Harry Leon Wilson
Part 5 out of 7
"You're blasphemous! and you're overwrought about the few cases of need
here. Think of those two million people that have just starved to death
"That wasn't my fault."
"Exactly; if you'd been there the list might have been cut down four or
five thousand; not more. It was the fault of whoever makes the weather.
It didn't rain and their curry crop failed--or whatever they raise--and
there you are; and we couldn't help matters any by starving ourselves
"Well, I know of a few matters here I can help. And just look at all
those empty houses boarded up!" she cried later, as they crossed
Madison Avenue. "Those poor things bake themselves to death down in
their little ovens, and these great cool places are all shut up. Why,
that poor little baby's hands were just like bird's claws."
"Well, don't take your sociology too seriously," Percival warned her,
as they reached the hotel. "Being philanthropic is obeying an instinct
just as selfish as any of the others. A little of it is all right--but
don't be a slave to your passions. And be careful of your health."
In his mail at the Hightower was a note from Mrs. Akemit:
"NEW LONDON, July 29th.
"You DEAR THOUGHTFUL MAN: I'll be delighted, and the aunt, a worthy
sister of the dear bishop, has consented. She is an acidulous maiden
person with ultra-ritualistic tendencies. At present she is strong on
the reunion of Christendom, and holds that the Anglican must be the
unifying medium of the two religious extremes. So don't say I didn't
warn you fairly. She will, however, impart an air of Episcopalian
propriety to that naughty yacht of yours--something sadly needed if I
am to believe the tales I hear about its little voyages to nowhere in
"Babe sends her love, and says to tell 'Uncle Percibal' that the ocean
tastes 'all nassy.' She stood upon the beach yesterday after making
this discovery involuntarily, and proscribed it with one magnificent
wave of her hand and a brief exclamation of disgust--turned her back
disrespectfully upon a body of water that is said to cover
two-thirds--or is it three-fourths?--of the earth's surface. Think of
it! She seemed to suspect she had been imposed upon in the matter of
its taste, and is going to tell the janitor directly we get home, in
order that the guilty ones may be seen to. Her little gesture of
dismissal was superbly contemptuous. I wish you had been with me to
watch her. Yes, the bathing-suit does have little touches of red, and
red--but this will never do. Give us a day's notice, and believe me,
"FLORENCE VERDON AKEMIT.
"P.S. Babe is on the back of my chair, cuddling down in my neck, and
says, 'Send him your love, too, Mommie. Now don't you forget.'"
He telegraphed Mrs. Akemit: "Will reach New London to-morrow. Assure
your aunt of my delight at her acceptance. I have long held that the
reunion must come as she thinks it will."
Then he ventured into the heat and glare of Broadway where humanity
stewed and wilted. At Thirty-second Street he ran into Burman, with
whom he had all but cornered wheat.
"You're the man I wanted to see," said Percival.
"Hurry and look! I'm melting fast."
"Come off on the yacht."
"My preserver! I was just going down to the Oriental, but your dug-out
wins me hands down. Come into this poor-man's club. I must have a cold
drink taller than a church steeple."
"Anybody else in town we can take?"
"There's Billy Yelverton--our chewing-gum friend; just off the
_Lucania_ last night; and Eddie Arledge and his wife. They're in town
because Eddie was up in supplementary or something--some low, coarse
brute of a tradesman wanted his old bill paid, and wouldn't believe
Eddie when he said he couldn't spare the money. Eddie is about as
lively as a dish of cold breakfast food, but his wife is all right, all
right. Retiring from the footlights' glare didn't spoil Mrs. E.
Wadsworth Arledge,--not so you could notice it."
"Well, see Eddie if you can, and I'll find Yelverton; he's probably at
the hotel yet; and meet me there by five, so we can get out of this
little amateur hell."
"And quit trying to save that collar," urged Burman, as they parted;
"you look foolisher than a horse in a straw hat with it on anyway. Let
it go and tuck in your handkerchief like the rest of us. See you at
At the hour named the party had gathered. Percival, Arledge and his
lively wife, Yelverton, who enjoyed the rare distinction of having lost
money to Percival, and Burman. East they drove through the street where
less fortunate mortals panted in the dead afternoon shade, and out on
to the dock, whence the _Viluca's_ naphtha launch presently put them
aboard that sumptuous craft. A little breeze there made the heat less
"We'll be under way as soon as they fetch that luggage out," Percival
assured his guests.
"It's been frightfully oppressive all day, even out here," said Mrs.
Drelmer, "but the engaged ones haven't lost their tempers once, even if
the day was trying. And really they're the most unemotional and
matter-of-fact couple I ever saw. Oh! do give me that stack of papers
until I catch up with the news again."
Percival relinquished to her the evening papers he had bought before
leaving the hotel, and Mrs. Drelmer in the awninged shade at the stern
of the boat was soon running through them.
The others had gone below, where Percival was allotting staterooms, and
urging every one to "order whatever cold stuff you like and get into as
few things as the law allows. For my part, I'd like to wear nothing but
a cold bath."
Mrs. Drelmer suddenly betrayed signs of excitement. She sat up straight
in the wicker deck-chair, glanced down a column of her newspaper, and
then looked up.
Mauburn's head appeared out of the cabin's gloom. He was still speaking
to some one below. Mrs. Drelmer rattled the paper and waved it at him.
He came up the stairs.
"What's the row?"
He took the paper and glanced at the headlines. "I knew she'd do it. A
chap always comes up with something of that sort, and I was beginning
to feel so chippy!" He read:
"London, July 30th.--Lord Casselthorpe to-day wed Miss 'Connie' Burke,
the music-hall singer who has been appearing at the Alhambra. The
marriage was performed, by special license, at St. Michael's Church,
Chester Square, London, the Rev. Canon Mecklin, sub-dean of the Chapel
Royal, officiating. The honeymoon will be spent at the town-house of
the groom, in York Terrace. Lord Casselthorpe has long been known as
the blackest sheep of the British Peerage, being called the 'Coster
Peer' on account of his unconventional language, his coarse manner, and
slovenly attire. Two years ago he was warned off Newmarket Heath and
the British turf by the Jockey Club. He is eighty-eight years old. The
bride, like some other lights of the music-hall who have become the
consorts of Britain's hereditary legislators, has enjoyed considerable
ante-nuptial celebrity among the gilded youth of the metropolis, and is
said to have been especially admired at one time by the next in line of
this illustrious family, the Hon. Cecil G.H. Mauburn.
"The Hon. Cecil G. H. Mauburn, mentioned in the above cable despatch,
has been rather well-known in New York society for two years past. His
engagement to the daughter of a Montana mining magnate, not long
deceased, has been persistently rumoured."
Mauburn was pale under his freckles.
"Have they seen it yet?"
"I don't think so," she answered. "We might drop these papers over the
"That's rot, Mrs. Drelmer; it's sure to be talked of, and anyway I
don't want to be sneaky, you know."
Percival came up from the cabin with a paper in his hand.
"I see you have it, too," he said, smiling. "Burman just handed me
"Isn't it perfectly disreputable!" exclaimed Mrs. Drelmer.
"Why? I only hope I'll have as much interest in life by the time I'm
"But how will your sister take it?" asked Mauburn; "she may be afraid
this will knock my title on the head, you know."
"Oh, I see," said Percival; "I hadn't thought of that."
"Only it can't," continued Mauburn. "Hang it all, that blasted old
beggar will be eighty-nine, you know, in a fortnight. There simply
can't be any issue of the marriage, and that--that blasted--"
"Better not try to describe her--while I'm by, you know," said Mrs.
"Well--his wife--you know, will simply worry him into the grave a bit
sooner, I fancy--that's all can possibly come of it."
"Well, old man," said Percival, "I don't pretend to know the workings
of my sister's mind, but you ought to be able to win a girl on your own
merits, title or no title."
"Awfully good of you, old chap. I'm sure she does care for me."
"But of course it will be only fair to sis to lay the matter before her
just as it is."
"To be sure!" Mauburn assented.
"And now, thank the Lord, we're under way. Doesn't that breeze save
your life, though? We'll eat here on deck."
The _Viluca_ swung into mid-stream, and was soon racing to the north
with a crowded Fall River boat.
"But anyway," concluded Percival, after he had explained Mauburn's
position to his sister, "he's a good fellow, and if you suit each other
even the unexpected wouldn't make any difference."
"Of course not," she assented, "'the rank is but the guinea's stamp,' I
know--but I wasn't meaning to be married for quite a time yet,
anyway,--it's such fun just being engaged."
"A mint julep?" Mauburn was inquiring of one who had proposed it. "Does
it have whiskey in it?"
"It does," replied Percival, overhearing the question; "whiskey may be
said to pervade, even to infest it. Try five or six, old man; that many
make a great one-night trouble cure. And I can't have any one with
troubles on this Cunarder--not for the next thirty days. I need
cheerfulness and rest for a long time after this day in town. Ah!
General Hemingway says that dinner is served; let's be at it before the
things get all hot!"
A Sensational Turn in the Milbrey Fortunes
It was a morning early in November. In the sedate Milbrey dining-room a
brisk wood-fire dulled the edge of the first autumn chill. At the
breakfast-table, comfortably near the hearth, sat Horace Milbrey. With
pointed spoon he had daintily scooped the golden pulp from a Florida
orange, touched the tips of his slender white fingers to the surface of
the water in the bowl, and was now glancing leisurely at the headlines
of his paper, while his breakfast appetite gained agreeable zest from
the acid fruit.
On the second page of the paper the names in a brief item arrested his
errant glance. It disclosed that Mr. Percival Bines had left New York
the day before with a party of guests on his special car, to shoot
quail in North Carolina. Mr. Milbrey glanced at the two shells of the
orange which the butler was then removing.
"What a hopeless brute that fellow was!" he reflected.. He was
recalling a dictum once pronounced by Mr. Bines. "Oranges should never
be eaten in public," he had said with that lordly air of dogmatism
characteristic of him. "The only right way to eat a juicy orange is to
disrobe, grasp the fruit firmly in both hands and climb into a bath-tub
half full of water."
The finished epicure shuddered at the recollection, poignantly, quite
as if a saw were being filed in the next room.
The disagreeable emotion was allayed, however, by the sight of his next
course--_oeufs aux saucissons_. Tender, poetic memories stirred within
him. The little truffled French sausages aroused his better nature. Two
of them reposed luxuriously upon an egg-divan in the dainty French
baking-dish of dull green. Over them--a fitting baptism, was the rich
wine sauce of golden brown--a sauce that might have been the tears of
envious angels, wept over a mortal creation so faultlessly precious.
Mrs. Milbrey entered, news of importance visibly animating her. Her
husband arose mechanically, placed the chair for her, and resumed his
fork in an ecstasy of concentration. Yet, though Mrs. Milbrey was full
of talk, like a charged siphon, needing but a slight pressure to pour
forth matters of grave moment, she observed the engrossment of her
husband, and began on the half of an orange. She knew from experience
that he would be deaf, for the moment, to anything less than an alarm
When he had lovingly consumed the last morsel he awoke to her presence
and smiled benignantly.
"My dear, don't fail to try them, they're exquisitely perfect!"
"You really _must_ talk to Avice," his wife replied.
Mr. Milbrey sighed, deprecatingly. He could remember no time within
five years when that necessity had not weighed upon his father's sense
of duty like a vast boulder of granite. He turned to welcome the
diversion provided by the _rognons sautees_ which Jarvis at that moment
uncovered before him with a discreet flourish.
"Now you really must," continued his wife, "and you'll agree with me
when I tell you why."
"But, my dear, I've already talked to the girl exhaustively. I've
pointed out that her treatment of Mrs. Wybert--her perverse refusal to
meet the lady at all, is quite as absurd as it is rude, and that if
Fred chooses to marry Mrs. Wybert it is her duty to act the part of a
sister even if she cannot bring herself to feel it. I've assured her
that Mrs. Wybert's antecedents are all they should be; not illustrious,
perhaps, but eminently respectable. Indeed, I quite approve of the
Southern aristocracy. But she constantly recalls what that snobbish
Bines was unfair enough to tell her. I've done my utmost to convince
her that Bines spoke in the way he did about Mrs. Wybert because he
knew she was aware of those ridiculous tales of his mother's
illiteracy. But Avice is--er--my dear, she is like her mother in more
ways than one. Assuredly she doesn't take it from me."
He became interested in the kidneys. "If Marie had been a man," he
remarked, feelingly, "I often suspect that her fame as a _chef_ would
have been second to none. Really, the suavity of her sauces is a
never-ending delight to me."
"I haven't told you yet the reason--a new reason--why you must talk to
"The money--yes, yes, my dear, I know, we all know. Indeed, I've put it
to her plainly. She knows how sorely Fred needs it. She knows how that
beast of a tailor is threatening to be nasty--and I've explained how
invaluable Mrs. Wybert would be, reminding her of that lady's generous
hint about the rise in Federal Steel, which enabled me to net the neat
little profit of ten thousand dollars a month ago, and how, but for
that, we might have been acutely distressed. Yet she stubbornly clings
to the notion that this marriage would be a _mesalliance_ for the
"I agree with her," replied his wife, tersely.
Mr. Milbrey looked perplexed but polite.
"I quite agree with Avice," continued the lady. "That woman hasn't been
right, Horace, and she isn't right. Young Bines knew what he was
talking about. I haven't lived my years without being able to tell that
after five minutes with her, clever as she is. I can read her. Like so
many of those women, she has an intense passion to be thought
respectable, and she's come into money enough--God only knows how--to
gratify it. I could tell it, if nothing else showed it, by the way in
which she overdoes respectability. She has the thousand and one
artificial little rules for propriety that one never does have when one
has been bred to it. That kind of woman is certain to lapse sooner or
later. She would marry Fred because of his standing, because he's a
favourite with the smart people she thinks she'd like to be pally with.
Then, after a little she'd run off with a German-dialect comedian or
something, like that appalling person Normie Whitmund married."
"But the desire to be respectable, my dear--and you say this woman has
it--is a mighty lever. I'm no cynic about your sex, but I shudder to
think of their--ah--eccentricities if it should cease to be a factor in
the feminine equation."
"It's nothing more than a passing fad with this person--besides, that's
not what I've to tell you."
"But you, yourself, were not averse to Fred's marrying her, in spite of
these opinions you must secretly have held."
"Not while it seemed absolutely necessary--not while the case was so
brutally desperate, when we were actually pressed--"
"Remember, my dear, there's nothing magic in those ten thousand
dollars. They're winged dollars like all their mates, and most of them,
I'm sorry to say, have already flown to places where they'd long been
Mrs. Milbrey's sensation was no longer to be repressed. She had toyed
with the situation sufficiently. Her husband was now skilfully
dissecting the devilled thighs of an immature chicken.
"Horace," said his wife, impressively, "Avice has had an offer of
He looked up with new interest.
"From Rulon Shepler."
He dropped knife and fork. Shepler, the man of mighty millions! The
undisputed monarch of finance! The cold-blooded, calculating sybarite
in his lighter moments, but a man whose values as a son-in-law were so
ideally superb that the Milbrey ambition had never vaulted high enough
even to overlook them for one daring moment! Shepler, whom he had known
so long and so intimately, with never the audacious thought of a union
so stupendously glorious!
"Margaret, you're jesting!"
Mrs. Milbrey scorned to be dazzled by her triumph.
"Nonsense! Shepler asked her last night to marry him."
"It's bewildering! I never dreamed--"
"I've expected it for months. I could tell you the very moment when the
idea first seized the man--on the yacht last summer. I was sure she
interested him, even before his wife died two years ago."
"Margaret, it's too good to be true!"
"If you think it is I'll tell you something that isn't: Avice
practically refused him."
Her husband pushed away his plate; the omission of even one regretful
glance at its treasures betrayed the strong emotion under which he
"This is serious," he said, quietly. "Let us get at it. Tell me if you
"She came to me and cried half the night. She refused him definitely at
first, but he begged her to consider, to take a month to think it
Milbrey gasped. Shepler, who commanded markets to rise and they rose,
or to fall and they fell--Shepler begging, entreating a child of his!
Despite the soul-sickening tragedy of it, the situation was not without
its element of sublimity.
"She will consider; she _will_ reflect?"
"You're guessing now, and you're as keen at that as I. Avice is not
only amazingly self-willed, as you intimated a moment since, but she is
intensely secretive. When she left me I could get nothing from her
whatever. She was wretchedly sullen and taciturn."
"But why _should_ she hesitate? Shepler--Rulon Shepler! My God! is the
girl crazy? The very idea of hesitation is preposterous!"
"I can't divine her. You know she has acted perversely in the past. I
used to think she might have some affair of which we knew
nothing--something silly and romantic. But if she had any such thing
I'm sure it was ended, and she'd have jumped at this chance a year ago.
You know yourself she was ready to marry young Bines, and was really
disappointed when he didn't propose."
"But this is too serious." He tinkled the little silver bell.
"Find out if Miss Avice will be down to breakfast."
"If she's not coming down I shall go up," declared Mr. Milbrey when the
man had gone.
"She's stubborn," cautioned his wife.
"Gad! don't I know it?"
"Miss Avice won't be down, sir, and I'm to fetch her up a pot of
"Take it at once, and tell her I shall be up to see her presently."
"I think I see a way to put pressure on her, that is if the morning
hasn't already brought her back to her senses."
At four o'clock that afternoon, Avice Milbrey's ring brought Mrs. Van
Geist's butler to the door.
"Sandon, is Aunt Cornelia at home?"
"Yes, Miss Milbrey, she's confined to her room h'account h'of a cold,
"Yes, miss--certainly! will you go h'up to her?"
"And Mutterchen, dear, it was a regular bombshell," she concluded after
she had fluttered some of the November freshness into Mrs. Van Geist's
room, and breathlessly related the facts.
"You demented creature! I should say it must have been."
"Now, don't lecture!"
"But Shepler is one of the richest men in New York."
"Dad already suspects as much."
"And he's kind, he's a big-hearted chap, a man of the world,
"'A woman fancier,' Fidelia Oldaker calls him."
"My dear, if he fancies you--"
"There, you old conservative, I've heard all his good points, and my
duty has been written before me in letters of fire. Dad devoted three
hours to writing it this morning, so don't, please, say over any of the
moral maxims I'm likely to have heard."
"But why are you unwilling?"
"Because--because I'm wild, I fancy--just because I don't like the idea
of marrying that man. He's such a big, funny, round head, and
positively no neck--his head just rolls around on his big, pillowy
shoulders--and then he gets little right at once, tapers right off to a
point with those tiny feet."
"It isn't easy to have everything."
"It wouldn't be easy to have him, either."
Mrs. Van Geist fixed her niece with a sudden look of suspicion.
"Has--has that man anything to do with your refusal?"
"No--not a thing--I give you my word, auntie. If he had been what I
once dreamed he was no one would be asking me to marry him now, but--do
you know what I've decided? Why, that he is a joke--that's all--just a
joke. You needn't think of him, Mutterchen--I don't, except to think it
was funny that he should have impressed me so--he's simply a joke."
"I could have told you as much long ago."
"Tell me something now. Suppose Fred marries that Wybert woman."
"It will be a sorry day for Fred."
"Of course! Now see how I'm pinned. Dad and the mater both say the same
now--they're more severe than I was. Only we were never in such straits
for money. It must be had. So this is the gist of it: I ought to marry
Rulon Shepler in order to save Fred from a marriage that might get us
into all sorts of scandal."
"Well, I would do a lot for Fred. He has faults, but he's always been
good to me."
"And so it's a question whether he marries a very certain kind of woman
or whether I marry a very different kind of man."
"How do you feel?"
"For one thing Fred sha'n't get into that kind of muss if I can save
him from it."
"Then you'll marry Shepler?"
"I'm still uncertain about Mr. Shepler."
"But you say--"
"Yes, I know, but I've reasons for being uncertain. If I told you you'd
say they're like the most of a woman's reasons, mere fond, foolish
hopes, so I won't tell you."
"Well, dear, work it out by your lonely if you must. I believe you'll
do what's best for everybody in the end. And I am glad that your father
and Margaret take your view of that woman."
"I was sure she wasn't right--and I knew Mr. Bines was too much of a
man to speak of her as he did without positive knowledge. Now please
give me some tea and funny little cakes; I'm famished."
"Speaking of Mr. Bines," said Mrs. Van Geist, when the tea had been
brought by Sandon, "I read in the paper this morning that he'd taken a
party to North Carolina for the quail shooting, Eddie Arledge and his
wife and that Mr. and Mrs. Garmer, and of course Florence Akemit.
Should you have thought she'd marry so soon after her divorce? They say
Bishop Doolittle is frightfully vexed with her."
"Really I hadn't heard. Whom is Florence to marry?"
"Mr. Bines, to be sure! Where have you been? You know she was on his
yacht a whole month last summer--the bishop's sister was with her--
highly scandalised all the time by the drinking and gaiety, and now
every one's looking for the engagement to be announced. Here, what did
I do with that _Town Topics_ Cousin Clint left? There it is on the
tabouret. Read the paragraph at the top of the page." Avice read:
"An engagement that is rumoured with uncommon persistence will put
society on the _qui vive_ when it is definitely announced. The man in
the case is the young son of a mining Croesus from Montana, who has
inherited the major portion of his father's millions and who began to
dazzle upper Broadway about a year since by the reckless prodigality of
his ways. His blond _innamorata_ is a recent _divorcee_ of high social
standing, noted for her sparkling wit and an unflagging exuberance of
spirits. The interest of the gossips, however, centres chiefly in the
uncle of the lady, a Right Reverend presiding over a bishopric not a
thousand miles from New York, and in the attitude he will assume toward
her contemplated remarriage. At the last Episcopal convention this
godly and well-learned gentleman was a vehement supporter of the
proposed canon to prohibit absolutely the marriage of divorced persons;
and though he stoutly championed his bewitching niece through the
infelicities that eventuated in South Dakota, _on dit_ that he is
highly wrought up over her present intentions, and has signified
unmistakably his severest disapproval. However, _nous verrons ce que
"But, Mutterchen, that's only one of those absurd, vulgar things that
wretched paper is always printing. I could write dozens of them myself.
Tom Banning says they keep one man writing them all the time, out of
his own imagination, and then they put them in like raisins in a cake."
"But, my dear, I'm quite sure this is authentic. I know from Fidelia
Oldaker that the bishop began to cut up about it to Florence, and
Florence defied him. That ancient theory that most gossip is without
truth was exploded long ago. As a matter of fact most gossip, at least
about the people we know, doesn't do half justice to the facts. But,
really, I can't see why he fancied Florence Akemit. I should have
thought he'd want some one a bit less fluttery."
"I dare say you're right, about the gossip, I mean--" Miss Milbrey
remarked when she had finished her tea, and refused the cakes. "I
remember, now, one day when we met at her place, and he seemed so much
at home there. Of course, it must be so. How stupid of me to doubt it!
Now I must run. Good-bye, you old dear, and be good to the cold."
"Let me know what you do."
"Indeed I shall; you shall be the first one to know. My mind is really,
you know, _almost_ made up."
A week later Mr. and Mrs. Horace Milbrey announced in the public prints
the engagement of their daughter Avice to Mr. Rulon Shepler.
Uncle Peter Bines Comes to Town With His Man
One day in December Peter Bines of Montana City dropped in on the
family,--came with his gaunt length of limb, his kind, brown old face
with eyes sparkling shrewdly far back under his grizzled brows, with
his rough, resonant, musical voice, the spring of youth in his step,
and the fresh, confident strength of the big hills in his bearing.
He brought Billy Brue with him, a person whose exact social status some
of Percival's friends were never able to fix with any desirable
certainty. Thus, Percival had presented the old man, the morning after
his arrival, to no less a person than Herbert Delancey Livingston, with
whom he had smoked a cigar of unusual excellence in the _cafe_ of the
"If you fancy that weed, Mr. Bines," said Livingston, graciously, to
the old man, "I've a spare couple of hundred I'd like to let you have.
The things were sent me, but I find them rather stiffish. If your man's
about the hotel I'll give him a card to my man, and let him fetch
"My man?" queried Uncle Peter, and, sighting Billy Brue at that moment,
"why, yes, here's my man, now. Mr. Brue, shake hands with Mr.
Livingston. Billy, go up to the address he gives you, and get some of
these se-gars. You'll relish 'em as much as I do. Now don't talk to any
strangers, don't get run over, and don't lose yourself."
Livingston had surrendered a wavering and uncertain hand to the warm,
reassuring clasp of Mr. Brue.
"He ain't much fur style, Billy ain't," Uncle Peter explained when that
person had gone upon his errand, "he ain't a mite gaudy, but he's got
The dazed scion of the Livingstons had thereupon made a conscientious
tour of his clubs in a public hansom, solely for the purpose of
relating this curious adventure to those best qualified to marvel at
The old man's arrival had been quite unexpected. Not only had he sent
no word of his coming, but he seemed, indeed, not to know what his
reasons had been for doing a thing so unusual.
"Thought I'd just drop in on your all and say 'howdy,'" had been his
first avowal, which was lucid as far as it went. Later he involved
himself in explanations that were both obscure and conflicting. Once it
was that he had felt a sudden great longing for the life of a gay city.
Then it was that he would have been content in Montana City, but that
he had undertaken the winter in New York out of consideration for Billy
"Just think of it," he said to Percival, "that poor fellow ain't ever
been east of Denver before now. It wa'n't good for him to be holed up
out there in them hills all his life. He hadn't got any chance to
improve his mind."
"He'd better improve his whiskers first thing he does," suggested
Percival. "He'll be gold-bricked if he wears 'em scrambled that way
around this place."
But in neither of these explanations did the curious old man impress
Percival as being wholly ingenuous.
Then he remarked casually one day that he had lately met Higbee, who
was on his way to San Francisco.
"I only had a few minutes with him while they changed engines at Green
River, but he told me all about you folks--what a fine time you was
havin', yachts and card-parties, and all like that. Higbee said a man
had ought to come to New York every now and then, jest to keep from
Back of this Percival imagined for a time that he had discovered Uncle
Peter's true reason for descending upon them. Higbee would have regaled
him with wild tales of the New York dissipations, and Uncle Peter had
come promptly on to pull him up. Percival could hear the story as
Higbee would word it, with the improving moral incident of his own son
snatched as a brand from the "Tenderloin," to live a life of
impecunious usefulness in far Chicago. But, when he tried to hold this
belief, and to prove it from his observations, he was bound to admit
its falsity. For Uncle Peter had shown no inclination to act the part
of an evangel from the virtuous West. He had delivered no homilies, no
warnings as to the fate of people who incontinently "cut loose." He had
evinced not the least sign of any disposition even to criticise.
On the contrary, indeed, he appeared to joy immensely in Percival's way
of life. He manifested a willingness and a capacity for unbending in
boon companionship that were, both of them, quite amazing to his
accomplished grandson. By degrees, and by virtue of being never at all
censorious, he familiarised himself with the young man's habits and
diversions. He listened delightedly to the tales of his large gambling
losses, of the bouts at poker, the fruitless venture in Texas Oil land,
the disastrous corner in wheat, engineered by Burman, and the uniformly
unsuccessful efforts to "break the bank" in Forty-fourth Street. He
never tired of hearing whatever adventures Percival chose to relate;
and, finding that he really enjoyed them, the young man came to confide
freely in him, and to associate with him without restraint.
Uncle Peter begged to be introduced at the temple of chance, and spent
a number of late evenings there with his popular grandson. He also
frequently made himself one of the poker coterie, and relished keenly
the stock jokes as to his grandson's proneness to lose.
"Your pa," he would say, "never _could_ learn to stay out of a Jack-pot
unless he had Jacks or better; he'd come in and draw four cards to an
ace any time, and then call it 'hard luck' when he didn't draw out. And
he just loved straights open in the middle; said anybody could fill
them that's open at both ends; but, after all, I guess that's the only
way to have fun at the game. If a man ain't got the sperrit to overplay
aces-up when he gets 'em, he might as well be clerkin' in a bank for
all the fun he'll have out of the game."
The old man's endurance of late suppers and later hours, and his
unsuspected disposition to "cut loose," became twin marvels to
Percival. He could not avoid contrasting this behaviour with his past
preaching. After a few weeks he was forced to the charitable conclusion
that Uncle Peter's faculties were failing. The exposure and hardships
of the winter before had undoubtedly impaired his mental powers.
"I can't make him out," he confided to his mother. "He never wants to
go home nights; he can drink more than I can without batting an eye,
and show up fresher in the morning, and he behaves like a young fellow
just out of college. I don't know where he would bring up if he didn't
have me to watch over him."
"I think it's just awful--at his time of life, too," said Mrs. Bines.
"I think that's it. He's getting old, and he's come along into his
second childhood. A couple of more months at this rate, and I'm afraid
I'll have to ring up one of those nice shiny black wagons to take him
off to the foolish-house."
"Can't you talk to him, and tell him better?"
"I could. I know it all by heart--all the things to say to a man on the
downward path. Heaven knows I've heard them often enough, but I'd feel
ashamed to talk that way to Uncle Peter. If he were my son, now, I'd
cut off his allowance and send him back to make something of himself,
like Sile Higbee with little Hennery; but I'm afraid all I can do is to
watch him and see that he doesn't marry one of those little pink-silk
chorus girls, or lick a policeman, or anything."
"You're carryin' on the same way yourself," ventured his mother.
"That's different," replied her perspicacious son.
Uncle Peter had refused to live at the Hightower after three days in
that splendid and populous caravansary.
"It suits me well enough," he explained to Percival, "but I have to
look after Billy Brue, and this ain't any place for Billy. You see
Billy ain't city broke yet. Look at him now over there, the way he goes
around butting into strangers. He does that way because he's all the
time looking down at his new patent-leather shoes--first pair he ever
had. He'll be plumb stoop-shouldered if he don't hurry up and get the
new kicked off of 'em. I'll have to get him a nice warm box-stall in
some place that ain't so much on the band-wagon as this one. The
ceilings here are too high fur Billy. And I found him shootin' craps
with the bell-boy this mornin'. The boy thinks Billy, bein' from the
West, is a stage robber, or somethin' like he reads about in the Cap'
Collier libr'ies, and follows him around every chance he gets. And
Billy laps up too many of them little striped drinks; and them
French-cooked dishes ain't so good fur him, either. He caught on to the
bill-of-fare right away. Now he won't order anything but them
allas--them dishes that has 'a la' something or other after 'em," he
explained, when Percival looked puzzled. "He knows they'll always be
something all fussed up with red, white, and blue gravy, and a little
paper bouquet stuck into 'em. I never knew Billy was such a fancy eater
So Uncle Peter and his charge had established themselves in an
old-fashioned but very comfortable hotel down on one of the squares, a
dingy monument to the time when life had been less hurried. Uncle Peter
had stayed there thirty years before, and he found the place unchanged.
The carpets and hangings were a bit faded, but the rooms were
generously broad, the chairs, as the old man remarked, were "made to
sit in," and the _cuisine_ was held, by a few knowing old epicures who
still frequented the place, to be superior even to that of the more
pretentious Hightower. The service, it is true, was apt to be slow.
Strangers who chanced in to order a meal not infrequently became
enraged, and left before their food came, trailing plain short words of
extreme dissatisfaction behind them as they went. But the elect knew
that these delays betokened the presence of an artistic conscience in
the kitchen, and that the food was worth tarrying for. "They know how
to make you come back hungry for some more the next day," said Uncle
From this headquarters the old man went forth to join in the diversions
of his grandson. And here he kept a watchful eye upon the uncertain
Billy Brue; at least approximately. Between them, his days and nights
were occupied to crowding. But Uncle Peter had already put in some hard
winters, and was not wanting in fortitude.
Billy Brue was a sore trouble to the old man. "I jest can't keep him
off the streets nights," was his chief complaint. By day Billy Brue
walked the streets in a decent, orderly trance of bewilderment. He was
properly puzzled and amazed by many strange matters. He never could
find out what was "going on" to bring so many folks into town. They all
hurried somewhere constantly, but he was never able to reach the centre
of excitement. Nor did he ever learn how any one could reach those high
clothes-lines, strung forty feet above ground between the backs of
houses; nor how there could be "so many shows in town, all on one
night;" nor why you should get so many good things to eat by merely
buying a "slug of whiskey;" nor why a thousand people weren't run over
in Broadway each twenty-four hours.
At night, Billy Brue ceased to be the astounded alien, and, as Percival
said Dr. Von Herzlich would say, "began to mingle and cooperate with
his environment." In the course of this process he fell into
adventures, some of them, perhaps, unedifying. But it may be told that
his silver watch with the braided leather fob was stolen from him the
second night out; also that the following week, in a Twenty-ninth
Street saloon, he accepted the hospitality of an affable stranger, who
had often been in Montana City. His explanation of subsequent events
was entirely satisfactory, at least, from the time that he returned to
consciousness of them.
"I only had about thirty dollars in my clothes," he told Percival, "but
what made me so darned hot, he took my breastpin, too, made out of the
first nugget ever found in the Early Bird mine over Silver Bow way.
Gee! when I woke up I couldn't tell where I was. This cop that found me
in a hallway, he says I must have been give a dose of Peter. I says,
'All right--I'm here to go against all the games,' I says, 'but pass me
when the Peter comes around again,' I says. And he says Peter was
knockout drops. Say, honestly, I didn't know my own name till I had a
chanst to look me over. The clothes and my hands looked like I'd seen
'em before, somehow--and then I come to myself."
After this adventure, Uncle Peter would caution him of an evening:
"Now, Billy, don't stay out late. If you ain't been gone through by
eleven, just hand what you got on you over to the first man you
meet--none of 'em'll ask any questions--and then pike fur home. The
later at night it gets in New York the harder it is fur strangers to
stay alive. You're all right in Wardner or Hellandgone, Billy, but in
this here camp you're jest a tender little bed of pansies by the
wayside, and these New Yorkers are terrible careless where they step
Notwithstanding which, Mr. Brue continued to behave uniformly in a
manner to make all judicious persons grieve. His place of supreme
delight was the Hightower. Its marble splendours, its myriad lights,
the throngs of men and women in evening dress, made for him a scene of
unfailing fascination. The evenings when he was invited to sit in the
_cafe_ with Uncle Peter and Percival made memories long to be
He spent such an evening there at the end of their first month in New
York. Half a dozen of Percival's friends sat at the table with them
from time to time. There had been young Beverly Van Arsdel, who,
Percival disclosed, was heir to all the Van Arsdel millions, and no end
of a swell. And there was big, handsome, Eddie Arledge, whose father
had treated him shabbily. These two young gentlemen spoke freely about
the inferiority of many things "on this side"--as they denominated this
glorious Land of Freedom--of many things from horses to wine. The
country was rapidly becoming, they agreed, no place for a gentleman to
live. Eddie Arledge confessed that, from motives of economy, he had
been beguiled into purchasing an American claret.
"I fancied, you know," he explained to Uncle Peter, "that it might do
for an ordinary luncheon claret, but on my sacred honour, the stuff is
villainous. Now you'll agree with me, Mr. Bines, I dare say, that a
Bordeaux of even recent vintage is vastly superior to the very best
so-called American claret."
Whereupon Beverly Van Arsdel having said, "To be sure--fancy an
American Burgundy, now! or a Chablis!" Uncle Peter betrayed the first
sign of irritation Percival had detected since his coming.
"Well, you see, young men, we're not much on vintages in Montana.
Whiskey is mostly our drink--whiskey and spring water--and if our
whiskey is strong, it's good enough. When we want to test a new barrel,
we inject three drops of it into a jack-rabbit, and if he doesn't lick
a bull clog in six seconds, we turn down the goods. That's as far's our
education has ever gone in vintages."
It sounded like the old Uncle Peter, but he was afterward so
good-natured that Percival concluded the irritation could have been but
Uncle Peter Bines Threatens to Raise Something
Uncle Peter and Billy Brue left the Hightower at midnight. Billy Brue
wanted to walk down to their hotel, on the plea that they might see a
fight or a fire "or something." He never ceased to feel cheated when he
was obliged to ride in New York. But Uncle Peter insisted on the cab.
"Say, Uncle Peter," he said, as they rode down, "I got a good notion to
get me one of them first-part suits--like the minstrels wear in the
grand first part, you know--only I'd never be able to git on to the
track right without a hostler to harness me and see to all the buckles
and cinch the straps right. They're mighty fine, though."
Finding Uncle Peter uncommunicative, he mused during the remainder of
the ride, envying the careless ease with which Percival and his
friends, and even Uncle Peter, wore the prescribed evening regalia of
gentlemen, and yearning for the distinguished effect of its black and
white elegance upon himself.
They went to their connecting rooms, and Billy Brue regretfully sought
his bed, marvelling how free people in a town like New York could ever
bring themselves to waste time in sleep. As he dozed off, he could hear
the slow, measured tread of Uncle Peter pacing the floor in the next
He was awakened by hearing his name called. Uncle Peter stood in a
flood of light at the door of his room. He was fully dressed.
"Is it gittin'-up time?"
The old man came into the room and lighted a gas-jet. He looked at his
"No; only a quarter to four. I ain't been to bed yet."
Billy Brue sat up and rubbed his eyes.
"Rheumatiz again, Uncle Peter?"
"No; I been thinkin', Billy. How do you like the game?"
He began to pace the floor again from one room to the other.
"What game?'! Billy Brue had encountered a number in New York.
"This whole game--livin' in New York."
Mr. Brue became judicial.
"It's a good game as long as you got money to buy chips. I'd hate like
darnation to go broke here. All the pay-claims have been located, I
"I doubt it's bein' a good game any time, Billy. I been actin' as kind
of a lookout now fur about forty days and forty nights, and the chances
is all in favour of the house. You don't even get half your money on
the high card when the splits come."
Billy Brue pondered this sentiment. It was not his own.
"The United States of America is all right, Billy."
This was safe ground.
"Sure!" His mind reverted to the evening just past. "Of course there
was a couple of Clarences in high collars there to-night that made out
like they was throwin' it down; but they ain't the whole thing, not by
a long shot."
"Yes, and that young shrimp that was talkin' about 'vintages' and
'trouserings.'" The old man paused in his walk.
"What _are_ 'trouserings,' Billy?"
Mr. Brue had not looked into shop windows day after day without
enlarging his knowledge.
"Trouserings," he proclaimed, rather importantly, "is the cloth they
make pants out of."
"Oh! is that all? I didn't know but it might be some new kind of duds.
And that fellow don't ever get up till eleven o'clock A.M. I don't
reckon I would myself if I didn't have anything but trouserings and
vintages to worry about. And that Van Arsdel boy!"
"Say!" said Billy, with enthusiasm, "I never thought I'd be even in the
same room with one of that family, 'less I prized open the door with a
"Well, who's _he?_ My father knew his grandfather when he kep' tavern
over on the Raritan River, and his grandmother!--this shrimp's
grandmother!--she tended bar."
"Yes, they kep' tavern, and the old lady passed the rum bottle over the
bar, and took in the greasy money. This here fellow, now, couldn't make
an honest livin' like that, I bet you. He's like a dogbreeder would
say--got the pedigree, but not the points."
Mr. Brue emitted a high, throaty giggle.
"But they ain't all like that here, Uncle Peter. Say, you come out with
me some night jest in your workin' clothes. I can show you people all
right that won't ask to see your union card. Say, on the dead, Uncle
Peter, I wish you'd come. There's a lady perfessor in a dime museum
right down here on Fourteenth Street that eats fire and juggles the big
snakes;--say, she's got a complexion--"
"There's enough like that kind, though," interrupted Uncle Peter. "I
could take a double-barrel shotgun up to that hotel and get nine with
each barrel around in them hallways; the shot wouldn't have to be
rammed, either; 'twouldn't have to scatter so blamed much."
"Oh, well, them society sports--there's got to be some of _them_--"
"Yes, and the way they make 'em reminds me of what Dal Mutzig tells
about the time they started Pasco. 'What you fellows makin' a town here
fur?' Dal says he asked 'em, and he says they says, 'Well, why not? The
land ain't good fur anything else, is it?' they says. That's the way
with these shrimps; they ain't good fur anything else. There's that
Arledge, the lad that keeps his mouth hangin' open all the time he's
lookin' at you--he'll catch cold in his works, first thing _he_
knows--with his gold monogram on his cigarettes."
"He said he was poor," urged Billy, who had been rather taken with the
ease of Arledge's manner.
"Fine, big, handsome fellow, ain't he? Strong as an ox, active, and
perfectly healthy, ain't he? Well, he's a _pill_! But _his_ old man
must 'a' been on to him. Here, here's a piece in the paper about that
fine big strappin' giant--it's partly what got me to thinkin' to-night,
so I couldn't sleep. Just listen to this," and Uncle Peter read:
"E. Wadsworth Arledge, son of the late James Townsend Arledge, of the
dry-goods firm of Arledge & Jackson, presented a long affidavit to
Justice Dutcher, of the Supreme Court, yesterday, to show why his
income of six thousand dollars a year from his father's estate should
not be abridged to pay a debt of $489.32. Henry T. Gotleib, a grocer,
who obtained a judgment for that amount against him in 1895, and has
been unable to collect, asked the Court to enjoin Judge Henley P.
Manderson, and the Union Fidelity Trust Company, as executors of the
Arledge estate, from paying Mr. Arledge his full income until the debt
has been discharged. Gotleib contended that Arledge could sustain the
"James T. Arledge died about two years ago, leaving an estate of about
$3,000,000. He had disapproved of the marriage of his son and evinced
his displeasure in his will. The son had married Flora Florenza, an
actress. To the son was given an income of $6,000 a year for life. The
rest of the estate went to the testator's widow for life, and then to
"Here is the affidavit of E. Wadsworth Arledge:
"'I have been brought up in idleness, under the idea that I was to
inherit a large estate. I have never acquired any business habits so as
to fit me to acquire property, or to make me take care of it.
"'I have never been in business, except many years ago, when I was a
boy, when I was for a short time employed in one of the stores owned by
my father. For many years prior to my father's death I was not
employed, but lived on a liberal allowance made to me by him. I am a
married man, and in addition to my wife have a family of two children
to support from my income.
"'All our friends are persons of wealth and of high social standing,
and we are compelled to spend money in entertaining the many friends
who entertain us. I am a member of many expensive clubs. I have
absolutely no income except the allowance I receive from my father's
estate, and the same is barely sufficient to support my family.
"'I have received no technical or scientific education, fitting me for
any business or profession, and should I be deprived of any portion of
my income, I will be plunged in debt anew.'
"The Court reserved decision."
"You hear that, Billy? The Court reserved decision. Mr. Arledge has to
buy so many gold cigarettes and vintages and trouserings, and belong to
so many clubs, that he wants the Court to help him chouse a poor grocer
out of his money. Say, Billy, that judge could fine me for contempt of
court, right now, fur reservin' his decision. You bet Mr. Arledge would
'a' got my decision right hot off the griddle. I'd 'a' told him,
'You're the meanest kind of a crook I ever heard of fur wantin' to lie
down on your fat back and whine out of payin' fur the grub you put in
your big gander paunch,' I'd tell him, 'and now you march to the
lock-up till you can look honest folks in the face,' I'd tell him. Say,
Billy, some crooks are worse than others. Take Nate Leverson out there.
Nate set up night and day for six years inventin' a process fur
sweatin' gold into ore; finally he gets it; how he does it, nobody
knows, but he sweat gold eighteen inches into the solid rock. The first
few holes he salted he gets rid of all right, then of course they catch
him, and Nate's doin' time now. But say, I got respect fur Nate since
readin' that piece. There's a good deal of a man about him, or about
any common burglar or sneak thief, compared to this duck. They take
chances, say nothin' of the hard work they do. This fellow won't take a
chance and won't work a day. Billy, that's the meanest specimen of
crook I ever run against, bar none, and that crook is produced and
tolerated in a place that's said to be the centre of 'culture and
refinement and practical achievement.' Billy, he's a pill!"
"That's right," said Billy Brue, promptly throwing the recalcitrant
"But it ain't none of my business. What I do spleen again, is havin' a
grandson of mine livin' in a community where a man that'll act like
that is actually let in their houses by honest folks. Think of a son of
Daniel J. Bines treatin' folks like that as if they was his equals.
Say, Dan'l had a line of faults, all right--but, by God! he'd a trammed
ore fur two twenty-five a day any time in his life rather'n not pay a
dollar he owed. And think of this lad making his bed in this kind of a
place where men are brought up to them ways; and that name; think of a
husky, two-fisted boy like him lettin' himself be called by a measly
little gum-drop name like Percival, when he's got a right to be called
Pete. And he's right in with 'em. He'd be jest as bad--give him a
little time; and Pishy engaged to a damned fortune-hunting Englishman
into the bargain. It's all Higbee said it was, only it goes double.
Say, Billy, I been thinkin' this over all night."
"'Tis mighty worryin', ain't it, Uncle Peter?"
"And I got it thought out."
"Sure, you must 'a' got it down to cases."
"Billy,' listen now. There's a fellow down in Wall Street. His name is
Shepler, Rulon Shepler. He's most the biggest man down there."
"Sure! I heard of him."
"Listen! I'm goin' to bed now. I can sleep since I got my mind made up.
But I want to see Shepler in private to-morrow. Don't wake me up in the
morning. But get up yourself, and go find his office--look in a
directory, then ask a policeman. Shepler's a busy man. You tell the
clerk or whoever holds you up that Mr. Peter Bines wants an appointment
with Mr. Shepler as soon as he can make it--Mr. Peter Bines, of
Montana City. Be there by 9.30 so's to get him soon as he comes. He
knows me; tell him I want to see him on business soon as possible, and
find out when he can give me time. And don't you say to any one else
that I ever seen him or sent you there. Understand? Don't ever say a
word to any one. Remember, now, be there at 9.30, and don't let any
clerk put you off, and ask him what hour'll be convenient for him. Now
get what sleep's comin' to you. It's five o'clock."
At noon Billy Brue returned to the hotel to find Uncle Peter finishing
a hearty breakfast.
"I found him all right, Uncle Peter. The lookout acted suspicious, but
I saw the main guy himself come out of a door--like I'd seen his
picture in the papers, so I just called to him, and said, 'Mr. Peter
Bines wants to see you,' like that. He took me right into his office,
and I told him what you said, and he'll be ready for you at two
o'clock. He knows mines, all right, out our way, don't he?--and he
crowded a handful of these tin-foil cigars on to me, and acted real
sociable. Told me to drop in any time. Say, he'd run purty high in the
yellow stuff all right."
"At two o'clock, you say?"
"And what's his number?"
"Gee, I forgot; I can tell you, though. You go down Broadway to that
old church--say, Uncle Peter, there's folks in that buryin'-ground
been dead over two hundred years, if you can go by their gravestones.
Gee! I didn't s'pose _anybody'd_ been dead that long--then you turn
down the gulch right opposite, until you come to the Vandevere
Building, a few rods down on the left. Shepler's there. Git into the
bucket and go up to the second level, and you'll find him in the
left-hand back stope--his name's on the door in gold letters."
"All right. And look here, Billy, keep your head shut about all I said
last night about anything. Don't you ever let on to a soul that I ain't
stuck on this place and its people--no matter what I do."
"Sure not! What _are_ you going to do, Uncle Peter?"
The old man's jaws were set for some seconds in a way to make Billy
Brue suspect he might be suffering from cramp. It seemed, however, that
he had merely been thinking intently. Presently he said:
"I'm goin' to raise hell, Billy."
"Sure!" said Mr. Brue--approvingly on general principles. "Sure! Why
Uncle Peter Inspires His Grandson to Worthy Ambitions
On three successive days the old man held lengthy interviews with
Shepler in the latter's private office. At the close of the third day's
interview, Shepler sent for Relpin, of the brokerage firm of Relpin and
Hendricks. A few days after this Uncle Peter said to Percival one
"I want to have a talk with you, son."
"All right, Uncle Peter," was the cheerful answer. He suspected the old
man might at last be going to preach a bit, since for a week past he
had been rather less expansive. He resolved to listen with good grace
to any homilies that might issue. He took his suspicion to be confirmed
when Uncle Peter began:
"You folks been cuttin' a pretty wide swath here in New York."
"That's so, Uncle Peter,--wider than we could have cut in Montana
"Been spendin' money purty free for a year."
"Yes; you need money here."
"I reckon you can't say about how much, now?"
"Oh, I shouldn't wonder," Percival answered, going over to the
escritoire, and taking out some folded sheets and several check-books.
"Of course, I haven't it all here, but I have the bulk of it. Let me
figure a little."
He began to work with a pencil on a sheet of paper. He was busy almost
half an hour, while Uncle Peter smoked in silence.
"It struck me the other night we might have been getting a little near
to the limit, so I figured a bit then, too, and I guess this will give
you some idea of it. Of course this isn't all mine; it includes ma's
and Psyche's. Sis has been a mark for every bridge-player between the
Battery and the Bronx, and the way ma has been plunging on her indigent
poor is a caution,--she certainly does hold the large golden medal for
amateur cross-country philanthropy. Now here's a rough expense
account--of course only approximate, except some of the items I
happened to have." Uncle Peter took the statement, and studied it
Paid Hightower Hotel................ $ 42,983.75
Keep of horses, and extra horse and carriage
Chartering steam-yacht _Viluca_ three
Expenses running yacht.............. 46,850.28
W. U. Telegraph Company............. 32.65
His sharp old eyes ran up and down the column of figures. Something
among the items seemed to annoy him.
"Looking at those 'incidentals'? I took those from the check-books.
They are pretty heavy."
"It's an outrage!" exclaimed the old man, indignantly, "that there
$32.50 to the telegraph company. How's it come you didn't have a
Western Union frank this year? I s'posed you had one. They sent me
"Oh, well, they didn't send me one, and I didn't bother to ask for it,"
the young man answered in a tone of relief. "Of course the expenses
have been pretty heavy, coming here strangers as we did. Now, another
"Oh, that ain't anything. Of course you got to spend money. I see one
of them high-toned gents that died the other day said a gentleman
couldn't possibly get along on less'n two thousand dollars a day and
expenses. I'm glad to see you ain't cut under the limit none--you got
right into his class jest like you'd always lived here, didn't you?
But, now, I been kind of lookin' over the ground since I come here, and
it's struck me you ain't been gettin' enough for your money. You've
spent free, but the goods ain't been delivered. I'm talkin' about
yourself. Both your ma and Pishy has got more out of it than you have.
Why, your ma gets her name in the papers as a philanthropist along with
that--how do the papers call her?--'the well-known club woman'--that
Mrs. Helen Wyot Lamson that always has her name spelled out in full?
Your ma is getting public recognition fur her money, and look at Pishy.
What's she gone and done while you been laxin' about? Why, she's got
engaged to a lord, or just as good. Look at the prospects she's got!
She'll enter the aristocracy of England and have a title. But look at
you! Really, son, I'm ashamed of you. People over there'll be sayin'
'Lady What's-her-name? Oh, yes! She _has_ got a brother, but he don't
amount to shucks--he ain't much more'n a three-spot. He can't do
anything but play bank and drink like a fish. He's throwed away his
opportunities'--that's what them dukes and counts will be sayin' about
you behind your back."
"I understood you didn't think much of sis's choice."
"Well, of course, he wouldn't be much in Montana City, but he's all
right in his place, and he seems to be healthy. What knocks _me_ is how
he ever got all them freckles. He never come by 'em honestly, I bet. He
must 'a' got caught in an explosion of freckles sometime. But that
ain't neither here nor there. He has the goods and Pish'll get 'em
delivered. She's got something to show fur her dust. But what _you_ got
to show? Not a blamed thing but a lot of stubs in a check-book, and a
little fat. Now I ain't makin' any kick. I got no right to; but I do
hate to see you leadin' this life of idleness and dissipation when you
might be makin' something of yourself. Your pa was quite a man. He left
his mark out there in that Western country. Now you're here settled in
the East among big people, with a barrel of money and fine chances to
do something, and you're jest layin' down on the family name. You
wouldn't think near so much of your pa if he'd laid down before his
time; and your own children will always have to say 'Poor pa--he had a
good heart, but he never could amount to anything more'n a threespot;
he didn't have any stuff in him,' they'll be sayin'. Now, on the level,
you don't want to go through life bein' just known as a good thing and
easy money, do you?"
"Why, of course not, Uncle Peter; only I had to look around some at
first,--for a year or so."
"Well, if you need to look any more, then your eyes ain't right. That's
my say. I ain't askin' you to go West. I don't expect that!"
"But I am tryin' to nag you into doin' something here. People can say
what they want to about you," he continued, stubbornly, as one who
confesses the most arrant bigotry, "but I know you _have_ got some
brains, some ability--I really believe you got a whole lot--and you got
the means to take your place right at the top. You can head 'em all in
this country or any other. Now what you ought to do, you ought to take
your place in the world of finance--put your mind on it night and
day--swing out--get action--and set the ball to rolling. Your pa was a
big man in the West, and there ain't any reason as I can see of why you
can't be just as big a man in proportion here. People can talk all they
want to about your bein' just a dub--I won't believe 'em. And there's
London. You ain't been ambitious enough. Get a down-hill pull on New
York, and then branch out. Be a man of affairs like your pa, and like
that fellow Shepler. Let's _be_ somebody. If Montana City was too small
fur us, that's no reason why New York should be too big."
Percival had walked the floor in deep attention to the old man's words.
"You've got me right, Uncle Peter," he said at last. "And you're right
about what I ought to do. I've often thought I'd go into some of these
big operations here. But for one thing I was afraid of what you'd say.
And then, I didn't know the game very well. But I see I ought to do
something. You're dead right."
"And we need more money, too," urged the old man. "I was reading a
piece the other day about the big fortunes in New York. Why, we ain't
one, two, three, with the dinky little twelve or thirteen millions we
could swing. You don't want to be a piker, do you? If you go in the
game at all, play her open and high. Make 'em take the ceiling off. You
can just as well get into the hundred million class as not, and I know
it. They needn't talk to _me_--I know you _have_ got some brains. If
you was to go in now it would keep you straight and busy, and take you
out of this pin-head class that only spends their pa's money."
"You're all right, Uncle Peter! I certainly did need you to come along
right now and set me straight. You founded the fortune, pa trebled it,
and now I'll get to work and roll it up like a big snowball."
"That's the talk. Get into the hundred million class, and show these
wise folks you got something in you besides hot air, like the sayin'
is. _Then_ they won't always be askin' who your pa was--they'll be
wantin' to know who you are, by Gripes! Then you can have the biggest
steam yacht afloat, two or three of 'em, and the best house in New
York, and palaces over in England; and Pish'll be able to hold up her
head in company over there. You can finance _that_ proposition right up
to the nines."
"By Jove! but you're right. You're a wonder, Uncle Peter. And that
He stopped in his walk.
"I gave it hardly any thought at the time, but now it looks bigger than
a mountain. I know just the things to start in on systematically. Now
don't breathe a word of this, but there's a big deal on in Consolidated
Copper. I happened on to the fact in a queer way the other night.
There's a broker I've known down-town--fellow by the name of Relpin.
Met him last summer. He does most of Shepler's business; he's supposed
to be closer to Shepler and know more about the inside of his deals
than any man in the Street. Well, I ran across Relpin down in the cafe
the other night and he was wearing one of those gents' nobby
three-button souses. Nothing would do but I should dine with him, so I
did. It was the night you and the folks went to the opera with the
Oldakers. Relpin was full of lovely talk and dark hints about a rise in
copper stock, and another rise in Western Trolley, and a bigger rise
than either of them in Union Cordage. How that fellow can do Shepler's
business and drink the stuff that makes you talk I don't see. Anyway he
said--and you can bet what he says goes--that the Consolidated is going
to control the world's supply of copper inside of three months, and the
stock is bound to kite, and so are these other two stocks; Shepler's
back of all three. The insiders are buying up now, slowly and
cautiously, so as not to start any boom prematurely. Consolidated is no
now, and it'll be up to 150 by April at the latest. The others may go
beyond that. I wasn't looking for the game at the time, so I didn't
give it any thought, but now, you see, there's our chance. We'll plunge
in those three lines before they start to rise, and be in on the ground
floor." "Now don't you be rash! That Shepler's old enough to suck eggs
and hide the shells. I heard a man say the other day copper was none
too good at no."
"Exactly. You can hear anything you're looking to hear, down there. But
I tell you this was straight. Don't you suppose Shepler knows what he's
about?--there's a boy that won't be peddling shoe-laces and gum-drops
off one of these neat little bosom-trays--not for eighty-five or
ninety-thousand years yet--and Relpin, even if he was drunk, knows
Shepler's deals like you know Skiplap. They'll bear the stocks all they
can while they're buying up. I wouldn't be surprised if the next
Consolidated dividend was reduced. That would send her down a few
points, and throw more stock on the market. Meantime, they're quietly
workin' to get control of the European mines--and as to Western Trolley
and Union Cordage--say, Relpin actually got to crying--they're so
good--he had one of those loving ones, the kind where you want to be
good to every one in the world. I'm surprised he didn't get into a
sandwich sign and patrol Broadway, giving those tips to everybody.".
"Course, we're on a proposition now that you know more about it than I
do; you certainly do take right hold at once--that was your pa's way,
too. Daniel J. could look farther ahead in a minute than most men could
in a year. I got to trust you wholly in these matters, and I know I can
do it, too. I got confidence in you, no matter _what_ other people say.
They don't know you like I do. And if there's any other things you know
about fur sure--"
"Well, there's Burman. He's plunging in corn now. His father has staked
him, and he swears he can't lose. He was after me to put aside a
million. Of course if he does win out it would be big money."
"Well, son, I can't advise you none--except I know you have got a head
on you, no matter how people talk. You know about this end of the game,
and I'll have to be led entirely by you. If you think Burman's got a
good proposition, why, there ain't anything like gettin' action all
along the layout, from ace down to seven-spot and back to the king
"That's the talk. I'll see Relpin to-day or to-morrow. I'll bet he
tries to hedge on what he said. But I got him too straight--let a
drunken man alone for telling the truth when he's got it in him. We'll
start in buying at once."
"It does sound good. I must say you take hold of it considerable like
Dan'l J. would 'a' done--and use my money jest like your own. I do want
to see you takin' your place where you belong. This life of idleness
you been leadin'--one continual potlatch the whole time--it wa'n't
doin' you a bit of good."
"We'll get action, don't you worry. Now let's have lunch down-stairs,
and then go for a drive. It's too fine a day to stay in. I'll order the
cart around and show you that blue-ribbon cob I bought at the horse
show. I just want you to see his action. He's a beaut, all right. He's
been worked a half in 1.17, and he can go to his speed in ten lengths,
In the afternoon they fell into the procession of carriages streaming
toward the park. The day was pleasantly sharp, the clear sunshine
enlivening, and the cob was one with the spirit of the occasion,
alertly active, from his rubber-shod, varnished hoofs to the tips of
his sensitive ears.
"Central Park," said Uncle Peter, "always seems to me just like a tidy
little parlour, livin' around in them hills the way I have."
He watched the glinting of varnished spokes, and listened absently to
the rhythmic "click-clump" of trotting horses, with its accompanying
jingle of silver harness trappings.
"These people must have lots of money," he observed. "But you'll go in
and outdo 'em all."
"That's what! Uncle Peter."
Toward the upper end of the East Drive they passed a victoria in which
were Miss Milbrey and her mother with Rulon Shepler. The men raised
their hats. Miss Milbrey flashed the blue of her eyes to them and
pointed down her chin in the least bit of a bow. Mrs. Milbrey stared.
"Wa'n't that Shepler?"
"Yes, Shepler and the Milbreys. That woman certainly has the haughtiest
lorgnon ever built."
"She didn't speak to us. Is her eyes bad?"
"Yes, ever since that time at Newport. None of them has spoken to me
but the girl--she's engaged to Shepler."
"She's a right nice lookin' little lady. I thought you was kind of
"She would have married me for my roll. I got far enough along to tell
that. But that was before Shepler proposed. I'd give long odds she
wouldn't consider me now. I haven't enough for her with him in the
"Well, you go in and make her wish she'd waited for you."
"I'll do that; I'll make Shepler look like a well-to-do business man
from Pontiac, Michigan."
"Is that brother of hers you told me about still makin' up to that
"Can't say. I suppose he'll be a little more fastidious, as the
brother-in-law of Shepler. In fact I heard that the family had shut
down on any talk of his marrying her."
"Still, she ought to be able to do well here. Any man that would marry
a woman fur money wouldn't object to her. One of these fortune-hunting
Englishmen, now, would snap her up."
"She hasn't quite enough for that. Two millions isn't so much here, you
know, and she must have spent a lot of hers. I hear she has a very
expensive suite back there at the Arlingham, and lives high. I did
hear, too, that she takes a flyer in the Street now and then. She'll be
broke soon if she keeps that up."
"Too bad she ain't got a few more millions," said Uncle Peter,
ruminantly. "Take one of these titled Englishmen looking for an heiress
to keep 'em--she'd make just the kind of a wife he'd ought to get. She
certainly ought to have a few more millions. If she had, now, she might
cure some decent girl of her infatuation. Where'd you say she was
"Arlingham--that big private hotel I showed you back there."
Percival confessed to his mother that night that he had wronged Uncle
"That old boy is all right yet," he said, with deep conviction. "Don't
make any mistake there. He has bigger ideas than I gave him credit for.
I suggested branching out here in a business way, to-day, and the old
fellow got right in line. If anybody tells you that old Petie Bines
hasn't got the leaves of his little calendar torn off right up to date
you just feel wise inside, and see what odds are posted on it!"
Concerning Consolidated Copper and Peter Bines as Matchmakers
Consolidated copper at 110. The day after his talk with Uncle Peter,
Percival through three different brokers gave orders to buy ten
"I tried to give Relpin an order for five thousand shares over the
telephone," he said to Uncle Peter; "but they're used to those fifty
and a hundred thousand dollar pikers down in that neighbourhood. He
seemed to think I was joshing him. When I told him I meant it and was
ready to take practically all he could buy for the next few weeks or
so, I think he fell over in the booth and had to be helped out."
Orders for twenty thousand more shares in thousand share lots during
the next three weeks sent the stock to 115. Yet wise men in the Street
seemed to fear the stock. They were waiting cautiously for more
definite leadings. The plunging of Bines made rather a sensation, and
when it became known that his holdings were large and growing almost
daily larger, the waning confidence of a speculator here and there
would be revived.
At 115 the stock rested again, with few sales recorded. A certain few
of the elect regarded this calm as ominous. It was half believed by
others that the manipulations of the inner ring would presently advance
the stock to a sensational figure, and that the reckless young man from
Montana might be acting upon information of a definite character. But
among the veteran speculators the feeling was conservative. Before
buying they preferred to await some sign that the advance had actually
begun. The conservatives were mostly the bald old fellows. Among the
illusions that rarely survive a man's hair in Wall Street is the one
that "sure things" are necessarily sure.
Percival watched Consolidated Copper go back to 110, and bought
again--ten thousand shares. The price went up two points the day after
his orders were placed, and two days later dropped back to 110. The
conservatives began to agree with the younger set of speculators, in so
far as both now believed that the stock was behaving in an unnatural
manner, indicating that "something was doing"--that manipulation behind
the scenes was under way to a definite end. The conservatives and the
radicals differed as to what this end was. But then, Wall Street is
nourished almost exclusively upon differences of opinion.
Percival now had accounts with five firms of brokers.
"Relpin," he explained to Uncle Peter, "is a foxy boy. He's foxier than
a fox. He not only tried to hedge on what he told me,--said he'd been
drinking absinthe _frappé_ that day, and it always gets him
dreamy,--but he actually had the nerve to give me the opposite steer.
Of course he knows the deal clear to the centre, and Shepler knows that
he knows, and he must have been afraid Shepler would suspect he'd been
talking. So I only traded a few thousand shares with him. I didn't want
to embarrass him. Funny about him, too. I never heard before of his
drinking anything to speak of. And there isn't a man in the Street
comes so near to knowing what the big boys are up to. But we're on the
winning cards all right. I get exactly the same information from a
dozen confidential sources; some of it I can trace to Relpin, and some
of it right to Shepler himself." "Course I'm leavin' it all to you,"
answered Uncle Peter; "and I must say I do admire the way you take hold
and get things on the move. You don't let any grass grow under _your_
heels. You got a good head fur them things. I can tell by the way you
start out--just like your pa fur all the world. I'll feel safe enough
about my money as long as you keep your health. If only you got the
nerve. I've known men would play a big proposition half-through and
then get scared and pull out. Your pa wa'n't that way. He could get a
proposition right by its handle every time, and they never come any too
big fur him; the bigger they was, better he liked 'em. That's the kind
of genius I think you got. You ain't afraid to take a chance."
Percival beamed modestly under praise of this sort which now came to
"It's good discipline for me, too, Uncle Peter. It's what I needed,
something to put my mind on. I needed a new interest in life. You had
me down right. I wasn't doing myself a bit of good with nothing to
occupy my mind."
"Well, I'm mighty glad you thought up this stock deal. It'll give you
good business habits and experience, say nothing of doubling your
"And I've gone in with Burman on his corn deal. He's begun to buy, and
he has it cinched this time. He'll be the corn king all right by June
1st; don't make any mistake on that. I thought as long as we were
plunging so heavy in Western Trolley and Union Cordage, along with the
copper, we might as well take the side line of corn. Then we won't have
our eggs all in one basket."
"All right, son, all right! I'm trustin' you. A corner in corn is
better'n a corner in wild-oats any day; anything to keep you straight,
and doin' something. I don't care _how_ many millions you pile up! I
hear the Federal Oil people's back of the copper deal."
"That's right; the oil crowd and Shepler. I had it straight from Relpin
that night. They're negotiating now with the Rothschilds to limit the
output of the Rio Tinto mines. They'll end by controlling them, and
then--well, we'll have a roll of the yellow boys--say, we'll have to
lay quiet for a year just to count it."
"Do it good while you're doin' it," urged Uncle Peter, cheerfully. "I
rely so much on your judgment, I want you to get action on my stuff,
too. I got a couple millions that ought to be workin' harder than they
"Good; I didn't think you had so much gambler in you."
"It's fur a worthy purpose, son. And it seems too bad that Pishy can't
pull out something with her bit, when it's to be had so easy. From what
that spangle-faced beau of hers tells me there's got to be some
expensive plumbing done in that castle he gets sawed off on to him."
"We'll let sis in, too," exclaimed her brother, generously, "and ma
could use a little more in her business. She's sitting up nights to
corner all the Amalgamated Hard-luck on the island. We'll pool issue,
and say, we'll make those Federal Oil pikers think we've gnawed a
corner off the subtreasury. I'll put an order in for twenty thousand
more shares to-morrow--among the three stocks. And then we'll have to
see about getting all our capital here. We'll need every cent of it
that's loose; and maybe we better sell off some of those dead-wood
The twenty thousand shares were bought by the following week, five
thousand of them being Consolidated Copper, ten thousand Western
Trolley, and five thousand Union Cordage. Consolidated Copper fell off
two points, upon rumours, traceable to no source, that the company had
on hand a large secret supply of copper, and was producing largely in
excess of the demand every month.
Percival told Uncle Peter of these rumours, and chuckled with the easy
confidence of a man who knows secrets.
"You see, it's coming the way Relpin said. The insiders are hammering
down the stock with those reports, hammering with one hand, and buying
up small lots quietly with the other. But you'll notice the price of
copper doesn't go down any. They keep it at seventeen cents all right.
Now, the moment they get control of the European supply they'll hold
the stuff, force up the selling price to awful figures, and squeeze out
dividends that will make you wear blue glasses to look at them."
"You certainly do know your business, son," said Uncle Peter,
fervently. "You certainly got your pa's head on you. You remind me more
and more of Dan'l J. Bines every day. I'd rather trust your judgment
now than lots of older men down there. You know their tricks all right.
Get in good and hard so long as you got a sure thing. I'd hate to have
you come meachin' around after that stock has kited, and be kickin'
because you hadn't bet what your hand was worth."
"Trust me for that, Uncle Peter. Garmer tried to steer me off this line
of stocks the other night. He'd heard these rumours about a slump, and
he's fifty years old at that. I thanked him for his tip and coppered it
with another thousand shares all around next day. The way Garmer can
tell when you're playing a busted flush makes you nervous, but I
haven't looked over his license to know everything down in the Street
The moral gain to Percival from his new devotion to the stock market
was commented upon approvingly both by Uncle Peter and by his mother.
It was quite as tangible as his money profits promised to be. He ceased
to frequent the temple of chance in Forty-fourth Street, to the
proprietor's genuine regret. The poker-games at the hotel he abandoned
as being trivial. And the cabmen along upper Broadway had seldom now
the opportunity to compete for his early morning patronage. He began to
keep early hours and to do less casual drinking during the day. After
three weeks of this comparatively regular living his mother rejoiced to
note signs that his breakfast-appetite was returning.
"You see," he explained earnestly to Uncle Peter, "a man to make
anything at this game must keep his head clear, and he must have good
health to do that. I meet a lot of those fellows down there that queer
themselves by drink. It doesn't do so much hurt when a man isn't
needing his brains,--but no more of it for me just now!"
"That's right, son. I knew I could make something more than a polite
sosh out of you. I knew you'd pull up if you got into business like you
"Come down-town with me this afternoon, and see me make a play, Uncle
Peter. I think I'll begin now to buy on a margin. The rise can't hold
off much longer."
"I'd like to, son, but I'd laid out to take a walk up to the park this
afternoon, and look in at the monkeys awhile. I need the out-doors, and
anyway you don't need me down there. You know _your_ part all right.
My! but I'd begin to feel nervous with all that money up, if it was
anybody but you, now."
In pursuance of his pronounced plan, Uncle Peter walked up Fifth Avenue
that afternoon. But he stopped short of the park. At the imposing
entrance of the Arlingham he turned in. At the desk he asked for Mrs.
"I'll see if Mrs. Wybert is in," said the clerk, handing him a blank
card; "your name, please!"
The old man wrote, "Mr. Peter Bines of Montana City would like a few
minutes' talk with Mrs. Wybert."
The boy was gone so long that Uncle Peter, waiting, began to suspect he
would not be received. He returned at length with the message, "The
lady says will you please step up-stairs."
Going up in the elevator, the old man was ushered by a maid into a
violet-scented little nest whose pale green walls were touched
discreetly with hangings of heliotrope. An artist, in Uncle Peter's
place, might have fancied that the colour scheme of the apartment cried
out for a bit of warmth. A glowing, warm-haired woman was needed to
set the walls afire; and the need was met when Mrs. Wybert entered.
She wore a long coat of seal trimmed with chinchilla, and had been,
apparently, about to go out.
Uncle Peter rose and bowed. Mrs. Wybert nodded rather uncertainly.
"You wished to see me, Mr. Bines?"
"I did want to have a little talk with you, Mrs. Wybert, but you're
goin' out, and I won't keep you. I know how pressed you New York
society ladies are with your engagements."
Mrs. Wybert had seemed to be puzzled. She was still puzzled but
unmistakably pleased. The old man was looking at her with frank and
friendly apology for his intrusion. Plainly she had nothing to fear
from him. She became gracious.
"It was only a little shopping tour, Mr. Bines, that and a call at the
hospital, where they have one of my maids who slipped on the avenue
yesterday and fractured one of her--er--limbs. Do sit down."
Mrs. Wybert said "limb" for leg with the rather conscious air of
escaping from an awkward situation only by the subtlest finesse.
She seated herself before a green and heliotrope background that
instantly took warmth from her colour. Uncle Peter still hesitated.
"You see, I wanted kind of a long chat with you, Mrs. Wybert--a
friendly chat if you didn't mind, and I'd feel a mite nervous if you're
bundled up that way."
"I shall be delighted, Mr. Bines, to have a long, friendly chat. I'll
send my cloak back, and you take your own time. There now, do be right
The old man settled himself and bestowed upon his hostess a long look
"The reports never done you justice, Mrs. Wybert, and they was very
glowin' reports, too."
"You're very kind, Mr. Bines, awfully good of you!"
"I'm goin' to be more, Mrs. Wybert. I'm goin' to be a little bit
confidential--right out in the straight open with you."
"I am sure of that."
"And if you want to, you can be the same with me. I ain't ever held
anything against you, and maybe now I can do you a favour."
"It's right good of you to say so."
"Now, look here, ma'am, lets you and me get right down to cases about
this society game here in New York."
Mrs. Wybert laughed charmingly and relaxed in manner.
"I'm with you, Mr. Bines. What about it, now?"
"Now don't get suspicious, and tell me to mind my own business when I
ask you questions."
"I couldn't be suspicious of you--really I feel as if I'd have to tell
you everything you asked me, some way."
"Well, there's been some talk of your marrying that young Milbrey. Now
tell me the inside of it."
She looked at the old man closely. Her intuition confirmed his own
protestations of friendliness.
"I don't mind telling you in strict confidence, there _was_ talk of
marriage, and his people, all but the sister, encouraged it. Then after
she was engaged to Shepler they talked him out of it. Now that's the
whole God's truth, if it does you any good."
"If you had married him you'd 'a' had a position, like they say here,
"Oh, dear, yes! awfully swagger people--dead swell, every one of them.
There's no doubt about that."
"Exactly; and there ain't really any reason why you can't be somebody
"Well, between you and I, Mr. Bines, I can play the part as well as a
whole lot of these women here. I don't want to talk, of course,
"Exactly, you can give half of 'em cards and spades and both casinos,
"And I'll do it yet. I'm not through by any means. They're not the only
perfectly elegant people in this town!"
"Of course you'll do it, and you could do it better if you had three or
four times the stake you got."
"Dollars are worth more apiece in New York than any town I've ever been
"Mrs. Wybert, I can put you right square into a good thing, and I'm
going to do it. Heard anything about Consolidated Copper?"
"I've heard something big was doing in it; but nobody seems to know for
certain. My broker is afraid of it."
"Very well. Now you do as I tell you, and you can clean up a big lot
inside of the next two months. If you do as I tell you, mind, no matter
_what_ you hear, and if you don't talk."
Mrs. Wybert meditated.
"Mr. Bines, I'm--it's natural that I'm a little uneasy. Why should you
want to see me do well, after our little affair? Now, out with it! What
are you trying to do with me? What do you expect me to do for you? Get
down to cases yourself, Mr. Bines!"
"I will, ma'am, in a few words. My granddaughter, you may have heard,
is engaged to an Englishman. He's next thing to broke, but he's got a
title coming. Naturally he's looking fur money. Naturally he don't care
fur the girl. But I'm afraid she's infatuated with him. Now then, if he
had a chance at some one with more money than she's got, why, naturally
he'd jump at it."
"Aren't you a little bit wild?"
"Not a little bit. He saw you at Newport last summer, and he's seen you
here. He was tearing the adjectives up telling me about you the other
night, not knowing, you understand, that I'd ever heard tell of you
before. You could marry him in a jiffy if you follow my directions."
"But your granddaughter has a fortune."
"You'll have as much if you play this the way I tell you. And--you
never can tell in these times--she might lose a good bit of hers."
"It's very peculiar, Mr. Bines--your proposition."
[Illustration: "'_WHY, YOU'D BE LADY CASSELTHORPE, WITH DUKES AND
COUNTS TAKIN' OFF THEIR CROWNS TO YOU_.'"]
"Look at what a brilliant match it would be fur you. Why, you'd be
Lady Casselthorpe, with dukes and counts takin' off their crowns to
you. And that other one--that Milbrey--from all I hear he's lighter'n
cork--cut his galluses and he'd float right up into the sky. He ain't
got anything but his good family and a thirst."
"I see. This Mauburn isn't good enough for your family, but you reckon
he's good enough for me? Is that it, now?"
"Come, Mrs. Wybert, let's be broad. That's the game you like, and I
don't criticise you fur it. It's a good game if that's the kind of a
game you're huntin' fur. And you can play it better'n my granddaughter.
She wa'n't meant fur it--and I'd rather have her marry an American,
anyhow. Now you like it, and you got beauty--only you need more money.
I'll put you in the way of it, and you can cut out my granddaughter."
"I must think about it. Suppose I plunge in copper, and your tip isn't
straight. I've seen hard times, Mr. Bines, in my life. I haven't always
wore sealskin and diamonds."
"Mrs. Wybert, you was in Montana long enough to know how I stand
"I know you're A1, and your word's as good as another man's money. I
don't question your good intentions."
"It's my judgment, hey? Now, look here, I won't tell you what I know
and how I know it, but you can take my word that I know I do know. You
plunge in copper right off, without saying a word to anybody or makin'
any splurge, and here--"
From the little table at his elbow he picked up the card that had
announced him and drew out his pencil.
"You said my word was as good as another man's money. Now I'm going to
write on this card just what you have to do, and you're to follow
directions, no matter what you hear about other people doing. There'll
be all sorts of reports about that stock, but you follow my
He wrote on the back of the card with his pencil.
"Consolidated Copper, remember--and now I'm a-goin' to write something
else under them directions.
"'Do this up to the limit of your capital and I will make good anything
you lose.' There, Mrs. Wybert, I've signed that 'Peter Bines.' That
card wouldn't be worth a red apple in a court of law, but you know me,
and you know it's good fur every penny you lose."
"Really, Mr. Bines, you half-way persuade me. I'll certainly try the
copper play--and about the other--well,--we'll see; I don't promise,
"You think over it. I'm sure you'll like the idea--think of bein' in
that great nobility, and bein' around them palaces with their dukes and
counts. Think how these same New York women will meach to you then!"
The old man rose.
"And mind, follow them directions and no other--makes no difference
what you hear, or I won't be responsible. And I'll rely on you, ma'am,
never to let anyone know about my visit, and to send me back that
little document after you've cashed in."
He left her studying the card with a curious little flash of surprise.
Devotion to Business and a Chance Meeting
In the weeks that now followed, Percival became a model of sobriety and
patient, unremitting industry, according to his own ideas of industry.
He visited the offices of his various brokers daily, reading the tape
with the single-hearted devotion of a veteran speculator. He acquired a
general knowledge of the ebb and flow of popular stocks. He frequently
saw opportunities for quick profit in other stocks than the three he
was dealing in, but he would not let himself be diverted.
"I'm centering on those three," he told Uncle Peter. "When they win out
we'll take up some other lines. I could have cleared a quarter of a
million in that Northern Pacific deal last week, as easy as not. I saw
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