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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesPeter: A Novel Of Which He Is Not The Hero - Chapter 7
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Peter: A Novel Of Which He Is Not The Hero - Chapter 7 Post by :beetee Category :Long Stories Author :Francis Hopkinson Smith Date :May 2012 Read :1117

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Peter: A Novel Of Which He Is Not The Hero - Chapter 7


With the closing of the front door upon the finest Old Gentleman in the World, a marked change took place in the mental mechanism of several of our most important characters. The head of the firm of Breen & Co. was so taken aback that for the moment that shrewdest of financiers was undecided as to whether he or Parkins should rush out into the night after the departing visitor and bring him back, and open the best in the cellar. "Send a man out of my house," he said to himself, "whom Portman couldn't get to his table except at rare intervals! Well, that's one on me!"

The lid that covered the upper half of Parkins's intelligence also received a jolt; it was a coal-hole lid that covered emptiness, but now and then admitted the light.

"Might 'ave known from the clothes 'e wore 'e was no common PUR- son," he said to himself. "To tell you the truth--" this to the second man in the potato-bug waistcoat, when they were dividing between them the bottle of "Extra Dry" three-quarters full, that Parkins had smuggled into the pantry with the empty bottles ("Dead Men," Breen called them)--" to tell you the truth, Frederick, when I took 'is 'at and coat hupstairs 'e give me a real start 'e looked that respectable"

As to Jack, not only his mind but his heart were in a whirl.

Half the night he lay awake wondering what he could do to follow Peter's advice while preserving his own ideals. He had quite forgotten that part of the older man's counsel which referred to the dignity of work, even of that work which might be considered as menial. If the truth must be told, it was his vanity alone which had been touched by the suggestion that in him might lay the possibility of reforming certain conditions around him. He was willing, even anxious, to begin on Breen & Co., subjecting his uncle, if need be, to a vigorous overhauling. Nothing he felt could daunt him in his present militant state, upheld, as he felt that he was, by the approval of Peter. Not a very rational state of mind, the Scribe must confess, and only to be accounted for by the fact that Peter's talk, instead of clearing Jack's mind of old doubts, had really clouded it the more--quite as a bottle of mixture when shaken sends its insoluble particles whirling throughout the whole.

It was not until the following morning, indeed, that the sediment began to settle, and some of the sanity of Peter's wholesome prescription to produce a clarifying effect. As long as he, Jack, lived upon his uncle's bounty--and that was really what it amounted it--he must at least try to contribute his own quota of good cheer and courtesy. This was what Peter had done him the honor to advise, and he must begin at once if he wanted to show his appreciation of the courtesy.

His uncle opened the way:

"Why, I didn't know until I saw him go out that he was a friend of Mr. Portman's," he said as he sipped his coffee.

"Neither did I. But does it make any difference?" answered Jack, flipping off the top of his egg.

"Well I should think so--about ninety-nine and nine-tenths percent," replied the older man emphatically. "Let's invite him to dinner, Jack. Maybe he'll come to one I'm giving next week and--"

"I'll ask him--that is ... perhaps, though, you might write him a note, uncle, and--"

"Of course," interrupted Breen, ignoring the suggestion, "when I wanted you to take him to the club I didn't know who he was."

"Of course you did not," echoed Jack, suppressing a smile.

"The club! No, not by a damned sight!" exclaimed the head of the house of Breen. As this latter observation was addressed to the circumambient air, and not immediately to Jack, it elicited no response. Although slightly profane, Jack was clever enough to read in its tones not only ample apology for previous criticisms but a sort of prospective reparation, whereupon our generous young gentleman forgave his uncle at once, and thought that from this on he might like him the better.

Even Parkins came in for a share of Jack's most gracious intentions, and though he was as silent as an automaton playing a game of chess, a slight crack was visible in the veneer of his face when Jack thanked him for having brought Mr. Grayson--same reverential pronunciation--upstairs himself instead of allowing Frederick or one of the maid-servants to perform that service.

As for his apologies to Corinne and his aunt for having remained in his room after Mr. Grayson's departure, instead of taking part in the last hours of the dance--one o'clock was the exact hour-- these were reserved until those ladies should appear at dinner, when they were made with so penitential a ring in his voice that his aunt at once jumped to the conclusion that he must have been bored to death by the old fellow, while Corinne hugged herself in the belief that perhaps after all Jack was renewing his interest in her; a delusion which took such possession of her small head that she finally determined to send Garry a note begging him to come to her at once, on business of the UTMOST IMPORTANCE; two strings being better than one, especially when they were to be played each against the other.

As to the uplifting of the house of Breen & Co., and the possibility of so small a tail as himself being able to wag so large a dog as his uncle and his partners, that seemed now to be so chimerical an undertaking that he laughed when he thought of it.

This urbanity of mood was still with him when some days later he dropped into the Magnolia Club on his way home, his purpose being to find Garry and to hear about the supper which his club friends had given him to celebrate his winning of the Morris ring.

Little Biffton was keeping watch when Jack swung in with that free stride of his that showed more than anything else his muscular body and the way he had taken care of and improved it. No dumb- bells or clubs for fifteen minutes in the morning--but astride a horse, his thighs gripping a bare-back, roaming the hills day after day--the kind of outdoor experience that hardens a man all over without specializing his biceps or his running gear. Little Biff never had any swing to his gait--none that his fellows ever noticed. Biff went in for repose--sometimes hours at a time. Given a club chair, a package of cigarettes and some one to talk to him and Biff could be happy a whole afternoon.

"Ah, Breen, old man! Come to anchor." Here he moved back a chair an inch or two with his foot, and pushed his silver cigarette-case toward the newcomer.

"Thank you," replied Jack. "I've just dropped in to look for Garry Minott. Has he been in?"

Biff was the bulletin-board of the Magnolia club. As he roomed upstairs, he could be found here at any hour of the day or night.

Biff did not reply at once; there was no use in hurrying--not about anything. Besides, the connection between Biff's ears and his brain was never very good. One had to ring him up several times before he answered.

Jack waited for an instant, and finding that the message was delayed in transmission, helped himself to one of Biff's "Specials"--bearing in gold letters his name "Brent Biffton" in full on the rice paper--dropped into the proffered chair and repeated the question:

"Have you seen Garry?"

"Yes--upstairs. Got a deck in the little room. Been there all afternoon. Might go up and butt in. Touch that bell before you go and say what."

"No--I won't drink anything, if you don't mind. You heard about Garry's winning the prize?"

"No." Biffton hadn't moved since he had elongated his foot in search of Jack's chair.

"Why Garry got first prize in his office. I went with him to the supper; he's with Holker Morris, you know."

"Yes. Rather nice. Yes, I did hear. The fellows blew him off upstairs. Kept it up till the steward shut 'em out. Awfully clever fellow, Minott. My Governor wanted me to do something in architecture, but it takes such a lot of time ... Funny how a fellow will dress himself." Biffton's sleepy eyes were sweeping the Avenue. "Pendergast just passed wearing white spats--A month too late for spats--ought to know better. Touch the bell, Breen, and say what."

Again Jack thanked him, and again Biffton relapsed into silence. Rather a damper on a man of his calibre, when a fellow wouldn't touch a bell and say what.

Jack having a certain timidity about "butting in"--outsiders didn't do such things where he came from--settled himself into the depths of the comfortable leather-covered arm-chair and waited for Garry to finish his game. From where he sat he could not only overlook the small tables holding a choice collection of little tear-bottles, bowls of crushed ice and high-pressure siphons, but his eye also took in the stretch beyond, the club windows commanding the view up and down and quite across the Avenue, as well as the vista to the left.

This outlook was the most valuable asset the Magnolia possessed. If the parasol was held flat, with its back to the club-house, and no glimpse of the pretty face possible, it was, of course, unquestionable evidence to the member looking over the top of his cocktail that neither the hour or the place was propitious. If, however, it swayed to the right or left, or better still, was folded tight, then it was equally conclusive that not only was the coast clear, but that any number of things might happen, either at Tiffany's, or the Academy, or wherever else one of those altogether accidental--"Why-who-would-have-thought-of-seeing-you- here" kind of meetings take place--meetings so delightful in themselves because so unexpected.

These outlooks, too, were useful in solving many of the social problems that afflicted the young men about town; the identity, for instance, of the occupant of the hansom who had just driven past, heavily veiled, together with her destination and her reason for being out at all; why the four-in-hand went up empty and came back with a pretty woman beside the "Tooler," and then turned up a side street toward the Park, instead of taking the Avenue into its confidence; what the young wife of the old doctor meant when she waved her hand to the occupant of a third-story window, and who lived there, and why--None of their business, of course--never could be--but each and every escapade, incident and adventure being so much thrice-blessed manna to souls stranded in the desert waste of club conversation.

None of these things interested our hero, and he soon found himself listening to the talk at an adjoining table. Topping, a young lawyer, Whitman Bunce, a man of leisure--unlimited leisure-- and one or two others, were rewarming some of the day's gossip.

"Had the gall to tell Bob's man he couldn't sleep in linen sheets; had his own violet silk ones in his trunk, to match his pajamas. The goat had 'em out and half on the bed when Bob came in and stopped him. Awful row, I heard, when Mrs. Bob got on to it. He'll never go there again."

"And I heard," broke in Bunce, "that she ordered the trap and sent him back to the station."

Other bits drifted Jack's way:

"Why he was waiting at the stage-door and she slipped out somewhere in front. Billy was with her, so I heard. ... When they got to Delmonico's there came near being a scrap. ... No. ... Never had a dollar on Daisy Belle, or any other horse. ..."

Loud laughter was now heard at the end of the hall. A party of young men had reached the foot of the stairs and were approaching Biffton and Jack. Garry's merry voice led the others.

"Still hard at work, are you, Biffy? Why, hello, Jack!--how long have you been here? Morlon, you know Mr. Breen, don't you?--Yes, of course you do--new member--just elected. Get a move on that carcass of yours, Biffy, and let somebody else get up to that table. Charles, take the orders."

Jack had shaken everybody's hand by this time, Biffton having moved back a foot or two, and the circle had widened so that the poker party could reach their cocktails. Garry extended his arm till his hand rested on Jack's shoulder.

"Nothing sets me up like a game of poker, old man. Been on the building all day. You ought to come up with me some time--I'll show you the greatest piece of steel construction you ever saw. Mr. Morris was all over it to-day. Oh, by the way! Did that old chunk of sandstone come up to see you last night? What did you say his name was?"

Jack repeated Peter's cognomen--this time without rolling the syllables under his tongue--said that Mr. Grayson had kept his promise; that the evening had been delightful, and immediately changed the subject. There was no use trying to convert Garry.

"And now tell me about the supper," asked Jack.

"Oh, that was all right. We whooped it up till they closed the bar and then went home with the milk. Had an awful head on me next morning; nearly fell off the scaffold, I was so sleepy. How's Miss Corinne? I'm going to stop in on my way uptown this afternoon and apologize to her. I have her note, but I haven't had a minute to let her know why I didn't come. I'll show her the ring; then she'll know why. Saw it, didn't you?"

Jack hadn't seen it. He had been too excited to look. Now he examined it. With the flash of the gems Biffy sat up straight, and the others craned their heads. Garry slipped it off his finger for the hundredth time for similar inspections, and Jack utilized the pause in the conversation to say that Corinne had received the note and that in reply she had vented most of her disappointment on himself, a disclosure which sent a cloud across Garry's face.

The cocktail hour had now arrived--one hour before dinner, an hour which was fixed by that distinguished compounder of herbs and spirits, Mr. Biffton--and the room began filling up. Most of the members were young fellows but a few years out of college, men who renewed their Society and club life within its walls; some were from out of town--students in the various professions. Here and there was a man of forty--one even of fifty-five--who preferred the gayer and fresher life of the younger generation to the more solemn conclaves of the more exclusive clubs further up and further down town. As is usual in such combinations, the units forming the whole sought out their own congenial units and were thereafter amalgamated into groups, a classification to be found in all clubs the world over. While Biffy and his chums could always be found together, there were other less-fortunate young fellows, not only without coupon shears, but sometimes without the means of paying their dues--who formed a little coterie of their own, and who valued and used the club for what it brought them, their election carrying with it a certain social recognition: it also widened one's circle of acquaintances and, perhaps, of clients.

The sound of loud talking now struck upon Jack's ear. Something more important than the angle of a parasol or the wearing of out- of-date spats was engrossing the attention of a group of young men who had just entered. Jack caught such expressions as--"Might as well have picked his pocket. ..." "He's flat broke, anyhow. ..." "Got to sell his house, I hear. ..."

Then came a voice louder than the others.

"There's Breen talking to Minott and Biffy. He's in the Street; he'll know. ... Say, Breen!"

Jack rose to his feet and met the speaker half way.

"What do you know, Breen, about that scoop in gold stock? Heard anything about it? Who engineered it? Charley Gilbert's cleaned out, I hear."

"I don't know anything," said Jack. "I left the office at noon and came up town. Who did you say was cleaned out?"

"Why, Charley Gilbert. You must know him."

"Yes, I know him. What's happened to him?"

"Flat broke--that's what happened to him. Got caught in that gold swindle. The stock dropped out of sight this afternoon, I hear-- went down forty points."

Garry crowded his way into the group: "Which Mr. Gilbert?--not Charley M., the--"

"Yes; Sam's just left him. What did he tell you, Sam?"

"Just what you've said--I hear, too, that he has got to stop on his house out in Jersey. Can't finish it and can't pay for what's been done."

Garry gave a low whistle and looked at Jack.

"That's rough. Mr. Morris drew the plan of Gilbert's house himself. I worked on the details."

"Rough!" burst out the first speaker. "I should say it was--might as well have burglared his safe. They have been working up this game for months, so Charley told me. Then they gave out that the lode had petered out and they threw it overboard and everybody with it. They said they tried to find Charley to post him, but he was out of town."

"Who tried?" asked Jack, with renewed interest, edging his way close to the group. It was just as well to know the sheep from the goats, if he was to spend the remainder of his life in the Street.

"That's what we want to know. Thought you might have heard."

Jack shook his head and resumed his seat beside Biffy, who had not moved or shown the slightest interest in the affair. Nobody could sell Biff any gold stock--nor any other kind of stock. His came on the first of every month in a check from the Trust Company.

For some moments Jack did not speak. He knew young Gilbert, and he knew his young and very charming wife. He had once sat next to her at dinner, when her whole conversation had been about this new home and the keen interest that Morris, a friend of her father's, had taken in it. "Mr. Breen, you and Miss Corinne must be among our earliest guests," she had said, at which Corinne, who was next to Garry, had ducked her little head in acceptance. This was the young fellow, then, who had been caught in one of the eddies whirling over the sunken rocks of the Street. Not very creditable to his intelligence, perhaps, thought Jack; but, then, again, who had placed them there, a menace to navigation?--and why? Certainly Peter could not have known everything that was going on around him, if he thought the effort of so insignificant an individual as himself could be of use in clearing out obstructions like these.

Garry noticed the thoughtful expression settling over Jack's face, and mistaking the cause called Charles to take the additional orders.

"Cheer up--try a high-ball, Jack. It's none of your funeral. You didn't scoop Gilbert; we are the worst sufferers. Can't finish his house now, and Mr. Morris is just wild over the design. It's on a ledge of rock overlooking the lake, and the whole thing goes together. We've got the roof on, and from across the lake it looks as if it had grown there. Mr. Morris repeated the rock forms everywhere. Stunning, I tell you!"

Jack didn't want any high-ball, and said so. (Biffy didn't care if he did.) The boy's mind was still on the scoop, particularly on the way in which every one of his fellow-members had spoken of the incident.

"Horrid business, all of it. Don't you think so, Garry?" Jack said after a pause.

"No, not if you keep your eyes peeled," answered Garry, emptying his glass. "Never saw Gilbert but once, and then he looked to me like a softy from Pillowville. Couldn't fool me, I tell you, on a deal like that. I'd have had a 'stop order' somewhere. Served Gilbert right; no business to be monkeying with a buzz-saw unless he knew how to throw off the belt."

Jack straightened his shoulders and his brows knit. The lines of the portrait were in the lad's face now.

"Well, maybe it's all right, Garry. My own opinion is that it's no better than swindling. Anyway, I'm mighty glad Uncle Arthur isn't mixed up in it. You heard what Sam and the other fellows thought, didn't you? How would you like to have that said of you?"

Garry tossed back his head and laughed.

"Biffy, are you listening to his Reverence, the Bishop of Cumberland? Here endeth the first lesson."

Biff nodded over his high-ball. He wasn't listening--discussions of any kind bored him.

"But what do you care, Jack, what they say--what anybody says?" continued Garry. "Keep right on. You are in the Street to make money, aren't you? Everybody else is there for the same purpose. What goes up must come down. If you don't want to get your head smashed, stand from under. The game is to jump in, grab what you can, and jump out, dodging the bricks as they come. Let's go up- town, old man."

Neither of the young men was expressing his own views. Both were too young and too inexperienced to have any fixed ideas on so vital a subject.

It was the old fellow in the snuff-colored coat, black stock and dog-eared collar that was behind Jack. If he were alive to-day Jack's view would have been his view, and that was the reason why it was Jack's view. The boy could no more explain it than he could prove why his eyes were brown and his hair a dark chestnut, or why he always walked with his toes very much turned out, or made gestures with his hands when he talked. Had any of the jury been alive--and some of them were--or the prosecuting-attorney, or even any one of the old settlers who attended court, they could have told in a minute which one of the two young men was Judge Breen's son. Not that Jack looked like his father. No young man of twenty-two looks like an old fellow of sixty, but he certainly moved and talked like him--and had the same way of looking at things. "The written law may uphold you, sir, and the jury may so consider, but I shall instruct them to disregard your plea. There is a higher law, sir, than justice--a law of mercy--That I myself shall exercise." The old Judge had sat straight up on his bench when he said it, his face cast-iron, his eyes burning. The jury brought in an acquittal without leaving their seats. There was an outbreak, of course, but the man went free. This young offshoot was from the same old stock, that was all; same sap in his veins, same twist to his branch; same bud, same blossom and--same fruit.

And Garry!

Not many years have elapsed since I watched him running in and out of his father's spacious drawing-rooms on Fourteenth Street--the court end of town in those days. In the days, I mean, when his father was Collector of the Port, and his father's house with its high ceilings, mahogany doors and wide hall, and the great dining- room overlooking a garden with a stable in the rear. It had not been many years, I say, since the Hon. Creighton Minott had thrown wide its doors to whoever came--that is, whoever came properly accredited. It didn't last long, of course. Politics changed; the "ins" became the "outs." And with the change came the bridging- over period--the kind of cantilever which hope thrusts out from one side of the bank of the swift-flowing stream of adversity in the belief that somebody on the other side of the chasm will build the other half, and the two form a highway leading to a change of scene and renewed prosperity.

The hospitable Collector continued to be hospitable. He had always taken chances--he would again. The catch-terms of Garry's day, such as "couldn't fool him," "keep your eye peeled," "a buzz-saw," etc., etc., were not current in the father's day, but their synonyms were. He knew what he was about. As soon as a particular member of the Board got back from the other side the Honorable Collector would have the position of Treasurer, and then it was only a question of time when he would be President of the new corporation. I can see now the smile that lighted up his rather handsome face when he told me. He was "monkeying with a buzz-saw" all the same if he did but know it, and yet he always professed to follow the metaphor that he could "throw off the belt" that drove the pulley at his own good pleasure and so stop the connecting machinery before the teeth of the whirling blade could reach his fingers. Should it get beyond his control--of which there was not the remotest possibility--he would, of course, rent his house, sell his books and curtail. "In the meantime, my dear fellow, there is some of the old Madeira left and a game of whist will only help to drive dull care away."

Garry never whimpered when the crash came. The dear mother died-- how patient and uncomplaining she was in all their ups and downs-- and Garry was all that was left. What he had gained since in life he had worked for; first as office boy, then as draughtsman and then in charge of special work, earning his Chief's approval, as the Scribe has duly set forth. He got his inheritance, of course. Don't we all get ours? Sometimes it skips a generation--some times two--but generally we are wearing the old gentleman's suit of clothes cut down to fit our small bodies, making believe all the time that they are our very own, unconscious of the discerning eyes who recognize their cut and origin.

Nothing tangible, it is safe to say, came with Garry's share of the estate--and he got it all. That is, nothing he could exchange for value received--no houses or lots, or stocks or bonds. It was the INTANGIBLE that proved his richest possession, viz.:--a certain buoyancy of spirits; a cheery, optimistic view of life; a winning personality and the power of both making and holding friends. With this came another asset--the willingness to take chances, and still a third--an absolute belief in his luck. Down at the bottom of the box littered with old papers, unpaid tax bills and protested notes--all valueless--was a fourth which his father used to fish out when every other asset failed--a certain confidence in the turn of a card.

But the virtues and the peccadilloes of their ancestors, we may be sure, were not interesting, our two young men as they swung up the Avenue arm in arm, this particular afternoon, the sidewalks crowded with the fashion of the day, the roadway blocked with carriages. Nor did any passing objects occupy their attention.

Garry's mind was on Corinne, and what he would tell her, and how she would look as she listened, the pretty head tucked on one side, her sparkling eyes drinking in every word of his story, although he knew she wouldn't believe one-half of it. Elusive and irritating as she sometimes was, there was really nobody exactly like Miss Corinne.

Jack's mind had resumed its normal tone. Garry's merry laugh and good-natured ridicule had helped, so had the discovery that none of his friends had had anything to do with Gilbert's fall. After all, he said to himself, as he strode up the street beside his friend, it was "none of his funeral," none of his business, really. Such things went on every day and in every part of the world. Neither was it his Uncle Arthur's. That was the most comforting part of all.

Corinne's voice calling over the banisters: "Is that you, Jack?" met the two young men as they handed their hats to the noiseless Frederick. Both craned their necks and caught sight of the Wren's head framed by the hand-rail and in silhouette against the oval sky-light in the roof above.

"Yes, and Garry's here, too. Come down."

The patter of little feet grew louder, then the swish of silken skirts, and with a spring she was beside them.

"No, don't you say a word, Garry. I'm not going to listen and I won't forgive you no matter what you say." She had both of his hands now.

"Ah, but you don't know, Miss Corinne. Has Jack told you?"

"Yes, told me everything; that you had a big supper and everybody stamped around the room; that Mr. Morris gave you a ring, or something" (Garry held up his finger, but she wasn't ready to examine it yet), "and that some of the men wanted to celebrate it, and that you went to the club and stayed there goodness knows how long--all night, so Mollie Crane told me. Paul, her brother, was there--and you never thought a word about your promise to me" (this came with a little pout, her chin uplifted, her lips quite near his face), "and we didn't have half men enough and our cotillion was all spoiled. I don't care--we had a lovely time, even if you two men did behave disgracefully. No--I don't want to listen to a thing. I didn't come down to see either of you. (She had watched them both from her window as they crossed the street.) "What I want to know, Jack, is, who is Miss Felicia Grayson?"

"Why, Mr. Grayson's sister," burst out Jack--"the old gentleman who came to see me."

"That old fellow!"

"Yes, that old fellow--the most charming--"

"Not that remnant!" interrupted Garry.

"No, Garry--not that kind of a man at all, but a most delightful old gentleman by the name of Mr. Grayson," and Jack's eyes flashed. "He told me his sister was coming to town. What do you know about her, Corinne?" He was all excitement: Peter was to send for him when his sister arrived.

"Nothing--that's why I ask you. I've just got a note from her. She says she knew mamma when she lied in Washington, and that her brother has fallen in love with you, and that she won't have another happy moment--or something like that--if you and I don't come to a tea she is giving to a Miss Ruth MacFarlane; and that I am to give her love to mamma, and bring anybody I please with me."

"When?" asked Jack. He could hardly restrain his joy.

"I think next Saturday--yes, next Saturday," consulting the letter in her hand.

"Where? At Mr. Grayson's rooms?" cried Jack.

"Yes, at her brother's, she says. Here, Jack--you read it. Some number in East Fifteenth Street--queer place for people to live, isn't it, Garry?--people who want anybody to come to their teas. I've got a dressmaker lives over there somewhere; she's in Fifteenth Street, anyhow, for I always drive there."

Jack devoured the letter. This was what he had been hoping for. He knew the old gentleman would keep his word!

"Well, of course you'll go, Corinne?" he cried eagerly.

"Of course I'll do nothing of the kind. I think it's a great piece of impudence. I've never heard of her. Because you had her brother upstairs, that's no reason why--But that's just like these people. You give them an inch and--"

Jack's cheeks flushed: "But, Corinne! She's offered you a courtesy--asked you to her house, and--"

"I don't care; I'm not going! Would you, Garry?"

The son of the Collector hesitated for a moment. He had his own ideas of getting on in the world. They were not Jack's--his, he knew, would never succeed. And they were not exactly Corinne's-- she was too particular. The fence was evidently the best place for him.

"Would be rather a bore, wouldn't it?" he replied. evasively, with a laugh. "Lives up under the roof, I guess, wears a dyed wig, got Cousin Mary Ann's daguerreotype on the mantle, and tells you how Uncle Ephraim--"

The door opened and Jack's aunt swept in. She never walked, or ambled, or stepped jauntily, or firmly, or as if she wanted to get anywhere in particular; she SWEPT in, her skirts following meekly behind--half a yard behind, sometimes.

Corinne launched the inquiry at her mother, even before she could return Garry's handshake. "Who's Miss Grayson, mamma?"

"I don't know. Why, my child?"

"Well, she says she knows you. Met you in Washington."

"The only Miss Grayson I ever met in Washington, my dear, was an old maid, the niece of the Secretary of State. She kept house for him after his wife died. She held herself very high, let me tell you. A very grand lady, indeed. But she must be an old woman now, if she is still living. What did you say her first name was?"

Corinne took the open letter from Jack's hand. "Felicia ... Yes, Felicia."

"And what does she want?--money for some charity?" Almost everybody she knew, and some she didn't, wanted money for some charity. She was loosening her cloak as she spoke, Frederick standing by to relieve my lady of her wraps.

"No; she's going to give a tea and wants us all to come. She's the sister of that old man who came to see Jack the other night, and-- "

"Going to give a tea!--and the sister of--Well, then, she certainly isn't the Miss Grayson I know. Don't you answer her, Corinne, until I find out who she is."

"I'll tell you who she is," burst out Jack. His face was aflame now. Never had he listened to such discourtesy. He could hardly believe his ears.

"It wouldn't help me in the least, my dear Jack; so don't you begin. I am the best judge of who shall come to my house. She may be all right, and she may not, you can never tell in a city like New York, and you can't be too particular. People really do such curious pushing things now-a-days." This to Garry. "Now serve tea, Parkins. Come in all of you."

Jack was on the point of blazing out in indignation over the false position in which his friend had been placed when Peter's warning voice rang in his ears. The vulgarity of the whole proceeding appalled him, yet he kept control of himself.

"None for me, please, aunty," he said quietly. "I will join you later, Garry," and he mounted the stairs to his room.

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Peter: A Novel Of Which He Is Not The Hero - Chapter 8 Peter: A Novel Of Which He Is Not The Hero - Chapter 8

Peter: A Novel Of Which He Is Not The Hero - Chapter 8
CHAPTER VIIIPeter was up and dressed when Miss Felicia arrived, despite the early hour. Indeed that gay cavalier was the first to help the dear lady off with her travelling cloak and bonnet, Mrs. McGuffey folding her veil, smoothing out her gloves and laying them all upon the bed in the adjoining room--the one she kept in prime order for Miss Grayson's use. The old fellow was facing the coffee-urn when he told her Jack's story and what he himself had said in reply, and how fine the boy was in his beliefs, and how well-nigh impossible it was for him

Peter: A Novel Of Which He Is Not The Hero - Chapter 6 Peter: A Novel Of Which He Is Not The Hero - Chapter 6

Peter: A Novel Of Which He Is Not The Hero - Chapter 6
CHAPTER VIJack's impatience increased as the hour for Peter's visit approached. Quarter of nine found him leaning over the banisters outside his small suite of rooms, peering down between the hand- rails watching the top of every head that crossed the spacious hall three flights below--he dare not go down to welcome his guest, fearing some of the girls, many of whom had already arrived, would know he was in the house. Fifteen minutes later the flash of a bald head, glistening in the glare of the lower hall lantern, told him that the finest old gentleman in the world had