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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe Romance Of An Old-fashioned Gentleman - Chapter 9
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The Romance Of An Old-fashioned Gentleman - Chapter 9 Post by :Hugh_de_Payen Category :Long Stories Author :Francis Hopkinson Smith Date :May 2012 Read :1482

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The Romance Of An Old-fashioned Gentleman - Chapter 9


At the offices of Philip Colton & Co., just off Wall Street, an unusual stir was apparent--an air of expectancy seemed to pervade everything. The cashier had arrived at his desk half an hour earlier than usual, and so had the stock clerk and the two book-keepers. This had been in accordance with Mr. Colton's instructions the night before, and they had been carried out to the minute. The papers in the big copper loan, he had told the stock clerk, were to be signed at half-past eleven o'clock the next morning, and he wanted all the business of the preceding day cleaned up and out of the way before the new deal went through. This accomplished, he said to himself, Mr. Eggleston would be able to retire a part if not all of his special capital, and his dear Madeleine, to quote a morning journal, find a place by the side of "one of the bright young financiers of our time."

Mr. Eggleston, in tan-colored waistcoat, white gaiters and shiny silk hat, a gold-headed cane in one hand--the embodiment of a prosperous man of affairs--also arrived half an hour earlier--ten o'clock, really, an event that caused some astonishment, for not twice in the whole year had the special partner reached his son's office so early in the day.

Young Eggleston reached his desk a few minutes after his father. His dress was as costly as his progenitor's, but a trifle more insistent. The waistcoat was speckled with red; the scarf a brilliant scarlet decorated with a horseshoe set in diamonds, and the shoes patent leather. He was one size smaller than his father and had one-tenth of his brains. With regard to every other measurement, however, there was not the slightest doubt but that in a few years he would equal his distinguished father's outlines, a fact already discernible in his middle distance. In looking around for the missing nine-tenths of gray matter his father had found it under Philip Colton's hat, and the formation of the firm, with himself as special and his son as junior, had been the result.

At half-past ten Mr. Eggleston began to be nervous. Every now and then he would walk out into the main office, interview one of the clerks as to his knowledge of Phil's whereabouts and return again to his private office, where he occupied himself drumming on the desk with the end of his gold pencil, and watching the clock. The junior had no such misgivings--none of any kind. He had a game of polo that afternoon at three, and was chiefly concerned lest the day's work might intervene. The signing of similar papers had once kept him at the office until five.

At eleven o'clock a messenger with a bank-book fastened to his waist by a steel chain, brought a message. "The treasurer of the Seaboard, with the company's attorney, would be at Mr. Eggleston's office," the message read, "in half an hour, to sign the papers. Would he be sure to have Mr. Philip Colton present." (The special's social and financial position earned him this courtesy; most of the other magnates had to go to the trust company to culminate such transactions.)

The character of the message and Philip's continued delay only increased Mr. Eggleston's uneasiness. The stock clerk was called in, as well as one of the book-keepers. "What word, if any, had Mr. Colton given the night before?" he asked impatiently. "What hour did he leave the office? Did any one know of any business which could have detained him? had any telegram been received and mislaid?"--the sum of the replies being that neither word, letter nor telegram had been received, to which was added the proffered information that judging from Mr. Colton's instructions the night before that gentleman must certainly be ill or he would have "showed up" before this.

A few minutes before half-past eleven the treasurer and his attorney were shown into the firm's office, the former a man of sixty, with a cold, smooth-shaven face, ferret eyes and thin, straight lips, thin as the edges of a tight-shut clam, and as bloodless. He was dressed in black and wore a white necktie which gave him a certain ministerial air. His companion, the attorney, was younger and warmer looking, and a trifle stouter, with bushy gray locks under his hat brim, and bushy gray side-whiskers under two red ears that lay flat against his head. He was anything but ministerial, either in deportment or language. What he didn't know about corporation law wouldn't have been of the slightest value to anybody--not even to a would-be attorney passing an examination. Both men were short in their speech and incisively polite, with a quick step-in and step-out air about them which showed how thoroughly they had been trained in the school of Street courtesy--the wasting of a minute of each other's valuable time being the unpardonable sin.

"Glad to see you, Mr. Eggleston," exclaimed the treasurer, with one finger extended, into which the special hooked his own. The official did not see the junior partner; he dealt only with principals.

"Our attorney," he continued, nodding to his companion, "has got the papers. Are you all ready? Where is Mr. Colton?" and he looked around.

"I'm expecting him every minute," replied the special in a nervous tone; "but we can get along without him. My son is here to sign for the firm."

"No, we can't get along. I want him. I have some questions to ask him; these are President Stockton's directions."

Before Eggleston could reply the door of the private office was thrust open and Philip stepped in.

Mr. Eggleston sprang from his chair, and a combination smile showing urbanity, apology, and contentment, now that Phil had arrived, overspread his features.

"We had begun to think you were ill, Colton," he said in a relieved tone. "Anything the matter?"

"No, I stopped to see Mr. Gregg. I am on time, I believe, gentlemen, half-past eleven, wasn't it?" and he consulted his watch. There was a peculiar tremor in Phil's voice that made his prospective father-in-law fasten his eyes upon him as if to learn the cause. Colton looked as if he had been awake all night; he was pale, but otherwise he was himself.

"Yes, you are on the minute," exclaimed the treasurer, picking up the bundle of papers and loosening the tape that bound them together. "You have just returned from the property, we hear. What do you think of it?"

"We have the certificate of the mining engineer," interrupted Mr. Eggleston in a bland tone, regaining his seat.

"Yes, I have it here," the treasurer answered, tapping the bundle of papers. "It is your personal opinion, Mr. Colton, that we want. The president insists upon this; he has a reason for it."

Colton stepped nearer and looked the treasurer square in the eyes.

"My personal opinion, sir," he answered in clear-cut tones, "is that the deposit is practically exhausted. I came here to tell you so. The engineer's report is, I think, too highly colored."

Both father and son started forward in their chairs, their eyes glaring at Philip. They could hardly believe their senses.

"What!" burst out Mr. Eggleston--"you don't mean to say that----"

"One moment, please," interrupted the treasurer, with an impatient wave of his hand towards Eggleston: "Do you think, Mr. Colton, that the issue had better be deferred?"

"I do. Certainly until the mine makes a better showing."

Again Mr. Eggleston tried to interrupt and again he was waved into silence.

"When did you arrive at this conclusion?"

"This morning. I thought differently yesterday, but I have changed my mind. So much so that it would be impossible for me to go on with this loan."

"Shall I take that message to the president?"

"Yes. If I have any cause to change my opinion I'll let him know. But it is not likely I will--I'm sorry to have given you all this trouble."

"Thank you," said the trust company's representative, rising from his chair and extending his hand to Philip. "I might as well tell you that we have heard similar reports and our president felt sure that you would give him the facts. He has great confidence in you, Mr. Colton. If he authorizes me to sign the papers after what you have said to me I'll be back here in a few moments. Good-day, sir!" and with a grim smile lighting his face, the treasurer nodded himself out.

Eggleston waited until the trust company's attorney had gathered up his papers and had closed the door behind him--a mere matter of routine with him; almost every day a transaction of this kind was either deferred or culminated--then he swung himself around in his revolving chair, his cheeks purple with rage, and faced Philip.

"Well, sir! what do you think of the mess you've made of this morning's business! Do you for one instant suppose that Stockton will go on with this deal after what you have told him?"

"If he did, sir, it would not be with my consent," answered Philip coldly.

"Your consent! _Your consent! What do you know about it? Did you ever mine a pound of copper in your life? Did you ever see a pound mined until you made this last trip? And yet you have the effrontery to set yourself up as an expert against one of the best men in his profession! Do you not know that you have made not only the firm but me ridiculous, by your stupid vacillation--and with the Seaboard, of all trust companies! Why didn't you find out all this before you brought these people down here?"

"It is never too late to be honest, sir."

"What do you mean by that!" snapped Eggleston.

"I mean just what I say." Philip's voice was without a tremor, low, forceful and decisive. "The floating of these bonds on the present condition of the mines would have been a fraud. I didn't see it in that way at first, but I do see it now. It is done every day in the Street, I grant you, but it will never be done again with my consent so long as I am a member of this firm!"

Eggleston's lip curled. "You seem to have grown singularly honest overnight, Mr. Colton," he sneered. "According to your ideas Bates, Rankin & Co. were frauds when they floated the Imperial, and so were Porter & King when they sold out the Morningside for two millions of dollars."

"None of them are paying, sir, and it was dishonorable to float the bonds." He was still on his feet, facing his prospective father-in-law, holding him at bay really.

"What's that got to do with it?" snarled Eggleston. "They will pay sometime. As to your honor: That's the cheap sentiment you Southern men are always shouting. Your kind of honor won't hold water here! It was your honor when you tried to hold on to your niggers; and it's your honor when you murder each other in duels, and----"

"Stop, Mr. Eggleston!" said Philip, his face white as chalk, every muscle in his body taut--"this has gone far enough. No position that you hold towards me gives you the right to speak as you have. I have done what was right. I could not have looked either you or Madeleine in the face if I had done differently."

Here the door was swung back, cutting short Eggleston's reply, and a note was passed in, the clerk making a hurried inspection of the faces of his employers, as if to learn the cause of the disturbance.

Eggleston read it and handed it to his son, who so far had not opened his mouth. He could reach the game in time, anyhow.

"Just as I expected!" hissed Eggleston between his teeth: "'Must decline the loan,' he says. 'Thank Mr. Colton for his frankness. Stockton, President.' Thanks Mr. Colton, does he! If you want my opinion I'll tell you that by your confounded backing and filling you've thrown over the best operation we've had since this firm was formed. Find the money somewhere else, Mr. Colton, that I've put in, and I'll draw out. This morning's work convinces me that no sensible man's interests are safe in your hands."

"That will be difficult, sir, when the condition of our firm is known, as it must be. Furthermore, it would be impossible for me to ask it. Since I've been here I've done my best to look after your interests. Some of our ventures, I regret to say, have been unsuccessful. Instead of releasing your capital I shall need some fifty thousand dollars more to carry us through. The situation is upon us and I might as well discuss it with you now."

"We don't owe a dollar we can't pay," blurted out Eggleston, picking up his hat and cane.

"That is true to-day, but to-morrow it may not be. The refusal of this loan by the Seaboard will send back to us every copper stock we have borrowed money on. They are good, better than Portage, but the banks won't believe it. I want this additional money to tide this over."

"You won't get a dollar!"

"Then I'll notify the Exchange of our suspension at once. If we stop now we can carry out your statement and pay every dollar we owe. If we keep on with the market as it is we may not pay fifty cents. Which will you do?"

"Not a dime, sir! Not a cent! Do you hear me--not one cent! You two fools can work it out to suit yourselves. I'm through with you both!" and he slammed the door behind him.

* * * * *

The boys were already crying the news of the downfall of his house when, late that afternoon, Philip pushed aside the velvet curtain and stepped into Adam's studio. He had bought an extra on his way uptown and held it in his hand. "Failure in Wall Street! Philip Colton & Co. suspend!" the headlines read.

"It's all over, Gregg," he said, dropping into a chair, without even offering the painter his hand.

"And he refused to help!" exclaimed Adam.

"Yes, not a cent! There was nothing else to do. We can pay every dollar we owe, but it leaves me stranded. Madeleine is the worst part of it. I did not think she'd go back on me. They are furious at her house. I stopped there, but she wouldn't see me--nobody would. She's wrong, and when she gets the truth she'll think differently, but it's pretty hard while it lasts."

Adam laid his hand on Phil's shoulder and looked steadily into his face.

"Do you regret it, Phil?" The old search-lights were sweeping right and left again.

"Yes, all the trouble it brings and the injury to the firm and to Mr. Eggleston, for I don't forget he's my partner. I didn't think it would end in ruin. I bungled it badly, maybe."

"Are you sorry?"

"No, I'd do it over again!" answered Philip firmly, as he glanced at the portrait.

Gregg tightened his grasp on Philip's shoulder. "That's the true ring, my son!" he cried, his eyes filling with tears. "I've never loved you as I do this minute Now you begin to live. This day marks the parting of the roads: From this day you go forward, not back. It doesn't make any difference what happens or what things you----"

"And you don't think Madeleine will----"

"Think Madeleine will lose her love for you! You don't know the girl--not for one minute. Of course, everything is upside down, and of course there'll be bad blood. Mr. Eggleston is angry, but he'll get over it. What he has lost to-day he has made a dozen times over in his career in a single turn in stocks, and will again. Keep your head up! Finish your work at the office; pay every cent you owe; come back here and let me know if anything is left, and then we'll see Madeleine. You'll find my check-book in that desk at your elbow. I'll sign as many checks in blank as you want and you can fill them up at your leisure. We'll fight this thing out together and we'll win. Madeleine stop loving you! I'll stake my head she won't!"

* * * * *

Events move with great rapidity in the Street. When a tin case the size of a candle-box can be brought in by two men and a million of property dumped out on a table, an immediate accounting of assets is not difficult. Once their value is fixed by the referee they can be dealt to those interested as easily as a pack of cards.

By noon of the following day not only did the firm of Philip Colton & Co. know exactly where they stood, but so did every one of the firm's creditors: Seventy per cent cash and thirty per cent in sixty days was the settlement. All their outside stocks had been closed out under the rule. Philip's thorough business methods and the simplicity and clearness with which his books had been kept made such an adjustment not only possible, but easy. The net result was the wiping out of the special capital of Philip's prospective father-in-law and all of his own capital and earnings. The junior partner was not affected; his allowance went on as usual. He did not even sell his stud; he bought another pony. His father gave him the money; it helped the family credit.

So far not a word had come from Madeleine. Philip had rung the bell of the Eggleston mansion three times since that fatal morning and had been told by the butler in frigid tones that Miss Eggleston "was not at home." None of his notes were answered. That so sensible a girl as Madeleine, one whose whole nature was frankness and love, could be so cruel and so unjust was a disappointment more bitter than the failure.

"She has been lied to by somebody," broke out Philip as he paced up and down Adam's studio, "or she is locked up where nothing can reach her. All my notes come back unopened; the last redirected by Mr. Eggleston himself. Neither he nor his son has been to the office since the settlement. They leave me to sweep up after them--dirty piece of business. Will there be any use in your seeing Mr. Eggleston?"

Adam looked into space for a moment.

He had never met the senior. He had, out of deference to Phil, and contrary to his habitual custom, given him preference over his other sitters, but Eggleston had not kept his appointment and Gregg had postponed the painting of the portrait until the following season. Phil had made excuses, but Adam had only smiled and with the remark--"Time enough next winter," had changed the subject.

"No. Let a young girl manage her own affairs," Adam answered in a decided tone, "especially a girl like Madeleine." He had seen too much misery from interfering with a young girl's heart.

"What do you advise then?"

"To let the storm blow over," Adam replied firmly.

"But you've said that for a week and I am no better off. I can't stand it much longer, Old Gentleman. I _must see Madeleine, I tell you. What can you do to help? Now--not to-morrow or next week?"

"Nothing that would be wise."

"But you promised me to go and see her the afternoon we went to smash."

"So I did, and I'll go if you wish me to."


"To-morrow morning. It is against my judgment to do anything until you hear from her. A woman always finds the way. Madeleine is no exception. She loves you too well not to. But I'll go, my boy, and try."

"You _must go. I tell you I can't and won't wait. I have done nothing I'm ashamed of. Our wedding is off, of course, until I can look around and see what I'm going to do, but that's no reason why we can't continue to see each other."

* * * * *

The butler met him with a polite but decided: "Miss Eggleston is not receiving."

"Take her that card," said Gregg. "I'll wait here for an answer."

The erect figure of the painter, his perfect address, coupled with the air of command which always seemed a part of him, produced an instantaneous curve in the butler's spine.

"Step into the library, sir," he said in a softer tone as he pushed aside the heavy portieres for Adam to enter.

Gregg entered the curtain-muffled room with its marble statues, huge Sevres vases and ponderous gold frames, swept a glance over the blue satin sofas and cumbersome chairs in the hope of finding Madeleine curled up somewhere among the heap of cushions, and then, hat in hand, took up his position in front of the cheerless, freshly varnished hearth to await that young lady's coming. What he would say or how he would approach the subject nearest to his heart would depend on her mental attitude. That she loved Phil as dearly as he loved her there was no question. That she had begun to suffer for loss of him was equally sure. A leaf from his own past told him that.

Again the butler's step was heard in the hall; there came a sound of an opening door, and Mr. Eggleston entered.

As he approached the dealer's description of his white hair and red face--a subject Franz Hal would have loved--came back to the painter.

Adam advanced to meet him with that perfect poise which distinguished him in surprises of this kind. "Mr. Eggleston, is it not?"

"Yes, and whom have I the pleasure of addressing?"--glancing at the card in his hand.

"I am Adam Gregg. We were to meet some time ago, when I was to paint your portrait. This time I came to see your daughter Madeleine."

Mr. Eggleston's manner dropped thermometer-like from the summer heat of graciousness to the zero of reserve: the portrait was no longer a pleasant topic. Moreover he had always believed that the painter had advised Philip the morning of his "asinine declination" of the trust company's proposition.

"May I ask what for?" It was a brutal way of putting it, but the banker had a brutal way of putting things. Generally he confounded the person before him with the business discussed, venting upon him all his displeasure.

"To try and have her receive Philip Colton, or at least to get her reason for not doing so. It may be that it is due to your own objection; if so I should like to talk the matter over with you."

"You are quite right, sir; I do object--object in the strongest manner. I don't wish him here. I've had all I want of Mr. Colton, and so has my daughter."

"May I ask why?"

"I don't know that it is necessary for me to discuss it with you, Mr. Gregg."

"I am his closest friend, and have known him ever since he was five years old."

"Then I positively decline to discuss it with you, sir, for I should certainly say something that would wound your feelings. It is purely a matter of business, and that you artists never understand. If you will excuse me I will return to Mrs. Eggleston; she is an invalid, as you have no doubt heard, and I spend the morning hour with her. I must ask you to excuse me, sir."

* * * * *

On his return to his studio Gregg began to pace the floor, his habit when anything worried him. Phil was to return at three o'clock and he had nothing but bad news for him. That his visit had only made matters worse was too evident. Never in all his life had he been treated with such discourtesy. Eggleston was a vulgarian and a brute, but he was Madeleine's father, and he could not encourage her to defy him. He, of course, wanted these two young people to meet, but not in any clandestine way. Her father, no doubt, would soon see things differently, for success was the foot-rule by which he measured a man, and Phil, with his energy and honesty, would gain this in time. Phil must wait. Everything would come right once the boy got on his legs again. The failure had in every way been an honest one. In this connection he recalled the remark of a visitor who had dropped into the studio the day before and who in discussing the failure had said in the crisp vernacular of the Street: "Bitten off more than they could chew, but square as a brick." It was an expression new to him but he had caught its meaning. That his fellow-brokers had this opinion of Philip meant half the battle won. Men who by a lift of their fingers lose or make fortunes in a din that drowns their voices, and who never lie or crawl, no matter what the consequences, have only contempt for a man who hides his wallet. "Hands out and everything you've got on the table," is their creed. This done their pockets are wide open and every hand raised to help the other fellow to his feet.

All these thoughts raced through Adam's head as he continued to pace the floor. Now and then he would stop in his walk and look intently at some figure in the costly rug beneath his feet, as if the solution of his problem lay in its richly colored surface. Two questions recurred again and again: What could he do to help? and how could he get hold of Madeleine?

As the hours wore on he became more restless. Early that morning--before he had gone to Madeleine's--his brush, spurred by his hopes, had worked as if it had been inspired. Not only had the sitter's head been blocked in with masterly strokes, but with such fulness and power that few of them need ever be retouched--a part of his heart, in fact, had gone into the blending of every flesh tone. But it was all over now; his enthusiasm and sureness had fled. In fact, he had, on his return, dropped his brushes into his ginger-jar for his servant to clean, and given up painting for the day.

Soon he began fussing about his studio, looking over a portfolio for a pose he needed; replacing some books in his library; adding fresh water to the roses that stood under Olivia's portrait--gazing up into its eyes as if some help could be found in their depths--his uneasiness increasing every moment as the hour of Phil's return approached.

At the sound of a quick step in the corridor--how well he knew the young man's tread--he threw open the door and pushed aside the velvet curtain. Better welcome the poor fellow with a smile and a cheery word.

"Come in, Phil!" he cried--"Come--_Why, Madeleine!_"

She stood just outside the door, a heavy brown veil tied over her hat, her trim figure half concealed by a long cloak. For an instant she did not speak, nor did she move.

"Yes, it's I, Mr. Gregg," she sobbed. "Are you sure there's nobody with you? Oh, I'm so wretched! I had to come: Please let me talk to you. Father told me you had been to see me. He was furious when you went away, and I know how he must have behaved to you." She seemed completely prostrated. Buoyant temperaments pendulate in extremes.

He had drawn her inside now, his arms about her, holding her erect as he led her to a seat with the same tenderness of voice and manner he would have shown his own daughter.

"You poor, dear child!" he cried at last. "Now tell me about it. You know how I love you both."

"Oh, Mr. Gregg, it is so dreadful!" she moaned in piteous tone as she sank upon the cushions of the divan, Adam sitting beside her, her hand tight clasped in his own. "I didn't think Phil would bring all this trouble on us. I would forgive him anything but the way in which he deceived papa. He knew there was no copper in the mine, and he kept saying there was, and went right on speculating and using up everything they had, and then when it was all to be found out he turned coward and ruined everybody--and broke my heart! Oh, the cruel--cruel--" and again she hid her face in the cushions.

"What would you think, little girl, if I told you that I advised him to do it?" he pleaded as he patted her shoulder to quiet her.

"You couldn't do it!" Madeleine burst out in an incredulous tone, raising herself on her elbow to look the better into his eyes. "You _wouldn't do it! You are too kind."

"But I did--as much for your sake and your father's and brother's as for his own. All the firm has lost so far is money. That can be replaced. Had Philip not told the truth it would have been their honor. That could never have been replaced."

And then with her hands fast in his, every thought that crossed her mind revealed in her sweet, girlish face, Adam, his big, frank, brown eyes looking into hers, told her the story of Philip's resolve. Not the part which the portrait had played--not one word of that. She would not have understood; then, too, that was Phil's secret, not his, to tell; but the awakening of the dormant nature of an honest man, incrusted with precedents and half-strangled in financial sophistries, to the truth of what lay about him.

"You wouldn't want his lips to touch yours, my child, if they were stained with a lie; nor could you have worn your wedding-gown if the money that paid for it had been stolen. Your father will see it in the same light some day. Then, if he had a dozen daughters he would give every one of them to men like Philip Colton. The boy wants your help now; he is without a penny in the world and has all his life to begin over again. Now he can begin it clean. Get your arms around his neck and tell him you love him and trust him. He needs you more to-day than he will ever need you in all his life."

She had crept closer to him, nestling under his big shoulders. It seemed good to touch him. Somehow there radiated from this man a strength and tenderness which she had never known before: In the tones of his voice, in the feel of his hand, in the restfulness that pervaded his every word and gesture. For the first time, it seemed to her, she realized what it was to have a father.

"And won't you talk to papa again, Mr. Gregg?" she pleaded in a more hopeful voice.

"Yes, if you wish me to, but it would do no good--not now. It is not your father this time, it's you. Will you help Phil make the fight, little girl? You love him, don't you?"

"Oh, with all my heart!"

"Well, then, tell him so. He will be here in a few minutes."

Madeleine sprang from her seat:

"No, I must not see him," she cried in frightened tones; "I promised my father. I came at this time because I knew he would not be here. Let me go: We are having trouble enough. No--please, Mr. Gregg--no, I must go."

"And what shall I tell Phil?" He dared not persuade her.

"Tell him--tell him--Oh, Mr. Gregg, you know how I love him!"

She was through the curtains and halfway down the corridor before he could reach the door. All the light had come back to her eyes and the spring to her step.

Adam walked to the banisters and listened to the patter of her little feet descending the stairs to the street. Then he went back into the studio and drew the curtains. Thank God, her heart was all right.

Once more he picked his brushes from the ginger-jar where in his despair he had thrust them. Nothing in the situation had changed. The fear that Madeleine had lost her love for Phil had never troubled him for an instant. Women's hearts did not beat that way. That Phil's future was assured once he got his feet under him was also a foregone conclusion. What Mr. Eggleston thought about it was another matter, and yet not a serious one. He might be ugly for a time--would be--but that was to be expected in a man who had lost his special capital, a son-in-law and considerable of his reputation at one blow. What had evidently hurt the banker most was the wounding of his pride. He had always stood well with Mr. Stockton--must continue to do so when he realized how many of his other interests depended on his good-will and the trust company's assistance. Phil had not told Adam this when he went over the scene in the office the morning they closed up the accounts, but Gregg had read between the lines. The one bright ray of sunshine was Madeleine's refusal to break her word to her father. That pleased him most of all.

A knock at the door interrupted his revery. It did not sound like Phil's, but Adam had been deceived once before and he hurried to meet him.

This time a messenger stood outside.

"A note for Mr. Adam Gregg," he said. "Are you the man?"

Adam receipted the slip, dismissed the boy and stepped to the middle of the room under the skylight to see the better. It was from Phil.

"I cannot reach you until late. Have just received
a note from the Seaboard Trust Company saying Mr.
Stockton wants to see me. More trouble for
P. C. & Co., I guess. Hope for good news from

This last note filled his mind with a certain undefined uneasiness. What fresh trouble had arisen? Had some other securities on which money had been loaned--made prior to Phil's awakening--been found wanting in value? He hoped the boy's past wasn't going to hurt him.

With this new anxiety filling his mind he laid down his brushes--he had not yet touched his canvas--put on his hat and strode out into the street. A breath of fresh air would clear his head--it always did.

For two hours he walked the pavements--up through the Park; out along the edge of the river and back again. With every step there came to him the realization of the parallels existing between his own life's romance and that of Philip's. Some of these were mere creations of his brain; others--especially those which ended in the sacrifice of a man's career for what he considered to be right--had a certain basis of fact. Then a shiver crept over him: For honor he had lost the woman he loved: Was Phil to tread the same weary path and for the same cause? And if fate should be thus cruel would he and Madeleine forget in time and lead their lives anew and apart, or would their souls cry out in anguish as his had done all these years, each day bringing a new longing and each day a new pain: he in all the vigor of his manhood and the full flower of his accomplishment and still alone and desolate.

With these reflections, none of them logical--but all showing the perturbed condition of his mind and his anxiety for those he loved, he mounted the stairs of the building and pushed open the door of his studio.

It had grown quite dark and the studio was filled with shadows. As he crossed to the mantel--he rarely entered the room without pausing for a moment in front of the portrait--Olivia's face, with that strange, wan expression which the fading light always brought to view, seemed to stand out from the frame as if in appeal, a discovery that brought a further sinking of the heart to his already overburdened spirit.

With a quick movement, as if dreading the power of prolonged darkness, he struck a match and flashed up the circle of gas jets, flooding the studio with light.

Suddenly he stopped and swept his eyes rapidly around the room. Some one beside himself was present. He had caught the sound of a slight movement and the murmur of whispering voices. Then a low, rippling laugh fell upon his ears--the notes of a bird singing in the dark, and the next instant Madeleine sprang from behind a screen where she had been hiding and threw her arms around his neck.

"Guess!" she cried, pressing his ruddy cheeks, fresh from his walk, between her tiny palms. "Guess what's happened! Quick!"

The revulsion was so great that for the moment he lost his breath.

"No! you couldn't guess! Nobody could. Oh, I'm so happy! _Father's--made--it--up--with--Phil!_"

"Made it up! How do you know?" he stammered.

"Phil's just left him. Come out, Phil!"

Phil's head now peered from behind the screen.

"What do you think of that, Old Gentleman?" he cried, clasping Adam's outstretched hand.

"And there isn't any trouble, Phil, over Mr. Stockton's note?" exclaimed Gregg in a joyous but baffled tone of voice: he was still completely at sea over the situation.

"Trouble over what?" asked Phil, equally mystified.

"That's what I want to know. You wrote me that it meant more trouble for your firm."

"Yes, but that was before I had seen Mr. Stockton. Then I ran across Mr. Eggleston just as he was coming out of the trust company, and he sent me to Madeleine--and we couldn't get here quick enough. She beat me running up your stairs. Hasn't she told you? And you don't know about Stockton's letter? No! Why, he has offered me the position of head of the bond department of the trust company at a salary of ten thousand a year, and I go to work to-morrow! Here's his letter. Let me read you the last clause:"

"No, let me," cried Madeleine, reaching for the envelope.

"No--I'll read it," begged Phil.

"No, you won't! I'll read it myself!" burst out Madeleine, catching the letter from Phil's hand and whirling around the room in her glee. "Listen: 'The Trust Company needs men like you, Mr. Colton, and so does the Street!' Isn't that lovely?"

"And that's not all, Old Gentleman!" shouted Phil. "We are going to be married in a month. What do you think of that!"

"And Mr. Eggleston is willing!"

"_Willing! Why, you don't think he would offend Mr. Stockton, do you?"

Gregg had them in his arms now--Madeleine a bundle of joyous laughter; Phil radiant, self-contained, determined.

For a brief moment the three stood silent. A hush came over them. Adam's head was bent, his forehead almost touching Phil's shoulder, a prayer trembling on his lips. Then with a sudden movement he led them to the portrait, and in an exultant tone, through which an unbidden sob fought its way, he cried:

"Look up, my children--up into your mother's face. See the joy in her eyes! It is all her doing, Phil."

"Oh! my beloved, now you know."

* * * * *

The picture has never been taken from Gregg's studio. It still keeps its place over the mantel. There is rarely a day that one of the three does not place flowers beneath it; sometimes Madeleine and Phil arrange them; sometimes Adam; and sometimes little blue-eyed, golden-haired Olivia is lifted up in Gregg's strong arms so that she may fill the jar with her own wee hands.

Francis Hopkinson Smith's Book: Romance Of An Old-fashioned Gentleman

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