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´╗┐Title: The Celebrity, Volume 01
Author: Churchill, Winston, 1871-1947
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "The Celebrity, Volume 01" ***

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THE CELEBRITY

By Winston Churchill



VOLUME 1.

CHAPTER I

I was about to say that I had known the Celebrity from the time he wore
kilts. But I see I shall have to amend that, because he was not a
celebrity then, nor, indeed, did he achieve fame until some time after I
had left New York for the West. In the old days, to my commonplace and
unobserving mind, he gave no evidences of genius whatsoever. He never
read me any of his manuscripts, which I can safely say he would have done
had he written any at that time, and therefore my lack of detection of
his promise may in some degree be pardoned. But he had then none of the
oddities and mannerisms which I hold to be inseparable from genius, and
which struck my attention in after days when I came in contact with the
Celebrity. Hence I am constrained to the belief that his eccentricity
must have arrived with his genius, and both after the age of twenty-five.
Far be it from me to question the talents of one upon whose head has been
set the laurel of fame!

When I knew him he was a young man without frills or foibles, with an
excellent head for business. He was starting in to practise law in a
downtown office with the intention of becoming a great corporation
lawyer. He used to drop into my chambers once in a while to smoke, and
was first-rate company. When I gave a dinner there was generally a cover
laid for him. I liked the man for his own sake, and even had he promised
to turn out a celebrity it would have had no weight with me. I look upon
notoriety with the same indifference as on the buttons on a man's
shirt-front, or the crest on his note-paper.

When I went West, he fell out of my life. I probably should not have
given him another thought had I not caught sight of his name, in old
capitals, on a daintily covered volume in a book-stand. I had little
time or inclination for reading fiction; my days were busy ones, and
my nights were spent with law books. But I bought the volume out of
curiosity, wondering the while whether he could have written it. I was
soon set at rest, for the dedication was to a young woman of whom I had
often heard him speak. The volume was a collection of short stories. On
these I did not feel myself competent to sit in judgment, for my personal
taste in fiction, if I could be said to have had any, took another turn.
The stories dealt mainly with the affairs of aristocratic young men and
aristocratic young women, and were differentiated to fit situations only
met with in that society which does not have to send descriptions of its
functions to the newspapers. The stories did not seem to me to touch
life. They were plainly intended to have a bracing moral effect, and
perhaps had this result for the people at whom they were aimed. They
left with me the impression of a well-delivered stereopticon lecture,
with characters about as life-like as the shadows on the screen, and
whisking on and off, at the mercy of the operator. Their charm to me lay
in the manner of the telling, the style, which I am forced to admit was
delightful.

But the book I had bought was a success, a great success, if the
newspapers and the reports of the sales were to be trusted. I read the
criticisms out of curiosity more than any other prompting, and no two of
them were alike: they veered from extreme negative to extreme positive.
I have to confess that it gratified me not a little to find the negatives
for the most part of my poor way of thinking. The positives, on the
other hand, declared the gifted young author to have found a manner of
treatment of social life entirely new. Other critics still insisted it
was social ridicule: but if this were so, the satire was too delicate for
ordinary detection.

However, with the dainty volume my quondam friend sprang into fame. At
the same time he cast off the chrysalis of a commonplace existence. He
at once became the hero of the young women of the country from Portland,
Maine, to Portland, Oregon, many of whom wrote him letters and asked him
for his photograph. He was asked to tell what he really meant by the
vague endings of this or that story. And then I began to hear rumors
that his head was turning. These I discredited, of course. If true,
I thought it but another proof of the undermining influence of feminine
flattery, which few men, and fewer young men, can stand. But I watched
his career with interest.

He published other books, of a high moral tone and unapproachable
principle, which I read carefully for some ray of human weakness, for
some stroke of nature untrammelled by the calling code of polite society.
But in vain.



CHAPTER II

It was by a mere accident that I went West, some years ago, and settled
in an active and thriving town near one of the Great Lakes. The air and
bustle and smack of life about the place attracted me, and I rented an
office and continued to read law, from force of habit, I suppose. My
experience in the service of one of the most prominent of New York
lawyers stood me in good stead, and gradually, in addition to a
heterogeneous business of mines and lumber, I began to pick up a few
clients. But in all probability I should be still pegging away at mines
and lumber, and drawing up occasional leases and contracts, had it not
been for Mr. Farquhar Fenelon Cooke, of Philadelphia. Although it has
been specifically written that promotion to a young man comes neither
from the East nor the West, nor yet from the South, Mr. Cooke arrived
from the East, and in the nick of time for me.

I was indebted to Farrar for Mr. Cooke's acquaintance, and this
obligation I have since in vain endeavored to repay. Farrar's profession
was forestry: a graduate of an eastern college, he had gone abroad to
study, and had roughed it with the skilled woodsmen of the Black Forest.
Mr. Cooke, whom he represented, had large tracts of land in these parts,
and Farrar likewise received an income from the state, whose legislature
had at last opened its eyes to the timber depredations and had begun to
buy up reserves. We had rooms in the same Elizabethan building at the
corner of Main and Superior streets, but it was more than a year before I
got farther than a nod with him. Farrar's nod in itself was a repulsion,
and once you had seen it you mentally scored him from the list of your
possible friends. Besides this freezing exterior he possessed a cutting
and cynical tongue, and had but little confidence in the human race.
These qualities did not tend to render him popular in a Western town,
if indeed they would have recommended him anywhere, and I confess to have
thought him a surly enough fellow, being guided by general opinion and
superficial observation. Afterwards the town got to know him, and if it
did not precisely like him, it respected him, which perhaps is better.
And he gained at least a few warm-friends, among whom I deem it an honor
to be mentioned.

Farrar's contempt for consequences finally brought him an unsought-for
reputation. Admiration for him was born the day he pushed O'Meara out
of his office and down a flight of stairs because he had undertaken to
suggest that which should be done with the timber in Jackson County. By
this summary proceeding Farrar lost the support of a faction, O'Meara
being a power in the state and chairman of the forestry board besides.
But he got rid of interference from that day forth.

Oddly enough my friendship with Farrar was an indirect result of the
incident I have just related. A few mornings after, I was seated in my
office trying to concentrate my mind on page twenty of volume ten of the
Records when I was surprised by O'Meara himself, accompanied by two
gentlemen whom I remembered to have seen on various witness stands.
O'Meara was handsomely dressed, and his necktie made but a faint pretence
of concealing the gorgeous diamond in his shirt-front. But his face wore
an aggrieved air, and his left hand was neatly bound in black and tucked
into his coat. He sank comfortably into my wicker chair, which creaked a
protest, and produced two yellow-spotted cigars, chewing the end of one
with much apparent relish and pushing the other at me. His two friends
remained respectfully standing. I guessed at what was coming, and braced
myself by refusing the cigar,--not a great piece of self-denial, by the
way. But a case meant much to me then, and I did seriously regret that
O'Meara was not a possible client. At any rate, my sympathy with Farrar
in the late episode put him out of the question.

O'Meara cleared his throat and began gingerly to undo the handkerchief
on his hand. Then he brought his fist down on the table so that the ink
started from the stand and his cheeks shook with the effort.

"I'll make him pay for this!" he shouted, with an oath.

The other gentlemen nodded their approval, while I put the inkstand in a
place of safety.

"You're a pretty bright young man, Mr. Crocker," he went on, a look of
cunning coming into his little eyes, "but I guess you ain't had too many
cases to object to a big one."

"Did you come here to tell me that?" I asked.

He looked me over queerly, and evidently decided that I meant no
effrontery.

"I came here to get your opinion," he said, holding up a swollen hand,
"but I want to tell you first that I ought to get ten thousand, not a
cent less. That scoundrelly young upstart--"

"If you want my opinion," I replied, trying to speak slowly, "it is that
Mr. Farrar ought to get ten thousand dollars. And I think that would be
only a moderate reward."

I did not feel equal to pushing him into the street, as Farrar had done,
and I have now but a vague notion of what he said and how he got there.
But I remember that half an hour afterwards a man congratulated me openly
in the bank.

That night I found a new friend, although at the time I thought Farrar's
visit to me the accomplishment of a perfunctory courtesy to a man who had
refused to take a case against him. It was very characteristic of Farrar
not to mention this until he rose to go. About half-past eight he
sauntered in upon me, placing his hat precisely on the rack, and we
talked until ten, which is to say that I talked and he commented. His
observations were apt, if a trifle caustic, and it is needless to add
that I found them entertaining. As he was leaving he held out his hand.

"I hear that O'Meara called on you to-day," he said diffidently.

"Yes," I answered, smiling, "I was sorry not to have been able to take
his case."

I sat up for an hour or more, trying to arrive at some conclusion about
Farrar, but at length I gave it up. His visit had in it something
impulsive which I could not reconcile with his manner. He surely owed
me nothing for refusing a case against him, and must have known that my
motives for so doing were not personal. But if I did not understand him,
I liked him decidedly from that night forward, and I hoped that his
advances had sprung from some other motive than politeness. And indeed
we gradually drifted into a quasi-friendship. It became his habit, as he
went out in the morning, to drop into my room for a match, and I returned
the compliment by borrowing his coal oil when mine was out. At such
times we would sit, or more frequently stand, discussing the affairs of
the town and of the nation, for politics was an easy and attractive
subject to us both. It was only in a general way that we touched upon
each other's concerns, this being dangerous ground with Farrar, who was
ever ready to close up at anything resembling a confidence. As for me, I
hope I am not curious, but I own to having had a curiosity about Farrar's
Philadelphia patron, to whom Farrar made but slight allusions. His very
name--Farquhar Fenelon Cooke--had an odd sound which somehow betokened an
odd man, and there was more than one bit of gossip afloat in the town of
which he was the subject, notwithstanding the fact that he had never
honored it with a visit. The gossip was the natural result of Mr.
Cooke's large properties in the vicinity. It has never been my habit,
however, to press a friend on such matters, and I could easily understand
and respect Farrar's reluctance to talk of one from whom he received an
income.

I had occasion, in the May of that year, to make a somewhat long business
trip to Chicago, and on my return, much to my surprise, I found Farrar
awaiting me in the railroad station. He smiled his wonted fraction by
way of greeting, stopped to buy a newspaper, and finally leading me to
his buggy, turned and drove out of town. I was completely mystified at
such an unusual proceeding.

"What's this for?" I asked.

"I shan't bother you long," he said; "I simply wanted the chance to talk
to you before you got to your office. I have a Philadelphia client, a
Mr. Cooke, of whom you may have heard me speak. Since you have been away
the railroad has brought suit against him. The row is about the lands
west of the Washita, on Copper Rise. It's the devil if he loses, for the
ground is worth the dollar bills to cover it. I telegraphed, and he got
here yesterday. He wants a lawyer, and I mentioned you."

There came over me then in a flash a comprehension of Farrar which I had
failed to grasp before. But I was quite overcome at his suggestion.

"Isn't it rather a big deal to risk me on?" I said. "Better go to
Chicago and get Parks. He's an expert in that sort of thing." I am
afraid my expostulation was weak.

"I merely spoke of you," replied Farrar, coolly,--"and he has gone around
to your office. He knows about Parks, and if he wants him he'll probably
take him. It all depends upon how you strike Cooke whether you get the
case or not. I have never told you about him," he added with some
hesitation; "he's a trifle queer, but a good fellow at the bottom.
I should hate to see him lose his land."

"How is the railroad mixed up in it?" I asked.

"I don't know much about law, but it would seem as if they had a pretty
strong case," he answered. He went on to tell me what he knew of the
matter in his clean, pithy sentences, often brutally cynical, as though
he had not a spark of interest in any of it. Mr. Cooke's claim to the
land came from a maternal great-uncle, long since deceased, who had been
a settler in these regions. The railroad answered that they had bought
the land with other properties from the man, also deceased, to whom the
old gentleman was alleged to have sold it. Incidentally I learned
something of Mr. Cooke's maternal ancestry.

We drove back to the office with some concern on my part at the prospect
of so large a case. Sunning himself on the board steps, I saw for the
first time Mr. Farquhar Fenelon Cooke. He was dressed out in broad
gaiters and bright tweeds, like an English tourist, and his face might
have belonged to Dagon, idol of the Philistines. A silver snaffle on a
heavy leather watch guard which connected the pockets of his corduroy
waistcoat, together with a huge gold stirrup in his Ascot tie,
sufficiently proclaimed his tastes. But I found myself continually
returning to the countenance, and I still think I could have modelled a
better face out of putty. The mouth was rather small, thick-tipped, and
put in at an odd angle; the brown eyes were large, and from their habit
of looking up at one lent to the round face an incongruous solemnity.
But withal there was a perceptible acumen about the man which was
puzzling in the extreme.

"How are you, old man?" said he, hardly waiting for Farrar to introduce
me. "Well, I hope." It was pure cordiality, nothing more. He seemed to
bubble over with it.

I said I was well, and invited him inside.

"No," he said; "I like the look of the town. We can talk business here."

And talk business he did, straight and to the point, so fast and
indistinctly that at times I could scarcely follow him. I answered his
rapid questions briefly, and as best I knew how. He wanted to know what
chance he had to win the suit, and I told him there might be other
factors involved beside those of which he had spoken. Plainly, also,
that the character of his great-uncle was in question, an intimation
which he did not appear to resent. But that there was no denying the
fact that the railroad had a strong thing of it, and a good lawyer into
the bargain.

"And don't you consider yourself a good lawyer?" he cut in.

I pointed out that the railroad lawyer was a man of twice my age,
experience, and reputation.

Without more ado, and before either Farrar or myself had time to resist,
he had hooked an arm into each of us, and we were all three marching down
the street in the direction of his hotel. If this was agony for me, I
could see that it was keener agony for Farrar. And although Mr. Farquhar
Fenelon Cooke had been in town but a scant twenty-four hours, it seemed
as if he knew more of its inhabitants than both of us put together.
Certain it is that he was less particular with his acquaintances. He
hailed the most astonishing people with an easy air of freedom, now
releasing my arm, now Farrar's, to salute. He always saluted. He
stopped to converse with a dozen men we had never seen, many of whom
smelled strongly of the stable, and he invariably introduced Farrar as
the forester of his estate, and me as his lawyer in the great quarrel
with the railroad, until I began to wish I had never heard of Blackstone.
And finally he steered us into the spacious bar of the Lake House.

The next morning the three of us were off early for a look at the
contested property. It was a twenty-mile drive, and the last eight miles
wound down the boiling Washita, still high with the melting snows of the
pine lands. And even here the snows yet slept in the deeper hollows.
unconscious of the budding green of the slopes. How heartily I wished
Mr. Farquhar Fenelon Cooke back in Philadelphia! By his eternal accounts
of his Germantown stables and of the blue ribbons of his hackneys he
killed all sense of pleasure of the scene, and set up an irritation that
was well-nigh unbearable. At length we crossed the river, climbed the
foot-hills, and paused on the ridge. Below us lay the quaint inn and
scattered cottages of Asquith, and beyond them the limitless and
foam-flecked expanse of lake: and on our right, lifting from the shore by
easy slopes for a mile at stretch, Farrar pointed out the timbered lands
of Copper Rise, spread before us like a map. But the appreciation of
beauty formed no part of Mr. Cooke's composition,--that is, beauty as
Farrar and I knew it.

"If you win that case, old man," he cried, striking me a great whack
between the shoulder-blades, "charge any fee you like; I'll pay it! And
I'll make such a country-place out of this as was never seen west of New
York state, and call it Mohair, after my old trotter. I'll put a palace
on that clearing, with the stables just over the knoll. They'll beat the
Germantown stables a whole lap. And that strip of level," he continued,
pointing to a thinly timbered bit, "will hold a mile track nicely."

Farrar and I gasped: it was as if we had tumbled into the Washita.

"It will take money, Mr. Cooke," said Farrar, "and you haven't won the
suit yet."

"Damn the money!" said Mr. Cooke, and we knew he meant it.

Over the episodes of that interminable morning it will, be better to pass
lightly. It was spent by Farrar and me in misery. It was spent by Mr.
Farquhar Fenelon Cooke in an ecstasy of enjoyment, driving over and
laying out Mohair, and I must admit he evinced a surprising genius in his
planning, although, according to Farrar, he broke every sacred precept of
landscape gardening again and again. He displayed the enthusiasm of a
pioneer, and the energy of a Napoleon. And if he were too ignorant to
accord to nature a word of praise, he had the grace and intelligence to
compliment Farrar on the superb condition of the forests, and on the
judgment shown in laying out the roads, which were so well chosen that
even in this season they were well drained and dry. That day, too, my
views were materially broadened, and I received an insight into the
methods and possibilities of my friend's profession sufficient to instil
a deeper respect both for it and for him. The crowded spots had been
skilfully thinned of the older trees to give the younger ones a chance,
and the harmony of the whole had been carefully worked out. Now we drove
under dark pines and hemlocks, and then into a lighter relief of birches
and wild cherries, or a copse of young beeches. And I learned that the
estate had not only been paying the taxes and its portion of Farrar's
salary, but also a considerable amount into Mr. Cooke's pocket the while
it was being improved.

Mr. Cooke made his permanent quarters at the Lake House, and soon became
one of the best-known characters about town. He seemed to enjoy his
popularity, and I am convinced that he would have been popular in spite
of his now-famous quarrel with the railroad. His easy command of
profanity, his generous use of money, his predilection for sporting
characters, of whom he was king; his ready geniality and good-fellowship
alike with the clerk of the Lake House or the Mayor, not to mention his
own undeniable personality, all combined to make him a favorite. He had
his own especial table in the dining-room, called all the waiters by
their first names, and they fought for the privilege of attending him.
He likewise called the barkeepers by their first names, and had his own
particular corner of the bar, where none dared intrude, and where he
could almost invariably be found when not in my office. From this corner
he dealt out cigars to the deserving, held stake moneys, decided all
bets, and refereed all differences. His name appeared in the personal
column of one of the local papers on the average of twice a week, or in
lieu thereof one of his choicest stories in the "Notes about Town"
column.

The case was to come up early in July, and I spent most of my time, to
the detriment of other affairs, in preparing for it. I was greatly
hampered in my work by my client, who filled my office with his
tobacco-smoke and that of his friends, and he took it very much for
granted that he was going to win the suit. Fortune had always played
into his hands, he said, and I had no little difficulty in convincing him
that matters had passed from his hands into mine. In this I believe I
was never entirely successful. I soon found, too, that he had no ideas
whatever on the value of discretion, and it was only by repeated threats
of absolute failure that I prevented our secret tactics from becoming the
property of his sporting fraternity and of the town.

The more I worked on the case, the clearer it became to me that Mr.
Farquhar Fenelon Cooke's great-uncle had been either a consummate
scoundrel or a lunatic, and that our only hope of winning must be based
on proving him one or the other; it did not matter much which, for my
expectations at best were small. When I had at length settled to this
conclusion I confided it as delicately as possible to my client, who was
sitting at the time with his feet cocked up on the office table, reading
a pink newspaper.

"Which'll be the easier to prove?" he asked, without looking up.

"It would be more charitable to prove he had been out of his mind," I
replied, "and perhaps easier."

"Charity be damned," said this remarkable man. "I'm after the property."

So I decided on insanity. I hunted up and subpoenaed white-haired
witnesses for miles around. Many of them shook their heads when they
spoke of Mr. Cooke's great-uncle, and some knew more of his private
transactions than I could have wished, and I trembled lest my own
witnesses should be turned against me. I learned more of Mr. Cooke's
great-uncle than I knew of Mr. Cooke himself, and to the credit of my
client be it said that none of his relative's traits were apparent in
him, with the possible exception of insanity; and that defect, if it
existed in the grand-nephew, took in him a milder and less criminal turn.
The old rascal, indeed, had so cleverly worded his deed of sale as to
obtain payment without transfer. It was a trifle easier to avoid being
specific in that country in his day than it is now, and the document was,
in my opinion, sufficiently vague to admit of a double meaning. The
original sale had been made to a man, now dead, whom the railroad had
bought out. The Copper Rise property was mentioned among the other lands
in the will in favor of Mr. Farquhar Fenelon Cooke, and the latter had
gone ahead improving them and increasing their output in spite of the
repeated threats of the railroad to bring suit. And it was not until its
present attorney had come in and investigated the title that the railroad
had resorted to the law. I mention here, by the way, that my client was
the sole heir.

But as the time of the sessions drew near, the outlook for me was
anything but bright. It is true that my witnesses were quite willing to
depose that his actions were queer and out of the common, but these
witnesses were for the most part venerable farmers and backwoodsmen:
expert testimony was deplorably lacking. In this extremity it was Mr.
Farquhar Fenelon Cooke himself who came unwittingly to my rescue. He had
bought a horse,--he could never be in a place long without one,--which
was chiefly remarkable, he said, for picking up his hind feet as well as
his front ones. However he may have differed from the ordinary run of
horses, he was shortly attacked by one of the thousand ills to which
every horse is subject. I will not pretend to say what it was. I found
Mr. Cooke one morning at his usual place in the Lake House bar holding
forth with more than common vehemence and profanity on the subject of
veterinary surgeons. He declared there was not a veterinary surgeon in
the whole town fit to hold a certificate, and his listeners nodded an
extreme approval to this sentiment. A grizzled old fellow who kept a
stock farm back in the country chanced to be there, and managed to get a
word in on the subject during one of my client's rare pauses.

"Yes," he said, "that's so. There ain't one of 'em now fit to travel
with young Doctor Vane, who was here some fifteen years gone by. He
weren't no horse-doctor, but he could fix up a foundered horse in a night
as good as new. If your uncle was livin', he'd back me on that, Mr.
Cooke."

Here was my chance. I took the old man aside, and two or three glasses
of Old Crow launched him into reminiscence.

"Where is Doctor Vane now?" I asked finally.

"Over to Minneapolis, sir, with more rich patients nor he can take care
of. Wasn't my darter over there last month, and seen him? And demned if
he didn't pull up his carriage and talk to her. Here's luck to him."

I might have heard much more of the stockraiser had I stayed, but I fear
I left him somewhat abruptly in my haste to find Farrar. Only three days
remained before the case was to come up. Farrar readily agreed to go to
Minneapolis, and was off on the first train that afternoon. I would have
asked Mr. Cooke to go had I dared trust him, such was my anxiety to have
him out of the way, if only for a time. I did not tell him about the
doctor. He sat up very late with me that night on the Lake House porch
to give me a rubbing down, as he expressed it, as he might have
admonished some favorite jockey before a sweepstake. "Take it easy, old
man," he would say repeatedly, "and don't give things the bit before
you're sure of their wind!"

Days passed, and not a word from Farrar. The case opened with Mr.
Cooke's friends on the front benches. The excitement it caused has
rarely been equalled in that section, but I believe this was due less to
its sensational features than to Mr. Cooke, who had an abnormal though
unconscious talent for self-advertisement. It became manifest early that
we were losing. Our testimony, as I had feared, was not strong enough,
although they said we were making a good fight of it. I was racked with
anxiety about Farrar; at last, when I had all but given up hope, I
received a telegram from him dated at Detroit, saying he would arrive
with the doctor that evening. This was Friday, the fourth day of the
trial.

The doctor turned out to be a large man, well groomed and well fed, with
a twinkle in his eye. He had gone to Narragansett Pier for the summer,
whither Farrar had followed him. On being introduced, Mr. Cooke at once
invited him out to have a drink.

"Did you know my uncle?" asked my client.

"Yes," said the doctor, "I should say I did."

"Poor old duffer," said Mr. Cooke, with due solemnity; "I understand he
was a maniac."

"Well," said the doctor, while we listened with a breathless interest,
"he wasn't exactly a maniac, but I think I can safely say he was a
lunatic."

"Then here's to insanity!" said the irrepressible, his glass swung in
mid-air, when a thought struck him, and he put it down again and looked
hard at the doctor.

"Will you swear to it?" he demanded.

"I would swear to it before Saint Peter," said the doctor, fervently.

He swore to it before a jury, which was more to the point, and we won our
case. It did not even go to the court of appeals; I suppose the railroad
thought it cheaper to drop it, since no right of way was involved. And
the decision was scarcely announced before Mr. Farquhar Fenelon Cooke had
begun work on his new country place, Mohair.

I have oftentimes been led to consider the relevancy of this chapter, and
have finally decided to insert it. I concluded that the actual narrative
of how Mr. Cooke came to establish his country-place near Asquith would
be interesting, and likewise throw some light on that gentleman's
character. And I ask the reader's forbearance for the necessary personal
history involved. Had it not been for Mr. Cooke's friendship for me I
should not have written these pages.



CHAPTER III

Events, are consequential or inconsequential irrespective of their size.
The wars of Troy were fought for a woman, and Charles VIII, of France,
bumped his head against a stone doorway and died because he did not stoop
low enough. And to descend from history down to my own poor chronicle,
Mr. Cooke's railroad case, my first experience at the bar of any gravity
or magnitude, had tied to it a string of consequences then far beyond my
guessing. The suit was my stepping-stone not only to a larger and more
remunerative practice, but also, I believe, to the position of district
attorney, which I attained shortly afterwards.

Mr. Cooke had laid out Mohair as ruthlessly as Napoleon planned the new
Paris; though not, I regret to say, with a like genius. Fortunately
Farrar interposed and saved the grounds, but there was no guardian angel
to do a like turn for the house. Mr. Langdon Willis, of Philadelphia,
was the architect who had nominal charge of the building. He had
regularly submitted some dozen plans for Mr. Cooke's approval, which were
as regularly rejected. My client believed, in common with a great many
other people, that architects should be driven and not followed, and was
plainly resolved to make this house the logical development of many
cherished ideas. It is not strange, therefore, that the edifice was
completed by a Chicago contractor who had less self-respect than Mr.
Willis, the latter having abruptly refused to have his name tacked on to
the work.

Mohair was finished and ready for occupation in July, two years after the
suit. I drove out one day before Mr. Cooke's arrival to look it over.
The grounds, where Farrar had had matters pretty much his own way, to my
mind rivalled the best private parks in the East. The stables were
filled with a score or so of Mr. Cooke's best horses, brought hither in
his private cars, and the trotters were exercising on the track.
The middle of June found Farrar and myself at the Asquith Inn. It was
Farrar's custom to go to Asquith in the summer, being near the forest
properties in his charge; and since Asquith was but five miles from the
county-seat it was convenient for me, and gave me the advantages of the
lake breezes and a comparative rest, which I should not have had in
town. At that time Asquith was a small community of summer residents
from Cincinnati, Chicago, St. Louis, and other western cities, most of
whom owned cottages and the grounds around them. They were a quiet lot
that long association had made clannish; and they had a happy faculty, so
rare in summer resorts, of discrimination between an amusement and a
nuisance. Hence a great many diversions which are accounted pleasurable
elsewhere are at Asquith set down at their true value. It was,
therefore, rather with resentment than otherwise that the approaching
arrival of Mr. Cooke and the guests he was likely to have at Mohair were
looked upon.

I had not been long at Asquith before I discovered that Farrar was acting
in a peculiar manner, though I was longer in finding out what the matter
was. I saw much less of him than in town. Once in a while in the
evenings, after ten, he would run across me on the porch of the inn,
or drift into my rooms. Even after three years of more or less intimacy
between us, Farrar still wore his exterior of pessimism and indifference,
the shell with which he chose to hide a naturally warm and affectionate
disposition. In the dining-room we sat together at the end of a large
table set aside for bachelors and small families of two or three, and
it seemed as though we had all the humorists and story-tellers in that
place. And Farrar as a source of amusement proved equal to the best
of them. He would wait until a story was well under way, and then
annihilate the point of it with a cutting cynicism and set the table in
a roar of laughter. Among others who were seated here was a Mr. Trevor,
of Cincinnati, one of the pioneers of Asquith. Mr. Trevor was a trifle
bombastic, with a tendency towards gesticulation, an art which he had
learned in no less a school than the Ohio State Senate. He was a
self-made man,--a fact which he took good care should not escape
one,--and had amassed his money, I believe, in the dry-goods business.
He always wore a long, shiny coat, a low, turned-down collar, and a black
tie, all of which united to give him the general appearance of a
professional pallbearer.

But Mr. Trevor possessed a daughter who amply made up for his
shortcomings. She was the only one who could meet Farrar on his own
ground, and rarely a meal passed that they did not have a tilt. They
filled up the holes of the conversation with running commentaries, giving
a dig at the luckless narrator and a side-slap at each other, until one
would have given his oath they were sworn enemies. At least I, in the
innocence of my heart, thought so until I was forcibly enlightened.
I had taken rather a prejudice to Miss Trevor. I could find no better
reason than her antagonism to Farrar. I was revolving this very thing
in my mind one day as I was paddling back to the inn after a look at my
client's new pier and boat-houses, when I descried Farrar's catboat some
distance out. The lake was glass, and the sail hung lifeless. It was
near lunch-time, and charity prompted me to head for the boat and give it
a tow homeward. As I drew near, Farrar himself emerged from behind the
sail and asked me, with a great show of nonchalance, what I wanted.

"To tow you back for lunch, of course," I answered, used to his ways.

He threw me a line, which I made fast to the stern, and then he
disappeared again. I thought this somewhat strange, but as the boat was
a light one, I towed it in and hitched it to the wharf, when, to my great
astonishment, there disembarked not Farrar, but Miss Trevor. She leaped
lightly ashore and was gone before I could catch my breath, while Farrar
let down the sail and offered me a cigarette. I had learned a lesson in
appearances.

It could not have been very long after this that I was looking over my
batch of New York papers, which arrived weekly, when my eye was arrested
by a name. I read the paragraph, which announced the fact that my friend
the Celebrity was about to sail for Europe in search of "color" for his
next novel; this was already contracted for at a large price, and was to
be of a more serious nature than any of his former work. An interview
was published in which the Celebrity had declared that a new novel was
to appear in a short time. I do not know what impelled me, but I began
at once to search through the other papers, and found almost identically
the same notice in all of them.

By one of those odd coincidents which sometimes start one to thinking,
the Celebrity was the subject of a lively discussion when I reached the
table that evening. I had my quota of information concerning his
European trip, but I did not commit myself when appealed to for an
opinion. I had once known the man (which, however, I did not think it
worth while to mention) and I did not feel justified in criticising him
in public. Besides, what I knew of him was excellent, and entirely apart
from the literary merit or demerit of his work. The others, however,
were within their right when they censured or praised him, and they did
both. Farrar, in particular, surprised me by the violence of his
attacks, while Miss Trevor took up the Celebrity's defence with equal
ardor. Her motives were beyond me now. The Celebrity's works spoke
for themselves, she said, and she could not and would not believe such
injurious reports of one who wrote as he did.

The next day I went over to the county-seat, and got back to Asquith
after dark. I dined alone, and afterwards I was strolling up and down
one end of the long veranda when I caught sight of a lonely figure in a
corner, with chair tilted back and feet on the rail. A gleam of a cigar
lighted up the face, and I saw that it was Farrar. I sat down beside
him, and we talked commonplaces for a while, Farrar's being almost
monosyllabic, while now and again feminine voices and feminine laughter
reached our ears from the far end of the porch. They seemed to go
through Farrar like a knife, and he smoked furiously, his lips tightly
compressed the while. I had a dozen conjectures, none of which I dared
voice. So I waited in patience.

"Crocker," said he, at length, "there's a man here from Boston, Charles
Wrexell Allen; came this morning. You know Boston. Have you ever heard
of him?"

"Allen," I repeated, reflecting; "no Charles Wrexell."

"It is Charles Wrexell, I think," said Farrar, as though the matter were
trivial. "However, we can go into the register and make sure."

"What about him?" I asked, not feeling inclined to stir.

The Celebrity

"Oh, nothing. An arrival is rather an occurrence, though. You can hear
him down there now," he added, tossing his head towards the other end of
the porch, "with the women around him."

In fact, I did catch the deeper sound of a man's voice among the lighter
tones, and the voice had a ring to it which was not wholly unfamiliar,
although I could not place it.

I threw Farrar a bait.

"He must make friends easily," I said.

"With the women?--yes," he replied, so scathingly that I was forced to
laugh in spite of myself.

"Let us go in and look at the register," I suggested. "You may have his
name wrong."

We went in accordingly. Sure enough, in bold, heavy characters, was the
name Charles Wrexell Allen written out in full. That handwriting was one
in a thousand. I made sure I had seen it before, and yet I did not know
it; and the more I puzzled over it the more confused I became. I turned
to Farrar.

"I have had a poor cigar passed off on me and deceive me for a while.
That is precisely the case here. I think I should recognize your man if
I were to see him."

"Well," said Farrar, "here's your chance."

The company outside were moving in. Two or three of the older ladies
came first, carrying their wraps; then a troop of girls, among whom was
Miss Trevor; and lastly, a man. Farrar and I had walked to the door
while the women turned into the drawing-room, so that we were brought
face to face with him, suddenly. At sight of me he halted abruptly,
as though he had struck the edge of a door, changed color, and held out
his hand, tentatively. Then he withdrew it again, for I made no sign of
recognition.

It was the Celebrity!

I felt a shock of disgust as I passed out. Masquerading, it must be
admitted, is not pleasant to the taste; and the whole farce, as it
flashed through my mind,--his advertised trip, his turning up here under
an assumed name, had an ill savor. Perhaps some of the things they said
of him might be true, after all.

"Who the devil is he?" said Farrar, dropping for once his indifference;
"he looked as if he knew you."

I evaded.

"He may have taken me for some one else," I answered with all the
coolness I could muster. "I have never met any one of his name. His
voice and handwriting, however, are very much like those of a man I used
to know."

Farrar was very poor company that evening, and left me early. I went
to my rooms and had taken down a volume of Carlyle, who can generally
command my attention, when there came a knock at the door.

"Come in," I replied, with an instinctive sense of prophecy.

This was fulfilled at once by the appearance of the Celebrity. He was
attired--for the details of his dress forced themselves upon me vividly
--in a rough-spun suit of knickerbockers, a colored-shirt having a large
and prominent gold stud, red and brown stockings of a diamond pattern,
and heavy walking-boots. And he entered with an air of assurance that
was maddening.

"My dear Crocker," he exclaimed, "you have no idea how delighted I am to
see you here!"

I rose, first placing a book-mark in Carlyle, and assured him that I was
surprised to see him here.

"Surprised to see me!" he returned, far from being damped by my manner.
"In fact, I am a little surprised to see myself here."

He sank back on the window-seat and clasped his hands behind his head.

"But first let me thank you for respecting my incognito," he said.

I tried hard to keep my temper, marvelling at the ready way he had chosen
to turn my action.

"And now," he continued, "I suppose you want to know why I came out
here." He easily supplied the lack of cordial solicitation on my part.

"Yes, I should like to know," I said.

Thus having aroused my curiosity, he took his time about appeasing it,
after the custom of his kind. He produced a gold cigarette case, offered
me a cigarette, which I refused, took one himself and blew the smoke in
rings toward the ceiling. Then, raising himself on his elbow, he drew
his features together in such a way as to lead me to believe he was about
to impart some valuable information.

"Crocker," said he, "it's the very deuce to be famous, isn't it?"

"I suppose it is," I replied curtly, wondering what he was driving at;
"I have never tried it."

"An ordinary man, such as you, can't conceive of the torture a fellow in
my position is obliged to go through the year round, but especially in
the summer, when one wishes to go off on a rest. You know what I mean,
of course."

"I am afraid I do not," I answered, in a vain endeavor to embarrass him.

"You're thicker than when I used to know you, then," he returned with
candor. "To tell the truth, Crocker, I often wish I were back at the
law, and had never written a line. I am paying the penalty of fame.
Wherever I go I am hounded to death by the people who have read my books,
and they want to dine and wine me for the sake of showing me off at their
houses. I am heartily sick and tired of it all; you would be if you had
to go through it. I could stand a winter, but the worst comes
in the summer, when one meets the women who fire all sorts of
socio-psychological questions at one for solution, and who have
suggestions for stories." He shuddered.

"And what has all this to do with your coming here?" I cut in, strangling
a smile.

He twisted his cigarette at an acute angle with his face, and looked at
me out of the corner of his eye.

"I'll try to be a little plainer," he went on, sighing as one unused to
deal with people who require crosses on their t's. "I've been worried
almost out of my mind with attention--nothing but attention the whole
time. I can't go on the street but what I'm stared at and pointed out,
so I thought of a scheme to relieve it for a time. It was becoming
unbearable. I determined to assume a name and go to some quiet little
place for the summer, West, if possible, where I was not likely to be
recognized, and have three months of rest."

He paused, but I offered no comment.

"Well, the more I thought of it, the better I liked the idea. I met a
western man at the club and asked him about western resorts, quiet ones.
'Have you heard of Asquith?' says he. 'No,' said I; 'describe it.' He
did, and it was just the place; quaint, restful, and retired. Of course
I put him off the track, but I did not count on striking you. My man
boxed up, and we were off in twenty-four hours, and here I am."

Now all this was very fine, but not at all in keeping with the
Celebrity's character as I had come to conceive it. The idea that
adulation ever cloyed on him was ludicrous in itself. In fact I thought
the whole story fishy, and came very near to saying so.

"You won't tell anyone who I am, will you?" he asked anxiously.

He even misinterpreted my silences.

"Certainly not," I replied. "It is no concern of mine. You might come
here as Emil Zola or Ralph Waldo Emerson and it would make no difference
to me."

He looked at me dubiously, even suspiciously.

"That's a good chap," said he, and was gone, leaving me to reflect on the
ways of genius.

And the longer I reflected, the more positive I became that there existed
a more potent reason for the Celebrity's disguise than ennui. As actions
speak louder than words, so does a man's character often give the lie to
his tongue.



CHAPTER IV

A Lion in an ass's skin is still a lion in spite of his disguise.
Conversely, the same might be said of an ass in a lion's skin. The
Celebrity ran after women with the same readiness and helplessness that
a dog will chase chickens, or that a stream will run down hill. Women
differ from chickens, however, in the fact that they find pleasure in
being chased by a certain kind of a man. The Celebrity was this kind of
a man. From the moment his valet deposited his luggage in his rooms,
Charles Wrexell Allen became the social hero of Asquith. It is by straws
we are enabled to tell which way the wind is blowing, and I first noticed
his partiality for Miss Trevor from the absence of the lively conflicts
she was wont to have with Farrar. These ceased entirely after the
Celebrity's arrival. It was the latter who now commanded the
conversation at our table.

I was truly sorry for Farrar, for I knew the man, the depth of his
nature, and the scope of the shock. He carried it off altogether too
well, and both the studied lightness of his actions and the increased
carelessness of his manner made me fear that what before was feigned,
might turn to a real bitterness.

For Farrar's sake, if the Celebrity had been content with women in
general, all would have been well; but he was unable to generalize, in
one sense, and to particularize, in another. And it was plain that he
wished to monopolize Miss Trevor, while still retaining a hold upon the
others. For my sake, had he been content with women alone, I should have
had no cause to complain. But it seemed that I had an attraction for
him, second only to women, which I could not account for. And I began to
be cursed with a great deal of his company. Since he was absolutely
impervious to hints, and would not take no for an answer, I was helpless.
When he had no engagement he would thrust himself on me. He seemed to
know by intuition--for I am very sure I never told him--what my amusement
was to be the mornings I did not go to the county-seat, and he would
invariably turn up, properly equipped, as I was making my way with judge
Short to the tennis court, or carrying my oars to the water. It was in
vain that I resorted to subterfuge: that I went to bed early intending to
be away before the Celebrity's rising hour. I found he had no particular
rising hour. No matter how early I came down, I would find him on the
veranda, smoking cigarettes, or otherwise his man would be there with a
message to say that his master would shortly join me if I would kindly
wait. And at last I began to realize in my harassed soul that all
elusion was futile, and to take such holidays as I could get, when
he was off with a girl, in a spirit of thankfulness.

Much of this persecution I might have put up with, indeed, had I not
heard, in one way or another, that he was doing me the honor of calling
me his intimate. This I could not stand, and I soberly resolved to leave
Asquith and go back to town, which I should indeed have done if
deliverance had not arrived from an unexpected quarter.

One morning I had been driven to the precarious refuge afforded by the
steps of the inn, after rejecting offers from the Celebrity to join
him in a variety of amusements. But even here I was not free from
interruption, for he was seated on a horse-block below me, playing with
a fox terrier. Judge Short had gone to town, and Farrar was off for a
three days' cruise up the lake. I was bitterly regretting I had not gone
with him when the distant notes of a coach horn reached my ear, and
I descried a four-in-hand winding its way up the inn road from the
direction of Mohair.

"That must be your friend Cooke," remarked the Celebrity, looking up.

There could be no doubt of it. With little difficulty I recognized on
the box the familiar figure of my first important client, and beside him
was a lady whom I supposed to be Mrs. Farquhar Fenelon Cooke, although I
had had no previous knowledge that such a person existed. The horses
were on a brisk trot, and Mr. Cooke seemed to be getting the best out of
them for the benefit of the sprinkling of people on the inn porch.
Indeed, I could not but admire the dexterous turn of the wrist which
served Mr. Cooke to swing his leaders into the circle and up the hill,
while the liveried guard leaned far out in anticipation of a stumble.
Mr. Cooke hailed me with a beaming smile and a flourish of the whip as
he drew up and descended from the box.

"Maria," he exclaimed, giving me a hearty grip, "this is the man that won
Mohair. My wife, Crocker."

I was somewhat annoyed at this effusiveness before the Celebrity, but I
looked up and caught Mrs. Cooke's eye. It was the calm eye of a general.

"I am glad of the opportunity to thank you, Mr. Crocker," she said
simply. And I liked her from that moment.

Mr. Cooke at once began a tirade against the residents of Asquith for
permitting a sandy and generally disgraceful condition of the roads. So
roundly did he vituperate the inn management in particular, and with such
a loud flow of words, that I trembled lest he should be heard on the
veranda. The Celebrity stood by the block, in an amazement which gave
me a wicked pleasure, and it was some minutes before I had the chance
to introduce him.

Mr. Cooke's idea of an introduction, however, was no mere word-formula:
it was fraught with a deeper and a bibulous meaning. He presented the
Celebrity to his wife, and then invited both of us to go inside with him
by one of those neat and cordial paraphrases in which he was skilled.
I preferred to remain with Mrs. Cooke, and it was with a gleam of hope
at a possible deliverance from my late persecution that I watched the two
disappear together through the hall and into the smoking-room.

"How do you like Mohair?" I asked Mrs. Cooke.

"Do you mean the house or the park?" she laughed; and then, seeing my
embarrassment, she went on: "Oh, the house is just like everything else
Fenelon meddles with. Outside it's a mixture of all the styles, and
inside a hash of all the nationalities from Siamese to Spanish. Fenelon
hangs the Oriental tinsels he has collected on pieces of black baronial
oak, and the coat-of-arms he had designed by our Philadelphia jewellers
is stamped on the dining-room chairs, and even worked into the fire
screens."

There was nothing paltry in her criticism of her husband, nothing she
would not have said to his face. She was a woman who made you feel this,
for sincerity was written all over her. I could not help wondering why
she gave Mr. Cooke line in the matter of household decoration, unless
it was that he considered Mohair his own, private hobby, and that she
humored him. Mrs. Cooke was not without tact, and I have no doubt she
perceived my reluctance to talk about her husband and respected it.

"We drove down to bring you back to luncheon," she said.

I thanked her and accepted. She was curious to hear about Asquith and
its people, and I told her all I knew.

"I should like to meet some of them," she explained, "for we intend
having a cotillon at Mohair,--a kind of house-warming, you know. A party
of Mr. Cooke's friends is coming out for it in his car, and he thought
something of inviting the people of Asquith up for a dance."

I had my doubts concerning the wisdom of an entertainment, the success
of which depended on the fusion of a party of Mr. Cooke's friends and
a company from Asquith. But I held my peace. She shot a question at me
suddenly:

"Who is this Mr. Allen?"

"He registers from Boston, and only came a fortnight ago," I replied
vaguely.

"He doesn't look quite right; as though he had been set down on the wrong
planet, you know," said Mrs. Cooke, her finger on her temple. "What is
he like?"

"Well," I answered, at first with uncertainty, then with inspiration, "he
would do splendidly to lead your cotillon, if you think of having one."

"So you do not dance, Mr. Crocker?"

I was somewhat set back by her perspicuity.

"No, I do not," said I.

"I thought not," she said, laughing. It must have been my expression
which prompted her next remark.

"I was not making fun of you," she said, more soberly; "I do not like Mr.
Allen any better than you do, and I have only seen him once."

"But I have not said I did not like him," I objected.

"Of course not," said Mrs. Cooke, quizzically.

At that moment, to my relief, I discerned the Celebrity and Mr. Cooke in
the hallway.

"Here they come, now," she went on. "I do wish Fenelon would keep his
hands off the people he meets. I can feel he is going to make an
intimate of that man. Mark my words, Mr. Crocker."

I not only marked them, I prayed for their fulfilment.

There was that in Mr. Cooke which, for want of a better name, I will call
instinct. As he came down the steps, his arm linked in that of the
Celebrity, his attitude towards his wife was both apologetic and defiant.
He had at once the air of a child caught with a forbidden toy, and that
of a stripling of twenty-one who flaunts a cigar in his father's face.

"Maria," he said, "Mr. Allen has consented to come back with us for
lunch."

We drove back to Mohair, Mr. Cooke and the Celebrity on the box, Mrs.
Cooke and I behind. Except to visit the boathouses I had not been to
Mohair since the day of its completion, and now the full beauty of the
approach struck me for the first time. We swung by the lodge, the keeper
holding open the iron gate as we passed, and into the wide driveway,
hewn, as it were, out of the virgin forest. The sandy soil had been
strengthened by a deep road-bed of clay imported from the interior, which
was spread in turn with a fine gravel, which crunched under the heavy
wheels. From the lodge to the house, a full mile, branches had been
pruned to let the sunshine sift through in splotches, but the wild nature
of the place had been skilfully retained. We curved hither and thither
under the giant trees until suddenly, as a whip straightens in the
snapping, one of the ancient tribes of the forest might have sent an
arrow down the leafy gallery into the open, and at the far end we caught
sight of the palace framed in the vista. It was a triumph for Farrar,
and I wished that the palace had been more worthy.

The Celebrity did not stint his praises of Mohair, coming up the drive,
but so lavish were his comments on the house that they won for him a
lasting place in Mr. Cooke's affections, and encouraged my client to pull
up his horses in a favorable spot, and expand on the beauties of the
mansion.

"Taking it altogether," said he, complacently, "it is rather a neat box,
and I let myself loose on it. I had all these ideas I gathered knocking
about the world, and I gave them to Willis, of Philadelphia, to put
together for me. But he's honest enough not to claim the house. Take,
for instance, that minaret business on the west; I picked that up from a
mosque in Algiers. The oriel just this side is whole cloth from Haddon
Hall, and the galleried porch next it from a Florentine villa. The
conical capped tower I got from a French chateau, and some of the
features on the south from a Buddhist temple in Japan. Only a little
blending and grouping was necessary, and Willis calls himself an
architect, and wasn't equal to it. Now," he added, "get the effect. Did
you ever see another house like it?"

"Magnificent!" exclaimed the Celebrity.

"And then," my client continued, warming under this generous
appreciation, "there's something very smart about those colors. They're
my racing colors. Of course the granite's a little off, but it isn't
prominent. Willis kicked hard when it came to painting the oriel yellow,
but an architect always takes it for granted he knows it all, and a--"

"Fenelon," said Mrs. Cooke, "luncheon is waiting."

Mrs. Cooke dominated at luncheon and retired, and it is certain that both
Mr. Cooke and the Celebrity breathed more freely when she had gone. If
her criticisms on the exterior of the house were just, those on the
interior were more so. Not only did I find the coat-of-arms set forth on
the chairs, fire-screens, and other prominent articles, but it was even
cut into the swinging door of the butler's pantry. The motto I am afraid
my client never took the trouble to have translated, and I am inclined to
think his jewellers put up a little joke on him when they chose it.
"Be Sober and Boast not."

I observed that Mrs. Cooke, when she chose, could exert the subduing
effect on her husband of a soft pedal on a piano; and during luncheon she
kept, the soft pedal on. And the Celebrity, being in some degree a
kindred spirit, was also held in check. But his wife had no sooner left
the room when Mr. Cooke began on the subject uppermost in his mind. I
had suspected that his trip to Asquith that morning was for a purpose at
which Mrs. Cooke had hinted. But she, with a woman's tact, had aimed to
accomplish by degrees that which her husband would carry by storm.

"You've been at Asquith sometime, Crocker," Mr. Cooke began, "long enough
to know the people."

"I know some of them," I said guardedly. But the rush was not to be
stemmed.

"How many do you think you can muster for that entertainment of mine?
Fifty? I ought to have fifty, at least. Suppose you pick out fifty, and
send me up the names. I want good lively ones, you understand, that will
stir things up."

"I am afraid there are not fifty of that kind there," I replied.

His face fell, but brightened again instantly. He appealed to the
Celebrity.

"How about it, old man?" said he.

The Celebrity answered, with becoming modesty, that the Asquithians were
benighted. They had never had any one to show them how to enjoy life.
But there was hope for them.

"That's it," exclaimed my client, slapping his thigh, and turning
triumphantly to me, he continued, "You're all right, Crocker, and know
enough to win a damned big suit, but you're not the man to steer a
delicate thing of this kind."

This is how, to my infinite relief, the Celebrity came to engineer the
matter of the housewarming; and to him it was much more congenial. He
accepted the task cheerfully, and went about it in such a manner as to
leave no doubt in my mind as to its ultimate success. He was a master
hand at just such problems, and this one had a double attraction. It
pleased him to be thought the arbiter of such a worthy cause, while he
acquired a prominence at Asquith which satisfied in some part a craving
which he found inseparable from incognito.

His tactics were worthy of a skilled diplomatist. Before we left Mohair
that day he had exacted as a condition that Mr. Cooke should not appear
at the inn or in its vicinity until after the entertainment. To this my
client readily pledged himself with that absolute freedom from suspicion
which formed one of the most admirable traits of his character. The
Celebrity, being intuitively quick where women were concerned, had
surmised that Mrs. Cooke did not like him; but as her interests in the
affair of the cotillon coincided with those of Mr. Cooke, she was
available as a means to an end. The Celebrity deemed her, from a social
standpoint, decidedly the better part of the Mohair establishment, and he
contrived, by a system of manoeuvres I failed to grasp, to throw her
forward while he kept Mr. Cooke in the background.

He had much to contend with; above all, an antecedent prejudice against
the Cookes, in reality a prejudice against the world, the flesh, and the
devil, natural to any quiet community, and of which Mohair and its
appurtenances were taken as the outward and visible signs. Older people
came to Asquith for simplicity and rest, and the younger ones were
brought there for these things. Nearly all had sufficient wealth to
seek, if they chose, gayety and ostentation at the eastern resorts. But
Asquithians held gayety and ostentation at a discount, and maintained
there was gayety enough at home.

If any one were fitted to overcome this prejudice, it was Mrs. Cooke.
Her tastes and manners were as simple as her gowns. The Celebrity, by
arts unknown, induced Mrs. Judge Short and two other ladies to call at
Mohair on a certain afternoon when Mr. Cooke was trying a trotter on the
track. The three returned wondering and charmed with Mrs. Cooke; they
were sure she had had no hand in the furnishing of that atrocious house.
Their example was followed by others at a time when the master of Mohair
was superintending in person the docking of some two-year-olds, and
equally invisible. These ladies likewise came back to sing Mrs. Cooke's
praises. Mrs. Cooke returned the calls. She took tea on the inn
veranda, and drove Mrs. Short around Mohair in her victoria.
Mr. Cooke being seen only on rare and fleeting occasions, there gradually
got abroad a most curious misconception of that gentleman's character,
while over his personality floated a mist of legend which the Celebrity
took good care not to dispel. Farrar, who despised nonsense, was
ironical and non-committal when appealed to, and certainly I betrayed
none of my client's attributes. Hence it came that Asquith, before the
house-warming, knew as little about Farquhar Fenelon Cooke, the man, as
the nineteenth century knows about William Shakespeare, and was every
whit as curious. Like Shakespeare, Mr. Cooke was judged by his works,
and from these he was generally conceded to be an illiterate and
indifferent person of barbarous tastes and a mania for horses. He was
further described as ungentlemanly by a brace of spinsters who had been
within earshot on the veranda the morning he had abused the Asquith
roads, but their evidence was not looked upon as damning. That Mr. Cooke
would appear at the cotillon never entered any one's head.

Thus it was, for a fortnight, Mr. Cooke maintained a most rigid
seclusion. Would that he had discovered in the shroud of mystery the
cloak of fame!





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