Episodes In Van Bibber's Life*
Richard Harding Davis
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EPISODES IN VAN BIBBER'S LIFE
Richard Harding Davis
Her First Appearance
It was at the end of the first act of the first night of
"The Sultana," and every member of the Lester Comic Opera
Company, from Lester himself down to the wardrobe woman's son,
who would have had to work if his mother lost her place, was
sick with anxiety.
There is perhaps only one other place as feverish as it
is behind the scenes on the first night of a comic opera, and
that is a newspaper office on the last night of a Presidential
campaign, when the returns are being flashed on the canvas
outside, and the mob is howling, and the editor-in-chief is
expecting to go to the Court of St. James if the election
comes his way, and the office-boy is betting his wages that it
Such nights as these try men's souls; but Van Bibber
passed the stage-door man with as calmly polite a nod as
though the piece had been running a hundred nights, and the
manager was thinking up souvenirs for the one hundred and
fiftieth, and the prima donna had, as usual, begun to hint for
a new set of costumes. The stage-door keeper hesitated and
was lost, and Van Bibber stepped into the unsuppressed
excitement of the place with a pleased sniff at the familiar
smell of paint and burning gas, and the dusty odor that came
from the scene-lofts above.
For a moment he hesitated in the cross-lights and
confusion about him, failing to recognize in their new
costumes his old acquaintances of the company; but he saw
Kripps, the stage-manager, in the centre of the stage,
perspiring and in his shirt-sleeves as always, wildly waving
an arm to some one in the flies, and beckoning with the other
to the gasman in the front entrance. The stage hands were
striking the scene for the first act, and fighting with the
set for the second, and dragging out a canvas floor of
tessellated marble, and running a throne and a practical pair
of steps over it, and aiming the high quaking walls of a
palace and abuse at whoever came in their way.
"Now then, Van Bibber," shouted Kripps, with a wild
glance of recognition, as the white-and-black figure came
towards him, "you know you're the only man in New York who
gets behind here to-night. But you can't stay. Lower it,
lower it, can't you?" This to the man in the flies. "Any
other night goes, but not this night. I can't have it.
I--Where is the backing for the centre entrance? Didn't I
tell you men---"
Van Bibber dodged two stage hands who were steering a
scene at him, stepped over the carpet as it unrolled, and
brushed through a group of anxious, whispering chorus people
into the quiet of the star's dressing-room.
The star saw him in the long mirror before which he sat,
while his dresser tugged at his boots, and threw up his hands
"Well," he cried, in mock resignation, "are we in it or
are we not? Are they in their seats still or have they fled?"
"How are you, John?" said Van Bibber to the dresser.
Then he dropped into a big arm-chair in the corner, and got up
again with a protesting sigh to light his cigar between the
wires around the gas-burner. "Oh, it's going very well. I
wouldn't have come around if it wasn't. If the rest of it is
as good as the first act, you needn't worry."
Van Bibber's unchallenged freedom behind the scenes had
been a source of much comment and perplexity to the members of
the Lester Comic Opera Company. He had made his first
appearance there during one hot night of the long run of the
previous summer, and had continued to be an almost nightly
visitor for several weeks. At first it was supposed that he
was backing the piece, that he was the "Angel," as those weak
and wealthy individuals are called who allow themselves to be
led into supplying the finances for theatrical experiments.
But as he never peered through the curtain-hole to count the
house, nor made frequent trips to the front of it to look at
the box sheet, but was, on the contrary, just as undisturbed
on a rainy night as on those when the "standing room only"
sign blocked the front entrance, this supposition was
discarded as untenable. Nor did he show the least interest in
the prima donna, or in any of the other pretty women of the
company; he did not know them, nor did he make any effort to
know them, and it was not until they inquired concerning him
outside of the theatre that they learned what a figure in the
social life of the city he really was. He spent most of his
time in Lester's dressing-room smoking, listening to the
reminiscences of Lester's dresser when Lester was on the
stage; and this seclusion and his clerical attire of evening
dress led the second comedian to call him Lester's father
confessor, and to suggest that he came to the theatre only to
take the star to task for his sins. And in this the second
comedian was unknowingly not so very far wrong. Lester, the
comedian, and young Van Bibber had known each other at the
university, when Lester's voice and gift of mimicry had made
him the leader in the college theatricals; and later, when he
had gone upon the stage, and had been cut off by his family
even after he had become famous, or on account of it, Van
Bibber had gone to visit him, and had found him as simple and
sincere and boyish as he had been in the days of his Hasty-
Pudding successes. And Lester, for his part, had found Van
Bibber as likable as did every one else, and welcomed his
quiet voice and youthful knowledge of the world as a grateful
relief to the boisterous camaraderie of his professional
acquaintances. And he allowed Van Bibber to scold him, and to
remind him of what he owed to himself, and to touch, even
whether it hurt or not, upon his better side. And in time he
admitted to finding his friend's occasional comments on stage
matters of value as coming from the point of view of those who
look on at the game; and even Kripps, the veteran, regarded
him with respect after he had told him that he could turn a
set of purple costumes black by throwing a red light on them.
To the company, after he came to know them, he was gravely
polite, and, to those who knew him if they had overheard,
amusingly commonplace in his conversation. He understood them
better than they did themselves, and made no mistakes. The
women smiled on him, but the men were suspicious and shy of
him until they saw that he was quite as shy of the women; and
then they made him a confidant, and told him all their woes
and troubles, and exhibited all their little jealousies and
ambitions, in the innocent hope that he would repeat what they
said to Lester. They were simple, unconventional, light-
hearted folk, and Van Bibber found them vastly more
entertaining and preferable to the silence of the deserted
club, where the matting was down, and from whence the regular
habitues had departed to the other side or to Newport. He
liked the swing of the light, bright music as it came to him
through the open door of the dressing-room, and the glimpse he
got of the chorus people crowding and pushing for a quick
charge up the iron stairway, and the feverish smell of oxygen
in the air, and the picturesque disorder of Lester's wardrobe,
and the wigs and swords, and the mysterious articles of make-
up, all mixed together on a tray with half-finished cigars and
autograph books and newspaper notices.
And he often wished he was clever enough to be an artist
with the talent to paint the unconsciously graceful groups in
the sharply divided light and shadow of the wings as he saw
them. The brilliantly colored, fantastically clothed girls
leaning against the bare brick wall of the theatre, or
whispering together in circles, with their arms close about
one another, or reading apart and solitary, or working at some
piece of fancy-work as soberly as though they were in a
rocking-chair in their own flat, and not leaning against a
scene brace, with the glare of the stage and the applause of
the house just behind them. He liked to watch them coquetting
with the big fireman detailed from the precinct engine-house,
and clinging desperately to the curtain wire, or with one of
the chorus men on the stairs, or teasing the phlegmatic scene-
shifters as they tried to catch a minute's sleep on a pile of
canvas. He even forgave the prima donna's smiling at him from
the stage, as he stood watching her from the wings, and smiled
back at her with polite cynicism, as though he did not know
and she did not know that her smiles were not for him, but to
disturb some more interested one in the front row. And so, in
time, the company became so well accustomed to him that he
moved in and about as unnoticed as the stage-manager himself,
who prowled around hissing "hush" on principle, even though he
was the only person who could fairly be said to be making a
The second act was on, and Lester came off the stage and
ran to the dressing-room and beckoned violently. "Come here,"
he said; "you ought to see this; the children are doing their
turn. You want to hear them. They're great!"
Van Bibber put his cigar into a tumbler and stepped out
into the wings. They were crowded on both sides of the stage
with the members of the company; the girls were tiptoeing,
with their hands on the shoulders of the men, and making
futile little leaps into the air to get a better view, and
others were resting on one knee that those behind might see
over their shoulders. There were over a dozen children before
the footlights, with the prima donna in the centre. She was
singing the verses of a song, and they were following her
movements, and joining in the chorus with high piping voices.
They seemed entirely too much at home and too self-conscious:
to please Van Bibber; but there was one exception. The one
exception was the smallest of them, a very, very little girl,
with long auburn hair and black eyes; such a very little girl
that every one in the house looked at her first, and then
looked at no one else. She was apparently as unconcerned to
all about her, excepting the pretty prima donna, as though she
were by a piano at home practising a singing lesson. She
seemed to think it was some new sort of a game. When the
prima donna raised her arms, the child raised hers; when the
prima donna courtesied, she stumbled into one, and
straightened herself just in time to get the curls out of her
eyes, and to see that the prima donna was laughing at her, and
to smile cheerfully back as if to say, "WE are doing our best
anyway, aren't we?" She had big, gentle eyes and two
wonderful dimples, and in the excitement of the dancing and
the singing her eyes laughed and flashed, and the dimples
deepened and disappeared and reappeared again. She was as
happy and innocent looking as though it were nine in the
morning and she were playing school at a kindergarten. From
all over the house the women were murmuring their delight, and
the men were laughing and pulling their mustaches and nudging
each other to "look at the littlest one."
The girls in the wings were rapturous in their
enthusiasm, and were calling her absurdly extravagant titles
of endearment, and making so much noise that Kripps stopped
grinning at her from the entrance, and looked back over his
shoulder as he looked when he threatened fines and calls for
early rehearsal. And when she had finished finally, and the
prima donna and the children ran off together, there was a
roar from the house that went to Lester's head like wine, and
seemed to leap clear across the footlights and drag the
children back again.
"That settles it!" cried Lester, in a suppressed roar of
triumph. "I knew that child would catch them."
There were four encores, and then the children and Elise
Broughten, the pretty prima donna, came off jubilant and
happy, with the Littlest Girl's arms full of flowers, which
the management had with kindly forethought prepared for the
prima donna, but which that delightful young person and the
delighted leader of the orchestra had passed over to the
"Well," gasped Miss Broughten, as she came up to Van
Bibber laughing, and with one hand on her side and breathing
very quickly, "will you kindly tell me who is the leading
woman now? Am I the prima donna, or am I not? I wasn't in
it, was I?"
"You were not," said Van Bibber.
He turned from the pretty prima donna and hunted up the
wardrobe woman, and told her he wanted to meet the Littlest
Girl. And the wardrobe woman, who was fluttering wildly
about, and as delighted as though they were all her own
children, told him to come into the property-room, where the
children were, and which had been changed into a dressing-room
that they might be by themselves. The six little girls were
in six different states of dishabille, but they were too
little to mind that, and Van Bibber was too polite to observe
"This is the little girl, sir," said the wardrobe woman,
excitedly, proud at being the means of bringing together two
such prominent people. "Her name is Madeline. Speak to the
gentleman, Madeline; he wants to tell you what a great big hit
The little girl was seated on one of the cushions of a
double throne so high from the ground that the young woman who
was pulling off the child's silk stockings and putting woollen
ones on in their place did so without stooping. The young
woman looked at Van Bibber and nodded somewhat doubtfully and
ungraciously, and Van Bibber turned to the little girl in
preference. The young woman's face was one of a type that was
too familiar to be pleasant.
He took the Littlest Girl's small hand in his and shook
it solemnly, and said, "I am very glad to know you. Can I sit
up here beside you, or do you rule alone?"
"Yes, ma'am--yes, sir," answered the little girl.
Van Bibber put his hands on the arms of the throne and
vaulted up beside the girl, and pulled out the flower in his
button-hole and gave it to her.
"Now," prompted the wardrobe woman, "what do you say to
"Thank you, sir," stammered the little girl.
"She is not much used to gentlemen's society," explained
the woman who was pulling on the stockings.
"I see," said Van Bibber. He did not know exactly what
to say next. And yet he wanted to talk to the child very
much, so much more than he generally wanted to talk to most
young women, who showed no hesitation in talking to him. With
them he had no difficulty whatsoever. There was a doll lying
on the top of a chest near them, and he picked this up and
surveyed it critically. "Is this your doll?" he asked.
"No," said Madeline, pointing to one of the children, who
was much taller than herself; " it's 'at 'ittle durl's. My
doll he's dead."
"Dear me!" said Van Bibber. He made a mental note to get
a live one in the morning, and then he said: "That's very
sad. But dead dolls do come to life."
The little girl looked up at him, and surveyed him
intently and critically, and then smiled, with the dimples
showing, as much as to say that she understood him and
approved of him entirely. Van Bibber answered this sign
language by taking Madeline's hand in his and asking her how
she liked being a great actress, and how soon she would begin
to storm because THAT photographer hadn't sent the proofs.
The young woman understood this, and deigned to smile at it,
but Madeline yawned a very polite and sleepy yawn, and closed
her eyes. Van Bibber moved up closer, and she leaned over
until her bare shoulder touched his arm, and while the woman
buttoned on her absurdly small shoes, she let her curly head
fall on his elbow and rest there. Any number of people had
shown confidence in Van Bibber--not in that form exactly, but
in the same spirit--and though he was used to being trusted,
he felt a sharp thrill of pleasure at the touch of the child's
head on his arm, and in the warm clasp of her fingers around
his. And he was conscious of a keen sense of pity and sorrow
for her rising in him, which he crushed by thinking that it
was entirely wasted, and that the child was probably perfectly
and ignorantly happy.
"Look at that, now," said the wardrobe woman, catching
sight of the child's closed eyelids; "just look at the rest of
the little dears, all that excited they can't stand still to
get their hats on, and she just as unconcerned as you please,
and after making the hit of the piece, too."
"She's not used to it, you see," said the young woman,
knowingly; "she don't know what it means. It's just that much
play to her."
This last was said with a questioning glance at Van
Bibber, in whom she still feared to find the disguised agent
of a Children's Aid Society. Van Bibber only nodded in reply,
and did not answer her, because he found he could not very
well, for he was looking a long way ahead at what the future
was to bring to the confiding little being at his side, and
thinking of the evil knowledge and temptations that would mar
the beauty of her quaintly sweet face, and its strange mark of
gentleness and refinement. Outside he could hear his friend
Lester shouting the refrain of his new topical song, and the
laughter and the hand-clapping came in through the wings and
open door, broken but tumultuous.
"Does she come of professional people?" Van Bibber asked,
dropping into the vernacular. He spoke softly, not so much
that he might not disturb the child, but that she might not
understand what he said.
"Yes," the woman answered, shortly, and bent her head to
smooth out the child's stage dress across her knees.
Van Bibber touched the little girl's head with his hand
and found that she was asleep, and so let his hand rest there,
with the curls between his fingers. "Are--are you her
mother?" he asked, with a slight inclination of his head. He
felt quite confident she was not; at least, he hoped not.
The woman shook her head. "No," she said.
"Who is her mother?"
The woman looked at the sleeping child and then up at him
almost defiantly. "Ida Clare was her mother," she said.
Van Bibber's protecting hand left the child as suddenly
as though something had burned it, and he drew back so quickly
that her head slipped from his arm, and she awoke and raised
her eyes and looked up at him questioningly. He looked back
at her with a glance of the strangest concern and of the
deepest pity. Then he stooped and drew her towards him very
tenderly, put her head back in the corner of his arm, and
watched her in silence while she smiled drowsily and went to
"And who takes care of her now?" he asked.
The woman straightened herself and seemed relieved. She
saw that the stranger had recognized the child's pedigree and
knew her story, and that he was not going to comment on it.
"I do," she said. "After the divorce Ida came to me," she
said, speaking more freely. "I used to be in her company when
she was doing `Aladdin,' and then when I left the stage and
started to keep an actors' boarding-house, she came to me.
She lived on with us a year, until she died, and she made me
the guardian of the child. I train children for the stage,
you know, me and my sister, Ada Dyer; you've heard of her, I
guess. The courts pay us for her keep, but it isn't much, and
I'm expecting to get what I spent on her from what she makes
on the stage. Two of them other children are my pupils; but
they can't touch Madie. She is a better dancer an' singer
than any of them. If it hadn't been for the Society keeping
her back, she would have been on the stage two years ago.
She's great, she is. She'll be just as good as her mother
Van Bibber gave a little start, and winced visibly, but
turned it off into a cough. "And her father," he said
hesitatingly, "does he--"
"Her father," said the woman, tossing back her head, "he
looks after himself, he does. We don't ask no favors of HIM.
She'll get along without him or his folks, thank you. Call
him a gentleman? Nice gentleman he is!" Then she stopped
abruptly. "I guess, though, you know him," she added.
Perhaps he's a friend of yourn?"
"I just know him," said Van Bibber, wearily.
He sat with the child asleep beside him while the woman
turned to the others and dressed them for the third act. She
explained that Madie would not appear in the last act, only
the two larger girls, so she let her sleep, with the cape of
Van Bibber's cloak around her.
Van Bibber sat there for several long minutes thinking,
and then looked up quickly, and dropped his eyes again as
quickly, and said, with an effort to speak quietly and
unconcernedly: "If the little girl is not on in this act,
would you mind if I took her home? I have a cab at the stage
door, and she's so sleepy it seems a pity to keep her up. The
sister you spoke of or some one could put her to bed."
"Yes," the woman said, doubtfully, "Ada's home. Yes, you
can take her around, if you want to."
She gave him the address, and he sprang down to the
floor, and gathered the child up in his arms and stepped out
on the stage. The prima donna had the centre of it to herself
at that moment, and all the rest of the company were waiting
to go on; but when they saw the little girl in Van Bibber's
arms they made a rush at her, and the girls leaned over and
kissed her with a great show of rapture and with many gasps of
"Don't," said Van Bibber, he could not tell just why.
"Why not?" asked one of the girls, looking up at him
"She was asleep; you've wakened her," he said, gently.
But he knew that was not the reason. He stepped into the
cab at the stage entrance, and put the child carefully down in
one corner. Then he looked back over his shoulder to see that
there was no one near enough to hear him, and said to the
driver, "To the Berkeley Flats, on Fifth Avenue." He picked
the child up gently in his arms as the carriage started, and
sat looking out thoughtfully and anxiously as they flashed
past the lighted shop-windows on Broadway. He was far from
certain of this errand, and nervous with doubt, but he
reassured himself that he was acting on impulse, and that his
impulses were so often good. The hall-boy at the Berkeley
said, yes, Mr. Caruthers was in, and Van Bibber gave a quick
sigh of relief. He took this as an omen that his impulse was
a good one. The young English servant who opened the hall
door to Mr. Caruthers's apartment suppressed his surprise with
an effort, and watched Van Bibber with alarm as he laid the
child on the divan in the hall, and pulled a covert coat from
the rack to throw over her.
"Just say Mr. Van Bibber would like to see him," he said,
"and you need not speak of the little girl having come with
She was still sleeping, and Van Bibber turned down the
light in the hall, and stood looking down at her gravely while
the servant went to speak to his master.
"Will you come this way, please, sir?" he said.
"You had better stay out here," said Van Bibber, "and
come and tell me if she wakes."
Mr. Caruthers was standing by the mantel over the empty
fireplace, wrapped in a long, loose dressing-gown which he was
tying around him as Van Bibber entered. He was partly
undressed, and had been just on the point of getting into bed.
Mr. Caruthers was a tall, handsome man, with dark reddish
hair, turning below the temples into gray; his mustache was
quite white, and his eyes and face showed the signs of either
dissipation or of great trouble, or of both. But even in the
formless dressing-gown he had the look and the confident
bearing of a gentleman, or, at least, of the man of the world.
The room was very rich-looking, and was filled with the medley
of a man's choice of good paintings and fine china, and
papered with irregular rows of original drawings and signed
etchings. The windows were open, and the lights were turned
very low, so that Van Bibber could see the many gas lamps and
the dark roofs of Broadway and the Avenue where they crossed
a few blocks off, and the bunches of light on the Madison
Square Garden, and to the lights on the boats of the East
River. From below in the streets came the rattle of hurrying
omnibuses and the rush of the hansom cabs. If Mr. Caruthers
was surprised at this late visit, he hid it, and came forward
to receive his caller as if his presence were expected.
"Excuse my costume, will you?" he said. "I turned in
rather early to-night, it was so hot." He pointed to a
decanter and some soda bottles on the table and a bowl of ice,
and asked, "Will you have some of this?" And while he opened
one of the bottles, he watched Van Bibber's face as though he
were curious to have him explain the object of his visit.
"No, I think not, thank you," said the younger man. He
touched his forehead with his handkerchief nervously. "Yes, it
is hot," he said.
Mr. Caruthers filled a glass with ice and brandy and
soda, and walked back to his place by the mantel, on which he
rested his arm, while he clinked the ice in the glass and
looked down into it.
"I was at the first night of `The Sultana' this evening,"
said Van Bibber, slowly and uncertainly.
"Oh, yes," assented the elder man, politely, and tasting
his drink. "Lester's new piece. Was it any good?"
"I don't know," said Van Bibber. "Yes, I think it was.
I didn't see it from the front. There were a lot of children
in it--little ones; they danced and sang, and made a great
hit. One of them had never been on the stage before. It was
her first appearance."
He was turning one of the glasses around between his
fingers as he spoke. He stopped, and poured out some of the
soda, and drank it down in a gulp, and then continued turning
the empty glass between the tips of his fingers.
"It seems to me," he said, "that it is a great pity." He
looked up interrogatively at the other, but Mr. Caruthers met
his glance without any returning show of interest. "I say,"
repeated Van Bibber--"I say it seems a pity that a child like
that should be allowed to go on in that business. A grown
woman can go into it with her eyes open, or a girl who has had
decent training can too. But it's different with a child.
She has no choice in the matter; they don't ask her
permission; and she isn't old enough to know what it means;
and she gets used to it and fond of it before she grows to
know what the danger is. And then it's too late. It seemed
to me that if there was any one who had a right to stop it, it
would be a very good thing to let that person know about
her--about this child, I mean; the one who made the
hit--before it was too late. It seems to me a responsibility
I wouldn't care to take myself. I wouldn't care to think that
I had the chance to stop it, and had let the chance go by.
You know what the life is, and what the temptation a woman--"
Van Bibber stopped with a gasp of concern, and added,
hurriedly, "I mean we all know--every man knows."
Mr. Caruthers was looking at him with his lips pressed
closely together, and his eyebrows drawn into the shape of the
letter V. He leaned forward, and looked at Van Bibber
"What is all this about?" he asked. "Did you come here,
Mr. Van Bibber, simply to tell me this? What have you to do
with it? What have I to do with it? Why did you come?"
"Because of the child."
"Your child," said Van Bibber.
Young Van Bibber was quite prepared for an outbreak of
some sort, and mentally braced himself to receive it. He
rapidly assured himself that this man had every reason to be
angry, and that he, if he meant to accomplish anything, had
every reason to be considerate and patient. So he faced Mr.
Caruthers with shoulders squared, as though it were a physical
shock he had to stand against, and in consequence he was quite
unprepared for what followed. For Mr. Caruthers raised his
face without a trace of feeling in it, and, with his eyes
still fixed on the glass in his hand, set it carefully down on
the mantel beside him, and girded himself about with the rope
of his robe. When he spoke, it was in a tone of quiet
"Mr. Van Bibber," he began, "you are a very brave young
man. You have dared to say to me what those who are my best
friends--what even my own family--would not care to say. They
are afraid it might hurt me, I suppose. They have some absurd
regard for my feelings; they hesitate to touch upon a subject
which in no way concerns them, and which they know must be
very painful to me. But you have the courage of your
convictions; you have no compunctions about tearing open old
wounds; and you come here, unasked and uninvited, to let me
know what you think of my conduct, to let me understand that
it does not agree with your own ideas of what I ought to do,
and to tell me how I, who am old enough to be your father,
should behave. You have rushed in where angels fear to tread,
Mr. Van Bibber, to show me the error of my ways. I suppose I
ought to thank you for it; but I have always said that it is
not the wicked people who are to be feared in this world, or
who do the most harm. We know them; we can prepare for them,
and checkmate them. It is the well-meaning fool who makes all
the trouble. For no one knows him until he discloses himself,
and the mischief is done before he can be stopped. I think,
if you will allow me to say so, that you have demonstrated my
theory pretty thoroughly, and have done about as much needless
harm for one evening as you can possibly wish. And so, if you
will excuse me," he continued, sternly, and moving from his
place, "I will ask to say good-night, and will request of you
that you grow older and wiser and much more considerate before
you come to see me again."
Van Bibber had flushed at Mr. Caruthers's first words,
and had then grown somewhat pale, and straightened himself
visibly. He did not move when the elder man had finished, but
cleared his throat, and then spoke with some little
difficulty. "It is very easy to call a man a fool," he said,
slowly, "but it is much harder to be called a fool and not to
throw the other man out of the window. But that, you see,
would not do any good, and I have something to say to you
first. I am quite clear in my own mind as to my position, and
I am not going to allow anything you have said or can say to
annoy me much until I am through. There will be time enough
to resent it then. I am quite well aware that I did an
unconventional thing in coming here--a bold thing or a foolish
thing, as you choose--but the situation is pretty bad, and I
did as I would have wished to be done by if I had had a child
going to the devil and didn't know it. I should have been
glad to learn of it even from a stranger. However," he said,
smiling grimly, and pulling his cape about him, "there are
other kindly disposed people in the world besides fathers.
There is an aunt, perhaps, or an uncle or two; and sometimes,
even to-day, there is the chance Samaritan."
Van Bibber picked up his high hat from the table, looked
into it critically, and settled it on his head. "Good-night,"
he said, and walked slowly towards the door. He had his hand
on the knob, when Mr. Caruthers raised his head.
"Wait just one minute, please, Mr. Van Bibber?" asked Mr.
Van Bibber stopped with a prompt obedience which would
have led one to conclude that he might have put on his hat
only to precipitate matters.
"Before you go," said Mr. Caruthers, grudgingly, "I want
to say--I want you to understand my position."
"Oh, that's all right," said Van Bibber, lightly, opening
"No, it is not all right. One moment, please. I do not
intend that you shall go away from here with the idea that you
have tried to do me a service, and that I have been unable to
appreciate it, and that you are a much-abused and much-
misunderstood young man. Since you have done me the honor to
make my affairs your business, I would prefer that you should
understand them fully. I do not care to have you discuss my
conduct at clubs and afternoon teas with young women until
Van Bibber drew in his breath sharply, with a peculiar
whistling sound, and opened and shut his hands. "Oh, I
wouldn't say that if I were you," he said, simply.
"I beg your pardon," the older man said, quickly. "That
was a mistake. I was wrong. I beg your pardon. But you have
tried me very sorely. You have intruded upon a private
trouble that you ought to know must be very painful to me.
But I believe you meant well. I know you to be a gentleman,
and I am willing to think you acted on impulse, and that you
will see to-morrow what a mistake you have made. It is not a
thing I talk about; I do not speak of it to my friends, and
they are far too considerate to speak of it to me. But you
have put me on the defensive. You have made me out more or
less of a brute, and I don't intend to be so far
misunderstood. There are two sides to every story, and there
is something to be said about this, even for me."
He walked back to his place beside the mantel, and put
his shoulders against it, and faced Van Bibber, with his
fingers twisted in the cord around his waist.
"When I married," said Mr. Caruthers, "I did so against
the wishes of my people and the advice of all my friends. You
know all about that. God help us! who doesn't?" he added,
bitterly. "It was very rich, rare reading for you and for
every one else who saw the daily papers, and we gave them all
they wanted of it. I took her out of that life and married
her because I believed she was as good a woman as any of those
who had never had to work for their living, and I was bound
that my friends and your friends should recognize her and
respect her as my wife had a right to be respected; and I took
her abroad that I might give all you sensitive, fine people a
chance to get used to the idea of being polite to a woman who
had once been a burlesque actress. It began over there in
Paris. What I went through then no one knows; but when I came
back--and I would never have come back if she had not made
me--it was my friends I had to consider, and not her. It was
in the blood; it was in the life she had led, and in the life
men like you and me had taught her to live. And it had to
The muscles of Mr. Caruthers's face were moving, and
beyond his control; but Van Bibber did not see this, for he
was looking intently out of the window, over the roofs of the
"She had every chance when she married me that a woman
ever had," continued the older man. "It only depended on
herself. I didn't try to make a housewife of her or a drudge.
She had all the healthy excitement and all the money she
wanted, and she had a home here ready for her whenever she was
tired of travelling about and wished to settle down. And I
was--and a husband that loved her as--she had
everything--everything that a man's whole thought and love and
money could bring to her. And you know what she did."
He looked at Van Bibber, but Van Bibber's eyes were still
turned towards the open window and the night.
"And after the divorce--and she was free to go where she
pleased, and to live as she pleased and with whom she pleased,
without bringing disgrace on a husband who honestly loved her-
-I swore to my God that I would never see her nor her child
again. And I never saw her again, not even when she died. I
loved the mother, and she deceived me and disgraced me and
broke my heart, and I only wish she had killed me; and I was
beginning to love her child, and I vowed she should not live
to trick me too. I had suffered as no man I know had
suffered; in a way a boy like you cannot understand, and that
no one can understand who has not gone to hell and been forced
to live after it. And was I to go through that again? Was I
to love and care for and worship this child, and have her grow
up with all her mother's vanity and animal nature, and have
her turn on me some day and show me that what is bred in the
bone must tell, and that I was a fool again--a pitiful fond
fool? I could not trust her. I can never trust any woman or
child again, and least of all that woman's child. She is as
dead to me as though she were buried with her mother, and it
is nothing to me what she is or what her life is. I know in
time what it will be. She has begun earlier than I had
supposed, that is all; but she is nothing to me." The man
stopped and turned his back to Van Bibber, and hid his head in
his hands, with his elbows on the mantelpiece. "I care too
much," he said. "I cannot let it mean anything to me; when I
do care, it means so much more to me than to other men. They
may pretend to laugh and to forget and to outgrow it, but it
is not so with me. It means too much." He took a quick
stride towards one of the arm-chairs, and threw himself into
it. "Why, man," he cried, "I loved that child's mother to the
day of her death. I loved that woman then, and, God help me!
I love that woman still."
He covered his face with his hands, and sat leaning
forward and breathing heavily as he rocked himself to and fro.
Van Bibber still stood looking gravely out at the lights that
picketed the black surface of the city. He was to all
appearances as unmoved by the outburst of feeling into which
the older man had been surprised as though it had been
something in a play. There was an unbroken silence for a
moment, and then it was Van Bibber who was the first to speak.
"I came here, as you say, on impulse," he said; "but I am
glad I came, for I have your decisive answer now about the
little girl. I have been thinking," he continued, slowly,
"since you have been speaking, and before, when I first saw
her dancing in front of the footlights, when I did not know
who she was, that I could give up a horse or two, if
necessary, and support this child instead. Children are worth
more than horses, and a man who saves a soul, as it says"--he
flushed slightly, and looked up with a hesitating, deprecatory
smile--"somewhere, wipes out a multitude of sins. And it may
be I'd like to try and get rid of some of mine. I know just
where to send her; I know the very place. It's down in
Evergreen Bay, on Long Island. They are tenants of mine
there, and very nice farm sort of people, who will be very
good to her. They wouldn't know anything about her, and she'd
forget what little she knows of this present life very soon,
and grow up with the other children to be one of them; and
then, when she gets older and becomes a young lady, she could
go to some school--but that's a bit too far ahead to plan for
the present; but that's what I am going to do, though," said
the young man, confidently, and as though speaking to himself.
"That theatrical boarding-house person could be bought off
easily enough," he went on, quickly, "and Lester won't mind
letting her go if I ask it,--and--and that's what I'll do. As
you say, it's a good deal of an experiment, but I think I'll
run the risk."
He walked quickly to the door and disappeared in the
hall, and then came back, kicking the door open as he
returned, and holding the child in his arms.
"This is she," he said, quietly. He did not look at or
notice the father, but stood, with the child asleep in the
bend of his left arm, gazing down at her. "This is she," he
repeated; "this is your child."
There was something cold and satisfied in Van Bibber's
tone and manner, as though he were congratulating himself upon
the engaging of a new groom; something that placed the father
entirely outside of it. He might have been a disinterested
"She will need to be fed a bit," Van Bibber ran on,
cheerfully. "They did not treat her very well, I fancy. She
is thin and peaked and tired-looking." He drew up the loose
sleeve of her jacket, and showed the bare forearm to the
light. He put his thumb and little finger about it, and
closed them on it gently. "It is very thin," he said. "And
under her eyes, if it were not for the paint," he went on,
mercilessly, "you could see how deep the lines are. This red
spot on her cheek, he said, gravely, "is where Mary Vane
kissed her to-night, and this is where Alma Stantley kissed
her, and that Lee girl. You have heard of them, perhaps.
They will never kiss her again. She is going to grow up a
sweet, fine, beautiful woman--are you not?" he said, gently
drawing the child higher up on his shoulder, until her face
touched his, and still keeping his eyes from the face of the
older man. "She does not look like her mother," he said; "she
has her father's auburn hair and straight nose and finer-cut
lips and chin. She looks very much like her father. It seems
a pity," he added, abruptly. "She will grow up," he went on,
"without knowing him, or who he is--or was, if he should die.
She will never speak with him, or see him, or take his hand.
She may pass him some day on the street and will not know him,
and he will not know her, but she will grow to be very fond
and to be very grateful to the simple, kindhearted old people
who will have cared for her when she was a little girl."
The child in his arms stirred, shivered slightly, and
awoke. The two men watched her breathlessly, with silent
intentness. She raised her head and stared around the
unfamiliar room doubtfully, then turned to where her father
stood, looking at him a moment, and passed him by; and then,
looking up into Van Bibber's face, recognized him, and gave a
gentle, sleepy smile, and, with a sigh of content and
confidence, drew her arm up closer around his neck, and let
her head fall back upon his breast.
The father sprang to his feet with a quick, jealous gasp
of pain. "Give her to me!" he said, fiercely, under his
breath, snatching her out of Van Bibber's arms. "She is mine;
give her to me!"
Van Bibber closed the door gently behind him, and went
jumping down the winding stairs of the Berkeley three steps at
And an hour later, when the English servant came to his
master's door, he found him still awake and sitting in the
dark by the open window, holding something in his arms and
looking out over the sleeping city.
"James," he said, "you can make up a place for me here on
the lounge. Miss Caruthers, my daughter, will sleep in my
Van Bibber's Man Servant
Van Bibber's man Walters was the envy and admiration of
his friends. He was English, of course, and he had been
trained in the household of the Marquis Bendinot, and had
travelled, in his younger days, as the valet of young Lord
Upton. He was now rather well on in years, although it would
have been impossible to say just how old he was. Walters had
a dignified and repellent air about him, and he brushed his
hair in such a way as to conceal his baldness.
And when a smirking, slavish youth with red checks and
awkward gestures turned up in Van Bibber's livery, his friends
were naturally surprised, and asked how he had come to lose
Walters. Van Bibber could not say exactly, at least he could
not rightly tell whether he had dismissed Walters or Walters
had dismissed himself. The facts of the unfortunate
separation were like this:
Van Bibber gave a great many dinners during the course of
the season at Delmonico's, dinners hardly formal enough to
require a private room, and yet too important to allow of his
running the risk of keeping his guests standing in the hall
waiting for a vacant table. So he conceived the idea of
sending Walters over about half-past six to keep a table for
him. As everybody knows, you can hold a table yourself at
Delmonico's for any length of time until the other guests
arrive, but the rule is very strict about servants. Because,
as the head waiter will tell you, if servants were allowed to
reserve a table during the big rush at seven o'clock, why not
messenger boys? And it would certainly never do to have half
a dozen large tables securely held by minute messengers while
the hungry and impatient waited their turn at the door.
But Walters looked as much like a gentleman as did many
of the diners; and when he seated himself at the largest table
and told the waiter to serve for a party of eight or ten, he
did it with such an air that the head waiter came over himself
and took the orders. Walters knew quite as much about
ordering a dinner as did his master; and when Van Bibber was
too tired to make out the menu, Walters would look over the
card himself and order the proper wines and side dishes; and
with such a carelessly severe air and in such a masterly
manner did he discharge this high function that the waiters
looked upon him with much respect.
But respect even from your equals and the satisfaction of
having your fellow-servants mistake you for a member of the
Few Hundred are not enough. Walters wanted more. He wanted
the further satisfaction of enjoying the delicious dishes he
had ordered; of sitting as a coequal with the people for whom
he had kept a place; of completing the deception he practised
only up to the point where it became most interesting.
It certainly was trying to have to rise with a
subservient and unobtrusive bow and glide out unnoticed by the
real guests when they arrived; to have to relinquish the feast
just when the feast should begin. It would not be pleasant,
certainly, to sit for an hour at a big empty table, ordering
dishes fit only for epicures, and then, just as the waiters
bore down with the Little Neck clams, so nicely iced and so
cool and bitter-looking, to have to rise and go out into the
street to a table d'hote around the corner.
This was Walters's state of mind when Mr. Van Bibber told
him for the hundredth time to keep a table for him for three
at Delmonico's. Walters wrapped his severe figure in a frock-
coat and brushed his hair, and allowed himself the dignity of
a walking-stick. He would have liked to act as a substitute
in an evening dress-suit, but Van Bibber would not have
allowed it. So Walters walked over to Delmonico's and took a
table near a window, and said that the other gentlemen would
arrive later. Then he looked at his watch and ordered the
dinner. It was just the sort of dinner he would have ordered
had he ordered it for himself at some one else's expense. He
suggested Little Neck clams first, with Chablis, and pea-soup,
and caviare on toast, before the oyster crabs, with
Johannisberger Cabinet; then an entree of calves' brains and
rice; then no roast, but a bird, cold asparagus with French
dressing, Camembert cheese, and Turkish coffee. As there were
to be no women, he omitted the sweets and added three other
wines to follow the white wine. It struck him as a
particularly well-chosen dinner, and the longer he sat and
thought about it the more he wished he were to test its
excellence. And then the people all around him were so bright
and happy, and seemed to be enjoying what they had ordered
with such a refinement of zest that he felt he would give a
great deal could he just sit there as one of them for a brief
At that moment the servant deferentially handed him a
note which a messenger boy had brought. It said:
"Dinner off called out town send clothes and things after
me to Young's Boston."
Walters rose involuntarily, and then sat still to think
about it. He would have to countermand the dinner which he
had ordered over half an hour before, and he would have to
explain who he was to those other servants who had always
regarded him as such a great gentleman. It was very hard.
And then Walters was tempted. He was a very good
servant, and he knew his place as only an English servant can,
and he had always accepted it, but to-night he was
tempted--and he fell. He met the waiter's anxious look with
a grave smile.
"The other gentlemen will not be with me to-night, "he
said, glancing at the note. "But I will dine here as I
intended. You can serve for one. "
That was perhaps the proudest night in the history of
Walters. He had always felt that he was born out of his
proper sphere, and to-night he was assured of it. He was a
little nervous at first, lest some of Van Bibber's friends
should come in and recognize him; but as the dinner progressed
and the warm odor of the dishes touched his sense, and the
rich wines ran through his veins, and the women around him
smiled and bent and moved like beautiful birds of beautiful
plumage, he became content, grandly content; and he half
closed his eyes and imagined he was giving a dinner to
everybody in the place. Vain and idle thoughts came to him
and went again, and he eyed the others about him calmly and
with polite courtesy, as they did him, and he felt that if he
must later pay for this moment it was worth the paying.
Then he gave the waiter a couple of dollars out of his
own pocket and wrote Van Bibber's name on the check, and
walked in state into the cafe, where he ordered a green mint
and a heavy, black, and expensive cigar, and seated himself at
the window, where he felt that he should always have sat if
the fates had been just. The smoke hung in light clouds about
him, and the lights shone and glistened on the white cloths
and the broad shirt-fronts of the smart young men and
distinguished foreign-looking older men at the surrounding
And then, in the midst of his dreamings, he heard the
soft, careless drawl of his master, which sounded at that time
and in that place like the awful voice of a condemning judge.
Van Bibber pulled out a chair and dropped into it. His side
was towards Walters, so that he did not see him. He had some
men with him, and he was explaining how he had missed his
train and had come back to find that one of the party had
eaten the dinner without him, and he wondered who it could be;
and then turning easily in his seat he saw Walters with the
green mint and the cigar, trembling behind a copy of the
"Walters!" said Van Bibber, "what are you doing here?"
Walters looked his guilt and rose stiffly. He began with
a feeble "If you please, sir--"
"Go back to my rooms and wait for me there," said Van
Bibber, who was too decent a fellow to scold a servant in
Walters rose and left the half-finished cigar and the
mint with the ice melting in it on the table. His one evening
of sublimity was over, and he walked away, bending before the
glance of his young master and the smiles of his master's
When Van Bibber came back he found on his dressing-table
a note from Walters stating that he could not, of course,
expect to remain longer in his service, and that he left
behind him the twenty-eight dollars which the dinner had cost.
"If he had only gone off with all my waistcoats and
scarf-pins, I'd have liked it better," said Van Bibber, "than
his leaving me cash for infernal dinner. Why, a servant like
Walters is worth twenty-eight-dollar dinners--twice a day."
The Hungry Man was Fed
Young Van Bibber broke one of his rules of life one day
and came down-town. This unusual journey into the marts of
trade and finance was in response to a call from his lawyer,
who wanted his signature to some papers. It was five years
since Van Bibber had been south of the north side of
Washington Square, except as a transient traveller to the
ferries on the elevated road. And as he walked through the
City Hall Square he looked about him at the new buildings in
the air, and the bustle and confusion of the streets, with as
much interest as a lately arrived immigrant.
He rather enjoyed the novelty of the situation, and after
he had completed his business at the lawyer's office he tried
to stroll along lower Broadway as he did on the Avenue.
But people bumped against him, and carts and drays tried
to run him down when he crossed the side streets, and those
young men whom he knew seemed to be in a great hurry, and
expressed such amused surprise at seeing him that he felt very
much out of place indeed. And so he decided to get back to
his club window and its quiet as soon as possible.
"Hello, Van Bibber," said one of the young men who were
speeding by, "what brings you here? Have you lost your way?"
"I think I have," said Van Bibber. "If you'll kindly
tell me how I can get back to civilization again, be obliged
"Take the elevated from Park Place," said his friend from
over his shoulder, as he nodded and dived into the crowd.
The visitor from up-town had not a very distinct idea as
to where Park Place was, but he struck off Broadway and
followed the line of the elevated road along Church Street.
It was at the corner of Vesey Street that a miserable-looking,
dirty, and red-eyed object stood still in his tracks and
begged Van Bibber for a few cents to buy food. "I've come all
the way from Chicago," said the Object, "and I haven't tasted
food for twenty-four hours."
Van Bibber drew away as though the Object had a
contagious disease in his rags, and handed him a quarter
without waiting to receive the man's blessing.
"Poor devil!" said Van Bibber. "Fancy going without
dinner all day!" He could not fancy this, though he tried,
and the impossibility of it impressed him so much that he
amiably determined to go back and hunt up the Object and give
him more money. Van Bibber's ideas of a dinner were rather
exalted. He did not know of places where a quarter was good
for a "square meal," including "one roast, three vegetables,
and pie." He hardly considered a quarter a sufficiently large
tip for the waiter who served the dinner, and decidedly not
enough for the dinner itself. He did not see his man at
first, and when he did the man did not see him. Van Bibber
watched him stop three gentlemen, two of whom gave him some
money, and then the Object approached Van Bibber and repeated
his sad tale in a monotone. He evidently did not recognize
Van Bibber, and the clubman gave him a half-dollar and walked
away, feeling that the man must surely have enough by this
time with which to get something to eat, if only a luncheon.
This retracing of his footsteps had confused Van Bibber,
and he made a complete circuit of the block before he
discovered that he had lost his bearings. He was standing
just where he had started, and gazing along the line of the
elevated road, looking for a station, when the familiar
accents of the Object again saluted him.
When Van Bibber faced him the beggar looked uneasy. He
was not sure whether or not he had approached this particular
gentleman before, but Van Bibber conceived an idea of much
subtlety, and deceived the Object by again putting his hand in
"Nothing to eat for twenty-four hours! Dear me!" drawled
the clubman, sympathetically. "Haven't you any money,
"Not a cent," groaned the Object, "an' I'm just faint for
food, sir. S' help me. I hate to beg, sir. It isn't the
money I want, it's jest food. I'm starvin', sir."
"Well," said Van Bibber, suddenly, "if it is just
something to eat you want, come in here with me and I'll give
you your breakfast." But the man held back and began to whine
and complain that they wouldn't let the likes of him in such
a fine place.
"Oh, yes, they will," said Van Bibber, glancing at the
bill of fare in front of the place. "It seems to be extremely
cheap. Beefsteak fifteen cents, for instance. Go in, he
added, and there was something in his tone which made the
Object move ungraciously into the eating-house.
It was a very queer place, Van Bibber thought, and the
people stared very hard at him and his gloves and the gardenia
in his coat and at the tramp accompanying him.
"You ain't going to eat two breakfasts, are yer?" asked
one of the very tough-looking waiters of the Object. The
Object looked uneasy, and Van Bibber, who stood beside his
chair, smiled in triumph.
"You're mistaken," he said to the waiter. "This
gentleman is starving; he has not tasted food for twenty-four
hours. Give him whatever he asks for!"
The Object scowled and the waiter grinned behind his tin
tray, and had the impudence to wink at Van Bibber, who
recovered from this in time to give the man a half-dollar and
so to make of him a friend for life. The Object ordered milk,
but Van Bibber protested and ordered two beefsteaks and fried
potatoes, hot rolls and two omelettes, coffee, and ham with
"Holy smoke! watcher think I am?" yelled the Object, in
"Hungry," said Van Bibber, very gently. "Or else an
impostor. And, you know, if you should happen to be the
latter, I should have to hand you over to the police."
Van Bibber leaned easily against the wall and read the
signs about him, and kept one eye on a policeman across the
street. The Object was choking and cursing through his
breakfast. It did not seem to agree with him. Whenever he
stopped Van Bibber would point with his stick to a still
unfinished dish, and the Object, after a husky protest, would
attack it as though it were poison. The people sitting about
were laughing, and the proprietor behind the desk smiling
"There, darn ye!" said the Object at last. "I've eat all
I can eat for a year. You think you're mighty smart, don't
ye? But if you choose to pay that high for your fun, I s'pose
you can afford it. Only don't let me catch you around these
streets after dark, that's all."
And the Object started off, shaking his fist.
"Wait a minute," said Van Bibber. "You haven't paid them
for your breakfast."
"Haven't what? shouted the Object. "Paid 'em! How could
I pay him? Youse asked me to come in here and eat. I didn't
want no breakfast, did I? Youse'll have to pay for your fun
yerself, or they'll throw yer out. Don't try to be too
"I gave you," said Van Bibber, slowly, "seventy-five
cents with which to buy a breakfast. This check calls for
eighty-five cents, and extremely cheap it is," he added, with
a bow to the fat proprietor. "Several other gentlemen, on
your representation that you were starving, gave you other
sums to be expended on a breakfast. You have the money with
you now. So pay what you owe at once, or I'll call that
officer across the street and tell him what I know, and have
you put where you belong."
"I'll see you blowed first!" gasped the Object.
Van Bibber turned to the waiter.
"Kindly beckon to that officer," said he.
The waiter ran to the door and the Object ran too, but
the tough waiter grabbed him by the back of his neck and held
"Lemme go!" yelled the Object. "Lemme go an' I'll pay
Everybody in the place came up now and formed a circle
around the group and watched the Object count out eighty-five
cents into the waiter's hand, which left him just one dime to
"You have forgotten the waiter who served you," said Van
Bibber, severely pointing with his stick at the dime.
"No, you don't," groaned the Object.
"Oh, yes," said Van Bibber, "do the decent thing now, or
The Object dropped the dime in the waiter's hand, and Van
Bibber, smiling and easy, made his way through the admiring
crowd and out into the street.
"I suspect," said Mr. Van Bibber later in the day, when
recounting his adventure to a fellow-clubman, "that, after I
left, fellow tried to get tip back from waiter, for I saw him
come out of place very suddenly, you see, and without touching
pavement till he lit on back of his head in gutter. He was
most remarkable waiter."
Love Me, Love My Dog
Young Van Bibber had been staying with some people at
Southampton, L. I., where, the fall before, his friend Travers
made his reputation as a cross-country rider. He did this, it
may be remembered, by shutting his eyes and holding on by the
horse's mane and letting the horse go as it pleased. His
recklessness and courage are still spoken of with awe; and the
place where he cleared the water jump that every one else
avoided is pointed out as Travers's Leap to visiting horsemen,
who look at it gloomily and shake their heads. Miss Arnett,
whose mother was giving the house-party, was an attractive
young woman, with an admiring retinue of youths who gave
attention without intention, and for none of whom Miss Arnett
showed particular preference. Her whole interest, indeed, was
centred in a dog, a Scotch collie called Duncan. She allowed
this dog every liberty, and made a decided nuisance of him for
every one, around her. He always went with her when she
walked, or trotted beside her horse when she rode. He
stretched himself before the fire in the dining-room, and
startled people at table by placing his cold nose against
their hands or putting his paws on their gowns. He was
generally voted a most annoying adjunct to the Arnett
household; but no one, dared hint so to Miss Arnett, as she
only loved those who loved the dog or pretended to do it. On
the morning of the afternoon on which Van Bibber and his bag
arrived, the dog disappeared and could not be recovered. Van
Bibber found the household in a state of much excitement in
consequence, and his welcome was necessarily brief. The
arriving guest was not to be considered at all with the
departed dog. The men told Van Bibber, in confidence, that
the general relief among the guests was something ecstatic,
but this was marred later by the gloom of Miss Arnett and her
inability to think of anything else but the finding of the
lost collie. Things became so feverish that for the sake of
rest and peace the house-party proposed to contribute to a
joint purse for the return of the dog, as even, nuisance as it
was, it was not so bad as having their visit spoiled by Miss
Arnett's abandonment to grief and crossness.
"I think," said the young woman, after luncheon, "that
some of you men might be civil enough to offer to look for
him. I'm sure he can't have gone far, or, if he has been
stolen, the men who took him couldn't have gone very far away
either. Now which of you will volunteer? I'm sure you'll do
it to please me. Mr. Van Bibber, now: you say you're so
clever. We're all the time hearing of your adventures. Why
don't you show how full of expedients you are and rise to the
occasion?" The suggestion of scorn in this speech nettled Van
"I'm sure I never posed as being clever," he said, "and
finding a lost dog with all Long Island to pick and choose
from isn't a particularly easy thing to pull off successfully,
I should think."
"I didn't suppose you'd take a dare like that, Van
Bibber," said one of the men. "Why, it's just the sort of
thing you do so well."
"Yes," said another, "I'll back you to find him if you
"Thanks," said Van Bibber, dryly. "There seems to be a
disposition on the part of the young men present to turn me
into a dog-catcher. I doubt whether this is altogether
unselfish. I do not say that they would rather remain indoors
and teach the girls how to play billiards, but I quite
appreciate their reasons for not wishing to roam about in the
snow and whistle for a dog. However, to oblige the despondent
mistress of this valuable member of the household, I will risk
pneumonia, and I will, at the same time, in order to make the
event interesting to all concerned, back myself to bring that
dog back by eight o'clock. Now, then, if any of you unselfish
youths have any sporting blood, you will just name the sum."
They named one hundred dollars, and arranged that Van
Bibber was to have the dog back by eight o'clock, or just in
time for dinner; for Van Bibber said he wouldn't miss his
dinner for all the dogs in the two hemispheres, unless the
dogs happened to be his own.
Van Bibber put on his great-coat and told the man to
bring around the dog-cart; then he filled his pockets with
cigars and placed a flask of brandy under the seat, and
wrapped the robes around his knees.
"I feel just like a relief expedition to the North Pole.
I think I ought to have some lieutenants," he suggested.
"Well," cried one of the men, "suppose we make a pool and
each chip in fifty dollars, and the man who brings the dog
back in time gets the whole of it?"
"That bet of mine stands, doesn't it?" asked Van Bibber.
The men said it did, and went off to put on their riding
things, and four horses were saddled and brought around from
the stable. Each of the four explorers was furnished with a
long rope to tie to Duncan's collar, and with which he was to
be led back if they found him. They were cheered ironically
by the maidens they had deserted on compulsion, and were
smiled upon severally by Miss Arnett. Then they separated and
took different roads. It was snowing gently, and was very
cold. Van Bibber drove aimlessly ahead, looking to the right
and left and scanning each back yard and side street. Every
now and then he hailed some passing farm wagon and asked the
driver if he had seen a stray collie dog, but the answer was
invariably in the negative. He soon left the village in the
rear, and plunged out over the downs. The wind was bitter
cold, and swept from the water with a chill that cut through
"Oh, this is great," said Van Bibber to the patient horse
in front of him; "this IS sport, this is. The next time I
come to this part of the world I'll be dragged here with a
rope. Nice, hospitable people those Arnetts, aren't they?
Ask you to make yourself at home chasing dogs over an ice
fjord. Don't know when I've enjoyed myself so much." Every
now and then he stood up and looked all over the hills and
valleys to see if he could not distinguish a black object
running over the white surface of the snow, but he saw nothing
like a dog, not even the track of one.
Twice he came across one of the other men, shivering and
swearing from his saddle, and with teeth chattering.
"Well," said one of them, shuddering, "you haven't found
that dog yet, I see."
"No," said Van Bibber. "Oh, no. I've given up looking
for the dog. I'm just driving around enjoying myself. The
air's so invigorating, and I like to feel the snow settling
between my collar and the back of my neck."
At four o'clock Van Bibber was about as nearly frozen as
a man could be after he had swallowed half a bottle of brandy.
It was so cold that the ice formed on his cigar when he took
it from his lips, and his feet and the dashboard seemed to
have become stuck together.
"I think I'll give it up," he said, finally, as he turned
the horse's head towards Southampton. "I hate to lose three
hundred and fifty dollars as much as any man; but I love my
fair young life, and I'm not going to turn into an equestrian
statue in ice for anybody's collie dog."
He drove the cart to the stable and unharnessed the horse
himself, as all the grooms were out scouring the country, and
then went upstairs unobserved and locked himself in his room,
for he did not care to have the others know that he had given
out so early in the chase. There was a big open fire in his
room, and he put on his warm things and stretched out before
it in a great easy-chair, and smoked and sipped the brandy and
chuckled with delight as he thought of the four other men
racing around in the snow.
"They may have more nerve than I," he soliloquized, "and
I don't say they have not; but they can have all the credit
and rewards they want, and I'll be satisfied to stay just
where I am."
At seven he saw the four riders coming back dejectedly,
and without the dog. As they passed his room he heard one of
the men ask if Van Bibber had got back yet, and another say
yes, he had, as he had left the cart in the stable, but that
one of the servants had said that he had started out again on
"He has, has he?" said the voice. "Well, he's got
sporting blood, and he'll need to keep it at fever heat if he
expects to live. I'm frozen so that I can't bend my fingers."
Van Bibber smiled, and moved comfortably in the big
chair; he had dozed a little, and was feeling very contented.
At half-past seven he began to dress, and at five minutes to
eight he was ready for dinner and stood looking out of the
window at the moonlight on the white lawn below. The snow had
stopped falling, and everything lay quiet and still as though
it were cut in marble. And then suddenly across the lawn,
came a black, bedraggled object on four legs, limping
painfully, and lifting its feet as though there were lead on
"Great heavens! cried Van Bibber, "it 's the dog! He was
out of the room in a moment and down into the hall. He heard
the murmur of voices in the drawing-room, and the sympathetic
tones of the women who were pitying the men. Van Bibber
pulled on his overshoes and a great-coat that covered him from
his ears to his ankles, and dashed out into the snow. The dog
had just enough spirit left to try and dodge him, and with a
leap to one side went off again across the lawn. It was, as
Van Bibber knew, but three minutes to eight o'clock, and have
the dog he must and would. The collie sprang first to one
side and then to the other, and snarled and snapped; but Van
Bibber was keen with the excitement of the chase, so he
plunged forward recklessly and tackled the dog around the
body, and they both rolled over and over together. Then Van
Bibber scrambled to his feet and dashed up the steps and into
the drawing-room just as the people were in line for dinner,
and while the minute-hand stood at a minute to eight o'clock.
"How is this?" shouted Van Bibber, holding up one hand
and clasping the dog under his other arm.
Miss Arnett flew at the collie and embraced it, wet as it
was, and ruined her gown, and all the men glanced
instinctively at the clock and said:
"You've won, Van."
"But you must be frozen to death," said Miss Arnett,
looking up at him with gratitude in her eyes.
"Yes, yes," said Van Bibber, beginning to shiver. "I've
had a terrible long walk, and I had to carry him all the way.
If you'll excuse me, I'll go change my things."
He reappeared again in a suspiciously short time for one
who had to change outright, and the men admired his endurance
and paid up the bet.
"Where did you find him, Van?" one of them asked.
"Oh, yes," they all chorused. "Where was he?"
"That," said Mr. Van Bibber, "is a thing known to only
two beings, Duncan and myself. Duncan can't tell, and I
won't. If I did, you'd say I was trying to make myself out
clever, and I never boast about the things I do."
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