Come and Find Me by Elizabeth Robins (Chapter 4)
Come and Find Me by Elizabeth Robins
Hypertext formatting by Joanne E. Gates
Nanthaniel Mar made the mistake of thinking that you can put off to a given date impressing your good judgement on those who share your life.
Trenn and Harry had an affection for their father--that he without difficulty inspired--but in their heart of hearts they were a little ashamed of their love for him, as a species of weakness. They frankly despised his laissez-aller way of life, and looked upon him as a warning. Their mother had seen to that.
The Mar boys, however, had shown business capacity from their childhood, when instead of buying "peanut brittle" and going to the circus, they saved money to invest in hens. They made what their mother called "a pretty penny" by selling fresh eggs to the neighbors. The thriving young tradesmen made even their mother pay for whatever she required, and she "planked down the cash" for without a murmur. It was a small price for the holy satisfaction of seing that her children were early learning the value of money.
Mar got less pleasure out of his sons' budding business instincts. He was even obviously annoyed when he discovered that Trenn helped Eddie Cox with his lessons, not out of good comradeship, but at the rate of "two bits" for each half-hour's aid.
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"It's ugly,"said Mar, with unusual spirit. His wife felt obliged to point out that she herself had been engaged in very much the same occupation, when he first met her. The "ugliness" of being paid for helping people with their studies had not oppressed him then.
"You were their teacher," said her husband.
"And Trenn is Eddie's teacher while he's teaching him!" Then as Mar opened his lips, she quickly closed the argument by adding, "Besides, Eddie's father had made money and Trenn's father has n't. Eddie Cox will have to buy brains all his life--he may just as well begin now."
Trenn Mar was not yet nineteen when he was so fortunate as to have two business openings. One was to go down to a ranch in southern California and round up cattle for Karl Siegel, and learn all he could for Trenn Mar. The other, to enter the employment of Messrs. Wilks & Simpson, of the Croesus Creek Mining Company.
Trenn's father meant him to take the latter--in fact he had put himself to an uncmmon amount of trouble to get his son this opening. But Trenn was all for the cattle business. "Besides, look at what Siegel offers. It's wonderful! Those men usually expect a young fellow to buy experience. But Siegel--"
"Yes," agreed Mar; "it looks better to start with, but that's not the main thing. You must look ahead.
Trenn opened his brown eyes. He even grinned. "Why yes, I mean to.
"With Wilks & Simpson you'll get the hang of the best managed placer-mining property in California.
"But that whole blessed country is prospected already. There's no money in it for me.
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"That's precisely what there is in it."
Trenn looked about the room, impatient to be gone. What did his father know about money? Less than many a sharp boy of twelve.
"Sound mining knowledge," he was saying, "will be very useful. Not only for itself, but because it will bring you into business contact with mining men."
"What good 'll that do me?" demanded the boy, impatiently. "We have n't got any capital."
"No, they 'll have the capital. You'll have something more rare."
"A great property to develop." Then he told his son the story of the shipwreck, and of those wonderful hours on the farther side of Anvil Rock. Trenn sat and stared. Mar wished he would stop it. It got on his nerves at last, those round, brown eyes, keen, a little hard, fixed in that wide, unwinking gaze.
"So that's why I say let the cattle business go. Take the small salary that Wilks & Simpson offer, study practical mining, and wait for your chance. In any case, by the time Harry's left the High School you'll have some valuable experience to bring into the partnership."
Trenn got up and crossed the room.
"Yes, that's the place," said Mar, excitedly, thinking the boy's goal was the brown and faded reconnaissance map. But Trenn walked straight past it to the window, and stood looking out, to where the duck-pond used to be, and where now a row of pretentious little psuedo-Spanish "villas" shut out the prospect. And still he didn't speak.
"What I consider so important, is not the practical
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knowledge per se, though I think it a very real value. Not that so much, as the fact that through associating yourself with that kind of enterprise you are brought into relation with just the men you 'll need to know. If I had n't gone to Rock Hill I would never have met Galbraith. The longer I live, the more I realize it 's through people--through having the right sort of human relationships, that work is best forwarded. Here have I lived for nearly twenty years with a secret worth millions, and for lack of knowing the right men--"
"Why did you never tell Charlie Trennor?" the boy turned round to ask.
"Oh, Charlie Trennor! He 's not the sort. But, as a matter of fact, I did once mention the circumstance to the Trennors. Many years ago. But they are men who"--Mar stumbled--"they 'll never do anything very big; they neither one of them have a scintilla of imagination." And then, in sheer excitement, speaking his mind for once: "There never was a Trennor who had."
"I expect," said the boy, doggedly, "there 's a certain amount of Trennor about me. I never noticed that I had any imagination to speak of."
Mar was conscious that his own spirit was contracting in a creeping chill. But he said to himself it was only because he had made the mistake of criticizing his wife (by implication) before her son. It was right and proper that Trenn, on such an occasion, should range himself on the side of his mother's family. Mar's conception of loyalty commonly protected him from appearing to pass adverse judgment on the Trennors. But he was excited and overwrought to-day. He, not Trenn. All through the story, that for Mar was of such palpi-
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tating importance, this well-groomed youth had kept himself so well in hand, that his father, looking at the "correct," cool face, had somewhat modified the presentment of the narrative, had cut description, emotion, wonder, and come to Hecuba as quickly as might be. And yet now that, with as business-like an air as he could muster, he had revealed his great secret--handed over the long-treasured legacy--something still in the judicial young face that gave the older man a sensation of acute self-consciousness, made him in some inexplicable manner feel "cheap."
But he would conquer the ridiculous inclination.
It was for Mar an hour of tremendous significance. He had been waiting for it for eighteen years. "After all," he said, making a fresh start, "you don't need imagination in this case. You need only to use your eyes--"
Trenn lifted his, and the use he made of them was to look at his father. Did n't say a single word. Just looked at the heavily-lined face a moment and then allowed his clear, brown eyes to drop till they rested on the toes of his own immaculate boots.
Hardly more than three seconds between the raising and the lowering of the eyes. Not a sound in the room. And yet between the meeting of that look and the losing of it, Nathaniel Mar passed through the most painful crisis of a life made well acquainted with pain.
There is a special sting in the skepticism of the young. They should be full of faith, inclined even to credulity. Fit task for their elders, the checking of too generous ardor. But for the elder to detect the junior in thinking him foolishly enthusiastic, childishly gullible--there is,
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in that conjuncture, something to the older mind quite specially wounding. It passes the limit of mere personal humiliation. It takes on the air of an affront against the seemliness of nature. The elder has betrayed his class and kind--has laid open to callow derision the dignity of the riper years.
Mar waited. And little as he looked like it he was praying. "Oh, my boy, believe me! Have faith that what I say is so. And then I 'll have faith that all the loss will be won back, through you, Trenn. I 'll take heart again. It all depends on you. We 'll do great things together, Trenn--you and I--oh, believe, believe!"
But Trennor Mar sat there on the narrow ledge of the window-sill absolutely silent, with his brown eyes on his shining boots.
"I was wrong," said his father, humbly. "I have put you off the track by using the word imagination. It has no place here. I speak to you of fact."
Trenn got up with the brisk air of one who remembers he has business to transact, then pausing for a moment with an eye flown already to find his hat, "I might," he said obligingly, "I might try to get up there some vacation, and have a look round."
He "might." He might try. During some idle interval in the real business of life. Once on the spot he would condescend to "look round."
Even his own son could not take the thing seriously.
Well, it began to look as if, after all, they might be right--his wife, Charlie and Harrington Trennor, Elihu Cox, and now Trenn. Mar, the man who believed he had a gold mine in the arctic regions, was a sort of harmless
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monomaniac. Sitting there in a sudden darkness that was dashed with self-derision (much was clear in those scorching flashes), Nathaniel Mar met the grim moment when to his own mind he first admitted doubt.
Groping by and by for comfort, he touched the heart of sorrow with "Nothing like this can ever happen to me again."
"It was true. In that hour something precious went out of his life. No one, not even Trenn, had any idea what had happened. But every one saw that Nathaniel Mar was changed.
TRENN went to work on Karl Siegel's ranch, and Harry presently announced that he meant to join him. No, he was n't going to finish at the High School. Trenn had an opportunity to go in with Siegel on a new deal, and Harry could be made use of, too, if he came now. Such an opportunity might never repeat itself. Mrs. Mar was of the same opinion as the boys, and Harry was in towering good spirits.
His father wondered dully. Ought he not give his younger son the same chance he 'd given the elder, even if, like Trenn, Harry should fail utterly to see how great it was?
Mar shrank from a second ordeal, and yet he knew that, vaguely enough, he had been depending on Harry's helping him to bear Trenn's indifference and unbelief. Had he not for a year now, in any lighter hour, invariably said to himself: "After all, I have two boys. Perhaps Harry will be the one"--yes, he must tell Harry, or the boy might reproach him in time to come.
Trenn's letter had arrived in the morning. All day
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Mar revolved in his head how he would present this other "opening" so that Harry-- In the end he resolved to take the papers out of the safe, and simply turn them over to his son, as though the father were no longer there to give the story tongue. Mar took the precious packet home with him the same afternoon. Harry was out. That evening he was late for supper, and he came in full of the outfit he 'd been buying.
"Buying an outfit already!" his father exclaimed.
"Of course! I don't mean to let the grass grow--"
"Nor Trenn, apparently. I had n't heard that he was financing you."
"He is n't. I had a little saved up, and mother gave me the rest."
Mar stared through his specatcles, and met the bright roving eyes of the lady.
"You gave him the rest! How were you able to do that?"
"Oh, I have a pittance in the City Bank."
The rival concern. Even Hildegarde gaped with astonishment at this revelation. Mrs. Mar had not trusted any one to know of this nest-egg--savings out of the "house money," the inadequacy of which had been so often deplored. She seemed to be torn now between regret that its existence should have been revealed, and pride that she had wrung it out of conditions so unpromising.
"Yes," she said, with a spark of anger in her eye, "and you 'll be kind enough, Nathaniel, not to break your arm, or get yourself disabled in any way, for there 's nothing left now for a rainy day. Unless you have looked ahead as I 've struggled to--"
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He knew that she knew he had not "looked ahead" in her sense of laying by a secret hoard, but the form of her mandate pricked him.
He glared at the desk for comfort. He had, after all, "looked ahead" in another fashion--as Harry would see. But--again he fell back before the check of an outfit already bought for another purpose. And Harry was talking all the time that he was eating--telling his mother about his prospects and about the letter he had written in answer to Trenn's.
Already he had written! Without an hour's hesitation, or an instant's consultation with his natural adviser. Ah, no, his true "natural adviser" had obviously been invoked, and had responded by offering him the sinews of war. Mar, looking down into his plate, or for occasional refreshment of the spirit into Hildegarde's soft, young face, was nevertheless intensely conscious of the vivid alert personality at the other end of the table. His wife was, as usual, not content to contemplate with idle tranquillity the fruit of some achievement in the past. Strange contrast to her daughter's faculty for extreme stillness, Mrs. Mara presented the stirring spectacle of a person who was always "getting something done," and commonly getting a number of things done at once. If it was only while the plates were being changed, she would pull out of the yellow bag suspended at her belt, a postcard, and with an inch length of pencil would briskly write an order to some tradesman, or she would jump up to straighten a picture or set the clock on three minutes, or "catch any odd job on the fly," as Trenn used disrespectfully to say in private. Even on this important and exciting occasion, she was not content merely to eat
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her supper, listen to Harry's outpouring, and throw in shrewd responses from time to time.
Her handsome features wore that look of animation the spectacle of "getting on" ever inspired in the lady, her eyes glittered like pieces of highly polished, brown onyx, and while she put food into her mouth with the right hand, the left, by a common practice, executed five-finger exercises up and down the cloth, between her plate and the end of the table. But to-night she broke into a fantasia--the pliant little finger curled and tossed its tip in air, playing a soundless p?on to celebrate Harry's entrance into the business of life.
For Mar, in circumstances like these, to hold wide a different door--had there ever been a moment less propitious?
"You ought to have shown me the letter before you sent if off," he said.
"I would, only I knew you 'd think I ought to catch the afternoon mail. There was barely time. And the letter was all right--I 'm sure it was. I told Trenn either he or Siegel had got to pay me form the start. I don't ask much, I said, but I 'm worth something if I am a raw hand. I wrote the sort of letter Trenn can show to Siegel. I piled it on about the interruption to my studies, and about father's preferring me to stick at books a year or two more."
"It was ingenious of you to discover that fact," said Mar, quietly.
"Oh, they must n't think I 'm too keen, you know."
Mrs. Mar nodded as she wound up her silent accompaniment with a chord. But if she followed the implied course of reasoning, not so the boy's father.
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"If you 've written in that vein," said Mar, slowly, "it seems to me still more premature to have ordered your outfit."
"Oh, that 's all O.K.," said Harry, genially condescending to soothe his father's fears. "Of course I 'm going. Trenn 'll understand. He 's got a long head, old Trenn has!"--and he exchanged secure smiles with his mother--"I had to write as I did, don't you see"--again Harry obligingly reduced his tactics to simpler terms to meet the slower comprehension of his father--"just to make Siegel understand he need n't expect to get me for nothing. I 'm not coming in on the 'little brother racket.' No, sir! Old Siegel 's got to pay me something from the start, or how can I be supposed to know it 's a good thing? Siegel's got to show me! I'm from Missouri." He made the boast with his pleasant boyish laugh, pushed back his chair, and walked about, hands in pockets, head in air, describing to his mother how fellows often did better to take their pay in cattle, and little by little get their own herd, and little by little get land. Often they ended by buying out those other fellows who started with capital. She would see! He and Trenn were n't going to take anything on trust. "They 'll find they 've got to show us," he said, squaring himself before a lot of imaginary Siegels. "We 're from Missouri!"
Mar, sitting silently by, rose upon that word, and tied up the loose papers that he had laid out on his writing table. He returned them to the office bag, finding himself arrived at wondering what he had better say if the day ever came when Harry shoulpd reproach his father for not telling him about--
But Mar was borrowing trouble.
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Trenn had already told him.
And they had laughed together. "Is n't it just like him!" Harry had said, and slapped his knee as one who makes a shrewd observation.
AFTER all there was a kind of rough justice in it. It had been Galbraith who had made it possible for Mar to go to Alaska. It was fitting that it should be his son who should share in the benefits.
Mar spent part of the following Saturday afternoon in drafting a letter to the son of his long dead friend. He took uncommon pains with it and he copied it several times. It had no need to be long, for Jack would remember the story. He could not, of course, be expected to interrupt those postgraduate studies, whatever they were precisely--studies which twice already had been dropped, as Mar supposed, while Mr. Jack went cruising about the world in his steam-yacht. But in the nature of things the completion of his preparation for the business of life must be near at hand, for you Galbraith, the most energetic and ambitious of men, was in his twenty-fourth year. Never was such a glutton for work before. Even when he went off pleasuring in his yacht, he went to places not renowned for recreation, and his boon companions were geographers and biologists and such-like gay dogs.
He might, at all events, without prejudice to these final studies, begin to lay plans either for going himself to Alaska presently, or for sending some one else. The best course would be for him to come at once to Valdivia to see his old friend, and to talk things over. Mar thought it advisable to enclose in his letter a sketch of the most interesting section of the Alaskan coast. He could have
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drawn it with his eyes shut, now, but he got up, hobbled round the desk, and took down the reconnaissance map from between the pictures of his father and mother. At the same moment, and while he was in the act, Mrs. Mar came in, with that air, especially her own, of one arriving in the nick of time to save the country. Her errand, however, was the one Saturday afternoon invariably brought, the conveying here of the week's mending for Hildegarde's attention; the fastening of the book-rest on the table's edge, the propping up of some volume in the French or German tongue, and the laying ready at one side of a stump of lead-pencil for the marking of pregnant passages. In front of these Mrs. Mar would establish herself in the rocking-chair, with her knitting, or crochet, or some other form of occupation not requiring eyes.
"Yes, mama," came in through the open window from the garden.
"I 'm ready!" When was n't Mrs. Mar "ready!" But she announced the fact with a flourish of knitting-needle, as she rocked back and forth and scrutinized her husband. "I 'm glad," she said, briskly, "to see you taking down that old eye-sore." Her eyes pecked at the faded map. "It 's high time it was thrown away."
Her husband paused in his halting progress back to the writing-table. "Time it was thrown away?"
"Yes. Is n't that what you 've got it down for?"
"What are you going to do with it, then?"
Mar seemed not to hear. He turned his back on the rocking-chair, and propped the map up in front of him,
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against the mucilage pot, very much as his wife had propped Eckermann for his regular Saturday conversation with Goethe.
But Mrs. Mar was never inclined to let her observations go by ignored. "I can hardly suppose you want to have it lumbering up the place here any longer." As still he took no notice, "It certainly is n't decorative." A pause long enough for him to defend it, if he 'd been going to. "Perhaps you 'll tell me what 's the good of keeping it."
"Perhaps you 'll tell me what 's the harm:
She could, easily, but she forbore.
She only agitated the rocking-chair yet more violently, clashed her knitting-needles as she turned the stocking in her quick, competent hands, and with a glance at the clock said briskly, as the door opened: "Come, come, Hildegarde. You 're nearly three minutes behind time."
The girl carried her bowl of roses over to her father's open window, and set it carefully down. Hildegarde was the one person in the world Mrs. Mar never seemed to fluster. As the girl's eye fell on the big envelop addressed in Mar's bold writing, "Oh!" she said, pausing, "have you been hearing again?"
"Hearing what?" came sharply from the swaying figure on the other side of the room.
"You 'll read it to me after we 've done our German, won't you?" whispered the girl, caressingly, as she leaned a moment on the back of Mar's chair.
"Read it to you? Why should I?" he said, nervously, as he laid a piece of blotting-paper over his letter.
"You always do," she pleaded. But if Mr. Mar imagined that his daughter was begging to hear the letter
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he himself had just written, Mrs. Mar made no such mistake. She was well aware whose communications had power to stir the "stolid" Hildegarde.
"You never told me," the lady arraigned her husband's back, "that you 'd been hearing again from young Galbraith."
Hildegarde, under the electric shock of the spoken name, seemed to feel called upon to make some show of indifference. She inspected the pile of mending with an air of complete absorption in the extent of the damage. Her mother was saying: I have n't heard anything about the gentleman"--(oh, wealth of ironic condemnation the accomplished speaker could throw into the innocent words "that gentleman!")--not since the letter he wrote from the barbarous place you did n't know how to pronounce, and could n't so much as find on the map!"
"Have n't you?" said her husband. "Well, you soon may."
The girl's lowered eyelids fluttered, but the prospect of soon hearing something on this theme left Mrs. Mar collected enough to say: "No earthy use to darn that."
"N-no," agreed the girl.
"Lay a piece under. Match the stripe and cut out the fray. There 's some like it in the ottoman."
Hildegarde went and kneeled down before the big deal "store-box." Its lid, stuffed and neatly covered, made a sightly receptacle for endless oddments.
Mrs. Mar, as she clicked her needles and oscillated her entire frame, kept her eye on the place where she was going to dash into Eckerman the instant Hildegarde was settled to her sewing. But true to the sacred princi-
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ple of doing something while she was waiting, Mrs. Mar thus delayed, saw it to be a timely moment to put Jack Galbraith in his proper place. It was not the sort of thing you could do thoroughly once, and be done with. Like house-cleaning, it required to be seen to periodically. "Well, what 's the epoche-machende news this time?" As her husband made no haste to answer, "He 's always 'going to break the record,' that young gentleman! I never knew anybody with so many big words in his mouth."
The stricture was deserved enough to gall Jack's friend, who moved uneasily in his revolving chair. But he kept his eyes on the map he was drawing and he kept his lips close shut.
I see precious little result so far," she was beginning again.
"The result," interrupted Mar, "will be judged when he 's finished his life-work, not while he 's still preparing for it."
"Preparing! Bless me, is n't he old enough to have done something, if he was ever going to to?"
"If he were going into business, yes. Science is a longer story."
"One excuse is as good as another, I suppose, when a man wants to please himself. It 's like Galbraith to call his fecklessness by a highfalutin name. 'Science,' 'Investigation,' 'Anthropology.' Humph! But it does sound better, I agree, than saying he likes satisfying a low curiosity about savages. It is n't even as if he wanted to convert them. Not he! Likes them best as they are: Filthy and degraded. 'Philology?' Tomfoolology!"
It was more even than the tranqul Hildegarde could
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bear. "Has n't he done something wonderful about ocean currents, papa? Did n't you say that was the real reason why he went that last time to--?"
"Yes. It was a piece of work that brought him recognition very creditable to so young a student."
" Whose recognition?" Not hers, the critic of the rocking-chair seemed to say. But Mar took no notice. "And where 's that book he was boasting about six months ago? The one that was going to shed valuable new light on the--the--Jugginses of No Man's Land. So far as I can see by the feeble light of the female intellect, the Jugginses still sit in the dark. Have n't you found that roll of seersucker yet, Hildegarde? Upon my soul!"--faster flew the needles, harder rocked the chair--"compared with you a snail is a cross between an acrobat and a hurricane."
The girl only laughed. "Here 's the horrid stripey stuff, hiding at the very bottom!" She laid the roll aside, and with a neat precision proceeded to put back all the things she had taken out, for Hildegarde knew, if not properly packed, the ottoman would overflow.
"Now, make haste," urged her mother, "if anything so alien is possible to you. I 'm certainly not going to read to you while you 're fussing about on the other side of the room." Then, not deterred in her unswerving attempt to improve the shining hour, Mrs. Mar flung a quick look at the bent back of her husband, and proceeded to put in the time in clearing up one of his multitudinous misapprehensions.
"What I can't forgive Jack Galbraith is his ingratitude to you."
Again Mar moved a little in his creaking chair, but
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halted this side speech. Hildegarde, busily repacking, turned her blonde head toward her mother, saying: "Ingratitude! Why, he 's perfectly devoted to papa! That 's why I like Mr. Galbraith."
"Devoted, is he? Well, he 's got odd ways of showing it. When he was a troublesome, inquisitive little pest, he used to reveal his devotion by coming twice every year to turn our house upside down, and get our boys into every conceivable mischief. Glad enough to plant himself here then, when nobody else would be bothered with him. But his devotion to your father does n't carry him the length of coming to see him nowadays. Why, it 's fourteen years since Jack Galbraith darkened these doors, and--"
"Well, I would n't be surprised if he were to darken them very soon," said Mr. Mar.
"What!" said Mrs. Mar, so surprised she allowed the rocking-chair to slow down.
Hildegarde stood transfixed, with the top of the ottoman arrested, half shut.
"Yes," said Mr. Mar, steadily, and in complete good faith, as he slipped the diagram into the envelop. "I 'm expecting him out here this spring."
"Jack is coming!" Hildegarde said to her heart. "Wonderful Jack is coming! Dear Jack! dear, dear Jack! Oh, the beautiful world!"
"Indeed!" said Mrs. Mar, beginning slowly to rock again, "and what 's he coming for this time?
"Perhaps, as Hildegarde is fantastic enough to think, he may be coming to see me," Mar answered.
His wife's laugh had a tang of shrewdness. "You 'll find he has business of some sort to attend to in California, if he does come!"
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"Just now you were complaining that he did n't attend to business anywhere."
"My complaint--no, my regret--is, that gratitude is n't in the Galbraith blood."
"You have no good reason for saying that." He spoke with uncommon emphasis.
But Mrs. Mar's spirit rose to meet him. "I have the excellent reason that I know enough about the father as well as the son to form an opinion. I don't forget how your 'greatest friend' died, leaving you his executor and leaving you nothing else. Not a penny piece out of all that money."
"I don't see why my friends should leave me money--"
"No, nor why you should get it any other way! Don't let me hurry you, Hildegarde, but if you 've quite finished mooning about in the corner there, I 'd like to mention that it 's exactly twelve and a half minutes since I called you in to your German, and there 's the Missionary Society at half past four, and choir practice at seven, and before we can turn round Mrs. Cox will be here about electing the new secretary to the Shakspere Club, and if I 'd known you were going to squander my time like this I 'd have stopped to make Harry his last Washington pie before--"
"Yes, mama. Now I 'm settled."
Hildegarde took the seat opposite her mother and silently applied the seersucker patch. While Mr. Mar, behind the screen of a much-hunched shoulder, copied with infinite care the "eye-sore" map, Mrs. Mar knitting all the while at lightning speed, rolled out the German uninterruptedly, till a ring at the bell was followed by sounds of Mrs. Cox being shown into the parlor.
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Mrs. Mar had known no one so well in Valdivia all these years as Mrs. Elihu Cox. Mrs. Elihu was considered "a very bright woman," and it was no doubt so, since even Mrs. Mar did not demur at her renown. They met seldom, outside of church, the Shakspere Club, or the Mission Society, yet each had admitted things to the other that neither had admitted to any one else. Even to-day, when there was definite business to arrange, they talked of other matters than the vacant secretaryship. They presented each other with views upon domestic service, education, and husbands.
"I left Mr. Cox supremely happy," said his spouse, in that tone of humorous scorn by which many women try to readjust the balance between the sexes. "Yes, supremely happy, clearing out his desk. He does it once a month. Nothing Mr. Cox does brings him so near absolute bliss, except wandering about the place with a hammer and nails."
Both women smiled at the inveterate childishness of the lords of creation.
And then, on a sudden, Mrs. Cox was grave. One might laugh at the odd ways of men with any woman. It is the universal bond that binds the sex together; the fine lady feels it no less when she condoles with her washer-woman upon a stay-at-home husband,--"Yes, yes, a man in the house all day is dreadfully in the way,"--and their identity of sentiment bridges the difference in fortune. But Mrs. Mar was one with whom you might not only laugh over the foibles of the opposite sex, you might even be grave with her on the same ground--a rarer privilege to the educated woman.
"That monthly orgy, that 's such unalloyed delight to
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Mr. Cox, used to be a time of great interest to me, too," admitted Mrs. Cox.
"Really!" The president of the Valdivia Shakspere Society could hardly believe it of her friend.
"Yes. You see, there 's always a great clearance made--a general getting rid of all sorts of accumulation. I used to watch every time when he came to the lower left-hand drawer--" Mrs. Cox smiled faintly as one pitiful of some long-past pain.
"Well, what was the matter with the lower left-hand drawer?"
"That was where he kept a faded photograph of Ellie Brezee. I used to watch to see if that time he was going to throw it away. He never did."
"Who was Ellie Brezee?"
"A sister of Colonel George Brezee--the one that died. That was before you came to California. Mr. Cox was engaged to Ellie when he was nineteen. But, thank goodness, my concern about it is among the things that I 'm done with. I don't any longer sit at home, now, with the tail of my eye on the lower left-hand drawer while Ellie Brezee comes out for her monthly airing."
"Oh, you disposed of Ellie?"
"No, oh, no."
"He finally threw the picture away himself?"
"No. Only now, I know he never will."
They were silent a moment. "I never said anything, of course; and he never made any secret about it. I did n't think it any disloyalty to me that he should keep it. At the same time"--she dropped her voice--"the pain the sight of that faded face was to me for years--you think it supremely silly, I suppose. But then your
Come and Find Me, Chapter 4 page 83
husband does n't hoard up the memory of some girl that 's been dead and buried for twenty years, so you can't understand."
"Yes, I can understand," Mrs. Mar answered, with an eye that saw through the wall the reconnaissance map of Norton sound.
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