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.
"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.
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:
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 Sevres 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?"
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.
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.
"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?"
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.
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.
"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."
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."
"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 portieres for Adam to enter.
Gregg entered the curtain-muffled room with its marble statues, huge Sevres 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.