Italics are marked with underscores, like this, oe ligatures have been changed to 'oe'. The original hyphenation was preserved even when inconsistent, obvious typos have been fixed.
A STORY OF NEW YORK
EDWARD EGGLESTON AUTHOR OF THE HOOSIER SCHOOLMASTER, ROXY, ETC.
NEW YORK D. APPLETON AND COMPANY 1891
COPYRIGHT, 1891, BY EDWARD EGGLESTON.
All rights reserved.
Though there is no life that I know more intimately and none that I have known for so long a period as that of New York, the present story is the first in which I have essayed to depict phases of the complex society of the metropolis. I use the word society in its general, not in its narrow sense, for in no country has the merely "society novel" less reason for being than in ours.
The prevailing interest in mind-cure, faith-cure, Christian science, and other sorts of aerial therapeutics has supplied a motive for this story, and it is only proper that I should feel a certain gratitude to the advocates of the new philosophy. But the primary purpose of this novel is artistic, not polemical. The book was not written to depreciate anybody's valued delusions, but to make a study of human nature under certain modern conditions. In one age men cure diseases by potable gold and strengthen their faith by a belief in witches, in another they substitute animal magnetism and adventism. Within the memory of those of us who are not yet old, the religious fervor of millenarianism and the imitation science of curative mesmerism gave way to spirit-rappings and clairvoyant medical treatment. Now spiritism in all its forms is passing into decay, only to leave the field free to mind-doctors and faith-healers. There is nothing for it but to wait for the middle ages to pass; when modern times arrive, there will be more criticism and less credulity, let us hope.
The propositions put into the mouth of Miss Bowyer, though they sound like burlesque, are taken almost verbatim from the writings of those who claim to be expounders of Christian science. While Miss Bowyer was drawn more closely from an original than is usual in fictitious writing, I am well aware that there are professors of Christian science much superior to her. There are, indeed, souls who are the victims of their own generous enthusiasm; and it grieves me that, in treating the subject with fidelity and artistic truthfulness, I must give pain to many of the best—to some whose friendship I hold dear.
For the idea of a novel on the present theme I am indebted to an unpublished short story entitled An Irregular Practitioner, by Miss Anne Steger Winston, which came under my eye three or four years ago. I secured the transfer to me of Miss Winston's rights in the subject, and, though I have not followed the lines of her story, it gives me pleasure to acknowledge my obligation to her for the suggestion of a motive without which this novel would not have had existence.
For the comfort of the reader, let me add that the name Phillida should be accented on the first syllable, and pronounced with the second vowel short.
JOSHUA'S ROCK ON LAKE GEORGE, September, 1891.
I. THE ORIGIN OF A MAN OF FASHION 7 II. THE EVOLUTION OF A SOCIETY MAN 19 III. A SPONTANEOUS PEDIGREE 29 IV. THE BANK OF MANHADOES 37 V. THE ARRIVAL OF THE HILBROUGHS 55 VI. PHILLIDA CALLENDER 69 VII. THE LION SOIREE 91 VIII. IN AVENUE C 110 IX. WASHINGTON SQUARE AND ELSEWHERE 120 X. BROKEN RESOLVES 132 XI. IN THE PARK 144 XII. PHILIP 155 XIII. MRS. FRANKLAND 162 XIV. MRS. FRANKLAND AND PHILLIDA 176 XV. TWO WAYS 185 XVI. A SEANCE AT MRS. VAN HORNE'S 193 XVII. A FAITH CURE 201 XVIII. FAITH-DOCTOR AND LOVER 208 XIX. PROOF POSITIVE 213 XX. DIVISIONS 225 XXI. MRS. HILBROUGH'S INFORMATION 232 XXII. WINTER STRAWBERRIES 242 XXIII. A SHINING EXAMPLE 249 XXIV. THE PARTING 256 XXV. MRS. FRANKLAND'S REPENTANCE 266 XXVI. ELEANOR ARABELLA BOWYER 280 XXVII. A BAD CASE 294 XXVIII. DR. BESWICK'S OPINION 302 XXIX. MILLARD AND RUDOLPH 314 XXX. PHILLIDA AND PHILIP 321 XXXI. A CASE OF BELIEF IN DIPHTHERIA 332 XXXII. FACE TO FACE 345 XXXIII. A FAMOUS VICTORY 352 XXXIV. DOCTORS AND LOVERS 364 XXXV. PHILLIDA AND HER FRIENDS 374 XXXVI. MRS. BESWICK 383 XXXVII. DR. GUNSTONE'S DIAGNOSIS 388 XXXVIII. PHILIP'S CONFESSION 398 XXXIX. PHILIP IMPROVES AN OPPORTUNITY 407 XL. THE RESTORATION 415 XLI. AS YOU LIKE IT 422
THE FAITH DOCTOR.
THE ORIGIN OF A MAN OF FASHION.
It was the opinion of a good many people that Charles Millard was "something of a dude." But such terms are merely relative; every fairly dressed man is a dude to somebody. There are communities in this free land of ours in which the wearing of a coat at dinner is a most disreputable mark of dudism.
That Charles Millard was accounted a dude was partly Nature's fault. If not handsome, he was at least fine-looking, and what connoisseurs in human exteriors call stylish. Put him into a shad-bellied drab and he would still have retained traces of dudishness; a Chatham street outfit could hardly have unduded him. With eyes so luminous and expressive in a face so masculine, with shoulders so well carried, a chest so deep, and legs so perfectly proportioned and so free from any deviation from the true line of support, Millard had temptations to cultivate natural gifts.
There was a notion prevalent among Millard's acquaintances that one so versed in the lore and so deft in the arts of society must belong to a family of long standing; the opinion was held, indeed, by pretty much everybody except Millard himself. His acquaintance with people of distinction, and his ready access to whatever was deemed desirable in New York, were thought to indicate some hereditary patent to social privilege. Millard had, indeed, lines of ancestors as long as the longest, and, so far as they could be traced, his forefathers were honest and industrious people, mostly farmers. Nor were they without distinction: one of his grandfathers enjoyed for years the felicity of writing "J. P." after his name; another is remembered as an elder in the little Dutch Reformed Church at Hamburg Four Corners. But Charley Millard did not boast of these lights of his family, who would hardly have availed him in New York. Nor did he boast of anything, indeed; his taste was too fastidious for self-assertion of the barefaced sort. But if people persisted in fitting him out with an imaginary pedigree, just to please their own sense of congruity, why should he feel obliged to object to an amusement so harmless?
Charles Millard was the son of a farmer who lived near the village of Cappadocia in the State of New York. When Charley was but twelve years old his father sold his farm and then held what was called in the country a "vendoo," at which he sold "by public outcry" his horses, cows, plows, and pigs. With his capital thus released he bought a miscellaneous store in the village, in order that his boys "might have a better chance in the world." This change was brought about by the discovery on the part of Charley's father that his brother, a commission merchant in New York, "made more in a week than a farmer could make in a year." From this time Charley, when not in school, busied himself behind the counter, or in sweeping out the store, with no other feeling than that sweeping store, measuring calico, and drawing molasses were employments more congenial to his tastes and less hard on good clothes than hoeing potatoes or picking hops. Two years after his removal to the village the father of Charley Millard died, and the store, which had not been very successful, was sold to another. Charley left the counter to take a course in the high school, doing odd jobs in the mean while.
When young Millard was eighteen years old he came into what was a great fortune in village eyes. His father's more fortunate brother, who had amassed money as a dealer in country produce in Washington street, New York, died, leaving the profits of all his years of toil over eggs and butter, Bermuda potatoes and baskets of early tomatoes, to his two nephews, Charley Millard and Charley's elder brother, Richard. After the lawyers, the surrogate, the executor, and the others had taken each his due allowance out of it, there may have been fifty or seventy-five thousand dollars apiece left for the two young men. Just how much it was the village people never knew, for Charley was not prone to talk of his own affairs, and Dick spent his share before he fairly had time to calculate what it amounted to. When Richard had seen the last of his money, and found himself troubled by small debts, he simplified matters by executing a "mysterious disappearance," dropping out of sight of his old associates as effectually as though he had slipped into some cosmical crack. Charley, though nominally subject to a guardian, managed his own affairs, husbanded his money, paid Dick's debts, and contrived to take up the bank stock and other profitable securities that his brother had hypothecated. He lived with his mother till she died, and then he found himself at twenty-one with money enough to keep him at ease, and with no family duty but that which his mother had laid upon him of finding the recreant Dick if possible, and helping him to some reputable employment—again if possible.
In Cappadocia Charley's little fortune made him the beau of the town; the "great catch," in the slang phrase of the little society of the village—a society in which there were no events worth reckoning but betrothals and weddings. In such a place leisure is productive of little except ennui. To get some relief from the fatigue of moving around a circle so small, and to look after his investments, Charley made a visit to New York a month after the death of his mother. His affection for his mother was too fresh for him to neglect her sister, who was the wife of a mechanic living in Avenue C. He would have preferred to go to a hotel, but he took up his abode dutifully in his aunt's half of a floor in Avenue C, where the family compressed themselves into more than their usual density to give him a very small room to himself. His Aunt Hannah did her best to make him comfortable, preparing for him the first day a clam chowder, which delicacy Charley, being an inlander, could not eat. His cup of green tea she took pains to serve to him hot from the stove at his elbow. But he won the affection of the children with little presents, and made his aunt happy by letting her take him to see Central Park and the animals.
As seen in the narrow apartment of his Aunt Hannah Martin, life in the metropolis appeared vastly more pinched and sordid than it did in the cottages at Cappadocia. How the family contrived to endure living in relations so constant and intimate with the cooking stove and the feather beds Charley could not understand. But the spectacle of the streets brought to him notions of a life greatly broader and more cultivated and inconceivably more luxurious than the best in Cappadocia.
The third day after his arrival he called at the Bank of Manhadoes, in which the greater part of his uncle's savings had been invested, to make the acquaintance of the officers in control, and to have transferred to his own name the shares which his brother had hypothecated. He was very cordially received by Farnsworth, the cashier, who took him into the inner office and introduced him to the president of the bank, Mr. Masters. The president showed Charley marked attention; he was very sensible of the voting importance of so considerable a block of stock as Charley held, now that he had acquired all that was his uncle's. Masters was sorry that his family was out of town, he would have been pleased to have Mr. Millard dine with him. Would Mr. Millard be in town long? Dining with a New York bank president would have been a novel experience for young Millard, but he felt obliged to go home the last of the week. Not that there was anything of pleasure or duty to render his return to Cappadocia imperative or desirable, but the pressure he was daily putting on his aunt's hospitality was too great to be prolonged, and the discomfort of his situation in Avenue C was too much for a fastidious man to endure.
Though his return to Cappadocia made a ripple of talk among the young women of the village, to whom he was at least a most interesting theme for gossip, he found the place duller than ever. His mind reverted to the great, dazzling spectacle of the thronged streets of the metropolis, with their unceasing processions of eager people. Since he had all the world to choose from, why not live in New York? But he did not care to go to the city to be idle. He liked employment, and he preferred to earn something, though he had no relish for speculation, nor even any desire to run the risks of trade. But he thought that if he could contrive to make enough to pay a portion of his own expenses, so as to add the greater part of each year's dividends to his principal, such cautious proceeding would entirely suit his prudent temperament and content his moderate ambition. After taking time to revolve the matter carefully, he wrote to the obliging Mr. Masters, suggesting that he would like to secure some position in the bank. The letter came at an opportune moment. A considerable number of the stockholders were opposed to the president in regard to the general policy to be pursued. The opposition was strong enough to give Masters some anxiety. What was known as "the Millard stock" had been held neutral in consequence of Charley's minority. If now Masters could attach this young shareholder to himself, it would be a positive gain to the administration party in the stockholders' meetings, and indeed it would put the opposition beyond any chance of doing much mischief.
When Masters got the letter Farnsworth, the cashier, was called into his room. But Farnsworth could not give him any information about Millard's character or capacities. That he would not do without special training for a teller or bookkeeper was too evident to require discussion. All that could be said of him at first glance was that he wrote a good hand and composed a letter with intelligence. He might be made of assistance to the cashier if he should prove to be a man of regular habits and application. What Masters wrote in reply was: "We should be most happy to have the nephew and heir of one of our founders in the bank. At present we have no vacancy suitable to you; for, of course, a man of your position ought not to be assigned to one of the lowest clerkships. But if an opportunity to meet your wishes should arise in the future we will let you know."
It was only after some years' experience in the bank that Millard, in looking over this letter, was able to conjecture its real significance. Then he knew that when that letter went out of the bank addressed to him at Cappadocia another must have gone with it to a certain commercial agency, requesting that Charles Millard, of Cappadocia, New York, be carefully looked up. Two weeks later Masters wrote that it had been found necessary to employ a correspondent to aid the cashier of the bank. The salary would be two thousand dollars if Mr. Millard would accept it. The offer, he added, was rather larger than would be made to any one else, as the officers of the bank preferred to have a stockholder in a semi-confidential position such as this would be. In village scales two thousand dollars a year was much, but when Charley came to foot up the expenses of his first year in New York, this salary seemed somewhat less munificent.
Millard's relations were directly with the cashier, Farnsworth, an eager, pushing, asthmatic little man, wholly given to business. Farnsworth's mind rarely took time to peep over the fence that divided the universe into two parts—the Bank of Manhadoes and its interests lying on the one side, and all the rest of creation on the other. Not that he ignored society; he gave dinner parties in his elegant housekeeping apartment in the Sebastopol Flats. But the dinner parties all had reference to the Bank of Manhadoes; the invitations were all calculated with reference to business relations, and the dinners were neatly planned to bring new business or to hold the old. But there were dinners and dinners, in the estimation of Farnsworth. Some were aimed high, and when these master-strokes of policy were successful they tended to promote the main purposes of the bank. The second-rate dinners were meant merely to smooth the way in minor business relations.
It was to one of these less significant entertainments, a dinner of not more than three horse-power, that he invited his correspondent-clerk, Mr. Millard. It would make the relations between him and Millard smoother, and serve to attach Millard to his leadership in the bank management. Millard, he reasoned, being from the country, would be just as well pleased with a company made up of nobodies in particular and his wife's relatives as he could be if he were invited to meet a railway president and a leather merchant from the swamp turned art connoisseur in his old age.
Charley found his boarding-house a little "poky," to borrow his own phrase, and he was pleased with Farnsworth's invitation. He honored the occasion by the purchase of a new black satin cravat. This he tied with extreme care, according to the approved formula of "twice around and up and down." Few men could tie a cravat in better style. He also got out the new frock-coat, made by the best tailor in Cappadocia, carefully cherished, and only worn on special occasions—the last being the evening on which he had taken supper at the house of the Baptist minister. If there was something slightly rustic about the cut or set of the coat, Millard did not suspect it. The only indispensable thing about clothes is that the wearer shall be at peace with them. Poor Richard ventured the proposition that "our neighbors' eyes" are the costliest things in life, but Bonhomme Richard may have been a little off the mark just there. Other people's opinions about my garments are of small consequence except in so far as they affect my own conceit of them. Charley Millard issued from his room at half-past six content with himself, and, what was of much more importance to the peace of his soul, content with his clothes.
At eleven o'clock Millard is in his room again. The broadcloth Prince Albert lies in an ignominious heap in the corner of the sofa. The satin cravat is against the looking-glass on the dressing-case, just as Charley has thrown it down. Nothing has happened to the coat or the cravat; both are as immaculate as at their sallying forth. But Millard does not regard either of them; he sits moodily in his chair by the grate and postpones to the latest moment the disagreeable task of putting them away.
No matter what the subject under consideration, we later nineteenth-century people are pretty sure to be brought face to face with the intellect that has dominated our age, modified our modes of thinking, and become the main source of all our metaphysical discomforts. It is this same inevitable Charles Darwin who says that a man may be made more unhappy by committing a breach of etiquette than by falling into sin. If Millard had embezzled a thousand dollars of the bank's funds, could he have been more remorseful than he is now? And all for nothing but that he found himself at dinner with more cloth in the tail of his coat than there was in the coattails of his neighbors, and that he wore an expensive black cravat while all the rest of the world had on ghostly white linen ties that cost but a dime or two apiece.
Of course Millard exaggerated the importance of his mistake. Young men who wear frock-coats to dinner, and men of respectability who do not possess a dress-coat, are not entirely lacking in New York. If he had known more of the world he would have known that the world is to be taken less to heart. People are always more lenient toward a mistake in etiquette than the perspiring culprit is able to imagine them. In after years Millard smiled at the remembrance that he had worried over Farnsworth's company. It was not worth the trouble of a dress-coat.
His first impulse was to forswear society, and to escape mortification in future, by refusing all invitations. If he had been a weakling such an outcome would have followed a false start. It is only a man who can pluck the blossom of success out of the very bramble of disaster.
During that dinner party had come to him a dim conception of a society complicated and conventional to a degree that the upper circle in Cappadocia had never dreamed of. He firmly resolved now to know this in all its ramifications; to get the mastery of it in all its details, so that no man should understand it better than he. To put it under foot by superior skill was to be his revenge, the satisfaction he proposed to make to his wounded vanity. As he could not even faintly conceive what New York society was like—as he had no notion of its Pelions on Ossas piled—so he could as yet form no estimate of the magnitude of the success he was destined to achieve. It is always thus with a man on the threshold of a great career.
Among the widely varying definitions of genius in vogue, everybody is permitted to adopt that which flatters his self-love or serves his immediate purpose. "Great powers accidentally determined in a given direction" is what some one has called it. Millard was hardly a man of great powers, but he was a man of no small intelligence. If he had been sufficiently bedeviled by poverty at the outset who knows that he might not have hardened into a stock-jobbing prestidigitator, and made the world the poorer by so much as he was the richer? On the other hand, he might perhaps have been a poet. Certainly a man of his temperament and ingenuity might by practice have come to write rondeaus, ballades, and those other sorts of soap-bubble verse just now in fashion; and if he had been so lucky as to be disappointed in love at the outset of his career, it is quite within the limits of possibility that he should have come to write real poetry, fourteen lines to the piece. But as the first great reverse of Millard's life was in a matter of dress and etiquette, the innate force of his nature sent him by mere rebound in the direction of a man of fashion—that is to say, an artist not in words or pigments, but in dress and manners.
THE EVOLUTION OF A SOCIETY MAN.
It is the first step that costs, say the French, and Millard made those false starts that are inevitable at the outset of every career. A beginner has to trust somebody, and in looking around for a mentor he fell into the hands of a fellow-boarder, one Sampson, who was a quiet man with the air of one who knows it all and is rather sorry that he does. Sampson fondly believed himself a man of the world, and he had the pleasure of passing for one among those who knew nothing at all about the world. He was a reflective man, who had given much thought to that gravest problem of a young man's life—how to keep trousers from bagging at the knees, the failure to solve which is one of the most pathetic facts of human history. After he had made one or two mistakes in following the dicta that Sampson uttered with all the diffidence of a papal encyclical, Millard became aware that in social matters pretension is often in inverse ratio to accomplishment. About the time that he gave up Sampson he renounced the cheap tailor into whose hands he had unwarily fallen, and consigned to oblivion a rather new thirty-dollar dress-suit in favor of one that cost half a hundred dollars more. He had by this time found out that the society which he had a chance to meet moved only in a borderland, and, like the ambitious man he was, he began already to lay his plans broad and deep, and to fit himself, by every means within his reach, for success in the greater world beyond.
Having looked about the circle of his small acquaintance in vain for a guide, he bethought him that there were probably books on etiquette. He entered a bookstore one day with the intention of asking for some work of the sort, but finding in the proprietor a well-known depositor of the bank, Charley bought a novel instead. Behold already the instinct of a man of the world, whose role it is to know without ever seeming to learn!
When at length Millard had secured a book with the title, "Guide to Good Manners as Recognized in the Very Best Society. By One of the Four Hundred," he felt that he had got his feet on firm ground.
It chanced about this time that Sampson brought an old college chum of his to eat a Sunday dinner at the boarding-house in Eighteenth street. He introduced this friend to Millard with that impressiveness which belonged to all that the melancholy Sampson did, as "Mr. Bradley, Mr. Harrison Holmes Bradley, the author; you know his writings."
Millard was covered with concealed shame to think that he did not happen to know the books of an author with a name so resonant, but he did not confess his ignorance. This was his first acquaintance with a real literary man—for the high-school teacher in Cappadocia who wrote poetry for the country papers would hardly count. The aspiring Millard thought himself in luck in thus early making the acquaintance of a man of letters, for to the half-sophisticated an author seems a person who reflects a mild and moonshiny luster on even a casual acquaintance. To know Mr. Bradley might be a first step toward gaining access to the more distinguished society of the metropolis.
Harrison Holmes Bradley proved to be on examination a New-Englander of the gaunt variety, an acute man of thirty, who ate his roast turkey and mashed potatoes with that avidity he was wont to manifest when running down an elusive fact in an encyclopaedia. At the table Millard, for want of other conversation, plucked up courage to ask him whether he was connected with a newspaper.
"No; I am engaged in general literary work," said Bradley.
Neither Millard nor any one else at the table had the faintest notion of the nature of "general literary work." It sounded large, and Bradley was a clever talker on many themes fresh to Millard, and when he went away the author exacted a promise from Charley to call on him soon in his "den," and he gave him a visiting card which bore a street number in Harlem.
Two weeks later Millard, who was quite unwilling to miss a chance of making the acquaintance of a distinguished man through whom he might make other eligible friends, called on Bradley. He found him at work in his shirt-sleeves, in a hall bedroom of a boarding-house, smoking and writing as he sat with a gas-stove for near neighbor on the left hand, and a table, which was originally intended to serve as a wash-stand, on the other side of him. The author welcomed his guest with unaffected condescension and borrowed a chair from the next room for him to sit on. Finding Millard curious about the ways of authors, he entertained his guest with various anecdotes going to show how books are made and tending to throw light on the relation of authors to publishers. Millard noted what seemed to him a bias against publishers, of whom as a human species Bradley evidently entertained no great opinion. Millard's love for particulars was piqued by Bradley's statement at their first meeting that he was engaged in general literary work. He contrived to bring the author to talk of what he was doing and how it was done.
"You see," said Bradley, pleased to impart information on a theme in which he was much interested himself, "a literary life isn't what people generally take it to be. Most men in general literary work fail because they can do only one thing or, at most, two. To make a living one must be able to do everything."
"I suppose that is so," said Millard, still unable to form any notion of what was implied in Bradley's everything. To him all literature was divided into prose and poetry. General literature seemed to include both of these and something more.
"Last week," Bradley continued, illustratively, "I finished an index, wrote some verses for a pictorial advertisement of Appleblossom's Toilet Soap, and ground out an encyclopaedia article on Christian Missions, and a magazine paper on the history of the game of bumblepuppy. I am now just beginning a novel of society life. Versatility is the very foundation of success. If it hadn't been for my knack of doing all sorts of things I never should have succeeded as I have."
Judging by Bradley's surroundings and his own account of the sordid drudgery of a worker in general literature, his success did not seem to Millard a very stunning one. But Bradley was evidently content with it, and what more can one ask of fortune?
"There is another element that goes a long way toward success in literature," proceeded the author, "and that is ability to work rapidly. When Garfield was shot I was out of work and two weeks behind with my board. I went straight to the Astor Library and worked till the library closed, gathering material. When I went to bed that night, or rather the next morning, I had a paper on 'Famous Assassinations of History' ready for the best market. But what I hate the most about our business is the having to write, now and then, a thunder and lightning story for the weekly blood-curdlers. Now there is Milwain, the poet, a man of genius, but by shop girls and boys reading the Saturday-night papers he is adored as Guy St. Cyr, the author of a long list of ghastly horribles thrown off to get money."
"This sort of work of all kinds is what you call general literary work?" queried Millard.
"General literary work is the evening dress we put on it when it has to pass muster before strangers," said Bradley, laughing.
What Millard noted with a sort of admiration was Bradley's perfect complacency, his contentment in grinding Philistine grists, the zest even that he evinced for literary pot-hunting, the continual exhilaration that he got out of this hazardous gamble for a living, and the rank frankness with which he made his own affairs tributary to the interest of his conversation.
At length Bradley emptied his pipe and laid it across his manuscript, at the same time rising nervously from his chair and sitting down on the bed for a change.
"Millard," he said, with a Bohemian freedom of address, "you must know more about society than I do. Give me advice on a point of etiquette."
Charley Millard was flattered as he never had been flattered before. He had not hoped to be considered an oracle so soon.
"You see," Bradley went on, "the publisher of a new magazine called the 'United States Monthly' has asked me to dinner. It is away over in Brooklyn, and, besides, the real reason I can't go is that I haven't got a dress-coat. Now what is the thing to do about regrets, cards, and so on?"
Fresh from reading his new "Guide to Good Manners," Millard felt competent to decide any question of Bristol-board, however weighty or complicated. He delivered his opinion with great assurance in the very words of the book.
"I believe in my soul," said Bradley, laughing, "that you prigged that from the 'Guide to Good Manners as Recognized in the Very Best Society.'"
Millard looked foolish, but answered good-naturedly, "Well, what if I did? Have you read the book?"
Bradley rocked his long slender body backward and forward as though about to fall into a spasm with suppressed merriment.
"There is only one good thing I can say for that book," he said, recovering himself.
"What's that?" asked Millard, a little vexed with the unaccountable mirth of his host.
"Why, that I got two hundred dollars for writing it."
"You wrote it?" exclaimed Millard, not concealing his opinion that Bradley was not a suitable person to give lessons in politeness.
"You see I was offered two hundred for a book on manners. I needed the money most consumedly. There was Sampson, who knew, or thought he knew, all about the ways of the world, though, between you and me, Sampson always did do a large business on a plaguy small capital. So I put Sampson to press and got out of him whatever I could, and then I rehashed a good deal in a disguised way from the old 'Bazar Book of Decorum' and the still older Count D'Orsay, and some others. You have to know how to do such things if you're going to make a living as a literary man. The title is a sixpenny publisher's lie. In the day of judgment, authors, or at least those of us doing general literary work, will get off easy on the ground that poor devils scratching for their dinners can not afford to be too high-toned, but publishers won't have that excuse."
Millard made his way home that night with some sense of disappointment. Being a fine gentleman was not so easy as it had seemed. The heights grew more and more frosty and inaccessible as he approached them. Yet he had really made a great advance by his talk with Bradley. He had cleared the ground of rubbish. And though during the next week he bought two or three of the books of decorum then in vogue, he had learned to depend mainly on his own observations and good sense. He had also acquired a beginning of that large stock of personal information which made him in after years so remarkable. Natural bent is shown in what a man assimilates. Not an item of all the personal traits and anecdotes of writers and publishers brought out in Bradley's unreserved talk had escaped him, and years afterward he could use Bradley's funny stories to give piquancy to conversation.
It was this memory of individual traits and his tactful use of it that helped to launch him on the sea of social success. The gentleman who sat next to him at dinner, the lady who chatted with him at a tea or a reception, felt certain that a man who knew all about every person in any way distinguished in society could not be quite without conspicuousness of some sort himself. This belief served to open doors to him. Moreover, his fund of personal gossip, judiciously and good-naturedly used, made him a valuable element in a small company; the interest never flagged when he talked. Then, too, Millard had a knack of repeating in a way that seemed almost accidental, or at least purely incidental, what this or that noted person had said to him. It was in appearance only an embellishment of his talk, but it served to keep up a belief in the breadth, and especially the height, of his acquaintance. If he had only been presented to Mrs. Manorhouse, and she had repeated her stock witticism in his presence, Millard knew how to quote it as a remark of Mrs. Manorhouse, but the repose of his manner left the impression that he set no particular store by the Manorhouses. He early learned the inestimable value of a chastened impudence to a man with social ambitions.
Some sacrifice of self-respect? Doubtless. But what getter-on in the world is there that does not have to pay down a little self-respect now and then? Your millionaire usually settles at a dear rate, and to be a great statesman implies that one has paid a war tariff in this specie.
One of the talents that contributed to Millard's success was a knack of taking accomplishments quickly. Whether it was fencing, or boxing, or polo that was the temporary vogue; whether it was dancing, or speaking society French, he held his own with the best. In riding he was easily superior to the riding-school cavaliers, having the advantage of familiarity with a horse's back from the time he had bestrode the plow-horses on their way to water. Though he found time in his first years in New York for only one little run in Europe, he always had the air of a traveled man, so quickly did he absorb information, imitate fashions, and get rid of provincial manners and prejudices. His friends never knew where he learned anything. When a Frenchman of title was basking in New York drawing-rooms it was found that Millard was equal to a tete-a-tete with the monolingual foreigner, though his accent was better than his vocabulary was copious. His various accomplishments of course represented many hours of toil, but it was toil of which his associates never heard. He treated himself as a work of art, of which the beholder must judge only by the charming result, with no knowledge of the foregoing effort, no thought of the periods of ugly incompleteness that have been passed on the way to perfection.
A SPONTANEOUS PEDIGREE.
It was not until the battle was more than half won, and Millard had become a welcome guest in some of the most exclusive houses, that he was outfitted with a pedigree. He knew little of his ancestors except that his father's grandfather was a humble private soldier at the storming of Stony Point. This great-grandfather's name was Miller. Dutch or German neighbors had called him Millerd by some confusion with other names having a similar termination, and as he was tolerably illiterate, and rarely wrote his name, the change came to be accepted. A new schoolmaster who spelled it Millerd in the copy-book of Charley's grandfather fixed the orthography and pronunciation in the new form. About the time that Millard Fillmore became President by succession, the contemporary Millerds, who were Whigs, substituted a for the e in the name. After he came to New York, Charley shifted the accent to the last syllable to conform to a fashion by which a hundred old English names have been treated to a Gallic accent in America. After this acquisition of a new accent Charley was frequently asked whether he were not of Huguenot descent; to which he was wont to reply prudently that he had never taken much interest in genealogy. Just why it is thought more creditable for a resident of New York to have descended from a Huguenot peasant or artisan than from an English colonist, those may tell who fancy that social pretenses have a rational basis.
Charley's mother's father was named Vandam. The family had been a little ashamed of the old Dutch cognomen; it had such a wicked sound that they tried to shift the accent to the first syllable. Among the fads that Charley had taken up for a time after he came to New York was that of collecting old prints. In looking over a lot of these one day in a second-hand book-shop, he stumbled on a picture of the colonial period in which was represented one of the ancient Dutch churches of New York. There was a single stately carriage passing in front of the church, and the artist had taken the pains to show the footman running before the coach. The picture was dedicated to "Rip Van Dam, Esq.," president of the council of the colony of New York. As a Christian name "Rip" did not tend to take the curse off the Van Dam. But this picture made Charley aware that at least one of the Van Dams had been a great man in his day. He reflected that this must be the old Rip's own carriage delineated in the foreground of the picture of which he was the patron; and this must be his footman charging along at breakneck pace to warn all vulgar carts to get out of the great gentleman's road. Millard bought the print and hung it in his sitting-room; for since he had been promoted in the bank and had been admitted to a fashionable club, he had moved into bachelor apartments suitable to his improving fortunes and social position. He had also committed himself to the keeping of an English man-servant—he did not like to call him his valet, lest the appearance of ostentation and Anglomania should prejudice him with his business associates. But somehow the new dignity of his own surroundings seemed to lend something bordering on probability to the conjecture that this once acting-governor of New York, Rip Van Dam, might have been one of Charley's ancestors.
Millard hung this print on one side of the chimney in his apartment, a chimney that had a pair of andirons and three logs of wood in it. But whether this or any other chimney in the Graydon Building was fitted to contain a fire nobody knew; for the building was heated by steam, and no one had been foolhardy enough to discover experimentally just what would happen if fire were actually lighted in fireplaces so unrealistic as these. On the other side of his chimney Charley hung a print of the storming of Stony Point. One evening, Philip Gouverneur, one of Millard's new cronies, who was calling on him, asked "Millard, what have you got that old meeting-house on your wall for?"
"Well, you see," said Millard, with the air of a man but languidly interested,—your real gentleman always affects to be bored by what he cares for,—"you see I put it there because it is dedicated to old Rip Van Dam."
"What do you care for that old cuss?" went on Gouverneur, who, being of the true blue blood himself, had a fad of making game of the whole race of ancient worthies.
"I don't really care," said Charley; "but as my mother was a Vandam, she may have descended from this Rip. I have no documents to prove it."
"Oh, I see. Excuse me for making fun of your forefathers. I say every mean thing I can think of about mine, but another man's grandfather is sacred. You see I couldn't help smiling at the meeting-house on one side and that old-fashioned, bloody bayonet-charge on the other."
"Oh, that's only another case of ancestor," said Millard; "my great-grandfather was at Stony Point."
"The more fool he," said Gouverneur. "My forefathers, now, contrived to keep out of bayonet-charges, and shed for their country mostly ink and oratory, speeches and documents."
Though Philip Gouverneur did not care for ancestors, his mother did. The one thing that enabled Mrs. Gouverneur to look down on the whole brood of railway magnates, silver-mine kings, and Standard Oil operators, who, as she phrased it, "had intruded into New York," was the fact that her own family had taken an historic part in the Revolutionary struggle. At this very moment she was concocting a ball in memory of the evacuation of New York, and she was firmly resolved that on this occasion no upstart of an Astor or a Vanderbilt, much less any later comer, should assist—nobody but those whose families were distinctly of Revolutionary or colonial dignity. In truth, Mrs. Gouverneur had some feeling of resentment that the capitalist families were of late disposed to take themselves for leaders in society, and to treat the merely old families as dispensable if necessary. This assembly to be made up exclusively of antiques was her countermove.
It cost her something of a struggle. There were amiable people, otherwise conspicuously eligible, whom she must omit if she adhered to her plan, and there were some whom she despised that must be asked on account of the illustriousness of their pedigree. But Mrs. Gouverneur had set out to check the deterioration of society in New York, and she was not the woman to draw back when principle demanded the sacrifice of her feelings. She had taken the liveliest fancy to young Millard, who by a charming address, obliging manners, and an endless stock of useful information had made himself an intimate in the Gouverneur household. He had come to dine with them informally almost every alternate Sunday evening. To leave him out would be a dreadful cut; but what else could she do? What would be said of her set of old china if she inserted such a piece of new porcelain? What would Miss Lavinia Vandeleur, special oracle on the genealogy of the exclusive families, think, if Mrs. Gouverneur should be so recreant to right principles as to invite a young man without a single grandfather to his back, only because he had virtues of his own?
"I say, mother," said Philip, her son, when he came to look over the list, "you haven't got Charley Millard down."
"Well, how can I invite Mr. Millard? He has no family."
"No family! Why, he is a descendant of old Governor Van Dam, and one of his ancestors was an officer under Wayne at Stony Point."
"Are you sure, Philip?"
"Certainly: he has pictures of Stony Point and of Rip Van Dam hanging in his room. No Revolutionary party would be complete without him."
Mrs. Gouverneur looked at Philip suspiciously; he had a way of quizzing her; but his face did not flinch, and she was greatly relieved to think she had missed making the mistake of omitting a friend with so eligible a backing. Millard was invited, rather to his own surprise, and taken into preliminary councils as a matter of course. When the introductory minuet had been danced, and the ball was at its height, Philip Gouverneur, with a smile of innocence, led his friend straight to Miss Vandeleur, who proudly wore the very dress in which, according to a rather shaky tradition, her great-great aunt had poured tea for General Washington.
"Miss Vandeleur," said Philip, "let me present Mr. Millard."
Miss Vandeleur gave Millard one of the bows she kept ready for people of no particular consequence.
"Mr. Millard is real old crockery," said Philip in a half-confidential tone. "Some of us think it enough to be Revolutionary, but he is a descendant of Rip Van Dam, the old governor of New York in the seventeenth century."
Miss Vandeleur's face relaxed, and she remarked that judging from his name, as well as from something in his appearance, Mr. Millard must have come, like herself, from one of the old Huguenot families.
"Revolutionary, too, Charley?" said Philip, looking at Millard. Then to Miss Vandeleur, "One of his ancestors was second in command in the charge on Stony Point."
"Ah, Philip, you put it too strongly, I—"
"There's Governor Cadwallader waiting to speak to you, Miss Vandeleur," interrupted Philip, bowing and drawing Millard away. "Don't say a word, Charley. The most of Miss Vandeleur's information is less sound than what I told her about you. Nine-tenths of all such a genealogy huckster takes for gospel is just rot. I knew that Rip Van Dam would impress her if I put it strongly and said seventeenth century. You see the further away your forefather is, the more the virtue. Ancestry is like homeopathic medicine, the oftener it is diluted the greater the potency."
"Yes," said Millard; "and a remote ancestor has the advantage that pretty much everything to his discredit has been forgotten."
Charley knew that this faking of a Millard pedigree by his friend would prove as valuable to him as a decoration in the eyes of certain exclusive people. His conscience did not escape without some qualms; he did not like to be labeled what he was not. But he had learned by this time that society of every grade is in great part a game of Mild Humbug, and that this game, like all others, must be played according to rule. Each player has a right to make the most of his hand, whatever it may be. He had begun without a single strong card. Neither great wealth, personal distinction, nor noted family had fallen to him. But in the game of Mild Humbug as in almost all other games, luck and good play go for much; with skill and fortune a weak card may take the trick, and Millard was in a fair way to win against odds.
THE BANK OF MANHADOES.
When a farmer turns a strange cow into his herd she has to undergo a competitive examination. The fighter of the flock, sometimes a reckless-looking creature with one horn turned down as a result of former battles, walks directly up to the stranger, as in duty bound. The duel is in good form and preceded by ceremonious bowing on both sides; one finds here the origin of that scrape with the foot which was an essential part of all obeisance before the frosty perpendicular English style came in. Politeness over, the two brutes lock horns, and there is a trial of strength, weight, and bovine persistency; let the one that first gives ground look out for a thrust in the ribs! But once the newcomer has settled her relative social standing and knows which of her fellows are to have the pas of her at the hayrick and the watering-place, and which she in turn may safely bully, all is peace in the pasture.
Something like this takes place in our social herds. In every government, cabinet, party, or deliberative body there is the preliminary set-to until it is discovered who, by one means or another, can push the hardest. Not only in governments and political bodies but in every corporation, club, Dorcas society, base-ball league, church, and grocery store, the superficial observer sees what appears to be harmony and even brotherly unity; it is only the result of preliminary pushing matches by which the equilibrium of offensive and defensive qualities has been ascertained. And much that passes for domestic harmony is nothing but a prudent acquiescence in an arrangement based on relative powers of annoyance.
This long preamble goeth to show that if the Bank of Manhadoes had its rivalries it was not singular. In the light of the general principles we have evoked, the elbowings among the officers of the bank are lifted into the dignity of instances, examples, phenomena illustrating human nature and human history. More far-reaching than human nature, they are offshoots of the great struggle for existence, which, as we moderns have had the felicity to discover, gives rise to the survival of the tough and the domination of the pugnacious—the annihilation of the tender and the subjugation of the sensitive.
When Millard entered the bank there existed a conflict in the board of directors, and a division of opinion extending to the stockholders, between those who sustained and those who opposed the policy of the Masters-Farnsworth administration. But the administration proved fortunate and successful to such a degree that the opposition and rivalry presently died away or lost hope. Once the opposition to the two managers had disappeared, the lack of adjustment between the president and cashier became more pronounced. Farnsworth was the victim of a chronic asthma, and he was as ambitious as he was restless. The wan little man was untiring in his exertions because the trouble he had to get breath left him no temptation to repose. He contrived to find vent for his uneasiness by communicating a great deal of it to others. Masters, the president, was a man of sixty-five, with neither disease nor ambition preying on his vitals. For a long while he allowed Farnsworth to have his way in most things, knowing that if one entered into contention with Farnsworth there was no hope of ever making an end of it except by death or surrender. That which was decided yesterday against Farnsworth was sure to be reopened this morning; and though finally settled again to-day, it was all to be gone over to-morrow; nor would it be nearer to an adjustment next week. Compromise did no good: Farnsworth accepted your concession to-day, and then higgled you to split the difference on the remainder to-morrow, until you had so small a dividend left that it was not worth holding to.
But in dealing with a man like Masters it was possible to carry the policy of grand worry too far. When at length this rather phlegmatic man made up his mind that Farnsworth was systematically bullying him—a conclusion that Mrs. Masters helped him to reach—he became the very granite of obstinacy, offering a quiet but unyielding resistance to the cashier's aggressiveness. But an ease-loving man could not keep up this sort of fight forever. Masters knew this as well as any one, and he therefore felt the need of some buffer between him and his associate. There were two positions contemplated in the organization of the bank that had never yet been filled. One was that of vice-president, the other that of assistant cashier. By filling the assistant cashier's place with an active, aggressive man, Masters might secure an ally who could attack Farnsworth on the other flank. But in doing that he would have to disappoint Millard, who was steadily growing in value to the bank, but who, from habitual subordination to Farnsworth, and the natural courtesy of his disposition, could not be depended on to offer much resistance. To introduce a stranger would be to disturb the status quo, and the first maxim in the conduct of institutions is to avoid violent changes. Once the molecules of an organization are set into unusual vibration it is hard to foretell what new combinations they may form. And your practical man dislikes, of all things, to invite the unforeseen and the incalculable.
The election of a vice-president would bring a new man into the bank over the head of Farnsworth, but it would also produce a disturbance from which Masters felt a shrinking natural to an experienced and conservative administrator. Moreover, there was no one connected with the direction, or even holding stock in the bank, suitable to be put over Farnsworth. Unless, indeed, it were thought best to bring Hilbrough from Brooklyn. To introduce so forceful a man as Hilbrough into the management would certainly be a great thing for the bank, and it would not fail to put an end to the domination of Farnsworth. But Masters reflected that it might equally reduce his own importance. And with all his irritation against Farnsworth the president disliked to deal him too severe a blow.
If the matter had been left to Mrs. Masters, there would have been no relentings. In her opinion Farnsworth ought to be put out. Aren't you president, Mr. Masters? Why don't you be president, then? Don't like to be too hard on him? That's just like you. I'd just put him out, and there'd be an end of his fussiness once for all. Of course you could if you set about it. You are always saying that you don't like to let feeling interfere with business. But I wouldn't stand Farnsworth—little shrimp!—setting up to run a bank. Ill? Well, he ought to be; makes himself ill meddling with other people. He'd be better if he didn't worry about what doesn't belong to him. I'd give him rest. It's all well enough to sneer at a woman's notion of business, but the bank would be better off if you had entire control of it. The directors know that, they must know it; they are not blind.
There were no half-tones in Mrs. Master's judgment; everything was painted in coal blacks or glittering whites. She saw no mediums in character; he who was not good in every particular was capable of most sorts of deviltry, in her opinion.
This antagonism between the president and the cashier did not reach its acute stage until Millard had been in the bank for more than three years. Millard had made his way in the estimation of the directors in part by his ever-widening acquaintance with people of importance. His social connections enabled him to be of service to many men whose good-will was beneficial to the bank, and he was a ready directory to financial and family relationships, and to the business history and standing of those with whom the bank had dealings. Add to these advantages his considerable holdings of the bank's stock, and it is easy to comprehend how in spite of his youth he had come to stand next to Masters and Farnsworth. The dissensions between these two were disagreeable to one who had a decided preference for quietude and placidity of manners; but he kept aloof from their quarrel, though he must have had private grievances against a superior so pragmatical as Farnsworth.
A sort of magnanimity was mingled with craft in Masters's constitution, and, besides, he much preferred the road that was likely to give him the fewest jolts. The natural tendency of his irritation was to die away. This would have been the result in spite of the spur that Mrs. Masters supplied—applied, rather—if Farnsworth could have been content to let things take their natural course; but he could not abide to let anything go its natural way: he would have attempted a readjustment of the relations between the moon and tides if he had thought himself favorably situated for puttering in such matters. The temporary obstruction which Masters offered to his fussy willfulness seemed to the cashier an outrage hard to be borne. After he had taken so many tedious years to establish his ascendancy in nine-tenths of the bank's affairs it was sheer impertinence in Masters to wish to have any considerable share in the management. The backset to his ambition made him more sleepless than ever, bringing on frequent attacks of asthma. He lost interest even in the dinner parties, with a business squint, that he had been so fond of giving. Mrs. Farnsworth was under the frequent necessity of holding a platter of burning stramonium under his nose to subdue the paroxysms of wheezing that threatened to cut short his existence. Along with the smoke of the stramonium she was wont to administer a soothing smudge of good advice, beseeching him not to worry about things, though she knew perfectly that he would never cease to worry about things so long as his attenuated breath was not wholly turned off. She urged him to make Masters do his share of the work, and to take a vacation himself, or to resign outright, so as to spend his winters in Jacksonville. But every new paroxysm brought to Farnsworth a fresh access of resentment against Masters, whom he regarded as the source of all his woes. In his wakeful nights he planned a march on the very lines that Masters had proposed. He would get Millard made assistant cashier, and then have himself advanced to vice-president, with Millard, or some one on whom he could count more surely, for cashier. He proposed nothing less than to force the president out of all active control, and, if possible, to compel him to resign. No qualms of magnanimity disturbed this deoxygenated man. It was high time for Masters to resign, if for no other reason than that Farnsworth might occupy the private office. This inner office was a badge of Masters's superiority not to be endured.
There was one director, Meadows, whom Farnsworth lighted on as a convenient agent in his intrigue. Meadows had belonged to the old opposition which had resisted both the president and cashier. He was suspected of a desire to make a place for his brother, who had been cashier of a bank that had failed, and who had broken in nerve force when the bank broke. Farnsworth, who rode about in a coupe to save his breath for business and contention, drove up in front of Meadows's shop one morning at half-past nine, and made his way back among chandeliers of many patterns in incongruous juxtaposition, punctuated with wall burners and table argands. In the private office at the back he found Meadows opening his letters. He was a round-jawed man with blue eyes, an iron-oxide complexion, stiff, short, rusty hair, red-yellow side-whiskers, an upturned nose, and a shorn chin, habitually thrust forward. Once seated and his wind recovered, Farnsworth complained at some length that he found it hard to carry all the responsibility of the bank without adequate assistance.
"You ought to have an experienced assistant," said Meadows. This was the first occasion on which any officer of the bank had shown his good sense by consulting Meadows, and he was on that account the more disposed to encourage Farnsworth.
"If, now," said Farnsworth, "I could have as good a man as they say your brother is, I would be better fixed. But an experienced man like your brother would not take the place of assistant cashier."
Meadows was not so sure that his brother would refuse any place, but he thought it better not to say anything in reply. Farnsworth, who had no desire to take Meadows's brother unless he should be driven to it, saw the dangerous opening he had left. He therefore proceeded, as soon as he could get breath:
"Besides, the assistant's place belongs naturally to young Millard, and he would have influence enough to defeat anybody else who might be proposed. He is a good fellow, but he can't take responsibility. If Masters were not the cold-blooded man he is, he would have made Millard assistant cashier long ago, and advanced me to be vice-president."
"And then you would want some good man for cashier," said Meadows.
"Precisely," said Farnsworth; "that is just it."
"I think we can do that with or without Masters," said Meadows, turning his head to one side with a quiet air of defiance. He was only too well pleased to renew his fight against Masters with Farnsworth for ally. The question of his brother's appointment was after all an auxiliary one; he loved faction and opposition pure and simple.
"I am sure we can," said Farnsworth. "Of course my hand must not appear. But if a motion were to be made to advance both Millard and me one step, I don't think Masters would dare oppose it."
"I'll make the motion," said Meadows, with something like a sniff, as though, like Job's war-horse, he smelled the battle and liked the odor.
In taking leave Farnsworth told Meadows that he had not yet spoken to Millard about the matter, and he thought it not best to mention it to him before the meeting. But the one thing that rendered Meadows tolerably innocuous was that he never could co-operate with an ally, even in factious opposition, without getting up a new faction within the first, and so fomenting subdivisions as long as there were two to divide. The moment Farnsworth had left him he began to reflect suspiciously that the cashier intended to tell Millard himself, and so take the entire credit of the promotion. This would leave Farnsworth free to neglect Meadows's brother. Meadows, therefore, resolved to tell Millard in advance and thus put the latter under obligation to further his brother's interest. He gave himself great credit for a device by which he would play Farnsworth against Masters and then head off Farnsworth with Millard. Farnsworth wished to use him to pull some rather hot chestnuts out of the fire, and he chuckled to think that he had arranged to secure his own share of the nuts first.
With this profound scheme in his head, Meadows contrived to encounter Millard at luncheon, an encounter which the latter usually took some pains to avoid, for Millard was fastidious in eating as in everything else and he disliked to see Meadows at the table. Not that the latter did not know the use of fork and napkin, but he assaulted his food with a ferocity that, as Millard once remarked, "lent too much support to the Darwinian hypothesis."
On the day of his conversation with Farnsworth, Meadows bore down on the table where Millard sat alone, disjointing a partridge.
"Goo' morning," he said, abruptly seating himself on the rail of the chair opposite to Millard, and beckoning impatiently to a waiter, who responded but languidly, knowing that Meadows was opposed to the tip system from both principle and interest.
When he had given his order and then, as usual, called back the waiter as he was going out the door, waving his hand at him and uttering a "H-i-s-t, waitah!" to tell him that he did not want his meat so fat as it had been the last time, he gave his attention to Millard and introduced the subject of the approaching meeting of the directors.
"Why doesn't old Rip Van Winkle wake up?" said Meadows. "Why doesn't he make you assistant cashier? I'm sure you deserve it."
"Well, now, if you put it that way, Mr. Meadows, and leave it to me, I will say candidly that I suppose the real reason for not promoting me is that Mr. Masters, being a man of sound judgment, feels that he can not do me justice under the circumstances. If I had my deserts I'd be president of the bank; but it would be too much to ask a gentleman at Mr. Masters's time of life to move out of his little office just to make room for a deserving young man."
"You may joke, but you know that Masters is jealous. Why doesn't he promote Farnsworth to be vice-president? You know that Farnsworth really runs the bank."
"It isn't his fault if he doesn't," said Millard in a half-whisper.
"I believe that if I made a move to advance both you and Farnsworth it could be carried." Meadows looked inquiringly at his companion.
"What would become of the cashiership?" asked Millard. "I suppose we could divide that between us." "Won't you try a glass of Moselle?" And he passed the bottle to Meadows, who poured out a glass of it—he never declined wine when some one else paid for it—while Millard kept on talking to keep from saying anything. "I like to drink the health of any man who proposes to increase my salary, Mr. Meadows." Millard observed with disgust that the bank director drank off the wine at a gulp as he might have taken any vulgar claret, with an evident lack of appreciation. Millard himself was a light drinker; nothing but the delicate flavor of good wine could make drinking tolerable to him. The mind of Meadows, however, was intent on the subject under discussion.
"The cashiership," he said, "could either be filled by some experienced man or it might be left vacant for a while."
Millard saw a vision of Meadows, the discouraged brother, stepping in over his head.
"If a cashier should be put in now," said Meadows, "it would end presently in old Rip Van Winkle's resigning, and then an advance along the whole line would move you up once more." Meadows thought that this sop would reconcile Millard to having his brother interpolated above him.
"That's a good plan," said Millard, using his finger-bowl; "and then if Mr. Farnsworth would only be kind enough to die in one of his attacks, and the other man should get rich by speculation and retire, I'd come to be president at last. That is the only place suited to a modest and worthy young man like myself."
This fencing annoyed Meadows, who was by this time salting and peppering his roast beef, glaring at it the while like a boa-constrictor contemplating a fresh victim in anticipation of the joys of deglutition. Millard saw the importance of letting Masters know about this new move, and feared that Meadows would attempt to put him under bonds of secrecy. So, as he rose to go, like a prairie traveler protecting himself by back-firing, he said:
"If you're really serious in this matter, Mr. Meadows, I suppose you'll take pains not to have it generally known. For one thing, if you won't tell anybody else, I'll promise you not to tell my wife."
"And if Farnsworth speaks to you about it," said Meadows, "don't tell him that I have said anything to you. He wanted to tell you himself."
"I'll not let him know that you said anything about it."
And with that Millard went out. The bait of the assistant cashiership was not tempting enough to draw him into this intrigue. The greater part of his capital was in the bank, and he knew that the withdrawal of Masters would be a misfortune to him. Finding that Farnsworth was out, Millard went to the president's room under color of showing him a letter of importance. A man of dignity doesn't like to seem to bear tales with malice prepense. When he was about to leave Millard said:
"I hear that a motion is to be made looking to changes in the personnel of the bank."
The president was a little startled; his first impression from this remark being that somehow Millard had got wind of the plans he had revolved and then discarded.
"What do you hear?" he said, in his usual non-committal way.
"Nothing very definite, but something that leads me to think that Mr. Farnsworth would like to be vice-president and that Meadows would consent to have his brother take the cashiership."
"No doubt, no doubt," said Mr. Masters, smiling. It was his habit to smile when he felt the impulse to frown. He did not like to seem ignorant of anything going on in the bank, so he said no more to Millard, but let the conversation drop. He presently regretted this, and by the time Millard had reached his desk he was recalled.
"You understand that Mr. Farnsworth and Meadows are acting in concert?"
"I have reason to think so."
"Do you think it would be wise to make Mr. Farnsworth vice-president?"
Millard turned the palms of his hands upward and shrugged his shoulders. He made no other reply than to add, "You know him as well as I do."
"Who would be a good man for the place?"
"Have you thought of Hilbrough?"
"Yes, he would bring real strength to the bank; and, Mr. Millard, there is one promotion I have long had in mind," said the president. "You ought to be made assistant cashier, with a considerably larger salary than you have been getting."
Millard made a slight bow. "I'm sure you don't expect me to offer serious opposition to that proposal." Then he could not refrain from adding, "I believe Mr. Farnsworth and Meadows have also reached that conclusion."
There was no opportunity to reply to this; Farnsworth was heard wheezing outside the door.
Masters thought rapidly that afternoon. He admitted to himself, as he had hardly done before, that he was growing old and that a successful bank ought to have some more vigorous man than he in its management; some man of ideas more liberal than Farnsworth's, and of more age and experience than this young Millard. His mind turned to Hilbrough, the real-estate agent in Montague Street, Brooklyn. First a poor clerk, then a small collector of tenement-house rents, then a prosperous real-estate agent and operator on his own account, he had come by shrewd investment to be a rich man. He was accustomed to make call loans to a large amount on collateral security, and his business was even now almost that of a private banker. A director in the Bank of Manhadoes from its beginning and one of its largest stockholders, he was the most eligible man to succeed Masters in the active management of its affairs, and the only man whose election once proposed would certainly command the support of the directors against the scheme of Farnsworth. He was the one possible man who would prove quite too large for Farnsworth's domineering. It was with a pang that Masters reflected that he too would be effaced in a measure by the advent of a man so vital as Warren Hilbrough; but there was for him only the choice between being effaced by Hilbrough's superior personality and being officially put out of the way by Farnsworth's process of slow torture. He saw, too, that a bank with four high-grade officers would have a more stable official equilibrium than one where the power is shared between two. The head of such an institution is sheltered from adverse intrigues by the counterpoise of the several officers to one another.
If Masters had needed any stimulus to his resolution to contravene the ambitious plans of the cashier, Mrs. Masters would have supplied it. When she heard of Farnsworth's scheme, she raised again her old cry of Carthago delenda est, Farnsworth must be put out. In her opinion nothing else would meet the requirement of poetic justice; but she despaired of persuading Masters to a measure so extreme. It was always the way. Mr. Masters was too meek for anything; he would let people run over him.
But Masters had no notion of being run over. He went to the office every day, and from the office he went to his country-place in New Jersey every afternoon. There was nothing in his actions to excite the suspicion of the cashier, who could not know that negotiations with Hilbrough, and the private submission of the proposition to certain directors, had all been intrusted to the tact of Charley Millard. It was rather hard on Millard, too; for though he enjoyed his success in an undertaking so delicate, he regretted two dinner parties and one desirable reception that he was compelled to forego in order to carry on his negotiations out of bank hours.
The day before the directors met, Farnsworth confided to Millard his intention to have him made assistant cashier. Millard said that if Mr. Masters and the directors should agree to that he would be very well pleased. Considering his evident loyalty to Masters, Farnsworth did not think it wise to tell Millard anything further.
In the board of directors Meadows sat with a more than usually defiant face—with a face which showed premonitions of exultation. Farnsworth felt sure of his game, but he found breathing so laborious that he did not show any emotion. Masters thought it best to soften the humiliation of his associate as much as possible by forestalling his proposition. So at the first moment he suggested to the directors that the bank needed new force, on account both of his own advancing years and of Mr. Farnsworth's ill-health, much aggravated by his excessive industry. He therefore proposed to have Mr. Hilbrough made vice-president with the same salary as that paid to the president, to add a thousand to the cashier's salary, and to promote Mr. Millard to be assistant cashier on a salary of five thousand a year. He said that the prosperity of the bank justified the increased expense, and that the money would be well invested.
Meadows opposed this plan as extravagant. He favored the promotion of Mr. Millard, and the promotion of Mr. Farnsworth to be vice-president, leaving the cashiership vacant for a while. But the directors, accustomed to follow the lead of Masters and Hilbrough, and suspicious of Meadows as habitually factious, voted the president's proposition.
Farnsworth went home and to bed. Then he asked for a vacation and went South. The bank officers sent him a handsome bouquet when he sailed away on the Savannah steamer; for commerce by the very rudeness of its encounters makes men forgiving. In business it is unprofitable to cherish animosities, and contact with a great variety of character makes business men usually more tolerant than men of secluded lives. Farnsworth, for his part, was as pleased as a child might have been with the attention paid him on his departure, and Mrs. Farnsworth was delighted that her husband had consented to take rest, and "make the others do their share of the work."
THE ARRIVAL OF THE HILBROUGHS.
Of course there is a small set who affect not to mingle freely with newly prosperous people like the Hilbroughs. These are they in whose estimation wealth and distinction only gain their proper flavor—their bouquet, so to speak—by resting stagnant for three generations, for gentility, like game, acquires an admirable highness by the lapse of time. Descendants of the Lord knows whom, with fortunes made the devil knows how, fondly imagine that a village storekeeper who has risen to affluence is somehow inferior to the grandson of a Dutch sailor who amassed a fortune by illicit trade with the Madagascar pirates, or a worse trade in rum and blackamoors on the Guinea coast, and that a quondam bookkeeper who has fairly won position and money by his own shrewdness is lower down than the lineal descendant of an Indian trader who waxed great by first treating and then cheating shivering Mohawks. Which only shows that we are prone to plant ourselves on the sound traditions of ancestors; for where is the aristocracy which does not regard wealth won by ancient thievery as better than money modernly earned in a commonplace way? But among a gentry so numerous and so democratic, in spite of itself, as that of our American Babel, exclusiveness works discomfort mainly to the exclusive. The Hilbroughs are agreeable Americans, their suppers are provided by the best caterers, their house has been rendered attractive by boughten taste, and the company one sees there is not more stupid than that in other miscellaneous assemblies.
People who are Livingstons of the manor on their great-grandmother's side, and Van Something-or-others on the side of a great-great-uncle by his second marriage, and who perhaps have never chanced to be asked to the Hilbroughs' receptions, shrug their shoulders, and tell you that they do not know them. But Mrs. Hilbrough does not slight such families because of the colonialness of their ancestry. Her own progenitors came to America in some capacity long before the disagreement about the Stamp Act, though they were not brilliant enough to buy small kingdoms from the Hudson River Indians with jews'-harps and cast-iron hatchets, nor supple enough to get manor lordships by bribes to royal governors.
I suppose the advent of the Hilbroughs in society might be dated from the first reception they gave in New York, though, for that matter, the Hilbroughs do not take pains to date it at all. For it is a rule of good society that as soon as you arrive you affect to have always been there. Of other ascents men boast; of social success, rarely. Your millionaire, for example,—and millionairism is getting so common as to be almost vulgar,—your millionaire never tires of telling you how he worked the multiplication table until cents became dimes, and dimes well sown blossomed presently into dollars, till hundreds swelled to hundreds of thousands, and the man who had been a blithe youth but twenty years before became the possessor of an uneasy tumor he calls a fortune. Once this narrative is begun no matter that you beat your breast with reluctance to hear out the tedious tale, while loud bassoons perchance are calling you to wedding feasts. Pray hear the modern Whittington with patience, good reader! The recital of this story is his main consolation for the boredom of complicated possession in which his life is inextricably involved—his recoupment for the irksome vigilance with which he must defend his hoard against the incessant attacks of cheats and beggars, subscription papers and poor relations. But the man who has won his way in that illusive sphere we call society sends to swift oblivion all his processes. In society no man asks another, "How did you get here?" or congratulates him on moving among better people than he did ten years ago. Theoretically society is stationary. Even while breathless from climbing, the newcomer affects to have been always atop.
Warren Hilbrough's family had risen with his bettered circumstances from a two-story brick in Degraw street, Brooklyn, by the usual stages to a brownstone "mansion" above the reservoir in New York. When he came to be vice-president of the Bank of Manhadoes, Hilbrough had in a measure reached the goal of his ambition. He felt that he could slacken the strenuousness of his exertions and let his fortune expand naturally under prudent management. But Mrs. Hilbrough was ten years younger than her husband, and her ambition was far from spent. She found herself only on the threshold of her career. In Brooklyn increasing prosperity had made her a leader in church fairs and entertainments. The "Church Social" had often assembled at her house, and she had given a reception in honor of the minister when he came back from the Holy Land—a party which the society reporter of the "Brooklyn Daily Eagle" had pronounced "a brilliant affair." This last stroke had put her at the head of her little world. But now that Hilbrough was vice-president of the Bank of Manhadoes, the new business relations brought her invitations from beyond the little planetary system that revolved around the Reverend Dr. North. It became a question of making her way in the general society of Brooklyn, which had long drawn its members from the genteel quarters of the Heights, the Hill, and the remoter South Brooklyn, and, in later days, also from Prospect Park Slope. But at the houses of the officers of the bank she had caught somewhat bewildering vistas of those involved and undefined circles of people that make up in one way and another metropolitan society on the New York side of East River. Three years before Hilbrough entered the bank his family had removed into a new house in South Oxford street, and lately they had contemplated building a finer dwelling on the Slope. But Mrs. Hilbrough in a moment of inspiration decided to omit Brooklyn and to persuade her husband to remove to New York. There would be many advantages in this course. In New York her smaller social campaigns were unknown, and by removal she would be able to readjust with less difficulty her relations with old friends in Dr. North's congregation. When one goes up one must always leave somebody behind; but crossing the river would give her a clean slate, and make it easy to be rid of old scores when she pleased. So it came about that on the first of May following Hilbrough's accession to the bank the family in a carriage, and all their belongings on trucks, were trundled over Fulton Ferry to begin life anew, with painted walls, more expensive carpets, and twice as many servants. A carriage with a coachman in livery took the place of the top-buggy in which, by twos, and sometimes by threes, the Hilbroughs had been wont to enjoy Prospect Park. The Hilbrough children did not relish this part of the change. The boys could not see the fun of sitting with folded hands on a carriage seat while they rumbled slowly through Fifth Avenue and Central Park, even when the Riverside Park was thrown in. An augmentation of family dignity was small compensation for the loss of the long drive between the quadruple lines of maples that shade the Ocean Parkway in full view of the fast trotting horses which made a whirling maze as they flew past them in either direction.
"There was some fun in a long Saturday's drive to Coney Island, and round by Fort Hamilton and the Narrows," muttered Jack, as the horses toiled up a steep in Central Park; "this here is about as amusing as riding in a black maria would be."
Ah, Jack! You are too young to comprehend the necessity that rests upon us of swelling our dignity into some proportion to a growing stock balance. It is irksome this living on stilts, but an unfortunate inability to match our fortune by increasing our bulk leaves us no alternative but to augment our belongings so as to preserve the fitness of things at any cost. There is as yet no Society for the Emancipation of Princes, and the Association for the Amelioration of the Condition of the Children of the Rich has no place in the list of New York philanthropies.
Mrs. Hilbrough prudently spent her first winter on Manhattan Island in looking about her. She ventured a dinner company two or three times, but went no further. She received calls from the wives of those who had, and those who wished to have, business relations with her husband, and she returned them, making such observations as she could on the domestic economy, or rather the domestic extravagance, of those she visited. The first result of this was that she changed her door-boy. The fine-looking mulatto she had installed in imitation of some of her richer Brooklyn acquaintances had to be discharged. The Anglomania of the early eighties cruelly abolished the handsome darky hall-boy, that most artistic living bronze, with all his suggestion of barbaric magnificence, and all his Oriental obsequiousness. His one fault was that he was not English. Fashion forbade the rich to avail themselves of one of the finest products of the country. The lackey who took his place had the English superciliousness, and marked the advance of American civilization by adding a new discomfort and deformity to the life of people of fashion.
The minister of the church in which the Hilbroughs had taken pews sent his wife to call on Mrs. Hilbrough, and two of the church officers, knowing the value of such an acquisition to the church, showed their Christian feeling in the same way. Many of her old Degraw street and South Oxford street friends called at the new house, their affection being quickened by a desire "to see what sort of style the Hilbroughs are putting on now." Some of her Brooklyn calls she returned out of a positive liking for good old friends, some because the callers were those who could introduce her to people she desired to know in New York. She excused herself from calling on the most of her trans-East-River acquaintances by urging that it is so much farther from New York to Brooklyn than it is from Brooklyn to New York, you know. She attended several large evening receptions in New York, and drank five o'clock tea at six in the evening at a good many places. She thus made acquaintances, while with a clever woman's tact she kept her wits about her and began to "get the hang of the thing," as she expressed it to one of her confidential friends. Meantime she was as constant in her attendance at the opera as she had been at the prayer-meeting in former days.
It was at the beginning of her second winter in New York that she served notice on Hilbrough that she meant to give a reception; or, as she put it, "We must give a reception." The children had gone to school, the butler was otherwise engaged, and there was nobody but a waitress present.
Hilbrough's face was of that sunny, sanguine sort which always seems to indicate that things are booming, to borrow a phrase from our modern argot. His plump, cheery countenance, and the buoyant spontaneity of his laugh, inspired a confidence which had floated his craft over more than one financial shoal. But when Mrs. Hilbrough proposed a reception, just as he finished his coffee, he became meditative, leaned his two large arms on the table, and made a careful inspection of the china cup: his wife—Brooklyn woman that she was—had lately made a journey across the new bridge to buy the set at Ovington's.
"You don't mean one of those stupid crushes," he began, "where all the people outside are trying to butt their way in, and all those inside are wishing to heaven that they were well out again—like so many June bugs and millers on a summer night bumping against both sides of a window with a candle in it?" Hilbrough finished with a humorous little chuckle at his own comparison.
"Well," rejoined Mrs. Hilbrough, firmly, "a reception is the thing to give. We owe it to our social position."
"Social position be hanged!" said Hilbrough, half in vexation, but still laughing, while his wife tried by frowning to remind him that the use of such words in the presence of a servant was very improper.
"It seems as though I never could get square with that thing you call social position. I pay all my other debts and take receipts in full, but the more money we have the more we owe to social position. I have a great mind to suspend payment for a while and let social position go to smash. I detest a reception. I don't mind a nice little gathering of good friendly folks such as we used to have in Degraw street at the church socials—"
His wife's interruption took Hilbrough's breath. She muttered rather than spoke these few words, but with a contemptuousness of inflection that was most expressive. Hilbrough was left in some doubt as to whether all the contempt was intended for the church socials in Degraw street, or whether a part of it might not be meant for a husband whose mind had not kept pace with his fortune.
"I am sure there was real enjoyment in a church social," he said, with a deprecating laugh, "to say nothing of the money raised to recarpet the church aisles. And I confess I rather enjoyed the party you gave in Oxford street when Dr. North got back from the Holy Land."
While Hilbrough was making this speech his wife had, by dumb show, ordered the waitress to take something down-stairs, in order that there might be no listener to Hilbrough's autobiographical reminiscences but herself.
"Well, my dear," she said, taking a conciliatory tone, "our walk in life has changed, and we must adapt ourselves to our surroundings. You know you always said that we ought to do our share toward promoting sociability."
"Sociability!" It was Hilbrough's turn now. His laugh had a note of derision in it. "W'y, my dear, there is rather more sociability in a cue of depositors at the teller's window of an afternoon than there was at Mrs. Master's reception last winter."
"Well, don't let's argue. I hate arguments of all things."
"Most people do, when they get the worst of them," rejoined Hilbrough, merrily.
"You are positively rude," pouted Mrs. Hilbrough, rising from the table. If she hated arguments, her husband hated tiffs, and her look of reproach accomplished what her arguments could not. Hilbrough knew that at the game of injured innocence he was no match for his wife. The question in his mind now was to find a line of retreat.
"You ought to have more consideration for my feelings, Warren," she went on. "Besides, you know you said that whatever widened our acquaintance was likely to do the bank good. You know you did."
"So I did, my dear; so I did," he answered, soothingly, as he rose from the table and looked at his watch. "There's one comfort, anyhow. You don't know a great many people on this side of the river yet, and so I guess I sha'n't have to put hoops on the house this time, unless you fetch all Brooklyn across the new bridge."
Mrs. Hilbrough did not care to contradict her husband now that he had relented. But as for crowding the house she felt sure there was a way to do it, if she could only find it, and she was resolved not to have fewer people than Mrs. Masters, and that without depleting Brooklyn.
What she needed was an adviser. She went over the bead-roll of her acquaintance and found nobody eligible. Those who could have pointed out to her what were the proper steps to take in such a case were just the people to whom she was not willing to expose herself in her unfledged condition. At last she felt obliged to ask Mr. Hilbrough about it.
"Don't you know somebody, my dear, who knows New York better than I do, who could give me advice about our reception?" This was her opening of the matter as she sat crocheting by the glowing grate of anthracite in the large front room on the second floor, while her husband smoked, and read his evening paper.
"I? How should I know?" he said, laying down the paper. "I don't know many New York ladies."
"Not a woman! I mean some man. You can't speak to a woman about such things so well as you can to a man;" and she spread her fancy-work out over her knee and turned her head on one side to get a good view of its general effect.
"I should think you would rather confide in a woman." Hilbrough looked puzzled and curious as he said this.
"You don't understand," she said. "A woman doesn't like to give herself away to another woman. Women always think you ridiculous if you don't understand everything, and they remember and talk about it. But a man likes to give information to a woman. I suppose men like to have a woman look up to them." Mrs. Hilbrough laughed at the explanation, which was not quite satisfactory to herself.
"Well," said Hilbrough, after a minute's amused meditation, "the men I know are all like me. They are business men, and are rather dragged into society, I suppose, by their wives, and by"—he chuckled merrily at this point—"by the debts they owe to social position, you know. I don't believe there's a man in the bank that wouldn't be as likely to ask me about what coat he ought to wear on any occasion as to give me any information on the subject. Yes, there is one man. That's young Millard, or Millard, as he calls it. He's a sort of a dude, and I never could stand dudes. I asked Mr. Masters the other day whether the assistant cashier was worth so large a salary as five thousand dollars, and he said that that man had the entry—the ontray, as he called it—to the best houses in New York. He's cheek by jowl with a dozen of the richest men, he's invited everywhere, and is considered a great authority on all matters of that kind. He brings some business to the bank, and he's one of the best judges in New York of a man's character and responsibility. He knows all about pretty nearly every man whose note is presented for discount, and, if he does not know at once, he can generally find out in an hour. I believe he could tell us the name of the grandmother of almost every prominent depositor if we wished to know, and how every man got his money."
"Is he rich?"
"Well, nobody seems to know for certain. He has a large slice of the bank's stock, and he's known to have good investments outside. He's well enough off to live without his salary if he wanted to. But I am pretty sure he isn't rich. Belongs to some old family, I suppose."
"I should be afraid of him," said Mrs. Hilbrough, ruefully.
"You needn't be. He's a good enough sort of fellow if he only wouldn't part his hair in the middle. I can't abide that in a man. But it's no use being afraid of him. He probably knows all about you and me already. He first came to see me about coming into the bank, and I don't know but it was his move to get me."
"Would he come up to dinner some evening?"
"He'd rather like to oblige me. I'll have to get him when he's disengaged. What shall I tell him?"
"Tell him that Mrs. Hilbrough wishes his advice, and would be glad if he would come to dinner with us some evening."
"Why do I need to say anything about your wanting advice? I don't just like to ask a favor of such a dude. I'll ask him to dinner, and you can ask his advice as though by accident."
"No; that won't do. That kind of man would see through it all. Tell him that I wish his advice. That will show him that I recognize his position as an authority. He'll like that better."
Warren Hilbrough suddenly discovered that his wife was cleverer—or, as he would have said, "smarter"—than he had thought her.
"You are a good hand, Jenny," he said. "You'll win your game." And after he had resumed the reading of his paper he looked over the top of it once or twice in furtive admiration of her as she sat between him and the dark portiere, which set her form in relief against the rich background and made her seem a picture to the fond eyes of her husband. He reflected that perhaps after all managing church fairs and running sewing societies was no bad training for a larger social activity.