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´╗┐Title: A Gentleman's Gentleman - 1909
Author: Smith, F. Hopkinson
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.

*** Start of this LibraryBlog Digital Book "A Gentleman's Gentleman - 1909" ***


By F. Hopkinson Smith



I had left Sandy MacWhirter crooning over his smouldering wood fire the
day Boggs blew in with news of the sale of Mac's two pictures at the
Academy, and his reply to my inquiry regarding his future plans (vaguely
connected with a certain girl in a steamer chair), "By the next steamer,
my boy," still rang in my ears, but my surprise was none the
less genuine when I looked up from my easel, two months later, at
Sonning-on-the-Thames and caught sight of the dear fellow, with Lonnegan
by his side, striding down the tow-path in search of me.

"By the Great Horn Spoon!" came the cry. And the next minute his big
arms were about my shoulders, his cheery laugh filling the summer air.

Lonnegan's greeting was equally hearty and spontaneous, but it came with
less noise.

"He's been roaring that way ever since we left London," said the
architect. "Ever since we landed, really," and he nodded at Mac.
"Awfully glad to see you, old man!"

The next moment the three of us were flat on the grass telling our
experiences, the silver sheen of the river flashing between the
low-branched trees lining the banks.

Lonnegan's story ran thus:

Mac had disappeared the morning after their arrival; had remained away
two weeks, reappearing again with a grin on his face that had frozen
stiff and had never relaxed its grip. "You can still see it; turn your
head, Mac, and let the gentleman see your smile." Since that time he had
spent his nights writing letters, and his days poring aver the morning's
mail. "Got his pocket full of them now, and is so happy he's no sort of
use to anybody." Mac now got his innings:

Lonnegan's airs had been insufferable and his ignorance colossal. What
time he could spare from his English tailor--"and you just ought to see
his clothes, and especially his checkerboard waistcoats"--had been spent
in abusing everything in English art that wasn't three hundred years
old, and going into raptures over Lincoln Cathedral. The more he saw of
Lonnegan the more he was convinced that he had missed his calling. He
might succeed as a floorwalker in a department store, where his airs and
his tailor-made upholstery would impress the hayseeds from the country,
but, as for trying to be--The rest was lost in a gurgle of smothered
laughter, Lonnegan's thin, white fingers having by this time closed over
the painter's windpipe.

My turn came now:

I had been at work a month; had my present quarters at the White Hart
Inn, within a stone's throw of where we lay sprawled with our faces
to the sun--the loveliest inn, by the way, on the Thames, and that was
saying a lot--with hand-polished tables, sleeve and trouser-polished
arm-chairs, Chippendale furniture, barmaids, pewter mugs, old and
new ale, tough bread, tender mutton, tarts--gooseberry and otherwise;
strawberries--two would fill a teacup--and _roses!_ Millions of
roses! "Well, you fellows just step up and look at 'em."

"And not a place to put your head," said Mac.

"How do you know?"

"Been there," replied Lonnegan. "The only decent rooms are reserved
for a bloated American millionaire who arrives to-day--everything else
chock-a-block except two bunks under the roof, full of spiders."

Mac drew up one of his fat legs, stretched his arms, pushed his
slouch hat from his forehead--he was still on his back drinking in the
sunshine--and with a yawn cried:

"They ought to be exterminated."

"The spiders?" grumbled Lonnegan.

"No, millionaires. They throw their money away like water; they crowd
the hotels. Nothing good enough for them. Prices all doubled, everything
slimed up by the trail of their dirty dollars. And the saddest thing in
it all to me is that you generally find one or two able-bodied American
citizens kotowing to them like wooden Chinese mandarins when the great
men take the air."

"Who, for instance?" I asked. No millionaires with any such outfit had
thus far come my way.

"Lonnegan, for one," answered Mac.

The architect raised his head and shot a long, horizontal glance at the
prostrate form of the painter.

"Yes, Lonnegan, I am sorry to say," continued Mac, his eyes fixed on the
yellow greens in the swaying tree-tops.

"I was only polite," protested the architect. "Lambert is a client of
mine; building a stable for him. Very level-headed man is Mr. Samuel
Lambert; no frills and no swelled head. It was Tommy Wing who was doing
the mandarin act 32 the other day at the Carlton--not me. Got dead
intimate with him on the voyage over and has stuck to him like a plaster
ever since. Calls him 'Sam' already--did to me."

"Behind his back or to his face?" spluttered Mac, tugging at his pipe.

"Give it up," said Lonnegan, pulling his hat over his face to shield his
eyes from the sun.

Mac raised himself to a sitting posture, as if to reply, fumbled in his
watch-pocket for a match, instead; shook the ashes from his brier-wood,
filled the bowl with some tobacco from his rubber pouch, drew the
lucifer across his shoe, waited until the blue smoke mounted skyward and
resumed his former position. He was too happy mentally--the girl in the
steamer chair was responsible--and too lazy physically to argue with
anybody. Lonnegan rolled over on his elbows, and feasted his eyes on
the sweep of the sleepy river, dotted with punts and wherries, its
background of foliage in silhouette against the morning sky. The Thames
was very lovely that June, and the trained eye of the distinguished
architect missed none of its beauty and charm. I picked up my brushes
and continued work. The spirit of perfect camaraderie makes such
silences not only possible but enjoyable. It is the restless chatterer
that tires.

Lonnegan's outbreak had set me to thinking. Lambert I knew only by
reputation---as half the world knew him--a man of the people: lumber
boss, mill owner, proprietor of countless acres of virgin forest; many
times a millionaire. Then came New York and the ice-cream palace with
the rock-candy columns on the Avenue, and "The Samuel Lamberts" in the
society journals. This was all the wife's doings. Poor Maria! She had
forgotten the day when she washed his red flannel shirts and hung them
on a line stretched from the door of their log cabin to a giant white
pine--one of the founders of their fortune. If Tommy Wing called him
"Sam" it was because old "Saw Logs," as he was often called, was lonely,
and Tommy amused him.

Tommy Wing--Thomas Bowditch Wing, his card ran--I had known for years.
He was basking on the topmost branches now, stretched out in the
sunshine of social success, swaying to every movement made by his
padrones. He was a little country squirrel when I first came across him,
frisking about the root of the tree and glad enough to scamper close to
the ground. He had climbed a long way since then. All the blossoms
and tender little buds were at the top, and Tommy was fond of buds,
especially when they bloomed out into yachts and four-in-hands, country
houses, winters in Egypt (Tommy an invited guest), house parties on Long
Island or at Tuxedo, or gala nights at the opera with seats in a first

In the ascent he had forgotten his beginnings--not an unnatural thing
with Tommies: Son of a wine merchant--a most respectable man, too; then
"Importer" (Tommy altered the sign); elected member of an athletic club;
always well dressed, always polite;--invited to a member's house to
dine; was unobtrusive and careful not to make a break. Asked again to
fill a place at the table at the last moment-accepted gracefully, not
offended--never offended at anything. Was willing to see that the young
son caught the train, or would meet the daughter at the ferry and escort
her safely to school. "So obliging, so trustworthy," the mother said.
Soon got to be "among those present" at the Sherry and Delmonico balls.
Then came little squibs in the society columns regarding the movements
of Thomas Bowditch Wing, Esquire. He knew the squibber, and often gave
her half a column. Was invited to a seat in the coaching parade, saw
his photograph the next morning in the papers, he sitting next to the
beautiful Miss Carnevelt. He was pretty near to the top now; only a
little farther to where the choicest buds were bursting into flower;
too far up, though, ever to recognize the little fellows he had left
frisking below. There was no time now to escort school-girls or fill
unexpectedly empty seats unless they were exclusive ones. His excuse was
that he had accepted an invitation to the branch above him. The mother
of the school-girl now, strange to say, instead of being miffed, liked
him the better, and, for the first time, began to wonder whether she
hadn't made too free with so important a personage. As a silent apology
she begged an invitation for a friend to the Bachelor Ball, Tommy being
a subscriber and entitled to the distribution of a certain number of
tickets. Being single and available, few outings were given without
him--not only week-ends (Weak Odds-and-Ends, Mac always called them),
but trips to Washington, even to Montreal in the winter. Then came the
excursions abroad--Capri, Tangier, Cairo.

It was on one of these jaunts that he met "Saw Logs," who, after sizing
him up for a day, promptly called him "Tommy," an abbreviation instantly
adopted by Maria--so fine, you know, to call a fellow "Tommy" who knew
everybody and went everywhere. Sometimes she shrieked his name the
length of the deck. On reaching London it was either the Carlton or
the Ritz for Lambert. Tommy, however, made a faint demur. "Oh, hang the
expense, Tommy, you are my guest for the summer," broke out Lambert.
What a prime minister you would have made, Tommy, in some kitchen

There were no blossoms now out of his reach. Our little squirrel had
gained the top! To dazzle the wife and daughter with the priceless
value of his social position and then compel plain, honest, good-natured
Samuel Lambert to pay his bills, and to pay those bills, too, in such
a way, "by Heavens, sir, as not to wound a gentleman's pride":
that, indeed, was an accomplishment. Had any other bushy tail of his
acquaintance ever climbed so high or accomplished so much?

A movement on my right cut short my revery.

MacWhirter had lifted his big arms above his head, and was now twisting
his broad back as if for a better fulcrum.

"Lonny--" he cried, bringing his body once more to a sitting posture.

"Yes, Mac."

"In that humiliating and servile interview which you had a short time
ago with your other genuflector, the landlord of the White Hart Inn,
did you in any way gain the impression that every ounce of grub in
his shebang was reserved for the special use of his highness, Count
Kerosene, or the Earl of Asphalt, or the Duke of Sausage, or whatever
the brute calls himself?--or do you think he can be induced to--"

"Yes, I think so."

"Think what, you obtuse duffer?"

"That he can be induced."

"Well, then, grab that easel and let us go to luncheon."


I had not exaggerated the charm of the White Hart Inn--nobody can. I
know most of the hostelries up and down this part of the river--the
"Ferry" at Cookham, the "French Horn" across the Backwater, one or two
at Henley, and a lovely old bungalow of a tavern at Maidenhead; but this
garden of roses at Sonning has never lost its fascination for me.

For the White Hart is like none of these. It fronts the river, of
course, as they all do--you can almost fish out of the coffee-room
window of the "Ferry" at Cookham--and all the life of the boat-houses,
the punts and wherries, with their sprawling cushions and bunches of
jack-straw oars, and tows, back and forth, of empty boats, goes on just
as it does at the other boat-landings, up and down the river; but, at
the White Hart, it is the rose garden that counts! Planted in rows, like
corn, their stalks straight as walking-sticks and as big; then a flare
of smaller stalks like umbrella ribs, the circle covered with Prince
Alberts, Cloth-of-Golds, Teas, Saffrons, Red Ramblers (the old gardener
knows their names; I don't). And the perfume that sweeps toward you and
the way it sinks into your soul! Bury your face in a bunch of them, if
you don't believe it.

Then the bridge! That mouldy old mass of red brick that makes three
clumsy jumps before it clears the river, the green rushes growing about
its feet. And the glory of the bend below, with the fluff of elm, birch
and maple melting into the morning haze!

Inside it is none the less delightful. Awnings, fronting the garden,
stretch over the flowerbeds; vines twist their necks, the blossoms
peeping curiously as you take your coffee.

There is a coffee-room, of course, with stags' heads and hunting prints,
and small tables with old-fashioned flowers in tiny vases, as well as a
long serving board the width of the room, where everything that can be
boiled, baked or stewed and then served cold awaits the hungry.

It was at this long board that we three brought up, and it was not long
before Lonnegan and Mac were filling their plates, and with their own
hands, too, with thin cuts of cold roast beef, chicken and slivers of
ham, picking out the particular bread or toast or muffin they liked
best, bringing the whole out under the low awning with its screen of
roses, the swinging blossoms brushing their cheeks--some of them almost
in their plates.

From where we sat over our boiled and baked--principally boiled--we
could see not only the suite of rooms reserved for the great man and
his party--one end of the inn, really, with a separate entrance--but
we could see, too, part of the tap-room, with its rows of bottles, and
could hear the laughter and raillery of the barmaid as she served the
droppers-in and loungers-about. We caught, as well, the small square
hall, flanked by the black-oak counter, behind which were banked bottles
of various shapes and sizes, rows of pewter tankards and the like, the
whole made comfortable with chairs cushioned in Turkey red, and never
empty--the chairs, I mean; the tankards always were, or about to be.

This tap-room, I must tell you, is not a bar in the American sense,
nor is the girl a barkeeper in any sense. It is the open club of the
village, where everybody is welcome who is decent and agreeable. Even
the curate drops in--not for his toddy, perhaps (although "You can't
generally sometimes almost always tell," as Mac said), but for a word
with anybody who happens to be about. And so does the big man of the
village who owns the mill, and the gardener from Lord So-and-So's
estate, and the lord himself, for that matter, the groom taking his
"bitter" from the side window, with one eye on his high stepper polished
to a piano finish. All have a word or a good-morning or a joke with the
barmaid. She isn't at all the kind of a girl you think she is. Try it
some day and you'll discover your mistake. It's Miss Nance, or Miss
Ellen, or whatever else her parents fancied; or Miss Figgins, or
Connors, or Pugby--but it is never Nance or Nell.

Our luncheon over, we joined the circle, the curate making room for
Lonnegan, Mac stretching his big frame half over a settle.

"From the States, gentlemen, I should judge," said the curate in a
cheery tone--an athletic and Oxford-looking curate, his high white
collar and high black waistcoat gripping a throat and chest that showed
oars and cricket bats in every muscle. Young, too--not over forty.

I returned the courtesy by pleading guilty, and in extenuation,
presented my comrades to the entire room, Lonnegan's graceful body
straightening to a present-arms posture as he grasped the outstretched
hand of a brother athlete, and Mac's heartiness capturing every one
present, including the barmaid.

Then some compounded extracts were passed over the counter and the talk
drifted as usual (I have never known it otherwise) into comparisons
between the two "Hands Across the Sea" people. That an Englishman will
ever really warm to a Frenchman or a German nobody who knows his race
will believe, but he can be entirely comfortable (and the well-bred
Englishman is the shyest man living) with the well-bred American.

Lonnegan as chief spokesman, in answer to an inquiry, and with an
assurance born of mastery of his subject instantly recognized by the
listeners, enlarged on the last architectural horror, the skyscraper,
its cost, and on the occupations of the myriads of human bees who were
hived between its floors, all so different from the more modest office
structures around the Bank of England: adding that he had the plans of
two on his drawing table at home, a statement which confirmed the good
opinions they had formed of his familiarity with the subject.

I floated in with some comparisons touching upon the technic of the
two schools of water-color painting, and, finding that the curate had a
brother who was an R.A., backed out again and rested on my oars.

Mac, more or less concerned over the expected arrival, and anxious that
his listeners should not consider the magnate as a fair example of his
countrymen, launched out upon the absence of all class distinctions
at home-one man as good as another--making Presidents out of farmers,
Senators out of cellar diggers, every man a king--that sort of thing.

When Mac had finished--and these Englishmen _let you finish_--the
mill-owner, a heavy, red-faced man (out-of-doors exercise, not
Burgundy), with a gray whisker dabbed high up on each cheek, and a
pair of keen, merry eyes, threw back the lapels of his velveteen coat
(riding-trousers to match), and answered slowly:

"You'll excuse me, sir, but I stopped a while in the States, and I can't
agree with you. We take off our caps here to a lord because he is part
of our national system, but we never bow down to the shillings he keeps
in his strong box. You do."

The lists were "open" now. Mac fought valiantly, the curate helping him
once in a while; Lonnegan putting in a word for the several professions
as being always exempt--brains, not money, counting in their case--Mac
winning the first round with:

"Not all of us, my dear sir; not by a long shot. When any of our people
turn sycophants, it is you English who have coached them. A lord with
you is a man who doesn't have to work. So, when any of us come over
here to play--and that's what we generally come for--everybody, to our
surprise, kotows to us, and we acknowledge the attention by giving a
shilling to whoever holds out his hand. Now, nobody ever kotows to us at
home. We'd get suspicious right away if they did and shift our wallets
to the other pocket; not that we are not generous, but we don't like
that sort of thing. We do here--that is, some of us do, because it marks
the difference in rank, and we all, being kings, are tickled to death
that your flunkies recognize that fact the moment they clap eyes on us."

Lonnegan looked at Mac curiously. The dear fellow must be talking
through his hat.

"Now, I got a sudden shock on the steamer on my way home last fall,
and from an _American gentleman_, too--one of the best, if he was in
tarpaulins--and I didn't get over it for a week. No kotow about him, I
tell you. I wanted a newspaper the worst way, and was the first man to
strike the Sandy Hook pilot as he threw his sea-drenched leg over the
rail. 'Got a morning paper?' I asked. 'Yes, in my bag.' And he dumped
the contents on the deck and handed me a paper. I had been away from
home a year, mostly in England, and hadn't seen anybody, from a curator
in a museum to the manager of an estate, who wouldn't take a shilling
when it was offered him, and so from sheer force of habit I dropped a
trade dollar into his hand. You ought to have seen his face. 'What's
this for?' he asked. 'No use to me.' And he handed it back. I wanted to
go out and kick myself full of holes, I was so ashamed. And, after all,
it wasn't my fault. I learned that from you Englishmen."

The toot-toot of an automobile cut short the discussion.

The American millionaire had arrived!

Everybody now started on the run: landlord, two maids in blue dresses
with white cap strings flying, three hostlers, two garage men, four
dogs, all bowing and scraping--all except the dogs.

"What did I tell you?" laughed Mac, tapping the curate's broad chest
with the end of his plump finger. "That's the way you all do.
With us a porter would help him out, a hotel clerk assign him a room,
and that would end it. The next morning the only man to do him reverence
would be the waiter behind his chair figuring for the extra tip. Look at
them. Same old kotow. No wonder he thinks himself a duke."

The party had disembarked now and were nearing the door of the private
entrance, the two women in Mother Hubbard veils, the two men in
steamer-caps and goggles--the valet and maid carrying the coats and
parasols. The larger of the two men shed his goggles, changed his
steamer-cap for a slouch hat which his valet handed him, and disappeared
inside, followed by the landlord. The smaller man, his hands and arms
laden with shawls and wraps, gesticulated for an instant as if giving
orders to the two chauffeurs, waited until both machines had backed
away, and entered the open door.

"Who do you think the big man is, Mac?" Lonnegan asked.

"Don't know, and don't want to know."


"What! Saw Logs?"

"The same, and--yes--by Jove! That little fellow with the wraps is

A moment later Tommy reappeared and made straight for the barmaid.

"Get me some crushed ice and vermouth," he said. "We carry our Hollands
with us. Why, Mr. MacWhirter! and Mr. Lonnegan! and--" (I was the
"and"--but he seemed to have forgotten my name.) "Well, this _is_ a
surprise!" Neither the mill-owner nor the curate came within range of
his eyes.

"Where have I been? Well, I'll have to think. We did London for a
week--Savoy for supper--Prince's for luncheon--theatre every night--that
sort of thing. Picked up a couple of Gainsboroughs at Agnew's and some
tapestries belonging to Lord--forget his name--had a letter." (Here
Tommy fumbled in his pocket.) "No, I remember now, I gave it to Sam.
Then we motored to Ravenstock--looked over the Duke's stables--spent the
night with a very decent chap Sam met in the Rockies last year-son of
Lord Wingfall, and--"

The ice was ready now (it was hived in a keg and hidden in the cellar,
and took time to get at), and so was the vermouth and the glasses, all
on a tray.

"No, I'll carry it." This to the barmaid, who wanted to call a waiter.
"I never let anybody attend to this for Sam but myself"--this to us.
"I'll be back in a minute."

In a few moments he returned, picking up the thread of his discourse
with: "Where was I? Oh, yes, at Lord Wingfall's son's. Well, that's
about all. We are on our way now to spend a few days with--" Here he
glanced at the curate and the mill-owner, who were absorbing every word
that fell from his lips. "Some of the gentry in the next county--can't
think of their names--friends of Sam." It became evident now that
neither Mac nor Lonnegan intended introducing him to either of the

The barmaid pushed a second tray over the counter, and Tommy drew up a
chair and waved us into three others. "Sam is so helpless, you know," he
chatted on. "I can't leave him, really, for an hour. Depends on me for
everything. Funny, isn't it, that a man worth--well, anywhere from forty
to fifty millions of dollars, and made it all himself--should be that
way? But it's a fact. Very simple man, too, in his tastes, when you
know him. Mrs. Lambert and Rosie" (Mac stole a look at Lonnegan at the
familiar use of the last name, but Tommy flowed on) "got tired of the
_Cynthia_--she's a hundred and ninety feet over all, sixteen knots, and
cost a quarter of a million--and wanted Sam to get something bigger.
But the old man held out; wanted to know what I thought of it, and, of
course, I had to say she was all right, and that settled it. Just
the same way with that new house on the Avenue--you know it, Mr.
Lonnegan--after he'd spent one hundred and fifty thousand dollars
decorating the music-room--that's the one facing the Avenue--she thought
she'd change it to Louis-Seize. Of course Sam didn't care for the money,
but it was the dirt and plaster and discomfort of it all. By the way,
after dinner, suppose you and Mr. Lonnegan, and you, too"--this to
me--"come in and have a cigar with Sam. We've got some good Reina
Victorias especially made for him--glad to have you know him."

Mac gazed out of the open door and shut his teeth tight. Lonnegan looked
down into the custard-pie face of the speaker, but made no reply. Tommy
laid a coin on the counter, shot out his cuffs, said: "See you later,"
and sauntered out.

No! There were no buds or blossoms--nothing of any kind, for that
matter--out of Tommy's reach!

The mill-owner rose to his feet, straightened his square shoulders, made
a movement as if to speak, altered his mind, shook Mac's hand warmly,
and with a bow to the tap-room, and a special nod to the barmaid,
mounted his horse and rode off. The curate looked up and smiled, his
gaze riveted on Mac.

"One of your American gentlemen, sir?" he asked. The tone was most
respectful--not a trace of sarcasm, not a line visible about the corners
of his mouth; only the gray eyes twinkled.

"No," answered Mac grimly; "_a gentleman's gentleman_."

The next morning at sunrise Mac burst into our room roaring with
laughter, slapping his pajama-incased knee with his fat hand, the tears
streaming from his eyes.

"They've gone!" he cried. "Scooted! Saw Logs, Mrs. Saw, the piece of
kindling and her maid in the first car, and--"

He was doubled up like a jack-knife.

"And left Tommy behind!" we both cried.

"Behind!" Mac was verging on apoplexy now. "Behind! Not much. He was
tucked away in the other car with the valet!"

*** End of this LibraryBlog Digital Book "A Gentleman's Gentleman - 1909" ***

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