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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesIole - Chapter 10
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Iole - Chapter 10 Post by :MSCOTT Category :Long Stories Author :Robert W. Chambers Date :May 2012 Read :2035

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Iole - Chapter 10

CHAPTER X

When the curtain at last descended upon the parting attitudes of the players the poet arose with an alacrity scarcely to be expected in a gentleman of his proportions. Two and two his big, healthy daughters--there remained but four now--followed him to the lobby. When he was able to pack all four into a cab he did so and sent them home without ceremony; then, summoning another vehicle, gave the driver the directions and climbed in.

Half an hour later he was deposited under the bronze shelter of the porte-cochere belonging to an extremely expensive mansion overlooking the park; and presently, admitted, he prowled ponderously and softly about an over-gilded rococo reception-room. But all anxiety had now fled from his face; he coyly nipped the atmosphere at intervals as various portions of the furniture attracted his approval; he stood before a splendid canvas of Goya and pushed his thumb at it; he moused and prowled and peeped and snooped, and his smile grew larger and larger and sweeter and sweeter, until--dare I say it!--a low smooth chuckle, all but noiseless, rippled the heavy cheeks of the poet; and, raising his eyes, he beheld a stocky, fashionably-dressed and red-faced man of forty intently eying him. The man spoke decisively and at once:

"Mr. Guilford? Quite so. I am Mr. West."

"You are--" The poet's smile flickered like a sickly candle. "I--this is--are you Mr. _Stanley West?"

"I am."

"It must--it probably was your son----"

"I am unmarried," said the president of the Occidental tartly, "and the only Stanley West in the directory."

The poet swayed, then sat down rather suddenly on a Louis XIV chair which crackled. Several times he passed an ample hand over his features. A mechanical smile struggled to break out, but it was not _the smile, any more than glucose is sugar.

"Did--ah--_did you receive two tickets for the New Arts Theater--ah--Mr. West?" he managed to say at last.

"I did. Thank you very much, but I was not able to avail myself----"

"Quite so. And--ah--do you happen to know who it was that--ah--presented your tickets and occupied the seats this afternoon?"

"Why, I suppose it was two young men in our employ--Mr. Lethbridge, who appraises property for us, and Mr. Harrow, one of our brokers. May I ask why?"

For a long while the poet sat there, eyes squeezed tightly closed as though in bodily anguish. Then he opened one of them:

"They are--ah--quite penniless, I presume?"

"They have prospects," said West briefly. "Why?"

The poet rose; something of his old attitude returned; he feebly gazed at a priceless Massero vase, made a half-hearted attempt to join thumb and forefinger, then rambled toward the door, where two spotless flunkies attended with his hat and overcoat.

"Mr. Guilford," said West, following, a trifle perplexed and remorseful, "I should be very--er--extremely happy to subscribe to the New Arts Theater--if that is what you wished."

"Thank you," said the poet absently as a footman invested him with a seal-lined coat.

"Is there anything more I could do for you, Mr. Guilford?"

The poet's abstracted gaze rested on him, then shifted.

"I--I don't feel very well," said the poet hoarsely, sitting down in a hall-seat. Suddenly he began to cry, fatly.

Nobody did anything; the stupefied footman gaped; West looked, walked nervously the length of the hall, looked again, and paced the inlaid floor to and fro, until the bell at the door sounded and a messenger-boy appeared with a note scribbled on a yellow telegraph blank:


"Lethbridge and I just married and madly happy. Will be on hand Monday, sure. Can't you advance us three months' salary?

"HARROW."


"Idiots!" said West. Then, looking up: "What are you waiting for, boy?"

"Me answer," replied the messenger calmly.

"Oh, you were told to bring back an answer?"

"Ya-as."

"Then give me your pencil, my infant Chesterfield." And West scribbled on the same yellow blank:


"Checks for you on your desks Monday. Congratulations. I'll see you through, you damfools.

"WEST."


"Here's a quarter for you," observed West, eying the messenger.

"T'anks. Gimme the note."

West glanced at the moist, fat poet; then suddenly that intuition which is bred in men of his stamp set him thinking. And presently he tentatively added two and two.

"Mr. Guilford," he said, "I wonder whether this note--and my answer to it--concerns you."

The poet used his handkerchief, adjusted a pair of glasses, and blinked at the penciled scrawl. Twice he read it; then, like the full sun breaking through a drizzle--like the glory of a search-light dissolving a sticky fog, _the smile of smiles illuminated everything: footmen, messenger, financier.

"Thank you," he said thickly; "thank you for your thought. Thought is but a trifle to bestow--a little thing in itself. But it is the little things that are most important--the smaller the thing the more vital its importance, until"--he added in a genuine burst of his old eloquence--"the thing becomes so small that it isn't anything at all, and then the value of nothing becomes so enormous that it is past all computation. That is a very precious thought! Thank you for it; thank you for understanding. Bless you!"

Exuding a rich sweetness from every feature the poet moved toward the door at a slow fleshy waddle, head wagging, small eyes half closed, thumbing the atmosphere, while his lips moved in wordless self-communion: "The attainment of nothing at all--that is rarest, the most precious, the most priceless of triumphs--very, very precious. So"--and his glance was sideways and nimbly intelligent--"so if nothing at all is of such inestimable value, those two young pups can live on their expectations--_quod erat demonstrandum_."

He shuddered and looked up at the facade of the gorgeous house which he had just quitted.

"So many sunny windows to sit in--to dream in. I--I should have found it agreeable. Pups!"

Crawling into his cab he sank into a pulpy mound, partially closing his eyes. And upon his pursed-up lips, unuttered yet imminent, a word trembled and wabbled as the cab bounced down the avenue. It may have been "precious"; it was probably "pups!"

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CHAPTER IXThere was a young wife behind the footlights explaining to a young man who was not her husband that her marriage vows need not be too seriously considered if he, the young man, found them too inconvenient. Which scared the young man, who was plainly a purveyor of heated air and a short sport. And, although she explained very clearly that if he needed her in his business he had better say so quick, the author's invention gave out just there and he called in the young wife's husband to help him out. And all the while the battery of
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