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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesMr. Bingle - Chapter 9. The Man Called Hinman
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Mr. Bingle - Chapter 9. The Man Called Hinman Post by :Ozebookstore Category :Long Stories Author :George Barr Mccutcheon Date :May 2012 Read :728

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Mr. Bingle - Chapter 9. The Man Called Hinman

CHAPTER IX. THE MAN CALLED HINMAN

Bright and early on Christmas morning, Mr. Sydney Force walked slowly, even irresolutely up the broad avenue leading to Mr. Bingle's stupendous door-step. The snow had been cleared off of the narrow footpath, but the president of the great city bank was so deeply engrossed that he failed to take advantage of this singular demonstration of worthiness on the part of Edgecomb and his assistants so soon after the break of dawn. As a matter of fact, he had forgotten that it was Christmas morning. He walked in the middle of the roadway, in four inches of snow, and kept his gaze fixed rather intently on the big house at the top of the avenue.

Mr. Force had not slept well. Indeed, he had not slept at all. The shock he had received early in the evening was of the kind that shatters one's peace of mind to a degree but little short of calamitous. A plunge into ice-cold water would have failed to produce the deadly chill that crept over him when he heard the name of Glenn. How he succeeded in controlling himself so well that his profound agitation escaped the attention of the others, he could not explain. He was amazed to find that he had managed it so well. For, it must be confessed, Mr. Force's habitual equanimity had undergone a strain that came so near to resulting in a collapse that only a miracle--(it may have taken the form of stupefaction, or a kindly paralysis)--only a miracle could have kept him from betraying the one great secret of his life.

Ordinarily, he would have put off calling on the Bingles for a month or six weeks, being that scornful of social amenities; but he could hardly wait for the approach of sunrise to be on his way to Seafood on this brilliant Christmas morning. It was not a brilliant, shimmering day for him, however. He saw nothing beautiful in the steel-blue sky: to him it was a drab, unlovely pall. He saw no beauty in the snow-clad foliage, no splendour in the bejewelled tree-tops, no purity in the veil of white that lay upon the face of the earth. He saw only himself, and he was a drear, bleak thing as viewed introspectively.

Nor is it to be taken for granted that Mr. Bingle slept well on this night before Christmas. Neither he nor his wife went to bed until far along in the wee sma' hours. The great house was as still as the grave, save for the occasional crack of shrinking woodwork and the rattle of dislodged icicles on the window-ledges outside. The wind had died away. It seemed that all nature, respecting their mood, had hushed its every noise in order that they might think, and think, and think on without hope or a single sign of promise in this time of despair.

They were to lose Kathleen. The man had been somewhat vague about it, but the situation was clear to them, even though it was not so to him. Their claim to the child--the one they loved best of all--was no longer undivided. A real father had turned up to assert his rights. They might dispute his claim and make the affair so awkward and so unpleasant for him that he would withdraw, but what would be their gain? The man existed. He was the real father. Kathleen was the flesh and blood of this tardy penitent, this betrayer of women, this coward. Never again, so long as she lived, could she be looked upon as theirs. Even though she remained with them, and in perfect contentment, there would still be the sinister shadow lying across the path--the shadow of a man hiding, of a man who dared not come out into the open but whose everlasting presence was a threat.

They did not know this man, they did not know whether he was a blackguard or a gentleman. He was a destroyer; that much they knew. He had wrecked a human life. The detective had declared to Mr. Bingle that his client was a man of means, married, and eminently respectable, but then a detective's idea of respectability is not always a safe one to go by. Every man is respectable until some one is hired to prove that he isn't.

When Mr. Force rang the front door-bell, Mr. and Mrs. Bingle were seated before the fire in the library. Kathleen sat upon the former's knee. The rest of the children had been sent off to the huge playroom on the top floor, and their distant shrieks, muffled by the thicknesses of many doors and walls, came faintly down to the fireside. With the subdued, even refined jingle of the door-bell, the two Bingles straightened up in their chairs and looked into each other's eyes, suddenly apprehensive. Who could be calling on them at such an early hour? Was it some one in connection with this unhappy business? Could it be possible that they had come to take Kathleen away so soon?

"Better run upstairs, now, Kathie," said Mr. Bingle, abruptly. "Skedaddle! Go up the back way, dear." He thought of the back-stairs just in time. It wouldn't do for her to encounter the strange, perhaps unfeeling emissaries in the main hall. No telling what they might do. They might even take forcible possession of her and be off before help could be summoned.

"I want to stay here with you, daddy," protested Kathleen, resolutely clinging to her perch on his knee--and was not to be dislodged. Before Mr. Bingle could utter another word, Diggs appeared in the door and announced Mr. Force. Instantly Kathleen's manner changed. She released her grip on Mr. Bingle's arm and slid to the floor. "Oh, I hate him! I don't want to see him."

"Kathie!" cried Mrs. Bingle, distressed. "You should not say such things. Mr. Force is very nice to you. He likes you--"

"He gives me a pain," said Kathleen succinctly.

"Good heavens!" gasped Mr. Bingle. "Where did you learn such language as that?"

"It isn't language, daddy," said Kathie. "It's just slang. Everybody uses it. Don't people give you a pain sometimes?"

"Never!" said he. "I don't believe in slang," he added, as if to fortify himself against a conviction. "You needn't go, deary. Stay and see Mr. Force."

"I don't want to see him. I want to see Fairy. Oh, daddy, what are you going to let her get married for? I know Freddie will commit suicide if she marries that old Flanders."

"Freddie? What business is it of his?"

"I mustn't tell," she said, suddenly realising that she had been on the point of betraying a grave secret. An instant later she was off like the wind, whisking out of one door as Mr. Force entered by the other.

"Dear me, dear me," sighed Mr. Bingle, staring at his wife helplessly; "what do you suppose has happened to Frederick? A boy of his age talking of suicide is--Oh, good morning, Mr. Force. Merry Christmas! 'Pon my word, you're an early bird. Come up to the fire. You look half frozen. Why, by George, your teeth are chattering. Diggs! Throw on a couple of logs, will you, and get the whiskey. We keep it for medicinal purposes and--"

"Not for me," broke in Mr. Force hastily. "Not a thing to drink, old man. I'm quite all right. It is a bit snappy outside. Good morning, Mrs. Bingle. How are you feeling since the--I beg your pardon, Bingle, I really don't want a drink. Silly of me to shiver like this. You'd think I had a chill, wouldn't you? But I'll be all right in a minute or two."

He stood with his back to the blazing logs. His teeth were chattering, but not because of the cold. Every nerve in his body was on edge; his physical being was merely responding to the turmoil that filled his brain. Could they have seen his hands, clasped behind his back, they might have wondered why the fingers were locked together in a grip so fierce that the cords stood out in ridges on his wrists.

"You don't know what you miss, not having children about you on Christmas morning," said Mr. Bingle, planting his small figure alongside that of the tall man and attempting to spread his coat tails, an utter impossibility in view of the fact that he had no tails to spread, being incased in a dressing gown that reached almost to his heels when he stood erect but unmistakably touched the floor if he permitted his dignity to sag in the least--and he was having some difficulty in maintaining his dignity on this doleful morning, it may be said. "It would have done your heart good, Force, if you could have been here this morning--say at half-past six--and seen the circus we had. Well, sir, it was--"

"Half-past six? My dear man, you don't mean to say those little rascals got you out of bed at that ungodly hour. Why, I would have--"

"Just the other way 'round," said Mr. Bingle, sheepishly. "We had to fairly yank 'em out of bed. We are the rascals, Force--Mary and I. We couldn't wait, don't you see? But, of course, you don't see. You couldn't see unless you'd been counting on Christmas morning for months. You--But, what's the matter, Force? 'Pon my word, you DO need a bracer. Mary, dear, won't you see if--"

"See here, Bingle," blurted out Mr. Force, in desperation, "I want a few words with you alone. It is--imperative. Hope you will excuse me, Mrs. Bingle. I'm a bit upset--yes, considerably upset--over something that has come up in the--er--that is to say, quite recently. I--I want your husband's advice on--on a matter of grave importance."

The Bingles stared at him for a moment in speechless concern. Then Mr. Bingle managed to give expression to the fear that entered his heart as Force concluded his amazing remarks.

"Anything--anything wrong at the bank?" he inquired, swallowing hard. Was the man about to tell him that the bank--the great bank--was going under, that there had been defalcations, that--but even as he pictured the collapse of the bank there shot into his brain another and still more ghastly thought: had the Supreme Court decided against him in the long-fought case of Hooper et al vs. Bingle?

"Certainly NOT," exclaimed Mr. Force, with sudden irascibility. His nerves WERE at a high tension, there was no denying that. "Nothing whatever to do with the bank, sir. What the dev--what could have put such a thought into your head, Bingle?"

"You looked so--so blasted serious," said Mr. Bingle, with surprising heat.

"Thomas!" cried his wife, aghast.

"Beg pardon, Force," muttered Mr. Bingle, very much ashamed of himself. "I didn't mean to be profane. I guess I'm a little nervous myself."

"Can't I look serious without putting the bank on its last legs?" demanded Mr. Force, glaring.

"Certainly," Mr. Bingle made haste to assure him. "Look as serious as you please, Force. I know it can't hurt the bank. Don't go, Mary. Mr. Force and I will slip up to my study. We are less likely to be interrupted there."

"I trust Mrs. Force is well," said the lady of Seawood, and there was a note of anxiety in her voice. There HAD been a queer taste to the lobster a la Newburg. She remembered mentioning it to Mr. Bingle after the company had gone.

Mr. Force was guilty of an uneasy start. What was the woman driving at? What put it into her head to mention his wife? Why SHOULDN'T his wife be well?

"Quite well, thank you," he said at the end of a deep exhalation. Indeed he was quite without breath when he came to the "thank you." It would have been better if he hadn't tried to be so courteous. "Quite well," would have been sufficient. He realised, as he wheezily filled his lungs, that the "thank you" was entirely superfluous. In any event, it wasn't so important that he should have gone to the pains of upsetting his dignity in order to say it, no matter if it was the proper thing to say. He always hated anything that caused him to become red in the face.

"It's quite a relief," said Mrs. Bingle, brightening. It would have been dreadful if anything HAD been the matter with the lobster.

But Mr. Force knew nothing whatever about the suspected lobster and being in considerable doubt as to just how much of Miss Glenn's story the Bingles had learned, very naturally believed that the good lady was concerned about Mrs. Force's peace of mind rather than her state of health. He grew perfectly scarlet and mumbled something about his wife sleeping like a log, and then hastily followed Mr. Bingle out of the room.

"Troubles never come singly, do they, Force?" said Bingle as they mounted the stairs. He sighed deeply.

"So they say," said Force, also sighing. He was thinking of the interview that was to come. He was wondering just how he was going to explain things to Mr. Bingle.

"She isn't to be married till spring, but--Oh, well, I suppose I shouldn't complain." Mr. Force stopped stock-still on the stairs. "Mar-married?" he gasped. "Are you crazy?"

"Almost," said Mr. Bingle promptly. "If anything more happens, I'll be wholly so. Come in, Force. Now, old chap, what's on YOUR mind?" They had entered the study. Mr. Bingle faced his visitor after closing the door carefully behind him. "Out with it? Don't keep me in suspense. Has--has the case finally gone against me?"

"Who is going to be married in the spring?" demanded Force, wiping his brow.

"Miss Fairweather. I thought you knew."

"Oh, the devil! Of course not! What do I know about Miss Fairweather's affairs?"

"Flanders is the man. He's the lucky dog. An old affair, Force. Tremendously romantic story back of--"

"Needn't mind, Bingle. I don't care to hear it at present. I've got something a great deal more important to think about--dammit." He sat down heavily, and began fumbling for his cigar case. His forehead was dripping wet.

"It must be serious," said Mr. Bingle slowly, "or you wouldn't be swearing as you do, Force. I've never heard you swear before."

"It is serious. Of all the improbable, dime novel, hellish--But tell me, Bingle: how much do you know?"

"How much do I know about what?"

"Didn't that fellow blab anything to you last night?"

"Bla--blab?"

Force pointed to a chair. "Sit down. Are you sure no one can hear what I'm saying?"

"No one but yours truly," said Mr. Bingle, assuming a jauntiness he did not feel. He sat down, his back as stiff as a board.

His visitor leaned forward, his hands grasping the arms of the chair. "Well, I'll tell you something, Bingle, that will paralyse you. I--I didn't sleep a wink last night."

"That doesn't paralyse me. Neither did I--"

"This is no time to be funny, Bingle," said the other roughly. "Do you want to know what kept me awake all night, suffering the torments of the damned?"

"I do," responded Mr. Bingle, casting a quick glance at Mr. Force's jaw. He knew what it was to have a toothache.

"Well, it was that miserable business about--about Kathleen," said Force, a querulous note creeping into his voice. Mr. Bingle did not think it worth while to tell him that it was the same miserable business that kept him awake. "Now, I want the truth, Bingle. I want to be sure before I go ahead. It means a great deal to both of us. Was Kathleen's mother named Agnes Glenn?"

"It was," said Mr. Bingle, his eyes narrowing with the dawn of comprehension.

"Did you ever see her?"

"Once, just before she died."

"Describe her, Bingle."

"I can't. Good Lord, man, my eyes were blind with tears all the time I was--"

"Never mind," broke in Force. "We won't go into that, after all. Did she tell you anything about herself, her past life, her--her trouble?"

"Not a word. She was just about to enter the future life, Force. She hadn't much to say. Simply said that she hoped I'd be good to her little baby, that's all. Go on, man."

Mr. Force appeared to be lost in bleak abstraction. The curt command brought him out of it with a start.

"She went by the name of Mrs. Hinman, you say. No other name was mentioned, then or afterwards?"

"No."

"I can tell you something about her, Bingle. She lived for three years as the wife of a man who called himself Hinman. She wasn't his wife and that wasn't his name. She'd been on the stage. She went to live with this man as his wife. She was a good girl up to the time she met this man and fell in love with him. Her home was in the West. Her parents were respected, God-fearing people. They never knew that she-- that she took up the life she led with--Hinman. Don't interrupt me, Bingle. If I don't get it out now, I'll never have the courage to try it again. No man was ever in such a desperate plight as I find myself in to-day. I'll come straight to the point. I am the man called Hinman and--this child you've got here with you is--mine."

He might have had the grace to exhibit some sign of shame or compunction, but he did nothing of the kind. He merely looked defiant, as if expecting Mr. Bingle to say something that he could resent.

But Mr. Bingle sank deeper into his chair, his chin buried, his eyes fastened in a sort of horror upon the face of the President of the great bank. He was incapable of uttering a word.

After a little while Force went on: "Blood will tell. All this accounts for the peculiar, inexplicable attraction that Kathleen has held for me. It is like a chapter out of an impossible novel. It--"

"And perhaps it accounts for the antipathy the poor child has for you," said Mr. Bingle, his voice a trifle shrill and uncertain. He did not take his gaze from the face of his visitor. "It now seems quite natural to me."

"Nonsense! The child had no means of knowing or even suspecting that I--"

"She had a birthright, Force. You can't take that away from her. The hatred for her father was born in her. God wouldn't let her hate the wrong man, you know."

Force got up from the chair, tremendously moved all of a sudden. A piteous, pleading look came into his eyes, and his face, once arrogant, was now haggard with despair.

"Bingle, I--I want you to help me. For God's sake, do what you can for me. Put into practice your beautiful Christmas Carol teachings. I--I want her. She must be made to understand that I love her, she must be made to feel that she is everything in the world to me. She looks like her mother. I thought it was fancy on my part, but now I know. Good God, little did I know where fate was going to lead me when I employed those fellows to find the child of Agnes Glenn. Little did I know that it would lead me to your door, Bingle."

Mr. Bingle arose. He was very pale and shaken, but he managed to control himself with remarkable fortitude.

"I have not told you that Agnes Glenn died of starvation--and carbolic acid," he said slowly. "Have your detectives told you that?"

"Carbolic acid?" whispered Force, with staring eyes. "Starvation? Good God, man--not that!"

"Yes--THAT! The Society found her when she was about gone. I was notified. We were looking for a child. This baby of hers was then about two years old. Mrs. Bingle and I went to the poor little flat where they had found her, after the neighbours had told the police of her plight. She was sick unto death. I said that we would care for her baby as if it were our own. Then I made arrangements to have her removed to a hospital at once. While we were out of the room, she took the carbolic acid. That's the way it happened, Force. That was the end of Agnes Glenn. She was a splendid character, Force. She did not betray you. She stuck by you to the very end. She protected you a great deal better than you protected her."

"See here, Bingle, I don't like your tone. It sounds preachy. You don't know anything about life, so you can't understand. That sort of thing is--well, it happens to a good many men and no one thinks much about it. I daresay that half the men you know have had just such an experience. It's part of the game here in New York. The girls understand it. They have no illusions. They know that these men cannot--or will not marry them. So, as you don't know anything about life as it's practised now-a-days, I'd advise you to go slow with your platitudes."

"All right, Force," said Mr. Bingle quietly. "If that's the way you feel about it, there's no use wasting time over nothing. I can't resist saying, however, that I didn't think it was in you to be so damned cold-blooded."

"Cold-blooded over what? The Glenn girl? Why, my dear man, that was nearly thirteen years ago. I am sorry that she had to go the way she did, but, good Lord, I can't go through life in sackcloth and ashes because she died--as a lot of people do, every year, you know. Hers was not an uncommon case. There are thousands just like it happening every year. It's the price we all pay, men and women. There's no use being sentimental about a perfectly commonplace--I might even say legitimate--transaction. Agnes Glenn was like the rest of her kind: she had a very sharp pair of eyes open all of the time, you may be quite sure of that. I will say this for her, poor little devil: she was no blackmailer. She got down and out when the time came and she never squealed. That's more than most of 'em do, Bingle. 'Pon my soul, old man, I came here to see you this morning fairly trembling in my boots. I had an idea it was going to be a hard, nasty business talking it over with you, but--by George, it isn't. Now, we can get down to rock-bottom, Bingle. My plan was to--"

"Just a minute, please," interrupted Mr. Bingle, quite steadily. "Did you know that she was going to become a mother?"

"Certainly. You don't suppose I'd be looking for the child if I hadn't known she was to be born, do you? I'd be a nice fool, hiring detectives to unearth some other man's child, wouldn't I?"

"I must agree with you in one particular, Force; you are not finding it as hard as you thought it would be. I've never seen a man change more than you have in the past four minutes. You were shaking like a leaf when you came up here, and now--well, 'pon my soul, you are as brave as a lion. That certainly proves one thing."

"What's that?"

"That your conscience is clearing."

"Now, don't get it into your head, Bingle, that I'm not dreadfully sorry for the way that poor girl came to her end. She was really a brick. She deserved something better."

"Knowing that she was going to bear your child, Force, you have every reason, I am sure, to say that she was a brick. I, too, say that she deserved something better than being the mother of your child. What happened? Did she leave you of her own accord?"

"In a way, yes," said Mr. Force coolly. "In the customary way, of course. You see, I was about to be married, Bingle. When I explained the situation to her, she understood. She knew that I couldn't go on leading the sort of life I'd led before--"

"You hesitate, Force. Why couldn't you go on leading the life you'd led before? I should say it was quite as decent at one time as another."

"By Jove, Single, I hadn't the remotest idea you were so simple. I thought you at least knew SOMETHING about life. You amaze me. You are positively refreshing. Let me ask you, Bingle, would you have gone on leading the old life as--now, man to man, Bingle--would you?"

"Yes," said Mr. Bingle simply. A queer unexpected little smile flitted across his face--a wry smile, perhaps, but still a sign of humour. "You see, Force, I love children."

Mr. Force stared at him without comprehension. What the DEUCE had that to do with it?

"Oh, well, you can't understand, of course. To make it short, she was extremely reasonable. As a matter of fact, when I went up to see her the day after I had told her that I was to be married, hang me if she hadn't cleared out. No scene, no tears, no maledictions--just good, hard sense, Bingle, that's what it was. Not many of them would have been so decent about it. They usually make a bluff or something of the sort--money, you know, regular blackmail. But she didn't. She got out as quietly as a mouse, left no trace behind, no regrets, no complaints. Just a note saying she understood and wishing me luck. Rather fine, eh?"

"And you married right after that?"

"Six weeks afterward."

"And, of course, the present Mrs. Hinman knows that she's got a step- daughter?"

"The present Mrs. Hinman? Step-daughter? Good Lord, Bingle, I didn't know you had that much sarcasm in you. But that delicate remark of yours brings me back to the main issue--the matter I really came over to see you about. Naturally Mrs. Force knows nothing of--of this story I've been telling you. Now, what I want to get at is just this: how can we manage it about Kathleen without causing my wife to suspect? Put your mind to it, Bingle. How am I going to take the child under my wing, so to speak--take her into my home, without--" "Wait! We'll look at it from another point of view. Suppose this detective of yours had found your child in the slums of New York, a street waif, a beggar-- what then? Was it your intention to take her into your home in that case? Wasn't it your idea to provide a home for her in some respectable family, educate her, give her a secret allowance--and let it go at that? Can you honestly say to me, Force, that you intended to adopt her--as you are now thinking of doing?"

"Confound you, Bingle, isn't it only reasonable that I should have wanted to see the child before I made any definite plans for her future?"

"And now that you've seen her, and found her to be an adorable, lovely, even high-bred little creature, you think it's all right to take her into your own home--into her father's home?"

"Don't be hard on me, Bingle. Can't you understand that I've got a father's feelings after all? Can't you credit me with--"

"I'll go back a dozen years, Force, and ask you this question: did you make any effort to find this child and provide for her when she was a tiny baby? Did you do anything toward helping the mother in her time of trouble?"

"I tried to help her, Bingle, before God I did," cried Force earnestly. "I'm not such a rotter as all that. Agnes wrote me a brief note when the baby was born. I happened to be off on my wedding- journey at the time. She said she merely wanted me to know that she had a little girl baby, and she went on to say that she'd starve before she'd take a penny from me for its support. That's the truth, Bingle, I swear it. When I got back from California, I tried to find Agnes. I wanted to do the right thing. I wanted to make the rest of her life easy and comfortable. But I couldn't find her."

"Did you hunt very long?"

"Long enough. A year or so later I heard that she was dead and that the child had been taken into a good home. There was nothing more for me to do. I dropped the matter. Then, recently, I began to think about the child. I began to want her. I engaged detectives to--"

"We know all about that," interrupted Mr. Bingle crisply. "And now I think we understand each other clearly, Force. You want Kathleen. So do I. There's only one way for you to get her, and that is to have Mrs. Force intercede for you. If your wife comes to me and says that SHE wants Kathleen, I'll give her up, even though it breaks my heart. What have you to say, Force?"

Force had lost all his lofty confidence. He was shaking again, as with the ague. This was not at all what he had bargained for. Who would have dreamed it of Bingle?

"Come now, Bingle, let us get together--"

Mr. Bingle interrupted him in no uncertain manner. He planted himself squarely in front of the big man--in fact, almost under his nose--and snarled:

"There's only one way for you to get Kathleen away from me, Force, and, darn you, I don't believe you'll undertake it. I shall give her up to you only on condition that you acknowledge her to be your daughter."

Force's jaw dropped. "Are you crazy, Bingle?" he gasped. He lifted his head the next instant in order to avoid the agitated finger that was being shaken under his nose.

"I don't intend that you shall say to the world that she is a child of shame. Not at all, sir! That would be the height of cruelty. But you've got to tell your wife the story you've told me if you want to take Kathleen away from me. She has got to know that the child is yours. You can't come any adoption dodge over me, Force. She's already adopted. She--"

"But, great heaven, man, my wife wouldn't have her in the house if--if she knew the truth about her," exploded the wretched Force. "No woman would stand for that."

"Then, by the eternal Moses," shouted Mr. Bingle, "she'll stay right here with Daddy and Mammy Bingle."

"But she's mine! If, as you say, she is the daughter of Agnes Glenn there isn't the slightest doubt that she belongs to me. I want to do the right thing by the child. I want to--"

"No use talking, Force. There's but one way."

"But, damn it all, I CAN'T go to my wife with all this! I can't--"

"Then Kathleen stays where she is," said Mr. Bingle firmly.

"Great Scott, man, what difference can it make to you? You can adopt another child to-morrow and fill her place. It isn't as if she were your own child. You don't know what it is to have a child of your own --your own flesh and blood. You CAN'T have a father's feeling for--"

"That will do, Force! You've said enough. The matter stands as it is. I'll tell you something else though before we part: I don't want you coming to this house annoying Agnes Glenn's child. I shall tell my wife all that you have told me and I'd advise you to tell yours, because I don't want you to put your foot inside my door until you can come here with Mrs. Force and humbly--you notice I say humbly?-- implore us to give up that which belongs to us by virtue of that old law of salvage. I have already wished you a Merry Christmas, Mr. Force. Now permit me to bid you good morning."

He strode to the study door and opened it. His chin was high and his eyes were uncommonly bright. The hem of the dressing gown was farther from the floor than it had ever been during his ownership.

"I'll think it over, Bingle," muttered Mr. Force, very red in the face as he stalked past the little man and started down the stairs. "Good morning!"

"Good morning!"

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Mr. Bingle - Chapter 8. The Affairs Of Amy And Dick
CHAPTER VIII. THE AFFAIRS OF AMY AND DICKThe affairs of Amy Fairweather and Richard Flanders require explanation. When two good-looking young people meet as these two met, and betray such surprising emotion, it goes without saying that at least one episode in their joint history deserves the undivided attention of the onlooker, who, in this case, happens to be you, kind reader. It must be perfectly clear to you that Miss Fairweather and Mr. Flanders were, at one time in their lives, more than moderately interested in each other. That part of their story does not require elucidation. Indeed, only an
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