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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesPeter: A Novel Of Which He Is Not The Hero - Chapter 26
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Peter: A Novel Of Which He Is Not The Hero - Chapter 26 Post by :beetee Category :Long Stories Author :Francis Hopkinson Smith Date :May 2012 Read :1629

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Peter: A Novel Of Which He Is Not The Hero - Chapter 26

CHAPTER XXVI

At ten o'clock that same night Jack went to the station to meet Garry. He and Ruth had talked over the strange scene-- unaccountable to both of them--and had determined that Jack should see Garry at once.

"I must help him, Ruth, no matter at what cost. Garry has been my friend for years; he has been taken up with his work, and so have I, and we have drifted apart a little, but I shall never forget him for his kindness to me when I first came to New York. I would never have known Uncle Peter but for Garry, or Aunt Felicia, or-- you, my darling."

Jack waited under the shelter of the overhanging roof until the young architect stepped from the car and crossed the track. Garry walked with the sluggish movement of a tired man--hardly able to drag his feet after him.

"I thought I'd come down to meet you, Garry," Jack cried in his old buoyant tone. "It's pretty rough on you, old fellow, working so hard."

Garry raised his head and peered into the speaker's face.

"Why, Jack!" he exclaimed in a surprised tone; the voice did not sound like Garry's. "I didn't see you in the train. Have you been in New York too?" He evidently understood nothing of Jack's explanation.

"No, I came down to meet you. Corinne was at Mr. MacFarlane's to- day, and said you were not well,--and so I thought I'd walk home with you."

"Oh, thank you, old man, but I'm all right. Corinne's nervous;-- you mustn't mind her. I've been up against it for two or three weeks now,--lot of work of all kinds, and that's kept me a good deal from home. I don't wonder Cory's worried, but I can't help it--not yet."

They had reached an overhead light, and Jack caught a clearer view of the man. What he saw sent a shiver through him. A great change had come over his friend. His untidy dress,--always so neat and well kept; his haggard eyes and shambling, unsteady walk, so different from his springy, debonair manner, all showed that he had been and still was under some terrible mental strain. That he had not been drinking was evident from his utterance and gait. This last discovery when his condition was considered, disturbed him most of all, for he saw that Garry was going through some terrible crisis, either professional or financial.

As the two advanced toward the door of the station on their way to the street, the big, burly form of McGowan, the contractor, loomed up.

"I heard you wouldn't be up till late, Mr. Minott," he exclaimed gruffly, blocking Garry's exit to the street. "I couldn't find you at the Council or at your office, so I had to come here. We haven't had that last payment on the church. The vouchers is all ready for your signature, so the head trustee says,--and the money's where you can git at it."

Garry braced his shoulders and his jaw tightened. One secret of the young architect's professional success lay in his command over his men. Although he was considerate, and sometimes familiar, he never permitted any disrespect.

"Why, yes, Mr. McGowan, that's so," he answered stiffly. "I've been in New York a good deal lately and I guess I've neglected things here. I'll try to come up in the morning, and if everything's all right I'll get a certificate and fill it up and you'll get a check in a few days."

"Yes, but you said that last week." There was a sound of defiance in McGowan's voice.

"If I did I had good reason for the delay," answered Garry with a flash of anger. "I'm not running my office to suit you."

"Nor for anybody else who wants his money and who's got to have it, and I want to tell you, Mr. Minott, right here, and I don't care who hears it, that I want mine or I'll know the reason why."

Garry wheeled fiercely and raised his hand as if to strike the speaker, then it dropped to his side.

"I don't blame you, Mr. McGowan," he said in a restrained, even voice. "I have no doubt that it's due you and you ought to have it, but I've been pretty hard pressed lately with some matters in New York; so much so that I've been obliged to take the early morning train,--and you can see yourself what time I get home. Just give me a day or two longer and I'll examine the work and straighten it out. And then again, I'm not very well."

The contractor glared into the speaker's face as if to continue the discussion, then his features relaxed. Something in the sound of Carry's voice, or perhaps some line of suffering in his face must have touched him.

"Well, of course, I ain't no hog," he exclaimed in a softer tone, which was meant as an apology, "and if you're sick that ends it, but I've got all them men to pay and--"

"Yes, I understand and I won't forget. Thank you, Mr. McGowan, and good-night. Come along, Jack,--Corinne's worrying, and will be till I get home."

The two kept silent as they walked up the hill Garry, because he was too tired to discuss the cowardly attack; Jack, because what he had to say must be said when they were alone,--when he could get hold of Garry's hand and make him open his heart.

As they approached the small house and mounted the steps leading to the front porch, Corinne's face could be seen pressed against a pane in one of the dining-room windows. Garry touched Jack's arm and pointed ahead:

"Poor Cory!" he exclaimed with a deep sigh, "that's the way she is every night. Coming home is sometimes the worst part of it all, Jack."

The door flew open and Corinne sprang out: "Are you tired, dear?" she asked, peering into his face and kissing him. Then turning to Jack: "Thank you, Jack!--It was so good of you to go. Ruth sent me word you had gone to meet him."

She led the way into the house, relieving Garry of his hat, and moving up an easy chair stood beside it until he had settled himself into its depths.

Again she bent over and kissed him: "How are things to-day, dear? --any better?" she inquired in a quavering voice.

"Some of them are better and some are worse, Cory; but there's nothing for you to worry about. That's what I've been telling Jack. How's baby? Anybody been here from the board?--Any letters?"

"Baby's all right," the words came slowly, as if all utterance gave her pain. "No, there are no letters. Mr. McGowan was here, but I told him you wouldn't be home till late."

"Yes, I saw him," replied Garry, dropping his voice suddenly to a monotone, an expression of pain followed by a shade of anxiety settling on his face: McGowan and his affairs were evidently unpleasant subjects. At this instant the cry of a child was heard. Garry roused himself and turned his head.

"Listen--that's baby crying! Better go to her, Cory,"

Garry waited until his wife had left the room, then he rose from, his chair, crossed to the sideboard, poured out three-quarters of a glass of raw whiskey and drank it without drawing a breath.

"That's the first to-day, Jack. I dare not touch it when I'm on a strain like this. Can't think clearly, and I want my head,--all of it. There's a lot of sharks down in New York,--skin you alive if they could. I beg your pardon, old man,--have a drop?"

Jack waved his hand in denial, his eyes still on his friend: "Not now, Garry, thank you."

Garry dropped the stopper into the decanter, pushed back the empty tumbler and began pacing the floor, halting now and then to toe some pattern in the carpet, talking all the time to himself in broken sentences, like one thinking aloud. All Jack's heart went out to his friend as he watched him. He and Ruth were so happy. All their future was so full of hope and promise, and Garry-- brilliant, successful Garry,--the envy of all his associates, so harassed and so wretched!

"Garry, sit down and listen to me," Jack said at last. "I am your oldest friend; no one you know thinks any more of you than I do, or will be more ready to help. Now, what troubles you?"

"I tell you, Jack, I'm not troubled!"--something of the old bravado rang in his voice,--"except as everybody is troubled when he's trying to straighten out something that won't straighten. I'm knocked out, that's all,--can't you see it?"

"Yes, I see it,--and that's not all I see. Is it your work here or in New York? I want to know, and I'm going to know, and I have a right to know, and you are not going to bed until you tell me,-- nor will I. I can and will help you, and so will Mr. MacFarlane, and Uncle Peter, and everybody I ask. What's gone wrong?--Tell me!"

Garry continued to walk the floor. Then he wheeled suddenly and threw himself into his chair.

"Well, Jack," he answered with an indrawn sigh,--"if you must know, I'm on the wrong side of the market."

"Stocks?"

"Not exactly. The bottom's fallen out of the Warehouse Company."

Jack's heart gave a rebound. After all, it was only a question of money and this could be straightened out. He had begun to fear that it might be something worse; what, he dared not conjecture.

"And you have lost money?" Jack continued in a less eager tone.

"A whole lot of money."

"How much?"

"I don't know, but a lot. It went up three points to-day and so I am hanging on by my eyelids."

"Well, that's not the first time men have been in that position," Jack replied in a hopeful tone. "Is there anything more,-- something you are keeping back?"

"Yes,--a good deal more. I'm afraid I'll have to let go. If I do I'm ruined."

Jack kept silent for a moment. Various ways of raising money to help his friend passed in review, none of which at the moment seemed feasible or possible.

"How much will make your account good?" he asked after a pause.

"About ten thousand dollars."

Jack leaned forward in his chair. "Ten thousand dollars!" he exclaimed in a startled tone. "Why, Garry--how in the name of common-sense did you get in as deep as that?"

"Because I was a damned fool!"

Again there was silence, during which Garry fumbled for a match, opened his case and lighted a cigarette. Then he said slowly, as he tossed the burnt end of the match from him:

"You said something, Jack, about some of your friends helping. Could Mr. MacFarlane?"

"No,--he hasn't got it,--not to spare. I was thinking of another kind of help when I spoke. I supposed you had got into debt, or something, and were depending on your commissions to pull you out, and that some new job was hanging fire and perhaps some of us could help as we did on the church."

"No," rejoined Garry, in a hopeless tone, "nothing will help but a certified check. Perhaps your Mr. Grayson might do something," he continued in the same voice.

"Uncle Peter! Why, Garry, he doesn't earn ten thousand dollars in three years."

Again there was silence.

"Well, would it be any use for you to ask Arthur Breen? He wouldn't give me a cent, and I wouldn't ask him. I don't believe in laying down on your wife's relations, but he might do it for you now that you're getting up in the world."

Jack bent his head in deep thought. The proposal that his uncle had made him for the ore lands passed in review. At that time he could have turned over the property to Breen. But it was worthless now. He shook his head:

"I don't think so." Then he added quickly--"Have you been to Mr. Morris?"

"No, and won't. I'd die first!" this came in a sharp, determined voice, as if it had jumped hot from his heart.

"But he thinks the world of you; it was only a week ago that he told Mr. MacFarlane that you were the best man he ever had in his office."

"Yes,--that's why I won't go, Jack. I'll play my hand alone and take the consequences, but I won't beg of my friends; not a friend like Mr. Morris; any coward can do that. Mr. Morris believes in me,--I want him to continue to believe in me. That's worth twenty times ten thousand dollars." His eyes flashed for the first time. Again the old Garry shone out.

"When must you have this money?"

"By the end of the week,--before next Monday, anyhow."

"Then the situation is not hopeless?"

"No, not entirely. I have one card left;--I'll play it to-morrow, then I'll know."

"Is there a chance of its winning?"

"Yes and no. As for the 'yes,' I've always had my father's luck. Minotts don't go under and I don't believe I shall, we take risks and we win. That's what brought me to Corklesville, and you see what I have made of myself. Just at present I've got my foot in a bear trap, but I'll pull out somehow. As for the 'no' part of it, --I ought to tell you that the warehouse stock has been knocked endways by another corporation which has a right of way that cuts ours and is going to steal our business. I think it's a put-up job to bear our stock so they can scoop it and consolidate; that's why I am holding on. I've flung in every dollar I can rake and scrape for margin and my stocking's about turned inside out. I got a tip last week that I thought would land us all on our feet, but it worked the other way." Something connected with the tip must have stirred him for his face clouded as he rose to his feet, exclaiming: "Have a drop, Jack?--that last one braced me up."

Again Jack shook his head, and again Garry settled himself back in his chair.

"I am powerless, Garry," said Jack. "If I had the money you should have it. I have nothing but my salary and I have drawn only a little of that lately, so as to help out in starting the new work. I thought I had something in an ore bank my father left me, but it is valueless, I find. I suppose I could put some life in it if I would work it along the lines Uncle Arthur wants me to, but I can't and won't do that. Somehow, Garry, this stock business follows me everywhere. It drove me out of Uncle Arthur's office and house, although I never regretted that,--and now it hits you. I couldn't do anything to help Charlie Gilbert then and I can't do anything to help you now, unless you can think of some way. Is there any one that I can see except Uncle Arthur,--anybody I can talk to?"

Garry shook his head.

"I've done that, Jack. I've followed every lead, borrowed every dollar I could,--been turned down half a dozen times, but I kept on. Got it in the neck twice to-day from some fellows I thought would help push."

Jack started forward, a light breaking over his face.

"I have it, Garry! Suppose that I go to Mr. Morris. I can talk to him, maybe, in a way you would not like to."

Garry lifted his head and sat erect.

"No, by God!--you'll do nothing of the kind!" he cried, as he brought his fist down on the arm of his chair. "That man I love as I love nothing else in this world--wife--baby--nothing! I'll go under, but I'll never let him see me crawl. I'll be Garry Minott to him as long as I breathe. The same man he trusted,--the same man he loved,--for he does love me, and always did!" He hesitated and his voice broke, as if a sob clogged it. After a moment's struggle he went on: "I was a damned fool to leave him or I wouldn't be where I am. 'Garry,' he said to me that last day when he took me into his office and shut the door,--'Garry, stay on here a while longer; wait till next year. If it's more pay you want, fix it to suit yourself. I've got two boys coming along; they'll both be through the Beaux Arts in a year or so. I'm getting on and I'm getting tired. Stay on and go in with them.' And what did I do? Well, what's the use of talking?--you know it all."

Jack moved his chair and put his arm over his shoulder as a woman would have done. He had caught the break in his voice and knew how manfully he was struggling to keep up.

"Garry, old man."

"Yes, Jack."

"If Mr. Morris thought that way, then, why won't he help you now? What's ten thousand to him?"

"Nothing,--not a drop in the bucket! He'd begin drawing the check before I'd finished telling him what I wanted it for. I'm in a hole and don't know which way to turn, but when I think of what he's done for me I'll rot in hell before I'll take his money." Again his voice had the old ring.

"But, Garry," insisted Jack, "if I can see Morris in the morning and lay the whole matter before him--"

"You'll do nothing of the kind, do you hear!--keep still-- somebody's coming downstairs. Not a word if it is Corinne. She is carrying now all she can stand up under."

He passed his hand across his face with a quick movement and brushed the tears from his cheeks.

"Remember, not a word. I haven't told her everything. I tried to, but I couldn't."

"Tell her now, Garry," cried Jack. "Now--to-night," his voice rising on the last word. "Before you close your eyes. You never needed her help as you do now."

"I can't--it would break her heart. Keep still!--that's her step."

Corinne entered the room slowly and walked to Garry's chair.

"Baby's asleep now," she said in a subdued voice, "and I'm going to take you to bed. You won't mind, Jack, will you? Come, dear," and she slipped her hand under his arm to lift him from his chair.

Garry rose from his seat.

"All right," he answered assuming his old cheerful tone, "I'll go. I AM tired, I guess, Cory, and bed's the best place for me. Good- night, old man,--give my love to Ruth," and he followed his wife out of the room.

Jack waited until the two had turned to mount the stairs, caught a significant flash from Garry's dark eyes as a further reminder of his silence, and, opening the front door, closed it softly behind him.

Ruth was waiting for him. She had been walking the floor during the last half hour peering out now and then into the dark, with ears wide open for his step.

"I was so worried, my precious," she cried, drawing his cheek down to her lips. "You stayed so long. Is it very dreadful?"

Jack put his arm around her, led her into the sitting-room and shut the door. Then the two settled beside each other on the sofa.

"Pretty bad,--my darling--" Jack answered at last,--"very bad, really."

"Has he been drinking?"

"Worse,--he has been dabbling in Wall Street and may lose every cent he has."

Ruth leaned her head on her hand: "I was afraid it was something awful from the way Corinne spoke. Oh, poor dear,--I'm so sorry! Does she know now?"

"She knows he's in trouble, but she doesn't know how bad it is. I begged him to tell her, but he wouldn't promise. He's afraid of hurting her--afraid to trust her, I think, with his sufferings. He's making an awful mistake, but I could not move him. He might listen to you if you tried."

"But he must tell her, Jack," Ruth cried in an indignant tone. "It is not fair to her; it is not fair to any woman,--and it is not kind. Corinne is not a child any longer;--she's a grown woman, and a mother. How can she help him unless she knows? Jack, dear, look into my eyes;" her face was raised to his;--"Promise me, my darling, that no matter what happens to you you'll tell me first."

And Jack promised.

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