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Title: Colonel Carter's Christmas and The Romance of an Old-Fashioned Gentleman
Author: Smith, Francis Hopkinson, 1838-1915
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 "Colonel Carter's Christmas and The Romance of an Old-Fashioned Gentleman" ***

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COLONEL CARTER'S CHRISTMAS

THE ROMANCE OF AN OLD-FASHIONED GENTLEMAN

BY

F. HOPKINSON SMITH

ILLUSTRATED BY

F. C. YOHN and A. I. KELLER

CHARLES SCRIBNER'S SONS
NEW YORK:::::::::::::::::::::1911



 COLONEL CARTER'S CHRISTMAS

 COPYRIGHT, 1903, BY
 CHARLES SCRIBNER'S SONS

 THE ROMANCE OF AN OLD-FASHIONED
 GENTLEMAN

 COPYRIGHT, 1907, BY
 CHARLES SCRIBNER'S SONS



[Illustration: Katy dropped her head on his shoulder again.]



_To my Readers:_


It will be remembered, doubtless, that the chronicles of my very dear
friend, Colonel Carter (published some years ago), make mention of but
one festival of importance--a dinner given at Carter Hall, near
Cartersville, Virginia; the Colonel's ancestral home. This dinner, as
you already know, was to celebrate two important events--the sale to
the English syndicate of the coal lands, the exclusive property of the
Colonel's beloved aunt, Miss Nancy Carter; and the instantaneous
transfer by that generous woman of all the purchase money to the
Colonel's slender bank account: a transaction which, to quote his own
words as he gallantly drank her health in acknowledgment of the gift,
"enabled him to provide for one of the loveliest of her sex--she who
graces our boa'd--and to enrich her declining days not only with all
the comforts, but with many of the luxuries she was bawn to enjoy."

Several other festivals, however, did take place: not in the days of
the dear Colonel's prosperity, nor yet at Carter Hall, but in his
impecunious days in New York, while he was still living in the little
house on Bedford Place within a stone's throw of the tall clock-tower
of Jefferson Market. This house, you will recall, sat back from the
street behind a larger and more modern dwelling, its only outlet to
the main thoroughfare being through a narrow, grewsome tunnel, lighted
during the day by a half-moon sawed out in the swinging gate which
marked its street entrance and illumined at night by a rusty lantern
with dingy glass sides.

All reference to one of these festivals--a particular and most
important festival--was omitted, much to my regret, from my published
chronicles, owing to the express commands of the Colonel himself:
commands issued not only out of consideration for the feelings of one
of the participants--a man who had been challenged by him to mortal
duel, and therefore his enemy--but because on that joyous occasion
this same offender was his guest, and so protected by his hospitality.

This man was no less a person than the eminent financier, Mr. P. A.
Klutchem, of Klutchem, Skinham & Co., who, you will remember, had in
an open office and in the presence of many mutual friends, denounced
in unmeasured terms the Cartersville & Warrentown Air Line
Railroad--an enterprise to which the Virginian had lent his name and
which, with the help of his friend Mr. Fitzpatrick, he was then trying
to finance. Not content with thus slandering the road itself,
characterizing it as "beginning nowhere and ending nowhere," Mr.
Klutchem had even gone so far as to attack the good name of its
securities, known as the "Garden Spot" Bonds, and to state boldly that
he would not "give a yellow dog" for "enough of 'em to paper a
church." The Colonel's immediate resentment of this insult; his prompt
challenge to Mr. Klutchem to meet him in mortal duel; Mr. Klutchem's
refusal and the events which followed, are too well known to you to
need further reference here.

The death of this Mr. Klutchem some years ago decided me again to seek
the Colonel's permission to lay before my readers a succinct account,
first of what led up to this most important celebration, and then some
of the details of the celebration itself--one of the most delightful,
if not the most delightful, of all the many delightful festivals held
in the Colonel's cosy quarters on Bedford Place.

My communication drew from Colonel Carter the following characteristic
letter:

                         CARTER HALL, CARTERSVILLE, VA.,

     MY DEAR MAJOR:

     I have your very kind and welcome letter, and am greatly
     impressed by the views you hold. I was averse at the time to
     any reference being made to the matter to which you so
     kindly refer, for the reason that some men are often more
     sensitive over their virtues than they are over their
     faults.

     Mr. Klutchem's death, of course, completely alters the
     situation, and you can make what use you please of the
     incidents. In this decision I have been helped by my dear
     Fitz, who spent last Sunday with us on his way South to
     investigate a financial matter of enormous magnitude and
     which only a giant intellect like his own can grasp. Fitz's
     only fear--I quote his exact words, my dear Major,--is that
     "you will let Klutchem down easy instead of roasting him
     alive as he deserves," but then you must not mind Fitz, for
     he always uses intemperate language when speaking of this
     gentleman.

     Your room is always ready for you, and if you will run down
     to us now, we can smother you in roses. Chad is over his
     cold, but the old man seems feeble at times. Aunt Nancy is
     out in her coach paying some visits, and doesn't know I am
     writing or she would certainly send you her love.

     I thanked you, did I not, for all your kindness about the
     double sets of harness? But I must tell you again how well
     the leaders look in them. The two sorrels are particularly
     splendid. Go into Wood's some day this week and write me
     what you think of a carriage he has just built for me,--a
     small affair in which Aunt Nancy can drive to Warrentown, or
     I can send to the depot for a friend.

     All my heart to you, my dear Major. An open hand and a warm
     welcome is always yours at Carter Hall.

     Your ever obedient servant and honored friend,

                         GEORGE FAIRFAX CARTER.

With the Colonel's permission, then, I am privileged to usher you into
his cosy dining-room in Bedford Place, there to enjoy the Virginian's
rare hospitality.

                         F. HOPKINSON SMITH.

September 30, 1903.



ILLUSTRATIONS


 _Katy dropped her head on his shoulder again_      _Frontispiece_

                                                            FACING
                                                             PAGE

 "_Take them upstairs and put them on my dressin'-table_"       4

 _Each guest had a candle alight_                              84

 _And so the picture was begun_                               104

 "_Promise me that you will stop the whole business_"         172

 "_It is all her doing, Phil_"                                205



 COLONEL CARTER'S
 CHRISTMAS



I


"What am I gwine to do wid dese yere barkers, Colonel?" asked Chad,
picking up his master's case of duelling pistols from the mantel. "I
ain't tetched der moufs since I iled 'em up for dat Klutchem man."

"Take them upstairs, Chad, and put them away," answered the Colonel
with an indignant wave of the hand.

"No chance o' pickin' him, I s'pose? Done got away fo' sho, ain't he?"

The Colonel nodded his head and kept on looking into the fire. The
subject was evidently an unpleasant one.

"Couldn't Major Yancey an' de Jedge do nuffin?" persisted the old
servant, lifting one of the pistols from the case and squinting into
its polished barrel.

"Eve'ything that a gentleman could do was done, Chad. You are aware of
that, Major?" and he turned his head towards me--the Colonel will
insist on calling me "Major." "But I am not done with him yet, Chad.
The next time I meet him I shall lay my cane over his back. Take them
upstairs and put them on my dressin' table. We'll keep them for some
gentleman at home."

The Colonel arose from his chair, picked up the decanter, poured out a
glass for me and one for himself, replenished his long clay pipe from
a box of tobacco within reach of his hand and resumed his seat again.
Mention of Mr. Klutchem's name produced a form of restlessness in my
host which took all his self-control to overcome.

"--And, Chad." The old darky had now reached the door opening into the
narrow hall, the case of pistols in his hand.

"Yes, sah."

"I think you have a right to know, Chad, why I did not meet Mr.
Klutchem in the open field."

Chad bent his head in attention. This had really been the one thing of
all others about which this invaluable servant had been most
disturbed. Before this it had been a word, a blow, and an exchange of
shots at daybreak in all the Colonel's affairs--all that Chad had
attended--and yet a week or more had now elapsed since this worthy
darky had moulded some extra bullets for these same dogs "wid der
moufs open," and until to-night the case had never even left its place
on the mantel.

[Illustration: "Take them upstairs and put them on my dressin'
table."]

"I was disposed, Chad," the Colonel continued, "to overlook Mr.
Klutchem's gross insult after a talk I had with Mr. Fitzpatrick, and I
went all the way to the scoundrel's house to tell him so. I found him
in his chair suffe'in' from an attack of gout. I had my caa'ridge
outside, and offe'ed in the most co'teous way to conduct him to it and
drive him to my office, where a number of his friends and mine were
assembled in order that the apology I p'posed might be as impressive
as the challenge I sent. He refused, Chad, in the most insolent
manner, and I left him with the remark that I should lay my cane over
his shoulders whenever I met him; and I _shall_."

"Well, befo' Gawd, I knowed sumpin' had been gwine on pretty hot, for
I never seed you so b'ilin' as when you come home, Colonel," replied
the old servant, bowing low at the mark of his master's confidence. "I
spec', though, I'd better put a couple o' corks in der moufs so we kin
hab 'em ready if anythin' comes out o' dis yere caanin' business. I've
seen 'em put away befo' in my time," he added in a louder voice,
looking towards me as if to include me in his declaration; "but they
allus hab to come for 'em agin, when dey get to caanin' one another."
And he patted the box meaningly and left the room.

The Colonel again turned to me.

"I have vehy few secrets from Chad, Major, and none of this kind. By
the way, I suppose that yaller dog has gotten over his gout by this
time."

"Don't call him names, Colonel. He will write his own for a million if
he goes on. I was in Fitz's office this morning, and I hear that
Klutchem and his Boston crowd have got about every share of
Consolidated Smelting issued, and the boys are climbing for it. Fitz
told me it went up fifteen points in an hour. By the by, Fitz is
coming up to-night."

"I am not surprised, suh,--I am not surprised at anything these
Yankees do. A man who could not appreciate a gentleman's feelin's
placed as I was would never feel for a creditor, suh. He thinks of
nothin' but money and what it buys him, and it buys him nothin' but
vulgaarity, suh."

The Colonel was in the saddle now; I never interrupt him in one of
these moods. He had risen from his chair and was standing on the mat
before the fire in his favorite attitude, thumbs in his armholes, his
threadbare, well-brushed coat thrown wide.

"They've about ruined our country, suh, these money-grubbers. I saw
the workin' of one of their damnable schemes only a year or so ago, in
my own town of Caartersville. Some Nawthern men came down there, suh,
and started a Bank. Their plan was to start a haalf dozen mo' of them
over the County, and so they called this one the Fust National. They
never started a second, suh. Our people wouldn't permit it, and befo'
I get through you'll find out why. They began by hirin' a buildin' and
movin' in an iron safe about as big as a hen-coop. Then they sent out
a circular addressed to our prominent citizens which was a model of
style, and couched in the most co'teous terms, but which, suh, was
nothin' mo' than a trap. I got one and I can speak by the book. It
began by sayin' that eve'y accommodation would be granted to its
customers, and ended by offerin' money at the lowest rates of
interest possible. This occurred, suh, at a time of great financial
depression with us, following as it did the close of hostilities, and
their offer was gladly accepted. It was the fust indication any of us
had seen on the part of any Yankee to bridge over the bloody chasm,
and we took them at their word. We put in what money we had, and
several members of our oldest families, in order to give chaaracter to
the enterprise, had their personal notes discounted and used the money
they got for them for various private purposes--signin' as a gaarantee
of their good faith whatever papers the bank people requi'ed of them.
Now, suh, what do you think happened--not to me, for I was not in need
of financial assistance at the time, Aunt Nancy havin' come into
possession of some funds of her own in Baltimo',--but to one of my
personal friends, Colonel Powhatan Tabb, a near neighbor of mine and a
gentleman of the highest standin'? Because, suh"--here the Colonel
spoke with great deliberation--"his notes had not been paid on the
vehy day and hour--a thing which would have greatly inconvenienced
him--Colonel Tabb found a sheriff in charge of his home one mornin'
and a red flag hangin' from his po'ch. Of co'se, suh, he demanded an
explanation of the outrage, and some words followed of a blasphemous
nature which I shall not repeat. I shall never forget my feelin's,
suh, as I stood by and witnessed that outrage. Old family plate that
had been in the Tabb family for mo' than a century was knocked down to
anybody who would buy; and befo' night, suh, my friend was stripped
of about eve'ything he owned in the world. Nothin' escaped, suh, not
even the po'traits of his ancestors!"

"What became of the bank, Colonel?" I asked in as serious a tone as I
could command.

"What became of it? What _could_ become of it, Major? Our people were
aroused, suh, and took the law into their own hands, and the last I
saw of it, suh, the hen-coop of a safe was standin' in the midst of a
heap of smokin' ashes. I heard that the Bank people broke it open with
a sledge-hammer when it cooled off, put the money they had stolen from
our people in a black caarpet-bag, and escaped. Such pi'acies, suh,
are not only cruel but vulgaar. Mr. Klutchem's robries are quite in
line with these men. He takes you by the throat in another way, but he
strangles you all the same."

The Colonel stroked his goatee in a meditative way, reached over my
chair, picked up his half-emptied wine-glass, sipped its contents
absent-mindedly and said in an apologetic tone:

"Forgive me, Major, for mentionin' Mr. Klutchem's name, I have no
right to speak of him in this way behind his back. I promise you, suh,
that it will not occur again."

As the Colonel ceased I caught sight of Fitz's round, good-natured
face, ruddy with the cold of the snowy December night, his shoe-button
eyes sparkling behind his big-bowed spectacles peering around the edge
of the open door. Chad had heard his well-known brisk tread as he
mounted the steps and had let him in before he could knock.

"Who are you going to kill now?" we heard Fitz ask the old darky.

"Dey was iled up for dat Klutchem man, but he done slid, the Colonel
says."

"Klutchem! Klutchem!--nothing but Klutchem. I don't seem to get rid of
him downtown or up," Fitz blurted out as he entered the room.

The Colonel had bounded forward at the first sound of Fitz's voice,
and had him now by both hands. In another minute he had slipped off
Fitz's wet overcoat and was forcing him into a chair beside my own,
calling to Chad in the meanwhile to run for hot water as quick as his
legs could carry him, as Mr. Fitzpatrick was frozen stiff and must
have a hot toddy before he could draw another breath.

"Keep still, Fitz, don't move. I'll be back in a minute," the Colonel
cried, and off he went to the sideboard for the ingredients--a
decanter of whiskey, the sugar-bowl, and a nutmeg-grater, all of which
he placed on the mantel over Fitz's head.

The toddy made with the help of Chad's hot water, the Colonel moved
his chair so that as he talked he could get his hand on Fitz's knee
and said:

"What were you doing out in the cold hall talkin' to Chad, anyhow, you
dear boy, with this fire burnin' and my hands itchin' for you?"

"Dodging Chad's guns. Got that same old arsenal with him, I see," Fitz
answered, edging his chair nearer the fire and stretching out his
hands to the blaze. "Pity you didn't fill Klutchem full of lead when
you had the chance, Colonel. It would have saved some of us a lot of
trouble. He's got the Street by the neck and is shaking the life out
of it."

"How was it when you left, Fitz?" I asked in an undertone.

"Looked pretty ugly. I shouldn't wonder if the stock opened at 60 in
the morning."

"Have you covered your shorts yet?" I continued in a whisper.

"Not yet." Here Fitz leaned over and said to me behind his hand: "Not
a word of all this now to the Colonel. Only worry him, and he can't do
any good."

"By the by, Colonel"--here Fitz straightened up, and with a tone in
his voice as if what he really wanted to talk about was now on the end
of his tongue said: "is Aunt Nancy coming for Christmas? Chad thinks
she is."

The Colonel, who had noticed the confidential aside, did not reply for
a moment. Then he remarked, with a light trace of impatience in his
voice:

"If you have unloaded all the caares of yo' office, Fitz, I will
answer yo' question, but I cannot soil the dear lady's name by
bringin' it into any conversation in which that man has a part. There
are some subjects no gentleman should discuss; Mr. Klutchem's affairs
is one of them. I have already expressed my opinion of him both to the
Major and to Chad and I have promised them both that that scoundrel's
name shall never again pass my lips. Oblige me by never mentionin'
it. Forgive me, Fitz. There's my hand. You know I love you too well
for you to think that I say this in anythin' but kindness. Let me put
a little mo' whiskey in that toddy, Fitz--it lacks color. So--that's
better. Aunt Nancy did you ask about, my dear Fitz?--of co'se, she's
comin'. And, Major,--did I tell you"--here the Colonel turned to
me--"that she's going to bring a servant with her this time? The dear
woman is gettin' too old to travel alone, and since Chad has been with
me she has felt the need of some one to wait upon her. She has passed
some weeks or mo' in Richmond, she writes, and has greatly enjoyed the
change. Make no engagement for Christmas, either one of you. That
loveliest of women, suh, will grace our boa'd, and it is her special
wish that both of you be present."

Fitz crushed the sugar in his glass, remarked that there was not the
slightest doubt of _his_ being present, winked at me appreciatingly
over the edge of the tumbler, rubbed his paunch slowly with one hand,
and with eyes upcast took another sip of the mixture.

The Virginian to Fitz was a never-ending well of pleasure. The
Colonel's generosity, his almost Quixotic sense of honor, his loyalty
to his friends, his tenderness over Chad and his reverence and love
for that dear Aunt--who had furnished him really with all the ready
money he had spent for years, and who was at the moment caring for the
old place at Cartersville while the Colonel was in New York
endeavoring to float, through Fitz, the bonds of the Cartersville &
Warrentown Railroad--excited not only Fitz's admiration and love, but
afforded the broker the pleasantest of contrasts to the life he led in
the Street, a contrast so delightful that Fitz seldom missed at least
an evening's salutation with him. That not a shovel of earth had yet
been dug on the line of the Colonel's Railroad, and that the whole
enterprise was one of those schemes well nigh impossible to finance,
made no difference to Fitz. He never lost an opportunity to work off
the securities whenever there was the slightest opening. The bonds, of
course, had not been issued; they had never been printed, in fact.
These details would come later,--whenever the capitalist or syndicate
should begin to look into the enterprise in earnest.

Up to the moment when this whirl had caught the Street--an event which
Klutchem acting for his friends had helped--Fitz had never quite given
up the hope that somehow, or in some way, or by some hook or crook,
some deluded capitalist, with more money than brains, would lose both
by purchasing these same "Garden Spots" as the securities of the
Colonel's proposed road were familiarly called in the Street. That but
one single inquiry had thus far ever been made, and that no one of his
or anybody else's customers had ever given them more than a hasty
dismissal, had never discouraged Fitz.

As for the Colonel he was even more sanguine. The dawn of success was
already breaking through the darkness and his hopes would soon be
realized. Hour after hour he would sit by his fire, building fairy
castles in its cheery coals. Almost every night there was a new
picture. In each the big bridge over the Tench was already built,
bearing his double track road to Warrentown and the sea--he could see
every span and pier of it; the town of Fairfax, named after his
ancestors, was crowning the plateau; the round-house for his
locomotives was almost complete, the wharves and landing docks
finished. And in all of these pictures, warm and glowing, there was
one which his soul coveted above all others--the return of the proud
days of the old Estate: the barns and outbuildings repaired; the
fences in order; Carter Hall restored to its former grandeur, and dear
Aunt Nancy once more in her high spring coach, with Chad standing by
to take her shawl and wraps. These things, and many others as rose
colored and inspiring, the Colonel saw night after night in the glow
and flash and sparkle of his wood fire.

No wonder then that Fitz kept hoping against hope; deluding him with
promises and keeping up his spirits with any fairy tale his conscience
would permit his telling or his ingenuity contrive.

To-night, however, Fitz's nerve seemed to have failed him. To the
Colonel's direct inquiry regarding the slight nibble of an English
syndicate--(that syndicate which some months later made the Colonel's
fortune and with which Fitz had buoyed up his hopes) the broker had
only an evasive answer. The Colonel noticed the altered tone and
thought he had divined the cause.

"You are tired out, Fitz. Isn't it so? I don't wonder when I think of
the vast commercial problems you are solvin' every day. Go upstairs,
my dear boy, and get into my bed for the night. I won't have you go
home. It's too cold for you to go out and the snow is driftin' badly.
I'll take the sofa here."

"No, Colonel, I think I'll toddle along home. I am tired, I guess. I
ought to be; I've had nothing but hard knocks all day."

"Then you shan't leave my house, suh; I won't permit it. Chad, go
upstairs and get Mr. Fitzpatrick's chamber ready for the night, and
Chad----"

Fitz laughed. "And have you sleep on that hair-cloth sofa, Colonel?"
and he pointed to the sagging lounge.

"Why not?--I've done it befo'. Come, I insist."

Fitz was on his feet now and with Chad's assistance was struggling
into his overcoat, which that attentive darky had hung over a
chairback that it might dry the easier.

"I'm going home, Colonel, and to bed," Fitz said in a positive tone.
"I shouldn't sleep a wink if I knew you were thrashing around on that
shake-down, and you wouldn't either. Good-night"; and holding out his
hand to his host, he gave me a tap on my shoulder as he passed my
chair and left the room, followed by the Colonel.

It was only when the Colonel had found Fitz's rubbers himself and had
turned up the collar of his coat and had made it snug around his
throat to keep out the snow, and had patted him three times on the
shoulder--he only showed that sort of affection to Fitz--and had held
the door open until both Fitz and Chad were lost in the gloom of the
tunnel, the wind having extinguished the lantern, that the Colonel
again resumed his seat by the fire.

"I must say I'm worried about Fitz, Major. He don't look right and he
don't act right"--he sighed as he picked up his pipe and sank into his
arm-chair until his head rested on its back. "I'm going to have him
see a doctor. That's what I'm going to do, and at once. Do you know of
a good doctor, Major?"

"Medicine won't help him, Colonel," I answered. I knew the dear old
fellow would not sleep a wink even in his own bed if the idea got into
his head that Fitz was ill.

"What will?"

"Money."

The Colonel looked at me in astonishment.

"What kind of money?"

"Any kind that's worth a hundred cents on the dollar."

"Why, what nonsense, Major, I'd take Fitz's check for a million."

"Klutchem won't."

"What's the scoundrel got to do with it?"

"Everything, unfortunately. Fitz is short of 10,000 shares of
Consolidated Smelting, and Klutchem and his crowd have got about every
share of it locked up in their safes. Some of Fitz's customers have
gone back on him, and he's got to make the fight alone. If smelting
goes up another fifteen points to-morrow Fitz goes with it. It's not a
doctor he wants, it's a banker. Cash, not pills, is what will pull
Fitz through."

Had a bomb been exploded on the hearth at his feet the Colonel could
not have been more astonished. He sat staring into my eyes as I
unfolded the story, his face changing with every disclosure; horror at
the situation, anger at the man who had caused it, and finally--and
this dominated all the others--profound sympathy for the friend he
loved. He knew something of the tightening of the grasp of a man like
Klutchem and he did not underestimate the gravity of the situation.
What Consolidated Smelting represented, or what place it held in the
market were unknown quantities to the Colonel. What he really saw was
the red flag of the auctioneer floating over the front porch of that
friend in Virginia whom the Bank had ruined, and the family silver and
old portraits lying in the carts that were to take them away forever.
It was part of the damnable system of Northern finance and now
Fitzpatrick was to suffer a similar injustice.

"Fitz in Klutchem's power! My God, suh!" he burst out at last, "you
don't tell me so! And Fitz never told me a word about it. My po' Fitz!
My po' Fitz!" he added slowly with quivering lips. "Are you quite
sure, Major, that the situation is as serious as you state it?"

"Quite sure. He told me so himself. He wanted me to keep still about
it, but I didn't want you to think he was ill."

"You did right, Major. I should never have forgiven you if you had
robbed me of the opportunity of helpin' him. It's horrible; it's
damnable. Such men as Klutchem, suh, ought to be drawn and quartered."

For an instant the Colonel leaned forward, his elbows on his knees,
and looked steadily into the fire; then he said slowly with a voice
full of sympathy, and in a tone as if he had at last made up his mind:

"No, I won't disturb the dear fellow to-night. He needs all the sleep
he can get."

       *       *       *       *       *

The Colonel was still in his chair gazing into the fire when I left.
His pipe was out; his glass untasted; his chin buried in his collar.

"My po' Fitz!" was all he said as he lifted his hand and pressed my
own. "Good-night, Major."

When I had reached the hall door he roused himself, called me back and
said slowly and with the deepest emotion:

"Major, I shall help Fitz through this in the mornin' if it takes
eve'y dollar I've got in the world. Stop for me as you go downtown
and we will call at his office together."



II


Fitz had not yet arrived when the Colonel in his eagerness stepped in
front of me, and peered through the hole in the glass partition which
divided Fitz's inner and outer offices.

"Come inside, Colonel, and wait--expect him after a while," was the
reply from one of the clerks,--the first arrival.

But the Colonel was too restless to sit down, and too absorbed even to
thank the young man for his courtesy or to accept his invitation. He
continued pacing up and down the outer office, stopping now and then
to note the heap of white ribbons tangled up in a wicker
basket--records of the disasters and triumphs of the day before,--or
to gaze silently at the large map that hung over the steam-heater, or
to study in an aimless way the stock lists skewered to the wall.

He had risen earlier than usual and had dressed himself with the
greatest care and with every detail perfect. His shoes with their
patches, one on each toe, were polished to more than Chad's customary
brilliancy; his gray hair was brushed straight back from his forehead,
its ends overlapping the high collar behind; his goatee was twisted to
a fish-hook point and curled outward from his shirt-front; his
moustache was smooth and carefully trimmed.

The coat,--it was the same old double-breasted coat, of many
repairs--was buttoned tight over his chest giving his slender figure
that military air which always distinguished the Virginian when some
matter of importance, some matter involving personal defence or
offence, had to be settled. In one hand he carried his heavy cane with
its silver top, the other held his well-brushed hat.

"What has kept Fitz?" he asked with some anxiety.

"Nothing, Colonel. Board doesn't open till ten o'clock. He'll be along
presently," I answered.

Half an hour passed and still no Fitz. By this time I, too, had begun
to feel nervous. This was a day of all others for a man in Fitz's
position to be on hand early.

I interviewed the clerk privately.

"Stopped at the Bank," he said in an undertone. "He took some cats and
dogs up with him last night and is trying to get a loan. Going to rain
down here to-day, I guess, and somebody'll get wet. Curb market is
steady, but you can't tell anything till the Board opens."

At ten minutes before ten by the clock on the wall Fitz burst into the
office, pulled a package from inside his coat, thrust it through the
hole in the glass partition, whispered something to a second clerk who
had just come in, and who at Fitz's command grabbed up his hat, and
with three plunges was through the doorway and racing down the street.
Then Fitz turned and saw us.

"Why, you dear Colonel, where the devil did you come from?"

The Colonel did not answer. He had noticed Fitz's concentrated,
business-like manner, so different from his bearing of the night
before, and had caught the anxious expression on the clerk's face as
he bounded past him on his way to the street. It was evident that the
situation was grave and the crisis imminent. The Colonel rose from his
seat and held out his hand, his manner one of the utmost solemnity.

"I have heard all about it, Fitz. I am here to stand by you. Let us go
inside where we can discuss the situation quietly."

Fitz looked at the clock--it was a busy day for him--shook the
Colonel's hand in an equally impressive manner, glanced inquiringly at
me over his shoulder, and we all three entered the private office and
shut the door: he would give us ten minutes at all events. What really
perplexed Fitz at the moment was the hour of the Colonel's visit and
his reference to the "stand-by." These were mysteries which the broker
failed to penetrate.

The Colonel tilted his silver-topped cane against Fitz's desk, put his
hat on a pile of papers, drew his chair close and laid his hand
impressively on Fitz's arm. He had the air of a learned counsellor
consulting with a client.

"You are too busy, Fitz, to go into the details, and my mind is too
much occupied to listen to them, but just give me an outline of the
situation so that I can act with the main facts befo' me."

Fitz looked at me inquiringly; received my helpless shrug as throwing
but little light on the matter, and as was his invariable custom, fell
instantly into the Colonel's mood, answering him precisely as he would
have done a brother broker in a similar case.

"It is what we call a 'squeeze,' Colonel. I'm through for the day, I
hope, for my bank has come to my rescue. My clerk has just carried up
a lot of stuff I managed to borrow. But you can't tell what to-morrow
will bring. Looks to me as if everything was going to Bally-hack, and
yet there are some things in the air that may change it over night."

"Am I right when I say that Mr. Klutchem is leadin' the attack? And on
you?"

"That's just what he is doing--all he knows how."

"And that any relief must be with his consent?"

"Absolutely, for, strange to say, some of my defaulting customers have
been operating in his office."

The Colonel mused for some time, twisting the fish-hook end of his
goatee till it looked like a weapon of offence.

"Is he in town?"

"He was yesterday afternoon."

The Colonel rose from his chair with a determined air and pulled his
coat sleeves over his cuffs.

"I'll call upon him at once."

Fitz's expression changed. Once start the dear Colonel on a mission of
this kind and there was no telling what complications might ensue.

"He won't see you."

"I have thought of that, Fitz. I do not forget that I informed him I
would lay my cane over his back the next time we met, but that mattuh
can wait. This concerns the welfare of my dea'est friend and takes
precedence of all personal feelin's."

"But, Colonel, he would only show you the door. He don't want _talk_.
He wants something solid as a margin. I've sent it to him right along
for their account, and he'll get what's coming to him to-day, but
_talk_ won't do any good."

"What do you mean by somethin' solid, Fitz?"

"Gilt-edged collateral,--5.20's or something as good."

"I presume any absolutely safe security would answer?"

"Yes."

"And of what amount?"

"Oh, perhaps fifty thousand,--perhaps a hundred. I'll know to-morrow."

The Colonel communed with himself for a moment, made a computation
with his lips assisted by his fingers, and said with great dignity:

"You haven't had my 'Garden Spots' bonds printed yet, have you?"

"No."

"Nothin' lookin' to'ards it?"

"Yes, certainly, but nothing definite. I've got the proposition I told
you about from the Engraving Company. Here it is." And Fitz pulled out
a package of papers from a pigeon-hole and laid the letter before the
Colonel. It was the ordinary offer agreeing to print the bonds for a
specified sum, and had been one of the many harmless dodges Fitz had
used to keep the Colonel's spirits up.

The Colonel studied the document carefully.

"When I accept this, of co'se, the mattuh is closed between me and the
Company?"

"Certainly."

"And no other party could either print or receive the bonds except on
my written order?"

"No." Fitz was groping now in the dark. Why the Colonel should have
suddenly dropped Consolidated Smelting to speak of the "Garden Spots"
was another mystery.

"And I have a right to transfer this order to any one I please?"

"Of course, Colonel." The mystery was now impenetrable.

"You have no objection to my takin' this letter, Fitz?"

"Not the slightest."

The Colonel walked to the window, looked out for a moment into the
street, walked back to Fitz's desk, and with a tinge of resignation in
his voice as if he had at last nerved himself for the worst, laid his
hand on Fitz's shoulder:

"I should never have a moment's peace, Fitz, if I did not exhaust
every means in my power to ward off this catastrophe from you. Kindly
give me a pen."

I moved closer. Was the Colonel going to sign his check for a million,
or was there some unknown friend who, at a stroke of his pen, would
come to Fitz's rescue?

The Colonel smoothed out the letter containing the proposition of the
Engraving Company, tried the pen on his thumbnail, dipped it carefully
in the inkstand, poised it for an instant, and in a firm round hand
wrote across its type-written face the words:

     "Accepted.
           GEORGE FAIRFAX CARTER,
                         of Cartersville."

Then he folded the paper carefully and slipped it into his inside
pocket.

This done, he shook Fitz's hand gravely, nodded to me with the air of
a man absorbed in some weighty matter, picked up his cane and hat and
left the office.

"What in the name of common-sense is he going to do with that,
Fitz?" I asked.

"I give it up," said Fitz. "Ask me an easy one. Dear old soul, isn't
he lovely? He's as much worried over the market as if every dollar at
stake was his own. Now you've got to excuse me, Major. I've got a
land-office business on hand to-day."

The Colonel's manner as he left the room had been so calm and
measured, his back so straight, the swing of his cane so rhythmical,
his firm military tread so full of courage and determination, that I
had not followed him. When he is in these moods it is best to let him
have his own way. Fitz and I had discovered this some days before,
when we tried to dissuade him from planting into Klutchem's rotundity
the bullets which Chad had cast with so much care.

Had I questioned him as he walked out this morning he would doubtless
have said, "I do not expect you Nawthern men, with yo'r contracted
ideas of what constitutes a man's personal honor, to understand the
view I take of this mattuh, Major, but my blood requires it. I never
forget that I am a Caarter, suh,--and you must never forget it
either."

Moreover, had I gone with him the visit might have assumed an air of
undue importance. There was nothing therefore for me to do but to
wait. So I buried my self in an arm-chair, picked up the morning
papers, and tried to possess my soul in patience until the Colonel
should again make his appearance with a full report of his mission.

Twice during my long wait Fitz burst in, grabbed up some papers from
his desk and bounded out again, firing some orders to his clerks as he
disappeared through the door. He was too absorbed to more than nod to
me, and he never once mentioned the Colonel's name.

About noon a customer in the outer office--there were half a dozen of
them watching the ticker--handed an "extra" to the clerk, who brought
it to me. Consolidated Smelting was up ten points; somebody had got
out an injunction, and two small concerns in Broad Street had struck
their colors and sent word to the Exchange that they could not meet
their contracts.

Still no Colonel!

Had he failed to find Klutchem; had he been thrown out of the office
or had he refrained from again visiting Fitz until he had accomplished
something definite for his relief?

With the passing of the hours I became uneasy. The Colonel, I felt
sure, especially in his present frame of mind, would not desert Fitz
unless something out of the common had happened. I would go to
Klutchem's office first, and not finding him there, I would keep on to
Bedford Place and interview Chad.

"Been here?" growled Klutchem's clerk in answer to my question. "Well,
I should think so. Tried to murder Mr. Klutchem. They're all up at the
police station. Nice day for a muss like this when everything's
kitin'! You don't know whether you're a-foot or a-horseback! These
fire-eaters ought to be locked up!"

"Arrested!"

"Well, you'd a-thought so if you'd been here half an hour ago. He
kept comin' in callin' for Mr. Klutchem, and then he sat down and
said he'd wait. Looked like a nice, quiet old fellow, and nobody took
any notice of him. When Mr. Klutchem came in--he'd been to the
Clearing-house--they both went into his private office and shut the
door. First thing we heard was some loud talk and then the thump of a
cane, and when I got inside the old fellow was beatin' Mr. Klutchem
over the head with a stick thick as your wrist. We tried to put him
out, or keep him quiet, but he wanted to fight the whole office. Then
a cop heard the row and came in and took the bunch to the station. Do
you know him?"

This last inquiry coming at the end of the explosion showed me how
vivid the scene still was in the clerk's mind and how it had
obliterated every other thought.

"Know him! I should think I did," I answered, my mind in a whirl.
"Where have they taken him?"

"Where have they taken 'em, Billy?" asked the clerk, repeating my
question to an assistant.

"Old Slip. You can't miss it. It's got a lamp over the door."

       *       *       *       *       *

The Sergeant smiled when I stepped up to the desk and made the
inquiry.

Yes; a man named Klutchem had made a charge of assault against one
George Carter. Carter was then locked up in one of the cells and could
not be interviewed without the consent of the Captain of the Precinct
who would be back in a few minutes.

"Guess it ain't serious," the Sergeant added. "Couple of old sports
got hot, that's all, and this old feller--" and he hunched his
shoulder towards the cells--"pasted the other one over the nut with
his toothpick. Step one side. Next!"

I sat down on a bench. The dear Colonel locked up in a cell like a
common criminal. What would Chad say; what would Aunt Nancy say; what
would Fitz say; what would everybody say? And then the mortification
to him; the wounding of his pride; the disgrace of it all.

Men and women came and went; some with bruised heads, some with
blackened eyes, one wearing a pair of handcuffs--a sneak thief,
caught, with two overcoats. Was the Colonel sharing a cell with such
people as these? The thought gave me a shiver.

A straightening-up of half a dozen policemen; a simultaneous touching
of caps, and the Captain, a red-faced, black-moustached, blue-coated
chunk of a man, held together at the waist by a leather belt and
be-decked and be-striped with gilt buttons and gold braid, climbed
into the pulpit of justice and faced the room.

I stepped up.

He listened to my story, nodded his head to a doorman and I followed
along the iron corridor and stood in front of a row of cells. The
Turnkey looked over a hoop of keys, turned one in a door, threw it
wide and said, waving his finger:

"Inside!" These men use few words.

The Colonel from the gloom of the cell saw me first.

"Why, you dear Major!" he cried. "You are certainly a good Sama'itan.
In prison and you visited me. I am sorry that I can't offer you a
chair, suh, but you see that my quarters are limited. Fortunately so
far I have been able to occupy it alone. Tell me of Fitz----"

"But Colonel!" I gasped. "I want to know how this happened? How was it
possible that you----"

"My dear Major, that can wait. Tell me of _Fitz_. He has not been out
of my thoughts a moment. Will he get through the day? I did eve'ything
I could, suh, and exhausted eve'y means in my power."

"Fitz is all right. They've got out an injunction and the market is
steadier----"

"And will he weather the gale?"

"I think so."

"Thank God for that, suh!" he answered, his lips quivering. "When you
see him give him my dea'est love and tell him that I left no stone
unturned."

"Why you'll see him in an hour yourself. You don't suppose we are
going to let you stay here, do you?"

"I don't know, suh. I am not p'epared to say. I have violated the laws
of the State, suh, and I did it purposely, and I'm willin' to abide
the consequences and take my punishment. I should have struck Mr.
Klutchem after what he said to me if I had been hanged for it in an
hour. I may be released, suh, but it will not be with any taint on my
honor. And now that my mind is at rest about Fitz, I will tell you
exactly what occurred and you can judge for yo'self.

"When Mr. Klutchem at last arrived at his office--I had gone there
several times--I said to him:

"'Don't start, Mr. Klutchem, I have come in the interest of my
friend, Mr. Fitzpatrick. And diff'ences between you and me can wait
for a mo' convenient season.'

"'Come in,' he said, and he looked somewhat relieved, 'what do you
want?' and we entered his private office and sat down. I then, in the
most co'teous manner, went into the details of the transaction, and
asked him in the name of decency that he would not crowd Fitz to the
wall and ruin him, but that he would at least give him time to make
good his obligations.

"'He can have it,' he blurted out, 'have all the time he wants--all of
'em can have it.' You know how coarse he can be, Major, and can
understand how he said this. 'But'--and here Mr. Klutchem laid his
finger alongside his nose--a vulgaar gesture, of co'se, but quite in
keepin' with the man--'we want some collateral that are
copper-fastened and gilt-edged all the way through'--I quote his exact
words, Major.

"'I have expected that, suh,' I said, 'and I came p'epared,' and I
unbuttoned my coat, took out the document you saw me sign in Fitz's
office, and laid it befo' him.

"'What is this?' he said.

"'My entire interest in the Caartersville and Warrenton Air Line
Railroad,' I answered. 'The whole issue of the Gaarden Spots, as you
have no doubt heard them familiarly and very justly called, suh.'

"He looked at me and said:

"'Why these are not bonds--it is only an offer to print 'em,' he said.

"'I am aware of that,' I answered, 'but look at my signature, suh. I
shall on your acceptance of my proposition, transfer the whole issue
to you--then they become yo' absolute property.'

"'For what?' he interrupted.

"'As an offerin' for my friend, suh.'

"'What! As margin for Consolidated Smeltin'?'

"'True, suh. They are, of co'se, largely in excess of yo' needs, but
Mr. Fitzpatrick is one of my dea'est friends. You, of co'se, realize
that I am left penniless myself if my friend's final obligation to you
should exceed their face value.'

"He got up, opened the door of a safe and said, 'Do you see that tin
box?'

"'I do, suh.'

"'Do you know what is in it?'

"'I do not, suh.'

"'Full of stuff that will sell under the hammer above par. Tell Mr.
Fitzpatrick if he and his customers have anythin' like that to bring
it in--and look here'--and he pulled out a small drawer. 'See that
watch?' I looked in and saw a gold watch, evidently a gentleman's,
Major. 'That watch belonged to a customer who got short of our stock
last week. It's wiped out now and a lot of other things he brought in.
That's what we call _collateral_ down here.'

"'I am not surprised, suh,' I answered. 'If men of yo' class can fo'ce
themselves into our county; divest a man of his silver-plate and
family po'traits, as was done to a gentleman friend of mine of the
highest standin' in my own State by a Nawthern caarpet-bag Bank, I am
not astonished that you avail yo'self of a customer's watch.' I said
'_divest_' and '_avail_,' Major. I intended to say '_steal_' and
'_rob_' but I checked myself in time.

"'Do you think that's any worse than yo' comin' down here and tryin'
to bunco me with a swindle like that'--and he picked up the document
and tossed it on the flo'.

"You know me well enough, Major, to know what followed. Befo' the
words were out of his mouth he was flat on his back and I standin'
over him with my cane. Then his clerks rushed in and separated us. My
present situation is the result."

The Colonel stopped and looked about the prison corridor. "Strange and
interestin' place, isn't it, Major? I shall be reasonably comfo'table
here, I s'pose"--and he raised his eyes towards the white-washed
ceiling. "There is not quite so much room as I had at City Point when
I was a prisoner of war, but I shall get along, no doubt. I have not
inqui'ed yet whether they will allow me a servant, but if they do I
shall have Chad bring me down some comfo'ts in the mornin'. I think I
should like a blanket and pillow and perhaps an easy-chair. I can tell
better after passin' the night here. By the way, Major, on yo' way
home you might stop and see Chad. Tell him the facts exactly as I have
stated them to you. He will understand; he was with me, you remember,
when I was overpow'ed and captured the last year of the War."

The Turnkey, who had been pacing up and down the corridor, stopped in
front of the gate. The Colonel read the expression on his face, and
shaking my hand warmly, said with the same air that a captured general
might have had in taking leave of a member of his staff:

"The officer seems impatient, Major, and I must, therefo', ask you to
excuse me. My dear love to Fitz, and tell him not to give my
imprisonment a thought. Good-by," and he waved his hand majestically
and stepped back into the cell.



III


The arrival of Fitz in a cab at the police-station half an hour
later--just time enough for me to run all the way to his office--the
bailing out of the Colonel much against his protest, his consent being
gained only when Fitz and I assured him that such things were quite
within the limit of our judicial code, and that no stain on his honor
would or could ensue from any such relief; the Colonel's formal
leave-taking of the Captain, the Sergeant and the Turnkey, each of
whom he thanked impressively for the courtesies they had shown him;
our driving--the Colonel and I--post-haste to Bedford Place, lest by
any means Chad might have heard of the affair and so be frightened
half out of his wits; the calm indifference of that loyal darky when
he ushered us into the hall and heard the Colonel's statement, and
Chad's sententious comment: "In de Calaboose, Colonel! Well, fo' Gawd!
what I tell ye 'bout dis caanin' bis'ness. Got to git dem barkers
ready jes' I tol' ye; dat's de only thing dat'll settle dis
muss,"--these and other incidents of the day equally interesting form
connecting links in a story which has not only become part of the
history of the Carter family but which still serve as delightful
topics whenever the Colonel's name is mentioned by his many friends in
the Street.

More important things, however, than the arrest and bailing out of the
Colonel were taking place in the Street. One of those financial bombs
which are always lying around loose--a Pacific Mail, or Erie, or N.
P.--awaiting some fool-match to start it, sailed out from its
hiding-place a few minutes before the Exchange closed--while Fitz was
bailing out the Colonel, in fact--hung for an instant trembling in
mid-air, and burst into prominence with a sound that shook the Street
to its foundations. In five minutes the floor of the Exchange was a
howling mob, the brokers fighting, tearing, yelling themselves hoarse.
Money went up to one per cent and legal interest over night, and
stocks that had withstood every financial assault for years tottered,
swayed and plunged headlong. Into the abyss fell Consolidated
Smelting. Not only were the ten points of the day's rise wiped out,
but thirty points besides. Shares that at the opening sold readily at
55 went begging at 30. Klutchem and his backers were clinging to the
edges of the pit with ruin staring them in the face, and Fitz was
sailing over the crater thousands of dollars ahead of his obligations.

       *       *       *       *       *

The following morning another visitor--a well-dressed man with a
diamond pin in his scarf--walked up and down Fitz's office awaiting
his arrival--a short, thick-set, large-paunched man with a heavy jaw,
a straight line of a mouth, two little restless eyes wobbling about in
a pulp of wrinkles, flabby cheeks, a nose that was too small for the
area it failed to ornament, and a gray stubbly beard shaven so
closely at its edges that it looked as if its owner might either wear
it on his chin or put it in his pocket at his pleasure.

"Down yet?" asked the visitor in a quick, impatient voice.

"Not yet, Mr. Klutchem. Take a seat." Then the clerk passed his hand
over his face to straighten out a rebellious smile and hid his head in
the ledger.

"I'll wait," retorted the banker, and stepping inside Fitz's private
office he settled himself in a chair, legs apart, hands clasped across
his girth.

Fitz entered with an air that would have carried comfort to the
Colonel's soul--with a spring, a breeze, a lightness; a being at peace
with all the world; and best of all with a self-satisfied repose that
was in absolute contrast to the nervousness of the day before.

"Who?" he asked of his clerk.

"Klutchem."

"Where?"

The clerk pointed to the office door.

Fitz's face straightened out and grew suddenly grave, but he stepped
briskly into his sanctum and faced his enemy.

"Well, what is it, Mr. Klutchem?"

Before his visitor opened his mouth, Fitz saw that the fight was all
out of the Head Centre of Consolidated Smelting. A nervous,
conciliatory smile started from the line of Klutchem's mouth, wrinkled
the flesh of his face as far as his cheeks, and died out again.

"We got hit pretty bad yesterday, Fitzpatrick, and I thought we might
as well talk it over and see if we couldn't straighten out the
market."

"Then it isn't about Colonel Carter?" said Fitz coldly.

He had all the Consolidated he wanted and didn't see where Klutchem
could be of the slightest use in straightening out anything.

"I'll attend to him later," replied Klutchem, and a curious expression
overspread his face. "You heard about it, then?"

"Heard about it! I bailed him out. If you wanted to lock anybody up
why didn't you get after some one who knew the ropes, not a man like
the Colonel who never had a dishonest thought in his head and who is
as tender-hearted as a child."

"You don't know what you're talking about," flared Klutchem. "He came
down with a cock-and-bull story and wanted me to take----"

"I know the whole story, every word of it. He came down to offer you
every dollar of his interest in a scheme that is as real to him as if
the bonds were selling on the Exchange at par. They are all he has in
the world, and if some miracle should occur and they should be worth
their face value he would never touch a penny of the proceeds if he
was starving to death, because of the promise he made you. And in my
interest, too, not his own, and all for love of me, his friend."

"But it was only a letter from a concern offering to print----"

"Certainly. And across it he had written his name--both, I grant you,
not worth the paper they were written on. But why didn't you have the
decency to humor the dear old fellow as we all do, and treat him with
the same courtesy with which he treated you, instead of insulting him
by throwing the letter in his face. You'll excuse me, Mr. Klutchem,
when I say it gets me pretty hot when I think of it. I don't blame him
for cracking you over the head, and neither would you, if you
understood him as I do."

Klutchem looked out of the window and twisted his thumbs for an
instant as if in deep thought. The outcome of the interview was of the
utmost importance to him, and he did not want anything to occur which
would prejudice his case with the broker. Fitz sat in front of him,
bent forward, his hands on his knees, his eyes boring into Klutchem's.

Then a puzzled, and strange to say what appeared to be a more kindly
expression broke over Klutchem's face.

"I guess I was rough, but I didn't mean it, really. You know how it
was yesterday--regular circus all day. I wouldn't have made the charge
at the police-station--for he didn't hurt me much--if the policeman
hadn't compelled me. And then don't forget, this isn't the first time
I've come across him. He came to my house once when I was laid up with
the gout, and----"

"Yes," interrupted Fitz, "I haven't forgotten it, and what did he come
for? To apologize, didn't he? I should have thought you'd have seen
enough of him at that time to know what kind of a man he was. Down
here in the Street we've got to put things down on paper and we don't
trust anybody. We don't understand the kind of a man whose word is
literally as good as his bond, and who, to help any man he calls his
friend, would spend his last cent and go hungry the balance of his
life. I've lived round here a good deal in my time and I've seen all
kinds of men, but the greatest compliment I ever had paid me in my
life was when the Colonel offered you yesterday the scrap of paper
that you threw back in his face."

As Fitz talked on Klutchem's tightly knit brows began to loosen. He
hadn't heard such things for a good many years. Life was a scramble
and devil take the hindermost with him. If anybody but Fitz--one of
the level-headed men in the Street--had talked to him thus, he might
not have paid attention, but he knew Fitz was sincere and that he
spoke from his heart. The still water at the bottom of the banker's
well--the water that was frozen over or sealed up, or so deep that few
buckets ever reached it--began to be stirred. His anxiety over
Consolidated only added another length to the bucket's chain.

"Fitzpatrick, I guess you're right. What ought I to do?"

"You ought to go up to his house this very day and beg his pardon, and
then wipe out that idiotic charge you made at the police-station."

"I will, Fitzpatrick."

"You will?"

"Yes."

"There's my hand. Now bring out your Consolidated Smelting, and I'll
do what's decent."

At four o'clock that same day Fitz, with Mr. Klutchem beside him,
swung back the wicket-gate of the tunnel, traversed its gloom, crossed
the shabby yard piled high with snow heaped up by Chad's active
shovel, and rapped at the front door of the little house.

The Colonel was in his chair by the fire. I had just told him the good
news, and he and I were sampling a fresh bottle of the groceryman's
Madeira in celebration of the joyous turn in Fitz's affairs, when Chad
with eyes staring from his head announced:

"Misser Klutchem and Misser Fitzpatrick."

What the old darky thought was coming I do not know, but I learned
afterwards, that as soon as he had closed the door behind the
visitors, he mounted the stairs three steps at a time, grabbed up the
case of pistols from his master's dressing-table, pulled the corks
from their mouths, and hurrying down laid the case and its contents on
the hall table to be ready for instant use.

The announcement of Klutchem's name brought the Colonel to his feet as
straight as a ramrod.

"It's all right, Colonel," said Fitz, noting the color rise in his
friend's face. "Mr. Klutchem and I have settled all our differences.
He has just offered me a barrel of Consolidated, and at my own price.
That fight's all over, and I bear him no grudge. As to yourself, he
has come up to tell you how sorry he is for what occurred yesterday,
and to make any reparation to you in his power."

Klutchem had not intended to go so far as that, and he winced a little
under Fitz's allusion to the "barrel," but he was in for it now, and
would follow Fitz's lead to the end. Then again, the papers in the
Consolidated matter would not be signed until the morning.

"Yes, Carter, I'm sorry. Fact is, I misunderstood you. I was very
busy, you remember, and I'm sorry, too, for what occurred at the
police-station; that, however, you know I couldn't help."

The omission of the Virginian's title scraped the skin from the
Colonel's _amour propre_, but the words "I'm sorry" coming immediately
thereafter healed the wound.

The military bearing of our host began to relax.

"And you have come here with my friend Mr. Fitzpatrick to tell me
this?"

"I have."

"And you intended no reflection on my honor when you--when you--handed
me back my secu'ities?"

"No, I didn't. The stuff wasn't our kind, you know. If I had stopped
to hear what you had to say I'd----"

"Let it all pass, suh. I accept yo' apology in the spirit in which it
was given, suh. As to my imprisonment, that is a matter which is not
of the slightest consequence. We soldiers are accustomed to these
inconveniences, suh. It is part of the fortunes of war. Take that
chair, Mr. Klutchem, and let my servant relieve you of yo' coat and
hat."

The promptness with which that individual answered to his name left no
doubt in my mind that that worthy defender of the Colonel's honor had
been standing ready outside the door, which had been left partly open
for the purpose, his hand on the knob.

"Yes, sah. I heard ye, Colonel."

"And, Chad, bring some glasses for the gentlemen."

Klutchem settled his large frame in the chair that had been vacated by
the Colonel, and watched the glass being slowly filled from a decanter
held in his host's own hands. Fitz and I retired to the vicinity of
the sideboard, where he gave me in an undertone an account of the
events of the morning.

"Got a nice box of a place here, Colonel," remarked Mr. Klutchem. He
remembered the title this time--the surroundings had begun to tell
upon him. "Cost you much?" and the broker's eyes roamed about the
room, taking in the big mantel, the brass andirons, India blue china
and silver candlesticks.

"A mere trifle, suh," said the Colonel, stiffening. The cost of things
were never mentioned in this atmosphere. "To associate bargain and
sale with the appointments of yo' household is like puttin' yo'
hospitality up at auction," he would frequently say.

"A mere trifle, suh," he repeated. "My estates, as you probably know,
are in Virginia, near my ancestral town of Caartersville. Are you
familiar with that part of the country, suh?"

And thereupon, on the banker's expressing his entire ignorance of
Fairfax County and its contiguous surroundings, the Colonel, now that
his honor as a duellist had been satisfied by Klutchem's apologies;
his friend's ruin averted by the banker's generosity, as was attested
by his offering Fitz a barrel full of securities which the day
previous were worth their weight in gold; and especially because this
same philanthropist was his guest, at once launched forth on the
beauty of his section of the State. In glowing terms he described the
charms of the river Tench; the meadows knee-deep in clover; the
mountains filled with the riches of the Orient looming up into the
blue; the forests of hardwood, etc., etc., and all in so persuasive
and captivating a way that the practical banker, always on the lookout
for competent assistants, made a mental memorandum to consult Fitz in
the morning on the possibility of hiring the Colonel to work off an
issue of State bonds which at the moment were dead stock on his hands.

By this time Klutchem, warmed by his host's Madeira and cheery fire,
had not only become really interested in the man beside him, but had
lost to a certain extent something of his blunt Wall Street manner and
hard commercial way of looking at things. It was, therefore, not
surprising to either Fitz or myself, who had watched the gradual
adjustment of the two men, to hear the Colonel, who had now entirely
forgotten all animosity towards his enemy say to Klutchem with great
warmth of manner, and with the evident intention of not being outdone
in generosity at such a time:

"I would like to show you that gaarden, suh. Perhaps some time I may
have the pleasure of entertainin' you in my own home at
Caartersville."

Mr. Klutchem caught his breath. He saw the Colonel was perfectly
sincere, and yet he could not but admit the absurdity of the
situation. Invited to visit the private estate of a man who had caned
him the day before, and against whom he was expected in the morning to
make a complaint of assault and battery!

"Oh, that's mighty kind, Colonel, but I guess you'll have to excuse
me."

The banker, as he spoke, glanced at Fitz. He didn't want to do
anything to offend Fitz--certainly not until the papers in the
Consolidated Smelting settlement were complete and the documents
signed--and yet he didn't see how he could accept.

"But I won't take no for an answer, suh. Miss Caarter will be here in
a day or two, and I will only be too happy to discuss with her the
date of yo' visit."

Before Klutchem could refuse again Fitz stepped forward, and, standing
over Mr. Klutchem's chair, dug his knuckles into the broker's back.
The signal was unmistakable.

"Well, thank you, Colonel. I'll speak to my daughter about it, and
if----"

"Yo' daughter, suh? Then I am sure the last obstacle is removed. Miss
Caarter will be mo' than delighted, suh, to entertain her, too. I will
ascertain my aunt's plans as soon as she arrives, and will let you
know definitely when she will be best p'epared for yo' entertainment."

       *       *       *       *       *

When the party broke up, and Fitz and Mr. Klutchem had been helped on
with their coats by Chad, Klutchem remarked to Fitz as we all walked
through the tunnel:

"Queer old party, Fitzpatrick; queerest I ever saw. You were
right--not a crooked hair in his head. Glad I came. Of course I can't
go down to his place--haven't got the time--but I bet you he'd be glad
to see me if I did. Funny, too--poor as a rat and busted, and yet he
never said 'Garden Spots,' once."

On my re-entering the house,--Fitz had gone on with Klutchem--Chad,
who was waiting for me, took me into a corner of the hall and said in
a voice filled with disappointment:

"What I tell ye, Major? Ain't dat too bad? I ain't never gwine ter
forgib de Colonel for lettin' him git away. Gor-A-Mighty! Did ye see
de size of him--hardly git frough de gate! Why, der warn't no chance
o' missin' him. Colonel could a-filled him ful o' holes as a sieve."



IV


The Colonel's positive injunction that each one of his friends should
call on every one of his guests within forty-eight hours of their
arrival was never necessary in the case of Miss Ann Carter. One day
was enough for me--one hour would have been more to my liking. Only
consideration for her comfort, and the knowledge that she would be
somewhat fatigued by her journey from Carter Hall northward, ever kept
me away from her that long. Then, again, I knew that she wanted at
least one entire day in which to straighten out the various domestic
accounts of the little house in Bedford Place, including that
complicated and highly-prized pass-book of the "Grocerman."

And then Chad's delight when he opened the door with a sweep, his face
a sunburst of smiles and announced Miss Carter's presence in the
house! And the new note in the Colonel's voice--a note of triumph and
love and pride! And the touches here and there inside the cosy rooms;
touches that only a woman can give--a new curtain here, a pot of
flowers there: all joyous happenings that made a visit to Aunt Nancy,
as we loved to call her, one of the events to be looked forward to.

But it was not Chad who opened the door on this particular morning.
That worthy darky was otherwise occupied; in the kitchen, really,
plucking the feathers from the canvas-back ducks. They had been part
of the dear lady's impedimenta, not to mention a huge turkey, a box of
terrapin, and a barrel of Pongateague oysters, besides unlimited
celery, Tolman sweet potatoes, and a particular brand of hominy, for
which Fairfax County was famous.

I say it was not Chad at all who opened the door and took my card, but
a scrap of a pickaninny about three feet high, with closely-cropped
wool, two strings of glistening white teeth--_two_, for his mouth was
always open; a pair of flaring ears like those of a mouse, and two
little restless, wicked eyes that shone like black diamonds: the whole
of him, with the exception of his cocoanut of a head, squeezed into a
gray cloth suit bristling with brass buttons and worsted braid, a
double row over his chest, and a stripe down each seam of his
trousers.

Aunt Nancy's new servant!

The scrap held out a silver tray; received my card with a dip of his
head, threw back the door of the dining-room, scraped his foot with
the flourish of a clog dancer, and disappeared in search of his
mistress.

Chad stepped from behind the door, his face in a broad grin. He had
crept up the kitchen stairs, and had been watching the boy's
performance from the rear room. His sleeves were rolled up and some of
the breast feathers of the duck still stuck to his fingers.

"Don't dat beat de lan'! Major," he said to me. "Did ye see dem
buttons on him? Ain't he a wonder? Clar to goodness looks like he's
busted out wid brass measles. And he a-waitin' on de Mist'iss! I ain't
done nothin' but split myself a-laughin' ever since he come. MY!!!"
and Chad bent himself double, the tears starting to his eyes.

"What's his name, Chad?"

"Says his name's Jeems. _Jeems_, mind ye!" Here Chad went into another
convulsion. "Jim's his real name, jes' Jim. He's one o' dem Barbour
niggers. Raised down t'other side de Barbour plantation long side of
our'n. Miss Nancy's been down to Richmond an' since I been gone she
don't hab nobody to wait on her, an' so she tuk dis boy an' fixed him
up in dese Richmond clothes. He says he's free. _Free_, mind ye! Dat's
what all dese no count niggers is. But I'm watchin' him, an' de fust
time he plays any o' dese yer free tricks on me he'll land in a spell
o' sickness," and Chad choked himself with another chuckle.

The door swung back.

"Miss Caarter say dat she'll be down in a minute," said the scrap.

Chad straightened his face and brought it down to a semblance of
austerity; always a difficult task with Chad.

"Who did you say was yere?" he asked.

"I didn't say--I handed her de kerd."

"How did you carry it?"

"In my pan."

"What did ye do wid de pan?"

The boy's face fell.

"I lef' it in de hall, sah."

"Sah! sah! Don't you 'sah' me. Ain't nobody 'sah' round yere but de
Colonel. What I tell you to call me?"

"Uncle Chad."

"Dat's it, Uncle Chad. Now go 'long, honey, an' take yo' seat outside
wid yo' pan; plenty folks comin', now dey know de Mist'iss here. Dar
she is now. Dat's her step, on de stairs, Major. I doan' want her to
catch me lookin' like dis. Drap into de kitchen, Major, as ye go out,
I got sumpin' to show ye. Dem tarr'pins de Mist'iss fotch wid her make
yo' mouf water."

Some women, when they enter a room, burst in like a child just out of
school and overwhelm you with the joyousness of their greetings;
others come in without a sound, settle into a seat and regale you in
monotones with histories of either the attendant misery or the
expected calamity.

Aunt Nancy floated in like a bubble blown along a carpet, bringing
with her a radiance, a charm, a gentleness, a graciousness of welcome,
a gladness at seeing you, so sincere and so heartfelt, that I always
felt as if a window had been opened letting in the sunshine and the
perfume of flowers.

"Oh, my dear Major!" and she held out her hand; that tiny little hand
which lace becomes so well, and that always suggests its morning
baptism of rose water. Such a dainty white hand! I always bend over
and kiss it whenever I have the chance, trying my best to be the
gallant I know she would like me to be.

After the little ceremony of my salutation was over I handed her to a
seat, still holding her finger-tips, bowing low just as her own
cavaliers used to do in the days when she had half the County at her
feet. I love these make-believe ceremonies when I am with her--and
then again I truly think she would not be so happy without them. This
over I took my place opposite so I could watch her face and the smiles
playing across it--that face which the Colonel always said reminded
him of "Summer roses a-bloom in October."

We talked of her journey and of how she had stood the cold and how
reluctant she had been at first to leave Carter Hall, especially at
the Christmas season, and of the Colonel (not a word, of course, about
the encounter with Klutchem--no one would have dared breathe a word of
that to her), and then of the scrap of a pickaninny she had brought
with her.

"Isn't he too amusing? I brought him up as much to help dear Chad as
for any other reason. But he is incorrigible at times and I fear I
shall have to send him back to his mother. I thought the livery might
increase his self-respect, but it only seems to have turned his head.
He doesn't obey me at all, and is so forgetful. Chad is the only one
of whom, I think, he is at all afraid."

A knock now sounded in the hall and I could hear the shuffling of
Jim's feet, and the swinging back of the door. Then Fitz's card was
brought in--not on the silver tray this time, but clutched in the
monkey paw of the pickaninny.

Aunt Nancy looked at him with a certain well-assumed surprise and drew
back from the proffered card.

"James, is that the way to bring me a card? Have I not told you
often----"

The boy looked at her, his face in a tangle of emotions. "De _Pan_!
Fo' Gord, Mist'iss, I done forgot dat pan," and with a spring he was
out again, returning with Fitz's pasteboard on the silver tray,
closely followed by that gentleman himself, who was shaking with
laughter over the incident.

"One of your body-guard, Aunt Nancy?" said Fitz, as he bent over and
kissed her hand. It was astonishing how easily Fitz fell into these
same old-time customs when he was with the dear lady--he, of all men.

"No, dear friend, one of the new race of whom I am trying to make a
good servant. His grandmother in slave times belonged to a neighbor of
ours, and this little fellow is the youngest of six. I've just been
telling the Major what a trial he is to me. And now let me look at
you. Ah! you have been working too hard. I see it in your eyes.
Haven't you had some dreadful strain lately?"

Fitz declared on his honor, with one hand over his upper watch pocket,
and the other still in hers, that he never felt better in his life,
and that so idle had he become lately, that it was hard work for him
to keep employed. And then Aunt Nancy made him sit beside her on the
hair-cloth sofa, the one on which Fitz would not permit the Colonel to
sleep, and I, being nearest, tucked a cushion under her absurdly small
feet and rearranged about her shoulders her Indian mull shawl, which
didn't require any rearranging at all. And after Fitz had told the
dear lady for the third time how glad he was to see her, and after she
had told him how glad she was to see both of us, and how she hoped
dear George would soon secure the money necessary to build his
railroad, so that we could all come to Carter Hall for next Christmas,
she adding gravely that she really couldn't see any need for the
road's existence or any hope of its completion, although she never
said so to dear George, she being a woman and not expected to know
much of such things;--after, I say, all these delightful speeches and
attentions and confidences had been indulged in, Aunt Nancy bent her
head, turned her sweet face framed in the lace cap and ribbons, first
towards me and then back to Fitz again--she had been talking to Fitz
all this time, I listening--and said with the air of a fairy godmother
entertaining two children:

"And now I've got a great Christmas surprise for both of you, and you
shall have one guess apiece as to what it is."

Fitz, with the memories of a former Christmas at Carter Hall still
fresh in mind, and knowing the dear lady's generosity, and having seen
the biggest bundle of feathers and the longest pair of legs he had
ever laid his eyes on hanging head down on the measly wall of the
shabby yard as he entered, screwed up his eyes, cudgelled his brain by
tapping his forehead with his forefinger, and blurted out:

"Wild turkey stuffed with chestnuts."

Aunt Nancy laughed until her side curls shook.

"Oh, you dreadful gourmand! Not a _bit_ like a turkey. How mortified
you will be when you find out! Go and stand in the corner, sir, with
your face to the wall. Now, Major, it's your turn."

Fitz began to protest that he ought to have another chance, and that
it had slipped out before he knew it, since he had never forgotten a
brother of that same bird, one that he had eaten at her own table; but
the little lady wouldn't hear another syllable, and waved him away
with great dignity, whereupon Fitz buried his fat face in his hands,
and said that life was really not worth the living, and that if
anybody would suggest a comfortable way of committing suicide he would
adopt it at once.

When my turn came, I, remembering the buttons on "Jeems," guessed a
livery for Chad, at which the dear lady laughed more merrily than
before, and Fitz remarked in a disgusted tone that the dense stupidity
of some men was one of the characteristics of the time.

"No; it's nothing to eat and it's nothing to wear. It's a most
charming young lady who at my earnest solicitation has consented to
dine with us, and to whom I want you two young gentlemen (Fitz is
forty if he's a day, and looks it) to be most devoted."

"Pretty?" asked Fitz, pulling up his collar--prinking in mock vanity.

"Yes, and better than pretty."

"Young?" persisted Fitz.

"Young, and most entertaining.

"Now listen both of you and I will tell you all about it. She lives up
in one of your most desolate streets, Lafayette Place, I think, they
call it, and in such a sombre house that it looks as if the windows
had never been opened. Her mother is dead, and such a faded,
hopeless-looking woman takes care of the house, a relation of the
father's, I understand, who is a business friend of George's, and with
whom he tells me he once had a slight misunderstanding. George did not
want Christmas to pass with these differences unsettled, and so, of
course, I went to call the very day I arrived and invited her and her
father to dine with us on Christmas Eve. We always celebrate our
Christmas then as you both know, on account of our old custom of
giving Christmas day to our servants. And I am so glad I went. I did
not, of course, see the father. Oh, it would make your heart ache to
see the inside of that house. Everything costly and solid, and yet
everything so joyless. I always feel sorry for such homes,--no flowers
about, no books that are not locked up, no knick-knacks nor pretty
things. I hope you will both help me to make her Christmas Eve a happy
one. You perhaps may know her father, Mr. Fitzpatrick,--he is in Wall
Street I hear, and his name is Klutchem."

Fitz, in his astonishment, so far forgot himself as to indulge in a
low whistle.

"Then you _do_ know him?"

"Oh, very well."

"And you tell me that Mr. Klutchem is really coming to dinner and
going to bring his daughter?" asked Fitz, in a tone that made his
surprise all the more marked.

"Yes; George had a note from him this morning saying his daughter
would be here before dark and he would come direct from his office and
meet her here in time for dinner. Isn't it delightful? You will be
quite charmed with our guest, I'm sure. And about the father--tell me
something of him?" Aunt Nancy inquired in her sweetest voice.

"About Mr. Klutchem? Well! Yes, to be sure. Why, Klutchem! Yes, of
course. A most genial and kindly man," answered Fitz, controlling
himself; "a little eccentric at times I have heard, but not more so
than most men of his class. Not a man of much taste, perhaps, but most
generous. Would give you anything in the world he didn't want, and be
so delighted when you took it off his hands. Insisted on giving me a
lot of stock the other day, but of course I wouldn't take it." This
was said with so grave a face that its point escaped the dear lady.

"How very kind of him. Perhaps that is where his daughter gets her
charm," replied Aunt Nancy, with a winning smile.

There is no telling what additional mendacities regarding the
Klutchem family Fitz, who had now regained his equilibrium, would have
indulged in, had I not knit my eyebrows at him behind Aunt Nancy's
back as a warning to the mendacitor not to mislead the dear lady,
whose disappointment, I knew, would only be the greater when she met
Klutchem face to face.

When I had risen to take my leave Fitz excused himself for a moment
and followed me into the hall.

"Klutchem coming to dinner, Major, and going to bring his daughter?
What the devil do you think is up? If the Colonel wasn't so useless
financially I'd think Klutchem had some game up his sleeve. But if
that is so, why bring his daughter? My lawyer told me to-day the
assault and battery case is all settled, so it can't be that. Wonder
if the Colonel has converted Klutchem as to the proper way of running
a bank? No, that's nonsense! Klutchem would skin a flea and sell the
tallow, no matter what the Colonel said to him. Coming to dinner!
Well, that gets me!"

As I shut the front door behind me and stopped for a minute on the top
step overlooking the yard, I caught sight of the grocer emerging from
the tunnel with a basket on his arm for Chad, who was standing below
me outside his kitchen door with the half-picked duck in his hand. The
settlement of "Misser Grocerman's" unpaid accounts by Miss Nancy on
one of her former visits to Bedford Place had worked a double
miracle--Chad no longer feared the dispenser of fine wines and other
comforts, and the dispenser himself would have emptied his whole shop
into Chad's kitchen and waited months for his pay had that loyal old
servant permitted it. This was evident from the way in which Chad
dropped the half-picked duck on a bench beside the door and hurried
forward to help unpack the basket; and the deferential smile on the
grocer's face as he took out one parcel after another, commenting on
their quality and cheapness.

I had promised Chad to stop long enough to inspect Miss Nancy's
"tarr'pins," and so I waited until Chad's duties were over.

"That's the cheekiest little coon ever come into the store," I hear
the grocer say with a laugh. "I'd a-slid him out on his ear if he'd
said much more."

Chad looked over his pile of bundles--they lay up on his arm; the top
one held in place by his chin--and asked with some anxiety:

"Who, Jim? What did he do?"

"Do! He waltzed in yesterday afternoon with his head up and his under
lip sticking out as if he owned the place. When I told him to take the
sugar back with him, he said he wasn't carrying no bundles for nobody,
he was waiting on Miss Carter. He's out at the gate now."

"Do ye hear dat, Major? Ain't dat 'nough to make a body sick? I been
'spectin' dis ever since he come. I'm gwinter stop dis foolishness
short off."

The old darky waited until the grocer had reached the street, then he
shouted into the gloom of the narrow passage:

"Here, Jim. Come here."

The scrap in buttons slammed to the wicket gate and came running
through the tunnel.

"What you tell dat gemman yisterday when I sont you for dat sugar, wid
yo' lip stickin' out big 'nough for a body ter sit on?"

The boy hung his head.

"You'se waitin' on Miss Caarter, is ye, an' ye ain't caarryin' no
bundles? If I ever hear ye sass anybody round here agin, white or
black, I'll tear dem buttons off ye an' skin ye alive--you'se
caarryin' what I send ye for--do ye hear dat? _Free_, is ye? You'se
free wid yo' sass an' dat's all de freedom you got."

"I--didn't know--yer want me ter--caa'ry it back," said the boy in a
humble tone, but with the twinkle of a smouldering coal in his eye.

"Ye didn't? Who did ye think was gwine to caa'ry it back for ye? Maybe
it was de Colonel or de Mist'iss or _me_?" Chad's voice had now risen
to a high pitch, and with a touch of sarcasm in it which was biting.
"Pretty soon you'll 'spec' somebody gwine to call for ye in dere
caa'ridge. Yo' idea o' freedom is to wait on nobody and hab no
manners. What ye got in yo' hand?"

"Cigarette white boy gimme,"--and the boy dropped the burning end on
the brick pavement of the yard.

"Dat's mo' freedom, an' dat's all dis po' white trash is gwine to do
for ye--stuffin' yo' head wid lies, an' yo' mouf wid a wad o'
nastiness. Now go 'long an' git yo' pan."

Chad waited until the boy had mounted the steps and entered the house,
then he turned to me.

"Po' li'l chin'ka'pin--he don't know no better. How's he gwine to git
a bringin' up? Miss Nancy tryin' to teach him, but she ain't gwine
make nuffin' of him. He's got pizened by dis freedom talk, an' he
ain't gwine to git cured. Fust thing ye know he'll begin to think he's
good as white folks, an' when he's got dat in his head he's done for.
I'm gwine to speak to de Mist'iss 'bout dat boy, an' see if sumpin
can't be done to save him fo' it gits too late; ain't nuffin' gwine to
do him no good but a barr'l stave--hear dat--a barr'l stave!"

The Colonel had come in quietly and stood listening. I had heard the
click of the outer gate, but supposed it was the grocer returning with
the additional supplies.

"Who's Chad goin' to thresh, Major?" the Colonel asked, with a smile
as he put his arm over my shoulder.

"Miss Nancy's pickaninny," I answered.

"What, little Jim?" There was a tone of surprise now in the Colonel's
voice.

Chad stood abashed for a moment. He had stowed away the groceries, and
had the duck in his hand again, his fingers fumbling among its
feathers.

"'Scuse me, Colonel, I ain't gwine whale him, of co'se, 'thout yo'
permission, but he's dat puffed up he'll bust fo' long."

"What's he been up to?"

"Sassin' Misser Grocerman--runnin' to de gate wid his head out like a
tarr'pin's, smoking dese yer paper seegars dat smell de whole place up
vill'nous, 'stid of waitin' on de Mist'iss."

"And you think beatin' him will do him any good, Chad? How many times
did yo' Marster John beat you?"

Chad looked up, and a smile broke over his face.

"I don't reckellmember airy lick de Marster ever laid on me."

"Raised you pretty well, didn't he, Chad?"

"Yas, sah--dat he did."

"Anybody beat you since you grew up?"

"No, sah."

"Pretty good, Chad, ain't you?"

"I try to be, sah."

"Well, now, be a little patient with that boy. It isn't his fault that
he's sp'ilt; it's part of the damnable system this Gov'ment has put
upon us since the war. Am I right, Major?"

I nodded assent.

Chad pulled out a handful of feathers from the duck, dropped them into
a barrel near where we stood in the yard, and said, as if his mind was
finally made up:

"Co'se, Colonel, I ain't nuffin' to say jes' 'cept dis. When I was dat
boy's age I was runnin' 'round barefoot an' putty nigh naked, my shirt
out o' my pants haalf de time; but Marse John tuk care o' me, an' when
I got hongry I knowed whar dey was sumpin to eat an' I got it. Dat boy
ain't had nobody take care o' him till de Mist'iss tuk him, and haalf
de time he went hongry; no manners, no bringin' up--runnin' wid po'
white trash, gittin' his head full o' fool notions 'stid o' waitin' on
his betters. Now look at him. Come in yere yisterday mornin', an' want
borry my bresh to black his shoes. Den he must bresh his clothes wid
yo' bresh--_yo'_ bresh, mind you! I cotched him at it. Den he gits on
his toes an' squints at hisself in de Mist'iss glass--I cotched him at
dat, too--an' he ugly as one o' dem black tree-toads. You know what
done dat? Dem Richmond clothes he's got on. I tell ye, Colonel, sumpin
gotter be done, or dem buttons'll spile dat chile."

The Colonel laughed heartily.

"What does Miss Nancy say about yo' barr'l stave?"

"She don't say nuffin', 'cause she don't know."

"Well, don't you thresh Jim till you see her."

"No, sah."

"And Chad?"

"Yes, sah."

"When you do, pick out a little stave. Come, Major, go back with me
for just ten minutes mo' and see the dea'est woman in the world."



V


The day before Christmas was a never-to-be-forgotten day in Bedford
Place. Great preparations were being made for the event of the
evening, and everybody helped.

Little Jim under the tutelage of Chad, and in hourly fear of the
promised thrashing--it had never gone beyond the promise since the
Colonel's talk--had so far forgotten his clothes and his dignity as to
load himself with Christmas greens--one long string wound around his
body like a boa constrictor--much to the amusement of the Colonel, who
was looking out of the dining-room window when he emerged from the
tunnel. Aunt Nancy went all the way to the grocery for some big jars
for the flowers I had sent her (not to mention a bunch of roses of the
Colonel's) and brought one of the pots back in her own hand; and spoke
in so low and gentle a voice when she purchased them that everybody in
the place ceased talking to listen.

The Colonel busied himself drawing, in the most careful and elaborate
manner, the wax-topped corks of certain be-cobwebbed bottles that had
been delivered the night before by no less a person than Duncan's own
agent, and to one of which was attached Fitz's visiting card bearing
his compliments and best wishes. The contents of these crusted bottles
the Colonel had duly emptied into two cut-glass decanters with big
stoppers--heirlooms from Carter Hall--placing the decanters themselves
in two silver coasters bearing the Coat-of-Arms of his family, and the
whole combination on the old-fashioned sideboard which graced the wall
opposite the fireplace. Chad, with the aid of the grocer, had produced
as assistant below stairs, from a side street behind Jefferson Market,
a saddle-colored female who wore flowers in her hat, and who, to his
infinite amusement, called him "Mister."

"Can't do nothin' big, Major, dis place's so mighty small," he called
to me from his kitchen door as I mounted the yard steps, "but it's
gwine to smell mighty good round here 'bout dinner-time."

Under the deft touches of all these willing hands it is not to be
wondered at that the Colonel's cosy rooms developed a quality unknown
to them before, delightful as they had always been: The table boasted
an extra leaf (an extra leaf was always ready for use in every
dining-room of the Colonel's); the candlesticks, old family plate and
andirons, dulled by the winter's use, shone with phenomenal
brightness; the mantel supported not only half a dozen bottles of
claret (Duncan's cellars, Fitz's selection) but a heap of roses that
reached as high as the clock, while over the door, around the windows
and high up over the two fireplaces--everywhere, in fact, where a
convenient nail or hook could be found--were entwined in loops and
circles, the Christmas greens and holly berries that little Jim had
staggered under.

The crowning sensation of the coming event stood in the corner of the
rear room,--a small Christmas tree grown in the woods behind Carter
Hall. A little tree with all its branches perfect; large enough to
hold its complement of candles; small enough to stand in the centre of
the table within reach of everybody's hand. Aunt Nancy had picked it
out herself. She must always respect the sentiment. No bought tree
would do for her on such an occasion. It must be to the manor born,
nourished in her own soil, warmed by the same sun and watered by the
same rains. The bringing of a tree from her own home at Carter Hall to
cheer the Colonel's temporary resting-place in Bedford Place, was to
her like the bringing of a live coal from old and much loved embers
with which to start a fire on a new hearth.

These several preparations complete--and it was quite late in the day
when they were complete (in the twilight really)--Chad threw a heap of
wood beside the fireplace, brushed the hearth of its ashes, laid a
pile of India Blue plates in front of its cheery blaze (no crime, the
Colonel often said, was equal to putting a hot duck on a cold plate),
placed the Colonel's chair in position, arranged a cushion in Aunt
Nancy's empty rocker; gave a few finishing touches to the table;
stopped a moment in the kitchen below to give some instructions to the
saddle-colored female as to the length of time a canvas-back should
remain in the oven, and stepped back into his little room, there to
array himself in white jacket and gloves, the latter tucked into his
outside pocket ready for instant use.

During these final preparations the Colonel was upstairs donning a
costume befitting the occasion--snow-white waistcoat, white scarf and
patent-leather pumps, with little bows over the toes, limp as a
poodle's ears, and his time-honored coat, worn wide open of course,
the occasion being one of great joyousness and good cheer. These
necessities of toilet over, the Colonel descended the narrow
staircase, threw wide the dining-room door, shook me cordially by the
hand with the manner of a man welcoming a distinguished guest whom he
had not seen for years (I had just arrived); bowed to Chad as if he
had been one of a long line of servants awaiting the coming of their
lord (festive occasions always produced this frame of mind in the
Colonel); laid a single white rose beside the plates of his two lady
guests--one for Miss Carter and the other for Miss Klutchem--and
glancing around the apartment expressed his admiration of all that had
been done. Then he settled himself in his easy chair, with his feet on
the fender, and spread his moist, newly-washed hands to the blaze.

Aunt Nancy now entered in a steel-gray silk and new cap and ribbons,
her delicate, frail shoulders covered by a light scarf, little Jim
following behind her with her ball of yarn and needles, and a low
stool for her feet. The only change in Jim was a straggly groove down
the middle of his wool, where he had attempted a "part" like Chad's.

"I'm glad Mr. Klutchem is comin', Nancy," said the Colonel when the
dear lady had taken her seat with Jim behind her chair. "From what you
tell me of his home I'm afraid that he must pass a great many lonely
hours. And then again I cannot forget his generosity to a friend of
mine once in his hour of trial."

"What was the trouble between you and Mr. Klutchem, George?" she asked
in reply, spreading out her skirts and taking the knitting from Jim's
hands.

The Colonel hesitated and for a moment did not answer. Aunt Nancy
raised her eyes to his and waited.

"I diffe'ed from him on the value of some secu'ities, Nancy, and for a
time the argument became quite heated."

"And it left some ill-feeling?"

"Oh, no; on the contrary, it seemed to open a way for an important
settlement in a friend's affairs which may have the best and most
lastin' results. I believe I am quite within the mark, Major, when I
make that statement," added the Colonel, turning to me.

"No doubt of it, Colonel," I answered. "That same friend told me that
he hadn't enjoyed anything so much for years as Mr. Klutchem's visit
to his office that morning."

"Well, I am so glad," said Aunt Nancy--"so glad!" The "friend's" name
had been too obviously concealed by both the Colonel and myself for
her to press any inquiries in that direction. "And you have not seen
the daughter?" she continued.

"No, Mr. Klutchem was ill at a friend's house when I called on him
once befo', and his family were not in the room. I shall have that
pleasure for the first time when she arrives."

Chad now entered, bowed low to his Mistress, his invariable custom,
and began to light the candles on the mantelpiece and sideboard, and
then those in the two big silver candlesticks which decorated each end
of the table, with its covers for six. Little Jim still stood behind
his Miss Nancy's chair: he was not to be trusted with any of Chad's
important duties.

There came a knock at the door.

"That's dear Fitz," said the Colonel. "He promised to come early."

Chad looked meaningly at the scrap, and little Jim, in answer to the
sound of Fitz's knuckles, left the room, picking up his "pan" from the
hall table as he answered the summons.

At this moment the dear lady dropped her ball of yarn, and the Colonel
and I stooped down to recover it. This was a duty from which even Chad
was relieved when either of us was present. While we were both on our
knees groping around the legs of the sideboard, the door opened
softly, and a sweet, low voice said:

"Please, I'm Katy Klutchem, and I've come to the Christmas tree."

The Colonel twisted his head quickly.

A little girl of six or eight, her chubby cheeks aglow with the cold
of the winter twilight, a mass of brown curls escaping from her hat
framing a pretty face, stood looking at him--he was still on his
knees--with wide, wondering eyes. He had expected to welcome a young
woman of twenty, he told me afterwards, not a child. Aunt Nancy
inadvertently, perhaps, or because she supposed he knew, had omitted
any reference to her age. I, too, had fallen into the same error.

The dear lady without rising from her seat held out her two hands
joyously:

"Oh, you darling little thing! Come here until I take off your hat and
coat."

The Colonel had now risen to his feet, the ball of yarn in his hand,
his eyes still on the apparition. No child had ever stepped foot
inside the cosy quarters since his occupation. Katy returned his gaze
with that steadfast, searching look common to some children, summing
up by intuition the dangers and the man. Then, with her face breaking
into a smile at the Colonel, she started towards Aunt Nancy.

But the Colonel had come to his senses now.

"So you are not a grown-up lady at all," he cried, with a joyous note
in his voice, as he advanced towards her, "but just a dear little
girl."

"Why, did you think I was grown-up? I'm only seven. Oh, what a nice
room, and is the Christmas tree here?"

"It is not lighted yet, dearie," replied Aunt Nancy, her fingers busy
with the top button of the child's cloak, the eager, expectant face
twisted around as if she was looking for something. "It's over there
in the corner."

"Let me show it to you," said the Colonel, and he took her hand.
"Major, please bring one of the candles."

The child's eyes sought the Colonel's face. The first look she had
given him as she entered the room had settled all doubt in her mind;
children know at a glance whom they can trust.

"Please do," she answered simply, and her grasp closed over his. The
cloak and hat were off now, and Jim was bearing them upstairs to be
laid on Miss Nancy's bed.

As the small, frail hand touched his own I saw a strange look come
into the Colonel's eyes. It was evidently all he could do to keep from
stooping down and kissing her.

Instinctively my mind went back to a night not long before when I had
found him sitting by his fire. "There is but one thing in all the
world, Major," he said to me then, "sweeter than the song of a robin
in the spring, and that is the laughter of a child."

I knew therefore, as I looked at these two, what the little hand that
lay in his meant to him.

So I held the candle and the Colonel lighted the tip end of just one
tiny taper to show her how it burned, and what a pretty light it made
shining through the green; and Katy clapped her hands and said it was
beautiful, and such a darling little tree, and not at all like the
big one in the Sunday School that reached nearly to the ceiling, and
that nobody dared to touch. And then we all went back to the fire and
the Colonel's chair, and before I knew it he had her by his side with
his arm around her shoulders, telling her stories, while Aunt Nancy
and Jim and I sat listening.

And so absorbed was he in the new life, and so happy with the child,
that he only gave Fitz three fingers to shake when that friend of his
heart came in, and never once said he was glad to see him--an
unprecedented omission--and never once made the slightest allusion to
the expected guest of the evening, Mr. Klutchem, now that his daughter
had turned out to be a child of seven instead of a full-grown woman of
twenty.

The Colonel told her of the great woods behind Carter Hall, where the
Christmas tree had grown, and the fox with the white tail that lived
there, and that used to pop into his hole in the snow, and how you'd
pass right by and never see him because his tail, which was the
biggest part of him, was so white; and the woodpeckers that bored into
the bark with their long, sharp bills; and finally of the big turkeys
that strutted and puffed their feathers and spread their tails about
and ran so fast nothing could catch them.

"Not even a dog?" interrupted the child. She had crawled up into his
arms now and was looking up into his face with wondering eyes.

"Dogs!" answered the Colonel contemptuously, "why, these turkeys would
be up and gone befo' a dog could turn 'round."

"Tell me what they are like. Have they long--long legs--so?" and she
stretched out her arms.

"Oh, longer--terrible long legs--long as _this_"--and the Colonel's
arms went out to their full length.

Jim's eyes were now popping out of his head, but his place was behind
his Mistress's chair, ready for her orders, and he had had so many
scoldings that day that he thought it best not to move.

"And does he puff himself out like a real turkey in the picture
books?"

"Oh, worse than a real turkey,--big as _so_"--and the Colonel's arms
went round in a circle.

The child thought hard for a moment until she had the picture of the
strutting gobbler fastened in her mind, and said, cuddling closer to
the Colonel: "Tell me some more."

"About turkeys?"

"Yes, about turkeys."

"About wild ones or tame ones?"

"Was that a wild one that the dogs couldn't catch?"

"Yes."

"Then tell me about some tame ones. Do they live in the woods?"

"No, they live in the barnyard with the chickens, and the cows, and
the horses. Why, did you never see one?"

"Yes, but I want to hear you tell about them--that's better than
seeing."

Jim could hold in no longer. He had become so excited that he kept
rubbing one shoe against the other, twisting and squirming like an
eel. At last he burst out:

"An' one o' gobble-gobble was dat ornery, Mammy Henny shut him up in
de coop!"

Aunt Nancy turned in astonishment, and Chad, who had come in with some
dishes, was about to crush him with a look, when the Colonel said,
with a sly twinkle in his eye:

"What did he do, Jim?"

"Jes' trompled de li'l teeny chickens an' eat up all de corn an'
wouldn't let nobody come nigh him. An' he was dat swelled up!"

Katy laughed, and turning to the Colonel, said:

"Tell me about that one."

The Colonel ruminated for a moment, looked at Chad with a
half-humorous expression, and motioned to little Jim to come over and
stand by his chair so that he could hear the better, his own arm still
about Katy, her head on his shoulder.

"About that big gobbler, Katy, that was so bad they had to put him in
a coop?"

"Yes, that very one."

"Well, when I fust knew him he was a little teeny turkey--oh, not near
so high as Jim; 'bout up to Jim's knees, I reckon. He'd follow 'round
after his mammy and go where she wanted him to go and mind her like a
nice little turkey as he was. He didn't live on my plantation then--he
lived on Judge Barbour's plantation next to mine. Well, one day, Aunt
Nancy--that dear lady over there--wanted a fine young turkey, and
this little knee-high turkey was growin' to be a big turkey, and so
she brought him over and gave him the run of the barnyard.

"She was just as good to him as she could be. She made a nice clean
place for him to live in, so his feathers wouldn't get dirty any mo',
and he didn't have to run 'round lookin' for grasshoppers and beetles
and little worms as he did at home, but he had a nice bowl of mush
eve'y day and a place to go to sleep in all by himself, and Aunt Nancy
did everythin' she could to make him comfo'table.

"Well, what do you think happened? Just as soon as that turkey found
out he was bein' taken caare of better than the hens and the roosters
and all the other little turkeys he had left at home, he began to put
on airs. He breshed his feathers out and he strutted around same as if
he owned the whole barnyard, and he'd go down to the pond and look at
himself in the water; and he got so proud that whenever old Mrs. Hen
or old Mr. Rooster would say 'Good-mornin'' to him as kind and as nice
as could be, he wouldn't answer politely, but he'd stick up his head
and go 'Gobble-gobble-gobble!' and then he'd swell up again and puff
out his chest and march himself off. Pretty soon he got so sassy that
nobody could live with him. Why, he didn't care what he did and who he
stepped on. He trampled on two po' little chicks one day that were
just out of the shell and mashed them flat and did all sorts of
dreadful things."

"What an awful turkey! Poor little chickens," sighed Katy. "Go on."

"Next thing he did was to steal off and smoke cigarettes."

Katy raised her head and looked up into the Colonel's eyes.

"Why, turkeys can't smoke, can they?"

"Oh, no--of co'se not--I forgot. That's another story and I got them
mixed up. Where was I? Oh, yes, when he got so sassy."

Katy dropped her head on his shoulder again. Jim was now listening
with all his might, his only fear being that Chad or Miss Nancy or the
knocker on the front door would summon him before the story was ended.

"Well," continued the Colonel, "that went on and on and on till there
wasn't any livin' with him. Even dear Aunt Nancy couldn't get along
with him, which is a dreadful thing to say of anybody. So one
day"--here the Colonel's voice dropped to a tone of grave
importance--"one day--Mammy Henny--that's the wife of Chad over there
by the table, crep' up behind this wicked, sassy little turkey, when
he was swellin' around so big he couldn't see his feet, and she
grabbed him by the neck and two legs, and befo' he knew where he was,
plump he went into a big coop, and the door was shut tight. He
hollered and squawked and flapped his wings terrible, but that didn't
make any diff'ence; in he went and there he stayed. He pushed with his
long legs, and stuck his head out through the slats, and did all he
could to get out, but it was no use. Next day Mammy Henny got a great
big knife--oh, an awful long knife----"

"How long?" asked the child.

"Oh, a dreadful long knife--'most as long as Jim, here"--and the
Colonel laid his hand on the boy's shoulder--"and she sharpened it on
a big grindstone, and Mammy Henny put some corn in the little trough
outside the slats, and when this bad, wicked turkey poked his head
out--WHACK--went the knife, and off went his head, and he was
dead--dead--dead!"

As the solemn words fell from his lips, the Colonel broke into a
laugh, and in a burst of tenderness threw his arms around the child
and kissed her as if he would like to eat her up.

Katy was clapping her hands now.

"Oh, I'm just _too_ glad. And the poor little chickies--served him
just right. I was afraid he'd get out and run away."

The Colonel stole a look at Jim. The scrap stood looking into the
fire, a wondering expression on his face. How much of the story was
truth and how much fiction evidently puzzled Jim.

During the telling everybody in the room, Fitz, Miss Nancy--all of us,
in fact,--had been watching Katy's delight and Jim's eager brown face,
turned to the Colonel, the whites of his eyes big as saucers.
Watching, too, the Colonel's impartial manner to both of his
listeners--black and white alike--the only distinction being that the
black boy stood, while the white child lay nestled in his arms.

Chad, as the story progressed, had crept up behind the Colonel's
chair, where he could hear without being seen, and was listening as
eagerly as if he were a boy again. He had often told me that his old
master, the Colonel's father, used to tell him and the Colonel stories
when they were boys together, but I had never seen the Colonel in the
rôle before.

When the allusion to the cigarettes escaped the Colonel's lips a smile
overspread Chad's visage, and a certain triumphant look crept into his
eyes. With the child's laughter still ringing through the room, Chad
tapped Jim on the arm, led him to one side, held his lean, wrinkled
finger within an inch of the boy's nose and said in a sepulchral tone:

"Did ye hear dat? Do ye know who dat sassy, low-lived, mizzable,
no-count, ornery turkey was, dat kep' a-swellin' up, thinkin' he was
_free_ an' somebody great till dat caarvin' knife tuk his head off?
Dat's _you_!"

       *       *       *       *       *

In the midst of this scene, Katy still in the Colonel's arms, Aunt
Nancy knitting quietly, talking to Fitz in an undertone, and I forming
part of the circle around the fire, watching the Colonel's delight and
joy over his new guest--the dining-room door was pushed open, and Mr.
Klutchem stepped in.

"I found the outside door ajar, Colonel," he blurted out, "and heard
you all laughing, and so I just walked in. Been here long, Katy?"

For an instant I was sorry he had come; it was like the dropping of a
stone into a still pool.

The child slid out from the Colonel's lap, with an expression on her
face as if she had been caught in some act she should be ashamed of,
and stood close to the Colonel's chair, as if for protection. Aunt
Nancy, Fitz, and I rose to our feet to welcome the newcomer. The
Colonel, having to pull himself out from the depths of his chair, was
the last to rise. He had been so absorbed in the child that he had
entirely forgotten both the father and the dinner. It, however, never
took the Colonel long to recover his equilibrium where a matter of
courtesy was concerned.

"My dear, Mr. Klutchem," he cried, throwing out his chest, and
extending his hand graciously. "This is, indeed, a pleasure. Permit me
to present you to my aunt, Miss Caarter, of Virginia, who has left her
home to gladden our Christmas with her presence. The gentlemen, of
co'se, you already know. Yo' little daughter, suh, is a perfect
sunbeam. She has so crept into our hearts that we feel as if we never
wanted her to leave us----" and he laid his hand on the child's head.

The banker shook hands with Aunt Nancy, remarked that he was sorry he
had not been at home when she called, extended the same five fingers
to me, and again in turn to Fitz, and sat down on the edge of a chair
which Jim had dragged up for him. Katy walked over and stood by her
father's knee. Her holiday seemed over.

"Rather sharp weather, isn't it?" Mr. Klutchem began, rubbing his
hands and looking about him. He had not forgotten the cheeriness of
the rooms the day of his first visit; in their holiday attire they
were even more delightful. "I suppose, Colonel, you don't have such
weather in your State," he continued.

The Colonel, who was waiting for a cue--any cue served the Colonel,
weather, politics, finance, everything but morals and gossip, these he
never discussed, launched out in his inimitable way describing the
varied kinds of weather indigenous to his part of the State: the late
spring frosts with consequent damage to the peach crop; the heat of
summer; the ice storms and the heavy falls of soft snow that were gone
by mid-day; the banker describing in return the severities of the
winters in Vermont, his own State, and the quality of the farming land
which, he said, with a dry laugh, often raised four stone fences to
the acre, and sometimes five.

Before the two had talked many minutes I saw to my delight that the
waters of the deep pool which I feared had become permanently troubled
by the sudden arrival of the broker, were assuming their former
tranquil condition. Aunt Nancy resumed her knitting awaiting the time
when Chad should announce dinner. Katy, finding that her father had no
immediate use for her--not an unusual experience with Katy--moved off
and stood by Aunt Nancy, watching the play of her needles, the dear
lady talking to her in a low voice, while Fitz and I put our heads
together, and with eyes and ears open, followed with close attention
the gradual thawing out of the hard ice of the practical man of
affairs under the warm sun of the Colonel's hospitality.

Soon the long expected hour arrived, a fact made known first by the
saddle-colored female to Jim standing at the head of the stairs, and
who promptly conveyed it to Chad's ear in a whisper that was heard all
over the room, and finally by Chad himself, who announced the welcome
news to Miss Nancy with a flourish that would have done credit to the
master of ceremonies at a Lord Mayor's banquet; drawing out a chair
for her on the right of the Colonel, another on his left for Mr.
Klutchem, and a third for Miss Klutchem, who was seated between Fitz
and me. He then stationed Jim, now thoroughly humbled by the
chastening he had received, at the door in the hall to keep open an
unbroken line of communication between the fragrant kitchen below and
the merry table above.

The seating of the guests brought the cosy circle together--and what a
picture it was: The radiance of Aunt Nancy's face as she talked to one
guest and another, twisting her head like a wren's to see Mr. Klutchem
the better when the Colonel stood up to carve the ducks: and the
benignant, patriarchal, bless-you-my-children smile that kept
irradiating the Virginian's visage as, knife in hand, he descanted on
the various edibles and drinkables that made his native County a rare
place to be born in; and Mr. Klutchem's quiet, absorbed manner, so
different from his boisterous outbreaks--a fact which astonished Fitz
most of all; and Katy's unrestrained laughter breaking in at all times
like a bird's, and Chad's beaming face and noiseless tread, taking the
dishes from Jim's hands as carefully as an antiquary would so many
curios, and placing them without a sound before his master--yes, all
these things indeed made a picture that could never be forgotten.

As to the quality and toothsomeness of the several and various
dishes--roast, broiled, and baked--that kept constantly arriving,
there was, there could be, but one opinion:

Nobody had ever seen such oysters; nobody had ever eaten such
terrapin! Nobody had ever tasted such ducks!--so Mr. Klutchem said,
and he ought to have known, for he had the run of the Clubs. Nobody
had crunched such celery nor had revelled in such sweet potatoes; nor
had anybody since the beginning of the world ever smacked their lips
over such a ham.

"One of our razor-backs, Mr. Klutchem," said the Colonel; "fed on
acorns, and so thin that he can jump through a palin' fence and never
lose a hair. When a pig down our way gets so fat that a darky can
catch him, we have no use for him"--and the Colonel laughed--a laugh
which was echoed in a suppressed grin by Chad, the witticism not being
intended for him.

Soon there stole over every one in the room that sense of peace and
contentment which always comes when one is at ease in an atmosphere
where love and kindness reign. The soft light of the candles, the low,
rich color of the simple room with its festoons of cedar and pine, the
aroma of the rare wine, and especially the spicy smell of the hemlock
warmed by the burning tapers--that rare, unmistakable smell which only
Christmas greens give out and which few of us know but once a year,
and often not then; all had their effect on host and guests. Katy
became so happy that she lost all fear of her father and prattled on
to Fitz and me (we had pinned to her frock the rose the Colonel had
bought for the "grown-up daughter," and she was wearing it just as
Aunt Nancy wore hers), and Aunt Nancy in her gentle voice talked
finance to Mr. Klutchem in a way that made him open his eyes, and Fitz
laughingly joined in, giving a wide berth to anything bearing on
"corners" or "combinations" or "shorts" and "longs," while I, to spare
Aunt Nancy, kept one eye on Jim, winking at him with it once or twice
when he was about to commit some foolishness, and so the happy feast
went on.

As to the Colonel, he was never in better form. To him the occasion
was the revival of the old Days of Plenty--the days his soul coveted
and loved: his to enjoy, his to dispense.

But if it had been delightful before, what was it when Chad, after
certain mysterious movements in the next room, bore aloft the crowning
glory of the evening, and placed it with all its candles in the centre
of the table, the Colonel leaning far back in his chair to give him
room, his coat thrown wide, his face aglow, his eyes sparkling with
the laughter that always kept him young!

Then it was that the Colonel gathering under his hand the little sheaf
of paper lamplighters which Chad had twisted, rose from his seat,
picked up a slender glass that had once served his father ("only seben
o' dat kind left," Chad told me) and which that faithful servitor had
just filled from the flow of the old decanter of like period, and with
a wave of his hand as if to command attention, said, in a clear, firm
voice that indicated the dignity of the occasion:

"My friends,--my _vehy dear_ friends, I should say, for I can omit
none of you--certainly not this little angel who has captured our
hearts, and surely not our distinguished guest, Mr. Klutchem, who has
honored us with his presence--befo' I kindle with the torch of my love
these little beacons which are to light each one of us on our way
until another Christmas season overtakes us; befo', I say, these
sparks burst into life, I want you to fill yo' glasses (Chad had done
that to the brim--even little Katy's) and drink to the health and
happiness of the lady on my right, whose presence is always a
benediction and whose loyal affection is one of the sweetest treasures
of my life!"

Everybody except the dear lady stood up--even little Katy--and Aunt
Nancy's health was drunk amid her blushes, she remarking to Mr.
Klutchem that George would always embarrass her with these too
flattering speeches of his, which was literally true, this being the
fourth time I had heard similar sentiments expressed in the dear
lady's honor.

This formal toast over, the Colonel's whole manner changed. He was no
longer the dignified host conducting the feast with measured grace.
With a spring in his voice and a certain unrestrained joyousness, he
called to Chad to bring him a light for his first lamplighter. Then,
with the paper wisp balanced in his hand, he began counting the
several candles, peeping into the branches with the manner of a boy.

"One--two--three--fo'--yes, plenty of them, but we are goin' to begin
with the top one. This is yours, Nancy--this little white one on the
vehy tip-top. Gentlemen, this top candle is always reserved for Miss
Caarter," and the lighted taper kindled it into a blaze. "Just like
yo' eyes, my dear, burnin' steadily and warmin' everybody," and he
tapped her hand caressingly with his fingers. "And now, where is that
darlin' little Katy's--she must have a white one, too--here it is. Oh,
what a brave little candle! Not a bit of sputterin' or smoke. See,
dearie, what a beautiful blaze! May all your life be as bright and
happy. And here is Mr. Klutchem's right alongside of Katy's--a fine
red one. There he goes, steady and clear and strong. And Fitz--dear
old Fitz. Let's see what kind of a candle Fitz should have. Do you
know, Fitz, if I had my way, I'd light the whole tree for you. One
candle is absurd for Fitz! There, Fitz, it's off--another red one! All
you millionaires must have red candles! And the Major! Ah, the
Major!"--and he held out his hand to me--"Let's see--yaller? No, that
will never do for you, Major. Pink? That's better. There now, see how
fine you look and how evenly you burn--just like yo' love, my dear
boy, that never fails me."

The circle of the table was now complete; each guest had a candle
alight, and each owner was studying the several wicks as if the future
could be read in their blaze: Aunt Nancy with a certain seriousness.
To her the custom was not new; the memories of her life were
interwoven with many just such top candles,--one I knew of myself,
that went out long, long ago, and has never been rekindled since.

The Colonel stopped, and for a moment we thought he was about to take
his seat, although some wicks were still unlighted--his own among
them.

Instantly a chorus of voices went up: "You have forgotten your own,
Colonel--let me light this one for you," etc., etc. Even little Katy
had noticed the omission, and was pulling at my sleeve to call
attention to the fact: the Colonel's candle was the only one she
really cared for.

"One minute--" cried the Colonel. "Time enough; the absent
ones fust"--and he stooped down and peered among the
branches--"yes,--that's just the very one. This candle, Mr.
Klutchem, is for our old Mammy Henny, who is at Caarter Hall,
carin' for my property, and who must be pretty lonely to-day--ah,
there you go, Mammy!--blazin' away like one o' yo' own fires!"

[Illustration: Each guest had a candle alight.]

Three candles now were all that were left unlighted; two of them side
by side on the same branch, a brown one and a white one, and below
these a yellow one standing all alone.

The Colonel selected a fresh taper, kindled it in the flame of Aunt
Nancy's top candle, and turning to Chad, who was standing behind his
chair, said:

"I'm goin' to put you, Chad, where you belong,--right alongside of me.
Here, Katy darlin', take this taper and light this white candle for
me, and I'll light the brown one for Chad," and he picked up another
taper, lighted it, and handed it to the child.

"Now!"

As the two candles flashed into flame, the Colonel leaned over, and
holding out his hand to the old servant--boys together, these two,
said in a voice full of tenderness:

"Many years together, Chad,--many years, old man."

Chad's face broke into a smile as he pressed the Colonel's hand:

"Thank ye, marster," was all he trusted himself to say--a title the
days of freedom had never robbed him of--and then he turned his head
to hide the tears.

During this whole scene little Jim had stood on tiptoe, his eyes
growing brighter and brighter as each candle flashed into a blaze. Up
to the time of the lighting of the last guest candle his face had
expressed nothing but increasing delight. When, however, Mammy
Henny's candle, and then Chad's were kindled, I saw an expression of
wonderment cross his features which gradually settled into one of
profound disappointment.

But the Colonel had not yet taken his seat. He had relighted the
taper--this time from Mammy Henny's candle--and stood with it in his
hand, peering into the branches as if looking for something he had
lost.

"Ah, here's another. I
wonder--who--this--little--yaller--candle--can--be--for," he said
slowly, looking around the room and accentuating each word. "I reckon
they're all here--Let me see--Aunt Nancy, Mr. Klutchem, Katy, Fitz,
the Major, Mammy Henny, Chad, and me--Yes--all here--Oh!!" and he
looked at the boy with a quizzical smile on his face--"I came vehy
near forgettin'.

"This little yaller candle is Jim's."

       *       *       *       *       *

When it was all over; and Aunt Nancy herself had tied on Katy's hat
and tucked the tippet into her neck, and buttoned her coat so that not
a breath of cold air could get inside; and when Jim stood holding Mr.
Klutchem's hat in the hall, with Chad but a few feet away; and when
Mr. Klutchem had said good-by to Aunt Nancy, and had turned to take
the extended hand of the Colonel, I heard the banker say, in a voice
as if a tear had choked it:

"Carter, you're mighty good stuff and I like you. What you've taught
me to-night I'll never forget. Katy never had a mother, and I know
now she's never had a home. Good-night."

"Come, Katy, I guess I'll carry you, little girl--" and he picked up
the child, wound her reluctant arms about his neck, and went out into
the night.



 THE ROMANCE OF AN
 OLD-FASHIONED GENTLEMAN



I


Blossom week in Maryland! The air steeped in perfume and soft as a
caress; the sky a luminous gray interwoven with threads of silver,
flakings of pearl and tiny scales of opal.

All the hill-sides smothered in bloom--of peach, cherry, and pear; in
waves, windrows and drifts of pink and ivory. Here and there, fluffy
white, a single tree upheld like a bride's bouquet ready for my lady's
hand when she goes to meet her lord. In the marshes flames of fringed
azaleas and the tracings of budding birch and willow outspread like
the sticks of fans. At their feet, shouldering their way upward, big
dock leaves--vigorous, lusty leaves--eager to flaunt their verdure in
the new awakening. Everywhere the joyous songs of busy birds fresh
from the Southland--flying shuttles these, of black, blue and brown,
weaving homes in the loom of branch and bud.

       *       *       *       *       *

To the trained eye of young Adam Gregg, the painter, all this glory of
blossom, hill-side, and pearly tinted sky came as a revelation and a
delight. Drawing rein on his sorrel mare he raised himself in his
stirrups and swept his glance over the landscape, feasting his eyes
on the note of warmth in the bloom of the peach--a blossom unknown to
his more northern clime, on the soft brown of the pastures, and on the
filmy blue of the distant hills melting into the gray haze of the
April morning. Suddenly a thrill shot through him and a fresh
enthusiasm rose in his heart: with all this wealth of color about him,
what would not his brush accomplish.

Swinging in his seat he readjusted the rain-cloak and painting-kit
that were strapped to his saddle-bags, and rode on, his slouch hat
pushed back from his forehead to cool his brow, his gray riding-coat
unbuttoned and hanging loose, the brown riding-boots gripped about the
mare's girth.

As he neared his destination the concluding lines of the letter of
introduction tucked away in his pocket kept recurring to his mind. He
was glad his subject was to be a woman--one near his own age. Women
understood him better, and he them. It was the face and shoulders of a
young and pretty woman--and a countess, too--which had won for him his
first Honorable Mention in Munich. Would he be as lucky with the face
and shoulders of the "beautiful girl-wife of Judge Colton"?

Soon the chimneys and big dormer-windows of Derwood Manor, surmounting
the spacious colonial porch with its high pillars, rose above the
skirting of trees. Then came the quaint gate with its brick posts
topped by stone urns, through which swept a wide road bordered by
lilac bushes. Dismounting at the horse-block the young painter handed
the reins to a negro boy who had advanced to meet him, and, making his
way through a group of pickaninnies and snuffing hounds, mounted the
porch.

The Judge was waiting for him on the top step with both hands
outstretched in welcome; a man of fifty, smooth-shaven, with iron-gray
hair, a thin, straight mouth and a jaw as square as a law book.

"You needn't look for your letter, Mr. Gregg," he exclaimed heartily.
"The nephew of my old classmate is always a welcome guest at Derwood
Manor. We have been expecting you all the morning--" and the Judge
shook the young man's hand as if he had known him from babyhood. It
was in the early fifties and the hatreds of later years were unknown
among men of equal social position in a land where hospitality was a
religion. "Let me present you to Mrs. Colton and my little son, Phil."

Adam turned, and it seemed to him as if the glory of all the blossoms
he had seen that day had gone into the making of a woman. Dressed all
in white, a wide blue sash about her slender waist; graceful as a
budding branch swaying in a summer wind; with eyes like rifts of blue
seen through clouds of peach bloom; hair of spun gold in lifted waves
about her head, one loosened curl straying over her beautiful
shoulders; mouth and teeth a split pomegranate studded with seeds of
pearl--she seemed the very embodiment of all the freshness, beauty,
and charm of the awakening spring.

Instantly all the flesh tones from rose madder and cadmium to
indigo-blue ran riot in his head. "What coloring," he kept saying to
himself--"What a skin, and the hair and shoulders, and the curl that
breaks the line of the throat--never was there such a woman!"

Even as he stood looking into her eyes, pretending to listen to her
words of welcome, he was deciding on the colors he would use and the
precise pose in which he would paint her.

"And it is such a delight to have you with us," she was saying in
joyous tones, as though his coming brought a holiday. "When I knew you
were to be here I began right away to build castles. You are to paint
my portrait first, and then you are to paint Phil's. Isn't that it,
Judge? Come Phil, dear, and shake hands with Mr. Gregg."

"Whichever you please," Adam replied simply, the little boy's hand in
his. "I only hope I shall be able to do justice to you both. It will
be my fault if I don't with all this beauty about me. I am really
dazed by these wonderful fruit-trees."

"Yes, we're going to have a good season," exclaimed the Judge--"best
we have had for years, peaches especially. We expect a----"

"Oh, I only meant the coloring," interrupted Gregg, his cheeks
flushing. "It's wonderfully lovely."

"And you don't have spring blossoms North?" asked Mrs. Colton. Her own
eyes had been drinking in the charm of his personality; no
color-schemes or palette-tones were interesting her. The straight,
lithe, figure, square shoulders, open, honest face, sunny brown eyes,
with the short, crisp hair that curled about the temples, meant
something alive and young: something that could laugh when she laughed
and be merry over little things.

"Yes, of course, but not this glorious rose-pink," the young painter
burst out enthusiastically. "If it will only last until I finish your
portrait! It's really your month to be painted in, Mrs. Colton. You
have all of Sully's harmonies in your coloring--pink, white, blue"--he
was still looking into her eyes--"The great Thomas should have seen
you first, I am only his humble disciple," and he shrugged his square
shoulders in a modest way.

"And what about Phil?" she laughed, catching the fire of his
enthusiasm as she drew the boy closer to her side.

"Well, I should try him in October. He has"--and he glanced at the
Judge--"his father's brown eyes and dark skin. Nuts and autumn leaves
and red berries go best with that," he added, as he ran his fingers
through the boy's short curls.

"And an old fellow like me, I suppose, you'd paint with a foot of snow
on the ground," laughed the Judge dryly. "Well--anything to please
Olivia. Come, all of you, dinner is waiting!"

       *       *       *       *       *

The warmth of the greeting was as great a surprise to the young
Northerner as the wealth of the out-of-door bloom. He had been
hospitably received in similar journeys in his own State, but never
quite like this. There it was a matter of business until he had become
"better acquainted," even when he stayed in the houses of his patrons.
He remembered one old farmer who wanted to put him in a room over the
stable with the hired man, and another, a mill-owner, who deducted the
sum of his board from the price of the picture, but here he had been
treated as one of the family from the moment his foot touched their
door-step. The Judge had not only placed him on his right hand at
table, but had sent old Bundy, the family butler, down into the
wine-cellar for a bottle of old Madeira, that had "rusted away in his
cellar," he said, for thirty years, and which he would open in
remembrance of his college days, when his guest's uncle was his chum
and classmate.

Several days had passed before he would even allow Adam to take out
his brushes and prepare his canvas for work; his explanation being
that as he was obliged to go on Circuit, he would like to enjoy his
visitor's society before he left. There would be plenty of time for
the picture while he was away. Then it too would come as a full
surprise on his return--not a half-completed picture showing the work
of days, but a finished portrait alive not only with the charm of the
sitter, but with the genius of the master. This was proclaimed with a
courteous wave of his hand to his wife and Adam, as if she, too, would
be held responsible for the success of the portrait.

The morning before his departure he called Olivia and Adam, and the
three made a tour of the rooms in search of a suitable place where his
easel could be set up and the work begun. All three admitted that the
study was too dark, and so was the library unless the vines were
cleared from the windows, which was, of course, out of the question,
the Judge's choice finally resting on one corner of the drawing-room,
where a large window let in a little more light. In acquiescence the
young painter drew back the curtains and placed his subject first on
the sofa and then in an arm-chair, and again standing by the sash, and
once more leaning over the window-sill; but in no position could he
get what he wanted.

"Suit yourselves, then," said the Judge, "and pick out your own place,
and make yourselves as comfortable as you can--only don't hurry over
it. I shall not be back for a month, and if that is not time enough,
why, we have all summer before us. As to your other comforts, my dear
Adam--and I rejoice to see you know a good bottle of wine when you
taste it--I have given Bundy express orders to decant for you some of
the old Tiernan of '28, which is a little dryer than even that special
bottle of the Madeira you liked so well. My only regret is that I
cannot share it with you. And now one word more before I say good-by,
and that is that I must ask you, my dear Gregg, to do all you can to
keep Mrs. Colton from becoming lonely. You will, of course, as usual,
accompany her in her afternoon rides, and I need not tell you that my
own horses are at your disposal. When I return I hope to be welcomed
by two Olivias; one which by your genius you will put on canvas, and
the other"--and he bowed grandiloquently to his wife--"I leave in your
charge."

The young painter took the first opportunity to discharge his duty--an
opportunity afforded him when the Judge, after kissing his wife and
shaking hands with Adam the morning he left, had stepped into his gig,
his servant beside him, and with a lifting of his hat in punctilious
courtesy, had driven down between the lilacs. It may have been
gallantry or it may have been the pathetic way in which she waved her
handkerchief in return that roused the boyish sympathy in his heart:

"Don't worry," he said in a voice full of tenderness. "He won't be
long gone--only a month, he says; and don't be unhappy--I'm going to
do everything to cheer you up."

"But I'm never lonely," she answered with an air of bravado, "and I
try never to be unhappy. I always have Phil. And now," and she broke
out into a laugh, "I have you, and that makes me feel just as I did as
a girl when one of the boys came over to play with me. Come upstairs,
right away, and let me show you the big garret. I'm just crazy to see
you begin work, and I really believe that's the best place, after all.
It's full of old trunks and furniture, but there's a splendid
window----"

"On which side of the house, north or south? I must have a north
light, you know."

"Yes--north; looking straight up into your freezing cold country, sir!
This way! Come along!" she cried joyously as she mounted the stairs,
little Phil, as usual, tumbling after them.

Adam entered first and stood in the middle of the floor looking about
him.

"Superb!" he cried. "Just the very place! What a magnificent light--so
direct, and not a reflection from anything."

It was, indeed, an ideal studio to one accustomed to the disorder of
beautiful things. Not only was there a hip roof, with heavy, stained
beams and brown shingles, but near its crotch opened a wide,
round-topped window which shed its light on the dilapidated relics of
two generations--old spinning-wheels, hair trunks, high-post,
uncoupled bedsteads; hair-cloth sofas, and faded curtains of yellow
damask, while near the door rested an enormous jar brought up from the
garden to catch the drip of a leaky shingle--all so much lumber to
Olivia, but of precious value to the young painter, especially the
water jar, which reminded him of those he had seen in Sicily when he
was tramping through its villages sketching.

"Just the place--oh, wonderful! Wonderful! Let me shout down for Bundy
and we'll move everything into shape right away."

"Are you going to take them out or push them back?" exclaimed Olivia,
her eyes growing wide with wonder as she watched him begin work.

"No, not going to move out one of them. You just wait--I'll show you!"
The boy in him was coming out now.

And Olivia did wait, uttering little cries of delight or inquiry
meanwhile, as she tripped after him, her skirts lifted above her
dainty ankles to keep them from the dust. "Oh, that ugly old bureau;
shan't we send it away?" followed by "Yes, I do think that's better."
And, "Oh, are you going to put that screen there!" gouty old Bundy
joining in with "Well, fo' de Lawd, Miss 'Livy, I neber did see no ol'
trunk come to life agin befo' by jes' shovin' it 'roun'."

"And now get a sheet!" cried Adam, when everything had been arranged
to his liking. "We'll tack it across the lower half of the window.
Then Bundy, please go down and bring up two buckets of water and pour
it into this jar. Now, Mrs. Colton, come along, you and I will bring
up blossoms enough to fill it," and the two dashed downstairs and out
into the orchard with a swoop of two swallows out for an airing.

Even Bundy had to admit to old Dinah, when he had returned to the
kitchen, that the transformation of a lumber-room into a cosy studio
was little less than miraculous.

"Dat painter gemman do beat de lan'," he chuckled. "Got dat ol' garret
lookin' like a parlor fixed up for comp'ny. Ye oughter see dem ol'
hair-backs wid de bottoms busted--got 'em kivered up wid dem patchwork
bedspreads an' lookin' like dey was fit for de ol' mist'ess's bedroom.
An' he's got dem ol' yaller cut'ains we useter hab in de settin'-room
hung on de fo'-posters as sort o' screens fencin' off one corner ob de
room jes' by de do'. Dat ol' carpet's spread out; dat one-legged
spinnin'-wheel's propped up and standin' roun'; dem ol' stable
lanterns is hung to de rafters. I clar' to goodness, ye wouldn't
believe! Now dey jes' sont me down for two buckets o' water to fill
dat ol' jar we useter hab settin' out here on de po'ch. He and de
young mist'ess is out now lookin' for peach blossoms to fill it. He's
a wonder, I tell ye!"

The masses of blossoms arranged in the big jar--the tops of their
branches reaching the water-stained roof; a canvas for a half-length
tacked on a stretcher and placed on an improvised easel, Adam began
prying into the dark corners for a seat for his model, Olivia
following his every movement, her eyes twice their usual size in her
ever-increasing astonishment and delight.

"Hello, here's just the thing!" he shouted, dragging out a high-back
chair with some of the lower rungs gone, and dusting it off with his
handkerchief. "Sit here and let me see how the light falls. No, that
isn't good; that dress won't do at all." (The gown came too far up on
her neck to suit this artistic young gentleman's ideas regarding the
value of curved lines in portraiture.) "That collar spoils everything.
Can't you wear something else? I'd rather see you in full dress. I
want the line of the throat ending in the sweep of the shoulder, and
then I want the long curl against the flesh tones. You haven't worn
your hair that way since I came; and where's the dress you had on the
day I arrived? The colors suited you perfectly. I shall never forget
how you looked--it was all blossoms, you and everything--and the
background of the dark door, and the white of the porch columns, with
just a touch of yellow ochre to break it--Oh, it was delicious!
Please, now, put that dress on again and wear a low-neck waist with
it. The flesh tones of the throat and shoulders will be superb and I
know just how to harmonize them with this background."

It was the picture, not the woman, that filled his soul. Flesh tones
heightened by a caressing, lingering curl, and relieved by green
leaves and flowers, were what had made the Munich picture a success.

"But I haven't any low-necked gowns. Those I had when I was married
are all worn out, and I've never needed any since. My nearest
neighbors are ten miles away, and half the time I dine with only
Phil."

"Well, but can't you fix something?" persisted Adam, bent on the
composition he had in his mind. "Everybody's been so good to me here I
want this portrait to be the very best I can do. What is in these
trunks? There must be some old dresses belonging to somebody's
grandmother or somebody's aunt. Do you mind my opening this one? It's
unlocked."

Adam lifted the lid. A faded satin gown belonging to the Judge's
mother lay on the top. The old lady had been born and brought up under
this roof, and was still alive when the Judge's first wife died.

"Here's the very thing."

"And you really want that old frock? All right, Mr. Autocrat, I'll run
down and put it on."

She was like a child dressing for her first party. Twice did her hair
fall about her shoulders and twice must she gather it up, fingering
carefully the long curl, patting it into place; hooking the bodice so
that all its modesty would be preserved and yet the line of the throat
show clear, shaking out the full, pannier-like skirt until it stood
out quite to her liking. Then with a mock curtsey to herself in the
glass, she dashed out of the room, up the narrow stairs and into the
garret again before he had had time to sort over his brushes.

"Lovely!" he burst out enthusiastically when she had whirled round so
he could see all sides of her. "It's more beautiful than the one I
first saw you in. Now you look like a bit of old Dresden china--No, I
think you look like a little French queen. No, I don't know what you
do look like, only you're the loveliest thing I ever saw!"

The gown fitted her perfectly; part of her neck was bare, the single
curl, just as he wanted it, straying over it. Then came the waist of
ivory-white flowered satin with elbow sleeves, and then the puffy
panniers drooped about the slender bodice. As he drank in her beauty
the blood went tingling through his veins. He had thought her lovely
that first morning when he saw her on the porch: then she was all
blossoms; now she was a vision of the olden time for whose lightest
smile brave courtiers fought and bled.

"That's it, keep your head up!" he cried, as with many steppings
backward and forward, he conducted her to the old chair, and with the
air of a grand chamberlain placed her upon it, adding in mock
gallantry:

"Sit there, fair lady mine, while your humble slave makes obeisance.
To touch the hem of your garment would be--Oh, but aren't you lovely!
And the tone of old ivory in the satin, and the exquisite flesh
notes--and the way the curl lies on the shoulder! You are adorable!"

And so the picture was begun.

The hours and the days that followed were hours and days of
never-ending joy and frolic. While it was still "Mr. Gregg" and "Mrs.
Colton," it was as often "Uncle Adam" by little Phil (the three were
never separated) and now and then "Marse Adam" by old Bundy, who
sought in this way to emphasize his master's injunction to "look after
Mr. Gregg's comfort."

[Illustration: And so the picture was begun.]

Nor did the supervision stop here. Under Olivia's instructions and
with Bundy's help, the big dining-room table, with the Judge's seat at
one end, hers at the other, and little Phil in his high chair in the
middle, was given up and moved out as being altogether too formal and
the seats too far apart, and a small one, sprinkled daily with fresh
damask roses that she herself had culled from the garden, was
substituted. The great window in the library, which had always been
kept closed by reason of a draught which carromed on the door of the
study and struck the Judge somewhere between his neck and his
shoulders, was now thrown wide and kept wide, and the porch chairs,
three of them, which had precise positions fixed for them between
the low windows, were dragged out under the big apple-tree shading
the lawn and moved up to another table that Bundy had carried down
from one of the spare rooms.

And then the joy of being for the first time the real head of the
house when "company" was present--free to pour out her hospitality in
her own way--free to fix the hours of breakfast, dinner, and supper,
and what should be cooked, and how served; free to roam the rooms at
her pleasure, in and out of the silent study without the
never-infringed formality of a knock.

And the long talks in the improvised studio, she sitting under the big
north window in the softened light of the sheet; the joy she took in
his work; the charm of his sympathetic companionship. Then the long
rides on horseback when the morning's work was over, she on Black
Bess, he on his own mare; the rompings and laughter in the cool woods;
the delight over the bursting of new blossoms; the budding of new
leaves and tendrils, and the ceaseless song of the birds! Were there
ever days like these!

And the swing and dash and freedom of it all! The perfect trust, each
in the other. The absence of all coquetry and allurement, of all
pretence or sham. Just chums, good fellows, born comrades; joining in
the same laugh, stilled by the same thoughts; absorbed in the same
incidents, no matter how trivial: the hiving of a swarm of bees, the
antics of a pair of squirrels, or the unfolding of a new rose. He
twenty-five, clean-souled, happy-hearted; lithe as a sapling and as
graceful and full of spring. She twenty-two, soft-cheeked as a summer
rose and as sweet and wholesome and as innocent of all guile as a
fawn, drinking in for the first time, in unknown pastures, the fresh
dew of the morning of life.

And the little comedy in the garret was played to the very end.

Each day my lady would dress herself with the greatest care in the
flowered satin and coax the stray curl into position, and each day
Adam would go through the ceremony of receiving her at the door with
his mahlstick held before him like a staff of state. Then, bowing like
a courtier, he would lead her past the yellow satin screen and big jar
of blossoms and place her in the high-back chair, little Phil acting
as page, carrying her train.

       *       *       *       *       *

And so the picture was finished!

On that last day, as he stood in front of it, the light softened by
the screening sheet falling full upon it, his heart swelled with
pride. He knew what his brush had wrought. Not only had he given the
exact pose he had labored for--the bent head, the full throat, the
slope of the gently falling line from the ear to the edge of the
corsage, the round of the white shoulders relieved by the caressing
curl; but he had caught a certain joyous light in the eyes--a light
which he had often seen in her face when, with a sudden burst of
affection, she had strained little Phil to her breast and kissed him
passionately.

"I'm not so beautiful as that," she had said to Adam with a
deprecatory tone in her voice, as the two stood before it. "It's only
because you think I am, and because you've kept on saying it over and
over until you believe it. It's the gown and the peach blossoms in the
jar behind my chair--not me."

The servants were none the less enthusiastic. Bundy screwed up his
toad eyes and expressed the opinion that it was "de 'spress image,"
and fat old Aunt Dinah, who had stumbled up the garret stairs from the
kitchen, the first time in years--her quarters being on the ground
floor of one of the cabins--put on her spectacles, and lifting up her
hands, exclaimed in a camp-meeting voice:

"De Lawd wouldn't know t'other from which if both on ye went to heaben
dis minute! Dat's you, sho' nuff, young mist'ess."

Only one thing troubled the young painter: What would the Judge say
when he returned in the morning? What alterations would he insist
upon? He had been compelled so many times to ruin a successful
picture, just to please the taste of the inexperienced, that he
trembled lest this, the best work of his brush, should share their
fate. Should the Judge disapprove Olivia's heart would well nigh be
broken, for she loved the picture as much as he did himself.

       *       *       *       *       *

The night before Judge Colton's return the two sat out on the porch in
the moonlight. The air was soft and full of the coming summer.
Fire-flies darted about; the croaking of tree-toads could be heard.
From the quarters of the negroes came the refrain of an old song:

     "Corn top's ripe and de meadow's in de bloom,
                 Weep no mo' me lady."

"I feel as if I had been dreaming and had just waked up," sighed
Olivia. "Is it all over?"

"Yes, I can't make it any better," he answered in a positive tone, his
thoughts on his picture.

"Must you go away after you finish Phil's?" Her mind was not on the
portrait.

"Yes, unless the Judge wants his own painted. I wish he would. I'd
love to stay with you--you've been so kind to me. Nobody has ever been
so good."

"And you've been very kind to me," Olivia sighed. "Oh, so kind!"

"And just think how beautiful it is here," he rejoined; "and the
wonderful weather; and the lovely life we have led. You ought to be
very contented in so beautiful a home, with everybody so good to you."

"It's all been very, very happy, hasn't it?" She had not listened, nor
had she answered him. It was the refrain of the old song that filled
her ears.

"Yes, the happiest of my life. If you'd been my own sister you
couldn't have been lovelier to me."

"Where shall you go?" She was not looking at him. Her eyes were fixed
on the group of trees breaking the sky line.

"Home, to my people," he answered slowly.

"How far away is it?"

"Oh, a long distance! It takes me three days' constant riding to get
home."

"And you love them?"

"Yes."

"Do they love you?"

"Yes."

Again the song rolled out:

     "Few mo' days to tote de weary load,
          Weep no mo' me lady."



II


The home-coming of the master brought everybody on the run to the
porch: the men in the neighboring field; the gardener, who came
bounding over his flower-beds; Aunt Dinah, drying her fat hands on her
apron, to grasp her master's; Bundy, who helped him to alight; half a
dozen pickaninnies and twice as many dogs, and last Adam and Olivia,
who came flying down the front stairs, followed by little Phil.

The Judge alighted from the gig with some difficulty, Bundy guiding
his foot so that it rested on the iron step, and helped him to the
ground. The ride had been a trying one, and the heat and dust had left
their marks on his face.

"And how about the portrait?" were his first words after kissing his
wife and child and shaking hands with Gregg. "Is it finished, and are
you pleased, my dear?"

"Yes, and it's lovely, only it's not me, I tell him."

"Not you? Who is it, then?"

"Oh, somebody twice as pretty!"

"No. It's not one-quarter, not one-tenth as beautiful!" There was a
ring in Adam's voice that showed the tribute came from his heart.

"But that's the dress and the background; and the lovely blossoms. Oh,
you'd never believe that old jar could look so well!"

"Background! Jar! Where did you sit?" He had changed his coat now, and
Bundy was brushing the dust from his trousers and shoes.

"Oh, up in the garret. You wouldn't know the place. Mr. Gregg pulled
everything round until it is the cosiest room you ever saw."

The Judge shot a quick, searching glance at Adam. Then his eye took in
the lithe, graceful figure of the young man, so buoyant with health
and strength.

"Up in the garret! Why didn't you paint it here, or in the front
room?"

"I needed a north light, sir."

"And you could only find that in a garret? I should have thought the
parlor was the place for a lady. And are you satisfied with the
result?" he asked in a more formal tone, as he dropped into a chair
and turned to Adam. The long ride had fatigued him more than he had
thought possible.

"Well, it certainly is the best thing I have ever done. The flesh
tones are purer, and the----"

The Judge looked up: "Of the face?"

"All the flesh tones--especially the tones around the curl where it
lies on the bare shoulder."

He was putting his best foot forward, arguing his side of the case.
Half of Olivia's happiness would be gone if her husband were
disappointed in the portrait.

"Let us go up and look at it," the Judge said, as if impelled by some
sudden resolve.

When he reached the garret--Adam and Olivia and little Phil had gone
ahead--he stopped and looked about him.

"Well, upon my soul! You _have_ turned things upside down," he
remarked in a graver tone. "And here's where you two have spent all
these days, is it?" Again his eye rested on Adam's graceful figure,
whose cheeks were flushed with his run upstairs. With the glance came
a certain feeling of revolt, as if the lad's very youth were an
affront.

"Only in the morning, sir, while the light lasted," explained Adam,
noticing the implied criticism in the coldness of the Judge's tones.

"Turn the picture, please, Mr. Gregg."

For a brief moment the Judge, with folded arms, gazed into the canvas;
then the straight lips closed, the brow tightened, and an angry glow
mounted to the very roots of his gray hair.

"Mr. Gregg," said the Judge in the same measured tone with which he
would have sentenced a criminal, "if I did not know you to be a
gentleman, and incapable of dishonor, I should ask you to leave my
house. You may not have intended it, sir, but you have abused my
hospitality and insulted my home. My wife is but a child, and easily
influenced, and you should have protected her in my absence, as I
would have protected yours. The whole thing is most disturbing,
sir--and I----"

"Why--why--what is the matter?" gasped Adam. The suddenness of the
attack had robbed him of his breath.

"Matter!" thundered the Judge. "Bad taste is the matter, if not worse!
No woman should ever uncover her neck to any man but her husband! You
have imposed upon her, sir, with your foreign notions. The picture
shall never be hung!"

"But it is your own mother's dress," pleaded Olivia, a sudden flush of
indignation rising in her face. "We found it in the trunk. It's on my
bed now--I'll go and get it----"

"I don't want to see it! What my mother wore at her table in the
presence of my father and his guests is not what she would have worn
in her garret day after day for a month with her husband away. You
should have remembered your blood, Olivia, and my name and position."

"Judge Colton!" cried Adam, stepping nearer and looking the Judge
square in the eyes--all the forces of his soul were up in arms
now--"your criticisms and your words are an insult! Your wife is as
unconscious as a child of any wrong-doing, and so am I. I found the
dress in the trunk and made her put it on. Mrs. Colton has been as
safe here with me as if she had been my sister, and she has been my
sister every hour of the day, and I love her dearly. I have told her
so, and I tell you so!"

The Judge was accustomed to read the souls of men, and he saw that
this one was without a stain.

"I believe you, Gregg," he said, extending his hand. "I have been
hasty and have done you a wrong. Forgive me! And you, too, Olivia. I
am over-sensitive about these things: perhaps, too, I am a little
tired. We will say no more about it."

       *       *       *       *       *

That night when the Judge had shut himself up in his study with his
work, and Olivia had gone to her room, Adam mounted the stairs and
flung himself down on one of the old sofas. The garret was dark,
except where the light of the waning moon filtering through the sheet,
fell upon the portrait and patterned the floor in squares of silver.
Olivia's eyes still shone out from the easel. In the softened,
half-ghostly light there seemed to struggle out from their depths a
certain pleading look, as if she needed help and was appealing to him
for sympathy. He knew it was only a trick the moonlight was playing
with his colors--lowering the reds and graying the flesh tones--that
when the morning came all the old joyousness would return; but it
depressed him all the same.

The Judge's words with their cruelty and injustice still rankled in
his heart. The quixotic protest, he knew, about his mother's faded old
satin must have had some other basis than the one of immodesty--an
absurd position, as any one could see who would examine the picture.
Olivia could never be anything but modest. Had it really been the gown
that had offended him? or had he seen something in his wife's portrait
which he had missed before in her face--something of the joy which a
freer and more untrammelled life had given her, and which had,
therefore, aroused his jealousy. He would never forgive him for the
outburst, despite the apology, nor would he ever forget Olivia
cowering, when she listened, as if from a blow, hugging little Phil to
her side. While the Judge's words had cut deep into his own heart they
had scorched Olivia's like a flame. He had seen it in her tear-dried
face seamed and crumpled like a crushed rose, when without a word to
her husband or himself, except a simple--"Good-night, all," she had
left the room but an hour before.

Suddenly he raised his head and listened: A step was mounting the
stairs. Then came a voice from the open door.

"Adam, are you in there?"

"Yes, Olivia."

"May I come in?"

Like a wraith of mist afloat in the night she stole into the darkened
room and settled slowly and noiselessly beside him. He tried to
struggle to his feet in protest, but she clung to him, her fingers
clutching his arm, her sobs choking her.

"Don't--don't go! I must talk to you--nobody else
understands--nobody----"

"But you must not stay here! Think what----"

"No! Please--please--I can't go; you must listen! I couldn't sleep.
Help me! Tell me what I must do! Oh, Adam, please--please! I shall die
if I have to keep on as I have done."

She slipped from the low cushion and lay crouching at his feet, her
arms and face resting on his knees; her wonderful hair, like spun
gold, falling about him, its faint perfume stirring his senses.

Then, with indrawn, stifling sobs she laid bare her innermost secrets;
all her heartaches, misunderstandings, hidden sorrows, and last that
unnamed pain which no human touch but his could heal. Only once, as
she crouched beside him, did he try to stop the flow of her whispered
talk; she pleading piteously while he held her from him, he looking
into her eyes as if he were afraid to read their meaning.

When she had ended he lifted her to her feet, smoothed the dishevelled
hair from her face, and kissed her on the forehead:

"Go now," he said in a broken voice, as he led her to the door. "Go,
and let me think it over."

       *       *       *       *       *

With the breaking of the dawn he rose from the lounge where he had
lain all night with staring eyes, took the portrait from the easel,
held it for a brief instant to the gray light, touched it reverently
with his lips, turned it to the wall, and then, with noiseless steps,
descended to his bedroom. Gathering his few belongings together he
crept downstairs so as to wake no one, pushed open the front door,
crossed the porch and made his way to the stable, where he saddled his
mare. Then he rode slowly past the lilacs and out of the gate.

When he reached the top of the hill and looked back, the rising sun
was gilding the chimneys and quaint dormers of Derwood Manor. Only
the closed shutters of Olivia's room were in shadow.

"It's the only way," he said with a sigh, and turned his horse's head
towards the North.



III


The few weeks Adam Gregg spent in his father's home on his return from
Derwood Manor were weeks of suffering such as he had never known in
his short career. No word had come from Olivia, and none had gone from
him in return. He dared not trust himself to write; he made no
inquiries. He made no mention, even at home, of his visit, except to
say that he had painted Judge Colton's wife and had then retraced his
steps. It was not a matter to be discussed with any one--not even with
his mother, to whom he told almost every happening of his life. He had
seen a vision of transcendent beauty which had filled his soul. Then
the curtain had fallen, blotting out the light and leaving him in
darkness and despair. What was left was the memory of a tear-stained
face and two pleading eyes. These would haunt him all his days.

At the end of the year he found himself in London: Gainsborough,
Romney and Lawrence beckoned to him. He must master their technique,
study their color. The next year was spent in Madrid studying
Velasquez and Goya. It was the full brush that enthralled him now--the
sweep and directness of virile methods. Then he wandered over to
Granada, and so on to the coast and Barcelona, and at last to Paris.

When his first salon picture was exhibited it could only be properly
seen when the crowd opened, so great was the throng about it. It was
called "A Memory," and showed the figure of a young girl standing in
the sunlight with wreaths of blossoms arched above her head. On her
golden hair was a wide hat which half shaded her face; one beautiful
arm, exquisitely modelled and painted, rested on the neck of a black
horse. A marvellous scheme of color, the critics said, the blossoms
and flesh tones being wonderfully managed. No one knew the
model--English, some suggested; others concluded that it was the
portrait of some lady of the court in a costume of the thirties.

The day after the opening of the salon Clairin called and left his
card, and the day following Fortuny mounted the stairs to shake his
hand, although he had never met Gregg before. When, later on,
Honorable Mention was awarded him by the jury, Boisseau, the art
dealer, rang his bell and at once began to inquire about the price of
portraits. Madame X. and the Countess M. had been captivated, he said,
by "A Memory," and wanted sittings. If the commissions were sufficient
the dealer could arrange for very many orders, not only for many women
of fashion, but of members of the Government.

The following year his portrait of Baron Chevrail received the Gold
Medal and he himself a red ribbon, and a few months later his picture
of "Columbus before the Council" took the highest honors at Genoa, and
was bought by the Government.

During almost all the years of his triumphal progress he lived alone.
So seldom was he seen outside of his studio that many of his brother
painters were convinced that he never spent more than a few days at a
time in Paris. They would knock, and knock again, only to be told by
the concierge that monsieur was out, or in London, or on the Riviera.
His studio in London and his occasional visits to Vienna, where he
shared Makart's atelier while painting a portrait of one of the
Austrian grand dukes, helped in this delusion. The truth was that he
had no thought for things outside of his art. The rewards of fame and
money never appealed to him. What enthralled him was his love of
color, of harmony, of the mastering of subtleties in composition and
mass. That the public approved of his efforts, and that juries awarded
him honors, caused him no thrill of exultation. He knew how far short
his brush had come. He was glad they liked the picture. Next time he
would do better. These triumphs ruffled his surface--as a passing wind
ruffles a deep pool.

As he grew in years there came a certain dignity of carriage, a
certain poise of bearing. The old-time courtliness of manner was
strengthened; but the sweetness of nature was still the same--a nature
that won for him friends among the best about him. Not many--only
three or four who had the privilege of knocking with three light taps
and one loud one at his door, a signal to which he always
responded--but friends whose proudest boast was their intimacy with
Adam Gregg.

The women smiled at him behind their lorgnons as they passed him
riding in the Bois, for he had never given up this form of out-door
exercise, his erect military figure, fine head and upturned mustache
lending him a distinction which attracted attention at once; but he
seldom did more than return their salutations. Sometimes he would
accept an invitation to dinner, but only on rare occasions. When he
did it was invariably heralded in advance that "Gregg was coming," a
fact which always decided uncertain guests to say "Yes" to their
hostess's invitation.

And yet he was not a recluse in the accepted sense of the word, nor
did he lead a sad life. He only preferred to enjoy it alone, or with
one or two men who understood him.

While casual acquaintances--especially those in carriages--were denied
access when he was absorbed on some work of importance, the younger
painters--those who were struggling up the ladder--were always
welcome. For these the concierge was given special instructions. Then
everything would be laid aside; their sketches gone over and their
points settled, no matter how long it took or how many hours of his
precious time were given to their service. Many of these lads--not
alone his own countrymen, but many who could not speak his
language--often found a crisp, clean bank-note in their hands when the
painter's fingers pressed their own in parting. Of only one thing was
he intolerant, and that was sham. The insincere, the presuming and the
fraudulent always irritated him; so did the slightest betrayal of a
trust. Then his dark-brown eyes would flash, his shoulders straighten,
and there would roll from his lips a denunciation which those who
heard never forgot--an outburst all the more startling because coming
from one of so gentle and equable a temperament.

During all the years of his exile no word had come from Olivia. He had
once seen Judge Colton's name in one of the Paris papers in connection
with a railroad case in which some French investors were interested,
but nothing more had met his eye.

Had he been of a different temperament he would have forgotten her and
that night in the improvised studio, but he was not constituted to
forget. He was constituted to remember, and to remember with all his
soul. Every day of his life he had missed her; never was there a night
that she was not in his thoughts before he dropped to sleep. What
would have been his career had fate brought them together before the
blight fell upon her? What intimacies, what enjoyment, what ideals
nurtured and made real. And the companionship, the instant sympathy,
the sureness of an echo in her heart, no matter how low and soft his
whisper! These thoughts were never absent from his mind.

Moreover, his life had been one of standards: the greatest painter,
the greatest picture, the finest piece of bronze. It was so when he
looked over curios at the dealer's: it was the choicest of its kind
that he must have; anything of trifling value, or anything
commonplace--he ignored. Olivia had also fixed for him a standard.
Compared to her, all other women were trite and incomplete. No matter
how beautiful they might be, a certain simplicity of manner was
lacking, or the coloring was bad, or the curve of the neck ungraceful.
All of these perfections, and countless more, made up Olivia's
personality, and unless the woman before him possessed these several
charms she failed to interest him. The inspection over and the mental
comparison at an end, a straightening of the shoulders and a knitting
of the brow would follow, ending in a far-away look in his brown eyes
and an unchecked sigh--as if the very hopelessness of the comparison
brought with it a certain pain. As to much of the life of the Quartier
about him, he shrank from it as he would from a pestilence. Certain
men never crossed his threshold--never dared.

One morning there came to him the crowning honor of his career. A new
hotel de ville was about to be erected in a neighboring city, and the
authorities had selected him to paint the great panel at the right of
the main entrance. As he threw the letter containing the proposition
on his desk and leaned back in his chair a smile of supreme
satisfaction lighted up his face. He could now carry out a scheme of
color and massing of figures which had been in his mind for years, but
which had heretofore been impossible owing to the limited area covered
by the canvases of his former orders. This space would give him all
the room he needed. The subject was to be an incident in the life of
Rochambeau, just before the siege of Yorktown. Gregg had been
selected on account of his nationality. Every latitude was given him,
and the treatment was to be distinctly his own.

It was while searching about the streets and cafés of Paris for types
to be used in the preliminary sketches for this, the supreme work so
far of his life, that he took a seat one afternoon in the early autumn
at a table outside one of the cheap cafés along the Seine. He could
study the faces of those passing, from a position of this kind. In his
coming picture there must necessarily be depicted a group of the great
Frenchman's followers, and a certain differentiation of feature would
be necessary. On this afternoon, then, he had taken his sketch-book
from his breast pocket and was about to make a memorandum of some type
that had just attracted him, when a young man in a student's cap
twisted his head to get a closer view of the work of Gregg's pencil.

An intrusion of this kind from any one but a student would have been
instantly resented by Adam. Not so, however, with the young fellow at
his elbow; these were his wards, no matter where he met them.

"Come closer, my boy," said Gregg in a low voice. "You belong to the
Quartier, do you not?"

"Yes."

"Are you English?"

"No, an American. I am from Maryland."

"From Maryland, you say!" exclaimed Adam with a sudden start, closing
his sketch-book and slipping it into his pocket. The name always
brought with it a certain rush of blood to his cheek--why, he could
never tell. "How long have you been in Paris, my lad?" He had moved
back now so that the stranger could find a seat beside him.

"Only a few months, sir. I was in London for a time and then came over
here. I'm working at Julian's"--and the young fellow squeezed himself
into the chair Adam had pulled out for him.

"Are you from one of the cities?"

"No, from Montgomery County, sir."

"That's next to Frederick, isn't it?"

"Yes, sir."

Both question and answer set his pulses to beating. Instantly there
rushed into his mind the picture he never forgot--the figure in white
standing at the head of the porch steps. He recalled the long curl
that lay next her throat, the light in her eyes, the warm pressure of
her hand; the wealth of bursting blossoms, their perfume filling the
spring air. How many years had passed since he had ridden through
those Maryland orchards!

For some minutes Adam sat perfectly still, his eyes fixed on the line
of trees fringing the parapet of the Seine. The boy kept silent; it
was for the older man to speak first again. Soon an overwhelming,
irresistible desire to break through the reserve of years surged over
the painter. He could ask this lad questions he had never asked any
one before--not that he had ever had an opportunity, for he had seen
no one who knew, and he had determined never to write. Here was his
chance.

"Perhaps you can tell me about some of the old residents. I visited
your part of the State many years ago--in the spring, I remember--and
met a few of the people. What has become of Major Dorsey, Mr. Talbot
and"--there was a slight pause--"and Judge Colton?"

"I don't know, sir. I've heard my father speak of them, but I never
saw any of them except Judge Colton. He used to stay at our house when
he held court. He lived up in Frederick County--a thin, solemn-looking
man, with white hair. He's dead now."

Gregg's fingers tightened convulsively. "Judge Colton dead! Are you
sure?"

"Yes--died the week I left home. Father went up to his funeral. He
rode in the carriage with Mrs. Colton, he told us when he came home.
They're pretty poor up there, too; the Judge lost all his money, I
heard."

Gregg paid for his coffee, rose from his seat, shook hands with the
boy, gave him his name and address in case he ever wanted advice or
help and continued his walk under the trees overlooking the river. The
news had come to him out of the sky, and in a way that partook almost
of the supernatural. There was no doubt in his mind of the truth. The
boy's Southern accent and his description of the man who ten years
before had denounced Olivia and himself, was confirmation enough.

As he forged along, elbowing his way among the throng that crowded the
sidewalk, the scene in the garret the night he parted from Olivia took
possession of him--the one scene in all their past relation on which
he never allowed himself to dwell. He recalled the tones of her voice,
the outline of her figure crouching at his knees, the squares of
moonlight illumining the floor and the room, and now once again he
listened to the story she had poured into his ears that fatal night.

By the time he had reached his studio his mind was made up. Olivia was
in trouble, perhaps in want. In the conditions about her she must be
threatened by many dangers and must suffer many privations. The old
ungovernable longing again gripped him, and with renewed force.

What was there in life but love? he said to himself. What else
counted? What were his triumphs, his honors, his position among his
brother painters, his welcome among his equals, compared to the love
of this woman? What happiness had they brought him? Then his mind
reverted to his past life. How hungry had he been for the touch of a
hand, the caress of a cheek, the whispered talk into responsive ears.
No! there was nothing--nothing but love! Everything else was but the
ashes of a bitter fruit.

He must see Olivia, and at once; the long wait was over now. What her
attitude of mind might be made no difference, or what her feeling
towards him for deserting her on that terrible night. To-day she was
unprotected, perhaps in want. To help her was a matter of honor.

With these thoughts crowding out every other, and with the impetus of
the resolve hot upon him, he opened his portfolio and wrote a note,
informing the committee in charge of the Rochambeau picture of his
sudden departure for America and the consequent impossibility of
executing the commission with which they had honored him.

Three days later, with a new joy surging through his veins, he set
sail for home.



IV


Again Adam drew rein and looked over the brown hills of Maryland. No
wealth of bursting blossoms greeted him; the trees were bare of
leaves, their naked branches shivering in the keen November wind; in
the dips of the uneven roads the water lay in pools; above hung a
dull, gray sky telling of the coming cold; long lines of crows were
flying southward, while here and there a deserted cabin showed the
havoc the years of war had wrought--a havoc which had spared neither
friend nor foe.

None of these things disturbed Adam nor checked the flow of his
spirits. The cold would not reach his heart; there was a welcome
ahead--of eye and hand and heart. No word of him had reached her ears.
If she had forgiven him, thought of him at all, it was as across the
sea in some unknown land. Doubtless she still believed he had
forgotten her and their early days. This would make the surprise he
held in store for her all the more joyous.

As he neared the brow of the hill he began to con over in his mind the
exact words he would use when he was ushered into her presence. He
would pretend at first to be a wayfarer and ask for a night's lodging,
or, perhaps, it might be best to inquire for young Phil, who must now
be a great strapping lad. Then he began thinking out other surprises.
Of course she would know him--know him before he opened his lips. How
foolish, then, the pretence of deceiving her. What was really more
important was the way in which he would enter the house; some care
must therefore be exercised. If he should approach by the rear and
meet either Dinah or old Bundy, who must still be alive, of course
they would recognize him at once before he could caution them, the
back door being near the old kitchen. The best way would be to signal
Bundy and call to him before the old man could fully identify him. He
could then open the door softly and step in front of her.

Perhaps another good way would be to leave his horse in the stable,
and wait until it grew quite dark--the twilight was already
gathering--watch the lights being lit, and in this way discover in
which room she was sitting. Then he would creep under the window and
sing the old song they had listened to so often together, "Weep no
mo', me lady." She would know then who had come all these miles to see
her!

Soon his mind ran riot over the gown she would wear; how her hair
would be dressed--would she still be the same slight, graceful woman,
or had the years left their mark upon her? The eyes would be the same,
he knew, and the lips and dazzling teeth; and she would greet him with
that old fearless look in her face--courage and gentleness
combined--but would there be any lines about the dear mouth and under
the eyes? If so would she be willing to let him smooth them out? She
was free now! Both were--free to come and go without restraint. What
would he not do for her! All her future and his own would hereafter be
linked together. His life, his triumphs, his honors--everything would
be hers!

As these thoughts filled his mind something of the spring and buoyancy
of his earlier youth came back to him. He could hardly restrain
himself from shouting out in glee as he had done in the old days when
they had scampered through the woods together. With each familiar spot
his enthusiasm increased. There was the brook where they fished that
morning for gudgeons, when little Phil came so near falling into the
water; and there was the turn of the road that led to the
school-house; and the little cabin near the spring. It would not be
long now before he looked into her eyes!

The few friends who knew him as a grave and thoughtful man of purpose
and achievement would never have recognized him could they have
watched his face as he sat astride his horse, his whole body quivering
with expectancy, the hope that had lain dormant so long awake once
more. Now it was his turn to be glad.

He had reached the hill. Another moment and he would pass the mass of
evergreens to the left, and then the quaint dormer-windows and
chimneys of Derwood Manor would greet him.

At the bend of the road, on the very verge of the hill, he checked
his horse so suddenly as almost to throw him back on his haunches. A
sudden chill seized him, followed by a rush that sent the blood
tingling to the roots of his hair. Then he stood up in his stirrups as
if to see the better.

Below, against the background of ragged trees, stood two gaunt
chimneys. All about was blackened grass and half-burned timbers.

Derwood Manor had been burned to the ground!

Staggered by the sight, almost reeling from the saddle, he drove the
spurs into his horse, dashed through the ruined gate, and drew rein at
the one unburned cabin. A young negro woman stood in the door.

For an instant he could hardly trust himself to speak.

"I am Mr. Gregg," he said in a choking voice, "and was here ten years
ago. When did this happen?" and he pointed to the blackened ruins. He
had thrown himself from his saddle and stood looking into her face,
the bridle in his hand.

"In de summer time--las' August, I think."

"Where's your mistress? Was she here when the house was burned?"

"I ain't got no mist'ess--not now. Oh, you mean de young mist'ess what
used to lib here? Aunt Dinah cooked for 'em--she b'longed to 'em."

"Yes, yes," urged Gregg.

"She's daid!"

"My God! Not when the house was burned?"

"No, she warn't here. She was down in Baltimo'--she went dar after de
Jedge died. But she's daid, fo' sho', 'cause Aunt Dinah was wid her,
and she tol' me."

Adam dropped upon a bench outside the door of the cabin and began
passing his hand nervously over his forehead as if he would relieve a
pain he could not locate. A cold sweat stood on his brow; his knees
shook.

The woman kept her eyes on him. Such incidents were not uncommon.
Almost every day strangers on their way South had passed her cabin,
looking for friends they would never see again--a woman for her
husband; a mother for her son; a father for his children. Unknown
graves and burned homes could be found all the way to the Potomac and
beyond. This strong man who seemed to be an officer, was like all the
others.

For some minutes Adam sat with his head in his hand; his elbows on his
knees, the bridle still hooked over his wrist. Hot tears trickled
between his closed fingers and dropped into the dust at his feet. Then
he raised his head, and with a strong effort pulled himself together.

"And the little boy--or rather the son--he must be grown now. Philip
was his name--what has become of him?" He had regained something of
his old poise--his voice and manner showed it.

"I ain't never yeard what 'come 'o him. Went in de army, I reck'n.
Daid, I spec'--mos' ev'ybody's daid dat was here when I growed up."

Adam turned his head and looked once more at the blackened ruins.
What further story was yet to come from their ashes?

"One more question, please. Were you here when the fire came?"

"Yes, suh, me and my husban' was both here. He ain't home to-day. We
was takin' care of de place when it ketched fire--dat's how we come to
save dis cabin. Dere warn't no water and nobody to help, and dis was
all we could do."

Again Adam bowed his head. Was there nothing left?--nothing to recall
even her smile? Then slowly, as if he feared the result:

"Was anything saved--any furniture, or--pictures--or----"

"Nothin' but dem two chairs inside dar--and dat bench what you's
settin' on. Dey was on de lawn and dat's how we come to git 'em."

For some minutes Adam sat looking into the ground at his feet, his
eyes blurred with tears.

"Thank you," was all he said.

And once more he turned his horse's head towards the North.



V


A thin, shabby little man, with stooping shoulders, hooked nose and
velvet tread, stood before the card rack in the lower corridor of the
old studio building on Tenth Street. He was scanning the names,
beginning at the top floor and going down to the basement. Suddenly
his eyes glistened:

"Second floor," he whispered to himself. "Yes, of course; I knew it
all the time--second floor," and "second floor" he kept repeating as
he helped his small body up the steps by means of the hand-rail.

The little man earned his living by obtaining orders for portraits
which he turned over to the several painters, fitting the price to
their reputations, and by hunting up undoubted old masters, rare
porcelains, curios and miniatures for collectors. He was reasonably
honest, and his patrons followed his advice whenever it was backed by
somebody they knew. He was also cunning--softly, persuasively
cunning--with all the patience and philosophy of his race.

On this morning the little man had a Gilbert Stuart for sale, and what
was more to the point he had a customer for the masterpiece: Morlon,
the collector, of unlimited means and limited wall space, would buy it
provided Adam Gregg, the distinguished portrait painter, Member of
the International Jury, Commander of the Legion of Honor, Hors
Concours in Paris and Munich, etc., etc., would pronounce it genuine.

The distinguished painter never hesitated to give his services in
settling such matters. He delighted in doing it. Just as he always
delighted in criticising the work of any young student who came to him
for counsel--a habit he had learned in his life abroad--and always
with a hand on the boy's shoulder and a twinkle in his brown eyes that
robbed his words of any sting.

When dealers sought his help he was not so gracious. He disliked
dealers--another of his foreign prejudices. Tender-hearted as he was
he generally exploded with dynamic force--and he could explode when
anything stirred him--whenever a dealer attempted to make him a party
to anything that looked like fraud. He had once cut an assumed Corot
into ribbons with his pocket-knife--and this since he had been home in
New York, fifteen years now--and had then handed the strips back to
the dealer with the remark:

"Down in the Treasury they brand counterfeits with a die; I do it with
a knife. Send me the bill."

The little man, with the cunning of his race, knew this peculiarity,
and he also knew that ten chances to one the great painter would
receive him with a frigid look, and perhaps bow him out of the door.
So he had studied out and arranged a little game. Only the day before
he had obtained an order for a portrait to be painted by the best
man-painter of his time. The picture was to be full length and to
hang in the directors' room of a great corporation. This order he had
in his pocket in writing, signed by the secretary of the board.
Confirmations were sometimes valuable.

As the little man's body neared the great painter's door a certain
pleasurable sensation trickled through him. To catch a painter on a
hook baited with an order, and then catch a great collector like
Morlon on another hook baited with a painter, was admirable fishing.

With these thoughts in his mind he rapped timidly on Adam Gregg's
door, and was answered by a strong, cheery voice calling:

"Come in!"

The door swung back, the velvet curtains parted, and the little man
made a step into the great painter's spacious studio.

"Oh, I have such a fine sitter for you!" he whispered, with his hand
still grasping the curtain. "Such a distinguished-looking man he
is--like a pope--like a doge. It will make a great Franz Hal; such a
big spot of white hair and black coat and red face. He's coming
to-morrow and----"

"Who is coming to-morrow?" asked Gregg. His tone would have swamped
any other man. He had recognized the dealer with a simple
"Good-morning," and had kept his place before his easel, the overhead
light falling on his upturned mustache and crisp gray hair.

The little man rubbed his soft, flabby hands together, and tiptoed to
where Gregg stood as noiseless as a detective approaching a burglar.

"The big banker," he whispered. "Did you not get my letter? The price
is no object. I can show you the order." He had reached the easel now
and was standing with bent head, an unctuous smile playing about his
lips.

"No, I don't want to see it," remarked Gregg, squeezing a tube on his
palette. "I can't reach it for some time, you know."

"Yes, I have told them so, but the young gentleman wants to have the
entry made on the minutes and have the money appropriated. I had great
confidence, you see, in your goodness," and the little man touched his
forehead with one skinny finger and bowed obsequiously.

"I thought you said he had white hair."

"So he has. The portrait is to hang up in the directors' room of one
of the big copper companies. The young gentleman is a member of the
banking firm that is to pay for the picture, and is quite a young man.
He buys little curios of me now and then, and he asked me whom I would
recommend to paint the director's portrait, and, of course, there is
but one painter--" and the dealer bowed to the floor. "He's coming
to-morrow afternoon at four o'clock and will stay but a moment, for
he's a very busy man. You will, I know, receive him."

Gregg made no reply. Rich directors did not appeal to him; they were
generally flabby and well fed and out of drawing. If this one had
some color in him--and the dealer knew--some of the sort of vigor and
snap that would have appealed to Franz Hal, the case might be
different. The little man waited a moment, saw that Gregg was absorbed
in some brush stroke, and stepped back a pace or two. Better wait
until the master's mind was free. Then again he could sweep his eyes
around the interior without being detected--there was no telling what
might happen: some day there might be a sale, and then it would be
just as well to know where things like these could be found. Again he
tiptoed across the spacious room, stopping to gaze at the rich
tapestries lining the walls, examining with eye-glass held close the
gold snuffboxes and rare bits of Sèvres and Dresden on the shelves of
the cabinet, and testing with his nervous fingers the quality of the
rich Utrecht velvet screening the door of an adjoining room.

Gregg kept at work, his square, strong shoulders, well-knit back and
straight limbs--a fulfilment of the promise of his youth--in
silhouette against the glare of the overhead light, its rays silvering
his iron-gray hair and the tips of his upturned mustache.

The tour of the room complete, the little man again bowed to the floor
and said in his softest voice:

"And you will receive him at four o'clock?"

"Yes, at four o'clock," answered Gregg, his eyes still on the canvas.

Again the little man's head bent low as he backed from the room. There
was no need of further talk. What Adam Gregg meant he said, and what
he said he meant. As he reached the velvet curtain through which he
had entered, he stopped.

"And now will you do something for me?"

Gregg lifted his chin with the movement of a big mastiff throwing up
his head when he scents danger. "I was waiting for that; then there is
a string to it?" he laughed.

The little man reddened to his eyebrows. The fish had not only seen
the hook under the bait, but knew who held the line.

"No, only that you come with me to Schenck's to see a portrait by
Gilbert Stuart," he pleaded. "I quite forgot--it is not often I do
forget; I must be getting old. It's to be sold to-morrow; Mr. Morlon
will buy it if you approve; he said so. I'm just from his house."

"I have a sitter at three."

"Yes, I know, but you always have a sitter. You must come--it means
something to me. I'll go and get a cab. It will not take half an hour.
It is such a beautiful Stuart. There's no doubt about it, not the
slightest; only you know Mr. Morlon, he's very exacting. He says, 'If
Mr. Gregg approves I will buy it.' These were his very words."

Gregg laid down his brushes. Little men like the one before him wasted
his time and irritated him. It was always this way--some underhand
business. Then the better side of him triumphed.

"All right!" he cried, the old sympathetic tone ringing out once more
in his voice. "Never mind about the cab; I need the air and the walk
will do me good; and then you know I can't see Mr. Morlon swindled,"
and he laughed merrily as he looked quizzically at the dealer.

       *       *       *       *       *

The entrance of the distinguished painter into the gallery of the
auctioneer with his quick, alert manner and erect, military bearing,
the Legion of Honor in his lapel, soon attracted attention. Schenck
came up and shook Gregg's hands cordially, repeating his name aloud so
that every one could hear it--especially the prospective buyers, some
of whom gazed after him, remarking to their fellows, as they shielded
their lips with their catalogues: "That's Gregg!"--a name which needed
no further explanation.

"I have come to look at a Stuart that Mr. Morlon wants to buy if it is
genuine," said Gregg. "Tell me what you know about it. Where did it
come from?"

"I don't know; it was left on storage and is to be sold for expenses."

"Is it to be sold to the highest bidder?"

"No, at private sale."

"Where is it?"

"There--behind you."

Gregg turned and caught his breath.

Before him was a portrait of a young woman in an old-fashioned gown,
her golden hair enshrining a face of marvellous beauty, one long curl
straying down a shoulder of exquisite mould and finish, the whole
relieved by a background of blossoms held together in a quaint
earthen jar.

Strong man as he was, the shock almost overcame him. He reached out
his hand and grasped the back of a chair. Tears welled up in his eyes.

The auctioneer had been watching him closely.

"You seem to like it, Mr. Gregg."

"Yes," answered Adam in restrained, measured tones. "Yes, very much.
But you have been misinformed; it is not by Gilbert Stuart. It is by a
man I know, I saw him paint it. Tell Mr. Morlon so. Send it to my
studio, please, and credit this gentleman with the commission--I'll
buy it for old association's sake."

That night, when it grew quite dark, he took the portrait from where
the cartman had left it in his studio with its face to the wall--never
again would it suffer that indignity--and placed it under his
skylight. He wanted to see what the fading light would do--whether the
changed colors would once more unlock the secrets of a soul. Again, as
in the dim shimmer of the dawn, there struggled out from the wonderful
eyes that same pleading look--the look he had seen on its face the
morning he had left Derwood Manor--as if she needed help and was
appealing to him for sympathy. Then he flashed up the circle of gas
jets, flooding the studio with light. Instantly all her joyousness
returned. Once more there shone out the old happy smile and laughing
eyes. Loosening the nails that held the canvas, he freed the portrait
from its gaudy frame, and with the remark--"It was unframed when I
kissed it last," placed it over the mantel moving some curios out of
the way so it would rest the more firmly; then he dropped into a chair
before it.

He was in the past again--twenty-five years before, living once more
the long hours in the garret with its background of blossoms; roaming
the woods; listening to the sound of her joyous laughter when she
caught little Phil to her breast. Then there rang in his ear that
terrible moan when Judge Colton denounced them both; and the sob in
her voice as she sank at his feet that night. He could catch the very
perfume of her hair and feel the hot tears on his hand. If only the
lips would open and once more whisper his name! What had sent her
back, to soothe him with her beauty?

His whole life passed in review--his hopes, his ambitions, his
struggles; the years of loneliness, of misunderstanding, and the final
triumph--a triumph made all the more bitter by a fate which had
prevented her sharing it with him. With this there arose in his mind
the picture of two gaunt chimneys outlined against a cold, gray sky;
the trees bare of leaves, the grass shrivelled and brown--and then,
like a refrain, came the long-forgotten song:

     "Weep no mo', me lady."

Raising himself to his feet he leaned over the mantel and looked long
and steadily into the eyes of the portrait.

"Olivia," he whispered--in a voice that was barely audible--"I did
not intend to be cruel. Forgive me, dear; there was nothing else to
do--it was the only way, my darling!"

He was still in his chair, the studio a blaze of light, when a brother
painter from the studio opposite, whose knock had been unheeded,
pushed open the door. Even then Gregg did not stir until the intruder
laid a hand upon his shoulder.



VI


By noon the next day half the occupants of the old studio building
came in to see the new portrait. He had not told of this one, but the
brother painter had spread the news of the "find" through the
building.

It was not the first time Adam Gregg's "finds" had been the subject of
discussion among his fellows. The sketch by Velasquez--now the pride
of the gallery that owned it--and which had been discovered by him in
a lumber-room over a market, and the Romney which had been doing duty
as a chimney-screen, had been the talk of the town for weeks.

"Looks more like a Sully than a Stuart," said the brother painter, his
eyes half closed to get the better effect. "Got all Sully's coloring."

"Stunning girl, anyway; doesn't make any difference who painted it,"
suggested another. "That kind seem to have died out. You read about
them in books, but I've never met one."

"Wonderful flesh," remarked a third with meaning in his voice. "If it
isn't by Sully it's by somebody who believed in him."

No one suspected Gregg's brush. His style had changed with the
years--so had his color: that palette had been set with the yellow,
red, and blue of sunshine, blossom and sky, and the paints had been
mixed with laughter. Nor did he tell them he himself had painted it.
This part of his life was guarded with the same care with which he
would have guarded his mother's secrets. Had he owned a shrine he
would have placed the picture over its altar that he might kneel
before it.

"These blue-eyed blondes," continued the first speaker meditatively
with his eyes on the portrait, "send a lot of men to the devil."

Gregg looked up, but made no reply. Both the tone of the man and his
words jarred on him.

"You can forget a brunette," he went on, "no matter how bewitching she
may be, but one of these peaches-and-cream girls--the blue-eyed,
red-lipped, white-skinned combination--takes hold of a fellow. This
man knew all about it--" and he waved his hand at the portrait.

"Is that all you see in it?" rejoined Gregg coldly. "Is there nothing
under the paint that appeals to you? Something of the soul of the
woman?"

"Yes, and that's just what counts in these blondes; that 'soul' you
talk about. That's what makes 'em dangerous. That's what captured
Hartman, I guess. Mrs. Bowdoin's got just that girl's coloring--not so
pretty," and he glanced at the canvas, "but along her lines. Old man
Bowdoin says he's ruined his home."

"Yes, and it's pretty rough I tell you on the old man," remarked a
third. "I saw him yesterday. The poor fellow is all broken up. There's
going to be a row, and a hot one, I hear. Pistols, divorce; the air's
blue; all sorts of things. Old fellow blusters, but he looks ten years
older."

Gregg had risen from his chair and stood facing the speaker, his brown
eyes flashing, his lips quivering. The talk had drifted in a direction
that set his blood to tingling.

"You tell me that Hartman has at last run away with Mrs. Bowdoin!" he
exclaimed angrily, his voice rising in intensity as he proceeded. "Has
he finally turned scoundrel and made an outcast of himself and of her?
I have been expecting something of the kind ever since I saw him in
Bowdoin's studio at his last reception. And do you really mean to tell
me that he has actually run off with her?"

"Well, not exactly run off--she's gone to her mother. She's only half
Bowdoin's age, you know. Hartman, of course, pooh-poohs the whole
thing."

"And he's Bowdoin's friend, I suppose you know!" Gregg continued in a
restrained, incisive tone.

"Yes, certainly, studied with him; that's where he met her so often."

Gregg began pacing the floor. Stopping short in his walk he turned and
faced the group about the fire:

"Does he realize," he burst out in a voice that rang through the room
and fastened every eye upon him--"what his cowardly weakness will
bring him? The misery it will entail; the sleepless nights, the fear,
the remorse that will follow? The outrage on Bowdoin's home, on his
children? Has he thought of the humiliation of the man deserted--the
degradation of the man who caused it? Does he know what it is to live
a life where every decent woman brands you as a scoundrel, and every
decent man looks upon you as a thief?"

The outburst astounded the room. One or two arose from their chairs
and stood looking at him in amazement. Gregg was often outspoken;
right was right with him, and wrong was wrong, and he never minced
matters. They loved him for his frankness and courage, but this
outbreak seemed entirely uncalled for by anything that had been said
or done. Surely there must be a personal side to his attitude. Had any
friend of his any such experience that he should explode so suddenly?
What made it all the more unaccountable was that he never talked
gossip, and never allowed any man to speak ill of a friend in his
presence, no matter what the cause--and Hartman was his friend. Why,
then, should he pounce upon him without proof of any kind other than
the gossip of the studios?

"Well, my dear Gregg, don't blame me," laughed the painter who had
borne the brunt of the outbreak and whom Adam had singled out to
listen to his attack. "I haven't run off with pretty Mrs. Bowdoin, or
made love to her either, have I?"

"But you still shake hands with Hartman, don't you?"

"Of course I do. I couldn't show him the door, could I? He's made an
ass of himself, but it's none of my business. They'll have to patch it
up between them. Don't get excited, Gregg, and don't forget that the
jury meets this afternoon at four o'clock in my studio."

"I will be there," replied Adam curtly, "but I cannot stay very long.
I have an appointment at four."

       *       *       *       *       *

The room was full of his brother painters when, some hours later, his
red Spanish _boina_ on his head--he always wore it when at work--Gregg
entered the studio on the floor below his own. It was the first
informal meeting of the Jury of the Academy, and an important one.
Some of the men were grouped about the fire, smoking, or lolling in
their chairs; others were stretched out on the lounges; two or three
were looking over some etchings that had been brought in by a
fellow-member. All had been awaiting Adam's arrival. Those who had
been gathered about the portrait were discussing Gregg's denunciation
of Hartman. All agreed that with their knowledge of the man's
universal kindness and courtesy that the outburst was as unaccountable
as it was astounding.

Gregg shook hands with the group, one by one, those who were reclining
rising to their feet and the others pressing forward to greet him;
then drawing out a chair at the end of the long table, he called the
meeting to order. As he took his seat a man of thirty in an overcoat,
his hat in his hand, walked hurriedly in through the open door, and
stood for a moment looking about him, a sickly, wavering expression on
his face, as if uncertain of his welcome. It was Hartman.

He was a member of the Council, and therefore privileged to attend any
meeting.

Gregg pushed back his chair and rose to his feet, a certain flash of
indignation in his eyes that few of his friends had ever seen.

"Stop where you are, Mr. Hartman," he said in low, cutting tones. "I
prefer to conduct this meeting without you."

"And I prefer to stay where I am," answered Hartman in an unsteady
voice, gazing about as if in search of some friendly eye. "I have as
much right to be at this meeting as you have," he continued, advancing
towards the pile of coats and hats.

Adam was in front of him now, his big, broad frame almost touching the
intruder. The quick, determined movement meant danger. No one had ever
seen Gregg so stirred.

"You will do as I tell you, sir! Leave the room--now--at once! Do you
hear me!"

Every man was on his feet. Those who had heard Gregg's outburst a few
hours before knew the reason. Others were entirely ignorant of the
cause of his wrath.

"You are not responsible for me or my actions. I'm a man who can----"

"Man! You are not a man, sir! You are a thief, one who steals into a
brother painter's home and robs him of everything he holds dear. Get
out of here! Go and hide yourself in the uttermost parts of the earth
where no man you ever saw will know you! Jump into the sea--destroy
yourself! Go, you leper! Savages protect their women!"

He had his fingers in Hartman's collar now and was backing him towards
the door. One or two men tried to stop him, but Gregg's voice rang out
clear:

"Keep your hands off! Out he goes, if I have to throw him downstairs.
Stand back, all of you--" and with a mighty effort he caught the
younger and apparently stronger man under the armpits and hurled him
through the open doorway.

For some seconds no one spoke. The suddenness of the attack, the
uncontrollable anger of the distinguished painter--so gentle and
forbearing always--the tremendous strength of the man; the cowering
look on Hartman's face--a look that plainly told of his guilt--had
stunned every one in the room.

Gregg broke the silence. He had locked the door on Hartman and was
again in his chair by the table, a flushed face and rumpled shirt the
only marks of the encounter.

"I owe you an apology, gentlemen," he said, adjusting his cuffs and
speaking in the same voice with which he would have asked for a match
to light his cigar. "I did not intend to disturb the meeting, but
there are some things I cannot stand. We have curs prowling around in
society, walking in and out of decent homes, trusted and believed in,
that are twice as dangerous as mad dogs. Hartman is one of them. When
they bite they kill. The only way is to shut your doors in their
faces. That I shall do whenever one crosses my path. And now, if you
will excuse me, I will ask one of you to fill my place and let me go
back to my studio. I have an appointment at four, as I told you this
morning, and I'm late."

Once in the corridor he stepped to the rail, looked over the banisters
as if in expectation of seeing the object of his wrath, and slowly
mounted the stairs to his studio. As he approached the velvet curtain
he heard through the half-closed door a heavy step. Some one was
walking about inside. Was Hartman waiting for him to renew the
conflict? he wondered. Pushing aside the curtain he stepped boldly in.

On the mat before the fire, with his back to the door, his eyes fixed
on Olivia's portrait, stood a young man he had never seen before. As
the overhead light fell on his glossy hair and over his clean-shaven
face and well-groomed body, Gregg noticed that he belonged to the
class of prosperous business men of the day. This was not only
apparent in the way his well-cut clothes fitted his slender
body--perfect in appointment, from the bunch of violets in his
button-hole to his polished shoes--but in his quick movements.

"Have I made a mistake?" the young man asked in a crisp, decisive
voice. "This is Mr. Adam Gregg, is it not? I found your door on a
crack and thought you were not far off."

"No, you haven't made a mistake," answered Adam courteously, startled
out of his mood by the bearing and kindly greeting of the stranger.
"My name is Gregg--what can I do for you?" All trace of his former
agitation was gone now.

"Well, I am here on behalf of my special partner, Mr. Eggleston, who
is also a director in one of our companies, and who had an appointment
with you at four o'clock. He is detained at the trust company's
office, and I came in his stead. The portrait, as I suppose that
little fellow--I forget his name--has told you, is to hang up in the
office of the Portage Copper Company--that's our company. We want a
full-sized portrait--big and important. Mr. Eggleston is a good deal
of a man, you know, and there's a business side to it--business side
to most everything in the Street," this came with a half-laugh. "I'll
tell you about that later. You never saw him, of course. No?--he's so
busy he doesn't get around much uptown. Fine, large, rather
imposing-looking--white hair, red face and big hands--lots of color
about him--ought to paint him, I suppose, with his hand on a globe, or
some books. I'm not posted on these things, but you'll know when you
see him. He'll be up any day next week that you say. We want it right
away, of course. Some business in that, too," and another faint laugh
escaped his lips.

All this time Gregg had been standing in front of the stranger waiting
for an opportunity to offer him his hand and tell how sorry he was to
have kept him waiting, explaining the meeting of the jury and his
being obliged to be present, but the flow of talk had continued
without a break and in a way that began to attract his attention.

"Got a nice place here," the young man rattled on, gazing about him as
he spoke; "first time I was ever in a studio, and first time, too, I
ever met a real painter in his workshop. I'm so tied down. Valuable,
these things you've got here, too--cost a lot of money. I buy a few
myself now and then. By the bye, while I was waiting for you to come
in I couldn't help looking at the pictures and things."

He had stepped closer now, his eyes boring into Gregg's as if he were
trying to read his mind. For an instant Gregg thought an extra
cocktail on the way uptown was the cause of his garrulousness.

"Of course I know it's all right, Mr. Gregg, or you wouldn't have
it--and you needn't tell me if you don't want to--maybe I oughtn't to
ask, been so long ago and everything lost track of--but you won't feel
offended if I do, will you?" He had his hand on Gregg's shoulder now,
his lips quivering, a peculiar look in his eyes. "Come across here
with me, please. No--this way, to the fireplace. Where did you get
that portrait?"

Gregg felt a sudden relief. The man wasn't drunk--it was the beauty of
the picture which had affected him. He could forgive him that,
although he felt sure the next move would be an offer to purchase it.
He had met his kind before.

"I bought it at private sale," he answered simply.

"When?"

"Yesterday."

"Who sold it to you?"

"Schenck, the auctioneer."

"Will you sell it to me?"

"No; I never sell anything of that kind."

"Not at a large price?"

"Not any price," Gregg replied in a decided tone. It was just as he
expected. These men of business gauge everything by their bank
accounts. One of them had had the impertinence to ask him to fill up a
blank check for the contents of his studio.

"Where did it come from?"

"Schenck told me he didn't know. It was held for storage. It seems to
interest you?" There was a slight tone of resentment in Gregg's voice.

"Yes, it does, more than I can tell you, more than you can
understand." His voice had lost its nervousness now.

"It reminds you of some one, perhaps?" asked Gregg. There might, after
all, be some spark of sentiment in the young man.

"Yes, it does," he continued, devouring it with his eyes. "I haven't
seen it since I was a child."

"You know it, then!" It was Gregg's turn to be surprised. "Where did
you see it, may I ask?"

"Down in Maryland, at Derwood Manor, before it was burned."

The blood mounted to Gregg's cheeks and he was about to speak. Then he
checked himself. He did not want to know of the portrait's
vicissitudes. That it was now where he could be locked up with it,
made up for everything it had come through.

"Yes, these memories are very curious," remarked Gregg in a more
gentle tone. "It reminds me also of some one I once knew. Don't you
think it is very beautiful?"

"Beautiful! _Beautiful!_ It's the most beautiful thing in the world to
me! Why, it's my own mother, Mr. Gregg!"

"You--your own mother! What's your name?"

"Philip Colton."



VII


The same poise that restrained Adam Gregg when he came suddenly upon
Olivia's portrait in the auction-room sustained him when he looked
into the eyes of the young man whom, years before, he had left as a
child at Derwood Manor.

"Are you sure?" he asked. He knew he was--he only wanted some fresh
light on the dark record. For years the book had been sealed.

"Am I sure? Why it used to be in the garret till my father died, and
then my mother brought it down into her room. I have seen her sit
before it for hours--she loved it. And once I found her kissing it.
Strange, isn't it, how a woman will regret her youth?--and yet I
always thought my mother beautiful even when her hair turned gray."

Gregg turned his head and tightened his fingers. For an instant he
feared his tears would unman him.

"If it is your mother's portrait," he said, "the picture belongs to
you, not to me. I bought it because it recalled a face I once knew,
and for its beauty. A man has but one mother, and if your own was like
this one she must be your most precious memory. I did not intend to
part with it, but I'll give it to you."

"Oh! you are very good, Mr. Gregg," burst out the young man, grasping
Adam's hand (Adam caught Olivia's smile now, flashing across his
features), "but I have no place for it--not yet. I may have later,
when I have a home of my own; that depends upon my business. I'll only
ask you to let me come in once in a while to see it."

Gregg returned the grasp heartily, declaring that his door was always
open to him at any time and the picture at his disposal whenever he
should claim it. He did not tell him he had painted it. He did not
tell him that he had known either Olivia or his father, or of his
visit ten years later. That part of his life had had a sad and bitter
end. Both of them were dead; the house in ruins--why rake among the
cinders?

       *       *       *       *       *

All that spring, in response to Adam's repeated welcomes, Philip
Colton made excuses to drop into Gregg's studio. At first to postpone
the time for Mr. Eggleston's sittings; then to invite Gregg to dinner
at his club to meet some brother financiers, which Gregg declined;
again to get his opinion on some trinkets he had bought, and still
again to bring him some flowers, he having noticed that the painter
was never without them--nor was the portrait, for that matter, Adam
always placing a cluster of blossoms or a bunch of roses near the
picture, either on the mantel beneath or on the table beside it.

Sometimes Adam when leaving his door on a crack would find that in his
absence in an adjoining studio, Colton had come and gone, the only
record of his visit being a mass of roses he himself had placed
beneath his mother's portrait. Once he surprised the young man
standing before it looking up into the eyes as if waiting for her to
speak. Incidents like these showed his better and more sympathetic
nature and drew Adam to him the closer.

And the growth of the friendship was not all on one side. Not only was
Gregg's type of man absolutely new to the young financier, but his
workshop was a never-ending surprise. The fact that neither bonds nor
stocks, nor anything connected with them, was ever discussed inside
its tapestried walls, opened up for him new vistas in life. The latest
novel might be gone into or a character in a recent play; or the
rendering of a symphony, or some fresh discovery in science, but
nothing of gain. What struck him as more extraordinary still was the
air of repose that was everywhere apparent, so different from his own
busy life, and at any hour of the day, too. This was apparent not only
in the voices, but in the attitude and bearing of the men who formed
the painter's circle of friends.

Sometimes he would find Macklin, the sculptor--up from his atelier in
the basement--buried in a chair and a book, pipe in mouth, before
Gregg's fire--had been there for hours when Phil entered. Again he
would catch the sound of the piano as he mounted the stairs, only to
discover Putney, the landscape painter, running his fingers over the
keys, while Adam stood before his easel touching his canvas here or
there; or he would interrupt old Sonheim, who kept the book-shop at
the corner, and who had known Adam for years--while he read aloud this
and that quotation from a musty volume, Adam stretched out at full
length on his divan, the smoke of his cigarette drifting blue in the
overhead light.

These restful contrasts to his own life interested and astonished him.
Since his father's death he had had few hours of real repose. While
not yet fifteen he had been thrown out into the world to earn his
bread. A successful earning, for he was already head of his firm, in
which his prospective father-in-law, Mr. Eggleston, the rich banker,
was special partner, and young Eggleston the junior member. An
honorable career, too, for the house stood high in the Street, and its
credit was above reproach in the commercial world, their company--the
Portage Copper Company, whose securities they financed--being one of
the many important mining properties in the great Northwest. All this
he owed to his own indomitable will and pluck, and to his untiring
industry--a quality developed in many another young Southerner the
victim of the war and its aftermath.

And he was always welcome.

Apart from the tie that bound them together--of which Philip was
unconscious--Adam's heart went out to the young fellow as many another
childless, wifeless man's has gone out to youth. He loved his
enthusiasms, his industry, his successes. Most of all he loved the
young man's frankness--the way in which he kept nothing back--even
his earlier escapades, many of which he should have been ashamed of.
Then again he loved the reverence with which Phil treated him, the
deference to his opinions, the acceptance of his standards. Most of
all he loved him for the memory of the long ago.

It was only when the overmastering power of money became the dominant
force--the one recognized and gloated over by Philip--that his face
grew grave. It was then that the older and wiser man, with his keen
insight into the human heart, trembled for the younger, fearing that
some sudden pressure, either of fortune or misfortune, might sweep him
off his feet. It was at these times--Philip's face all excitement with
the telling--that Adam's penetrating eyes, searching into the inner
places, would find the hard, almost pitiless lines which he remembered
so well in the father's face repeated in the son's.

There was, however, one subject which swept these lines out of his
face. That was when Phil would speak of Madeleine, the rich banker's
daughter--Madeleine with her sunny eyes and merry laugh--"Only up to
my shoulder--such a dear girl!" Then there would break over the young
man's face that joyous, irradiating smile, that sudden sparkle of the
eye and quiver of the lip that had made his own mother's face so
enchanting. On these occasions the Street and all it stood for, as
well as books and everything else, was forgotten and Madeleine would
become the sole topic. These two influences struggled for mastery in
the young man's heart; influences unknown to Philip, but clear as
print to the eye of the thoughtful man of the world who, day by day,
read his companion's mind the clearer.

As to Madeleine no subject could be more congenial.

When a young fellow under thirty has found a sympathetic old fellow of
fifty to listen to talks of his sweetheart, and when that old fellow
of fifty has found a companion with a look in his eyes of the woman he
loved and who carries in his face something of the joy he knew in
youth, it is no wonder that these two became still greater friends, or
that Philip's tread outside Adam Gregg's door was always followed by a
quick beat of the painter's heart and a warm grasp of his hand.

One afternoon Philip came in with a spring quite different from either
his nervous walk or his more measured tread--his "bank director's
step" Adam used to call it with a smile. This time he was on his toes,
his hands in the air tossing the velvet curtains aside with a swing as
he sprang inside.

"Madeleine's home from the West!" he burst out. "Now at last you'll
see her, and you've got to paint her, too. Oh, she knows all about the
portrait and how you found it; and this studio and the blossoms you
love, and everything. My letters have been full of nothing else all
winter. She's crazy to see you."

"Not any more crazy than I am to see her," laughed Adam, with his hand
on the young man's shoulder.

And so one spring morning--all beautiful things came to him on spring
mornings, Adam told her--Madeleine pushed her pretty little head
between the velvet curtains and peered in, Phil close behind her, a
bunch of violets in his button-hole.

"This is dear Adam Gregg, Madeleine," was her lover's introduction,
"and there's nobody like him, and never will be."

The girl stopped, the overhead light falling on her dainty hat and
trim figure; her black eyes in comprehensive glance taking in Adam
standing against a hazy background of beautiful things with both hands
outstretched.

"And I am so glad to be here and to know you," she said, walking
straight towards him and laying her little hands in his.

"And so am I," answered Adam. "And I know everything about you. Phil
says you can ride like the wind, and dance so that your toes never
touch the floor, and that you----"

"Yes, and so do I know every single thing about you"--here she looked
at him critically--"and you--yes, you are just as I hoped you would
be. Phil's letters have had nothing else in them since you bewitched
him and I've just been wild to get home and have him bring me here.
What a lovely place! Isn't it wonderful, Phil?... And is that the
portrait? Oh! what a beautiful, beautiful woman!"

She had left Gregg now--before he had had time to say another word in
praise of her--and was standing under the picture, her eyes gazing
into its depths. Adam kept perfectly still, completely charmed by her
dainty joyousness. He felt as if some rare bird had flown in which
would be frightened away if he moved a hair's breadth. Phil stood
apart watching every expression that crossed her happy face. He had
been waiting weeks for this moment.

"You haven't her eyes or her hair, Phil," she continued without
turning her head, "but you look at me that way sometimes. I don't know
what it is--she's happy, and she's not happy. She loved
somebody--that's it, she _loved_ somebody and her eyes follow you
so--they seem alive--and the lips as if they could speak.

"And now, Mr. Gregg, please show me every one of these beautiful
things." She had already, with her quick intuition, seen through
Adam's personality at a glance, and found out how thoroughly she could
trust him.

He obeyed as gallantly and as cheerfully as if he had been her own
age, pulling open the drawers of the cabinets, taking out this curio
and that, lifting the lid of the old Venetian wedding-chest that she
might herself pry among the velvets and embroideries; she dropping on
her knees beside it with all the fluttering joy of a child who had
come suddenly upon a box of toys; Phil following them around the room
putting in a word here and there, reminding Adam of something he had
forgotten, or calling her attention to some object hidden in a shadow
that even her quick absorbing glance had overlooked.

Once more she stopped before the portrait, her eyes drinking in its
beauty.

"Don't you love it, Mr. Gregg?"

"Yes, but I'm going to give it to your--to Philip."

"Oh! you know! do you? Yes, just say it out. We _are_ going to be
married just as soon as we can--next October is the very latest date.
I told father we were tired of waiting and he has promised me; we
would have been married this spring but for that horrid copper mine
that the deeper you go the less copper----"

"Oh, but Madeleine," protested Philip with a sudden flush in his face,
"that was some time ago; everything's all right now."

"Well, I don't know much about it; I only repeated what father said."

And then having had her fill of all the pretty things--some she must
go back to half a dozen times in her delight--especially some "ducky"
little china dogs that were "just too sweet for anything"; and having
discussed to her heart's content all the details of the coming
wedding--especially the part where Adam was to walk close behind them
on their way up the aisle of the church as a sort of fairy godfather
to give Phil away--the joyous little bird, followed by the happy young
lover, spread her dainty wings and flew away.

And thus it was that two new spirits were added to Adam Gregg's long
list of friends: One the young man, earnest, alert, losing no chance
in his business, awake to all the changes in the ever-shifting market,
conversant with every move of his opponents and meeting them with a
shrewdness--and sometimes, Adam thought--with a cunning far beyond his
years. The other, the fresh, outspoken, merry young girl, fluttering
in and out like a bird in her ever-changing plumage--now in hat loaded
with tea-roses, now in trim walking costume fitting her dainty figure;
now in her waterproof, her wee little feet "wringing wet" she would
tell Adam with a laugh--always a welcome guest, no matter who had his
chair, or whose portrait or what work required his brush.



VIII


One afternoon, some days after Philip's return from an inspection of
the mines of the Portage Copper Company, and an hour ahead of his
usual time, the velvet curtain was pushed aside and the young man
walked in. Not only did he move with his most important "bank
director's step," but he brought with him an air of responsibility
only seen in magnates who control the destinies of corporations and
the savings of their stockholders.

"What's the matter, Phil?" asked Adam with a laugh. "Have they made
you president of the Stock Exchange, or has the Government turned over
its deposits to your keeping, or has the wedding-day been set for
to-morrow?"

"Wedding-day's all right; closer than ever, but I've got something
that knocks being president of the Exchange cold. Our scheme is about
fixed up and it's to be floated next week--float anything on this
market--that's better than being president or anything else. Our
attorneys brought in the papers this morning, and they will be signed
at our office to-morrow at eleven-thirty. The Seaboard Trust Company
are going to take half the bonds and two out-of-town banks the
balance. That puts us on our legs and keeps us there, and I don't
mind telling you"--and he looked around as if fearing to be
overhead--"we've got to have this money or--Well, there's no use of my
going into that, because it's all over now, or will be when this
loan's floated. But I want to tell you that we've had some pretty
tough sledding lately--some that the old man doesn't know about."

Adam looked up; any danger that threatened Phil always enlisted his
sympathy.

"Tell me about it. I can't follow these operations. Most of them are
all Greek to me."

"Well, as I say, we've got to have money, a whole lot of it, or
there's no telling when Madeleine and I will ever be married. And the
Portage Company has got to have money; they have struck bottom so far
as their finances go and can't go on without help. God knows I've
worked hard enough over it--been doing nothing else for weeks."

"What do you float?" Adam was prepared to give him his best attention.

"One million refunding bonds--half to take up the old issue and the
balance for improvements. Our wedding comes in the 'improvements,'"
and Philip winked meaningly.

"Is there enough copper in the mine to warrant the issue?" Adam asked,
recalling Madeleine's remark about the deeper they went the less
copper there was in the mine.

"What's that got to do with it?"

"Everything, I should think. You examined it--didn't you?--and should
know."

"Yes, but nobody has asked me for an opinion. The company's engineer
attends to that."

"What do you think yourself, Phil?"

"I don't think. I'm not paid to think. The other fellow does the
thinking and I do the selling."

"What does Mr. Eggleston say?"

"He doesn't say. He isn't paid for saying. What he wants is his six
per cent, and that's what we've got to earn. This new deal earns it."

"Does the trust company know anything about the mine?"

"Why, of course, everything. Those fellows don't need a guardian.
They've got the mining engineer's sworn certificate, and they trust to
that and----"

"And to the standing of your house," Adam interrupted.

"Certainly. Why not? That's what we're in business for."

"But what do you think of it--you, remember; you--Philip Colton--are
you willing to swear that the mine is worth the money the trust
company will lend on it?"

"I make an affidavit! Not much! What I _say_ is everybody's property;
what I _think_ is nobody's business but my own. The mine _may_ strike
virgin copper in chunks and it may not. That's where the gamble comes
in. If it does the bonus stock they get for nothing will be worth
par." He was a little ashamed as he said it. He was merely repeating
what he had told his customers in advance of the issue, but they had
not returned his gaze with Adam's eyes.

"But you in your heart, Phil, are convinced that it will _not_ strike
virgin copper, aren't you? So much so that you wouldn't take
Madeleine's money, or my money, to put into it." These search-lights
of Gregg's had a way of uncovering many secret places.

Philip turned in his chair and looked at Adam. What was the matter
with the dear fellow this afternoon, he said to himself.

"Certainly not--and for two reasons: first, you are not in the Street;
and second, because I never gamble with a friend's money."

"But you gamble with the money of the innocent men and women who
believe in your firm, and who in the end buy these bonds of the trust
company, don't you?"

"Well, but what have we got to do with the bonds after we sell them?
We are not running the mine, we're only getting money for them to run
it on, and incidentally our commissions," and he smiled knowingly.
"The trust company does the same thing. This widow-and-orphan business
is about played out in the Street. The shrewdest buyers we have are
just these people, and they get their cent per cent every time. Don't
you bother your dear old head over this matter; just be glad it's
coming out all right--I am, I tell you!"

Gregg had risen from his chair and was standing over Philip with a
troubled look on his face.

"Phil," he said slowly, "look at me. From what you tell me, you can't
issue these bonds! You can't afford to do it--no honest man can!"

The young financier lay back in his chair and broke out into laughter.

"Old Gentleman," he said, as he reached up his hand and laid it
affectionately on Gregg's waistcoat--it was a pet name of his--"you
just stick to your brushes and paints and I'll stick to my
commissions. If everybody in the Street had such old-fashioned notions
as you have we'd starve to death. We've got to take risks, everybody
has. You might as well say that when a stock is going up and against
us we shouldn't cover right away to save ourselves from further loss;
or that when it's going down we shouldn't sell and saddle the other
fellow with the slump while we get from under. Now I'm going home to
tell Madeleine the good news; she's been on pins and needles for a
week."

Gregg began pacing the floor, his hands behind his back. His movements
were so unusual and his face bore so troubled a look that Philip, who
had thrown away his cigar and had picked up his hat preparatory to
leaving the room, delayed his departure.

Adam halted in front of him and now stood gazing into his face, an
expression on his own that showed the younger man how keenly he had
taken the refusal.

"I know I'm old-fashioned, Phil--I have a right to be. I come of
old-fashioned stock--so do you. All that you tell me of your father
convinces me that he was an upright man. He was severe at times, and
dominating, but he was honest. Your mother's purity and goodness shine
out here," and he pointed to the portrait. "This is your heritage, and
your only heritage--something that millions of money cannot buy, and
which you cannot sell, no matter what price is paid you for it. You,
their son"--Gregg stopped and hesitated, the words seemed to clog in
his throat--"must not--_shall not_!" (the way was clear now) "commit a
crime which would bring a blush to their cheeks if they were alive
to-day. Don't, I beseech you, my boy, lend your young manhood to this
swindle. It is infamous, it is damnable. It shall not--_cannot_ be.
You love me too well to refuse; promise me you will stop this whole
business."

Colton was astounded. In all his intercourse with Gregg he had never
seen him moved like this. He knew what had caused it. Gregg's
sedentary life, his being so much away from the business side of
things had warped his judgment and upset his reasoning powers. Not to
make commissions on a loan that the first mining expert in the country
had declared good, and which the biggest trust company in the Street
and two outside banks were willing to underwrite! Gregg was crazy!
This came of talking business to such a man. He should have confined
himself to more restful topics--topics which he really loved best.
After all, it was his fault, not Adam's.

[Illustration: "Promise me that you will stop the whole business."]

"All right, old fellow; don't let us talk any more about it," he said
in the tone he would have used to pacify a woman who had lost her
temper. "Some other time when----"

Adam resumed his walk without listening further. He saw how futile had
been his appeal and the thought alarmed him all the more.

"Put down your hat, Phil." The calmness of his voice was singularly in
contrast to the tone of the outburst. "Take your seat again. Wait
until I lock the door. I have something to say to you and we must not
be interrupted."

He turned the key, drew the heavy curtains together, and dragging his
chair opposite Phil's so that he could look squarely in his eyes, sat
down in front of him.

"My son," he began, "I am going to tell you something which has been
locked in my own heart ever since you were a boy of five. Something I
have never told you before because it only brought sorrow and
suffering to me, and I wanted only the sunny side of life for you and
Madeleine, and so I have kept still. I tell you now in the hope that
it may save you from an act you will never cease to regret.

"There comes a time in every man's life when he meets the fork in the
road. This is his crisis. One path leads to destruction, the other,
perhaps, to misery--but a misery in which he can still look every man
in the face and his God as well. You have reached it. You may not
think so, but you have. Carry out what you have told me and you are no
longer an honest man. Don't be offended. Listen and don't interrupt
me. Nothing you could say to me would hurt my heart; nothing I shall
say to you should hurt yours. I love you with a love you know not of.
I loved you when you were no higher than my knee."

Phil looked at him in amazement, and was about to speak when Adam
waved his hand.

"No, don't speak. Hear me until I have finished. Only to save the boy
she loved would I lay bare my heart as I am going to do to you now.
Turn your head! Do you see that picture? I painted it some twenty-five
years ago; you were a child then, five years old. I was younger than
you are now; full of my art; full of the promise of life. Your
father's home was a revelation to me: the comfort of it, the servants,
the luxury, the warm welcome he gave me, the way he treated me, not as
a stranger, but as a son. A few days after I arrived he left me in
charge of his home. Your mother was three years younger than I was;
you were a little fellow tugging at her skirts.

"The four weeks that followed, while your father was away and I was
painting the portrait, were to me a dream. At the end of it I awoke in
torment. I had reached the fork in my road: one path lay to perdition,
the other to a suffering that has followed me all my life. Your father
was an austere man of about my own age now; it was not a happy
union--it was as if Madeleine and I should be married. Your mother,
girl as she was, respected and honored him and had no other thought
except her duty; I saw it and tried to comfort her. The day of your
father's return home he came up into the garret which had been turned
into a studio to see the portrait. The scene that followed has always
been to me a horror. He denounced her and me. He even went so far as
to say the picture was immodest because of the gown, and in his anger
turned it to the wall. You can see for yourself how unjust was that
criticism. He found out he was wrong and said so afterward, but it did
not heal the wound. Your mother was crushed and outraged.

"That night she came up to the studio and poured out her heart to me.
I won't go over it--I cannot. There was in her eyes something that
frightened me. Then my own were opened. Down in front of me lay an
abyss; around it were the two paths. All night I paced the floor; I
laid my soul bare; I pleaded; I argued with myself. I reasoned it out
with God; I urged her unhappiness--the difference in their ages; the
harshness of the older man; her patient submission. Then there rose up
before me the sterner law--my own responsibility; the trust placed in
my hands; her youth, my youth. Gradually the mist in my mind cleared
and I saw the path ahead. There was but one road: that I must take!

"When the dawn broke I lifted the portrait from where your father had
placed it with its face against the wall; kissed it with all the
reverence a boy's soul could have for his ideal, crept down the
stairs, saddled my horse and rode away.

"Ten years later--after your father's death--I again went to Derwood
Manor--in the autumn--in November. I wanted to look into her face once
more--even before I looked into my own father's--to see the brook we
loved, the hills we wandered over, the porch where we sat and talked.
I had heard nothing of the house being in ruins, or of your mother's
death. Everything was gone! Everything--everything!"

Adam rested his head in his hands, his fingers shielding his eyes.
Philip sat looking at him in silence, his face torn with conflicting
emotions--astonishment, sympathy, an intense love for the man
predominating. Adam continued, the words coming in half-muffled tones,
from behind his hands, as if he were talking to himself, with now and
then a pause.

"You wonder, Phil, why I live alone this way--you often ask me that
question. Do you know why? It is because I have never been able to
love any other woman. She set a standard for me that no other woman
has ever filled. All my young life was bound up in her long after I
left her. For years I thought of nothing else; my only hope was in
keeping away. I would not be responsible for myself or for her if we
ever met again. She wasn't mine; she was your father's. She couldn't
be mine as long as he was alive."

He raised his head and resumed his old position, his voice rising, his
earnest, determined manner dominating his words.

"I ask you now, Phil, what would have become of you if I had left
that stain upon his name and upon yours? Who brought me to myself? She
did! How? By her confidence in me; that gave me my strength. I knew
that night, as well as I know that I am sitting here, that we could
not go on the way we had been going with safety. I knew also that it
all rested with me. For me to unsettle her love for your father
during his lifetime would have been damnable. Only one thing was
left--flight--That I took and that you must take. Turn your eyes,
Phil, and look at her. She saved me from myself; she will save you
from yourself. Do you suppose that anything but purity, goodness, and
truth ever came from out those lips? Do you think she would be
satisfied with anything else in her boy? Be a man, my son! Strangle
this temptation that threatens to stain your soul. No matter what
comes--even if you beg your bread--put this thing under your feet.
Look your God in the face!"

During the long recital Phil's mind had gone back to his childhood's
days in confirmation of the strange story. As Adam talked on, his eyes
flashing, his voice tremulous with the pathos of the story he was
pouring into the young man's astonished ears, one picture after
another rose dimly out of the listener's past: The big lounge in the
garret where his mother held him in her arms; the high window with the
light flooding the floor of the room; the jar of blossoms into which
he had thrust his little face.

He did not move when Adam finished, nor for some minutes did he speak.
At last he said in a voice that showed how deeply he had been stirred:

"It's all true. It all comes back to me now. I must have been too
young to remember you, but I remember the picture. I looked for it
everywhere after she died, but I couldn't find it. Then came the fire
and everything was swept away. Some one must have stolen it while we
were in Baltimore. And you have loved my mother all these years,
Gregg, and never told me?"

He was on his feet now and had his arm around Adam's shoulder.
"Couldn't you trust me, Old Gentleman? Don't you know how close you
are to me? Did you think I wouldn't understand? What you tell me about
your leaving her is no surprise. You wouldn't--you couldn't do
anything else. That's because you are a man and a gentleman. You are
doing such things every day of your life; that's why everybody loves
you. As to what you want me to do, don't say any more to me"--the
tears he was hiding were choking him. "Let me go home. What you have
told me of my mother, of yourself--everything has knocked me out. My
judgment has gone--I must think it all over. I know every word you
have said about the loan is true; but I haven't told you all. The
situation is worse than you think. Everything depends on
it--Madeleine--her father--all of us. If I could have found some other
plan--if you had only talked to me this way before. But I've promised
them all--they expect it. No! Don't speak to me. Don't say another
word. Let me go home." And he flung himself from the room.

Adam sat still. The confession had wrung his soul; the pain seemed
unbearable. What the outcome would be God only knew. With a quick
movement, as if seeking relief, he rose to his feet and walked to the
portrait. Then lifting his hands above his head with the movement of a
despairing suppliant before the Madonna he cried out:

"Help him, my beloved. Help him as you did me."



IX


At the offices of Philip Colton & Co., just off Wall Street, an
unusual stir was apparent--an air of expectancy seemed to pervade
everything. The cashier had arrived at his desk half an hour earlier
than usual, and so had the stock clerk and the two book-keepers. This
had been in accordance with Mr. Colton's instructions the night
before, and they had been carried out to the minute. The papers in the
big copper loan, he had told the stock clerk, were to be signed at
half-past eleven o'clock the next morning, and he wanted all the
business of the preceding day cleaned up and out of the way before the
new deal went through. This accomplished, he said to himself, Mr.
Eggleston would be able to retire a part if not all of his special
capital, and his dear Madeleine, to quote a morning journal, find a
place by the side of "one of the bright young financiers of our time."

Mr. Eggleston, in tan-colored waistcoat, white gaiters and shiny silk
hat, a gold-headed cane in one hand--the embodiment of a prosperous
man of affairs--also arrived half an hour earlier--ten o'clock,
really, an event that caused some astonishment, for not twice in the
whole year had the special partner reached his son's office so early
in the day.

Young Eggleston reached his desk a few minutes after his father. His
dress was as costly as his progenitor's, but a trifle more insistent.
The waistcoat was speckled with red; the scarf a brilliant scarlet
decorated with a horseshoe set in diamonds, and the shoes patent
leather. He was one size smaller than his father and had one-tenth of
his brains. With regard to every other measurement, however, there was
not the slightest doubt but that in a few years he would equal his
distinguished father's outlines, a fact already discernible in his
middle distance. In looking around for the missing nine-tenths of gray
matter his father had found it under Philip Colton's hat, and the
formation of the firm, with himself as special and his son as junior,
had been the result.

At half-past ten Mr. Eggleston began to be nervous. Every now and then
he would walk out into the main office, interview one of the clerks as
to his knowledge of Phil's whereabouts and return again to his private
office, where he occupied himself drumming on the desk with the end of
his gold pencil, and watching the clock. The junior had no such
misgivings--none of any kind. He had a game of polo that afternoon at
three, and was chiefly concerned lest the day's work might intervene.
The signing of similar papers had once kept him at the office until
five.

At eleven o'clock a messenger with a bank-book fastened to his waist
by a steel chain, brought a message. "The treasurer of the Seaboard,
with the company's attorney, would be at Mr. Eggleston's office," the
message read, "in half an hour, to sign the papers. Would he be sure
to have Mr. Philip Colton present." (The special's social and
financial position earned him this courtesy; most of the other
magnates had to go to the trust company to culminate such
transactions.)

The character of the message and Philip's continued delay only
increased Mr. Eggleston's uneasiness. The stock clerk was called in,
as well as one of the book-keepers. "What word, if any, had Mr. Colton
given the night before?" he asked impatiently. "What hour did he leave
the office? Did any one know of any business which could have detained
him? had any telegram been received and mislaid?"--the sum of the
replies being that neither word, letter nor telegram had been
received, to which was added the proffered information that judging
from Mr. Colton's instructions the night before that gentleman must
certainly be ill or he would have "showed up" before this.

A few minutes before half-past eleven the treasurer and his attorney
were shown into the firm's office, the former a man of sixty, with a
cold, smooth-shaven face, ferret eyes and thin, straight lips, thin as
the edges of a tight-shut clam, and as bloodless. He was dressed in
black and wore a white necktie which gave him a certain ministerial
air. His companion, the attorney, was younger and warmer looking, and
a trifle stouter, with bushy gray locks under his hat brim, and bushy
gray side-whiskers under two red ears that lay flat against his head.
He was anything but ministerial, either in deportment or language.
What he didn't know about corporation law wouldn't have been of the
slightest value to anybody--not even to a would-be attorney passing an
examination. Both men were short in their speech and incisively
polite, with a quick step-in and step-out air about them which showed
how thoroughly they had been trained in the school of Street
courtesy--the wasting of a minute of each other's valuable time being
the unpardonable sin.

"Glad to see you, Mr. Eggleston," exclaimed the treasurer, with one
finger extended, into which the special hooked his own. The official
did not see the junior partner; he dealt only with principals.

"Our attorney," he continued, nodding to his companion, "has got the
papers. Are you all ready? Where is Mr. Colton?" and he looked around.

"I'm expecting him every minute," replied the special in a nervous
tone; "but we can get along without him. My son is here to sign for
the firm."

"No, we can't get along. I want him. I have some questions to ask him;
these are President Stockton's directions."

Before Eggleston could reply the door of the private office was thrust
open and Philip stepped in.

Mr. Eggleston sprang from his chair, and a combination smile showing
urbanity, apology, and contentment, now that Phil had arrived,
overspread his features.

"We had begun to think you were ill, Colton," he said in a relieved
tone. "Anything the matter?"

"No, I stopped to see Mr. Gregg. I am on time, I believe, gentlemen,
half-past eleven, wasn't it?" and he consulted his watch. There was a
peculiar tremor in Phil's voice that made his prospective
father-in-law fasten his eyes upon him as if to learn the cause.
Colton looked as if he had been awake all night; he was pale, but
otherwise he was himself.

"Yes, you are on the minute," exclaimed the treasurer, picking up the
bundle of papers and loosening the tape that bound them together. "You
have just returned from the property, we hear. What do you think of
it?"

"We have the certificate of the mining engineer," interrupted Mr.
Eggleston in a bland tone, regaining his seat.

"Yes, I have it here," the treasurer answered, tapping the bundle of
papers. "It is your personal opinion, Mr. Colton, that we want. The
president insists upon this; he has a reason for it."

Colton stepped nearer and looked the treasurer square in the eyes.

"My personal opinion, sir," he answered in clear-cut tones, "is that
the deposit is practically exhausted. I came here to tell you so. The
engineer's report is, I think, too highly colored."

Both father and son started forward in their chairs, their eyes
glaring at Philip. They could hardly believe their senses.

"What!" burst out Mr. Eggleston--"you don't mean to say that----"

"One moment, please," interrupted the treasurer, with an impatient
wave of his hand towards Eggleston: "Do you think, Mr. Colton, that
the issue had better be deferred?"

"I do. Certainly until the mine makes a better showing."

Again Mr. Eggleston tried to interrupt and again he was waved into
silence.

"When did you arrive at this conclusion?"

"This morning. I thought differently yesterday, but I have changed my
mind. So much so that it would be impossible for me to go on with this
loan."

"Shall I take that message to the president?"

"Yes. If I have any cause to change my opinion I'll let him know. But
it is not likely I will--I'm sorry to have given you all this
trouble."

"Thank you," said the trust company's representative, rising from his
chair and extending his hand to Philip. "I might as well tell you that
we have heard similar reports and our president felt sure that you
would give him the facts. He has great confidence in you, Mr. Colton.
If he authorizes me to sign the papers after what you have said to me
I'll be back here in a few moments. Good-day, sir!" and with a grim
smile lighting his face, the treasurer nodded himself out.

Eggleston waited until the trust company's attorney had gathered up
his papers and had closed the door behind him--a mere matter of
routine with him; almost every day a transaction of this kind was
either deferred or culminated--then he swung himself around in his
revolving chair, his cheeks purple with rage, and faced Philip.

"Well, sir! what do you think of the mess you've made of this
morning's business! Do you for one instant suppose that Stockton will
go on with this deal after what you have told him?"

"If he did, sir, it would not be with my consent," answered Philip
coldly.

"Your consent! _Your consent!_ What do you know about it? Did you ever
mine a pound of copper in your life? Did you ever see a pound mined
until you made this last trip? And yet you have the effrontery to set
yourself up as an expert against one of the best men in his
profession! Do you not know that you have made not only the firm but
me ridiculous, by your stupid vacillation--and with the Seaboard, of
all trust companies! Why didn't you find out all this before you
brought these people down here?"

"It is never too late to be honest, sir."

"What do you mean by that!" snapped Eggleston.

"I mean just what I say." Philip's voice was without a tremor, low,
forceful and decisive. "The floating of these bonds on the present
condition of the mines would have been a fraud. I didn't see it in
that way at first, but I do see it now. It is done every day in the
Street, I grant you, but it will never be done again with my consent
so long as I am a member of this firm!"

Eggleston's lip curled. "You seem to have grown singularly honest
overnight, Mr. Colton," he sneered. "According to your ideas Bates,
Rankin & Co. were frauds when they floated the Imperial, and so were
Porter & King when they sold out the Morningside for two millions of
dollars."

"None of them are paying, sir, and it was dishonorable to float the
bonds." He was still on his feet, facing his prospective
father-in-law, holding him at bay really.

"What's that got to do with it?" snarled Eggleston. "They will pay
sometime. As to your honor: That's the cheap sentiment you Southern
men are always shouting. Your kind of honor won't hold water here! It
was your honor when you tried to hold on to your niggers; and it's
your honor when you murder each other in duels, and----"

"Stop, Mr. Eggleston!" said Philip, his face white as chalk, every
muscle in his body taut--"this has gone far enough. No position that
you hold towards me gives you the right to speak as you have. I have
done what was right. I could not have looked either you or Madeleine
in the face if I had done differently."

Here the door was swung back, cutting short Eggleston's reply, and a
note was passed in, the clerk making a hurried inspection of the faces
of his employers, as if to learn the cause of the disturbance.

Eggleston read it and handed it to his son, who so far had not opened
his mouth. He could reach the game in time, anyhow.

"Just as I expected!" hissed Eggleston between his teeth: "'Must
decline the loan,' he says. 'Thank Mr. Colton for his frankness.
Stockton, President.' Thanks Mr. Colton, does he! If you want my
opinion I'll tell you that by your confounded backing and filling
you've thrown over the best operation we've had since this firm was
formed. Find the money somewhere else, Mr. Colton, that I've put in,
and I'll draw out. This morning's work convinces me that no sensible
man's interests are safe in your hands."

"That will be difficult, sir, when the condition of our firm is known,
as it must be. Furthermore, it would be impossible for me to ask it.
Since I've been here I've done my best to look after your interests.
Some of our ventures, I regret to say, have been unsuccessful. Instead
of releasing your capital I shall need some fifty thousand dollars
more to carry us through. The situation is upon us and I might as well
discuss it with you now."

"We don't owe a dollar we can't pay," blurted out Eggleston, picking
up his hat and cane.

"That is true to-day, but to-morrow it may not be. The refusal of this
loan by the Seaboard will send back to us every copper stock we have
borrowed money on. They are good, better than Portage, but the banks
won't believe it. I want this additional money to tide this over."

"You won't get a dollar!"

"Then I'll notify the Exchange of our suspension at once. If we stop
now we can carry out your statement and pay every dollar we owe. If we
keep on with the market as it is we may not pay fifty cents. Which
will you do?"

"Not a dime, sir! Not a cent! Do you hear me--not one cent! You two
fools can work it out to suit yourselves. I'm through with you both!"
and he slammed the door behind him.

       *       *       *       *       *

The boys were already crying the news of the downfall of his house
when, late that afternoon, Philip pushed aside the velvet curtain and
stepped into Adam's studio. He had bought an extra on his way uptown
and held it in his hand. "Failure in Wall Street! Philip Colton & Co.
suspend!" the headlines read.

"It's all over, Gregg," he said, dropping into a chair, without even
offering the painter his hand.

"And he refused to help!" exclaimed Adam.

"Yes, not a cent! There was nothing else to do. We can pay every
dollar we owe, but it leaves me stranded. Madeleine is the worst part
of it. I did not think she'd go back on me. They are furious at her
house. I stopped there, but she wouldn't see me--nobody would. She's
wrong, and when she gets the truth she'll think differently, but it's
pretty hard while it lasts."

Adam laid his hand on Phil's shoulder and looked steadily into his
face.

"Do you regret it, Phil?" The old search-lights were sweeping right
and left again.

"Yes, all the trouble it brings and the injury to the firm and to Mr.
Eggleston, for I don't forget he's my partner. I didn't think it would
end in ruin. I bungled it badly, maybe."

"Are you sorry?"

"No, I'd do it over again!" answered Philip firmly, as he glanced at
the portrait.

Gregg tightened his grasp on Philip's shoulder. "That's the true ring,
my son!" he cried, his eyes filling with tears. "I've never loved you
as I do this minute Now you begin to live. This day marks the parting
of the roads: From this day you go forward, not back. It doesn't make
any difference what happens or what things you----"

"And you don't think Madeleine will----"

"Think Madeleine will lose her love for you! You don't know the
girl--not for one minute. Of course, everything is upside down, and of
course there'll be bad blood. Mr. Eggleston is angry, but he'll get
over it. What he has lost to-day he has made a dozen times over in his
career in a single turn in stocks, and will again. Keep your head up!
Finish your work at the office; pay every cent you owe; come back here
and let me know if anything is left, and then we'll see Madeleine.
You'll find my check-book in that desk at your elbow. I'll sign as
many checks in blank as you want and you can fill them up at your
leisure. We'll fight this thing out together and we'll win. Madeleine
stop loving you! I'll stake my head she won't!"

       *       *       *       *       *

Events move with great rapidity in the Street. When a tin case the
size of a candle-box can be brought in by two men and a million of
property dumped out on a table, an immediate accounting of assets is
not difficult. Once their value is fixed by the referee they can be
dealt to those interested as easily as a pack of cards.

By noon of the following day not only did the firm of Philip Colton &
Co. know exactly where they stood, but so did every one of the firm's
creditors: Seventy per cent cash and thirty per cent in sixty days was
the settlement. All their outside stocks had been closed out under the
rule. Philip's thorough business methods and the simplicity and
clearness with which his books had been kept made such an adjustment
not only possible, but easy. The net result was the wiping out of the
special capital of Philip's prospective father-in-law and all of his
own capital and earnings. The junior partner was not affected; his
allowance went on as usual. He did not even sell his stud; he bought
another pony. His father gave him the money; it helped the family
credit.

So far not a word had come from Madeleine. Philip had rung the bell of
the Eggleston mansion three times since that fatal morning and had
been told by the butler in frigid tones that Miss Eggleston "was not
at home." None of his notes were answered. That so sensible a girl as
Madeleine, one whose whole nature was frankness and love, could be so
cruel and so unjust was a disappointment more bitter than the failure.

"She has been lied to by somebody," broke out Philip as he paced up
and down Adam's studio, "or she is locked up where nothing can reach
her. All my notes come back unopened; the last redirected by Mr.
Eggleston himself. Neither he nor his son has been to the office
since the settlement. They leave me to sweep up after them--dirty
piece of business. Will there be any use in your seeing Mr.
Eggleston?"

Adam looked into space for a moment.

He had never met the senior. He had, out of deference to Phil, and
contrary to his habitual custom, given him preference over his other
sitters, but Eggleston had not kept his appointment and Gregg had
postponed the painting of the portrait until the following season.
Phil had made excuses, but Adam had only smiled and with the
remark--"Time enough next winter," had changed the subject.

"No. Let a young girl manage her own affairs," Adam answered in a
decided tone, "especially a girl like Madeleine." He had seen too much
misery from interfering with a young girl's heart.

"What do you advise then?"

"To let the storm blow over," Adam replied firmly.

"But you've said that for a week and I am no better off. I can't stand
it much longer, Old Gentleman. I _must_ see Madeleine, I tell you.
What can you do to help? Now--not to-morrow or next week?"

"Nothing that would be wise."

"But you promised me to go and see her the afternoon we went to
smash."

"So I did, and I'll go if you wish me to."

"When?"

"To-morrow morning. It is against my judgment to do anything until you
hear from her. A woman always finds the way. Madeleine is no
exception. She loves you too well not to. But I'll go, my boy, and
try."

"You _must_ go. I tell you I can't and won't wait. I have done nothing
I'm ashamed of. Our wedding is off, of course, until I can look around
and see what I'm going to do, but that's no reason why we can't
continue to see each other."

       *       *       *       *       *

The butler met him with a polite but decided: "Miss Eggleston is not
receiving."

"Take her that card," said Gregg. "I'll wait here for an answer."

The erect figure of the painter, his perfect address, coupled with the
air of command which always seemed a part of him, produced an
instantaneous curve in the butler's spine.

"Step into the library, sir," he said in a softer tone as he pushed
aside the heavy portières for Adam to enter.

Gregg entered the curtain-muffled room with its marble statues, huge
Sèvres vases and ponderous gold frames, swept a glance over the blue
satin sofas and cumbersome chairs in the hope of finding Madeleine
curled up somewhere among the heap of cushions, and then, hat in hand,
took up his position in front of the cheerless, freshly varnished
hearth to await that young lady's coming. What he would say or how he
would approach the subject nearest to his heart would depend on her
mental attitude. That she loved Phil as dearly as he loved her there
was no question. That she had begun to suffer for loss of him was
equally sure. A leaf from his own past told him that.

Again the butler's step was heard in the hall; there came a sound of
an opening door, and Mr. Eggleston entered.

As he approached the dealer's description of his white hair and red
face--a subject Franz Hal would have loved--came back to the painter.

Adam advanced to meet him with that perfect poise which distinguished
him in surprises of this kind. "Mr. Eggleston, is it not?"

"Yes, and whom have I the pleasure of addressing?"--glancing at the
card in his hand.

"I am Adam Gregg. We were to meet some time ago, when I was to paint
your portrait. This time I came to see your daughter Madeleine."

Mr. Eggleston's manner dropped thermometer-like from the summer heat
of graciousness to the zero of reserve: the portrait was no longer a
pleasant topic. Moreover he had always believed that the painter had
advised Philip the morning of his "asinine declination" of the trust
company's proposition.

"May I ask what for?" It was a brutal way of putting it, but the
banker had a brutal way of putting things. Generally he confounded the
person before him with the business discussed, venting upon him all
his displeasure.

"To try and have her receive Philip Colton, or at least to get her
reason for not doing so. It may be that it is due to your own
objection; if so I should like to talk the matter over with you."

"You are quite right, sir; I do object--object in the strongest
manner. I don't wish him here. I've had all I want of Mr. Colton, and
so has my daughter."

"May I ask why?"

"I don't know that it is necessary for me to discuss it with you, Mr.
Gregg."

"I am his closest friend, and have known him ever since he was five
years old."

"Then I positively decline to discuss it with you, sir, for I should
certainly say something that would wound your feelings. It is purely a
matter of business, and that you artists never understand. If you will
excuse me I will return to Mrs. Eggleston; she is an invalid, as you
have no doubt heard, and I spend the morning hour with her. I must ask
you to excuse me, sir."

       *       *       *       *       *

On his return to his studio Gregg began to pace the floor, his habit
when anything worried him. Phil was to return at three o'clock and he
had nothing but bad news for him. That his visit had only made matters
worse was too evident. Never in all his life had he been treated with
such discourtesy. Eggleston was a vulgarian and a brute, but he was
Madeleine's father, and he could not encourage her to defy him. He, of
course, wanted these two young people to meet, but not in any
clandestine way. Her father, no doubt, would soon see things
differently, for success was the foot-rule by which he measured a
man, and Phil, with his energy and honesty, would gain this in time.
Phil must wait. Everything would come right once the boy got on his
legs again. The failure had in every way been an honest one. In this
connection he recalled the remark of a visitor who had dropped into
the studio the day before and who in discussing the failure had said
in the crisp vernacular of the Street: "Bitten off more than they
could chew, but square as a brick." It was an expression new to him
but he had caught its meaning. That his fellow-brokers had this
opinion of Philip meant half the battle won. Men who by a lift of
their fingers lose or make fortunes in a din that drowns their voices,
and who never lie or crawl, no matter what the consequences, have only
contempt for a man who hides his wallet. "Hands out and everything
you've got on the table," is their creed. This done their pockets are
wide open and every hand raised to help the other fellow to his feet.

All these thoughts raced through Adam's head as he continued to pace
the floor. Now and then he would stop in his walk and look intently at
some figure in the costly rug beneath his feet, as if the solution of
his problem lay in its richly colored surface. Two questions recurred
again and again: What could he do to help? and how could he get hold
of Madeleine?

As the hours wore on he became more restless. Early that
morning--before he had gone to Madeleine's--his brush, spurred by his
hopes, had worked as if it had been inspired. Not only had the
sitter's head been blocked in with masterly strokes, but with such
fulness and power that few of them need ever be retouched--a part of
his heart, in fact, had gone into the blending of every flesh tone.
But it was all over now; his enthusiasm and sureness had fled. In
fact, he had, on his return, dropped his brushes into his ginger-jar
for his servant to clean, and given up painting for the day.

Soon he began fussing about his studio, looking over a portfolio for a
pose he needed; replacing some books in his library; adding fresh
water to the roses that stood under Olivia's portrait--gazing up into
its eyes as if some help could be found in their depths--his
uneasiness increasing every moment as the hour of Phil's return
approached.

At the sound of a quick step in the corridor--how well he knew the
young man's tread--he threw open the door and pushed aside the velvet
curtain. Better welcome the poor fellow with a smile and a cheery
word.

"Come in, Phil!" he cried--"Come--_Why, Madeleine!_"

She stood just outside the door, a heavy brown veil tied over her hat,
her trim figure half concealed by a long cloak. For an instant she did
not speak, nor did she move.

"Yes, it's I, Mr. Gregg," she sobbed. "Are you sure there's nobody
with you? Oh, I'm so wretched! I had to come: Please let me talk to
you. Father told me you had been to see me. He was furious when you
went away, and I know how he must have behaved to you." She seemed
completely prostrated. Buoyant temperaments pendulate in extremes.

He had drawn her inside now, his arms about her, holding her erect as
he led her to a seat with the same tenderness of voice and manner he
would have shown his own daughter.

"You poor, dear child!" he cried at last. "Now tell me about it. You
know how I love you both."

"Oh, Mr. Gregg, it is so dreadful!" she moaned in piteous tone as she
sank upon the cushions of the divan, Adam sitting beside her, her hand
tight clasped in his own. "I didn't think Phil would bring all this
trouble on us. I would forgive him anything but the way in which he
deceived papa. He knew there was no copper in the mine, and he kept
saying there was, and went right on speculating and using up
everything they had, and then when it was all to be found out he
turned coward and ruined everybody--and broke my heart! Oh, the
cruel--cruel--" and again she hid her face in the cushions.

"What would you think, little girl, if I told you that I advised him
to do it?" he pleaded as he patted her shoulder to quiet her.

"You couldn't do it!" Madeleine burst out in an incredulous tone,
raising herself on her elbow to look the better into his eyes. "You
_wouldn't_ do it! You are too kind."

"But I did--as much for your sake and your father's and brother's as
for his own. All the firm has lost so far is money. That can be
replaced. Had Philip not told the truth it would have been their
honor. That could never have been replaced."

And then with her hands fast in his, every thought that crossed her
mind revealed in her sweet, girlish face, Adam, his big, frank, brown
eyes looking into hers, told her the story of Philip's resolve. Not
the part which the portrait had played--not one word of that. She
would not have understood; then, too, that was Phil's secret, not his,
to tell; but the awakening of the dormant nature of an honest man,
incrusted with precedents and half-strangled in financial sophistries,
to the truth of what lay about him.

"You wouldn't want his lips to touch yours, my child, if they were
stained with a lie; nor could you have worn your wedding-gown if the
money that paid for it had been stolen. Your father will see it in the
same light some day. Then, if he had a dozen daughters he would give
every one of them to men like Philip Colton. The boy wants your help
now; he is without a penny in the world and has all his life to begin
over again. Now he can begin it clean. Get your arms around his neck
and tell him you love him and trust him. He needs you more to-day than
he will ever need you in all his life."

She had crept closer to him, nestling under his big shoulders. It
seemed good to touch him. Somehow there radiated from this man a
strength and tenderness which she had never known before: In the tones
of his voice, in the feel of his hand, in the restfulness that
pervaded his every word and gesture. For the first time, it seemed to
her, she realized what it was to have a father.

"And won't you talk to papa again, Mr. Gregg?" she pleaded in a more
hopeful voice.

"Yes, if you wish me to, but it would do no good--not now. It is not
your father this time, it's you. Will you help Phil make the fight,
little girl? You love him, don't you?"

"Oh, with all my heart!"

"Well, then, tell him so. He will be here in a few minutes."

Madeleine sprang from her seat:

"No, I must not see him," she cried in frightened tones; "I promised
my father. I came at this time because I knew he would not be here.
Let me go: We are having trouble enough. No--please, Mr. Gregg--no, I
must go."

"And what shall I tell Phil?" He dared not persuade her.

"Tell him--tell him--Oh, Mr. Gregg, you know how I love him!"

She was through the curtains and halfway down the corridor before he
could reach the door. All the light had come back to her eyes and the
spring to her step.

Adam walked to the banisters and listened to the patter of her little
feet descending the stairs to the street. Then he went back into the
studio and drew the curtains. Thank God, her heart was all right.

Once more he picked his brushes from the ginger-jar where in his
despair he had thrust them. Nothing in the situation had changed. The
fear that Madeleine had lost her love for Phil had never troubled him
for an instant. Women's hearts did not beat that way. That Phil's
future was assured once he got his feet under him was also a foregone
conclusion. What Mr. Eggleston thought about it was another matter,
and yet not a serious one. He might be ugly for a time--would be--but
that was to be expected in a man who had lost his special capital, a
son-in-law and considerable of his reputation at one blow. What had
evidently hurt the banker most was the wounding of his pride. He had
always stood well with Mr. Stockton--must continue to do so when he
realized how many of his other interests depended on his good-will and
the trust company's assistance. Phil had not told Adam this when he
went over the scene in the office the morning they closed up the
accounts, but Gregg had read between the lines. The one bright ray of
sunshine was Madeleine's refusal to break her word to her father. That
pleased him most of all.

A knock at the door interrupted his revery. It did not sound like
Phil's, but Adam had been deceived once before and he hurried to meet
him.

This time a messenger stood outside.

"A note for Mr. Adam Gregg," he said. "Are you the man?"

Adam receipted the slip, dismissed the boy and stepped to the middle
of the room under the skylight to see the better. It was from Phil.

     "I cannot reach you until late. Have just received a note
     from the Seaboard Trust Company saying Mr. Stockton wants to
     see me. More trouble for P. C. & Co., I guess. Hope for good
     news from Madeleine."

This last note filled his mind with a certain undefined uneasiness.
What fresh trouble had arisen? Had some other securities on which
money had been loaned--made prior to Phil's awakening--been found
wanting in value? He hoped the boy's past wasn't going to hurt him.

With this new anxiety filling his mind he laid down his brushes--he
had not yet touched his canvas--put on his hat and strode out into the
street. A breath of fresh air would clear his head--it always did.

For two hours he walked the pavements--up through the Park; out along
the edge of the river and back again. With every step there came to
him the realization of the parallels existing between his own life's
romance and that of Philip's. Some of these were mere creations of his
brain; others--especially those which ended in the sacrifice of a
man's career for what he considered to be right--had a certain basis
of fact. Then a shiver crept over him: For honor he had lost the woman
he loved: Was Phil to tread the same weary path and for the same
cause? And if fate should be thus cruel would he and Madeleine forget
in time and lead their lives anew and apart, or would their souls cry
out in anguish as his had done all these years, each day bringing a
new longing and each day a new pain: he in all the vigor of his
manhood and the full flower of his accomplishment and still alone and
desolate.

With these reflections, none of them logical--but all showing the
perturbed condition of his mind and his anxiety for those he loved, he
mounted the stairs of the building and pushed open the door of his
studio.

It had grown quite dark and the studio was filled with shadows. As he
crossed to the mantel--he rarely entered the room without pausing for
a moment in front of the portrait--Olivia's face, with that strange,
wan expression which the fading light always brought to view, seemed
to stand out from the frame as if in appeal, a discovery that brought
a further sinking of the heart to his already overburdened spirit.

With a quick movement, as if dreading the power of prolonged darkness,
he struck a match and flashed up the circle of gas jets, flooding the
studio with light.

Suddenly he stopped and swept his eyes rapidly around the room. Some
one beside himself was present. He had caught the sound of a slight
movement and the murmur of whispering voices. Then a low, rippling
laugh fell upon his ears--the notes of a bird singing in the dark, and
the next instant Madeleine sprang from behind a screen where she had
been hiding and threw her arms around his neck.

"Guess!" she cried, pressing his ruddy cheeks, fresh from his walk,
between her tiny palms. "Guess what's happened! Quick!"

The revulsion was so great that for the moment he lost his breath.

"No! you couldn't guess! Nobody could. Oh, I'm so happy!
_Father's--made--it--up--with--Phil!_"

"Made it up! How do you know?" he stammered.

"Phil's just left him. Come out, Phil!"

Phil's head now peered from behind the screen.

"What do you think of that, Old Gentleman?" he cried, clasping Adam's
outstretched hand.

"And there isn't any trouble, Phil, over Mr. Stockton's note?"
exclaimed Gregg in a joyous but baffled tone of voice: he was still
completely at sea over the situation.

"Trouble over what?" asked Phil, equally mystified.

"That's what I want to know. You wrote me that it meant more trouble
for your firm."

"Yes, but that was before I had seen Mr. Stockton. Then I ran across
Mr. Eggleston just as he was coming out of the trust company, and he
sent me to Madeleine--and we couldn't get here quick enough. She beat
me running up your stairs. Hasn't she told you? And you don't know
about Stockton's letter? No! Why, he has offered me the position of
head of the bond department of the trust company at a salary of ten
thousand a year, and I go to work to-morrow! Here's his letter. Let me
read you the last clause:"

"No, let me," cried Madeleine, reaching for the envelope.

[Illustration: "It is all her doing, Phil."]

"No--I'll read it," begged Phil.

"No, you won't! I'll read it myself!" burst out Madeleine, catching
the letter from Phil's hand and whirling around the room in her glee.
"Listen: 'The Trust Company needs men like you, Mr. Colton, and so
does the Street!' Isn't that lovely?"

"And that's not all, Old Gentleman!" shouted Phil. "We are going to be
married in a month. What do you think of that!"

"And Mr. Eggleston is willing!"

"_Willing!_ Why, you don't think he would offend Mr. Stockton, do
you?"

Gregg had them in his arms now--Madeleine a bundle of joyous laughter;
Phil radiant, self-contained, determined.

For a brief moment the three stood silent. A hush came over them.
Adam's head was bent, his forehead almost touching Phil's shoulder, a
prayer trembling on his lips. Then with a sudden movement he led them
to the portrait, and in an exultant tone, through which an unbidden
sob fought its way, he cried:

"Look up, my children--up into your mother's face. See the joy in her
eyes! It is all her doing, Phil."

"Oh! my beloved, now you know."

       *       *       *       *       *

The picture has never been taken from Gregg's studio. It still keeps
its place over the mantel. There is rarely a day that one of the three
does not place flowers beneath it; sometimes Madeleine and Phil
arrange them; sometimes Adam; and sometimes little blue-eyed,
golden-haired Olivia is lifted up in Gregg's strong arms so that she
may fill the jar with her own wee hands.

                    THE END



TRANSCRIBER'S NOTE:

Minor changes have been made to correct typesetters' errors; otherwise,
every effort has been made to remain true to the author's words and
intent.





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