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Title: Bunker Bean
Author: Wilson, Harry Leon, 1867-1939
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
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 "Bunker Bean" ***

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BUNKER BEAN

by

HARRY LEON WILSON

Author of _The Spenders_, _The Lions of the Lord_, _The Boss of Little
Arcady_, etc.

Illustrated By F. R. Gruger

Garden City ... New York
Doubleday, Page & Company

1913



[Illustration: "Every time I get alone I just giggle myself into
spasms. Isn't it the funniest?"]



To H.G. WELLS



ILLUSTRATIONS


"Every time I get alone I just giggle myself into spasms. Isn't it
the funniest?"

It was a friendly young face he saw there, but troubled

"I feared he was discommoding you," ventured the Countess, elegantly
apologetic

"Daughter!" said Breede with half a glance at the flapper

In that instant Bean read the flapper's look, the look she had
puzzled him with from their first meeting

"Oh, put up your trinkets!" said Bean, with a fine affectation of
weariness

Thereafter, until late at night, the red car was trailed by the
taxi-cab

"Lumbago!" said Bean, both hands upon the life-belt



BUNKER BEAN



I


Bunker Bean was wishing he could be different. This discontent with
himself was suffered in a moment of idleness as he sat at a desk on a
high floor of a very high office-building in "downtown" New York. The
first correction he would have made was that he should be "well over six
feet" tall. He had observed that this was the accepted stature for a
hero.

And the name, almost any name but "Bunker Bean!" Often he wrote good
ones on casual slips of paper and fancied them his; names like
Trevellyan or Montressor or Delancey, with musical prefixes; or a good,
short, beautiful, but dignified name like "Gordon Dane." He liked that
one. It suggested something. But Bean! And Bunker Bean, at that! True,
it also suggested something, but this had never been anything desirable.
Just now the people in the outside office were calling him "Boston."

"Gordon Dane," well over six feet, abundant dark hair, a bit inclined to
"wave" and showing faint lines of gray "above the temples"; for Bean
also wished to be thirty years old and to have learned about women; in
short, to have suffered. Gordon Dane's was a face before which the eyes
of women would fall in half-frightened, half-ecstatic subjection, and
men would feel the inexplicable magnetism of his presence. He would be
widely remarked for his taste in dress. He would don stripes or checks
without a trace of timidity. He would quail before no violence of colour
in a cravat.

A certain insignificant Bunker Bean was not like this. With a soul
aspiring to stripes and checks that should make him a man to be looked
at twice in a city street, he lacked courage for any but the quietest
patterns. Longing for the cravat of brilliant hue, he ate out his heart
under neutral tints. Had he not, in the intoxication of his first free
afternoon in New York, boldly purchased a glorious thing of silk
entirely, flatly red, an article to stamp its wearer with distinction;
and had he not, in the seclusion of his rented room, that night hidden
the flaming thing at the bottom of a bottom drawer, knowing in his
sickened soul he dared not flaunt it?

Once, truly, had he worn it, but only for a brief stroll on a rainy
Sunday, with an entirely opaque raincoat buttoned closely under his
chin. Even so, he fancied that people stared through and through that
guaranteed fabric straight to his red secret. The rag burned on his
breast. Afterward it was something to look at beyond the locked door;
perhaps to try on behind drawn shades, late of a night. And how little
Gordon Dane would have made of such a matter! Floated in Bean's mind the
refrain of a clothing advertisement. "The more advanced dressers will
seek this fashion." "Something dignified yet different!" Gordon Dane
would be "an advanced dresser."

But if you have been afraid of nearly everything nearly all your life,
how then? You must be "dignified" only. The brave only may be
"different." It was all well enough to gaze at striking fabrics in
windows; but to buy and to wear openly, and get yourself pointed
at--laughed at! Again sounded the refrain of the hired bard of dress.
"_It is cut to give the wearer the appearance of perfect physical
development. And the effect so produced so improves his form that he
unconsciously strives to attain the appearance which the garment gives
him; he expands his chest, draws in his waist and stands erect._"

A rustling of papers from the opposite side of the desk promised a
diversion of his thoughts. Bean was a hireling and the person who
rustled the papers was his master, but the youth bestowed upon the great
man a look of profound, albeit not unkindly, contempt. It could be seen,
even as he sat in the desk-chair, that he was a short man; not an inch
better than Bean, there. He was old. Bean, when he thought of the
matter, was satisfied to guess him as something between fifty and
eighty. He didn't know and didn't care how many might be the years of
little Jim Breede. Breede was the most negligible person he knew.

He was nearly nothing, in Bean's view, if you came right down to it.
Besides being of too few inches for a man and unspeakably old, he was
unsightly. Nothing of the Gordon Dane about Breede. The little hair left
him was an atrocious foggy gray; never in order, never combed, Bean
thought. The brows were heavy, and still curiously dark, which made them
look threatening. The eyes were the coldest of gray, a match for the
hair in colour, and set far back in caverns. The nose was blunt, the
chin a mere knobby challenge, and between them was the unloveliest
moustache Bean had ever been compelled to observe; short, ragged, faded
in streaks. And wrinkles--wrinkles wheresoever there was room for them:
across the forehead that lost itself in shining yellow scalp; under the
eyes, down the cheeks, about the traplike mouth. He especially loathed
the smaller wrinkles that made tiny squares and diamonds around the back
of Breede's neck.

Sartorially, also, Bean found Breede objectionable. He forever wore the
same kind of suit. The very same suit, one might have thought, only Bean
knew it was renewed from time to time; it was the kind called "a decent
gray," and it had emphatically not been cut "to give the wearer the
appearance of perfect physical development." So far as Bean could
determine the sole intention had been to give the wearer plenty of room
under the arms and at the waist. Bean found it disgusting--a man who had
at least enough leisure to give a little thought to such matters.

Breede's shoes offended him. Couldn't the man pick out something natty,
a shapelier toe, buttons, a neat upper of tan or blue cloth--patent
leather, of course? But nothing of the sort; a strange, thin, nameless
leather, never either shiny or quite dull, as broad at the toe as any
place, no buttons; not even laces; elastic at the sides! Not _shoes_, in
any dressy sense. Things to be pulled on. And always the same, like the
contemptible suits of clothes.

He might have done a little something with his shirts, Bean thought; a
stripe or crossed lines, a bit of gay colour; but no! Stiff-bosomed
white shirts, cuffs that "came off," cuffs that fastened with hideous
metallic devices that Bean had learned to scorn. A collar too loose, a
black satin cravat, _and_ no scarf-pin; not even a cluster of tiny
diamonds.

From Breede and his ignoble attire Bean shifted the disfavour of his
glance to Breede's luncheon tray on the desk between them. Breede's
unvarying luncheon consisted of four crackers composed of a substance
that was said, on the outside of the package, to be "predigested," one
apple, and a glass of milk moderately inflated with seltzer. Bean
himself had fared in princely fashion that day on two veal cutlets
bathed in a German sauce of oily richness, a salad of purple cabbage, a
profusion of vegetables, two cups of coffee and a German pancake that of
itself would have disabled almost any but the young and hardy, or,
presumably, a German.

Bean guessed the cost of Breede's meal to be a bit under eight cents.
His own had cost sixty-five. He despised Breede for a petty economist.

Breede glanced up from his papers to encounter in Bean's eyes only a
look of respectful waiting.

"Take letter G.S. Hubbell gen' traffic mag'r lines Wes' Chicago dear sir
your favour twen'th instant--"

The words came from under that unacceptable moustache of Breede's like a
series of exhausts from a motorcycle. Bean recorded them in his
note-book. His shorthand was a marvel of condensed neatness. Breede had
had trouble with stenographers; he was not easy to "take." He spoke
swiftly, often indistinctly, and it maddened him to be asked to repeat.
Bean had never asked him to repeat, and he inserted the a's and the's
and all the minor words that Breede could not pause to utter. The letter
continued:

"--mus' have report at your earl's' convenience of earnings and expenses
of Grand Valley branch for las' four months with engineer's est'mate of
prob'le cost of repairs and maintenance for nex' year--"

Breede halted to consult a document. Bean glanced up with his look of
respectful waiting. Then he glanced down at his notes and wrote two
other lines of shorthand. Breede might have supposed these to record the
last sentence he had spoken, but one able to decipher the notes could
have read: "That is one rotten suit of clothes. For God's sake, why not
get some decent shoes next time--"

The letter was resumed. It came to its end with a phrase that almost won
the difficult respect of Bean. Of a rumour that the C. & G.W. would
build into certain coveted territory Breede exploded: "I can imagine
nothing of less consequence!" Bean rather liked the phrase and the way
Breede emitted it. That was a good thing to say to some one who might
think you were afraid. He treasured the words; fondled them with the
point of his pencil. He saw himself speaking them pithily to various
persons with whom he might be in conflict. There was a thing now that
Gordon Dane might have hurled at his enemies a dozen times in his
adventurous career. Breede must have something in him--but look at his
shiny white cuffs with the metal clasps, on the desk at his elbow!

Bean had lately read of Breede in a newspaper that "Conservative judges
estimate his present fortune at a round hundred million." Bean's own
stipend was thirty dollars a week, but he pitied Breede. Bean could
learn to make millions if he should happen to want them; but poor old
Breede could never learn to _look_ like anybody.

There you have Bunker Bean at a familiar, prosaic moment in an afternoon
of his twenty-third year. But his prosaic moments are numbered. How few
they are to be! Already the door of Enchantment has swung to his scared
touch. The times will show a scar or two from Bean. Bean the prodigious!
The choicely perfect toy of Destiny at frolic! Bean the innocent--the
monstrous!

       *       *       *       *       *

Those who long since gave Bean up as an insoluble problem were denied
the advantages of an early association with him. Only an acquaintance
with his innermost soul of souls could permit any sane understanding of
his works, and this it is our privilege, and our necessity, to make, if
we are to comprehend with any sympathy that which was later termed his
"madness." The examination shall be made quickly and with all decency.

Let us regard Bean through the glass of his earliest reactions to an
environment that was commonplace, unstimulating, dull--the little wooden
town set among cornfields, "Wellsville" they called it, where he came
from out of the Infinite to put on a casual body.

Of Bean at birth, it may be said frankly that he was not imposing. He
was not chubby nor rosy; had no dimples. His face was a puckered protest
at the infliction of animal life. In the white garments conventional to
his age he was a distressing travesty, even when he gurgled. In the nude
he was quite impossible to all but the most hardened mothers, and he was
never photographed thus in a washbowl. Even his own mother, before he
had survived to her one short year, began to harbour the accursed
suspicion that his beauty was not flawless nor his intelligence supreme.
To put it brutally, she almost admitted to herself that he was not the
most remarkable child in all the world. To be sure, this is a bit less
incredible when we know that Bean's mother, at his advent, thought far
less highly of Bean's father than on the occasion, seven years before,
when she had consented to be endowed with all his worldly goods. In the
course of those years she came to believe that she had married beneath
her, a fact of which she made no secret to her intimates and least of
all to her mate, who, it may be added, privately agreed with her. Alonzo
Bean, after that one delirious moment at the altar, had always
disbelieved in himself pathetically. Who was he--to have wed a Bunker!

When little Bean's years began to permit small activities it was seen
that his courage was amazing: a courage, however, that quickly
overreached itself, and was sapped by small defeats. Tumbles down the
slippery stairway, burns from the kitchen stove, began it. When a prized
new sailor hat was blown to the centre of a duck-pond he sought to
recover it without any fearsome self-communing. If faith alone could
uphold one, Bean would have walked upon the face of the waters that day.
But the result was a bald experience of the sensations of the drowning,
and a lasting fear of any considerable body of water. Ever after it was
an adventure not to be lightly dared to cross even the stoutest bridge.

And flying! A belief that we can fly as the birds is surely not
unreasonable at the age when he essayed it. Nor should a mere failure to
rise from the ground destroy it. One must leap from high places, and
Bean did so. The roof of the chicken house was the last eminence to have
an experimental value. On his bed of pain he realized that we may not
fly as the birds; nor ever after could he look without tremors from any
high place.

Such domestic animals as he encountered taught him further fear. Even
the cat became contemptuous of him, knowing itself dreaded. That
splendid courage he was born with had faded to an extreme timidity.
Before physical phenomena that pique most children to cunning endeavour,
little Bean was aghast.

And very soon to this burden of fear was added the graver problems of
human association. From being the butt of capricious physical forces he
became a social unit and found this more terrifying than all that had
gone before. At least in the physical world, if you kept pretty still,
didn't touch things, didn't climb, stayed away from edges and windows
and water and cows and looked carefully where you stepped, probably
nothing would hurt you. But these new terrors of the social world lay in
wait for you; clutched you in moments of the most inoffensive enjoyment.

His mother seemed to be director-general of these monsters, a ruthless
deviser of exquisite tortures. There were unseasonable washings,
dressings, combings and curlings--admonitions to be "a little
gentleman." Loathsomely garbed, he was made to sit stiffly on a chair in
the presence of falsely enthusiastic callers; or he was taken to call on
those same callers and made to sit stiffly again while they, with
feverish affectations of curiosity, asked him what his name was,
something they already knew at least as well as he did; made to overhear
their ensuing declarations that the cat had got his tongue, which he
always denied bitterly until he came to see through the plot and learned
to receive the accusation in stony silence.

Boys of his own age took hold of him roughly and laid him in the dust,
jeeringly threw his hat to some high roof, spat on his new shoes. Even
little girls, divining his abjectness, were prone to act rowdyish with
him. And this especially made him suffer. He comprehended, somehow, that
it was ignoble for a man child to be afraid of little girls.

Money was another source of grief. Not an exciting thing in itself, he
had yet learned that people possessing desirable objects would insanely
part with them for money. Then came one of the Uncle Bunkers from over
Walnut Shade way, who scowled at him when leaving and gave him a dime.
He voiced a wish to exchange this for sweets with a certain madman in
the village who had no understanding of the value of his stock. His
mother demurred; not alone because candy was unwholesome, but because
the only right thing to do with money was to "save" it. And his mother
prevailed, even though his father coarsely suggested that all the candy
he could ever buy with Bunker money wouldn't hurt him none. The mother
said that this was "low," and the father retorted with equal lowness
that a rigid saving of all Bunker-given money wouldn't make no one a
"Croosus," neither, if you come down to _that_.

It resulted in his being told that he could play freely with his dime
one whole afternoon before the unexciting process of saving it began.
Well enough, that! He had grown too fearful of life to lose that coin
vulgarly out in the grass, as another would almost surely have done.

But he was beguiled in the mart of the money changers. To him, standing
safely within the front gate where nothing could burn him, fall upon
him, or chase him, "playing" respectfully with his new dime, came one of
slightly superior years and criminal instincts demanding to inspect the
treasure. The privilege was readily accorded, to arouse only contempt.
The piece was too small. The critic himself had a bigger one, and showed
it.

The two coins were held side by side. Bean was envious. The small coin
was of silver, the larger of copper, but he was no petty metallurgist.
He wanted to trade and said so. The newcomer assented with a large air
of benevolence, snatched the despised smaller coin and ran hastily
off--doubtless into a life of prosperous endeavour. And little Bean,
presently found by his mother crooning over a large copper cent, was
appalled by what followed. He had brought back "a bigger money," yet he
had done something infamous. It was the first gleam of an incapacity for
finance that was one day to become brilliant. He came to think money was
a pretty queer thing. People cheated it from you or took it away for
your own good. Anyhow, it was not a matter to bother about. You never
had it long enough.

Then there was language. Language was words, and politeness. Certain
phrases had to be mouthed to strangers, designed to imply a respect he
was generally far from feeling. This was bad enough, but what was worse
was that you couldn't use just any word you might hear, however
beautiful it sounded. For example, there was the compelling utterance he
got from the two merry gentlemen who passed him at the gate one day. So
jolly were they with their songs and laughter that he followed them a
little way to where they sat under a tree and drank turn by turn from a
bottle. His ear caught the thing and his lips shaped it so cunningly
that they laughed more than ever. He returned to his gate, intoning it;
the fresh voice rose higher as the phrasing became more familiar. Then
he was on the porch, chanting as a bard from the mere sensuous beauty of
the words. Through the open door he saw three faces. The minister and
his wife were calling on his mother.

The immediate happenings need not be set down. After events again became
coherent he was choking back sobs and listening to the minister pray for
those of unclean lips. And the minister prayed especially for one among
them that he might cease to pervert the right ways of the Lord. He knew
this to mean himself, for his mother glared over at him where he knelt;
he was grateful for the kneeling posture at that moment; he would not
have cared to sit. But all he had learned was that if you are going to
use words freely it had much better be when you are alone; this, and
that the minister had enormous feet, kneeling there with the toes of his
boots dug into the carpet.

No sooner was this language spectre laid than another confronted him;
that of class distinction. Certain people were "low" and must be shunned
by the high, unless the high perversely wished to be thought equally
low. His mother was again the arbiter. Her rule as applied to children
of his own age wrought but little hardship. She considered other
children generally to be low, and her son feared them for their deeds of
coarsely humorous violence. But he was never quite able to believe that
his father was an undesirable associate.

In all his young life he had found no sport so good as riding on the
seat beside that father while he drove the express wagon; a shiny green
wagon with a seat close to the front and a tilted rest for one's feet,
drawn by a grand black horse with a high-flung head, that would make
nothing of eating a small boy if it ever had the chance. You drove to
incoming trains, which was high adventure. But that was not all. You
loaded the wagon with packages from the trains and these you proceeded
to deliver in a leisurely and important manner. And some citizen of
weight was sure to halt the wagon and ask if that there package of stuff
from Chicago hadn't showed up yet, and it was mighty funny if it hadn't,
because it was ordered special. Whereupon you said curtly that you
didn't know anything about _that_--you couldn't fetch any package if it
hadn't come, could you? And you drove on with pleased indignation.

Yet so fine a game as this was held by his mother to be unedifying. He
would pick up a fashion of speech not genteel; he would grow to be a
"rough." She, the inconsequent fair, who had herself been captivated by
the driver of that very wagon, a gay blade directing his steed with a
flourish! To be sure, she had found him doing this in a mist of romance,
as one who must have his gallant fling at life before settling down. But
the mist had cleared. Alonzo Bean, no longer the gay blade, had settled
down upon the seat of his wagon. Once he had touched the guitar, sung an
acceptable tenor, jested with life. Now he drove soberly, sang no more,
and was concerned chiefly that his meals be served at set hours.

Small wonder, perhaps, that the mother should have feared the Bean and
laboured to cultivate the true Bunker strain in her offspring. Small
wonder that she kept him when she could from the seat of that wagon and
from the deadening influence of a father to whom Romance had broken its
fine promises. Little Bean distressed her enough by playing at
express-wagon in preference to all other games. He meant to drive a real
one when he was big enough--that is, at first. Secretly he aspired
beyond that. Some day, when he would not be afraid to climb to a higher
seat, he meant to drive the great yellow 'bus that also went to trains.
But that was a dream too splendid to tell.

In the summer of his seventh year, when his mother was finding it
increasingly difficult to supply antidotes for this poison, she even
consented to his visiting some other Beans. Unfortunately, there were no
Bunkers to harbour the child of one who had made so palpable a
mésalliance; but the elder Beans would gladly receive him, and they at
least had never driven express wagons.

To the little boy, who had no sense of their relationship, they were
persons named "Gramper" and "Grammer" whom he would do well to look down
upon because they were not Bunkers. So much he understood, and that he
was to ride in a stage and find them on a remote farm. It was to be the
summer of his first feat of daring since he had reached years of moral
discretion.

He was still so timid at the beginning of the wonderful journey that
when the kind old gentleman who drove the stage stopped his horses at a
point on the road where ripe red apples hung thickly on a tree, climbed
the fence and returned with a capacious hat full of the fruit, he was
chilled with horror at the crime. He had been freely told what was
thought of people, and what was done with them, who took things not
their own. Afraid to decline the two apples proffered by the robber, who
resumed his seat and ate brazenly of his loot, the solitary passenger
would still be no party to the outrage. He presently dropped his own two
apples over the back of the stage, and later, lacking the preacher's
courage, averred that he had eaten them--and couldn't eat another one,
thank you. He was not a little affected by the fine bravado with which
the old man ate apple after apple along miles of the road, full in the
gaze of passersby, to whom he nodded in open-faced greeting, as might an
honest man; but he was disappointed that there was no quick dragging to
a jail, nor smiting by the hand of God, which quite as often occurred,
if his mother and the minister knew anything about such matters. He
decided that at least the elderly reprobate would wake up in the dark
that very night and cry out in mortal agony under the realization of his
sin.

And yet he, the unsullied, the fine theoretical moralist, was to return
along that road a thief. A thief of parts, of depraved daring.

"Gramper" and "Grammer" proved to be an incredibly old couple, brown and
withered and gray of locks, shrunken in stature, slow and feeble in
action, and even rather timid themselves in their greetings. They made
much of this grandchild, but they were diffident. Slowly it came to his
knowledge that he was set up as a creature to adore. He enjoyed a
blissful new sensation of being deferred to. Thereafter he lorded it
over them, speaking in confident tones and making wild demands of
entertainment. His mother had been right. They were Beans and,
therefore, not much. He had brought his own silver napkin-ring and had
meant to show them how wonderfully he folded and rolled his napkin after
each meal. But it seemed they possessed no napkins whatever. Even his
mother hadn't thought anything so repulsive as that of these people. He
now boldly played the new game at table that his mother had frowned on.
This was to measure off your meat and potatoes into an equal number of
"bites," so that they would "come out even." If you were careful and
counted right, the thing could be done every time.

And for the first time in all his years he asked for more pie. Of course
this was anarchy. He knew well enough that one piece of pie is the
heaven-allotted portion; that no one, even partly a Bunker, should crave
beyond it; yet this fatuous old pair seemed to invite just that
licentiousness, and they watched him with doting eyes while he swaggered
through his second helping.

If more had been needed to show the Beanish lowness, it would have come
after the first supper, for Gramper and Grammer sat out on a little
vine-covered porch and smoked cob-pipes which they refilled at intervals
from a sack of tobacco passed companionably back and forth. His own
father was supposed to smoke but once a week, on Sunday, and then a
cigar such as even a male Bunker might reputably burn. But a _pipe_, and
between the lips of Grammer! She managed it with deftness and exhaled
clouds of smoke into the still air of evening with a relish most painful
to her amazed descendant. Yet she inspired him with an unholy ambition.

Asked the next day about the habit of smoking, Gramper said it was a bad
habit; that it stunted people and shortened their days. Both he and
Grammer were victims and warnings. Grammer had lumbago sometimes so you
wouldn't hardly believe any one could suffer that way and live. As for
Gramper himself, he had a cough brought on by tobacco that would carry
him off dead one of these days; yes, sir, just like that! And then, to
point his warning, Gramper coughed falsely. Even to the unpractised ear
of his grandson the cough did not ring true. It lacked poignance.

Late that afternoon, when both the old ones slept, he abstracted a pipe,
stuffed it with the rich black flakes and fled with matches to a nook of
charming secrecy in the midst of the lilac clump. Thence arose presently
clouds of smoke from the strongest tobacco money could buy.

At last he had dared something that didn't hurt him. He puffed
valiantly, blowing out the smoke even as Grammer had done. Up to a
certain moment his exaltation was intense, his scared soul expanding to
greater deeds.

Then he coughed rather alarmingly. But that was to be expected. He drew
in another breath of the stuff and coughed again. It was an honest
cough; no doubt about that. Perhaps Gramper's cough had been honest.
Perhaps the pipe he had selected was Gramper's own pipe, the one that
made coughs. He became conscious of something more than throaty
discomfort. Tiny beads of sweat bejewelled his brow, the lilac bush
began to revolve swiftly about him. He must have taken Grammer's pipe
after all--the one that led to lumbago. From revolving with a mere
horizontal motion the lilacs now began also to whirl vertically. He had
eaten a great deal at dinner....

A pallid remnant of himself declined supper that night. Never could he
sit at table again to eat of food. Gramper and Grammer were at first
alarmed and there was talk of sending for a veterinary, the nearest to a
professional man of medicine within miles and miles. But this talk died
out after Gramper had made a cursory examination of the big yard, with
especial attention to the lilac clump, where a pipe and other evidence
was noticed. After that they not only became strangely reassured, but
during their evening smoke on the little porch they often chuckled as if
relishing in secret some rare jest. It did not occur to Bean that they
laughed at him. He did not suspect that any one could laugh at a little
boy who had nearly died of lumbago. And he sat far away that night. The
sight of the fuming pipes made him dizzy. His lesson had told. He was
never to become an accomplished smoker.

His new spirit of adventure being thus blunted, he spent much of the
next day indoors. Grammer opened the "front room" for him, no small
concession, for this room was never put to vulgar use; rarely entered,
indeed, save once a month for dusting. Here he found an atmosphere in
keeping with his own chastened gloom, a musty air of mortality and
twilight.

Such poor elegance as could be achieved by Beans alone, unaided by any
Bunker, was here concentrated; a melodeon that groaned to his touch,
with the startling effect of a voice from a long-closed tomb; a
centre-table, luminous with varnish; gilded chairs in formal array;
portraits in gilded frames; and best of all, a "whatnot," a thing to fit
a corner, having many shelves and each shelf loaded with fascinating
objects that maddened one because they must not be touched. Varnished
pine-cones, flint arrow-heads, statuettes set on worsted mats, tiny
strange boxes rarely ornamented--you mustn't even shake them to see if
they contained anything--a small stuffed alligator in the act of
climbing a pole; a frail cup and saucer; a watch-chain fashioned from
Grammer's hair probably long before she fell into evil habits; a pink
china dog that simpered; a dusty black cigar with a gay red-and-gold
belt that had once upon a time been given to Gramper by a gentleman in
Chicago; a silver cup inscribed "Baby"; a ball of clearest glass, bigger
than any marble, with a white camel at its centre looking out
unconcernedly; a gilded horseshoe adorned with a bow of blue ribbon; an
array of treasure, in short, that made one suspect the Beans might have
been something after all if only they had tried.

Then on the lower shelf, when Grammer, relying on his honour, had left
the room, he made his wondrous discovery--a thing more beautiful than
ever he had dreamed of beauty; a thing that caught all the light in the
room and shot it back like a risen sun; a thing that excited, enchained,
satisfied with a satisfaction so deep that somehow it became pain. It
was a shell from the sea, polished to a dazzling brilliance of opal and
jade, amethyst and sapphire, delicately subdued, blending as the tints
in the western sky at sunset, soft, elusive, fluent. To his rapturously
shocked soul, it was a living thing. Instantly a spell was upon him;
long he gazed into its depths. It was more than deep; it was bottomless.
In some magic solution he there beheld himself and all the world;
imperiously it commanded his being. To his ear utterance came from that
lucent abyss, a murmur of voices, a confusion of tones; and then
invisible presences seemed to reach out greedy hands for him. It was no
place for a small boy, and his short legs twinkled as he fled.

Out in the friendly, familiar yard, he looked curiously about him,
basking in the sudden peace of it. A light wind stirred in the trees,
the sky was a void of blue, the scent of the lilacs came to him. That
was all reassuring; but something more came: a consciousness that he
could translate only as something vast, yet without shape or substance,
that opened to him, enfolded him, lifted him. It was a vision of
boundless magnitudes and himself among them--among them and with a power
he could put upon them. While it lasted he had a child's dim vision of
the knowledge that life would be big for him. He heard again the
confusion of voices, and his own among them, in far spacious places. He
always remembered this moment. In after years he knew it had been given
him then to run an eye along the line of his destiny.

The moment passed; his mind was again vacant. He picked a green apple
from the low tree under which he stood, bit into it, chewed without
enthusiasm, then hurled the remnant at an immature rabbit that he saw
regarding him from the edge of the lilac clump. The missile went wild,
but the rabbit fled and Bean pursued it. He was not afraid of a
rabbit--not of a young rabbit.

Returning from the chase, an unavailing one, he believed, only because
the game used quite unfair tactics of concealment, he remembered the
shell. A longing for possession seized him. It was more than that. The
thing was already his; had always been his. Yet he foresaw
complications. His ownership might be stupidly denied.

He went in to drag Grammer again before the whatnot, his mind sharpened
to subtlety.

"Are everything there yours?" He pointed to the top shelf.

"Everything!"

He lowered the pointing finger to the second shelf.

"Are everything there yours?"

"All of 'em!"

"Everything _there_?"

"Yes, yes!"

"And this one, too?"

"For the land's sake, yes!" averred Grammer of the choice contents of
the fourth shelf. She was baking pies and found herself a bit impatient
of this new game.

"Well, that's all, now!" and he dismissed her, not daring to inquire as
to the lower shelf. He had seen the way things were going--a sickening
way. But, having shrewdly stopped at the lower shelf, having prevented
Grammer from saying that those valuable objects were also hers, he had
still the right to come into his own. If the shell mightn't belong to
her it might belong to him; therefore it did belong to him; which, as
logic, is not so lame as it sounds. At least it is a workaday average.

It occurred to him once to ask for the shell bluntly. But reason forbade
this. It was not conceivable that any one having so celestial a treasure
would willingly part with it. When a thing was yours you took it, with
dignity, but quietly.

During the remainder of his stay he was not conspicuously an occupant of
the front room. No day passed that he did not contrive at least one look
at his wonderful shell, but he craftily did not linger there, nor did he
ever utter words about the thing, though these often crowded perilously
to his lips.

A later day brought a letter to Grammer, and Gramper delightedly let it
be known that the doctor at Wellsville had brought little Bean a fine
new baby brother. Bean himself was not delighted at this. He had
suffered the ministrations of that same doctor and he could imagine no
visit of his to result in a situation at all pleasant to any one
concerned. If he had brought a baby it was doubtless not a baby that
people would care to have around the house. He was not cheered when told
that he might now go home.

He meant to stay on, and said so.

But the second day brought another letter that had a curious effect on
Gramper and Grammer. Grammer cried, and Gramper told him with a strange,
grave manner that now he must go. He knew that he was not told why;
something, he overheard them agree, needn't be told "just yet." This was
rather exciting and reconciled him to leaving.

He crept softly down the narrow stairs that night, alleging, when called
to by Grammer, the need of a drink of water. When he returned his hands
trembled about the shell. Swiftly it went to the bottom of his small
box, his extra clothing, all his little belongings, being packed
cleverly about it.

They kissed him many times the next morning, and when he looked back
under the trees to where the old couple stood in front of the little
weather-beaten house he saw that Grammer was crying again. His
conscience hurt him a little; he wondered how they would get along
without the shell. But they couldn't have it, because it was his shell.

The stage turned after a bit, and suddenly there was Gramper at the
roadside, breathless after his run across a corner of the east forty.
Instantly he was in the clutch of a great fear; the loss had been
discovered. He sat frozen, waiting.

But Gramper only flourished the napkin-ring, and humorously taunted him
with not having packed everything, after all. The stage drove on, but
for the next mile his breathing was jerky.

Toward the end of the day-long ride--Gramper couldn't be running after
them _that_ far--he surrendered to his exultation, opened the box and
drew out the shell, fondling it, fascinated anew by its varying sheen,
excited by the freedom with which he now might touch it. Again he was
the sole passenger and he called to the old driver, to whom nothing at
all seemed to have happened because of his filching fruit.

"See my shell I found at Grammer's!"

But the old man was blind to beauty. He turned a careless eye upon the
treasure, turned it off again with a formless grunt that might have been
perfunctory praise, and resumed his half-muttered talk to himself,
marked by little oblique nods of triumph--some endless dispute that he
seemed to hold with an invisible opponent.

The owner of the shell was chilled but not daunted. There would surely
be others less benighted who must acclaim the shell's charm.

Presently he was at the familiar front gate and his father, looking
unusual, somehow, came to lift him down.

"See my shell I found at Grammer's!"

"Your mother is dead."

"See my shell I found at Grammer's!"

"Your mother is dead."

It was the sinister iteration by which he was stricken, rather than the
news itself. The latter only stunned. His hand in his father's, he went
up the walk and into the house. There were women inside, women who moved
with an effect of bustling stillness, the same women who had so often
asked him what his name was. They seemed to know it well enough now. He
was aware that his entrance created no little sensation. One of them
kissed him and told him not to cry, but he had no thought of crying. He
became aware of the thing in his hands.

"See my shell I found at Grammer's!"

The invitation was a general one. They looked in silence and some of
them moved about, and then through a doorway he saw in the next room an
object long and dark and shining set on two chairs.

He had never seen anything like it, but its suggestion was evil. The
women waited. Something seemed to be expected of some one. His father
led him into that room and lifted him up to see. His mother's face was
there under a glass. He could see that she wore her pretty blue dress,
and on one arm beside her was something covered with white. He called
softly to her.

"Mamma! Mamma!"

But she did not open her eyes.

Then he was out again where the people were, and the people seemed to
forget about him. He went to his little room under the sloping roof. He
had not let go of the shell and now, in the fading light from the low
window, he lost himself once more in its depths. Inwardly he knew that a
terror lurked near, but he had not yet felt it. Only when bedtime came
did the continued silence of his mother become meaningful. When he was
left alone, he cried for her, still clutching his shell.

The minister came the next day, and many people, and the minister talked
to them about his mother. The two Uncle Bunkers were there, grim,
hard-mouthed, glaring, for they hated each other as only brothers can
hate. He wondered if they would still let him be partly a Bunker, now
that his mother was gone. He wondered also at the novel consideration he
saw being shown to his father. Dressed in a new suit of black, with an
unaccustomed black hat, his father was plainly become a man of
importance. He was one apart, and people of undoubted consequence
deferred to him--to the very last. He earnestly wished his mother could
see that; his nervous little mother with the flushed face and tired
eyes, always terrifically concerned about one small matter or another.
He thought she would have liked to see that his father was some one,
after all.



II


The Chicago epoch began a year later. The true nature of its causes
never lay quite clearly in the mind of Bean. There was, first, an
entirely new Uncle Bunker whom he had never seen, but whom he at once
liked very much. He was a younger, more beautiful uncle, with a gay,
light manner and expensive clothing. He wore a magnificent gold watch
and chain, and jewelled rings flashed from his white fingers as he, in
absent moments, daintily passed a small pocket-comb through the meshes
of his lustrous brown side-whiskers. Little Bean knew that he did
something on a board in Chicago; that he "operated" on the Board of
Trade was the accustomed phrasing. He liked the word, and tried to
picture what "operating" might mean in relation to a board.

The good people of Wellsville regarded this uncle with quite all the
respect so flashing a figure deserved. Not so the two other Uncle
Bunkers from over Walnut Shade way. Their first known agreement, voiced
of this financier, was in saying something wise about a fool and his
money.

Later, and perhaps for the last time on earth, they agreed once more.
That was when the news of his marriage came to them--for what was she?
Nothing but his landlady's daughter! Snip of a girl that helped her
mother run a cheap Chicago boarding-house! Him that could have taken his
pick, if he was going to be a fool and tie himself up! You could bet
that the pair had "worked" him, that mother and the girl; landed him for
his money, that was plain! Well, he'd made his bed!

Bean was not slow to liken this uncle to his mother, who had also
"made her bed." He had at first a misty notion that the bride might
a little resemble his father, a notion happily dispelled when he saw
her. For the pair came to Wellsville. It was a sort of honeymoon
combined vaguely with business. The bride was wonderfully pretty,
Bean thought; dark and dainty and laughing, forever talking the most
irresistible "baby-talk" to her adoring mate. Her name for him was
"Boo'ful."

Bean at once fell deeply in love with this bride, a passion that was to
endure beyond the life of most such affairs. She professed an
infatuation equal to his own, and regretted that an immediate marriage,
which he timidly advocated in the course of their first interview, was
not practicable. That she was frivolous, light-minded, and would never
settle down to be a good worker, was a village verdict he scorned. Who
would have her otherwise? Not he, nor the adoring Boo'ful, it is
certain. He determined to go to live at her house, and, strangely
enough--for these sudden plans of his were most often discouraged--the
thing seemed feasible. For one thing, his father was going to bring home
a new mother; a lady, he gathered, who had not only settled down to be a
good worker, but who, in espousing his father, would curiously not marry
beneath her. Without being told so, he had absorbed from his first
mother a conviction that this was possible to but few women. He felt a
little glow of pride for his father in this affair.

Another matter that seemed to bear on his going away was that this
brilliant and human Uncle Bunker was a "trustee." Not only a trustee,
but _his_ trustee; his very own, like his shell, or anything. This led
to his discovery that he had money. His mother, it seemed, had left it
to him; Bunker money that the two older uncles had sought and failed to
divert from her on the occasion of her wedding one below her station.
Money! and the capable Uncle Bunker as trustee of that money! Money one
could buy things with! He was pleasantly conscious of being rather
important under the glance of familiars. Even his father spoke formal
words of counsel to him, as if a gulf was between them--his father now
bereft of all Bunker prestige, legal or social.

And the new uncle was to "educate" him, though this was to be paid for
out of that money of his very own. He was rudely shocked to learn that
you had to pay money to go to school. Loathing school as he did, to pay
money for your own torture--money that would buy things--seemed
unutterably silly. But despite this inbecility the prospect retained its
glamour.

He would have suffered punishments even worse than school for the
privilege of existing near that beautiful bride, whom he was now
calling, at her especial request, "Aunt Clara." She readily understood
any affair that he chose to explain to her; understood about his shell
and said it was the most beautiful thing in all the world. She
understood, too, and was deeply sympathetic about Skipper, the dog.
Skipper was one of a series of puppies that Bean had appropriated from
the public highway. Some had shamefully deserted him after a little time
of pampering. Others, and these were the several that had howled
untimely in the far night, had mysteriously disappeared. Bean had
sometimes a hurt suspicion that his father knew more than he cared to
tell about these vanishings. But Skipper had stayed and had not howled.
Buffeted wastrel of a thousand casual amours, soft-haired, confiding,
ungainly, he was rich in understanding if not in beauty. And yet he must
be left. Even the discriminating and ever-just Aunt Clara felt that
Skipper would not do well in a great city. Of course she was not clumsy
enough to suggest that there were other dogs in the world, as did her
less discerning husband. But she said that it would come out all right,
and Bean trusted her. She knew, too, what would happen on his first
night away, and came softly to his bed and solaced him as he lay crying
for Skipper.

Those first Chicago days were rich in flavour. The city was a marvel of
many terrors, a place of weird sounds, strange shapes and swift
movements, among which--having been made timid by much adversity--you
had need to be very, very careful if your hand was in no one's. The
house itself was wonderful: a house of real brick and very lofty. If you
started in the basement you could go "upstairs" three distinct times in
it before you reached the top. He had never imagined such a house for
any but kings to live in. Within were many rooms; he hardly could count
them all; and regal furnishings, gay with colour; and, permeating it
all, a most appetizing odour of cooked food, eloquent tale of long-eaten
banquets, able reminder of those to come.

Out beside the front door was a rather dingy sign that said "Boarders
Wanted." His deduction after reading the sign was that the person who
wanted the boarders was Aunt Clara's mother. She was like Aunt Clara in
that she was dark and small, but in nothing else. She did not wear
pretty dresses nor laugh nor address baby talk to "Boo'ful." She was
very old and not nice to look at, Bean thought; and an uneasy woman, not
knowing how to be quiet. Mostly she worked in the kitchen, after a hasty
morning tour of the house to "do" the rooms. Bean was much surprised to
learn that her name, too, was Clara. She did not look at all like any
one whose name would be Clara.

And presently there was to be a house even more magnificent than this,
where they would all live together and where, so they jested, the old
Clara wouldn't know what to do, because there would be nothing to do.
The house would be ready just as soon as Boo'ful made his "next turn,"
and that was so near in time that there was already a fascinating
picture of the lines of the house, white lines on blue paper, over which
Boo'ful and Aunt Clara spent many an evening in loving dispute. It
seemed that you could change the house by merely changing those lines.
Sometimes they put a curve into the main stairway or doubled the area of
stained-glass window in the music-room; sometimes it was a mere detail
of alteration in the butler's pantry, or the coachman's room over the
stable. The old Clara displayed no interest in these details. She seemed
to be content to go on wanting boarders.

This was not, as he saw it, an unlovely want. It surrounded her with gay
companions at meal-time; they were "like one big family," as one of the
number would frequently observe. He was the one that most often set them
all to laughing by his talk like that of a German who speaks English
imperfectly, which he didn't have to do at all. It was only
make-believe, but very funny.

After this joyous group and his Aunt Clara, who really came first, his
preference in humans was for a lady who lived two doors away. If you
rang her bell she might be one of three persons. It depended on what you
were looking for. She might be the manicure and chiropodist whose sign
was displayed; she might be Madam Wanda, the world-renowned clairvoyant,
sittings from 9 A.M. to 5 P.M., Advice on Love, Marriage and Business;
sign also displayed; or she might be merely Mrs. Jackson, with a choice
front room for a single gentleman, as declared by the third sign. In any
case she was a smiling, plump lady with a capable blue eye and abundant
dark hair that was smooth and shiny.

It was in company with his uncle that he first made her acquaintance.
His uncle knew all that one need know about Love and Marriage, but it
seemed that his knowledge of Business could be extended. There were
times when only the gifts of a world-renowned clairvoyant could enable
one to say what May wheat was going to do.

The acquaintance, lightly enough begun, ripened soon to intimacy, and so
were the eyes of Bean first opened to mysteries that would later affect
his life so vitally. He was soon carrying wood and coal up the back
stairs of Mrs. Jackson, in return for which the lady ministered to him
in her professional capacities. At their first important session on a
rainy Saturday of leisure she trimmed and polished each of his ten
finger-nails, told his past, present and future--he was going to cross
water and there was a dark gentleman he had need to beware of--and
suggested that his feet might need attention.

He squirmingly demurred at this last operation, and successfully
resisted it. But the bonds of their friendship were sealed over a light
collation which she served. She was a vegetarian, she told him. You
couldn't get on to a high spiritual plane if you ate the corpses of
murdered animals. But her food seemed sufficing and she drank beer which
he brought her in a neat pitcher from the cheerful store on the corner
where they sold such things. Beer, she explained to him, was a strictly
vegetable product, though not the thing for growing boys. The young must
discriminate, even among vegetables.

They liked each other well and in a little time he had absorbed the
simple tale of her activities. When you rented rooms, people sometimes
left without paying you. So had gone Professor de Lavigne, the
chiropodist; so had vanished the original Madam Wanda. They had left
their signs, and nothing else. The rest was simple after you had been
seeing how they did it--a little practice with a nail-file, a little
observation of parties that came in with crêpe on, to whom you said,
"Standing right there I see some one near and dear to you that has
lately passed on to the spirit land"; or male parties that looked all
fussed up and worried, to whom you said that the deal was coming out all
right, only they were always to act on their first impulse and look out
for a man with kind of brownish hair who carried a gold watch and
sometimes wore gloves. She said it was strange how she could "hit it"
sometimes, especially where there were initials in the hats they left
outside in the hall, or a name inside the overcoat pocket. It was
wonderful what she had been able to tell parties for a dollar.

Bean cared little for these details, but he was excited by the theory
back of them; a world from which the unseen spirits of the dead will
counsel and guide us in our daily affairs if we will listen. It was a
new terror added to a world of terrors--they were all about you,
striving with futile hands to touch you, whispering words of cheer or
warning to your deaf ears.

Mrs. Jackson herself believed it implicitly and went each week to
consult one or another of the more advanced mediums. The last one had
seen the spirit of her Aunt Mary, a deceased person so remote in time
that she had been clean forgotten. But it was a valuable pointer. When
you come to think about it, at least seven parties out of ten, if they
were any way along in years, had a dead Aunt Mary. And it was best to go
to the good ones. Mrs. Jackson admitted that. You paid more, but you got
more.

Uncle Bunker became of this opinion very soon. What Mrs. Jackson
disclosed to him about May wheat had seemed to be hardly worth the
dollar she asked. He began going to the good ones, and Bean gathered
that even their superior gifts left something to be desired. The
brilliant uncle began to accustom his home circle to frowns. Bean and
the older Clara (she was beginning to complain about not sleeping and a
pain in her side) were sensible of this change, but the younger Clara
only pouted when she noticed it at all, prettily accusing her splendid
consort of not caring for her as he had once professed to. She spent
more time over her hair and shopped extensively for feminine trappings.

Then one day his uncle came home, a slinking wreck of beauty, and told
Aunt Clara that all was lost save honour. Bean heard the interesting
announcement, and gathered, after a question from his aunt, that his own
patrimony had been a part of that all which was lost save honour. He
heard his uncle add tearfully that one shot would end it now.

He was frightened by this, but his Aunt Clara seemed not to be. He heard
her say, "There, there! Did a nassy ol' martet do adainst 'ums!" And
later she was seen to take him up tea and toast and chicken.

       *       *       *       *       *

The years seemed to march more swiftly then--school and growing and
little changes in the house. Boo'ful never fired the shot that would
have ended all. The older Clara inconsequently died and the frivolous
Clara took her place in the kitchen. She had not corrected her light
manner, but slowly she changed with the years until she was almost as
faded as the old Clara had been. More ambitious, however, and working to
better purpose. They went to a new and finer house that would hold more
boarders; and the sign, which was lettered in gold, said, "Boarders
Taken," a far more dignified sign than the old with its frank appeal of
"Boarders Wanted." That new sign intimated a noble condescension.

Aunt Clara had not only settled down to be a worker, but she had proved
to be a manager. Boo'ful actually performed little services about the
house, staying in the kitchen at meal-time to carve and help serve the
food. Aunt Clara had been unexpected adamant in the matter of his taking
a fine revenge on the market that had gone against him. She refused to
provide the very modest sum he pleaded for to this end, and as the two
old Uncle Bunkers were equally obdurate--they said they had known when
he married that flutter-budget just how he would end--his leisure was
never seriously menaced.

Aunt Clara was especially firm about the money because of the
considerable life-insurance premium she soon began to pay. It was her
whim that little Bean had not been of competent years to lose all save
honour, and she had discovered a life-insurance company whose officers
were mad enough to compute Boo'ful's loss to the world in dollars and
cents. He was, in fact, considered an excellent risk. He did not fade
after the manner of the busy Aunt Clara, that gay little wretch whose
girlish graces lingered on incongruously--like jests upon a tombstone.

Bean grew to college years. Aunt Clara had been insistent about the
college; it was to be the best business college in Chicago. Bean
matriculated without formality and studied stenography and typewriting.
Aunt Clara had been afraid that he might "get in" with a fast college
set and learn to drink and smoke and gamble. It may be admitted that he
wished to do just these things, but he had observed the effects of
drink, his one experience with tobacco remained all too vivid, and
gambling required more capital than the car fare he was usually provided
with. Besides, you came to a bad end if you gambled. It led to other
things.

Nor would he, on the public street, join with any number of his class in
the college yell. He was afraid a policeman would arrest him. Even in
the more mature years of a comparatively blameless life he remained
afraid of policemen, and never passed one without a tremor. All of which
conduced to his efficiency as a student. When others fled to their
questionable pleasures he was as likely as not to remain in his chair
before a typewriter, pounding out again and again, "_The swift brown fox
jumps over the lazy dog--_" a dramatic enough situation ingeniously
worded to utilize nearly all the letters of our alphabet.

At last he was pronounced competent, received a diploma (which Aunt
Clara framed handsomely and hung in her own room beside the pastel
portrait of Boo'ful in his opulent prime) and took up a man's work.

       *       *       *       *       *

The veil that hangs between mortal eyes and the Infinite had many times
been pierced for him by the able Mrs. Jackson. He was now to enter
another and more significant stage of his spiritual development.

His first employer was a noble-looking old man, white-bearded, and vast
of brow, who came to be a boarder at Aunt Clara's. He was a believer in
the cult of theosophy and specialized on reincarnation. Neither word was
luminous to Bean, but he learned that the old gentleman was writing a
book and would need an amanuensis. They agreed upon terms and the work
began. The book was a romance entitled, "Glimpses Through the Veil of
Time," and it was to tell of a soul's adventures through a prolonged
series of reincarnations. So much Bean grasped. The terminology of the
author was more difficult. When you have chiefly learned to write, "Your
favour of the 11th inst. came duly to hand and in reply we beg to
state--" it is confusing to be switched to such words as
"anthropogenesis" and to chapter headings like "Substituting Variable
Quantities for Fixed Extraordinary Theoretic Possibilities." Even when
the author meant to be most lucid Bean found him not too easy. "In order
to simplify the theory of the Karmic cycle," dictated the white-bearded
one for his Introduction, "let us think of the subplanes of the astral
plane as horizontal divisions, and of the types of matter belonging to
the seven great planetary Logoi as perpendicular divisions crossing
these others at right angles."

What Bean made of this in transcribing his notes need not be told. What
is solely important is that, as the tale progressed, he became
enthralled by the doctrine of reincarnation. It was of minor consequence
that he became expert in shorthand.

Had he lived before, would he live again? There must be a way to know.
"Alclytus," began an early chapter of the tale, "was born this time in
21976 B.C. in a male body as the son of a king, in what is now the
Telugu country not far from Masulipatam. He was proficient in riding,
shooting, swimming and the sports of his race. When he came of age he
married Surya, the daughter of a neighbouring rajah and they were very
happy together in their religious studies--"

Had he, Bunker Bean, perhaps once espoused the daughter of a rajah, and
been happy in religious studies with her? Had he, perchance, been even
the rajah himself? Why not?

The romance was never finished. A worried son of the old gentleman
appeared one day, alleged that he had run off from a good home where he
was kindly treated, and by mild force carried him back. But he had
performed his allotted part in Bean's life.

A few books had been left and these were read. Death was a recurring
incident in an endless life. Wise men he saw had found this an answer to
all problems--founders of religions and philosophies--Buddha,
Pythagoras, Plato, the Christ. Wise moderns had accepted it, Max Müller
and Hume and Goethe, Fichte, Schelling, Lessing. Bean could not appraise
these authorities, but the names somehow sounded convincing and the men
had seemed to think that reincarnation was the only doctrine of
immortality a philosopher could consider.

It remained, then, to explore the Karmic past of Bunker Bean; not in any
mood of lightness. A verse quoted by the old man had given him pause:

  "Who toiled a slave may come anew a prince
    For gentle worthiness and merit won;
  Who ruled a king may wander earth in rags
    For things done and undone."

What might he have been? For ruling once as a king, a bad king, was he
now merely Bunker Bean, not precisely roaming the earth in rags, but
sidling timidly through its terrors, disbelieving in himself, afraid of
policemen, afraid of life?

So he confronted and considered the thing, fascinated by its vistas as
once he had been by the shell. If it were true that we cast away our
worn bodies and ever reclothe ourselves with new, why should not the
right member of Mrs. Jackson's profession one day unfold to him his
beginningless past?



III


"The courts havin' decided," continued Breede, in staccato explosions,
"that the 'quipment is nes'ry part of road, without which road would be
tot'ly crippled, you will note these first moggige 'quipment bonds take
pri'rty over first-moggige bonds, an' gov'n y'sef 'cordingly your ver'
truly--"

He glanced up at Bean, contracted his brows to a black menace and
emitted a final detonation.

"'S all for 's aft'noon!"

He bit savagely into his unlighted cigar and began to rifle through a
new sheaf of documents. Bean deftly effaced himself, with a parting
glare at the unlighted cigar. It was a feature of Breede that no
reporter ever neglected to mention, but Bean thought you might as well
chew tobacco and be done with it. Moreover, the cigars were not such as
one would have expected to find between the lips of a man whose present
wealth was estimated at a round hundred million. Bulger, in the outer
office, had given up trying to smoke them. He declared them to be the
very worst that could be had for any money.

Before beginning the transcription of his notes, Bean had to learn the
latest telephone news from the ball-ground. During the last half-hour he
had inwardly raged more than usual at Breede for being kept from this
information. Bulger always managed to get it on time, beginning with the
third inning, even when he took dictation from Breede's confidential
secretary, or from Tully, the chief clerk.

Bean looked inquiringly at Bulger now. Bulger nodded and presently
strolled from his own desk to Bean's, where he left a slip of paper
bearing the words, "Cubs, 3; Giants, 2; 1st 1/2 4th."

Bean had envied Bulger from the first for this man-of-the-world ease. In
actual person not superior to Bean, he had a temperament of daring. In
every detail he was an advanced dresser, specializing in flamboyant
cravats. He would have been Bean's model if Bean had been less a coward.
Bulger was nearly all that Bean wished to be. He condescended to his
tasks with an air of elegant and detached leisure that raised them to
the dignity of sports. He had quite the air of a wealthy amateur with a
passion for typewriting.

He had once done Breede's personal work, but had been banished to the
outer office after Bean's first try-out. Breede had found some
mysterious objection to him. Perhaps it was because Bulger would always
look up with pleased sagacity, as if he were helping to compose Breede's
letters. It may have been simple envy in Breede for his advanced
dressing. Bulger had felt no unkindness toward Bean for thus supplanting
him in a desirable post. But he did confide to his successor that if he,
Bulger, ever found Breede under his heel, Breede could expect no mercy.
Bulger would grind him--just like that!

Bean dramatized this as he wrote his letters; Breede pleasantly
disintegrating under the iron heel of Bulger: Breede "The Great
Reorganizer," as he was said to be known "in the Street," old "steel and
velvet," meeting a just fate! So nearly mechanical was his typewriting
that he spoiled one sheet of paper by transcribing two lines of
shorthand not meant to be a part of the letter. Only by chance did a
certain traffic manager of lines west of Chicago escape reading a
briefly worded opinion of the clothes he wore that would have puzzled
and might have pained him, for Breede, such had come to be his
confidence in Bean, always signed his letters without reading them over.
Bean gasped and wisely dismissed the drama of Bulger's revenge from his
mind.

At four-thirty the day's work ended and Bean was free to forget until
another day the little he had been unable to avoid learning about high
railroad finance; free to lead his own secret life, which was a thing
apart from all that wordy foolery.

He changed from his office coat to one alleged by its maker to give him
the appearance of perfect physical development, and descended to the
street-level in company with Bulger. Bean would have preferred to walk
down; he suffered the sensations of dying each time the elevator seemed
to fall, but he could not confess this to the doggish and intrepid
Bulger.

There were other weaknesses he had to cloak. Bulger proffered cigarettes
from a silver case at their first meeting. Bean declined.

"Doctor's orders," said he.

"Nerves?" suggested Bulger, expertly.

"Heart--gets me something fierce."

"Come in here to Tommy's and take a bracer," now suggested the
hospitable Bulger. But again the physician had been obdurate.

"Won't let me touch a thing--liver," said Bean. "Got to be careful of a
breakdown."

"Tough," said Bulger. "Man needs a certain amount of it, down here in
the street. Course, a guy can't _sop_ it up, like you see some do. Other
night, now--gang of us out, y'understand--come too fast for your Uncle
Cuthbert. Say, goin' up those stairs where I live I cert'n'ly must 'a'
sounded like a well-known clubman gettin' home from an Elks' banquet.
Head, next A.M.?--ask me, _ask_ me! Nothing of the kind! Don't I show
up with a toothache and con old Tully into a day off at the dentist's to
have the bridge-work tooled up. Ask me was I at the dentist's? Wow!
Not!--little old William J. Turkish bath for mine!"

Bean was moved to raw envy. But he knew himself too well. The specialist
he professed to have consulted had put a ban upon the simplest
recreations. Otherwise how could he with any grace have declined those
repeated invitations of Bulger's to come along and meet a couple of
swell dames that'd like to have a good time? Bulger, considered in
relation to the sex not his own, was what he himself would have termed
"a smooth little piece of work." Bean was not this. Of all his terrors
women, as objects of purely male attention, were the greatest. He longed
for them, he looked upon such as were desirable with what he believed to
be an evil eye, but he had learned not to go too close. They talked,
they disconcerted him horribly. And if they didn't talk they looked
dangerous, as if they knew too much. Some day, of course, he would nerve
himself to it. Indeed he very determinedly meant to marry, and to have a
son who should be trained from the cradle with the sole idea of making
him a great left-handed pitcher; but that was far in the future. He
longed tragically to go with Bulger and meet a couple of swell dames,
but he knew how it would be. Right off they would find him out and laugh
at him.

Bulger consumed another high-ball, filled his cigarette case, and the
two stood a moment on Broadway. Breede, the last to leave his office,
crossed the pavement to a waiting automobile.

"There's his foxy Rebates going to the arms of his family," said Bulger,
disrespectfully applying to Breede a term that had more than once made
him interesting to the Interstate Commerce Commission.

"See the three skirts in the back? That's the Missis and the two squabs.
Young one's only a flapper, but the old one's a peacherine for looks. Go
on, lamp her once!"

Bean turned his diffident gaze upon the occupants of the tonneau with a
sudden wild dream that he would stare insolently. But his eyes
unaccountably came to rest in the eyes of the young one--the flapper. He
saw only the eyes, and he felt that the eyes were seeing him. The motor
chugged slowly up Broadway, nosing for a path about a slowly driven
truck; the flapper looked back.

"Not half bad, that!" said Bean, recovering, and speaking in what he
felt was the correct Bulger tone.

"Not for mine," said Bulger firmly. "Big sister, though, not so worse.
Met up with her one time out to the country place, takin' stuff for the
old man the time he got kidneys in his feet. I made a hit with her, too,
on the level, but say! nothin' doing there for old John W. me! I dropped
the thing like it was poison ivy. Me doin' the nuptial in a family like
that, and bein' under Pop's thumb the rest of my life? Ask me, that's
all; _ask_ me! Wake me up any time in the night and ask me."

Again Bean was thrilled, resolving then and there that no daughter of
Breede's should ever wed him. Bulger was entirely right. It wouldn't do.
Bulger looked at his watch.

"Well, s'long; got a date down in the next block. She's out at five.
Say, I want you to get a flash at her some day. Broadway car, yesterday,
me goin' uptown with Max, see? she lookin' at her gloves. 'Pipe the
queen in black,' I says to Max, jes' so she could hear, y' understand.
Say, did she gimme the eye. Not at all! Not at _all_! Old William H.
Smoothy, I guess yes. Pretty soon a gink setting beside her beats it,
and quick change for me. Had her all dated up by Fourteenth Street.
Dinner and a show, if things look well. Some class to her, all right.
One the manicures in that shop down there. Well, s'long!"

Looking over his shoulder with sickish envy after the invincible Bulger,
Bean left the curb for a passing car and came to a jolting stop against
the biggest policeman he had ever seen. He mumbled a horrified apology,
but his victim did not even turn to look down upon him. He fled into the
car and found a seat, still trembling from that collision. From across
the aisle a pretty girl surveyed him with veiled insolence. He furtively
felt of his neutral-tinted cravat and took his hat off to see if there
could be a dent in it. The girl, having plumbed his insignificance, now
unconcernedly read the signs above his head. There was bitterness in the
stare he bestowed upon her trim lines. Some day Bulger would chance to
be on that car with her--then she'd be taken down a bit--Bulger who, by
Fourteenth Street, had them all dated up.

Presently he was embarrassed by a stout, aggressive man who clutched a
strap with one hand and some evening papers with the other, a man who
clearly considered it outrageous that he should be compelled to stand in
a street car. He glared at Bean with a cold, questioning indignation,
shifting from one foot to the other, and seeming to be on the point of
having words about it. This was not long to be endured. Bean glanced out
in feigned dismay, as if at a desired cross-street he had carelessly
passed, sprang toward the door of the car and caromed heavily against a
tired workingman who still, however, was not too tired to put his sense
of injury into quick, pithy words of the street. The pretty girl
tittered horribly and the stout man, already in Bean's seat, rattled his
papers impatiently, implying that people in that state ought to be kept
off in the first place.

He had meant to leave the car and try another, but there at the step was
another too-large policeman helping an uncertain old lady to the ground,
so he slinkingly insinuated himself to the far corner of the platform,
where, for forty city blocks, a whistling messenger boy gored his right
side with the corners of an unyielding box while a dreamy-eyed man who,
as Bulger would have said, had apparently been sopping it up like you
see some do, leaned a friendly elbow on his shoulder, dented his new hat
and from time to time stepped elaborately on his natty shoes with the
blue cloth uppers. Also, the conductor demanded and received a second
fare from him. What was the use of saying you had paid inside? The
conductor was a desperate looking man who would probably say he knew
that game, and stop the car....

Something of the sort always happened to him in street cars. It was bad
enough when you walked, with people jostling you and looking as if they
wondered what right you had to be there.

At last came the street down which he made a daily pilgrimage and he
popped from the crowd on the platform like a seed squeezed from an
orange.

Reaching the curb alive--the crossing policeman graciously halted a huge
motor-truck driven by a speed-enthusiast--he corrected the latest dent
in his hat, straightened his cravat, readjusted the shoulder lines of
the coat appertaining to America's greatest eighteen-dollar
suit--"$18.00--No More; No Less!"--and with a fear-quickened hand
discovered that his watch was gone, his gold hunting-case watch and
horseshoe fob set with brilliants, that Aunt Clara had given him on his
twenty-first birthday for not smoking!

A moment he stood, raging, fearing. His money was safe, but they might
decide to come back for that. Or the policeman might come up and make an
ugly row because he had let himself be robbed in a public conveyance. He
would have to prove that the watch was his; probably have to tell why
Aunt Clara had given it to him.

With a philosophy peculiarly his own, a spirit of wise submission that
was more than once to serve him well, he pulled his hat sharply down,
braced and squared such appearance of perfect physical development as
the eighteen dollars had achieved, and walked away. He had always known
the watch would go. Now it was gone, no more worry. Good enough! As he
walked he rehearsed an explanation to Bulger: cleverly worded
intimations that the watch had been pawned to meet a certain quick
demand on his resources not morally to his credit. He made the
implication as sinister as he could.

And then he stood once more before the shrine of Beauty. In the
show-window of a bird-and-animal store on Sixth Avenue was a
four-months-old puppy, a "Boston-bull," that was, of a certainty, the
most perfect thing ever born of a mother-dog. Already the head was
enormous, in contrast, yet somehow in a maddening harmony with the
clean-lined slender body. The colour-scheme was golden brown on a
background of pure white. On the body this golden brown was distributed
with that apparent carelessness which is Art. Overlaying the sides and
back were three patches of it about the size and somewhat the shape of
maps of Africa as such are commonly to be observed. In the colouring of
the noble brow and absurdly wide jaws a more tender care was evident.
There was the same golden brown, beginning well back of the ears and
flowing lustrously to the edge of the overhanging upper lip, where it
darkened. Midway between the ears--erectly alert those ears were--a
narrow strip of white descended a little way to open to a circle of
white in the midst of which was the black muzzle. At the point of each
nostril was the tiniest speck of pink, Beauty's last triumphant touch.

As he came to rest before the window the creature leaped forward with
joyous madness, reared two clumsy white feet against the glass (those
feet that seemed to have been meant for a larger dog), barked ably--he
could hear it even above the din of an elevated train--and then fell to
a frantic licking of the glass where Bean had provocatively spread a
hand. Perceiving this intimacy to be thwarted by some mysterious barrier
to be felt but not seen, he backed away, fell forward upon his chest,
the too-big paws outspread, and smiled from a vasty pink cavern. Between
the stiffened ears could be seen the crooked tail, tinged with just
enough of the brown, in unbelievably swift motion. Discovering this pose
to bring no desired result, he ran mad in the sawdust, excavating it
feverishly with his forepaws, sending it expertly to the rear with the
others.

The fever passed; he surveyed his admirer for a moment, then began to
revolve slowly upon all four feet until he had made in the sawdust a bed
that suited him. Into this he sank and was instantly asleep, his
slenderness coiled, the heavy head at rest on a paw, one ear drooping
wearily, the other still erect.

For two weeks this daily visit had been almost the best of Bean's
secrets. For two weeks he had known that his passion was hopeless, yet
had he yearned out his heart there before the endearing thing. In the
shock of his first discovery, spurred to unwonted daring, he had
actually penetrated the store meaning to hear the impossible price. But
an angry-looking old man (so Bean thought) had come noisily from a back
room and glowered at him threateningly over big spectacles. So he had
hastily priced a convenient jar of goldfish for which he felt no
affection whatever, mumbled something about the party's calling,
himself, next day, and escaped to the street. Anyway, it would have been
no good, asking the price; it was bound to be a high price; and he
couldn't keep a dog; and if he did, a policeman would shoot it for being
mad when it was only playing.

But some time--yet, would it be this same animal? In all the world there
could not be another so acceptable. He shivered with apprehension each
day as he neared the place, lest some connoisseur had forestalled him.
He quickened to a jealous distrust of any passerby who halted beside him
to look into the window, and felt a great relief when these passed on.

Once he had feared the worst. A man beside him holding a candy-eating
child by the hand had said, "Now, now, sir!" and, "Well, well, _was_ he
a nice old doggie!" Then they had gone into the store, very
businesslike, and Bean had felt that he might be taking his last look at
a loved one. Lawless designs throbbed in his brain--a wild plan to
shadow the man to his home--to have that dog, _no matter how_. But when
they came out the child carried nothing more than a wicker cage
containing two pink-eyed white rabbits that were wrinkling their noses
furiously.

With a last cherishing look at most of the beauty in all the world--it
still slept despite the tearing clatter of a parrot with catarrhal
utterance that shrieked over and over, "Oh, what a fool! Oh, what a
fool!"--he turned away. What need to say that, with half the
opportunity, his early infamy of the shell would have been repeated. He
wondered darkly if the old man left that dog in the window nights!

He reached for his watch before he remembered its loss. Then he reminded
himself bitterly that street clocks were abundant and might be looked at
by simpletons who couldn't keep watches. He bought an evening paper that
shrieked with hydrocephalic headlines and turned into a dingy little
restaurant advertising a "Regular Dinner de luxe with Dessert, 35 cts."

There was gloom rather than gusto in his approach to the table. He
expected little; everything had gone wrong; and he was not surprised to
note that the cloth on the table must also have served that day for a
"Business Men's Lunch, 35 cts.," as advertised on a wall placard.
Several business men seemed to have eaten there--careless men, their
minds perhaps on business while they ate. A moody waiter took his order,
feebly affecting to efface all stains from the tablecloth by one magic
sweep of an already abused napkin.

Bean read his paper. One shriek among the headlines was for a railroad
accident in which twenty-eight lives had been lost. He began to go down
the list of names hopefully, but there was not one that he knew.
Although he wished no evil to any person, he was yet never able to
suppress a strange, perverse thrill of disappointment at this
result--that there should be the name of no one he knew in all those
lists of the mangled. His food came and he ate, still striving--the game
of childhood had become unconscious habit with him now--to make his meat
and potatoes "come out even." The dinner de luxe was too palpably a
soggy residue of that Business Men's Lunch. It fittingly crowned the
afternoon's catastrophes. He turned from it to his paper and Destiny
tied another knot on his bonds. There it was in bold print:

    COUNTESS CASANOVA
  Clairvoyant ... Clairaudient
    Psychometric.
  Fresh from Unparalleled European Triumphs.
    Answers the Unasked Question.

There was more of it. The Countess had been "prevailed upon by eminent
scientists to give a brief series of tests in this city." Evening tests
might be had from 8 to 10 P.M. Ring third bell.

The old query came back, the old need to know what he had been before
putting on this present very casual body. Was his present state a reward
or a penance? From the time of leaving the office to the last item in
that sketchy dinner, he had been put upon by persons and circumstances.
It was time to know what life meant by him.

And here was one who answered the unasked question!

Precisely at eight he rang the third bell, climbed two flights of narrow
stairs and faced a door that opened noiselessly and without visible
agency. He entered a small, dimly lighted room and stood there
uncertainly. After a moment two heavy curtains parted at the rear of the
room and the Countess Casanova stood before him. It could have been no
other; her lustrous, heavy-lidded dark eyes swept him soothingly. Her
hair was a marvellously piled storm-cloud above a full, well-rounded
face. Her complexion was wonderful. One very plump, very white hand
rested at the neck of the flowing scarlet robe she wore. A moment she
posed thus, beyond doubt a being capable of expounding all wingy
mysteries of any soul whatsoever.

Then she became alert and voluble. She took his hat and placed it in the
hall, seated him before the table at the room's centre and sat
confronting him from the other side. She filled her chair. It could be
seen that she was no slave to tight lacing.

Although foreign in appearance, the Countess spoke with a singularly
pure and homelike American accent. It was the speech he was accustomed
to hear in Chicago. It reassured him.

The Countess searched his face with those wonderful eyes.

"You are intensely psychic," she announced.

Bean was aware of this. Every medium he had ever consulted had told him
so.

The Countess gazed dreamily above his head.

"Your spiritual aura is clouded by troubled curnts, as it were. I see
you meetin' a great loss, but you mus' take heart, for a very powerful
hand on the other side is guardin' you night an' day. They tell me your
initials is 'B.B.' You are employed somewheres in the daytime. I see a
big place with lots of other people employed there--"

The Countess paused. Bean waited in silence.

"Here"--she came out of the clouds that menaced her sitter--"take this
pad an' write a question on it. Don't lemme see it, mind! When you got
it all wrote out, fold it up tight an' hold it against your forehead.
Never leggo of it, not once!"

Bean wrote, secretly, well below the table's edge.

"_Who was I in my last incarnation?_"

He tore the small sheet from the pad, folded it tightly and, with elbows
on the table, pressed it to his brow. If the Countess answered that
question, then indeed was she a seer.

She took up the pad from which he had torn the sheet.

"Concentrate," she admonished him. "Let the whole curnt of your
magnetism flow into that question. Excuse me! I left the slate in the
nex' room. My control will answer you on the slate."

She withdrew between the curtains, but reappeared very soon. Bean was
concentrating.

"That'll do," said the Countess. "Here!" She presented him with a double
slate and a moist sponge. "Wipe it clean."

He washed the surfaces of the slate and the seer placed it upon the
table between them, enclosing within its two sections a tiny fragment of
slate pencil. She placed her hands upon the slate and bade her sitter do
likewise.

"You often hear skeptics say they is sometimes trickery in this," said
the Countess, "but say, listen now, how could it be? I leave it to you,
friend. I ain't seen your question; you held it a minute and then put it
in your pocket. An' you seen the slate was clean. Now concentrate; go
into the Silence!"

Bean went into the Silence without suspicion, believing the Countess
would fail. She couldn't know his question and no human power could
write on the inside of that slate without detection. He waited with
sympathy for the woman who had overestimated her gifts.

Then he was startled by the faintest sound of scratching, as of a pencil
on a slate. It seemed to issue from beneath their hands at rest there in
plain sight. The medium closed her eyes. Bean waited, his breath
quickening. Little nervous crinklings began at the roots of his hair and
descended his spine--that scratching, faint, yet vigorous, did it come
from beyond the veil?

The scratching ceased. The ensuing silence was portentous.

"Open it and look!" commanded the Countess. And Bean forthwith opened it
and looked a little way into his dead and dread past. Apparently upon
the very surface he had washed clean were words that seemed to have been
hurriedly inscribed:

"_The last time you was Napolen Bonopart._"

He stared wonderingly at those marks made by no mortal hand. He thrilled
with a vast elation; and yet instantly a suspicion formed that here was
something to his discredit, something one wouldn't care to have known.
He had read as little history as possible, yet there floated in his mind
certain random phrases, "A Corsican upstart," "An assassin," "No
gentleman!"

"I--I suppose--you're sure there can't be any doubt about this?"

He looked pleadingly at the Countess. But the Countess was a mere
psychic instrument, it seemed, and had to be told, first of the
question--he produced it with a suspicion that she might doubt his
honesty--and then of the astounding answer. Thus enlightened, she
protested that there could be no doubt about the truth of the answer;
she was ready to stake her professional reputation on its truth. She
regarded Bean with an awe which she made no attempt to conceal.

"You had your _day_," she said significantly; "pomps and powers and--and
attentions!"

Bean was excitedly piecing together what fragments of data his reading
had left him.

"Emperor of France--"

But some one else had rung the third bell, perhaps one of those
scientists coming to be dumfounded.

"He was," the Countess replied hurriedly, "the husban' of Mary Antonett,
an' they both got arrested and gilletined in the great French
revolution."

He was pretty certain that this was incorrect, but the Countess, after
all, was a mere instrument of higher intelligence, and she now made no
pretence of speaking otherwise than humanly.

"An' my controls say they'll leave me in a body if I take a cent less 'n
three dollars."

One of the controls seemed to be looking this very threat or something
like it from the medium's sharpened eyes.

Bean paid hastily, thus averting what would have been a calamity to all
earnest students of the occult. The advertisement, it is true, had
specifically mentioned one dollar as the accustomed honorarium, but this
was no time to haggle.

_Napoleon!_

"Don't furgit the number," urged the Countess, "an' if you got any
friends, I'd appreciate--"

"Certainly! Sure thing!" said the palpitating one, and blindly felt his
way into the night.

The same stars shone above the city street; the same heedless throng
disregarded them; disregarded, too, the slight figure that paused a
moment to survey the sky and the world beneath it through a new pair of
eyes.

_Napoleon!_



IV


He walked buoyantly home. He had a room at the top of a house in an
uptown cross-street. Having locked his door and lighted a gas-jet he
stood a long time before his mirror. It was a friendly young face he saw
there, but troubled. The hair was pale, the eyes were pale, the nose
small. The mouth was rather fine, cleanly cut and a little feminine. The
chin was not a fighter's chin, yet neither chin nor mouth revealed any
weakness. He scanned the features eagerly, striving to relate them with
vaguely remembered portraits of Napoleon. He was about the same height
as the Little Corporal, he seemed to recall, but an eagle boldness was
lacking. Did he possess it latently? Could he develop it? He must have
books about this possible former self of his. He had early become
impatient of written history because when it says sixteen hundred and
something it means the seventeenth century. If historians had but agreed
to call sixteen hundred and something the sixteenth century, he would
have read more of them. It was annoying to have to stop to figure.

Before retiring he went through certain exercises with an unusual
vehemence. He was taking a course in jiu-jitsu from a correspondence
school. Aforetime he had dreamed of a street encounter, with some
blustering bully twice his size, from which, thanks to his skill, he
would emerge unscarred, unruffled, perhaps flecking a bit of dust from
one slight but muscular shoulder while his antagonist lay screaming with
pain.

With the approach of sleep all his half-doubts were swept away. Of course
he had been Napoleon. He could almost remember Marengo--or was it
Austerlitz? There was a vague but not distressing uncertainty as to
which of these conflicts he had directed, but he could--almost--remember.

And he had been one who commanded, and who, therefore, would make
nothing of pricing a dog. He would enter that store boldly to-morrow,
give its proprietor glare for glare, and demand to be told the price of
the creature in the window. Napoleon would have made nothing of it.

       *       *       *       *       *

The old man came noisily from his back room and again glowered above his
spectacles. But this time he faced no weakling who made a subterfuge of
undesired goldfish.

Bean gulped once, it is true, before words would come.

"I--uh--what's the price of that dog in the window?"

The old man removed his spectacles, ran a hand through upstanding white
hair, and regarded his questioner suspiciously.

"You vant him, hey? Vell, I tell. Fifdy dollars, you bed your life!"

The blood leaped in his veins. He had expected to hear a hundred at
least. Still, fifty was a difficult enough sum. He hesitated.

"Er--what's his name?"

"Naboleon."

"_What?_" He could not believe this thing.

"Naboleon. It comes in his bedigree when I giddim. You bed your life I
gif him nod such names--robber, killer, Frenchman!"

Bean felt assaulted.

"He was a fighter?"

"Yah, fider--a killer unt a sdealer. You know what?"--his face lightened
a little with garrulity--"my granmutter she seen him, yah, sure she seen
him, seddin' on his horse when he gone ridin' into Utrecht in eighdeen
hunderd fife, with soljus. Sure she seen him; she loogs outer a winda'
so she could touch him if she been glose to him, unt a soljus rides oop
unt says, 'Ve gamp right here, not?' unt Naboleon he shneer awful unt
say, 'Gamp here vere dey go inter dem cellus from der ganal-side unt get
unter us unt blow us high wit bowder--you sheep's head! No; we gamp back
in der Malibaan vere is old linden drees hunderd years old, eighd rows
vun mile long, dere is vere we gamp, you gread fool!' Sure my granmutter
seen him. He pull his nose mit t'um unt finger, so! Muddy boods, vun
glofe off, seddin' oop sdraighd on a horse. Sure, she seen him. Robber
unt big killer-sdealer! She vas olt lady, but she remember it lige it
was to-morrow."

Excitement engendered by this reminiscence had well-nigh made Bean
forget the dog. Once he had made people afraid. The world had trembled
before him. Policemen had been as insects.

"I'll take that dog," he announced royally--then faltered--"but I
haven't the money now. You keep him for me till I get it."

"Yah, you know vot? A olt man, lige me, say that same ofer lasd mont'
ago, unt I nefer see him until yet!"

It was a time for extreme measures. Bean pressed seven dollars upon the
dog's owner.

"And ten dollars every week; maybe more!"

The old man stowed the bills in a pocket under his apron and scratched
the head of the parrot that was incisively remarking, "Oh! What a fool!"
and giggling fatuously at its own jest.

"I guess you giddim. I guess mebbe you lige him, hey! He iss a awful
glutton to eat!"

Napoleon!

And in the street car the first headline he saw in his morning paper
was, "Young Napoleon of Finance Flutters Wall Street!"

The thing was getting uncanny.

       *       *       *       *       *

[Illustration: It was a friendly young face he saw there, but troubled]

A Napoleon of Finance!

Something, Napoleonic at least for Bunker Bean, had to be done in
finance immediately. He had reached the office penniless. He first tried
Bulger, who owed him ten dollars. But this was a Waterloo.

"Too bad, old top!" sympathized Bulger. "If you'd only sejested it
yesterday. But you know how it is when a man's out; he's got to make a
flash; got to keep up his end."

He considered the others in the office. Most of them, he decided, would,
like Bulger, have been keeping their ends up. Of course, there was
Breede. But Napoleon at his best would never have tried to borrow money
of Breede, not even on the day of his coronation. Tully, the chief
clerk, was equally impossible. Tully's thick glasses magnified his eyes
so that they were terrible to look at. Tully would reach out a nerveless
hand and draw forth the quivering heart of his secret. Tully would know
right off that a man could have no respectable reason for borrowing five
dollars on Thursday.

There remained old Metzeger who worked silently all day over a set of
giant ledgers, interminably beautifying their pages with his meticulous
figures. True, Bean had once heard Bulger fail interestingly to borrow
five dollars of Metzeger until Saturday noon, but a flash of true
Napoleonic genius now enabled him to see precisely why Bulger had not
succeeded. Metzeger lived for numerals, for columned digits alone. He
carried thousands of them in his head and apparently little else. He
could tell to the fraction of a cent what Union Pacific had opened at on
any day you chose to name. He had a passion for odd amounts. A flat
million as a sum interested him far less than one like $107.69-3/4. He
could remember it longer. It was necessary then to appeal to the poetry
in the man.

A long time from across his typewriter he studied old Metzeger, tall,
angular, his shoulders lovingly rounded above one of the ledgers, a
green shade pulled well over his eyes, perhaps to conceal the
too-flagrant love-light that shone there for his figures. Napoleon had
won most of his battles in his tent.

Bean arose, moved toward the other and spoke in clear, cool tones.

"Mr. Metzeger, I want to borrow five dollars--"

The old man perceptibly stiffened and bent his head lower.

"--five dollars and eighty-seven cents until Saturday at ten minutes
past twelve."

Metzeger looked up, surveying him keenly from under the green shade.

"_How_ much?'

"Five eighty-seven."

There was a curious relenting in the sharpened old face. The man had
been struck in a vital spot. With his fine-pointed pen he affectionately
wrote the figures on a pad: "$5.87--12:10." They were ideal; they
vanquished him. Slowly he counted out money from various pockets, but
the sum was $5.90.

"Bring me the change," he said.

Bean brought it from the clerk who kept the stamp-box. Metzeger replaced
three pennies in a pocket, and Bean moved off with the sum he had
demanded, feeling almost as once he might have felt after Marengo.

It must be true! He couldn't have done the thing yesterday.

He omitted his visit to the dog that day and loitered for an hour in a
second-hand bookshop he had often passed. He remembered it because of a
coloured print that hung in the window, "The Retreat from Moscow." He
had glanced carelessly enough at this, hardly noting who it was that
headed the gloomy procession. Now he felt the biting cold, and shivered,
though the day was warm. There were pleasanter prints inside. In one,
Napoleon with sternly folded arms gazed down at a sleeping sentry. In
another he reviewed troops at Fontainebleau, and again, from an
eminence, he overlooked a spirited battle, directing it with a masterly
wave of his sabre. These things were a little disconcerting to one in
whom the blood-lust had diminished. He was better pleased with a steel
engraving of the coronation, and this he secured for a trifle. It was a
thing to nourish an ailing ego, a scene to draw sustenance from when
people overwhelmed you in street cars and took your gold watch.

Then there were books about Napoleon, a whole shelf of them. A lot of
authors had thought him worth writing about. He examined several
volumes. One was full of dreadful caricatures that the English had
delighted in. He found this most offensive and closed it quickly.
Probably that explained why he had always felt an instinctive antipathy
for the English.

"If you're interested in Napoleon things--" said the officious clerk,
and Bean went cold. He wondered if the fellow suspected something.

"Not at all, not at all!" he protested, and refused to look at any more
books.

He took his print of the coronation, securely wrapped, and went to
another store several blocks away. He could get a Napoleon book there,
where they wouldn't be suspicious. He found one that looked promising,
"Napoleon, Man and Lover," and still another entitled "The Hundred
Days." The latter had illustrations of the tomb, which he noted was in
Paris. Its architecture impressed him, and his hands trembled as he held
the book open. He had been buried with pomp, even with flamboyance.
Robber and killer he might have been, but the picture showed a throng of
admiring spectators looking down to where the dead colossus was chested,
and on the summit of the dome that rounded above that kingly
sarcophagus, a discriminating nation had put the cross of Christ in
gold.

Let people say what they would! With all this glory of sepulchre there
must be something in the man not to be wholly ashamed of.

And yet "Napoleon, Man and Lover," which he read that night, confirmed
his first impression that this strangely uncovered incident in his
Karmic past was, on the whole, scandalous; not a thing he would like to
have "get about." He sympathized with the poor boy driven from his
Corsican home, with the charity student of Brienne, with the young
artillery officer, dreaming impossible dreams. But as lover--he blushed
for that ruthless dead self of his; the Polish woman, the little
actress, sending for them as if they were merchandise. It seemed to him
that even the not too-fastidious Bulger would have been offended by such
direct brutality.

Well, he was paying dearly for it now; afraid to venture into the
presence of a couple of swell dames not invincibly austere, lacking the
touch-and-go gallantry of a mere Bulger who had probably never been
anybody worth mentioning.

And there was the poor pathetic Louise of Prussia. Bean had already
fallen in love with her face, observed in advertisements of the Queen
Quality Shoe. He recalled the womanly dignity of the figure descending
the shallow steps, the arch accost of the soft eyes, the dimple in the
round check. She had been sent to sue him, the invader, to soften him
with blandishments. He had kept her waiting like a lackey, then had
sought cynically to discover how far her devotion to her country's
safety would carry her. And when her pitiful little basket of tricks had
been emptied, her little traps sprung, he had sent her back to her
husband with a message that crushed her woman's pride and shattered the
hopes of her people. He had heard the word "bounder." It seemed to him
that Napoleon had shown himself to be just that--a fearful and
impossible bounder. He tingled with shame. He wished he might speak to
that Queen now as a gentleman would.

And yet he could not read the book without a certain evil quickening.
Brutal though his method of approach had been, the man had conquered
more than mere force may ever conquer. The Polish woman had come to love
him; the little actress would have followed him to his lonely island.
Others, too many others, had confessed his power.

He was ashamed of such a past, yet read it with a guilty relish. He
recalled the flapper who had so boldly met his glance. He thought she
would have been less bold if she could have known the man she looked at.
He placed "Napoleon, Man and Lover" at the bottom of his trunk beside
the scarlet cravat he had feared to wear. It was not a book to "leave
around."

"The Hundred Days," which he read the following night, was a much less
discouraging work. It told of defeat, but of how glorious a defeat! The
escape from Elba, the landing in France and the march to Paris,
conquering, where he passed, by the sheer magnetism of his personality!
His spirit bounded as he read of this and of the frightened exit of that
puny usurper before the mere rumour of his approach. Then that audacious
staking of all on a throw of the dice--Waterloo and a deathless
ignominy. He heard the sob-choked voices of the Old Guard as they bade
their leader farewell--felt the despairing clasp of their hands!

Alone in his little room, high above the flaring night streets, the
timid boy read of the Hundred Days, and thrilled to a fancied memory of
them. The breath that checked on his lips, the blood that ran faster in
his veins at the recital, went to nourish a body that contained the
essential part of that hero--he was reading about himself! He forgot his
mean surroundings--and the timidities of spirit that had brought him
thus far through life almost with the feelings of a fugitive.

The Lords of Destiny had found him indeed untractable as the great
Emperor, the world-figure, and, for his proudness of spirit, had decreed
that he should affrightedly tread the earth again as Bunker Bean.
Everything pointed to it. Even the golden bees of Napoleon! Were there
not three B's in his own name? The shameful truth is that he had been
christened "Bunker Bunker Bean." His fond and foolish mother had thus
ingenuously sought to placate the two old Uncle Bunkers; unsuccessfully,
be it added, for each had affected to believe that he took second place
in the name. But the three B's were there; did they not point
psychically to the golden bees of the Corsican? Indeed, an astrologist
in Chicago had once told him, for a paltry half-dollar, that those B's
in his name were of a profoundly mystic significance.

Again, he was of distinguished French origin. Over and over had his
worried mother sought to impress this upon him. The family was an old
and noble one, fleeing from France, during a Huguenot persecution, to
Protestant England where the true name "de Boncoeur" had been corrupted
to "Bunker." At the time of his earliest dissatisfaction with the name
he had even essayed writing it in the French manner--"B. de Boncoeur
Bien"--supposing "Bien" to be approximate French for "Bean."

What more natural than that the freed soul, striving for another body,
should have selected one of distinguished French ancestry? The commoner
would inevitably seek to become a patrician.

It was a big thing; a thing to dream and wonder and calculate about.
When he was puzzled or disturbed he would resort to the shell--a thing
he had clung tenaciously to through all the years--sitting before it a
long time, his eyes fixed upon it with hypnotic tensity.

What should it mean to him? How was his life to be modified by it? He
did not doubt that changes would now ensue. He was already bolder in the
public eye. If people stared superciliously at him, he sometimes stared
back. That aggressive stout man could not now have bullied him out of
his seat in the car with any mere looks.

The phrase "Napoleon of Finance" had stayed in his mind. Modernly the
name seemed briefly to suggest some one who made a lot of money out of
nothing but audacity. Certainly it was not being applied to soldiers or
statesmen. This was interesting. If he made a lot of money he could move
to the country and have plenty of room for the dog. And it seemed about
the only field of adventure left for this peculiar genius. He began to
think about making money. He knew vaguely how this was done: you bought
stocks and then waited for the melon to be cut. You got on the inside of
things. You were found to have bought up securities that trebled in
value over night. Those that decreased in value had been bought by
people who were not Napoleons. That was the gist of it. A Napoleonic
mind would divine the way. "Napoleon knew human nature like a book,"
said one of the inspired historians. That was all you needed to know. He
resolved to study human nature.

At precisely ten minutes past twelve on the following Saturday he laid
upon old Metzeger's desk the exact sum of five dollars and eighty-seven
cents. One less gifted as to human nature would have said, "Thank you!"
and laid down five dollars and ninety cents. Bean fell into neither
trap. Metzeger looked quickly at the clock and silently took the money.
He had become the prey of a man who surmised him accurately.

Then occurred one of those familiar tragedies of the wage slave. The
whole week long he had looked forward to the ball game. In the box that
afternoon would be the Greatest Pitcher the World Had Ever Known. This
figure had loomed in his mind that week bigger at times than all his
past incarnations. He was going to forego a sight of his dog in order to
be early on the ground. He would see the practice and thrill to the
first line-up. He had lived over and over that supreme moment when the
umpire sweeps the plate with a stubby broom and adjusts his mask.

The correct coat was buttoned and the hat was being adjusted when the
door of the inner office opened with a sharp rattle.

"Wantcha!" said Breede.

There was a fateful, trembling moment in which Breede was like to have
been blasted; it was as if the magnate had wantonly affronted him who
had once been the recipient of a second funeral in Paris. Keeping Bean
from a ball game aroused that one-time self of his as perhaps nothing
else would have done. But Breede was Breede, after all, and Bean
swallowed the hot words that rose to his lips. His perturbation was
such, however, that Breede caught something of it.

"Hadjer lunch?"

"No!" said Bean, murderously.

"Gitcha some quick. Hurry!"

He knew the worst now. The afternoon was gone.

"Don't want any!" It was a miniature explosion after the Breede manner.

"C'mon, then!"

He was at the desk and Breede dictated interminably. When pauses came he
wrote scathing comments on Breede's attire, his parsimony in the matter
of food, his facial defects, and some objectionable characteristics as a
human being, now perceived for the first time. He grew careless of
concealing his attitude. Once he stared at Breede's detached cuffs with
a scorn so malevolent that Breede turned them about on the desk to
examine them himself. Bean went white, feeling "ready for anything!" but
Breede merely continued his babble about "Federal Express" stock, and
"first mortgage refunding 4 per cent. gold bonds," and multifarious
other imbecilities that now filled a darkened world.

He jealously watched the letters Breede answered and laid aside, and the
sheaf of reports that he juggled from hand to hand. His hope had been
that the session might be brief. There was no clock in the room and he
several times felt for the absent watch. Then he tried to estimate the
time. When he believed it to be one o'clock he diversified his notes
with a swift summary of Breede's character which only the man's
bitterest enemies would have approved. At what he thought was two
o'clock he stripped him of the last shreds of moral decency. When three
o'clock seemed to arrive he did not dare put down, even in secretive
shorthand, what he felt could justly be said of Breede. After that it
was no good hoping. He relaxed into the dullness of a big despair,
merely reflecting that Bulger's picture of Breede under his heel had
been too mushily humane. What Bean wished at the moment was to have
Breede tied to a stake, and to be carving choice morsels from him with a
dull knife. He made the picture vivacious.

At what he judged to be four-thirty a spirited rap sounded on the door.

"C'min," yelled Breede.

Entered the flapper. Breede looked up.

"Seddown! View of efforts bein' made b' cert'n parties t' s'cure 'trol
of comp'ny by promise of creatin' stock script on div'dend basis, it is
proper f'r d'rectors t' state policy has been--"

The flapper had sat down and was looking intently at Bean. There was no
coquetry in the look. It was a look of interest and one wholly in
earnest. Bean became aware of it at Breede's first pause. At any other
time he would have lowered his eyes before an assault so direct and
continuous. Now in his hot rage he included the flapper in the glare he
put upon her unconscious father.

He saw that she was truly enough a flapper; not a day over eighteen, he
was sure. Not tall; almost "pudgy," with a plump, browned face and gray
eyes like old Breede's, that looked through you. He noted these details
without enthusiasm. Then he relented a little because of her dress. The
shoes--he always looked first at a woman's shoes and lost interest in
her if those were not acceptable--were of tan leather and low, with
decently high heels. (He loathed common-sense shoes on women.) The hose
were of tan silk. So far he approved. She wore a tailored suit of blue
and had removed the jacket. The shirtwaist--he knew they were called
"lingerie waists" in the windows--was of creamy softness and had the
lines of the thing called "style." Her hat was a straw that drooped
becomingly. "Some dresser, all right!" he thought, and then, "Why don't
she take a look at old Cufflets there, and get him in right?"

Again and again he hardened his gaze upon her. Her eyes always met his,
not with any recognition of him as a human being, but with some curious
interest that seemed remote yet not impersonal. He indignantly tried to
out-stare her, but the thing was simply not to be done. Even looking
down at her feet steadily didn't dash her brazenness. She didn't seem to
care where _he_ looked. After a very few minutes of this he kept his
eyes upon his note-book with dignified absorption. But he could feel her
glance.

"--to c'nserve investment rep'sented by this stock upon sound basis
rather than th' spec'lative policy of larger an' fluc'chating div'dends
yours ver' truly what time's 'at game called?"

Thus concluded Breede, with a sudden noisy putting away of papers in an
open drawer at his side.

Bean looked up at him, in open-mouthed fear for his sanity.

"Hello, Pops!" said the flapper.

"'Lo, Sis! What time's 'at game called?"

"Three," said Bean, still alarmed.

Breede looked at his watch.

"Jus' got time to make it."

He arose from the desk. Bean arose. The flapper arose.

"Take y' up in car," said Breede, most amazingly.

Bean pulled his collar from about his suddenly constricted throat.

"Letters!" He pointed to the note-book.

"Have 'em ready Monday noon. C'mon! Two-thirty now."

The early hour was as incredible as this social phenomenon.

"Daughter!" said Breede, with half a glance at the flapper, and deeming
that he had performed a familiar social rite.

"Pleased to meet you!" said Bean, dazedly. The flapper jerked her head
in a double nod.

Of the interval that must have elapsed before he found himself seated in
the grandstand between Breede and the flapper he was able to recall but
little. It was as if a dense fog shut him in. Once it lifted and he
suffered a vision of himself in a swiftly propelled motor-car, beside an
absorbed mechanician. He half turned in his seat and met the cool,
steady gaze of the flapper; she smiled, but quickly checked herself to
resume the stare; he was aware that Breede was at her side. And the fog
closed in again. It was too unbelievable.

A bell clanged twice and his brain cleared. He saw the scurry of
uniformed figures to the field, the catcher adjusted his mask. The
Greatest Pitcher the World Has Ever Known stood nonchalantly in the box,
stooped for a handful of earth and with it polluted the fair surface of
a new ball. A second later the ball shot over the plate. The batter
fanned, the crowd yelled.

All at once Bean was coldly himself. He knew that Breede sat at his
right; that on his left was a peculiar young woman. He promptly forgot
their identities, and his own as well, and recalled them but seldom
during the ensuing game.

It is a phenomenon familiar to most of us. The sons of men, under the
magic of that living diamond, are no longer little units of souls
jealously on guard. Heart speaks to heart naked and unashamed; they
fraternize across deeps that are commonly impassable, thrilling as one
man to the genius of the double-play, or with one voice hurling merited
insults at a remote and contemptuous umpire. It is only there, on earth,
that they love their neighbour. There they are fused, and welded into
that perfect whole which is perhaps the only colourable imitation ever
to be had on earth of the democracy said to prevail in Heaven.

There was no longer a Bean, a Breede, a flapper. Instead were three
merged souls in three volatile bodies, three voices that blended in
cheers or execration. At any crisis they instinctively laid gripping
hands upon each other and, half-rising, with distended eyes and tense
half-voices, besought some panting runner to "Come on! Come _on_, you!
Oh, come _on_!" There were other moments of supreme joy when they were
blown to their feet and backs were impartially pounded. More than once
they might have been observed, with brandishing fists, shouting,
"Robber! Robber! _Robber!!!_" at the unperturbed man behind the plate
who merely looked at an indicator in his hand and resumed his
professional crouch quite as if nothing had happened.

And there were moments of snappy, broken talk, comments on individual
players, a raking over the records. It was not Breede who talked to Bean
then. It was one freed soul communicating with another. He none too
gently put Breede right in the matter of Wagner's batting average for
the previous year and the price that had been paid for the new
infielder. And Breede in spirit sat meekly at his feet, grateful for his
lore.

Of an absent player, Breede said he was too old--all of thirty-five.
He'd never come back.

"They come back when they learn to play ball above the ears," retorted
Bean with crisp sapience. "How about old Cy Young? How about old
Callahan of the Sox? How about Wagner out there--think he's only
nineteen--hey? Tell me _that_!"

He looked pityingly at the man of millions thus silenced.

Two men scored from third and second, thanks to a wild throw.

"Inside play, there?" said Breede.

"Inside, nothing!" retorted Bean arrogantly. "Matty couldn't get back to
second and they _had_ to run. If that Silas up there hadn't gone foamy
in the fighting-top and tried to hit that policeman over by the fence
with the ball, where'd your inside play been? D'you think the Pirates
are trying to help 'em play inside ball? Inside, nothing!"

Again Breede looked respectful, and the flapper listened, lustrous-eyed.

The finish was close. With two men out in the last half of the ninth and
two strikes called on the batter, a none too certain single brought in
the winning run. The clinging trio shrieked--then dazedly fell apart.
Life had gone from the magic. The vast crowd also fell apart to units,
flooding to the narrow gates.

Outside Breede looked at Bean as if, faintly puzzled, he was trying to
recall the fellow's face. One could fancy him saying, "Prob'ly some chap
works in m' office."

Father and daughter entered the car. Bean raised his dented hat. Breede
was oblivious; the flapper permitted herself a severe double nod. The
motor chugged violently. Bean, moving on a few steps, turned. The
flapper was looking back. She stared an instant then most astonishingly
smiled, a smile that seemed almost vocal with many glad words. Bean felt
himself smile weakly in response.

He walked a long way before he took a car, his eyes on the pavement, his
mind filled with a vision. When the flapper smiled it did something to
him, but what it was he couldn't tell. She had a different face when she
smiled; her parting lips made a new beauty in the world. He thought the
golden brown of her hair rather wonderful. It was like the golden brown
of the new dog. He recalled little details of her face, the short upper
lip, the forward chin, the breadth of the brow. There was something
disconcerting about that brow and the eyes like her father's--probably
have her own way! Then he remembered that he must have noticed a badge
pinned to the left lapel of a jacket that had been fashioned--with no
great difficulty, he thought--to give its wearer the appearance of
perfect physical development. He couldn't remember when he had precisely
noted this badge, perhaps in some frenzied moment in the game's
delirium, but it was vividly before him now--"VOTES FOR WOMEN!" What did
that signify in her character? Perhaps something not too pleasant.

Still--he lived again through the smile that had seemed to speak.

       *       *       *       *       *

Three days later, at the close of an afternoon's grinding work, the grim
old man at the desk looked up as Bean was leaving the room.

"S'good game!"

"Fine!" said Bean, as he closed the door.

But for this reference and one other circumstance Bean might have
supposed that Breede had forgotten the day. The other circumstance was
an area of rich yellowish purple on the arm which Breede had madly
gripped in moments of ecstasy, together with painful spots on his right
side where the elbow of Breede had almost continuously jabbed him.



V


The latest Napoleonic dynasty was tottering. The more Bean read of
that possible former self, the less he admired its manifestations. A
Corsican upstart, an assassin, no gentleman! It was all too true.
Very well, for that vaunted force of will, but to what base ends had
it been applied! He was merciless to himself, an egotist and a
vulgarian. How it would shock that woman, as yet unidentified, who
was one day to be the mother of the world's greatest left-handed
pitcher. Take the flapper--impossible, of course, but just as an
example--suppose she ever came to know about the Polish woman and
the actress, and the others! How she would loathe him! And you
couldn't tell what minute it might become known. People were taking
an interest in such matters. He wished he had cautioned the Countess
Casanova to keep the thing quiet. Probably she had talked.

He must go further into that past of his. Doubtless there were lessons
to be drawn from the Napoleonic episode, but just now, when he was all
confused, the thing--he put it bluntly--was "pretty raw."

"With Napoleon, to think was to act." So he had read in one chronicle.
Very well, he would act. Again he would stand, with fearless eyes, at
the portal of the vaulted past.

At eight o'clock that night he once more rang the third bell. He had
feared that the Countess Casanova might have returned to European
triumphs, but the solicitations of the scientific world were still
prevailing.

He stood in the little parlour and again the Countess appeared from
behind the heavy curtains, a plump white hand at the throat of her
scarlet gown.

He was obliged to recall himself to her, for the Countess began to tell
him that his aura was clouded with evil curnts.

"You told me what I was--last time, don't you remember? You know, you
said, it was written on the slate what I was--" He could not bring
himself to utter the name. But the Countess remembered.

"Sure; perfectly! And what was you wishing to know now?"

She surveyed him with heavy-lidded eyes, a figure of mystery, of secret
knowledge.

"I want you to tell me who I was before that--before _him_."

The Countess blinked her eyes rapidly, as if it hurried calculation.

"And I don't mean _just_ before. I want to go 'way back, thousands of
years--what I was _first_." He looked helplessly around the room, then
glanced appealingly at the Countess. The flushed and friendly face was
troubled.

"Well, I dunno." She pondered, eying her sitter closely. "Of course all
things is possible to us, but sometimes the conditions ain't jest right
and y'r c'ntrol can't git into rapport with them that has been gone
more'n a few years. Now this thing you're after--I don't say it can't be
done--f'r money."

"If I learned something good, I wouldn't care anything about the money,"
he ventured.

The Countess glanced up interestedly.

"That's the way to look at it, friend, but how much you got on you?"

"Twenty-two dollars," confessed Bean succinctly.

"Would you part from twenty, if you was told what you want to know?"

"Yes; I can't stand that other thing any longer."

The Countess narrowed her eyes briefly, then became animated.

"Say, listen here, friend! That's a little more delikit work than I been
doin', but they's a party near here--lemme see--" She passed one of the
plump white hands over her brow in the throes of recollection. "I think
his name is Professor Balthasar. I ain't ever met him, understand what I
mean? but they say he's a genuine wonder an' no mistake; tell you
anything right off the reel. You set right there and lemme go see if I
can't call him up by telephone."

She withdrew between the curtains, behind which she carefully pulled
sliding doors. Bean heard the murmur of her voice.

He waited anxiously. His Napoleon self was already fading. If only they
would tell him something "good." Little he cared for the twenty dollars.
He could get along by borrowing seventeen-seventy-nine from Metzeger.
The voice still murmured. Only the well-fitting doors prevented Bean
from hearing something that would have been of interest to him.

"That you, Ed?" the Countess was saying. "Listen here. 'Member th' one I
told you about, thinks he's the original N.B.--you know who--well he's
a repeater; here now wantin' t' know who he was before then, who he was
_first_ y'understand. An' say, I ain't got the right dope for that an' I
want you to get over here quick's you can an' give him about a
ten-minute spiel. Wha's that? Well, they's twenty, an' I split with you.
But listen here, Ed, I get the idee this party's worth nursin' along. I
dunno, something _about_ him. That's why I'm tellin' you. I want it done
right. Course, I could do enough stallin' muself t' cop the twenty; tell
him Julius Caesar or the King of China or somebody, but I ain't got the
follow-up, an' you can't tell _how_ much he might be good for later.
Take my tip: he's a natural born believer. Sure, twenty! All right!"

The doors slid back and the Countess reappeared between the curtains.

"I'm 'fraid I'll have to disappoint you," she began. "The Professer was
called out t' give some advice to one the Vandabilts. But I got his
private secatary on the wire an' he's gone out to chase him up. We'll
haf to wait an' see."

Bean was sorry to be causing this trouble.

"Perhaps I better come another night."

"No, you don't! You set right there!" She seemed to listen to unspoken
words, looking far off. "There! My control says he's comin'; he's on the
way."

Bean was aghast before this power.

"'Nother thing," pursued the Countess in her normal manner, "keep
perfec'ly still when he comes. Don't tip him off what you want. Let him
do the talkin'. If he's the real thing he'll know what you want. They
say he's a wonder, but what do _we_ know about it? Let him prove it!"

Bean felt that he and the Countess were a pair of shrewd skeptics.

The third bell rang and a heavy tread was heard on the stairs. The mere
sound of its mounting was impressive. The Countess laid a reminding
finger on her lips, as she moved toward the door.

There appeared an elderly man, in a black frockcoat, loose-fitting and
not too garishly new, a student's coat rather than a fop's.

"Is this Perfesser Balthasar?" inquired the Countess in her best manner.

"At your service, Madam!" He permitted himself a courtly inclination,
conferred upon the Countess a glistening tall hat, and then covered his
expansive baldness with a skullcap of silk which he drew from an inner
pocket.

"I feared we was discommoding you," ventured the Countess, elegantly
apologetic; "your secatary said you was out advisin' one the
Vandabilts--"

"A mere trifle in the day's work, Madam!" He brushed it aside with an
eloquent hand. "My mission is to serve. You wished to consult me?"

"Not me; but this young gentaman here--"

"Ah!" He turned to face Bean, who had risen, regarding him with serious
eyes and twirling a curled moustache meditatively.

"I see, I see! An imprisoned soul seeking the light!" He came nearer to
Bean, staring intently, then started with dramatic suddenness as if at
an electric shock from concealed wires.

"What is this--what is this--what _is_ this?"

Bean backed away defensively. The professor seemed with difficulty to
withdraw his fascinated gaze, and turned apologetically to the Countess.

"You will pardon me, Madam, but I must ask you to leave us. My control
warns me that I am in the presence of an individuality stronger than my
own. His powerful mind is projecting the most vital queries. I shall be
compelled to disclose to him matters he would perhaps not wish a third
person to overhear. I see a line of mighty rulers, ruthless,
red-handed--the past of his soul."

The Countess murmurously withdrew. The two males faced each other.

[Illustration: "I feared he was discommoding you," ventured the
Countess, elegantly apologetic]

The professor was a mere sketch of a man, random, rakish, with head
aslant and shifty eyes forever dropping away from a questioner's face.
He abounded in inhuman angles and impossible lines. It seemed that he
must have been rather dashingly done in the first place, then half
obliterated and badly mended with fumbling, indecisive touches. His
restless hands unceasingly wrung each other as if he had that moment
made his own acquaintance and was trying to infuse a false geniality
into the meeting.

When he spoke he had a trick of opening his mouth for a word and holding
it so, a not over-clean forefinger poised above an outheld palm. It
seemed to the listener that the word when it came would mean much. His
white moustache alone had a well-finished look, curving jauntily upward.

"Sit there!" An authoritative finger pointed Bean to the chair he had
lately occupied.

He sat nervously, suffering that peculiar apprehension which physicians
and dentists had always inspired.

"Most amazing! Most astounding!" muttered the professor as if to his own
ear alone. He sat in a chair facing Bean and regarded him long and
intently. At brief intervals his face twitched, his body stiffened, he
seemed to writhe in some malign grasp.

Bean gripped the arms of his chair. His tingling nerves were accurately
defining his spine. He waited, breathless.

"I see it all," breathed the professor in low, solemn tones, his eyes
fixed above Bean's head. "First the pomp and glitter of a throne. You
wrench it from a people whose weakness you play upon with a devilish
cunning, you ascend to it over the bodies of countless men slain in
battle. Power through blood! You are cruel, insatiable, a predatory
monster. But retribution comes. You are hurled from your throne. Again
you ascend it, but only for a brief time. You fight your last battle;
you _lose_! You are captured and taken to a lonely island somewhere far
to the south, there to be imprisoned until your death. Afterward I see
your body returned to the city that was once your capital. It now lies
in a heavy stone coffin. It is in a European city. I can almost hear the
name, but not plainly. I cannot get the name under which you ruled. I
look into the abyss and the cries of your victims drown it. Horror piles
upon horror!"

Bean was leaning forward, tense with excitement, his mouth open. "Yes,
that's just the way I felt about it," he murmured.

"But this was only a few paltry years ago, perhaps a hundred. It passes
from my view. I am led back, away from it--far back--the cries of those
you slaughtered echo but faintly--the scene changes--"

The professor paused. Bean had cowered in his chair, wincing under each
blow. He wiped his face and crumpled the moist handkerchief tightly in
one hand.

"Perhaps the name may come to me now," continued the professor. "But
your superior personality overwhelmed me at first; you are so
self-willed, so dominant, so ruthless. The name, the name!" He cried the
last words commandingly and snapped his fingers at the delinquent
control. "There! I seem to hear--"

"Never mind that name," broke in Bean hastily. "Let it go! I--I don't
want to know it. Go on back farther!"

Again the professor's look became trancelike.

"Ah! What a relief to be free from that blood-lust!" He breathed deeply
and his eyes rolled far up under their lids.

"What is this? A statesman, still crafty, still the lines of cunning
cruelty about the mouth. The city is Venice in the fourteenth century.
He is dressed in a richly bejewelled robe and toys with an inlaid
dagger. He is plotting the assassination of a Doge--"

"Please get still farther back, can't you?" pleaded Bean.

The seer struggled once more with his control.

"I next see you at the head of a Roman legion, going forth to battle.
You are a tyrant, ruling by fear alone, and with your own sword I see
you cut off the heads of--"

"Farther back," beseeched the sitter. "I--I've had enough of all that
battle and killing. I--I don't _like_ it. Go on back to the very first."

Patiently the adept redirected his forces.

"I see a poet. He sings his deathless lay by a roadside in ancient
Greece. He is an old man, feeble, blind--"

"Something else," broke in the persistent sitter, resolving not to pay
twenty dollars for having been a blind poet.

The professor glanced sharply at him. Perhaps his control did not relish
these interruptions. He seemed to suppress words of impatience and began
anew.

"Ah! Now I see your very first appearance on this planet. You were born
from another as yet unknown to our astronomers. You are now"--he lowered
his eyes to the sitter's face--"an Egyptian king."

Detecting no sign of displeasure at this, he continued with refreshed
enthusiasm.

"It is thousands of years ago. You are the last king of the pre-dynastic
era--"

"What kind of a king--one of those fighters?"

"You are a wise and good king. I see a peaceful realm peopled by
contented subjects."

"_That's_ what I want to know. Go on; tell me more. Married?"

"Your wife is a princess of rare beauty from--from Mesopotamia. You have
three lovely children, two boys and a girl, and your palace on the banks
of the Nile is one of the most beautiful and grand palaces ever erected
by the hand of man. You are ministered to by slaves, and your
councillors of state come to you with their reports. You are tall,
handsome and of a most kingly presence. Your personal bravery is
unquestioned, you are an adept in all manly sports, but you will not go
to war as you very properly detest all violence. For this reason there
is little to relate of your reign. It was uneventful and distinguished
only by your wise and humane statesmanship--"

"What name?" asked Bean, in low, reverent tones.

"The name--er--the name is--oh, yes, I get it--the name is Ram-tah."

"Can I find him in the histories?"

"You cannot," answered the seer emphatically. "I am probably the only
living man that can tell you very much about him."

"When did he--pass on?"

"At the age of eighty-two years. He was deeply mourned by all his
people. He had been a king of great strength of character, stern at
moments, but ever just. His remains received the treatment customary in
those times, and the mummy was interred in the royal sepulchre which is
now covered by the sands of the centuries. Anything else?"

Bean was leaning forward in his chair, his eyes lost in that far,
glorious past.

"Nothing else, now, I think. If I could see you again some time, I'd
like to ask--"

"My mission is to serve," answered the other, caressing the moustache
with a deft hand. "Anything I can do for you, any time, command me."

The Countess appeared from between the curtains.

"Was the conditions right?" she asked.

"They have been, at least _so_ far," replied the professor crisply, with
a side-glance at Bean who seemed on the point of leaving.

"Say, friend, I guess you're forgetting something, ain't you?" demanded
the Countess archly.

And Bean perceived that he had indeed forgotten something. He rectified
the oversight with blushing apologies, while the professor inspected the
mantel ornaments with an absent air. What was twenty dollars to a king
and a sire of kings? He bowed himself from the room.

They listened until the hall door closed.

"There's yours, Ed. You earned it all right, I'll say that. My! don't I
wish I was up on that dope."

"You were the wise lady to send for me, Lizzie. You'd have killed him
off right here. As it is, he'll come back. He's a clerk somewhere,
drawing twenty-five a week or so. He ought to give up at least five of
it every week; cigarette money, anyway. Anything loose in the house?"

"They's a couple bottles beer in the icebox. Gee! ain't he good, though!
If he only had the roll some has!"

       *       *       *       *       *

In his little room far up under the hunched shoulders of the house,
Bunker Bean sat reviewing his Karmic past. Over parts of it he
shuddered. That crafty Venetian plotting to kill, trifling wickedly with
the inlaid dagger; the brutal Roman, ruling by fear, cutting off heads!
And the blind poet! He would rather be Napoleon than a blind poet, if
you came down to that. But the king, wise, humane, handsome, masterly,
with a princess of rare beauty from Mesopotamia to be the mother of his
three lovely children. That was a dazzling vision to behold, a life sane
and proper, abounding in majesty both moral and material.

He sought to live over his long and peaceful but brilliant reign. Then
he dwelt on his death and burial. They had made a mummy of him, of
course. Somewhere that very night, at that very instant, his lifeless
form reposed beneath the desert sands. Perhaps the face had changed but
little during the centuries. He, Bunker Bean, lay there in royal robes,
hands folded upon his breast, as lamenting subjects had left him.

And what did it mean to him now? He thought he saw. As King Ram-tah he
had been _too_ peaceful. For all his stern and kingly bearing might he
not have been a little timid--afraid of people now and then? And the
Karmic law had swept him on and on into lives that demanded violence,
the Roman warrior, the Venetian plotter, the Corsican usurper!

He saw that he must have completed one of those vast Karmic cycles. What
he had supposed to be timidity was a natural reaction from Napoleonic
bravado. Now he had finished the circle and was ready to become again
his kingly self, his Ram-tah self--able, reliant, fearless.

He expanded his chest, erected his shoulders and studied himself in the
glass: there was undoubted majesty in the glance. He vibrated with some
fresh, strange power.

Yes; but what about to-morrow--out in the world? in daylight, passing
the policeman on the corner, down at the office? Would he remain a king
in the presence of Breede, even in the lesser presence of Bulger, or of
old Metzeger from whom he purposed to borrow seventeen dollars and
seventy-nine cents? All right about being a king, but how were other
people to know it? Well, he would have to make them feel it. He must
know it himself, first; then impress it upon them.

But a sense of unreality was creeping back. It was almost better to
remember the Napoleon past. There were books about that. He pictured
again the dead Ram-tah in trappings of royalty. If he could only _see_
himself, and be sure. But that was out of the question. It was no good
wishing. After all, he was Bunker Bean, a poor thing who had to fly when
Breede growled "Wantcha." He sat at his table, staring moodily into
vacancy. He idly speculated about Breede's ragged moustache; he thought
it had been blasted and killed by the words Breede spoke. A moment later
he was conscious that he stared at an unopened letter on the table
before him.

He took it up without interest, perceiving that it came from his Aunt
Clara in Chicago. She would ask if he had yet joined the Y.M.C.A., and
warn him to be careful about changing his flannels.

"Dear Bunker" [it began], "my own dear husband passed to his final rest
last Thursday at 5 p.m. He was cheerful to the last and did not seem to
suffer much. The funeral was on Saturday and was very beautiful and
impressive. I did not notify you at the time as I was afraid the shock
would affect you injuriously and that you might be tempted to make the
long trip here to be with me. Now that you know it is all over, you can
take it peacefully, as I am already doing. The life-insurance people
were very nice about it and paid the claim promptly. I enclose the money
which wipes out all but--"

He opened the double sheet. There were many more of the closely written
lines, but he read no farther, for a check was folded there. His
trembling fingers pulled the ends apart and his astounded eyes rested on
its ornate face.

It was for ten thousand dollars.

       *       *       *       *       *

At six minutes after eight the following evening the Countess Casanova,
moved from her professional calm, hurriedly closed the sliding doors
between the two rooms of her apartment and sprang to the telephone where
she frantically demanded a number. The delay seemed interminable to her,
but at last she began to speak.

"That you, Ed? F'r God's sake, beat it over here quick. That boob las'
night is back here an' _he's got it_. I dunno--but something _big_, I
tell you. He's actin' like a crazy man. Listen here! He wants t' know
can you _locate_ it--see it lyin' there underground. Why, the mummy;
yes. M-u-m-m-i-e. Yes, sure! He's afraid mebbe they already dug him up
an' got him in a musée somewheres, but if it's still there he wants it.
Yes, sure thing, dontchu un'stand? _Wants_ it! How in--how can I tell?
That's up to you. Git here! Sure--fifty-fifty!"

Bean glanced up feverishly as the Countess reappeared. She was smoothing
her hair and readjusting the set of the scarlet wrapper. Her own
excitement was apparent.

"It's all right. I think he'll come, but it was a close call. He was
jes' packin' his grip f'r Wash'n'ton. Got a telegraph from the Pres'dent
to-day t' come at once. Of course he'll miss a big fee. The Pres'dent
don't care f'r money when it's a question of gittin' th' right advice--"

"Oh, money!" murmured Bean, and waved a contemptuous hand.

His manner was not lost upon his hearer.

"Lots of money made in a hurry, these days," she suggested, "or got hold
of some way--gits left to parties--thousand dollars, mebbe--two, three,
four thousand?"

Again he performed the pushing gesture, as if he were discommoded by
money. He scarcely heard her voice.

The Countess did not venture another effort to appraise his wealth.

She fell silent, watching him. Bean gazed at a clean square on the
wall-paper where a picture had once hung. Then the authoritative tread
was again heard on the stairway, and again the Countess Casanova
welcomed Professor Balthasar to her apartment. She expressed a polite
regret for having annoyed him.

Professor Balthasar bestowed his shiny hat upon her, enveloped his
equally shiny skull with the silken cap and assured her that his mission
was to serve. Bean had not risen. He still stared at the wall.

"I'll jes' leave you alone with our friend here," said the Countess
charmingly. The professor questioned her with a glance and she shook her
head in response, yet her gesture as she vanished through the curtains
was one of large encouragement.

The professor faced Bean and coughed slightly. Bean diverted his stare
to the professor and seemed about to speak, but the other silenced him
with a commanding forefinger.

"Not a word! I see it all. You impose your tremendous will upon me."

He took the chair facing Bean and began swiftly:

"I see the path over the desert. I stop beside a temple. Sand is all
about. Beneath that temple is a stone sarcophagus. Within it lies the
body of King Tam-rah--"

"Ram-tah!" corrected Bean gently.

"Did I not say Ram-tah?" pursued the seer. "There it has lain sealed for
centuries, while all about it the tombs of other kings have been
despoiled by curiosity hunters looking for objects of interest to place
in their cabinets. But Ram-tah, last king of the pre-dynastic period,
though others will tell you differently, but that's because he never got
into history much, by reason of his uniformly gentlemanly conduct. He
rests there to-day precisely as he was put. I see it all; I penetrate
the heaped sands. At this moment the moon shines upon the spot, and a
night bird is calling to its mate in the mulberry tree near the
northeast corner of the temple. I see it all. I am there! What is this?
What is this I get from you, my young friend?"

The professor seemed to cock a psychic ear toward Bean.

"You want--ah, yes, I see what you want, but that, of course, humanly,
would be impossible. Oh, quite impossible, quite, quite!"

"_Why_, if you're sure it's there?"

"My dear sir, you descend to the material world. I will talk to you now
as one practical man to another. Simply because it would take more money
than you can afford. The thing is practicable but too expensive."

"How do you know?"

"It is true, I do not know. My control warned me when I came here that
your circumstances had been suddenly bettered. I withdraw the words. I
do not know, but--you will pardon the bluntness--_can_ you afford it?"

"What'd it cost? That's what I want to know."

"Hum!" said the professor. He was unable to achieve more for a little
time. He hum'd again.

"There's the labour and the risk," he ventured at last. "Of course my
agents at Cairo--I have secret agents in every city on the globe--could
proceed to the spot from my carefully worded directions. They could do
the work of excavating. So far, so good! But they would have to work
quietly and would be punished if discovered. Of course here and there
they could bribe. Naturally, they would have to bribe, and that, as you
are doubtless aware, requires money. Again, entering this port the
custom-house officials would have to be bribed, and they've gone up in
price the last few years. My control tells me that this mummy is one
they've been looking hard for. It's about the only one they haven't
found. The loss will be discovered and my men might be traced. It
requires an enormous sum. Now, for instance, a thousand dollars"--he
regarded Bean closely and was reassured--"a thousand dollars wouldn't
any more than start the work. Two thousand"--his eyes were steadily upon
Bean now--"would further it some. Three thousand might see it pretty
well advanced. Four thousand, of course, would help still farther and
five thousand"--he had seen the shadow of dismay creep over the face of
his sitter--"five thousand, I _think_, might put the thing through."

Bean drew a long breath. The professor had correctly read the change in
his face at "five thousand," but it had been a sudden fear that his
whole ten thousand was not going to suffice for this prodigious
operation.

"I can afford that," said Bean shortly. He hardly dared trust himself to
say more. His emotion threatened to overcome him.

The professor suffered from the same danger. He, too, dared trust
himself to say no more than the few necessary words.

"There must be a payment down," he said with forced coldness.

"How much?"

"A thousand wouldn't be any too much."

"Enough?"

"Well, perhaps not enough," the professor nerved himself to admit.

"I'll give you two, now. Give you the rest when you get--when you get It
here."

"You move me, I confess," conceded the professor. "I will undertake it."

"How long will it be, do you think?"

"I shall give orders by cable. A month, possibly, if all goes well."

"I'll give you check." He gulped at that. It was the first time he had
ever used the words.

The Countess parted the curtains. Curiously enough she carried a pen and
ink, though no one remarked upon the circumstance.

Bean had that morning left a carefully written signature at the bank
where his draft had been deposited. He later wondered how the scrawl he
achieved now could ever be identified as by the same hand.

And he was conscious, even as he wrote, that the Countess Casanova and
Professor Balthasar were labouring under an excitement equal to his own.
It _was_ a big feat to attempt.

As before, they waited until he had closed the lower door.

"Oh, Ed!" breathed the Countess emotionally.

"Anything loose in the house?" asked the professor.

"They's a couple bottles beer in the icebox, but _Oh, Ed_!"



VI


Again we chant pregnant phrases from the Bard of Dress: "It is cut to
give the wearer the appearance of perfect physical development. And the
effect produced so improves his form that he unconsciously strives to
attain the appearance which the garment gives him; he expands his chest,
draws in his waist, and stands erect."

A psychologist, that Bard! acutely divining a basic law of this absurd
human nature. In a beggar's rags few men could be more than beggars. In
kingly robes, most men could be kings; could achieve the finished and
fearless behaviour that is said to distinguish royalty.

Bunker Bean, the divinely credulous, now daily arrayed himself in royal
vestures, set a well-fashioned crown upon the brow of him and strode
forth, sceptre in hand. Invisible were these trappings, to be sure; he
was still no marked man in a city street. But at least they were there
to his own truth-lit eyes, and he most truly did "expand his chest, draw
in his waist, and stand erect." Yea, in the full gaze of inhumanly large
policemen would he do these things.

This, indeed, was one of the first prerogatives his royalty claimed. He
discovered that it was not necessary for any but criminals to fear
policemen. It might still be true that an honest man of moderate
physique and tender sensibilities could not pass one without slight
tremors of self-consciousness; but by such they were--a most prodigious
thought--to be regarded as one's paid employees; within the law one
might even greet them pleasantly in passing, and be answered civilly.
Bean was now equal to approaching one and saying, "Good evening,
Officer!" He would sometimes cross a street merely to perform this
apparently barren rite. It stiffened his spine. It helped him to realize
that he had indeed been a king and the sire of kings; that kingly stuff
was in him.

So marked an advance in his spirit was not made in a day, however. It
came only after long dwelling in thought upon his splendid past. And,
too, after he had envisioned the circumstance that he was now a man of
means. The latter was not less difficult of realization than his
kingship. He had thought little about money, save at destitute moments;
had dreamed of riches as a vague, rather pleasant and not important
possibility. But kings were rich; no sooner had his kingship been
proclaimed than money was in his hand. And, of course, more money would
come to him, as it had once come on the banks of the Nile. He did not
question how nor whence. He only knew.

It was three days before he bethought himself to finish the reading of
Aunt Clara's letter, suspended at sight of the astounding enclosure. He
had begun that letter a harried and trivial unit of the toiling masses.
He came to finish it a complacent and lordly figure!

     "--I enclose the check which wipes out all but $7,000 of that
     money from your dear mother with which dearest Edward so rashly
     speculated years ago, in the hope of making you a wealthy man.
     I am happy to say that $5,000 of this I can pay at once out of
     the money I have saved. I have been investing for years, as I
     could spare it, in the stock of the Federal Express Company,
     and now have fifty shares, which I will transfer to you at par,
     though they are quoted a little above that, if you are willing
     to accept them. The balance I will pay when I have sold the
     house and furnishings, as with my dearest husband gone I no
     longer have any incentive to keep on working. I am tired. It is
     a good safe stock paying 4-1/2 per cent. and I would advise you
     to keep it and also put the Ins. money into the same stock. A
     very nice man in the Life Ins. office said it ought to pay more
     if the business was better managed. If you turned your talents
     to the express business you might learn to manage it yourself
     because you always had a fine head for such things, and by
     owning a lot of their stock you could get the other
     stockholders to elect you to be one of their directors, which
     would be a fine occupation for you, not too hard work and
     plenty of time to read good books which I hope you find same
     now of evenings in place of frittering away your time with
     associations of a questionable character, and ruining your
     health by late hours and other dissipation though I know you
     were always of good habits.

     "Affectionately,

     "Aunt Clara.

     "P.S.--It has rained hard for two days."

There it was! Money _came_ to you. Federal Express was only a name to
him; he had written it sometimes at Breede's dictation. But his Aunt
Clara was old enough to know about such things, and he would follow her
advice, though being a director of an express company seemed as
unexciting as it was doubtless respectable: what he had at times been
wild enough to dream was that he should be the principal owner of a
major-league baseball club, and travel with the club--see every game! If
he should, temporarily, become the director of an express company, he
would have it plainly understood that he might resign at any moment.

Night and morning he surveyed himself in the glass. Not in the way of
ordinary human conceit; he was clear sighted enough as to the
pulchritude of his present encasement; but with the eyes of the young
who see visions. Raptly scrutinizing his meagre form he chanted a line
of verse that seemed apposite:

    "_Build thou more stately mansions, O my soul!_"

He was already persuaded that his next incarnation would enrich the
world with something far more stately than the mansion that he at
present occupied; something on the Gordon Dane order, he suspected. And
it was not too soon to begin laying those unseen foundations--to think
the thought that must come before the thing. He was veritably a king,
yet for a time must he masquerade as a wage-slave, a serf to Breede, and
an inferior of Bulger's, considered as a mere spectacle.

He began to word long conversations with these two; noiseless
conversations, be it understood, in which the snappy dialogue went
unuttered. His sarcasm to Bulger in the matter of that ten-dollar loan
was biting, ruthless, witty, invariably leaving the debtor in direst
confusion with nothing to retort. Bean always had the last word, both
with Bulger and Breede, turning from them with easy contempt.

He was less hard on Breede than on Bulger, because of the ball game. A
man who could behave like that in the presence of baseball must have
good in him. Nevertheless, in this silent way, he curtly apprised Breede
of his intentions about working beyond stipulated hours, and when Breede
was rash enough to adopt a tone of bluster, Bean silenced him with a
magnificent "I can imagine nothing of less consequence!"

He carried this silent warfare into public conveyances and when stout
aggressive men glared at him because he had a seat he quickly and
wittily reduced them to such absurdity in the public eye that they had
to flee in impotent rage. The once modest street row with a bully twice
his size was enlarged in cast. There were now, as befitted a king, two
bullies, who writhed in pain, each with a broken arm, while the slight
but muscular youth with a knowledge of jiu-jitsu walked coolly off,
flecking dust from one of his capable shoulders. Sometimes he paused
long enough to explain the affair, in a few dignified words, to an
admiring policeman who found it difficult to believe that this stripling
had vanquished two such powerful brutes. Sometimes another act was
staged in which he conferred his card upon the amazed policeman and
later explained the finesse of his science to him, thereby winning his
deathless gratitude. He became quite chummy with this officer and was
never to be afraid of anything any more.

He glowed from this new exercise. He became more witty, more masterful,
while the repartee of his adversaries sank to wretched piffle. He met
disaster only once. That was when his conscience began to hurt him after
a particularly bitter assault on Bulger in which the latter had been
more than usually contemptible in the matter of the overdue debt. He
felt that he had really been too hard on the fellow. And Bulger, who
must have been psychically gifted himself, came over from his typewriter
at that moment and borrowed an additional five without difficulty. In
later justification, Bean reflected that he would almost certainly have
refused this second loan had it not been for his softened mood of the
moment. Still he was glad that, with his instinctive secrecy he had kept
from Bulger any knowledge of his new fortune. With Bulger aware that he
had thousands of dollars in the bank, something told him that
distressing complications would have ensued.

He debated several days about this money. He resolved, at length, that a
thousand dollars should be devoted to the worthy purpose of living up to
his new condition. A thousand dollars would, for the present, give him
an adequate sensation of wealth. Three thousand more must be paid to
Professor Balthasar when his secret agents brought It from Its
long-hidden resting-place. Suppose the professor pleaded unexpected
outlays, officials not too easily bribed or something, and demanded a
further sum? At once, in a crowded street, he brought about a heated
interview with the professor, in which the seer was told that a bargain
was a bargain, and that if he had thought Bean was a man to stand
nonsense of any sort he was indeed wildly mistaken. Bean was going to
hold him to the exact sum, and his parting sting was that the professor
had better get a new lot of controls if his old ones hadn't been able to
tell him this. After he had cooled a little he reflected that if there
were really any small sums the professor would be out of pocket, he
would of course not be mean.

This left him four thousand dollars with which to buy his way into the
directorate of that express company, as suggested by Aunt Clara. He had
learned a great deal about buying stocks. He knew there was a method
called "buying on a margin" which was greatly superior to buying the
shares outright: you received a great many more shares for a given sum.
Therefore he would buy thus, and the sooner be a director. He liked to
think of that position in his moments of lesser exaltation. He recalled
his child-self sitting beside his father on the seat of an express
wagon. It was queer how life turned out--sometimes you couldn't get away
from a thing. Maybe he would always be a director; still he could go
into baseball, too.

He did his business with the broker without a twinge of his old
timidity. Indeed, he was rather bored by the affair. The broker took his
money and later in the day he learned that he controlled a very large
number of the shares of the Federal Express Company. He forgot how many,
but he knew it was a number befitting his new dignity. Having done this
much he thought the directorship could wait. Let them come to him if
they wanted him. He had other affairs on.

There was the new dog.

It was not the least of many great days in Bean's life, that golden
afternoon when he sped to the bird-and-animal store and paid the last
installment of Napoleon's ransom. The creature greeted him joyously as
of yore through the wall of glass, frantically essaying to lick the hand
that was so close and yet so unaccountably withheld.

The money passed, and one dream, at least, had been made to come true.
For the first time he was in actual contact with the wonderful animal.

"He knows me," said Bean, as the dog hurled itself delightedly upon him.
"We've been friends a long time. I think he got so he expected me every
afternoon."

Napoleon barked emphatically in confirmation of this. He seemed to be
saying: "Hurry! Let's get out of here before he puts me back in that
window!"

The old man confessed that he would miss the little fellow. He advised
Bean to call him "Nap." "Napoleon" was no right name for a dog of any
character.

"You know what that fellow been if he been here now," he volunteered at
parting. "I dell you, you bed your life! He been a gompanion unt partner
in full with that great American train-robber, Chessie Chames. Sure he
would. My grantmutter she seen him like she could maybe reach out a
finger unt touch him!"

"I'll call him Nap," promised Bean. He had ceased to feel blamable for
the shortcomings of Napoleon I, but it was just as well not to have the
name used too freely.

When he issued to the street, the excited dog on a leash, he was prouder
than most kings have ever had occasion to be.

Now, he went to inspect flats. He would at last have "apartments," and
in a neighbourhood suitable for a growing dog. He bestowed little
attention on the premises submitted to his view, occupying himself
chiefly with observing the effect of his dog on the various janitors.
Some were frankly hostile; some covertly so. Some didn't mind dogs--but
there was rules. And some defeated themselves by a display of
over-enthusiasm that manifestly veiled indifference, or perhaps
downright dislike.

But a janitor was finally encountered who met the test. In ten seconds
Bean knew that Cassidy would be a friend to any dog. He did not fawn
upon the animal nor explode with praise. He merely bestowed a glance or
two upon the distinguished head, and later rubbed the head expertly just
back of the erect ears; this, while he exposed to Bean the circumstances
under which one steam-heated apartment, suitable for light housekeeping,
chanced to be vacant. The parties, it appeared, was givin' a Dutch lunch
to a gang of their friends at 5 A.M. of a morning, and that was bad
enough in a place that was well kep' up; but in the sicin' place they
got scrappin', which had swiftly resulted in an ambulance call for the
host and lessee, and the patrol wagon for his friends that were not in
much better shape thimselves, praise Gawd. But the place was all cleaned
up again and would be a jool f'r anny young man that could take a drink,
or maybe two, and then stop.

Bean knew Cassidy by that time, and his inspection of the apartment was
perfunctory. Cassidy would be a buckler and shield to the dog, in his
absence. Cassidy would love him. The dog, on his spread forefeet,
touched his chest to the ground and with ears erect, eyes agleam, and
inciting soprano gurgles invited the world to a mad, mad, game.

Cassidy only said, "Aw, g'wan! _Would_ you, now!" But each word was a
caress. And Cassidy became Bean's janitor.

He moved the next day, bringing his effects in a cab. The cabman
professed never to have seen a dog as "classy" as Nap, and voiced the
cheerful prophecy that in any bench show he would make them all look
like mutts. He received a gratuity of fifty cents in addition to the
outrageous fee he demanded for coming so far north, although he had the
appearance of one who uses liquor to excess, and could probably not have
qualified as a judge of dogs.

Bean's installation, under the guidance of Cassidy, was effected without
delay. The apartment proved to be entirely suitable for a king in
abeyance. There was a bedroom, a parlour, an alcove off the latter that
Cassidy said was the libr'y an' a good place f'r a dawg t' sleep, and
beyond this was a feminine diminutive of a kitchen, prettily called a
"kitchenette."

Bean felt like an insect in such a labyrinth of a place. He forgot where
he put things, and then, overcome by the vastness and number of rooms,
forgot what he was looking for, losing himself in an abstracted and
fruitless survey of the walls. He must buy things to hang on the walls,
especially over certain stains on the wall of the parlour, or
throne-room, to which in the heat of battle, doubtless, certain items of
the late Dutch lunch had been misdirected.

But he knew what to buy. Etchings. In the magazine stories he read,
aside from the very rich characters who had galleries of old masters,
there were two classes: one without taste that littered its rooms with
expensive but ill-advised bric-a-brac; and one that wisely contented
itself with "a few good etchings." He bought a few good etchings at a
department store for $1.97 each, and felt irreproachable. And when he
had arranged his books--about Napoleon I and ancient Egypt--he was ready
to play the game of living. Mrs. Cassidy "did" his rooms, and Cassidy
already showed the devotion of an old and tried retainer. The Cassidys
made him feel feudal.

At night, while Nap fought a never-decided battle with a sofa-pillow, or
curled asleep on the couch with a half-inch of silly pink tongue
projecting from between his teeth, he read of Egypt, the black land,
where had been the first great people of the ancient world. He devoured
the fruit of the lotus, the tamarisk, the pomegranate, and held cats to
be sacred. (Funny, that feeling he had always had about cats--afraid of
them even in childhood--it had survived in his being!) There he had
lived and reigned in that flat valley of the Nile, between borders of
low mountains, until his name had been put down in the book of the dead,
and he had gone for a time to the hall of Osiris.

Or, perhaps, he read reports of psychical societies, signed by men with
any number of capital letters after their names: cool-headed scientists,
university professors, psychologists, grave students all, who were
constantly finding new and wonderful mediums, and achieving
communication with the disembodied. He could tell them a few things;
only, of course, he wouldn't make a fool of himself. He could _show_
them something, too, when the secret agents of Professor Balthasar came
bringing It.

Or he looked into the opal depths of his shell, and saw visions of his
greatness to come, while Nap, unregarded, wrenched away one of his
slippers and pretended to find it something alive and formidable, to be
growled at and shaken and savagely macerated.

       *       *       *       *       *

There came, on a certain fair morning, a summons from Breede, who was
detained at his country place by the same malady that Bulger had once so
crudely diagnosed. Bean was to bring out the mail and do his work there.
The car waited below.

At another time the expedition might have attracted him. He had studied
pictures of that country place in the Sunday papers. Now it meant a
separation from his dog, who was already betraying for the Cassidys a
greater fondness than the circumstances justified; and it meant an
absence from town at the very time when the secret agents might happen
along with It. Of course he could refuse to go, but that would cost him
his job, and he was not yet even the director of an express company.
Dejectedly he prepared for the journey.

"Better take some things along," suggested Tully, who had conveyed the
order to him. "He may keep you three or four days."

Bulger followed him to the hall.

"Look out for Grandma, the Demon!" warned Bulger. "'F I was the old man
I'd slip something in her tea."

"Who--who is she?" demanded Bean.

"Just his dear, sweet old mother, that's all! Talk you to
death--suffergette! Oh! say!"

Reaching the street, his gloom was not at all lightened by the discovery
of the flapper in the waiting car. She gave him the little double-nod
and regarded him with that peculiar steely kindness he so well
remembered. It was undoubtedly kind, that look, yet there was an
implacable something in its quality that dismayed him. He wondered what
she exactly meant by it.

"Get in," commanded the flapper, and Bean got in.

"Tell him where to go for your things."

Bean told him.

"I'm glad it's on our way. Pops is in an awful state. He swore right out
at his own mother this morning, and he wants you there in a hurry. Maybe
we'll be arrested for speeding."

Bean earnestly hoped they would. Pops in health was ordeal enough. But
he remained silent, trusting to the vigilance of an excellent
constabulary. The car reached the steam-heated apartment without
adventure, however, and he quickly secured his suit-case and consigned
the dog for an uncertain period to a Cassidy, who was brazenly taking
more than a friendly interest in him. Cassidy talked bluntly of how "we"
ought to feed him, as if he were already a part owner of the animal.

The car flew on, increasing a speed that had been unlawful almost from
the start. He wondered what the police were about. He might write a
sharp letter to the newspapers, signed, "Indignant Pedestrian," only it
would be too late. He was being volleyed at the rate of thirty-five
miles an hour into the presence of a man who had that morning sworn at
his mother. He wished he could, say for one day, have Breede back there
on the banks of the Nile--set him to work building a pyramid, or weeding
the lotus patch, foot or _no_ foot! He'd show him!

He switched this resentment to the young female at his side. He wanted
her to quit looking at him that way. It made him nervous. But a muffled
glance or two at her disarmed this feeling. She was all right to look
at, he thought, had pretty hands and "all that"--she had stripped off
her gloves when they reached the open country--and she didn't talk,
which was what he most feared in her sex. He recalled that she had said
hardly a word since the start. He might have supposed himself forgotten
had it not been for that look of veiled determination which he
encountered as often as he dared.

A young dog dashed from a gateway ahead of them and threatened the car
furiously. They both applied imaginary brakes to the car with feet and
hands and taut nerves. The puppy escaping death by an inch, trotted back
to his saved home with an air that comes from duty well performed. They
looked from the dog to each other.

"I'd make them against the law," said Bean.

"How could you? The idea!"

"I mean motors, not dogs."

"Oh! Of course!"

They had been brought a little together.

"You go in for dogs?" asked the flapper.

He hesitated. "Going in" for dogs seemed to mean more. "I've got only
one just now," he confessed.

Wooded hills flew by them, the white road flickered forward to their
wheels.

"You interested in the movement?" demanded the flapper again.

"Yes," he said.

"Granny will be delighted to know that. So many young men aren't."

"What make is it?" he inquired, preparing to look enlightened when told
the name of the vehicle in which they rode.

"Oh, I mean the Movement--_the_ movement!"

"Oh, yes," he faltered. "Greatly interested!" He remembered the badge on
her jacket, and Bulger's warning about Grandma, the Demon.

"Granny and I marched in the parade this year, clear down to Washington
Square. If she wasn't so old we'd both run over to London and get
arrested in the Strand for breaking windows."

Bean shuddered.

"We're making our flag now for the next parade--big blue cloth with a
gold star for every state that has raised woman from her degradation by
giving her a vote."

He shuddered again. Although of legal years for the franchise, he had
never voted. If you tried to vote some ward-heeler would challenge you
and you'd like as not be hauled off to the lock-up. And what was the
good of it! The politicians got what they wanted. But this he kept to
himself.

"Granny'll put a badge on you," promised the flapper. "We have to take
advantage of every little means."

He was still puzzling over this when they turned through a gateway,
imposing with its tangle of wrought iron and gilt, and at a decorously
reduced speed crinkled up a wide drive to the vast pile of gray stone
that housed the un-filial Breede.

[Illustration: "Daughter!" said Breede, with half a glance at the
flapper]

A taller and, Bean thought, a prettier girl than the flapper stepped
aside for them, looking at Bean as they passed. One could read her look
as one could not read the flapper's. It was outrageously languishing.

"Flirts with every one, makes no difference _who_!" explained the
flapper with a venomous sniff.

Bean laughed uneasily.

"She's my own dear sister, and I love her, but she's a perfect cat!"

Bean made deprecating sounds with his lips.

"I suppose people have been wondering where I was," confessed the
flapper as they descended upon the granite steps. "I forgot to tell them
I was going. Better hurry to Pops or he'll be murdering some one."

A man took his bag and preceded him into the big hall.

"Engaged, too!" called the flapper bitterly.

He found Breede imprisoned in a large, light room that looked to the
west. Below the windows a green hill fell sheerly away to the bank of a
lordly river, and beyond rose other hills that shimmered in the haze. A
light breeze fluttered the gayly striped awnings. Breede, at a desk,
turned his back upon the fair scene and fumed.

"Take letter G.M. Watkins, Pres'den I 'n' N.C. Rai'way," began Breede
as Bean entered the room. "Dear sir repline yours of 23d instan' would
say Ouch! damn that foot don't take that regardin' traffic 'greement
now'n 'fect that 'casion may rise 'n near future to 'mend same in
'cordance with stip'lations inform'ly made at conf'rence held las'
Janwary will not'fy you 'n due time 'f change is made yours very truly
have some lunch brought here 'n a minute may haf' t' stay three four
days t'll this Whoo! damn foot gets well take letter H.J. Hobbs secon'
'sistant vice Pres'den' D. 'n' L.S. Rai'way New York, New York, dear
Hobbs mark it pers'nal repline yours even date stock purchases goin'
forward as rapidly's thought wise under circumstances it is held mos'ly
'n small lots an' too active a market might give rise t' silly notions
about it--"

The day's work was on, familiar enough, with the exception of Breede's
interjections; he spoke words many times that were not to be "taken
down." And yet Bean forebore to record his wonted criticisms of his
employer's dress. There was ground for them. Breede had never looked
less the advanced dresser. But Bean's mind was busy with that older
sister, she of the marvellously drooping eyes. He had recognized her at
once as the ideal person with whom to be wrecked on a desert island. A
flirt, and engaged, too, was she? No matter. He wrecked himself with
her, and they lived on mussels and edible roots and berries, and some
canned stuff from the ship, and he built a hut of "native thatch," and
found a deposit of rubies, gathering bushels of them, and he became her
affianced the very day the smoke of the rescuing steamer blackened the
horizon. And throughout an idyllic union they always thought rather
regretfully of that island; they had had such a beautiful time there.
And his oldest son, who was left-handed, pitched a ball that was the
despair of every batter in both leagues!

Such had been the devastation of that one drooping glance. This vision,
enjoyed while he ate of the luncheon brought to him, might have been
prolonged. He hadn't remembered a quarter of the delightful
contingencies that arise when the right man and woman are wrecked on an
island, but he looked up from his plate to find Breede regarding him and
his abundant food with a look of such stony malignance that he could eat
no more--Breede with his glass of diluted milk and one intensely
hygienic cracker!

But during pauses in the afternoon's work the island vision became
blurred by the singular energies of the flapper. What did she mean by
looking at him that way? There was something ominous about it. He had to
admit that in some occult way she benumbed his will power. He did not
believe he would dare be wrecked on a desert island with the other one,
if the flapper knew about it.

At last there was surcease of Breede.

"Have 'em ready in the morning," he directed, referring to the letters
he had dictated. "G'wout 'n' 'muse yourself when you get time," he added
hospitably. "Now I got to hobble to my room. If you see any women
outside, tell 'em g'wan downstairs if they don't want to hear me."

He stood balanced on one foot, a stout cane in either hand. Bean opened
the door, but the hall was vacant. Breede grunted and began his
progress. It was, perhaps, not more than reasonably vocal considering
his provocation.

Bean uncovered a typewriter and sat to it, his note-book before him. For
a moment he reverted to the island vision. They could be attacked by
savages from another island, and he would fight them off with the rifles
he had salvaged from the ship. _She_ would reload the weapons for him,
and bind up his head when he was wounded. He fought the last half of the
desperate battle with a stained bandage over his brow.

There was a sharp rap at the door and it opened
before he could call. The flapper entered.

"Don't let me disturb you," she said, and walked to the window, as if
she found the place only scenically interesting.

Bean murmured politely and began upon his letters. The flapper was
relentless. She sat in her father's chair and fastened the old look of
implacable kindness upon him. He beat the keys of the machine. The
flapper was disturbing him atrociously.

A few moments later another rap sounded on the door, and again it opened
before he could call. A shrewd-looking, rather trim old lady with
carefully coiffed hair stood in the doorway.

"Don't let me disturb you," she said, and again Bean murmured.

"Mr. Bean, my grandmother," said the flapper.

"Keep right on with your work, young man," said the old lady in
commanding tones, when Bean had acknowledged the presentation. "I like
to watch it."

She sat in another chair, very straight in her lavender dress, and
joined with the flapper in her survey of the wage-slave. This was
undoubtedly Grandma, the Demon.

Bean continued his work, thinking as best he could above the words of
Breede, that she must be a pretty raw old party, going around, voting,
smashing windows, leading her innocent young grandchild into the same
reckless life. Nice thing, that! He was not surprised when he heard a
match lighted a moment later, and knew that Grandma was smoking a
cigarette. Expect anything of _that_ sort!

He had wished they would go before he finished the last letter, but they
sat on, and Grandma filled the room with smoke.

"Now he's through!" proclaimed the flapper.

"How old are you?" asked Grandma, as Bean arose nervously from the
machine.

He tried jauntily to make it appear that he must "count up."

"Let me see. I'm--twenty-three last Tuesday."

The old lady nodded approvingly, as if this were something to his
credit.

"Got any vicious habits?"

Bean weakly began an answer intended to be facetious, and yet leave much
to be inferred regarding his habits. But the Demon would have none of
this.

"Smoke?"

"No!"

"Drink?"

"No!" He desperately wondered if she would know where to stop.

"How's your health? Ever been sick much?"

"I can't remember. I had lumbago when I was seven."

"Humph! Gamble, play cards, bet on races, go around raising cain with a
lot of young devils at night?"

"No, I don't," said Bean, with a hint of sullen defiance. He wanted to
add: "And I don't go round voting and breaking windows, either," but he
was not equal to this.

"Well, I don't know--" She deliberated, adjusting one of her many puffs
of gray hair, and gazing dreamily at a thread of smoke that ascended
from her cigarette. She seemed to be wondering whether or not she ought
to let him off this time. "Well, I don't know. It looks to me as if you
were too good to be true."

She rose and tossed her cigarette out of the window. He thought he was
freed, but at the door she turned suddenly upon him once more.

"What in time _have_ you done? Haven't you ever had any fun?"

But she waited for no answer.

"I knew she'd admire you," said the flapper. "Isn't she a perfectly old
dear?"

"Oh, yes!" gasped Bean. "Yes, yes, yes, indeed! She is _that_!"



VII


Bean had once attended a magician's entertainment and there suffered
vicariously the agony endured by one of his volunteer assistants.
Suavely the entertainer begged the help of "some kind gentleman from the
audience." He was insistent, exerting upon the reluctant ones the
pressure of his best platform manner.

When the pause had grown embarrassing, a shamed looking man slouched
forward from an aisle seat amid hearty cheers. He ascended the carpeted
runway from aisle to stage, stumbled over footlights and dropped his
hat. Then the magician harried him to the malicious glee of the
audience. He removed playing-cards, white rabbits and articles of
feminine apparel from beneath the coat of his victim. He seated him in a
chair that collapsed. He gave him a box to hold and shocked him
electrically. He missed his watch and discovered it in the abused man's
pocket. And when the ordeal was over the recovered hat was found to
contain guinea-pigs. The kind gentleman from the audience had been shown
to be transcendently awkward, brainless, and to have a mania for petty
thievery. With burning face and falling glance, he had stumbled back to
his seat, where a lady who had before exhibited the public manner of
wife to husband toward him, now pretended that he was an utter and
offensive stranger.

Bean, I say, had once suffered vicariously with this altruistic dolt.
His suffering now was not vicarious. For three days he endured on the
raw of his own soul tortures even more ingeniously harrowing.

To be shut up for three hours a day with Breede was bad enough, but
custom had a little dulled his sensitiveness to this. And he could look
Breede over and write down in beautiful shorthand what he thought of
him.

But the other Breedes!

Mrs. Breede, a member of one of the very oldest families in Omaha, he
learned, terrified him exceedingly. She was an advanced dresser--he had
to admit that--but she was no longer beautiful. She was a plucked rose
that had been too long kept; the petals were rusting, crumpling at the
edges. He wondered if Breede had ever wished to be wrecked on a desert
island with her. She surveyed Bean through a glass-and-gold weapon with
a long handle, and on the two subsequent occasions when she addressed
him called him Mr. Brown. Once meeting him in the hall, she seemed to
believe that he had been sent to fix the telephone.

And the flapper's taller sister of the languishing glance--how quickly
had she awakened him from that golden dream of the low-lying atoll and
the wrecked ship in a far sea. She _did_ flirt with "any one," no doubt
about that. She adroitly revealed to Bean an unshakable conviction that
he was desperately enamoured of her, and that it served him right for a
presumptuous nobody. She talked to him, preened herself in his gaze, and
maddened him with a manner of deadly roguishness. Then she flew to exert
the same charm upon any one of the resplendent young men who were
constantly riding over or tooting over in big black motor-cars. They
were young men who apparently had nothing to do but "go in" for
things--riding, tennis, polo, golf. To all of them she was the
self-confident charmer; just the kind of a girl to make a fool of you
and tell about it.

Twenty-four hours after her first assault upon him he was still wrecking
the ship at the entrance to that lagoon, but now he watched the big
sister go down for the third time while he placidly rescued a stoker to
share his romantic isolation.

The flapper and Grandma, the Demon, were even more objectionable, and,
what was worse, they alarmed him. Puzzled as to their purpose, he knew
not what defence to make. He was swept on some secret and sinister
current to an end he could not divine.

The flapper lay in wait for him at all hours when he might appear. Did
he open a door, she lurked in the corridor; did he seek refuge in the
gloom of the library, she arose to confront him from its dimmest nook;
did he plan a masterly escape by a rear stairway, she burst upon him
from the ambush of some exotic shrub to demand which way he had thought
of going. He had never thought of a way that did not prove to have been
her own. The creature was a leech! If she had only talked, he believed
that he could have thrown her off. But she would not talk. She merely
walked beside him insatiably. Sometimes he thought he could detect a
faint anxiety in the look she kept upon him, but, mostly, it was the
look of something calm, secure, ruthless. Something! It unnerved him.

It was usually probable that Grandma, the Demon, would join them, the
silver cigarette case dangling at her girdle. Then was he sorely beset.
They would perhaps talk about him over his head, discuss his points as
if he were some new beast from the stables.

"I tell you, he's over an inch taller than I am," announced the flapper.

"U-u-mm!" replied Grandma, measuring Bean's stature with narrowed eye.
"U-u-mm!"

"You show her!" commanded flapper, in a louder voice, as if she believed
him deaf. She grasped his arm and whirled him about to stand with his
back to hers.

"There!" said the flapper tensely, her eyes staring ahead. "There!"

"You're scrooching!" accused the Demon.

"Not a bit!--and see how square his shoulders are!" She turned to point
out this grace of the animal.

"Ever take any drugs? Ever get any habits like that?" queried the Demon.
Plainly Bean's confession to an unusual virtue had aroused her
suspicion. He might be a drug fiend!

He faltered wretchedly, wishing Breede would send for him.

"I--well, I used to be made to take sulphur and molasses every
spring ... but I never kept it up after I left home."

"Hum!" said the old lady, looking as if he could tell a lot more if he
chose.

She gripped one of his biceps. He was not ashamed of these. The night
and morning drill with that home exerciser had told, even though he was
not yet so impressive as the machine's inventor, who, in magazine
advertisements, looked down so fondly upon his own flexed arm.

"For goodness' sake!" exclaimed the Demon respectfully.

Bean thrilled at this, feeling like a primitive brute of the cave times,
accustomed to subduing women by force.

After that they seemed tacitly to agree that they would pretend to show
him over the "grounds." Bean hated the grounds, which were worried to
the last square inch into a chilling formality, and the big glass
conservatory was stifling, like an overcrowded, overheated auditorium.
And he knew they were "drawing him out." They looked meaningly at each
other whenever he spoke.

They questioned him about his early life, but learned only that his
father had been "engaged in the express business." He was ably reticent.

Did he believe that women ought to be classed legally with drunkards,
imbeciles and criminals? He did not, if you came down to that. Let them
vote if they wanted to. He had other things to think about, more
important. He didn't care much, either way. Voting didn't do any good.

He had taken the ideal attitude to enrage the woman suffragist. She will
respect opposition. Careless indifference she cannot brook. Grandma
opened upon him and battered him to a pulpy mass. Within the half hour
he was supinely promising to remind her to give him a badge before he
left; and there was further talk of his marching at the next parade as a
member of the Men's League for Woman's Suffrage, or, at the very least,
in the column of Men Sympathizers.

He wondered, wondered! Were they trying to assure themselves that he was
a fit man to be in the employ of old Breede? He could imagine it of
them; as soon as they thought about voting they began to interfere in a
man's business. Yet this suspicion slept when he was with the flapper
alone. Sometimes he was conscious of liking very much to be with her. He
decided that this was because she didn't talk.

The evening of his last day came. Breede, in a burst of garrulity, had
said: "Had enough this; go town to-morrow!" The flapper, and even the
Demon, had seemed to be stirred by the announcement. He resolved to be
more than ever on his guard. But they caught him fairly in the open.

"How do you like his hair parted that way in the middle?" demanded the
flapper, with the calculating eye of one who ponders changes in a
dwelling-house.

"U-u-mm!" considered the Demon gravely. "Not bad. Still, perhaps--!"

"Exactly what I was thinking!" said the flapper cordially. Then, to
Bean, her tone slightly raised:

"Which way?"

"Got to get off a bunch of telegrams," lied Bean.

"Oh, all right! We'll wait for you," said the flapper. "Right there,"
she added, pointing to the most expensive pergola on the place.

In the dusk of an hour later he slunk stealthily down a rear stairway
and made a cautious detour into the grounds. He earnestly meant to keep
far from that pergola. Wait for him, would they? Well, he'd show them!
Always spying on a man; _hounding_ him! What business was it of theirs
whether he had habits or not ... any kind of habits?

But he was to find himself under a spell such as is said to bring the
weak-willed bird to the serpent's maw. His traitorous feet dragged him
toward the trap. The odour of a cigarette drew his revolted nostrils. He
could hear the murmurous duet.

Talking about him! Of course! He would like to break in on them and for
a little while be a certain Corsican upstart in one of his most
objectionable moods. That would take them down a bit. But, instead, he
became something entirely different. With the stealth of the red Indian
he effaced himself against a background of well-groomed shrubbery and
crept toward the murmur. At last he could hear words above the beating
of his heart.

"How can you _know_?" the Demon was saying. "A child of your age?"

The flapper's tone was calm and confident as one who relates a
phenomenon that has become a commonplace.

"I knew it the very first second I ever saw him--something went over me
just like that--I can't tell how, but I knew."

"Well, how can you know about him?"

"Oh, him!" The words implied that the flapper had waved a deprecating
hand. "Why, I know about him in just the same way; you can't tell how.
It comes over you!"

The Demon: (A long-drawn) "U-u-mm!"

The flapper: "And he makes me perfectly furious sometimes, too!"

There was a stir as if they were leaving. Bean retreated a dozen feet
before he breathed again. So that was their game, was it? He'd see about
that!

He waited for them to emerge, but they had apparently settled to more of
this high-handed talk. Then, like an icy wave to engulf him, came a
name--"Tommy Hollins." It came in the Demon's voice, indistinguishable
words preceding it. And in the flapper's voice came "Tommy Hollins!"
gently, caressingly, it seemed. In truth, the flapper had sniffed before
uttering it, and the sniff had meant good-natured contempt but Bean had
lost the sniff.

Now he had it! Tommy Hollins! He identified the youth, a yellow-headed,
pink-faced lout in flannels who was always riding over, and who seemed
to "go in" for nearly everything. He had detected a romping intimacy
between the two. So it was Tommy Hollins. At once he felt a great
relief; he need worry no longer over the singular attentions of this
young woman. Let Tommy Hollins worry! He could admit, now, how grave had
been his alarm. And there was nothing in it. He could meet her without
being afraid. He was almost ready to approach them genially and pass an
hour in light conversation. He advanced a few steps with this intention,
but again came the voice of the flapper replying, apparently, to some
unheard admonition. It came, cold and terrible.

"I don't care. I've got the right to choose the father of my own
children!"

He blushed for this language, a blush he could feel mantling his very
toes. He fled from there. He saw that the moment was not for light
conversation. And even as he fled he caught the Demon's prolonged
"U-u-mmm!"

Yet when he left in the morning the flapper lurked for him as ever,
materializing from an apparently vacant corridor. He greeted her for the
first time without ulterior questioning. He thought he liked her pretty
well now. And she was undeniably good to look at in the white of her
tennis costume; the hair, like Nap's spots in its golden brown, was
filleted with a scarlet ribbon, and her eyes shone from her freshened
face with an unwonted sparkle--decision, certitude--what was it? He
deemed that he knew.

"Tommy Hollins coming to play," she vouchsafed in explanation of the
racquet she carried. "Are you glad to go?"

"Glad to see my dog again." He smiled as a man of the world. He was on
the verge of coquetry, now that he knew it to be safe.

"We'll bring him along too, next time."

"Oh, the next time!" He put it carelessly aside.

"You'll be out again, soon enough. I simply know Pops is going to have
another bad spell--in a week or so."

He could have sworn that the eyes of Breede's daughter gleamed with cold
anticipatory malice. He shuddered for Breede. And he wished Tommy
Hollins well of his bargain. Flirt, indeed! All alike!

"Chubbins!" called the unconscious father from afar.

"Yes, Pops!" She gripped his hand with a well-muscled fervour. "Oh,
he'll have another in a little while, don't you worry!" And she was off,
with this evil in her heart, to a father but now convalescent.

Marvelling, he walked on to the Demon's ambuscade. She pounced upon him
from behind a half-opened door.

"I want to say one word, young man. Oh, you needn't think I don't see
the way things are going. I'm not blind if I am seventy-six! If you're
the tender and innocent thing you say you are, you look out for
yourself. I know you all! If you don't break out one time you do
another. I'd a good deal rather you'd had it over before now and put it
all behind you--don't interrupt--but you're sound and clean as far as I
can see, and you've got a good situation. I don't say it couldn't be
worse. But if you are--well, you see that you _stay_ that way. Don't try
to tell me. I've seen enough of men in my time--"

He broke away from her at Breede's call. The flapper jerked her head
twice at him, very neatly, as the car passed the tennis court. She was
beginning a practise volley with Tommy Hollins, who was disporting
himself like a young colt.

"Chubbins!" he thought. Not a bad name for her, though it had come
queerly from Breede. For the first time he was pricked with the needle
of suspicion that Hollins might not be the right man for the flapper.
Hearing her called "Chubbins" somehow made it seem different. Maybe
Hollins, who seemed all of twenty, wouldn't "make her happy." He thought
it was something that the family ought to consider very seriously. He
was conscious of a willingness to consider it himself, as a friend of
the family and a well-wisher of Chubbins.

       *       *       *       *       *

He was back in the apartment and in the presence of a document that
swept his mind of all Breedes. Never had he in fancy ceased to be king
Ram-tah, cheated of historic mention because of his wisdom and goodness.
He had looked commiseratingly upon Breede's country-house, thinking of
his own palace on the banks of the slow-moving Nile. "--probably made
this place look like a shack!" he had exultantly thought. And the benign
monarch had ended his reign in peace, to be laid magnificently away, to
repose undisturbed while the sands drifted over him--until--

The hour had come. "My men have succeeded, after incredible hardships,"
wrote Professor Balthasar. "The _goods_ will be delivered to you
Thursday night, the tenth. I trust the final payment will be ready, as,
relying on your honour, I have advanced--"

The rest did not matter. His honour was surely to be relied upon. The
money had been richly earned. An able man, this Balthasar! He had
achieved the thing with admirable secrecy. Bean had feared the hounds of
the daily press. They might discover who It was, to whom It was going;
discover the true identity of Bunker Bean. The whole thing might come
out in the papers! But Balthasar had known how. He approved the caution
that had led him to speak of "the _goods_"; there was something almost
witty about it.

He leaned far out a window, listening, straining his eyes up and down
the lighted avenue. There was confusion in his mind as to how It could
most fittingly be brought to him. The sable vision of a hearse drawn by
four lordly black horses at first possessed his mind. But this was
dismissed; there was no death! And the spectacle would excite comment.
The idea of an ambulance, which he next considered, seemed equally
impracticable. It would have to be done quietly; Balthasar would know.
Trust Balthasar!

He heard the rhythmic clump-clump of a horse's hoofs on the asphalt
pavement. This was presently accompanied by the sounds of wheels. An
express wagon came under the street-lights. Balthasar rode beside the
driver, his frock coat and glossy tall hat having been relinquished for
the garb of an ordinary citizen. Back of them in the wagon he could
distinguish the lines of an Object. It had come to him in a common
express wagon, in a common crate, and the driver did not even wear a
black mask. Balthasar had cunningly eluded detection by pretending there
was nothing to conceal.

He drew back from the window and with fast beating heart went to open
the door. They were already on the stairway. Balthasar was coming first.
With sublime effrontery he had impressed Cassidy to help carry It, and
Cassidy was warning the expressman to look out for that turn an' not
tear inta th' plashter.

It was lowered to the floor in the throne-room. Cassidy and the
expressman puffed freely and looked at the thing as if wondering how two
men had ever been equal to it.

"'Twould be brickybac," said Cassidy genially.

"That there hall's choked with dust," said the expressman with seeming
irrelevance.

"I noticed it meself," said Cassidy.

"Clogged me throat up fur fair," continued the expressman huskily.

"Pay the men liberally and let them be on their way," said Balthasar.
Bean pressed money upon both and they departed.

"You couldn't get me to do it again for twice the money," said
Balthasar; "the nervous strain I've been under. A custom-house detective
was on our trail, but one of my men took care of him--at a dark corner."

Bean shuddered.

"They didn't--"

"Oh, nothing serious. He'll be as well as ever in a few days. Got a
hatchet." He gestured significantly toward the crate.


But this was too precipitate for Bean. He could not disinter himself--it
seemed like that--under the eyes of Balthasar.

"Not now! Not now! You've done your part--here!" He passed Balthasar the
check he had written earlier in the evening.

"I'll leave you, then," said the professor. "But one thing, don't handle
it much. It might disintegrate. I bid you farewell, my young friend."

Bean, at the door, listened to his descending steps. The professor was
whistling. He recognized the air, "Call Me Up Some Rainy Afternoon." It
was a lively air and the professor rendered it ably but quite softly.

The door locked, he was back staring at the crate that concealed his
dead self. He was helpless before it. The fleshly tenement of a great
king who had later flashed upon the world as Napoleon I, and was now
Bunker Bean! Could he bear to look? He trembled and knew himself weak.
Yet it would be done, some time.

There was a vigorous knock at the door. All was discovered!

The crime of assault at the dark corner had been traced to his door.
Balthasar had betrayed him. The Egyptian authorities had discovered
their loss. The thing was there. He was caught red-handed.

He reached the door and cautiously opened it an inch. Cassidy stood
there, armed with a hatchet. They would use violence!

"Hatchet!" said Cassidy, genially extending the weapon. He wiped his
mouth with the back of his hand. The aroma of beer stole into the room.

"F'r brox brickybac!" insinuated Cassidy.

"Thanks!" said Bean, accepting the tool.

"We kem frum th' sem county, Mayo, him an' me," volunteered Cassidy.
"G'night!"

Once more Bean faced the crate. It must be done at once. Discovery was
too probable. Gingerly he forced the blade under one of the boards and
pried. The nails screeched horribly as they were withdrawn. The task was
simple enough; the crate was a flimsy affair to have withstood so
difficult a journey. But after each board was removed he peered to the
street from behind the closed blind, half expecting to find policemen
drawn to the spot.

A smoothly packed layer of excelsior greeted his eyes. It was rather
reassuring. He felt that he might be unpacking any casual object.
Exposed at last was the wooden case that enveloped him!

Awestruck, he looked down at it for a long time. He recognized the
workmanship, having seen a dozen such in the museum in the park. He
knelt by it and ran a reverent hand over its painted surface. In many
colours were birds and beasts, and men in profile, and queer marks that
he knew to be picture-writing; processions of slaves and oxen, reapers
and water-bearers. The tints were fresh under their overlaying lacquer.
There was even a smell of varnish. He wondered if the contents--if
It--were in the same remarkable state of preservation. He rapped on the
thin wood--it was cedar, he thought, or perhaps sycamore. The sound was
musical, resonant; the same note that had vibrated how many thousands of
years before.

Nap came up to smell, seeming to suspect that the box might contain
food. He stretched his forepaws to the top of the case and betrayed
eagerness.

"Napoleon!" cried Bean sternly, putting the dog's complete name upon him
for the first time. He was banished to his couch and made to know that
leaving it would entail unpleasantness.

The thought of the Corsican came back with a new significance. In that
embodiment he had felt, perhaps dimly recalled, his Egyptian life. Had
he not been drawn irresistibly to Egypt? "In the shadow of the
pyramids," he had read in a history, "the conqueror of Italy dreamed of
the pomp and power of a crown and sceptre, and upon his return to France
from the Egyptian expedition, with characteristic energy he set himself
to work to bring the dream to pass--" It was plain enough. He knew now
the inner meaning of that engraving he had bought, in which Napoleon
stood in rapt meditation before the Sphinx. They had all--King, Emperor,
Bean--been dreamers that brought their dreams to pass. He mused long,
staring down at the case; a queerly shaped thing, fashioned to follow
the lines of the human form. From the neck the shoulders rounded
gracefully. They might have been cut to give the wearer the appearance
of perfect physical development; at least they seemed to fit him neatly.

It occurred to Bean that the case should not lie prone. It suggested
death where death was not. He pulled out more excelsior until he could
raise the case. It was surprisingly light and he leaned it upright
against the wall. He now tried to pretend that everything was over. He
gathered boards, excelsior and the crate and piled them in the
kitchenette, which they approximately filled.

But inevitably he was brought back. He stood with hands upon the cover
of the upreared case, drew a long shivering breath and gently lifted it
off. His eyes were upon the swathed figure within, then slowly they
crept up the yellowed linen and came to rest upon the bared face.

He had tried feebly to prefigure this face, but never had his visioning
approached the actual in its majestic, still beauty. The brow was nobly
broad, the nose straight and purposeful, the chin bold yet delicate. The
grimness of the mouth was relieved by a faint lift of the upper lip,
perhaps an echo of the smile with which he greeted death. There was a
gleam of teeth from under the lip. The eyes had closed peacefully; the
lids lay light upon their secrets as if they might flutter and open
again. On cheek and chin was a discernible growth of dark beard; the
hair above the brow was black and abundant. It was a kingly face, a face
of command, though benign. It was all too easy to believe that a crown
had become it well. And there had been no weakening at the end, no
sunken cheeks nor hollowed temples. The lines were full. The general
colour was of rich red mahogany.

He ran a tremulous hand over the face, smoothed the thick hair, fingered
the firm lips that almost smiled. Under the swathing of linen he could
see where the hands were folded on the breast. Low down on the right jaw
was unmistakably a mole, a thing that had strangely survived on Bean's
own face. Again he ran a hand over the features, then a corroborating
hand over his own. Intently and long he studied each detail, nostrils,
eyebrows, ears, hair, the tips of the just-revealed teeth.

"God!" he breathed. It was hardly more than a whisper and was uttered in
all reverence.

Then--

"_God! how I've changed!_"



VIII


On the following afternoon, among the Sunday throng in the Metropolitan
Museum of Art, a slender young man of inconsiderable stature, alert as
to movement, but with an expression of absent dreaming, might have been
observed giving special attention to the articles in those rooms devoted
to ancient Egypt. Doubtless, however, no one did observe him more than
casually, for, though of singularly erect carriage, he was garbed
inconspicuously in neutral tints, and his behaviour was never such as to
divert attention from the surrounding spoils of the archaeologist.

Had his mind been as an open book, he would surely have become a figure
of interest. His mental attitude was that of a professional beau of
acknowledged preeminence; he was comparing the self at home in the mummy
case with the remnants of defunct Pharaohs here exposed under glass, and
he was sniffing, in spirit, at their lack of kingly dignity and their
inferior state of preservation. Their wooden cases were often marred,
faded, and broken. Their shrouding linen was frayed and stained. Their
features were unimpressive and, in too many instances, shockingly
incomplete. They looked very little like kings, and the laudatory
recitals of their one-time greatness, translated for the contemporary
eye, seemed to be only the vapourings of third-class pugilists.

Sneering openly at a damaged Pharaoh of the fourth dynasty, he reflected
that some day he would confer upon that museum a relic transcending all
others. He saw it enshrined in a room by itself; it should never be
demeaned by association with those rusty cadavers he saw about him. This
would be when he had passed on to another body, in accordance with the
law of Karma. He would leave a sum to the museum authorities,
specifically to build this room, and to it would come thousands, for a
glimpse of the superior Ram-tah, last king of the pre-dynastic period,
surviving in a state calculated to impress every beholder with his
singular merits. Ram-tah, cheated of his place in history's pantheon,
should here at last come into his own; serene, beauteous, majestic,
looking every inch a king, where mere Pharaohs looked like--like the
coffee-stained, untidy fragments they were.

He left the place in a tolerant mood. He had weighed himself with the
other great dead of the world.

That night he sat again before this old king, staring until he lost
himself, staring as he had before stared into the depths of his shell.
The shell, when he had looked steadily at it for a long time, had always
seemed to put him in close touch with unknown forces. He had once tried
to explain this to his Aunt Clara, who understood nearly everything, but
his effort had been clumsy enough and had brought her no enlightenment.
"You look into it--and it makes you _feel_!" was all he had been able to
tell her.

But the shell was now discarded for the puissant person of Ram-tah. The
message was more pointed. He drew power from the old dead face that yet
seemed so living. He was himself a wise and good king. No longer could
he play the coward before trivial adversities. He would direct large
affairs; he would live big. Never again would he be afraid of death or
Breede or policemen or the mockery of his fellows--or women! He might
still avoid the latter, but not in terror; only in a dignified dread
lest they talk and spoil it all.

He would choose, in due time, a worthy consort, and a certain Crown
Prince would, in further due time, startle the world with his
left-handed pitching. It was a prospect all golden to dream upon. His
spirit grew tall and its fibre toughened.

To be sure, he did not achieve a kingly disregard for public opinion all
in one day. There was the matter of that scarlet cravat. Monday morning
he excavated it from the bottom of the trunk, where it lay beside
"Napoleon, Man and Lover." He even adjusted it, carelessly pretending
that it was just any cravat, the first that had come to hand. But its
colour was still too alarming. _It_--so he usually thought of the great
Ram-tah--would have worn the cravat without a tremor, but It had been
born a king. One glance at the thing about his neck had vividly recalled
the awkward circumstance that, to the world at large, he was still
Bunker Bean, a youth incapable of flaunt or flourish.

Let it not be thought, however, that his new growth showed no result
above ground. He purchased and wore that very morning a cravat not
entirely red, it is true, but one distinguished by a narrow red stripe
on a backing of bronze, which the clerk who manoeuvred the sale assured
him was "tasty." Also he commanded a suit of clothes of a certain light
check in which the Bean of uninspired days would never have braved
public scrutiny. Such were the immediate and actual fruits of Ram-tah's
influence.

There were other effects, perhaps more subtle. Performing his accustomed
work for Breede that day, he began to study his employer from the
kingly, or Ram-tah, point of view. He conceived that Breede in the time
of Ram-tah would have been a steward, a keeper of the royal granaries, a
dependable accountant; a good enough man in his lowly station, but one
who could never rise. His laxness in the manner of dress was seen to be
ingrained, an incurable defect of soul. In the time of Ram-tah he had
doubtless worn the Egyptian equivalent for detached cuffs, and he would
be doing the like for a thousand incarnations to come. All too plainly
Breede's Karmic future promised little of interest. His degree of ascent
in the human scale was hardly perceptible.

Bean was pleased at this thought. It left him in a fine glow of
superiority and sharpened his relish for the mad jest of their present
attitudes--a jest demanding that he seem to be Breede's subordinate.

Naturally, this was a situation that would not long endure. It was too
preposterous. Money came not only to kings but to the kingly. He
troubled as little about details as would have any other king. Were
there not steel kings, and iron kings, railway kings, oil kings--money
kings? He thought it was not unlikely that he would first engage the
world's notice as an express king. He had received those fifty shares of
stock from Aunt Clara and regarded them as a presage of his coming
directorship. But he took no pride in this thought. Baseball was to be
his life work. He would own one major-league team, at least; perhaps
three or four. He would be known as the baseball king, and the world
would forget his petty triumphs as a director of express.

He deemed it significant that the present directors of that same Federal
Express Company one day held a meeting in Breede's office. It showed, he
thought, how life "worked around." The thing was coming to his very
door. With considerable interest he studied the directors as they came
and went. Most of them, like Breede, were men whose wealth the daily
press had a habit of estimating in rotund millions. He regarded them
knowingly, thinking he could tell them something that might surprise
them. But they passed him, all unheeding, moneyed-looking men of good
round girth, who seemed to have found the dollar-game worth while.

The most of them, he was glad to note, were in dress slightly more
advanced than Breede. One of them, a small but important-looking old
gentleman with a purple face and a white parted beard, became on the
instant Bean's ideal for correctness. From his gray spats to his
top-hat, he was "dignified yet different," although dressing, for
example, in a more subdued key than Bulger. Yet he was a constantly
indignant looking old gentleman, and Bean guessed that he would be a
trouble-maker on any board of directors. It seemed to him that he would
like to take this person's place on the board; oust him in spite of his
compelling garments.

And Breede would know then that he was something more than a machine. On
the whole, he felt sorry for Breede at times. Perhaps he would let him
have a little of the baseball stock.

So he sat and dreamed of his great past and of his brilliant future.
Perhaps, after all, Bean as the blind poet had been not the least
authentic of Balthasar's visions.

And inevitably he encountered the flapper in this dreaming; "Chubbins,"
he liked to call her. More and more he was suspecting that Tommy Hollins
was not the man for Chubbins. He would prefer to see her the bride of an
older man, two or three, or even four, years older, who was settled in
life. A young girl--a young girl's parents--couldn't be too careful!

He was not for many days at a time deprived of the sight of the young
girl in question. She had formed a habit of calling for her father at
the close of his day's hard work. And she did not wait for him in the
big car; she sat in his office, where, after she had inquired
solicitously about his poor foot, she settled her gaze upon Bean. And
Bean no longer evaded this gaze. She was a clever, attractive little
thing and he liked her well. He thought of things he would tell her for
her own good at the first opportunity.

He wondered guiltily when Breede's next attack might be expected, and he
had a lively impression that the flapper, too, was more curious than
alarmed about this. He seemed to feel that she was actually wishing to
be told things by him for her own good.

However that may be, his next summons to the country place came without
undue delay, and it is not at all improbable that Breede fell a victim
to what the terminology of one of our most popular cults identifies as
"malicious animal magnetism."

On this occasion he was not oppressed by those attentions which the
flapper and Grandma, the Demon, still bestowed upon him. Where he had
once fled, he now put himself in the way of them. He listened with
admirably simulated interest to Grandma's account of the suffrage play
for which she was rehearsing. She was to appear in the mob scene. He was
certain she would lend vivacity to any mob. But he was glad that the
flapper was not to appear. Voting and smashing windows were bad enough.

He tried at first to talk to the flapper about Tommy Hollins, whom he
airily designated as "that Hollins boy". It seemed to be especially
needed, because the Hollins boy arrived after breakfast every day and
left only in the late afternoon. But the flapper declined nevertheless
to consider him as meat for serious converse.

Bean considered that this was sheer flirting, whereupon he flung
principle to the winds and flirted himself.

"You show signs of life," declared Grandma, who was quick to note this
changed demeanor. And Bean smirked like a man of the world.

"She never set her mind on anything yet that she didn't get it," added
Grandma, naming no one. "She's like her father there."

And Bean strolled off to enjoy a vision of himself defeating her purpose
to ensnare the Hollins youth. Once he would have considered it crass
presumption, but that was before a certain sarcophagus on the left bank
of the Nile had been looted of its imperial occupant. Now he merely
recalled a story about a King Cophetua and a beggar maid. It was a
comparison that would have intensely interested the flapper's mother,
who was this time regarding Bean through her glazed weapon as if he were
some queer growth the head gardener had brought from the conservatory.

Grandma deftly probed his past for affairs of the heart. She pointedly
had him alone, and her intimation was that he might talk freely, as to a
woman of understanding and broad sympathy. But Bean made a wretched mess
of it.

Certainly there had been "affairs." There was the girl in Chicago, two
doors down the street, whom he had once taken to walk in the park, but
only once, because she talked; the girl in the business college who had
pretty hair and always smiled when she looked at him; and another who,
he was almost sure, had sent him an outspoken valentine; yes, there had
been plenty of girls, but he hadn't bothered much about them.

And Grandma, plainly incredulous, averred that he was too deep for her.
Bean was on the point of inventing a close acquaintance with an actress,
which he considered would be scandalous enough to compel a certain
respect he seemed to find lacking in the old lady, but he saw quickly
that she would confuse and trip him with a few questions. He was obliged
to content himself with looking the least bit smug when she said:

"You're a deep one--too deep for me!"

He tried hard to look deep and at least as depraved as the conventions
of good society seemed to demand.

He was beginning to enjoy the sinful thing. The girl was of course
plighted to the Hollins boy, and yet she was putting herself in his way.
Very well! He would teach her the danger of playing with fire. He would
bring all of his arts and wiles to bear. True, in behaving thus he was
conscious of falling below the moral standards of a wise and good king
who had never stooped to baseness of any sort. But he was now living in
a different age, and somehow--

"I'm a dual nature," he thought. And he applied to himself another
phrase he seemed to recall from his reading of magazine stories.

"I've got the artistic temper!" This, he gathered, was held to explain,
if not to justify, many departures from the conventional in affairs of
the heart. It was a kind of licensed madness. Endowed with the "artistic
temper," you were not held accountable when you did things that made
plain people gasp. That was it! That was why he was carrying on with
Tommy Hollins' girl, and not caring _what_ happened.

In his times of leisure they walked through the shaded aisles of those
too well-kept grounds, or they sat in seats of twisted iron and honored
the setting sun with their notice. They did not talk much, yet they were
acutely aware of each other. Sometimes the silence was prolonged to
awkwardness, and one of them would jestingly offer a penny for the
other's thoughts. This made a little talk, but not much, and sometimes
increased the awkwardness; it was so plain that what they were thinking
of could not be told for money.

They did tell their wonderful ages and their full names and held their
hands side by side to note the astonishing differences between the
"lines." A palmist had revealed something quite amazing to the flapper,
but she refused to tell what it was, with a significance that left Bean
in a tumultuous and pleasurable whirl of cowardice. Their hands flew
apart rather self-consciously. Bean felt himself a scoundrel--"leading
on" a young thing like that who was engaged to another. It was flirting
of the most reprehensible sort. But there was his dual nature; a strain
of the errant Corsican had survived to debauch him.

And if she didn't want to be "led on," he thought indignantly, why did
she so persistently put herself in the way of it? She was always there!
Serve her right, then! Serve the Hollins boy right, too!

Grandma eyed them shrewdly with her Demon's glance of questioning, but
did nothing to keep them apart. On the contrary, she would often
brazenly leave them together after conducting them to remote nooks. She
made no flimsy excuses. She seemed indifferent to the fate of this
tender bud left at the mercy of one whom she affected to regard as a
seasoned roué.

There were four days of this regrettable philandering. On the fifth
Breede manifested alarming symptoms of recovery. He ceased to be the
meek man he was under actual suffering, and was several times guilty of
short-worded explosions that should never have reached the ears of good
women.

Said the flapper in tones of genuine dismay that evening:

"I'm afraid Pops is going to be well enough to go to town to-morrow!"

Even Grandma, pacing a bit of choice turf near at hand, rehearsing her
lines in the mob scene, was shocked at this.

"You are a selfish little pig!" she called.

"But _he_ will have to go away, if Pops goes," said the flapper, in
magnificent extenuation.

The words told. Grandma seemed to see things in a new light.

"You come with me," she commanded; "both of you."

Ahead of them she led the way to that pergola where Bean had once
overheard their talk.

"Sit down," said Grandma, and herself sat between them.

"You are a couple of children," she began accusingly. "Why, when I was
your age--" She broke off suddenly, and for some moments stared into the
tracery of vines.

"When I was your age," she began once more, but in a curiously altered
voice--"Lord! What a time of years!" She spoke slowly, softly, as one
who would evoke phantoms. "Why, at your age," she turned slightly to the
flapper, "I'd been married two years, and your father was crawling about
under my feet as I did the housework."

She was still looking intently ahead to make her vision alive.

"What a time of years, and how different! Sixty years ago--why, it seems
farther back than Noah's ark. The log cabins in the little clearings,
and people marrying when they wanted to--always early, and working hard
and raising big families. I was the only girl, but I had nine brothers.
And Jim, your father's father, my dear, I remember the very moment he
began to take notice of me, coming out of the log church one Sabbath. He
only looked at me, that was all, and I had to pretend I didn't know.
Then he came nights and sat in front of the big open fire, with all of
us, at first. But after a little, the others would climb up the ladder
to the loft and leave us, and we'd maybe eat a mince pie that I'd
made--I was a good cook at sixteen--and there would be a pitcher of
cider, and outside, the wind would be driving the snow against the tiny
windowpanes--I can hear that sound now, and the sputtering of the
backlog, and Jim--oh, well!" She waved the scene back.

"When we were married, Jim had his eighty acres all cleared, a yoke of
nice fat steers, a cow, two pigs, and a couple of sheep; not much, but
it seemed enough then. The furniture was home-made, the table-ware was
tin plates and pewter spoons and horn-handled knives, and a set of real
china that Pa and Ma gave us--that was for company--and a feather-bed
and patch-work quilts I'd made, and a long-barrelled rifle, and the best
coon-dog, Jim said, in the whole of York State. Oh, well!"

Bean became aware that the old lady had grasped his hand, and he divined
that she was also holding a hand of the flapper.

"And my! such excitement you never did see when little Jim came! We
began to save right off to send him to a good seminary. We were going to
make a preacher out of him; and see the way he's turned out! Lord, what
would his father make of this place and our little Jim, if he was to
come back?

"I lost him before he got to see many changes in the world. I remember
we did go to a party in Fredonia one time, where a woman from Buffalo
wore a low-necked gown, and Jim never got over it. He swore to the day
of his death that any woman who'd wear 'a dug-out dress' was a hussy. He
didn't know what the world could be coming to, when they allowed such
goings-on. Poor Jim! I was still young when he went, and of course--but
I couldn't. I'd had my man and I'd had my baby, and somehow I was
through. I wanted to learn more about the world, and little Jim was
growing up and had a nice situation in the store at Fredonia, working
early and late, sleeping under the counter, and saving his fifty dollars
clear every year. I knew he'd always provide for me--Dear me! how I run
on! Where was I?"

Bean's hand was released, and Grandma rose to her feet, turning to look
down upon them.

"I forgot what I started to say, but maybe it was this, that the world
hasn't changed so much as folks often think. I get to watching young
people sometimes--it seems as if they were like the young people in my
day, and I think any young man that's steady and decent and has a good
situation--what I mean is this, that he--well, it depends on the girl,
as it always did."

She turned and walked to the end of the pergola, fifty feet away. There
she threw up a clenched fist and began to emit groans, cries of hoarse
rage and ragged phrases of abuse. She was again rehearsing her lines in
the mob scene of the equal-suffrage play. At the head of her fellow
mobs-women, she hurled harsh epithets at the Prime Minister of the
oldest English-speaking nation on earth. There seemed to be no escape
for the Prime Minister. They had him.

"We've broken windows, we'll break heads!" shouted the Demon, and a
gardener crossing the grounds might have been seen to quicken his pace
after one backward look.

The pair on the bench were inattentive. They had instinctively drawn
together, but they were silent. In Bean's mind was a confusion of many
matters: Breede sleeping under a counter--people in log-cabins getting
married--the best coon-dog in York State--a yoke of nice fat steers--

But beneath this was a sharpened consciousness of the girl breathing at
his side. She seemed curiously to be waiting--waiting! The silence and
their stillness became unbearable. Something must break ... their breaths
were too long drawn. He got to his feet and the flapper was
unaccountably standing beside him. It was too dark to see her face, but
he knew that for once she was not looking at him; for once that head was
bent. And then, preposterously, without volition, without foreknowledge,
he was holding her tightly in his arms; holding her tightly and kissing
her with a simple directness that "Napoleon, Man and Lover," could never
have bettered.

There is no record of Napoleon having studied jiu-jitsu.

For one frenzied moment he was out of himself, a mere conquering male,
unthinking, ruthless, exigent. Then the sweet strange touch of her cheek
brought him back to the awful thing he had done. His reason worked with
a lightning quickness. Terrified by his violence she would wrench
herself free and run screaming to the house. And then--it was too
horrible!

He waited, breathless, for retribution. The flapper did not wrench
herself away. Slowly he relaxed the embrace that had made a brute of
him. The flapper had not screamed. She was facing him now, breathless
herself. He put her a little way from him; he wanted her to see it as he
did.

The flapper drew a long and rather catchy breath, then she adjusted a
strand of hair misplaced by his violence.

"I _knew_ it!" she began, in tones surprisingly cool. "I knew it ever so
long ago, from the very first moment!"

He tried to speak, but had no words. His utterance was formless. "When
did _you_ first know?" she persisted. She was patting her hair into
place with both hands.

He didn't know; he didn't know that he knew now; but recalling her
speech he had overheard, he had the presence of mind to commit a soulful
perjury.

"From the very first," he lied glibly. "Something went over me--just
like _that_. I can't tell you how, but I knew!"

"You made me so afraid of you," confessed the flapper.

"I never meant to, couldn't help it."

"I'm horribly shy, but I knew it had to be. I felt powerless."

"I _know_," he sympathized.

"Our day has come!" roared Grandma from out of the gloom. "We know our
rights! We've broken glass! We break heads!" This was followed by "Ar!
Ar! Ar!" meant for sinister growls of rage. It seemed to be the united
voice of the mob.

They drew apart, once more self-conscious. They walked slowly out,
passed the mob scene, which ignored them, and went with awkward little
hesitations up the wide walk to the Breede portal. To Bean's suddenly
cooled eye, the vast gray house towered above him as a menace. He had a
fear that it might fall upon him.

At the entrance they stood discreetly apart. Bean wondered what he ought
to say. His sense of guilt was overwhelming. But the flapper seemed
clear-headed enough.

"You leave it to me," she said, as if he had confided his perplexity to
her. "Leave it all to me. _I've_ always managed."

"Yes," said Bean, meaning nothing whatever.

She made little movements that suggested departure. She was regarding
him now with the old curious look that had puzzled him.

"You're just as perfectly nice as I knew you were," she announced, with
an obvious pride in this bit of proved wisdom.

"Good-night!"

From a distance of five feet she bestowed the little double-nod upon him
and fled.

"Good-night!" he managed to call after her. Then he was aware that he
had wanted to call her "Chubbins!" He liked that name for her. If he
could only have said "Good-night, Chubbins--"

For that matter he basely wanted again to--but he thought with shame
that he had done enough for once. A pretty night's work, indeed! If
Breede ever found it out--

When he left with Breede in the morning, she was on the tennis-court.
Brazenly she engaged in light conversation across the net with no other
than Thomas Hollins, Junior. She did not look up as the car passed the
court, though he knew that she knew. Something in the poise of her head
told him that.

He didn't wonder she couldn't face him in the light of day. He smiled
bitterly, in scorn for the betrayed Tommy.



IX


Back in the lofty office that Saturday morning he sat under the eye of
Breede, in outward seeming a neat and efficient amanuensis. In truth he
was pluming himself as a libertine of rare endowments. He openly and
shamelessly wished he had kissed the creature again. When the next
opportunity came she wouldn't get off so lightly, he could tell her
that. It was base, but it was thrilling. He would abandon himself. He
would take her hand and hold it the very first time they were alone
together. Well might she be afraid of him, as she had confessed herself
to be. She little knew!

It was, though, pretty light conduct on her part. It was possible that
he would not see her again. Perhaps a baggage like that would already
have forgotten him; would have treated the thing as trivial, an incident
to laugh about, even to regale her intimates with. Probably he had done
nothing more than make a fool of himself as usual. Votes for women,
indeed! He thought they should first learn how to behave properly with
young men who weren't expecting things of that sort.

"--this 'mount'll then become 'vailable f'r purpose shortenin' line an'
reducin' heavy grades," dictated the unconscious father of the baggage.

"I kissed that smug-faced little brat of yours last night," wrote Bean
immediately thereafter. He didn't care. He would put the thing down
plainly, right under Breede's nose.

"With 'creased freight earnin's these 'provements may be 'spected t' pay
f'r 'emselves," continued Breede.

"And I don't say I wouldn't do the same thing over again," Bean slipped
in skilfully.

He winced to think he might some day have a daughter of his own that
would "carry on" just so with young men who would be all right if they
were only let alone. He found new comfort in the reflection that his
first-born would be a boy--to grow up and be the idol of a nation.

But a little later he was again thinking of her as "Chubbins," wishing
he had called her that, wishing she had stayed longer out in the scented
night--the wonderful smoothness of her yielding cheek! Her little tricks
of voice and manner came back to him, her quick little patting of
Grandma's back at unexpected moments, the tilting of her head like a
listening bird, that inexplicable look as her eyes enveloped him, a tiny
scar at her temple, mark of an early fall from her pony.

He became sentimental to a maudlin degree. She would go on in her
shallow way of life, smashing windows, voting, leading perfectly decent
young men to do things they never meant to do; but he, the tender, the
true, the ever-earnest, he would not recover from the wound that frail
one had so carelessly inflicted. He would be a changed man, with hair
prematurely graying at the temples, like Gordon Dane's, hiding his hurt
under a mask of light cynicism to all but persons of superior insight.
The heartless quip, the mad jest on his lips! And years afterward, a
deeply serious and very beautiful woman would divine his sorrow and win
him back to his true self.

The wedding! The drive from the church! The carriage is halted by a
street crowd. A stalwart policeman appears. He has just arrested two
women, confirmed window-smashers--Grandma, the Demon, and the flapper.
The flapper gives him one long look, then bows her head. She sees all
the nobility she has missed. Serve her right, too!

Noon came and he was about to leave the office. He was still the changed
man of quip and jest. Desperately he jested with old Metzeger, who was
regretfully, it seemed, relinquishing his adored ledgers from Saturday
noon until Monday morning.

"Say, I want to borrow nineteen thousand eleven hundred and eighty-nine
dollars and thirty-seven cents until the sixteenth at seven minutes to
eleven."

Old Metzeger repeated the numbers accurately. He looked wistful, but he
knew it was a jest.

"Telephone for Boston Bean!" cried an office boy, dryly affecting to be
unconscious of his wit.

He rushed nervously for the booth. No one in the great city had ever
before found occasion to telephone him. He thought of Professor
Balthasar. Balthasar would warn him to fly at once; that all was
discovered.

He held the receiver to his ear and managed a husky "Hello!"

At first there were many voices, mostly indignant: "I want the manager!"
"Get off the line!" "A hundred and nine and three quarters!" "That you,
Howard? Say, this is--" "Get--off--that--line!" "Or I'll know the reason
why before to-morrow night!" And then from Bedlam pealed the voice of
the flapper, silencing these evil spirits.

"Hello! Hello! This line makes me perfectly furious. To-morrow about
three o'clock--you're to give us tea and things, some nice place--Granny
and me. Be along in the car. I remember the number. Be there. Good-bye!"

There was the rattle of a receiver being hung up. But he stood there not
believing it--tea and car and be there--The receiver rattled again.

"You knew who I was, _didn't_ you?"

"Yes, right away," muttered Bean. Then he brightened. "I knew your voice
the moment I heard it." The madness was upon him and he soared. "You're
Chubbins!" He waited.

"Cut out the Chubbins stuff, Bill, and get off there!" directed a coarse
masculine voice from the unseen wire-world.

He got off there with all possible quickness. His first thought was that
she probably had not heard the magnificent piece of daring. It was too
bad. Probably he never could do it again. Then he turned and discovered
that he had left the door of the telephone booth ajar. Chubbins might
not have heard him, but Bulger assuredly had.

"Well, well, well!" declaimed Bulger in his best manner. "Look whom we
have with us here to-night! Old Mr. George W. Fox Bean, keeping it all
under his hat. Chubbins, eh? Some name, that! Don't tell me you thought
it up all by yourself, you word-painter! Miss Chubbsy Chubbins! Where's
she work?"

Bean saw release.

"Little manicure party," he confessed; "certain shop not far from here.
Think I'm going to put _you_ wise?"

Bulger was pleased at the implication.

"Ain't got a friend, has she?"

"No," said Bean. "Never did have one. Some class, too," he added with a
leer that won Bulger's complete respect. He breathed freely again and
was humming, "Love Me and the World Is Mine," as they separated.

But when he was alone the song died. The thing was getting serious. And
she was so assured. Telling him to be there as if she were Breede
himself. How did she know he had time for all that tea and Grandma
nonsense? Suppose he had had another engagement. She hadn't given him
time to say. Hadn't asked him; just _told_ him. Well, it showed one
thing. It showed that Bunker Bean could bring women to his feet.

His afternoon recreation, there being no baseball, was to lead Nap
triumphantly through Central Park to be seen of an envious throng. He
affected a lordly unconsciousness of the homage Nap received. He left
adoring women in his wake and covetous men; and children demanded
bluntly if he would sell that dog; or if he wouldn't sell him would he
give him away, because they wanted him.

Surfeited with this easily won attention, he sat by the driveway to
watch the endless parade of carriage folk. His eye was for the women in
those shining equipages. Young or old, they were to him newly exciting.
His attitude was the rather scornful one of a conqueror whose victories
have cost him too little. They had been mysteries to him, but now, all
in a day, he understood women. They were vulnerable things, and men were
their masters. Votes, indeed!

His own power over them was abundantly proved. Any of them passing
heedlessly there would, under the right conditions, confess it. Let him
be called to their notice and they'd be following him around, forgetting
plighted vows, getting him into places screened with vines and letting
themselves be led on; telephoning him to give them and Grandma tea and
things of a Sunday in some nice place--hanging on his words. Of course
it had always been that way, only he had never known it. Looking back
over his barren past he surveyed minor incidents with new eyes. There
was that girl with the pretty hair in the business college, who always
smiled in the quick, confidential way at him. Maybe she wouldn't have
been a talker!

And how far was this present affair going? Pretty far already:
clandestine meetings and that sort of thing. Still, he couldn't help
being a man, could he? And Tommy Hollins, poor dupe!

In the steam-heated apartment It had been locked in a closet, which in
an upright position It fitted nicely. He did not open the door that
night. He felt that he was venturing into ways that the wise and good
king would not approve. He could not face the thing while guilt was in
his heart. A woman had come between them.

       *       *       *       *       *

At three o'clock the next afternoon he lounged carelessly against the
basement railing of the steam-heated apartment. With Nap on a leash he
was keenly aware that he was "some class." He was arrayed in the new
suit of a quiet check. The cravat with the red stripe shimmered in the
sunlight. He had a new straw hat with a coloured band, bought the day
before at a shop advertising "Snappy Togs for Dressy Men." He lightly
twirled a yellow stick and carried yellow gloves in one hand. He was
almost the advanced dresser, dignified but unquestionably a bit
different. He seemed to be one who has tamed the world to his ends; but,
though he stood erect, expanded his chest and drew in his waist, as
instinctively do all those who wear America's greatest eighteen-dollar
suit, he was nevertheless wondering with a lively apprehension just what
was going to be done with him. This life of "affairs" was making him
uncomfortable.

Taking Nap along, he somehow felt, was a wise precaution. He didn't know
what mad thing you might expect of Grandma, the Demon, but surely
nothing very discreditable could occur in the presence of that innocent
dog. And he would play the waiting game; make 'em show their hands.

At twenty minutes after three he wondered if he mightn't reasonably
disappear. He would walk in the park and say afterward--if there should
be an afterward--that he had given them up. An easy way out. He would do
it. Twenty minutes more passed and he still meant to do it, knowing he
wouldn't.

Then came the blare of a motor horn and Breede's biggest and blackest
car descended upon him, stopping neatly at the curb.

He retained his calm, nonchalantly doffing the new straw hat.

"Just strolling off," he said; "given you up."

"Pops wanted to come," explained the flapper. "I had a perfectly
annoying time not letting him. What a darling child of a dog! _Does_ he
want to--well, he _shall_!"

And Nap did at once. He seemed in the flapper to be greeting an old
friend. He interrogated his lawful owner from the flapper's embrace,
then reached up to implant a moist salute upon the ear of Grandma, who
at once removed herself from his immediate presence.

"Sit there yourself," she commanded Bean. And Bean sat there beside the
flapper, with Nap between them. The car moved gently on under the gaze
of the impressed Cassidy, who had clattered up the iron stairway.
Cassidy's gaze seemed to say, "All right, me lad, but you want t' look
out f'r that sort. I know th' kind well!"

The car was moving swiftly now, heading for the north and the open.

"They cut us off yesterday," said the flapper. "I know I shall simply
make a lot of trouble for that operator some day."

He wondered if she had heard that mad "Chubbins!" But now the flapper
smiled upon him with a wondrous content, and he could say nothing.
Instead of talking he stroked the head of Nap, who was panting with the
excitement of this celestial adventure.

"I like you in that," confided the flapper with an approving glance. He
wondered if she meant the hat, the cravat or America's very best suit
for the money.

"I like _you_ in that," he retorted with equal vagueness, at last stung
to speech.

"Oh, this!" explained the flapper in pleased deprecation. "It's just a
little old rag. What's his darling name?"

"Eh? Name? Napoleon, Man and--I mean Napoleon. I call him Nap," he said
shortly, feeling himself in chameleon-like sympathy with the cravat.

Grandma, on the seat in front of them, stared silently ahead, but there
was something ominous in her rigidity. She had the air of a captor.

Once when his hand was on Nap the flapper brazenly patted it. He
pretended not to notice.

"Everything's all right," she said.

"Of course," he answered, believing nevertheless that everything was all
wrong.

They had come swiftly to the country and now swept along a wide highway
that narrowed in perspective far and straight ahead of them. He watched
the road, grateful for the slight hypnotic effect of its lines running
toward him. He must play the waiting game.

"Here's the inn," said the flapper. They turned into a big green yard
and drew up at the steps of a rambling old house begirt with wide
piazzas on which tables were set. This would be the nice place where he
was to give them tea and things. They descended from the car, and he was
aware that they pleasantly drew the attention of many people who were
already there having tea and things: the big car and Grandma and the
flapper in her little old rag and Nap still panting ecstatically, and,
not least, himself in dignified and a little bit different apparel,
lightly grasping the yellow stick and the quite as yellow gloves. It was
horribly open and conspicuous, he felt; still, getting out of a car like
that--and the flapper's little old rag was something that had to be
looked at--he was drunk with it. Following a waiter to a table he felt
that the floor was not meeting his feet.

They were seated! The shocking affair was on. The waiter inclined a
deferential ear to the gentleman from the large and costly car.

"Tea and things," said the gentleman with a very bored manner indeed,
and turned to rebuke the rare and costly dog with harsh words for his
excessive emotion at the prospect of food.

The waiter manifested delight at the command; one could not help seeing
that he considered it precisely the right one. He moved importantly off.
The three regarded each other a moment.

Bean played the waiting game. The flapper played her ancient game of
looking at him in that curious way. Grandma looked at them both, then
meaningly at Bean. She spoke.

"I'll say very frankly that I wouldn't marry you myself."

He blinked, then he pretended to search with his eyes for their vanished
waiter. But it was no good. He had to face the Demon, helpless.

"But that's nothing to your discredit, and it isn't a question of me,"
she added dispassionately.

His inner voice chanted, "Play the waiting game; play the waiting game."

"Every woman with a head on her knows what she wants when she sees it.
And nowadays, thanks to the efforts of a few noble leaders of our sex,
she has the right and the courage to take it. I haven't wasted any time
talking to _her_." She indicated the flapper, who still fixed the
implacable look on Bean.

"If she doesn't know at nineteen, she never would--"

"We've settled all _that_," said the flapper loftily. "Haven't we?"

Bean nodded. All at once that look of the flapper's began to be
intelligible. He could almost read it.

"I suppose you expect me to talk a lot of that stuff about marriage
being a serious business," continued the Demon evenly. "But I shan't.
Marriage isn't half as serious as living alone is. It's what we were
made for in my time, and your time isn't a bit different, young man."

She raised an argumentative finger toward him, as if he had sought to
contest this.

"I've always--" he began weakly. But the Demon would have none of it.

"Oh, don't tell _me_ what you've 'always!' I know well enough what
you've 'always.' That isn't the point."

What did the woman think she was talking about? Couldn't he say a word
to her without being snapped at?

"What is the point?" he ventured. It was still the waiting game, and it
showed he wasn't afraid of her.

"The point is--"

[Illustration: In that instant Bean read the flapper's look, the look
she had puzzled him with from their first meeting]

And in that instant Bean read the flapper's look, the look she had
puzzled him with from their first meeting. It was like finally
understanding an oft-heard phrase in a foreign tongue. How luminous that
look was now! The simple look of proud and assured and most determined
ownership! It lay quietly on her face now as always. It was the look he
must have bestowed on his shell the first time he saw it. Ownership!

"--the point is," the Demon was saying terribly, "I don't believe in
long engagements."

He had once been persuaded, yielding out of spineless bravado, to
descend the shaft of a mine in a huge bucket. The sensations of that
plunge were now reproduced. He looked up to the far circle of light that
ever diminished as he went down and down.

"I don't believe in them either," said the flapper firmly. "They're
perfectly no good."

"I never did believe in 'em," he heard himself saying. And added with
firmness equal to the flapper's, "Silly!" He was wondering if they would
ever pull him to the surface again; if the rope would break.

"Just what I think," chanted the flapper. "Silly, and then some!"

"Then some!" repeated the male being in helpless, terrified
corroboration.

"Won't he ever come?" queried the Demon. "Oh, here he is!"

The waiter was neatly removing tea and things from the tray. Bean
recalled how on that other occasion he had fearfully believed the earth
would close upon him, how hope revived as he was precariously drawn
upward, and what a novel view the earth's fair surface presented when he
again stood firmly upon it.

It was the waiter who raised him from this other abyss where he had been
like to perish, the waiter and the things, including tea: plates, forks,
napkins, cups and saucers, tea and hot water, jam, biscuit, toast. There
was something particularly reassuring about that plate of nicely matched
triangles of buttered toast. It spoke of a sane and orderly world where
you were never taken off your feet.

"How many lumps?" demanded the pouring flapper.

"Just as you like; I'm not fussy," he answered.

This was untrue. His preference in the matter was decided, but he could
not remember what it was. Afterward he knew that he did not take sugar
in his tea, but the flapper had sweetened it with three lumps. Grandma
again addressed him, engaging his difficult attention with a brandished
fragment of toast.

"I can't imagine how you were ever mad enough to think of it," she said,
"but you were. I give you credit for that. And just let me tell you that
you've won a treasure. Of course, I don't say you won't find her
difficult now and then, but you mustn't be too overbearing; give in a
bit now and then; 't won't hurt you. Remember she's got a will of her
own, as well as you have. Don't try to ride rough-shod--"

"Oh, we've settled all _that_," broke in the flapper. "Haven't we?"

"We've settled all that," said Bean, grateful for the solid feel of a
cup in his fingers.

"Don't be too domineering, that's all," warned the Demon. "She wouldn't
put up with it."

"I understand all _that_," insisted Bean, resolutely seizing a fork for
which he had no use. "I can look ahead!"

He began hurriedly to eat toast, hoping it would seem that he had more
to say but was too hungry to say it.

"I know _you_," persisted the Demon. "Brow-beating, bound to have your
own way, and, after all, she's nothing but a child."

"I'll _want_ him to have his own way," declared the child. "I'll see
that he just perfectly gets it, too!"

"Give and take, that's my motto," he muttered, wondering if more toast
would choke him.

"Be a row back there, of course," said Grandma, "but Julia's going to
marry off the other child after her own heart, and it's only right for
me to have a little say about this one. You're a better man than he is.
You have a good situation and he's just a waster; couldn't buy his own
cigarettes if he had to work for the money, say nothing of his gloves
and ties. Born to riches, born to folly, say I. Still, Julia will fuss
just about so much. Of course, Jim--"

"Oh, poor old Pops!" The flapper gracefully destroyed him as a factor in
the problem.

Bean was feeding toast to Nap, who didn't choke.

"She always has to come around though when the girl makes up her mind. I
haven't had that child in my charge for nothing."

"I have a right to choose the--" The flapper broke her speech with tea.
"I have the _right_," she concluded defiantly.

Bean shuddered. He recalled the terrific remainder of that speech.

"I thought we better have this little talk," said Grandma, "and get
everything understood."

"'S the only way to do," said Bean, wrinkling his forehead, "have
everything clear."

"I had it all perfectly planned out long ago," said the flapper. "I
don't _want_ a large place."

"Lots of trouble," conceded Bean. "Something always coming up," he added
knowingly.

"Nice yard," said the flapper, "plenty of room for flowers and the
tennis court, and I'll do the marketing when I motor in for you. They
won't let me do it back there," she concluded with some acrimony; "and
they get good and cheated and I'm perfectly glad of it. Eighteen cents a
head for lettuce! I saw that very thing on a tag yesterday!"

"Rob you right and left," mumbled Bean. "All you can expect."

"Just leave it all to me," said the flapper with four of her double
nods. "They'll soon learn better."

"Hardly seems as if it could all be true," ventured Bean in a genial
effort at sanity.

"It's just perfectly true and true," insisted the flapper. "I knew it
all the time." She placed the old relentless gaze upon him. He was hers.

"The beautiful, blind wants of youth!" said the Demon, who had been
silent a long time, for her. "I remember--" But it seemed to come to
nothing. She was silent again.

He paid the waiter.

"It was just as well to have this little talk," murmured Grandma as they
arose.

The car throbbed before the steps. They were in and away. A reviving
breeze swept them as the car gained speed. At least it partially revived
one of them.

In the back seat he presently found a hand in his, but his own hand
seemed no longer a part of him. He thought the serenity of the flapper
was remarkable. She seemed to feel that nothing wonderful had happened.
There was something awful about that calm.

       *       *       *       *       *

The car stopped before the steam-heated apartment. There were but brief
adieus before it went on. Cassidy sat at the head of his basement stairs
with a Sunday paper. He was reading an article entitled, "My Secrets of
Beauty," profusely illustrated.

"I wouldn't have one o' the things did ye give it t' me," said Cassidy.
"Runnin' inta telegrapht poles an' trolley cairs."

"Couple of friends of mine took me out for a little spin," said Bean,
clutching his stick, his gloves and Nap's leash.

He seemed to be still spinning.

In his own place he went quickly to Its closet, pulled open the door and
shouted aloud:

"Well, what do you make of _that_?"

The sound of his own voice was startling as he caught the look of the
serene Ram-tah. He softly closed the door upon what his living self had
been. He was too violent.

But he could not be cool all at once. He tossed hat, stick, and gloves
aside and paced the room.

Engaged to be married! That was all any one could make of it. All the
agreeable iniquity had been extracted from the affair. It was fearsomely
respectable. And it was deadly serious. How had he got into it? And yet
he had always felt something ominous in that girl's look.

And there would be a row "back there." Julia would make the row. And
Jim. They might think Jim wouldn't help in the row, but he knew better.
Jim was old Jim Breede, who would of course take Bunker Bean's head off.
He had been a fool all the time. In the car he had strained himself to
the point of mentioning the Hollins boy. The flapper had laughed
unaffectedly. Tommy Hollins was a perfectly darling boy, a good sport
and all that, but he couldn't be anything important to the flapper if he
were the perfectly last man on earth. How any one could ever have
thought such an absurd thing was beyond the flapper, for one.

And she didn't want a large place: flowers and a tennis court, and she'd
do the marketing herself when she motored in for him. Moreover, he was
not to be brutally domineering. He was to curb that tendency in himself,
at least now and then, and let her have an opinion or two of her own.
She was nothing but a child, after all; he mustn't be harsh with her.

He was weak before it. Once more he opened the closet door, feeling the
need for new strength. A long time he looked into the still face. He was
a king. Was it strange that a woman had fallen before him?

He reduced the event to its rudiments. He was the affianced husband of
Breede's youngest daughter, who didn't believe in long engagements.

The thing was incredible, even as he faced Ram-tah.

How had he ever done it?

"Gee!" he muttered, "how'd I ever have the nerve to _do_ it!"

Ram-tah's sleeping face remained still. If the wise and good king knew
the answer he gave no sign.



X


"Where maint'nance f'r both roadway an' 'quipment is clearly
surcharged," Breede was exploding, "extent of excess of maintenance over
normal 'quirements cannot be taken as present earnin' power, an' this'll
haf t' be understood before nex' meetin' d'r'ectors--"

"No need of _you_ making any fuss," wrote Bean. "Let Julia do that. I'm
as good a man as anybody if you come right down to it."

"--these prior-lien bon's an' receiver's stiff-cuts mus' natchally come
ahead of firs'-mortgage bon's--" continued Breede.

"Wouldn't care if she told you right now over that telephone," wrote
Bean. "You wouldn't dare touch me, and you know it."

Later he wrote "Poor old Pops!" contemptuously, and put an evil sneer
upon Breede's removed cuffs.

At the same time he wished that the flapper and Grandma hadn't been so
set against long engagements. And how long had they meant? One day, a
week, a month? Would they have _it_ done the next time they took him out
in that car for tea and things? They were capable of it. Why couldn't
they be reasonable and let things stay quiet for a while?

And how about that small place with flowers and a tennis court and a
motor to go marketing in? Did they believe he was made of money? About
all he could do was to provide a place big enough for a growing dog. And
Breede, of course, would cast the girl off penniless, as they always
did, telling her never to darken his doors again. And he'd have to find
a new job. Breede wouldn't think of keeping on the scoundrel who had
lured his child away.

Still, the flapper's mind was set on an early marriage, and, for this
once, at least, he would let her have her own way. No good being brutal
at the start. They would get along; scrimp and save; even move to
Brooklyn, maybe. He looked into the far years and saw his son, greatest
of all left-handed pitchers, shutting out Pittsburgh without a single
hit. A very aged couple in the grandstand tried to claim relationship
with his pitching marvel, saying he was their grandson, but few of the
yelling enthusiasts would credit it. One of the crowd would later
question the phenomenon's father, who was none other than the owner of
the home team, and he would say, "Oh, yes, quite true, but there has
been no communication between the two families for more than twenty
years."

There would now follow from the abject grandparents timid overtures for
a reconciliation, they having at last seen their mistake. These
overtures met with a varying response. Sometimes he was adamant and told
them no; they had made their bed twenty years before, and now they could
lie on it. Again, he would relent, allowing them to come to the house
and associate with their superb descendant once every week. He didn't
want to be too hard on them.

And he was not penniless. He would continue in the unexciting express
business for a while, until he had amassed enough to buy the ball-team.

Out at his typewriter, turning off Breede's letters, his mind kept
reverting to those nicely printed stock certificates Aunt Clara had sent
to him, five of them for ten shares each, his own name written on them.
Of course there were hundreds of shares at the brokers', but those
seemed not to mean so much. And they had gone down a point, whatever
that was, since his purchase. The broker had explained that this was
because of an unexpectedly low dividend, 3 per cent. It showed bad
management. All the more reason for getting a new man on the Board--a
lot of old fossils!

He recalled the indignant-looking old gentleman who was so excessively
well dressed. He wore choice gold-rimmed eyeglasses tethered by a black
silk ribbon. They were intensely respectable things when adjusted to the
nose, but he knew he should clash with that old party the moment he got
on the Board. He would find him to be one of the sort that is always
looking for trouble.

He wondered if he might not himself some day have sufficient excuse for
wearing glasses like those, at the end of a silk ribbon. He thought they
set off the face. And the old gentleman's white parted beard flowed down
upon a waistcoat he wouldn't mind owning: black silk set with tiny white
stars, a good background for a small gold chain. There would be a bunch
of important keys on one end of that chain. Bean had yearned to wear one
of those key-chains, but he had never had more than a trunk-key and a
latch-key, and it would look silly to pull those out on a chain before
people; they'd begin to make fun of you!

He worked on, narrowly omitting to have Breede inform the vice-president
of an important trunk-line that it wouldn't hurt him any to have those
trousers pressed once in a while; also that plenty of barbers would be
willing to cut his hair.

Bulger condescendingly wrote at his own typewriter, as if he were the
son of a millionaire pretending to work up from the bottom. Old Metzeger
was deep in a dream of odd numerals. The half-dozen other clerks wrought
at tasks not too absorbing to prevent frequent glances at the clock on
the wall.

Tully, the chief clerk, marred the familiarity of the hour by
approaching Bean's desk. He walked lightly. Tully always walked as if he
felt himself to be on dangerously thin ice. He might get safely across;
then again he mightn't. He leaned confidentially on the back of Bean's
chair and Bean looked up and through the lenses that so alarmingly
magnified Tully's eyes. Tully twitched the point of his blond beard with
thumb and finger as if to reassure himself of its presence.

"By the way, Bean, I notice some fifty shares of Federal Express stock
in your name. Now it is not impossible that the office would be willing
to take them over for you."

That was Tully's way. He was bound to say "some" fifty shares instead of
fifty, and of anything he knew to be true he could only aver "it is not
impossible." Of a certain familiar enough event in the natural world he
would have declared, "The sun sets not infrequently in the west."

Bean was for the moment uncertain of Tully's meaning.

"Shares," he said. "Right there in my desk."

"Quite so, quite so!" said Tully. "I'm not wholly uncertain, you
know--this is between us--that I couldn't place them for you. I may say
the office would not find even those few shares unwelcome."

"Well, you see, I don't know about that," said Bean. "You see, I had a
kind of an idea--"

"I think I may say they would take it not unkindly," said Tully.

"--of holding on to them," concluded Bean.

"Your letting them go for a fair price might not inconceivably react to
your advantage," suggested the luminous Tully.

"It is not impossible that I shall want them myself," responded Bean,
unconsciously adopting the Tully indirection.

"The office is not unwilling--" began Tully.

"I'll keep 'em a while," said Bean. "I have a sort of plan."

"I should not like to think it possible--"

Bean was tired of Tully. What was the man trying to get at, anyway? He
didn't know; but he would shut him off. His mind leaped with an
inspiration.

"I can imagine nothing of less consequence," said Bean.

He was at once proud of the snappy way the words came out. Breede, he
thought, could hardly have been snappier. He glared at Tully, who looked
shocked, hurt, and disgusted. Tully sighed and walked back to his own
desk, as if the ice cracked beneath his small feet at every step.

Bean resumed his work, with the air of one forgetting a past annoyance.
But he was not forgetting. He might let them have the stock; he had
never thought any too well of that express directorship; but let them
send some one that could talk straight. He didn't care if he _had_ been
short with Tully. He was going to lose his job anyway, the day after
that wedding, if not before.

He wrote many of Breede's letters, and was again interrupted, this time
by Markham, Breede's confidential secretary. Markham's approach to Bean
was emphatically footed, as that of a man unable to imagine ice being
thin under _his_ feet. He was bluff and open, where Tully lurked behind
his "not impossibles." He was even jovial now. He smiled down at Bean.

"By the way, Bean, some one was telling me you have some Federal
Express."

"Have the shares right there in my desk," admitted Bean, wonderingly. He
was suspicious all at once. Tully and Markham had both opened on him
with "By the way." He had always felt it a shrewd thing to suspect
people who began with "By the way."

"Ah, yes, fifty shares, I believe." Markham smiled again, but seemed to
try not to smile. He apparently considered it a rare jest that Bean
should own any shares of anything; a thing for smiles even though one
must humour the fellow.

"Fifty shares! Well, well, that's good! Now the fact is, old man, I can
place those for you this afternoon. Some of the Federal people going to
meet informally here, and they happen to want a little block or two of
the stuff, for voting purposes, you know. Not that it's worth anything.
How'd you happen to get down on such a dead one?"

"Well, you know, I had a sort of a plan about that stock. I don't
know--"

"Of course I can't get you what you paid for it," continued the affable
Markham, "because it's poor stuff, but maybe they'll stand a point or
two above to-day's quotations. Just let me have them and I'll get your
check made out right away; you can go out of here with more money
to-night than any one else will." Markham was prattling on amiably,
still trying not to be overcome by the funny joke of Bean owning things.

"I don't want to sell," declared Bean. There had been a moment's
hesitation, but that opening, "By the way," of Markham's had finally
decided him. You couldn't tell anything about such a man.

"Oh, come now, old chap," cajoled Markham, "Be a good fellow. It's only
needed for a technical purpose, you know."

"I guess I'll hold on to it," said Bean. "I've been thinking for a long
time--"

"Last quarter's dividend was 3 per cent.," reminded Markham.

"I know," admitted Bean, "and that's just why. You see I've got an
idea--"

"As a matter of fact, I think J.B. doesn't exactly approve of his people
here in the office speculating. He doesn't consider it ... well, you know
one of you chaps here, if you weren't all loyal, might very often take
advantage--you get my point?"

"I guess I won't sell just now," observed Bean.

"I don't understand this at all," said Markham, allowing it to be seen
that he was shocked.

Bean wavered, but he was nettled. He was going to lose his job anyway.
You might as well be hung for a sheep as a lamb. To Markham standing
there, hurt and displeased, he looked up and announced curtly:

"I can imagine nothing of less consequence!"

He had the felicity to see Markham wince as from an unseen blow. Then
Markham walked back to his own room. His tread would have broken ice
capable of sustaining a hundred Tullys.

He saw it all now. They were plotting against him. They had learned of
his plan to become a director and they were trying to freeze him out. He
had never spoken of this plan, but probably they had consulted some good
medium who had warned them to look out for him. Very well, if they
wanted fight they should have fight. He wouldn't sell that stock, not
even to Breede himself--

"Buzz! Buzz! Buzz!" went the electric call over his desk. That meant
Breede. Very well; he knew his rights. He picked up his note-book and
answered the summons.

Breede, munching an innocent cracker, stared at him.

"How long you had that Federal stock?"

"Aunt bought it five years ago."

"Where?"

"Chicago."

"Want to sell?"

"I think I'd rather--"

"You won't sell?"

"No!"

"'S all!"

Back at his machine he tried to determine whether he would have "let
out" at Breede as he had at Tully and at Markham. He had supposed that
Breede would of course nag him as the other two had. And would he have
said to Breede with magnificent impudence, "I can imagine nothing of
less consequence?" He thought he would have said this; the masks were
very soon bound to be off Breede and himself. The flapper might start
the trouble any minute. But Breede had given him no chance for that
lovely speech. No good saying it unless you were nagged.

He became aware that the "Federal people" Markham had mentioned were
gathering in Breede's room. Several of them brushed by him. Let them
freeze him out if they could. He wondered what they said at meetings.
Did every one talk, or only the head director? Markham had said this was
to be an informal meeting.

It is probable that Bean would not have been much enlightened by the
immediate proceedings of this informal meeting. The large, impressive,
moneyed-looking directors sat easily about the table in Breede's inner
room, and said little of meaning to a tyro in the express business.

The stock was pretty widely held in small lots, it seemed, and the
agents out buying it up were obliged to proceed with caution. Otherwise
people would get silly ideas and begin to haggle over the price. But the
shares were coming in as rapidly as could be expected.

Bean would have made nothing of that. He would have been bored, until
Markham made a reference to fifty shares that happened to be owned by a
young chap in the outer office.

"Take 'em over," said one heavy-jowled director who incongruously held a
cigarette between lips that seemed to demand the largest and blackest of
cigars.

"He won't sell," answered Markham. "I spoke to him."

"Tell him to," said the director to Breede.

"Tell him yourself," said Breede. "He said he wouldn't sell."


"Um! Well, well!" said the director.

"Exactly what I told him," remarked the conscientious Tully, who was
present to take notes, "and he said to me, 'Mr. Tully, I am unwilling to
imagine anything of less consequence.' He seemed, uh--I might
say--decided."

"Gave me the same thing," said Markham.

"Leak in the office," announced the elderly advanced dresser. "Fifty
shares!" he added, twirling the glasses on their silk ribbon. "Hell!
Going to let him get away with it?"

"Got to be careful," suggested a quiet director who had listened. "Can't
tell who's back of him."

"Call him in," ordered the advanced dresser, fixing the glasses firmly
on his purple nose. "Call him in! Bluff him in a minute!"

"Buzz! Buzz! Buzz!" smote fatefully on Bean's ears. He had expected it.
If they didn't let him alone, he would tell them all that he could
imagine nothing of less consequence.

He entered the room. He hardly dared scan the faces of those directors
in the flesh, but they were all scanning him. He stood at the end of the
table and fastened his eyes on a railway map that bedecked the opposite
wall, one of those mendacious maps showing a trans-continental line of
unbroken tangent; three thousand miles of railway without a curve, the
opposition lines being mere spirals.

"Here, boy!" It was the advanced dresser of the white parted beard and
the constant indignation. Bean looked at him. He had known from the
first that he must clash with this man.

"That sort of thing'll never do with _us_, you know," continued the old
gentleman, when he had diverted Bean's attention from the interesting
map. "Never do at all; not at all; _not-tat-tall_. Preposterous! My
word! What rot!"

The last was, phonetically, "Wha' _trawt_!"

Bean was studying the old gentleman's faultless garments. He wore a
particularly effective waistcoat of white piqué striped with narrow
black lines, and there was a pink carnation in the lapel of the superbly
tailored frock coat.

"Wha' trawt!" repeated the ornate director. Bean looked again at the
map.

"Here, boy, your last chance. We happen to need those shares in a little
matter of voting. I'll draw you a check for the full amount."

He produced the daintiest of check-books and a fountain pen of a chaste
design in gold. Bean's look was the look of those who see visions.

"Now then, _now_ then!" spluttered the old gentleman, the pen poised.
"Don't keep me waiting; don't keep me, I say! What amount? Wha'
_tamount_?"

Bean's eyes were withdrawn from the wall. He came briskly to life.

"I'll tell you in a moment. I'll get the shares."

"Shrimp!" said the old gentleman triumphantly, when Bean had gone.

"He told _me_," began Tully. But the advanced dresser wanted no more of
that.

"Shrimp!" he repeated.

Bean reëntered with the certificates. The old gentleman glanced angrily
over them.

"Bean!" he exclaimed humorously. "Vegetable after all; not a fish! Funny
name that! Bunker Bean! Boston, by gad! Not bad that, I _say_! Come,
come, _come_! Want par, of course--all do! There y'are, boy!"

He blotted the check, tore it from the book and waved it toward Bean as
he turned to the director of the cigarette.

"About that proposition before us to-day, Mr. Chairman--" but Bean had
gone. Observing this, the old gentleman looked about him.

"Shrimp!" he said contemptuously, with the convinced air of an expert in
marine biology.

Bean, outside, once more addressed himself to typewriting. He wondered
if he should be seized with a toothache or a fainting spell. Toothache
was good, but perhaps Bulger had used that too often. Still Tully would
"fall" for a toothache. It gave him a chance to say that if people would
only go to a dentist once every three months--Then he remembered that
Tully was inside. He wouldn't make any excuse at all.

"Going out a few minutes," he explained to old Metzeger as he swiftly
changed from his office coat and adjusted the new straw hat.

Bulger glanced up from his machine, winked at him and shaped a word with
his able mouth. An adept in lip-reading could have seen it to be
"Chubbins." Bean in response leered confession at him.

The broker's office was in the adjoining block.

"I've just made a little deal," explained Bean to the person who
inquired his business. "Here's the check. You know I've got a sort of an
idea I'd like a little more of that Federal Express stuff. Just buy me
some the same as you did before, as much as you can get on ten margins,
er--I mean on ten points."

"Nothing much doing in that stock," suggested the expert. "Why don't you
get down on some the live ones. Now there's Union Pacific--"

"I know, but I want Federal Express. That is, you see, I want it merely
for a technical purpose." He felt happy at recalling Markham's phrase.

"All right," said the expert resignedly. "We'll do what we can. May take
three or four days."

Bean started for the door.

"Say," called the expert, as if on second thought, "you're up at
Breede's office, ain't you--old J.B.'s?"

"Oh, I'm there for a few days yet," said Bean.

"Ah, ha!" said the expert. "Have a cigar!"

Bean aimlessly accepted the proffer.

"Sit down and gas a while," urged the expert genially. "Things looking
up any over your way?"

"Oh, so-so, only," said Bean. "But I can't stop, thanks! Got to hurry
back to see a man."

"Drop in again any time," said the expert. "We try to make this little
den a home for our customers."

"Thanks!" said Bean. "I'll be sure to."

"Ah ha, and ah ha!" said the expert to himself. "Now I wonder."

On his way back to the office Bean suddenly discovered that he was
chewing an unlighted cigar. He stopped to observe in a polished window
its effect on his face. He rather liked it. He pulled the front of his
hat down a bit and held the cigar at a confident angle. He thought it
made him look forceful. He wished he might pass the purple-faced old
gentleman--the whole Breede gang, for that matter--and chew the cigar at
them.

"I'll show them," he muttered, over and around the impeding cigar. "I'll
show them they can't keep _me_ off that board. I knew what to do in a
minute. Napoleon of Finance, eh? I'll show them who's who!"

He was back at his desk finishing the last of Breede's letters for the
day. Tully had not discovered his absence. He winked at Bulger to assure
him that the worst interpretation could be put upon that absence. He
wondered if anything else could happen before the day ended.

"Telephone for Boston Bean," called the wag of an office boy.

This time he closed the double door of the booth, letting Bulger think
what he pleased.

"I forgot to ask what you take, mornings," pealed the flapper.

"Take--mornings?"

"For breakfast, silly! Because I think it's best for you to take just
eggs and toast; a little fruit of course; not all that meat and things."

"Oh, yes, of course; eggs and--things. Never want much."

"Well, all right, I just perfectly knew you'd see it that way. I'm
making up lists. Tell me, do you like a panelled dining-room, you know,
fumed oak, or something?"

"Only kind I'd ever have."

"I knew you would. What are you doing all the time?"

"Oh, me? I'm getting things into shape. You see, I have an idea--"

"Don't you buy the least little thing until I know. We want to be sure
everything harmonizes and I've just perfectly got everything in my head
the way it will be."

"That's right; that's the only way."

"You didn't say anything about--you know--to poor old Pops, did you?"

"Why, no. I didn't. You see he's been pretty much thinking about other
things all day, and I--"

"Well, that's right. I was afraid you'd be just perfectly impatient. But
you leave it all to me. I'll manage. It's the dearest joke! I may not
tell them for two or three days. Every time I get alone I just perfectly
giggle myself into spasms. Isn't it the funniest?"

"Ha, ha, ha, ha! I should think it was." He was fearfully hoping her
keen sense of humour might continue to rule.

"We _do_, don't we?"

"Do what?"

"_You_ know, stupid!"

"Yes, _yes_ indeed! We just perfectly _do_!"

"More than any two people ever did before, don't we?"

"Well, I should think so; and then some."

"I knew you'd feel that way. Well, good-bye!"

He could fancy her giving the double nod as she hung up the receiver.

During the ride uptown he talked large with a voluble gentleman who had
finished his evening paper and who wished to recite its leading
editorial from memory as something of his own. They used terms like "the
tired business man," "increased cost of living," "small investor," "the
common people," and "enemies of the Public Good." The man was especially
bitter against the Wall Street ring, and remarked that any one wishing
to draw a lesson from history need look no farther back than the French
Revolution. The signs were to be observed on every hand.

Bean felt a little guilty, though he tried to carry it off. Was he not
one of that same Wall Street ring? He pictured himself as a tired
business man eating boiled eggs of a morning in a dining-room panelled
with fumed oak, the flapper across the table in some little old rag. He
thought it sounded pretty luxurious--like a betrayal of the common
people. Still he had to follow his destiny. You couldn't get around
that.

He stood a long time before Ram-tah that night, grateful for the lesson
he had drawn from him in the afternoon. Back there among those
fierce-eyed directors, badgered by the most objectionable of them,
nerving himself to say presently that he could imagine nothing of less
consequence, there had come before his eyes the inspiring face of the
wise and good king. But most unaccountably, as he gazed, it seemed to
him that the great Ram-tah had opened those long-closed eyes; opened
them full for a moment; then allowed the left eye to close swiftly.



XI


The day began with placid routine. Breede did his accustomed two-hours'
monologue. And no one molested Bean. No one appeared to know that he was
other than he seemed, and that big things were going forward. Tully
ignored him. Markham, who had the day before called him "Old man!"
whistled obliviously as they brushed past each other in the hall. No
directors called him in to tell him that would never do with _them_.

He was grateful for the lull. He couldn't be "stirred up" that way every
day. And he needed to gather strength against Breede when Breede should
discover that exquisite joke of the flapper's. He suspected that the
flapper wouldn't find it funny to keep the thing from poor old Pops more
than a few days longer.

"I'll be drawing my last pay next Saturday," he told himself.

"Telephone for Boston Baked," called the office-boy wit, late in the
afternoon.

Bulger looked sympathetic.

"Same trouble I have," he confided as Bean passed him, "Take 'em on once
and they bother the life out of you."

"You'd never believe," came the voice of the flapper. "I found the
darlingest old sideboard with claw-feet yesterday over on Fourth Avenue.
He wants two hundred and eighty, but they're all robbers, and I just
perfectly mean to make him come down five or ten dollars. Every little
counts. You leave it to me."

"Sure! You fix it all up!"

"And maybe we won't want fumed oak in the dining-room--maybe a rich
mahogany stain. Would that suit? I'm only thinking of you."

"I'll leave all that to you; you'll perfectly well manage."

"I just perfectly darling well knew you'd say that; and I'm sending you
down a car--"

"A what? Car?" This was even more alarming than the darling old
sideboard.

"Just a little old last year's car. Poor old Pops would give it to me
now if I asked him--but it's just as well to have it away in case Moms
could ever make him change his mind, only of course she perfectly well
can't do anything of the sort. But anyway I'm sending it to that shop
around the corner in the street below you, and they'll hold it there to
your order. You never can tell; we might need it suddenly some time, and
anyway you ought to have it, don't you see, because I'm just perfectly
giving it to you this minute, and you can run about in it with that
dearest dog, and it's the very first thing I ever gave you, isn't it?
I'll always remember it just for that. It will do us all right for a few
weeks, until we can look around. And there never was any one before, was
there? You just needn't answer; you'd have to say 'No,' and anyway
Granny says a young--you know what--should never ask silly questions
about what happened before she met him, because it perfectly well makes
rows, and I know she's right, but there never _was_, was there, and no
matter anyway, because it's settled forever now, and we _do_, don't we?
My! but I'm excited. Don't forget what I said about the brass andirons
and the curtains for your den. Goo'-bye."

"Huh! yes, of course not!" said Bean, but the flapper had gone.

Back at the typewriter he tried to collect his memories of her message:
sideboard with darling feet of some kind, no fumed oak, perhaps--brass
andirons, curtains for his den. He couldn't recall what she had said
about those. Maybe it would come to him. He wished he had told her that
he already had a few good etchings. And the car! That was plain in his
mind--little old last year's thing--at that shop around the corner. Did
one say "garrash" or "garrige"? He heard both.

Anyway, he owned a motor car; you couldn't get around that. Maybe Bulger
wouldn't open his eyes if he knew it. Bulger was an authority on cars,
and spoke in detail of their strange insides with the aplomb of a man
who has dissected them for years. He had violent disputes with the
second bookkeeper about which was the best car for the money. The
bookkeeper actually owned a motorcycle, or would, after he had paid five
dollars a month a few more times, but Bulger would never allow this
minor contrivance to be brought into their discussions. Bulger was
intolerant of anything costing under five thou'--eat you up with
repairs.

Bean longed to approach Bulger and say:

"Some dame, that! Just sent me a little old last year's car."

But he knew this would never do. Bulger would not only tell him why the
car was of an inferior make, but he would want to borrow it to take a
certain party, or maybe the gang, out for a spin, and get everybody
killed or arrested or something. Bulger dressed fearlessly; no one with
eyes could deny that; but he was tactless. Better keep that car under
cover.

At seven-thirty that evening, with Nap on a leash, he strolled into the
garage. He carried the yellow stick and the gloves, and he was prepared
to make all sorts of a nasty row if they tried to tell him the car
wasn't there, or so much as hinted that he might not be the right party.
He knew how to deal with those automobile sharks.

"I believe you have a car here for me--Mr. Bean," he said briskly. It
was the first time in all his life that he had spoken of himself as "Mr.
Bean!" He threw his shoulders back even farther when he had achieved it.

The soiled person whom he addressed merely called to another soiled
person who, near at hand, seemed to be beating an unruly car into
subjection. The second person merely ducked his head backward and over
his right shoulder.

"All right, all right!" said the first person, and then to Bean, "All
right, all right!"

The car was before him, a large, an alarming car--and red! It was as
red as the unworn cravat. Good thing it was getting dark. He wouldn't
like to go out in the daytime in one as red as that, not at first.

He ran his eyes critically over it, trying to look disappointed.

"Good shape?" he demanded.

"How about it, Joe? She all right?"

Joe perceptibly stopped hammering.

"Garrumph-rumph!" he seemed to say.

"Well?" said the first person, eying Bean as if this explained
everything.

"Take a little spin," said Bean.

"Paul!"

Paul issued from the office, a shock-headed, slouching youth in extreme
negligée, a half-burned cigarette dangling from his lower lip. He yawned
without dislodging the cigarette.

"Gentleman wants to g'wout." Paul vanished.

Nap had already leaped to a seat in the red car. He had learned what
those things were for.

Paul reappeared, trim in leathern cap, well-fitting Norfolk jacket and
shining puttees.

"Never know he only had on an undershirt," thought Bean, struck by this
swiftly devised effect of correct dressing. He sat in the roomy rear
seat beside Nap, leaning an elbow negligently on the arm-rest. He
watched Paul shrewdly in certain mysterious preparations for starting
the car. An observer would have said that one false move on Paul's part
would have been enough.

The car rolled out and turned into the wide avenue half a block away.

"Where to, Boss?" asked Paul.

"Just around," said Bean. "Tea and things!"

They glided swiftly on.

"Oh, just a little old last year's car!" said Bean, frowning royally at
a couple of mere foot people who turned to stare.

What would that flapper do next?

He surrendered to the movement. Drunkenly he mused upon a wild
inspiration to bring Ram-tah out and give him a ride in this big red
car. It appealed to him much. Ram-tah would almost open his eyes at the
novelty of that progress. But he felt that this was no safe thing to do.
He would be arrested. The whole secret might come out.

He had retained no sense of direction, but he was presently conscious of
the river close at his side, and then the car, with warning blasts,
curved up to a much lighted building and halted. A large man in uniform
came solicitously to help him descend and gave him a fragment of
cardboard which he knew would redeem his motor.

He was seated at a table looking down upon the shining river.

"Tea and things," he said to the waiter.

"Yes, sir; black or green, sir?"

"Bottle ginger ale!" How did he know whether he wanted black or green
tea. No time to be fussy.

He began a lordly survey of the people at neighbouring tables--people
who had doubtless walked there, or come in hired cabs, at the best.
Hired cabs had yesterday seemed impressive to him; now they were rather
vulgar. Of course, there might be circumstances--

He froze like a pointing dog. At a table not twenty feet distant,
actually in the flesh, sat the Greatest Pitcher the World Has Ever
Known. For a moment he could only stare fixedly. The man was simply
_there_! He was talking volubly to two other men, and he was also eating
a mere raspberry ice!

It showed how things "worked around," once you got started. Hadn't his
whole life been a proof of this? How many times had he wished he might
happen upon that Pitcher just as he was now, in street clothes--to look
at him, study him! He wished _he_ had ordered raspberry ice instead of
ginger ale, which he didn't like. He would order one anyway.

It was all Ram-tah. If you knew you were a king, you needn't ever worry
again. You sat still and let things come to you. After all, a king was
greater than a pitcher, if you came down to it--in some ways, certainly.

He stared until the group left the table. He could actually have touched
the Pitcher as he passed. Would wonders never cease?

Two men in uniform helped him into the big red car again, tenderly, as
if he were fragile. He had meant to return to the garage, but now he saw
the more dignified way was to stop at his own house. Further, Paul
should take him to the office in the morning and call for him at
four-thirty again. He wouldn't be afraid to ride in the red car even in
daylight now. Sitting there not twenty feet from that Pitcher!

"Eight o'clock in the morning," he said curtly to Paul as he descended.
And Paul touched his leather cap respectfully as the car moved off.

Cassidy lounged near in shirt sleeves.

"I see three was kilt-up in wan yistaday in th' Bur-ronx," said Cassidy
interestedly.

"Good thing for the tired business man, though," said Bean, yawning in a
bored way. "And that fellow of mine is careful."

Then his seeming boredom vanished.

"Say, you can't guess who I saw just now. Close to him as I am to you
this minute--"

       *       *       *       *       *

Solitary in the big red car, descending the crowded lanes of the city
the next morning, Bean's sensations were conceivably those that had been
Ram-tah's at the zenith of his power. There was the fragrant and
cherished memory of the Greatest Pitcher, and a car to ride solitary in
that simply blared the common herd from before it. People in street-cars
looked enviously out at him. He lolled urbanely, with a large public
manner. When you were a king you behaved like one, and the world knelt
to you. Great pitchers sitting under the same roof with you; red
motor-cars; fumed oak dining-rooms; flappers; brokers; shares. He wished
he had thought to chew an unlighted cigar in this resplendent chariot.
There seemed to be almost a public demand for it. Certain things were
expected of a man!

"Be here at four-thirty," he directed.

And Paul, his fellow, glancing up along the twenty-two stories of the
office building, was impressed. He considered it probable that the bored
young man owned this building. "The guys that have gits!" thought Paul.

Bean was preposterously working once more, playing the part of a cog on
the wheel. Another day, it seemed, of that grotesque nonsense, even
after the world's Greatest Pitcher had sat not twenty feet from him the
night before, eating raspberry ice. But events could not long endure
_that_ strain. Before the day was over Breede would undoubtedly "fire"
him, with two or three badly chosen words; actually go through the form
of discharging a man who had once ruled all Egypt with a kindly but an
iron hand!

Of course, the fellow was unconscious of this, as he still must be of
the rare joke the flapper was exquisitely holding over his head. His
demeanour toward Bean betrayed no recognition of shares or pitchers or
big red cars, nor of the ever-impending change in their relationship. He
dictated fragments of English words, and Bean reconstructed them with
the cunning of a Cuvier. He felt astute, robust, and disrespectful. Just
one wrong word from Breede and all would be over between them. The poor
old wreck didn't dream that he had nursed a flapper in his bosom, a
flapper that would just perfectly have what she wanted--and no good
fussing.

In the outer office, however, he was aware that his expansion was subtly
making itself felt. Bulger had insensibly altered and was treating him
after the manner of a fellow club man. Old Metzeger said "Good morning!"
to him affectionately--for Metzeger--and once he detected Tully staring
at him through the enlarging glasses as if in an effort to read his very
soul. But he knew his soul was not to be read by such as Tully. Tully,
back there on the Nile, would have been a dancer--at the most, a fancy
skater--if, indeed, he had risen to the human order, and were not still
a slinking gazelle. Good name that, for Tully. He would remember
it--gazelle!

At three o'clock he glanced aside from his typewriter to see a director
enter Breede's room. He did not lift his look above the hem of the man's
coat, but he knew him for the quiet one. And yet, when the door closed
upon him, he seemed to become as noisy as any of them. Bean heard his
voice rising.

Another director came, the big one who gripped a cigarette with an
obviously cigar mouth. Once behind the shut door he seemed to approve of
the noise and to be swelling its volume.

Three other directors hurried in, the elderly advanced dresser in the
lead. He, of course, was always indignant, but now the other two were
manifesting choler equal to his own. They puffed and glowered and, when
the door had closed, they seemed to help skilfully with the uproar. It
was a mob scene.

Bean was reminded of a newspaper line he had once or twice encountered:
"The scene was one of indescribable confusion. Pandemonium reigned!"
Pandemonium indubitably seemed to reign over those directors. He
wondered. He wondered uncomfortably.

"Buzz-z-z-z! Buzz-z-z-z-z! Buzz-z-z-z-z-z!"

He quit wondering. He knew.

Yet for a moment after he stood in their presence they seemed to take no
note of him. They were not sitting decorously in chairs as he conceived
that directors should. The big one with the cigarette sat on the table,
ponderously balanced with a fat knee between fat red hands. Another
stood with one foot on a chair. Only the quiet one was properly sitting
down. The elderly advanced dresser was not even stationary. With the
faultless coat thrown back by pocketed hands, revealing a waist line
greater than it should have been, he strutted and stamped. He seemed to
be trying to step holes into the rug, and to be exploding intimately to
himself.

"Plain enough," said the man who had been studying his foot on the
chair. "Some one pulled the plug."

"And away she goes--shoosh!" said the big man dramatically.

"Kennedy & Balch buying right and left. Open at a hundred and
twenty-five to-morrow, sure!" said the quiet one quietly.

"Placed an order yesterday for four hundred shares and got 'em," said
another, not so quietly. "And to-day they're bidding Federal Express up
to the ceiling."

"Plug pulled!"

The advanced-dressing director strutted to the fore with a visibly
purpling face.

"Plug pulled? Want t' know _where_ it was pulled? Right in this office.
Want to know who pulled it? _That!_" He pointed unmistakably to the
child among them taking notes. At another time Bean might have quailed,
at least momentarily; but he had now discovered that the
advanced-dressing old gentleman used scent on his clothes. He was afraid
of no man who could do that in the public nostrils. He surveyed the old
gentleman with frank hostility, noting with approval, however, the
dignified yet different pattern of his waistcoat. But he knew the other
directors were looking hard at him.

"Shrimp! snake!" added the old gentleman, like a shocked naturalist
encountering a loathsome hybrid.

"Been plowing with our heifer?" asked Breede incisively.

Bean was familiar with that homely metaphor. He felt easier.

"_Your_ heifer!" He would have liked to snort as the old gentleman did,
but refrained from an unpractised effort! "Your heifer? No; I bought a
good fat yoke of steers to do my plowing. Took _his_ money to buy one of
'em with!" He waved a careless arm at the smouldering-vessel across the
table. They were all gasping, in horror, in disgust. He was a little
embarrassed. He sought to smooth the thing over a bit with his next
words.

"Eagle shot down with its own feather," he said, hazily recalling
something that had seemed very poetic when he read it.

"Wha'd I tell you? Wha'd I _tell_ you!" shouted the oldest director,
doing an intricate dance step.

"Hold 'ny Federal?" asked Breede.

"A block or two; several margins of it," said Bean.

"How many shares?"

"Have to ask Kennedy & Balch; they're my brokers. I guess about some
seven or eight hundred shares."

"Wha'd I tell you? Wha'd I _tell_ you?" again shouted the oldest
director, and, as if despairing of an answer, he swore surprisingly for
one of his refined garniture and aroma.

"Find out something in this office?" asked Breede, evenly.

"Why wouldn't I? I found out something the minute you sent people to me
with that 'By the way--' stuff. I knew it as quick as you had them
breaking their ankles trying to get my fifty shares. Knew it the very
minute you sent that--that slinking gazelle to me." He pointed at Tully.

[Illustration: "Oh, put up your trinkets!" said Bean, with a fine
affectation of weariness]

He had not meant to call Tully that. It rushed out. Tully wriggled
uneasily in his chair at the desk, blushed well into his yellow beard,
then drew out a kerchief of purest white silk and began nervously to
polish his glasses.

"Hoo-shaw-Ha-ha-Hooshway!"

It was Breede, with, for the moment, a second purple face on the Board
of Directors. Neither Bean nor Tully ever knew whether he had suppressed
a laugh or a sneeze.

"Come, come, _come_!" broke in the oldest, sweeping the largest director
aside with one finger as he pulled a chair to the table.

"This'll never do with _us_, you know! How much, how much, how much?"

He again poised the chastely wrought fountain pen of gold above the
dainty check-book in Morocco leather.

"Have to give 'em up you know; can't allow _that_ sort of underhand
work; where'd the world be, where'd it be, where'd it _be_? Sign an
order; tell me what you paid. Take your word for it!"

He was feeling for Bean the contempt which a really distinguished
safe-blower is said to feel for the cheap thief who purloins bottles of
milk from basement doorways in the gray of dawn.

"Now, now, _now_, boy!" The pen was still poised.

"Oh, put up your trinkets," said Bean with a fine affectation of
weariness.

The old gentleman sat back and exhaled a scented but vicious breath.
There was silence. It seemed to have become evident that the
unprincipled young scoundrel must be taken seriously.

Then spoke the largest director, removing from his lips a cigarette
which his own bulk seemed to reduce to something for a microscope only.
He had been silent up to this moment, and his words now caused Bean the
first discomfort he had felt.

"You will come here to-morrow morning," he began, slanting his entire
facial area toward Bean, "and you will make restitution for this
betrayal of trust. I think I speak for these gentlemen here, when I say
we will do nothing with you to-night. Of course, if we chose--but no;
you are a free man until to-morrow morning. After that all will depend
on you. You are still young; I shall be sorry if we are forced to adopt
extreme measures. I believe we shall all be sorry. But I am sure a night
of sober reflection will bring you to your senses. You will come here
to-morrow morning. You may go."

The slow, cool words had told. He tried to preserve his confident front,
as he turned to the door. He would have left his banner on the field but
for the oldest director, who had too long been silent.

"Snake in the grass!" hissed the oldest director, and instantly the
colours waved again from Bean's lifted standard. He did not like the
oldest director and he soared into the pure ether of verbal felicity,
forgetful of all threats.

He stared pityingly at the speaker a moment, then cruelly said:

"You know they quit putting perfumery on their clothes right after the
Chicago fire."

He left the room with faultless dignity.

"_Im_pertinent young whelp!" spluttered the oldest director; but his
first fellow-director who dared to look at him saw that he was gazing
pensively from the high window, his back to the group.

"No good," said the quiet director to the largest. "A little man's
always the hardest to bluff. Bet I could bluff you quicker than you
could bluff him!"

"Well, I didn't know what else," answered the largest director, who was
already feeling bluffed.

"Why didn't J.B. here assert himself then?"

"'Fraid he'd get mad's 'ell an' quit me," said Breede. "Only st'nogfer
ever found gimme minute's peace. Dunno why--talk aw ri'. He un'stan's
me; res' drive me 'sane."

"Plug's pulled, anyway," commented the quiet director. "Only thing to do
is haul in what we can on a rising market. God knows where she'll stop."

"Pound her down," said the largest director sagely.

"Any pounding now will pound her up."

"Hold off and let it die down."

"Only make it worse. No use; we've got to cut that money up."

"Seven hundred shares, did he say?" asked the large director. "Very
pretty indeed! J.B., I'll only give you one guess whether he quits his
job or not."

"Thasso!" admitted Breede dejectedly.

"He'll show up all right in the morning, mark me," said the largest
director, regaining confidence.

"Sneaking snake in the grass," muttered the oldest director, yet without
his wonted vim.

"I'll telephone to McCurdy, right in the next block here," continued the
largest director. "Might as well have this chap watched to-night and
keep tight to him to-morrow until he shows up. We may find somebody's
behind him."

"'S my idea," said Breede, "some one b'ind him."

"Grinning little ape!" remarked the oldest director bitterly.

To Bean in the outer office came the facetious boy.

"Telephone for Perfesser Bunker Hill Monument," he said, but spoiled it
by laughing himself. It was extempore and had caught him unawares. The
harried Bean fled to the telephone booth.

"I wanted to tell you," began the flapper, "not to eat anything out of
cans unless I just perfectly have it on my pure-food list. They poison
people, but the dearest grocer gave me a list of all the safe things,
made up by a regular committee that tells how much poison each thing has
in it, so you can know right off, or alcohol either. Now, remember! Oh,
yes, what was I going to say? Granny says the first glamour soon fades,
but after that you just perfectly settle down to solid companionship.
And oh, yes, I want you to let me just perfectly have my own way about
those hangings for the drawing-room, because you see I know, and, oh, I
had something else. No matter. Won't I be glad when the deal is adjusted
in the interests of all concerned, as poor old Pops says. Why don't you
tell me something? I'm just perfectly waiting to hear."

"Uh, of course, of course; you're just perfectly a slinking gazelle. Ha,
ha, ha!" answered Bean, laughing at his own jest after the manner of the
office-boy.

He was back making a feeble effort to finish the last of Breede's
letters. He glanced mechanically at his notes. Above that routine work
he had so many things to think about. He'd fixed Tully for good. Tully
wouldn't try that "by the way" and "not impossible" stuff with _him_ any
more. And that little old man--perfumery not used since the Chicago
fire, or had he said the Mexican War? No matter. And talked to Breede
about heifers. But there was the big-faced brute, speaking pretty
seriously. Let him go free _to-night_! State's prison offence, maybe!
Might be in jail this time to-morrow. Would the flapper telephone to him
there? Send him unpoisoned canned food? Would he be disgraced?
Breede--directors--glamour wearing off--slinking gazelles with yellow
whiskers--rotten perfumery. So rushed the turbulent flood of his mind.
But the letter was finished at last.

Two days later a certain traffic manager of lines west of Chicago read a
paragraph in this letter many times:

"The cramped conditions of this terminal have been of course appreciably
relieved by the completion of the westside cut-off. Nevertheless our
traffic has not yet attained its maximum, and new problems of congestion
will arise next year. I am engaged to that perfectly flapper daughter of
yours, and we are going to marry each other when she gets perfectly good
and ready. Better not fuss any. Let Julia do the fussing. To meet this
emergency I dare say it will come to four-tracking the old main line
over the entire division. It will cost high, but we must have a
first-class freight-carrier if we are to get the business."

The traffic manager at first reached instinctively for his telegraphic
cipher code. But he reflected that this was not code-phrasing. He read
the paragraph again and was obliged to remind himself that his only
daughter was already the wife of a man he knew to be in excellent
health. Also he was acquainted with no one named Julia.

He copied from the letter that portion of it which seemed relevant, and
destroyed the original. He had never heard it said of Breede; but he
knew there are times when, under continued mental strain, the most
abstemious of men will relax.



XII


When Bean emerged from the office-building that afternoon he was closely
scrutinized by an inconspicuous man who, just inside the door by the
cigar-stand, had been conversing with Tully. Bean saw Tully, but strode
by that gentleman with head erect, chest expanded, and waist drawn in.
Tully was cut. And Bean did not, of course, notice the inconspicuous man
with whom Tully talked.

This person, however, followed Bean to the street, where he seemed a
little taken aback to observe the young man very authoritatively enter a
large red touring car and utter a command to its driver with an air of
seasoned ownership. The red car moved slowly up Broadway. The
inconspicuous man surveyed the passing vehicles, and seemed relieved
when he discovered an empty taxi-cab going north. He hailed it and
entered, giving directions to its guide that entailed much pointing to
the large red touring car now a block distant.

Thereafter, until late at night, the red car was trailed by the
taxi-cab. At six o'clock the car stopped at a place of refreshment
overlooking the river, where the trailed youth consumed a modest dinner,
which he concluded with a radiant raspberry ice. A little later he
reëntered the red car and was driven aimlessly for a couple of hours
through leafy by-ways. The inconspicuous man became of the opinion that
the occupant of the red car was cunningly endeavouring to conceal his
true destination.

The car returned to the place of refreshment at nine-thirty, where the
young man again ordered a raspberry ice, with which he trifled for the
better part of an hour. He betrayed to the alert but inconspicuous
person who sat near him, by his expectant manner of scanning newcomers'
faces, that he had hoped to meet some one here.

This expectation was disappointed. The watchful person suspected that
the youth's confederates might have been warned. The quarry at length
departed, in obvious disappointment, and was driven to his abode in a
decent neighbourhood. The taxi-cab was near enough to the red car when
this place was reached to enable its occupant to hear the young man
request it for eight the following morning. The young man entered what a
sign at the doorway declared to be "Choice Steam-heated Apartments," and
the occupant of the taxi-cab was presently overheard by the janitor of
the apartments expostulating with the vehicle's driver about the sum
demanded for his evening's recreation. He was heard to denounce the
fellow as "a thief and a robber!" and to make a vicious threat
concerning his license.

Bean was face to face with Ram-tah, demanding whatever strength might
flow to him from that august personage. A crisis had come. Either he was
a king, or he was not a king. If a king, he must do as kings would do.
If not a king, he would doubtless behave like a rabbit.

But strength flowed to him as always from that calm, strong face. In
Ram-tah's presence he could believe no weakness of himself. Put him in
jail, would they? A man who had not only once ruled a mighty people in
peace, but who had, some hundreds of centuries later, made Europe
tremble under the tread of his victorious armies. Ram-tah had been no
fighter--but Napoleon! He, Bunker Bean, was a wise king, yet a mighty
warrior. Beat him down, would they? Merely because he wanted to become a
director in their company! Well, they would find out who they were
trying to keep off that Board. What if they did put him in jail? A good
lawyer would get him out in a few minutes with a writ of something or
other, a stay of proceedings, a demurrer, a legal technicality. He read
the papers. Lawyers were always getting Wall Street speculators out of
jail by some one of those devices; and if every other means failed a
legal technicality did the work. And the papers always called the
released man a Napoleon of Finance. It wasn't going to be so bad.

He hauled Ram-tah out of the closet and stood him at the foot of the bed
for the night, so that courage might come to him as he slept. The plan
proved to be an excellent one after Nap grew quiet. Nap had always been
excited in Ram-tah's immediate presence, and now he insisted upon
sniffing about the royal cadaver in a manner atrociously suggestive.
Being dissuaded from this and consenting to sleep, Bean sank into dreams
of mastery beneath Ram-tah's lofty aspect.

He awoke with a giant's strength. He arrayed himself in the newest check
suit, and an especially beautiful shirt with a lavender stripe that bore
his embroidered initials on one sleeve. He thought he would like to face
them in his shirtsleeves, and give Breede and the fussy old gentlemen a
good look at that lettered arm. He was almost persuaded to don the
entirely red cravat, let the consequences be what they might. His
refreshed spirit was equal to this audacity--but the red car. Wearing a
red cravat in a very red car was just a little _too_ loud--"different"
enough, to be sure, but hardly "dignified." Too advanced, in short. At
eight o'clock he went out upon the world, grasping his yellow stick and
gloves. Most heroically would he enter the office with stick and gloves.
Make Bulger stare! And if they put him in jail he must look
right--papers get his picture, of course!

[Illustration: Thereafter, until late at night, the red car was trailed
by the taxi-cab]

On the curb, before the car that vibrated so excitingly he had a happy
thought. Was he to go down there and wait, pallid, perhaps trembling,
until they came in and did things with him? Not he! A certain Corsican
upstart would let them assemble first, let them miss him--wonder if he
would come at all. Then he would saunter in, superbly define the extreme
limits of his imagination, and coolly ask them what they were going to
do about it. This would irritate them. It would irritate them all, and
especially the little oldest director. He would swell up and grow
purple. Perhaps he would have a stroke right there on the rug. Good
work!

"Can't go to business this early," he said genially to the ever
respectful Paul. "Too fine a day. And I got a deal on hand; have to
think it over. Go on out that way for a nice little spin."

Paul directed the car out that way, spinning it nicely. It was a
monstrous performance, to spin at that hour in a direction quite away
from the place where you are expected by all the laws of business and
common decency. This seemed to be the opinion of an inconspicuous man
who followed discreetly in a taxi-cab. But Bean enjoyed it, thinking
that the night might find him in a narrow cell. He looked with new
interest on the street-cars full of office-bound people. They were
meekly going to their tasks while he was affronting men with more
millions than he had checks on the newest suit.

As they left the city and came to outlying villages, he saw that he was
going in the direction of Breede's place. He thought it would be a fine
thing to get the flapper and go and be just perfectly married. Then he
could send a telegram to the office, telling them he could imagine
nothing of less consequence, and that they might all go to the devil. It
was easy to be "snappy" in a telegram. But he remembered that the
flapper just perfectly wished to manage it herself; probably she
wouldn't like his taking a hand in the game. Better not be rough with
the child at the start.

They were miles away. The person in the taxi-cab might have been observed
searching his pockets curiously, and to be counting what money he found
therein as he cast anxious glances toward the dial of the taxi-metre.

Bean surveyed the landscape approvingly. Anyway, it was a fine enough
performance to keep them waiting there. They would all be enraged.
Perhaps the old one would have his stroke before the arrival of the
spectator to whom it would give the most pleasure. They might be taking
him out to the ambulance, and all the other directors would stand there
and say, "This is _your_ work. Officer, do your duty!" Well, it would be
worth it. He'd tell them so, too!

Looking ahead, he became aware that an electric car had suffered an
accident. The passengers streamed out and gathered around the motorman
who was peering under the car. As Paul slowed down and turned aside to
pass, the motorman declared, "She's burned out. Have to wait for the
next car to push us."

There were annoyed stirrings in the group. A few passengers started for
a suburban railway station that could be seen a half-mile distant. Bean
looked down upon these delayed people with amused sympathy.

Then, astoundingly, his eye fell upon one of the passengers a little
aloof from the group about the motorman. He, too, after a last look at
the car, seemed to be resolving on that long tramp to the station. He
was a sightly young man, tall, heavily built, and dressed in garments
that would on any human form have won Bean's instant respect. But on the
form of the Greatest Pitcher the World Has Ever Seen--!!

His mind was at once vacant of all the past, of all the future. There
was no more a Breede, male or female, no more directors or shares or
jails. There was only a big golden Present, subduing, enthralling,
limitless!

"Stop car!" hissed Bean. The car halted three feet from the young man on
foot.

"Jump in!" gasped Bean.

"Thanks," said the young man; "I'm going the other way."

"Me, too! I was turning around just here."

The young man hesitated, surveying his interlocutor.

"Well," he said, "if it won't be too much trouble?"

"Trouble!" The word was a caress as Bean uttered it. He pushed a door
open, clumsy with excitement, and the World's Greatest Pitcher stepped
in to sit beside him.

"Grounds?" asked Bean.

"Yes," said the Pitcher, "if it's convenient."

"Polo Grounds," called Bean to Paul. "Hurry and turn around there,
someway." He was afraid his guest might reconsider.

But the guest sat contentedly enough, the car was turned, and presently
was speeding back toward town. The person in a taxi-cab which made the
same turn a moment later was heard to say, "What the devil now?" with no
discernible relevance.

"Living out this way?" asked Bean when he was again certain of his
voice-control.

"No; only went out to stay over night with some friends. Had to get back
this morning. They told me to take that car and change at--"

"Ought to have one these," said Bean, "then you know where you are."

"This runs well," said the Pitcher affably.

"'S little old last year's car," said Bean with skilled ennui.

He was trying to remember--mustn't talk to a ball-player about ball;
they're sick of it.

"Got a busy day ahead of me in the Street," he said brightly. "I was
only taking a little spin to get my head cleared out. Have to keep your
head clear down there!"

"Say, that's some suit you have on," said the Pitcher with frank
admiration. "I like that check."

"Do you?" asked Bean, trying not to choke. Then, "Where'd you get yours?
I was noticing that suit the other night; saw you up at Claremont--"

"Couple of pals of mine when I'm in town--"

"That white line against the blue comes out great in the day time. Cut
well, too. I see you got one those patent neck-capes that prevents
wrinkling below the coat-collar. And extension safety pockets, I
suppose?"

"Match pockets, change pockets, pencil pockets, fountain pen pockets,
improved secret money pocket, right here; see?" The speaker indicated
the last mentioned item. "Flower holder up here under the lapel." He
revealed it.

"I have 'em make a vestee," said Bean; "goes on with gold pins; adds
dressiness, the man says."

The Pitcher revealed a vestee, adjusted with gold pins.

The red car moved as smoothly as if nothing had happened.

Next was made the momentous discovery that each wore a shirt with the
identical lavender stripe.

"Initials!" said Bean, pulling up the sleeve of his coat and rotating
his fore-arm under the Pitcher's approving glance.

"Got mine tattooed the same way," said the Pitcher, pulling up the
sleeve of his coat in turn.

They discussed shirts.

"Funny thing," said Bean. "Chap down in the office with me, worth about
a hundred million if he's worth a cent, wears separate cuffs; fastens
'em on with those nickel jiggers."

"Had a fellow on the team last year did the same thing," said the
Pitcher. "He's back to the bush now, though. The hick used to wear a
made-up neck tie, too, till the other lads kidded him out of it."

"You must get a lot of those Silases, one time and another," said Bean
sympathetically. He was wondering; the fellow had referred at least
indirectly to his calling.

"In the box, to-day?" he asked, feeling brazen.

The Pitcher nodded.

"You certainly pitched some air-tight ball last time I saw you. Say,
I'll tell you something. If I ever have a kid, you know what's going to
happen? Nothing used but his left hand from the cradle up; and, for toys
one league ball and a light bat. That's all."

"Right way," said the Pitcher approvingly.

"I'm only afraid the managers will get wise to him and not let him
finish out his college course," said Bean. "I don't know, though. I'll
be in the business myself by that time; may sign him on myself."

"Like it?" asked the Pitcher, interestedly.

"_Like_ it! Say, what else is there? _Like_ it! I'm only keeping on down
there in the Street till I put a certain deal through; then nothing but
old Base B. Ball for mine! You'll see. I'll pick up one the big clubs
somewhere if _money'll_ do it!"

"Well, it's the one branch of the business where you don't have to treat
your arm like a sick baby," said the Pitcher. "Say, you want to come
inside a while?"

To Bean's amazement the car had stopped before the players' entrance. He
had supposed himself miles back in the country. Did he want to go inside
for a while! He was out of the car as quickly as Nap could have achieved
it.

"What did you say your name was?" asked the Pitcher.

He was in a long room lined with lockers. He recognized several players
lounging there. A big man with a hard face, half in a uniform, was
singing, "Though Silver Threads Are 'Mong the Gold, I Love You Just the
Same." These men were requested to shake hands with the Pitcher's
friend, Mr. Bean. They were also told informally that his new check suit
was some suit.

"I'll soon have one coming off the same piece," said the Pitcher.

They went through a little door and out upon the grounds. A few players
were idling there, only two of the pitchers being in uniform. The vast
empty stands and bleachers seemed to confer privacy upon an informal and
friendly gathering.

Several more players shook hands with the Pitcher's friend, Mr. Bean,
and the circumstance of his presence was explained.

"I found your twist-paw out in the brush with nothing but a bum trolley
car between him and a long walk," said Bean jauntily.

"He's got the prettiest red car that ever made you jump at a crossing,"
added the Pitcher.

They sat on the bench together.

"He winds up like old Sycamore," said Bean expertly of a young pitcher
who was working nearby.

"He does for a fact," testified one of the players. "Did you know old
Syc?"

"Chicago," said Bean. "Down and out; coming in from some tank-team and
having to wear his uniform for underclothes all winter."

They regarded him with respectful interest.

"Poor Syc could never learn to take water in it," said one.

"He lived in a boarding-house two doors away from me," said Bean. "And
when he'd taken about six or seven in at Frank's Place, he'd start
singing 'My Darling Nellie Gray,' only he'd have to cry at about the
third verse; then he'd lick some man that was laughing at him."

"That's old Syc, all right. You _got_ him, pal!"

The talk went to other stars of the past. Bean mostly listened, but when
he spoke they heard one who knew whereof he spoke. He was familiar with
the public performance of every player of prominence for ten years. He
was at home, among equals, and easy in his mind.

An inconspicuous man who had gained admittance to the grounds, by
alleging his need to inspect a sign that was to be "done over," above
the fence beyond the outfield, passed closely to Bean and detected the
true situation with one sweep of his eagle eyes.

Fifteen minutes later this man was saying over a telephone to the
largest director who sat in Breed's office:

"Nothing doing last night but riding around in a big red car that was
waiting for him down in front. This morning at eight he starts north and
picks up a man just this side Fordham, from a trolley car that breaks
down. They turn around and go to the baseball park. He's setting there
now, gassing with a lot of the players, telling funny stories and the
like. He looks as if he didn't have a trouble on earth. My taxi-cab bill
is now, for last night and to-day, forty-six eighty-five. Shall I keep
on him?"

"No!" shouted the largest director. "Let him go to--let him alone and
come in."

"I forgot to say," added the inconspicuous man, "that the party he
picked up on the road and brought back here looks like he might be a
ball player himself."

"Come in," repeated the largest director; "on a street-car!"

"Looks to me," ventured the quiet director to the largest, "as if you
didn't bluff him quite to death last night."

"Aut'mobile!" said Breede. "Knew he had some one b'ind him."

"Let's get to business. No good putting it off now," said the quiet
director.

"Seven hundred shares! My God! This is monstrous!" said the little
eldest director, who had been making noises like a heavy locomotive.

Bean would have sat forever on that bench of the mighty,
world-forgetting, if not world-forgot. But the departure of several of
the men drew his attention to the supreme obligation of a guest.

"Well," he said, rising.

"Look in on us again some day," urged the Pitcher cordially.

"Thanks, I surely will," said Bean. "I like to forget business this way,
now and then. Good day!"

They waved him friendly adieus, and he was out where Paul waited.

"Forget business!" He had indeed for two hours forgotten business and
people. Not once had he thought of those waiting directors.

Well, they could do their worst, now. He was ripe to laugh at any fate.
What was prison? "The prisoner," he seemed to read, "betrayed no
consciousness of the enormity of his crime, and had, indeed, spent the
morning at the Polo Grounds, chatting with various members of the
Giants, with which team he is a great favourite."

Let them bring their gyves. Let the barred door clang shut!

"Office!" he said to Paul. There was no doubt in Paul's mind as to the
quality of his patron. He had at once recognized the Greatest Pitcher.
He ceased to speculate as to whether this assured young man owned the
high office-building. That was now of minor consequence.

On the way downtown he tried to remember what day it was. He thought it
was Friday, but again it seemed to be Monday. He stopped the car and
bought an afternoon paper to find out.

At the entrance to the big office-building he debated a moment.

"Wait!" he directed Paul.

He was uncertain how long he might be permitted to remain in that
building. If he must go to jail, he would ride. He wondered if Paul knew
the address of the best jail. He could have things sent in to
him--magazines and fruit.

Inside the entrance he paused before the cigar-stand. He must think
carefully what he would say to those men of round millions. He must keep
up his front. His glance roamed to the beautifully illustrated boxes of
cigars. A good idea!

"Gimme one those," he said to the clerk, indicating a box that flaunted
the polychrome portrait of a distinguished-looking Spaniard. He was
surprised at the price, but he bit the tip off violently and began to
mouth it.

"I'm no penny-pincher," he muttered, thinking of the cigar's cost. He
tilted the cigar to a fearless angle and slanted his hat over his left
eye. He lolled against the cigar-case, gathering resolution for the
ordeal.

The door of an elevator down the corridor shot open, and there emerged,
in single file, a procession, headed by the little oldest director, who
had allowed him to go free overnight. They marched toward the door,
looking straight ahead. They must pass in front of him. He felt a sudden
great relief. Something in their bearing told him they were powerless to
restrict his liberty.

The oldest director deigned him no glance, but snorted accurately in his
direction, nevertheless. The quiet one grinned faintly at him, but the
two neutral directors passed him loftily, as if they were Virtue
scorning Vice in a morality play. The largest director frowned at the
stripling who was savagely chewing a fifty-cent cigar at the procession.

The moment was incontestably the stripling's. He was cool and meant to
take the fullest advantage of it. He meant to say, contemptuously, "I
can imagine nothing of less consequence!"

But the officious cigar-clerk held a lighted match to the choice cigar
and the magnificent defiance was smothered by a cough. He was obliged to
content himself with glaring at the expansive and well-rounded back of
the biggest director.

He was alone on the field, pretending enjoyment of a cigar which was now
lighted and loathsome.

Bulger entered from the street and viewed him with friendly alarm.

"Say, where you been?" demanded Bulger. "Old Pussy-foot's got a sore
thumb right now from pounding that buzzer of yours all morning. He's hot
at every one. I heard him call Tully a slinking something or other;
couldn't get the word, but Tully got it. Say, you better get
busy--regular old George W. Busy--if you want to hold that job."

"Job!" laughed Bean bitterly, and waved the expensive and lighted cigar
in Bulger's face. "Job! Well, I may get busy, and then again I may not.
All depends!"

"Gee!" said Bulger, profoundly moved by this admirable spirit of
insubordination. "Well, I got to get back; I'm five minutes late
myself."

Bean waited until he had gone. Then he strolled out to the street and
furtively dropped an excellent and but slightly burned cigar into the
gutter. He wished those fellows at cigar-stands would do only what they
were put there for. Taking liberties with people!

He decided to go back as if nothing had happened. Let Breede do the
talking, and if he talked rough, then tell him very simply that nothing
of less consequence could be imagined. Continue to play the waiting
game. That was it!

He entered the office, humming lightly. He seemed to be annoyed by the
people he found there. He glared at Bulger, at old Metzeger, at the
other clerks, and especially at Tully. Tully looked uncomfortable. He
wasn't a gazelle after all. He was a startled fawn.

"Telephone for--" began the office boy humourist, but Bean was out of
hearing in the direction of the telephone booth before the latest _mot_
could be delivered.

"Been trying to get you all the morning," began the flapper in eager
tones. "I should think you would stay there, when I may have to call you
any minute. That grocer gave me the nicest little book, 'Why Did Your
Husband Fail in Business?' with a picture of the poor man that failed on
the cover. It's because he didn't get enough phosphorous to make him 100
per cent. efficient, and if he'd eaten 'Brain-more' mush for breakfast,
nothing would have happened. We'll try it, anyway, and there's a
triple-plate spoon in every package, so if I order a dozen ... and oh,
yes, what was I going to say? Why, I'm perfectly going to pull off the
funniest stunt this afternoon; you'd just deliciously die laughing if I
told you, but it will be still funnier if you don't know. Are you paying
attention? It's because I'd already spent my allowance for three years
and seven months ahead--I figured it all out like a statement--and I've
perfectly just got to have some money of my real own. I've enough to
worry about without bringing money into it, with proper food for you and
those patent laundry tubs I told you about, and the man says he wouldn't
think of letting it go for less than two seventy-five, but that's five
dollars saved. Well, good-bye! I'll manage everything, and Granny says
always to conceal little household worries from him, and just perfectly
keep the future looking bright and interesting ... she says that's the
secret. Good-bye! What am I?"

"Startled fawn," said Bean.

"Well, don't forget."

"I won't. I'll attend to my part all right."

He heard the fateful buzzing even before he opened the door of the
telephone booth. Breede was at it again. He walked coolly to his desk
for a note-book. Every one else in the office was showing nervousness.
He was the only man who could still the troubled waters. He would play
the waiting game; keep the future looking "bright and interesting."
Breede could do the rest.

"Buzz! Buzz-z-z-z! Buzz-z-z-z-z!" It sounded pretty vicious.

He entered Breede's room with his accustomed air of quiet service.
Breede did not glance at him. He began, as usual, to dictate before Bean
was seated.

"Letter T.J. Williams 'sistant sup'ntendent M.P. 'n' C. department C.
'n' L.M. rai'way Sh'-kawgo dear sir please note 'closed schej'l car
'pairin' make two copies send one don't take that an' let me have at y'r
earles c'nvenience--"

Apparently nothing at all had happened. He was at his old post, and
Breede did nothing but explode fragments of words as ever. No talk of
jail or betrayal of trust or of his morning's flagrant absence.

One might have thought that Breede himself played the waiting game. Or
perhaps Breede only toyed with him. He fastened his gaze on the criminal
cuffs. They were his rock of refuge in any cataclysm that might impend.
If only he could keep those cuffs within his range of vision he would
fear nothing. Patent laundry tubs; five dollars saved; why your husband
failed in business; bright and interesting future--

"'Lo! 'Lo!" Breede was detonating into the desk-telephone which had
sounded at his elbow.

"'Lo! Well? What? Run off! Stop nonsense! Busy!" He hung up the
receiver.

"--also mus' be stipulated that case of div'dend bein' passed--"

The desk telephone again rang, this time more emphatically. Bean was
chilled by a premonition that the flapper meant to pull off that funny
stunt which was to cause him quite deliciously to die laughing.

Breede grasped the receiver again impatiently.

"Busy, tell you! No time nonsense! What! _What_. W-H-A-T!!!"

He listened another moment, then lessening his tone-production but
losing nothing of intensity, he ripped out:

"_Gur--reat Godfrey!_"

His eyes, narrowed as he listened, now widened upon Bean who stared
determinedly at the cuffs.

"You know what she _says_?"

"Yes," said Bean doggedly.

Then his eyes met Breede's and gave them blaze for blaze. The Great
Reorganizer knew it not, but he no longer looked at Bunker Bean.
Instead, he was trying to shrivel with his glare a veritable king of old
Egypt who had enjoyed the power of life and death over his remotest
subject. Bean did not shrivel. Breede glared his deadliest only a
moment. He felt the sway of the great Ram-tah without identifying it. He
divined that mere glaring would not shrivel this presumptuous atom. In
truth, Bean outglared him. Breede leaned again to the telephone,
listening. Bean lowered his eyes to the cuffs. He sneered at them now.
The intention of the lifted upper lip was too palpable.

"Gur-reat stars above!" murmured Breede. "She says she's got it all
reasoned out!" There was something almost plaintive in his tones; he
shuddered. Then he rallied bravely once more.

"Tell you, no time nonsense. Busy."

But he seemed to know he was beaten. He listened again, then wilted.

"What next?" he demanded of Bean.

"Ask _her_!"

"Nice mess you got _me_ into!"

Bean sneered resolutely at the cuffs. Again the telephone tinkled.

Breede listened and horror grew on his face.

"Now she's told her mother," he muttered. "My God!"

The transmitter was an excellent one, and Bean caught notes of hysteria.
Julia was fussing back there.

"Now, now!" urged Breede. "No good. Better lie down. She says she's got
it all reasoned _out_, don't I tell you?" He put a throttling hand over
the anguished voice, and looked dumbly at Bean. He noted the evil sneer
and traced it to the cuffs. Slowly he hung up the receiver and took one
of the cuffs in his hands.

"Wha's matter these cuffs?" he demanded with a show of his true spirit.

"Right enough. Cuffs all right, if you like that kind. But why don't you
wear 'em _on_--like this?" He luminously exposed his left forearm. It
was by intention the one that carried the purple monogram.

"Sewed on, like that!" he added almost sharply.

Breede seemed to be impressed by the exhibit.

"Well," he began, awkwardly, as a man knowing himself in the wrong but
still defiant, "I won't do it. _That's_ all! Not for anybody."

Still, he seemed to consider that something more than mere apparent
perverseness would become him.

"They get down 'round m' hands all the time. Can't think when they get
down that way. Bother me. Take m' mind off. I won't do it, that's all. I
don't care. Not for anybody't all!" He replaced the cuff beside its
mate. He seemed to be saying that he had settled the matter--and no good
talking any more about it.

Bean was silent and dignified. His own air seemed to disclose that when
once you warned people in plain words, you could no longer be held
responsible. For a moment they made a point of ignoring the larger
matter.

"Say," Breede suddenly exploded, "I wish you'd tell me just how many
kinds of a--no matter! Where was I? This reserve fund may be subject to
draft f'r repairs an' betterment durin' 'suin' quarter or 'ntil such
time as--"

The telephone again rang its alarm. Breede took the receiver and allowed
dismay to be read on his face as he listened.

"Well, well, well," he at length began, soothingly, "go lie down; take
something; take _something_; well, send over t' White Plains f'r s'more.
Putcha t' sleep. What can _I_ do?" Again the throttling hand.

He ruefully surveyed his littered desk, then drew the long sigh of the
baffled.

"Take telegram m' wife. Sorry can't be home late, 'port'n board meet'n'.
May be called out of town."

The telephone rang, but was ignored.

"Send it off," he directed Bean above the bell's clear call. "Then
c'mon; go ball game. G'wup 'n subway."

"Got car downstairs," suggested Bean.

"You got your work cut out f'r you; 'sall I got t' say," growled Breede.

"'S little old last year's car," said Bean modestly.



XIII


As the little old last year's car bore them to the north, some long
sleeping-image seemed to stir in Breede's mind.

"Got car like this m'self somewheres," he remarked.

Bean was relieved. He didn't want the name of a woman to be brought into
the matter just then.

"'S all right for town work," he said. "Good enough for all I want of a
car."

"'S awful!" said Breede, obviously forgetting the car for another
subject.

"What can I do? She says she's got the right," suggested Bean.

"She'd take it anyway. _I_ know her. Pack a suit-case. Had times with
her already. Takes it from her mother."

"Can't be too rough at the start," declared Bean. "Manage 'em of course,
but 'thout their finding it out--velvet glove." He looked quietly
confident and Breede glanced at him almost respectfully.

"When?" he asked.

"Haven't made up my mind yet," said Bean firmly. "I may consult her,
then again I may not; don't believe in long engagements."

Breede's glance this time was wholly respectful.

"You're a puzzle to me," he conceded.

Bean's shrug eloquently seemed to retort, "that's what they all say,
sooner or later."

They were silent upon this. Bean wondered if Julia was still fussing
back there. Or had she sent to White Plains for some more? And what was
the flapper just perfectly doing at that moment? Life was wonderful!
Here he was to witness a ball game on Friday!

They were in the grandstand, each willing and glad to forget, for the
moment, just how weirdly wonderful life was. A bell clanged twice, the
plate was swept with a stubby broom, the home team scurried to their
places.

"There he is!" exclaimed Breede; "that's him!" Breede leaned out over
the railing and pointed to the Greatest Pitcher the World Has Ever Seen.
Bean sat coolly back.

The Pitcher scanned the first rows of faces in the grandstand. His
glance came to rest on a slight, becomingly attired young man, who
betrayed no emotion, and, in the presence of twenty thousand people, the
Pitcher unmistakably saluted Bunker Bean. Bean gracefully acknowledged
the attention.

"He know _you_?" queried Breede with animation.

"_Know_ me!" He looked at Breede almost pityingly, then turned away.

The Pitcher sent the ball fairly over the plate.

"Stur-r-r-r-ike one!" bellowed the umpire.

"With him all morning," said Bean condescendingly to his admiring
companion. "Get shirts same place," he added.

His cup had run over. He was on the point of confiding to his companion
the supreme felicity in store for Breede as a grandfather. But the
batter struck out and the moment was only for raw rejoicing. They
forgot. Bean ceased to be a puzzle to any one, and Breede lapsed into
unconsciousness of Julia.

The game held them for eleven innings. The Greatest Pitcher saved it to
the home team.

"He was saying to me only this morning--" began Bean, as the Pitcher
fielded the last bunt. But the prized quotation was lost in the uproar.
Pandemonium truly reigned and the scene was unquestionably one of
indescribable confusion.

Outside the gate they were again Breede and Bean; or, rather, Bean and
Breede. The latter could not so quickly forget that public recognition
by the Greatest Pitcher.

"You're a puzzle t'me," said Breede. "Lord! I can't g'ome yet. Have't
take me club."

"Can't make y'out," admitted Breede once more, as they parted before the
sanctuary he had indicated.

"Often puzzle myself," confessed the inscrutable one, as the little old
last year's car started on. Breede stood on the pavement looking after
it. For some reason the car puzzled him, too.

Bean was wondering if Julia herself wouldn't have been a little appeased
if she could have seen the Pitcher single him out of that throng. Some
day he might crush the woman by actually taking the Pitcher to call.

At his door he dismissed the car. He wanted quiet. He wanted to think it
all out. That morning it had seemed probable that by this time he would
have been occupying a felon's cell, inspecting the magazines and fruit
sent to him. Instead, he was not only free, but he was keeping a man
worth many millions from his own home, and perhaps he had caused that
man's wife to send over to White Plains for some more. It was Ram-tah.
All Ram-tah. If only every one could find his Ram-tah--

Cassidy was reading his favourite evening paper, the one that shrieked
to the extreme limits of its first page in scarlet headlines and mammoth
type. It was a paper that Bean never bought, because the red ink rubbed
off to the peril of one's eighteen-dollar suit.

Cassidy, who for thirty years had voted as the ward-boss directed, was
for the moment believing himself to be a rabid socialist.

"Wall Street crooks!" he began, in a fine orative frenzy. "Dur-r-rinkin'
their champagne whilst th' honest poor's lucky t' git a shell av hops!
Ruh-hobbin' th' tax-pay'r f'r' t' buy floozie gowns an' joold bresslets
f'r their fancy wives an' such. I know th' kind well; not wan cud do a
day's bakin' or windy-washin'!"

He held the noisy sheet before Bean and accusingly pointed a blunt
forefinger. "Burly Blonde Divorcée, Routed Society Burglar," across the
first two columns, but the proceeding was rather tamely typed and the
Burly Blonde's portrait in evening dress was inconspicuous beside the
headlines "Flurry in Federal Express! Wild Scenes on Stock Exchange.
Millions made by Gentlemen's Agreement."

"Gentlemin!" hissed Cassidy. "The sem agreemint that two gentlemin
porch-climbers has whin wan climbs whilst th' other watches t' see is
th' cop at th' upper ind av th' beat! Millions med whilst I'm wur-r-kin'
f'r twinty per month an' what's slipped me--th' sem not buyin' manny
jools ner private steamboats! Millions med! I know th' kind well!" Bean
felt his own indignation rise with Cassidy's. He was seeing why they had
feared to have him on the board of directors. Apparently they were bent
on wrecking the company by a campaign of extravagance. The substance of
what he gleaned from Cassidy's newspaper was that those directors had
declared a stock dividend of 200 per cent. and a cash dividend of 100
per cent.

They were madly wrecking the company in which he had invested his
savings. Such was his first thought. And they were crooks, as Cassidy
said, because for two years they had been quietly, through discreet
agents, buying in the stock from unsuspecting holders.

"Rascals," agreed Bean with Cassidy, leaving but slight gifts for
character analysis.

"Tellin' th' poor dubs th' stock was goin' down with one hand an' buyin'
it in with th' other," said the janitor, lucidly.

Bean was suddenly troubled by a cross-current of thought. When you
wrecked a company you didn't buy in the stock--you _sold_. He viewed the
headlines from a new angle. Those directors were undoubtedly rascals,
but was he not a rascal himself? What about his own shares?

"Maybe there's something we don't understand about it," he ventured to
Cassidy.

"I know th' kind well," persisted Cassidy. "Th' idle rich! Small use
have they f'r th' wur-r-r-kin' man! Souls no wider than th' black av y'r
nail!"

"Might have had good reasons," said Bean, cautiously.

"Millions av thim," assented Cassidy with a pointed cynicism. "An' me
own father dyin' twinty-three years ago fr'm ixposure contracted in
County Mayo!"

Bean returned the paper to its owner and went slowly in to Ram-tah. One
of the idle rich! Well, that is what kings mostly were, if you came down
to it. At least they had to be rich to buy all those palaces. But not
necessarily idle. The renewed Ram-tah would not be idle. It was not
idleness to own a major-league club.

For the first time in their intercourse he felt that he faced the dead
king almost as an equal. He was confronted by problems of
administration, as Ram-tah must often have been. He must think.

If the flapper quite madly brought about an immediate marriage they
would, for their honeymoon, follow the home club on its Western trip,
and the groom would not be idle. He would be "looking over the ground."
Then he would buy one of the clubs. If he proved to be not rich enough
for that, not quite as rich as one of the idle rich, he would buy stock
and become a director. He was feeling now that he knew how to be a
director; that his experience with the express company had qualified
him. He wondered how rich he would prove to be. Maybe he would have as
much as thirty thousand dollars.

And he was a puzzle to Breede. He looked knowingly at Ram-tah when he
remembered this. Ram-tah had probably puzzled people, too.

       *       *       *       *       *

He went to the office in the morning still wondering how rich he might
be. The newspaper he read did not enlighten him, though it spoke frankly
of "Federal Express Scandal." If the thing was _very_ scandalous,
perhaps he had made a lot of money. But he could not be sure of this. It
might be merely "newspaper vituperation," which was something he knew to
be not uncommon. The paper had declared that those directors had juggled
a twenty-million dollar surplus for years, lending it to one another at
a low rate of interest, until, alarmed by clamouring stockholders, they
had declared this enormous dividend, taking first, however, the
precaution to buy for a low price all the stock they could. But the
newspaper did not say how rich any one would be that had a whole lot of
margins on that stock at Kennedy & Balch's. Maybe you had to hire a
lawyer in those cases.

Entering the office, he was rudely shocked by Tully.

"Good-morning, Mr. Bean!" said Tully distinctly.

"Good-morning!" returned Bean, stunned by Tully's "Mr." "Uh! pleasant
day," he added.

"Yes, sir!" said Tully, again distinctly.

Bean controlled himself and went to his desk.

"'Mr.' and 'Sir'! Gee! Am I as rich as _that_??" he thought.

Half an hour later it no longer seemed to him that he was rich at all.
He was seated opposite Breede taking letters in shorthand as if he were
merely a thirty-dollar-a-week Bunker Bean. Breede was refusing to
recognize any change in their relationship. He made no reference to
their talk of the day before and his detached cuffs stubbornly occupied
their old position on the desk. Was it all a dream--and the flapper,
too?

But the flapper soon called him to the telephone.

"Poor old Pops came home late, and he says you're just perfectly a
puzzle to him," she began.

"I know," said Bean; "he says he can't make me out."

"And Moms began to say the silliest things about you, until I just had
to take her seriously, so I perfectly told her that woman had come into
her own in this generation, thanks to a few noble leaders of our
sex--it's in Granny's last speech at the league--and that sent her up in
the air. I don't think she can be as well as she used to be; and I told
Pops he had to give me some money, and he said he knew it as well as I
did, so what was the use of talking about it, and so he just perfectly
gave me fifty or sixty thousand dollars and told me to make it go as far
as I could, but I don't know, that grocer says the cost of living is
going up every day because the Senate isn't insurgent enough; and anyway
I'll get the tickets and a suite on that little old boat that sails
Wednesday. I thought you'd want a day or two; and everything will be
very quiet, only the family present, coming into town for it, you know,
Wednesday morning, and the boat sails at noon, and I'll be so perfectly
glad when it's all over because it's a very serious step for a young
girl to take. Granny herself says it should never be taken lightly,
unless you just perfectly know, but of course we do, don't we? I think
you'll like fumed oak better, after all--and poor old Pops saying you're
such a puzzle to him. He says he can't make out just how many kinds of a
perfectly swear-word fool you are, but I can, and that's just
deliciously enough for anybody. And you're to come out to-morrow and
have tea and things in the afternoon, and _I'm_ going to be before
sister is, after all. She's perfectly furious about it and says I ought
to be put back into short skirts, but I just perfectly knew it the very
first time I ever looked at you. Stay around there, in case I think of
something I've forgotten. G'bye."

Wednesday--a little old steamer sailing at noon! A steamer, and he
couldn't swim a stroke and was always terrified by water. And the trip
West with the home team! What about that? Why had he not the presence of
mind to cut in and just perfectly tell her where they were going? But
he had let the moment pass. It was too late. He didn't want to begin by
making a row. And Breede was puzzled by him _that_ way, was he? Couldn't
make out how many kinds of perfectly swear-word fool he was?

He regretted that he had not been more emphatic about those cuffs. And
Breede had said it after witnessing that salute from the pitcher's box!
He must be a hard man to convince of anything. What more proof did he
want?

Buzz! Buzz! Buzz!

The man who couldn't make him out was calling for him. For an hour
longer he took down the man's words, not sneering pointedly at the
cuffs, yet allowing it to be seen that he was conscious of them. A
puzzle was he?

"--Hopin' t'ave promp' action accordin' 'bove 'structions, remain yours
ver' truly she's got it all reasoned out," concluded Breede.

"She just told me," said Bean; "little old steamer sailing Wednesday."

"Can't make y' out," said Breede.

That thing was getting tiresome.

"You're a puzzle to me, too," said Bean.

"Hanh! Wha's 'at? What kinda puzzle?"

"Same kind," said Bean, brightly.

"Hum!" said Breede, and pretended to search for a missing document. Then
he eyed Bean again.

"Know how much you made on that Federal stuff?"

"I was going to ask a lawyer," confessed Bean. "I got a whole lot of
margins or whatever you call 'em around at that broker's. Maybe he
wouldn't mind letting me know."

"Stock'll be up t' six hundred before week's out; net you 'round four
hund' thous'n'," exploded Breede in his most vicious manner.

"Four hundred thousand margins?" He wanted to be cautious.

"_Dollars_, dammit!" shouted Breede.

Bean was able to remain cool. That amount of money would have meant
nothing to him back on the Nile. Why should it now?

"It wasn't the money I was after," he began, loftily.

"_Hanh!_"

"Principle of the thing!" concluded Bean.

Breede had lost control of his capable under jaw. It sagged limply. At
last he spoke, slowly and with awe in his tone.

"You don't puzzle me any more." He shook his head solemnly. "Not any
more. I _know_ now!"

"Little old steamer--can't swim a stroke," said Bean.

"'S all," said Breede, still shaking his head helplessly.

At his desk outside Bean feigned to be absorbed in an intricate
calculation. In reality he was putting down "400,000," then "$400,000,"
then "$400,000.00" By noon he had covered several pages of his note-book
with this instructive exercise. Once he had written it $398,973.87, with
a half-formed idea of showing it to old Metzeger.

As he was going out Tully trod lightly over a sheet of very thin ice and
accosted him.

"The market was not discouraging to-day," said Tully genially.

"'S good time to buy heavily in margins," said Bean.

"Yes, sir," said Tully respectfully.

In the street he chanted "four hundred thousand dollars" to himself. He
was one of the idle rich. He hoped Cassidy would never hear of it. Then,
passing a steamship office, he recalled the horror that lay ahead of
him. Little old steamer. But was a financier who had been netted four
hundred thousand dollars to be put afloat upon the waters at the whim of
a flapper? She was going too far. He'd better tell her so in plain
words; say, "Look here, I've just netted four hundred thousand dollars,
and no little old steamer for mine. I don't care much for the ocean. We
stay on land. Better understand who's who right at the start."

That is what he would tell the flapper; make it clear to her. She'd had
her own way long enough. Marriage was a serious business. He was still
resolving this when he turned into a shop.

"I want to get a steamer trunk--sailing Wednesday," he said in firm
tones to the clerk.

       *       *       *       *       *

It was midnight of Tuesday. In the steam-heated apartment Bean paced the
floor. He was attired in the garments prescribed for gentlemen's evening
wear, and he was still pleasantly fretted by the excitement of having
dined with the Breede family at the ponderous town house up east of the
park.

He tried to recall in their order the events of those three days since
he had left the office on Saturday. His coolest efforts failed. It was
like watching a screen upon which many and diverse films were
superimposing scenes in which he was an actor of more or less
consequence, but in which his figure was always blurred. It was
confounding.

Yet he had certainly gone out to that country place Sunday for tea and
things, taking Nap. And the flapper, with a sinful pride, had shown him
off to the family. He and the flapper had clearly been of more
consequence than the big sister and the affianced waster, who wouldn't
be able to earn his own cigarettes, say nothing of his ties and gloves.
Sister and the waster, who seemed to be an agreeable young man, were
simply engaged in a prosaic way, and looked prosaically forward to a
church wedding. No one thought anything about them, and sister was
indeed made perfectly furious by the airs the flapper put on.

Mrs. Breede, from one of the very oldest families of Omaha, had
displayed amazing fortitude. She had not broken down once, although she
plainly regarded Bean as a malignant and fatal disease with which her
latest-born had been infected. "I must be brave, brave!" she had seemed
to be reminding herself. And when Nap had chased and chewed her toy
spaniel, named "Rex," until it seemed that Rex might pass on, she had
summoned all her woman's resignation and only murmured, "Nothing can
matter now!"

There had seemed to be one fleeting epoch which he shared alone with the
flapper, feeling the smooth yielding of her cheek and expanding under
her very proudest gaze of ownership. And a little more about fumed oak
panels and the patent laundry tubs.

Monday there had been a mere look-in at the office, with Tully saying
"Sir"; with Breede exploding fragments of words to a middle-aged and
severely gowned woman stenographer who was more formidable than a
panorama of the Swiss Alps, and who plainly made Breede uncomfortable;
and with Bulger saying, "Never fooled your Uncle Cuthbert for a minute.
Did little old George W. Wisenham have you doped out right or not? Ask
me, _ask_ me; wake me up any time in the night and ask me!"

Tuesday afternoon he had walked with the flapper in the park and had
learned of many things going forward with solely his welfare in
view--little old house surrounded on all sides by just perfectly
scenery--little old next year's car--little old going-away rag--little
old perfectly just knew it the first moment she saw him--little old new
rags to be bought in Paris--and sister only going to Asheville on
_hers_.

And the dinner in town, where he had seemed to make an excellent
impression, only that Mrs. Breede persisted in behaving as if the body
was still upstairs and she must be brave, brave! And Grandma, the Demon,
confiding to him over her after-dinner cigarette that he was in for it
now, though she hadn't dared tell him so before; but he'd find that out
for himself soon enough if he wasn't very careful about thwarting her.
It made her perfectly furious to be thwarted.

Nor did he fail to note that the stricken mother was distinctly blaming
the Demon for the whole dreadful affair. Her child had been allowed to
associate with a grandmother who had gone radical at an age when most of
her sex simmer in a gentle fireside conservatism and die respectably.
But it was too late now. She could only be brave, brave!

And he was to be there at nine sharp, which was too early, but the
flapper could be sure only after he came that nothing had happened to
him, that he had neither failed in business, been poisoned by some
article of food not on her list, nor diverted by that possible Other One
who seemed always to lurk in the flapper's mental purlieus. She just
perfectly wanted him there an hour too early; all there was about it!

These events had beaten upon him with the unhurried but telling impact
of an ocean tide. Two facts were salient from the mass: whatever he had
done he had done because of Ram-tah; and he was going to Paris, where he
would see the actual tomb of that other outworn shell of his.

He thought he would not be able to sleep. He had the night in which to
pack that steamer trunk. Leisurely he doffed the faultless evening
garments--he was going to have a waistcoat pointed like the waster's,
with four of those little shiny buttons, and studs and cuff-links to
match--and donned a gayly flowered silk robe.

With extreme discomfort he surveyed the new steamer trunk. Merely
looking at a steamer trunk left him with acute premonitions of what the
voyage had in store for him. But the flapper was the flapper; and it was
the only way ever to see that tomb.

The packing began, the choice garments were one by one neatly folded. A
light tan overcoat hung in Ram-tah's closet, back of the case. Ram-tah
was dragged forth and for the moment lay prone. He was to be left in the
locked closet until a more suitable housing could be provided, and
Cassidy had been especially warned not to let the steam-heated apartment
take fire.

He found the coat and returned to the half-packed trunk in the bedroom
where he resumed his wonderful task, stopping at intervals for always
futile efforts at realization of this mad impossibility. It was all
Ram-tah. Nothing but that kingly manifestation of himself could have
brought him up to the thing. He dropped a choice new bit of haberdashery
into the trunk and went for another look at It prone on the floor in
that other room.

A long time he gazed down at the still face--his own still face, the
brow back of which he had once solved difficult problems of
administration, the eyes through which he had once beheld the glories of
his court, the lips that had kissed his long dead queen, smiled with
rapture upon his first-born and uttered the words that had made men call
him wise. It was not strange--not unbelievable. It was sane and true. He
was still a king.

He reached down and laid a tender, a fraternal hand upon the brow. The
contact strengthened him, as always. He could believe anything wise and
good of himself. He could be a true mate to that bewildering flapper,
full of understanding kindness. He saw little intimate moments of their
life together, her perplexities over fumed oak and patent tubs and
marketing for pure food; always her terrific earnestness. Now and then
he would laugh at that, but then she would laugh too; sometimes the
flapper seemed to show, with an engaging little sense of shame, that she
just perfectly knew how funny she was.

But she was staunch; she had perfectly well known the very first moment
she saw him. And she had never spoiled it all, like that other one in
Chicago, by asking him if he was fond of Nature and Good Music and such
things. The flapper was capable but quiet. With his hand still upon
Ram-tah's brow in that half-timid, strange caress, he was flooded with a
sudden new gladness about the flapper. She was _dear_, if you came right
down to it. And Ram-tah had brought her to him. He erected himself to
look down once more. They _knew_, those two selves; understood each
other and life.

It occurred to him for the first time that Ram-tah, too, must have liked
dogs, must have been inexpressibly moved by the chained souls that were
always trying to speak from their brown eyes. He looked over to Nap, who
fiercely battled with a sofa cushion, and was now disembowelling it
through a rent in the cover. He wondered what Ram-tah's favourite dog
had been like.

He went back to the bedroom to finish his packing. Ram-tah could lie
until the moment came to lock him again in the closet, to leave him once
more in a seclusion to which he had long been accustomed.

He worked leisurely, stowing those almost advanced garments so that they
should show as few wrinkles as possible after their confinement.
Occasionally Nap diverted his thoughts by some louder growl than usual
in the outer room, or by some noisier scramble.

The trunk was packed and locked for the final time. Thrice had it been
unlocked and opened to receive slight forgotten objects. The last to be
placed directly under the lid was the entirely scarlet cravat. He was
equal to wearing it now, but a sense of the morrow's proprieties
deterred him. The stricken mother! In deference to her he laid out for
the morning's wear the nearest to a black cravat that he possessed, an
article surely unassuming enough to be no offence in a house of
mourning.

He fastened the straps of the trunk and sighed in relief. It was a
steamer trunk, and he was to sail on a little old steamer, but other
people had survived that ordeal. Ram-tah would have met it boldly.
Ram-tah!

He stood in the doorway, his attention attracted to Nap, who had for
some moments been more than usually vocal. In a far corner Nap had a
roundish object between his paws and his sharp teeth tore viciously at
it. He looked up and growled in fierce pretence that his master also
wished to gnaw this delectable object.

A moment Bean stood there, looking, looking. Slowly certain details
cleared to his vision: the details of an unspeakable atrocity. He felt
his knees grow weak, and clutched at the doorway for support.

The body of Ram-tah was out of its case and half across the room, yards
of the swathed linen unfurled; but, more terrible than all, the head of
Ram-tah was not where it should have been.

In the far corner the crouching Nap gnawed at that head, tearing,
mutilating, desecrating.

"Napoleon!" It was a cry of little volume, but tense and terrible.
Napoleon, destroyer of kings! In this moment he once more put the
creature's full name upon him. The dog found the name alarming;
perceived that he had committed some one of those offences for which he
was arbitrarily punished. He relaxed the stout jaws, crawled slinkingly
to the couch, and leaped upon it. Once there, he whimpered protestingly.
One of the few clear beliefs he had about a perplexing social system was
that nothing hurtful could befall him once he had gained that couch. It
was sanctuary.

Bean's next emotion was sympathy for the dog's fright. He tottered
across to the couch, mumbling little phrases of reassurance to the
abject Nap. He sat down beside him, and put a kindly arm about him.

"Why, why, Nappy! Yes, 'sall right, yes, he _was_--most beautiful doggie
in the whole world; yes, he _was_."

He hardly dared look toward the scene of the outrage. The calamity was
overwhelming, but how could dogs know any better? Timidly, at length, he
raised his eyes, first to where the fragmentary head lay, then to the
torn body.

Something about the latter electrified him. He leaped from the couch and
seized an end of the linen that bound the mummy. He pulled, and the
linen unwound. He curiously surveyed something at his feet. It was a
tightly rolled wad of excelsior. The swathing of linen--he had unwound
it to where the hands should have been folded on the breast--had
enclosed excelsior.

Dazedly he looked into the empty case. Upon one of the new boards he saw
marked with the careless brush of some shipping-clerk, "Watkins & Co.,
Hartford, Conn."

Again, as with the unstable lilac-bushes, his world spun about him; it
drew in and darkened. He had the sensation of a grain of dust sucked
down a vast black funnel.

Outside the quiet room, the city went on its ruthless, noisy way. In
there where dynasties had fallen and a monarch lay prone, a spotted dog
sporting with a _papier-mâché_ something, came suddenly on a cold hand
flung out on the rug. Nap instantly forsook the sham for the real,
deserted the head of Ram-tah, and laved Bean's closed eyes with a
lolloping pink tongue.



XIV


The next morning at eight-thirty the door of the steam-heated apartment
resounded to sharp knocking. There being no response, the knocking was
repeated and prolonged. Retreating footsteps were heard in the hallway.
Five minutes later a key rattled in the door and Cassidy entered,
followed by the waster.

Bean was discovered in a flowered dressing-gown gazing open-eyed at the
shut door of a closet. He sat on the couch and one of his arms clasped a
sleeping dog. The floor was littered with wisps of excelsior.

"My word, old top, had to have the chap let me into your diggin's you
know. You were sleeping like the dead." The waster was bustling and
breezy.

"Busy," said Bean. He arose and went into the hall where Cassidy stood.

"He _would_ have in," explained Cassidy. "Say th' wor-r-d if he's no
frind, an' he'll have out agin. I'll put him so. 'T would not be a
refined thing to do, but nicissary if needed."

"'S all right," said Bean. "Friend of mine." He closed the door on
Cassidy.

Inside, he found the waster interestedly poking with his stick at a
roundish object on the floor.

"Dog's been at it," explained the waster brightly. "What's the idea?
Private theatricals?"

"Yes," said Bean, "private theatricals," and resumed his place on the
couch, staring dully at the closet door.

"But, look here, old chap, you must liven up. She would have it I should
come for you. My word! I believe you're funking! You look absurdly
rotten like it, you know."

"Toothache, right across here," muttered Bean. "Have to put it off."

"But that's not done, old top; really it's not done, you know.
It ... it ... one doesn't do it at all, you know."

"Never?" asked Bean, brightening a little with alarm.

"Jolly well never," insisted the waster; "not for anything a
dentist-fellow could manage. Come now!"

Bean was listless once more, deaf, unseeing.

"Righto," said the waster. "Bachelor dinner last night ... yes?"

The situation had become intelligible to him. He found the bathroom, and
from it came the sound of running water. He had the air of a Master of
Revels.

"Into it--only thing to do!"

He led Bean to the brink of the icy pool and skilfully flayed him of the
flowered gown. He was thorough, the waster. He'd known chaps to pretend
to get in by making a great splashing with one hand, after they were
left alone. He overcame a few of the earlier exercises in jiu-jitsu and
committed Bean's form to the deep.

"Righto!" he exclaimed. "Does it every time. Shiver all you like. Good
for you! Now then--clothes! Clothes and things, Man! Oh, here they are
to be sure! How stupid of me! Feel better already, yes? Knew it. Studs
in shirt. My word! Studs! Studs! There! Let me tie it. Here! Look alive
man! She would have it. She must have known you. There!"

He had finished by clamping Bean's hat tightly about his head. Bean was
thinking that the waster possessed more executive talent than Grandma
had given him credit for; also that he would find an excuse to break
away once they were outside; also that Balthasar was keenly witty.
Balthasar had _said_ it would disintegrate if handled.

He would leave Nap with Cassidy. He would return for him that night,
then flee. He would go back to Wellsville, which he should never have
left.

The waster had him in the car outside, a firm grasp on one of his arms.

"I'll allow you only one," said the waster judicially as the car moved
off. "I know where the chap makes them perfectly--brings a mummy back to
life--"

"A mum--what mummy?" asked Bean dreamily.

"Your own, if you had one, you silly juggins!"

Bean winced, but made no reply.

The car halted before an uptown hotel.

"Come on!" said the waster.

"Bring it out," suggested Bean, devising flight.

The waster prepared to use force.

"Quit. I'll go," said Bean.

He was before a polished bar, the white-jacketed attendant of which not
only recognized the waster but seemed to divine his errand.

"Two," commanded the waster. The attendant had already reached for a
bottle of absinthe, and now busied himself with two eggs, a shaker, and
cracked ice.

"White of an egg, delicate but nourishing after bachelor dinners," said
the waster expertly.

Bean, in the polished mirror, regarded a pallid and shrinking youth whom
he knew to be himself--not a reincarnation of the Egyptian king, but
just Bunker Bean. He could not endure a long look at the thing, and
allowed his gaze to wander to the panelled woodwork of the bar.

"Fumed oak," he suggested to the waster.

But the waster pushed one of the slender-stemmed glasses toward him.

"There's the life-line, old top; cling to it! Here's a go!"

Bean drank. The beverage was icy, but it warmed him to life. The mere
white of an egg mixed with a liquid of such perfect innocence that he
recalled it from his soothing-syrup days.

"Have one with me," he said in what he knew to be a faultless bar
manner.

"Oh, I say old top," the waster protested.

"One," said Bean stubbornly.

The attendant was again busy.

"Better be careful," warned the waster. "Those things come to you and
steal their hands into yours like little innocent children, but--".

They drank. Bean felt himself bold for any situation. He would carry the
farce through if they insisted on it. He no longer planned to elude the
waster. They were in the speeding car.

"Fumed eggs!" murmured Bean approvingly.

They were inside that desolated house, the door closed fatefully upon
them. The waster disappeared. Bean heard the flapper's voice calling
cheerily to him from above stairs. A footman disapprovingly ushered him
to the midst of an immense drawing-room of most ponderous grandeur, and
left him to perish.

He sat on the edge of a chair and tried to clear his mind about this
enormity he was going to commit. False pretenses! Nothing less. He was
not a king at all. He was Bunker Bean, a stenographer, whose father
drove an express wagon, and whose grandmother had smoked a pipe. He had
never been anything more, nor ever would be. And here he
was ... pretending.

No wonder Julia had fussed! She had seen through him. How they would all
scorn him if they knew what that scoundrelly Balthasar knew. He'd made
money, but he had no right to it. He had made that under false
pretenses, too, believing money would come naturally to a king. Would
they find him out at once, or not until it was too late? He shudderingly
recalled a crisis in the ceremony of marriage where some one is invited
to make trouble, urged to come forward and say if there isn't some
reason why this man and this woman shouldn't be married at all. Could he
live through that? Suppose a policeman rushed in, crying, "I forbid the
banns! The man is an impostor!" He seemed to remember that banns were
often forbidden in novels. Then would he indeed be a thing for
contemptuous laughter.

Yet, in spite of this dismal foreboding, he was presently conscious of
an unusual sense of well-being. It had been growing since they stopped
for those eggs, in that fumed oak place. What about the Corsican? Better
have been him than no one! He would look at that tomb. Then he would
know. He was rather clinging to the idea of the Corsican. It gave him
courage. Still, if he could get out peacefully ...

He stepped lightly to the hall and was on the point of seizing his hat
when the flapper called down to him.

"You just perfectly don't leave this house again!"

"Not going to," he answered guiltily. "Looking to see what size hat I
wear. Fumed eggs," he concluded triumphantly.

He was not again left alone. The waster came back and supposed he would
do some golfing "over across."

Bean loathed golf and gathered the strange power to say so.

"Sooner be a mail-carrier than a golf-player," he answered stoutly.
"Looks more fun, anyway."

"_My_ word!" exclaimed the waster, "aren't you even keen on watching
it?"

"Sooner watch a lot of Italians tearing up a street-car track," Bean
persisted.

"Oh, come!" protested the waster.

"Like to have another fumed egg," said Bean.

"You've had one too many," declared the waster, knowing that no sober
man could speak thus of the sport of kings.

Grandma, the Demon, entered and portentously shook hands with him. She
seemed to have discovered that marriage was very serious.

"Fumed eggs," said Bean, regarding her shrewdly.

"What?" demanded Grandma.

"Fumed eggs, hundred p'cent efficient," he declared stoutly.

The Demon eyed him more closely.

"My grandmother smoked, too," said Bean, "but I never went in for it
much."

"U-u-u-mmm!" said the Demon. It was to be seen that she felt puzzled.

Breede slunk into the room, garbed in an unaccustomed frock coat. He
went through the form of shaking hands with Bean.

Bean felt a sudden necessity to tell Breede a lot of things. He wished
to confide in the man.

"Principle of the thing's all I cared about," he began. "Anybody make
money that wants to be a Wall Street crook and take it away from the
tired business man. What I want to be is one of the idle rich ... only not
idle much of the time, you know. Good major league club for mine. Been
looking the ground over; sound 'vestment; keep you out of bad company,
lots time to read good books."

"Hanh! Wha's 'at?" exploded Breede.

"Fumed eggs," said Bean, feeling witty. He affected to laugh at his own
jest as he perceived that the mourning mother had entered the room.
Breede drew cautiously away from him. Mrs. Breede nodded to him bravely.

He mentioned the name of the world's greatest pitcher, with an impulse
to take the woman down a bit.

"Get our shirts same place; he's going to have a suit just like
this--no, like another one I have in that little old steamer trunk."

He was aware that they all eyed him too closely. The waster winked at
him. Then he found himself shaking hands with a soothing old gentleman
in clerical garb who called him his young friend and said that this was
indeed a happy moment.

The three Breedes and the waster stood apart, studying him queerly. He
was feeling an embarrassed need to make light conversation, and he was
still conscious of that strange power to make it. He was going to tell
the old gentleman, whose young friend he was, that fumed eggs were a
hundred p'cent efficient.

But the flapper saved him from that. She came in, quiet but
businesslike, and in a low yet distinct voices aid she wished it to be
perfectly over at once. She did not relax her grasp of Bean's arm after
she approached him, and he presently knew that something solemn was
going on in which he was to be seriously involved.

"Say, 'I do,'" muttered the old gentleman, and Bean did so. The flapper
had not to be told.

There followed a blurred and formal shaking of his hand by those
present, and the big sister whom he had not noticed before came up and
kissed him.

Then he was conscious of the flapper still at his side. He turned to her
and was amazed to discover that she was blinking tears from her eyes.

"There, _there_!" he muttered soothingly, and took her in his arms quite
as if they were alone. He held her closely a moment, with little mumbled
endearments, softly patting her cheek.

"There, there! No one ever going to hurt _you_. You're _dear_; yes, you
are!"

He was much embarrassed to discover those staring others still present.
But the flapper swiftly revived. It seemed to be perfectly over for the
flapper. She announced that every one must hurry.

Hurriedly, with every one, it seemed, babbling nonsense of remote
matters, they sat at a table, and ate of cold food from around a bed of
flowers. Bean ate frankly. He was hungry, but he took his part in the
talk as a gentleman should.

They were toasting the bride in champagne.

"Never drink," protested Bean to the proffered glass.

"Won't happen every day, old top," suggested the waster.

He drank. The sparkling stuff brought him new courage. He drained the
glass.

"I knew they were trying to keep me off that board of directors," he
confided to Breede, "specially that oldest one."

"That your first drink s'morning?" asked Breede in discreet tones.

"First drink I ever took. Had two eggs's morning."

"What board of directors?" asked Breede suspiciously.

"Fed'l Express. I wanted that stock for a technical purpose--so I could
get on board of directors."

Breede looked across the table to Grandma. There seemed to be alarm in
his face.

"Given it up, though," continued Bean. "Can't be robbing tired business
men. Rather be a baseball king if you come down to that. I'll own three
four major league clubs before year's out. See 'f I don't! 'S only kind
of king I want to be--wake me up any time in the night and ask me--old
George W. Baseball King. 'S my name. I been other kings enough. Nothing
in it. You wouldn't believe it if I told you I was a king of Egypt once,
'way back, thous'n's years before you were ever born. I had my day;
pomps and attentions and powers. But I was laid away in a mummy
case--did that in those days--thous'n's and thous'n's of years before
you were ever born--an' that time I was Napoleon ..."

He stopped suddenly, feeling that the room had grown still. He had been
hearing a voice, and the voice was his own. What had he said? Had he
told them he was nothing, after all? He gazed from face to face with
consternation. They looked at him so curiously. There was an
embarrassing pause.

The flapper, he saw, was patting his hand at the table's edge.

"No one ever hurt you while I'm around," he said, and then he glared
defiantly at the others. The old gentleman, whose young friend he was,
began an anecdote, saying that of course he couldn't render the Irish
dialect, also that if they had heard it before they were to be sure and
let him know. Apparently no one had heard it before, although Breede
left the table for the telephone.

Bean kept the flapper's hand in his. And when the anecdote was concluded
everybody arose under cover of the applause, and they were in that
drawing-room again where the thing had happened.

The waster chattered volubly to every one. Grandma and the bride's
mother were in earnest but subdued talk in a far corner. Breede came to
them.

"Chap's plain dotty," said Breede. "Knew something was wrong."

"Your mother's doing," said Mrs. Breede.

"U-u-u-mm!" said the Demon. "I'll go with them."

"I shall also go with my child," said the mother. "James, you will go
too."

But Breede had acted without waiting to talk.

"Other car'll be here, 'n' I telephoned for quarters on boat. 'S full
up, but they'll manage. Chap might cut her throat."

"U-u-u-mm!" said the Demon.

"Half pas' ten," reminded Breede. "Hurry!"

Bean had accosted the waster.

"Always take fumed eggs for breakfast," he cautioned. "Of course, little
fruit an' tea an' things."

"Your father's had a sudden call to Paris. We're going with him," said
the Demon, appearing bonneted.

"What boat?" demanded the flapper in quick alarm.

"Your's," said the Demon.

"Jolly party, all together," said Bean cordially. "He coming, too?" He
pointed to the old gentleman, but this it seemed had not been thought
of.

"He better come too," insisted Bean. "I'm his young friend, and this is
indeed a happy moment. Jus' little ol' las' year's steamer."

"You're tagging," accused the flapper viciously, turning to the Demon.

       *       *       *       *       *

Bean awoke late that night, believing he was dead--that he had fallen in
sleep and been laid unto his fathers. But the narrow grave was unstable.
It heaved and rolled as if to expel him.

Slowly he remembered. First he identified his present location. He was
in an upper berth of that little old steamer. Outside a little round
window was the whole big ocean and beneath him slept a man from
Hartford, Conn. He had caught the city's name on the end of the man's
steamer trunk and been enraged by it. Hartford was a city of rascals.
The man himself looked capable of any infamy. He was tall and thin, and
wore closely trimmed side-whiskers of a vicious iron gray. He regarded
Bean with manifest hostility and had ostentatiously locked a suit-case
upon his appearance.

So much for his whereabouts. How had he come there? Laboriously, he went
over the events of the afternoon. They were hazy, but certain peaks
jutted above the haze. They were "tagged," as the flapper had surmised
they were going to be. Aboard the little old steamer had appeared Breede
and Julia and the Demon. They had called the flapper aside and
apparently told her something for her own good, though the flapper had
not liked it, and had told them with much spirit that they were to
perfectly mind their own affairs.

Bean had fled into the throng on deck. His hat had received many dents,
and when he emerged to a clear space at the far end of the boat he had
discovered that his perfectly new watch was gone. He was being put upon,
and meekly submitting to it as in that other time when he had not
believed himself to be somebody. He stared moodily over the rail as the
little old steamer moved out. Thousands of people on the dock were
waving handkerchiefs and hats. They seemed to be waving directly at him
and yelling. Above it all, he was back in the bird-and-animal store,
hearing the parrot shriek over and over, "Oh, what a fool! Oh, what a
fool!"

He made an adventurous way through all kinds of hurried people, back to
that group of queerly behaving Breedes. The flapper was showing traces
of tears, but also a considerable acrimony. She was threatening to tell
the captain to just perfectly turn the little old steamer back. But it
came to nothing. At least to nothing more than Bean's sharing the
stateroom of the Hartford man, who had covered the lower berth with his
belongings so that there might be no foolish mistake.

And that was because there had been no provision made on the little old
steamer for this invasion of casual Breedes. Pops and Moms had secured
an officer's room; the Demon, rather than sit up in the smoking-room of
nights, had consented to share the flapper's suite; and Bean had been
taken in charge by a cold-blooded steward who left him in the narrow
quarters of the Hartford person.

And there, in the far night, he was wishing he might be back in the
steam-heated apartment with Nap. He had a violent headache, and he had
awakened from a dream of falling into a well of cool, clear water of
which he thirstily drank. His narrow bed behaved abominably, rolling him
from side to side, then letting his head sink to some far-off terrifying
depth. And there was no way of leaving that little old steamer ... not for
a man who couldn't swim a stroke.

So he suffered for long miserable hours. Light broke through the little
round windows, and outside he could see the appalling waste of water,
foaming, seething, rising to engulf him. He couldn't recall mounting to
that high place where he had slept. He wondered if the callous steward
would sometime come to take him down. Perhaps the steward would forget.

The man from Hartford bestirred himself and was presently shaving before
the small glass. Bean looked sullenly down at him. The man was running a
wicked-looking razor perilously about his restless Adam's apple. He was
also lightly humming "The Holy City."

"Watkins," said Bean distinctly, recalling the name that had revealed
the fictitious and Hartford origin of It.

"Adams," said the man, breaking off his song and tightening a leathery
cheek for the razor.

"Adam's apple," said Bean, scornfully. "Watkins!"

The man glanced at him and painfully twisted up a corner of his mouth
while he applied the razor to the other corner. But he did not speak.

"Think there's a doctor on this little old steamer?" demanded Bean.

The man from Hartford laid down his weapon and began to lave his face.

"I believe," he spluttered, "that medical attendance is provided for
those still in mortal error."

"'S'at _so_?" demanded Bean, sullenly.

The man achieved another bar of "The Holy City," and fondly dusted his
face with talcum powder, critically observing the effect.

"If you will go into the silence," he at length said, "and there hold
the thought of the all-good, you will be freed from your delusion."

"Humph!" said Bean and turned his face from the Hartford man.

The latter locked his razor into a toilet-case, locked the toilet-case
into a suit-case, and seemed to debate locking the suit-case into a
little old steamer trunk. Deciding, however, that his valuables were
sufficiently protected, and that nothing was left out to excite the
cupidity of a man to whom he had not been properly introduced, the
person from Hartford went forth with a final retort.

"'As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he!'"

"'S'at _so_?" said Bean insolently to the closed door.

He roused himself and descended precariously from his shelf. Once upon
his feet he was convinced that the ship was foundering. He hurriedly
dressed and adjusted a life-belt from one of a number he saw behind a
rack. Over the belt he put on a serviceable rain-coat. It seemed to be
the coat to wear.

[Illustration: "Lumbago!" said Bean, both hands upon the life-belt]

Outside he plunged through narrow corridors until he came to a stairway.
He mounted this to be as far away from the ocean as possible. He came
out upon a deck where people were strangely not excited by the impending
disaster. Innocent children romped, oblivious to their fate, while
callous elders walked the deck or reclined in little old steamer chairs.

He poised a moment, trying to prevent the steamer's deck from mounting
by planting one foot firmly upon it. The device, sound enough in
mechanical theory, proved unavailing. The vast hulk sank alternately at
either end, and to fearsome depths of the sea. There would come a last
plunge. He tightened the life-belt.

Then, through the compelling force of associated ideas, there seemed to
come to him the faint sweet scent of lilac blossoms ... the vision of a
lilac clump revolving both vertically and horizontally ... the noisome
fumes of Grammer's own pipe.

"Too much for you, eh? Ha, ha, ha!" It was the scoundrel from Hartford,
malignantly cheerful. He was inhaling a cubeb cigarette.

"Lumbago!" said Bean, both hands upon the life-belt.

"'As a man thinketh, so is he!' As simple as that," admonished the
other.

Bean groped for the door and for ages fled down blind corridors, vainly
seeking that little old stateroom. He did not find it as quickly as he
should have; but he was there at last, and a deft steward quickly
divested him of the life-belt and other garments for which there no
longer seemed to be any need.

He lay weakly reflecting, with a sinister glee, that the boat was bound
to sink in a moment. He wanted it to sink. Death was coming too slowly.

Later he knew that the flapper was there. She had come to die with him,
though she was plainly not in a proper state of mind to pass on. She was
saying that something was the nerviest piece of work she'd ever been up
against, and that she would perfectly just fix them ... only give her a
little time--they were snoop-cats!

"You'll perfectly manage; jus' leave it to you," breathed her moribund
husband.

"If you'd try some fruit and two eggs," suggested the flapper.

He raised a futile hand defensively, and an expression of acute
repugnance was to be seen upon his yellowed face.

"Please, please go 'way," he murmured. "Let Julia do fussing. Go way off
to other end of little old steamer; stay there."

The flapper saw it was no time for woman's nursing. Sadly she went.

"Telephone to a drug-store," demanded Bean after her, but she did not
hear.

He continued to die, mercifully unmolested, until the man from Hartford
came in to ascertain if his locks had been tampered with.

"Hold to the all good!" urged the man at a moment when it was too
poignantly, too openly certain that Bean could hold to very little
indeed.

"Uh-hah!" gasped Bean.

"Go into the silence," urged the man kindly.

"You go--" retorted Bean swiftly; but he should not further be shamed by
the recording of language which he lived to regret.

The Hartford man said, "Tut-tut-tut!" and went elsewhere than he had
been told to go.

There ensued a dreadful time of alternating night and day, with
recurrent visions of the flapper, who perfectly knew and said that he
had been eating stuff out of the wrong cans.

"'As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he'," affirmed the Hartford
person each morning as he shaved.

And a merry party gathered in the adjoining stateroom of afternoons and
sang songs of the jolly sailor's life: "My Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean,"
and "Sailing, Sailing Over the Bounding Main."

On the morning of the fourth day he made the momentous discovery that
the image of food was not repulsive to all his better instincts.
Carefully he got upon his feet and they amazingly supported him. He
dressed with but slight discomfort. He would audaciously experiment upon
himself with the actual sight of food. It was the luncheon hour.

Outside the door he met the flapper on one of her daily visits of
inspection.

"I perfectly well knew you'd never die," exclaimed the flapper, and laid
glad hands upon him.

"Where do they eat?" asked Bean.

"How jolly! We'll eat together," rejoined the flapper. "The funniest
thing! They all kept up till half an hour ago. Then it got rougher and
rougher and now they're all three laid out. Poor Moms says it's the
smell of the rubber matting, and Granny says she had too many of those
perfectly whiffy old cigarettes, and Pops says he's plain seasick.
Serves 'em rippingly well right--_taggers!_"

She convoyed him to the dining-room, where he was welcomed by a waiter
who had sorrowfully thought not to come to his notice. He greedily
scanned the menu card, while the waiter, of his own initiative, placed
some trifles of German delicatessen before them.

"It is a lot rougher," said the flapper. "Isn't it too close for you in
here?" She was fixedly regarding on a plate before her a limp, pickled
fish with one glazed eye staring aloft.

"Never felt better in my life," declared Bean. "Don't care how this
little old steamer teeters now. Got my sea-legs."

"Me, too," said the flapper, but with a curious diminution of spirit.
She still hung on the hypnotic eye of the pickled fish.

"Ham and cabbage!" said Bean proudly to the waiter.

The flapper pushed her chair swiftly back.

"Forgot my handkerchief," said she.

"There it is," prompted Bean ineptly.

The flapper placed it to her lips and rose to her feet.

"'S perfe'ly old rubber mattin'," she uttered through the fabric, and
started toward the doorway. Bean observed that incoming diners anxiously
made way for her. He followed swiftly and overtook the flapper at her
door.

"Maybe if you'd try a little--" he began.

"Please go away," pleaded the flapper.

Bean returned to the ham and cabbage.

"Ought to go into the silence," he reflected. "'S all she needs. Fixed
me all right."

After his hearty luncheon he ventured on deck. It was undeniably
rougher, but he felt no fear. The breeze being cold, he went below for
his overcoat.

Watkins of Hartford--or Adams, as he persisted in calling
himself--reclined in his berth, his unlocked treasures carelessly
scattered about him.

"Hold fast to the all good," counselled Bean revengefully.

"Uh--hah!" said Watkins or Adams, not doing so.

Bean fled. Everybody was getting it. The little old steamer was becoming
nothing but a plague-ship.

"'As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he'," he muttered, wondering if
the words meant anything.

Then, in the fulness of his returned strength, he was appalled anew by
the completeness of his own tragedy. He had become once more
insignificant. Forever, now, he must be afraid of policemen and all
earthly powers. People in crowds would dent his hat and take his new
watches. He must never again carry anything but a dollar watch.

And the Breedes saw through him. He must have confessed everything back
at that table when he had felt so inscrutably buoyant. Once in Paris
they would have him arrested. They might even have him put in irons
before the ship landed.

And back in the steam-heated apartment lay that mutilated head, a sheer
fabrication of _papier-mâché_. He wondered if Mrs. Cassidy had swept it
out ... the head that had meant so much to him. There was no hope any
more. If he were still free in Paris he would have one look at that
tomb, and then ... well, he had had his day.

Two days later the little old steamer debarked many passengers in the
harbour of Cherbourg, carelessly confiding them to a much littler and
much older steamer that transported them to the actual land. Among these
were a feebly exploding father, a weak but faithful mother, and the
swathed wrecks of the Demon and the flapper.

Then began a five-hour train-ride to the one-time capital of a famous
upstart. There was but little talk among the members of the party. Bean
kept grimly to himself because the only friendly member slept. He
studied her pale, drawn face. She had indeed managed well, but his own
downfall had thwarted her. He was a nobody. They were doubtless right in
wanting to keep him from her. Yet he would see that tomb, and at the
earliest possible moment.

At eleven that night they reached the capital. A dispiriting silence was
maintained to the doors of a hotel. The women drooped in chairs. Breede
acquainted the reception committee of a Paris hostelry with the party's
needs as to chambers.

Thereupon they discovered one of the party to be missing. No one had
seen him since entering. They were excited by this, all but the flapper.

"I don't blame him," averred the flapper ... "Tagging us! You let him
alone! I shall perfectly not worry if he doesn't come home all night. Do
you understand? And when he does come--"

"Not safe," snapped Breede. "King of Egypt, Napoleon ... not after money,
just principle of thing. Chap's nutty--talk'n' like that!"

"Good _night_!" snapped the flapper in her turn.



XV


He had walked quickly away while porters were collecting the bags. "Keep
on the main street," he thought, plunging ahead. He did not change this
plan until he discovered himself again at the door of that hotel he
meant to leave. It faced a circle, and he had traversed this. He fled
down a cross-street and again felt free.

For hours he walked the lighted avenues, or sat moodily on wayside
benches, and at length, on a rustic seat screened by shrubbery in a
little park, he dozed.

He awoke in the early light, stretched legs and arms luxuriously and
again walked. He saw it was five o'clock. He was thrilled now by the
morning beauty of the Corsican's city, all gray and green in the
flooding sun. And the streets had filled with a voluble traffic that
affected him pleasantly. Every one seemed to speak gayly to every one.
Two cab-drivers exchanged swift incivilities, but in a quite perfunctory
way, with evident good-will.

Walking aimlessly as yet--it was too early for tombs--he came again to
that hotel on the circle. They were asleep in there. Little they'd
worried--glad to be so easily rid of him.

Then he noticed at the circle's centre a lofty column wrought in bronze
with infinite small detail. Surmounting that column was the figure of
the Corsican. An upstart who had prevailed!

He left the circle, lest he be apprehended by the Breedes. Soon he was
again in that vast avenue of the park-places where he had slept. And
now, far off on this splendid highway, he descried a mighty arch.
Sternly gray and beautiful it was. And when, standing under it, he
looked aloft to its mighty facade, its grandeur seemed threatening to
him. He knew what that arch was--another monument imposed upon the city
by the imperial assassin--without royal lineage since the passing of
Ram-tah.

"Some class to _that_ upstart!" he muttered. And if Napoleon had been no
one, was it not probable that Bean had not been even Napoleon. The
Countess Casanova had doubtless deceived him, though perhaps
unintentionally. She had seemed a kind woman, he thought, but you
couldn't tell about her controls.

His mind was being washed in that wondrous sunlight.

He was himself an upstart. No doubt about it. But what of it? Here were
columns and arches to commemorate the most egregious of all upstarts.
Upstarts were men who believed in themselves.

He retraced his steps from the arch.

Curious thing that scoundrel Watkins had kept saying on the boat. "As a
man thinketh in his own heart, so is he." Must mean something. What?

Far down that wide avenue he came to a bridge of striking magnificence,
beset with golden sculpture. He supposed it to be one more tribute to
the sublime Corsican who had thought in his heart, and _was_.

He had the meaning of those words now.

He, Bunker Bean, had believed himself to be mean, insignificant. And so
he had been that. Then he had come to believe himself a king, and
straightway had he been kingly. The Corsican, detecting the falsity of
some Ram-tah, would have gone on believing in himself none the less. It
was all that mattered. "As a man thinketh--" If you came down to that,
nobody needed a Ram-tah at all.

From the centre of the bridge he raised his eyes and there, far off,
high above all those gray buildings, was the golden cross that he knew
to surmount the tomb. Sharply it glittered against the blue of the sky.

"Be upstart enough," it seemed to say, "and all things are yours.
Believe yourself kingly, though your Ram-tah come from Hartford."

He walked vigorously toward that cross. It often eluded him as he
puzzled a way through the winding gray-walled streets. More than once he
was forced to turn back, to make laborious circuits. But never for long
was the cross out of sight.

Constantly as he walked that new truth ran in his mind, molten,
luminous. Who knew of Ram-tah's fictive origin, or even of Ram-tah at
all? No one but a witty scoundrel calling himself Balthasar.

Bean had become some one through a belief in himself. Ram-tah had been a
crude bit of scaffolding, and was well out of the way. The confidence he
had helped to build would now endure without his help. Be an upstart. A
convinced upstart. Such the world accepts.

Then he issued from the maze of narrow streets and confronted the tomb.
Through the open door, even at this early hour, people went and came.
The Corsican's magnetism prevailed. And he, Bunker Bean, the lowly, had
that same power to magnetize, to charm, to affront the world and yet
evoke monuments--if he could only believe it.

He went quickly through the iron gateway, up the long walk and took the
imposing stairway in leaps. Then, standing uncovered in that wonderfully
lit room, he gazed down at the upstart's mighty urn.

Long he stood under that spell of line and colour and magnitude, lost in
the spaciousness of it. No Balthasar had cheated here. There lay the
mighty and little man who had never lost belief in himself--who had been
only a little chastened by an adversity due to the craven world's fear
of his prowess.

He was quite unconscious of others beside him who paid tribute there. He
thought of those last sad days on that lonely island, the spirit still
unbroken. His emotion surged to his eyes, threatening to overwhelm him.
He gulped twice and angrily brushed away some surprising tears.

By his side stood a white-faced young Frenchman with a flowing brown
beard. He became infected with Bean's emotion. He made no pretence of
brushing his tears aside. He frankly wept.

Beyond this man a stout motherly woman, with two children in hand, was
flooded by the current. She sobbed comfortably and companionably. The
two children widened their eyes at her a moment, then fell to weeping
noisily.

Farther around the railing a distinguished looking old gentleman of
soldierly bearing, who wore a tiny red ribbon in the lapel of his frock
coat, loudly blew his nose and pressed a kerchief of delicate weave to
his brimming eyes.

Beyond him a young woman became stricken with grief and was led out by
her solicitous husband, who seemed to feel that a tomb was no place for
her at that time.

The exit of this couple aroused Bean. He cast a quick glance upon the
havoc he had wrought and fled, wiping his eyes.

Halfway down the steps he encountered the alleged Adams of Hartford, who
had stopped to open his Badaeker at the right page before entering the
tomb.

"A magnificent bit of architecture," said the Hartford man
instructively.

"Pretty loud for a tomb," replied Bean judicially. He was not going to
let this Watkins, or whatever his name was, know what a fool he had made
of himself in there. Then he remembered something.

"Say," he ventured, "how'd you happen to think up that thing you were
always getting off to me back there on the boat--about as a man thinketh
_is_ he?"

"Tut-tut-tut! Really? But that is from the Holy Scriptures, which should
always be read in connection with Science and Health."

"I must get it--something _in_ that. Funny thing," he added genially,
"getting good stuff like that out of Hartford, Connecticut."

He left Watkins or Adams staring after him in some bewilderment, a
forgotten finger between the leaves of the Badaeker.

He began once more to lay a course through those puzzling streets. He
was going to that hotel. He was going to be an upstart and talk to his
own wife.

The tomb had cleared his brain.

"I'm no king," he thought; "never was a king; more likely a guinea-pig.
But I'm some one now, all right! I'll show 'em; not afraid of the whole
lot put together; face 'em all."

He came out upon the river at last and presently found himself back in
that circle of the hotel. He stared a while at the bronze effigy
surmounting that vainglorious column. Then he drew a long breath and
went into the hotel.

A capable Swiss youth responded to his demand to be shown to his room,
seeming to consider it not strange that Americans in Paris should now
and then return to their rooms.

At the doorway of a drawing-room that looked out upon the column the
Swiss suggested coffee--perhaps?

"And fruit and fumed ... boiled eggs and toast and all that meat and
stuff," supplemented Bean firmly.

He tried one of two doors that opened from the drawing-room and exposed
a bedroom. His, evidently. There was the little old steamer trunk. He
discovered a bathroom adjoining and was presently suffering the
celestial agonies of a cold bath with no waster to coerce him.

He dressed with indignant muttering, and with occasional glances out at
that supreme upstart's memorial. He chose his suit of the most legible
checks. He had been a little fearful about it in New York. It was rather
advanced, even for one of that Wall Street gang that had netted himself
four hundred thousand dollars. Now he donned it intrepidly.

And, with no emotion whatever but a certain grim sureness of himself, he
at last adjusted the entirely red cravat. He gloated upon this
flagrantly. He hastily culled seven cravats of neutral tint and hurled
them contemptuously into a waste-basket. Done with that kind!

He heard a waiter in the drawing-room serving his breakfast. He drew on
a dark-lined waistcoat of white piqué--like the one worn by the oldest
director the day Ram-tah had winked--then the perfectly fitting coat of
unmistakable checks, and went out to sit at the table. He was resolving
at the moment that he would do everything he had ever been afraid to do.
"'S only way show you're not afraid," he muttered. He was wearing a
cravat he had always feared to wear, and now he would devour meat things
for breakfast, whatever the flapper thought about it.

When he had a little dulled the edge of his hunger, he rang a bell.

"Find m' wife," he commanded the Swiss youth, only to be met with a look
of blankness. He was considering if it might do him good to make a row
about this--he had always been afraid to make rows--but the other door
of the drawing-room opened. His wife was found.

"'S all for 's aft'noon," he exploded to the servitor, who seemed not
displeased to withdraw from this authoritative presence. Then he engaged
a slice of bacon with a ruthless fork.

"Where you _been_?" he demanded of the flapper. Only way to do--go at
them hammer and tongs!

The flapper gazed at him from the doorway. She was still pale and there
were reddened circles about her eyes. The little old rag of a morning
robe she wore added to her pallor and gave her an unaccustomed look of
fragility.

"Where you been all the time?" repeated her husband with the arrogance
of a confirmed upstart.

The flapper seemed to be on the point of tears, but she came into the
room and sat across the table from him. In spite of the blurring
moisture in her eyes he could still read the old look of ownership. Time
had not impaired it.

"I just perfectly wouldn't let them know I felt bad," she began. "I said
I was going to sleep and wouldn't worry one bit if you perfectly never
came home all night. And you never did, because I couldn't sleep and
watched ... but I wouldn't let them know it for just perfectly old hundred
thousand dollars. And this morning I said I'd had a bully sleep and felt
fit and you had a right to go where you wanted to and they could please
mind their own affairs, and I laughed so at them when they said they
were going for the police--"

"Police, eh? Let 'em bring their old police. They think I'm afraid of
police?" He valiantly attacked an egg.

"Of course not, stupid, but they thought you might wander off and get
lost, like those people in the newspapers that wake up in Jersey City or
some place and can't remember their own names or how it happened, and
they wanted the police to just perfectly find you, and I wanted them to,
too. I was deathly afraid--"

"I know my own name, all right. I'm little Tempest and Sunshine; that's
my name.

"--but I wouldn't let them know I was afraid. And I laughed at them and
told them they didn't know you at all and that you'd come home--come
home."

He found he could strangely not be an upstart another moment in the
presence of that flapper. He was over kneeling beside her, reaching his
arms up about her, pressing her cheek down to his. The flapper held him
tightly and wept.

"There, there!" he soothed her, smoothing the golden brown hair that
spilled about her shoulders. "No one ever going to hurt you while I'm
around. You're the just perfectly _dearest_, if you come right down to
it. Now, now! 'S all right. Everything all right!"

"It's those perfectly old taggers," exploded the flapper, suddenly
recovering her true form, "just furiously tagging."

"'S got to stop right now," declared Bean, rising. "Wipe that egg off
your face, and let's get out of here."

"London," she suggested brightly. "Granny has always--"

"No London!" he broke in, visibly returning to the Corsican or upstart
manner. "And no Grandma, no Pops, no Moms! You and me--us--understand
what I mean? Think I'm going to have my wife sloshing around over there,
voting, smashing windows, getting run in and sent to the island for
thirty days. No! Not for little old George W. Me!"

"I never wanted to so very much," confessed the flapper with surprising
meekness. "You tell where to go, then."

Bean debated. Baseball! Perhaps there would be a game on the home
grounds that day. Paris might be playing London or St. Petersburg or
Berlin or Venice.

"First we go see a ball game," he said.

The flapper astounded him.

"I don't think they have it over here--baseball," she observed.

No baseball? She must be crazy. He rang the bell.

The capable Swiss entered. In less than ten minutes he was able to
convince the amazed American that baseball was positively not played on
the continent of Europe. It was monstrous. It put a different aspect
upon Europe.

"Makes no difference where we go, then," announced Bean. "Just any
little old last year's place. We'll 'lope."

"Ripping," applauded the flapper, with brightening eyes.

"Hurry and dress. I'll get a little old car and we'll beat it before
they get back. No time for trunk; take bag."

Down in the office he found they made nothing of producing little old
cars for the right people. The car was there even as he was taking the
precaution to secure a final assurance from the manager that Paris did
not by any chance play London that day.

The two bags were installed in the ready car; then a radiant flapper
beside an amateur upstart. The driver desired instructions.

"_Ally, ally!_" directed Bean, waving a vague but potent hand.

"We've done it," rejoiced the flapper. "Serve the perfectly old taggers
good and plenty right!"

Bean lifted a final gaze to the laurel-crowned Believer. He knew that
Believer's secret now.

"What a stunning tie," exclaimed the flapper. "It just perfectly does
something to you."

"'S little old last year's tie," said her husband carelessly.

       *       *       *       *       *

At six-thirty that evening they were resting on a balcony overlooking
the garden of a hotel at Versailles. Back of them in the little parlour
a waiter was setting a most companionable small table for two. Such
little sounds as he made were thrilling. They liked the hotel much. Its
management seemed to have been expecting them ever since the building's
erection, and to have reserved precisely that nest for them.

They had been "doing" the palace. A little self-conscious, in their
first free solitude, they had agreed that the palace would be
instructive. Through interminable galleries they had gone, inspecting
portraits of the dead who had made and marred French history ... led on by
a guide whose amiable delusion it was that he spoke English. The flapper
had been chiefly exercised in comparing the palace, to its disadvantage,
with a certain house to be surrounded on all sides by scenery and
embellished with perfectly patent laundry tubs.

The flapper sighed in contentment, now.

"We needn't ever do it again," she said. "How they ever made it in that
old barn--"

Bean had occupied himself in thinking it was funny about kings. To have
been born a king meant not so much after all. He still dwelt upon it as
they sat looking down into the shadowed garden.

"There was that last one," he said musingly. "Born as much a king as
any ... and look what they did to him. Better man than the other two
before him ... they had 'habits' enough, and he was decent. But he
couldn't make them believe in him. He couldn't have believed in
himself very hard. His picture looks like a man I know in New York
named Cassidy .. always puttering around, dead serious about
something that doesn't matter at all. You got to bluff people, and
this poor old dub didn't know how ... so they clipped his head off
for it. Two or three times a good bluff would have saved him."

"No bath, no furnace," murmured the flapper. "That perfectly reminds me,
soon as we get back--"

"Then," pursued Bean, "along comes Mr. little old George W. Napoleon
Bluff and makes them eat out of his hand in about five minutes. Didn't
he walk over them, though? And they haven't quit thanking him for it
yet. Saw a lot of 'em snivelling over him at that tomb this morning.
Think he'd died only yesterday. You know, I don't blame him so much for
a lot of things he did--fighting and women and all that. He knew what
they'd do to him if he ever for one minute quit bluffing. You know, he
was what I call an upstart."

The flapper stole a hand into his and sighed contentedly.

"You've perfectly worked it all out, haven't you?" she said.

"--and if you come right down to it, I'm nothing but 'n upstart myself."

"Oh, splash!" said the flapper, in loving refutation.

"'S all," he persisted; "just 'n upstart. Of course I don't have to be
one with you. I wouldn't be afraid to tell you anything in the world;
but those others, now; every one else in the world except you; I'll show
'em who's little old George W. Upstart--old man Upstart himself, that's
what!"

"You're a king," declared the flapper in a burst of frankness.

"Eh?" said Bean, a little startled.

"Just a perfectly little old king," persisted the flapper with dreamy
certitude. "Never fooled little George W. Me. Knew it the very first
second. Went over me just like _that_."

"Oh, I'm no king; never was a king; rabbit, I guess. Little old
perfectly upstart rabbit, that's what!"

"What am I?" asked the flapper pointedly.

"Little old flippant flapper, that's what! But you're my Chubbins just
the same; my Chubbins!" and he very softly put his hand to her cheek.

"_Monsieur et Madame sont servi_," said the waiter. He was in the
doorway but discreetly surveyed the evening sky through an already
polished wine-glass held well aloft.

       *       *       *       *       *

The three perfectly taggers meeting their just due, consulted miserably
as they gathered about a telephone in Paris the following morning. The
Demon had answered the call.

"Says she has it all reasoned out," announced the Demon.

"'S what she said before," grunted Breede. "Tha's nothing new."

"And she says we're snoop-cats and we might as well go back home--now,"
continued the Demon. "Says she's got the--u-u-m-mm!--says to perfectly
quit tagging."

"Nothing can matter now," said the bereaved mother.

"He's talking himself," said the Demon. "Mercy he's got a new
voice ... sounds like another man. He says if we don't beat it out of here
by the next boat--he can imagine nothing of less--something or other I
can't hear--"

"--consequence," snapped Breede.

"Yes, that's it; and now he's laughing and telling her she's a perfectly
flapper."

"Oh, my poor child," murmured the mother.

"Puzzle t' me," said Breede. "I swear I can't make out just how many
kinds of a--"

"James!" said his wife sternly, and indicated the presence of several
interested foreigners.





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