The secret of both the suicide and the defalcation was carefully guarded from MacFarlane, who, with his daughter, went at once to Minott's house, proffering his services to the stricken widow, but nothing was withheld from Ruth. The serious financial obligations which Jack was about to undertake would inevitably affect their two lives; greater, therefore, than the loyalty he owed to the memory of his dead friend, was the loyalty which he owed to the woman who was to be his wife, and from whom he had promised to hide no secrets. Though he felt sure what her answer would be, his heart gave a great bound of relief when she answered impulsively, without a thought for herself or their future:
"You are right, dearest. These things make me love you more. You are so splendid, Jack. And you never disappoint me. It is Garry's poor little boy who must be protected. Everybody would pity the wife, but nobody would pity the child. He will always be pointed at when he grows up. Dear little tot! He lay in my arms so sweet and fresh this morning, and put his baby hands upon my cheek, and looked so appealingly into my face. Oh, Jack, we must help him. He has done nothing."
They were sitting together as she spoke, her head on his shoulder, her fingers held tight in his strong, brown hand. She could get closer to him in this position, she always told him: these hands and cheeks were the poles of a battery between which flowed and flashed the vitality of two sound bodies, and through which quivered the ecstasy of two souls.
Suddenly the thought of Garry and what he had been, in the days of his brilliancy, and of what he had done to crush the lives about him came to her. Could she not find some excuse for him, something which she might use as her own silent defence of him in the years that were to come?
"Do you think Garry was out of his mind, Jack? He's been so depressed lately?" she asked, all her sympathy in her voice.
"No, my blessed, I don't think so. Everybody is more or less insane who succumbs to a crisis. Garry believed absolutely in himself and his luck, and when the cards went against him he collapsed. And yet he was no more a criminal at heart than I am. But that is all over now. He has his punishment, poor boy, and it is awful when you think of it. How he could bring himself to prove false to his trust is the worst thing about it. This is a queer world, my darling, in which we live. I never knew much about it until lately. It is not so at home, or was not when I was a boy—but here you can take away a man's character, rob him of his home, corrupt his children. You can break your wife's heart, be cruel, revengeful; you can lie and be tricky, and no law can touch you—in fact, you are still a respectable citizen. But if you take a dollar-bill out of another man's cash drawer, you are sent to jail and branded as a thief. And it is right—looked at from one standpoint—the protection of society. It is the absence of all mercy in the enforcement of the law that angers me."
Ruth moved her head and nestled the closer. How had she lived all the years of her life, she thought to herself, without this shoulder to lean on and this hand to guide her? She made no answer. She had never thought about these things in that way before, but she would now. It was so restful and so blissful just to have him lead her, he who was so strong and self-reliant, and whose vision was so clear, and who never dwelt upon the little issues. And it was such a relief to reach up her arms and kiss him and say, "Yes, blessed," and to feel herself safe in his hands. She had never been able to do that with her father. He had always leaned on her when schemes of economies were to be thought out, or details of their daily lives planned. All this was changed now. She had found Jack's heart wide open and had slipped inside, his strong will henceforth to be hers.
Still cuddling close, her head on his shoulder, her heart going out to him as she thought of the next morning and the task before him, she talked of their coming move to the mountains, and of the log-cabin for which Jack had already given orders; of the approaching autumn and winter and what they would make of it, and of dear daddy's plans and profits, and of how long they must wait before a larger log-cabin—one big enough for two—would be theirs for life—any and every topic which she thought would divert his mind—but Garry's ghost would not down.
"And what are you going to do first, my darling?" she asked at last, finding that Jack answered only in monosyllables or remained silent altogether.
"I am going to see Uncle Arthur in the morning," he answered quickly, uncovering his brooding thoughts. "It won't do any good, perhaps, but I will try it. I have never asked him for a cent for myself, and I won't now. He may help Corinne this time, now that Garry is dead. There must be some outside money due Garry that he has not been able to collect—commissions on unfinished work. This can be turned in when it is due. Then I am going to Uncle Peter, and after that to some of the people we trade with."
Breen was standing by the ticker when Jack entered. It was a busy day in the Street and values were going up by leaps and bounds. The broker was not in a good humor; many of his customers were short of the market.
He followed Jack into his private office and faced him.
"Funeral's at one o'clock Sunday, I see," he said in a sharp voice, as if he resented the incident. "Your aunt and I will be out on the noon train. She got back this morning, pretty well bunged up. Killed himself, didn't he?"
"That is not the doctor's opinion, sir, and he was with him when he died."
"Well, it looks that way to me. He's busted—and all balled up in the Street. If you know anybody who will take the lease off Corinne's hands, let me know. She and the baby are coming to live with us."
Jack replied that he would make it his business to do so, with pleasure, and after giving his uncle the details of Garry's death he finally arrived at the tangled condition of his affairs.
Breen promptly interrupted him.
"Yes, so Corinne told me. She was in here one day last week and wanted to borrow ten thousand dollars. I told her it didn't grow on trees. Suppose I had given it to her? Where would it be now. Might as well have thrown it in the waste-basket. So I shut down on the whole business—had to."
Jack waited until his uncle had relieved his mind. The state of the market had something to do with his merciless point of view; increasing irritability, due to loss of sleep, and his habits had more. The outburst over, Jack said in a calm direct voice, watching the effect of the words as a gunner watches a shell from his gun:
"Will you lend it to me, sir?"
Arthur was pacing his private office, casting about in his mind how to terminate the interview, when Jack's shot overhauled him. Garry's sudden death had already led him to waste a few more minutes of his time than he was accustomed to on a morning like this, unless there was business in it.
He turned sharply, looked at Jack for an instant, and dropped into the revolving chair fronting his desk.
Then he said in a tone of undisguised surprise:
"Lend you ten thousand dollars! What for?"
"To clear up some matters of Garry's at Corklesville. The Warehouse matter has been closed out, so Corinne tells me."
"Oh, that's it, is it? I thought you wanted it for yourself. Who signs for it?"
"On what collateral?"
Breen leaned back in his chair. The unsophisticated innocence of this boy from the country would be amusing if it were not so stupid.
"What are you earning, Jack?" he said at last, with a half-derisive, half-humorous expression on his face.
"A thousand dollars a year." Jack had never taken his eyes from his uncle's face, nor had he moved a muscle of his body.
"And it would take you ten years to pay it if you dumped it all in?"
"Got anything else to offer?" This came in a less supercilious tone. The calm, direct manner of the young man had begun to have its effect.
"Nothing but my ore property."
"That's good for nothing. I made a mistake when I wanted you to put it in here. Glad you didn't take me up."
"So am I. My own investigation showed the same thing."
"And the ore's of poor quality," continued Breen in a decided tone.
"Very poor quality, what I saw of it," rejoined Jack.
"Well, we will check that off. MacFarlane got any thing he could turn in?"
"No—and I wouldn't ask him."
"And you mean to tell me, Jack, that you are going broke yourself to help a dead man pay his debts?"
"If you choose to put it that way."
"Put it that way? Why, what other way is there to put it? You'll excuse me, Jack—but you always were a fool when your damned idiotic notions of what is right and wrong got into your head—and you'll never get over it. You might have had an interest in my business by this time, and be able to write your check in four figures; and yet here you are cooped up in a Jersey village, living at a roadside tavern, and getting a thousand dollars a year. That's what your father did before you; went round paying everybody's debts; never could teach him anything; died poor, just as I told him he would."
Jack had to hold on to his chair to keep his mouth closed. His father's memory was dangerous ground for any man to tread on—even his father's brother; but the stake for which he was playing was too great to be risked by his own anger.
"No, Jack," Breen continued, gathering up a mass of letters and jamming them into a pigeon-hole in front of him, as if the whole matter was set forth in their pages and he was through with it forever. "No—I guess I'll pass on that ten thousand-dollar loan. I am sorry, but A. B. & Co, haven't any shekels for that kind of tommy-rot. As to your helping Minott, what I've got to say to you is just this: let the other fellow walk—the fellow Garry owes money to—but don't you butt in. They'll only laugh at you. Now you will have to excuse me—the market's kiting, and I've got to watch it. Give my love to Ruth. Your aunt and I will be out on the noon train for the funeral. Good-by."
It was what he had expected. He would, perhaps, have stood a better chance if he had read him Peter's encouraging letter of the director's opinion of his Cumberland property, and he might also have brought him up standing (and gone away with the check in his pocket) if he had told him that the money was to save his own wife's daughter and grandchild from disgrace—but that secret was not his. Only as a last, desperate resource would he lay that fact bare to a man like Arthur Breen, and perhaps not even then. John Breen's word was, or ought to be, sacred enough on which to borrow ten thousand dollars or any other sum. That meant a mortgage on his life until every cent was paid.
Do not smile, dear reader. He is only learning his first lesson in modern finance. All young men "raised" as Jack had been—and the Scribe is one of them—would have been of the same mind at his age. In a great city, when your tea-kettle starts to leaking, you never borrow a whole one from your neighbor; you send to the shop at the corner and buy another. In the country—Jack's country, I mean—miles from a store, you borrow your neighbor's, who promptly borrows your saucepan in return. And it was so in larger matters: the old Chippendale desk with its secret drawer was often the bank—the only one, perhaps, in a week's journey. It is astonishing in these days to think how many dingy, tattered or torn bank-notes were fished out of these same receptacles and handed over to a neighbor with the customary—"With the greatest pleasure, my dear sir. When you can sell your corn or hogs, or that mortgage is paid off, you can return it." A man who was able to lend, and who still refused to lend, to a friend in his adversity, was a pariah. He had committed the unpardonable sin. And the last drop of the best Madeira went the same way and with equal graciousness!
Peter, at Jack's knock, opened the door himself. Isaac Cohen had just come in to show him a new book, and Peter supposed some one from the shop below had sent upstairs for him.
"Oh! it's you, my boy!" Peter cried in his hearty way, his arms around Jack's shoulders as he drew him inside the room. Then something in the boy's face checked him, bringing to mind the tragedy. "Yes, I read it all in the papers," he exclaimed in a sympathetic voice. "Terrible, isn't it! Poor Minott. How are his wife and the poor little baby—and dear Ruth. The funeral is to-morrow I see by the papers. Yes, of course I'm going." As he spoke he turned his head and scanned Jack closely.
"Are you ill, my boy?" he asked in an anxious tone, leading him to a seat on the sofa. "You look terribly worn."
"We all have our troubles, Uncle Peter," Jack replied with a glance at Cohen, who had risen from his chair to shake his hand.
"Yes—but not you. Out with it! Isaac doesn't count. Anything you can tell me you can tell him. What's the matter?—is it Ruth?"
Jack's face cleared. "No, she is lovely, and sent you her dearest love."
"Then it's your work up in the valley?"
"No—we begin in a month. Everything's ready—or will be."
"Oh! I see, it's the loss of Minott. Oh, yes, I understand it all now. Forgive me, Jack. I did not remember how intimate you and he were once. Yes, it is a dreadful thing to lose a friend. Poor boy!"
"No—it's not that altogether, Uncle Peter."
He could not tell him. The dear old gentleman was ignorant of everything regarding Garry and his affairs, except that he was a brilliant young architect, with a dashing way about him, of whom Morris was proud. This image he could not and would not destroy. And yet something must be done to switch Peter from the main subject—at least until Cohen should leave.
"The fact is I have just had an interview with Uncle Arthur, and he has rather hurt my feelings," Jack continued in explanation, a forced smile on his face. "I wanted to borrow a little money. All I had to offer as security was my word."
Peter immediately became interested. Nothing delighted him so much as to talk over Jack's affairs. Was he not a silent partner in the concern?
"You wanted it, of course, to help out on the new work," he rejoined. "Yes, it always takes money in the beginning. And what did the old fox say?"
Jack smiled meaningly. "He said that what I called 'my word' wasn't a collateral. Wanted something better. So I've got to hunt for it somewhere else."
"And he wouldn't give it to you?" cried Peter indignantly. "No, of course not! A man's word doesn't count with these pickers and stealers. Half—three-quarters—of the business of the globe is done on a man's word. He writes it on the bottom or on the back of a slip of paper small enough to light a cigar with—but it's only his word that counts. In these mouse-traps, however, these cracks in the wall, they want something they can get rid of the moment somebody else says it is not worth what they loaned on it; or they want a bond with the Government behind it. Oh, I know them!"
Cohen laughed—a dry laugh—in compliment to Peter's way of putting it—but there was no ring of humor in it. He had been reading Jack's mind. There was something behind the forced smile that Peter had missed—something deeper than the lines of anxiety and the haunted look in the eyes. This was a different lad from the one with whom he had spent so pleasant an evening some weeks before. What had caused the change?
"Don't you abuse them, Mr. Grayson—these pawn-brokers," he said in his slow, measured way. "If every man was a Turk we could take his word, but when they are Jews and Christians and such other unreliable people, of course they want something for their ducats. It's the same old pound of flesh. Very respectable firm this, Mr. Arthur Breen & Co.—VERY respectable people. I used to press off the elder gentleman's coat—he had only two—one of them I made myself when he first came to New York—but he has forgotten all about it now," and the little tailor purred softly.
"If you had pressed out his morals, Isaac, it would have helped some."
"They didn't need it. He was a very quiet young man and very polite; not so fat, or so red or so rich, as he is now. I saw him the other day in our bank. You see," and he winked slyly at Jack, "these grand people must borrow sometimes, like the rest of us; but he never remembers me any more." Isaac paused for a moment as if the reminiscence had recalled some amusing incident. When he continued his face had a broad smile—"and I must say, too, that he always paid his bills. Once, when he was afraid he could not pay, he wanted to bring the coat back, but I wouldn't let him. Oh, yes, a very nice young man, Mr. Arthur Breen," and the tailor's plump body shook with suppressed laughter.
"You know, of course, that he is this young man's uncle," said Peter, laying his hand affectionately on Jack's shoulder.
"Oh, yes, I know about it. I saw the likeness that first day you came in," he continued, nodding to Jack. "It was one of the times when your sister, the magnificent Miss Grayson was here, Mr. Grayson." Isaac always called her so, a merry twinkle in his eye when he said it, but with a face and voice showing nothing but the deepest respect; at which Peter would laugh a gentle laugh in apology for his sister's peculiarities, a dislike of little tailors being one of them—this little tailor especially.
"And now, Mr. Breen, I hope you will have better luck," Isaac said, rising from his chair and holding out his hand.
"But you are not going, Isaac," protested Peter.
"Yes, this young gentleman, I see, is in a good deal of trouble and I cannot help him much, so I will go away," and with a wave of his pudgy hand he shut the door behind him and trotted downstairs to his shop.
Jack waited until the sound of his retreating footsteps assured the Jew's permanent departure, then he turned to Peter.
"I did not want to say too much before Mr. Cohen, but Uncle Arthur's refusal has upset me completely. I could not have believed it of him. You must help me somehow, Uncle Peter. I don't mean with your own money; you have not got it to spare—but so I can get it somewhere. I must have it, and I can't rest until I do get it."
"Why, my dear boy! Is it so bad as that? I thought you were joking."
"I tried to joke about it while Mr. Cohen was here, but he saw through it, I know, from the way he spoke: but this really is a very serious matter; more serious than anything that ever happened to me."
Peter walked to the sofa and sat down. Jack's manner and the tone of his voice showed that a grave calamity had overtaken the boy. He sat looking into Jack's eyes.
"Go on," he said, his heart in his mouth.
"I must have ten thousand dollars. How and where can I borrow it?"
Peter started. "Ten thousand dollars!" he repeated in undisguised surprise. "Whew! Why, Jack, that's a very large sum of money for you to want. Why, my dear boy, this is—well—well!"
"It is not for me, Uncle Peter—or I would not come to you for it."
"For whom is it, then?" Peter asked, in a tone that showed how great was his relief now that Jack was not involved.
"Don't ask me, please."
Peter was about to speak, but he checked himself. He saw it all now. The money was for MacFarlane, and the boy did not like to say so. He had heard something of Henry's financial difficulties caused by the damage to the "fill." He thought that this had been made good; he saw now that he was misinformed.
"When do you want it, Jack?" he resumed. He was willing to help, no matter who it was for.
"Before Monday night."
Peter drew out his watch as if to find some relief from its dial, and slipped it into his pocket again. It was not yet three o'clock and his bank was still open, but it did not contain ten thousand dollars or any other sum that he could draw upon. Besides, neither Jack, nor MacFarlane, nor anybody connected with Jack, had an account at the Exeter. The discounting of their notes was, therefore, out of the question.
"To-day is a short business day, Jack, being Saturday," he said with a sigh. "If I had known of this before I might have—and yet to tell you the simple truth, my boy, I don't know a human being in the world who would lend me that much money, or whom I could ask for it."
"I thought maybe Mr. Morris might, if you went to him, but I understand he is out of town," returned Jack.
"Yes," answered Peter in a perplexed tone—"yes—Holker has gone to Chicago and won't be back for a week." He, too, had thought of Morris and the instantaneous way in which he would have reached for his check-book.
"And you must have it by Monday night?" Peter continued, his thoughts bringing into review one after the other all the moneyed men he knew. "Well—well—that IS a very short notice. It means Monday to hunt in, really—to-morrow being Sunday."
He leaned back and sat in deep thought, Jack watching every expression that crossed his face. Perhaps Ruth was mixed up in it in some way. Perhaps their marriage depended upon it—not directly, but indirectly—making a long postponement inevitable. Perhaps MacFarlane had some old score to settle. This contracting was precarious business. Once before he had known Henry to be in just such straits. Again he consulted his watch.
Then a new and cheering thought struck him. He rose quickly from his seat on the sofa and crossed the room to get his hat.
"It is a forlorn hope, Jack, but I'll try it. Come back here in an hour—or stay here and wait."
"No, I'll keep moving," replied Jack. "I have thought of some supply men who know me; our account is considerable; they would lend it to Mr. MacFarlane, but that's not the way I want it. I'll see them and get back as soon as I can—perhaps in a couple of hours."
"Then make it eight o'clock, so as to be sure. I have thought of something else. Ten thousand dollars," he kept muttering to himself—"ten thousand dollars"—as he put on his hat and moved to the door. There he stopped and faced about—his bushy brows tightening as a new difficulty confronted him. "Well, but for how long?" That part of the transaction Jack had forgotten to mention.
"I can't tell; maybe a year—maybe more."
Peter advanced a step as if to return to the room and give up the whole business.
"But Jack, my boy, don't you see how impossible a loan of that kind is?"
Jack stood irresolute. In his mad desire to save Garry he had not considered that phase of the matter.
"Yes—but I've GOT TO HAVE IT," he cried in a positive tone. "You would feel just as I do, if you knew the circumstances."
Peter turned without a word and opened the door leading into the hall. "Be back here at eight," was all he said as he shut the door behind him and clattered down the uncarpeted stairs.
Shortly before the appointed hour Jack again mounted the three flights of steps to Peter's rooms. He had had a queer experience—queer for him. The senior member of one supply firm had looked at him sharply, and had then said with a contemptuous smile, "Well, we are looking for ten thousand dollars ourselves, and will pay a commission to get it." Another had replied that they were short, or would be glad to oblige him, and as soon as Jack left the office had called to their bookkeeper to "send MacFarlane his account, and say we have some heavy payments to meet, and will he oblige us with a check"—adding to his partner—"Something rotten in Denmark, or that young fellow wouldn't be looking around for a wad as big as that." A third merchant heard him out, and with some feeling in his voice said: "I'm sorry for you, Breen"—Jack's need of money was excuse enough for the familiarity—"for Mr. MacFarlane thinks everything of you, he's told me so a dozen times—and there isn't any finer man living than Henry MacFarlane. But, just as your friend, let me tell you to stay out of the Street; it's no place for a young man like you. No—I don't mean any offence. If I didn't believe in you myself, I wouldn't say it. Take my advice and stay out."
And so footsore and heart-sore, his face haggard from hunger, for he had eaten nothing since breakfast, his purpose misunderstood, his own character assailed, his pride humiliated, and with courage almost gone, he strode into Peter's room and threw himself into a chair.
Peter heard his step and entered from his bedroom, where he had finished dressing for dinner. The old fellow seemed greatly troubled. One glance at Jack's face told the story of the afternoon.
"You have done nothing, Jack?" he asked in a despondent tone.
"Nothing. Portman has gone to his place on Long Island, the others were out. Whom did you see?"
"Some people we do business with; some of them laughed at me; some gave me advice; none of them had any money."
"I expected it. I don't think you are quite aware of what you ask, my dear boy."
"Perhaps I am not, but I am beginning to see. It is a new experience for me. If my father had wanted the money for the same purpose for which I want this, he would not have had to drive a mile from his house before he would have had it."
"Your father lived in a different atmosphere, my boy; in another age, really. In his environment money meant the education of children, the comfort of women, and the hospitalities that make up social life."
"Well, is not that true now, among decent people?" protested Jack, his mind going back to some homes he remembered.
"No—not generally—not here in New York. Money here means the right to exist on the planet; we fight for it as we do for our lives. Your own need of this ten thousand dollars proves it. The men I tried to find this afternoon have more than they need or ever will need; that's why I called on them. If I lost it, it wouldn't matter to them, but I would never hear the last of it all the same," and a shudder ran through him.
Peter did not tell Jack that had Portman been at home and, out of friendship for him, had agreed to his request, he would have required the old fellow's name on a demand note for the amount of the loan; and that he would willingly have signed it, to relieve the boy's mind and ward off the calamity that threatened those he loved and those who loved him—not one cent of which, the Scribe adds in all positiveness, would the boy have taken had he known that the dear fellow had in any way pledged himself for its return.
For some minutes Jack sat stretched out in his chair, his body aslant; Peter still beside him. All the events of the day and night passed in review before him; Garry's face and heavy breathing; McGowan's visit and defiance; Corinne's agonized shriek—even the remembrance made him creep—then Ruth's voice and her pleading look: "The poor little boy. Jack. He has done no wrong—all his life he must be pointed at."
He dragged himself to his feet.
"I will go back to Ruth now, Uncle Peter. Thank you for trying. I know it is a wild goose chase, but I must keep moving. You will be out to-morrow; we bury poor Garry at one o'clock. I still have all day Monday. Good-night."
"Come out and dine with me, my boy—we will go to—"
"No, Ruth is worrying. I will get something to eat when I get home. Good-night!"
Jack descended Peter's stairs one step at a time, Each seemed to plunge him the deeper into some pit of despair. Before he reached the bottom he began to realize the futility of his efforts. He began to realize, too, that both he and Ruth had been swept off their feet by their emotions. MacFarlane, the elder Breen, and now Peter, had all either openly condemned his course or had given it scant encouragement. There was nothing to go new but go home and tell Ruth. Then, after the funeral was over, he would have another talk with MacFarlane.
He had reached the cool air of the street, and stood hesitating whether to cross the Square on his way to the ferry, or to turn down the avenue, when the door of Isaac Cohen's shop opened, and the little tailor put out his head.
"I have been waiting for you." he said in a measured voice. "Come inside."
Jack was about to tell him that he must catch a train, when something in the tailor's manner and the earnestness with which he spoke, made the young fellow alter his mind and follow him.
The little man led the way through the now darkened and empty shop, lighted by one gas jet—past the long cutting counter flanked by shelves bearing rolls of cloth and paper patterns, around the octagon stove where the irons were still warm, and through the small door which led into his private room. There he turned up a reading lamp, its light softened by a green shade, and motioning Jack to a seat, said abruptly, but politely—more as a request than a demand:
"I have a question to ask you, and you will please tell me the truth. How much money do you want, and what do you want it for?"
Jack bit his lip. He wanted money, and he wanted it badly, but the tailor had no right to pry into his private affairs—certainly not in this way.
"Well, that was something I was talking to Uncle Peter about," he rejoined stiffly. "I suppose you must have overheard."
"Yes, I did. Go on—how much money do you want, and what do you want it for?"
"But, Mr. Cohen, I don't think I ought to bother you with my troubles. They wouldn't interest you."
"Now, my dear young man, you will please not misunderstand me. You are very intelligent, and you are very honest, and you always say what is in your heart; I have heard you do it many times. Now say it to me."
There was no mistaking the tailor's earnestness. It evidently was not mere curiosity which prompted him. It was something else. Jack wondered vaguely if the Jew wanted to turn money-lender at a big percentage.
"Why do you want to know?" he asked; more to gain time to fathom his purpose than with any intention of giving him the facts.
Isaac went to his desk, opened with great deliberation an ebony box, took out two cigars, offered one to Jack, leaned over the lamp until his own was alight, and took the chair opposite Jack's. All this time Jack sat watching him as a child does a necromancer, wondering what he meant to do next.
"Why do I want to know, Mr. Breen? Well, I will tell you. I have loved Mr. Grayson for a great many years. When he goes out in the morning he always looks through the glass window and waves his hand. If I am not in sight, he opens the door and calls inside, 'Ah, good-morning, Isaac.' At night, when he comes home, he waves his hand again. I know every line in his face, and it is always a happy face. Once or twice a week he comes in here, and we talk. That is his chair—the one you are sitting in. Once or twice a week I go up and sit in his chair and talk. In all the years I have known him I have only seen him troubled once or twice. Then I asked him the reason, and he told me. To-day I heard you speak about some money you wanted, and then I saw that something had gone wrong. After I left he came downstairs and passed my window and did not look in. I watched him go up the street, he walked very slow, and his head was down on his chest. I did not like it. A little while ago he came back; I went out to meet him. I said, 'Mr. Grayson, what troubles you?' And he said—'Nothing, Isaac, thank you,' and went upstairs. That is the first time in all the years I know him that he answered me like that. So now I ask you once more—how much money do you want, and what do you want it for? When I know this, then I will know what troubles Mr. Grayson. There is always a woman or a sum of money at the bottom of every complication. Mr. Grayson never worries over either. I do not believe you do, but I have had many surprises in my life."
Jack had heard him through without interruption. Most of it—especially Cohen's affection for Peter—he had known before. It was the last statement that roused him.
"Well, if you must know, Mr. Cohen—it is not for myself, but for a friend."
The Jew smiled. He saw that the young man had told the truth. Peter's confidence in the boy, then, need not be shaken.
"And how much money do you need for your friend?" His eyes were still reading Jack.
"Well, a very large sum." Jack did not like the cross-examination, but somehow he could not resent it.
"But, my dear young man, will you not tell me? If you buy a coat, do you not want to know the price? If you pay for an indiscretion, is not the sum named in the settlement?"
"Ten thousand dollars."
There was no change in the Jew's face. The smile did not alter.
"And this is the money that Mr. Grayson tried to borrow for you, and failed? Is it not so?"
"And you have tried everywhere to get it yourself? All the afternoon you have been at it?" Still the same queer smile—one of confirmation, as if he had known it all the time.
Again Jack nodded. Isaac was either a mind reader or he must have been listening at the keyhole when he poured out his heart to Peter.
"Yes, that is what I thought when I saw you come in a little while ago, dragging your feet as if they were lead, and your eyes on the ground. The step and the eye, Mr. Breen, if you did but know it, make a very good commercial agency. When the eye is bright and the walk is quick, your customer has the money to pay either in his pocket or in his bank; when the step is dull and sluggish, you take a risk; when the eye looks about with an anxious glance and the step is stealthy, and then when you take the measure for the coat, both go out dancing, you may never get a penny. But that is only to tell you how I know," the tailor chuckled softly. "And now one thing more"—he was serious now—"when must you have this ten thousand dollars?"
"Before Monday night."
"In cash or something I can get cash on."
The tailor rose from his seat with a satisfied air—he had evidently reached the point he had been striving for—laid the stump of his cigar on the edge of the mantel, crossed the room, fumbled in the side pocket of a coat which hung on a nail in an open closet; drew out a small key; sauntered leisurely to his desk, all the while crooning a tune to himself—Jack following his every movement, wondering what it all meant, and half regretting that he had not kept on to the ferry instead of wasting his time. Here he unlocked a drawer, took out a still smaller key—a flat one this time—removed some books and a small Barye bronze tiger from what appeared to be a high square table, rolled back the cloth, bringing into view an old-fashioned safe, applied the key and swung back a heavy steel door. Here, still crooning his song in a low key, dropping it and picking it up again as he moved—quite as does the grave-digger in "Hamlet"—he drew forth a long, flat bundle and handed it to Jack.
"Take them, Mr. Breen, and put them in your inside pocket. There are ten United States Government bonds. If these Breen people will not lend you the amount of money you want, take them to Mr. Grayson's bank. Only do not tell him I gave them to you. I bought them yesterday and was going to lock them up in my safe deposit vault, only I could not leave my shop. Oh, you needn't look so scared. They are good," and he loosened the wrapper.
Jack sprang from his seat. For a moment he could not speak.
"But, Mr. Cohen! Do you know I haven't any security to offer you, and that I have only my salary and—"
"Have I asked you for any?" Isaac replied with a slight shrug, a quizzical smile crossing his face.
"Ah, then, we will not talk about it. You are young—you are hard-working; you left a very rich home on Fifth Avenue to go and live in a dirty hotel in a country village—all because you were honest; you risked your life to save your employer; and now you want to go into debt to save a friend. Ah—you see, I know all about you, my dear Mr. John Breen. Mr. Grayson has told me, and if he had not, I could read your face. No—no—no—we will not talk about such things as cent per cent and security. No—no—I am very glad I had the bonds where I could get at them quick. There now—do you run home as fast as you can and tell your friend. He is more unhappy than anybody."
Jack had his breath now and he had also made up his mind. Every drop of blood in his body was in revolt. Take money from a Jew tailor whom he had not seen half a dozen times; with whom he had no business relations or dealings, or even social acquaintance?
He laid the bonds back on the desk.
"I cannot take them, Mr. Cohen. I thank you most sincerely, but—no—you must not give them to me. I—"
Isaac wheeled suddenly and drew himself up. His little mouse eyes were snapping, and his face fiery red.
"You will not take them! Why?"
"I don't know—I can't!"
"I know!" he cried angrily, but with a certain dignity. "It is because I am a Jew. Not because I am a tailor—you have too much sense for that—but because I am a Jew!"
"Oh, Mr. Cohen!"
"Yes—I know—I see inside of you. I read you just as if you were a page in a book. Who taught you to think that? Not your Uncle Peter; he loves me—I love him. Who taught you such nonsense?" His voice had risen with every sentence. In his indignation he looked twice his size. "Is not my money as good as that man Breen's—who insults you when you go to him?—and who laughed at you? Have I laughed at you? Does Mr. Grayson laugh?"
Jack tried to interrupt, but the tailor's words poured on.
"And now let me tell you one thing more, Mr. John Breen. I do not give you the bonds. I give them to Mr. Grayson. Never once has he insulted me as you do now. All these years—fifteen years this winter—he has been my friend. And now when the boy whom he loves wants some money for a friend, and Mr. Grayson has none to give him, and I, who am Mr. Grayson's friend, come to help that boy out of his trouble, you—you—remember, you who have nothing to do with it—you turn up your nose and stop it all. Are you not ashamed of yourself?"
Jack's eyes blazed. He was not accustomed to be spoken to in that way by anybody; certainly not by a tailor.
"Then give them to Uncle Peter," Jack flung back. "See what he will say."
"No, I will not give them to your Uncle Peter. It will spoil everything with me if he knows about it. He always does things for me behind my back. He never lets me know. Now I shall do something for him behind his back and not let him know."
"There are no buts! Listen to me, young man. I have no son; I have no grandchild; I live here alone—you see how small it is? Do you know why?—because I am happiest here. I know what it is to suffer, and I know what it is for other people to suffer. I have seen more misery in London in a year than you will see in your whole life. Those ten bonds there are of no more use to me than an extra coat of paint on that door. I have many more like them shut up in a box. Almost every day people come to me for money—sometimes they get it—oftener they do not. I have no money for beggars, or for idlers, or for liars. I have worked all my life, and shall to the end—and so must they. Now and then something happens like this. Now do you understand?"
Again Jack tried to speak. His anger was gone; the pathos in the Jew's voice had robbed him of all antagonism, but Cohen would allow no interruptions.
"And now one thing more before I let you speak, And then I am through. In all the years I have known Mr. Grayson, this is the first time I have ever been able to help him with the only thing I have that can help him—my money. If it was five times what you want, he should have it. Do you hear? Five times!"
Isaac threw himself into his chair and sat with his chin in his hand. The last few words had come in a dry, choking whisper—as if they had been pumped from the depths of his heart.
Jack instinctively put out his hand and touched the Jew's knee.
"Will you please forgive me, Mr. Cohen—and will you please listen to me. I won't tell you a lie. I did feel that way at first—I do not now. I will take the bonds, and I thank you from the bottom of my heart for them. You will never know how much good they will do; I have hardly slept since I knew I had to get this money. I am, perhaps, too tired to think straight, but you must do something for me—you must make it right with my own conscience. I want to sign something—give you something as security. I have only one thing in the world and that is some ore property my father left me in Maryland. At present it is worthless and may always be, but still it is all I have. Let me give you this. If it turns out to be of value you can take out your loan with interest and give me the rest; if it does not, I will pay it back as I can; it may be ten years or it may be less, but I will pay it if I live."
Isaac raised his head. "Well, that is fair." His voice was again under control. "Not for me—but for you. Yes, that is quite right for you to feel that way. Next week you can bring in the papers." He picked up the bonds. "Now put these in your inside pocket and look out for them as you cross the ferry. Good-by."
Jack strode out into the night, his mind in a whirl. No sense of elation over the money had possession of him. All his thoughts were on Isaac. What manner of man was this Jew? he kept asking himself in a sort of stunned surprise, who could handle his shears like a journeyman, talk like a savant, spend money like a prince, and still keep the heart of a child? Whoever heard of such an act of kindness; and so spontaneous and direct; reading his heart, sympathizing with him in his troubles—as his friend would have done—as his own father might have done.
And with the thought of Cohen's supreme instantaneous response there followed with a rush of shame and self-humiliation that of his own narrow-mindedness, his mean prejudices, his hatred of the race, his questionings of Peter's intimacy, and his frequent comments on their acquaintance—the one thing he could never understand in his beloved mentor. Again Isaac's words rang in his ears. "Is it because I am a Jew? Who taught you such nonsense? Not your Uncle Peter—he loves me. I love him." And with them arose the vision of the man stretched to his full height, the light of the lamp glinting on his moist forehead, his bead-like eyes flashing in the rush of his anger.
As to the sacrifice both he and Ruth had just made, and it was now final, this no longer troubled him. He had already weighed for her every side of the question, taking especial pains to discuss each phase of the subject, even going so far as to disagree with MacFarlane's opinion as to the worthlessness of the ore lands. But the dear child had never wavered.
"No!—I don't care," she had answered with a toss of her head. "Let the land go if there is no other way. We can get on without it, my darling, and these poor people cannot." She had not, of course, if the truth must be told, weighed any of the consequences of what their double sacrifice might entail, nor had she realized the long years of work which might ensue, or the self-denial and constant anxiety attending its repayment. Practical questions on so large a scale had been outside the range of her experience. Hers was the spirit of Joan of old, who reckoned nothing of value but her ideal.
Nor can we blame her. When your cheeks are twin roses; your hair black as a crow's wing and fine as silk; and your teeth—not one missing—so many seed pearls peeping from pomegranate lips; when your blood goes skipping and bubbling through your veins; when at night you sleep like a baby, and at morn you spring from your bed in the joy of another day; when there are two strong brown hands and two strong arms, and a great, loving, honest heart every bit your own; and when, too, there are crisp autumn afternoons to come, with gold and brown for a carpet, and long winter evenings, the fire-light dancing on the overhead rafters; and 'way—'way—beyond this—somewhere in the far future there rises a slender spire holding a chime of bells, and beneath it a deep-toned organ—when this, I say, is, or will be, your own—the gold of the Indies is but so much tinkling brass, and Cleopatra's diadem a mere bauble with which to quiet a child.
It was not until he was nearing Corklesville that the sense of the money really came to him. He knew what it would mean to Ruth and what her eyes would hold of gladness and relief. Suddenly there sprang to his lips an unbidden laugh, a spontaneous overflow from the joy of his heart; the first he had uttered for days. Ruth should know first. He would take her in his arms and tell her to hunt in all his pockets, and then he would kiss her and place the package in her hands. And then the two would go to Corinne. It would be late, and she would be in bed, perhaps, but that made no difference. Ruth would steal noiselessly upstairs; past where Garry lay, the flowers heaped upon his coffin, and Corinne would learn the glad tidings before to-morrow's sun. At last the ghost which had haunted them all these days was banished; her child would be safe, and Corinne would no longer have to hide her head.
Once more the precious package became the dominant thought. Ten bonds! More than enough! What would McGowan say now? What would his Uncle Arthur say? He slipped his hand under his coat fondling the wrapper, caressing it as a lover does a long-delayed letter, as a prisoner does a key which is to turn darkness into light, as a hunted man a weapon which may save his life.
It did not take Jack many minutes we may be sure to hurry from the station to Ruth's home. There it all happened just as he had planned and schemed it should—even to the kiss and the hunting for the package of bonds, and Ruth's cry of joy, and the walk through the starlight night to Corinne's, and the finding her upstairs; except that the poor woman was not yet in bed.
"Who gave it to you, Jack?" Corinne asked in a tired voice.
"A friend of Uncle Peter's."
"You mean Mr. Grayson?"
There was no outburst, no cry of gratitude, no flood of long-pent-up tears. The storm had so crushed and bruised this plant that many days must elapse before it would again lift its leaves from the mud.
"It was very good of Mr. Grayson, Jack," was all she said in answer, and then relapsed into the apathy which had been hers since the hour when the details of her husband's dishonesty had dropped from his lips.
Poor girl! she had no delusions to sustain her. She knew right from wrong. Emotions never misled her. In her earlier years she and her mother had been accustomed to look things squarely in the face, and to work out their own careers; a game of chance, it is true, until her mother's marriage with the elder Breen; but they had both been honest careers, and they had owed no man a penny. Garry had fought the battle for her within the last few years, and in return she had loved him as much as she was able to love anybody but she had loved him as a man of honor, not as a thief. Now he had lied to her, had refused to listen to her pleadings, and the end had come. What was there left, and to whom should she now turn—she without a penny to her name—except to her stepfather, who had insulted and despised her. She had even been compelled to seek help from Ruth and Jack; and now at last to accept it from Mr. Grayson—he almost a stranger. These were the thoughts which, like strange nightmares, swept across her tired brain, taking grewsome shapes, each one more horrible than its predecessor.
At the funeral, next day, she presented the same impassive front. Breen and her mother rode with her in the carriage to the church, and Jack and Ruth helped her alight, but she might have been made of stone so far as she evinced either sorrow or interest in what was taking place about her. And yet nothing had been omitted by friend or foe expressive of the grief and heart-felt sorrow the occasion demanded. Holker Morris sent a wreath of roses with a special letter to her, expressing his confidence in and respect for the man he had brought up from a boy. A committee was present from the Society of Architects to which Garry belonged; half a dozen of his old friends from the Magnolia were present, Biffy among them; the village Council and the Board of Church Trustees came in a body, and even McGowan felt it incumbent upon him to stand up during the service and assume the air of one who had been especially bereft. Nor were the notices in the country and city papers wanting in respect. "One of our most distinguished citizens—a man who has reached the topmost round of the ladder," etc., etc., one editorial began.
It was only when the funeral was over, and she was once more at home, that she expressed the slightest concern. Then she laid her hand in Peter's and threw back her heavy crepe veil: "You have saved me from disgrace, Mr. Grayson," she said, in a low, monotonous voice, "and my little boy as well. I try to think that Garry must have been out of his mind when he took the money. He would not listen to me, and he would not tell me the truth. Jack is going to pay it back to-morrow, and nobody will ever know that my husband did wrong; but I couldn't let you go away without thanking you for having saved us. My stepfather wouldn't help—nobody would help but you. I don't know why you did it. It seems so strange. I had given up all hope when Jack came back last night."
Peter sat perfectly still, his hand on her wrist, where he had placed it to show by a kindly touch his sympathy for her. Not knowing what her lips would tell, he had begun to pat the back of her black glove when she started to speak, as one would quiet a child who pours out its troubles, but he stopped in amazement as she proceeded. He had not loaned her a dollar, nor had Jack, as he knew, succeeded in getting a penny, unless by a miracle he had met some one on the train who had come to his rescue.
What did the poor woman mean? Disgrace! Trouble! Garry taking money, and Jack paying it back on Monday! The horror of her husband's sudden death had undoubtedly turned her mind, distorting some simple business transaction into a crime, or she would not be thanking him for something that he had never done. This talk of Jack's could only have been a ruse to keep up her spirits and give her false strength until she had passed through the agonizing ordeal of the funeral—he accepting all her delusions as true—as one does when an insane person is to be coaxed back into a cell. These thoughts went whirling through his mind, as Peter watched her face closely, wondering what would be his course. He had not met her often, yet he could see that she was terribly changed. He noticed, too, that all through the interview she had not shed a tear. Yes—there was no question that her mind was unbalanced. The best plan would be to bring the interview to an end as quickly as possible, so she should not dwell too long on her sorrow.
"If I have done anything to help you, my dear lady," he said with gentle courtesy, rising from his chair and taking her hand again, "or can do anything for you in the future, I shall be most happy, and you must certainly let me know. And now, may I not ask you to go upstairs and lie down. You are greatly fatigued—I assure you I feel for you most deeply."
But his mind was still disturbed. Ruth and Jack wondered at his quiet as he sat beside them on the way back to MacFarlane's—gazing out of the carriage window, his clean-shaven, placid face at rest, his straight thin lips close shut. He hardly spoke until they reached the house, and then it was when he helped Ruth alight. Once inside, however, he beckoned Jack, and without a word led him alone into MacFarlane's study—now almost dismantled for the move to Morfordsburg—and closed the door.
"Mrs. Minott has just told me the most extraordinary thing, Jack—an unbelievable story. Is she quite sane?"
Jack scanned Peter's face and read the truth. Corinne had evidently told him everything. This was the severest blow of all.
"She supposed you knew, sir;" answered Jack quietly, further concealment now being useless.
"Knew what?" Peter was staring at him with wide-open eyes.
"What she told you, sir," faltered Jack.
The old man threw up his hands in horror.
"What! You really mean to tell me, Jack, that Minott has been stealing?"
Jack bent his head and his eyes sought the floor. He could hardly have been more ashamed had he himself been the culprit.
"God bless my soul! From whom?"
"The church funds—he was trustee. The meeting is to-morrow, and it would all have come out."
A great light broke over Peter—as when a window is opened in a darkened room in which one has bees stumbling.
"And you have walked the streets trying to beggar yourself, not to help MacFarlane but to keep Minott out of jail!" Amazement had taken the place of horror.
"He was my friend, sir—and there are Corinne and the little boy. It is all over now. I have the money—that is, I have got something to raise it on."
"Who gave it to you?" He was still groping, blinded by the revelations, his gray eyes staring at Jack, his voice trembling, beads of perspiration moistening his forehead.
"Isaac Cohen. He has given me ten Government bonds. They are in that drawer behind you. He overheard what I said to you yesterday about wanting some money, and was waiting for me when I went downstairs. He gave them to me because he loved you, he said. I am to give him my ore property as security, although I told him it was of no value."
Peter made a step forward, stretching out a hand as if to steady himself. His face grew white then suddenly flushed. His breath seemed to have left him.
"And Cohen did this!" he gasped—"and you for Minott! Why—why—"
Jack caught him in his arms, thinking he was about to fall.
"No! No! I'm all right," he cried, patting Jack's shoulder. "It's you!—you—YOU, my splendid boy! Oh!—how I love you!"
The following morning Jack walked into Arthur Breen's private office while his uncle was reading his mail, and laid the package containing the ten bonds on his desk. So far as their borrowing capacity was concerned, he could have walked up the marble steps of any broker's office or bank on either side of the street—that is, wherever he was known, and he was still remembered by many of them—thrust the package through the cashier's window, and walked down again with a certified check for their face value in his pocket.
But the boy had other ends in view. Being human, and still smarting under his uncle's ridicule and contempt, he wanted to clear his own name and character; being loyal to his friend's memory and feeling that Garry's reputation must be at least patched up—and here in Breen's place and before the man who had so bitterly denounced it; and being above all tender-hearted and gallant where a woman, and a sorrowing one, was concerned, he must give Corinne and the child a fair and square start in the house of Breen, with no overdue accounts to vex her except such petty ones as a small life insurance and a few uncollected commissions could liquidate.
These much-to-be-desired results could only be attained when the senior member of the firm was made acquainted with the fact that, after all, Garry's debts could be paid and his reputation saved. The money must, therefore, be borrowed of Arthur Breen & Co. His uncle would know then beyond doubt; his axiom being that the only thing that talked loud enough ever to make him listen was "money."
It was therefore with a sense of supreme satisfaction, interwoven with certain suppressed exuberance born of freedom and self-reliance, that Jack, in answer to Breen's "What's this?" when his eyes rested on the bundle of bonds, replied in an off-hand but entirely respectful manner:
"Ten United States Government bonds, sir; and will you please give me a check drawn to my order for this amount?" and he handed the astounded broker the slip of paper McGowan had given him, on which was scrawled the total of the overdue vouchers.
Breen slipped off the rubber band, spread out the securities as a lady opens a fan, noted the title, date, and issue, and having assured himself of their genuineness, asked in a confused, almost apologetic way, as he touched a bell to summon the cashier:
"Where did you get these? Did MacFarlane give them to you?"
"No—a friend," answered Jack casually, and without betraying a trace of either excitement or impatience.
"On what?" snapped Breen, something of his old dictatorial manner asserting itself.
"On my word," replied Jack, with a note of triumph, which he could not wholly conceal.
The door opened and the cashier entered. Breen handed him the bonds, gave instructions about the drawing of the check, and turned to Jack again. He was still suffering from amazement, the boy's imperturbable manner being responsible for most of it.
"And does this pay Minott's debts?" he asked in a more conciliatory tone.
"Every dollar," replied Jack.
Breen looked up. Where had the boy got this poise and confidence, he asked himself, as a flush of pride swept through him; after all, Jack was of his own blood, his brother's son.
"And I suppose now that it's you who will be doing the walking instead of Minott's creditors?" Breen inquired with a frown that softened into a smile as he gazed the longer into Jack's calm eyes.
"Yes, for a time," rejoined Jack in the same even, unhurried voice.
The clerk brought in the slip of paper, passed it to his employer, who examined it closely, and who then affixed his signature.
"If you get any more of that kind of stuff and want help in the new work, let me know."
"Thank you, sir," said Jack, folding up the precious scrap and slipping it into his pocket.
Breen waited until Jack had closed the door, pulled from a pigeon-hole a bundle of papers labelled Maryland Mining Company, touched another button summoning his stenographer, and said in a low voice to himself:
"Yes, I have it! Something is going on in that ore property. I'll write and find out."
The Board of Church Trustees met, as customary, on Monday night, but there was no business transacted except the passing of a resolution expressing its deep regret over the loss of "our distinguished fellow-townsman, whose genius has added so much to the beautifying of our village, and whose uprightness of character will always be," etc., etc.
Neither Jack nor McGowan, nor any one representing their interests, was present. A hurried glance over Garry's check and bank-books showed that the money to pay McGowan's vouchers—the exact sum—had been drawn from the fund and deposited to Garry's personal credit in his own bank in New York. Former payments to McGowan had been made in this way. There was therefore no proof that this sum had been diverted into illegitimate channels.
McGowan was paid that same Monday afternoon, Jack bringing the papers to the contractor's office, where they were signed in the presence of Murphy and his clerk.
And so the matter was closed, each and every one concerned being rejoiced over the outcome.
"Mr. Minott (it was 'Mr.' now) had a big stack of money over at his stepfather's bank," was Murphy's statement to a group around a table in one of the bar-rooms of the village. "He was in a big deal, so Mac thinks, and didn't want to haul any of it out. So when he died Mr. Breen never squawked—just went over and told the old man that Mac wanted the money and to fork out; and he did, like a good one. I seen the check, I tell ye. Oh! they're all in together. Mr. Breen's kin to them New York folks, and so is Mrs. Minott. He's her father, I hear. I think Mac shot off his mouth too quick, and I told him so, but he was so het up he couldn't keep still. Why, them fellers has got more money than they can throw away. Mac sees his mistake now. Heard him tell Mr. Breen that Mr. Minott was the whitest man he ever knowed; and you bet yer life he's right."
Nor was Murphy's eulogium the only one heard in the village. Within a week after the funeral a committee was appointed to gather funds for the placing of a stained-glass window in the new church in memory of the young architect who had designed and erected it; with the result that Holker Morris headed the subscription list, an example which was followed by many of the townspeople, including McGowan and Murphy and several others of their class, as well as various members of the Village Council, together with many of Garry's friends in New York, all of which was duly set forth in the county and New York papers; a fact which so impressed the head of the great banking firm of Arthur Breen & Co. that he immediately sent his personal check for a considerable amount, desiring, as he stated at a club dinner that same night, to pay some slight tribute to that brilliant young fellow, Minott, who, you know, married Mrs. Breen's daughter—a lovely girl, brought up in my own house, and who has now come home again to live with us.
Peter listened attentively while Jack imparted these details, a peculiar smile playing about the corners of his eyes and mouth, his only comment at the strangeness of such posthumous honors to such a man, but he became positively hilarious when Jack reached that part in the narrative in which the head of the house of Breen figured as chief contributor.
"And you mean to tell me, Jack," he roared, "that Breen has pushed himself into poor Minott's stained-glass window, with the saints and the gold crowns, and—oh, Jack, you can't be serious!"
"That's what the Rector tells me, sir."
"But, Jack—forgive me, my boy, but I have never in all my life heard anything so delicious. Don't you think if Holker spoke to the artist that Mr. Iscariot, or perhaps the estimable Mr. Ananias, or Mr. Pecksniff, or Uriah Heep might also be tucked away in the background?" And with this the old fellow, in spite of his sympathy for Jack and the solemnity of the occasion, threw back his head and laughed so long and so heartily that Mrs. McGuffey made excuse to enter the room to find out what it was all about.
With the subletting of Garry's house and the shipping of his furniture—that which was not sold—to her step-father's house, Jack's efforts on behalf of his dead friend and his family came to a close. Ruth helped Corinne pack her personal belongings, and Jack found a tenant who moved in the following week. Willing hands are oftenest called upon, and so it happened that the two lovers bore all the brunt of the domestic upheaval.
Their own packing had long since been completed; not a difficult matter in a furnished house; easy always to Ruth and her father, whose nomadic life was marked by constant changes. Indeed, the various boxes, cases, crates, and barrels containing much of the linen, china, and glass, to say nothing of the portieres, rugs and small tables, and the whole of Ruth's bedroom furniture, had already been loaded aboard a box car and sent on its way to Morfordsburg, there to await the arrival of the joyous young girl, whose clear brain and competent hands would bring order out of chaos, no matter how desolate the interior and the environment.
For these dainty white hands with their pink nails and soft palms, so wonderfully graceful over teapot or fan, could wield a broom or even a dust-pan did necessity require. Ruth in a ball gown, all frills and ruffles and lace, was a sight to charm the eye of any man, but Ruth in calico and white apron, her beautiful hair piled on top of her still more beautiful head; her skirts pinned up and her dear little feet pattering about, was a sight not only for men but for gods as well. Jack loved her in this costume, and so would you had you known her. I myself, old and wrinkled as I am, have never forgotten how I rapped at the wrong door one morning—the kitchen door—and found her in that same costume, with her arms bare to the elbows and covered with flour, where she had been making a "sally lunn" for daddy. Nor can I forget her ringing laugh as she saw the look of astonishment on my face, or my delight when she ordered me inside and made me open the oven door so that she could slide in the finished product without burning her fingers.
The packing up of their own household impedimenta complete, there came a few days of leisure—the first breathing spell that either MacFarlane or Jack, or Ruth, too, for that matter, had had for weeks. MacFarlane, in view of the coming winter—a long and arduous one, took advantage of the interim and went south, to his club, for a few days' shooting—a rare luxury for him of late years. Jack made up his mind to devote every one of his spare hours to getting better acquainted with Ruth, and that young woman, not wishing to be considered either neglectful or selfish, determined to sacrifice every hour of the day and as much of the night as was proper and possible to getting better acquainted with Jack; and the two had a royal time in the doing.
Jack, too, had another feeling about it all. It seemed to him that he had a debt of gratitude—the rasping word had long since lost its edge—to discharge; and that he owed her every leisure hour he could steal from his work. He had spent days and nights in the service of his friends, and had, besides, laid the burden of their anxieties upon her. He would pay her in return twice as many days of gladness to make up for the pain she had so cheerfully borne. What could he do to thank her?—how discharge the obligation? Every hour he would tell her, and in different ways—by his tenderness, by his obedience to her slightest wish, anticipating her every want—how much he appreciated her unselfishness, and how much better, if that were possible, he loved her for her sacrifice. Nor was there, when the day came, any limit to his devotion or to her enjoyment. There were rides over the hills in the soft September mornings—Indian summer in its most dreamy and summery state; there were theatre parties of two and no more; when they sat in the third row in the balcony, where it was cheaper, and where, too, they wouldn't have to speak to anybody else. There were teas in Washington Square, where nobody but themselves and their hostess were present, as well as other unexpected outings, in which all the rest of the world was forgotten.
The house, too, was all their own. Nobody upstairs; nobody downstairs but the servants; even the emptiness of daddy's room, so grewsome in the old days, brought a certain feeling of delight. "Just you and me," as they said a dozen times a day to each other. And then the long talks on that blessed old sofa with its cushions—(what a wonderful old sofa it was, and how much it had heard); talks about when she was a girl—as if she had ever passed the age; and when he was a boy; and of what they both thought and did in that blissful state of innocence and inexperience. Talks about the bungalow they would build some day—that bungalow which Garry had toppled over—and how it would be furnished; and whether they could not persuade the landlord to sell them the dear sofa and move it out there bodily; talks about their life during the coming winter, and whether she should visit Aunt Felicia's—and if so, whether Jack would come too; and if she didn't, wouldn't it be just as well for Jack to have some place in Morfordsburg where he could find a bed in case he got storm-bound and couldn't get back to the cabin that same night. All kinds and conditions and sorts of talks that only two lovers enjoy, and for which only two lovers can find the material.
Sometimes she thought he might be too lonely and neglected at the log-cabin. Then she would make believe she was going to ask daddy to let them be married right away, insisting that two rooms were enough for them, and that she herself would do the washing and ironing and the cooking, at which Jack would laugh over the joy of it all, conjuring up in his mind the pattern of apron she would wear and how pretty her bare arms would be bending over the tub, knowing all the time that he would no more have allowed her to do any one of these things than he would have permitted her to chop the winter's wood.
Most of these day dreams, plots, and imaginings were duly reported by letter to Miss Felicia to see what she thought of them all. For the dear lady's opposition had long since broken down. In these letters Ruth poured out her heart as she did to no one except Jack; each missive interspersed with asides as to how dear Jack was, and how considerate, and how it would not be a very long time before she would soon get the other half of the dear lady's laces, now that daddy and Jack (the boy had been given an interest in the business) were going to make lots of money on the new work—to all of which Miss Felicia replied that love in a garret was what might be expected of fools, but that love in a log-cabin could only be practised by lunatics.
It was toward the close of this pre-honey-moon—it lasted only ten days, but it was full moon every hour and no clouds—when, early one morning—before nine o'clock, really—a night message was handed to Jack. It had been sent to the brick office, but the telegraph boy, finding that building closed and abandoned, had delivered it to Mrs. Hicks, who, discovering it to be sealed, forwarded it at once, and by the same hand, to the MacFarlane house, known now to everybody as the temporary headquarters, especially in the day time, of the young superintendent who was going to marry the daughter—"and there ain't a nicer, nor a better, nor a prettier."
On this morning, then, the two had planned a day in the woods back of the hills; Ruth's mare was to be hooked up to a hired buggy, and such comforts as a bucket of ice, lettuce sandwiches thin as wafers, a cold chicken, a spirit lamp, teapot, and cups and saucers, not to mention a big shawl for my sweetheart to sit on, and another smaller one for her lovely shoulders when the cool of the evening came on, were to be stowed away under the seat.
"That telegram is from Aunt Felicia, I know," said Ruth. "She has set her heart on my coming up to Geneseo, but I cannot go, Jack. I don't want to be a minute away from you."
Jack had now broken the seal and was scanning the contents. Instantly his face grew grave.
"No—it's not from Aunt Felicia," he said in a thoughtful tone, his eyes studying the despatch. "I don't know whom it's from; it is signed T. Ballantree; I never heard of him before. He wants me to meet him at the Astor House to-day at eleven o'clock. Some business of your father's, I expect—see, it's dated Morfordsburg. Too bad, isn't it, blessed—but I must go. Here, boy"—this to the messenger, who was moving out of the door—"stop at the livery stable as you go by and tell them I won't want the horse and wagon, that I'm going to New York. All in a life-time, my blessed—but I'm dreadfully sorry."
"And you MUST go? Isn't it mean, Jack—and it's such a lovely day."
"Yes—but it can't be helped. What are you going to do with the sandwiches and chicken and things? And you had so much trouble making them. And you will be lonely, too."
"Why, I shall keep them till you come back, and we'll have a lovely feast at home," she said with a light laugh in her effort to hide her feelings. "Oh, no, I shan't be lonely. You won't be gone long, Jack, will you, dear?"
"I hope not." His mind must no longer rest on the outing. There was work to do for Ruth as well as himself. His play time had come to a sudden end; the bell had rung and recess was over. He looked at his watch; there was just time to catch the train.
She followed him to the door and kissed her hand as he swung down the path and through the gate, and watched him until he had disappeared behind the long wall of the factory; then she went in, put away the sandwiches and chicken, and the teapot and the cups and saucers, and emptied the ice.
Yes, the day was spoiled, she said to herself—part of it anyway; but the night would come, and with it Jack would burst in with news of all he had seen and done, and they would each have an end of the table; their last dinner in the old home, where everything on which her eyes rested revived some memory of their happiness. But then there would be other outings at Morfordsburg, and so what mattered one day when there were so many left? And with this thought her tears dried up and she began to sing again as she busied herself about the house—bursting into a refrain from one of the operas she loved, or crooning some of the old-time melodies which her black mammy had taught her when a child.
But now for Jack and what the day held for him of wonders and surprises.
Some pessimistic wiseacre has said that all the dire and dreadful things in life drop out of a clear sky; that it is the unexpected which is to be feared, and that the unknown bridges are the ones in which dangers lurk and where calamity is to be feared.
The optimistic Scribe bites his derisive thumb at such ominous prophecies. Once in a while some rain does fall, and now and then a roar of thunder, or sharp slash of sleet will split the air during our journey through life, but the blue is always above, and the clouds but drifting ships that pass and are gone. In and through them all the warm, cheery sun fights on for joyous light and happy endings, and almost always wins.
This time the unexpected took shape in the person of T. Ballantree, from Morfordsburg—a plain, direct, straight-to-the-point kind of a man, whom Jack found in the corridor of the Astor House with his eyes on the clock.
"You are very prompt, Mr. Breen," he said in clear-cut tones, "so am I. What I wanted to see you about is just this: You own some ore property three miles east of the Maryland Mining Company's lay-out. Am I right?"
"Yes, you are right," answered Jack with a comprehensive glance which began at the speaker's black derby hat, traversed his suit of store clothes, and ended in a pair of boots which still showed some traces of yellow clay, as if their wearer had been prospecting the day before.
"Are there any encumbrances on the property—any mortgages or liens not yet recorded? I don't mean taxes; I find they have been paid," continued Ballantree.
Jack shifted his seat so he could get a better view of the speaker's face, and said in answer:
"Why do you ask?"
"Because," said the man with entire frankness, "we understand that the Maryland Mining Company have an option on it. If that is so, I'll stop where I am. We don't care to buck up against Breen & Co."
"No," answered Jack, now convinced of the man's sincerity; "no—it's free and clear except for a loan of ten thousand dollars held by a friend, which can be paid off at any time."
Ballantree ducked his head in token of his satisfaction over the statement and asked another question—this time with his eyes straight on Jack.
"Is it for sale—now—for money?"
It was Jack's turn to focus his gaze. This was the first time any one had asked that question in the memory of the oldest inhabitant.
"Well, that depends on what it is wanted for, Mr. Ballantree," laughed Jack. He had already begun to like the man. "And perhaps, too, on who wants it. Is it for speculation?"
Ballantree laughed in return. "No—not a square foot of it. I am the general manager of the Guthrie Steel Company with head-quarters here in New York. We have been looking for mineral up in that section of the State, and struck yours. I might as well tell you that I made the borings myself."
"Are you an expert?" asked Jack. The way people searched his title, examined his tax receipts and rammed hypodermics into his property without permission was, to say the least, amusing.
"Been at it thirty years," replied Ballantree in a tone that settled all doubt on the subject.
"It is a low-grade ore, you know," explained Jack, feeling bound to express his own doubts of its value.
"No, it's a high-grade ore," returned Ballantree with some positiveness; "that is, it was when we got down into it. But I'm not here to talk about percentage—that may come in later. I came to save Mr. Guthrie's time. I was to bring you down to see him if you were the man and everything was clean, and if you'll go—and I wouldn't advise you to stay away—I'll meet you at his office at twelve o'clock sharp; there's his card. It isn't more than four blocks from here."
Jack took the card, looked on both sides of it, tucked it in his inside pocket, and said he would come, with pleasure. Ballantree nodded contentedly, pulled a cigar from his upper breast pocket, bit off one end, slid a match along his trousers until it burst into flame, held it to the unbitten end until it was a-light, blew out the blaze, adjusted his derby and with another nod to Jack—and the magic words—"Twelve sharp"—passed out into Broadway.
Ten minutes later—perhaps five, for Jack arrived on the run—Jack bounded into Peter's bank, and slipping ahead of the line of depositors, thrust his overheated face into the opening. There he gasped out a bit of information that came near cracking the ostrich egg in two, so wide was the smile that overspread Peter's face.
"What—really! You don't say so! Telegraphed you? Who?"
"A Mr. Ballantree," panted Jack. "I have just left him at the Astor House."
"I never heard of him. Look out, my boy—don't sign anything until you—"
"Oh, he is only the general manager. It's a Mr. Guthrie—Robert A. Guthrie—who wants it. He sent Mr. Ballantree."
"Robert Guthrie! The banker! That's our director; that's the man I told you of. I gave him your address. Go and see him by all means and tell him everything. Talk just as you would to me. One of the best men in the Street. Not a crooked hair on his head, Jack. Well—well—this does look like business."
"Pardon me, sir, one minute, if you please—" interpolated Peter to an insistent depositor whom Jack in his impatience had crowded out. "Now your book—thank you—And Jack"—this over the hat of the depositor, his face a marvel of delight—"come to my rooms at four—wait for me—I'll be there."
Out again and around the block; anything to kill time until the precious hour should arrive. Lord!—how the minutes dragged. The hands of the old clock of Trinity spire must be stuck together. Any other day it would take him at least half an hour to walk up Wall Street, down Broadway to the Battery and back again—now ten minutes was enough. Would the minute hand never climb up the face to the hour hand and the two get together at twelve, and so end his impatience. He wished now he had telegraphed to Ruth not to expect him until the late afternoon train. He thought he would do it now. Then he changed his mind. No; it would be better to await the result of his interview. Yet still the clock dragged on, and still he waited for the magic hour. Ten minutes to twelve—five—then twelve precisely—but by this time he was closeted inside Mr. Guthrie's private office.
Peter also found the hours dragging. What could it all mean? he kept asking himself as he handed back the books through his window, his eyes wandering up to the old-fashioned clock. Robert Guthrie the banker—a REAL banker—had sent for the boy—Guthrie, who never made a too hurried move. Could it be possible that good fortune was coming to Jack?—that he and Ruth—that—Ah! old fellow, you nearly made a mistake with the amount of that check! No—there was no use in supposing. He would just wait for Jack's story.
When he reached home he was still in the same overwrought, anxious state—hoping against hope. When would the boy come? he asked himself a hundred times as he fussed about his room, nipping off the dead leaves from his geraniums, drawing the red curtains back; opening and shutting the books, only to throw himself into his chair at last. Should he smoke until four?—should he read? What a fool he was making of himself! It was astonishing that one of his age should be so excited over a mere business proposition—really not a proposition at all, when he came to think of it—just an ordinary question asked. He must compose himself. It was quite absurd for him to go on this way. But would the boy NEVER come? It was four o'clock now—or would be in ten minutes, and—and—
He sprang toward the door and caught the young fellow in his arms.
"Oh! such good news! Mr. Guthrie's bought the property!" roared Jack.
He had made one long spring from the sidewalk up three flights of steps to the old-fashioned door, but he still had breath to gasp the glad tidings.
"Yes—I am to sign the papers to-morrow. Oh!—Uncle Peter, I am half crazy with delight!"
"Hurrah," shouted Peter. "HURRAH, I say! This IS good news! Well!—Well!" He was still bending over him, his eyes blinking in his joy, scurries of irradiating smiles chasing each other over his face. Never had the old gentleman been in such a state.
"And how much, Jack?"
"Will there be enough to pay Isaac's ten thousand?"
"More!" Jack was nearly bursting, but he still held in.
"Twenty thousand?" This came timidly, fearing that it was too much, and yet hoping that it might be true.
"More!" The strain on Jack was getting dangerous.
"Twenty-five thousand?" Peter's voice now showed that he was convinced that this sum was too small.
"More! Go on, Uncle Peter! Go on!"
"Thirty-five thousand, Jack?" It was getting hot; certainly this was the limit. Was there ever such luck?
"Yes!—and five thousand more! Forty thousand dollars and one-fifth interest in the output! Just think what Ruth will say. I've just sent her a telegram. Oh!—what a home-coming!"
And then, with Peter drawn up beside him, his face radiant and his eyes sparkling with joy, he poured out the story of the morning. How he had begun by telling Mr. Guthrie of his own and Mr. MacFarlane's opinion of the property, as he did not want to sell anything he himself considered worthless. How he had told him frankly what Peter had said of his—Mr. Guthrie's—fairness and honesty; how he was at work for his prospective father-in-law, the distinguished engineer of whom Mr. Guthrie had no doubt heard—at which the gentleman nodded. How this property had been given him by his father, and was all he had in the world except what he could earn; how he already owed ten thousand dollars and had pledged the property as part payment, and how, in view of these facts, he would take any sum over ten thousand dollars that Mr. Guthrie would give him, provided Mr. Guthrie thought it was worth that much.
"But I am buying, not selling, your land, young man," the banker had said. "I know it, sir, and I am willing to take your own figures," Jack replied—at which Mr. Guthrie had laughed in a kindly way, and had then called in Mr. Ballantree and another man how the three had then talked in a corner, and how he had heard Mr. Guthrie say, "No, that is not fair—add another five thousand and increase the interest to one-fifth"; whereupon the two men went out and came back later with a letter in duplicate, one of which Mr. Guthrie had signed, and the other which he, Jack, signed—and here was Mr., Guthrie's letter to prove it. With this Jack took out the document and laid it before Peter's delighted eyes; adding that the deeds and Isaac's release were to be signed in the morning, and that Mr. Guthrie had sent a special message by him to the effect that he very much wished Mr. Grayson would also be present when the final transfers would be signed and the money paid.
Whereupon the Scribe again maintains—and he is rubbing his hands with the joy of it all as he does it—that there was more sunshine than clouds in this particular Unexpected, and that if all the boys in the world were as frank and sincere as young Jack Breen, and all the grown-ups as honest as old Robert Guthrie, the REAL banker, the jails would be empty and the millennium knocking at our doors.
Peter had drunk in every word of the story, bowing his head, fanning out his fingers, or interrupting with his customary "Well, well!" whenever some particular detail seemed to tend toward the final success.
And then, the story over, there came the part that Peter never forgot; that he has told me a dozen times, and always with the same trembling tear under the eyelids, and the same quivering of his lower lip.
Jack had drawn his chair nearer the old gentleman, and had thrown one arm over the shoulder of his dearest friend in the world. There was a moment's silence as they sat there, and then Jack began. "There is something I want you to do for me, Uncle Peter," he said, drawing his arm closer till his own fresh cheek almost touched the head of the older man. "Please, don't refuse."
"Refuse, my dear boy! I am too happy to-day to refuse anything. Come, out with it."
"I am going to give you half of this money. I love you better than any one in this world except Ruth, and I want you to have it."
Peter threw up his hands and sprang to his feet.
"What!—You want to—Why, Jack! Are you crazy! Me! My dear boy, it's very lovely of you to wish to do it, but just think. Oh, you dear Jack! No!—no, no!" He was beating the air now deprecatingly with his outspread fingers as he strode around the room, laughing short laughs in his effort to keep back the tears.
Jack followed him in his circuit, talking all the while, until he had penned the old gentleman in a corner between the open desk and the window.
"But, Uncle Peter—think what you have done for me! Do you suppose for one moment that I don't know that it was you and not I who sold the property? Do you think Mr. Guthrie would have added that five thousand dollars to the price if he hadn't wanted to help you as well as me?"
"Five thousand dollars, my dear Jack, is no more to Robert Guthrie than a ferry ticket is to you or me. He gave you the full price because you trusted to his honesty and told him the truth, and he saw your inexperience."
"No—it was YOU he was thinking of, I tell you," protested Jack, with eager emphasis. "He would never have sent Ballantree for me had you not talked to him—and it has been so with everything since I knew you. You have been father, friend, everybody to me. You gave me Ruth and my work. Everything I am I owe to you. You must—you SHALL have half of this money! Ruth and I can be married, and that is all we want, and what is left I can put into our new work to help Mr. MacFarlane. Please, Uncle Peter!—we will both be so much happier if we know you share it with us." Here his voice rose and a strain of determination rang through it. "And, by George!—Uncle Peter, the more I think of it, the more I am convinced that it is fair. It's yours—not mine. I WILL have it that way—you are getting old, and you need it."
Peter broke into a laugh. It was the only way he could keep down the tears.
"What a dear boy you are, Jack," he said, backing toward the sofa and regaining his seat. "You've got a heart as big as a house, and I'm proud of you, but no—not a penny of your money. Think a moment! Your father didn't leave the property to me—not any part of it—he left it to you, you spendthrift! When I get too old to work I am going up to Felicia's and pick out an easy-chair and sit in a corner and dry up gradually and be laid away in lavender. No, my lad, not a penny! Gift money should go to cripples and hypochondriacs, not to spry old gentlemen. I would not take it from my own father's estate when I was your age, and I certainly won't take it now from you. I made Felicia take it all." Jack opened his eyes. He had often wondered why Peter had so little and she so much. "Oh, yes, nearly forty years ago! But I have never regretted it since! And you must see how just it was, for there wasn't enough for two, and Felicia was a woman. No—be very careful of gift money, my boy, and be very careful, also, of too much of anybody's money—even your own. What makes me most glad in this whole affair is that Guthrie didn't give you a million—that might have spoilt you. This is just enough. You and Ruth can start square. You can help Henry—and you ought to, he has been mighty good to you. And, best of all, you can keep at work. Yes—that's the best part of it—that you can keep at work. Go right on as you are; work every single day of your life, and earn your bread as you have done ever since you left New York, and, one thing more, and don't you ever forget it: Be sure you take your proper share of fun and rest as you go. Eight hours' work, eight hours' play, eight hours' sleep—that's the golden rule and the only one to live by. Money will never get its grip on you if you keep this up. This fortune hasn't yet tightened its fingers around your throat, or you would never have come up here to give me half of it—and never let it! Money is your servant, my boy, not your master. And now go home and kiss Ruth for me, and tell her that I love her dearly. Wait a moment. I will go with you as far as Isaac's. I am going to tell him the good news. Then I'll have him measure me for a coat to dance at your wedding."
And the Unexpecteds are not yet over. There was still another, of quite a different character, about to fall—and out of another clear sky, too—a sort of April-shower sky, where you get wet on one side of the street and keep dry on the other. Jack had the dry side this time, and went on his way rejoicing, but the head of the house of Breen caught the downpour, and a very wet downpour it was.
It all occurred when Jack was hurrying to the ferry and when he ran into the senior member of the firm, who was hurrying in the opposite direction.
"Ah, Jack!—the very man I wanted to see," cried Breen. "I was going to write you. There's something doing up in that ore country. Better drop in to-morrow, I may be able to handle it for you, after all."
"I am sorry, sir, but it's not for sale," said Jack, trying to smother his glee.
"Why?" demanded Breen bluntly.
"I have sold it to Mr. Robert Guthrie."
"Guthrie! The devil you say!—When?"
"To-day. The final papers are signed to-morrow. Excuse me, I must catch my boat—" and away he went, his cup now brimming over, leaving Breen biting his lips and muttering to himself as he gazed after him.
"Guthrie!—My customer! Damn that boy—I might have known he would land on his feet."
But Jack kept on home to his sweetheart, most of the way in the air.
Down in the little room all this time in the rear of the tailor's shop the two old men sat talking. Peter kept nothing back; his lips quivering again and another unbidden tear peeping over the edge of his eyelid when he told of Jack's offer.
"A dear boy, Isaac—yes, a dear boy. He never thinks with his head—only with his heart. Never has since I knew him. Impulsive, emotional, unpractical, no doubt—and yet somehow he always wins. Queer—very queer! He comes upstairs to me and I start out on a fool's errand. He goes down to you, and you hand him out your money. He gives it all away the next day, and then we have Guthrie doubling the price. Queer, I tell you, Isaac—extraordinary, that's what it is—almost uncanny."
The Jew threw away his cigar, rested his short elbows on the arms of his chair, and made a basket of his hands, the tips of all his fingers touching.
"No, you are wrong, my good friend. It is not extraordinary and it is not uncanny. It is very simple—exceedingly simple. Nobody runs over a child if he can help it. Even a thief will bring you back your pocket-book if you trust him to take care of it. It is the trusting that does it. Few men, no matter how crooked, can resist the temptation of reaching, if only for a moment, an honest man's level."
Peter's coat was finished in time for the wedding—trust Isaac for that—and so was his double-breasted white waistcoat—he had not changed the cut in twenty years; and so were his pepper-and-salt trousers and all his several appointments, little and big, even to his polka-dot scarf of blue silk, patent-leather shoes and white gaiters. Quite the best-dressed man in the room, everybody said, and they of all the people in the world should have known.
And the wedding!
And all that went before it, and all that took place on that joyous day; and all that came after that happiest of events!
Ruth and Jack, with Peter's covert endorsement, had wanted to slip into the village church some afternoon at dusk, with daddy and Peter and Miss Felicia, and one or two more, and then to slip out again and disappear. MacFarlane had been in favor of the old Maryland home, with Ruth's grandmother in charge, and the neighbors driving up in mud-encrusted buggies and lumbering coaches, their inmates warmed by roaring fires and roaring welcomes—fat turkeys, hot waffles, egg-nogg, apple-toddy, and the rest of it. The head of the house of Breen expressed the opinion (this on the day Jack gave his check for the bonds prior to returning them to Isaac, who wouldn't take a cent of interest) that the ceremony should by all means take place in Grace Church, after which everybody would adjourn to his house on the Avenue, where the wedding-breakfast would be served, he being nearest of kin to the groom, and the bride being temporarily without a home of her own—a proposition which, it is needless to say, Jack declined on the spot, but in terms so courteous and with so grand and distinguished an air that the head of the house of Breen found his wonder increasing at the change that had come over the boy since he shook the dust of the Breen home and office from his feet.