"Look here, chum, will you take me into Blunkers's place some night, and let me hear you powwow the 'b'ys?' I should like to see how you do it."
"Yes," Peter said deliberately, "if some night you'll let me bring Blunkers up to watch one of your formal dinners. He would enjoy the sight, I'm sure."
Leonore cocked her little nose up in the air, and laughed merrily.
"Oh, but that's very different," said Watts.
"It's just as different as the two men with the toothache," said Peter. "They both met at the dentist's, who it seems had only time to pull one tooth. The question arose as to which it should be. 'I'm so brave,' said one, 'that I can wait till to-morrow.' 'I'm such a coward,' said the other, 'that I don't dare have it done to-day.'"
"Haven't you ever taken people to those places, Peter?" asked Leonore.
"No. I've always refused. It's a society fad now to have what are called 'slumming parties,' and of course I've been asked to help. It makes my blood tingle when I hear them talk over the 'fun' as they call it. They get detectives to protect them, and then go through the tenements—the homes of the poor—and pry into their privacy and poverty, just out of curiosity. Then they go home and over a chafing dish of lobster or terrapin, and champagne, they laugh at the funny things they saw. If the poor could get detectives, and look in on the luxury and comfort of the rich, they wouldn't see much fun in it, and there's less fun in a down-town tenement than there is in a Fifth Avenue palace. I heard a girl tell the other night about breaking in on a wake by chance. 'Weren't we lucky?' she said. 'It was so funny to see the poor people weeping and drinking whisky at the same time. Isn't it heartless?' Yet the dead—perhaps the bread-winner of the family, fallen in the struggle—perhaps the last little comer, not strong enough to fight this earth's battle—must have lain there in plain view of that girl. Who was the most heartless? The family and friends who had gathered over that body, according to their customs, or the party who looked in on them and laughed?" Peter had forgotten where he was, or to whom he was talking.
Leonore had listened breathlessly. But the moment he ceased speaking, she bowed her head and began to sob. Peter came down from his indignant tirade like a flash. "Miss D'Alloi," he cried, "forgive me. I forgot. Don't cry so." Peter was pleading in an anxious voice. He felt as if he had committed murder.
"There, there, Dot. Don't cry. It's nothing to cry about."
Miss D'Alloi was crying and endeavoring at the same time to solve the most intricate puzzle ever yet propounded by man or woman—that is, to find a woman's pocket. She complicated things even more by trying to talk. "I—I—know I'm ver—ver—very fooooooolish," she managed to get out, however much she failed in a similar result with her pocket-handkerchief.
"Since I caused the tears, you must let me stop them," said Peter. He had produced his own handkerchief, and was made happy by seeing Leonore bury her face in it, and re-appear not quite so woe-begone.
"I—only—didn't—know—you—could—talk—like—like that," explained Leonore.
"Let this be a lesson for you," said Watts. "Don't come any more of your jury-pathos on my little girl."
"Papa! You—I—Peter, I'm so glad you told me—I'll never go to one."
Watts laughed. "Now I know why you charm all the women whom I hear talking about you. I tell you, when you rear your head up like that, and your eyes blaze so, and you put that husk in your voice, I don't wonder you fetch them. By George, you were really splendid to look at."
That was the reason why Leonore had not cried till Peter had finished his speech. We don't charge women with crying whenever they wish, but we are sure that they never cry when they have anything better to do.
When the ride was ended, Leonore was sent home in the carriage, Watts saying he would go with Peter to his club. As soon as they were in the cab, he said:
"I wanted to see you about your letter."
"Everything's going as well as can be expected. Of course the little woman's scandalized over your supposed iniquity, but I'm working the heavy sentimental 'saved-our-little-girl's life' business for all it's worth. I had her crying last night on my shoulder over it, and no woman can do that and be obstinate long. She'll come round before a great while."
Peter winced. He almost felt like calling Watts off from the endeavor. But he thought of Leonore. He must see her—just to prove to himself that she was not for him, be it understood—and how could he see enough of her to do that—for Peter recognized that it would take a good deal of that charming face and figure and manner to pall on him—if he was excluded from her home? So he justified the continuance of the attempt by saying to himself: "She only excludes me because of something of which I am guiltless, and I've saved her from far greater suffering than my presence can ever give her. I have earned the privilege if ever man earned it" Most people can prove to themselves what they wish to prove. The successful orator is always the man who imposes his frame of mind on his audience. We call it "saying what the people want said." But many of the greatest speakers first suggest an idea to their listeners, and when they say it in plain English, a moment later, the audience say, mentally, "That's just what we thought a moment ago," and are convinced that the speaker is right.
Peter remained silent, and Watts continued: "We get into our own house to-morrow, and give Leonore a birthday dinner Tuesday week as a combined house-warming and celebration. Save that day, for I'm determined you shall be asked. Only the invitation may come a little late. You won't mind that?"
"No. But don't send me too many of these formal things. I keep out of them as much as I can. I'm not a society man and probably won't fit in with your friends."
"I should know you were not de societe by that single speech. If there's one thing easy to talk to, or fit in with, it's a society man or woman. It's their business to be chatty and pleasant, and they would be polite and entertaining to a kangaroo, if they found one next them at dinner. That's what society is for. We are the yolk of the egg, which holds and blends all the discordant, untrained elements. The oil, vinegar, salt, and mustard We don't add much flavor to life, but people wouldn't mix without us."
"I know," said Peter, "if you want to talk petty personalities and trivialities, that it's easy enough to get through endless hours of time. But I have other things to do."
"Exactly. But we have a purpose, too. You mustn't think society is all frivolity. It's one of the hardest working professions."
"And the most brainless."
"No. Don't you see, that society is like any other kind of work, and that the people who will centre their whole life on it must be the leaders of it? To you, the spending hours over a new entree, or over a cotillion figure, seems rubbish, but it's the exact equivalent of your spending hours over who shall be nominated for a certain office. Because you are willing to do that, you are one of the 'big four.' Because we are willing to do our task, we differentiate into the 'four hundred.' You mustn't think society doesn't grind up brain-tissue. But we use so much in running it, that we don't have enough for other subjects, and so you think we are stupid. I remember a woman once saying she didn't like conversazioni, 'because they are really brain-parties, and there is never enough to go round, and give a second help,' Any way, how can you expect society to talk anything but society, when men like yourself stay away from it."
"I don't ask you to talk anything else. But let me keep out of it."
"'He's not the man for Galway'," hummed Watts. "He prefers talking to 'heelers,' and 'b'ys,' and 'toughs,' and other clever, intellectual men."
"I like to talk to any one who is working with a purpose in life."
"I say, Peter, what do those fellows really say of us?"
"I can best describe it by something Miss De Voe once said. We were at a dinner together, where there was a Chicago man who became irritated at one or two bits of ignorance displayed by some of the other guests over the size and prominence of his abiding place. Finally he said: 'Why, look here, you people are so ignorant of my city, that you don't even know how to pronounce its name.' He turned to Miss De Voe and said, 'We say Chicawgo. Now, how do you pronounce it in New York?' Miss De Voe put on that quiet, crushing manner she has when a man displeases her, and said, 'We never pronounce it in New York.'"
"Good for our Dutch-Huguenot stock! I tell you, Peter, blood does tell."
"It wasn't a speech I should care to make, because it did no good, and could only mortify. But it does describe the position of the lower wards of New York towards society. I've been working in them for nearly sixteen years, and I've never even heard the subject mentioned."
"But I thought the anarchists and socialists were always taking a whack at us?"
"They cry out against over-rich men—not against society. Don't confuse the constituents with the compound. Citric acid is a deadly poison, but weakened down with water and sugar, it is only lemonade. They growl at the poison, not at the water and sugar. Before there can be hate, there must be strength."
The next day Peter turned up in the park about four, and had a ride—with Watts. The day after that, he was there a little earlier, and had a ride—with the groom. The day following he had another ride—with the groom. Peter thought they were very wonderful rides. Some one told him a great many interesting things. About some one's European life, some one's thoughts, some one's hopes, and some one's feelings. Some one really wanted a friend to pour it all out to, and Peter listened well, and encouraged well.
"He doesn't laugh at me, as papa does," some one told herself, "and so it's much easier to tell him. And he shows that he really is interested. Oh, I always said he and I should be good friends, and we are going to be."
This put some one in a very nice frame of mind, and Peter thought he had never met such a wonderful combination of frankness, of confluence, and yet of a certain girlish shyness and timidity. Some one would tell him something, and then appeal to him, if he didn't think that was so? Peter generally thought it was. Some one did not drop her little touch of coquetry, for that was ingrain, as it is in most pretty girls. But it was the most harmless kind of coquetry imaginable. Someone was not thinking at all of winning men's hearts. That might come later. At present all she wanted was that they should think her pretty, and delightful, so that—that they should want to be friend.
When Peter joined Watts and Leonore, however, on the fourth day, there was a noticeable change in Leonore's manner to him. He did not get any welcome except a formal "Good-afternoon," and for ten minutes Watts and he had to sustain the conversation by firing remarks at each other past a very silent intermediary. Peter had no idea what was wrong, but when he found that she did not mollify at the end of that time, he said to her;
"What is the matter?"
"Matter with what?" asked Leonore, calmly.
"I shan't take that for an answer. Remember, we have sworn to be friends."
"Friends come to see each other."
Peter felt relieved; and smiled, "They do," he said, "when they can."
"No, they don't, sometimes," said Leonore severely. Then she unbent a little. "Why haven't you been to see us? You've had a full week."
"Yes," said Peter, "I have had a very full week."
"Are you going to call on us, Mr. Stirling?"
"To whom are you talking?"
"My name's Peter."
"That depends. Are you going to call on us?"
"That is my hope and wish."
Leonore unbent a little more. "If you are," she said, "I wish you would do it soon, because mamma said to-day she thought of asking you to my birthday dinner next Tuesday, but I said you oughtn't to be asked till you had called."
"Did you know that bribery is unlawful?"
"Are you going to call?"
"Of course I am."
"That's better. When?"
"What evening are you to be at home?"
"To-morrow," said Leonore, beginning to curl up the corners of her mouth.
"Well," said Peter, "I wish you had said this evening, because that's nearer, but to-morrow isn't so far away."
"That's right. Now we'll be friends again."
"I hope so."
"Are you willing to be good friends—not make believe, or half friends, but—real friends?"
"Don't you think friends should tell each other everything?"
"Yes." Peter was quite willing, even anxious, that Leonore should tell him everything.
"You are quite sure?"
"Then," said Leonore, "tell me about the way you got that sword."
Watts laughed. "She's been asking every one she's met about that. Do tell her, just for my sake."
"I've told you already."
"Not the way I want it. I know you didn't try to make it interesting. Some of the people remembered there was something very fine, but I haven't found anybody yet who could really tell it to me. Please tell about it nicely, Peter." Leonore was looking at Peter with the most pleading of looks.
"It was during the great railroad strike. The Erie had brought some men up from New York to fill the strikers' places. The new hands were lodged in freight cars, when off work, for it wasn't safe for them to pass outside the guard lines of soldiers. Some of the strikers applied for work, and were reinstated. They only did it to get inside our lines. At night, when the substitutes in the cars were fast asleep, tired out with the double work they had done, the strikers locked the car-doors. They pulled the two cars into a shed full of freight, broke open a petroleum tank, and with it wet the cars and some others loaded with jute. They set fire to the cars and barricaded the shed doors. Of course we didn't know till the flames burst through the roof of the shed, when by the light, one of the superintendents found the bunk cars gone. The fire-department was useless, for the strikers two days before, had cut all the hose. So we were ordered up to get the cars out. Some strikers had concealed themselves in buildings where they could overlook the shed, and while we were working at the door, they kept firing on us. We were in the light of the blazing shed, and they were in the dark, which gave them a big advantage over us, and we couldn't spare the time to attend to them. We tore up some rails and with them smashed in the door. The men in the cars were screaming, so we knew which to take, and fortunately they were the nearest to the door. We took our muskets—for the frames of the cars were blazing, and the metal part too hot to touch—and fixing bayonets, drove them into the woodwork and so pushed the cars out. When we were outside, we used the rails again, to smash an opening in the ends of the cars which were burning the least. We got the men out unharmed, but pretty badly frightened."
"And were you not hurt?"
"We had eight wounded and a good many badly burned."
"I had my share of the burn."
"I wish you would tell me what you did—not what the others did."
Peter would have told her anything while she looked like that at him.
"I was in command at that point. I merely directed things, except taking up the rails. I happened to know how to get a rail up quickly, without waiting to unscrew the bolts. I had read it, years before, in a book on railroad construction. I didn't think that paragraph would ever help me to save forty lives—for five minutes' delay would have been fatal. The inside of the shed was one sheet of flame. After we broke the door down, I only stood and superintended the moving of the cars. The men did the real work."
"But you said the inside of the shed was a sheet of flame."
"Yes. The railroad had to give us all fresh uniforms. So we made new toggery out of that night's work. I've heard people say militia are no good. If they could have stood by me that night, and seen my company working over those blazing cars, in that mass of burning freight, with the roof liable to fall any minute, and the strikers firing every time a man showed himself, I think they would have altered their opinion."
"Oh," said Leonore, her eyes flashing with enthusiasm. "How splendid it is to be a man, and be able to do real things! I wish I had known about it in Europe."
"Because the officers were always laughing about our army. I used to get perfectly wild at them, but I couldn't say anything in reply. If I could only have told them about that."
"Hear the little Frenchwoman talk," said Watts.
"I'm not French."
"Yes you are, Dot."
"I'm all American. I haven't a feeling that isn't all American. Doesn't that make me an American, Peter, no matter where I was born?"
"I think you are an American under the law."
"Am I really?" said Leonore, incredulously.
"Yes. You were born of American parents, and you will be living in this country when you become of age. That constitutes nationality."
"Oh, how lovely! I knew I was an American, really, but papa was always teasing me and saying I was a foreigner. I hate foreigners."
"Confound you, chum, you've spoiled one of my best jokes! It's been such fun to see Dot bristle when I teased her. She's the hottest little patriot that ever lived."
"I think Miss D'Alloi's nationality is akin to that of a case of which I once heard," said Peter, smiling. "A man was bragging about the number of famous men who were born in his native town. He mentioned a well-known personage, among others, and one of his auditors said: 'I didn't know he was born there,' 'Oh, yes, he was,' replied the man. 'He was born there, but during the temporary absence of his parents!'"
"Peter, how much does a written opinion cost?" asked Leonore, eagerly.
"It has a range about equal to the woman's statement that a certain object was as long as a piece of string."
"But your opinions?"
"I have given an opinion for nothing. The other day I gave one to a syndicate, and charged eight thousand dollars."
"Oh, dear!" said Leonore. "I wonder if I can afford to get your opinion on my being an American? I should like to frame it and hang it in my room. Would it be expensive?"
"It is usual with lawyers," said Peter gravely, "to find out how much a client has, and then make the bill for a little less. How much do you have?"
"I really haven't any now. I shall have two hundred dollars on the first. But then I owe some bills."
"You forget your grandmamma's money, Dot."
"Oh! Of course. I shall be rich, Peter, I come into the income of my property on Tuesday. I forget how much it is, but I'm sure I can afford to have an opinion."
"Why, Dot, we must get those papers out, and you must find some one to put the trust in legal shape, and take care of it for you," said Watts.
"I suppose," said Leonore to Peter, "if you have one lawyer to do all your work, that he does each thing cheaper, doesn't he?"
"Yes. Because he divides what his client has, on several jobs, instead of on one," Peter told her.
"Then I think I'll have you do it all. We'll come down and see you about it. But write out that opinion at once, so that I can prove that I'm an American."
"Very well. But there's a safer way, even, of making sure that you're an American."
"What is that?" said Leonore, eagerly.
"Marry one," said Peter.
"Oh, yes," said Leonore, "I've always intended to do that, but not for a great many years."
Peter dressed himself the next evening with particular care, even for him. As Peter dressed, he was rather down on life. He had been kept from his ride that afternoon by taking evidence in a referee case. "I really needed the exercise badly," he said. He had tried to work his dissatisfaction off on his clubs and dumb-bells, but whatever they had done for his blood and tissue, they had not eased his frame of mind. Dinner made him a little pleasanter, for few men can remain cross over a proper meal. Still, he did not look happy, when, on rising from his coffee, he glanced at his watch and found that it was but ten minutes past eight.
He vacillated for a moment, and then getting into his outside trappings, he went out and turned eastward, down the first side street. He walked four blocks, and then threw open the swing door of a brilliantly lighted place, stepping at once into a blaze of light and warmth which was most attractive after the keen March wind blowing outside.
He nodded to the three barkeepers. "Is Dennis inside?" he asked.
"Yes, Misther Stirling. The regulars are all there."
Peter passed through the room, and went into another without knocking. In it were some twenty men, sitting for the most part in attitudes denoting ease. Two, at a small table in the corner, were playing dominoes. Three others, in another corner, were amusing themselves with "High, Low, Jack." Two were reading papers. The rest were collected round the centre table, most of them smoking. Some beer mugs and tumblers were standing about, but not more than a third of the twenty were drinking anything. The moment Peter entered, one of the men jumped to his feet.
"B'ys," he cried, "here's Misther Stirling. Begobs, sir, it's fine to see yez. It's very scarce yez been lately." He had shaken hands, and then put a chair in place for Peter.
The cards, papers, and dominoes had been abandoned the moment Dennis announced Peter's advent, and when Peter had finished shaking the hands held out to him, and had seated himself, the men were all gathered round the big table.
Peter laid his hat on the table, threw back his Newcastle and lit a cigar. "I've been very short of time, Dennis. But I had my choice this evening before going uptown, of smoking a cigar in my own quarters, or here. So I came over to talk with you all about Denton."
"An' what's he been doin'?" inquired Dennis.
"I saw him to-day about the Hummel franchise that comes up in the Board next Tuesday. He won't vote for it, he says. I told him I thought it was in the interest of the city to multiply means of transit, and asked him why he refused. He replied that he thought the Hummel gang had been offering money, and that he would vote against bribers."
"He didn't have the face to say that?" shouted one of the listeners.
"Oi never!" said Dennis. "An' he workin' night an' day to get the Board to vote the rival road."
"I don't think there's much doubt that money is being spent by both sides," said Peter. "I fear no bill could ever pass without it. But the Hummel crowd are really responsible people, who offer the city a good percentage. The other men are merely trying to get the franchise, to sell it out at a profit to Hummel. I don't like the methods of either, but there's a road needed, and there'll be a road voted, so it's simply a choice between the two. I shouldn't mind if Denton voted against both schemes, but to say he'll vote against Hummel for that reason, and yet vote for the other franchise shows that he's not square. I didn't say so to him, because I wanted to talk it over with the ward a little first to see if they stood with me."
"That we do, sir," said Dennis, with a sureness which was cool, if nothing more. Fortunately for the boldness of the speaker, no one dissented, and two or three couples nodded heads or pipes at each other.
Peter looked at his watch. "Then I can put the screws on him safely, you think?"
"Yes," cried several.
Peter rose. "Dennis, will you see Blunkers and Driscoll this evening, or some time to-morrow, and ask if they think so too? And if they don't, tell them to drop in on me, when they have leisure."
"Begobs, sir, Oi'll see them inside av ten minutes. An' if they don't agree widus, shure, Oi'll make them."
"Thank you. Good-night."
"Good-night, Mr. Stirling," came a chorus, and Peter passed into the street by the much maligned side-door.
Dennis turned to the group with his face shining with enthusiasm. "Did yez see him, b'ys? There was style for yez. Isn't he somethin' for the ward to be proud av?"
Peter turned to Broadway, and fell into a long rapid stride. In spite of the cold he threw open his coat, and carried his outer covering on his arm. Peter had no intention of going into an up-town drawing-room with any suggestion of "sixt" ward tobacco. So he walked till he reached Madison Square, when, after a glance at his watch, he jumped into a cab.
It was a quarter-past nine when the footman opened the door of the Fifty-seventh Street house, in reply to Peter's ring. Yet he was told that, "The ladies are still at dinner."
Peter turned and went down the stoop. He walked to the Avenue, and stopped at a house not far off.
"Is Mrs. Pell at home?" he asked, and procured entrance for both his pasteboard and himself.
"Welcome, little stranger," was his greeting. "And it is so nice that you came this evening. Here is Van, on from Washington for two days."
"I was going to look you up, and see what 'we, the people' were talking about, so that I could enlighten our legislators when I go back," said a man of forty.
"I wrote Pope a long letter to-day, which I asked him to show you," said Peter. "Things are in a bad shape, and getting worse."
"But, Peter," queried the woman, "if you are the leader, why do you let them get so?"
"So as to remain the leader," said Peter, smiling quietly.
"Now that's what comes of ward politics," cried Mrs. Pell, "You are beginning to make Irish bulls."
"No," replied Peter, "I am serious, and because people don't understand what I mean, they don't understand American politics."
"But you say in effect that the way you retain your leadership, is by not leading. That's absurd!"
"No. Contradiction though it may seem the way to lose authority, is to exercise it too much. Christ enunciated the great truth of democratic government, when he said, 'He that would be the greatest among you, shall be the servant of all'"
"I hope you won't carry your theory so far as to let them nominate Maguire?" said Mr. Pell, anxiously.
"Now, please don't begin on politics," said the woman. "Here is Van, whom I haven't seen for nine weeks, and here is Peter whom I haven't seen for time out of mind, and just as I think I have a red-letter evening before me, you begin your everlasting politics."
"I merely stopped in to shake hands," said Peter. "I have a call to make elsewhere, and can stay but twenty minutes. For that time we choose you speaker, and you can make us do as it pleases you."
Twenty minutes later Peter passed into the D'Alloi drawing-room. He shook Mrs. D'Alloi's hand steadily, which was more than she did with his. Then he was made happy for a moment, with that of Leonore. Then he was introduced to a Madame Mellerie, whom he placed at once as the half-governess, half-companion, who had charge of Leonore's education; a Mr. Maxwell, and a Marquis de somebody. They were both good-looking young fellows; and greeted Peter in a friendly way. But Peter did not like them.
He liked them less when Mrs. D'Alloi told him to sit in a given place, and then put Madame Mellerie down by him. Peter had not called to see Madame Mellerie. But he made a virtue of necessity, and he was too instinctively courteous not to treat the Frenchwoman with the same touch of deference his manner towards women always had. After they had been chatting for a little on French literature, it occurred to Peter that her opinion of him might have some influence with Leonore, so he decided that he would try and please her. But this thought turned his mind to Leonore, and speaking of her to her governess, he at once became so interested in the facts she began to pour out to him, that he forgot entirely about his diplomatic scheme.
This arrangement continued half an hour, when a dislocation of the statu quo was made by the departure of Mr. Maxwell. When the exit was completed, Mrs. D'Alloi turned to place her puppets properly again. But she found a decided bar to her intentions. Peter had formed his own conclusions as to why he had been set to entertain Madame Mellerie, not merely from the fact itself, but from the manner in which it had been done, and most of all, from the way Mrs. D'Alloi had managed to stand between Leonore and himself, as if protecting the former, till she had been able to force her arrangements. So with the first stir Peter had risen, and when the little bustle had ceased he was already standing by Leonore, talking to her. Mrs. D'Alloi did not look happy, but for the moment she was helpless.
Peter had had to skirt the group to get to Leonore, and so had stood behind her during the farewells. She apparently had not noticed his advent, but the moment she had done the daughter-of-the-house duty, she turned to him, and said: "I wondered if you would go away without seeing me. I was so afraid you were one of the men who just say, 'How d'ye do' and 'Good-bye,' and think they've paid a call."
"I called to see you to-night, and I should not have gone till I had seen you. I'm rather a persistent man in some things."
"Yes," said Leonore, bobbing her head in a very knowing manner, "Miss De Voe told me."
"Mr. Stirling," said Mrs. D'Alloi, "can't you tell us the meaning of the Latin motto on this seal?" Mrs. D'Alloi held a letter towards him, but did not stir from her position across the room.
Peter understood the device. He was to be drawn off, and made to sit by Mrs. D'Alloi, not because she wanted to see him, but because she did not want him to talk to Leonore. Peter had no intention of being dragooned. So he said: "Madame Mellerie has been telling me what a good Latin scholar Miss D'Alloi is. I certainly shan't display my ignorance, till she has looked at it." Then he carried the envelope over to Leonore, and in handing it to her, moved a chair for her, not neglecting one for himself. Mrs. D'Alloi looked discouraged, the more when Peter and Leonore put their heads close together, to examine the envelope.
"'In bonam partem,'" read Leonore. "That's easy, mamma. It's—why, she isn't listening!"
"You can tell her later. I have something to talk to you about."
"What is that?"
"Your dinner in my quarters. Whom would you like to have there?"
"Will you really give me a dinner?"
"And let me have just whom I want?"
"Oh, lovely! Let me see. Mamma and papa, of course."
"That's four. Now you can have two more."
"Peter. Would you mind—I mean——" Leonore hesitated a moment and then said in an apologetic tone—"Would you like to invite madame? I've been telling her about your rooms—and you—and I think it would please her so."
"That makes five," said Peter.
"Oh, goody!" said Leonore, "I mean," she said, correcting herself, "that that is very kind of you."
"And now the sixth?"
"That must be a man of course," said Leonore, wrinkling up her forehead in the intensity of puzzlement. "And I know so few men." She looked out into space, and Peter had a moment's fear lest she should see the marquis, and name him. "There's one friend of yours I'm very anxious to meet. I wonder if you would be willing to ask him?"
"Who is that?"
"No, I can't ask him, I don't want to cheapen him by making a show of him."
"Oh! I haven't that feeling about him. I——"
"I think you would understand him and see the fine qualities. But do you think others would?" Peter mentioned no names, but Leonore understood.
"No," she said. "You are quite right."
"You shall meet him some day," said Peter, "if you wish, but when we can have only people who won't embarrass or laugh at him."
"Really, I don't know whom to select."
"Perhaps you would like to meet Le Grand?"
"Very much. He is just the man."
"Then we'll consider that settled. Are you free for the ninth?"
"Yes. I'm not going out this spring, and mamma and papa haven't really begun yet, and it's so late in the season that I'm sure we are free."
"Then I will ice the canvas-backs and champagne and dust off the Burgundy for that day, if your mamma accedes."
"Peter, I wanted to ask you the other day about that. I thought you didn't drink wine."
"I don't. But I give my friends a glass, when they are good enough to come to me. I live my own life, to please myself, but for that very reason, I want others to live their lives to please themselves. Trying to live other people's lives for them, is a pretty dog-in-the-manger business."
Just then Mrs. D'Alloi joined them. "Were you able to translate it?" she asked, sitting down by them.
"Yes, indeed," said Leonore. "It means 'Towards the right side,' or as a motto it might be translated, 'For the right side.'"
Mrs. D'Alloi had clearly, to use a western expression, come determined to "settle down and grow up with the country." So Peter broached the subject of the dinner, and when she hesitated, Leonore called Watts into the group. He threw the casting ballot in favor of the dinner, and so it was agreed upon. Peter was asked to come to Leonore's birthday festival, "If you don't mind such short notice," and he didn't mind, apparently. Then the conversation wandered at will till Peter rose. In doing so, he turned to Leonore, and said:
"I looked the question of nationality up to-day, and found I was right. I've written out a legal opinion in my best hand, and will deliver it to you, on receiving my fee."
"How much is that?" said Leonore, eagerly.
"That you come and get it."
DOWN-TOWN NEW YORK.
Peter had not been working long the next morning when he was told that "The Honorable Terence Denton wishes to see you," "Very well," he said, and that worthy was ushered in.
"Good-morning, Denton. I'm glad to see you. I was going down to the Hall to-day to say something, but you've saved me the trouble."
"I know you was. So I thought I'd get ahead of you," said Denton, with a surly tone and manner.
"Sit down," said Peter. Peter had learned that, with a certain class of individuals, a distance and a seat have a very dampening effect on anger. It is curious, man's instinctive desire to stand up to and be near the object for which anger is felt.
"You've been talking against me in the ward, and makin' them down on me."
"No, I didn't talk against you. I've spoken with some of the people about the way you think of voting on the franchises."
"Yes. I wasn't round, but a friend heard Dennis and Blunkers a-going over it last night. And it's you did it."
"Yes. But you know me well enough to be sure, after my talk with you yesterday, that I wouldn't stop there."
"So you try to set the pack on me."
"No. I try to see how the ward wants its alderman to vote on the franchises."
"Look a-here. What are you so set on the Hummel crowd for?"
"Is it because Hummel's a big contractor and gives you lots of law business?"
"No," said Peter, smiling. "And you don't think it is, either."
"Has they offered you some stock cheap?"
"Come, come, Denton. You know the tu quoque do here."
Denton shifted in his seat uneasily, not knowing what reply to make. Those two little Latin words had such unlimited powers of concealment in them. He did not know whether tu quoque meant something about votes, an insulting charge, or merely a reply, and feared to make himself ridiculous by his response to them. He was not the first man who has been hampered and floored by his own ignorance. He concluded he must make an entire change of subject to be safe. So he said, "I ain't goin' to be no boss's puppy dog."
"No," said Peter, finding it difficult not to smile, "you are not that kind of a man."
"I takes my orders from no one."
"Denton, no one wants you to vote by order. We elected you alderman to do what was best for the ward and city, as it seems to you. You are responsible for your votes to us, and no other man can be. I don't care who orders you or advises you; in the end, you must vote yourself, and you yourself will be held to account by us."
"Yes. But if I don't vote as you wants, you'll sour the boys on me."
"I shall tell them what I think. You can do the same. It's a fair game between us."
"No, it ain't. You're rich and you can talk more."
"You know my money has nothing to do with it. You know I don't try to deceive the men in talking to them. If they trust what I tell them, it's because it's reasonable, and because I haven't tricked them before."
"Well, are you goin' to drive me out?"
"I hope not. I think you've made a good alderman, Denton, and you'll find I've said so."
"If you vote for that franchise, I shall certainly tell the ward that I think you've done wrong. Then the ward will do as they please."
"As you please, you mean."
"No. You've been long enough in politics to know that unless I can make the ward think as I do, I couldn't do anything. What would you care for my opinion, if you didn't know that the votes are back of it?"
Just then the door swung open, and Dennis came in. "Tim said yez was alone wid Denton, sir, so Oi came right in. It's a good-mornin', sir. How are yez, Terence?"
"You are just the man I want, Dennis. Tell Denton how the ward feels about the franchises."
"Shure. It's one man they is. An' if Denton will step down to my place this night, he'll find out how they think."
"They never would have felt so, if Mister Stirling hadn't talked to them. Not one in twenty knew the question was up."
"That's because they are most of them too hard working to keep track of all the things. Come, Denton; I don't attempt to say how you shall vote. I only tell you how it seems to me. Go round the ward, and talk with others. Then you can tell whether I can give you trouble in the future or not. I don't want to fight you. We've been good friends in the past, and we can do more by pulling in double harness than by kicking, I don't know a man I would rather see at the Hall." Peter held out his hand, and Denton took it.
"All right, Mister Stirling. I'll do my best to stay friends," he said, and went out.
Peter turned and smiled at Dennis. "They can't find out that it's not I, but the ward. So every time there's trouble they lay it against me, and it's hard to keep them friendly. And I hate quarrels and surliness."
"It's yezself can do it, though. Shure, Denton was in a great state av mind this mornin', they was tellin' me, but he's all right now, an' will vote right, or my name isn't Dennis Moriarty."
"Yes. He doesn't know it yet, but he'll vote square on Tuesday."
Just then Tim brought in the cards of Watts and Leonore, and strangely enough, Peter said they were to be shown in at once. In they came, and after the greetings, Peter said:
"Miss D'Alloi, this is my dear friend, Dennis Moriarty. Dennis, Miss D'Alloi has wanted to know you because she's heard of your being such a friend to me."
"Shure," said Dennis, taking the little hand so eagerly offered him, "Oim thinkin' we're both lucky to be in the thoughts at all, at all, av such a sweet young lady."
"Oh, Mr. Moriarty, you've kissed the blarney stone."
"Begobs," responded Dennis, "it needs no blarney stone to say that. It's afther sayin' itself."
"Peter, have you that opinion?"
"Yes." Peter handed her out a beautifully written sheet of script, all in due form, and given an appearance of vast learning, by red ink marginal references to such solid works as "Wheaton," "Story," and "Cranch's" and "Wallace's" reports. Peter had taken it practically from a "Digest," but many apparently learned opinions come from the same source. And the whole was given value by the last two lines, which read, "Respectfully submitted, Peter Stirling." Peter's name had value at the bottom of a legal opinion, or a check, if nowhere else.
"Look, Mr. Moriarty," cried Leonore, too full of happiness over this decision of her nationality not to wish for some one with whom to share it, "I've always thought I was French—though I didn't feel so a bit—and now Mr. Stirling has made me an American, and I'm so happy. I hate foreigners."
Watts laughed. "Why, Dot. You mustn't say that to Mr. Moriarty. He's a foreigner himself."
"Oh, I forgot. I didn't think that——" Poor Leonore stopped there, horrified at what she had said.
"No," said Peter, "Dennis is not a foreigner. He's one of the most ardent Americans I know. As far as my experience goes, to make one of Dennis's bulls, the hottest American we have to-day, is the Irish-American."
"Oh, come," said Watts. "You know every Irishman pins his loyalty to the 'owld counthry.'"
"Shure," said Dennis, "an' if they do, what then? Sometimes a man finds a full-grown woman, fine, an' sweet, an' strong, an' helpful to him, an' he comes to love her big like. But does that make him forget his old weak mother, who's had a hard life av it, yet has done her best by him? Begobs! If he forgot her, he wouldn't be the man to make a good husband. Oi don't say Oi'm a good American, for its small Oi feel besides Misther Stirling. But Oi love her, an' if she ever wants the arm, or the blood, or the life, av Dennis Moriarty, she's only got to say so."
"Well," said Watts, "this is very interesting, both as a point of view and as oratory; but it isn't business. Peter, we came down this morning to take whatever legal steps are necessary to put Dot in possession of her grandmother's money, of which I have been trustee. Here is a lot of papers about it. I suppose everything is there relating to it."
"Papa seemed to think it would be very wise to ask you to take care of it, and pay me the income, I can't have the principal till I'm twenty-five."
"You must tie it up some way, Peter, or Dot will make ducks and drakes of it. She has about as much idea of the value of money as she has of the value of foreigners. When we had our villa at Florence, she supported the entire pauper population of the city."
Peter had declined heretofore the care of trust funds. But it struck him that this was really a chance—from a business standpoint, entirely! It is true, the amount was only ninety two thousand, and, as a trust company would handle that sum of money for four hundred and odd dollars, he was bound to do the same; and this would certainly not pay him for his time. "Sometimes, however," said Peter to himself, "these, trusteeships have very handsome picking's, aside from the half per cent." Peter did not say that the "pickings," as they framed themselves in his mind, were sundry calls on him at his office, and a justifiable reason at all times for calling on Leonore; to say nothing of letters and other unearned increment. So Peter was not obstinate this time. "It's such a simple matter that I can have the papers drawn while you wait, if you've half an hour to spare." Peter did this, thinking it would keep them longer, but later it occurred to him it would have been better to find some other reason, and leave the papers, because then Leonore would have had to come again soon. Peter was not quite as cool and far-seeing as he was normally.
He regretted his error the more when they all took his suggestion that they go into his study. Peter rang for his head clerk, and explained what was needed with great rapidity, and then left the latter and went into the study.
"I wonder what he's in such a hurry for?" said the clerk, retiring with the papers.
When Peter entered the library he found Leonore and Watts reposing in chairs, and Dennis standing in front of them, speaking. This was what Dennis was saying:
"'Schatter, boys, an' find me a sledge.' Shure, we thought it was demented he was, but he was the only cool man, an' orders were orders. Dooley, he found one, an' then the captain went to the rails an' gave it a swing, an' struck the bolts crosswise like, so that the heads flew off, like they was shootin' stars. Then he struck the rails sideways, so as to loosen them from the ties. Then says he: 'Half a dozen av yez take off yez belts an' strap these rails together!' Even then we didn't understand, but we did it All this time the dirty spal—Oi ask yez pardon, miss—all this time the strikers were pluggin' at us, an' bullets flyin' like fun. 'Drop your muskets,' says the captain, when we had done; 'fall in along those rails. Pick them up, and double-quick for the shed door,' says he, just as if he was on parade. Then we saw what he was afther, and double-quick we went. Begobs, that door went down as if it was paper. He was the first in. 'Stand back,' says he, 'till Oi see what's needed.' Yez should have seen him walk into that sheet av flame, an' stand theer, quiet-like, thinkin', an' it so hot that we at the door were coverin' our faces to save them from scorchin'. Then he says: 'Get your muskets!' We went, an' Moike says to me: 'It's no good. No man can touch them cars. He's goin' to attind to the strikers,' But not he. He came out, an' he says: 'B'ys, it's hot in there, but, if you don't mind a bit av a burn, we can get the poor fellows out. Will yez try?' 'Yes!' we shouted. So he explained how we could push cars widout touchin' them. 'Fall in,' says he. 'Fix bayonets. First file to the right av the cars, second rank to the left. Forward, march!' An' we went into that hell, an' rolled them cars out just as if we was marchin' down Broadway, wid flags, an' music, an' women clappin' hands."
"But weren't you dreadfully burnt?"
"Oh, miss, yez should have seen us! We was blacker thin the divil himsilf. Hardly one av us but didn't have the hair burnt off the part his cap didn't cover; an', as for eyelashes, an' mustaches, an' blisters, no one thought av them the next day. Shure, the whole company was in bed, except them as couldn't lie easy."
"And Mr. Stirling?"
"Shure, don't yez know about him?"
"Why, he was dreadful burnt, an' the doctors thought it would be blind he'd be; but he went to Paris, an' they did somethin' to him there that saved him. Oh, miss, the boys were nearly crazy wid fear av losin' him. They'd rather be afther losin' the regimental cat."
Peter had been tempted to interrupt two or three times, but it was so absorbing to watch Leonore's face, and its changing expression, as, unconscious of his presence, she listened to Dennis, that Peter had not the heart to do it. But now Watts spoke up.
"Do you hear that, Peter? There's value for you! You're better than the cat."
So the scenes were shifted, and they all sat and chatted till Dennis left. Then the necessary papers were brought in and looked over at Peter's study-table, and Miss D'Alloi took another of his pens. Peter hoped she'd stop and think a little, again, but she didn't. Just as she had begun an L she hesitated, however.
"Why," she said, "this paper calls me 'Leonore D'Alloi, spinster!' I'm not going to sign that."
"That is merely the legal term," Peter explained. Leonore pouted for some time over it, but finally signed. "I shan't be a spinster, anyway, even if the paper does say so," she said.
Peter agreed with her.
"See what a great blot I've made on your clean blotter," said Leonore, who had rested the pen-point there. "I'm very sorry." Then she wrote on the blotter, "Leonore D'Alloi. Her very untidy mark." "That was what Madame Mellerie always made me write on my exercises."
Then they said "Good-bye." "I like down-town New York better and better," said Leonore.
So did Peter.
A BIRTHDAY EVENING.
Peter went into Ray's office on Monday. "I want your advice," he said. "I'm going to a birthday dinner to-morrow. A girl for whom I'm trustee. Now, how handsome a present may I send her?"
"H'm. How well do you know her?"
"We are good friends."
"Just about what you please, I should say, if you know her well, and make money out of her?"
"That is, jewelry?"
"Thanks." Peter turned.
"Who is she, Peter? I thought you never did anything so small as that. Nothing, or four figures, has always seemed your rule?"
"This had extenuating circumstances," smiled Peter.
So when Peter shook hands, the next evening, with the very swagger young lady who stood beside her mother, receiving, he was told:
"It's perfectly lovely! Look." And the little wrist was held up to him. "And so were the flowers. I couldn't carry a tenth of them, so I decided to only take papa's. But I put yours up in my room, and shall keep them there." Then Peter had to give place to another, just as he had decided that he would have one of the flowers from the bunch she was carrying, or—he left the awful consequences of failure blank.
Peter stood for a moment unconscious of the other people, looking at the pretty rounded figure in the dainty evening dress of French open-work embroidery. "I didn't think she could be lovelier than she was in her street and riding dresses but she is made for evening dress," was his thought. He knew this observation wasn't right, however, so he glanced round the room, and then walked up to a couple.
"There, I told Mr. Beekman that I was trying to magnetize you, and though your back was turned, you came to me at once."
"Er—really, quite wonderful, you know," said Mr. Beekman. "I positively sharn't dare to be left alone with you, Miss De Voe."
"You needn't fear me. I shall never try to magnetize you, Mr. Beekman," said Miss De Voe. "I was so pleased," she continued, turning to Peter, "to see you take that deliberate survey of the room, and then come over here."
Peter smiled. "I go out so little now, that I have turned selfish. I don't go to entertain people. I go to be entertained. Tell me what you have been doing?"
But as Peter spoke, there was a little stir, and Peter had to say "excuse me." He crossed the room, and said, "I am to have the pleasure, Mrs. Grinnell," and a moment later the two were walking towards the dining-room. Miss De Voe gave her arm to Beekman calmly, but her eyes followed Peter. They both could have made a better arrangement. Most dinner guests can.
It was a large dinner, and so was served in the ball-room. The sixty people gathered were divided into little groups, and seated at small tables holding six or eight. Peter knew all but one at his table, to the extent of having had previous meetings. They were all fashionables, and the talk took the usual literary-artistic-musical turn customary with that set. "Men, not principles" is the way society words the old cry, or perhaps "personalities, not generalities" is a better form. So Peter ate his dinner quietly, the conversation being general enough not to force him to do more than respond, when appealed to. He was, it is true, appealed to frequently. Peter had the reputation, as many quiet men have, of being brainy. Furthermore he knew the right kind of people, was known to enjoy a large income, was an eligible bachelor, and was "interesting and unusual." So society no longer rolled its Juggernaut over him regardlessly, as of yore. A man who was close friends with half a dozen exclusives of the exclusives, was a man not to be disregarded, simply because he didn't talk. Society people applied much the same test as did the little "angle" children, only in place of "he's frinds wid der perlice," they substituted "he's very intimate with Miss De Voe, and the Ogdens and the Pells."
Peter had dimly hoped that he would find himself seated at Leonore's table—He had too much self depreciation to think for a moment that he would take her in—but hers was a young table, he saw, and he would not have minded so much if it hadn't been for that Marquis. Peter began to have a very low opinion of foreigners. Then he remembered that Leonore had the same prejudice, so he became more reconciled to the fact that the Marquis was sitting next her. And when Leonore sent him a look and a smile, and held up the wrist, so as to show the pearl bracelet, Peter suddenly thought what a delicious rissole he was eating.
As the dinner waned, one of the footmen brought him a card, on which Watts had written: "They want me to say a few words of welcome and of Dot. Will you respond?" Peter read the note and then wrote below it: "Dear Miss D'Alloi: You see the above. May I pay you a compliment? Only one? Or will it embarrass you?" When the card came back a new line said: "Dear Peter: I am not afraid of your compliment, and am very curious to hear it." Peter said, "Tell Mr. D'Alloi that I will with pleasure." Then he tucked the card in his pocket. That card was not going to be wasted.
So presently the glasses were filled up, even Peter saying, "You may give me a glass," and Watts was on his feet. He gave "our friends" a pleasant welcome, and after apologizing for their absence, said that at least, "like the little wife in the children's play, 'We too have not been idle,' for we bring you a new friend and introduce her to you to-night."
Then Peter rose, and told the host: "Your friends have been grieved at your long withdrawal from them, as the happy faces and welcome we tender you this evening, show. We feared that the fascination of European art, with its beauty and ease and finish, had come to over-weigh the love of American nature, despite its life and strength and freshness; that we had lost you for all time. But to-night we can hardly regret even this long interlude, if to that circumstance we owe the happiest and most charming combination of American nature and European art—Miss D'Alloi."
Then there was applause, and a drinking of Miss D'Alloi's health, and the ladies passed out of the room—to enjoy themselves, be it understood, leaving the men in the gloomy, quarrelsome frame of mind it always does.
Peter apparently became much abstracted over his cigar, but the abstraction was not perhaps very deep, for he was on his feet the moment Watts rose, and was the first to cross the hall into the drawing-room. He took a quick glance round the room, and then crossed to a sofa. Dorothy and—and some one else were sitting on it.
"Speaking of angels," said Dorothy.
"I wasn't speaking of you," said Peter. "Only thinking."
"There," said Leonore. "Now if Mrs. Grinnell had only heard that."
Peter looked a question, so Leonore continued:
"We were talking about you. I don't understand you. You are so different from what I had been told to think you. Every one said you were very silent and very uncomplimentary, and never joked, but you are not a bit as they said, and I thought you had probably changed, just as you had about the clothes. But Mrs. Grinnell says she never heard you make a joke or a compliment in her life, and that at the Knickerbocker they call you 'Peter, the silent.' You are a great puzzle."
Dorothy laughed. "Here we four women—Mrs. Grinnell, and Mrs. Winthrop and Leonore and myself—have been quarrelling over you, and each insisting you are something different. I believe you are not a bit firm and stable, as people say you are, but a perfect chameleon, changing your tint according to the color of the tree you are on. Leonore was the worst, though! She says that you talk and joke a great deal. We could have stood anything but that!"
"I am sorry my conversation and humor are held in such low estimation."
"There," said Leonore, "See. Didn't I tell you he joked? And, Peter, do you dislike women?"
"Unquestionably," said Peter.
"Please tell me. I told them of your speech about the sunshine, and Mrs. Winthrop says that she knows you didn't mean it. That you are a woman-hater and despise all women, and like to get off by yourself."
"That's the reason I joined you and Dorothy," said Peter.
"Do you hate women?" persisted Leonore.
"A man is not bound to incriminate himself," replied Peter, smiling.
"Then that's the reason why you don't like society, and why you are so untalkative to women. I don't like men who think badly of women. Now, I want to know why you don't like them?"
"Supposing," said Peter, "you were asked to sit down to a game of whist, without knowing anything of the game. Do you think you could like it?"
"No. Of course not!"
"Well, that is my situation toward women. They have never liked me, nor treated me as they do other men. And so, when I am put with a small-talk woman, I feel all at sea, and, try as I may, I can't please her. They are never friendly with me as they are with other men."
"Rubbish!" said Dorothy. "It's what you do, not what she does, that makes the trouble. You look at a woman with those grave eyes and that stern jaw of yours, and we all feel that we are fools on the spot, and really become so. I never stopped being afraid of you till I found out that in reality you were afraid of me. You know you are. You are afraid of all women."
"He isn't a bit afraid of women," affirmed Leonore.
Just then Mr. Beekman came up. "Er—Mrs. Rivington. You know this is—er—a sort of house-warming, and they tell me we are to go over the house, don't you know, if we wish. May I harve the pleasure?"
Dorothy conferred the boon. Peter looked down at Leonore with a laugh in his eyes. "Er—Miss D'Alloi," he said, with the broadest of accents, "you know this,—er—is a sort of a house-warming and—" He only imitated so far and then they both laughed.
Leonore rose. "With pleasure. I only wish Mrs. Grinnell had heard you. I didn't know you could mimic?"
"I oughtn't. It's a small business. But I am so happy that I couldn't resist the temptation."
Leonore asked, "What makes you so happy?"
"My new friend," said Peter.
Leonore went on up the stairs without saying anything. At the top, however, she said, enthusiastically: "You do say the nicest things! What room would you like to see first?"
"Yours," said Peter.
So they went into the little bedroom, and boudoir, and looked over them. Of course Peter found a tremendous number of things of interest. There were her pictures, most of them her own purchases in Europe; and her books and what she thought of them; and her thousand little knick-knacks of one kind and another. Peter wasn't at all in a hurry to see the rest of the house.
"These are the photographs of my real friends," said Leonore, "except yours. I want you to give me one to complete my rack."
"I haven't had a photograph taken in eight years, and am afraid I have none left."
"Then you must sit."
"Very well. But it must be an exchange." Peter almost trembled at his boldness, and at the thought of a possible granting.
"Do you want mine?"
"I have dozens," said Leonore, going over to her desk, and pulling open a drawer. "I'm very fond of being taken. You may have your choice."
"That's very difficult," said Peter, looking at the different varieties. "Each has something the rest haven't. You don't want to be generous, and let me have these four?"
"Oh, you greedy!" said Leonore, laughing. "Yes, if you'll do something I'm going to ask you."
Peter pocketed the four. "That is a bargain," he said, with a brashness simply disgraceful in a good business man. "Now, what is it?"
"Miss De Voe told me long ago about your savings-bank fund for helping the poor people. Now that I have come into my money, I want to do what she does. Give a thousand dollars a year to it—and then you are to tell me just what you do with it."
"Of course I'm bound to take it, if you insist. But it won't do any good. Even Miss De Voe has stopped giving now, and I haven't added anything to it for over five years."
"Why is that?"
"You see, I began by loaning the fund to people who were in trouble, or who could be boosted a little by help, and for three or four years, I found the money went pretty fast. But by that time people began to pay it back, with interest often, and there has hardly been a case when it hasn't been repaid. So what with Miss De Voe's contributions, and the return of the money, I really have more than I can properly use already. There's only about eight thousand loaned at present, and nearly five thousand in bank."
"I'm so sorry!" said Leonore. "But couldn't you give some of the money, so that it wouldn't come back?"
"That does more harm than good. It's like giving opium to kill temporary pain. It stops the pain for the moment, but only to weaken the system so as to make the person less able to bear pain in the future. That's the trouble with most of our charity. It weakens quite as much as it helps."
"I have thought about this for five years as something I should do. I'm so grieved." And Leonore looked her words.
Peter could not stand that look. "I've been thinking of sending a thousand dollars of the fund, that I didn't think there was much chance of using, to a Fresh Air fund and the Day Nursery. If you wish I'll send two thousand instead and then take your thousand? Then I can use that for whatever I have a chance."
"That will do nicely. But I thought you didn't think regular charities did much good?"
"Some don't. But it's different with children. They don't feel the stigma and are not humiliated or made indolent by help. We can't do too much to help them. The future of this country depends on its poor children. If they are to do right, they must be saved from ill-health, and ignorance, and vice; and the first step is to give them good food and air, so that they shall have strong little bodies. A sound man, physically, may not be a strong man in other ways, but he stands a much better chance."
"Oh, it's very interesting," said Leonore. "Tell me some more about the poor people."
"What shall I tell you?" said Peter.
"How to help them."
"I'll speak about something I have had in mind for a long time, trying to find some way to do it. I think the finest opportunity for benevolence, not already attempted, would be a company to lend money to the poor, just as I have attempted, on a small scale, in my ward. You see there are thousands of perfectly honest people who are living on day wages, and many of them can lay up little or no money. Then comes sickness, or loss of employment, or a fire which burns up all their furniture and clothes, or some other mischance, and they can turn only to pawnbrokers and usurers, with their fearful charges; or charity, with its shame. Then there are hundreds of people whom a loan of a little money would help wonderfully. This boy can get a place if he had a respectable suit of clothes. Another can obtain work by learning a trade, but can't live while he learns it. A woman can support herself if she can buy a sewing-machine, but hasn't the money to buy it. Another can get a job at something, but is required to make a deposit to the value of the goods intrusted to her. Now, if all these people could go to some company, and tell their story, and get their notes discounted, according to their reputation, just as the merchant does at his bank, don't you see what a help it would be?"
"How much would it take, Peter?"
"One cannot say, because, till it is tested, there would be no way of knowing how much would be asked for. But a hundred thousand dollars would do to start with."
"Why, that's only a hundred people giving a thousand each," cried Leonore eagerly. "Peter, I'll give a thousand, and I'll make mamma and papa give a thousand, and I'll speak to my friends and—"
"Money isn't the difficult part," said Peter, longing to a fearful degree to take Leonore in his arms. "If it were only money, I could do it myself—or if I did not choose to do it alone, Miss De Voe and Pell would help me."
"What is it, then?"
"It's finding the right man to run such a company. I can't give the time, for I can do more good in other directions. It needs a good business man, yet one who must have many other qualities which rarely go with a business training. He must understand the poor, because he must look into every case, to see if it is a safe risk—or rather if the past life of the applicant indicates that he is entitled to help. Now if your grandfather, who is such an able banker, were to go into my ward, and ask about the standing of a man in it, he wouldn't get any real information. But if I ask, every one will tell me what he thinks. The man in control of such a bank must be able to draw out the truth. Unless the management was just what it ought to be, it would be bankrupt in a few months, or else would not lend to one quarter of the people who deserve help. Yet from my own experience, I know, that money can be loaned to these people, so that the legal interest more than pays for the occasional loss, and that most of these losses are due to inability, more than to dishonesty."
"I wish we could go on talking," sighed Leonore. "But the people are beginning to go downstairs. I suppose I must go, so as to say good-bye. I only wish I could help you in charity."
"You have given me a great charity this evening," said Peter.
"You mean the photographs," smiled Leonore.
"You have shown me the warmest and most loving of hearts," said Peter, "and that is the best charity in the world."
On the way down they met Lispenard coming up. "I've just said good-night to your mother. I would have spoken to you while we were in your room, but you were so engrossed that Miss Winthrop and I thought we had better not interrupt."
"I didn't see you," said Leonore.
"Indeed!" said Lispenard, with immense wonderment. "I can't believe that. You know you were cutting us." Then he turned to Peter. "You old scamp, you," he whispered, "you are worse than the Standard Oil."
"I sent for you some time ago, Leonore," said her mother, disapprovingly. "The guests have been going and you were not here."
"I'm sorry, mamma. I was showing Peter the house."
"Good-night," said that individual. "I dread formal dinners usually, but this one has been the pleasantest of my life."
"That's very nice. And thank you, Peter, for the bracelet, and the flowers, and the compliment. They were all lovely. Would you like a rose?"
Would he? He said nothing, but he looked enough to get it.
"Can't we put you down?" said a man at the door. "It's not so far from Washington Square to your place, that your company won't repay us."
"Thank you," said Peter, "but I have a hansom here."
Yet Peter did not ride. He dismissed cabby, and walked down the Avenue. Peter was not going to compress his happiness inside a carriage that evening. He needed the whole atmosphere to contain it.
As he strode along he said:
"It isn't her beauty and grace alone"—(It never is with a man, oh, no!)—"but her truth and frankness and friendliness. And then she doesn't care for money, and she isn't eaten up with ambition. She is absolutely untouched by the world yet. Then she is natural, yet reserved, with other men. She's not husband-hunting, like so many of them. And she's loving, not merely of those about her, but of everything."
Musicians will take a simple theme and on it build unlimited variations. This was what Peter proceeded to do. From Fifty-seventh Street to Peter's rooms was a matter of four miles. Peter had not half finished his thematic treatment of Leonore when he reached his quarters. He sat down before his fire, however, and went on, not with hope of exhausting all possible variations, but merely for his own pleasure.
Finally, however, he rose and put photographs, rose, and card away.
"I've not allowed myself to yield to it," he said (which was a whopper) "till I was sure she was what I could always love. Now I shall do my best to make her love me."
A GOOD DAY.
The next day it was raining torrents, but despite this, and to the utter neglect of his law business, Peter drove up-town immediately after lunch, to the house in Fifty-seventh Street. He asked for Watts, but while he was waiting for the return of the servant, he heard a light foot-step, and turning, he found Leonore fussing over some flowers. At the same moment she became conscious of his presence.
"Good-day," said Peter.
"It isn't a good day at all," said Leonore, in a disconsolate voice, holding out her hand nevertheless.
"It's a horrid day, and I'm in disgrace."
"For misbehaving last night. Both mamma and madame say I did very wrong. I never thought I couldn't be real friends with you." The little lips were trembling slightly.
Peter felt a great temptation to say something strong. "Why can't the women let such an innocent child alone?" he thought to himself. Aloud he said, "If any wrong was done, which I don't think, it was my fault. Can I do anything?"
"I don't believe so," said Leonore, with a slight unsteadiness in her voice. "They say that men will always monopolize a girl if she will allow it, and that a really well-mannered one won't permit it for a moment."
Peter longed to take her in his arms and lay the little downcast head against his shoulder, but he had to be content with saying: "I am so sorry they blame you. If I could only save you from it." He evidently said it in a comforting voice, for the head was raised a trifle.
"You see," said Leonore, "I've always been very particular with men, but with you it seemed different. Yet they both say I stayed too long upstairs, and were dreadfully shocked about the photographs. They said I ought to treat you like other men. Don't you think you are different?"
Yes. Peter thought he was very different.
"Mr. D'Alloi will see you in the library," announced the footman at this point.
Peter turned to go, but in leaving he said: "Is there any pleasure or service I can do, to make up for the trouble I've caused you?"
Leonore put her head on one side, and looked a little less grief-stricken. "May I save that up?" she asked.
A moment later Peter was shaking hands with Watts.
"This is nice of you. Quite like old times. Will you smoke?"
"No. But please yourself. I've something to talk about."
"Watts, I want to try and win the love of your little girl."
"Dear old man," cried Watts, "there isn't any one in God's earth whom I would rather see her choose, or to whom I would sooner trust her."
"Thank you, Watts," said Peter, gratefully. "Watts is weak, but he is a good fellow," was his mental remark. Peter entirely forgot his opinion of two weeks ago. It is marvellous what a change a different point of view makes in most people.
"But if I give you my little Dot, you must promise me one thing."
"What is that?"
"That you will never tell her? Ah! Peter, if you knew how I love the little woman, and how she loves me. From no other man can she learn what will alter that love. Don't make my consent bring us both suffering?"
"Watts, I give my word she shall never know the truth from me."
"God bless you, Peter. True as ever. Then that is settled. You shall have a clear field and every chance."
"I fear not. There's something more. Mrs. D'Alloi won't pardon that incident—nor do I blame her. I can't force my presence here if she does not give her consent. It would be too cruel, even if I could hope to succeed in spite of her. I want to see her this morning. You can tell better than I whether you had best speak to her first, or whether I shall tell her."
"H'm. That is a corker, isn't it? Don't you think you had better let things drift?"
"No. I'm not going to try and win a girl's love behind the mother's back. Remember, Watts, the mother is the only one to whom a girl can go at such a time. We mustn't try to take advantage of either."
"Well, I'll speak to her, and do my best. Then I'll send her to you. Help yourself to the tobacco if you get tired of waiting tout seul."
Watts went upstairs and knocked at a door. "Yes," said a voice. Watts put his head in. "Is my Rosebud so busy that she can't spare her lover a few moments?"
"Watts, you know I live for you."
Watts dropped down on the lounge. "Come here, then, like a loving little wife, and let me say my little say."
No woman nearing forty can resist a little tenderness in her husband, and Mrs. D'Alloi snuggled up to Watts in the pleasantest frame of mind. Watts leaned over and kissed her cheek. Then Mrs. D'Alloi snuggled some more.
"Now, I want to talk with you seriously, dear," he said. "Who do you think is downstairs?"
"Dear old Peter. And what do you think he's come for!"
"He wants our consent, dear, to pay his addresses to Leonore."
"Oh, Watts!" Mrs. D'Alloi ceased to snuggle, and turned a horrified face to her husband.
"I've thought she attracted him, but he's such an impassive, cool old chap, that I wasn't sure."
"That's what I've been so afraid of. I've worried so over it."
"You dear, foolish little woman. What was there to worry over?"
"Watts! You won't give your consent?"
"Of course we will. Why, what more do you want? Money, reputation, brains, health." (That was the order in which Peter's advantages ranged themselves in Watts's mind). "I don't see what more you can ask, short of a title, and titles not only never have all those qualities combined, but they are really getting decidedly nouveau richey and not respectable enough for a Huguenot family, who've lived two hundred and fifty years in New York. What a greedy mamma she is for her little girl."
"Oh, Watts! But think!"
"It's hard work, dear, with your eyes to look at. But I will, if you'll tell me what to think about."
"My husband! You cannot have forgotten? Oh, no! It is too horrible for you to have forgotten that day."
"You heavenly little Puritan! So you are going to refuse Peter as a son-in-law, because he—ah—he's not a Catholic monk. Why, Rosebud, if you are going to apply that rule to all Dot's lovers, you had better post a sign: 'Wanted, a husband. P.S. No man need apply.'"
"Watts! Don't talk so."
"Dear little woman. I'm only trying to show you that we can't do better than trust our little girl to Peter."
"With that stain! Oh, Watts, give him our pure, innocent, spotless child!"
"Oh, well. If you want a spotless wedding, let her marry the Church. She'll never find one elsewhere, my darling."
"Watts! How can you talk so? And with yourself as an example. Oh, husband! I want our child—our only child—to marry a man as noble and true as her father. Surely there must be others like you?"
"Yes. I think there are a great many men as good as I, Rosebud! But I'm no better than I should be, and it's nothing but your love that makes you think I am."
"I won't hear you say such things of yourself. You know you are the best and purest man that ever lived. You know you are."
"If there's any good in me, it's because I married you."
"Watts, you couldn't be bad if you tried." And Mrs. D'Alloi put her arms round Watts's neck and kissed him.
Watts fondled her for a moment in true lover's fashion. Then he said, "Dear little wife, a pure woman can never quite know what this world is. I love Dot next to you, and would not give her to a man whom I believe would not be true to her, or make her happy. I know every circumstance of Peter's connection with that woman, and he is as blameless as man ever was. Such as it was, it was ended years ago, and can never give him more trouble. He is a strong man, and will be true to Dot. She might get a man who would make her life one long torture. She may be won by a man who only cares for her money, and will not even give her the husks of love. But Peter loves her, and has outgrown his mistakes. And don't forget that but for him we might now have nothing but some horribly mangled remains to remember of our little darling. Dear, I love Dot twenty times more than I love Peter. For her sake, and yours, I am trying to do my best for her."
So presently Mrs. D'Alloi came into the library, where Peter sat. She held out her hand to him, but Peter said:
"Let me say something first. Mrs. D'Alloi, I would not have had that occurrence happen in your home or presence if I had been able to prevent it. It grieves me more than I can tell you. I am not a roue. In spite of appearances I have lived a clean life. I shall never live any other in the future. I—I love Leonore. Love her very dearly. And if you will give her to me, should I win her, I pledge you my word that I will give her the love, and tenderness, and truth which she deserves. Now, will you give me your hand?"
"He is speaking the truth," thought Mrs. D'Alloi, as Peter spoke. She held out her hand. "I will trust her to you if she chooses you."
Half an hour later, Peter went back to the drawing-room, to find Leonore reposing in an exceedingly undignified position before the fire on a big tiger-skin, and stroking a Persian cat, who, in delight at this enviable treatment, purred and dug its claws into the rug. Peter stood for a time watching the pretty tableau, wishing he was a cat.
"Yes, Tawney-eye," said Leonore, in heartrending tones, "it isn't a good day at all."
"I'm going to quarrel with you on that," said Peter. "It's a glorious day."
Leonore rose from the skin. "Tawney-eye and I don't think so."
"But you will. In the first place I've explained about the monopoly and the photographs to your mamma, and she says she did not understand it, and that no one is to blame. Secondly, she says I'm to stay to dinner and am to monopolize you till then. Thirdly, she says we may be just as good friends as we please. Fourthly, she has asked me to come and stay for a week at Grey-Court this summer. Now, what kind of a day is it?"
"Simply glorious! Isn't it, Tawney-eye?" And the young lady again forgot her "papas, proprieties, potatoes, prunes and prisms," and dropping down on the rug, buried her face in the cat's long silky hair. Then she reappeared long enough to say:
"You are such a comforting person! I'm so glad you were born."
After this statement, so satisfying to both, Leonore recovered her dignity enough to rise, and say, "Now, I want to pay you for your niceness. What do you wish to do?"
"Suppose we do what pleases you."
"No. I want to please you."
"That is the way to please me," said Peter emphatically.
Just then a clock struck four. "I know," said Leonore. "Come to the tea-table, and we'll have afternoon tea together. It's the day of all others for afternoon tea."
"I just said it was a glorious day."
"Oh? yes. It's a nice day. But it's dark and cold and rainy all the same."
"But that makes it all the better. We shan't be interrupted."
"Do you know," said Leonore, "that Miss De Voe told me once that you were a man who found good in everything, and I see what she meant."
"I can't hold a candle to Dennis. He says its 'a foine day' so that you feel that it really is. I never saw him in my life, when it wasn't 'a foine day.' I tell him he carries his sunshine round in his heart."
"You are so different," said Leonore, "from what every one said. I never knew a man pay such nice compliments. That's the seventh I've heard you make."
"You know I'm a politician, and want to become popular."
"Oh, Peter! Will you let me ask you something?"
"Anything," said Peter, rashly, though speaking the absolute truth. Peter just then was willing to promise anything. Perhaps it was the warm cup of tea; perhaps it was the blazing logs; perhaps it was the shade of the lamp, which cast such a pleasant rosy tint over everything; perhaps it was the comfortable chair; perhaps it was that charming face; perhaps it was what Mr. Mantalini called the "demd total."
"You see," said Leonore, shaking her head in a puzzled way, "I've begun to read the papers—the political part, I mean—and there are so many things I don't understand which I want to ask you to explain."
"That is very nice," said Peter, "because there are a great many things of which I want to tell you."
"Goody!" said Leonore, forgetting again she was now bound to conduct herself as befit a society girl. "And you'll not laugh at me if I ask foolish questions?"
"Then what do the papers mean by calling you a boss?"
"That I am supposed to have sufficient political power to dictate to a certain extent."
"But don't they speak of a boss as something not nice?" asked Leonore, a little timidly, as if afraid of hurting Peter's feelings.
"Usually it is used as a stigma," said Peter, smiling. "At least by the kind of papers you probably read."
"But you are not a bad boss, are you?" said Leonore, very earnestly.
"Some of the papers say so."
"That's what surprised me. Of course I knew they were wrong, but are bosses bad, and are you a boss?"
"You are asking me one of the biggest questions in American politics. I probably can't answer it, but I'll try to show you why I can't. Are there not friends whose advice or wish would influence you?"
"Yes. Like you," said Leonore, giving Peter a glimpse of her eyes.
"Really," thought Peter, "if she does that often, I can't talk abstract politics." Then he rallied and said: "Well, that is the condition of men as well, and it is that condition, which creates the so-called boss. In every community there are men who influence more or less the rest. It may be that one can only influence half a dozen other intimates. Another may exert power over fifty. A third may sway a thousand. One may do it by mere physical superiority. Another by a friendly manner. A third by being better informed. A fourth by a deception or bribery. A fifth by honesty. Each has something that dominates the weaker men about him. Take my ward. Burton is a prize-fighter, and physically a splendid man. So he has his little court. Driscoll is a humorist, and can talk, and he has his admirers. Sloftky is popular with the Jews, because he is of their race. Burrows is a policeman, who is liked by the whole ward, because of his kindness and good-nature. So I could go on telling you of men who are a little more marked than the rest, who have power to influence the opinions of men about them, and therefore have power to influence votes. That is the first step in the ladder."
"But isn't Mr. Moriarty one?"
"He comes in the next grade. Each of the men I have mentioned can usually affect an average of twenty-five votes. But now we get to another rung of the ladder. Here we have Dennis, and such men as Blunkers, Denton, Kennedy, Schlurger and others. They not merely have their own set of followers, but they have more or less power to dominate the little bosses of whom I have already spoken. Take Dennis for instance. He has fifty adherents who stick to him absolutely, two hundred and fifty who listen to him with interest, and a dozen of the smaller bosses, who pass his opinions to their followers. So he can thus have some effect on about five hundred votes. Of course it takes more force and popularity to do this and in this way we have a better grade of men."
"Yes. I like Mr. Moriarty, and can understand why others do. He is so ugly, and so honest, and so jolly. He's lovely."
"Then we get another grade. Usually men of a good deal of brain force, though not of necessity well educated. They influence all below them by being better informed, and by being more far-seeing. Such men as Gallagher and Dummer. They, too, are usually in politics for a living, and so can take the trouble to work for ends for which the men with other work have no time. They don't need the great personal popularity of those I have just mentioned, but they need far more skill and brain. Now you can see, that these last, in order to carry out their intentions, must meet and try to arrange to pull together, for otherwise they can do nothing. Naturally, in a dozen or twenty men, there will be grades, and very often a single man will be able to dominate them all, just as the smaller bosses dominate the smaller men. And this man the papers call a boss of a ward. Then when these various ward bosses endeavor to unite for general purposes, the strongest man will sway them, and he is boss of the city."
"And that is what you are?"
"Yes. By that I mean that nothing is attempted in the ward or city without consultation with me. But of course I am more dependent on the voters than they are on me, for if they choose to do differently from what I advise, they have the power, while I am helpless."
"You mean the smaller bosses?"
"Not so much them as the actual voters. A few times I have shot right over the heads of the bosses and appealed directly to the voters."
"Then you can make them do what you want?"
"Within limits, yes. As I told you, I am absolutely dependent on the voters. If they should defeat what I want three times running, every one would laugh at me, and my power would be gone. So you see that a boss is only a boss so long as he can influence votes."
"But they haven't defeated you?"
"No, not yet."
"But if the voters took their opinions from the other bosses how did you do anything?"
"There comes in the problem of practical politics. The question of who can affect the voters most. Take my own ward. Suppose that I want something done so much that I insist. And suppose that some of the other leaders are equally determined that it shan't be done. The ward splits on the question and each faction tries to gain control in the primary. When I have had to interfere, I go right down among the voters and tell them why and what I want to do. Then the men I have had to antagonize do the same, and the voters decide between us. It then is a question as to which side can win the majority of the voters. Because I have been very successful in this, I am the so-called boss. That is, I can make the voters feel that I am right."
"For many reasons. First, I have always tried to tell the voters the truth, and never have been afraid to acknowledge I was wrong, when I found I had made a mistake, so people trust what I say. Then, unlike most of the leaders in politics, I am not trying to get myself office or profit, and so the men feel that I am disinterested. Then I try to be friendly with the whole ward, so that if I have to do what they don't like, their personal feeling for me will do what my arguments never could. With these simple, strong-feeling, and unreasoning folk, one can get ten times the influence by a warm handshake and word that one can by a logical argument. We are so used to believing what we read, if it seems reasonable, that it is hard for us to understand that men who spell out editorials with difficulty, and who have not been trained to reason from facts, are not swayed by what to us seems an obvious argument. But, on the contrary, if a man they trust, puts it in plain language to them, they see it at once. I might write a careful editorial, and ask my ward to read it, and unless they knew I wrote it, they probably wouldn't be convinced in the least. But let me go into the saloons, and tell the men just the same thing, and there isn't a man who wouldn't be influenced by it."
"You are so popular in the ward?" asked Leonore.
"I think so, I find kind words and welcome everywhere. But then I have tried very hard to be popular. I have endeavored to make a friend of every man in it with whom one could be friendly, because I wished to be as powerful as possible, so that the men would side with me whenever I put my foot down on something wrong."
"Do you ever tell the ward how they are to vote?"
"I tell them my views. But never how to vote. Once I came very near it, though."
"How was that?"
"I was laid up for eight months by my eyes, part of the time in Paris. The primary in the meantime had put up a pretty poor man for an office. A fellow who had been sentenced for murder, but had been pardoned by political influence. When I was able to take a hand, I felt that I could do better by interfering, so I came out for the Republican candidate, who was a really fine fellow. I tried to see and talk to every man in the ward, and on election day I asked a good many men, as a personal favor, to vote for the Republican, and my friends asked others. Even Dennis Moriarty worked and voted for what he calls a 'dirty Republican,' though he said 'he never thought he'd soil his hands wid one av their ballots.' That is the nearest I ever came to telling them how to vote."
"And did they do as you asked?"
"The only Republican the ward has chosen since 1862 was elected in that year. It was a great surprise to every one—even to myself—for the ward is Democratic by about four thousand majority. But I couldn't do that sort of thing often, for the men wouldn't stand it. In other words, I can only do what I want myself, by doing enough else that the men wish. That is, the more I can do to please the men, the more they yield their opinions to mine."
"Then the bosses really can't do what they want?"
"No. Or at least not for long. That is a newspaper fallacy. A relic of the old idea that great things are done by one-man power. If you will go over the men who are said to control—the bosses, as they are called—in this city, you will find that they all have worked their way into influence slowly, and have been many years kept in power, though they could be turned out in a single fight. Yet this power is obtained only by the wish of a majority, for the day they lose the consent of a majority of the voters that day their power ends. We are really more dependent than the representatives, for they are elected for a certain time, while our tenure can be ended at any moment. Why am I a power in my ward? Because I am supposed to represent a given number of votes, which are influenced by my opinions. It would be perfectly immaterial to my importance how I influenced those votes, so long as I could control them. But because I can influence them, the other leaders don't dare to antagonize me, and so I can have my way up to a certain point. And because I can control the ward I have made it a great power in city politics."
"How did you do that?"
"By keeping down the factional feeling. You see there are always more men struggling for power or office, than can have it, and so there cannot but be bad blood between the contestants. For instance, when I first became interested in politics, Moriarty and Blunkers were quite as anxious to down each other as to down the Republicans. Now they are sworn friends, made so in this case, by mere personal liking for me. Some have been quieted in this way. Others by being held in check. Still others by different means. Each man has to be studied and understood, and the particular course taken which seems best in his particular case. But I succeeded even with some who were pretty bitter antagonists at first, and from being one of the most uncertain wards in the city, the sixth has been known at headquarters for the last five years as 'old reliability' from the big majority it always polls. So at headquarters I am looked up to and consulted. Now do you understand why and what a boss is?"
"Yes, Peter. Except why bosses are bad."
"Don't you see that it depends on what kind of men they are, and what kind of voters are back of them. A good man, with honest votes back of him, is a good boss, and vice versa."
"Then I know you are a good boss. It's a great pity that all the bosses can't be good?"
"I have not found them so bad. They are quite as honest, unselfish, and reasonable as the average of mankind. Now and then there is a bad man, as there is likely to be anywhere. But in my whole political career, I have never known a man who could control a thousand votes for five years, who was not a better man, all in all, than the voters whom he influenced. More one cannot expect. The people are not quick, but they find out a knave or a demagogue if you give them time."
"It's the old saying; 'you can fool all of the people, some of the time, and some of the people all of the time, but you can't fool all of the people all of the time,'" laughed a voice.
Peter took his eyes off Leonore's face, where they had been resting restfully, and glanced up. Watts had entered the room.
"Go on," said Watts. "Don't let me interrupt your political disquisitions; I have only come in for a cup of tea."
"Miss D'Alloi and I were merely discussing bosses," said Peter. "Miss D'Alloi, when women get the ballot, as I hope they will, I trust you will be a good boss, for I am sure you will influence a great many votes."
"Oh!" said Leonore, laughing, "I shan't be a boss at all. You'll be my boss, I think, and I'll always vote for you."
Peter thought the day even more glorious than he had before.
THE BETTER ELEMENT.
The evening after this glorious day, Peter came in from his ride, but instead of going at once to his room, he passed down a little passage, and stood in a doorway.
"Is everything going right, Jenifer?" he queried.
"The flowers came from Thorley's?"
"And the candies and ices from Maillard?"
"And you've frappe the champagne?"
"Jenifer, don't put quite so much onion juice as usual in the Queen Isabella dressing. Ladies don't like it as much as men."
"And you stood the Burgundy in the sun?"
"Yissah! Wha foh yo' think I doan do as I ginl'y do?"
Jenifer was combining into a stuffing bread crumbs, chopped broiled oysters, onions, and many other mysterious ingredients, and was becoming irritated at such evident doubt of his abilities.
Peter ought to have been satisfied, but he only looked worried. He glanced round the little closet that served as a kitchen, in search of possible sources for slips, but did not see them. All he was able to say was, "That broth smells very nice, Jenifer."
"Yissah. Dar ain't nuffin in dat sup buh a quart a thick cream, and de squeezin's of a hunerd clams, sah. Dat sup will make de angels sorry dey died. Dey'll just tink you'se dreful unkine not to offer dem a secon' help. Buh doan yo' do it, sah, foh when dey gits to dem prayhens, dey'll be pow'ful glad yo' didn't." To himself, Jenifer remarked: "Who he gwine hab dis day? He neber so anxious befoh, not even when de Presidint an Guv'nor Pohter dey dun dine hyah."
Peter went to his room and, after a due course of clubbing and tubbing, dressed himself with the utmost care. Truth compels the confession that he looked in his glass for some minutes. Not, however, apparently with much pleasure, for an anxious look came into his face, and he remarked aloud, as he turned away, "I don't look so old, but I once heard Watts say that I should never take a prize for my looks, and he was right. I wonder if she cares for handsome men?"