves in low,
rolling clouds, while here and there, in its many crumplings, were
studded jewels of barn stack and house, their facets aflame in the
morning light.

Jack absorbed it all, its beauty filling his soul, the sunshine
bathing his cheeks. Soon all trace of his disappointment vanished:
with Ruth here,--with his work to occupy him,--and this mighty,
all-inspiring, all-intoxicating sweep of loveliness spread out,
his own and Ruth's every hour of the day and night, what did ore
beds or anything else matter?

MacFarlane's voice woke him to consciousness. He had called to him
before, but the boy had not heard.

"As I have just remarked, Jack," MacFarlane began again, "there is
nothing but an earthquake will make your property of any use. It
is a low-grade ore, I should say, and tunnelling and shoring would
eat it up. Wipe it off the books. There are thousands of acres of
this kind of land lying around loose from here to the Cumberland
Valley. It may get better as you go down--only an assay can tell
about that--but I don't think it will. To begin sinking shafts
might mean sinking one or a dozen; and there's nothing so
expensive. I am sorry, Jack, but wipe it out. Some bright
scoundrel might sell stock on it, but they'll never melt any of it
up into stove plate."

"All right, sir," Jack said at last, with a light laugh. "It is
the same old piece of bread, I reckon, and it has fallen on the
same old buttered side. Uncle Peter told me to beware of bubbles--
said they were hard to carry around. This one has burst before I
got my hand on it. All right--let her go! I hope Ruth won't take
it too much to heart. Here, boy, get hold of this map and put it
with the other traps in the wagon. And now, Mr. MacFarlane, what
comes next?"

Before the day was over MacFarlane had perfected his plans. The
town was to be avoided as too demoralizing a shelter for the men,
and barracks were to be erected in which to house them. Locations
of the principal derricks were selected and staked, as well as the
sites for the entrance to the shaft, for the machine and
blacksmith's shops and for a storage shanty for tools: the
Maryland Mining Company's work would require at least two years to
complete, and a rational, well-studied plan of procedure was
imperative.

"And now, Jack, where are you going to live,--in the village?"
asked his Chief, resting the level and tripod carefully against a
tree trunk and seating himself beside Jack on a fallen log.

"Out here, if you don't mind, sir, where I can be on top of the
work all the time. It's but a short ride for Ruth and she can come
and go all the time. I am going to drop some of these trees; get
two or three choppers from the village and knock up a log-house
like the one I camped in when I was a boy."

"Where will you put it?" asked MacFarlane with a smile, as he
turned his head as if in search of a site. It was just where he
wanted Jack to live, but he would not have suggested it.

"Not a hundred yards from where we sit, sir--a little back of
those two big oaks. There's a spring above on the hill and sloping
ground for drainage; and shade, and a great sweep of country in
front. I've been hungry for this life ever since I left home; now
I am going to have it."

"It will be rather lonely, won't it?" The engineer's eyes softened
as they rested on the young fellow, his face flushed with the
enthusiasm of his new resolve. He and Ruth's mother had lived in
just such a shanty, and not so very long ago, either, it seemed,--
those were the happiest years of his life.

"No!" exclaimed Jack. "It's only a step to the town; I can walk it
in half an hour. No, it won't be lonely. I will fix up a room for
Uncle Peter somewhere, so he can be comfortable,--he would love to
come here on his holidays; and Ruth can come out for the day,--
she will be crazy about it when I tell her. No, I will get along.
If the lightning had struck my ore beds I would probably have
painted and papered some musty back room in the village and lived
a respectable life. Now I am going to turn savage."

The next day the contracts were signed: work to commence in three
months. Henry MacFarlane, Engineer-in-Chief, John Breen in charge
of construction.

It was on that same sofa in the far corner of the sitting-room
that Jack told Ruth,--gently, one word at a time,--making the best
of it, but telling her the exact truth.

"And then we are not going to have any of the things we dreamed
about, Jack," she said with a sigh.

"I am afraid not, my darling,--not now, unless the lightning
strikes us, which it won't."

She looked out of the window for a moment, and her eyes filled
with tears. Then she thought of her father, and how hard he had
worked, and what disappointments he had suffered, and yet how,
with all his troubles, he had always put his best foot foremost--
always encouraging her. She would not let Jack see her chagrin.
This was part of Jack's life, just as similar disappointments had
been part of her father's.

"Never mind, blessed. Well, we had lots of fun 'supposing,' didn't
we, Jack. This one didn't come true, but some of the others will
and what difference does it make, anyway, as long as I have you,"
and she nestled her face in his neck. "And now tell me what sort
of a place it is and where daddy and I are going to live, and all
about it."

And then, to soften the disappointment the more and to keep a new
bubble afloat, Jack launched out into a description of the country
and how beautiful the view was from the edge of the hill
overlooking the valley, with the big oaks crowning the top and the
lichen-covered rocks and fallen timber blanketed with green moss,
and the spring of water that gushed out of the ground and ran
laughing down the hillside, and the sweep of mountains losing
themselves in the blue haze of the distance, and then finally to
the log-cabin he was going to build for his own especial use.

"And only two miles away," she cried in a joyous tone,--"and I can
ride out every day! Oh, Jack!--just think of it!" And so, with
the breath of this new enthusiasm filling their souls, a new
bubble of hope and gladness was floated, and again the two fell to
planning, and "supposing," the rose-glow once more lightening up
the peaks.

For days nothing else was talked of. An onslaught was at once made
on Carry's office, two doors below Mrs. Hicks, for photographs,
plans of bungalows, shanties, White Mountain lean-tos, and the
like, and as quickly tucked under Ruth's arm and carried off, with
only the permission of the office boy,--Garry himself being absent
owing to some matters connected with a big warehouse company in
which he was interested, the boy said, and which took him to New
York on the early train and did not allow his return sometimes,
until after midnight.

These plans were spread out under the lamp on the sitting-room
table, the two studying the details, their heads together,
MacFarlane sitting beside them reading or listening,--the light of
the lamp falling on his earnest, thoughtful face,--Jack consulting
him now and then as to the advisability of further extensions, the
same being two rooms shingled inside and out, with an annex of
bark and plank for Ruth's horse, and a kitchen and laundry and no
end of comforts, big and little,--all to be occupied whenever
their lucky day would come and the merry bells ring out the joyful
tidings of their marriage.

Nor was this all this particularly radiant bubble contained. Not
only was there to be a big open fireplace built of stone, and
overhead rafters of birch, the bark left on and still glistening,
--but there were to be palms, ferns, hanging baskets, chintz
curtains, rugs, pots of flowers, Chinese lanterns, hammocks, easy
chairs; and for all Jack knew, porcelain tubs, electric bells,
steam heat and hot and cold water, so enthusiastic had Ruth become
over the possibilities lurking in the 15 X 20 log-hut which Jack
proposed to throw together as a shelter in his exile.





CHAPTER XXV




The news of MacFarlane's expected departure soon became known in
the village. There were not many people to say good-by, the
inhabitants having seen but little of the engineer and still less
of his daughter, except as she flew past, in a mad gallop, on her
brown mare, her hair sometimes down her back. The pastor of the
new church came, however, to express his regrets, and to thank Mr.
MacFarlane for his interest in the church building. He also took
occasion to say many complimentary things about Garry, extolling
him for the wonderful manner in which that brilliant young
architect had kept within the sum set apart by the trustees for
its construction, and for the skill with which the work was being
done, adding that as a slight reward for such devotion the church
trustees had made Mr. Minott treasurer of the building fund,
believing that in this way all disputes could the better be
avoided,--one of some importance having already arisen (here the
reverend gentleman lowered his voice) in which Mr. McGowan, he was
sorry to say, who was building the masonry, had attempted an
overcharge which only Mr. Minott's watchful eye could have
detected, adding, with a glance over his shoulder, that the
collapse of the embankment had undermined the contractor's
reputation quite as much as the freshet had his culvert, at which
MacFarlane smiled but made no reply.

Corinne also came to express her regrets, bringing with her a
scrap of an infant in a teetering baby carriage, the whole
presided over by a nurse in a blue dress, white cap, and white
apron, the ends reaching to her feet: not the Corinne, the Scribe
is pained to say, who, in the old days would twist her head and
stamp her little feet and have her way in everything. But a woman
terribly shrunken, with deep lines in her face and under her eyes.
Jack, man-like, did not notice the change, but Ruth did.

After the baby had been duly admired, Ruth tossing it in her arms
until it crowed, Corinne being too tired for much enthusiasm, had
sent it home, Ruth escorting it herself to the garden gate.

"I am sorry you are going," Corinne said in Ruth's absence. "I
suppose we must stay on here until Garry finishes the new church.
I haven't seen much of Ruth,--or of you, either, Jack. But I don't
see much of anybody now,--not even of Garry. He never gets home
until midnight, or even later, if the train is behind time, and it
generally is."

"Then he must have lots of new work," cried Jack in a cheerful
tone. "He told me the last time I saw him on the train that he
expected some big warehouse job."

Corinne looked out of the window and fingered the handle of her
parasol.

"I don't believe that is what keeps him in town, Jack," she said
slowly. "I hoped you would come and see him last Sunday. Did Garry
give you my message? I heard you were at home to-day, and that is
why I came."

"No, he never said a single word about it or I would have come, of
course. What do you think, then, keeps him in town so late?"
Something in her voice made Jack leave his own and take a seat
beside her. "Tell me, Corinne. I'll do anything I can for Garry
and you too. What is it?"

"I don't know, Jack,--I wish I did. He has changed lately. When I
went to his room the other night he was walking the floor; he said
he couldn't sleep, and the next morning when he didn't come down
to breakfast I went up and found him in a half stupor. I had hard
work to wake him. Don't tell Ruth,--I don't want anybody but you
to know, but I wish you'd come and see him. I've nobody else to
turn to,--won't you, Jack?"

"Come! of course I'll come, Corinne,--now,--this minute, if he's
home, or to-night, or any time you say. Suppose I go back with you
and wait. Garry's working too hard, that's it,--he was always that
way, puts his whole soul into anything he gets interested in and
never lets up until it's accomplished." He waited for some reply,
but she was still toying with the handle of her parasol. Her mind
had not been on his proffered help,--she had not heard him, in
fact.

"And, Jack," she went on in the same heart-broken tone through
which an unbidden sob seemed to struggle.

"Yes, I am listening, Corinne,--what is it?"

"I want you to forgive me for the way I have always treated you. I
have--"

"Why, Corinne, what nonsense! Don't you bother your head about
such--"

"Yes, but I do, and it is because I have never done anything but
be ugly to you. When you lived with us I--"

"But we were children then, Corinne, and neither of us knew any
better. I won't hear one word of such. nonsense. Why, my dear
girl--" he had taken her hand as she spoke and the pair rested on
his knee--" do you think I am--No--you are too sensible a woman to
think anything of the kind. But that is not it, Corinne--something
worries you;" he asked suddenly with a quick glance at her face.
"What is it? You shall have the best in me, and Ruth will help
too."

Her fingers closed over his. The touch of the young fellow, so
full of buoyant strength and hope and happiness, seemed to put new
life into her.

"I don't know, Jack." Her voice fell to a whisper. "There may not
be anything, yet I live under an awful terror. Don't ask me;--only
tell me you will help me if I need you. I have nobody else--my
stepfather almost turned me out of his office when I went to see
him the other day,--my mother doesn't care. She has only been here
half a dozen times, and that was when baby was born. Hush,--here
comes Ruth,--she must not know."

"But she MUST know, Corinne. I never have any secrets from Ruth,
and don't you have any either. Ruth couldn't be anything but kind
to you and she never misunderstands, and she is so helpful. Here
she is. Ruth, dear, we were just waiting for you. Corinne is
nervous and depressed, and imagines all sorts of things, one of
which is that we don't care for her: and I've just told her that
we do?"

Ruth looked into Jack's eyes as if to get his meaning--she must
always get her cue from him now--she was entirely unconscious of
the cause of it all, or why Corinne should feel so, but if Jack
thought Corinne was suffering and that she wanted comforting, all
she had was at Corinne's and Jack's disposal. With a quick
movement she leaned forward and laid her hand on Corinne's
shoulder.

"Why, you dear Corinne,--Jack and I are not like that. What has
gone wrong,--tell me," she urged.

For a brief instant Corinne made no answer. Once she tried to
speak but the words died in her throat. Then, lifting up her hands
appealingly, she faltered out:

"I only said that I--Oh, Ruth!--I am so wretched!" and sank back
on the lounge in an agony of tears.





CHAPTER XXVI




At ten o'clock that same night Jack went to the station to meet
Garry. He and Ruth had talked over the strange scene--
unaccountable to both of them--and had determined that Jack should
see Garry at once.

"I must help him, Ruth, no matter at what cost. Garry has been my
friend for years; he has been taken up with his work, and so have
I, and we have drifted apart a little, but I shall never forget
him for his kindness to me when I first came to New York. I would
never have known Uncle Peter but for Garry, or Aunt Felicia, or--
you, my darling."

Jack waited under the shelter of the overhanging roof until the
young architect stepped from the car and crossed the track. Garry
walked with the sluggish movement of a tired man--hardly able to
drag his feet after him.

"I thought I'd come down to meet you, Garry," Jack cried in his
old buoyant tone. "It's pretty rough on you, old fellow, working
so hard."

Garry raised his head and peered into the speaker's face.

"Why, Jack!" he exclaimed in a surprised tone; the voice did not
sound like Garry's. "I didn't see you in the train. Have you been
in New York too?" He evidently understood nothing of Jack's
explanation.

"No, I came down to meet you. Corinne was at Mr. MacFarlane's to-
day, and said you were not well,--and so I thought I'd walk home
with you."

"Oh, thank you, old man, but I'm all right. Corinne's nervous;--
you mustn't mind her. I've been up against it for two or three
weeks now,--lot of work of all kinds, and that's kept me a good
deal from home. I don't wonder Cory's worried, but I can't help
it--not yet."

They had reached an overhead light, and Jack caught a clearer view
of the man. What he saw sent a shiver through him. A great change
had come over his friend. His untidy dress,--always so neat and
well kept; his haggard eyes and shambling, unsteady walk, so
different from his springy, debonair manner, all showed that he
had been and still was under some terrible mental strain. That he
had not been drinking was evident from his utterance and gait.
This last discovery when his condition was considered, disturbed
him most of all, for he saw that Garry was going through some
terrible crisis, either professional or financial.

As the two advanced toward the door of the station on their way to
the street, the big, burly form of McGowan, the contractor, loomed
up.

"I heard you wouldn't be up till late, Mr. Minott," he exclaimed
gruffly, blocking Garry's exit to the street. "I couldn't find you
at the Council or at your office, so I had to come here. We
haven't had that last payment on the church. The vouchers is all
ready for your signature, so the head trustee says,--and the
money's where you can git at it."

Garry braced his shoulders and his jaw tightened. One secret of
the young architect's professional success lay in his command over
his men. Although he was considerate, and sometimes familiar, he
never permitted any disrespect.

"Why, yes, Mr. McGowan, that's so," he answered stiffly. "I've
been in New York a good deal lately and I guess I've neglected
things here. I'll try to come up in the morning, and if
everything's all right I'll get a certificate and fill it up and
you'll get a check in a few days."

"Yes, but you said that last week." There was a sound of defiance
in McGowan's voice.

"If I did I had good reason for the delay," answered Garry with a
flash of anger. "I'm not running my office to suit you."

"Nor for anybody else who wants his money and who's got to have
it, and I want to tell you, Mr. Minott, right here, and I don't
care who hears it, that I want mine or I'll know the reason why."

Garry wheeled fiercely and raised his hand as if to strike the
speaker, then it dropped to his side.

"I don't blame you, Mr. McGowan," he said in a restrained, even
voice. "I have no doubt that it's due you and you ought to have
it, but I've been pretty hard pressed lately with some matters in
New York; so much so that I've been obliged to take the early
morning train,--and you can see yourself what time I get home.
Just give me a day or two longer and I'll examine the work and
straighten it out. And then again, I'm not very well."

The contractor glared into the speaker's face as if to continue
the discussion, then his features relaxed. Something in the sound
of Carry's voice, or perhaps some line of suffering in his face
must have touched him.

"Well, of course, I ain't no hog," he exclaimed in a softer tone,
which was meant as an apology, "and if you're sick that ends it,
but I've got all them men to pay and--"

"Yes, I understand and I won't forget. Thank you, Mr. McGowan, and
good-night. Come along, Jack,--Corinne's worrying, and will be
till I get home."

The two kept silent as they walked up the hill Garry, because he
was too tired to discuss the cowardly attack; Jack, because what
he had to say must be said when they were alone,--when he could
get hold of Garry's hand and make him open his heart.

As they approached the small house and mounted the steps leading
to the front porch, Corinne's face could be seen pressed against a
pane in one of the dining-room windows. Garry touched Jack's arm
and pointed ahead:

"Poor Cory!" he exclaimed with a deep sigh, "that's the way she is
every night. Coming home is sometimes the worst part of it all,
Jack."

The door flew open and Corinne sprang out: "Are you tired, dear?"
she asked, peering into his face and kissing him. Then turning to
Jack: "Thank you, Jack!--It was so good of you to go. Ruth sent me
word you had gone to meet him."

She led the way into the house, relieving Garry of his hat, and
moving up an easy chair stood beside it until he had settled
himself into its depths.

Again she bent over and kissed him: "How are things to-day, dear?
--any better?" she inquired in a quavering voice.

"Some of them are better and some are worse, Cory; but there's
nothing for you to worry about. That's what I've been telling
Jack. How's baby? Anybody been here from the board?--Any letters?"

"Baby's all right," the words came slowly, as if all utterance
gave her pain. "No, there are no letters. Mr. McGowan was here,
but I told him you wouldn't be home till late."

"Yes, I saw him," replied Garry, dropping his voice suddenly to a
monotone, an expression of pain followed by a shade of anxiety
settling on his face: McGowan and his affairs were evidently
unpleasant subjects. At this instant the cry of a child was heard.
Garry roused himself and turned his head.

"Listen--that's baby crying! Better go to her, Cory,"

Garry waited until his wife had left the room, then he rose from,
his chair, crossed to the sideboard, poured out three-quarters of
a glass of raw whiskey and drank it without drawing a breath.

"That's the first to-day, Jack. I dare not touch it when I'm on a
strain like this. Can't think clearly, and I want my head,--all of
it. There's a lot of sharks down in New York,--skin you alive if
they could. I beg your pardon, old man,--have a drop?"

Jack waved his hand in denial, his eyes still on his friend: "Not
now, Garry, thank you."

Garry dropped the stopper into the decanter, pushed back the empty
tumbler and began pacing the floor, halting now and then to toe
some pattern in the carpet, talking all the time to himself in
broken sentences, like one thinking aloud. All Jack's heart went
out to his friend as he watched him. He and Ruth were so happy.
All their future was so full of hope and promise, and Garry--
brilliant, successful Garry,--the envy of all his associates, so
harassed and so wretched!

"Garry, sit down and listen to me," Jack said at last. "I am your
oldest friend; no one you know thinks any more of you than I do,
or will be more ready to help. Now, what troubles you?"

"I tell you, Jack, I'm not troubled!"--something of the old
bravado rang in his voice,--"except as everybody is troubled when
he's trying to straighten out something that won't straighten. I'm
knocked out, that's all,--can't you see it?"

"Yes, I see it,--and that's not all I see. Is it your work here or
in New York? I want to know, and I'm going to know, and I have a
right to know, and you are not going to bed until you tell me,--
nor will I. I can and will help you, and so will Mr. MacFarlane,
and Uncle Peter, and everybody I ask. What's gone wrong?--Tell
me!"

Garry continued to walk the floor. Then he wheeled suddenly and
threw himself into his chair.

"Well, Jack," he answered with an indrawn sigh,--"if you must
know, I'm on the wrong side of the market."

"Stocks?"

"Not exactly. The bottom's fallen out of the Warehouse Company."

Jack's heart gave a rebound. After all, it was only a question of
money and this could be straightened out. He had begun to fear
that it might be something worse; what, he dared not conjecture.

"And you have lost money?" Jack continued in a less eager tone.

"A whole lot of money."

"How much?"

"I don't know, but a lot. It went up three points to-day and so I
am hanging on by my eyelids."

"Well, that's not the first time men have been in that position,"
Jack replied in a hopeful tone. "Is there anything more,--
something you are keeping back?"

"Yes,--a good deal more. I'm afraid I'll have to let go. If I do
I'm ruined."

Jack kept silent for a moment. Various ways of raising money to
help his friend passed in review, none of which at the moment
seemed feasible or possible.

"How much will make your account good?" he asked after a pause.

"About ten thousand dollars."

Jack leaned forward in his chair. "Ten thousand dollars!" he
exclaimed in a startled tone. "Why, Garry--how in the name of
common-sense did you get in as deep as that?"

"Because I was a damned fool!"

Again there was silence, during which Garry fumbled for a match,
opened his case and lighted a cigarette. Then he said slowly, as
he tossed the burnt end of the match from him:

"You said something, Jack, about some of your friends helping.
Could Mr. MacFarlane?"

"No,--he hasn't got it,--not to spare. I was thinking of another
kind of help when I spoke. I supposed you had got into debt, or
something, and were depending on your commissions to pull you out,
and that some new job was hanging fire and perhaps some of us
could help as we did on the church."

"No," rejoined Garry, in a hopeless tone, "nothing will help but a
certified check. Perhaps your Mr. Grayson might do something," he
continued in the same voice.

"Uncle Peter! Why, Garry, he doesn't earn ten thousand dollars in
three years."

Again there was silence.

"Well, would it be any use for you to ask Arthur Breen? He
wouldn't give me a cent, and I wouldn't ask him. I don't believe
in laying down on your wife's relations, but he might do it for
you now that you're getting up in the world."

Jack bent his head in deep thought. The proposal that his uncle
had made him for the ore lands passed in review. At that time he
could have turned over the property to Breen. But it was worthless
now. He shook his head:

"I don't think so." Then he added quickly--"Have you been to Mr.
Morris?"

"No, and won't. I'd die first!" this came in a sharp, determined
voice, as if it had jumped hot from his heart.

"But he thinks the world of you; it was only a week ago that he
told Mr. MacFarlane that you were the best man he ever had in his
office."

"Yes,--that's why I won't go, Jack. I'll play my hand alone and
take the consequences, but I won't beg of my friends; not a friend
like Mr. Morris; any coward can do that. Mr. Morris believes in
me,--I want him to continue to believe in me. That's worth twenty
times ten thousand dollars." His eyes flashed for the first time.
Again the old Garry shone out.

"When must you have this money?"

"By the end of the week,--before next Monday, anyhow."

"Then the situation is not hopeless?"

"No, not entirely. I have one card left;--I'll play it to-morrow,
then I'll know."

"Is there a chance of its winning?"

"Yes and no. As for the 'yes,' I've always had my father's luck.
Minotts don't go under and I don't believe I shall, we take risks
and we win. That's what brought me to Corklesville, and you see
what I have made of myself. Just at present I've got my foot in a
bear trap, but I'll pull out somehow. As for the 'no' part of it,
--I ought to tell you that the warehouse stock has been knocked
endways by another corporation which has a right of way that cuts
ours and is going to steal our business. I think it's a put-up job
to bear our stock so they can scoop it and consolidate; that's why
I am holding on. I've flung in every dollar I can rake and scrape
for margin and my stocking's about turned inside out. I got a tip
last week that I thought would land us all on our feet, but it
worked the other way." Something connected with the tip must have
stirred him for his face clouded as he rose to his feet,
exclaiming: "Have a drop, Jack?--that last one braced me up."

Again Jack shook his head, and again Garry settled himself back in
his chair.

"I am powerless, Garry," said Jack. "If I had the money you should
have it. I have nothing but my salary and I have drawn only a
little of that lately, so as to help out in starting the new work.
I thought I had something in an ore bank my father left me, but it
is valueless, I find. I suppose I could put some life in it if I
would work it along the lines Uncle Arthur wants me to, but I
can't and won't do that. Somehow, Garry, this stock business
follows me everywhere. It drove me out of Uncle Arthur's office
and house, although I never regretted that,--and now it hits you.
I couldn't do anything to help Charlie Gilbert then and I can't do
anything to help you now, unless you can think of some way. Is
there any one that I can see except Uncle Arthur,--anybody I can
talk to?"

Garry shook his head.

"I've done that, Jack. I've followed every lead, borrowed every
dollar I could,--been turned down half a dozen times, but I kept
on. Got it in the neck twice to-day from some fellows I thought
would help push."

Jack started forward, a light breaking over his face.

"I have it, Garry! Suppose that I go to Mr. Morris. I can talk to
him, maybe, in a way you would not like to."

Garry lifted his head and sat erect.

"No, by God!--you'll do nothing of the kind!" he cried, as he
brought his fist down on the arm of his chair. "That man I love as
I love nothing else in this world--wife--baby--nothing! I'll go
under, but I'll never let him see me crawl. I'll be Garry Minott
to him as long as I breathe. The same man he trusted,--the same
man he loved,--for he does love me, and always did!" He hesitated
and his voice broke, as if a sob clogged it. After a moment's
struggle he went on: "I was a damned fool to leave him or I
wouldn't be where I am. 'Garry,' he said to me that last day when
he took me into his office and shut the door,--'Garry, stay on
here a while longer; wait till next year. If it's more pay you
want, fix it to suit yourself. I've got two boys coming along;
they'll both be through the Beaux Arts in a year or so. I'm
getting on and I'm getting tired. Stay on and go in with them.'
And what did I do? Well, what's the use of talking?--you know it
all."

Jack moved his chair and put his arm over his shoulder as a woman
would have done. He had caught the break in his voice and knew how
manfully he was struggling to keep up.

"Garry, old man."

"Yes, Jack."

"If Mr. Morris thought that way, then, why won't he help you now?
What's ten thousand to him?"

"Nothing,--not a drop in the bucket! He'd begin drawing the check
before I'd finished telling him what I wanted it for. I'm in a
hole and don't know which way to turn, but when I think of what
he's done for me I'll rot in hell before I'll take his money."
Again his voice had the old ring.

"But, Garry," insisted Jack, "if I can see Morris in the morning
and lay the whole matter before him--"

"You'll do nothing of the kind, do you hear!--keep still--
somebody's coming downstairs. Not a word if it is Corinne. She is
carrying now all she can stand up under."

He passed his hand across his face with a quick movement and
brushed the tears from his cheeks.

"Remember, not a word. I haven't told her everything. I tried to,
but I couldn't."

"Tell her now, Garry," cried Jack. "Now--to-night," his voice
rising on the last word. "Before you close your eyes. You never
needed her help as you do now."

"I can't--it would break her heart. Keep still!--that's her
step."

Corinne entered the room slowly and walked to Garry's chair.

"Baby's asleep now," she said in a subdued voice, "and I'm going
to take you to bed. You won't mind, Jack, will you? Come, dear,"
and she slipped her hand under his arm to lift him from his chair.

Garry rose from his seat.

"All right," he answered assuming his old cheerful tone, "I'll go.
I AM tired, I guess, Cory, and bed's the best place for me. Good-
night, old man,--give my love to Ruth," and he followed his wife
out of the room.

Jack waited until the two had turned to mount the stairs, caught a
significant flash from Garry's dark eyes as a further reminder of
his silence, and, opening the front door, closed it softly behind
him.

Ruth was waiting for him. She had been walking the floor during
the last half hour peering out now and then into the dark, with
ears wide open for his step.

"I was so worried, my precious," she cried, drawing his cheek down
to her lips. "You stayed so long. Is it very dreadful?"

Jack put his arm around her, led her into the sitting-room and
shut the door. Then the two settled beside each other on the sofa.

"Pretty bad,--my darling--" Jack answered at last,--"very bad,
really."

"Has he been drinking?"

"Worse,--he has been dabbling in Wall Street and may lose every
cent he has."

Ruth leaned her head on her hand: "I was afraid it was something
awful from the way Corinne spoke. Oh, poor dear,--I'm so sorry!
Does she know now?"

"She knows he's in trouble, but she doesn't know how bad it is. I
begged him to tell her, but he wouldn't promise. He's afraid of
hurting her--afraid to trust her, I think, with his sufferings.
He's making an awful mistake, but I could not move him. He might
listen to you if you tried."

"But he must tell her, Jack," Ruth cried in an indignant tone. "It
is not fair to her; it is not fair to any woman,--and it is not
kind. Corinne is not a child any longer;--she's a grown woman, and
a mother. How can she help him unless she knows? Jack, dear, look
into my eyes;" her face was raised to his;--"Promise me, my
darling, that no matter what happens to you you'll tell me first."

And Jack promised.





CHAPTER XXVII




When Jack awoke the next morning his mind was still intent on
helping Garry out of his difficulties. Where the money was to come
from, and how far even ten thousand dollars would go in bridging
over the crisis, even should he succeed in raising so large a sum,
were the questions which caused him the most anxiety.

A letter from Peter, while it did not bring any positive relief,
shed a ray of light on the situation:

I have just had another talk with the director of our bank--the
one I told you was interested in steel works in Western Maryland.
He by no means agrees with either you or MacFarlane as to the
value of the ore deposits in that section, and is going to make an
investigation of your property and let me know. You may, in fact,
hear from him direct as I gave him your address.

Dear love to Ruth and your own good self.

This was indeed good news if anything came of it, but it wouldn't
help Garry. Should he wait till Garry had played that last card he
had spoken of, which he was so sure would win, or should he begin
at once to try and raise the money?

This news at any other time would have set his hopes to
fluttering. If Peter's director was made of money and intent on
throwing it away; and if a blast furnace or a steel plant, or
whatever could turn worthless rock into pruning-hooks and
ploughshares, should by some act of folly be built in the valley
at the foot of the hill he owned, why something might come of it.
But, then, so might skies fall and everybody have larks on toast
for breakfast. Until then his concern was with Garry.

He realized that the young architect was too broken down
physically and mentally to decide any question of real moment. His
will power was gone and his nerves unstrung. The kindest thing
therefore that any friend could do for him, would be to step in
and conduct the fight without him. Garry's wishes to keep the
situation from Corinne would be respected, but that did not mean
that his own efforts should be relaxed. Yet where would he begin,
and on whom? MacFarlane had just told him that Morris was away
from home and would not be back for several days. Peter was out of
the question so far as his own means--or lack of means--was
concerned, and he could not, of course, ask him to go into debt
for a man who had never been his friend, especially when neither
he nor Garry had any security to offer.

He finally decided to talk the whole matter over with MacFarlane
and act on his advice. The clear business head of his Chief
cleared the situation as a north-west wind blows out a fog.

"Stay out of it, Jack," he exclaimed in a quick, positive voice
that showed he had made up his mind long before Jack had finished
his recital. "Minott is a gambler, and so was his father before
him. He has got to take his lean with his fat. If you pulled him
out of this hole he would be in another in six months. It's in his
blood, just as much as it is in your blood to love horses and the
woods. Let him alone;--Corinne's stepfather is the man to help;
that's his business, and that's where Minott wants to go. If there
is anything of value in this Warehouse Company, Arthur Breen & Co.
can carry the certificates for Minott until they go up and he can
get out. If there is nothing, then the sooner Garry sells out and
lets it go the better. Stay out, Jack. It's not in the line of
your duty. It's hard on his wife and he is having a devil of a row
to hoe, but it will be the best thing for him in the end."

Jack listened in respectful silence, as he always did, to
MacFarlane's frank outburst, but it neither changed his mind nor
cooled his ardor. Where his heart was concerned his judgment
rarely worked. Then, loyalty to a friend in distress was the one
thing his father had taught him. He did not agree with his Chief's
view of the situation. If Garry was born a gambler, he had kept
that fact concealed from him and from his wife. He recalled the
conversation he had had with him some weeks before, when he was so
enthusiastic over the money he was going to make in the new
Warehouse deal. He had been selected as the architect for the new
buildings, and it was quite natural that he should have become
interested in the securities of the company. This threatened
calamity was one that might overtake any man. Get Garry out of
this hole and he would stay out; let him sink, and his whole
career would be ruined. And then there was a sentimental side to
it even if Garry was a gambler--one that could not be ignored when
he thought of Corinne and the child.

Late in the afternoon, his mind still unsettled, he poured out his
anxieties to Ruth. She did not disappoint him. Her big heart
swelled only with sympathy for the wife who was suffering. It made
no difference to her that Corinne had never been even polite,
never once during the sojourn of the Minotts in the village having
manifested the slightest interest either in her own or Jack's
affairs--not even when MacFarlane was injured, nor yet when the
freshet might have ruined them all. Ruth's generous nature had no
room in it for petty rancors or little hurts. Then, too, Jack was
troubled for his friend. What was there for her to do but to
follow the lamp he held up to guide her feet--the lamp which now
shed its glad effulgence over both? So they talked on, discussing
various ways and means, new ties born of a deeper understanding
binding them the closer--these two, who, as they sometimes
whispered to each other, were "enlisted for life," ready to meet
it side by side, whatever the day developed.

Before they parted, she promised again to go and see Corinne and
cheer her up. "She cannot be left alone, Jack, with this terrible
thing hanging over her," she urged, "and you must meet Garry when
he returns to-night. Then we can learn what he has done--perhaps
he will have fixed everything himself." But though Jack went to
the station and waited until the arrival of the last train had
dropped its passengers, there was no sign of Garry. Nor did Ruth
find Corinne. She had gone to the city, so the nurse said, with
Mr. Minott by the early train and would not be back until the next
day. Until their return Jack and Ruth found their hands tied.

On the afternoon of the second day a boy called at the brick
office where Jack was settling up the final accounts connected
with the "fill" and the tunnel, preparatory to the move to
Morfordsburg, and handed him a note. It was from Corinne.

"I am in great trouble. Please come to me at once," it read. "I am
here at home."

Corinne was waiting for him in the hall. She took his hand without
a word of welcome, and drew him into the small room where she had
seen him two nights before. This time she shut and locked the
door.

"Mr. McGowan has just been here," she moaned in a voice that
showed how terrible was the strain. "He tried to force his way up
into Garry's room but I held him back. He is coming again with
some one of the church trustees. Garry had a bad turn in New York
and we came home by the noon train, and I have made him lie down
and sent for the doctor. McGowan must not see him; it will kill
him if he does. Don't leave us, Jack!"

"But how dare he come here and try to force his--"

"He will dare. He cursed and went on dreadfully. The door was
shut, but Garry heard him. Oh, Jack!--what are we to do?"

"Don't worry, Corinne; I'll take care of Mr. McGowan. I myself
heard Garry tell him that he would attend to his payments in a few
days, and he went away satisfied."

"Yes, but McGowan says he has been to the bank and has also seen
the Rector, and will stop at nothing."

Jack's fingers tightened and his lips came together.

"He will stop on that threshold," he said in a low, determined
voice, "and never pass it--no matter what he wants. I will go up
and tell Garry so."

"No, not yet--wait," she pleaded, in nervous twitching tones--with
pauses between each sentence. "You must hear it all first. Garry
had not told me all when you were here two nights ago; he did not
tell me until after you left. Then I knelt down by his bed and put
my arms around him and he told me everything--about the people he
had seen--and--McGowan--everything." She ceased speaking and hid
her eyes with the back of one hand as if to shut out some spectre,
then she stumbled on. "We took the early train for New York, and I
waited until my stepfather was in his office and went into his
private room. It was Garry's last hope. He thought Mr. Breen would
listen to me on account of mother. I told him of our dreadful
situation; how Garry must have ten thousand dollars, and must have
it in twenty-four hours, to save us all from ruin. Would you
believe, Jack--that he laughed and said it was an old story; that
Garry had no business to be speculating; that he had told him a
dozen times to keep out of the Street; that if Garry had any
collaterals of any kind, he would loan him ten thousand dollars or
any other sum, but that he had no good money to throw after bad. I
did all I could; I almost went down on my knees to him; I begged
for myself and my mother, but he only kept saying--'You go home,
Corinne, and look after your baby--women don't understand these
things.' Oh, Jack!--I could not believe that he was the same man
who married my mother--and he isn't. Every year he has grown
harder and harder; he is a thousand times worse than when you
lived with him. Garry was waiting outside for me, and when I told
him he turned as white as a sheet, and had to hold on to the iron
railing for a moment. It was all I could do to get him home. If he
sees Mr. McGowan now it will kill him; he can't pay him and he
must tell him so, and it will all come out."

"But he will pay him, Corinne, when he gets well."

There came a pause. Then she said slowly as if each word was wrung
from her heart:

"There is no money. Garry took the trust funds from the church."

"No money, Corinne! You don't mean--you can't--Oh! My God! Not
Garry! No--not Garry!"

"Yes! I mean it. He expected to pay it back, but the people he is
with in New York lied to him, and now it is all gone." There was
no change in her voice.

She stood gazing into his face; not a tear in her eyes; no quiver
of her lips. She had passed that stage; she was like a victim led
to the stake in whom nothing but dull endurance is left.

Jack backed into a chair and sat with bowed head, his cheeks in
his hands. Had the earth opened under him he could not have been
more astounded. Garry Minott a defaulter! Garry a thief!
Everything seemed to whirl about him--only the woman remained
quiet--still standing--her calm, impassive eyes fixed on his
bowed head; her dry, withering, soulless words still vibrating in
the hushed room.

"When did this happen, Corinne--this--this taking of Mr. McGowan's
money?" The words came between his closed fingers, as if he, too,
would shut out some horrible shape.

"Some two weeks ago."

"When did you know of it?"

"Night before last, after you left him. I knew he was in trouble,
but I did not know it was as bad as this. If Mr. Breen had helped
me everything would have been all right, for Garry sold out all
the stock he had in the Warehouse Company, and this ten thousand
dollars is all he owes." She shivered as she spoke, and her pale,
tired eyes closed as if in pain. Nothing was said between them for
a while, and neither of them stirred. During the silence the front
door was heard to open, letting in the village doctor, who mounted
the stairs, his footfalls reverberating in Garry's room overhead.

Jack raised his eyes at last and studied her closely. The frail
body seemed more crumpled and forlorn in the depths of the chair,
where she had sunk, than when she had been standing before him.
The blonde hair, always so glossy, was dry as hemp; the small,
upturned nose, once so piquant and saucy, was thin and pinched--
almost transparent; the washed-out, colorless eyes, which in her
girlhood had flashed and sparkled so roguishly, were half hidden
under swollen lids. The arms were flat, the hands like bird claws.
The white heat of a furnace of agony had shrivelled her poor body,
drying up all the juices of its youth.

And yet with the scorching there had crept into the wan face, and
into the tones of her tired, heart-broken voice something Jack had
never found in her as a girl--something of tenderness,
unselfishness--of self-sacrifice for another and with it there
flamed up in his own heart a determination to help--to wipe out
everything--to sponge the record, to reestablish the man who in a
moment of agony had given way to an overpowering temptation and
brought his wife to this condition. A lump rose in his throat, and
a look of his old father shone out of his face--that look with
which in the years gone by he had defied jury, district attorney,
and public opinion for what he considered mercy. And mercy should
be exercised now. Garry had never done one dishonest act before,
and never, God helping, should he be judged for this.

He, John Breen, let Garry be called a common thief! Garry whose
every stand in Corklesville had been for justice; Garry whom
Morris loved, whose presence brought a cheery word of welcome from
every room he entered! Let him be proclaimed a defaulter, insulted
by ruffians like McGowan, and treated like a felon--brilliant,
lovable, forceful Garry! Never, if he had to go down on his knees
to Holker Morris or any other man who could lend him a dollar.

Corinne must have seen the new look in his face, for her own eyes
brightened as she asked:

"Have you thought of something that can help him?"

Jack did not answer. His mind was too intent on finding some
thread which would unravel the tangle.

"Does anybody else know of this, Corinne?" he asked at last in a
low-pitched voice.

"Nobody."

"Nobody must," he exclaimed firmly. Then he added gently--"Why did
you tell me?"

"He asked me to. It would all have come out in the end, and he
didn't want you to see McGowan and not know the truth. Keep still
--some one is knocking," she whispered, her fingers pressed to her
lips in her fright. "I know it is McGowan, Jack. Shall I see him,
or will you?"

"I will--you stay here."

Jack lifted himself erect and braced back his shoulders. He
intended to be polite to McGowan, but he also intended to be firm.
He also intended to refuse him any information or promise of any
kind until the regular monthly meeting of the Church Board which
would occur on Monday. This would give him time to act, and
perhaps to save the situation, desperate as it looked.

With this in his mind he turned the key and threw wide the door.
It was the doctor who stood outside. He seemed to be laboring
under some excitement.

"I heard you were here, Mr. Breen--come upstairs."

Jacked obeyed mechanically. Garry had evidently heard of his being
downstairs and had some instructions to give, or some further
confession to make. He would save him now from that humiliation;
he would get his arms around him, as Corinne had done, and tell
him he was still his friend and what he yet intended to do to pull
him through, and that nothing which he had done had wrecked his
affection for him.

As these thoughts rushed over him his pace quickened, mounting the
stairs two steps at a time so that he might save his friend even a
moment of additional suffering. The doctor touched Jack on the
shoulder, made a sign for him to moderate his steps, and the two
moved to where his patient lay.

Garry was on the bed, outside the covering, when they entered. He
was lying on his back, his head and neck flat on a pillow, one
foot resting on the floor. He was in his trousers and shirt; his
coat and waistcoat lay where he had thrown them.

"Garry," began Jack in a low voice--"I just ran in to say that--"

The sick man did not move.

Jack stopped, and turned his head to the doctor.

"Asleep?" he whispered.

"No;--drugged. That's why I wanted you to see him before I called
his wife. Is he accustomed to this sort of thing?" and he picked
up a bottle from the table.

Jack took the phial in his hand; it was quite small, and had a
glass stopper.

"What is it, doctor?"

"I don't know. Some preparation of chloral, I should think; smells
and looks like it. I'll take it home and find out. If he's been
taking this right along he may know how much he can stand, but if
he's experimenting with it, he'll wake up some fine morning in the
next world. What do you know about it?"

"Only what I have heard Mrs. Minott say," Jack whispered behind
his hand. "He can't sleep without it, she told me. He's been under
a terrible business strain lately and couldn't stand the pressure,
I expect."

"Well, that's a little better," returned the doctor, moving the
apparently lifeless arm aside and placing his ear close to the
patient's breast. For a moment he listened intently, then he drew
up a chair and sat down beside him, his fingers on Garry's pulse.

"You don't think he's in danger, do you, doctor?" asked Jack in an
anxious tone.

"No--he'll pull through. His breathing is bad, but his heart is
doing fairly well. But he's got to stop this sort of thing." Here
the old doctor's voice rose as his indignation increased (nothing
would wake Garry). "It's criminal--it's damnable! Every time one
of you New York people get worried, or short of money or stocks,
or what not, off you go to a two-cent drug shop and buy enough
poison to kill a family. It's damnable, Breen--and you must tell
Minott so when he wakes up"

Jack made no protest against being included in the denunciation.
He was too completely absorbed in the fate of the man who lay in a
stupor.

"Is there anything can be done for him?" he asked.

"I can't tell yet. He may only have taken a small dose. I will
watch him for a while. But if his pulse weakens we must shake him
awake somehow. You needn't wait I'll call you if I want you,
You've told me what I wanted to know."

Again Jack bent over Garry, his heart wrung with pity and dismay.
He was still there when the door opened softly and a servant
entered, tiptoed to where he stood, and whispered in his ear:

"Mrs. Minott says, sir, that Mr. McGowan and another man are
downstairs."

The contractor was standing in the hall, his hat still on his
head. The other man Jack recognized as Murphy, one of the church
building trustees. That McGowan was in an ugly mood was evident
from the expression on his face, his jaw setting tighter when he
discovered that Jack and not Garry was coming down to meet him;
Jack having been associated with MacFarlane, who had "robbed him
of damages" to the "fill."

"I came to see Mr. Minott," McGowan blurted out before Jack's feet
had touched the bottom step of the stairs. "I hear he's in--come
home at dinner time."

Jack continued his advance without answering until he had reached
their side. Then with a "Good-evening, gentlemen," he said in a
perfectly even voice:

"Mr. Minott is ill and can see no one. I have just left the doctor
sitting beside his bed. If there is anything I can do for either
of you I will do it with pleasure."

McGowan shoved his hat back on his forehead as if to give himself
more air.

"That kind of guff won't go with me no longer," he snarled, his
face growing redder every instant. "This ill business is played
out. He promised me three nights ago he'd make out a certificate
next day--you heard him say it--and I waited for him all the
morning and he never showed up. And then he sneaks off to New York
at daylight and stays away for two nights more, and then sneaks
home again in the middle of the day when you don't expect him, and
goes to bed and sends for the doctor. How many kinds of a damned
fool does he take me for? That work's been finished three weeks
yesterday; the money is all in the bank to pay for it just as soon
as he signs the check, and he don't sign it, and ye can't get him
to sign it. Ain't that so, Jim Murphy?"

Murphy nodded, and McGowan blazed on: "If you want to know what I
think about it--there's something crooked about the whole
business, and it gets crookeder all the time. He's drunk, if he's
anything--boiling drunk and--"

Jack laid the full weight of his hand on the speaker's shoulder:

"Stop short off where you are, Mr. McGowan." The voice came as if
through tightly clenched teeth. "If you have any business that I
can attend to I am here to do it, but you can't remain here and
abuse Mr. Minott. My purpose in coming downstairs was to help you
if I could, but you must act like a man, not like a ruffian."

Murphy stepped quickly between the two men:

"Go easy, Mac," he cried in a conciliatory tone. "If the doctor's
with him ye can't see him. Hear what Mr. Breen has to say; ye got
to wait anyhow. Of course, Mr. Breen, Mr. McGowan is het up
because the men is gettin' ugly, and he ain't got money enough for
his next pay-roll, and the last one ain't all paid yit."

McGowan again shifted his hat--this time he canted it on one side.
His companion's warning had had its effect, for his voice was now
pitched in a lower key.

"There ain't no use talking pay-roll to Mr. Breen, Jim," he
growled. "He knows what it is; he gits up agin' it once in a while
himself. If he'll tell me just when I'm going to get my money I'll
wait like any decent man would wait, but I want to know, and I
want to know now."

At that instant the door of the sitting-room opened, and Corinne,
shrinking as one in mortal fright, glided out and made a hurried
escape upstairs. Murphy sagged back against the wall and waited
respectfully for her to disappear. McGowan did not alter his
position nor did he remove his hat, though he waited until she had
reached the landing before speaking again:

"And now, what are you going to do, Mr. Breen?" he demanded in
threatening tones.

"Nothing," said Jack in his same even voice, his eyes never moving
from the contractor's. "Nothing, until you get into a different
frame of mind." Then he turned to Murphy: "When Mr. McGowan
removes his hat, Mr. Murphy, and shows some sign of being a
gentleman I will take you both into the next room and talk this
matter over."

McGowan flushed scarlet and jerked his hat from his head.

"Well she come on me sudden like and I didn't see her till she'd
got by. Of course, if you've got anything to say, I'm here to
listen, Where'll we go?"

Jack turned and led the way into the sitting-room, where he
motioned them both to seats.

"And now what is the exact amount of your voucher?" he asked, when
he had drawn up a chair and sat facing them.

McGowan fumbled in his inside pocket and drew forth a slip of
paper.

"A little short of ten thousand dollars," he answered in a
business-like tone of voice. "There's the figures," and he handed
the slip to Jack.

"When is this payment to be made?" continued Jack, glancing at the
slip.

"Why, when the money is due, of course," he cried in a louder key.
"Here's the contract--see--read it; then you'll know."

Jack ran his eye over the document until it fell on the payment
clause. This he read twice, weighing each word.

"It says at the monthly meeting of the Board of Trustees, does it
not?" he answered, smothering all trace of the relief the words
brought him.

McGowan changed color. "Well, yes--but that ain't the way the
payments has always been made," he stammered out.

"And if I am right, the meeting takes place on Monday next?"
continued Jack in a decided tone, not noticing the interruption.

"Yes, I suppose so."

"Well, then, Monday night, Mr. McGowan, either Mr., Minott or I
will be on hand. You must excuse me now. Mrs. Minott wants me, I
think," and he handed McGowan the contract and walked toward the
door, where he stood listening. Something was happening upstairs.

McGowan and his friend looked at each other in silence. The
commotion overhead only added to their discomfiture.

"Well, what do you think, Jim?" McGowan said at last in a subdued,
baffled voice.

"Well, there ain't no use thinkin', Mac. If it's writ that way,
it's writ that way; that's all there is to it--" and the two
joined Jack who had stepped into the hall, his eyes up the
stairway as if he was listening intensely.

"Then you say, Mr. Breen, that Mr. Minott will meet us at the
Board meeting on Monday?"

Jack was about to reply when he caught sight of the doctor, his
hand sliding rapidly down the stair-rail as he approached.

McGowan, fearing to be interrupted, repeated his question in a
louder voice:

"Then you say I'll see Mr. Minott on Monday?"

The doctor crossed to Jack's side. He was breathing heavily, his
lips quivering; he looked like a man who had received some sudden
shock.

"Go up to Mrs. Minott," he gasped. "It's all over, Breen. He's
dying. He took the whole bottle."

At this instant an agonizing shriek cut the air. It was the voice
of Corinne.





CHAPTER XXVIII




No one suspected that the young architect had killed himself.
Garry was known to have suffered from insomnia, and was supposed
to have taken an overdose of chloral. The doctor so decided, and
the doctor's word was law in such MATTERS, and so there was no
coroner's inquest. Then again, it was also known that he was doing
a prosperous business with several buildings still in course of
construction, and that his wife's stepfather was a prominent
banker.

McGowan and his friends were stupefied. One hope was left, and
that was Jack's promise that either he or Garry would be at the
trustees' meeting on Monday night.

Jack had not forgotten. Indeed nothing else filled his mind. There
were still three days in which to work. The shock of his friend's
death, tremendous as it was, had only roused him to a greater need
of action. The funeral was to take place on Sunday, but he had
Saturday and Monday left. What he intended to do for Garry and his
career he must now do for Garry's family and Garry's reputation.
The obligation had really increased, because Garry could no longer
fight his battles himself; nor was there a moment to lose. The
slightest spark of suspicion would kindle a flame of inquiry, and
the roar of an investigation would follow. McGowan had already
voiced his own distrust of Garry's methods. No matter what the
cost, this money must be found before Monday night.

The secret of both the suicide and the defalcation was carefully
guarded from MacFarlane, who, with his daughter, went at once to
Minott's house, proffering his services to the stricken widow, but
nothing was withheld from Ruth. The serious financial obligations
which Jack was about to undertake would inevitably affect their
two lives; greater, therefore, than the loyalty he owed to the
memory of his dead friend, was the loyalty which he owed to the
woman who was to be his wife, and from whom he had promised to
hide no secrets. Though he felt sure what her answer would be, his
heart gave a great bound of relief when she answered impulsively,
without a thought for herself or their future:

"You are right, dearest. These things make me love you more. You
are so splendid, Jack. And you never disappoint me. It is Garry's
poor little boy who must be protected. Everybody would pity the
wife, but nobody would pity the child. He will always be pointed
at when he grows up. Dear little tot! He lay in my arms so sweet
and fresh this morning, and put his baby hands upon my cheek, and
looked so appealingly into my face. Oh, Jack, we must help him. He
has done nothing."

They were sitting together as she spoke, her head on his shoulder,
her fingers held tight in his strong, brown hand. She could get
closer to him in this position, she always told him: these hands
and cheeks were the poles of a battery between which flowed and
flashed the vitality of two sound bodies, and through which
quivered the ecstasy of two souls.

Suddenly the thought of Garry and what he had been, in the days of
his brilliancy, and of what he had done to crush the lives about
him came to her. Could she not find some excuse for him, something
which she might use as her own silent defence of him in the years
that were to come?

"Do you think Garry was out of his mind, Jack? He's been so
depressed lately?" she asked, all her sympathy in her voice.

"No, my blessed, I don't think so. Everybody is more or less
insane who succumbs to a crisis. Garry believed absolutely in
himself and his luck, and when the cards went against him he
collapsed. And yet he was no more a criminal at heart than I am.
But that is all over now. He has his punishment, poor boy, and it
is awful when you think of it. How he could bring himself to prove
false to his trust is the worst thing about it. This is a queer
world, my darling, in which we live. I never knew much about it
until lately. It is not so at home, or was not when I was a boy--
but here you can take away a man's character, rob him of his home,
corrupt his children. You can break your wife's heart, be cruel,
revengeful; you can lie and be tricky, and no law can touch you--
in fact, you are still a respectable citizen. But if you take a
dollar-bill out of another man's cash drawer, you are sent to jail
and branded as a thief. And it is right--looked at from one
standpoint--the protection of society. It is the absence of all
mercy in the enforcement of the law that angers me."

Ruth moved her head and nestled the closer. How had she lived all
the years of her life, she thought to herself, without this
shoulder to lean on and this hand to guide her? She made no
answer. She had never thought about these things in that way
before, but she would now. It was so restful and so blissful just
to have him lead her, he who was so strong and self-reliant, and
whose vision was so clear, and who never dwelt upon the little
issues. And it was such a relief to reach up her arms and kiss him
and say, "Yes, blessed," and to feel herself safe in his hands.
She had never been able to do that with her father. He had always
leaned on her when schemes of economies were to be thought out, or
details of their daily lives planned. All this was changed now.
She had found Jack's heart wide open and had slipped inside, his
strong will henceforth to be hers.

Still cuddling close, her head on his shoulder, her heart going
out to him as she thought of the next morning and the task before
him, she talked of their coming move to the mountains, and of the
log-cabin for which Jack had already given orders; of the
approaching autumn and winter and what they would make of it, and
of dear daddy's plans and profits, and of how long they must wait
before a larger log-cabin--one big enough for two--would be
theirs for life--any and every topic which she thought would
divert his mind--but Garry's ghost would not down.

"And what are you going to do first, my darling?" she asked at
last, finding that Jack answered only in monosyllables or remained
silent altogether.

"I am going to see Uncle Arthur in the morning," he answered
quickly, uncovering his brooding thoughts. "It won't do any good,
perhaps, but I will try it. I have never asked him for a cent for
myself, and I won't now. He may help Corinne this time, now that
Garry is dead. There must be some outside money due Garry that he
has not been able to collect--commissions on unfinished work. This
can be turned in when it is due. Then I am going to Uncle Peter,
and after that to some of the people we trade with."

Breen was standing by the ticker when Jack entered. It was a busy
day in the Street and values were going up by leaps and bounds.
The broker was not in a good humor; many of his customers were
short of the market.

He followed Jack into his private office and faced him.

"Funeral's at one o'clock Sunday, I see," he said in a sharp
voice, as if he resented the incident. "Your aunt and I will be
out on the noon train. She got back this morning, pretty well
bunged up. Killed himself, didn't he?"

"That is not the doctor's opinion, sir, and he was with him when
he died."

"Well, it looks that way to me. He's busted--and all balled up in
the Street. If you know anybody who will take the lease off
Corinne's hands, let me know. She and the baby are coming to live
with us."

Jack replied that he would make it his business to do so, with
pleasure, and after giving his uncle the details of Garry's death
he finally arrived at the tangled condition of his affairs.

Breen promptly interrupted him.

"Yes, so Corinne told me. She was in here one day last week and
wanted to borrow ten thousand dollars. I told her it didn't grow
on trees. Suppose I had given it to her? Where would it be now.
Might as well have thrown it in the waste-basket. So I shut down
on the whole business--had to."

Jack waited until his uncle had relieved his mind. The state of
the market had something to do with his merciless point of view;
increasing irritability, due to loss of sleep, and his habits had
more. The outburst over, Jack said in a calm direct voice,
watching the effect of the words as a gunner watches a shell from
his gun:

"Will you lend it to me, sir?"

Arthur was pacing his private office, casting about in his mind
how to terminate the interview, when Jack's shot overhauled him.
Garry's sudden death had already led him to waste a few more
minutes of his time than he was accustomed to on a morning like
this, unless there was business in it.

He turned sharply, looked at Jack for an instant, and dropped into
the revolving chair fronting his desk.

Then he said in a tone of undisguised surprise:

"Lend you ten thousand dollars! What for?"

"To clear up some matters of Garry's at Corklesville. The
Warehouse matter has been closed out, so Corinne tells me."

"Oh, that's it, is it? I thought you wanted it for yourself. Who
signs for it?"

"I do."

"On what collateral?"

"My word."

Breen leaned back in his chair. The unsophisticated innocence of
this boy from the country would be amusing if it were not so
stupid.

"What are you earning, Jack?" he said at last, with a half-
derisive, half-humorous expression on his face.

"A thousand dollars a year." Jack had never taken his eyes from
his uncle's face, nor had he moved a muscle of his body.

"And it would take you ten years to pay it if you dumped it all
in?"

"Yes."

"Got anything else to offer?" This came in a less supercilious
tone. The calm, direct manner of the young man had begun to have
its effect.

"Nothing but my ore property."

"That's good for nothing. I made a mistake when I wanted you to
put it in here. Glad you didn't take me up."

"So am I. My own investigation showed the same thing."

"And the ore's of poor quality," continued Breen in a decided
tone.

"Very poor quality, what I saw of it," rejoined Jack.

"Well, we will check that off. MacFarlane got any thing he could
turn in?"

"No--and I wouldn't ask him."

"And you mean to tell me, Jack, that you are going broke yourself
to help a dead man pay his debts?"

"If you choose to put it that way,"

"Put it that way? Why, what other way is there to put it? You'll
excuse me, Jack--but you always were a fool when your damned
idiotic notions of what is right and wrong got into your head--and
you'll never get over it. You might have had an interest in my
business by this time, and be able to write your check in four
figures; and yet here you are cooped up in a Jersey village,
living at a roadside tavern, and getting a thousand dollars a
year. That's what your father did before you; went round paying
everybody's debts; never could teach him anything; died poor, just
as I told him he would."

Jack had to hold on to his chair to keep his mouth closed. His
father's memory was dangerous ground for any man to tread on--even
his father's brother; but the stake for which he was playing was
too great to be risked by his own anger.

"No, Jack," Breen continued, gathering up a mass of letters and
jamming them into a pigeon-hole in front of him, as if the whole
matter was set forth in their pages and he was through with it
forever. "No--I guess I'll pass on that ten thousand-dollar loan.
I am sorry, but A. B. & Co, haven't any shekels for that kind of
tommy-rot. As to your helping Minott, what I've got to say to you
is just this: let the other fellow walk--the fellow Garry owes
money to--but don't you butt in. They'll only laugh at you. Now
you will have to excuse me--the market's kiting, and I've got to
watch it. Give my love to Ruth. Your aunt and I will be out on the
noon train for the funeral. Good-by."

It was what he had expected. He would, perhaps, have stood a
better chance if he had read him Peter's encouraging letter of the
director's opinion of his Cumberland property, and he might also
have brought him up standing (and gone away with the check in his
pocket) if he had told him that the money was to save his own
wife's daughter and grandchild from disgrace--but that secret was
not his. Only as a last, desperate resource would he lay that fact
bare to a man like Arthur Breen, and perhaps not even then. John
Breen's word was, or ought to be, sacred enough on which to borrow
ten thousand dollars or any other sum. That meant a mortgage on
his life until every cent was paid.

Do not smile, dear reader. He is only learning his first lesson in
modern finance. All young men "raised" as Jack had been--and the
Scribe is one of them--would have been of the same mind at his
age. In a great city, when your tea-kettle starts to leaking, you
never borrow a whole one from your neighbor; you send to the shop
at the corner and buy another. In the country--Jack's country, I
mean--miles from a store, you borrow your neighbor's, who promptly
borrows your saucepan in return. And it was so in larger matters:
the old Chippendale desk with its secret drawer was often the
bank--the only one, perhaps, in a week's journey. It is
astonishing in these days to think how many dingy, tattered or
torn bank-notes were fished out of these same receptacles and
handed over to a neighbor with the customary--"With the greatest
pleasure, my dear sir. When you can sell your corn or hogs, or
that mortgage is paid off, you can return it." A man who was able
to lend, and who still refused to lend, to a friend in his
adversity, was a pariah. He had committed the unpardonable sin.
And the last drop of the best Madeira went the same way and with
equal graciousness!

Peter, at Jack's knock, opened the door himself. Isaac Cohen had
just come in to show him a new book, and Peter supposed some one
from the shop below had sent upstairs for him.

"Oh! it's you, my boy!" Peter cried in his hearty way, his arms
around Jack's shoulders as he drew him inside the room. Then
something in the boy's face checked him, bringing to mind the
tragedy. "Yes, I read it all in the papers," he exclaimed in a
sympathetic voice. "Terrible, isn't it! Poor Minott. How are his
wife and the poor little baby--and dear Ruth. The funeral is to-
morrow I see by the papers. Yes, of course I'm going." As he spoke
he turned his head and scanned Jack closely.

"Are you ill, my boy?" he asked in an anxious tone, leading him to
a seat on the sofa. "You look terribly worn."

"We all have our troubles, Uncle Peter," Jack replied with a
glance at Cohen, who had risen from his chair to shake his hand.

"Yes--but not you. Out with it! Isaac doesn't count. Anything you
can tell me you can tell him. What's the matter?--is it Ruth?"

Jack's face cleared. "No, she is lovely, and sent you her dearest
love."

"Then it's your work up in the valley?"

"No--we begin in a month. Everything's ready--or will be."

"Oh! I see, it's the loss of Minott. Oh, yes, I understand it all
now. Forgive me, Jack. I did not remember how intimate you and he
were once. Yes, it is a dreadful thing to lose a friend. Poor
boy!"

"No--it's not that altogether, Uncle Peter."

He could not tell him. The dear old gentleman was ignorant of
everything regarding Garry and his affairs, except that he was a
brilliant young architect, with a dashing way about him, of whom
Morris was proud. This image he could not and would not destroy.
And yet something must be done to switch Peter from the main
subject--at least until Cohen should leave.

"The fact is I have just had an interview with Uncle Arthur, and
he has rather hurt my feelings," Jack continued in explanation, a
forced smile on his face. "I wanted to borrow a little money. All
I had to offer as security was my word."

Peter immediately became interested. Nothing delighted him so much
as to talk over Jack's affairs. Was he not a silent partner in the
concern?

"You wanted it, of course, to help out on the new work," he
rejoined. "Yes, it always takes money in the beginning. And what
did the old fox say?"

Jack smiled meaningly. "He said that what I called 'my word'
wasn't a collateral. Wanted something better. So I've got to hunt
for it somewhere else."

"And he wouldn't give it to you?" cried Peter indignantly. "No, of
course not! A man's word doesn't count with these pickers and
stealers. Half--three-quarters--of the business of the globe is
done on a man's word. He writes it on the bottom or on the back of
a slip of paper small enough to light a cigar with--but it's only
his word that counts. In these mouse-traps, however, these cracks
in the wall, they want something they can get rid of the moment
somebody else says it is not worth what they loaned on it; or they
want a bond with the Government behind it. Oh, I know them!"

Cohen laughed--a dry laugh--in compliment to Peter's way of
putting it--but there was no ring of humor in it. He had been
reading Jack's mind. There was something behind the forced smile
that Peter had missed--something deeper than the lines of anxiety
and the haunted look in the eyes. This was a different lad from
the one with whom he had spent so pleasant an evening some weeks
before. What had caused the change?

"Don't you abuse them, Mr. Grayson--these pawn-brokers," he said
in his slow, measured way. "If every man was a Turk we could take
his word, but when they are Jews and Christians and such other
unreliable people, of course they want something for their ducats.
It's the same old pound of flesh. Very respectable firm this, Mr.
Arthur Breen & Co.--VERY respectable people. I used to press off
the elder gentleman's coat--he had only two--one of them I made
myself when he first came to New York--but he has forgotten all
about it now," and the little tailor purred softly.

"If you had pressed out his morals, Isaac, it would have helped
some."

"They didn't need it. He was a very quiet young man and very
polite; not so fat, or so red or so rich, as he is now. I saw him
the other day in our bank. You see," and he winked slyly at Jack,
"these grand people must borrow sometimes, like the rest of us;
but he never remembers me any more." Isaac paused for a moment as
if the reminiscence had recalled some amusing incident. When he
continued his face had a broad smile--"and I must say, too, that
he always paid his bills. Once, when he was afraid he could not
pay, he wanted to bring the coat back, but I wouldn't let him. Oh,
yes, a very nice young man, Mr. Arthur Breen," and the tailor's
plump body shook with suppressed laughter.

"You know, of course, that he is this young man's uncle," said
Peter, laying his hand affectionately on Jack's shoulder.

"Oh, yes, I know about it. I saw the likeness that first day you
came in," he continued, nodding to Jack. "It was one of the times
when your sister, the magnificent Miss Grayson was here, Mr.
Grayson." Isaac always called her so, a merry twinkle in his eye
when he said it, but with a face and voice showing nothing but the
deepest respect; at which Peter would laugh a gentle laugh in
apology for his sister's peculiarities, a dislike of little
tailors being one of them--this little tailor especially.

"And now, Mr. Breen, I hope you will have better luck," Isaac
said, rising from his chair and holding out his hand.

"But you are not going, Isaac," protested Peter.

"Yes, this young gentleman, I see, is in a good deal of trouble
and I cannot help him much, so I will go away," and with a wave of
his pudgy hand he shut the door behind him and trotted downstairs
to his shop.

Jack waited until the sound of his retreating footsteps assured
the Jew's permanent departure, then he turned to Peter.

"I did not want to say too much before Mr. Cohen, but Uncle
Arthur's refusal has upset me completely. I could not have
believed it of him. You must help me somehow, Uncle Peter. I don't
mean with your own money; you have not got it to spare--but so I
can get it somewhere. I must have it, and I can't rest until I do
get it."

"Why, my dear boy! Is it so bad as that? I thought you were
joking."

"I tried to joke about it while Mr. Cohen was here, but he saw
through it, I know, from the way he spoke: but this really is a
very serious matter; more serious than anything that ever happened
to me."

Peter walked to the sofa and sat down. Jack's manner and the tone
of his voice showed that a grave calamity had overtaken the boy.
He sat looking into Jack's eyes.

"Go on," he said, his heart in his mouth.

"I must have ten thousand dollars. How and where can I borrow it?"

Peter started. "Ten thousand dollars!" he repeated in undisguised
surprise. "Whew! Why, Jack, that's a very large sum of money for
you to want. Why, my dear boy, this is--well--well!"

"It is not for me, Uncle Peter--or I would not come to you for
it."

"For whom is it, then?" Peter asked, in a tone that showed how
great was his relief now that Jack was not involved.

"Don't ask me, please."

Peter was about to speak, but he checked himself. He saw it all
now. The money was for MacFarlane, and the boy did not like to say
so. He had heard something of Henry's financial difficulties
caused by the damage to the "fill." He thought that this had been
made good; he saw now that he was misinformed.

"When do you want it, Jack?" he resumed. He was willing to help,
no matter who it was for.

"Before Monday night."

Peter drew out his watch as if to find some relief from its dial,
and slipped it into his pocket again. It was not yet three o'clock
and his bank was still open, but it did not contain ten thousand
dollars or any other sum that he could draw upon. Besides, neither
Jack, nor MacFarlane, nor anybody connected with Jack, had an
account at the Exeter. The discounting of their notes was,
therefore, out of the question.

"To-day is a short business day, Jack, being Saturday," he said
with a sigh. "If I had known of this before I might have--and yet
to tell you the simple truth, my boy, I don't know a human being
in the world who would lend me that much money, or whom I could
ask for it."

"I thought maybe Mr. Morris might, if you went to him, but I
understand he is out of town," returned Jack.

"Yes," answered Peter in a perplexed tone--"yes--Holker has gone
to Chicago and won't be back for a week." He, too, had thought of
Morris and the instantaneous way in which he would have reached
for his check-book.

"And you must have it by Monday night?" Peter continued, his
thoughts bringing into review one after the other all the moneyed
men he knew. "Well--well--that IS a very short notice. It means
Monday to hunt in, really--to-morrow being Sunday."

He leaned back and sat in deep thought, Jack watching every
expression that crossed his face. Perhaps Ruth was mixed up in it
in some way. Perhaps their marriage depended upon it--not
directly, but indirectly--making a long postponement inevitable.
Perhaps MacFarlane had some old score to settle. This contracting
was precarious business. Once before he had known Henry to be in
just such straits. Again he consulted his watch.

Then a new and cheering thought struck him. He rose quickly from
his seat on the sofa and crossed the room to get his hat.

"It is a forlorn hope, Jack, but I'll try it. Come back here in an
hour--or stay here and wait."

"No, I'll keep moving," replied Jack. "I have thought of some
supply men who know me; our account is considerable; they would
lend it to Mr. MacFarlane, but that's not the way I want it. I'll
see them and get back as soon as I can--perhaps in a couple of
hours."

"Then make it eight o'clock, so as to be sure. I have thought of
something else. Ten thousand dollars," he kept muttering to
himself--"ten thousand dollars"--as he put on his hat and moved to
the door. There he stopped and faced about--his bushy brows
tightening as a new difficulty confronted him. "Well, but for how
long?" That part of the transaction Jack had forgotten to mention.

"I can't tell; maybe a year--maybe more."

Peter advanced a step as if to return to the room and give up the
whole business.

"But Jack, my boy, don't you see how impossible a loan of that
kind is?"

Jack stood irresolute. In his mad desire to save Garry he had not
considered that phase of the matter.

"Yes--but I've GOT TO HAVE IT," he cried in a positive tone. "You
would feel just as I do, if you knew the circumstances."

Peter turned without a word and opened the door leading into the
hall. "Be back here at eight," was all he said as he shut the door
behind him and clattered down the uncarpeted stairs.

Shortly before the appointed hour Jack again mounted the three
flights of steps to Peter's rooms. He had had a queer experience--
queer for him. The senior member of one supply firm had looked at
him sharply, and had then said with a contemptuous smile, "Well,
we are looking for ten thousand dollars ourselves, and will pay a
commission to get it." Another had replied that they were short,
or would be glad to oblige him, and as soon as Jack left the
office had called to their bookkeeper to "send MacFarlane his
account, and say we have some heavy payments to meet, and will he
oblige us with a check"--adding to his partner--"Something rotten
in Denmark, or that young fellow wouldn't be looking around for a
wad as big as that." A third merchant heard him out, and with some
feeling in his voice said: "I'm sorry for you, Breen"--Jack's need
of money was excuse enough for the familiarity--"for Mr.
MacFarlane thinks everything of you, he's told me so a dozen
times--and there isn't any finer man living than Henry MacFarlane.
But, just as your friend, let me tell you to stay out of the
Street; it's no place for a young man like you. No--I don't mean
any offence. If I didn't believe in you myself, I wouldn't say it.
Take my advice and stay out."

And so footsore and heart-sore, his face haggard from hunger, for
he had eaten nothing since breakfast, his purpose misunderstood,
his own character assailed, his pride humiliated, and with courage
almost gone, he strode into Peter's room and threw himself into a
chair.

Peter heard his step and entered from his bedroom, where he had
finished dressing for dinner. The old fellow seemed greatly
troubled. One glance at Jack's face told the story of the
afternoon.

"You have done nothing, Jack?" he asked in a despondent tone.

"No--have you?"

"Nothing. Portman has gone to his place on Long Island, the others
were out. Whom did you see?"

"Some people we do business with; some of them laughed at me; some
gave me advice; none of them had any money."

"I expected it. I don't think you are quite aware of what you ask,
my dear boy."

"Perhaps I am not, but I am beginning to see. It is a new
experience for me. If my father had wanted the money for the same
purpose for which I want this, he would not have had to drive a
mile from his house before he would have had it."

"Your father lived in a different atmosphere, my boy; in another
age, really. In his environment money meant the education of
children, the comfort of women, and the hospitalities that make up
social life."

"Well, is not that true now, among decent people?" protested Jack,
his mind going back to some homes he remembered.

"No--not generally--not here in New York. Money here means the
right to exist on the planet; we fight for it as we do for our
lives. Your own need of this ten thousand dollars proves it. The
men I tried to find this afternoon have more than they need or
ever will need; that's why I called on them. If I lost it, it
wouldn't matter to them, but I would never hear the last of it all
the same," and a shudder ran through him.

Peter did not tell Jack that had Portman been at home and, out of
friendship for him, had agreed to his request, he would have
required the old fellow's name on a demand note for the amount of
the loan; and that he would willingly have signed it, to relieve
the boy's mind and ward off the calamity that threatened those he
loved and those who loved him--not one cent of which, the Scribe
adds in all positiveness, would the boy have taken had he known
that the dear fellow had in any way pledged himself for its
return.

For some minutes Jack sat stretched out in his chair, his body
aslant; Peter still beside him. All the events of the day and
night passed in review before him; Garry's face and heavy
breathing; McGowan's visit and defiance; Corinne's agonized
shriek--even the remembrance made him creep--then Ruth's voice and
her pleading look: "The poor little boy. Jack. He has done no
wrong--all his life he must be pointed at."

He dragged himself to his feet.

"I will go back to Ruth now, Uncle Peter. Thank you for trying. I
know it is a wild goose chase, but I must keep moving. You will be
out to-morrow; we bury poor Garry at one o'clock. I still have all
day Monday. Good-night."

"Come out and dine with me, my boy--we will go to--"

"No, Ruth is worrying. I will get something to eat when I get
home. Good-night!"





CHAPTER XXIX




Jack descended Peter's stairs one step at a time, Each seemed to
plunge him the deeper into some pit of despair. Before he reached
the bottom he began to realize the futility of his efforts. He
began to realize, too, that both he and Ruth had been swept off
their feet by their emotions. MacFarlane, the elder Breen, and now
Peter, had all either openly condemned his course or had given it
scant encouragement. There was nothing to go new but go home and
tell Ruth. Then, after the funeral was over, he would have another
talk with MacFarlane.

He had reached the cool air of the street, and stood hesitating
whether to cross the Square on his way to the ferry, or to turn
down the avenue, when the door of Isaac Cohen's shop opened, and
the little tailor put out his head.

"I have been waiting for you." he said in a measured voice. "Come
inside."

Jack was about to tell him that he must catch a train, when
something in the tailor's manner and the earnestness with which he
spoke, made the young fellow alter his mind and follow him.

The little man led the way through the now darkened and empty
shop, lighted by one gas jet--past the long cutting counter
flanked by shelves bearing rolls of cloth and paper patterns,
around the octagon stove where the irons were still warm, and
through the small door which led into his private room. There he
turned up a reading lamp, its light softened by a green shade. and
motioning Jack to a seat, said abruptly, but politely--more as a
request than a demand:

"I have a question to ask you, and you will please tell me the
truth. How much money do you want, and what do you want it for?"

Jack bit his lip. He wanted money, and he wanted it badly, but the
tailor had no right to pry into his private affairs--certainly not
in this way.

"Well, that was something I was talking to Uncle Peter about," he
rejoined stiffly. "I suppose you must have overheard."

"Yes, I did. Go on--how much money do you want, and what do you
want it for?"

"But, Mr. Cohen, I don't think I ought to bother you with my
troubles. They wouldn't interest you."

"Now, my dear young man, you will please not misunderstand me. You
are very intelligent, and you are very honest, and you always say
what is in your heart; I have heard you do it many times. Now say
it to me."

There was no mistaking the tailor's earnestness. It evidently was
not mere curiosity which prompted him. It was something else. Jack
wondered vaguely if the Jew wanted to turn money-lender at a big
percentage.

"Why do you want to know?" he asked; more to gain time to fathom
his purpose than with any intention of giving him the facts.

Isaac went to his desk, opened with great deliberation an ebony
box, took out two cigars, offered one to Jack, leaned over the
lamp until his own was alight, and took the chair opposite Jack's.
All this time Jack sat watching him as a child does a necromancer,
wondering what he meant to do next.

"Why do I want to know, Mr. Breen? Well, I will tell you. I have
loved Mr. Grayson for a great many years. When he goes out in the
morning he always looks through the glass window and waves his
hand. If I am not in sight, he opens the door and calls inside,
'Ah, good-morning, Isaac.' At night, when he comes home, he waves
his hand again. I know every line in his face, and it is always a
happy face. Once or twice a week he comes in here, and we talk.
That is his chair--the one you are sitting in. Once or twice a
week I go up and sit in his chair and talk. In all the years I
have known him I have only seen him troubled once or twice. Then I
asked him the reason, and he told me. To-day I heard you speak
about some money you wanted, and then I saw that something had
gone wrong. After I left he came downstairs and passed my window
and did not look in. I watched him go up the street, he walked
very slow, and his head was down on his chest. I did not like it.
A little while ago he came back; I went out to meet him. I said,
'Mr. Grayson, what troubles you?' And he said--'Nothing, Isaac,
thank you,' and went upstairs. That is the first time in all the
years I know him that he answered me like that. So now I ask you
once more--how much money do you want, and what do you want it
for? When I know this, then I will know what troubles Mr. Grayson.
There is always a woman or a sum of money at the bottom of every
complication. Mr. Grayson never worries over either. I do not
believe you do, but I have had many surprises in my life."

Jack had heard him through without interruption. Most of it--
especially Cohen's affection for Peter--he had known before. It
was the last statement that roused him.

"Well, if you must know, Mr. Cohen--it is not for myself, but for
a friend."

The Jew smiled. He saw that the young man had told the truth.
Peter's confidence in the boy, then, need not be shaken.

"And how much money do you need for your friend?" His eyes were
still reading Jack.

"Well, a very large sum." Jack did not like the cross-examination,
but somehow he could not resent it.

"But, my dear young man, will you not tell me? If you buy a coat,
do you not want to know the price? If you pay for an indiscretion,
is not the sum named in the settlement?"

"Ten thousand dollars."

There was no change in the Jew's face. The smile did not alter.

"And this is the money that Mr. Grayson tried to borrow for you,
and failed? Is it not so?"

Jack nodded.

"And you have tried everywhere to get it yourself? All the
afternoon you have been at it?" Still the same queer smile--one of
confirmation, as if he had known it all the time.

Again Jack nodded. Isaac was either a mind reader or he must have
been listening at the keyhole when he poured out his heart to
Peter.

"Yes, that is what I thought when I saw you come in a little while
ago, dragging your feet as if they were lead, and your eyes on the
ground. The step and the eye, Mr. Breen, if you did but know it,
make a very good commercial agency. When the eye is bright and the
walk is quick, your customer has the money to pay either in his
pocket or in his bank; when the step is dull and sluggish, you
take a risk; when the eye looks about with an anxious glance and
the step is stealthy, and then when you take the measure for the
coat, both go out dancing, you may never get a penny. But that is
only to tell you how I know," the tailor chuckled softly. "And now
one thing more"--he was serious now--"when must you have this ten
thousand dollars?"

"Before Monday night."

"In cash?"

"In cash or something I can get cash on."

The tailor rose from his seat with a satisfied air--he had
evidently reached the point he had been striving for--laid the
stump of his cigar on the edge of the mantel, crossed the room,
fumbled in the side pocket of a coat which hung on a nail in an
open closet; drew out a small key; sauntered leisurely to his
desk, all the while crooning a tune to himself--Jack following his
every movement, wondering what it all meant, and half regretting
that he had not kept on to the ferry instead of wasting his time.
Here he unlocked a drawer, took out a still smaller key--a flat
one this time--removed some books and a small Barye bronze tiger
from what appeared to be a high square table, rolled back the
cloth, bringing into view an old-fashioned safe, applied the key
and swung back a heavy steel door. Here, still crooning his song
in a low key, dropping it and picking it up again as he moved--
quite as does the grave-digger in "Hamlet"--he drew forth a long,
flat bundle and handed it to Jack.

"Take them, Mr. Breen, and put them in your inside pocket. There
are ten United States Government bonds. If these Breen people will
not lend you the amount of money you want, take them to Mr.
Grayson's bank. Only do not tell him I gave them to you. I bought
them yesterday and was going to lock them up in my safe deposit
vault, only I could not leave my shop. Oh, you needn't look so
scared. They are good," and he loosened the wrapper.

Jack sprang from his seat. For a moment he could not speak.

"But, Mr. Cohen! Do you know I haven't any security to offer you,
and that I have only my salary and--"

"Have I asked you for any?" Isaac replied with a slight shrug, a
quizzical smile crossing his face.

"No--but--"

"Ah, then, we will not talk about it. You are young--you are
hard-working; you left a very rich home on Fifth Avenue to go and
live in a dirty hotel in a country village--all because you were
honest; you risked your life to save your employer; and now you
want to go into debt to save a friend. Ah--you see, I know all
about you, my dear Mr. John Breen. Mr. Grayson has told me, and if
he had not, I could read your face. No--no--no--we will not talk
about such things as cent per cent and security. No--no--I am very
glad I had the bonds where I could get at them quick. There now--
do you run home as fast as you can and tell your friend. He is
more unhappy than anybody."

Jack had his breath now and he had also made up his mind. Every
drop of blood in his body was in revolt. Take money from a Jew
tailor whom he had not seen half a dozen times; with whom he had
no business relations or dealings, or even social acquaintance?

He laid the bonds back on the desk.

"I cannot take them, Mr. Cohen. I thank you most sincerely, but--
no--you must not give them to me. I--"

Isaac wheeled suddenly and drew himself up. His little mouse eyes
were snapping, and his face fiery red.

"You will not take them! Why?"

"I don't know--I can't!"

"I know!" he cried angrily, but with a certain dignity. "It is
because I am a Jew. Not because I am a tailor--you have too much
sense for that--but because I am a Jew!"

"Oh, Mr. Cohen!"

"Yes--I know--I see inside of you. I read you just as if you were
a page in a book. Who taught you to think that? Not your Uncle
Peter; he loves me--I love him. Who taught you such nonsense?" His
voice had risen with every sentence. In his indignation he looked
twice his size. "Is not my money as good as that man Breen's--who
insults you when you go to him?--and who laughed at you? Have I
laughed at you? Does Mr. Grayson laugh?"

Jack tried to interrupt, but the tailor's words poured on.

"And now let me tell you one thing more, Mr. John Breen. I do not
give you the bonds. I give them to Mr. Grayson. Never once has he
insulted me as you do now. All these years--fifteen years this
winter--he has been my friend. And now when the boy whom he loves
wants some money for a friend, and Mr. Grayson has none to give
him, and I, who am Mr. Grayson's friend, come to help that boy out
of his trouble, you--you--remember, you who have nothing to do
with it--you turn up your nose and stop it all. Are you not
ashamed of yourself?"

Jack's eyes blazed. He was not accustomed to be spoken to in that
way by anybody; certainly not by a tailor.

"Then give them to Uncle Peter," Jack flung back. "See what he
will say."

"No, I will not give them to your Uncle Peter. It will spoil
everything with me if he knows about it. He always does things for
me behind my back. He never lets me know. Now I shall do something
for him behind his back and not let him know."

"But--"

"There are no buts! Listen to me, young man. I have no son; I have
no grandchild; I live here alone--you see how small it is? Do you
know why?--because I am happiest here. I know what it is to
suffer, and I know what it is for other people to suffer. I have
seen more misery in London in a year than you will see in your
whole life. Those ten bonds there are of no more use to me than an
extra coat of paint on that door. I have many more like them shut
up in a box. Almost every day people come to me for money--
sometimes they get it--oftener they do not. I have no money for
beggars, or for idlers, or for liars. I have worked all my life,
and shall to the end--and so must they. Now and then something
happens like this. Now do you understand?"

Again Jack tried to speak. His anger was gone; the pathos in the
Jew's voice had robbed him of all antagonism, but Cohen would
allow no interruptions.

"And now one thing more before I let you speak, And then I am
through. In all the years I have known Mr. Grayson, this is the
first time I have ever been able to help him with the only thing I
have that can help him--my money. If it was five times what you
want, he should have it. Do you hear? Five times!"

Isaac threw himself into his chair and sat with his chin in his
hand. The last few words had come in a dry, choking whisper--as if
they had been pumped from the depths of his heart.

Jack instinctively put out his hand and touched the Jew's knee.

"Will you please forgive me, Mr. Cohen--and will you please listen
to me. I won't tell you a lie. I did feel that way at first--I do
not now. I will take the bonds, and I thank you from the bottom of
my heart for them. You will never know how much good they will do;
I have hardly slept since I knew I had to get this money. I am,
perhaps, too tired to think straight, but you must do something
for me--you must make it right with my own conscience. I want to
sign something--give you something as security. I have only one
thing in the world and that is some ore property my father left me
in Maryland. At present it is worthless and may always be, but
still it is all I have. Let me give you this. If it turns out to
be of value you can take out your loan with interest and give me
the rest; if it does not, I will pay it back as I can; it may be
ten years or it may be less, but I will pay it if I live."

Isaac raised his head. "Well, that is fair." His voice was again
under control. "Not for me--but for you. Yes, that is quite right
for you to feel that way. Next week you can bring in the papers."
He picked up the bonds. "Now put these in your inside pocket and
look out for them as you cross the ferry. Good-by."





CHAPTER XXX




Jack strode out into the night, his mind in a whirl. No sense of
elation over the money had possession of him. All his thoughts
were on Isaac. What manner of man was this Jew? he kept asking
himself in a sort of stunned surprise, who could handle his shears
like a journeyman, talk like a savant, spend money like a prince,
and still keep the heart of a child? Whoever heard of such an act
of kindness; and so spontaneous and direct; reading his heart,
sympathizing with him in his troubles--as his friend would have
done--as his own father might have done.

And with the thought of Cohen's supreme instantaneous response
there followed with a rush of shame and self-humiliation that of
his own narrow-mindedness, his mean prejudices, his hatred of the
race, his questionings of Peter's intimacy, and his frequent
comments on their acquaintance--the one thing he could never
understand in his beloved mentor. Again Isaac's words rang in his
ears. "Is it because I am a Jew? Who taught you such nonsense? Not
your Uncle Peter--he loves me. I love him." And with them arose
the vision of the man stretched to his full height, the light of
the lamp glinting on his moist forehead, his bead-like eyes
flashing in the rush of his anger.

As to the sacrifice both he and Ruth had just made, and it was now
final, this no longer troubled him. He had already weighed for her
every side of the question, taking especial pains to discuss each
phase of the subject, even going so far as to disagree with
MacFarlane's opinion as to the worthlessness of the ore lands. But
the dear child had never wavered.

"No!--I don't care," she had answered with a toss of her head.
"Let the land go if there is no other way. We can get on without
it, my darling, and these poor people cannot." She had not, of
course, if the truth must be told, weighed any of the consequences
of what their double sacrifice might entail, nor had she realized
the long years of work which might ensue, or the self-denial and
constant anxiety attending its repayment. Practical questions on
so large a scale had been outside the range of her experience.
Hers was the spirit of Joan of old, who reckoned nothing of value
but her ideal.

Nor can we blame her. When your cheeks are twin roses; your hair
black as a crow's wing and fine as silk; and your teeth--not one
missing--so many seed pearls peeping from pomegranate lips; when
your blood goes skipping and bubbling through your veins; when at
night you sleep like a baby, and at morn you spring from your bed
in the joy of another day; when there are two strong brown hands
and two strong arms, and a great, loving, honest heart every bit
your own; and when, too, there are crisp autumn afternoons to
come, with gold and brown for a carpet, and long winter evenings,
the fire-light dancing on the overhead rafters; and 'way--'way--
beyond this--somewhere in the far future there rises a slender
spire holding a chime of bells, and beneath it a deep-toned organ
--when this, I say, is, or will be, your own--the gold of the
Indies is but so much tinkling brass, and Cleopatra's diadem a
mere bauble with which to quiet a child.

It was not until he was nearing Corklesville that the sense of the
money really came to him. He knew what it would mean to Ruth and
what her eyes would hold of gladness and relief. Suddenly there
sprang to his lips an unbidden laugh, a spontaneous overflow from
the joy of his heart; the first he had uttered for days. Ruth
should know first. He would take her in his arms and tell her to
hunt in all his pockets, and then he would kiss her and place the
package in her hands. And then the two would go to Corinne. It
would be late, and she would be in bed, perhaps, but that made no
difference. Ruth would steal noiselessly upstairs; past where
Garry lay, the flowers heaped upon his coffin, and Corinne would
learn the glad tidings before to-morrow's sun. At last the ghost
which had haunted them all these days was banished; her child
would be safe, and Corinne would no longer have to hide her head.

Once more the precious package became the dominant thought. Ten
bonds! More than enough! What would McGowan say now? What would
his Uncle Arthur say? He slipped his hand under his coat fondling
the wrapper, caressing it as a lover does a long-delayed letter,
as a prisoner does a key which is to turn darkness into light, as
a hunted man a weapon which may save his life.

It did not take Jack many minutes we may be sure to hurry from the
station to Ruth's home. There it all happened just as he had
planned and schemed it should--even to the kiss and the hunting
for the package of bonds, and Ruth's cry of joy, and the walk
through the starlight night to Corinne's, and the finding her
upstairs; except that the poor woman was not yet in bed.

"Who gave it to you, Jack?" Corinne asked in a tired voice.

"A friend of Uncle Peter's."

"You mean Mr. Grayson?"

"Yes."

There was no outburst, no cry of gratitude, no flood of long-pent-
up tears. The storm had so crushed and bruised this plant that
many days must elapse before it would again lift its leaves from
the mud.

"It was very good of Mr. Grayson, Jack," was all she said in
answer, and then relapsed into the apathy which had been hers
since the hour when the details of her husband's dishonesty had
dropped from his lips.

Poor girl! she had no delusions to sustain her. She knew right
from wrong. Emotions never misled her. In her earlier years she
and her mother had been accustomed to look things squarely in the
face, and to work out their own careers; a game of chance, it is
true, until her mother's marriage with the elder Breen; but they
had both been honest careers, and they had owed no man a penny.
Garry had fought the battle for her within the last few years, and
in return she had loved him as much as she was able to love
anybody but she had loved him as a man of honor, not as a thief.
Now he had lied to her, had refused to listen to her pleadings,
and the end had come. What was there left, and to whom should she
now turn--she without a penny to her name--except to her
stepfather, who had insulted and despised her. She had even been
compelled to seek help from Ruth and Jack; and now at last to
accept it from Mr. Grayson--he almost a stranger. These were the
thoughts which, like strange nightmares, swept across her tired
brain, taking grewsome shapes, each one more horrible than its
predecessor.

At the funeral, next day, she presented the same impassive front.
Breen and her mother rode with her in the carriage to the church,
and Jack and Ruth helped her alight, but she might have been made
of stone so far as she evinced either sorrow or interest in what
was taking place about her. And yet nothing had been omitted by
friend or foe expressive of the grief and heart-felt sorrow the
occasion demanded. Holker Morris sent a wreath of roses with a
special letter to her, expressing his confidence in and respect
for the man he had brought up from a boy. A committee was present
from the Society of Architects to which Garry belonged; half a
dozen of his old friends from the Magnolia were present, Biffy
among them; the village Council and the Board of Church Trustees
came in a body, and even McGowan felt it incumbent upon him to
stand up during the service and assume the air of one who had been
especially bereft. Nor were the notices in the country and city
papers wanting in respect. "One of our most distinguished
citizens--a man who has reached the topmost round of the ladder,"
etc., etc., one editorial began.

It was only when the funeral was over, and she was once more at
home, that she expressed the slightest concern. Then she laid her
hand in Peter's and threw back her heavy crepe veil: "You have
saved me from disgrace, Mr. Grayson," she said, in a low,
monotonous voice, "and my little boy as well. I try to think that
Garry must have been out of his mind when he took the money. He
would not listen to me, and he would not tell me the truth. Jack
is going to pay it back to-morrow, and nobody will ever know that
my husband did wrong; but I couldn't let you go away without
thanking you for having saved us. My stepfather wouldn't help--
nobody would help but you. I don't know why you did it. It seems
so strange. I had given up all hope when Jack came back last
night."

Peter sat perfectly still, his hand on her wrist, where he had
placed it to show by a kindly touch his sympathy for her. Not
knowing what her lips would tell, he had begun to pat the back of
her black glove when she started to speak, as one would quiet a
child who pours out its troubles, but he stopped in amazement as
she proceeded. He had not loaned her a dollar, nor had Jack, as he
knew, succeeded in getting a penny, unless by a miracle he had met
some one on the train who had come to his rescue.

What did the poor woman mean? Disgrace! Trouble! Garry taking
money, and Jack paying it back on Monday! The horror of her
husband's sudden death had undoubtedly turned her mind, distorting
some simple business transaction into a crime, or she would not be
thanking him for something that he had never done. This talk of
Jack's could only have been a ruse to keep up her spirits and give
her false strength until she had passed through the agonizing
ordeal of the funeral--he accepting all her delusions as true--as
one does when an insane person is to be coaxed back into a cell.
These thoughts went whirling through his mind, as Peter watched
her face closely, wondering what would be his course. He had not
met her often, yet he could see that she was terribly changed. He
noticed, too, that all through the interview she had not shed a
tear. Yes--there was no question that her mind was unbalanced. The
best plan would be to bring the interview to an end as quickly as
possible, so she should not dwell too long on her sorrow.

"If I have done anything to help you, my dear lady," he said with
gentle courtesy, rising from his chair and taking her hand again,
"or can do anything for you in the future, I shall be most happy,
and you must certainly let me know. And now, may I not ask you to
go upstairs and lie down. You are greatly fatigued--I assure you
I feel for you most deeply."

But his mind was still disturbed. Ruth and Jack wondered at his
quiet as he sat beside them on the way back to MacFarlane's--
gazing out of the carriage window, his clean-shaven, placid face
at rest, his straight thin lips close shut. He hardly spoke until
they reached the house, and then it was when he helped Ruth
alight. Once inside, however, he beckoned Jack, and without a word
led him alone into MacFarlane's study--now almost dismantled for
the move to Morfordsburg--and closed the door.

"Mrs. Minott has just told me the most extraordinary thing, Jack--
an unbelievable story. Is she quite sane?"

Jack scanned Peter's face and read the truth. Corinne had
evidently told him everything. This was the severest blow of all.

"She supposed you knew, sir;" answered Jack quietly, further
concealment now being useless.

"Knew what?" Peter was staring at him with wide-open eyes.

"What she told you, sir," faltered Jack.

The old man threw up his hands in horror.

"What! You really mean to tell me, Jack, that Minott has been
stealing?"

Jack bent his head and his eyes sought the floor. He could hardly
have been more ashamed had he himself been the culprit.

"God bless my soul! From whom?"

"The church funds--he was trustee. The meeting is to-morrow, and
it would all have come out."

A great light broke over Peter--as when a window is opened in a
darkened room in which one has bees stumbling.

"And you have walked the streets trying to beggar yourself, not to
help MacFarlane but to keep Minott out of jail!" Amazement had
taken the place of horror.

"He was my friend, sir--and there are Corinne and the little boy.
It is all over now. I have the money--that is, I have got
something to raise it on."

"Who gave it to you?" He was still groping, blinded by the
revelations, his gray eyes staring at Jack, his voice trembling,
beads of perspiration moistening his forehead.

"Isaac Cohen. He has given me ten Government bonds. They are in
that drawer behind you. He overheard what I said to you yesterday
about wanting some money, and was waiting for me when I went
downstairs. He gave them to me because he loved you, he said. I am
to give him my ore property as security, although I told him it
was of no value."

Peter made a step forward, stretching out a hand as if to steady
himself. His face grew white then suddenly flushed. His breath
seemed to have left him.

"And Cohen did this!" he gasped--"and you for Minott! Why--why--"

Jack caught him in his arms, thinking he was about to fall.

"No! No! I'm all right," he cried, patting Jack's shoulder. "It's
you!--you--YOU, my splendid boy! Oh!--how I love you!"





CHAPTER XXXI




The following morning Jack walked into Arthur Breen's private
office while his uncle was reading his mail, and laid the package
containing the ten bonds on his desk. So far as their borrowing
capacity was concerned, he could have walked up the marble steps
of any broker's office or bank on either side of the street--that
is, wherever he was known, and he was still remembered by many of
them--thrust the package through the cashier's window, and walked
down again with a certified check for their face value in his
pocket.

But the boy had other ends in view. Being human, and still
smarting under his uncle's ridicule and contempt, he wanted to
clear his own name and character; being loyal to his friend's
memory and feeling that Garry's reputation must be at least
patched up--and here in Breen's place and before the man who had
so bitterly denounced it; and being above all tender-hearted and
gallant where a woman, and a sorrowing one, was concerned, he must
give Corinne and the child a fair and square start in the house of
Breen, with no overdue accounts to vex her except such petty ones
as a small life insurance and a few uncollected commissions could
liquidate.

These much-to-be-desired results could only be attained when the
senior member of the firm was made acquainted with the fact that,
after all, Garry's debts could be paid and his reputation saved.
The money must, therefore, be borrowed of Arthur Breen & Co. His
uncle would know then beyond doubt; his axiom being that the only
thing that talked loud enough ever to make him listen was "money."

It was therefore with a sense of supreme satisfaction, interwoven
with certain suppressed exuberance born of freedom and self-
reliance, that Jack, in answer to Breen's "What's this?" when his
eyes rested on the bundle of bonds, replied in an off-hand but
entirely respectful manner:

"Ten United States Government bonds, sir; and will you please give
me a check drawn to my order for this amount?" and he handed the
astounded broker the slip of paper McGowan had given him, on which
was scrawled the total of the overdue vouchers.

Breen slipped off the rubber band, spread out the securities as a
lady opens a fan, noted the title, date, and issue, and having
assured himself of their genuineness, asked in a confused, almost
apologetic way, as he touched a bell to summon the cashier:

"Where did you get these? Did MacFarlane give them to you?"

"No--a friend," answered Jack casually, and without betraying a
trace of either excitement or impatience.

"On what?" snapped Breen, something of his old dictatorial manner
asserting itself.

"On my word," replied Jack, with a note of triumph, which he could
not wholly conceal.

The door opened and the cashier entered. Breen handed him the
bonds, gave instructions about the drawing of the check, and
turned to Jack again. He was still suffering from amazement, the
boy's imperturbable manner being responsible for most of it.

"And does this pay Minott's debts?" he asked in a more
conciliatory tone.

"Every dollar," replied Jack.

Breen looked up. Where had the boy got this poise and confidence,
he asked himself, as a flush of pride swept through him; after
all, Jack was of his own blood, his brother's son.

"And I suppose now that it's you who will be doing the walking
instead of Minott's creditors?" Breen inquired with a frown that
softened into a smile as he gazed the longer into Jack's calm
eyes.

"Yes, for a time," rejoined Jack in the same even, unhurried
voice.

The clerk brought in the slip of paper, passed it to his employer,
who examined it closely, and who then affixed his signature.

"If you get any more of that kind of stuff and want help in the
new work, let me know."

"Thank you, sir," said Jack, folding up the precious scrap and
slipping it into his pocket.

Breen waited until Jack had closed the door, pulled from a pigeon-
hole a bundle of papers labelled Maryland Mining Company, touched
another button summoning his stenographer, and said in a low voice
to himself:

"Yes, I have it! Something is going on in that ore property. I'll
write and find out."





CHAPTER XXXII




The Board of Church Trustees met, as customary, on Monday night,
but there was no business transacted except the passing of a
resolution expressing its deep regret over the loss of "our
distinguished fellow-townsman, whose genius has added so much to
the beautifying of our village, and whose uprightness of character
will always be," etc., etc.

Neither Jack nor McGowan, nor any one representing their
interests, was present. A hurried glance over Garry's check and
bank-books showed that the money to pay McGowan's vouchers--the
exact sum--had been drawn from the fund and deposited to Garry's
personal credit in his own bank in New York. Former payments to
McGowan had been made in this way. There was therefore no proof
that this sum had been diverted into illegitimate channels.

McGowan was paid that same Monday afternoon, Jack bringing the
papers to the contractor's office, where they were signed in the
presence of Murphy and his clerk.

And so the matter was closed, each and every one concerned being
rejoiced over the outcome.

"Mr. Minott (it was 'Mr.' now) had a big stack of money over at
his stepfather's bank," was Murphy's statement to a group around a
table in one of the bar-rooms of the village. "He was in a big
deal, so Mac thinks, and didn't want to haul any of it out. So
when he died Mr. Breen never squawked--just went over and told the
old man that Mac wanted the money and to fork out; and he did,
like a good one. I seen the check, I tell ye. Oh! they're all in
together. Mr. Breen's kin to them New York folks, and so is Mrs.
Minott. He's her father, I hear. I think Mac shot off his mouth
too quick, and I told him so, but he was so het up he couldn't
keep still. Why, them fellers has got more money than they can
throw away. Mac sees his mistake now. Heard him tell Mr. Breen
that Mr. Minott was the whitest man he ever knowed; and you bet
yer life he's right."

Nor was Murphy's eulogium the only one heard in the village.
Within a week after the funeral a committee was appointed to
gather funds for the placing of a stained-glass window in the new
church in memory of the young architect who had designed and
erected it; with the result that Holker Morris headed the
subscription list, an example which was followed by many of the
townspeople, including McGowan and Murphy and several others of
their class, as well as various members of the Village Council,
together with many of Garry's friends in New York, all of which
was duly set forth in the county and New York papers; a fact which
so impressed the head of the great banking firm of Arthur Breen &
Co. that he immediately sent his personal check for a considerable
amount, desiring, as he stated at a club dinner that same night,
to pay some slight tribute to that brilliant young fellow, Minott,
who, you know, married Mrs. Breen's daughter--a lovely girl,
brought up in my own house, and who has now come home again to
live with us.

Peter listened attentively while Jack imparted these details, a
peculiar smile playing about the corners of his eyes and mouth,
his only comment at the strangeness of such posthumous honors to
such a man, but he became positively hilarious when Jack reached
that part in the narrative in which the head of the house of Breen
figured as chief contributor.

"And you mean to tell me, Jack," he roared, "that Breen has pushed
himself into poor Minott's stained-glass window, with the saints
and the gold crowns, and--oh, Jack, you can't be serious!"

"That's what the Rector tells me, sir."

"But, Jack--forgive me, my boy, but I have never in all my life
heard anything so delicious. Don't you think if Holker spoke to
the artist that Mr. Iscariot, or perhaps the estimable Mr.
Ananias, or Mr. Pecksniff, or Uriah Heep might also be tucked away
in the background?" And with this the old fellow, in spite of his
sympathy for Jack and the solemnity of the occasion, threw back
his head and laughed so long and so heartily that Mrs. McGuffey
made excuse to enter the room to find out what it was all about.

With the subletting of Garry's house and the shipping of his
furniture--that which was not sold--to her step-father's house,
Jack's efforts on behalf of his dead friend and his family came to
a close. Ruth helped Corinne pack her personal belongings, and
Jack found a tenant who moved in the following week. Willing hands
are oftenest called upon, and so it happened that the two lovers
bore all the brunt of the domestic upheaval.

Their own packing had long since been completed; not a difficult
matter in a furnished house; easy always to Ruth and her father,
whose nomadic life was marked by constant changes. Indeed, the
various boxes, cases, crates, and barrels containing much of the
linen, china, and glass, to say nothing of the portieres, rugs and
small tables, and the whole of Ruth's bedroom furniture, had
already been loaded aboard a box car and sent on its way to
Morfordsburg, there to await the arrival of the joyous young girl,
whose clear brain and competent hands would bring order out of
chaos, no matter how desolate the interior and the environment.

For these dainty white hands with their pink nails and soft palms,
so wonderfully graceful over teapot or fan, could wield a broom or
even a dust-pan did necessity require. Ruth in a ball gown, all
frills and ruffles and lace, was a sight to charm the eye of any
man, but Ruth in calico and white apron, her beautiful hair piled
on top of her still more beautiful head; her skirts pinned up and
her dear little feet pattering about, was a sight not only for men
but for gods as well. Jack loved her in this costume, and so would
you had you known her. I myself, old and wrinkled as I am, have
never forgotten how I rapped at the wrong door one morning--the
kitchen door--and found her in that same costume, with her arms
bare to the elbows and covered with flour, where she had been
making a "sally lunn" for daddy. Nor can I forget her ringing
laugh as she saw the look of astonishment on my face, or my
delight when she ordered me inside and made me open the oven door
so that she could slide in the finished product without burning
her fingers.

The packing up of their own household impedimenta complete, there
came a few days of leisure--the first breathing spell that either
MacFarlane or Jack, or Ruth, too, for that matter, had had for
weeks. MacFarlane, in view of the coming winter--a long and
arduous one, took advantage of the interim and went south, to his
club, for a few days' shooting--a rare luxury for him of late
years. Jack made up his mind to devote every one of his spare
hours to getting better acquainted with Ruth, and that young
woman, not wishing to be considered either neglectful or selfish,
determined to sacrifice every hour of the day and as much of the
night as was proper and possible to getting better acquainted with
Jack; and the two had a royal time in the doing.

Jack, too, had another feeling about it all. It seemed to him that
he had a debt of gratitude--the rasping word had long since lost
its edge--to discharge; and that he owed her every leisure hour he
could steal from his work. He had spent days and nights in the
service of his friends, and had, besides, laid the burden of their
anxieties upon her. He would pay her in return twice as many days
of gladness to make up for the pain she had so cheerfully borne.
What could he do to thank her?--how discharge the obligation?
Every hour he would tell her, and in different ways--by his
tenderness, by his obedience to her slightest wish, anticipating
her every want--how much he appreciated her unselfishness, and how
much better, if that were possible, he loved her for her
sacrifice. Nor was there, when the day came, any limit to his
devotion or to her enjoyment. There were rides over the hills in
the soft September mornings--Indian summer in its most dreamy and
summery state; there were theatre parties of two and no more; when
they sat in the third row in the balcony, where it was cheaper,
and where, too, they wouldn't have to speak to anybody else. There
were teas in Washington Square, where nobody but themselves and
their hostess were present, as well as other unexpected outings,
in which all the rest of the world was forgotten.

The house, too, was all their own. Nobody upstairs; nobody
downstairs but the servants; even the emptiness of daddy's room,
so grewsome in the old days, brought a certain feeling of delight.
"Just you and me," as they said a dozen times a day to each other.
And then the long talks on that blessed old sofa with its
cushions--(what a wonderful old sofa it was, and how much it had
heard); talks about when she was a girl--as if she had ever passed
the age; and when he was a boy; and of what they both thought and
did in that blissful state of innocence and inexperience. Talks
about the bungalow they would build some day--that bungalow which
Garry had toppled over--and how it would be furnished; and whether
they could not persuade the landlord to sell them the dear sofa
and move it out there bodily; talks about their life during the
coming winter, and whether she should visit Aunt Felicia's--and if
so, whether Jack would come too; and if she didn't, wouldn't it be
just as well for Jack to have some place in Morfordsburg where he
could find a bed in case he got storm-bound and couldn't get back
to the cabin that same night. All kinds and conditions and sorts
of talks that only two lovers enjoy, and for which only two lovers
can find the material.

Sometimes she thought he might be too lonely and neglected at the
log-cabin. Then she would make believe she was going to ask daddy
to let them be married right away, insisting that two rooms were
enough for them, and that she herself would do the washing and
ironing and the cooking, at which Jack would laugh over the joy of
it all, conjuring up in his mind the pattern of apron she would
wear and how pretty her bare arms would be bending over the tub,
knowing all the time that he would no more have allowed her to do
any one of these things than he would have permitted her to chop
the winter's wood.

Most of these day dreams, plots, and imaginings were duly reported
by letter to Miss Felicia to see what she thought of them all. For
the dear lady's opposition had long since broken down. In these
letters Ruth poured out her heart as she did to no one except
Jack; each missive interspersed with asides as to how dear Jack
was, and how considerate, and how it would not be a very long time
before she would soon get the other half of the dear lady's laces,
now that daddy and Jack (the boy had been given an interest in the
business) were going to make lots of money on the new work--to
all of which Miss Felicia replied that love in a garret was what
might be expected of fools, but that love in a log-cabin could
only be practised by lunatics.

It was toward the close of this pre-honey-moon--it lasted only ten
days, but it was full moon every hour and no clouds--when, early
one morning--before nine o'clock, really--a night message was
handed to Jack. It had been sent to the brick office, but the
telegraph boy, finding that building closed and abandoned, had
delivered it to Mrs. Hicks, who, discovering it to be sealed,
forwarded it at once, and by the same hand, to the MacFarlane
house, known now to everybody as the temporary headquarters,
especially in the day time, of the young superintendent who was
going to marry the daughter--"and there ain't a nicer, nor a
better, nor a prettier."

On this morning, then, the two had planned a day in the woods back
of the hills; Ruth's mare was to be hooked up to a hired buggy,
and such comforts as a bucket of ice, lettuce sandwiches thin as
wafers, a cold chicken, a spirit lamp, teapot, and cups and
saucers, not to mention a big shawl for my sweetheart to sit on,
and another smaller one for her lovely shoulders when the cool of
the evening came on, were to be stowed away under the seat.

"That telegram is from Aunt Felicia, I know," said Ruth. "She has
set her heart on my coming up to Geneseo, but I cannot go, Jack. I
don't want to be a minute away from you."

Jack had now broken the seal and was scanning the contents.
Instantly his face grew grave.

"No--it's not from Aunt Felicia," he said in a thoughtful tone,
his eyes studying the despatch. "I don't know whom it's from; it
is signed T. Ballantree; I never heard of him before. He wants me
to meet him at the Astor House to-day at eleven o'clock. Some
business of your father's, I expect--see, it's dated Morfordsburg.
Too bad, isn't it, blessed--but I must go. Here, boy"--this to the
messenger, who was moving out of the door--"stop at the livery
stable as you go by and tell them I won't want the horse and
wagon, that I'm going to New York. All in a life-time, my
blessed--but I'm dreadfully sorry."

"And you MUST go? Isn't it mean, Jack--and it's such a lovely
day."

"Yes--but it can't be helped. What are you going to do with the
sandwiches and chicken and things? And you had so much trouble
making them. And you will be lonely, too."

"Why, I shall keep them till you come back, and we'll have a
lovely feast at home," she said with a light laugh in her effort
to hide her feelings. "Oh, no, I shan't be lonely. You won't be
gone long, Jack, will you, dear?"

"I hope not." His mind must no longer rest on the outing. There
was work to do for Ruth as well as himself. His play time had come
to a sudden end; the bell had rung and recess was over. He looked
at his watch; there was just time to catch the train.

She followed him to the door and kissed her hand as he swung down
the path and through the gate, and watched him until he had
disappeared behind the long wall of the factory; then she went in,
put away the sandwiches and chicken, and the teapot and the cups
and saucers, and emptied the ice.

Yes, the day was spoiled, she said to herself--part of it anyway;
but the night would come, and with it Jack would burst in with
news of all he had seen and done, and they would each have an end
of the table; their last dinner in the old home, where everything
on which her eyes rested revived some memory of their happiness.
But then there would be other outings at Morfordsburg, and so what
mattered one day when there were so many left? And with this
thought her tears dried up and she began to sing again as she
busied herself about the house--bursting into a refrain from one
of the operas she loved, or crooning some of the old-time
melodies which her black mammy had taught her when a child.

But now for Jack and what the day held for him of wonders and
surprises.

Some pessimistic wiseacre has said that all the dire and dreadful
things in life drop out of a clear sky; that it is the unexpected
which is to be feared, and that the unknown bridges are the ones
in which dangers lurk and where calamity is to be feared.

The optimistic Scribe bites his derisive thumb at such ominous
prophecies. Once in a while some rain does fall, and now and then
a roar of thunder, or sharp slash of sleet will split the air
during our journey through life, but the blue is always above, and
the clouds but drilting ships that pass and are gone. In and
through them all the warm, cheery sun fights on for joyous light
and happy endings, and almost always wins.

This time the unexpected took shape in the person of T.
Ballantree, from Morfordsburg--a plain, direct, straight-to-the-
point kind of a man, whom Jack found in the corridor of the Astor
House with his eyes on the clock.

"You are very prompt, Mr. Breen," he said in clear-cut tones, "so
am I. What I wanted to see you about is just this: You own some
ore property three miles east of the Maryland Mining Company's
lay-out. Am I right?"

"Yes, you are right," answered Jack with a comprehensive glance
which began at the speaker's black derby hat, traversed his suit
of store clothes, and ended in a pair of boots which still showed
some traces of yellow clay, as if their wearer had been
prospecting the day before.

"Are there any encumbrances on the property--any mortgages or
liens not yet recorded? I don't mean taxes; I find they have been
paid," continued Ballantree.

Jack shifted his seat so he could get a better view of the
speaker's face, and said in answer:

"Why do you ask?"

"Because," said the man with entire frankness, "we understand that
the Maryland Mining Company have an option on it. If that is so,
I'll stop where I am. We don't care to buck up against Breen &
Co."

"No," answered Jack, now convinced of the man's sincerity; "no--
it's free and clear except for a loan of ten thousand dollars held
by a friend, which can be paid off at any time."

Ballantree ducked his head in token of his satisfaction over the
statement and asked another question--this time with his eyes
straight on Jack.

"Is it for sale--now--for money?"

It was Jack's turn to focus his gaze. This was the first time any
one had asked that question in the memory of the oldest
inhabitant.

"Well, that depends on what it is wanted for, Mr. Ballantree,"
laughed Jack. He had already begun to like the man. "And perhaps,
too, on who wants it. Is it for speculation?"

Ballantree laughed in return. "No--not a square foot of it. I am
the general manager of the Guthrie Steel Company with head-
quarters here in New York. We have been looking for mineral up in
that section of the State, and struck yours. I might as well tell
you that I made the borings myself."

"Are you an expert?" asked Jack. The way people searched his
title, examined his tax receipts and rammed hypodermics into his
property without permission was, to say the least, amusing.

"Been at it thirty years," replied Ballantree in a tone that
settled all doubt on the subject.

"It is a low-grade ore, you know," explained Jack, feeling bound
to express his own doubts of its value.

"No, it's a high-grade ore," returned Ballantree with some
positiveness; "that is, it was when we got down into it. But I'm
not here to talk about percentage--that may come in later. I came
to save Mr. Guthrie's time. I was to bring you down to see him if
you were the man and everything was clean, and if you'll go--and
I wouldn't advise you to stay away--I'll meet you at his office at
twelve o'clock sharp; there's his card. It isn't more than four
blocks from here."

Jack took the card, looked on both sides of it, tucked it in his
inside pocket, and said he would come, with pleasure. Ballantree
nodded contentedly, pulled a cigar from his upper breast pocket,
bit off one end, slid a match along his trousers until it burst
into flame, held it to the unbitten end until it was a-light, blew
out the blaze, adjusted his derby and with another nod to Jack--
and the magic words--"Twelve sharp"--passed out into Broadway.

Ten minutes later--perhaps five, for Jack arrived on the run--Jack
bounded into Peter's bank, and slipping ahead of the line of
depositors, thrust his overheated face into the opening. There he
gasped out a bit of information that came near cracking the
ostrich egg in two, so wide was the smile that overspread Peter's
face.

"What--really! You don't say so! Telegraphed you? Who?"

"A Mr. Ballantree," panted Jack. "I have just left him at the
Astor House."

"I never heard of him. Look out, my boy--don't sign anything until
you--"

"Oh, he is only the general manager. It's a Mr. Guthrie--Robert A.
Guthrie--who wants it. He sent Mr. Ballantree."

"Robert Guthrie! The banker! That's our director; that's the man I
told you of. I gave him your address. Go and see him by all means
and tell him everything. Talk just as you would to me. One of the
best men in the Street. Not a crooked hair on his head, Jack.
Well--well--this does look like business."

"Pardon me, sir, one minute, if you please--" interpolated Peter
to an insistent depositor whom Jack in his impatience had crowded
out. "Now your book--thank you--And Jack"--this over the hat of
the depositor, his face a marvel of delight--"come to my rooms at
four--wait for me--I'll be there."

Out again and around the block; anything to kill time until the
precious hour should arrive. Lord!--how the minutes dragged. The
hands of the old clock of Trinity spire must be stuck together.
Any other day it would take him at least half an hour to walk up
Wall Street, down Broadway to the Battery and back again--now ten
minutes was enough. Would the minute hand never climb up the face
to the hour hand and the two get together at twelve, and so end
his impatience. He wished now he had telegraphed to Ruth not to
expect him until the late afternoon train. He thought he would do
it now. Then he changed his mind. No; it would be better to await
the result of his interview. Yet still the clock dragged on, and
still he waited for the magic hour. Ten minutes to twelve--five--
then twelve precisely--but by this time he was closeted inside Mr.
Guthrie's private office.

Peter also found the hours dragging. What could it all mean? he
kept asking himself as he handed back the books through his
window, his eyes wandering up to the old-fashioned clock. Robert
Guthrie the banker--a REAL banker--had sent for the boy--Guthrie,
who never made a too hurried move. Could it be possible that good
fortune was coming to Jack?--that he and Ruth--that--Ah! old
fellow, you nearly made a mistake with the amount of that check!
No--there was no use in supposing. He would just wait for Jack's
story.

When he reached home he was still in the same overwrought, anxious
state--hoping against hope. When would the boy come? he asked
himself a hundred times as he fussed about his room, nipping off
the dead leaves from his geraniums, drawing the red curtains back;
opening and shutting the books, only to throw himself into his
chair at last. Should he smoke until four?--should he read? What a
fool he was making of himself! It was astonishing that one of his
age should be so excited over a mere business proposition--really
not a proposition at all, when he came to think of it--just an
ordinary question asked. He must compose himself. It was quite
absurd for him to go on this way. But would the boy NEVER come? It
was four o'clock now--or would be in ten minutes, and--and--

Yes!

He sprang toward the door and caught the young fellow in his arms.

"Oh! such good news! Mr. Guthrie's bought the property!" roared
Jack.

He had made one long spring from the sidewalk up three flights of
steps to the old-fashioned door, but he still had breath to gasp
the glad tidings.

"Bought!--Who?--Not Guthrie!"

"Yes--I am to sign the papers to-morrow. Oh!--Uncle Peter, I am
half crazy with delight!"

"Hurrah," shouted Peter. "HURRAH, I say! This IS good news! Well!
--Well!" He was still bending over him, his eyes blinking in his
joy, scurries of irradiating smiles chasing each other over his
face. Never had the old gentleman been in such a state.

"And how much, Jack?"

"Guess."

"Will there be enough to pay Isaac's ten thousand?"

"More!" Jack was nearly bursting, but he still held in.

"Twenty thousand?" This came timidly, fearing that it was too
much, and yet hoping that it might be true.

"More!"  The strain on Jack was getting dangerous.

"Twenty-five thousand?" Peter's voice now showed that he was
convinced that this sum was too small.

"More! Go on, Uncle Peter! Go on!"

"Thirty-five thousand, Jack?" It was getting hot; certainly this
was the limit. Was there ever such luck?

"Yes!--and five thousand more! Forty thousand dollars and one-
fifth interest in the output! Just think what Ruth will say. I've
just sent her a telegram. Oh!--what a home-coming!"

And then, with Peter drawn up beside him, his face radiant and his
eyes sparkling with joy, he poured out the story of the morning.
How he had begun by telling Mr. Guthrie of his own and Mr.
MacFarlane's opinion of the property, as he did not want to sell
anything he himself considered worthless. How he had told him
frankly what Peter had said of his--Mr. Guthrie's--fairness and
honesty; how he was at work for his prospective father-in-law, the
distinguished engineer of whom Mr. Guthrie had no doubt heard--at
which the gentleman nodded. How this property had been given him
by his father, and was all he had in the world except what he
could earn; how he already owed ten thousand dollars and had
pledged the property as part payment, and how, in view of these
facts, he would take any sum over ten thousand dollars that Mr.
Guthrie would give him, provided Mr. Guthrie thought it was worth
that much.

"But I am buying, not selling, your land, young man," the banker
had said. "I know it, sir, and I am willing to take your own
figures," Jack replied--at which Mr. Guthrie had laughed in a
kindly way, and had then called in Mr. Ballantree and another man
how the three had then talked in a corner, and how he had heard
Mr. Guthrie say, "No, that is not fair--add another five thousand
and increase the interest to one-fifth"; whereupon the two men
went out and came back later with a letter in duplicate, one of
which Mr. Guthrie had signed, and the other which he, Jack,
signed--and here was Mr., Guthrie's letter to prove it. With this
Jack took out the document and laid it before Peter's delighted
eyes; adding that the deeds and Isaac's release were to be signed
in the morning, and that Mr. Guthrie had sent a special message by
him to the effect that he very much wished Mr. Grayson would also
be present when the final transfers would be signed and the money
paid.

Whereupon the Scribe again maintains--and he is rubbing his hands
with the joy of it all as he does it--that there was more
sunshine than clouds in this particular Unexpected, and that if
all the boys in the world were as frank and sincere as young Jack
Breen, and all the grown-ups as honest as old Robert Guthrie, the
REAL banker, the jails would be empty and the millennium knocking
at our doors.

Peter had drunk in every word of the story, bowing his head,
fanning out his fingers, or interrupting with his customary "Well,
well!" whenever some particular detail seemed to tend toward the
final success.

And then, the story over, there came the part that Peter never
forgot; that he has told me a dozen times, and always with the
same trembling tear under the eyelids, and the same quivering of
his lower lip.

Jack had drawn his chair nearer the old gentleman, and had thrown
one arm over the shoulder of his dearest friend in the world.
There was a moment's silence as they sat there, and then Jack
began. "There is something I want you to do for me, Uncle Peter,"
he said, drawing his arm closer till his own fresh cheek almost
touched the head of the older man. "Please, don't refuse."

"Refuse, my dear boy! I am too happy to-day to refuse anything.
Come, out with it."

"I am going to give you half of this money. I love you better than
any one in this world except Ruth, and I want you to have it."

Peter threw up his hands and sprang to his feet.

"What!--You want to--Why, Jack! Are you crazy! Me! My dear boy,
it's very lovely of you to wish to do it, but just think. Oh, you
dear Jack! No!--no, no!" He was beating the air now deprecatingly
with his outspread fingers as he strode around the room, laughing
short laughs in his effort to keep back the tears.

Jack followed him in his circuit, talking all the while, until he
had penned the old gentleman in a corner between the open desk and
the window.

"But, Uncle Peter--think what you have done for me! Do you suppose
for one moment that I don't know that it was you and not I who
sold the property? Do you think Mr. Guthrie would have added that
five thousand dollars to the price if he hadn't wanted to help you
as well as me?"

"Five thousand dollars, my dear Jack, is no more to Robert Guthrie
than a ferry ticket is to you or me. He gave you the full price
because you trusted to his honesty and told him the truth, and he
saw your inexperience."

"No--it was YOU he was thinking of, I tell you," protested Jack,
with eager emphasis. "He would never have sent Ballantree for me
had you not talked to him--and it has been so with everything
since I knew you. You have been father, friend, everybody to me.
You gave me Ruth and my work. Everything I am I owe to you. You
must--you SHALL have half of this money! Ruth and I can be
married, and that is all we want, and what is left I can put into
our new work to help Mr. MacFarlane. Please, Uncle Peter!--we will
both be so much happier if we know you share it with us." Here his
voice rose and a strain of determination rang through it. "And, by
George!--Uncle Peter, the more I think of it, the more I am
convinced that it is fair. It's yours--not mine. I WILL have it
that way--you are getting old, and you need it."

Peter broke into a laugh. It was the only way he could keep down
the tears.

"What a dear boy you are, Jack," he said, backing toward the sofa
and regaining his seat. "You've got a heart as big as a house, and
I'm proud of you, but no--not a penny of your money. Think a
moment! Your father didn't leave the property to me--not any part
of it--he left it to you, you spendthrift! When I get too old to
work I am going up to Felicia's and pick out an easy-chair and sit
in a corner and dry up gradually and be laid away in lavender. No,
my lad, not a penny! Gift money should go to cripples and
hypochondriacs, not to spry old gentlemen. I would not take it
from my own father's estate when I was your age, and I certainly
won't take it now from you. I made Felicia take it all." Jack
opened his eyes. He had often wondered why Peter had so little and
she so much. "Oh, yes, nearly forty years ago! But I have never
regretted it since! And you must see how just it was, for there
wasn't enough for two, and Felicia was a woman. No--be very
careful of gift money, my boy, and be very careful, also, of too
much of anybody's money--even your own. What makes me most glad in
this whole affair is that Guthrie didn't give you a million--that
might have spoilt you. This is just enough. You and Ruth can start
square. You can help Henry--and you ought to, he has been mighty
good to you. And, best of all, you can keep at work. Yes--that's
the best part of it--that you can keep at work. Go right on as you
are; work every single day of your life, and earn your bread as
you have done ever since you left New York, and, one thing more,
and don't you ever forget it: Be sure you take your proper share
of fun and rest as you go. Eight hours' work, eight hours' play,
eight hours' sleep--that's the golden rule and the only one to
live by. Money will never get its grip on you if you keep this up.
This fortune hasn't yet tightened its fingers around your throat,
or you would never have come up here to give me half of it--and
never let it! Money is your servant, my boy, not your master. And
now go home and kiss Ruth for me, and tell her that I love her
dearly. Wait a moment. I will go with you as far as Isaac's. I am
going to tell him the good news. Then I'll have him measure me for
a coat to dance at your wedding."

And the Unexpecteds are not yet over. There was still another, of
quite a different character, about to fall--and out of another
clear sky, too--a sort of April-shower sky, where you get wet on
one side of the street and keep dry on the other. Jack had the dry
side this time, and went on his way rejoicing, but the head of the
house of Breen caught the downpour, and a very wet downpour it
was.

It all occurred when Jack was hurrying to the ferry and when he
ran into the senior member of the firm, who was hurrying in the
opposite direction.

"Ah, Jack!--the very man I wanted to see," cried Breen. "I was
going to write you. There's something doing up in that ore
country. Better drop in to-morrow, I may be able to handle it for
you, after all."

"I am sorry, sir, but it's not for sale," said Jack, trying to
smother his glee.

"Why?" demanded Breen bluntly.

"I have sold it to Mr. Robert Guthrie."

"Guthrie! The devil you say!--When?"

"To-day. The final papers are signed to-morrow. Excuse me, I must
catch my boat--" and away he went, his cup now brimming over,
leaving Breen biting his lips and muttering to himself as he gazed
after him.

"Guthrie!--My customer! Damn that boy--I might have known he would
land on his feet."

But Jack kept on home to his sweetheart, most of the way in the
air.

Down in the little room all this time in the rear of the tailor's
shop the two old men sat talking. Peter kept nothing back; his
lips quivering again and another unbidden tear peeping over the
edge of his eyelid when he told of Jack's offer.

"A dear boy, Isaac--yes, a dear boy. He never thinks with his
head--only with his heart. Never has since I knew him. Impulsive,
emotional, unpractical, no doubt--and yet somehow he always wins.
Queer--very queer! He comes upstairs to me and I start out on a
fool's errand. He goes down to you, and you hand him out your
money. He gives it all away the next day, and then we have Guthrie
doubling the price. Queer, I tell you, Isaac--extraordinary,
that's what it is--almost uncanny."

The Jew threw away his cigar, rested his short elbows on the arms
of his chair, and made a basket of his hands, the tips of all his
fingers touching.

"No, you are wrong, my good friend. It is not extraordinary and it
is not uncanny. It is very simple--exceedingly simple. Nobody
runs over a child if he can help it. Even a thief will bring you
back your pocket-book if you trust him to take care of it. It is
the trusting that does it. Few men, no matter how crooked, can
resist the temptation of reaching, if only for a moment, an honest
man's level."





CHAPTER XXXIII




Peter's coat was finished in time for the wedding--trust Isaac
for that--and so was his double-breasted white waistcoat--he had
not changed the cut in twenty years; and so were his pepper-and-
salt trousers and all his several appointments, little and big,
even to his polka-dot scarf of blue silk, patent-leather shoes and
white gaiters. Quite the best-dressed man in the room, everybody
said, and they of all the people in the world should have known.

And the wedding!

And all that went before it, and all that took place on that
joyous day; and all that came after that happiest of events!

Ruth and Jack, with Peter's covert endorsement, had wanted to slip
into the village church some afternoon at dusk, with daddy and
Peter and Miss Felicia, and one or two more, and then to slip out
again and disappear. MacFarlane had been in favor of the old
Maryland home, with Ruth's grandmother in charge, and the
neighbors driving up in mud-encrusted buggies and lumbering
coaches, their inmates warmed by roaring fires and roaring
welcomes--fat turkeys, hot waffles, egg-nogg, apple-toddy, and the
rest of it. The head of the house of Breen expressed the opinion
(this on the day Jack gave his check for the bonds prior to
returning them to Isaac, who wouldn't take a cent of interest)
that the ceremony should by all means take place in Grace Church,
after which everybody would adjourn to his house on the Avenue,
where the wedding-breakfast would be served, he being nearest of
kin to the groom, and the bride being temporarily without a home
of her own--a proposition which, it is needless to say, Jack
declined on the spot, but in terms so courteous and with so grand
and distinguished an air that the head of the house of Breen found
his wonder increasing at the change that had come over the boy
since he shook the dust of the Breen home and office from his
feet.

The Grande Dame of Geneseo did not agree with any of these
makeshifts. There would be no Corklesville wedding if she could
help it, with gaping loungers at the church door; nor would there
be any Maryland wedding with a ten-mile ride over rough roads to a
draughty country-house, where your back would freeze while your
cheeks burned up; nor yet again any city wedding, with an awning
over the sidewalk, a red carpet and squad of police, with Tom,
Dick, and Harry inside the church, and Harry, Dick and Tom
squeezed into an oak-panelled dining-room at high noon with every
gas-jet blazing.

And she did not waste many seconds coming to this conclusion. Off
went a telegram, after hearing the various propositions, followed
by a letter, that might have melted the wires and set fire to the
mail-sack, so fervid were the contents.

"Nonsense! My dear Ruth, you will be married in my house and the
breakfast will be in the garden. If Peter and your father haven't
got any common sense, that's no reason why you and Jack should
lose your wits."

This, of course, ended the matter. No one living or dead had ever
been found with nerve enough to withstand Felicia Grayson when she
had once made up her mind.

And then, again, there was no time to lose in unnecessary
discussions. Were not Ruth and her father picnicking in a hired
villa, with half their household goods in a box-car at
Morfordsburg?--and was not Jack still living in his two rooms at
Mrs. Hicks's? The only change suggested by the lovers was in the
date of the wedding, Miss Felicia having insisted that it should
not take place until November, "FOUR WHOLE WEEKS AWAY." But the
old lady would not budge. Four weeks at least, she insisted, would
be required for the purchase and making of the wedding clothes,
which, with four more for the honeymoon (at this both Jack and
Ruth shouted with laughter, they having determined on a honeymoon
the like of which had never been seen since Adam and Eve went to
housekeeping in the Garden). These eight weeks, continued the
practical old lady, would be required to provide a suitable home
for them both; now an absolute necessity, seeing that Mr. Guthrie
had made extensive contracts with MacFarlane, which, with Jack's
one-fifth interest in the ore banks was sure to keep Jack and
MacFarlane at Morfordsburg for some years to come.

So whizz went another telegram--this time from Jack--there was no
time for letters these days--stopping all work on the nearly
completed log cabin which the poor young superintendent had
ordered, and which was all he could afford, before the sale of the
ore lands. But then THAT seemed ages and ages ago.

"Don't tell me what I want, sir," roared Mr. Golightly at the
waiter, in "Lend Me Five Shillings," when he brought a crust of
bread and cheese and a pickle with which to entertain Mrs. Phobbs;
Golightly in the meantime having discovered a purse full of
sovereigns in the coat the waiter had handed him by mistake.
"Don't tell me what I said, sir. I know what I said, sir! I said
champagne, sir, and plenty of it, sir!--turkeys, and plenty of
them! Burgundy--partridges--lobsters--pineapple punch--pickled
salmon--everything! Look sharp, Be off!" (Can't you hear dear Joe
Jefferson's voice, gentle reader, through it all?)

And now listen to our proud Jack, with the clink of his own gold
in his own pocket.

"What did you say? A six by nine log hut, with a sheet-iron stove
in one corner and a cast-iron bedstead in another, and a board
closet, and a table and two chairs--and this, too, for a princess
of quality and station? Zounds, sirrah!--" (Holker Morris was the
"Sirrah")--"I didn't order anything of the kind. I ordered a
bungalow all on one floor--that's what I ordered--with a boudoir
and two bedrooms, and an extra one for my honored father-in-law,
and still another for my thrice-honored uncle, Mr. Peter Grayson,
when he shall come to stay o' nights; and porches front and back
where my lady's hammock may be slung: and a fireplace big enough
to roll logs into as thick around as your body and wide enough to
warm every one all over; and a stable for my lady's mare, with a
stall for my saddle-horse. Out upon you, you Dago!"

Presto, what a change! Away went the completed roof of the modest
cabin and down tumbled the sides. More post-holes were dug; more
trenches excavated; more great oaks toppled over to be sliced into
rafters, joists and uprights; more shingles--two carloads; more
brick; more plaster; more everything, including nails, locks,
hinges, sash; bath-tubs--two; lead pipe, basins, kitchen range--
and so the new bungalow was begun.

Neither was there any time to be lost over the invitations. Miss
Felicia, we may be sure, prepared the list. It never bothered her
head whether the trip to Geneseo--and that, too, in the fall of
the year, when early snows were to be expected--might prevent any
of the invited guests from witnessing the glad ceremony. Those who
loved Ruth she knew would come even if they had to be accompanied
by St. Bernard dogs with kegs of brandy tied to their necks to get
them across the glaciers, including Uncle Peter, of course; as
would also Ruth's dear grandmother, who was just Miss Felicia's
age, and MacFarlane's saintly sister Kate, who had never taken off
her widow's weeds since the war, and two of her girl friends, with
whom Ruth went to school, and who were to be her bridesmaids.

Then there were those who might or might not struggle through the
drifts, if there happened to be any--the head of the house of
Breen, for instance, and Mrs. B., and lots and lots of people of
whom Jack had never heard, aunts and uncles and cousins by the
dozens; and lots and lots of people of whom Ruth had never heard,
of the same blood relationship; and lots more of people from
Washington Square and Murray Hill, who loved the young people, and
Peter, and his outspoken sister, all of whom must be invited to
the ceremony; including the Rector and his wife from Corklesville,
and--(no--that was all from Corklesville) together with such
selected inhabitants of Geneseo as dame Felicia permitted inside
of her doors. As for the several ambassadors, generals, judges,
dignitaries, attaches, secretaries, and other high and mighty
folks forming the circle of Miss Felicia's acquaintance, both here
and abroad, they were only to receive "announcement" cards, just
as a reminder that Miss Grayson of Geneseo was still in and of the
world.

The hardest nut of all to crack was given to Jack. They had all
talked it over, the dear girl saying "of course he shall come,
Jack, if you would like to have him." Jack adding that he should
"never forget his generosity," and MacFarlane closing the
discussion by saying:

"Go slow, Jack. I'd say yes in a minute. I am past all those
foolish prejudices, but it isn't your house, remember. Better ask
Peter--he'll tell you."

Peter pursed his mouth when Jack laid the matter before him in
Peter's room the next day, tipped his head so far on one side that
it looked as if it might roll off any minute and go smash, and
with an arching of his eyebrows said:

"Well, but why NOT invite Isaac? Has anybody ever been as good to
you?"

"Never any one, Uncle Peter--and I think as you do, and so does
Ruth and Mr. MacFarlane, but--" The boy hesitated and looked away.

"But what?" queried Peter.

"Well--there's Aunt Felicia. You know how particular she is; and
she doesn't know how splendid Mr. Cohen has been, and if he came
to the wedding she might not like it."

"But Felicia is not going to be married, my boy," remarked Peter,
with a dry smile wrinkling the corners of his eyes.

Jack laughed. "Yes--but it's her house."

"Yes--and your wedding. Now go down and ask Mr. Cohen yourself.
You'll send him a card, of course, but do more than that. Call on
him personally and tell you want him to come, and why--and that I
want him, too. That will please him still more. The poor fellow
lives a great deal alone. Whether he will come or not, I don't
know--but ask him. You owe it to yourself as much as you do to
him."

"And you don't think Aunt Felicia will--"

"Hang Felicia! You do what you think is right; it does not matter
what Felicia or anybody else thinks."

Jack wheeled about and strode downstairs and into the back room
where the little man sat at his desk looking over some papers.
Isaac's hand was out and he was on his feet before Jack had
reached his side.

"Ah!--Mr. Millionaire. And so you have come to tell me some more
good news. Have you sold another mine? I should have looked out to
see whether your carriage did not stop at my door; and now sit
down and tell me what I can do for you. How well you look, and how
happy. Ah, it is very good to be young!"

"What you can do for me is this, Mr. Cohen. I want you to come to
our wedding--will you? I have come myself to ask you," said Jack
in all sincerity.

"So! And you have come yourself." He was greatly pleased; his face
showed it. "Well, that is very kind of you, but let me first
congratulate you. Yes--Mr. Grayson told me all about it, and how
lovely the young lady is. And now tell me, when is your wedding?"

"Next month."

"And where will it be?"

"At Uncle Peter's old home up at Geneseo."

"Oh, at that grand lady's place--the magnificent Miss Grayson."
"Yes, but it is only one night away. I will see that you are taken
care of."

The little man paused and toyed with the papers on his desk. His
black, diamond-pointed eyes sparkled and an irrepressible smile
hung around his lips.

"Thank you very much, Mr. Breen--and thank your young lady too.
You are very kind and you are very polite. Yes--I mean it--very
polite. And you are sincere in what you say; that is the best of
all. But I cannot go. It is not the travelling at night--that is
nothing. You and your lady would be glad to see me and that would
be worth it all, but the magnificent Miss Grayson, she would not
be glad to see me. You see, my dear young man"--here the smile got
loose and scampered up to his eyelids--"I am a most unfortunate
combination--oh, most unfortunate--for the magnificent Miss
Grayson. If I was only a tailor I might be forgiven; if I was just
a Jew I might be forgiven; but when I am both a tailor and a Jew--
"here the irrepressible went to pieces in a merry laugh--"don't
you see how impossible it is? And you--you, Mr. Breen! She would
never forgive you. 'My friend, Mr. Cohen,' you would have to say,
and she could do nothing. She must answer that she is most glad to
see me--or she might NOT answer, which would be worse. And it is
not her fault. You can't break down the barriers of centuries in a
day. No--no--I will not compromise you in that way. Let me come to
see you some time when it is all over, when your good uncle can
come too. He will bring me; perhaps. And now give my best respects
to the lady--I forget her name, and say to her for me, that if she
is as thoughtful of other people as you are, you deserve to be a
very happy couple."

Jack shook the little man's hand and went his way. He was sorry
and he was glad. He was also somewhat ashamed in his heart. It was
not altogether himself who had been thoughtful of other people.
But for Peter, perhaps, he might never have paid the visit.

As the blissful day approached Geneseo was shaken to its centre,
the vibrations reaching to the extreme limits of the town. Not
only was Moggins who drove the village 'bus and tucked small
packages under the seat on the sly, overworked, but all the
regular and irregular express companies had to put on extra teams.
Big box, little box, band box, bundle, began to pour in, to say
nothing of precious packages that nobody but "Miss Grayson" could
sign for. And then such a litter of cut paper and such mounds of
pasteboard boxes poked under Miss Felicia's bed, so she could
defend them in the dead of night, and with her life if necessary,
each one containing presents, big and little; the very biggest
being a flamboyant service of silver from the head of the house of
Breen and his wife, and the smallest a velvet-bound prayer-book
from Aunt Kate with inter-remembrances from MacFarlane (all the
linen, glass, and china); from Peter (two old decanters with
silver coasters); from Miss Felicia (the rest of her laces,
besides innumerable fans and some bits of rare jewelry); besides
no end of things from the Holker Morrises and the Fosters and
dozens of others, who loved either Ruth or Jack, or somebody whom
each one or both of them loved, or perhaps their fathers and
mothers before them. The Scribe has forgotten the list and the
donors, and really it is of no value, except as confirmation of
the fact that they are still in the possession of the couple, and
that none of them was ever exchanged for something else nor will
be until the end of time.

One curious-looking box, however, smelling of sandalwood and dried
cinnamon, and which arrived the day the ceremony took place, is
worthy of recall, because of the universal interest which it
excited. It was marked "Fragile" on the outside, and was packed
with extraordinary care. Miss Felicia superintended the unrolling
and led the chorus of "Oh, how lovely!" herself, when an Imari
jar, with carved teakwood stand, was brought to light. So
exquisite was it in glaze, form, and color that for a moment no
one thought of the donor. Then their curiosity got the better of
them and they began to search through the wrappings for the card.
It wasn't in the box; it wasn't hidden in the final bag; it
wasn't--here a bright thought now flashed through the dear lady's
brain--down went her shapely hand into the depths of the tall jar,
and up came an envelope bearing Ruth's name and enclosing a card
which made the grande dame catch her breath.

"Mr. Isaac Cohen! What--the little tailor!" she gasped out. "The
Jew! Well, upon my word--did you ever hear of such impudence!"

Isaac would have laughed the harder could he have seen her face.

Jack caught up the vase and ran with it to Ruth, who burst out
with another: "Oh, what a beauty!" followed by "Who sent it?"

"A gentleman journeyman tailor, my darling," said Jack, with a
flash of his eye at Peter, his face wreathed in smiles.

And with the great day--a soft November day--summer had lingered
on a-purpose--came the guests: the head of the house of Breen and
his wife--not poor Corinne, of course, who poured out her heart in
a letter instead, which she entrusted to her mother to deliver;
and Holker Morris and Mrs. Morris, and the Fosters and the
Granthams and Wildermings and their wives and daughters and sons,
and one stray general, who stopped over on his way to the West,
and who said when he entered, looking so very grand and important,
that he didn't care whether he had been invited to the ceremony or
not, at which Miss Felicia was delighted, he being a major-general
on the retired list, and not a poor tailor who--no, we won't refer
to that again; besides a very, VERY select portion of the dear
lady's townspeople--the house being small, as she explained, and
Miss MacFarlane's intimates and acquaintances being both
importunate and numerous.

And with the gladsome hour came the bride.

None of us will ever forget her. Not only was she a vision of rare
loveliness, but there was in her every glance and movement that
stateliness and grace that poise and sureness of herself that
marks the high-born woman the world over when she finds herself
the cynosure of all eyes.

All who saw her descend Miss Felicia's stairs held their breath in
adoration: Not a flight of steps at all. but a Jacob's ladder down
which floated a company of angels in pink and ivory--one all in
white, her lovely head crowned by a film of old lace in which
nestled a single rose.

On she came--slowly--proudly--her slippered feet touching the
carpeted steps as daintily as treads a fawn; her gown crinkling
into folds of silver about her knees, one fair hand lost in a mist
of gauze, the other holding the blossoms which Jack had pressed to
his lips--until she reached her father's side.

"Dear daddy," I heard her whisper as she patted his sleeve with
her fingers.

Ah! but it was a proud day for MacFarlane. I saw his bronzed and
weather-beaten face flush when he caught sight of her in all her
gracious beauty; but it was when she reached his side and laid her
hand on his arm, as he told me afterward, that the choke came. She
was so like her mother.

The two swept past me into the old-fashioned parlor, now a bower
of roses, where Jack and Peter and Felicia, with the elect, waited
their coming, and I followed, halting at the doorway. From this
point of vantage I peered in as best I could over and between the
heads of the more fortunate, but I heard all that went on; the
precise, sonorous voice of the bishop--(catch Miss Felicia having
anybody but a bishop); the clear responses--especially Jack's--as
if he had been waiting all his life to say those very words and
insisted on being heard; the soft crush of satin as Ruth knelt;
the rustle of her gown when she regained her feet; the measured
words: "Whom God hath joined together, let no man put asunder"--
and then the outbreak of joyous congratulations. As I looked in
upon them all--old fellow as I am--listening to their joyous
laughter; noting the wonderful toilettes, the festoons and masses
of flowers; watching Miss Felicia as she moved about the room (and
never had I seen her more the "Grande Dame" than she was that
day), welcoming her guests with a graciousness that must have
opened some of their eyes--even fat, red-faced Arthur Breen,
perspiring in pearl-colored gloves and a morning frock coat that
fitted all sides of him except the front, and Mrs. Arthur in moire
antique and diamonds, were enchanted; noting, too, Peter's
perfectly appointed dress and courtly manners, he taking the whole
responsibility of the occasion on his own shoulders--head of the
house, really, for the time; receiving people at the door; bowing
them out again; carrying glasses of punch--stopping to hobnob
with this or that old neighbor: "Ah, my dear Mrs. Townehalle, how
young and well you look; and you tell me this is your daughter. I
knew your mother, my dear, when she was your age, and she was the
very prettiest girl in the county. And now let me present you to a
most charming woman, Mrs. Foster, of New York, who--" etc., etc.
Or greeting some old gray-head with: "Well, well--of coarse it is
--why, Judge, I haven't seen you since you left the bench which you
graced so admirably," etc, etc.; watching, too, Ruth and Jack as
they stood beneath a bower of arching roses--(Miss Felicia had put
it together with her own hands)--receiving the congratulations and
good wishes of those they knew and those they did not know; both
trying to remember the names of strangers; both laughing over
their mistakes, and both famished for just one kiss behind some
door or curtain where nobody could see. As I looked on, I say,
noting all these and a dozen other things, it was good to feel
that there was yet another spot in this world of care where
unbridled happiness held full sway and joy and gladness were
contagious.

But it was in the tropical garden, with its frog pond, climbing
roses in full bloom, water-lilies, honeysuckle, and other warm-
weather shrubs and plants (not a single thing was a-bloom outside,
even the chrysanthemums had been frost-bitten), that the greatest
fun took place. That was a sight worth ten nights on the train to
see.

Here the wedding breakfast was spread, the bride's table being
placed outside that same arbor where Jack once tried so hard to
tell Ruth he loved her (how often have they laughed over it
since); a table with covers for seven, counting the two
bridesmaids and the two gallants in puffy steel-gray scarfs and
smooth steel-gray gloves. The other guests--the relations and
intimate friends who had been invited to remain after the
ceremony--were to find seats either at the big or little tables
placed under the palms or beneath the trellises of jasmine, or
upon the old porch overlooking the tropical garden.

It was Jack's voice that finally caught my attention. I could not
see clearly on account of the leaves and tangled vines, but I
could hear.

"But we want you, and you must."

"Oh, please, do," pleaded Ruth; there was no mistaking the music
of her tones, or the southern accent that softened them.

"But what nonsense--an old duffer like me!" This was Peter's
voice--no question about it.

"We won't any of us sit down if you don't," Jack was speaking now.

"And it will spoil everything," cried Ruth. "Jack and I planned it
long ago; and we have brought you out a special chair; and see
your card--see what it says: 'Dear Uncle Peter--'"

"Sit down with you young people at your wedding breakfast!" cried
Peter, "and--" He didn't get any farther. Ruth had stopped what
was to follow with a kiss. I know, for I craned my neck and caught
the flash of the old fellow's bald head with the fair girl's cheek
close to his own.

"Well, then--just as you want it--but there's the Major and
Felicia and your father."

But they did not want any of these people, Ruth cried with a
ringing laugh; didn't want any old people; they just wanted their
dear Uncle Peter, and they were going to have him; a resolution
which was put to vote and carried unanimously, the two pink
bridesmaids and the two steel-gray gentlemen voting the loudest.

The merriment ceased when Ruth disappeared and came back in a
dark-blue travelling dress and Jack in a brown suit. We were all
in the doorway, our hands filled with rose petals--no worn-out
slippers or hail of rice for this bride--when she tried to slip
through in a dash for the carriage, but the dear lady caught and
held her, clasping the girl to her heart, kissing her lips, her
forehead, her hands--she could be very tender when she loved
anybody; and she loved Ruth as her life; Peter and her father
going ahead to hold open the door where they had their kisses and
handshakes, their blessings, and their last words all to
themselves.

The honeymoon slipped away as do all honeymoons, and one crisp,
cool December day a lumbering country stage containing two
passengers struggled up a steep hill and stopped before a long,
rambling building nearing completion. All about were piles of
partly used lumber, broken bundles of shingles, empty barrels, and
abandoned mortar beds. Straight from the low slanting roof with
its queer gables, rose a curl of blue smoke, telling of comfort
and cheer within. Back of it towered huge trees, and away off in
the distance swept a broad valley hazy in the morning light.

"Oh, Jack--what a love!" cried one passenger--she had alighted
with a spring, her cheeks aglow with the bracing mountain air, and
was standing taking it all in. "And, oh--see the porch!--and the
darling windows and the dear little panes of glass! And, Jack--"
she had reached the open door now, and was sweeping her eyes
around the interior--"Oh!--oh!--what a fireplace!--and such ducky
little shelves--and the flowers, and the table and the big easy
chairs and rugs! ISN'T it lovely!!"

And then the two, hand in hand, stepped inside and shut the door.

THE END.


End of The Project Gutenberg Etext of Peter:  A Novel of Which He is Not the Hero
by F. Hopkinson Smith


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