« PreviousContinue »
“I didn't exactly mean that—the penniless in a great city sort of thing, you know. I’m earning a living, but the living doesn't include the Holland House. You see, at first, I didn't know much about economizing, I suppose—anyway, I ran up some bills for rent and things, you know, before I had figured up just how I was going to come out. Then I got rather short. I didn't like to ask for my salary ahead of pay-day, so the last few days I have been leading a truly lenten life. Now, I'm keeping bachelor apartments in what is known as the hall bedroom.” “That means you've half starved yourself.” “No, it doesn't mean anything so foolish. You've no notion, Dorothy, how much food you can get for a quarter in New York. Honest,” for she was regarding him pityingly. . “Why didn't you write home for money?” An attempt to put a “you deserve anything you've got” tone into the question was not successful. Visions of Jack, a hungry Jack, walking the streets of an unsympathetic metropolis filled her thoughts. “Well, to tell the truth, Dorothy, father and I had some words when I announced my intention of being a newspaper man. He wants me to go into the factory and learn his business. Besides, he says there is nothing in the newspaper business for a gentleman, anyway. You know father?” “Your father, Jack, is a very fine gentleman. He's always been sort of an ideal to me—every thing that's strong and honorable, and old-fashioned, you know.” “He’s all that,” agreed Jack, heartily. “But—I don't think it has ever occurred to him that he might be in the wrong.” “Well, go on. What did your mother say?” “Mother was fine, as usual. She did say she didn't think a reporter could be very respectable, always poking into other people's business. But after I had told her Dickens and Kipling had both been reporters she felt better about it. I think she was inclined to
pacify father, but father had 'washed his hands of the business, supposed I would follow my own inclinations,' and,-slammed the door. I watched him going down to play bridge with his pals at the ‘Commuters,' six feet and a couple, of finality.” He stopped. “Well, what next?” said Dorothy. “Then I came to New York and got a job. Now tell me about yourself.” She rose. “First, Jack, you'll stay to lunch with me.” “I can't, really, I must be at the office in a few minutes.” “To dinner then, this evening?” “About that time I shall probably be reporting the martial troubles of Mrs. Casey or some one else whose affairs have required the attention of the police.” “Jack, they don't send you to write about such things?” “They did, but my city editor said he could not continue to do so unless I could be more accurate.” “More accurate?” “Yes, I reported that Mrs. Holloran, important through having pushed an Italian woman off the fire-escape, was a laundress, whereas she is really the janitoress of a lodge-room.” “And she was offended?” “Naturally.” They both laughed. Then she repeated. “You’ll come to dinner, Jack?” “No. Now, please now don't spoil the only glimpse of—I’d say fairyland if you weren't so confoundedly quick to score anything soft—or foolish. Oh, I like it; it adds to your—well never mind.” She giggled because she saw he was really afraid of her. “I wish you would come to dinner, Jack.” “No-you've probably got an engagement anyway with someone else.” “I haven't. I’ll sit and hate myself in that sumptuous sitting-room they gave us. You ought to see it; it makes ours at home look plain.” “Does anyone know you're in town, Dorothy?”
“There's the hotel clerk.” “Any of your friends, I mean.” “A few,” she admitted. “And yet you were going to spend the evening alone. How about mother?” “Mother, I expect will stay up town Cousin Clara has hosts of friends in New York.” “And you don't expect anyone to call?” She changed color a little but looked him straight in the eye, as she said: “I have no engagement.” “Then if you would really like to see me I think I can get off this evening—about nine o'clock, say. I can't tell you how much I'd like to come. It's the first real pleasant prospect I have had for a month.” He held out his hand. " “Don’t bother to dress up. Jack. I'm going to get mother off early, if she comes back at all. We'll have the evening to ourselves.” “That means you think I may have pawned my evening clothes, but I haven't. They're all that stands between me and ‘disrespectability' as Mulvaney says. I put them on one night when I wasn't working, just to feel dressed up again.” “You poor boy;” and her eyes were very bright. “You know, Jack, father has always said he would give you a job if you wanted it.” “Does your father happen to own a newspaper?” “Not that I know of. Why?” “I don't wonder you're not sure, when I consider what the local paper called, ‘the multifarious interests of this modern Midas,’” laughed Jack. Then slowly, as though giving voice to a revelation: “Dorothy, there is one job within your father's gift that I’d like, and if my affairs ever get into shape again, I'm going to ask for it, too.” Dorothy said good-bye and escaped inside, very short of breath. “Gracious!” she said to herself, “That couldn't have been Jack.”
She ate her lunch ieisurely, indulg.
ing in several things her mother taboed as foolishly expensive. Then she went to the telephone in response to a call, and turned down a welldressed, well-groomed, young man at the other end of the line. The young man's offense consisted in being well dressed—she knew it without seeing— at this particular moment, when her thoughts were full of Jack's fancied discomforts. He was not an offensively rich young man. He had not even profited through questionable practices. He had simply been cast for the villian of the piece. The injustice of the proceeding evidently did not trouble Dorothy much, for she came out of the booth humming happily to herself. Later she had to go to the telephone again. It was her mother this time. “Dorothy, dear,” came the voice. “Clara thinks perhaps we had better stay up town for dinner. The Clares have asked us.” “Yes.” “Mr. Carter is calling this evening, isn't he, dear?” “He is not.” “Why, he told me—” “He was mistaken,” said Dorothy shortly. “But don't worry about me, mother. I shall be well taken care of.” “Why, who's coming?” the maternal inquiry showed curiosity anyway. “Jack Braydon is coming.” “What, Jack in New York How nice, Dorothy. Now I shall feel entirely comfortable about you.” She breathed a sigh of relief into the telephone. She liked things comfortable, but between Dorothy and Clara, two very decided natures, that result was not always easy of accomplishment. Dorothy hung up and started for the elevator; it was time to dress. She stopped suddenly because a tall man had placed both hands on her shoulders, a very tall man with keen, gray eyes, bristling gray eyebrows and a gray moustache that turned up fiercelv. “Dorothy, child, what are you doing here? Don't try to deceive me now, you can't do it. No one can,” and he bent a fierce frown on her, or one that would have been fierce had it not been for the kindly gleam in the gray eyes. Dorothy said, “Oh.” The man was Jack's father and Jack would be back at nine o'clock. The prospect of a meeting made her nervous, for a meeting between Colonel Braydon and any one by whom the Colonel considered himself wronged was always fraught with dynamic possibilities, especially when that one was his son Jack. “Startled, hey? you don't look it. But whom are you with, child. You're not here alone, I presume. Though, 'pon my word, the way women go nowa-days I shouldn't be a bit surprised, not a bit,” and the Colonel slapped the office desk sharply. “No,” said Dorothy, “I’m with mother, ostensibly. Really, mother and cousin Clara go gadding all over town by themselves, and I've been left to the care of anyone who happens along. I suppose you will have to look after me now. I’ve no one to dine with to-night.” The gray head inclined in a courtly bow. “Madame,” said the Colonel. “You're treating the privilege as an obligation, enhances its value. But I'm surprised some young Jackanapes isn't here, to dispute it with me. How’d it happen, hey? My boy, Jack says—” He turned and spoke sharply to a bell boy. “Here boy—that bag there and my key,” then to Dorothy: “I’ve got to go down town now, but I shall expect you to be ready to dine at 6.30 sharp. Remember that, young woman, and, mind you, no gewgaws—just a plain frock—white if you like. I like to see girls in white, always did. So does my boy, Jack—” he stopped short again, and handed her grimly into the elevator. Then lifted his hat and walked briskly to the door. But Dorothy knew he was sorely tried as she had seen him oftentimes before by his quarrels with Jack.
- Precisely at six-thirty Dorothy came
down stairs to meet the Colonel. Her gown met the requirements. It was
white, and it was simple, with the studied simplicity obtained on fifth avenue at large prices. Cousin Clara called it an extravagance; Colonel Braydon thought it a very proper frock. He offered his arm with an emphatic nod of approval. Not a few found it worth while to look after them as the waiter bowed them to a table. Indeed, they make a pleasant picture: the tall straightbacked old gentleman in correct evening attire, and the self-possessed Amer. ican girl at his side. At table, Dorothy was in her gayest mood, engaging her vis-a-vis in the kind of railery in which he delighted, while pretending to think it the sign of a very forward generation. He fenced gallantly for a time, but Dorothy knew his cheerfulness was assumed. She knew, too, with how impenetrable a reserve his pride had always shielded his feelings from alien eyes. She knew and waited, allowing him to lead the conversation anywhere except to the subject nearest his heart, his son, Jack. Finally, without previous connection, he blurted out a gruff inquirv as to whether she had heard the latest foolnotion that boy had got into his head, adding that he supposed the boy was in New York. “Oh,” said Dorothy innocently, “that is what brings you to New York, is it —to see Jack?” The Colonel replied coldly that pressing business required his presence in the city, that Jack knew where he, the Colonel, could always be found and that he presumed that when he felt a desire to see his parents he would come home. This, in a manner, indicating that the subject was of only casual interest to him. Dorothy gave him all the rope he wanted. he scene had features of familiarity to her. When the Colonel's cigar came in the natural order of things she invited him to smoke it in the sitting-room upstairs. Once there, she placed him in a big chair before the fire-place, turned out all but one electric and ensconced herself on the arm of the chair. His hand closed over hers and they sat in Boothing quietness for a time. Gradually the Colonel lost the half defiant attitude he had maintained in the dining-room, Presently he said: "I don't know why it is that boy and I cannot get along better—I've never crossed him in my life, except for his own good, Take this affair now. If he wants to take up newspaper work. I don't know that I have any serious objection, But what does he do? Goes flying off the minute I attempt to offer him the least advice—" "He told me you did the flying off,” ventured Dorothy. "What's that, been whining to you, has he?" Dorothy stood up. "Jack is his father's son,” she said quietly; "he does not whine to any one. |le faces the world with a smile, as a man should, if he has the courage.” "Come back, child,” said the Colonel. "I apologize—to you, and to him, I'm a snarling old fool. But this thing has cut me up badly, quarrels with Jack always do, somehow, I don't mind telling you that I haven't had a comfortable day since Jack left home.” Dorothy went back to the chair arm. Then she said, gently: “Colonel, some times I think you don't realize that Jack is grown up, that he is a strong man, with a strong man's will and mind of his own. He is rather a masterful man, like his father, Is it surprising that he sometimes finds his father's dominance irksome 2" “IYo I dominate him?” “You dominate every one with whom you come in contact—unconsciously, perhaps, We like it—women, l mean, But a man does not, if he is worth much. Now take this newspaper plan, You say yourself you had invo Soo objection to his trying it.” “No." “You simply had other plans for him " “t did.”
“But, don't you see, Colonel, a man
must live his own life, not the one someone else wants him to lead, even if the life he chooses does not seem to promise so much as the other. Jack told me all about it and I think he was right, in the main.” “Child, you are right. I’ve known it all along, but it is hard for me to take back water, always was. Now tell me why you take so much trouble about a crusty old fool—and a headstrong young one—hey?” and he searched the charming face by the dim light Dorothy had provided. “Well,” said Dorothy coolly; “for one thing I like the young one's mother.” “Don’t think much of his father, hey?” She ignored the interruption. “Now, it being settled that you are in the wrong, the next thing to consider is, how you are going about set. ting yourself right.” “What's that? Let the young rascal come home and behave himself, and I will overlook his misconduct for this once.” “The young rascal won't come home. He'll starve first. He's half-starved now, I think.” “Nonsense,” said the Colonel, so emphatically that she knew the shot had gone to a vital place. “He knows enough to ask for what he wants, I suppose. He's been in constant communication with his mother; I've seen the letters.” He did not add that he had pointedly ignored their presence on the breakfast table twice a week for the past month. Dorothy made no comment. She was allowing the Colonel time to save his face. Experience had shown the wisdom of that course. “Well?” Still no comment from Dorothy. “What the dickens do you want me to do? Hunt all over New York for the privilege of apologizing to my own boy for not agreeing with every foolnotion he takes into his head?" The Colonel, having lost the battle, was getting back to his customary explosive form.
“Yes,” insisted Dorothy, recognizing the signs of the weather. “That is what you came here for, isn't it?” “I—what—you want—well, well, as matter of fact”—he laughed a little— “you see it was this way. Richardson, of the Journal, has been after me for a long time to buy his assinine sheet. Not worth the ink it takes to get the thing out, as an investment, but I thought if Jack really— Dorothy clapped her hands. “Splendid,” she cried. “Oh, I wish he'd hurry up. What time is it Colonel?” “Wish who would hurry up, missy?” “Why, Jack, of course. He's coming at 9 o'clock.” “Jack, here—I’ve been trapped.” “You have, and you don't leave this room till you've made up with him, do you hear?” A knock sounded at the door. Dor. othy sprang to open it. “Tell him to come right up, quick.” The bell boy disappeared, and Dorothy stood on guard until Jack appeared. Meanwhile, the Colonel shook himself together, threw away his cigar and squared his shoulders. Dorothy watched apprehensively; his preparations did not look conciliatory. Far down the hall the elevator door clanged and Jack stepped out, followed by the bell boy. When he saw Dorothy framed in the doorway, the boy was left behind. “You’re just in time, Jack,” said Dorothy. “Your father and I have been waiting for you.” “What, father! you?” . “I’m well, thank you, sir,” said the Colonel, shortly. Jack flushed and checked a cordial movement in his father's direction. Things seemed at a standstill, but Dorothy, after her labors, had no intention of permitting the making-up to miscarry. “Jack,” exclaimed she, “your father has bought the Journal for you to play with. Go over and thank him. What
Father, how are
do you mean by standing there like a bull-dog?” “What! father, is this true—-” “Well, you see, son, Richardson is tired of running the thing, so I thought if you—” “Father, it's splendid of you, after the way I’ve acted, too. I feel like a —a mucker.” They shook hands warmly. “That's all right,” said the Colonel, hastily, for Jack was searching for words to express himself further. “I feel rather like a mucker myself, so we'll call it off.” “I’ll bet you had a hand in this, Dorothy. I don't know how to thank you both.” “Did she,” the Colonel laughed, “she was going to keep me on bread and water till I apologized. I tell you, Jack, we ought to keep this young woman around all the time just to save us from quarrelling.” Jack took a big brace. Dorothy's hand was near, so he took that, too; it seemed to help. “Dorothy,” he said; “that's what I meant yesterday about the job I wanted from your father; it's the sonin-law iob. Can I have it?” “Spoken like a man, sir,” cried the Colonel, slapping his son on the shoulder. “Now then, mistress Dorothy, you've run this affair so far, suppose you finish it up. I don't leave this room till I hear the answer to that question —our question, for I'm interested in this, too. We both need you, Dorothy.” Thus assailed, Dorothy gave her answer so quietly and sweetlv that the Colonel felt a sudden choking sensation. He kissed her and escaped, slamming the door after him. What happened behind that door has not been recorded, but the Colonel always maintains that he made the match. And Dorothy lets it go at that.